Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1409 Thu, 19 Oct 2017 10:50:31 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Assembly Candidates Turn Down Televised Debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6519:assembly-candidates-turn-down-televised-debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6519:assembly-candidates-turn-down-televised-debates Errol No Debate

NY1 Anchor Errol Louis (NY1 screenshot)


New York City’s premiere political television news show, NY1’s Inside City Hall, has been hosting candidate debates in the weeks leading up to the September 13 state legislative primaries, as it has ahead of past elections.

NY1 has been home to many debates over the years, including earlier this year, when it hosted seven Democratic candidates seeking to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel and the NY1-CNN presidential primary debate between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Moving toward the upcoming primaries for New York State Assembly and Senate, the network has, as of Thursday evening’s Inside City Hall program, hosted candidates from six primaries. Two of those, however, were solo candidate interviews when the second person running in each of two races declined NY1’s debate invitation.

On Thursday’s Inside City Hall, host Errol Louis moderated a four-candidate debate in the 31st state Senate District race. He also held two separate individual interviews with candidates: incumbent Assembly Member Latrice Walker spoke with Louis when her challenger, current City Council Member Darlene Mealy, declined to appear for a debate; and Tremaine Wright spoke with Louis when Karen Cherry, her competitor for the 56th Assembly District seat, which is being vacated by the long-term incumbent, opted not to appear.

When an Inside City Hall producer emailed the show’s press list to advise of Thursday night’s program line-up, it was noted that Mealy and Cherry had declined to accept debate invitations. Gotham Gazette attempted to reach Mealy through her City Council office, to no avail, despite talking with an aide. A spokesperson for Cherry indicated that the candidate had a scheduling conflict.

“Those were the only two candidates this cycle who declined to attend. We held four debates (Senate District 10, Senate District 33, Senate District 31 and Assembly District 46) in addition to these two,” said said Bob Hardt, NY1 political director, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Generally, we try to give ample time before a debate but if space opens up at the last minute, we occasionally try to put together a debate within days in the interest of providing a service to our audience. In the case of the Mealy-Walker race, we reached out to both campaigns in the middle of August. In the case of the Cherry-Wright race, we reached out to both campaigns last week and Wright accepted but Cherry declined, indicating a desire to stay in the district.“

In local elections, an invitation to debate on NY1 is often candidates’ only opportunity to speak on television and reach a broader audience than typical campaigning allows. Inside City Hall is also watched by political insiders, the civic-minded public, and many New Yorkers interested in local political news. Debates offer candidates an opportunity for a performance to share by video afterward as well.

Cherry’s campaign communications director, Tony Herbert, told Gotham Gazette that the candidate was “meeting with seniors and other people in the community” at the time of the debate taping on Thursday. “The option that was given was a conflict with her schedule,” Herbert said. “There was no other option. We would’ve loved to have done it, but we couldn’t meet that timeframe.”

“We think she’s gonna do well,” he added. “But we can’t take anything for granted. We’ve gotta be out there with constituents.”

In Wright’s interview with Louis, the candidate discussed her pursuit of the Brooklyn Assembly seat, including her resume, which includes being a small business owner and chair of the local community board in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Wright said she wants to move to the Assembly in order to be a part of the budget process, provide legislative oversight, and bring resources back to her district. She did not mention the absence of her opponent, but Inside City Hall did have a graphic showing a map of the district with “No Debate” written above it.

AM WalkerAssembly Member Walker’s primary challenger in the 55th Assembly District, also in Brooklyn, City Council Member Darlene Mealy, is not known as an especially active Council member. Mealy, who is term-limited out of the Council at the end of 2017, is challenging Assembly Member Walker in an attempt to move to the state Legislature.

The Council member’s campaign committee has no clear contact information listed with the Board of Elections. An aide in her Council office did not make her available for an interview or send a statement explaining Mealy’s decision not to debate on NY1.

In Walker’s NY1 interview, the short-term incumbent (pictured) explained her roots in her district and what she described as the privilege of representing her community in Albany. She touted bringing millions of dollars back to the district for a hospital and NYCHA repairs and described introducing bills aimed at expanding voting rights and registration. The Assembly member also explained how she is attempting to restore her constituents’ trust in government after her predecessor wound up in prison on corruption charges.

While Louis, the Inside City Hall anchor, did lament the absence of Mealy, Walker did not discuss her opponent. The interview also featured a NY1 map of the district and the "No Debate" headline.

State legislative primaries are Tuesday, September 13.

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by William Fowler and Ben Max, with reporting from Samar Khurshid
@GothamGazette

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Assembly Candidates Turn Down Televised Debates Thu, 08 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Community Engagement Prized by Participatory Budgeting Proponents http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6269:community-engagement-prized-by-participatory-budgeting-proponents http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6269:community-engagement-prized-by-participatory-budgeting-proponents menchaca constituent

Council Member Menchaca with a constituent (photo: William Alatriste)


For City Council Member Carlos Menchaca and his staff, the Participatory Budgeting Vote Week that just ended was the culmination of a year-long effort to encourage project proposals and votes from communities that are traditionally excluded from politics. Through PB, community members decide how $1-2 million in funding is allocated toward neighborhood improvements. Menchaca’s district, which includes immigrant-rich Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sunset Park and Red Hook, is one of 28 districts running the program in the 51-member City Council, but it is the most active.

Last year, Menchaca’s constituents recorded the city’s highest number of participatory budgeting (PB) votes, a total of 6,299. Although this is double the amount of voters from the prior year’s cycle, it is still only a fraction of eligible voters, as the district has a population of 164,230 — about 80% of which is over the PB voting age of 14, according to the 2010 census.

Still, two-thirds of the votes from those who chose to participate were on non-English ballots and almost one-quarter were from people who couldn’t vote in regular elections, such as people under the age of 18 and immigrants without U.S. citizenship. These data give Menchaca and other supporters of PB energy to push forward despite criticism of the program.

“What we’re doing with PB is removing as many obstacles as possible to get every voice in the community connected to a decision, like a community project,” Menchaca told Gotham Gazette in an interview during vote week, which was March 26-April 3.

Menchaca and other Council members typically begin the PB outreach process in September, when workshops are held for residents to come together and share ideas about what should be improved or changed in their communities. This year in Menchaca’s district, fully translated workshops were held in Spanish and Chinese. Throughout the year, regular updates on scheduled events are sent through more traditional methods like phone calls, text messages, and emails. Residents are also updated via social media outlets like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter.

A voting site at the Red Hook Initiative community center, run by volunteers from local high schools, forecasted some success for Menchaca’s community outreach efforts as excited teenagers encouraged their friends to vote. These youth organizers had also been working throughout the year by attending training sessions, collecting project proposals, and organizing mobile voting locations. When they set up their Red Hook Initiative site, they were determined to collect 1,000 ballots by the following day.

The majority of volunteers and voters at the vote week event would not have been eligible to participate in a regular election because of their age, but PB votes are open to residents as young as 14. Tea Cruz, a 16-year-old student, voted with her younger family members in mind. She wanted the local playgrounds to be renovated so that the equipment isn’t rusty and broken when her newborn cousin is old enough to play there. She was also concerned about her younger sister’s middle school, where the library is too outdated for the students to find their books easily.

Along with playground renovations and new library technology, there were 11 other projects on the District 38 ballot this year. Other school improvement proposals included air conditioning installations, lockers for students who are currently required to carry their belongings with them throughout the day, and repairs to auditoriums, bathrooms, and science labs. Brooklyn Community Boards 6 and 7 called for street repairs, including filling potholes and repainting lines. There were also two district-wide proposals for new trees throughout each neighborhood and electronic signs at bus stops with the location and arrival time of each bus.

PB projects are only for these types of physical investments in a neighborhood, known as capital projects. Critics of PB say that many these are projects that city agencies are supposed to take care of through the normal city budgeting process, and that the role for Council members it is to be a liaison between their communities and city agencies, while also influencing the overall city budget. Still, Council members do receive funds to disburse in their communities and many members are now allowing their constituents control over a portion of those funds.

In Menchaca’s district, each voter could support up to five different projects. Informational expos were held before and throughout vote week for residents to learn about each proposal. At the Red Hook Initiative site, a room in the community center was filled with colorful science-fair style posters made by young volunteers, detailing the potential benefits and costs of each project. Voters were encouraged to read all the information before handing in their ballots. Many of the teen-aged voters lingered in front of the posters, questioning details of each project.

Youth Council Member Frank Edwin Guzman, Jr., who is mentored by Menchaca, thinks that the perspectives of his peers are an important part of improving the community. After entering the New York City Youth Council program, his goal is to eventually be the youngest Council member in the city (Menchaca is currently among the youngest). In the near future, Guzman would also like to see every City Council member running PB.

Menchaca also hopes to see more City Council participation. Although 28 districts in New York City already run PB, the system still faces some criticism, both from within and outside the Council. In a recent column, NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt argued that PB places too much of the Council member’s responsibility on residents and hurts the poorer parts of districts that aren’t usually politically involved. Menchaca finds that PB has the potential to do the opposite if the right effort is made.

“The people who are going to eventually become participants in PB are the people that you invite to the table,” Menchaca said, emphasizing “invite.” “If you only invite rich, engaged people then you’re only going to get rich, engaged people,” he continued. “It’s not an accident that two-thirds of the votes coming in are in Spanish and Chinese. It won’t be an accident if only rich, privileged people come out and vote for PB. It’s a direct reflection of the leadership that you place in power to engage the people.”

Menchaca also responded to the criticism that PB takes power away from Council members.

“What we’re trying to do is not consolidate power for one person to make decisions or go out and find solutions, but what we’re doing is actually increasing power within the community to develop leaders who are knowledgeable of city agency processes to help make a collective decision about where to place dollars,” he said.

Other critics point out that the entire PB process might be unnecessary. In a recent column for the New York Daily News, NY1 political anchor Errol Louis pointed out that PB only makes up 0.04% of the city’s budget, labeling the process as “painfully low-stakes.” He argues that if it were really the great process participating Council members promote it to be, residents would be allowed to vote on billion-dollar decisions, rather than where to allocate $1 million or $2 million. Louis also echoes Hardt’s point about putting decision-making responsibilities into the wrong hands.

“And if a budget decision goes wrong — if, say, events prove we should have bought NYPD cameras instead of renovating the senior center — participatory budgeting scatters the responsibility, letting the Council member off the hook,” he wrote.

In an article published here last year, Council members not running PB in their districts cited the heavy commitment as a deterrent.

“Participatory budgeting takes an extraordinary amount of office time and resources for no discernible improvement in outcomes over working through the existing vast civic infrastructure for public participation,” said Council Member Rory Lancman, who represents District 24 in Queens.

A press secretary for Council Member Inez Dickens, representative of District 9 in Harlem, explained that local community boards are the most practical way for residents to express the same opinions, concerns or proposal ideas that PB encourages. This was a point raised by Louis in his recent column.

As more City Council members decide whether or not to run PB, Menchaca thinks that the future of the program lies in more funding. Last year, a project for increased Wi-Fi throughout the NYCHA public housing developments in Red Hook couldn’t receive PB funding even though it garnered more than 3,000 votes. Menchaca had already allocated all of his available funds to winning projects such as district-wide technology updates, playground lighting, bathroom renovations, and outdoor fitness equipment in Sunset Park. He went to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who was able to expand PB this year with a commitment of an extra $100,000 to 10 different districts, for a total of $1 million, to support winning projects. Adams is the first borough president to make such a funding decision.

“PB is a revolutionary approach to growing democracy from the ground up, and this partnership with the City Council will cultivate that growth even further, funding more capital projects and engaging more potential voters,” Adams wrote in the press release.

Along with the continued support of the borough president, Menchaca would also like to encourage the mayor’s office and more city agencies, such as the Parks Department, the School Construction Authority, and the Department of Transportation, to look to PB votes for ideas about how to spend their own money. He believes that PB could be a valuable resource for the mayor’s office and its agencies by showing the city government what residents really want and need, therefore creating a more direct relationship between city agencies and residents. If the city were to directly increase PB funding, it could help improve outreach efforts, according to Menchaca.

“It takes money to engage the communities we’re engaging,” he said. “Especially when they don’t speak the language and there’s low literacy rates, for example, and you have to translate everything. I think the city can understand that gap of resources and bring us more translation, more literacy classes in our communities, bring us more money to teach people how to organize.”

***
by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette @carmenjrusso

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Community Engagement Prized by Participatory Budgeting Proponents Thu, 07 Apr 2016 18:47:38 +0000
Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6255:everyone-agrees-albany-needs-ethics-reform-except-the-people-who-matter-most http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6255:everyone-agrees-albany-needs-ethics-reform-except-the-people-who-matter-most three men at a table

Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (l-r) (photo via The Governor's Office)


"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on NY1 on Jan. 3. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

While the governor did unveil an aggressive ethics agenda during his State of the State speech a week later, Cuomo’s words ring hollow now, as a state budget containing no government ethics reform passes and any hope for such reform happening this year is pushed to the legislative session, where it is unlikely to occur.

Cuomo has done nothing public on ethics reform despite the promises he made during his Jan. 13 State of the State address. “We have to remember the people we serve, and it’s our responsibility to give them the government that they deserve,” Cuomo said at the time. “And remember the stronger the citizen trust, the stronger the government’s ability.”

Just about a month after two of New York’s most powerful legislators were convicted of several federal corruption charges in separate trials, Cuomo laid out a plan to close the LLC loophole, which allows limited liability companies to circumvent New York’s campaign donation limits and give large sums of money to candidates through various LLCs, limit the amount of outside income legislators may earn, and adopt a publicly funded campaign finance system, among other reforms.

Yet, as negotiations for the state budget come to a close, the “three men in a room” deciding the state’s roughly $150 billion budget have not moved ethics reforms that could help give the people they serve “the government that they deserve.” In a Siena College poll released Feb. 1, 89 percent of New Yorkers said corruption in state government is a serious problem, with 60 percent calling for outside income to be banned.

Although Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat and one of the “three men in a room” along with Gov. Cuomo and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, has pledged to “increase transparency and accountability” and “restore the public’s trust in government,” the lack of any ethics reform in the state budget calls Heastie’s follow through on that commitment into question.

“The Assembly has pledged to enact comprehensive ethics reforms, and we take that commitment very seriously,” said Heastie in a press release detailing the ethics reform component of the Assembly’s budget plan, which was released Friday evening March 11. Like Cuomo, Heastie outlined an ethics reform agenda, but did little else to publicly promote it.

On that Friday morning three weeks ago, Heastie outlined the Assembly Democrats’ ethics package at an event held by Crain’s New York Business. The plan also includes a proposal to close the LLC loophole, as well as proposals to limit the amount of outside income legislators may earn (though not as strictly as Cuomo’s plan), and to make it so that legislators who also work as attorneys can only earn money for the casework they perform, rather than for simply serving as "of counsel," lending their name to a law firm - a practice at root of the scandal that brought down Heastie's predecessor, Sheldon Silver.

Both Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were brought down last year by corruption convictions related to their use of their public offices for private gain.

The new head of the Republican-controlled Senate, meanwhile, has repeatedly questioned the need for further ethics reform, and he and many other Senate Republicans are opposed to making the Legislature full-time or placing any limits on lawmakers’ outside income.

Sen. Flanagan has previously pointed out that the Senate passed a pension forfeiture bill, aimed at ensuring that legislators convicted of public corruption cannot collect a government pension, in a deal with the Assembly, only to have the Assembly back out at the last minute. Pension forfeiture is notably absent from the Assembly's reform plan.

As the New York Times Editorial Board writes, “In Albany, this is how the stage gets set for each legislative house to praise itself and to blame the other for the failure, yet again, of meaningful reform, and for Mr. Cuomo to blame them both.

New Yorkers, legislators, and government reform groups alike say that ethics reform is essential, “especially considering the context of the past year,” as Cuomo himself said during his State of the State. Yet at a time when Cuomo has the most leverage, he has failed to achieve reform. Heastie has decided not to aggressively pursue the Assembly's plan, and Flanagan has appeared totally disinterested in the issue. The minorities in each house - one Democratic, one Republican - have actually been more vocal than the majorities.

“We are blowing our Watergate moment,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told the Wall Street Journal. “This year’s budget process has been nothing but a series of covert meetings and phone calls shielded from the press and public.”

Senate Republicans’ resistance to outside income limits and closing the LLC loophole have left room for Cuomo and Heastie to play a blame game. In part because neither did anything beyond one speech to promote ethics reform leading up to the budget, there is room to question their seriousness. But, Senate Republicans have, it seems, let the two Democrats and Assembly Democrats in general off the hook.

“It is incumbent upon legislators to work to significantly reduce corruption, and we can do so by passing these common sense measures,” Assemblymember David Buchwald said upon signing a pledge to fight for good government reform, including closing the LLC loophole. “I think the vast majority of New Yorkers would want to see their representatives sign this pledge.

"In recent times, the New York Legislature has been marked by regular bribery, rampant kickbacks and a rancid culture," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who prosecuted both Silver and Skelos, said during a talk in Albany in February.

A coalition of government reform groups, including Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and Reinvent Albany, released a statement denouncing the governor and legislative leaders for failing to pass any ethics reform in the three-and-a-half months since former legislative leaders Skelos and Silver were convicted of corruption, despite strong public demand for action to be taken.

“With a recent poll showing that nearly 90% of New Yorkers believe that unethical behavior is a serious problem in state government a month before former legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos are sentenced for public corruption,” the statement reads, “the governor and legislative leaders have an obligation to New Yorkers to reach a significant agreement on ethics reform.”

“The collapse of ethics reform during the budget is failure by the governor to mobilize overwhelming public support for change," said Blair Horner, executive director of NYPIRG. “New York State’s political leaders have chosen to ‘kick the can’ instead of tackling the needed reforms to respond to Albany’s ‘Watergate moment.’”

When Cuomo was asked in February whether ethics reform were likely to remain in the budget, the governor replied, “As we get closer and actually have budget conversations, it’s going to be at the top of the list.” Not long after, Cuomo conceded that ethics reform would not be included in the budget.

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most Thu, 31 Mar 2016 23:07:07 +0000
Wary of Gentrification, East Harlem Braces for Change http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6258:wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6258:wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two mmv ehnp

 Mark-Viverito at an East Harlem planning session (photo: William Alatriste)


CONTINUED from page 1 - this is page 2 of 2

Community calls for community planning
City officials have not yet presented a timeline, much less a plan, for rezoning East Harlem, but that hasn’t stopped residents from preemptively organizing against “upzoning” that they believe will accelerate displacement of low-income people in their neighborhood. Two community-driven plans have emerged from El Barrio since November: one, an attempt at leveraging rezoning for a higher percentage of more deeply affordable housing and community benefits through collaboration with city officials; the other, an outright rejection of the mayor’s plan and a demand for better protections for immigrants and very low-income people living in regulated rental units.

Speaker Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, told NY1 in January, "The question is, do we want to let things stand and get nothing out of it, or do we try to get something, allow the density to happen, with a benefit to the community? To me, the answer is very clear. We have to get something for the community.”

“Getting something for the community” seems to be the theme of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, which was completed in February by a broad coalition led Mark-Viverito, Manhattan President Gale Brewer, and advocacy group Community Voices Heard.

east harlem planning tableThe EHNP is the product of a 10-month process in which over 1,300 East Harlem residents filled out hundreds of community surveys, gathered for seven community vision workshops on 12 topic areas, and produced an exhaustive list of recommendations for neighborhood preservation and improvement. While it certainly won’t halt fear of gentrification and displacement, it may go a long way in influencing the rezoning plan put forth by City Hall, and, many believe, stemming the tide of displacement while improving the community in a variety of ways.

The plan’s recommendations span 12 themes, ranging from improvements to NYCHA developments to arts and culture preservation to senior needs, but two issues took precedence over the rest: the preservation of affordable housing and job creation.

The plan specifically calls for better enforcement of anti-tenant harassment laws, additional legal and educational support for tenants, and policy changes and increased funding aimed at preserving existing regulated units and bringing more units under regulation. The plan also recommends that the city build off of the affordability that will be required on private rezoned sites under the new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing rules. The plan recommends 100% affordable units on public sites, and asks that all tools, such as HPD subsidies and programs, be utilized to achieve deeper affordability for the lowest-income residents.

Participants also heavily emphasize job creation, job training, and living wages as changes they want to see accompany increased density in their neighborhood.

East Harlem’s distinction as the home district of the powerful City Council Speaker sets the area apart from other neighborhoods on deck to be rezoned. Still, other Council members took notice of the EHNP effort, even attending the final planning event, eyeing ways in which they can lead a local process to get ahead of a more centralized, mayoral administration-run plan for rezoning.

The EHNP coalition sent the 134-page plan to the City Planning Commission and other city agencies after its release on February 25.

Community planning in New York neighborhoods is not a new concept; the Department of City Planning has been organizing “place-based planning studies” in other to-be-rezoned neighborhoods to help develop recommendations for affordable housing, economic development and infrastructure investments, and assisting community and borough boards in the creation of 197-a community plans.

The city created the rezoning plan that is now being negotiated for East New York after a number of community meetings, and the process is playing out in Flushing and other areas slated for rezonings.

But the Speaker calls the EHNP the first of its kind in the city, emphasizing a proactive, bottom-up approach.

“We’re kind of doing it upside-down. Usually an application is presented and we respond to it, right?” Mark-Viverito said to the audience at an EHNP community forum on January 27, referring to the typical land use review process (ULURP), which is taking place in East New York. “The [East Harlem] application hasn’t even been submitted. We have a plan, we’re giving it to the city, and we’re forcing the city to consider and take into account those needs in the application process.”

It remains to be seen whether the Speaker’s influence will fortify the plan once the rezoning process begins in East Harlem, but many people involved believe that the strength of the plan’s process and government-community partnerships have given the neighborhood the best chance of success as they both brace for and embrace the rezoning.

"This is a document that we actually want to govern how East Harlem is developed and evolves over time,” said Sondra Youdelman, director Community Voices Heard, in a February interview with Gotham Gazette. “Now it's up to the city to figure out which policies and tools need to be coupled together to make this happen.”

'Consulta del Barrio'
Movement for Justice in El Barrio, founded in 2004, is an organization predominantly comprised of and led by immigrants - mostly women - who have lived in rent-regulated apartment units in East Harlem for decades. The organization claims over 1,000 members and organizing within 95 privately-owned buildings in El Barrio.

MJB released in November 2015 a 10-point plan that roundly rejected the mayor’s zoning plans as they stood then and focuses almost exclusively on housing preservation for low-income residents in rent-regulated apartments, people of color, and immigrant communities, which the group says are disproportionately displaced by landlord harassment and gentrification.

“Our members didn’t want to just reject the plan,” said Juan Haro, an organizer at Movement for Justice in El Barrio. “They wanted to put forward a concrete proposal to improve the housing situation in our neighborhood.”

The document is also an indictment of what Movement for Justice calls a failure by HPD to enforce housing codes and protect tenants’ rights.

“We believe that when HPD is not responsive to landlords breaking the local housing code, and their unresponsiveness allows landlords to get away with driving out tenants, which contributes to displacement and gentrification,” Haro said.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio’s plan calls for increased and independent oversight of HPD; a public education campaign to inform tenants about HPD's role; a new body to collect fines levied against negligent landlords; publication of inspection documents in multiple languages, penalties for landlords who fail to make repairs within 24 hours of emergency violations; the establishment of an East Harlem HPD oversight team; and improvements to HPD’s inspection and follow-up speeds.

According to Haro, over 8,500 East Harlem residents participated in 12 public meetings throughout the year-long “Consulta del Barrio,” or neighborhood consultation. Haro highlights the group’s bottom-up organizing strategy and pragmatic outreach effort, which targets very low-income residents and immigrants, and favors flyering over social media.

“We know that there is a digital divide,” he said. “Many folks in the neighborhood don’t have access to Facebook or Twitter, so we focused on on-the-street outreach, and worked in the evenings and on weekends when more people weren’t at work.”

Public meetings were “fluid and organic,” Haro added, and residents attended to learn more about the intricacies of the rezoning proposal and land use in general. Participants voted to reject the mayor’s proposals, and formulated the demands that would become the pith of the 10-point plan.

The plan concentrates on protecting tenants of regulated, private apartment buildings, because those tenants have the most at stake as the neighborhood gentrifies, Haro said. “Landlords cut off basic services and violate local housing codes,” he said. “They offer buyouts to tenants to surrender their units. They threaten to bring in immigration authorities or ask for proof as citizens and threaten based on citizenship."

The de Blasio administration has mounted an initiative to deter evictions and landlord harassment in rapidly changing neighborhoods with the creation of the Tenant Support Unit in August of 2015. The mayor announced in February that the unit had resolved its thousandth case since it began offering assistance to tenants.

While reviews of the unit’s methodology have been mixed, the administration touted a ten-fold increase in free legal services for tenants, for a total of $62 million in funding that will be fully implemented for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year.  As a result, de Blasio said, evictions by city marshals have decreased 24 percent since he took office, down from 28,849 in 2013 to 21,988 in 2015.

While the new support measures and protections introduced by the mayor seem to be having a positive effect, members at MJB believe that they will still be forced out once rezoning takes hold.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio members organized a series of protests against the mayor’s plan leading up to a Community Board 11 vote on MIH and ZQA in November.

Sandra Cruz, a member, said at a rally before the meeting, “We are against the mayor’s ‘luxury housing plan’ because we know that 25-30% of the apartments that the mayor says will supposedly be constructed for low-income people will not be accessible to the poor people of East Harlem, because we don’t make enough money to pay those high rents.”

CB 11 voted “no with conditions” on the mayor’s citywide zoning plans. This feedback, similar to that of community boards across the city, helped inform the City Council’s negotiations with the de Blasio administration over the final versions of MIH and ZQA.

Movement for Justice sent its 10-point community plan to Speaker Mark-Viverito and Borough President Gale Brewer in November, but have not received a response, they said. Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito, Brewer, and a variety of other stakeholders, were in the process of creating the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan.

Next for East Harlem
With MIH and ZQA in place, East Harlem stakeholders are watching the neighborhood rezoning process as it unfolds in East New York, the first neighborhood rezoning being moved by the de Blasio administration, in consultation with the City Council.

Like East Harlem, East New York’s population is predominantly Latino and African-American, and the neighborhood AMI is around $34,000. City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents much of East New York and remains adamant that the plan for the area not help in pricing out long-term residents.

"Neighbors on my street are already jacking up the rents to $1,800 [per month]," Espinal said at a March 8 City Council hearing on the East New York rezoning.

Parallels between East New York and East Harlem are undeniable, and many are watching the process for clues as to how the future may unfold in El Barrio. East Harlem may be slightly further along in a gentrification process as of now, but both neighborhoods are changing.

Though some involved in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan are skeptical as to how much of the document will be seriously considered by the city, the speaker hopes that the document will serve as a model for other communities down the road.

“It would be great,” she said at the January 27 community forum, “if the administration established some sort of process to create neighborhood plans in every area that would be rezoned.” She followed this up by devoting a portion of her February State of the City address to the Council’s proposal that the city develop a Neighborhood Commitment Plan that would accompany all rezoning proposals, “describing and tracking commitments for housing, schools, infrastructure and other city services.”

“Planning for the future of our neighborhoods should start from the ground up and infuse the voices of everyday New Yorkers into policy decisions,” Mark-Viverito said in her address. She remarked that the community planning process is an opportunity to discuss neighborhood concerns “from school overcrowding and pedestrian safety to sewers and public transit.”

For community organizations in El Barrio, the work has only just begun. Leaders across groups and initiatives say they’ll continue to apply pressure to the city to respond to demands for deeper affordability, better protection of tenants’ rights, neighborhood improvements, and capital investments. Essential, they say, is community power in all processes.

Even as the future of East Harlem seems unsure, long-time resident Pearl Barkley notes the surge of neighborhood civic engagement around rezoning as a silver lining.

“I grew up in a time of social movements, with activism throughout the neighborhood,” Barkley said. “Right now, when I attend meetings, I see young people standing up, excited to talk about what they want for their city. That gives me hope. It makes me happy.”

This is page 2 of 2 - return to page 1

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by Maggie Calmes, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Wary of Gentrification, East Harlem Braces for Change Fri, 01 Apr 2016 02:22:42 +0000
Cuomo Heads Into State of the State After Big Announcements, With More to Say http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6083:cuomo-heads-into-state-of-the-state-after-big-announcements-with-more-to-say http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6083:cuomo-heads-into-state-of-the-state-after-big-announcements-with-more-to-say cuomo church sots

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, Governor's Office)


Governor Cuomo is going big. Decrying a state that has lost its ambition for transformative projects like the Erie Canal, the governor has spent the past week traveling the state and announcing major infrastructure, transportation, and economic development plans. Cuomo has also revealed new pieces of his $15 minimum wage campaign and criminal justice reform policies, among others, as he sets his agenda for 2016 and frames budget negotiations in Albany.

So far, Cuomo has outlined 14 planks of his 2016 platform, providing an extensive preview of his State of the State and budget address, which he will give on Wednesday in the capital. Still, there are key pieces of his speech that the governor has kept under wraps, including what he has said are top priorities: government ethics, homelessness, and education.

It is also unclear what priority, if any, Cuomo will give to policies like the DREAM Act, which he has assured proponents will be in his budget again, but has not given indication of its place in his speech. Advocates are also hopeful that the governor includes a significant paid family leave proposal on Wednesday, and many are watching to see if he unveils a plan for a statewide policy on car-hailing apps, like Uber.

While the governor is clearly going big on infrastructure - with plans that could total $100 billion in costs, according to his office - he has promised to lead with ethics as lawmakers continue to fall to corruption convictions, trust in Albany is low, and New Yorkers say Cuomo has not done enough to clean up state government.

"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," Cuomo, a Democrat, said Jan. 3 on NY1. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."

What exactly this will include is unclear, but good government groups, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others have put forth recommendations. Chief among these are limiting legislators' outside income and closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations. Whether Cuomo broaches a public campaign finance system will help gauge how bold he's going on reform.

Wherever ethics does fall, that portion of Cuomo's address is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of discussion of the infrastructure plans the governor has outlined and his discussion of economic justice, including his minimum wage crusade.

The infrastructure plans, which include a new track on the Long Island Rail Road, a revamped Penn Station, road and bridge upgrades, and more, will be attached to the governor's previously announced projects led by a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.

During a Jan. 5 appearance on Long Island, Cuomo said of New Yorkers, "we don't think big anymore. And we don't believe we're capable of doing big anymore. And we don't believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore." But, he promised to resurrect New York's "big" thinking as he announced new plans and referenced ongoing building - all under the banner of this year's tagline: New York State, Built to Lead.

"This year in the State of the State we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York," Cuomo promised. "Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region."

While Cuomo has outlined the meat of his building plans, he has not gone into detail on how it will all be funded, though he has promised to do so on Wednesday in his executive budget.

Cuomo has called the budget "the most complex piece of legislation we pass," which is true in part because it is a way of doing business in Albany that a good deal of policy is unnecessarily included in budget negotiations. For the governor, whomever it may be, forcing additional policy into the budget is a way of using executive leverage that doesn't exist in post-budget legislative session. For the second straight year, Cuomo is combining his State of the State, which is usually a more policy-focused speech, with the announcement of his budget.

A budget deal is due by April 1, whereas the legislative session continues into June.

Budget watchdogs are eagerly awaiting the details of Cuomo's spending plans. Nicole Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, recently wrote in City and State that "Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them."

"The risk in starting lots of new projects without having a way to pay for them," Gelinas wrote, "is that the governor will force the MTA and the rest of the state to scrimp on old stuff that people don't see, like replacing subway tracks and signals."

After all the drama that accompanied Cuomo's negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio over an MTA capital spending plan, Cuomo may try to steer clear of criticism for his spending plans. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, Cuomo continues to have billions of dollars to spend from bank settlements with the state. In outlining 12 things to watch for in Cuomo's budget, CBC asks, "How much will the Governor propose to spend for transportation infrastructure? How much will be borrowing versus pay-as-you-go capital, and will a new revenue source be proposed?"

Throughout his time as governor, Cuomo has prided himself on reigning in state operational spending, and even while outlining his new plans so far this month, Cuomo has touted his brand of fiscal responsibility. It is unlikely Cuomo will outline an increase in state spending above the two percent cap he has followed.

Meanwhile, many, especially from New York City, are watching closely to see what the governor outlines around homelessness, the latest issue on which Cuomo has decided to undermine and supercede de Blasio. Cuomo issued an executive order just after the new year and has promised a robust policy plan in his State of the State.

The plan is likely to include more oversight of homeless shelters, which the state is already responsible for, and of operations aimed at reducing homelessness. How much money Cuomo will dedicate to supportive housing, rental subsidies, and other relevant measures is to-be-seen. De Blasio recently announced a major supportive housing plan and, along with advocates and legislators, called on Cuomo to match it (and create a fourth New York/New York supportive housing deal).

The governor has not yet made clear his education platform for this year, though he has indicated he will follow recommendations made by the common core task force that he empaneled in September and received a report from in December.

Becoming "The Education Governor" has been full of fits and starts for Cuomo. While he has protected and promoted the growth of charter schools, other aspects of his education policy have not gone as planned - these include the rollout of the common core learning standards and tougher teacher evaluations by tying them more closely to the results of student standardized test scores.

The task force recommended a revamp of the common core system, more stakeholder input, a reduction in standardized testing, and increased local control over standards and curriculum. The governor's office said that "no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report," so there could be few specific proposals in Cuomo's State of the State.

The governor did recently announce he will be investing in the community school model, something de Blasio has expanded vastly in New York City, especially with regard to so-called "failing schools" as he tries to turn them around under the threat of state takeover. Cuomo may take aim at hastening school improvement.

On NY1, Cuomo said "many of these failing schools have been failing for over 10 years, believe it or not. And the system, the bureaucracy, has been too tolerant, in my opinion. And we are – we're going to be focusing on the closing schools, we're going to be investing in the school system to make sure we're doing everything we can on the state side."

As he has done before, Cuomo also distanced himself from education-related problems: "Education in this state is run by a department called the state education department," Cuomo said. "It is not under the governor. I wish it were, many governors in the past wished it was...It's run by the Board of Regents, which is selected by the legislature, primarily the Assembly."

Discussing the common core he said, "We started a new curriculum as part of a national movement called the common core curriculum. And that was rolled out over the past few years; that brought with it a testing regimen on the new curriculum. It was not implemented well. It was rushed. It was confused."

Adding that "It created a backlash among parents that frankly shocked everyone," Cuomo mentioned "the opt-out movement, where the parents didn't have the kids take the tests because they didn't like the way it was addressed, they didn't like that the kids were getting lower grades, whatever region."

Cuomo said the state education department has to make significant changes "and bring the parents along. Because if the parents don't have trust in the education system, then you have nothing and that's where we are now," Cuomo concluded, setting the stage for next steps by his administration and the state education department, which is doing its own common core review (new SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was named to Cuomo's task force, so there appears to be some, if not significant, overlap).

While there will almost certainly be sections of Cuomo's speech on education, homelessness, and ethics, the bulk will likely be on infrastructure, economic development and opportunity. He'll showcase these efforts through his push for an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, a downtown revitalization initiative, tax breaks for small businesses, and the major projects he's outlined.

On NY1, Cuomo explained how he sees economic development, saying that "in Upstate New York [it] means basically restoring the economy, and in downstate New York it means growing the future economy – the high tech economy, having the transportation infrastructure to do that – and making sure the economy is working for everyone."

He promised to address "very high unemployment among young minority males, black and brown," which he called "just unacceptable," adding, "We have to make special economic initiatives there."

To follow that up, Cuomo announced new regulations related to spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Prior to that, Cuomo also announced "the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative," a $25 million program to "bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state."

The governor has promised to continue to fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 - New York is one of just two states that automatically treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Like on several other issues, Cuomo has taken executive action on the issue in the absence of legislation, with a plan to move 16- and 17-year-olds into a separate prison facility from older inmates.

Where other social justice issues that, similarly, the governor has backed before but not been able to pass, like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the DREAM Act, are featured in Cuomo's remarks is also being watched closely by supporters of those policies.

The governor published an op-ed this week detailing the measures he's taken to protect transgender New Yorkers in the absence of GENDA passing the legislature, where it has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo did not indicate that he would be pushing GENDA forward in his State of the State.

There are also questions around whether Cuomo will include a proposal and dedicated funding for paid family leave, something that de Blasio recently moved on for some city employees and called on the state to pass for all workers.

One other policy area the governor has been quiet on leading up to his address, but he could make waves with an announcement on is app-based car services. When de Blasio was battling with Uber last year, Cuomo jumped into the fray to defend the company, where one of his former top aides now works, and say that a statewide policy is needed. Since then, Uber has waged a campaign across the state, getting many public officials on board. Cuomo may surprise people by outlining state policy around Uber and other e-hailing services like Lyft.

Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for Cuomo's speech - stream online at the governor's website - and see below for the full outline of proposals Cuomo has outlined thus far in 2016.

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
@tweetBenMax

For an outline of all 14 proposals Cuomo has announced thus far, the following was released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:

The signature proposals announced so far include:

PROPOSAL 1: Restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 2: Launch a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.

The project will allow the LIRR to increase service, reduce congestion and train delays caused whenever there is an incident along this busy stretch of tracks and will enable the LIRR to run "reverse-peak" trains to allow people to take the LIRR to jobs on Long Island during traditional business hours. By allowing the LIRR to increase service between Floral Park and Hicksville, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and thereby reduce traffic on Long Island's major east-west highways, like the L.I.E., Northern State and Southern State, and more trains will make it easier for Long Islanders to reach LaGuardia and Kennedy airports by train.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 3: Bolster New York's legacy of environmental protection. The Governor has proposed allocating $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

More information available here.

PROPOSAL 4: Make a series of investments and new initiatives to continue growing the economy and building stronger, more vibrant communities across New York State. These proposals include significant tax relief for small businesses, increased funding to support municipal water infrastructure improvement projects, a new effort to revitalize and transform downtown areas in each region of the state, and a sixth round of the successful Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 5: Invest in Upstate transportation infrastructure. This includes a plan to offer a tax credit that cuts tolls in half for the New York residents and businesses who utilize the Thruway most often – benefitting nearly one million passenger, business and farm vehicles using E-Z Passes; eliminating tolls for agricultural vehicles; and keeping tolls flat until at least 2020 for all other drivers.

More information available here; video available here.

PROPOSAL 6: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.

More information available here; video and other media available here; conceptual renderings are available here.

PROPOSAL 7: Dramatically expand and improve the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy. The proposal will expand the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 8: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region. This proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 9: Launch a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award.

More information available here.

PROPOSAL 10: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul detailed this proposal shortly after the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which will dramatically improve broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and lead to more than $1 billion in direct investments and consumer benefits.

Additionally, the state issued a $500 million solicitation for private sector partners to join the New NY Broadband Program, which will greatly expand Internet access in all regions of the state, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas.

More information available here; video available here.

PROPOSAL 11: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.

The Governor made this announcement as he also kicked off the start of renovations that will transform the New York State Fairgrounds site into a premier, multi-use facility. The Governor marked the official start of the historic renovation project with the implosion of the grandstand today.

More information available here.

PROPOSAL 12: Combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state.

More information available here.

PROPOSAL 13: Launch a "Right Priorities" initiative to further New York’s status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms. The Governor's proposal will help at-risk youth find positive opportunities in their communities, while also providing citizens who enter the criminal justice system the opportunity to rehabilitate, return home, and contribute to their communities.

More information available here; video and other media available here.

PROPOSAL 14: Increase opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises across New York State.

In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.

More information available here.

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Cuomo Heads Into State of the State After Big Announcements, With More to Say Wed, 13 Jan 2016 02:08:46 +0000
Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5886:did-bill-de-blasios-tirade-help-andrew-cuomo-get-his-groove-back http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5886:did-bill-de-blasios-tirade-help-andrew-cuomo-get-his-groove-back Cuomo labor day parade

Gov. Cuomo at the Labor Day parade (photo: The Governor's Office via flickr)


On Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, held a rally to announce a campaign to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

"So Mr. Vice President, today I announce that I will propose to the New York state legislature not just $15 for fast-food workers, because a fast-food worker deserves $15 an hour, construction workers deserve $15 an hour, and home healthcare aides deserve $15 an hour, and taxi-cab drivers deserve $15 an hour, and every working man and woman in the State of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage - and we are not going to stop until we get it done!" Cuomo said, his voice rising.

It was a triumphant moment for the governor, and for unions and progressive groups who have worked for the last year to get Cuomo on board with a $15 hourly minimum wage. It is being called a major about-face by many watchers, including some who note that Cuomo now supports a policy his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been pushing for quite some time and that Cuomo had previously dismissed.

The move, along with other recent Cuomo plays, is in striking contrast to the Cuomo of last spring, who some confidants and legislators describe as aimless, distracted, and maybe a little bit bored.

Now, though, any such perception has dissipated, perhaps in large part thanks to de Blasio's exasperated June tirade against the governor, which came at the end of this year's legislative session. Harsh, damning words from the mayor may have been the challenge Cuomo needed in order to reinvigorate.

De Blasio pulled no punches, boldly saying Cuomo had made promises he didn't intend to keep, is vindictive, and backed policies that were harmful to New York City. "And what I believe here is the governor worked with the Senate in some cases to inhibit the work of the Assembly, to inhibit the agenda that New York City put forward," de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis in a June interview, before sitting down with City Hall reporters to reiterate his message.

Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.

The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."

For some Democrats, de Blasio's tirade was a breath of fresh air - someone, they said, had finally called out the bully. Others, including members of the Cuomo administration saw it much differently. They heard it as the younger brother finally crying "Uncle!" because he had no other means of retaliation.

Sources within the Cuomo administration say they saw de Blasio's "tantrum" as an admission that he had failed at moving his agenda and was giving up any hope of future success in Albany. That appears to have left an opening for Cuomo to reassert himself on progressive issues - like minimum wage - that de Blasio has staked out.

Not very long ago, Cuomo was advocating a plan that would eventually raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. He appeared to scoff at the Assembly's proposal that would have raised the minimum wage across the state to $15 by the end of 2018. "God bless them — shoot for the stars," Cuomo said, dismissively, in March at a stop in Rochester. The governor has repeatedly cited the Republican-controlled state Senate as a place where such progressive proposals go to die.

If Cuomo had made a major announcement on a $15 minimum wage a year ago, it would have appeared as though he had been dragged to the position kicking and screaming by The Working Families Party and de Blasio, who brokered a deal between the two to prevent a WFP-backed primary challenge to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

At the time, Cuomo appeared to agree to back the mayor's proposal to allow the city to raise its minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state's (as well as other WFP-backed policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate). But this year Cuomo presented his own plan, which did not include giving the city a say over its wage, and was still short of what activists on the left were calling for.

But now, Cuomo has swooped in to champion the $15 wage, albeit on an extended phase-in timeline that would implement $15 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018 and state-wide in the middle of 2021.

Cuomo is notorious for refusing to move on proposals that he won't receive absolute credit for enacting into law. With de Blasio all but slain in Albany after a rough 2015 legislative session, Cuomo was freed to move on minimum wage and other progressive initiatives, knowing he could charge in and pick up the baton that he had knocked out of de Blasio's hands.

Meanwhile, Cuomo enjoys the benefits of being de Blasio's enemy, which boosts his standing with conservatives and moderates (and even some liberals) across the state. Cuomo's favorability ratings dropped to all-time lows this summer, but de Blasio's poll numbers are even lower.

"I'm not buying de Blasio gave him an overarching focus, because clearly the governor used the mayor for a punching bag from the very beginning of the administration, whether it be on the millionaire's tax or charter schools," said Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "It certainly did exacerbate the relationship and gave Cuomo the opportunity to strike out at a perceived tormentor."

Cuomo and de Blasio have appeared to go out of their way to avoid each other at public events, though they did speak in person at a September 11th commemoration on Friday. Cuomo has either not invited the mayor to several, like his recent solidarity mission to Puerto Rico, or de Blasio has not appeared interested in attending, like for the governor's announcement of a new LaGuardia Airport.

Cuomo has appeared to jab at de Blasio when reporters ask why the two are not meeting at events, which have included several parades. He's also made efforts to strengthen relationships with sometime de Blasio antagonists like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and de Blasio ally City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Last Thursday, Cuomo was honored as "Man of the Year" by the city's largest police union, which is headed by de Blasio nemesis Patrick Lynch. "You deserve to be paid for the job you do," Cuomo told the officers, hinting at their dispute with the city over pay raises. Someone in the back of the room shouted back: "Tell de Blasio!"

Cuomo's feud with de Blasio appears to be helping insulate him from backlash he has faced from police unions for signing an executive order giving the Attorney General the ability to act as special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians.

"De Blasio has served as a foil for the governor with some groups," said Muzzio. "This conflict certainly enhances his influence with certain interests, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate."

Cuomo's moves on progressive issues may risk some of his goodwill with Republicans, but nevertheless, the governor has shown a renewed sense of urgency. It is energy that Cuomo has also been putting into efforts not easily labeled as progressive, such as Upstate economic development.

Pundits say they feel the Cuomo of the past few months is a stark contrast to the Cuomo of this legislative session, who shied away from public and media appearances for weeks at a time.

It's fairly easy to see why Cuomo may have been off his game.

His reelection bid was complicated by rebellious progressives and unions who felt Cuomo had delivered more on conservative causes than on Democratic ones. The governor was also reeling from the backlash he faced from shuttering the Moreland Commission. His campaign strategy to ignore his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, might have been more effective if Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout hadn't joined the Democratic primary. Her campaign quickly made Cuomo appear detached from voters, and at times exposed his tendencies as a bully.

Cuomo moved from a closer-than-expected election to face the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and the federal indictments of then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He appeared ready to end the legislative session early after securing a number of education reforms that were fought tooth-and-nail by teachers unions (and opposed by de Blasio). But the pressure mounted on the governor to deliver deals on rent regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools, and other big-ticket items, all while the legislature remained in turmoil thanks to their leadership crises.

Virtually all of the deals reached were less than desired as far as de Blasio was concerned, with the one-year extension of mayoral control of schools an especially bitter pill - and perhaps the final nudge over the edge.

With session over and his legislative opponents out of town, Cuomo leaped into action, issuing an executive order to create a special prosecutor for police killings. This not only ingratiated Cuomo to many on his left, but also brought one of his main rivals - and a natural de Blasio ally - AG Eric Schneiderman, closer to Cuomo's hip.

A flurry of executive activity was capped off by the finding of his fast food wage board that workers in the industry should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuomo was lauded by union leaders and progressive elected officials; his achievements made for evidence in the effort to disprove de Blasio's accusations that the governor was hamstringing the progressive agenda.

And, they allowed the governor to demonstrate one of his favorite points: that he gets things done regardless of political ideology.

On Thursday, de Blasio's office quickly shot out a statement praising Cuomo's decision to advocate a $15 minimum wage but laced with language highlighting that Cuomo is late to the party the mayor's been leading.

"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage...We welcome the Governor's support for a $15 minimum wage – and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," de Blasio's statement reads. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for All, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
@DavidHowardKing

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Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? Sun, 13 Sep 2015 05:00:00 +0000
Progress Elusive as Bronx DA Cruises Toward Reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5845:progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5845:progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection BX DA Johnson (AP)

Bronx DA Robert Johnson, foreground (photo: Associated Press) 


There’s a rooftop rock garden at the Bronx County Hall of Justice, the sprawling ten-story glass building that houses the county’s criminal and supreme courts. In theory, the space was designed to be a contemplative, community place, but in practice, it is not open to the public. Lawyers quip it has something to do with a potentially precarious confluence of angry people, the courthouse’s glass facade, and rocks.

The suggestion that people would throw rocks from a zen garden is both an ironic joke and emblematic of the frustration acutely felt in the Bronx court system. A central figure at the heart of this discontent is District Attorney Robert Johnson, up for re-election this year and seeking - so far unopposed - his eighth straight four-year term.

Elected to represent “the People,” Johnson is a virtual lock to secure a mechanical mandate returning him to the office, whether he faces a token opponent or not. It is likely that he will, yet again, be uncontested in a race that will culminate with little voter turnout.

Though just one cog in an overburdened system seen as dysfunctional in many ways, and operating in the city’s poorest borough, Johnson’s office has faced particular scrutiny, with many, including those who once worked in the office, questioning its efficiency and competence. Notably, it also appears to be an office home to little innovation, even as other district attorneys try new things.

To what extent criticism of Johnson is deserved is not immediately clear— the aggregate failings of the figurehead, the 400 attorneys who work for him, and “the system” are nearly impossible to parse and distinguish. But that does not diminish the pervasive dysfunction, manifested in astonishing backlogs, delays, low conviction rates, and concerns about how the office evaluates cases and handles the most high-profile among them.

The extreme likelihood that Johnson, a Democrat, will be re-elected with little to no pause serves to retain that status quo, and ensures that the Bronx District Attorney will be held to minimal public accountability leading to Election Day, but for by the press.

Culture of Delay
The overburdened Bronx criminal justice system, with an unprecedented backlog and slew of delayed cases, is notorious for being mired in a culture of delay.

In 2013, a New York Times series chronicled the dysfunctional system, finding that 73 percent of felony cases in the Bronx had exceeded the state court’s guidelines for excessive delay— 180 days.

Day to day, the signs of backlog are everywhere. On a recent visit to a courtroom processing arraignments at Bronx central booking, Gotham Gazette saw that nearly 20 of the thirty-plus people on the list waiting to be arraigned had been arrested and detained for over 24 hours, spending most of that time in the basement of the courthouse; the rest were approaching the 24-hour mark.

Next door at the Hall of Justice, defendants missing work or school can sit through hours of hearings as they anticipate their turn to stand before the judge. When Gotham Gazette visited one courtroom, an observer yawned, provoking a sharp rebuke.

“I heard someone yawn with a loud mouth. If you find out who it is, remove them,” the judge instructed a court officer. “There is no yawning with a loud mouth in my courtroom.”

The district attorney’s office was criticized for its role in maintaining the culture of delay— often attributed to a lack of judicial resources and defense attorneys— after 22-year-old Kalief Browder committed suicide in June. Before his release and struggle to regain his footing, Browder spent three years at Rikers Island waiting for his day in court after allegedly stealing a backpack. Behind bars, Browder was beaten by guards and inmates, and spent months upon months in solitary confinement. News that the Bronx district attorney’s office finally admitted it had no witnesses, evidence, or a victim infuriated the public, spurring activists and politicians alike to call for criminal justice reform.

In a Daily News column, NY1 anchor Errol Louis wrote the responsibility for Browder’s death could not be placed on an abstract criminal justice system, but on its leaders, singling out Johnson.

“It must be noted that a heavy measure of responsibility lies with Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, whose bungling subordinates contributed to the long delays in Kalief’s case. Johnson, who is up for re-election this year, is named in the lawsuit Kalief filed against the city before his death,” Louis wrote.

For Bronx City Council Member Andy King, the three years Browder spent in prison are the result of prosecutors’ preoccupation with getting convictions.

“What happened here with Kalief Browder, is that the district attorneys are more interested in convictions rather than the truth,” King said at a June press conference in front of Johnson’s office.

King introduced a bill to amend state criminal procedure law to compel open and early discovery— a policy King says Johnson does practice. In a separate interview, King told Gotham Gazette he likes Johnson and approves of the job he has done, but thinks that, as is the case with anything, there is room for improvement.

At the same press conference, Browder’s attorney Paul Prestia rebuked the district attorney, criticizing the delays he says Johnson’s office introduced that kept his client in prison.

“Kalief Browder languished in jail for three years while prosecutors delayed his case without any accountability,” Prestia said. “But I won’t digress into that and all of those details. You can speak to the so-called DA of this borough, and perhaps he’ll have the answers for you or something to say about it.”

District Attorney Johnson was not made available for an interview with Gotham Gazette.

Prestia told Gotham Gazette he hoped district attorneys would be held accountable for creating unreasonable delays.

“You’d think that with such a bureaucracy there’d be enough oversight that this wouldn’t happen,” he said of the backlogs in the Bronx court system. “Basically there’s no real sense of urgency on their part to go forward on cases.”

But a lack of urgency on the part of the district attorney’s office, real or perceived, likely does not tell the full story behind the pervasive culture of delay. Terry Raskyn, a spokesperson for Johnson’s office, attributed the delays to logistical issues and a lack of judicial resources.

“The law does not permit a “Law & Order” style of case management,” Raskyn said, referring to the TV series. “Every defendant and ‘the People’ have requirements that have to be met with regard to the opportunity to appear, plead, have motions made and decided upon, pretrial hearings, etc. Add to that the scheduling issues and you have delays,” Raskyn wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.

“And then there is often delay in getting defendants produced, either from Rikers Island or other facilities – prisoner movement often delays scheduled appearances by hours, and those hours compound the problem.”

Also citing a lack of resources, Robert Dreher, an executive assistant district attorney in the office, dismissed the notion that prosecutors purposefully introduced delays.

“One of the primary problems we deal with is resources: judges, court rooms, stenographers, court officers that are needed...the more of that we have, the more efficient the system would be,” Dreher said. “We’re in favor of speedy trials...people sometimes think prosecutors like delays, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We want cases to go to trial quickly. Delays are for defendants’ benefit. Obviously no one wants someone sitting in jail waiting for trial for a long time, that’s not acceptable.”

The Bronx district attorney’s office is set to receive just over $58 million in funding through the city’s fiscal year 2016 budget, putting it behind New York County (Manhattan) and Queens County. The new fiscal year began July 1.

Though the office has seen slight increases to its budget in the last few years, in 2010 it was slashed and the office laid off 12 assistant district attorneys, Above the Law reported. In 2014, NBC news reported that Johnson led efforts on behalf of the city’s five district attorneys to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss their budgets. A meeting was finally arranged after NBC’s report.

While the office did not respond to Gotham Gazette’s request for an interview, Johnson has discussed the function of his office in the recent past. “The major changes that need to be done are not in the way the system operates but in how the system handles the capacity of all the cases that come in. This is a statewide problem...I believe that we have really trailed behind in this issue for the past couple of decades,” Johnson told the Bronx Chronicle in 2014. “We need to take a long-term look concerning additional judges, additional courtrooms, and additional staff to better handle the caseloads we are getting in.”

A former assistant district attorney under Johnson, attorney Paul Martin, agrees.

“There were never enough courtrooms to meet the needs of having a defendant tried in a timely fashion, there is no doubt about that. So with more judges and more courtrooms, we’d be able to address the backlog of cases,” Martin said.

At the Hall of Justice, many of the trial parts — the term used to label a specific courtroom — were simply not open when Gotham Gazette visited on July 13. But it is also unclear how it is determined when a trial part is in use: a judge told attorneys all trial parts were in use when a visit to one nearby found another judge sitting in an empty room.

Efficiency
Even as it demands more trial parts, data shows that the Bronx district attorney’s office actually declines to prosecute cases more often than any of its counterparts across the city.

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, in 2014, the Bronx district attorney's office declined to press charges in 24 percent of violent felony arrests and roughly 16 percent of both felony and misdemeanor arrests. In contrast, in the same year, the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to press charges in 4.1 percent of violent felony arrests, almost 3 percent of felony arrests, and just over 2 percent of misdemeanor arrests.

Those numbers— along with (and perhaps caused by) plummeting jury trial success rates— have led many to question whether the office is letting dangerous people walk free.

But Executive Assistant District Attorney Dreher says that the rates at which the office declines to press charges are indicative of the office’s practice of immediately rooting out weak cases.

“It’s not quite what it appears. Each office has a different way of approaching [evaluating a case]. Some offices, when the police officers make the arrest, they’ll bring the case in, they’ll process it, and then they go through and determine is it going be sufficient for trial, is it going to be sufficient to charge,” Dreher said. “We do triage much earlier in the case, we do it in the very beginning.”

But the office’s self-described careful triage has not prevented it from either accumulating a low conviction rate or from making a series of high profile blunders.

In April, the office came under fire after Bronx Criminal Court Judge John Wilson publicly condemned Assistant District Attorney Megan Teesdale for failing to reveal evidence that would have freed a man held on Rikers Island who was falsely accused of rape, the New York Daily News reported.

Later that month, the office was criticized for its “inexplicable” lack of follow-up in its role handling crimes committed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s mother. Prosecutors from the office failed to file routine papers to help recover stolen funds. As a result, Heastie was allowed keep a house his mother purchased with embezzled money; he later sold it and pocketed the profits, reported the New York Times.

In 2013, Johnson’s office declined to prosecute a group of corrections officers at Rikers who ignored a dying inmate’s pleas for medical assistance, citing a lack of evidence. The inmate’s death was ruled a homicide due to “neglect and denial of medical care.” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged one of the officers, Captain Terrence Pendergrass, and was successful in seeking a conviction.

Community Context
In interviews, attorneys and politicians stressed the importance of understanding the problems specific to the Bronx when evaluating the district attorney. For attorney Jason Foy, a former ADA in the office, that understanding is particularly important when scrutinizing the Bronx DA’s conviction rate.

“I see articles about the conviction rate in the Bronx being lower than in other places. Well, that’s not necessarily the DA’s problem because that comes from a historical problem between the police and the community,” Foy said.

Bronx jurors are notoriously distrustful of the police— a dynamic rooted in policing practices like “stop-and-frisk,” broken windows enforcement, and Operation Clean Halls, in which police patrolled and searched apartment buildings and questioned residents. Johnson was lauded by Bronx residents in 2012 when he announced that his office would no longer prosecute people accused of trespassing in public housing who were searched and frisked unless the arresting officer explained the arrest to the office.

“When you’re an innocent person walking home, you don’t want to be searched and asked where you’re going. That experience, when you become a juror, impacts how you see the case. It’s hard for innocent people on those juries to just believe a cop automatically,” Foy said. “You may not have that same experience in Westchester County. In the Bronx it’s not that same type of deal...Now is that the DA’s fault?”

There will be little opportunity for voters to express their opinions of Distrcit Attorney Johnson at the polls this fall, given the lack of competition.

For former ADA Paul Martin, more troubling than the low conviction rate is what he described as “the lack of understanding or consistency” in the office’s recommendations for punishment.

“I thought there was a lack of understanding for the nature of the situation of the individuals and the community and situation in which they came from,” Martin said. “It was that lack of understanding that led individuals who never had any of that experience to be somewhat heavy-handed in the manner in which they would pick their cases.”

Foy noted that most lawyers in the office didn’t grow up in the Bronx.

“Most of them are not from there, they’re from other parts of the country, other less dysfunctional environments,” Foy said. “So that’s going to give you a different perspective.”

“Now, if you’re saying that the way the prosecutor's office doesn’t take into account some of these social issues that have historically plagued the area— that might be true, but,” Foy continued, “the prosecutor is there to do a job, they’re not there to address the social ills.”

***
by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette
@CatieEdmondson

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Progress Elusive as Bronx DA Cruises Toward Reelection Mon, 10 Aug 2015 21:58:22 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 13 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5680:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-april-13 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5680:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-april-13 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Hillary Clinton is running for President. You probably heard. The former New York Senator has her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn and will be looking for a strong boost from her New York base of supporters, including her 2000 senate campaign manager New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio was on Meet the Press Sunday morning and said that he is eagerly waiting to see a progressive vision from Clinton. Since Clinton had not officially declared her candidacy (she did so in the afternoon), de Blasio remained especially cautious in his remarks, but repeated his general mantra that all 2016 candidates  - for President and other offices - should be directly talking about economic inequality and offering solutions for how to reduce it. He faced some criticism for not quickly endorsing his former boss. Clinton is on her way to campaign in Iowa, and de Blasio is set to head there soon himself to talk fighting inequality. New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are all-in behind Clinton, as is Governor Andrew Cuomo.

As the week begins, there's a whole lot of Hillary buzz, of course, and other presidential candidates, mostly on the Republican side of things, continue to jump into the race, with new announcements expected at the start of the week. Meanwhile, New York State and City politics kicks back into gear after a slow week last week, brought on by post-budget recess in Albany and school vacation in the city. Advocates, activists, and legislators will be gearing up this week for the Albany legislative session set to begin next week, on April 21. The lobbying will be fierce and furious through mid-June, when the session will likely end in a "big ugly" agreement on several policies among Gov. Cuomo, Senate Republicans, and Assembly Democrats. One key issue to watch is criminal justice reform, which was among the several major issues pushed from the budget to session and may very well see increased urgency given new examples of police killing unarmed black men.

In the city, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and colleagues are moving forward with efforts to reform both the criminal and civil justice systems. A large contingent of activists will depart on their eight-day "March to Justice" on Monday, leaving from New York City and heading to Washington, D.C. The march will start with a rally and departure from Staten Island.

The City Council gets going again with a very busy week of hearings, including one on a bill to create an Office of Civil Justice Coordinator. These sessions come as the Council prepares to release its response to de Blasio's preliminary budget, due out Tuesday and to include a renewed call for adding 1,000 new officers to the NYPD force. See below for full details of the Council schedule. While the Council is between a March full of preliminary budget hearings and a May full of executive budget hearings, for the rest of this month it mostly returns to looking at bills on the docket. De Blasio will receive the Council preliminary budget response, then release his executive budget toward the end of the month (or in early May as he did last year).

The mayor begins his week with one public event: "Mayor de Blasio will attend opening ceremonies for the New York Mets' home opener at Citi Field. The Mayor will join members of the NYPD and family members of Detective Wenjian Liu and Detective Rafael Ramos for the ceremonial first pitch." The ceremony is slated for about 12:45 p.m., just before game time a little after 1.

This week is also the big one for participatory budgeting voting in the 24 city council districts where council members have opted to implement the program. Voting kicked off this weekend.

The increasingly controversial New York State tests for third-through-eigth graders in math and English language arts are this week. The still-new common core-aligned tests have become more and more political, watch for further push by many to discredit the tests and for students to opt out of taking them. There will also continue to be efforts to defend the tests and the common core standards, and to convince parents of the importance of their children taking the exams.

And we're just a few weeks from the May 5 special elections in New York's 11th Congressional District and 43rd Assembly District, so keep an eye on those races - there will  be an Errol Louis-moderated NY1-televised debate in NY11 on Tuesday evening. Details below.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of; see our day-by-day rundown below...(oh, and make sure you file your taxes by the end of the day on Wednesday)

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Monday morning, ABNY will host a breakfast event with “His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop, New York” at Mandarin Oriental. Cardinal Dolan will present "The Archdiocese of New York:  Not a Business, But Still Having a Vision and Projects."

Also Monday morning, Assembly Members Jeffrey Dinowitz and Richard Gottfried will hold a public hearing on a bill "which would require warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in New York State"; 10:30 a.m. at 250 Broadway..."Rates of obesity have increased dramatically in New York State and across the country over the past 30 years, adding an estimated $147 billion to our country's annual health care costs...Extensive research links rising rates of obesity, as well as diabetes, tooth decay, and other ailments, with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas, and sports drinks. Evidence suggests that warning labels can increase consumer awareness of health risks of harmful products such as sugar-sweetened beverages."

On Monday at 11 a.m. at City Hall, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Brad Lander, Ben Kallos, James Vacca, and Vanessa Gibson will unveil the "New York City Council Public Technology Plan."

At 3 p.m. Monday, Mark-Viverito will participate in "Public Service is Worth It" Google Hangout moderated by Political Parity.

Monday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises to review the land use calendar; a meeting of the Committee on Finance to review land use applications; and an off-site meeting of the Committee on Juvenile Justice for a tour of Horizon Juvenile Center.

As mentioned, Mayor de Blasio begins his week at Citi Field for ceremonial first pitch duties just before the Mets home opener around 1 p.m. There will be a press conference on Monday at 11 a.m. at Harlem hospital with several de Blasio administration officals outlining guidelines around "infant safe sleep," so that parents and caregivers do not accidentally suffocate young children while sleeping. The mayor penned a Sunday Daily News op-ed on the subject, but he is not scheduled to attend the press conference: "Deputy Mayor Barrios Paoli, ACS Commissioner Carrion, DOHMH Commissioner Bassett, DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, and HHC CEO and President Dr. Raju will launch tomorrow a comprehensive infant Safe Sleep campaign to increase awareness among parents and other caregivers about the potentially fatal risks of sharing a bed with an infant, and how to prevent injuries and deaths associated with other unsafe sleep practices, such as excessive bedding, bumpers and toys in cribs. There are nearly 50 preventable safe sleep deaths every year."

Monday afternoon, Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Queens Borough Board Meeting.

Monday evening, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, will host a town hall to discuss improving community-police relations: “We only survive and prosper as Brooklynites if we engage with one another in a calm and civil conversation. I invite you to come let your voice be heard at our upcoming town hall about improving police-community relations.”

Also Monday evening, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth in collaboration with El Puente, UPROSE, Riders Alliance, and StreetsPAC, will host a Move NY North Brooklyn Town Hall: “Learn and talk about reducing congestion in North Brooklyn, modernizing and expanding the transit system, and fixing our roads and bridges."

And, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will attend a "town Hall meeting of District 31's Community Education Council" on Staten Island.

Tuesday
Tuesday morning, Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Queens Borough Cabinet Meeting.

Also Tuesday morning, City Council Members Elizabeth Crowley, Darlene Mealy, and Laurie Cumbo, and others will hold a Rally For Stronger Equal Pay Laws on the steps of City Hall.

Tuesday’s City Council schedule includes a meeting of the Subcommittee on Non-Public Schools, jointly with the Committee on Public Safety, and the Committee on Education, discussing school discipline codes and the assignment of safety agents to schools; a meeting of the Committee on Governmental Operations jointly with the Committee on Consumer Affairs and the Committee on Small Business concerning various items; and a meeting of the Committee on Economic Development jointly with the Committee on Community Development for an oversight hearing regarding the economic impact of the city’s foreclosure crisis.

The Council is set to unveil its preliminary budget response to Mayor de Blasio's FY16 spending plan on Tuesday.

Tuesday evening at 6 p.m., Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte and the Shirley Chisholm Democratic Club will present Honoring Women in Politics: A Mix & Mingle Fundraiser. Honorees will include State Senator Valmanette Montgomery and Council Member Laurie Cumbo. Public Advocate Letitia James - the first woman of color elected to city-wide office in New York - will make a guest appearance.

Also Tuesday evening, the Staten Island Advance and NY1 will co-host the only live televised debate between Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan (R) and City Council Member Vincent Gentile (D) in their race for Congress: “The Republican Donovan and the Democratic Gentile will face off at the hour-long live event. NY1 political anchor Errol Louis will moderate the debate, with questions coming from three panelists: Staten Island Advance senior opinion writer Tom Wrobleski, political reporter Rachel Shapiro and NY1 political reporter Courtney Gross.”

Tuesday evening, Pratt Area Community Council, CAMBA and other organizations will host Brooklyn Town Hall on the right to counsel in eviction proceedings at Brooklyn Borough Hall: “Did you know that approximately 300,000 New Yorkers are taken to housing court to fight eviction every year? Did you know that while 90 percent of landlords have attorneys representing them about 90 percent of tenants do not? Join the Right to Counsel Campaign and learn about legislation that will give New Yorkers the right to legal representation in NYC’s Housing Courts!” [Read our in-depth look at the proposed right to counsel legislation]

Wednesday
Wednesday, April 15, is tax day.

On Wednesday activists will be moving around the minimum wage. This will include students from 170 colleges, including University of Albany, taking part in a fast-food worker strike: “The Fight for $15 labor movement is planning an ambitious expansion on April 15, coordinating a series of global labor strikes with protests on college campuses. The tax-day strike will include rallies and marches on 170 university campuses, including Columbia University and University of Southern California, the organizers said.”

Wednesday morning, Crain's  will host its 'Business of' Series at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “Join Crain’s as we examine one of New York’s fastest growing industries. Our expert panelists will discuss how life sciences is creating economic diversification, stimulating job growth and tapping into the vibrant young talent from top universities and leveraging New York’s access to capital.”

Wednesday’s City Council schedule includes a meeting of the Committee on Transportation to discuss various bicycle safety topics as well as establishing civil penalties for theft of a bicycle or motor vehicle; a meeting of the Committee on Aging concerning development of a guide for building owners regarding aging in place and the elimination of the sunset provisions related to income threshold increases for the SCRIE and DRIE programs; a meeting of the Committee on Land Use to discuss items reported out of the subcommittees; a meeting of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency to discuss the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s re-examination of National Flood Insurance Program insurance claim payouts related to Hurricane Sandy for possible underpayment; a meeting of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services around a law to amend the New York City Charter in relation to creating an Office of Civil Justice Coordinator. [Read our look at reforms being pushed by Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and others to reform the city's criminal and civil justice systems]

Wednesday evening at 7 p.m., State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and City Council Member Brad Lander will host a School-to-School Dialogue on High Stakes Testing at Old First Reformed Church, in Brooklyn.

Also Wednesday evening, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz will hold a town hall meeting at the Kingsbridge Public Library “to discuss and hear feedback on New York’s tenant protection laws, which are due to expire in June. Joining Assemblyman Dinowitz to speak will be Delsenia Glover, Campaign Manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power, and Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge at the Legal Aid Society.”

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, NYCVotes, the voter engagement arm of the City Campaign Finance Board, "is having a #VoteBetterNYC Advocacy Day training session for partners...acquainting them with the policy agenda...social media strategy and general day of logistics, ahead of the event" set to take place on April 22. The trainings will take place Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at 100 Church Street.

[Read the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette]

Thursday
On Thursday morning, Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a land use hearing at the Queens Borough Hall.

On Thursday morning, at 11 a.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall, it's a "Rally for Family Friendly Brooklyn" hosted by BP Adams: "We want Brooklyn to be THE place to raise healthy children and families! Join me Thursday, April 16th at 11:00 AM on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall as we rally for Family Friendly Brooklyn, a new initiative where I am calling for: Statewide Paid Family Leave; Breast Feeding Empowerment Zone Expansion; Support for Post-Partum Depression Screening...We will be making some exciting announcements about my administration's plans to advance Brooklyn's families, so please come out and add your support!" [Read our recent story on the push behind passing paid family leave legislation in New York]

Thursday’s City Council schedule includes a meeting of the Committee on Finance discussing the senior citizen rent increase exemption program and the disability rent increase exemption program; and a City Council full-body stated meeting at 1 p.m.

On Thursday evening in Queens, the borough's Republican Party head Bob Turner and City Council Member Eric Ulrich are hosting a fundraiser for Staten Island District Attorney and NY11 congressional candidate Dan Donovan; 6:30 p.m. at Russo's on the Bay.

Friday and the weekend
On Saturday, de Blasio administration members and their allies will participate in a Pre-K Day of Action, working to spread the word about the availability of universal pre-K, for which enrollment is open: “New York City is about to take a historic step: This fall, the City will provide free, full-day, high-quality pre-K to all 4-year-olds in the five boroughs."

[Read the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette]

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Rati Mukhuradze, Marco Poggio, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 13 Sun, 12 Apr 2015 16:41:16 +0000