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/james-oddo 2017-12-13T17:03:11+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Suggestions for Better Disaster Relief from Former HUD Leader 2017-07-25T19:36:45+00:00 2017-07-25T19:36:45+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7085:suggestions-for-better-disaster-relief-from-former-hud-leader Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/34209726002_1556c955c3_z.jpg" alt="NYC Ferries" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>NYC Ferries (Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the city approaches the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the eastern seaboard and wrecked homes and businesses in New York’s coastal communities, a new report says there is more work to be done to prepare for the next storm.</p> <p>Former HUD regional administrator for New York and New Jersey Holly Leicht, who oversaw the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $15.2 billion Superstorm Sandy recovery program, presented <a href="http://communityp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMPROVING-DISASTER-RECOVERY-PAPER-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> last week with 41 recommendations for how the government at the federal, state and local levels could better approach natural disaster preparedness and recovery. Leicht’s report was the centerpiece of a symposium sponsored by the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), a nonprofit organization that deals with affordable housing for underserved communities, and the Staten Island Borough President’s office.</p> <p>The 51-page report includes numerous proposals for stronger coordination between federal and local authorities in the wake of a disaster, streamlined funding for disaster relief, improved communication with affected communities and reduced bureaucratic hurdles in disaster response.</p> <p>For instance, Leicht suggests creating a single disaster relief website where individuals could go to seek assistance from multiple agencies, making a single office in charge of disaster recovery, and instituting fundamental readiness standards. She floats the idea of giving HUD the authority to appropriate disaster recovery funding, encourages standardization of disaster relief funds to prioritize low- and middle-income families, and recommends that Congress and White House allocate additional tax credits to replace lost rental housing units with new affordable housing.&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is something we can accomplish without our heads exploding,” Leicht joked in her opening remarks at the CPC conference. “We’re making incremental change in an area where we need to be making drastic change and fast change.”</p> <p>Asked what she would say to critics who might question the cost of such reforms, Leich told Gotham Gazette, “I think my message is that a lot of these things are cost neutral. Out of 41, we could probably do 25 without expending much money or having to change laws. The key thing is having leadership to get started.”</p> <p>From 2011 to 2013 alone, the federal government spent a total of $136 billion on disaster recovery. Leicht argued that not nearly enough funding is being spent on mitigation to prevent damage from future natural disasters. According to her report, prioritizing mitigation can save $1.2 billion in funding annually.</p> <p>“I know this is difficult,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, who participated in the panel discussion during the event. “We, as government, made mistakes...I’m not trying to pick a fight with a billionaire ex-mayor, I had plenty of dials with that administration back in the day. I’m not trying to tug on the current mayor’s cape, but I owe it to my constituents to make sure there’s a process that is frank about what went wrong.”</p> <p>One of the major criticisms regarding the recovery effort after Sandy is the amount of time it took to repair and restore homes that had been destroyed. According to Leicht, 18 months was considered the gold standard as to when individuals could expect to move back into their homes after Sandy, and many homeowners were not aware of this.</p> <p>“I absolutely believe had my constituents known that they were looking at an 18-month, two year, three year, five year process, they would have made different decisions,” Oddo said. Many are still not back in their homes as the five-year anniversary of the storm approaches this fall.</p> <p>There also seems to be lingering confusion around how recovery is defined in government agencies that are supposed to be providing relief to victims. Recovery could simply mean making sure the person affected by the disaster is able to get back on their feet, or it could also mean that recovery has not been achieved until the victim has been fully compensated for what was lost.</p> <p>“We’ve gotta make some substantive changes here,” said Brad Gair, former director of Housing Recovery Operations in New York City and currently the senior managing director of Witt O’Brien’s, a private sector crisis and disaster management firm. “This recovery was a disaster. We failed the people of New York -- I’m talking from a city perspective. The problem is, what are we trying to do here? When we talk about post-disaster housing have we ever had the discussion of: do people, who lost their houses because of a disaster, are they entitled to a new home at the government’s expense? I’m not saying yes or no. I’m saying we’ve gotta talk about that. Until you talk about that, you get what you get.”</p> <p>Nonetheless, the city and state have taken some steps to safeguard against future damage caused by hurricanes. For example, some properties in coastal areas that are at risk of being impacted by storms are being bought by the government to prevent individuals from moving back in.</p> <p>But Oddo concluded with some cautionary words for lawmakers and administrators. “Be careful of the struggle between building quickly and building smartly,” he said. “We were so careful we did neither.”</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/34209726002_1556c955c3_z.jpg" alt="NYC Ferries" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>NYC Ferries (Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the city approaches the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the eastern seaboard and wrecked homes and businesses in New York’s coastal communities, a new report says there is more work to be done to prepare for the next storm.</p> <p>Former HUD regional administrator for New York and New Jersey Holly Leicht, who oversaw the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $15.2 billion Superstorm Sandy recovery program, presented <a href="http://communityp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMPROVING-DISASTER-RECOVERY-PAPER-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> last week with 41 recommendations for how the government at the federal, state and local levels could better approach natural disaster preparedness and recovery. Leicht’s report was the centerpiece of a symposium sponsored by the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), a nonprofit organization that deals with affordable housing for underserved communities, and the Staten Island Borough President’s office.</p> <p>The 51-page report includes numerous proposals for stronger coordination between federal and local authorities in the wake of a disaster, streamlined funding for disaster relief, improved communication with affected communities and reduced bureaucratic hurdles in disaster response.</p> <p>For instance, Leicht suggests creating a single disaster relief website where individuals could go to seek assistance from multiple agencies, making a single office in charge of disaster recovery, and instituting fundamental readiness standards. She floats the idea of giving HUD the authority to appropriate disaster recovery funding, encourages standardization of disaster relief funds to prioritize low- and middle-income families, and recommends that Congress and White House allocate additional tax credits to replace lost rental housing units with new affordable housing.&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is something we can accomplish without our heads exploding,” Leicht joked in her opening remarks at the CPC conference. “We’re making incremental change in an area where we need to be making drastic change and fast change.”</p> <p>Asked what she would say to critics who might question the cost of such reforms, Leich told Gotham Gazette, “I think my message is that a lot of these things are cost neutral. Out of 41, we could probably do 25 without expending much money or having to change laws. The key thing is having leadership to get started.”</p> <p>From 2011 to 2013 alone, the federal government spent a total of $136 billion on disaster recovery. Leicht argued that not nearly enough funding is being spent on mitigation to prevent damage from future natural disasters. According to her report, prioritizing mitigation can save $1.2 billion in funding annually.</p> <p>“I know this is difficult,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, who participated in the panel discussion during the event. “We, as government, made mistakes...I’m not trying to pick a fight with a billionaire ex-mayor, I had plenty of dials with that administration back in the day. I’m not trying to tug on the current mayor’s cape, but I owe it to my constituents to make sure there’s a process that is frank about what went wrong.”</p> <p>One of the major criticisms regarding the recovery effort after Sandy is the amount of time it took to repair and restore homes that had been destroyed. According to Leicht, 18 months was considered the gold standard as to when individuals could expect to move back into their homes after Sandy, and many homeowners were not aware of this.</p> <p>“I absolutely believe had my constituents known that they were looking at an 18-month, two year, three year, five year process, they would have made different decisions,” Oddo said. Many are still not back in their homes as the five-year anniversary of the storm approaches this fall.</p> <p>There also seems to be lingering confusion around how recovery is defined in government agencies that are supposed to be providing relief to victims. Recovery could simply mean making sure the person affected by the disaster is able to get back on their feet, or it could also mean that recovery has not been achieved until the victim has been fully compensated for what was lost.</p> <p>“We’ve gotta make some substantive changes here,” said Brad Gair, former director of Housing Recovery Operations in New York City and currently the senior managing director of Witt O’Brien’s, a private sector crisis and disaster management firm. “This recovery was a disaster. We failed the people of New York -- I’m talking from a city perspective. The problem is, what are we trying to do here? When we talk about post-disaster housing have we ever had the discussion of: do people, who lost their houses because of a disaster, are they entitled to a new home at the government’s expense? I’m not saying yes or no. I’m saying we’ve gotta talk about that. Until you talk about that, you get what you get.”</p> <p>Nonetheless, the city and state have taken some steps to safeguard against future damage caused by hurricanes. For example, some properties in coastal areas that are at risk of being impacted by storms are being bought by the government to prevent individuals from moving back in.</p> <p>But Oddo concluded with some cautionary words for lawmakers and administrators. “Be careful of the struggle between building quickly and building smartly,” he said. “We were so careful we did neither.”</p> <p> </p> De Blasio Holds Town Hall as Week on Staten Island Nears Conclusion 2017-04-13T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6872:de-blasio-holds-town-hall-as-week-on-staten-island-concludes Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33956741906_3e902fafde_z.jpg" alt="de blasio oddo staten island" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Oddo on Staten Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s week on Staten Island neared a close Thursday evening, City Council Member Debi Rose told a north shore town hall audience that “Staten Island can no longer use the moniker that we are ‘The Forgotten Borough.’” In opening remarks before introducing de Blasio at I.S. 27, Rose said that the mayor’s attention to the borough had negated that longtime, self-given nickname of neglect.</p> <p>From Monday through Friday, de Blasio and his top aides are working out of Staten Island borough hall and holding events around the island, in what is the first of five such weeks in the mayor’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6863-de-blasio-goes-local-with-city-hall-in-your-borough-series" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new “City Hall in Your Borough” initiative</a>.</p> <p>The week has included announcements of an expansion of neighborhood policing on the south shore; the proliferation of an electronics recycling pilot program that started mid-Island; and increased boarding options for the Staten Island Ferry. De Blasio held constituent office hours, participated in evening road repaving, visited a senior center, talked with a local family about their water bill, celebrated Passover at a synagogue, visited several top borough restaurants, and took in a concert.</p> <p>“The mayor has shared our concerns and interests,” Rose said, calling de Blasio “responsive” and noting that people are apt to criticize but don’t give credit enough. Rose listed major concerns for her constituents: education, transportation, traffic, safety, recreation facilities, job creation, protecting the environment, and managing development and growth while maintaining Staten Island character -- most of which came up in the two-plus hours that de Blasio took more than 50 audience questions at Thursday’s town hall.</p> <p>Rose, a Democrat, spoke just after Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, and state Senator Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, who both stressed that Staten Islanders focus less on political party and more on getting things done. Oddo and de Blasio share a particularly close relationship going back to their days on the City Council, and they have appeared at a number of events together during the week. In his opening remarks the borough president briefly recounted how productive a week it has been and his appreciation that de Blasio immersed city government in Staten Island issues for the five days.</p> <p>When he took the microphone, de Blasio noted his positive relationships with the borough’s elected officials and touted reductions in crime on Staten Island, thanking the NYPD, as well as a drop in traffic fatalities this year compared to the same period last year. He announced that a new Staten Island Ferry boat would be named after Sandy Ground, which was an African-American settlement dating back to the 1830s and a stop on the Underground Railroad. The mayor explained that his administration recently announced a new plan to combat the opioid epidemic and his ongoing focus on repaving streets, two very different but particular concerns for Staten Islanders.</p> <p>Over the course of the town hall, de Blasio took a few general questions about city policy, but largely heard constituents’ local, specific concerns, from problems at a nearby elementary school to development along the north shore, a lack of transportation options, and police-community relations. He heard from constituents of diverse backgrounds and of all ages, including a high school student worried about protections for LGBT students and an elderly woman concerned about broken sidewalks.</p> <p>The mayor, who at times was short and cranky with audience members who he wanted to ask their questions more quickly, gave frank answers, even when he disagreed with the questioner, and often called over different commissioners, NYPD representatives, and other aides to give more detailed answers after his general one. It was a similar scene to the dozens of prior town halls de Blasio has held all over the city during the past year and a half.</p> <p>Thursday’s was de Blasio’s second Staten Island town hall -- he previously held one mid-Island with Republican Council Member Steven Matteo. De Blasio has promised to hold a town hall in all 51 City Council districts, leaving him one more on Staten Island, that of Republican Joe Borelli, who appeared with the mayor for the policing announcement on Monday.</p> <p>Two themes among the wide variety of questions Thursday night were opportunity for community youth and development along the north shore. There were also a number of education and school-related questions. “[T]he youth, give them something to do,” one attendee said to de Blasio, and was met with applause from the audience. “I share that view so much so that...every middle school kid has free after-school,” de Blasio responded, touting one of his key education investments, though he told the audience that not enough families are taking advantage of the program.</p> <p>“I can’t make a commitment to you tonight,” de Blasio said about a new community center for youth. “We’re making a benefit available exactly for that reason,” he added regarding young people not having enough to do. The mayor mentioned tutoring, homework help, recreation, and enrichment, but he encouraged audience members to spread the word about the program.</p> <p>The north shore of Staten Island is home to much development -- as de Blasio decamped on borough hall, he was a stone's throw from ongoing construction of a new outlet mall, one of several changes that will remake the area. De Blasio insisted that the city will hold developers to their commitments and also previewed a rezoning of part of the north shore district that Rose represents, explaining that a ”rezoning offers the opportunity for a massive infusion of resources into a community,” including the types of amenities that some town hall participants were asking for, such as a new community center. He referenced the only community rezoning that has occurred during his administration, that of part of East New York, Brooklyn. It was not clear if the mayor was able to assuage the concerns of those who worry about new development and the loss of community "character."</p> <p>Multiple attendees asked de Blasio about policing or police-community relations and de Blasio gave similar answers each time: explaining that he has worked to improve those relations through the implementation of the neighborhood policing model while also reaffirming his commitment to "quality-of-life policing," which is also known as Broken Windows policing, though the mayor rarely uses that term unprovoked. He stressed that crime is down while arrests and negative interactions between officers and New Yorkers are also down.</p> <p>One constituent asked de Blasio what, if re-elected, his top three second-term priorities for Staten Island would be. De Blasio declined to make the answer local, instead explaining his goals for the city: continuing to drive crime down and improve police-community relations; improving schools through his “Equity and Excellence” agenda; and making the city more affordable though more rent-regulated housing and better-paying jobs.</p> <p>The mayor will conclude his five days on Staten Island Friday with one public event: a tour of the community center at Mariner’s Harbor Houses, a NYCHA property, where he will also "make an announcement about the Cornerstone Program," according to his public schedule. Prior to that, he'll make his weekly appearance on WNYC radio's The Brian Lehrer Show, as he did his Monday evening spot on NY1's Road to City Hall television program.</p> <p>Still, de Blasio has been very limited in dealing the media this week. The mayor took press questions at his Monday mid-day event in conjunction with his policing announcement on the south shore, but held no other question-and-answer session with reporters all week. He held several events open to the press, but did not allow questions, ignoring any that were asked by members of the media who attended.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33956741906_3e902fafde_z.jpg" alt="de blasio oddo staten island" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Oddo on Staten Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s week on Staten Island neared a close Thursday evening, City Council Member Debi Rose told a north shore town hall audience that “Staten Island can no longer use the moniker that we are ‘The Forgotten Borough.’” In opening remarks before introducing de Blasio at I.S. 27, Rose said that the mayor’s attention to the borough had negated that longtime, self-given nickname of neglect.</p> <p>From Monday through Friday, de Blasio and his top aides are working out of Staten Island borough hall and holding events around the island, in what is the first of five such weeks in the mayor’s <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6863-de-blasio-goes-local-with-city-hall-in-your-borough-series" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new “City Hall in Your Borough” initiative</a>.</p> <p>The week has included announcements of an expansion of neighborhood policing on the south shore; the proliferation of an electronics recycling pilot program that started mid-Island; and increased boarding options for the Staten Island Ferry. De Blasio held constituent office hours, participated in evening road repaving, visited a senior center, talked with a local family about their water bill, celebrated Passover at a synagogue, visited several top borough restaurants, and took in a concert.</p> <p>“The mayor has shared our concerns and interests,” Rose said, calling de Blasio “responsive” and noting that people are apt to criticize but don’t give credit enough. Rose listed major concerns for her constituents: education, transportation, traffic, safety, recreation facilities, job creation, protecting the environment, and managing development and growth while maintaining Staten Island character -- most of which came up in the two-plus hours that de Blasio took more than 50 audience questions at Thursday’s town hall.</p> <p>Rose, a Democrat, spoke just after Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, and state Senator Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, who both stressed that Staten Islanders focus less on political party and more on getting things done. Oddo and de Blasio share a particularly close relationship going back to their days on the City Council, and they have appeared at a number of events together during the week. In his opening remarks the borough president briefly recounted how productive a week it has been and his appreciation that de Blasio immersed city government in Staten Island issues for the five days.</p> <p>When he took the microphone, de Blasio noted his positive relationships with the borough’s elected officials and touted reductions in crime on Staten Island, thanking the NYPD, as well as a drop in traffic fatalities this year compared to the same period last year. He announced that a new Staten Island Ferry boat would be named after Sandy Ground, which was an African-American settlement dating back to the 1830s and a stop on the Underground Railroad. The mayor explained that his administration recently announced a new plan to combat the opioid epidemic and his ongoing focus on repaving streets, two very different but particular concerns for Staten Islanders.</p> <p>Over the course of the town hall, de Blasio took a few general questions about city policy, but largely heard constituents’ local, specific concerns, from problems at a nearby elementary school to development along the north shore, a lack of transportation options, and police-community relations. He heard from constituents of diverse backgrounds and of all ages, including a high school student worried about protections for LGBT students and an elderly woman concerned about broken sidewalks.</p> <p>The mayor, who at times was short and cranky with audience members who he wanted to ask their questions more quickly, gave frank answers, even when he disagreed with the questioner, and often called over different commissioners, NYPD representatives, and other aides to give more detailed answers after his general one. It was a similar scene to the dozens of prior town halls de Blasio has held all over the city during the past year and a half.</p> <p>Thursday’s was de Blasio’s second Staten Island town hall -- he previously held one mid-Island with Republican Council Member Steven Matteo. De Blasio has promised to hold a town hall in all 51 City Council districts, leaving him one more on Staten Island, that of Republican Joe Borelli, who appeared with the mayor for the policing announcement on Monday.</p> <p>Two themes among the wide variety of questions Thursday night were opportunity for community youth and development along the north shore. There were also a number of education and school-related questions. “[T]he youth, give them something to do,” one attendee said to de Blasio, and was met with applause from the audience. “I share that view so much so that...every middle school kid has free after-school,” de Blasio responded, touting one of his key education investments, though he told the audience that not enough families are taking advantage of the program.</p> <p>“I can’t make a commitment to you tonight,” de Blasio said about a new community center for youth. “We’re making a benefit available exactly for that reason,” he added regarding young people not having enough to do. The mayor mentioned tutoring, homework help, recreation, and enrichment, but he encouraged audience members to spread the word about the program.</p> <p>The north shore of Staten Island is home to much development -- as de Blasio decamped on borough hall, he was a stone's throw from ongoing construction of a new outlet mall, one of several changes that will remake the area. De Blasio insisted that the city will hold developers to their commitments and also previewed a rezoning of part of the north shore district that Rose represents, explaining that a ”rezoning offers the opportunity for a massive infusion of resources into a community,” including the types of amenities that some town hall participants were asking for, such as a new community center. He referenced the only community rezoning that has occurred during his administration, that of part of East New York, Brooklyn. It was not clear if the mayor was able to assuage the concerns of those who worry about new development and the loss of community "character."</p> <p>Multiple attendees asked de Blasio about policing or police-community relations and de Blasio gave similar answers each time: explaining that he has worked to improve those relations through the implementation of the neighborhood policing model while also reaffirming his commitment to "quality-of-life policing," which is also known as Broken Windows policing, though the mayor rarely uses that term unprovoked. He stressed that crime is down while arrests and negative interactions between officers and New Yorkers are also down.</p> <p>One constituent asked de Blasio what, if re-elected, his top three second-term priorities for Staten Island would be. De Blasio declined to make the answer local, instead explaining his goals for the city: continuing to drive crime down and improve police-community relations; improving schools through his “Equity and Excellence” agenda; and making the city more affordable though more rent-regulated housing and better-paying jobs.</p> <p>The mayor will conclude his five days on Staten Island Friday with one public event: a tour of the community center at Mariner’s Harbor Houses, a NYCHA property, where he will also "make an announcement about the Cornerstone Program," according to his public schedule. Prior to that, he'll make his weekly appearance on WNYC radio's The Brian Lehrer Show, as he did his Monday evening spot on NY1's Road to City Hall television program.</p> <p>Still, de Blasio has been very limited in dealing the media this week. The mayor took press questions at his Monday mid-day event in conjunction with his policing announcement on the south shore, but held no other question-and-answer session with reporters all week. He held several events open to the press, but did not allow questions, ignoring any that were asked by members of the media who attended.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Goes Local with ‘City Hall in Your Borough’ Series 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6863:de-blasio-goes-local-with-city-hall-in-your-borough-series Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Five Borough Presidents Advise, Critique De Blasio 2017-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6727:five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5_borough_presidents_crains_forum_via_bpericadams_1.jpg" alt="5 borough presidents crains forum via bpericadams 1" width="600" height="301" /></p> <p>The five BPs at Crain's forum (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Communicate better. Build more affordable housing, and faster. Streamline small business regulations. Improve transit offerings in the outer boroughs. Bust the bureaucracy to get city agencies moving more quickly.</p> <p>These tips and pleas were among the guidance that the five New York City borough presidents offered Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday morning. At a forum convened by Crain’s New York Business, moderator Erik Engquist, a Crain’s editor, asked Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr., Staten Island’s James Oddo, and Queens’ Melinda Katz a series of questions, including what advice they would give de Blasio, who has just entered his fourth year in office, which is his re-election year.</p> <p>When Engquist posed the question -- if he asked you for a piece of advice, what would you offer Mayor de Blasio? -- about 20 minutes into the discussion, he got a laugh from the roughly 125 audience members by calling on Diaz Jr. first. The Bronx Borough President has been one of the most outspoken critics of the mayor and is considering whether to challenge de Blasio this year.</p> <p>Once the laughter subsided, Diaz Jr. reiterated a point: that he wants the city to “hand over the keys” to the developers of the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that has been caught in limbo for some time and has been a flashpoint in the tension between Diaz Jr. and de Blasio, with some involvement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is much closer to Diaz Jr. than to de Blasio.</p> <p>Of advice for de Blasio, Diaz Jr. then said, “Obviously homelessness is a big issue, not only in my borough, but throughout the city of New York.” He the mayor and his administration “haven’t been able to wrap their hands around” the crisis and called for more permanent affordable housing, supportive housing, and development in the Bronx, saying that the administration takes too long to make decisions.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also called for improvements to gifted and talented school program offerings and transportation expansion.</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the city of New York,” Diaz Jr. added.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette after the event to expand on the communication critique, Diaz Jr. said the mayor and his team should be more proactively communicative with local communities about all kinds of issues. It is a common refrain from de Blasio critics -- and some allies -- that was echoed by Queens Borough President Katz and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as well.</p> <p>Among the borough presidents, both Eric Adams and Gale Brewer are strong de Blasio allies. Adams has already endorsed de Blasio for reelection (he plans to run for Mayor himself, he said again at the Crain’s event, but not this year) and Brewer told Gotham Gazette afterward that she is supportive of de Blasio’s bid for a second term.</p> <p>Still, Adams and Brewer had ‘constructive criticism’ for the mayor. Citing “quality of life” issues, Brewer said she wants the mayor to focus on noise mitigation, improving city schools, investing even more in NYCHA and affordable housing, and expanding free WiFi. Brewer credited de Blasio for crime being down and improving relationships between community members and the police, as well as the IDNYC program.</p> <p>Adams also cited communication, saying that the mayor could do better showing people the improvements that have been made in the city. The Brooklyn BP then cited issues with “middle management,” saying that “the permanent bureaucracy” in city government shows a “lack of innovation, a lack of creativity.”</p> <p>Adams wants the city to stop holding back businesses by continuing to reduce unnecessary fines, an area where de Blasio has made a great deal of progress, and acting more quickly at the Department of Buildings and elsewhere. “The slowest walking human being I’ve seen in my life was at the Department of Buildings,” Adams said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.</p> <p>A former NYPD officer and captain, Adams gave de Blasio significant praise for improvements at the police department, especially in terms of interactions with New Yorkers. “Police are now doing something that is revolutionary,” he said, “they are saying ‘good morning.’” Adams said cops are walking the beat and talking with people, having positive interactions.</p> <p>Speaking after Adams, Queens Borough President Katz said she agreed with several points made by her colleagues before her. She noted that all five borough presidents have known and worked with de Blasio for years, since all six have held other positions in government.</p> <p>“As beneficial as he has been on a lot of topics, the communication part has been ineffective to a certain extent,” Katz said. She credited the mayor for universal pre-kindergarten and general progress. But, she called the “homeless crisis” “a very serious topic,” and cited issues in Queens related to use of hotels for housing homeless people and the protests that Queens residents have staged against the administration on the topic.</p> <p>Katz said she wants the city to better help people stay in their homes and their communities and to enhance “economic services to help get folks back on their feet.” Communities need to be involved in decision-making, she said, at which point Engquist aptly pointed out that communities often reject homeless shelters. Katz responded that “the worst thing you can do with a community is not tell them things” and that there are ways of being more upfront and negotiating better.</p> <p>Speaking last on the topic of advice for the mayor, Staten Island’s Oddo, the lone Republican among the borough presidents, said that a “sea change at the top of city government” with the election of de Blasio has not led to much change at all when it comes to the city bureaucracy that he often does battle with.</p> <p>It is consistently frustrating, Oddo explained, “to have a great idea, to have the mayor of the city of New York and the mayor’s office say ‘that is a good idea,’ and then run headlong into the brick wall of city agencies, time and time again.”</p> <p>“It’s the same jerks that were there in the Bloomberg years that are here now,” Oddo said, speaking of agency officials and local agency workers, especially at agencies like the Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, and the Department of Design and Construction. “Unless you have an administration with strong deputy mayors pushing down on commissioners and making commissioners change the culture of these agencies, I hate to say it guys, I’m not sure if it really matters who’s up at the top.”</p> <p>“You want to have a legacy,” Oddo said to this mayor or any, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.” Instead of commissioners changing their agencies, Oddo said, he sees agencies changing the commissioners for the worse.</p> <p>“The sea change that was promised, whether you believe in it or not, hasn’t happened,” Oddo said. At which point, Adams -- a vocal de Blasio supporter -- jumped in to echo the point, lamenting the permanent culture of “no” among civil servants who “wait out mayors...wait out commissioners and...get in the way of change.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment on the critiques provided by the borough presidents.</p> <p>Other than critiquing the mayor, at the Crain’s event the five borough presidents also discussed specific development projects in their respective boroughs, their takes on Uber and Airbnb, and broader political dynamics.</p> <p>There were half-jokes about the fact that Diaz Jr. is very close with Gov. Cuomo, while Adams enjoys a closer relationship with de Blasio. Yet there were more direct words between Diaz Jr. and Adams over whether Cuomo has been strong enough in backing fellow Democrats, specifically with respect to the state Senate, which remains in Republican control. Brewer said the governor has not been enough of a Democratic champion, which Adams agreed with and Diaz Jr. denied. Adams and Diaz Jr. debated the issue for a couple of minutes.</p> <p>Engquist also asked the borough presidents whether they plan to seek higher office. All five are eligible for another term in their current positions, and the four other than Diaz Jr. are definitively seeking re-election.</p> <p>As for later aspirations, Adams said he wants to be Mayor eventually. Diaz Jr. said he plans to seek higher office someday, but “I don’t know when.” Brewer said she doesn’t plan to seek a higher office; Katz demurred, saying she is focused on running for re-election; and Oddo said, “No, because First Deputy Mayor is not an elected position.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5_borough_presidents_crains_forum_via_bpericadams_1.jpg" alt="5 borough presidents crains forum via bpericadams 1" width="600" height="301" /></p> <p>The five BPs at Crain's forum (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Communicate better. Build more affordable housing, and faster. Streamline small business regulations. Improve transit offerings in the outer boroughs. Bust the bureaucracy to get city agencies moving more quickly.</p> <p>These tips and pleas were among the guidance that the five New York City borough presidents offered Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday morning. At a forum convened by Crain’s New York Business, moderator Erik Engquist, a Crain’s editor, asked Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr., Staten Island’s James Oddo, and Queens’ Melinda Katz a series of questions, including what advice they would give de Blasio, who has just entered his fourth year in office, which is his re-election year.</p> <p>When Engquist posed the question -- if he asked you for a piece of advice, what would you offer Mayor de Blasio? -- about 20 minutes into the discussion, he got a laugh from the roughly 125 audience members by calling on Diaz Jr. first. The Bronx Borough President has been one of the most outspoken critics of the mayor and is considering whether to challenge de Blasio this year.</p> <p>Once the laughter subsided, Diaz Jr. reiterated a point: that he wants the city to “hand over the keys” to the developers of the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that has been caught in limbo for some time and has been a flashpoint in the tension between Diaz Jr. and de Blasio, with some involvement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is much closer to Diaz Jr. than to de Blasio.</p> <p>Of advice for de Blasio, Diaz Jr. then said, “Obviously homelessness is a big issue, not only in my borough, but throughout the city of New York.” He the mayor and his administration “haven’t been able to wrap their hands around” the crisis and called for more permanent affordable housing, supportive housing, and development in the Bronx, saying that the administration takes too long to make decisions.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also called for improvements to gifted and talented school program offerings and transportation expansion.</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the city of New York,” Diaz Jr. added.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette after the event to expand on the communication critique, Diaz Jr. said the mayor and his team should be more proactively communicative with local communities about all kinds of issues. It is a common refrain from de Blasio critics -- and some allies -- that was echoed by Queens Borough President Katz and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as well.</p> <p>Among the borough presidents, both Eric Adams and Gale Brewer are strong de Blasio allies. Adams has already endorsed de Blasio for reelection (he plans to run for Mayor himself, he said again at the Crain’s event, but not this year) and Brewer told Gotham Gazette afterward that she is supportive of de Blasio’s bid for a second term.</p> <p>Still, Adams and Brewer had ‘constructive criticism’ for the mayor. Citing “quality of life” issues, Brewer said she wants the mayor to focus on noise mitigation, improving city schools, investing even more in NYCHA and affordable housing, and expanding free WiFi. Brewer credited de Blasio for crime being down and improving relationships between community members and the police, as well as the IDNYC program.</p> <p>Adams also cited communication, saying that the mayor could do better showing people the improvements that have been made in the city. The Brooklyn BP then cited issues with “middle management,” saying that “the permanent bureaucracy” in city government shows a “lack of innovation, a lack of creativity.”</p> <p>Adams wants the city to stop holding back businesses by continuing to reduce unnecessary fines, an area where de Blasio has made a great deal of progress, and acting more quickly at the Department of Buildings and elsewhere. “The slowest walking human being I’ve seen in my life was at the Department of Buildings,” Adams said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.</p> <p>A former NYPD officer and captain, Adams gave de Blasio significant praise for improvements at the police department, especially in terms of interactions with New Yorkers. “Police are now doing something that is revolutionary,” he said, “they are saying ‘good morning.’” Adams said cops are walking the beat and talking with people, having positive interactions.</p> <p>Speaking after Adams, Queens Borough President Katz said she agreed with several points made by her colleagues before her. She noted that all five borough presidents have known and worked with de Blasio for years, since all six have held other positions in government.</p> <p>“As beneficial as he has been on a lot of topics, the communication part has been ineffective to a certain extent,” Katz said. She credited the mayor for universal pre-kindergarten and general progress. But, she called the “homeless crisis” “a very serious topic,” and cited issues in Queens related to use of hotels for housing homeless people and the protests that Queens residents have staged against the administration on the topic.</p> <p>Katz said she wants the city to better help people stay in their homes and their communities and to enhance “economic services to help get folks back on their feet.” Communities need to be involved in decision-making, she said, at which point Engquist aptly pointed out that communities often reject homeless shelters. Katz responded that “the worst thing you can do with a community is not tell them things” and that there are ways of being more upfront and negotiating better.</p> <p>Speaking last on the topic of advice for the mayor, Staten Island’s Oddo, the lone Republican among the borough presidents, said that a “sea change at the top of city government” with the election of de Blasio has not led to much change at all when it comes to the city bureaucracy that he often does battle with.</p> <p>It is consistently frustrating, Oddo explained, “to have a great idea, to have the mayor of the city of New York and the mayor’s office say ‘that is a good idea,’ and then run headlong into the brick wall of city agencies, time and time again.”</p> <p>“It’s the same jerks that were there in the Bloomberg years that are here now,” Oddo said, speaking of agency officials and local agency workers, especially at agencies like the Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, and the Department of Design and Construction. “Unless you have an administration with strong deputy mayors pushing down on commissioners and making commissioners change the culture of these agencies, I hate to say it guys, I’m not sure if it really matters who’s up at the top.”</p> <p>“You want to have a legacy,” Oddo said to this mayor or any, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.” Instead of commissioners changing their agencies, Oddo said, he sees agencies changing the commissioners for the worse.</p> <p>“The sea change that was promised, whether you believe in it or not, hasn’t happened,” Oddo said. At which point, Adams -- a vocal de Blasio supporter -- jumped in to echo the point, lamenting the permanent culture of “no” among civil servants who “wait out mayors...wait out commissioners and...get in the way of change.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment on the critiques provided by the borough presidents.</p> <p>Other than critiquing the mayor, at the Crain’s event the five borough presidents also discussed specific development projects in their respective boroughs, their takes on Uber and Airbnb, and broader political dynamics.</p> <p>There were half-jokes about the fact that Diaz Jr. is very close with Gov. Cuomo, while Adams enjoys a closer relationship with de Blasio. Yet there were more direct words between Diaz Jr. and Adams over whether Cuomo has been strong enough in backing fellow Democrats, specifically with respect to the state Senate, which remains in Republican control. Brewer said the governor has not been enough of a Democratic champion, which Adams agreed with and Diaz Jr. denied. Adams and Diaz Jr. debated the issue for a couple of minutes.</p> <p>Engquist also asked the borough presidents whether they plan to seek higher office. All five are eligible for another term in their current positions, and the four other than Diaz Jr. are definitively seeking re-election.</p> <p>As for later aspirations, Adams said he wants to be Mayor eventually. Diaz Jr. said he plans to seek higher office someday, but “I don’t know when.” Brewer said she doesn’t plan to seek a higher office; Katz demurred, saying she is focused on running for re-election; and Oddo said, “No, because First Deputy Mayor is not an elected position.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Misguided 'Reform' Threatens to Undo Progress 2016-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6357:misguided-reform-threatens-to-undo-progress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bp_oddo_group_si.jpg" alt="bp oddo group si" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>BP Oddo, the author, with a group on Staten Island (photo <a href="https://twitter.com/StatenIslUSA/status/733011230772846592" target="_blank">via @StatenIslUSA</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>The divide is even greater than I feared.</p> <p>The chasm between how folks across this city see our world is even wider than what it seemed. As a Republican fully aware he’s in a blue city - a guy who once led a merry band of between two and five GOPers in a legislative body of 51 - I know better than most how disparate the various points on the political spectrum are in this town, and how the perceptions, reality, and everyday feel differs across New York City.</p> <p>I lived that divide and operated within it when I was in the City Council. And to deliver for the smallest, least politically influential borough, one that was either ignored, neglected, or treated as fifth of five except during the Giuliani years, I figured out how to respect the divide, maneuver within it, and effectively represent my community.</p> <p>So when I say the breach is even more expansive than I once feared, it truly is.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6350-city-council-to-pass-reforms-aimed-at-broken-windows-policing" target="_blank">The City Council’s Criminal Justice Reform Act</a> is intended to help New Yorkers represented by a majority of the City Council. It’s intended to address problems that are real to them and their constituents. With that said, to folks who live on Staten Island like me, and those in other areas such as Southwest Brooklyn, parts of Queens, and parts of the Bronx, this package represents a chainsaw where a scalpel is needed. We should not be encouraging people to think we don’t care about negative behavior like urinating in public or throwing trash on the ground.</p> <p>Ultimately, the bills are Miracle Grow for the perception that lawlessness lurks around the next corner, a perception that we know can feel awfully similar to reality. A furthering of this ideological agenda corrosively eats away at the thin line between civilized communities and disorder.</p> <p>For the love of Pete (not Pete Vallone Jr. or Sr., but man, where have you guys gone...), can’t we even agree in this town that litter is wrong and should be punished as often and in as financially impactful a manner as possible? One unified voice coming from the Council and other sectors of city government should be all of us saying to the city agencies that the guy who throws the bag of White Castle burger remnants out the window of his car and the mocha latte drinker who flings her empty plastic cup indiscriminately into a street should pay dearly.</p> <p>But we can’t even agree on that. As someone who has spent too much time, energy, and taxpayer money these last 28 months as Borough President trying to change the behavior of the selfish, ignorant Staten Islanders who continue to litter, that hurts my head.</p> <p>I am keenly aware that in many ways - from home and car ownership percentages to housing typology and various other barometers - Staten Island more closely resembles the rest of America than the other four boroughs. I understand this is a left-of-center town during this “progressive” era of local government, but some truths are grounded in history and history should not need to repeat itself for us to understand the consequences of actions like passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act. So-called quality-of-life offenses rob residents of the city they deserve and expect. As a city we should be doing more to discourage litterers and those engaged in public urination and other anti-social acts on behalf of the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who don’t engage in these behaviors.</p> <p>Whether folks liked or disliked Rudy Giuliani, his unquestioned, greatest and lasting legacy is that every New Yorker now has a heightened expectation of how safe and orderly New York City should be. Individually and collectively we will never tolerate a return to the “bad old days.” I am not one who embraces the screaming tabloid headlines announcing the 1970s have returned. That’s silly. I simply don’t like seeing perhaps well-intentioned, but nonetheless misguided steps, even small ones, in that direction.</p> <p>***<br />James Oddo is the Staten Island Borough President and a former Minority Leader of the City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO" target="_blank">@HeyNowJO</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bp_oddo_group_si.jpg" alt="bp oddo group si" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>BP Oddo, the author, with a group on Staten Island (photo <a href="https://twitter.com/StatenIslUSA/status/733011230772846592" target="_blank">via @StatenIslUSA</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>The divide is even greater than I feared.</p> <p>The chasm between how folks across this city see our world is even wider than what it seemed. As a Republican fully aware he’s in a blue city - a guy who once led a merry band of between two and five GOPers in a legislative body of 51 - I know better than most how disparate the various points on the political spectrum are in this town, and how the perceptions, reality, and everyday feel differs across New York City.</p> <p>I lived that divide and operated within it when I was in the City Council. And to deliver for the smallest, least politically influential borough, one that was either ignored, neglected, or treated as fifth of five except during the Giuliani years, I figured out how to respect the divide, maneuver within it, and effectively represent my community.</p> <p>So when I say the breach is even more expansive than I once feared, it truly is.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6350-city-council-to-pass-reforms-aimed-at-broken-windows-policing" target="_blank">The City Council’s Criminal Justice Reform Act</a> is intended to help New Yorkers represented by a majority of the City Council. It’s intended to address problems that are real to them and their constituents. With that said, to folks who live on Staten Island like me, and those in other areas such as Southwest Brooklyn, parts of Queens, and parts of the Bronx, this package represents a chainsaw where a scalpel is needed. We should not be encouraging people to think we don’t care about negative behavior like urinating in public or throwing trash on the ground.</p> <p>Ultimately, the bills are Miracle Grow for the perception that lawlessness lurks around the next corner, a perception that we know can feel awfully similar to reality. A furthering of this ideological agenda corrosively eats away at the thin line between civilized communities and disorder.</p> <p>For the love of Pete (not Pete Vallone Jr. or Sr., but man, where have you guys gone...), can’t we even agree in this town that litter is wrong and should be punished as often and in as financially impactful a manner as possible? One unified voice coming from the Council and other sectors of city government should be all of us saying to the city agencies that the guy who throws the bag of White Castle burger remnants out the window of his car and the mocha latte drinker who flings her empty plastic cup indiscriminately into a street should pay dearly.</p> <p>But we can’t even agree on that. As someone who has spent too much time, energy, and taxpayer money these last 28 months as Borough President trying to change the behavior of the selfish, ignorant Staten Islanders who continue to litter, that hurts my head.</p> <p>I am keenly aware that in many ways - from home and car ownership percentages to housing typology and various other barometers - Staten Island more closely resembles the rest of America than the other four boroughs. I understand this is a left-of-center town during this “progressive” era of local government, but some truths are grounded in history and history should not need to repeat itself for us to understand the consequences of actions like passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act. So-called quality-of-life offenses rob residents of the city they deserve and expect. As a city we should be doing more to discourage litterers and those engaged in public urination and other anti-social acts on behalf of the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who don’t engage in these behaviors.</p> <p>Whether folks liked or disliked Rudy Giuliani, his unquestioned, greatest and lasting legacy is that every New Yorker now has a heightened expectation of how safe and orderly New York City should be. Individually and collectively we will never tolerate a return to the “bad old days.” I am not one who embraces the screaming tabloid headlines announcing the 1970s have returned. That’s silly. I simply don’t like seeing perhaps well-intentioned, but nonetheless misguided steps, even small ones, in that direction.</p> <p>***<br />James Oddo is the Staten Island Borough President and a former Minority Leader of the City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO" target="_blank">@HeyNowJO</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
To Meet Staten Island Needs, Borough President Focuses on Beating Bureaucracy 2016-01-10T20:45:56+00:00 2016-01-10T20:45:56+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6078:to-meet-staten-island-needs-borough-president-focuses-on-beating-bureaucracy Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/oddo_torres_springer_meeting.jpg" alt="oddo torres springer meeting" height="444" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">SIBP Oddo, right, &amp; Maria Torres-Springer of the de Blasio admin (photo from Oddo's Twitter)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Staten Island has the highest rate of homeownership of any city borough, residents largely use cars to get around, since mass transit options are severely lacking, and despite being the city’s third largest borough in terms of square miles, Staten Island is home to just under 500,000 out of more than 8 million New Yorkers. There are a unique set of concerns on Staten Island, to say the least of the often strained relationship between the borough and City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and the borough’s other elected representatives often feel as though they have to scratch and claw to get their constituents due attention and resources. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has been paying more attention to Staten Island than some may have expected considering it was the only borough he lost in his 2013 election, there is still a sense among many Islanders that the administration does not pay enough mind to their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">In sending out an end-of-year message and in a subsequent interview, Oddo indicated the special circumstances of his borough, described an ongoing battle with “the bureaucracy,” and outlined the needs of Staten Islanders, progress made in 2015, and what to expect in 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For far too much of the last two years my staff and I have engaged in a full-fledged steel cage match with the bureaucracy, attempting to get City government to bring long planned projects to fruition,” Oddo said in an end-of-year<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>. “We have fought so that Borough Hall’s new visions and initiatives might take root, and wrestled with city agencies to work in conjunction with us to efficiently and effectively resolve the daily quality of life issues facing Staten Islanders.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That “steel cage match” does not involve the mayor, Oddo explained in an interview with Gotham Gazette, but rather “middle managers or bureaucrats - folks that hold onto the status quo like grim death…deputy commissioner-level folks who have been in those city agencies” long before Mayor de Blasio or Oddo were elected to their current positions (the two were City Council colleagues at one point).</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very pleased with the level of communication I have with the mayor himself, and with the deputy mayors. I think the frustration I’ve felt in the last two years is referring to individual agencies,” Oddo clarified, adding that he finds it “curious that there have been many instances over the last two years where it's been borough hall and the mayor's office versus their own agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo has been particularly consumed with Sandy recovery, health and wellness, transit options, and road repaving.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the borough president and his constituents, Staten Island’s lack of mass transit options and related severe traffic congestion are pressing issues that have a big impact on residents’ day-to-day lives, adding hours to their daily commutes. Yet that sense of urgency is not shared by some officials within city agencies, Oddo says, and as a result, issues go unresolved for long periods of time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I get the sense that for some long-standing agency officials, whether the project is completed in fiscal year ’19 or fiscal year ’29, it really doesn’t matter to them,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The biggest issue to tackle in 2016, Oddo explained, is getting the city to help figure out a way to improve the commute on Staten Island. Staten Islanders spend more time and money on their commutes than the average New Yorker: Staten Island to Manhattan via express bus costs commuters about $57 each week, and while ferry service (the only other mass transit option that connects Staten Island to Manhattan) is free, the boat ride takes almost half an hour, and getting to the ferry can take between ten minutes and an hour-and-a-half for those relying on mass transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is only one train on Staten Island, and that train runs exclusively along the east side of the borough, leaving a majority of those who need to use mass transit to get around Staten Island stuck waiting for the notoriously unreliable buses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The initial draft report of the MTA’s comprehensive study of all existing bus routes on Staten Island (some of which were designed 40 or 50 years ago) should be received in 2016, Oddo said, and while “no one has any delusions that the MTA is going to come in with this unending source of capital money, we believe we can restructure these routes and find a great deal of efficiency. I really expect some improvements. That’ll be big in 2016.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said that he hopes to “improve to some degree the commutes that are worsening by the day. It’s literally robbing hours of your life - it’s two to four hours on top of your workday.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though 2015 has seen progress toward improving Staten Island’s current mass transit options, with movement on the MTA study and Mayor de Blasio investing nearly $5 million a year to ensure the ferry runs every half-hour 24-hours a day, progress toward providing Staten Islanders with more transit options has been less than ideal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m not so happy with the progress that has not been made with the fast ferry,” Oddo said, referring to a new ferry program he’s advocated for. “We still have lots of work to do to make it a reality.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ideally, a fast ferry service would run from transit-starved areas of the borough which are far from the island’s existing north shore ferry location to areas with docks for ferries in Manhattan or Brooklyn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did put forward a fast ferry plan last year, and <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">funding from the city has been set</a>, but the plan adds just one fast ferry location to the island, in Stapleton - a mere six minute drive away from the existing ferry terminal in Saint George.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, Oddo got a fast ferry service to conduct test runs from more remote locations on Staten Island, like Prince’s Bay, to lower Manhattan and midtown in an effort to prove the service would be a viable option for such locations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ferry from Prince’s Bay (which is at least a 45-minute bus/train ride away from the Staten Island ferry terminal) to lower Manhattan took <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">47 minutes</a> during Oddo’s test runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Stapleton fast ferry is arguably not what Staten Islanders looking to save time on their commutes need, given the city’s plans for economic development in the Bay Street Corridor/Stapleton area, the fast ferry could be helpful in the future, Oddo told the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">Staten Island Advance</a> last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s more to be done, and we’re going to keep working on expanding options,” Mayor de Blasio said when asked about the lack of mass transit options on Staten Island during a Jan. 4 press conference to promote the city’s new<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> commuter benefits law</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">While improving the commute for Staten Island residents is something Oddo says still “needs the city’s help in advancing,” the borough president says he is “happy with some of the progress that we’ve made with our <a href="http://www.silive.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/11/bp_oddo_asks_teens_to_take_sodabriety_challenge_and_banish_sugar_from_their_drinks.html" target="_blank">health and wellness</a> program, the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_tours_st_george_with_depu.html" target="_blank">tech hub</a> [that will be created on Staten Island’s North Shore], and the “Too Good for Drugs” program that the mayor came out to <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/12/de_blasio_announces_citywide_t.html" target="_blank">announce</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said out of all the initiatives that progressed in 2015, he is most proud of “Too Good for Drugs,” as Staten Island’s “epidemic in terms of opioid abuse” is a matter of “life and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The educational anti-drug program for students, which started last year in fifth-grade classrooms in five Staten Island schools, “came out of Borough Hall, we’re very proud of it, and the feedback has been fantastic,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The folks at City Hall believe in it and it's one of several fronts that we need” to reduce substance abuse and drug overdose deaths, he added. Oddo said treatment programs are also needed, but preventing substance abuse by teaching “the notion of making smart decisions at as early as an age as possible” is seen as an important first step by Oddo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expanding “Too Good for Drugs” is one of the items on Oddo’s agenda for 2016, with the program <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151209/eltingville/staten-islands-too-good-for-drugs-program-expands-47-schools" target="_blank">set to expand</a> to 47 schools after receiving $70,000 in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio and his administration have made an effort to show City Hall remembers the “forgotten borough.” The mayor made several trips to Staten Island in 2015: he vowed to complete all<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8581277/de-blasio-promises-2016-deadline-build-it-back-repairs" target="_blank"> repairs and construction</a> still needed for Staten Island residents whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Sandy by 2016; he broke ground on Staten Island’s first<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank"> Family Justice Center</a> for domestic violence prevention and response; and announced his administration’s comprehensive effort to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/923-15/transcript-de-blasio-administration-launches-comprehensive-effort-reduce-opioid-misuse-and" target="_blank"> reduce opioid misuse</a> and overdose deaths, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of town halls in 2016, including Staten Island,” de Blasio said during the Jan. 4 press conference when asked about doing a Q&amp;A session on the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Besides continuing to fight that “steel cage match with the bureaucracy” to make the commute better for Staten Islanders and repaving the borough’s roads, 2016 will also “bring a new economic development campaign to entice businesses who are being priced out of other boroughs to think of Staten Island instead of New Jersey,” according to Oddo’s year-end<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo did not get into specifics in terms of his thinking about the ongoing development of the New York Wheel or the accompanying Empire Outlets expected to be constructed near the ferry terminal within the next few years as he spoke about different aspects of economic development, and had a clear focus on quality of life issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other initiatives, he said, include “a new program to match Staten Island high school students with mentors in their areas of interest, and out-of-the-box ideas to help tackle North Shore traffic issues.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/oddo_torres_springer_meeting.jpg" alt="oddo torres springer meeting" height="444" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">SIBP Oddo, right, &amp; Maria Torres-Springer of the de Blasio admin (photo from Oddo's Twitter)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Staten Island has the highest rate of homeownership of any city borough, residents largely use cars to get around, since mass transit options are severely lacking, and despite being the city’s third largest borough in terms of square miles, Staten Island is home to just under 500,000 out of more than 8 million New Yorkers. There are a unique set of concerns on Staten Island, to say the least of the often strained relationship between the borough and City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and the borough’s other elected representatives often feel as though they have to scratch and claw to get their constituents due attention and resources. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has been paying more attention to Staten Island than some may have expected considering it was the only borough he lost in his 2013 election, there is still a sense among many Islanders that the administration does not pay enough mind to their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">In sending out an end-of-year message and in a subsequent interview, Oddo indicated the special circumstances of his borough, described an ongoing battle with “the bureaucracy,” and outlined the needs of Staten Islanders, progress made in 2015, and what to expect in 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For far too much of the last two years my staff and I have engaged in a full-fledged steel cage match with the bureaucracy, attempting to get City government to bring long planned projects to fruition,” Oddo said in an end-of-year<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>. “We have fought so that Borough Hall’s new visions and initiatives might take root, and wrestled with city agencies to work in conjunction with us to efficiently and effectively resolve the daily quality of life issues facing Staten Islanders.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That “steel cage match” does not involve the mayor, Oddo explained in an interview with Gotham Gazette, but rather “middle managers or bureaucrats - folks that hold onto the status quo like grim death…deputy commissioner-level folks who have been in those city agencies” long before Mayor de Blasio or Oddo were elected to their current positions (the two were City Council colleagues at one point).</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very pleased with the level of communication I have with the mayor himself, and with the deputy mayors. I think the frustration I’ve felt in the last two years is referring to individual agencies,” Oddo clarified, adding that he finds it “curious that there have been many instances over the last two years where it's been borough hall and the mayor's office versus their own agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo has been particularly consumed with Sandy recovery, health and wellness, transit options, and road repaving.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the borough president and his constituents, Staten Island’s lack of mass transit options and related severe traffic congestion are pressing issues that have a big impact on residents’ day-to-day lives, adding hours to their daily commutes. Yet that sense of urgency is not shared by some officials within city agencies, Oddo says, and as a result, issues go unresolved for long periods of time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I get the sense that for some long-standing agency officials, whether the project is completed in fiscal year ’19 or fiscal year ’29, it really doesn’t matter to them,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The biggest issue to tackle in 2016, Oddo explained, is getting the city to help figure out a way to improve the commute on Staten Island. Staten Islanders spend more time and money on their commutes than the average New Yorker: Staten Island to Manhattan via express bus costs commuters about $57 each week, and while ferry service (the only other mass transit option that connects Staten Island to Manhattan) is free, the boat ride takes almost half an hour, and getting to the ferry can take between ten minutes and an hour-and-a-half for those relying on mass transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is only one train on Staten Island, and that train runs exclusively along the east side of the borough, leaving a majority of those who need to use mass transit to get around Staten Island stuck waiting for the notoriously unreliable buses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The initial draft report of the MTA’s comprehensive study of all existing bus routes on Staten Island (some of which were designed 40 or 50 years ago) should be received in 2016, Oddo said, and while “no one has any delusions that the MTA is going to come in with this unending source of capital money, we believe we can restructure these routes and find a great deal of efficiency. I really expect some improvements. That’ll be big in 2016.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said that he hopes to “improve to some degree the commutes that are worsening by the day. It’s literally robbing hours of your life - it’s two to four hours on top of your workday.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though 2015 has seen progress toward improving Staten Island’s current mass transit options, with movement on the MTA study and Mayor de Blasio investing nearly $5 million a year to ensure the ferry runs every half-hour 24-hours a day, progress toward providing Staten Islanders with more transit options has been less than ideal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m not so happy with the progress that has not been made with the fast ferry,” Oddo said, referring to a new ferry program he’s advocated for. “We still have lots of work to do to make it a reality.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ideally, a fast ferry service would run from transit-starved areas of the borough which are far from the island’s existing north shore ferry location to areas with docks for ferries in Manhattan or Brooklyn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did put forward a fast ferry plan last year, and <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">funding from the city has been set</a>, but the plan adds just one fast ferry location to the island, in Stapleton - a mere six minute drive away from the existing ferry terminal in Saint George.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, Oddo got a fast ferry service to conduct test runs from more remote locations on Staten Island, like Prince’s Bay, to lower Manhattan and midtown in an effort to prove the service would be a viable option for such locations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ferry from Prince’s Bay (which is at least a 45-minute bus/train ride away from the Staten Island ferry terminal) to lower Manhattan took <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">47 minutes</a> during Oddo’s test runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Stapleton fast ferry is arguably not what Staten Islanders looking to save time on their commutes need, given the city’s plans for economic development in the Bay Street Corridor/Stapleton area, the fast ferry could be helpful in the future, Oddo told the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">Staten Island Advance</a> last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s more to be done, and we’re going to keep working on expanding options,” Mayor de Blasio said when asked about the lack of mass transit options on Staten Island during a Jan. 4 press conference to promote the city’s new<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> commuter benefits law</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">While improving the commute for Staten Island residents is something Oddo says still “needs the city’s help in advancing,” the borough president says he is “happy with some of the progress that we’ve made with our <a href="http://www.silive.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/11/bp_oddo_asks_teens_to_take_sodabriety_challenge_and_banish_sugar_from_their_drinks.html" target="_blank">health and wellness</a> program, the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_tours_st_george_with_depu.html" target="_blank">tech hub</a> [that will be created on Staten Island’s North Shore], and the “Too Good for Drugs” program that the mayor came out to <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/12/de_blasio_announces_citywide_t.html" target="_blank">announce</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said out of all the initiatives that progressed in 2015, he is most proud of “Too Good for Drugs,” as Staten Island’s “epidemic in terms of opioid abuse” is a matter of “life and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The educational anti-drug program for students, which started last year in fifth-grade classrooms in five Staten Island schools, “came out of Borough Hall, we’re very proud of it, and the feedback has been fantastic,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The folks at City Hall believe in it and it's one of several fronts that we need” to reduce substance abuse and drug overdose deaths, he added. Oddo said treatment programs are also needed, but preventing substance abuse by teaching “the notion of making smart decisions at as early as an age as possible” is seen as an important first step by Oddo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expanding “Too Good for Drugs” is one of the items on Oddo’s agenda for 2016, with the program <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151209/eltingville/staten-islands-too-good-for-drugs-program-expands-47-schools" target="_blank">set to expand</a> to 47 schools after receiving $70,000 in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio and his administration have made an effort to show City Hall remembers the “forgotten borough.” The mayor made several trips to Staten Island in 2015: he vowed to complete all<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8581277/de-blasio-promises-2016-deadline-build-it-back-repairs" target="_blank"> repairs and construction</a> still needed for Staten Island residents whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Sandy by 2016; he broke ground on Staten Island’s first<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank"> Family Justice Center</a> for domestic violence prevention and response; and announced his administration’s comprehensive effort to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/923-15/transcript-de-blasio-administration-launches-comprehensive-effort-reduce-opioid-misuse-and" target="_blank"> reduce opioid misuse</a> and overdose deaths, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of town halls in 2016, including Staten Island,” de Blasio said during the Jan. 4 press conference when asked about doing a Q&amp;A session on the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Besides continuing to fight that “steel cage match with the bureaucracy” to make the commute better for Staten Islanders and repaving the borough’s roads, 2016 will also “bring a new economic development campaign to entice businesses who are being priced out of other boroughs to think of Staten Island instead of New Jersey,” according to Oddo’s year-end<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo did not get into specifics in terms of his thinking about the ongoing development of the New York Wheel or the accompanying Empire Outlets expected to be constructed near the ferry terminal within the next few years as he spoke about different aspects of economic development, and had a clear focus on quality of life issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other initiatives, he said, include “a new program to match Staten Island high school students with mentors in their areas of interest, and out-of-the-box ideas to help tackle North Shore traffic issues.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></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> Combatting New York's Enduring Quality-of-Life Problem: Litter 2015-09-24T22:44:21+00:00 2015-09-24T22:44:21+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5905:litter-new-yorks-enduring-quality-of-life-problem Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/garcia_sanitation.jpg" alt="garcia sanitation" height="360" width="600" /></p> <p>DSNY Commissioner Garcia (photo: @NYCSanitation)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is safer and more prosperous than it's been in years, but the city still can't figure out how to stop people from trashing streets with litter.</p> <p>Despite a focus on quality of life issues, City Hall has made limited progress in dealing with a problem that has plagued mayors since the days when animals roamed Broadway. Even a small army of workers from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), business improvement districts, and the Doe Fund still can't fully police 6,000 miles of city streets and more than 27,000 public waste and recycling baskets on a daily basis.</p> <p>Two bills discussed at a recent hearing held by the City Council's sanitation committee aim to increase penalties for littering and illegal dumping, by doubling them or more in some cases, in an effort to curb bad behavior.</p> <p>"It's not a cure-all for littering. It's not going to solve the littering problem that we have on Staten Island and our city. But it's part of a multi-pronged approach that my office and this Council has taken to combat littering," said Council Member Steven Matteo, Republican Minority Leader from Staten Island, at the hearing. "Littering is out of control in our city and it's out of control because we're doing it to ourselves."</p> <p>The city still receives high cleanliness scores, as <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/9_Department%20of%20Sanitation%20Percent%20of%20Acceptably%20Clean%20Streets%20(Fiscal%201975-2015)_Download%20Report.pdf" target="_blank">determined</a> by the Mayor's Office of Operations, though the proportion of streets considered "acceptably clean" has slowly declined to 92.7 percent - though <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5611-bushwick-students-give-citys-street-cleanliness-scorecards-an-incomplete" target="_blank">even those numbers have been challenged</a>. With tourism and population growing every year, stray takeout containers and over-stuffed wastebaskets have become common sights. According to a Council briefing report, monthly 311 complaints about dirty sidewalks have nearly doubled from approximately 700 in July 2010 to 1,200 in April 2015.</p> <p>One bill -- introduced by Matteo with four other sponsors -- would increase the fines for littering from $50 to $250 for a first violation and up to $450 for a third or subsequent one.</p> <p>Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia supports <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2386612&amp;GUID=767E9976-6B1F-4C11-B201-3E8127BD2E64&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the bill</a>, but warns about enforcement. Garcia said it would still be difficult for DSNY agents to issue tickets due to a lack of authority. A ticket can only be written if the offender is witnessed littering and agrees to provide their name. Sanitation agents aren't allowed to pull over drivers witnessed littering either. Because of this, DSNY issued just 746 littering violations from July 2014 through June 2015 (fiscal year 2015).</p> <p>Garcia said that if littering was reclassified as a criminal offense it would fall under the purview of the NYPD, which has larger issues to worry about. DSNY plans to begin sending stern letters to drivers caught in the act this fall, though Council members agreed that was unlikely to be a successful deterrent.</p> <p>Another bill -- introduced by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, a Queens Democrat, with eight other sponsors -- would increase fines for illegally dumping residential or commercial waste inside public baskets from $100 to $200 for a first violation and up to $600 for a third or subsequent violation. DSNY supports <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1687943&amp;GUID=34E48B6A-7353-412B-9EA4-79AABFB0F623&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the bill</a>, but wants it to also include penalties for illegal dumping next to baskets.</p> <p>A 2005 DSNY <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/downloads/pdf/studies-and-reports/2004-2005-waste-characterization.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> showed illegal dumping accounting for 20 percent of all waste in public baskets. Due to some confusion over the state's new e-waste ban, TVs and computer parts have also begun showing up on street corners.</p> <p>After the Council hearing, Garcia told Gotham Gazette that the city is always looking for ways to make waste disposal easier by installing new types of baskets and increasing education. She said that DSNY plans to continue fighting litter based in part on the "broken windows" theory often cited by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.</p> <p>"If people see one gum wrapper, they think nothing of adding their fourth and fifth gum wrapper," she said. "So we really try and stay ahead of it."</p> <p>While some New Yorkers don't seem to care about keeping their streets clean, multiple Quinnipiac polls show that others are bothered by the issue.</p> <p>In 2009, when streets were rated at their peak cleanliness levels, 42 percent of registered voters <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/search-releases/search-results/release-detail?What=&amp;strArea=3;0;&amp;strTime=28&amp;ReleaseID=1253#Question017" target="_blank">said</a> the city wasn't doing enough about "quality of life offenses" such as littering and loud music. In 1998, when streets were rated slightly dirtier than today, 51 percent of residents <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/search-releases/search-results/release-detail?What=&amp;strArea=3;0;&amp;strTime=28&amp;ReleaseID=782#Question024" target="_blank">said</a> they considered littering to be a "very serious problem."</p> <p>Robin Nagle, an NYU anthropology professor who specializes in "discard studies," said the city has been trying to tackle this issue for a very long time. Under George Waring, a prominent sanitation commissioner during the 1890s, nearly 1,000 young children were enrolled in Juvenile Street Cleaning Leagues to police the streets and raise awareness by writing fake tickets.</p> <p>Nagle doesn't think such an effort would be successful today, but said there needs to be a greater sense of shared responsibility. She said that other countries have already found ways to crack down on littering and wondered if society's attitude toward it will someday shift similar to smoking.</p> <p>"How do we help people be a little less selfish without telling them that they are selfish?" she asked. "When you're on the street you're sharing a commons. You're sharing a place that is not only yours, but is ours."</p> <p>Anti-littering <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/15-059pr.shtml#.VgRIpGRViko" target="_blank">messages</a> from government agencies are posted on bus stops, subways, trash cans and DSNY vehicles. They range from the annual summer environmental appeal of "Clean Streets = Clean Beaches" to the MTA's subway announcement about trash-related track fires causing delays.</p> <p>Recently, elected officials and community members have decided to address the problem on a more local level. For the second year in a row, the City Council funded a $3.5 million clean-up initiative in Fiscal Year 2015 to help district efforts. Other officials have also taken up the cause.</p> <p>Staten Island Borough President James Oddo's "Operation Clean Sweep" is responsible for cleaning 120 locations since April. His office <a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/cleanupsi.html" target="_blank">has partnered</a> with local businesses to create public service announcements and help maintain their areas through programs such as the city's "Adopt-a-Basket." In April, Oddo also announced a public-private partnership between the Institute of Scrap Recycling, Jason Learning, and multiple city agencies to create a pro-recycling/anti-litter curriculum in 10 local schools.</p> <p>"Litter is a problem that is created by a small number of people, but one that affects everyone. All of us have to deal with the filth that collects on the side of the road, making our community look uninviting and run down," said Jennifer Sammartino, Oddo's communications director, in an emailed statement. "The more litter we have on our streets the more it becomes an accepted part of life."</p> <p>A group of frustrated citizens working with the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce <a href="http://greenpointchamber.com/curb-your-litter-greenpoint" target="_blank">have taken on the problem</a> in Brooklyn with a project called "Curb Your Litter: Greenpoint." Funded by $570,000 obtained from a state settlement with ExxonMobil over a local oil spill, the project will spend three years studying the sources and types of litter with the help of cutting-edge sustainable planning firm Closed Loops. They will also work with local businesses, create educational material and soon launch an interactive website for the community to have input about new baskets.</p> <p>The project's director, Caroline Bauer, said that so far volunteers have picked up nearly 1,500 pounds of trash on 135 blocks this year. She supports the two new City Council bills, which may be voted on at an upcoming committee hearing, but said that ultimately it's up to New Yorkers to come together over what should be a simple issue.</p> <p>"Litter is something that nobody enjoys," said Bauer. "It really erodes the way that you think of the community and your neighborhood."</p> <p>***<br />by Cole Rosengren for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/ColeRosengrenNY" target="_blank">@ColeRosengrenNY</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/garcia_sanitation.jpg" alt="garcia sanitation" height="360" width="600" /></p> <p>DSNY Commissioner Garcia (photo: @NYCSanitation)</p> <hr /> <p>New York is safer and more prosperous than it's been in years, but the city still can't figure out how to stop people from trashing streets with litter.</p> <p>Despite a focus on quality of life issues, City Hall has made limited progress in dealing with a problem that has plagued mayors since the days when animals roamed Broadway. Even a small army of workers from the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), business improvement districts, and the Doe Fund still can't fully police 6,000 miles of city streets and more than 27,000 public waste and recycling baskets on a daily basis.</p> <p>Two bills discussed at a recent hearing held by the City Council's sanitation committee aim to increase penalties for littering and illegal dumping, by doubling them or more in some cases, in an effort to curb bad behavior.</p> <p>"It's not a cure-all for littering. It's not going to solve the littering problem that we have on Staten Island and our city. But it's part of a multi-pronged approach that my office and this Council has taken to combat littering," said Council Member Steven Matteo, Republican Minority Leader from Staten Island, at the hearing. "Littering is out of control in our city and it's out of control because we're doing it to ourselves."</p> <p>The city still receives high cleanliness scores, as <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/9_Department%20of%20Sanitation%20Percent%20of%20Acceptably%20Clean%20Streets%20(Fiscal%201975-2015)_Download%20Report.pdf" target="_blank">determined</a> by the Mayor's Office of Operations, though the proportion of streets considered "acceptably clean" has slowly declined to 92.7 percent - though <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5611-bushwick-students-give-citys-street-cleanliness-scorecards-an-incomplete" target="_blank">even those numbers have been challenged</a>. With tourism and population growing every year, stray takeout containers and over-stuffed wastebaskets have become common sights. According to a Council briefing report, monthly 311 complaints about dirty sidewalks have nearly doubled from approximately 700 in July 2010 to 1,200 in April 2015.</p> <p>One bill -- introduced by Matteo with four other sponsors -- would increase the fines for littering from $50 to $250 for a first violation and up to $450 for a third or subsequent one.</p> <p>Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia supports <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2386612&amp;GUID=767E9976-6B1F-4C11-B201-3E8127BD2E64&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the bill</a>, but warns about enforcement. Garcia said it would still be difficult for DSNY agents to issue tickets due to a lack of authority. A ticket can only be written if the offender is witnessed littering and agrees to provide their name. Sanitation agents aren't allowed to pull over drivers witnessed littering either. Because of this, DSNY issued just 746 littering violations from July 2014 through June 2015 (fiscal year 2015).</p> <p>Garcia said that if littering was reclassified as a criminal offense it would fall under the purview of the NYPD, which has larger issues to worry about. DSNY plans to begin sending stern letters to drivers caught in the act this fall, though Council members agreed that was unlikely to be a successful deterrent.</p> <p>Another bill -- introduced by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, a Queens Democrat, with eight other sponsors -- would increase fines for illegally dumping residential or commercial waste inside public baskets from $100 to $200 for a first violation and up to $600 for a third or subsequent violation. DSNY supports <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1687943&amp;GUID=34E48B6A-7353-412B-9EA4-79AABFB0F623&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">the bill</a>, but wants it to also include penalties for illegal dumping next to baskets.</p> <p>A 2005 DSNY <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/downloads/pdf/studies-and-reports/2004-2005-waste-characterization.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> showed illegal dumping accounting for 20 percent of all waste in public baskets. Due to some confusion over the state's new e-waste ban, TVs and computer parts have also begun showing up on street corners.</p> <p>After the Council hearing, Garcia told Gotham Gazette that the city is always looking for ways to make waste disposal easier by installing new types of baskets and increasing education. She said that DSNY plans to continue fighting litter based in part on the "broken windows" theory often cited by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.</p> <p>"If people see one gum wrapper, they think nothing of adding their fourth and fifth gum wrapper," she said. "So we really try and stay ahead of it."</p> <p>While some New Yorkers don't seem to care about keeping their streets clean, multiple Quinnipiac polls show that others are bothered by the issue.</p> <p>In 2009, when streets were rated at their peak cleanliness levels, 42 percent of registered voters <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/search-releases/search-results/release-detail?What=&amp;strArea=3;0;&amp;strTime=28&amp;ReleaseID=1253#Question017" target="_blank">said</a> the city wasn't doing enough about "quality of life offenses" such as littering and loud music. In 1998, when streets were rated slightly dirtier than today, 51 percent of residents <a href="http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/search-releases/search-results/release-detail?What=&amp;strArea=3;0;&amp;strTime=28&amp;ReleaseID=782#Question024" target="_blank">said</a> they considered littering to be a "very serious problem."</p> <p>Robin Nagle, an NYU anthropology professor who specializes in "discard studies," said the city has been trying to tackle this issue for a very long time. Under George Waring, a prominent sanitation commissioner during the 1890s, nearly 1,000 young children were enrolled in Juvenile Street Cleaning Leagues to police the streets and raise awareness by writing fake tickets.</p> <p>Nagle doesn't think such an effort would be successful today, but said there needs to be a greater sense of shared responsibility. She said that other countries have already found ways to crack down on littering and wondered if society's attitude toward it will someday shift similar to smoking.</p> <p>"How do we help people be a little less selfish without telling them that they are selfish?" she asked. "When you're on the street you're sharing a commons. You're sharing a place that is not only yours, but is ours."</p> <p>Anti-littering <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/15-059pr.shtml#.VgRIpGRViko" target="_blank">messages</a> from government agencies are posted on bus stops, subways, trash cans and DSNY vehicles. They range from the annual summer environmental appeal of "Clean Streets = Clean Beaches" to the MTA's subway announcement about trash-related track fires causing delays.</p> <p>Recently, elected officials and community members have decided to address the problem on a more local level. For the second year in a row, the City Council funded a $3.5 million clean-up initiative in Fiscal Year 2015 to help district efforts. Other officials have also taken up the cause.</p> <p>Staten Island Borough President James Oddo's "Operation Clean Sweep" is responsible for cleaning 120 locations since April. His office <a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/cleanupsi.html" target="_blank">has partnered</a> with local businesses to create public service announcements and help maintain their areas through programs such as the city's "Adopt-a-Basket." In April, Oddo also announced a public-private partnership between the Institute of Scrap Recycling, Jason Learning, and multiple city agencies to create a pro-recycling/anti-litter curriculum in 10 local schools.</p> <p>"Litter is a problem that is created by a small number of people, but one that affects everyone. All of us have to deal with the filth that collects on the side of the road, making our community look uninviting and run down," said Jennifer Sammartino, Oddo's communications director, in an emailed statement. "The more litter we have on our streets the more it becomes an accepted part of life."</p> <p>A group of frustrated citizens working with the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce <a href="http://greenpointchamber.com/curb-your-litter-greenpoint" target="_blank">have taken on the problem</a> in Brooklyn with a project called "Curb Your Litter: Greenpoint." Funded by $570,000 obtained from a state settlement with ExxonMobil over a local oil spill, the project will spend three years studying the sources and types of litter with the help of cutting-edge sustainable planning firm Closed Loops. They will also work with local businesses, create educational material and soon launch an interactive website for the community to have input about new baskets.</p> <p>The project's director, Caroline Bauer, said that so far volunteers have picked up nearly 1,500 pounds of trash on 135 blocks this year. She supports the two new City Council bills, which may be voted on at an upcoming committee hearing, but said that ultimately it's up to New Yorkers to come together over what should be a simple issue.</p> <p>"Litter is something that nobody enjoys," said Bauer. "It really erodes the way that you think of the community and your neighborhood."</p> <p>***<br />by Cole Rosengren for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/ColeRosengrenNY" target="_blank">@ColeRosengrenNY</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Cautious Optimism Ahead of Hearing on Citywide Ferry Plan 2015-09-18T15:51:58+00:00 2015-09-18T15:51:58+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5892:cautious-optimism-ahead-of-hearing-on-citywide-ferry-plan Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ferry_DOT_.jpg" alt="ferry DOT " height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>(images: NYC DOT/EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed expansion of the city's ferry system, announced in February, appears to be one of the least politically controversial initiatives of his term. Ahead of a City Council hearing on the topic scheduled for Monday, no Council member has publicly opposed the plan, while some have loudly praised it.</p> <p>But this support comes despite concerns from transit advocates that ferries may not be the most cost-effective form of transportation for New Yorkers and that other investments in buses or bike lanes should not be overlooked. Meanwhile, others like Staten Island Borough President James Oddo want the system expanded further.</p> <p>The five planned ferry routes, connecting 21 locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, will be rolled out in two phases in 2017 and 2018, <a href="http://www.nycedc.com/project/citywide-ferry-service" target="_blank">according to</a> the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). A sixth route to Staten Island is "proposed" but not part of the two phases or included in cost estimates. De Blasio said in February that rides would cost $2.75—the same as a subway or bus swipe, though MetroCards won't be accepted for payment—and that the system would bring residents of far-flung waterfront neighborhoods "closer to the opportunities they need."</p> <p>"Beyond connecting residents to jobs in Manhattan, our new citywide ferry system will spur the development of new commercial corridors throughout the outer boroughs," de Blasio said during his State of the City speech.</p> <p>One reason why the ferry plan is uncontroversial may be its relatively small size: its estimated 4.6 million riders per year by 2018 is less than the subway's average daily weekday ridership of nearly 5.6 million in 2014 (with 1.75 billion subway rides for the year). The boats' estimated $55 million price tag and $10 to $20 million annual operating subsidies are also a fraction of the city's $78.5 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year.</p> <p>"Because it's cheap, politicians can say they're pro-transit," Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank, said. "I think the bigger danger is neglecting other transit."</p> <p><strong>Few Concerns</strong><br />Council members interviewed by Gotham Gazette were all supportive of the plan, which they say will provide a convenient mode of transportation in neighborhoods poorly served by subways.</p> <p>"We are in a city with an existing transportation infrastructure that is at capacity...So we need additional alternatives," Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens said. His district includes Long Island City, which has seen tremendous residential development in recent years and will be served by one of the new stops.</p> <p>At Monday's Council hearing, Van Bramer said he wants to "get a timeline on just when we can expect the landings to be sited, and when we can start service."</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan's Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island said making sure the three stations planned for his district are moving forward is a "high priority."</p> <p>The few concerns expressed about the current plan are oriented around the locations of landings. Residents at a recent community meeting in Long Island City were divided over where the neighborhood's stop should be: at Center Boulevard, close to waterfront high-rises, or at 44th Drive, less pedestrian-friendly but also less disruptive for a nearby boathouse.</p> <p>Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn said EDC should try to offer solutions to siting concerns as it implements the project. Menchaca represents the busy waterway neighborhood of Red Hook.</p> <p>Ydanis Rodriguez, Council member for Washington Heights and Inwood and chair of the City Council transportation committee, said that he is looking forward to hearing more details about the plan from EDC—as well as promoting his own proposal for a ferry route along the west side of Manhattan.</p> <p>"I believe ferries play an important role when it comes to identifying different modes of transportation," Rodriguez said in an interview with the Gotham Gazette. "I hope that in the near future, all the areas not included in the present plan will be included." Rodriguez will co-chair Monday's Council oversight hearing, dubbed "Evaluating the Plan for a Citywide Ferry System" <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=430704&amp;GUID=103BA8C4-0394-4534-B01F-C94F3449318E&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">on the Council website</a>.</p> <p>Staten Island Borough President James Oddo is also aboard the ferry plan, even though the first two phases of the plan will not reach his island and a sixth route has only been proposed for Stapleton, near the Staten Island Ferry's St. George terminal. Oddo said he's working to see if some sort of public or private service can one day reach other parts of the island.</p> <p>"To me, it [ferries] doesn't take a great deal of capital investment in our borough," he said. "It's the quickest avenue Staten Islanders have to getting some help to their commutes."</p> <p>Traffic engineer and former traffic commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz said that some of the issues he wants discussed at the Council include more details on expected ferry ridership, operating costs and fares, and integration with other forms of transit.</p> <p>"I think it would be a mistake not to have as robust a ferry system as possible...as well as improving transit, bus, and rail," Schwartz told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p><strong>Cost and Control</strong><br />Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, says an important question Council members should ask is how heavily the city should subsidize the ferry routes—especially if Mayor de Blasio sticks to his promise that each ride will cost the same as a MetroCard swipe.</p> <p>"It really has to come down to a cost-benefit analysis of how many New Yorkers will benefit at what cost," Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. "Ferries are a great option, but it's an option that should only be considered after rail and bus options have become untenable." White's group advocates for expanding bike lanes and mass transit projects like Select Bus Service, or express bus lines.</p> <p>A 2011 EDC study showed a subsidy-per-trip of $5.95 for the fare-free Staten Island Ferry and $21.22 for <a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/ferry-service-for-6-from-far-rockaway/?_r=0" target="_blank">a pilot</a> Rockaway ferry service launched in 2008.</p> <p>"Some subsidy is reasonable," Gelinas said. "It will also depend on how much development we get [along the waterfront]...The more people you have, the lower the subsidy."</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Dan Garodnick, who will also co-chair Monday's meeting, said that officials from EDC will have to answer questions about the status of the project, costs, community input, and integration with the rest of the city's transit system. He said he wants riders to be able to use MetroCards for boat fares—something EDC <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150821/red-hook/citywide-ferry-plan-will-not-integrate-with-mtas-metrocard-for-transfers" target="_blank">has ruled out</a>, saying the 23-year-old card will be soon phased out.</p> <p>"Many of us are extremely enthusiastic about growing our ferry system," Garodnick said. "At the same time, we want to understand its cost and long-term viability."</p> <p>Other Council members were more optimistic about ferry finances.</p> <p>"This is another piece to the puzzle," Kallos said. "Despite initially low projected ridership, when you are speaking about the infrastructure we're building, and the cost of it...This is providing a lot more service to four or five boroughs, and it's improving people's commutes."</p> <p>EDC representatives are expected to testify Monday and say that the plans for the ferry system are on track. The agency is currently reviewing responses to a request for proposals for a ferry operator and plans to integrate the East River Ferry operator into the new larger ferry system. Officials point to the successes of the East River Ferry as they imagine expansion of ferry service.</p> <p>Rodriguez said that ferries are also particularly effective when natural disasters hit—a route between Manhattan and the Rockaways was established within days after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service to the neighborhood in 2012. He and Kallos also pointed that the ferry system would be completely under the city's control—unlike the MTA, which is state-run.</p> <p>"Investing in our waterfronts and our ferry system is a way for our city to have strong accountability and control over our infrastructure," Kallos said.</p> <p>Gelinas and White said that there are ways for the city to invest in transit without relying on the state. The 7 train's new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station, for example, was funded primarily by city tax bonds.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/proposed_ferry_network.jpg" alt="proposed ferry network" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="448" width="350" /></p> <p><strong>Waves Ahead?</strong><br />Schwartz said political opposition to ferries may emerge as waterfront dwellers start to complain about the noise and pollution boats generate. Residents of Battery Park City have long complained about ferry horns in the early morning hours—required by Coast Guard regulations.</p> <p>Noise was one of several concerns expressed by Long Island City residents at a recent community meeting on the ferry plan. But even there, most speakers said they want even more ferries to more destinations, not fewer.</p> <p>With the current plan, "you're only serving part of the community," resident Rebecca Olinger said. "I think it's foolish to put something in that serves such a small part of the neighborhood."</p> <p>***<br />by Christian Zhang, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/ChristiZhang" target="_blank">@ChristiZhang</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ferry_DOT_.jpg" alt="ferry DOT " height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>(images: NYC DOT/EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed expansion of the city's ferry system, announced in February, appears to be one of the least politically controversial initiatives of his term. Ahead of a City Council hearing on the topic scheduled for Monday, no Council member has publicly opposed the plan, while some have loudly praised it.</p> <p>But this support comes despite concerns from transit advocates that ferries may not be the most cost-effective form of transportation for New Yorkers and that other investments in buses or bike lanes should not be overlooked. Meanwhile, others like Staten Island Borough President James Oddo want the system expanded further.</p> <p>The five planned ferry routes, connecting 21 locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, will be rolled out in two phases in 2017 and 2018, <a href="http://www.nycedc.com/project/citywide-ferry-service" target="_blank">according to</a> the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). A sixth route to Staten Island is "proposed" but not part of the two phases or included in cost estimates. De Blasio said in February that rides would cost $2.75—the same as a subway or bus swipe, though MetroCards won't be accepted for payment—and that the system would bring residents of far-flung waterfront neighborhoods "closer to the opportunities they need."</p> <p>"Beyond connecting residents to jobs in Manhattan, our new citywide ferry system will spur the development of new commercial corridors throughout the outer boroughs," de Blasio said during his State of the City speech.</p> <p>One reason why the ferry plan is uncontroversial may be its relatively small size: its estimated 4.6 million riders per year by 2018 is less than the subway's average daily weekday ridership of nearly 5.6 million in 2014 (with 1.75 billion subway rides for the year). The boats' estimated $55 million price tag and $10 to $20 million annual operating subsidies are also a fraction of the city's $78.5 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year.</p> <p>"Because it's cheap, politicians can say they're pro-transit," Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank, said. "I think the bigger danger is neglecting other transit."</p> <p><strong>Few Concerns</strong><br />Council members interviewed by Gotham Gazette were all supportive of the plan, which they say will provide a convenient mode of transportation in neighborhoods poorly served by subways.</p> <p>"We are in a city with an existing transportation infrastructure that is at capacity...So we need additional alternatives," Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens said. His district includes Long Island City, which has seen tremendous residential development in recent years and will be served by one of the new stops.</p> <p>At Monday's Council hearing, Van Bramer said he wants to "get a timeline on just when we can expect the landings to be sited, and when we can start service."</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan's Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island said making sure the three stations planned for his district are moving forward is a "high priority."</p> <p>The few concerns expressed about the current plan are oriented around the locations of landings. Residents at a recent community meeting in Long Island City were divided over where the neighborhood's stop should be: at Center Boulevard, close to waterfront high-rises, or at 44th Drive, less pedestrian-friendly but also less disruptive for a nearby boathouse.</p> <p>Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn said EDC should try to offer solutions to siting concerns as it implements the project. Menchaca represents the busy waterway neighborhood of Red Hook.</p> <p>Ydanis Rodriguez, Council member for Washington Heights and Inwood and chair of the City Council transportation committee, said that he is looking forward to hearing more details about the plan from EDC—as well as promoting his own proposal for a ferry route along the west side of Manhattan.</p> <p>"I believe ferries play an important role when it comes to identifying different modes of transportation," Rodriguez said in an interview with the Gotham Gazette. "I hope that in the near future, all the areas not included in the present plan will be included." Rodriguez will co-chair Monday's Council oversight hearing, dubbed "Evaluating the Plan for a Citywide Ferry System" <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=430704&amp;GUID=103BA8C4-0394-4534-B01F-C94F3449318E&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">on the Council website</a>.</p> <p>Staten Island Borough President James Oddo is also aboard the ferry plan, even though the first two phases of the plan will not reach his island and a sixth route has only been proposed for Stapleton, near the Staten Island Ferry's St. George terminal. Oddo said he's working to see if some sort of public or private service can one day reach other parts of the island.</p> <p>"To me, it [ferries] doesn't take a great deal of capital investment in our borough," he said. "It's the quickest avenue Staten Islanders have to getting some help to their commutes."</p> <p>Traffic engineer and former traffic commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz said that some of the issues he wants discussed at the Council include more details on expected ferry ridership, operating costs and fares, and integration with other forms of transit.</p> <p>"I think it would be a mistake not to have as robust a ferry system as possible...as well as improving transit, bus, and rail," Schwartz told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p><strong>Cost and Control</strong><br />Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, says an important question Council members should ask is how heavily the city should subsidize the ferry routes—especially if Mayor de Blasio sticks to his promise that each ride will cost the same as a MetroCard swipe.</p> <p>"It really has to come down to a cost-benefit analysis of how many New Yorkers will benefit at what cost," Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. "Ferries are a great option, but it's an option that should only be considered after rail and bus options have become untenable." White's group advocates for expanding bike lanes and mass transit projects like Select Bus Service, or express bus lines.</p> <p>A 2011 EDC study showed a subsidy-per-trip of $5.95 for the fare-free Staten Island Ferry and $21.22 for <a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/ferry-service-for-6-from-far-rockaway/?_r=0" target="_blank">a pilot</a> Rockaway ferry service launched in 2008.</p> <p>"Some subsidy is reasonable," Gelinas said. "It will also depend on how much development we get [along the waterfront]...The more people you have, the lower the subsidy."</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Dan Garodnick, who will also co-chair Monday's meeting, said that officials from EDC will have to answer questions about the status of the project, costs, community input, and integration with the rest of the city's transit system. He said he wants riders to be able to use MetroCards for boat fares—something EDC <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150821/red-hook/citywide-ferry-plan-will-not-integrate-with-mtas-metrocard-for-transfers" target="_blank">has ruled out</a>, saying the 23-year-old card will be soon phased out.</p> <p>"Many of us are extremely enthusiastic about growing our ferry system," Garodnick said. "At the same time, we want to understand its cost and long-term viability."</p> <p>Other Council members were more optimistic about ferry finances.</p> <p>"This is another piece to the puzzle," Kallos said. "Despite initially low projected ridership, when you are speaking about the infrastructure we're building, and the cost of it...This is providing a lot more service to four or five boroughs, and it's improving people's commutes."</p> <p>EDC representatives are expected to testify Monday and say that the plans for the ferry system are on track. The agency is currently reviewing responses to a request for proposals for a ferry operator and plans to integrate the East River Ferry operator into the new larger ferry system. Officials point to the successes of the East River Ferry as they imagine expansion of ferry service.</p> <p>Rodriguez said that ferries are also particularly effective when natural disasters hit—a route between Manhattan and the Rockaways was established within days after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service to the neighborhood in 2012. He and Kallos also pointed that the ferry system would be completely under the city's control—unlike the MTA, which is state-run.</p> <p>"Investing in our waterfronts and our ferry system is a way for our city to have strong accountability and control over our infrastructure," Kallos said.</p> <p>Gelinas and White said that there are ways for the city to invest in transit without relying on the state. The 7 train's new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station, for example, was funded primarily by city tax bonds.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/proposed_ferry_network.jpg" alt="proposed ferry network" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="448" width="350" /></p> <p><strong>Waves Ahead?</strong><br />Schwartz said political opposition to ferries may emerge as waterfront dwellers start to complain about the noise and pollution boats generate. Residents of Battery Park City have long complained about ferry horns in the early morning hours—required by Coast Guard regulations.</p> <p>Noise was one of several concerns expressed by Long Island City residents at a recent community meeting on the ferry plan. But even there, most speakers said they want even more ferries to more destinations, not fewer.</p> <p>With the current plan, "you're only serving part of the community," resident Rebecca Olinger said. "I think it's foolish to put something in that serves such a small part of the neighborhood."</p> <p>***<br />by Christian Zhang, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/ChristiZhang" target="_blank">@ChristiZhang</a></p> Awaiting the Next Storm: Staten Island Balances Long-Term Planning, Short-Term Needs 2015-04-15T16:39:14+00:00 2015-04-15T16:39:14+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5687:awaiting-the-next-storm-staten-island-balances-long-term-planning-short-term-needs-oddo Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/SI_FEMA.jpg" alt="SI FEMA" height="397" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Staten Island after Sandy; Nov. 9, 2012 (photo: Walter Jennings via FEMA)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Just over half of the deaths caused by Superstorm Sandy, 22 to be exact, occurred on Staten Island's East and South shores, as the storm's waves battered homes and swept some off their foundations.</p> <p>Now the island is in a race against time to prepare for the next major coastal storm. Multi-million dollar resiliency projects are coming to Staten Island, from a sea wall on its East Shore to the expansion of innovative "natural drainage corridors."</p> <p>The projects are on target, say local officials, but the pace needs to be faster.</p> <p>The island's East Shore is directly exposed to the New York Bight, a coastline formation that can channel powerful storm waves and surges into areas within New York Harbor.</p> <p>The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to construct a "mega" sea wall that will protect over half of the East Shore, from the Verrazano Bridge to Oakwood, said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo in a phone interview.</p> <p>The Army Corps will be releasing a draft feasibility study on the proposed wall to the public next month.</p> <p>Oddo estimated that the wall would be completed by 2020 or 2021. The city and state are also assisting with its construction, he said.</p> <p>"This is a different timetable than [the initial plans] we talked about," added the borough president. "Help has been all too slow in coming...There will be several hurricane seasons."</p> <p>What happens between now and 2020 or 2021?</p> <p>Oddo said that smaller-scale protective measures were underway, such as the elevation of several hundred homes using new FEMA flood maps as a guide.</p> <p>The city has also rebuilt 26,000 linear feet of dunes between South Beach and Conference House Park. But "[the dunes] were not designed to handle an historic storm," said Oddo. "They were designed to handle beach erosion."</p> <p><strong>What happens if you're not behind the mega wall?</strong><br />One area on the eastern shore that won't benefit from the Army Corps mega-wall plan is the district of New York City Council Member Vincent Ignizio.</p> <p>There, a package of other solutions has been developed in conjunction with the city, the state's New York Rising program, and the federal government. They include construction of a series of "living breakwaters" and protective berms, home elevations, and, in some cases, strategic retreat.</p> <p>Ignizio expects these initiatives to be effective, and the lack of a wall not necessarily a problem. "People want to be protected but not walled off," he explained.</p> <p>But what is missing, Ignizio added, is a more robust home elevation program. The city's Sandy rebuilding program, Build It Back, will only pay for an elevation if half or more of the home was damaged, he said.</p> <p>Since the goal is to elevate, the city and homeowners could share the cost in cases where less than half of the home was damaged, Ignizio argued. The city is reviewing his proposal, the council member said. The Mayor's Office did not respond to questions about the idea.</p> <p>Ignizio said that the de Blasio administration is moving at a faster pace than that of its predecessor, but he added that no matter what, "The sad reality is that these projects will be extremely helpful but will take a long time."</p> <p>Concluded Ignizio: "I'm getting tired of the studies and the reviews. ...I want to see shovels in the ground and hammers in the streets."</p> <p><strong>It's more than coastal flooding</strong><br />Staten Island's vulnerability to flooding is tied to both a changing environment and lack of planning by the city over several decades.</p> <p>Oddo said some neighborhoods along the East Shore still have no storm drains because of their haphazard conversion from summer bungalow to year-round communities.</p> <p>"This community still remains vulnerable to moderate rain," he said. "We are paying the price in 2013, 2015 for what we did in the 1950s and 1960s."</p> <p>The city has started to construct storm sewers and drains where possible. Some areas – like Midland Beach - are below sea level, a further complication.</p> <p>The city has also been acquiring land for a "comprehensive Mid-Island Bluebelt," which would drain a 5,000-acre area, encompassing the South Beach, New Creek (Midland Beach), and Oakwood Beach watersheds.</p> <p>"It's a decades-long, 30-year plan," said Oddo. "We're still a ways away."</p> <p>The hope is that the Mid-Island Bluebelt will mirror the success of the Staten Island Bluebelt, which makes use of natural drainage corridors — such as streams, ponds, and other wetland areas — to convey, store, and filter stormwater. Concrete pipes along the corridors move stormwater from conventional storm sewers into the Raritan Bay or the Arthur Kill.</p> <p>The city describes the Staten Island Bluebelt as "one of the most ambitious stormwater management efforts in the northeastern United States."</p> <p><strong>Ready to move inland<br /></strong>The ultimate objective, said Oddo, is to "help people re-start their lives." And for many Staten Islanders on the East and South shores, this means moving back from the sea.</p> <p>Oddo said that he and Council Member Ignizio brought the concept of acquisition for re-development to the Bloomberg administration in March, 2013 - about five months after Sandy. The idea was to allow residents to sell their homes to the government in order to be able to rebuild more safely somewhere else within the area.</p> <p>The state and city have launched an acquisition program in three neighborhoods: Ocean Breeze, Oakwood Beach and Graham Beach. Representatives from neither the city nor the state responded to questions about the status of the program.</p> <p>"Bloomberg should have embraced acquisition for redevelopment," argued Oddo. "If you can acquire a block, then you can raze structures, and raise property — that never happened. Two years, four months later — what are the holdups?"</p> <p>Failure to embrace the concept of acquisition for redevelopment is self-defeating, maintained Ignizio, since using the approach would limit exposure of homes to storm surge and lessen the need for resiliency projects.</p> <p>"It's hard not to be frustrated and angry," said Oddo. "No mayor of New York City has stood up and told the people of Staten Island, 'We fully believe in acquisition for redevelopment and are committed to it.'"</p> <p>The city could show the type of truly resilient housing that may be constructed, said Oddo. And concerns about government [effectiveness] could be overcome. "People can buy into their neighborhood again."</p> <p>Added Oddo: "I believe in this program. It truly would have worked on a wide scale if we had gotten support from the Bloomberg administration. [It would be] a really powerful message if Bill de Blasio stands up [and] says 'we're ready to go.' You'll see lots of Staten Islanders come forward."</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5689-assessing-resilience-planning-is-the-city-preparing-smartly-for-the-rising-risks-of-climate-change" target="_blank">Assessing Resilience Planning: Is the City Preparing Smartly for the Rising Risks of Climate Change?</a>]</strong></p> <p>***<br />by Sarah Crean for Gotham Gazette<br />in partnership with AdaptNY and NY Environment Report<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/AdaptNY" target="_blank">@AdaptNY</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/NYEnvironment" target="_blank">@NYEnvironment</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/SI_FEMA.jpg" alt="SI FEMA" height="397" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Staten Island after Sandy; Nov. 9, 2012 (photo: Walter Jennings via FEMA)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Just over half of the deaths caused by Superstorm Sandy, 22 to be exact, occurred on Staten Island's East and South shores, as the storm's waves battered homes and swept some off their foundations.</p> <p>Now the island is in a race against time to prepare for the next major coastal storm. Multi-million dollar resiliency projects are coming to Staten Island, from a sea wall on its East Shore to the expansion of innovative "natural drainage corridors."</p> <p>The projects are on target, say local officials, but the pace needs to be faster.</p> <p>The island's East Shore is directly exposed to the New York Bight, a coastline formation that can channel powerful storm waves and surges into areas within New York Harbor.</p> <p>The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to construct a "mega" sea wall that will protect over half of the East Shore, from the Verrazano Bridge to Oakwood, said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo in a phone interview.</p> <p>The Army Corps will be releasing a draft feasibility study on the proposed wall to the public next month.</p> <p>Oddo estimated that the wall would be completed by 2020 or 2021. The city and state are also assisting with its construction, he said.</p> <p>"This is a different timetable than [the initial plans] we talked about," added the borough president. "Help has been all too slow in coming...There will be several hurricane seasons."</p> <p>What happens between now and 2020 or 2021?</p> <p>Oddo said that smaller-scale protective measures were underway, such as the elevation of several hundred homes using new FEMA flood maps as a guide.</p> <p>The city has also rebuilt 26,000 linear feet of dunes between South Beach and Conference House Park. But "[the dunes] were not designed to handle an historic storm," said Oddo. "They were designed to handle beach erosion."</p> <p><strong>What happens if you're not behind the mega wall?</strong><br />One area on the eastern shore that won't benefit from the Army Corps mega-wall plan is the district of New York City Council Member Vincent Ignizio.</p> <p>There, a package of other solutions has been developed in conjunction with the city, the state's New York Rising program, and the federal government. They include construction of a series of "living breakwaters" and protective berms, home elevations, and, in some cases, strategic retreat.</p> <p>Ignizio expects these initiatives to be effective, and the lack of a wall not necessarily a problem. "People want to be protected but not walled off," he explained.</p> <p>But what is missing, Ignizio added, is a more robust home elevation program. The city's Sandy rebuilding program, Build It Back, will only pay for an elevation if half or more of the home was damaged, he said.</p> <p>Since the goal is to elevate, the city and homeowners could share the cost in cases where less than half of the home was damaged, Ignizio argued. The city is reviewing his proposal, the council member said. The Mayor's Office did not respond to questions about the idea.</p> <p>Ignizio said that the de Blasio administration is moving at a faster pace than that of its predecessor, but he added that no matter what, "The sad reality is that these projects will be extremely helpful but will take a long time."</p> <p>Concluded Ignizio: "I'm getting tired of the studies and the reviews. ...I want to see shovels in the ground and hammers in the streets."</p> <p><strong>It's more than coastal flooding</strong><br />Staten Island's vulnerability to flooding is tied to both a changing environment and lack of planning by the city over several decades.</p> <p>Oddo said some neighborhoods along the East Shore still have no storm drains because of their haphazard conversion from summer bungalow to year-round communities.</p> <p>"This community still remains vulnerable to moderate rain," he said. "We are paying the price in 2013, 2015 for what we did in the 1950s and 1960s."</p> <p>The city has started to construct storm sewers and drains where possible. Some areas – like Midland Beach - are below sea level, a further complication.</p> <p>The city has also been acquiring land for a "comprehensive Mid-Island Bluebelt," which would drain a 5,000-acre area, encompassing the South Beach, New Creek (Midland Beach), and Oakwood Beach watersheds.</p> <p>"It's a decades-long, 30-year plan," said Oddo. "We're still a ways away."</p> <p>The hope is that the Mid-Island Bluebelt will mirror the success of the Staten Island Bluebelt, which makes use of natural drainage corridors — such as streams, ponds, and other wetland areas — to convey, store, and filter stormwater. Concrete pipes along the corridors move stormwater from conventional storm sewers into the Raritan Bay or the Arthur Kill.</p> <p>The city describes the Staten Island Bluebelt as "one of the most ambitious stormwater management efforts in the northeastern United States."</p> <p><strong>Ready to move inland<br /></strong>The ultimate objective, said Oddo, is to "help people re-start their lives." And for many Staten Islanders on the East and South shores, this means moving back from the sea.</p> <p>Oddo said that he and Council Member Ignizio brought the concept of acquisition for re-development to the Bloomberg administration in March, 2013 - about five months after Sandy. The idea was to allow residents to sell their homes to the government in order to be able to rebuild more safely somewhere else within the area.</p> <p>The state and city have launched an acquisition program in three neighborhoods: Ocean Breeze, Oakwood Beach and Graham Beach. Representatives from neither the city nor the state responded to questions about the status of the program.</p> <p>"Bloomberg should have embraced acquisition for redevelopment," argued Oddo. "If you can acquire a block, then you can raze structures, and raise property — that never happened. Two years, four months later — what are the holdups?"</p> <p>Failure to embrace the concept of acquisition for redevelopment is self-defeating, maintained Ignizio, since using the approach would limit exposure of homes to storm surge and lessen the need for resiliency projects.</p> <p>"It's hard not to be frustrated and angry," said Oddo. "No mayor of New York City has stood up and told the people of Staten Island, 'We fully believe in acquisition for redevelopment and are committed to it.'"</p> <p>The city could show the type of truly resilient housing that may be constructed, said Oddo. And concerns about government [effectiveness] could be overcome. "People can buy into their neighborhood again."</p> <p>Added Oddo: "I believe in this program. It truly would have worked on a wide scale if we had gotten support from the Bloomberg administration. [It would be] a really powerful message if Bill de Blasio stands up [and] says 'we're ready to go.' You'll see lots of Staten Islanders come forward."</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5689-assessing-resilience-planning-is-the-city-preparing-smartly-for-the-rising-risks-of-climate-change" target="_blank">Assessing Resilience Planning: Is the City Preparing Smartly for the Rising Risks of Climate Change?</a>]</strong></p> <p>***<br />by Sarah Crean for Gotham Gazette<br />in partnership with AdaptNY and NY Environment Report<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/AdaptNY" target="_blank">@AdaptNY</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/NYEnvironment" target="_blank">@NYEnvironment</a></p>