Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/282 Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:55:15 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Task Force Created by City Council Recommends CUNY Go Tuition-Free http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7706:task-force-created-by-city-council-recommends-cuny-go-tuition-free http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7706:task-force-created-by-city-council-recommends-cuny-go-tuition-free Inez Barron City Council

Council Member Inez Barron (photo: Ben Brachfeld)


A long-awaited report was released on Thursday by the Task Force on Affordability, Admissions, and Graduation Rates at the City University of New York -- convened through City Council legislation -- that included recommendations for broad changes to the operations and funding of CUNY. Most notably, the task force, consisting of students, faculty, advocates, government officials, members of the business community, and one member of the CUNY Board of Trustees, recommended that tuition charges be eliminated at the city public university system.

The report was commissioned by an act of the City Council in November 2016, introduced and championed by Brooklyn Council Member Inez Barron, a Hunter College graduate who says she wouldn’t be able to attend college and become a member of the New York City Council had she not attended during a period when tuition to CUNY was largely free.

The task force, consisting of members appointed by the mayor, City Council speaker, and public advocate, was expected to produce a report within a year outlining recommendations for improving the status of CUNY, and examining policy solutions including free tuition. The Task Force was co-chaired by Stephen Brier, a professor in urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Hercules Reid, a student at the New York Institute of Technology and former vice chair for legislative affairs for the CUNY University Student Senate.

The report was released just ahead of a Council hearing on its recommendations, chaired by Barron, who leads the Council’s Committee on Higher Education. The day was not without tension, as Barron said the de Blasio administration had delayed the release of the report for several months.

  • The report outlines 21 recommendations for improving CUNY. First and foremost is the aforementioned free tuition, to be funded by increased subsidy from the state and city, which both currently help fund the university system. Recommendations also include:
  • Hire significantly more full time faculty, reversing a decades-long trend of faculty hemorrhaging in favor of adjuncts;
  • Create an emergency fund to meet pressing needs of low-income students such as rent and food;
  • Hire, through CUNY and the city Department of Education, full-time guidance counselors to help students with the transition between high school and college;
  • Expand much-heralded Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP);
  • Eliminate yearly credit requirements for the state-run Excelsior Scholarship;
  • Provide free MetroCards to all CUNY students;
  • Double pay for adjuncts, to around $7,000 per course;
  • Increase CUNY capital funding, to address infrastructure-related issues.

Barron said on Thursday that the report was finished in December, but that the de Blasio administration requested an indefinite extension so that it could review the report and announce its findings together with the task force. Barron said she complied, but on Thursday she said that she had not heard anything from the mayor’s office since December.

“Well, here it is, six months later, and there has been nothing different done in terms of what this report said at its completion in December,” Barron said at a rally outside City Hall prior to the hearing. The rally was also attended by members of the task force, CUNY students, and advocates, but no other City Council members; Barron said that this was due to prior commitments rather than a lack of support for eliminating tuition at CUNY, and that several Council members had reaffirmed their support to her.

“We’re very displeased,” she continued. “I think that was very disingenuous of the mayor to do that, and I think that we need to make sure that we let him know we are committed to CUNY improving, having better access, being affordable -- of course my position is that it should be free.”

Speaking with Gotham Gazette, Barron said that the administration was not being forthcoming as to why it had stalled, beyond the extension request in December.

“They’re not involved in supporting us at this point,” she said. “They haven’t given any reasons that relate to this document, but we do want to make sure that we go forward and that we don’t let them deter us.”

In response to allegations about stalling the report, the de Blasio administration touted an increase in city funding for CUNY under his watch.

“The Mayor believes that CUNY should be affordable, and we continue to invest to help make that happen despite not having control over the system,” said Raul Contreras, a spokesperson for the mayor. “In fact, the City will contribute nearly $255 million annually by 2021. We will continue to work with the City Council and State to provide high-quality, affordable education at CUNY.”

According to the task force report, CUNY was largely free for much of its existence. Founded in 1847 as “The Free Academy,” qualifying students from New York City schools were given a free education. In 1969, CUNY switched to free open enrollment for any New York City public high school student. This significantly increased both the matriculated student population and the diversity of the student body. The 1970-71 term, the first with open admissions, saw a 75 percent increase in the matriculated student body over the 1969-70 term. In 1969, 78 percent of freshmen entering CUNY were white; by 1975, after five years of open enrollment, this number dropped to 30 percent, according to the task force report.

But in the midst of New York City’s fiscal crisis, the report says, that nearly led it to bankruptcy, the city handed over control of CUNY’s operating budget to the state, which promptly started charging tuition across the board for the first time in CUNY’s history. With tuition instated, the state could begin diminishing its subsidy and forcing CUNY to rely on student tuition for an increasing portion of its operating budget. The task force report released Thursday included a chart demonstrating this trend: in the 1990-91 school year, student tuition accounted for 21 percent of CUNY’s operating revenue; in 2014-15, that number had risen sharply, to 46 percent. In the same time frame, state funding fell from 74 percent to 53 percent, and city funding fell from 5 percent to 1 percent.

Cuomo, who in 2016 launched an investigation into CUNY over administrative misuse of funds, has resisted shifting costs from students to the state. The fiscal year 2019 enacted state budget, in effect beginning April 1 of this year, increases state funding for CUNY over last year by approximately $50 million; the increase in state funding this year for SUNY and CUNY was touted by Cuomo in the wake of the budget’s passage. Regardless, the state’s $1.9 billion funding comprises 52 percent of CUNY’s $3.6 billion total operating budget, about equal to the 2014-15 percentage.

As it stands, tuition at CUNY, where half a million students pursue either undergraduate or graduate degrees, is $6,530 per year at senior colleges and $4,800 per year at community colleges (for in-state students; out-of-state students pay much more). In the 2008-09 school year, tuition at senior colleges was $4,000 and at community colleges was $2,800. There has been a 63 percent and 71 percent jump, respectively, in ten years.

Even these somewhat modest tuition costs are unaffordable for many students, but large numbers pay tuition with state and federal aid through TAP, Pell Grants, and student loans. The maximum TAP award in 2017-18 was $5,165, while for Pell Grants the maximum award was $5,920. According to David Crook, CUNY’s Associate Dean of Student Affairs, 61 percent of CUNY senior college students attend school for free, and 71 percent of community college students do the same, vis a vis a mixture of TAP and Pell grant benefits. Crook was the only CUNY official to testify at the City Council hearing; he said his colleagues were overseeing graduations on Thursday, otherwise they would have come.

For those who qualify, the Excelsior Scholarship can fill in what’s unaccounted for. Excelsior, a Cuomo program passed in 2017 with the blessing of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, was the object of ire among speakers at the rally and the hearing.

“I want to thank [Inez Barron] for figuring out how to actually give us free CUNY,” said Samitha, a CUNY student and student leader at the New York Public Interest Research Group, at the rally. “Not watered down policies like Excelsior, which 99 percent of CUNY students don’t even qualify for.”

The report claims that “only about 2,000 of CUNY’s 240,000 undergraduates qualified for” the Excelsior Scholarship, which would put the number of students in the CUNY system who qualify for Excelsior at around 1 percent. At the hearing, Crook claimed that the number of qualifying students was actually closer to 4,700, though the total number of undergraduates attending CUNY has also risen to 275,000.

Excelsior kicks in after a student’s TAP and Pell Grant benefits have been exhausted, and comes with requirements that have been criticized as exclusionary for low-income students. To qualify, New York State students from households earning less than the income threshold ($100,000 the first year, $110,000 this year, and $125,000 next year and beyond) must take 30 credits per year and be on track to graduate in two years for an associate’s degree or four years for a bachelor’s degree. This can exclude part-time students, many low-income, who cannot attend school full-time or consecutively, potentially due to work or family commitments. The task force’s recommendations include an elimination of the credit requirements for Excelsior.

The governor’s office, in a statement, disputed the notion that Excelsior doesn't help low-income students.

"New York leads the nation in creating equal opportunity for all, no matter one’s background or family fortune,” said Tyrone Stevens, a spokesperson for the governor. “Governor Cuomo’s first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship is helping students receive a tuition-free education that taps their potential and prepares them for the 21st century economy. It’s a critical investment in future of New York, and we’re proud of the progress this program has already delivered.”

For students pursuing an associate’s degree, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) provides tuition waivers as well as career and financial advisory, free Metrocards and textbooks, and generalized advisory services. ASAP has been a success, increasing graduation rates for students pursuing associate’s degrees: an analysis found that 52.5 percent of ASAP students completed their degrees within three years, versus 26.8 percent of a control group. It has garnered praise from former President Barack Obama, among others; the report recommends it be made available at all campuses.

But even for students who don’t pay a dime of tuition out of pocket, the costs can add up. The cost of rent, food, transportation, and textbooks alone can add up to several thousands of dollars per year. Barron said that, at a recent budget hearing, a CUNY student named Levi testified that he had not eaten for two days so that he could afford a Metrocard to go to class. The problem of food insecurity among college students is widespread: a recent study from Temple University found that 36 percent of students surveyed had been food insecure in the past year, and that this number was likely low due to stigma attached to student poverty.

According to data presented by Crook, 42 percent of CUNY students come from families with household incomes below $20,000, and 58 percent receive Pell Grants, a federal grant for low-income students.

The task force report, in turn, recommends that CUNY provide free Metrocards to all CUNY students, and that CUNY establish a $5 million “emergency fund” to “help respond to its students’ immediate financial problems and emergencies (e.g. rent payments, medical expenses, food and book purchases) that prevent students’ from completing their university studies.”

The report also recommends that CUNY increase full-time faculty significantly, and rely less on adjuncts. Brier reported that CUNY has lost about 3,000 full-time faculty members since the 1970s, and that almost all of these positions had been replaced by adjuncts, who are paid meager amounts of money and often have to teach several classes just to scrape by. Adjuncts currently make up one-in-two faculty members at CUNY; they are paid between $3,000 and $3,500 per course, which the report recommends be doubled to $7,000 per course.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a former CUNY adjunct, noted that the meager pay and lack of benefits, leading to adjuncts taking several positions at different institutions, causes professors to be absent for their students in terms of office hours and other assistive functions, such as advising on theses and writing letters of recommendation.

“All of these different things are not calculated into the time that it takes for an adjunct to effectively teach a course,” Cumbo said.

A critical factor missing from the report concerns costs. Free tuition, not to mention the other recommendations, would cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, and there is no question that the city, state, and federal governments would fight over who has to pony up. Brier, questioned by Council Member Bob Holden, noted that free tuition would cover what isn’t already covered by the city, state, and federal governments in funding; in 2016, this number, amounting to the out-of-pocket tuition paid by students, amounted to $784 million annually to pay for free tuition. In an email to Gotham Gazette, Brier said that number is likely higher today.

“It hasn’t been costed out and the number is likely higher because of the increase in undergrad numbers,” Brier said. “This is work we hoped would be done following the report. We didn’t have the staff or time to do that work, which is much needed.” Reid, the co-chair of the task force, had earlier said that the de Blasio administration finally contacted the task force on Wednesday, the day before the hearing, and shared feedback.

Because the administration was not involved in the release of the report and the funding numbers and mechanisms are not clear, the report has not technically been completed, though the task force says it has reached the end of the work. In effect, it’s more of a framework of recommendations than it is a detailed policy document. The report had “draft” written on the front and contains a “confidential” watermark on each page, despite being made publicly available at the City Council on Thursday.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Task Force Created by City Council Recommends CUNY Go Tuition-Free Thu, 31 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The CUNY Tuition Myth http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6458:the-cuny-tuition-myth http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6458:the-cuny-tuition-myth CUNY commencement York College

(photo via CUNY on flickr)


Gotham Gazette recently reported that Brooklyn City Council Member Inez Barron, chair of the Council’s higher education committee, introduced a bill aimed at studying the possibility of eliminating tuition in the CUNY system. Barron said, “College should be a right that is part and parcel of a commitment we make to provide free public education in grades K to 12.” Gotham Gazette writes that this was “a ‘commitment’ that was, in fact, extended to college for the majority of CUNY’s history - more than 150 years where the city university system has been an engine of opportunity for city residents, especially those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds.”

While Gotham Gazette does mention that tuition was free for “qualifying students,” many appear to have read the article and missed that point. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who have accepted the myth that CUNY was free until the 1970s. This was only true for those students who were accepted into the day school. By contrast, during the 1960s, the majority of CUNY students were enrolled in the evening college (SGS) that had a substantial tuition charge.

Indeed, today a larger share of CUNY students have no tuition obligation than did in the so-called free era; the difference being that then it was based on merit while today it is overwhelmingly based on family income.

Today, because of weak skill levels, many entering CUNY students require extensive remediation to reach a minimum level of proficiency. Graduation rates at many of the community colleges are below 20 percent. The overwhelming majority of weakly-prepared students already have no tuition obligation. Barron and other City Council members, and many others, it seems, want to extend this benefit to all CUNY students.

Yet, any free tuition proposal is likely to worsen the situation for those least-prepared for college as the resulting enrollment growth would stretch support resources even more thinly and create more havoc to students’ ability to schedule their classes consistent with their other responsibilities. This is exactly what happened when CUNY began Open Admissions in the 1970s.

As I wrote for Gotham Gazette last year, I believe that all students should have a small tuition obligation. While this would mean the poorest students would have to take out a small debt, they would make much more efficient decisions about their educational choices. It would also close the tuition gap between lower middle-class students and poor students without the costly tuition-free proposal.

However, my two main complaints with the free-tuition proposal are: one, it does not address the issue of making colleges more efficient; and two, it ignores the need to shift to occupational education, focusing on certificate programs, and other short-term occupational programs.

Whether the discussion is around national free tuition or a CUNY proposal that may come from the committee the City Council is considering, even critics neglect to look at ways to improve the four-year college delivery system. Forty years ago, CUNY and most college systems were dominated by a teaching faculty of professors who taught four courses each semester. Now, however, virtually every state four-year college system privileges faculty research so virtually all faculty have teaching loads of no more than three courses per semester. Indeed, based on this research model, new CUNY faculty hires teach only two courses each semester during their six-year probation period. Once CUNY faculty gain tenure they are no longer required to do research but their three-course teaching load continues. Certainly there should be serious discussion of reducing the privileging of research endeavours, and the ability of tenured faculty to maintain low teaching requirements despite no longer doing research.

Faculty are able to reduce their three-course teaching loads by teaching large classes. At Brooklyn College faculty received double credit for teaching 110 students; and the benchmark is lower at other schools. The vast majority of these large sections use multiple-choice exams that are scanned and use textbooks which have quizzes that are submitted and graded electronically. Thus, faculty efforts are virtually the same as for smaller sections and yet they are richly rewarded.

This desire to reduce teaching requirements has also driven some departments to increasingly offer online and so-called hybrid courses where in-class teaching is reduced. At Brooklyn, each semester there are a few faculty members who teach their entire program online so that they are totally absent from campus. Many other courses, including some large sections, are taught as hybrid courses – where students meet once rather than twice each week – so that faculty are on campus only one day each week. When I proposed a resolution that the faculty norm should be a minimum of two days of teaching responsibility each week, not one faculty chair supported it. Thus, colleges increasingly have phantom faculty and administrators have been powerless to stem the tide.

Another way to increase efficiency is to have teaching lines be more consistent with student demand. For years, there has been a decline for many liberal arts majors as student interests have shifted to business and other applied areas. However, tenure and continued elitist notions of college education has limited the reduction of faculty in liberal arts areas. This is most glaring at the CUNY Graduate Center where teaching requirements are half what they are at the four-year colleges.

A whole range of expensive Ph.D. programs reside there in areas where the small number of graduate students has very low prospects of gaining faculty positions. But once more every effort is made to protect these costly programs. Closing down Ph.D. programs at the CUNY Graduate Center, limiting the number of CUNY colleges offering low-demand majors, and consolidating these small departments should be a priority if free tuition is pursued.

A second area of concern is the continued overemphasis on four-year degrees. As mentioned, too many of the weakly-prepared students have an unsuccessful experience in the community colleges that are overwhelmingly geared to the transfer function. And many of those who successfully transfer to four-year colleges flounder and limp to graduation with degrees that do not lead to employment in their fields of study.

For many of these at-risk students, I believe that employment prospects would be greatly improved if they had enrolled in one of the certificate programs CUNY offers. One of the reasons that these students are not encouraged to consider this alternative is that certificate programs are offered through “Continuing Education” and, therefore, participants do not qualify for student aid. Since advocates are unwilling to have these students take out even the small loans necessary to pay for certificate programs, they choose to allow them to fail in the community college system. If the City Council really wants to help poor at-risk students it would expand any tuition proposal to make CUNY certificate programs free. This would not only enable more at-risk students to make effective choices but would undoubtedly shift many similar students away from the for-profit schools which offer much more expensive certificate programs.

During the so-called free era, CUNY students came from a small population cohort that was born during the Great Depression and graduated in the baby-boom era when expanding government services and educational institutions created a large demand for such programs. Today we no longer have expanding government, expanding social services, or expanding teaching positions. Students need more technical and applied skills desired by private industry and public colleges must be transformed to meet these needs.

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Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

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

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The CUNY Tuition Myth Thu, 28 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Could CUNY Be Tuition-Free Again? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6444:could-cuny-be-tuition-free-again http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6444:could-cuny-be-tuition-free-again hunter college graduation

(photo via Hunter College)


Members of the New York City Council want the City University of New York (CUNY) to return to providing a virtually tuition-free college education to local students, but major issues stand in the way.

For years, students, teachers, elected officials and education activists have led an on-and-off crusade to reduce tuition at CUNY and reinvest in higher education. CUNY was free for qualifying city students from its inception in 1847 until 1976, when a city fiscal crisis led to change. Recently, these efforts were reignited through a City Council bill that would establish a task force to propose ways to eliminate tuition at CUNY.

Brooklyn Council Member Inez Barron, chair of the Council’s higher education committee, introduced the bill in April. The committee held a preliminary hearing on the bill on June 16, during which Barron said, “College should be a right that is part and parcel of a commitment we make to provide free public education in grades K to 12.”

It is a “commitment” that was, in fact, extended to college for the majority of CUNY’s history - more than 150 years where the city university system has been an engine of opportunity for city residents, especially those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds.

Since 1976 and the institution of tuition at all CUNY colleges, CUNY has depended on a constantly shifting balance of state, city, and tuition funds to operate. Over the years, however, the state’s contribution has steadily decreased, tipping more of the financial burden to its 270,000 degree-seeking students in the form of rising tuition costs.

According to the city’s Independent Budget Office, state aid accounted for 68% of total CUNY funding in 1989, but only 48% by 2006. Conversely, tuition funding rose by 20% during the same time period. Today, tuition revenue accounts for 45% of CUNY’s funding - a far cry from the university’s original namesake, the “Free Academy.” As of Fall 2016, full-time annual tuition rates are set at $6,330 for CUNY’s 11 senior colleges and $4,800 at it’s seven community colleges.

Elected officials have made intermittent attempts to reverse the trend of state disinvestment, including a City Council resolution calling for increased state funding and a state Maintenance of Effort (MOE) bill to baseline CUNY financial support. These calls have gone largely unanswered, as CUNY’s resources have become more and more strained. Gov. Andrew Cuomo attempted to shift more CUNY costs to the city in his last budget proposal, but was unsuccessful in the final agreement with legislative leaders. The governor is insisting on reductions in administrative costs, which he says are out of control.

Now, Council Member Barron has introduced the ambitious notion of eliminating tuition entirely. Her task force bill has a total of ten sponsors in the 51-member Council. If passed and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a 13-member group would take on the challenge.

Financially, free tuition at CUNY may not be entirely out of reach.

According to University Executive Budget Director Catherine Abata, who also testified at the initial Council hearing on the bill, tuition revenue made up $1.5 billion of CUNY’s $3.2 billion 2015-2016 budget. Abata said that excluding state and federal financial aid (which includes loans), students end up paying $784 million of that amount in out-of-pocket tuition expenses. This includes both undergraduate and graduate students. Eliminating tuition at CUNY would essentially necessitate at least $784 million in additional annual CUNY funding from other sources.

At the hearing, City Council Member Jumaane Williams expressed frustration with the reluctance of city and state budget-makers to provide this amount, saying, “look at our budget, and it shows you what’s important. Basically for the city and the state and the federal government, $800 million is not important enough for everybody to have free access to education.”

One reason for the government’s reluctance could be that despite CUNY’s lack of funding, affordability is still a major point of pride for the university. In fact, 66% of full-time CUNY undergraduate students already attend tuition-free, thanks to a combination of financial aid and scholarships, according to CUNY’s website. Some policy experts warn that a free-tuition policy would only benefit the remaining percentage of students that don’t receive any aid; presumably, students who are able to afford their tuition out-of-pocket, though there are several other factors that could disqualify students from financial aid.

Since President Obama first announced “America’s College Promise” early last year, the free higher-education movement has gained momentum on a national scale. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made free public college one of his campaign pledges when he was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, outlining on his website how the initiative could be funded by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation.

Sanders even compared his plan to CUNY’s historic period of free tuition. It is unlikely, however, that a tax like Sanders eyed will be used to fund CUNY tuition in New York City, given de Blasio’s failure at securing Albany passage of a tax on upper income earners to fund his universal pre-kindergarten program. Eliminating tuition would likely require a budget commitment from the city and the state. To fund pre-K in New York City and around the state, Gov. Cuomo and legislators allocated the money without raising taxes. To fund the MTA capital plan, both the city and the state recently agreed to kick in billions of dollars more than previously planned.

According to Kevin Stump, Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit focused on empowering young people, “This last [legislative] session made very clear that Governor Cuomo isn't really interested in maintaining his support and investing in CUNY. He doesn’t really see it as an anti-poverty tool and an economic opportunity tool, like some of us do."

In early January, Cuomo outlined his Executive Budget plan, which showed that the city was to now cover 30% of CUNY’s senior college operating costs, totalling $485 million, with the rationale that city representatives currently make up 30% of the CUNY Board of Trustees (he also said that the city is doing much better financially than it was decades ago). After significant public pushback, Cuomo stated in March that he would work with the city to find “efficiencies” in the budget that would account for the $485 million and “not cost CUNY a penny.”

The state has provided the majority of CUNY’s senior college funding since 1976. On March 16, Director of State Operations Jim Malatras essentially withdrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, saying in a statement that “the $1.6 billion in aid [CUNY] receives has not changed, and will not change under this budget.” Nevertheless, Cuomo’s shake-up, which many viewed as an effort to hurt de Blasio, left doubts about the state’s future commitment to CUNY.

While several hundred million dollars per year is not that significant a portion of the state ($147 billion) or city ($82 billion) budget, the task force established by Barron’s bill, should it pass, would face a number of obstacles in restoring free tuition. Any path returning to a tuition-free CUNY would likely be a long one.

History
Since its establishment as the “Free Academy” in 1847, CUNY has strived to achieve its mission of providing all New Yorkers with accessible and affordable higher education. For almost 130 years, CUNY provided full-time students with qualifying academic merit the opportunity to study tuition-free at any of its institutions. At first, CUNY mainly consisted of four-year colleges like Hunter, Baruch, and City College. In 1957, CUNY established its first community college in the Bronx, and continued expanding from there.

Historically, economically disadvantaged New Yorkers, especially those from communities of color, have viewed a degree from CUNY as a tool toward advancement. A college education means career options, higher lifetime wages, and opportunity for socioeconomic mobility. CUNY is home to thousands of first-generation college students; 42% of the student population according to a 2014 CUNY survey.

After multiple student uprisings calling for increased diversity in the CUNY system in 1969, CUNY officially instated an Open Admissions policy, meaning that any student who graduated from a New York City public high school could matriculate for free. This led to a dramatic rise in attendance, coupled with a shift in student demographics that made it more closely reflect New York City’s diverse population. This period was short-lived, however, as seven years later, in 1976, the city experienced a major fiscal crisis. After being bailed out by the state, CUNY instituted tuition for all students for the first time, and enrollment slowed.

Tuition Today
According to the Independent Budget Office, “While tuition charges at private institutions generally rise each year, tuition levels at CUNY have followed a less regular pattern, with a sharp increase often followed by several years with no change.” In 2011, the New York State Legislature attempted to remedy this situation by passing a bill known as SUNY 2020, which authorized both SUNY (the larger statewide public college system) and CUNY schools to increase tuition by $300 annually for the next five years, while the state guaranteed not to reduce funding for baseline operating costs from the prior fiscal year.

The bill was not renewed during this past state legislative session, expiring July 1 and resulting in a welcome one-year tuition freeze at CUNY, but leaving ambiguity in the state’s future level of financial commitment. Currently, annual tuition for those enrolled for Fall of 2016 will remain at $4,800 for CUNY community colleges and $6,330 at senior colleges, according to the university’s website. These costs can be mitigated by financial aid.

On top of tuition, there are a variety of additional expenses incurred by students when pursuing a college degree, of course.

Students who attend college full-time, or even part-time, must account for food, books, transportation, and housing. According to the CUNY website, these additional expenses amount to $9,592 for CUNY in-state students living at home, and $20,295 for in-state students not living at home. Federal Pell grants and the State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) provide aid to needy students, but they often fall short of covering every necessary expense. Currently, the maximum annual TAP award is $5,165, and maximum Pell Grant is $5,915. While Pell Grants can be used to cover additional expenses, TAP exclusively covers tuition, and is heavily guarded by a host of recipient qualifications.

According to Amanda Roman, a political science major at College of Staten Island, a CUNY school, and member of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), “Programs like TAP don’t cover full college costs for many, and have not kept up with the needs of all student types, beyond just the straight-from-high-school-to-college full-time student.”

Stump explained further, “While TAP does need serious dollar investment, it also needs some serious structural changes to it as well.” For many categories of students, TAP aid is virtually out of reach. This includes undocumented students, which legislation known as the DREAM Act is aimed at reversing - it would allow financial aid to all students. Gov. Cuomo has expressed support for the DREAM Act and the Democrat-controlled Assembly has passed it multiple times, but the Republican-controlled Senate has not consented.

TAP is also withheld from most part-time students, who made up over 100,000 of CUNY enrollment as of Fall 2015. Part-time students must first attend school full-time for one year before being TAP eligible; an often implausible requirement, considering many part-time students are older and returning to school while working.

Significantly, TAP has not kept up with the annual increases in tuition laid out by SUNY 2020, creating what stakeholders refer to as the “TAP gap”: the difference between the tuition rate and the maximum amount of TAP aid provided to the neediest students. CUNY has been required to cover this gap, draining its resources even further.

According to Stump, “Last year alone, CUNY lost nearly $50 million because they had to fill the TAP gap,” using money that was supposed to be allocated for new programs and academic initiatives at the university.

Along with state and federal grants, students rely on loans and income to cover education expenses. In the Fall of 2014, CUNY reported that 30% of students in both senior and community colleges work more than 20 hours a week to afford school.

James Hoff, professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, testified at the June 16 hearing that many of his students “struggle to find time to study for my classes because they are forced to work 30 to 40 hours a week at minimum wage jobs just to pay for tuition and books. I have watched students take on huge course loads that they were unable to handle because they could not afford to pay for additional semesters.”

As the national student debt bill approaches the trillions, CUNY boasts that 80% of its students graduate debt-free. Council Member Barron, however, argues that the assertion of graduating debt-free “raises the question of what percentage of students never graduate, but nonetheless leave CUNY burdened by student loans.” According to an IBO report, “slightly less than a third of students don’t enroll in the fall after their first year.” Many students either drop out, or at the least, take much longer than expected to complete their degree.

In the Fall of 2015, CUNY reported that students were taking out $202 million in federal student loans. A proposal to eliminate tuition would need to carefully consider how this amount should be factored in.

The CUNY tuition task force bill
At the City Council’s full-body Stated Meeting in April, Barron first introduced her bill, Intro 1138, which is summarized on the Council website as such: “This bill would establish a task force to analyze ways to eliminate tuition at the City University of New York and to develop proposals on the role the City can play in working toward that goal. The task force would consist of 13 members, including representatives of the Public Advocate, the Office of Management and Budget and the Speaker, as well as CUNY students, faculty and advocates.”

The Committee on Higher Education’s first hearing on the bill, on June 16, included a full public seating area and testimony by four different panels of individuals representing a variety of groups and perspectives. According to the bill, the task force’s main objective would be to produce a detailed report presenting “an analysis of existing and potential sources of revenue that could replace tuition at the City University of New York, obstacles preventing the elimination of tuition, recommendations for how such obstacles should be addressed and steps the city should take to address them.”

The report would be due six months after the creation of the task force, yet speakers and Council members at the hearing wasted no time delving into the many implications that eliminating tuition would have for the future of CUNY. At the hearing, the most hesitant stakeholder appeared to be the university itself. James Murphy, Senior Enrollment Dean at CUNY, presented a host of potential issues that could result from the sudden elimination of what is currently the university’s largest source of funding.

What ‘Free Tuition’ Actually Means
As Murphy said at the hearing, “affordable to different people means different things.” Before the city or state can even consider investing in free tuition, the task force would need to nail down exactly which students qualify, what expenses would be covered, and how long tuition assistance would be provided, just to name a few concerns.

Many wonder which CUNY colleges, community or senior, should benefit from the initiative. There are advantages and drawbacks to both.

According to a report prepared by the city’s Independent Budget Office, the cost of eliminating tuition at CUNY’s seven community colleges would be $138-232 million per year, depending on factors like limiting the number of years covered or exclusively covering full-time students. Importantly, the IBO estimates assume that a tuition-free program would be structured around existing federal and state aid, which comprises the majority of tuition revenue for CUNY’s community colleges and is currently awarded to about 60% of students.

Another concern is the low readiness and completion rate of students at CUNY’s community colleges.

According to the IBO report, “Two years after initial enrollment, just 4 percent of students have earned their associate's degrees.” With such a trend, moving to free tuition may come with a semester limit for students and new efforts at increasing graduation rates.

Lisa Richmond, Executive Director of Graduate NYC, a citywide college readiness and completion initiative, says that college readiness is already “a huge goal of the public school system in New York.” According to Graduate NYC’s 2016 report, 47% of public high school graduates are college-ready, with the goal of increasing this number to 67% by 2020.

Richmond explains that “The college completion equation is certainly about preparedness, affordability, but it’s also about persistence and completion in other ways. In being able to get the classes that you need, and get the advisement to understand what courses you need.” It is these resources that may continue to hinder students on the path towards graduation, despite the possibility of free tuition.

At the Council hearing, Murphy, the CUNY enrollment dean, lamented the lack of resources, like academic counselors, for even the current student population.

CUNY’s Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs (ASAP) is an oft-cited model of success in speeding up graduation rates, and is the closest initiative to a free-tuition policy that the university currently employs. According to a CUNY internal analysis of the program, the average three-year graduation rate for community college students enrolled in ASAP is 53%, compared to 25% of CUNY students not in ASAP and a 16% national average.

What sets ASAP apart, they found, is the level of resources provided to students beyond free tuition. These resources include subsidized Metrocards, textbooks, and intensive mentoring and career services.

According to the IBO report, “an increase in graduation rates resulting from a more modest program that only offered free tuition could also produce fiscal benefits,” however, the report “emphasizes the importance of the full range of services offered” by ASAP that exceed a tuition-free policy.

While solely funding CUNY’s community colleges has a more feasible price tag and would benefit the neediest students, concerns mounted at the Council hearing over what Harold Stolper, Senior Economist at the Community Service Society of New York, called “under-matching.” According to Stolper, “even for low-income students who are sufficiently prepared to succeed at four-year colleges, the perception that this path is unaffordable reduces the incentives to apply to more selective colleges.”

If tuition were eliminated only at community colleges, the city may experience highly unbalanced enrollment rates between CUNY’s two- and four-year colleges. Stolper claimed that this trend already exists on a smaller scale: between 2008 and 2014, he said, “enrollment growth among the lowest income aid applicants was relatively slow at four-year colleges where price rose the fastest, while enrollment grew much faster for these students at two-year colleges where price growth was minimal.”

Including CUNY’s 11 senior colleges in the deal, which, according to Abata’s estimates, would increase the bill to around $784 million per year, poses its own challenges concerning enrollment rates.

City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, of the Bronx, said at the hearing, “Many of our colleges are literally bursting at the seams because of enrollment.” Even with its cost, CUNY remains the most affordable choice for higher education within the city; many students receive partial tuition assistance, and 66% of full-time undergraduate students attend CUNY tuition free. Should CUNY eliminate tuition for all students, however, people from all across the country may also flock to CUNY schools to take advantage of the chance to live and study for free in New York City.

Murphy explained, “A lot of these individuals come from communities in more affluent parts of the country, where they have one counselor for every 50 students [the rate is much more lopsided in New York City], and they just get their admissions applications out sooner.” Many are concerned that these students would effectively shut out local New York high school graduates, for whom the policy is primarily meant to benefit in the first place.

Ideally, a program that eliminates tuition would benefit as many students, in and out-of-state, as possible, without overextending resources from CUNY and the different levels of government contributing funding. This balance may very well be impossible to achieve.

More presently, CUNY has been facing existential crises.

From professors who have gone years without a raise to reports of leaky hallways and rodent-infested classrooms, CUNY has more than its fair share of challenges, in part due to government disinvestment. As the New York Times reported in a May, state government funding for CUNY has dropped by 17% over the last eight years, resulting in budget cuts to many CUNY programs that affect students, professors, and staff. According to the Times, the number of adjunct faculty members, who are paid less and receive almost no contractual benefits, has risen by 23% since 2009.

Stephen Brier, a Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and co-author of Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education, cautioned that “those endemic problems cannot and will not be solved by instituting a free tuition policy alone, however desirable that policy would be.”

According to Murphy, “Over the past eight years, CUNY enrollment has increased by 30,000 students, and we do not currently have the faculty or space to significantly increase enrollment any further.” A free-tuition policy may very well necessitate additional infrastructure, staff, and student resources.

Michael Fabricant, First Vice President of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents over 25,000 CUNY employees, recommended that the task force add the goal of examining “existing and potential sources of revenue that could provide resources beyond replacing tuition, given the university’s serious and long-term underfunding.”

Is Free Tuition the Right Battle?
Some argue that free-tuition initiatives won’t benefit students in need, and ultimately gloss over foundational changes that need to be addressed first in the higher education system. Preston Cooper, policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute, said, “I really don't think asking whether we should change who pays for college is the right question to be asking. It’s how much we should be paying for college in the first place.”

According to Cooper, federal aid and tuition are caught in “a vicious cycle” in which increases in maximum federal aid encourage administrators to raise tuition, inflating the cost of attendance. Cooper worries this cycle could be further inflamed by the establishment of free tuition, with CUNY “tuition” increased to try and capture additional aid from the state and city. The dynamic could prove costly and even prohibitive were a free-tuition program to be introduced that excluded out-of-state students.

Another issue inherent in free tuition is what Max Eden, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, calls the “substitution effect,” where middle-class students, who may be able to afford college elsewhere, decide to go to CUNY to take advantage of free tuition, edging out lower-income students who view CUNY as their only option. This could decrease socioeconomic and other measures of diversity at CUNY - as of Fall 2014, 39% of undergraduate students had a household income of less than $20,000. Experts stress that it is this specific group, and not the entire population, that a targeted financial investment must be made towards.

According to Eden, “The government is involved in higher education to help solve a problem: that it might not be provided for kids with limited economic backgrounds. If, and when, it goes above and beyond that, to trying to subsidize everybody, that will not only have financial costs. It will have a cost to the reason the government got into it in the first place.”

Next Steps
Moving ahead, it is to-be-seen whether the bill to create the tuition-free CUNY task force gains momentum, is passed by the Council and signed by the mayor. If it is enacted and the task force is formed and makes its recommendations, it would essentially then cease to exist, once again leaving the free-tuition discussion with state lawmakers and CUNY administrators.

For now, CUNY has pressing needs. Fabricant, of the CUNY employee union, says, “We need to remember that public higher education is a public good that the State of New York needs to recommit substantial economic resources to.”

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by Amanda Sherwin, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer

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Could CUNY Be Tuition-Free Again? Tue, 19 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The New Yorker's Guide To The New City Government http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=4792:the-guide-to-new-york-citys-new-government http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=4792:the-guide-to-new-york-citys-new-government CityHall2

Photo by Bill Alatriste/City Council

NEW YORK — The historic overhaul of New York City government this year goes well beyond the mayor's office.

There are 21 new members of the City Council, four new borough presidents, and fresh, yet familiar, faces in the offices of Brooklyn district attorney, comptroller, and public advocate. With the city’s politics taking an increasingly liberal turn, there are few outright conservatives left in city government.

“Reapportionment and term limits combined to make the City Council younger, a little bit further to the left, perhaps less a product of traditional political organizations or machines, and demographically, a little more like the population of the city,” said Kenneth Sherrill, Chair of the Political Science Department at Hunter College.

New city officials include the first Mexican-American on City Council; old friends of incoming Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from his tenure during the 1990s; yet another member of the Queens Vallone clan; and a progressive new Brooklyn D.A., who has said he wants to re-train the borough's police officers. We've rounded up the full list here.

Citywide

Mayor

Bill de Blasio - De Blasio has been involved in New York City politics since he helped the last progressive mayor, David Dinkins, get elected in 1989. Between that first campaign and his mayoral victory, De Blasio served as the regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helped Hillary Clinton get elected to the U.S. Senate, spent eight years representing some of Brooklyn’s wealthier neighborhoods on the City Council, and, most recently, served as the city’s public advocate. In an attempt to deliver on a key campaign promise early on, De Blasio has spent the last few weeks drumming up support in Albany for a small tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K. Dinkins, somewhat ironically and extremely publicly, recently told him to reconsider, saying “we might have more success” with a commuter tax.

Comptroller

Scott Stringer - Stringer left his post as Manhattan Borough President and took on former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in order to ascend to this quietly powerful office overseeing city finances. He brings with him experience as a trustee of the massiveNYCERS pension fund and a track record of spearheadingpopulist economic initiatives, including the New York City Taxpayer Receipt, a website that allows constituents totrack their tax dollars.

Public Advocate

Letitia "Tish" James - James has served Central Brooklyn on the City Council since 2003 and has opposed several major development and rezoning projects, including Atlantic Yards, which, for years, riled up residents around what is now the Barclays Center. Most recently, James joined progressive groups in calling for higher wages and a change in the city’s economic development policies, including more stringent requirements for banks and corporations that receive city subsidies.

Borough-wide offices

Brooklyn District Attorney

Kenneth P. Thompson - Thompson had tobeat incumbent Charles Hynes twice - first, in the primary, when Hynes was a Democrat, and again when Hynes became a Republican for the general election. In anacceptance speech, the first black Brooklyn DA said voters had chosen him as an alternative to "false accusation, fear-mongering, and race-baiting." As a federal attorney, Thompson prosecutedpolice brutality in Brooklyn and now aims to reduce false arrests byassigning prosecutors to police precincts in East New York and Brownsville. “It is not right to have someone subjected to stop-and-frisk, snake through the system and spend two days in jail just to get out," hetold the Daily News.

Brooklyn Borough President

Eric Adams (D, WF) - Counted as anold friend by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Adams served 22 years in the NYPD before moving on to the State Senate, where he has represented Crown Heights, Flatbush, Sunset Park and Park Slope for the last eight years. A vocal critic of former Commissioner Ray Kelly when stop-and-frisk was on trial, Adams advocates for a "symbiotic relationship" between the police and the community.

Manhattan Borough President

Gale Brewer (D) - Brewer has been a Council member for the Upper West Side and North Clinton since 2002. Her most recent political efforts include a push tomake food trucks greener and to get the city toseek federal funding to expand CitiBike.

Queens Borough President

Melinda Katz (D) - Katz represented Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and other pockets of Queens during her seven-year tenure on the City Council between 2002 and 2009. While on the Council, she was chair of the land use committee, and played a key role in moving forward the massive rezoning the city underwent during the Bloomberg administration.

Staten Island Borough President

James Oddo (R) - After 15 years on the City Council, Oddo is passing his title of Republican minority leader on to fellow Staten Island politician Vincent Ignizio. When it comes to Sandy relief, Oddosupports an "acquisition for redevelopment" plan that would buy out homeowners, open Midland Beach up to developers, and give former residents the option of moving back in.

City Council

Manhattan

Corey Johnson (D) - D3 - Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, West Village- Johnson, a prominent activist in the LGBT community, will take outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn's seat. Johnson most recently served as Chair of Community Board 4, which also made him aboard member of the Hudson Yards Development Corp. Johnson built much of his campaign around affordable housing, but has been thesubject of controversy as a former employee of GFI Development Co., which has erected its fair share of Brooklyn condos.

Ben Kallos (D) - D5 - Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island - Kallos, a lawyer and lifelong Upper East Sider, advocated for state constitutional reform as the Executive Director of the groupEffectiveNY and has put the issues of government accountability and transparency at the forefront of his campaign. He has also pledged to try toaid local businesses affected by the interminable Second Avenue subway construction.

Hellen Rosenthal (D) - D6 - Upper West Side and North Clinton - Rosenthal, who is coming from a post in the City Hall Budget Office, has been amajor supporter of participatory budgeting and has advocated bringing it to her district, where, in the past, she served as Chair of Community Board 7.

Mark Levine (D, WF) - D7 - parts of Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights/West Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Washington Heights, and part of UWS - Over the course of his uptown political career, Levine founded the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan and a credit union called the Neighborhood Trust. He also briefly ran the New York chapter of the controversial Teach for America program, of which he was an early participant. Levine's proposals for city schools includeexpanding the curriculum to teach about LGBT history, animal welfare, and environmental issues.

Brooklyn

Laurie Cumbo (D) - D35 - Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, and part of Bedford Stuyvesant - Cumbo is best known in Brooklyn for her leadership and expansion ofMoCADA, the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, and other cultural programs she has jump-started. But Cumbo has had a rough start as a Council member. She already had toapologize to her new constituents for racially chargedcomments she made about the 'knockout attacks' in Crown Heights last month.

Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D) -D36- Bedford Stuvesant and parts of Crown Heights - Cornegy is transitioning from a position as Legislative Analyst for the Council's Aging and Veterans Committee. The former district leader and president of VIDA, Central Brooklyn's Vanguard Independent Democratic Association,eked out a primary win in a race that ended with a highly contested recount.

Rafael Espinal, Jr. (D) - D37- Cypress Hills, Bushwick, East New York, City Line, Ocean Hill, Brownsville - Two years ago, Espinal, then 27, became the youngest member of the State Assembly, representing District 54. Most recently, hesponsored legislation related to domestic abuse and, in the past, has sponsored bills that would require insurance companies to expand women's health coverage. Espinal has said he is determined to repair the infrastructure in neighborhoods that have been "completely ignored" by the city, like Cypress Hills, where he grew up.

Carlos Menchaca (D) - D38 - Bayridge Towers, Greenwood Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace - Menchaca'srelief efforts in Red Hook following Hurricane Sandy helped him get the support he needed to beat his district's incumbent. Now, he and incoming Council Member Mark Treyger want tostart a Sandy relief committee on the City Council. Proudly claiming the dual titles of "first Mexican-American on the City Council" and "first openly gay legislator in Brooklyn," Menchaca cut his teeth in the offices of outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz and outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn.

Inez Barron (D) - D42 - NEIGHBORHOODS - In her five years representing State Assembly District 60, Barron hastaken a progressive stance on issues from gun regulation to sex education. She alsofought to end mayoral control of city schools after a decades-long career as a public school teacher and administrator. Barron's more incendiary husband, Charles, is passing her the torch in their Council district.

Alan Maisel (D) - D46 - Canarsie, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Gerritsen Beach, part of Sheepshead Bay - Environmental issues and public safety, including 'fracking' regulation, have been prominent among the legislation Maisel hassponsored in his tenure serving State Assembly District 59. Much of Maisel's civic work in Brooklyn has been done through the international Jewish organization B'nai B'rith, although he has also served on his local school and community boards.

Mark Treyger (D) - D47 - Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island, and Sea Gate - After Superstorm Sandy hit, Treyger founded STRONG, the Sandy Task Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups, and is now joining forces with fellow incoming Council Member Carlos Menchaca to call fora Sandy relief committee on the City Council. Treyger, long active in local politics, has been a high school teacher since 2005, with strong involvement in the United Federation of Teachers.

Chaim Deutsch (D) - D48 - Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach - Over the past 20 years, Deutsch, who has a strong foothold in Brooklyn's Jewish community, has taken community safety into his own hands as president of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol. He founded the Patrol in the early 1990s in response to rising crime and has worked closely with both Commissioner Bill Bratton and outgoing police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Deutsch even held an appreciation ceremony for Kelly, during which hepresented the city’s top cop with a mezuzah, which Jews hang in their doorways for protection. He alsopraised Bratton for having "excelled at police-community relations and law enforcement strategies" during his previous tenure on the NYPD.

Antonio Reynoso - D34 - Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn; Ridgewood in Queens - Reynoso is taking the seat of his former boss, Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who he has been working for since 2007, most recently as her Chief of Staff. A Williamsburg native, Reynoso has made affordable housing his top issue, speaking out frequently about the neighborhood's luxury makeover. He beat out a seasoned politician, former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who was forced out of the Assembly earlier this year following a sexual harassment case.

Queens

Paul Vallone, Jr. (D) - D19 - College Point, Auburndale-Flushing, Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston, and Little Neck - Leaving his practice at Queens law firm Vallone and Vallone to take a seat on the City Council, Vallone seems to be leaving onefamily business for another. His father, former Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., served on the City Council for 25 years, leaving in 2001, when his brother, Peter, Jr., was elected to represent the 22nd District (his term is up this year). Beyond his family ties, Vallone has established thousands of dollars in scholarship funds for Queens high school students and based his campaign platform on a mix of progressive issues — such as women's access to birth control — and local issues like noise pollution from overhead flights.

Costa Constantinides (D) - D22 - Astoria, Long Island City, part of Jackson Heights, Rikers Island, Randalls Island, and Wards Island - In the district that includes the city's largest jail, Constantinides earned valuable campaign support from the Correctional Officers Benevolent Association. Constantinides aims to reduce both crime and unemployment by hiring more police officers. He has also been active in the fight for voter rights throughout the state as a member of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, and says it's time to dump thehundreds of outdoor trailer classrooms” that are disproportionately found in Queens schools.

Rory Lancman (D) - D24 - Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest Estates, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Utopia Estates, and parts of Forest Hills, Flushing, Jamaica and Rego Park - When Lancman attempted to run for Anthony Weiner's old seat in Congress last year,WNYC reported that he had made some enemies and that one source had even called him the "most hated member of the state Assembly." Lancman, a lawyer who served Assembly District 25 for six years, has also passed a significant volume of legislation, including theLibel Terrorism Protection Act, which aims to protect journalists writing about terrorism abroad from being hit with defamation lawsuits, and a host of bills related to equality andsafety in the workplace.

Daneek Miller (D) - D27 - St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park, Addisleigh Park, and parts of Queens Village, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens - In December, Millerreceived a "Champion of Labor" Award, along with Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James. In Southeast Queens, where subway service is spotty, Miller has championed bus drivers and riders as president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transportation Union. He also co-founded a mentor program called Brothers Unlimited.

Bronx

Andrew Cohen (D) - D11 - Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, Norwood, and parts of Bedford Park, Wakefield, and Bronx Park East - Cohen, a Riverdale attorney, has had a long career in law, including several years as a court attorney to a Bronx Supreme Court Justice, legal counsel to State Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, and a stint as an assistant adjunct at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has called for raising the minimum wage and has gained the support of the United Federation of Teachers.

Ritchie Torres (D) - D15 - Bathgate, Belmont, Crotona, Fordham, East Tremont, Van Nest and West Farms - Torres, only 24, is one of many young Latino Democrats making their way into city politics. He has worked with Councilman James Vacca since his 2005 campaign and was named his housing director in 2011. Torres, who grew up in NYCHA housing, has worked to create tenants' associations and to advocate for basic rights of NYCHA residents in the Bronx, like building improvements andheating.

Vanessa Gibson (D) - D16 - West Bronx, Morrisania, Highbridge, and Melrose - A Bronx transplant from Brooklyn, Gibson was elected to State Assembly District 77 in 2009, where she has focused on housing and social services. She began her political career as the Bronx district office manager for Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene.

Staten Island

Steven Matteo (R) - D50 - in Brooklyn, parts of Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach; in Staten Island, Arrochar, Bulls Head, Concord, Dongan Hill, Emerson Hill, Fort Wadsworth, Grant City, Graniteville, Grasmere, Island of Meadows, Midland Beach, New Dorp, Prall's Island, Richmondtown, South Beach, Todt Hill, Travis, Westerleigh, Willowbrook - Sandy relief is still the number one priority in Staten Island, but Matteo has identified other issues affecting residents, including rampantprescription drug use. Matteo also said hehopes to work with the mayor  "to wrestle toll setting authority” from the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This is an updated version which corrects the number of incoming City Council members to 21 and adds information on Councilman Antonio Reynoso.

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The New Yorker's Guide To The New City Government Tue, 31 Dec 2013 16:55:08 +0000