Gotham Gazette Mon, 22 Apr 2019 04:26:38 +0000 en-gb (Webmaster) The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 1-5 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York

Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday February 5, 2016

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: In Iowa, Mayor de Blasio makes calls on behalf of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, via @Chirlane; De Blasio delivers his State of the City address, via Michael Appleton, Mayor's Office; De Blasio tours the downtown Manhattan site of a crane collapse, via Ed Reed, Mayor's Office.

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1. State of the City: Mayor de Blasio emphasized building strong neighborhoods and city management during his third State of the City address on Thursday, and focused on acknowledging the work of everyday New Yorkers and the city’s uniformed workforce, and improving conditions across the five boroughs. New initiatives highlighted during the speech include a streetcar running along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, development on Governor’s Island, a new private sector employee retirement fund, and a $91 million investment to revitalize Far Rockaway. [Read: De Blasio Stresses Neighborhood Health in 'One City' Vision & Muslim Immigrant Family of NYPD Captain to Lead Pledge of Allegiance at State of the City]

2. Council Votes on Raises, Reforms: On Friday, the City Council approved a package of legislation to raise the salaries of all the the city’s elected officials and reform how Council members are compensated. The reforms, including eliminating stipends for chairing committees and making the position full time, have been praised, yet the higher than recommended salary increase the Council is seeking and the timing of the vote have been criticized. [Read: Questions Remain as City Council Moves Ahead with Pay Raises, Reforms]

3. Critical Time for Housing Plan: On Wednesday, the City Planning Commission passed two major components of Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan, sending them to the City Council, which will hold two hearings on the proposals next week. The two proposals - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability - have received mixed reactions and aim to adjust the city’s zoning codes to allow what the administration says will be more responsible development. At the same time on the state level, calls for Governor Cuomo to move on new program to incentivize affordable housing production continue. [Read: Planning Commission Sends Mayor's Zoning Proposals to City Council & Calls for Public Discussion of New Affordable Housing Incentive Program]

4. Horse Carriage Deal Collapses: Mayor de Blasio’s controversial plan to shrink the horse carriage industry collapsed after facing intense criticism from several sides, including the horse-carriage drivers, pedicab drivers, park advocates, Council members, union leaders, animal-rights activists, and more. After the Teamsters union withdrew its support for the deal, the City Council cancelled its scheduled vote on the plan.

5. Subway Slashings: In the wake of several separate slashings in the subways in January, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Wednesday that the NYPD will now wake up sleeping straphangers. Transit crime was up 36 percent in January, according to Bratton. Speaking on Hot 97 radio, Mayor de Blasio said there is no pattern to the random attacks and pointed to an overall downward trend in crime.

$148,500 is the new salary for City Council members, up from $112,500, and $10,185 higher than the $138,315 salary a commission tasked with reviewing the compensation levels of elected officials recommended, Gotham Gazette reports. (The salaries of the Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents, and District Attorneys will all increase too)

21,401 open code violations at homeless shelters around the city at the end of 2015, an overdue report released by Mayor de Blasio shows.

6.4% increase in the number of jobs in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx from the end of 2013 through the middle of 2015, the Daily News reports.

$91 million will be invested to revitalize Far Rockaway, DNAinfo reports.

$2.5 billion is the estimated pricetag for a new streetcar that will run between Brooklyn and Queens along the East River, the Times reports.

89% of New Yorkers say corruption in the state government in Albany is a serious problem, according to the a Siena poll.

It was a good week for New York City’s elected officials, all of whom will receive at least a 12 percent salary increase after the City Council approves a package of legislation Friday that will enact the raises (although Mayor de Blasio will not accept a raise for the duration of his term).

It was a bad week for City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been widely criticized after he called the $36,000 raise he and other Council members are about to get a “big compromise,” and insisted that they “deserved” to make $175,000. Rodriguez was also the sponsor of the horse carriage bill, which fell apart this week and has also been the source of much controversy.

Around this time 103 years ago, on February 2, 1913, about 150,000 people visited Grand Central Terminal for its opening day. Now, about 750,000 people visit Grand Central every day for travel, dining or shopping.

Around this time 4 years ago, on February 2, 2012, 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed by police officers in the bathroom of the apartment Graham lived in with his family. The officers followed Graham into his home from a bodega after they thought they saw Graham with a gun. No gun was found, and the officer who shot Graham had the manslaughter charges against him dropped. On the anniversary of Graham’s death, his parents delivered a letter to City Hall officials urging Mayor de Blasio to fire the NYPD officer who shot Graham.

Around this time 52 years ago, on February 3, 1964, 460,000 students refused to go to school in order to protest the segregation of New York City’s schools. Students gathered and chanted “Jim Crow must go!” in front of the Board of Education building, calling for immediate action to be taken to desegregate the schools.

Around this time 17 years ago, on February 4, 1999, West African immigrant Amadou Diallo was killed by police officers in the entrance of his Bronx apartment building after the officers mistakenly believed Diallo was the serial rapist they were searching for, and that he was reaching for a gun. Diallo, 23, had no gun and was in fact reaching for his wallet when four NYPD officers fired 41 shots, hitting him 19 times. His death sparked demonstrations against racial profiling and unfair treatment by the police. The four officers involved were eventually acquitted of all charges.


De Blasio Stresses Neighborhood Health in 'One City' Vision, by Ben Max

Planning Commission Sends Mayor's Zoning Proposals to City Council, by Maggie Calmes

Calls for Public Discussion of New Affordable Housing Incentive Program, by David Howard King

After Iowa: Debates & Voting Dates Until New York, by Ben Max

Muslim Immigrant Family of NYPD Captain to Lead Pledge of Allegiance at State of the City, by Samar Khurshid

Questions Remain as City Council Moves Ahead with Pay Raises, Reforms, by Meg O'Connor

Planning Commission Vote Will Send Zoning Proposals to City Council, Ben Max

As Council Begins Oversight, McCray Reports Progress in Mental Health Roadmap Implementation, by Meg O'Connor

What To Do When the L Train Closes, by Alex Armlovich (opinion)

As Federal Aid System Advances, Our Outdated Way Leaves New York Students Behind, by Sue Mead and Kevin Stump (opinion)

The City's Next Steps to Ensure Vibrant, Creative Communities, by Adam Forman (opinion)

A Good Deal for Horses, by Allie Feldman (opinion)

Reducing Organic Waste Without Increasing Costs, by Carol Kellermann (opinion)

To Eradicate Sex Trafficking, Prosecute the Pimps and Buyers, by Lauren Hersh (opinion)

Four Decades of Dedication: City Limits’ Story, by Jarrett Murphy ( City Limits)

Homeless Young Adults Can Fall through a Crack in Shelter System, by Genia Gould (City Limits)

40 Stories, 40 Years: City Limits and the History of Today's New York City, by Jarrett Murphy (City Limits)

Council Member Brad Lander spoke with Errol Louis on NY1 to explain raising Council members' salaries and to discuss the controversy surrounding it.

Dick Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens Union, spoke with Brian Lehrer on WNYC about the package of legislation the City Council voted on Friday that will raise the salaries of all of New York City’s elected officials for the first time since 2006, as well as the controversy surrounding the larger-than-recommended salary increase for Council members and the timing of the vote.

Mayor de Blasio appeared on Hot 97 radio to talk about the presidential race, violence in the subway, the newly announced streetcar line that will run between Brooklyn and Queens, running for re-election, and legalizing marijuana.

Current and former New York Daily News columnists Harry Siegel and Bill Hammond joined Alexis Grenell and Nick Powell on the NYSlant podcast to discuss JCOPE’s controversial lobbying decision, and the equally controversial pay raise proposals from the City Council.

NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:

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 the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 1-5 Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:37:57 +0000
City Council Announces Bill to Increase Pay, Reform Position mmv menchaca background

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste)



On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the New York City Council will hold a hearing on legislation outlining salary increases for various city elected officials as well as several good government reforms related to how Council members are compensated. Largely based on the recommendations of an independent commission tasked with outlining the first pay raises since 2006 for the Mayor, City Council members, and other officials, the Council announced the details of its package late Thursday evening.

In one significant departure from the commission's recommendations, the Council has decided to go even further with its own salary increases. A Council spokesperson said that the addition was being made to account for the fact that Council members would no longer be able to make significant sums of outside income. While the compensation commission called for making the Council member position full-time and instituting a ban on almost all sources of outside income, it did not indicate that it was adding to its salary recommendation based on this change.

Instead of sticking with the commission recommendation of a $138,315 salary for Council members, up from $112,500, the legislation being introduced will outline a salary of $148,500. The Council is advancing without adjustments the commission's recommendations for increasing the salaries of Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents, and District Attorneys.

While Council members are already hearing criticism for the size of its raises, the announcement also comes at a curious time: on Friday, Feb. 5, the Council is set to vote on both the compensation legislation and on Mayor Bill de Blasio's horse carriage deal, which has been questioned widely since it was announced, including by many Council members.

To some, it appears that Council members have agreed to back de Blasio's move to limit the horse carriage industry in exchange for his approval of their larger raises. The mayor must sign off on whatever the Council passes.

Eyebrows also rose when it became clear the Council would introduce its plan before taking public testimony.

Good government group Citizens Union released a statement Thursday criticizing the move and questioning the timing. Not holding a public hearing before introducing legislation "is unconscionable because it denies the public the input that it had during past cycles of reviewing and commenting on the matter of elected official salaries before a bill was introduced," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. Dadey added that the move shows "disregard for our democratic processes."

Dadey and Citizens Union did compliment the Council's planned reforms, though, noting that there are four key changes being made that the group had been calling for over a number of years. The Council will end bonuses, known as lulus, for chairing issue committees; ban almost all outside income for Council members; make future raises prospective; and require that officials' conflict of interest forms are posted publicly on the internet.

As outlined by the compensation commission, the Council bill calls for raising the salaries of the city's other elected officials: for the Mayor ($225,000 to $258,750); Comptroller ($185,000 to $209,050); Public Advocate ($165,000 to $184,800); Borough Presidents ($160,000 to $179,200); and District Attorneys ($190,000 to $212,800).

Fritz Schwarz, Jr., chief counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, chaired the pay commission, and, in an interview before the Council plan was released, told Gotham Gazette he expects he will testify at the hearing.

Schwarz said he would oppose any pay increase that is not "contingent on these reforms being made," referring to the commission's recommendations to ban lulus and outside pay of almost all kinds. It is unclear what Schwarz may make of the Council bill.

Schwarz did say that while his commission did not recommend changing the timeline for raises so that they occur prospectively and Council members aren't voting through raises for their current class, "it would be valuable for the city to look at that question and consider changing the system."

Citizens Union has called for any raises to be made prospectively - only to go into effect for the next class of elected officials, in this case after the 2017 election cycle. Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly stated that he will not accept a raise this term.

"Citizens Union urges the Council to avoid the conflict of interest that exists if they raise their salaries during this current term. We ask the Council to delay all raises until the start of the following term, beginning in 2018," Dadey said previously.

Council members, however, are voting to make the raises retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year, which is in line with the commission's recommendations. Significantly, though, the Council bill will dictate that future pay increases can only be made prospectively. By law, the Mayor is required to empanel a compensation commission every four years. This has not always been followed.

The reforms being passed build on what is becoming a significant legacy for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and this group of Council members. In 2014, the Council changed several ways in which it does its internal business, including by modifying the process by which individual members are allotted discretionary funds to spend in their districts. The system was democratized. Eliminating lulus will be another step toward removing ways in which Council speakers have typically rewarded allies and punished those who've crossed them.

In a statement about the new bill, Mark-Viverito said that "The City Council is embarking on unprecedented, substantial reforms that will strengthen New York City's legislative body and help Council Members better serve the districts they proudly represent. Restricting outside income and eliminating all member stipends, while also designating Council Members' positions as full-time jobs, reflects the extensive work Members conduct in their communities and across the entire City. The Council's legislation incorporates many of the recommendations of good-government groups and sets a new standard for disclosure and transparency for elected officials. We look forward to hearing our bill next week."

The vote will come a little over a month after the commission tasked with reviewing the compensation levels of New York City's elected officials released its report recommending at least a 12 percent salary increase for all offices, with a 15 percent increase for the Mayor, and a 23 percent salary increase for City Council members. In January, Mayor de Blasio decided to back all of the commission's recommendations and sent them to the Council for review. The Council has outlined 32 percent raises for its members.

"Our proposed raises for the office of City Council member are conditioned upon, and inseparable from, our proposal to eliminate lulus and to formally classify the job of City Council members as full time," the commission's report says.

The three-member commission was appointed by Mayor de Blasio in September and released its recommendations in December. The commission had arrived at the 23 percent increase for Council members by taking the "$447,000 now budgeted each year for all lulus" and folding it "evenly into the salary for each non-Speaker seat on the City Council," which "would result in each non-Speaker seat receiving an additional $8,940 on top of the 12 percent base increase for all elected officials," and a three percent increase to account for the growth of Council members' responsibilities.

The commission recommended an even bigger salary boost for City Council Speaker Melissa-Mark Viverito, up to $154,375, which would reflect the inclusion of the $25,000 lulu the speaker position comes with into the base salary. By the Council proposal, the Speaker's salary will increase to $164,500.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

City Council Announces Bill to Increase Pay, Reform Position Fri, 29 Jan 2016 05:39:27 +0000