Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/nycha 2018-06-21T06:13:52+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com NYCHA Decree an Opportunity to Awaken Potent Political Force 2018-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7754:nycha-decree-an-opportunity-to-awaken-potent-political-force Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/red-hook-design-update-nycha.jpg" alt="red hook design update nycha" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>In 2014, in an interview about living conditions in public housing since Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, a tenant leader lamented, “...we were on the steps of City Hall today. I’m tired. I’m sick and tired having to come in the same spot to fight the same fight. It’s crazy that as public housing residents, we have to go through what we have to go through just for a decent place to live.” Another tenant leader later mused, “Where are the people that used to be here who had our best interests at heart?” &nbsp;</p> <p>Fast-forward to 2018, and the Citywide Council of Presidents, an elected body representing over 400,000 tenants of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), took the unprecedented step of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/27/nyregion/nycha-lawsuit-nyc-housing.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fjeffery-c.-mays&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=collection" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suing the agency</a>. Residents pointed to high-profile health and safety failures including a lapse in lead paint inspections with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/nyregion/nyc-lead-paint-inspections.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fraudulent reports to the contrary</a>&nbsp;from former Chair Shola Olatoye and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/nyregion/for-many-public-housing-residents-its-cold-inside-too.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sporadic heat and hot water</a>&nbsp;during a frigid winter.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7597-max-murphy-suing-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Their claims</a> have been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/nyregion/new-york-city-housing-authority-lead-paint.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">robustly confirmed</a> by a multi-year federal investigation into NYCHA’s operations, with the city and federal government entering a consent decree last week that commits <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$2.2 billion over 10 years</a>, overseen by a court-appointed monitor. Tenant plaintiffs also allege that NYCHA has failed to include residents in policymaking, as U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines mandate.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is this sense of powerlessness and lack of political incorporation of tenants in NYCHA’s oft-described “city within a city” that I investigate in Rockaway, where almost 10,000 public housing residents live. New York City built extensive public housing <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/nyregion/how-new-york-citys-coastline-became-home-to-the-poor.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">along its waterfront</a> throughout the twentieth century. Rockaway’s marginal location created an affordable landscape for building public housing, with beach bungalows torn down as slum clearance to make way for the developments between 1951 and 1973.</p> <p>Today, 23 percent of Queens’ public housing is in Rockaway, versus only five percent of the population of this “borough of homeowners.” Rockaway has some of the highest percentages of income-restricted properties in New York City, incorporating almost <a href="http://furmancenter.org/files/sotc/SOC2013_Queens_14.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one in three rental units</a>.</p> <p>Homeowners in Rockaway look askance at the concentration of public housing there, accusing the city of “dumping” unwanted poverty at their doorstep since at least the 1950s. Local homeowners told me, “All the housing projects...Rockaway has its burden and we have its share and it also kind of diminishes our ability to be politically active. It’s putting more people on us, diluting our ability to be strong,” and “If it’s bad, it’s NYCHA. If it’s the fix, it’s NYCHA. And if it’s the repair, it’s NYCHA.”</p> <p>Faced with this antipathy, living with mold, mildew, leaks, and heat and hot water outages in crumbling, aging properties, tenants over the years developed pronounced political apathy, manifest in very low turnout in tenant council elections, absence at community recovery meetings, and lack of participation in advocates’ surveys of post-Sandy living conditions. “We could have gotten more than 600 people surveyed if people had faith or had hope or believed that something’s going to come of it,” one tenant council officer said.</p> <p><a href="https://urbanaffairsreview.com/2018/06/05/public-housing-participation-in-superstorm-sandy-recovery/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">My research</a> shows that the disaster recovery experiences of NYCHA residents have been materially different than those of their neighbors who own homes or rent in the private-housing market. These disparities are the direct result of several detrimental factors and policies, including (1) the racialized, gendered, and classist stigma of living in public housing; (2) <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CFR-2011-title24-vol4/CFR-2011-title24-vol4-part964" target="_blank" rel="noopener">HUD regulations</a>&nbsp;that stipulate tenants’ political power and channel it narrowly towards working with local public housing authorities; (3)&nbsp;an <a href="http://www.cssny.org/publications/entry/strengthening-new-york-citys-public-housing-directions-for-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opaque status</a> that allows NYCHA to operate without clear, accountable managerial and budgetary oversight at the state and local levels; and (4) the spatial isolation of NYCHA developments, which cuts public housing residents off from their neighbors and creates different environmental impacts from Sandy. Taken together, these constraints&nbsp;have isolated NYCHA residents from the political activism of their neighbors and limited their political power at every level of government.</p> <p>After Sandy, for example, Rockaway public housing tenants lost easy access to polling places, suffered closure of community spaces and resident council offices, and felt NYCHA’s workforce development was insufficient to connect residents to post-Sandy reconstruction. They felt unwelcome at local community meetings, and recovery policy priorities – Build it Back, the reconstruction of the Rockaway Boardwalk – were mostly irrelevant to them. Residents thus experienced stigma from their political and social isolation, and a reduced capacity to vote, gather and share information, and pursue meaningful, accessible work.</p> <p>While city, state, and federal officials fight over whether decades of budget cuts or chronic mismanagement is to blame for the decrepit living conditions at NYCHA, tenants have turned to the court system to claim their right to “decent, safe, and sanitary housing.” The New York Times reports <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/nyregion/nycha-housing-projects.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mixed tenant views</a> on whether federal oversight and substantial investment will make much difference. Yet, the consent decree affirms that NYCHA communities are worth fighting for. It also presents a critical opportunity to expand tenant organizing and empowerment within the developments and in their surrounding neighborhoods, using a combination of public-private funding and building on the work of advocacy organizations like <a href="https://www.cvhaction.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Community Voices Heard</a> that have long represented the low-income women, elderly, disabled, and families of color that disproportionately reside in public housing.</p> <p>Expanding tenants’ rights and political power is as essential as managerial reforms and financial investments. As one Rockaway tenant council president put it, “Rockaway was built into six communities with presidents. If we all come together and say, ‘We got all these registered voters here. What are you going to do for us?’”</p> <p>Another leader echoed this sentiment, “There’s enough people in NYCHA alone, in Rockaway, to overturn an election. I tell them...‘We all stand together. You can do anything you want.’”</p> <p>***<br />Leigh Graham is an assistant professor of urban policy and planning at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY.&nbsp;</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/red-hook-design-update-nycha.jpg" alt="red hook design update nycha" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>In 2014, in an interview about living conditions in public housing since Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, a tenant leader lamented, “...we were on the steps of City Hall today. I’m tired. I’m sick and tired having to come in the same spot to fight the same fight. It’s crazy that as public housing residents, we have to go through what we have to go through just for a decent place to live.” Another tenant leader later mused, “Where are the people that used to be here who had our best interests at heart?” &nbsp;</p> <p>Fast-forward to 2018, and the Citywide Council of Presidents, an elected body representing over 400,000 tenants of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), took the unprecedented step of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/27/nyregion/nycha-lawsuit-nyc-housing.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fjeffery-c.-mays&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=collection" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suing the agency</a>. Residents pointed to high-profile health and safety failures including a lapse in lead paint inspections with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/nyregion/nyc-lead-paint-inspections.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fraudulent reports to the contrary</a>&nbsp;from former Chair Shola Olatoye and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/nyregion/for-many-public-housing-residents-its-cold-inside-too.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sporadic heat and hot water</a>&nbsp;during a frigid winter.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7597-max-murphy-suing-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Their claims</a> have been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/nyregion/new-york-city-housing-authority-lead-paint.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">robustly confirmed</a> by a multi-year federal investigation into NYCHA’s operations, with the city and federal government entering a consent decree last week that commits <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$2.2 billion over 10 years</a>, overseen by a court-appointed monitor. Tenant plaintiffs also allege that NYCHA has failed to include residents in policymaking, as U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines mandate.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is this sense of powerlessness and lack of political incorporation of tenants in NYCHA’s oft-described “city within a city” that I investigate in Rockaway, where almost 10,000 public housing residents live. New York City built extensive public housing <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/nyregion/how-new-york-citys-coastline-became-home-to-the-poor.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">along its waterfront</a> throughout the twentieth century. Rockaway’s marginal location created an affordable landscape for building public housing, with beach bungalows torn down as slum clearance to make way for the developments between 1951 and 1973.</p> <p>Today, 23 percent of Queens’ public housing is in Rockaway, versus only five percent of the population of this “borough of homeowners.” Rockaway has some of the highest percentages of income-restricted properties in New York City, incorporating almost <a href="http://furmancenter.org/files/sotc/SOC2013_Queens_14.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one in three rental units</a>.</p> <p>Homeowners in Rockaway look askance at the concentration of public housing there, accusing the city of “dumping” unwanted poverty at their doorstep since at least the 1950s. Local homeowners told me, “All the housing projects...Rockaway has its burden and we have its share and it also kind of diminishes our ability to be politically active. It’s putting more people on us, diluting our ability to be strong,” and “If it’s bad, it’s NYCHA. If it’s the fix, it’s NYCHA. And if it’s the repair, it’s NYCHA.”</p> <p>Faced with this antipathy, living with mold, mildew, leaks, and heat and hot water outages in crumbling, aging properties, tenants over the years developed pronounced political apathy, manifest in very low turnout in tenant council elections, absence at community recovery meetings, and lack of participation in advocates’ surveys of post-Sandy living conditions. “We could have gotten more than 600 people surveyed if people had faith or had hope or believed that something’s going to come of it,” one tenant council officer said.</p> <p><a href="https://urbanaffairsreview.com/2018/06/05/public-housing-participation-in-superstorm-sandy-recovery/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">My research</a> shows that the disaster recovery experiences of NYCHA residents have been materially different than those of their neighbors who own homes or rent in the private-housing market. These disparities are the direct result of several detrimental factors and policies, including (1) the racialized, gendered, and classist stigma of living in public housing; (2) <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CFR-2011-title24-vol4/CFR-2011-title24-vol4-part964" target="_blank" rel="noopener">HUD regulations</a>&nbsp;that stipulate tenants’ political power and channel it narrowly towards working with local public housing authorities; (3)&nbsp;an <a href="http://www.cssny.org/publications/entry/strengthening-new-york-citys-public-housing-directions-for-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opaque status</a> that allows NYCHA to operate without clear, accountable managerial and budgetary oversight at the state and local levels; and (4) the spatial isolation of NYCHA developments, which cuts public housing residents off from their neighbors and creates different environmental impacts from Sandy. Taken together, these constraints&nbsp;have isolated NYCHA residents from the political activism of their neighbors and limited their political power at every level of government.</p> <p>After Sandy, for example, Rockaway public housing tenants lost easy access to polling places, suffered closure of community spaces and resident council offices, and felt NYCHA’s workforce development was insufficient to connect residents to post-Sandy reconstruction. They felt unwelcome at local community meetings, and recovery policy priorities – Build it Back, the reconstruction of the Rockaway Boardwalk – were mostly irrelevant to them. Residents thus experienced stigma from their political and social isolation, and a reduced capacity to vote, gather and share information, and pursue meaningful, accessible work.</p> <p>While city, state, and federal officials fight over whether decades of budget cuts or chronic mismanagement is to blame for the decrepit living conditions at NYCHA, tenants have turned to the court system to claim their right to “decent, safe, and sanitary housing.” The New York Times reports <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/nyregion/nycha-housing-projects.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mixed tenant views</a> on whether federal oversight and substantial investment will make much difference. Yet, the consent decree affirms that NYCHA communities are worth fighting for. It also presents a critical opportunity to expand tenant organizing and empowerment within the developments and in their surrounding neighborhoods, using a combination of public-private funding and building on the work of advocacy organizations like <a href="https://www.cvhaction.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Community Voices Heard</a> that have long represented the low-income women, elderly, disabled, and families of color that disproportionately reside in public housing.</p> <p>Expanding tenants’ rights and political power is as essential as managerial reforms and financial investments. As one Rockaway tenant council president put it, “Rockaway was built into six communities with presidents. If we all come together and say, ‘We got all these registered voters here. What are you going to do for us?’”</p> <p>Another leader echoed this sentiment, “There’s enough people in NYCHA alone, in Rockaway, to overturn an election. I tell them...‘We all stand together. You can do anything you want.’”</p> <p>***<br />Leigh Graham is an assistant professor of urban policy and planning at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY.&nbsp;</p> <p>

***
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De Blasio and City Council Agree on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities 2018-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7731:de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42026176154_6c5b9671ec_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Corey Johnson budget City Hall" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Johnson shake on it (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday announced an agreement on an $89.15 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that includes key Council priorities that the mayor had been hesitant to fund for months.</p> <p>“This budget is profoundly responsible, it is balanced, it is progressive and it is early,” de Blasio said at the ceremonial budget handshake with Johnson and other Council members at City Hall on Monday evening, about three weeks before the July 1 deadline that is the start of next fiscal year.</p> <p>The latest spending plan is a slight uptick from the mayor’s $89.06 billion executive budget proposal released in April, and a total $480 million increase from the $88.67 billion preliminary proposal put forward by the administration in February. Overall, it reflects a $16.45 billion increase from the $72.7 billion budget that de Blasio inherited when he took office in 2014. Asked about that significant growth, de Blasio said on Monday, “It’s an investment model, it’s a strategic investment concept,” insisting that much of the city’s prosperity over the last few years stemmed from his administration’s responsible spending and fiscal management.</p> <p>The money has certainly been there to spend, even as the budget has grown so large, the city has put record sums in reserves, though watchdogs do warn of long-term fiscal impacts of the large growth in public sector headcount de Blasio has overseen.</p> <p>It was Johnson’s first budget as speaker and he notched a massive victory, convincing an initially reluctant de Blasio to provide $106 million to partially fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program that will provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers that live below the federal poverty line. The Council members in attendance struck an especially celebratory tone.</p> <p>“I believe that Speaker Johnson said the words ‘Fair Fares’ to me an unfair number of times,” de Blasio mused of Johnson’s almost single-minded focus on the issue in the lead up to the budget deal. The speaker headed a concerted campaign for the program, using digital and social media and grassroots advocacy. All but three members of the City Council had expressed their support for it by this week; it was clearly the speaker’s top priority in negotiations with the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday that the program will launch in January 2019 and run through the rest of the fiscal year, and will be implemented by the city rather than the MTA, in a similar fashion to the Human Resource Administration’s cash assistance and food stamp programs. Following the six-month rollout, the city will evaluate participation and cost to decide on future funding, Johnson later said as he insisted that both he and the mayor will continue to push for an additional millionaires tax approved in Albany to fully fund the program.</p> <p>The mayor also added $225 million in funding to reserves, conceding nearly half of the Council’s $500 million demand for more rainy day funds. About $125 million was added to the general reserve, bringing it to $1.25 billion each year, and $100 million to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, increasing it to $4.35 billion, while the capital stabilization reserve remained static at $250 million.</p> <p>De Blasio also touted other top items that had been outlined in earlier iterations of the budget, namely $125 million in increased fair school funding, added resources for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), an expansion of 3-K for all, and funding for police body cameras.</p> <p>“This spending plan will strengthen our social safety net and do more for New Yorkers who are struggling to get by on less,” Johnson said as he thanked the mayor for “good faith” negotiations over the last few months.</p> <p>“We are taking a sharp-eyed, sober approach to the future,” he added, detailing a few of the initiatives funded in the budget, including $150 million in additional capital funding over three years to improve accessibility for the disabled at city schools and an expansion of of the summer youth employment program from 70,000 to 75,000 slots.</p> <p>Johnson also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city previously committed to the MTA Subway Action Plan, as Johnson had wanted it to but de Blasio did not, after the state budget forced the city's hand. He also stressed additional investment in supportive housing, to accelerate the pace of units opening.</p> <p>The deal, according to a press release from the mayor's office, also increases and baselines funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program "to $20 million annually" and adds $3.5 million "for additional litter basket pickup" to avoid trash can overflow on street corners.</p> <p>The final budget does not include a $400 property tax rebate for thousands of homeowners -- another key Council priority -- since the administration and Council announced late last month that they would convene a property tax commission to review the system and propose reforms. The commission is expected to begin its work with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year and will hold ten hearings to seek public input.</p> <p>The budget agreement announcement came hours after another, more tense news conference at City Hall where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">de Blasio addressed the city’s agreement, announced Monday morning, with federal prosecutors to accept a federal monitor for NYCHA</a>. The deal also requires the city to provide billions more in funding for the ailing housing authority over the several years, and that funding will be reflected in the capital budget when it passes the City Council later this month, de Blasio said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/42026176154_6c5b9671ec_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Corey Johnson budget City Hall" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Johnson shake on it (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday announced an agreement on an $89.15 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that includes key Council priorities that the mayor had been hesitant to fund for months.</p> <p>“This budget is profoundly responsible, it is balanced, it is progressive and it is early,” de Blasio said at the ceremonial budget handshake with Johnson and other Council members at City Hall on Monday evening, about three weeks before the July 1 deadline that is the start of next fiscal year.</p> <p>The latest spending plan is a slight uptick from the mayor’s $89.06 billion executive budget proposal released in April, and a total $480 million increase from the $88.67 billion preliminary proposal put forward by the administration in February. Overall, it reflects a $16.45 billion increase from the $72.7 billion budget that de Blasio inherited when he took office in 2014. Asked about that significant growth, de Blasio said on Monday, “It’s an investment model, it’s a strategic investment concept,” insisting that much of the city’s prosperity over the last few years stemmed from his administration’s responsible spending and fiscal management.</p> <p>The money has certainly been there to spend, even as the budget has grown so large, the city has put record sums in reserves, though watchdogs do warn of long-term fiscal impacts of the large growth in public sector headcount de Blasio has overseen.</p> <p>It was Johnson’s first budget as speaker and he notched a massive victory, convincing an initially reluctant de Blasio to provide $106 million to partially fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program that will provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers that live below the federal poverty line. The Council members in attendance struck an especially celebratory tone.</p> <p>“I believe that Speaker Johnson said the words ‘Fair Fares’ to me an unfair number of times,” de Blasio mused of Johnson’s almost single-minded focus on the issue in the lead up to the budget deal. The speaker headed a concerted campaign for the program, using digital and social media and grassroots advocacy. All but three members of the City Council had expressed their support for it by this week; it was clearly the speaker’s top priority in negotiations with the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio said Monday that the program will launch in January 2019 and run through the rest of the fiscal year, and will be implemented by the city rather than the MTA, in a similar fashion to the Human Resource Administration’s cash assistance and food stamp programs. Following the six-month rollout, the city will evaluate participation and cost to decide on future funding, Johnson later said as he insisted that both he and the mayor will continue to push for an additional millionaires tax approved in Albany to fully fund the program.</p> <p>The mayor also added $225 million in funding to reserves, conceding nearly half of the Council’s $500 million demand for more rainy day funds. About $125 million was added to the general reserve, bringing it to $1.25 billion each year, and $100 million to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, increasing it to $4.35 billion, while the capital stabilization reserve remained static at $250 million.</p> <p>De Blasio also touted other top items that had been outlined in earlier iterations of the budget, namely $125 million in increased fair school funding, added resources for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), an expansion of 3-K for all, and funding for police body cameras.</p> <p>“This spending plan will strengthen our social safety net and do more for New Yorkers who are struggling to get by on less,” Johnson said as he thanked the mayor for “good faith” negotiations over the last few months.</p> <p>“We are taking a sharp-eyed, sober approach to the future,” he added, detailing a few of the initiatives funded in the budget, including $150 million in additional capital funding over three years to improve accessibility for the disabled at city schools and an expansion of of the summer youth employment program from 70,000 to 75,000 slots.</p> <p>Johnson also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city previously committed to the MTA Subway Action Plan, as Johnson had wanted it to but de Blasio did not, after the state budget forced the city's hand. He also stressed additional investment in supportive housing, to accelerate the pace of units opening.</p> <p>The deal, according to a press release from the mayor's office, also increases and baselines funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program "to $20 million annually" and adds $3.5 million "for additional litter basket pickup" to avoid trash can overflow on street corners.</p> <p>The final budget does not include a $400 property tax rebate for thousands of homeowners -- another key Council priority -- since the administration and Council announced late last month that they would convene a property tax commission to review the system and propose reforms. The commission is expected to begin its work with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year and will hold ten hearings to seek public input.</p> <p>The budget agreement announcement came hours after another, more tense news conference at City Hall where <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7730-city-agrees-to-federal-monitor-and-cash-infusion-for-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">de Blasio addressed the city’s agreement, announced Monday morning, with federal prosecutors to accept a federal monitor for NYCHA</a>. The deal also requires the city to provide billions more in funding for the ailing housing authority over the several years, and that funding will be reflected in the capital budget when it passes the City Council later this month, de Blasio said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Investigation Commissioner on Examining NYPD, NYCHA and Correction 2018-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7710:investigation-commissioner-on-examining-nypd-nycha-and-correction Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/peters_vance_presser_doi.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI Cy Vance" width="600" height="364" /></p> <p>Commissioner Peters at a press conference (photo: @NYC_DOI)</p> <hr /> <p>It took Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department two years to accept what the city’s Department of Investigation had uncovered in 2015, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said recently: that quality-of-life crime enforcement, like marijuana arrests, does little to reduce violent crime and that these arrests disproportionately affect people of color.</p> <p>When the DOI came out with the report detailing these findings, it experienced pushback from the mayor, who publicly questioned the accuracy and methodology behind the data, as well as from then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. But, at a City Council hearing last month, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who succeeded Bratton, not only agreed that marijuana arrests had little bearing on the reduction of violent crime but also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive study on why these arrests disproportionately affect communities of color -- something DOI’s 2015 report recommended.</p> <p>“Would it be better if everybody agreed on that two years earlier?,” asked Peters, the DOI commissioner since 2014, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the What’s The [Data] Point podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “Sure. But the point is, two years later, the NYPD in fact has accepted the basic premise of our report [and] has agreed to do the thing we think needs to be done.”</p> <p>Since Peters took over DOI after being nominated by de Blasio and confirmed by the City Council, the department’s work – including investigations into the NYPD, the city’s public housing authority (NYCHA), the Department of Correction, and other city agencies – has made many waves, including by frustrating de Blasio on several occasions as it has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in city government. It is a testimony to the agency’s cherished independence, according to Peters, which is critical to earning and increasing the public’s trust in government and its ability to tackle serious problems.</p> <p>Establishing a clear sense of independence at the department, however, was something Peters had to work early on to establish given that, as treasurer, he had been a key part of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013. But as DOI has released both incremental and bombshell reports over the past four-plus years, Peters has earned praise from skeptics. He has also overseen the doubling of personnel at DOI, in large part due to building out the new office of the Inspector General of the NYPD, which has produced some of the most controversial work of the Peters-de Blasio era, after its creation was enshrined into law by the City Council in 2013 over a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p><strong>The Role of DOI and its Commissioner</strong><br />“DOI’s role is to provide transparency,” Peters said, and, when necessary, “to demonstrate ‘what we have now is not working.’”</p> <p>His department is one of the oldest law enforcement entities in New York. It has jurisdiction to root out corruption, waste, and abuse throughout city government, as well as in companies that do business with or are regulated by the city, such as the construction industry. DOI has a unique ability and mandate, and looks at both specific instances of wrongdoing and larger systems that may be ineffective or corrupt.</p> <p>DOI is designed in the city charter to be largely independent from the mayor, though the mayor does nominate the commissioner, who must also be approved by the City Council.</p> <p>“I’d like to think that the mayor picked me because I’ve spent really the 20-odd years before in law enforcement and, in particular, doing both law enforcement and anti-corruption work,” said Peters, whose resumé includes titles like Chief of the Public Corruption Unit and Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the office of the New York State Attorney General. He also previously worked at various civil rights organizations, such as serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Children’s Inc., a national organization helping abused children.</p> <p>Doubts about Peters’ potential independence dominated public discourse around the time of his confirmation hearings in 2014. Since then, however, contention among DOI, the mayor, and the agencies that DOI investigates – such as the aforementioned tension over the DOI’s 2015 report regarding quality-of-life, AKA broken windows, policing – have laid those doubts to rest. Of his progress so far, Peters said, “I’d like to believe that, four years on, people are reasonably comfortable that we’ve been independent and that we will continue to be independent.”</p> <p>One of the first things that Peters did as the newly appointed DOI commissioner, he said on the podcast, was talk to the mayor about increasing the department’s funding in order to acquire the appropriate amount of staff, especially in regards to overseeing the NYPD.</p> <p>Subsequently, since 2013 the headcount of personnel at DOI has doubled and its budget has similarly increased by 58 percent, rising from $30.6 million in 2013 to $48.2 million today.</p> <p>“Without that,” said Peters, “all the laws in the world saying ‘You’ve got the authority to do it’ are meaningless if you don’t have the troops to actually get the work done.”</p> <p><strong>Investigating the NYPD</strong><br />The city charter has always granted DOI the jurisdiction to create an inspector general for the NYPD, along with the rest of the city government, but while DOI serves as inspector general for all city government and launched specific inspectors for other agencies, one never materialized for the NYPD. “Institutions are governed by a series of laws, but they are also governed by a series of practices and traditions,” Peters said when asked why there hadn’t been an NYPD IG before the City Council legislation. “That’s just true.”</p> <p>The law passed by the Council in 2013 “essentially said, ‘You’ve always had the power to do this, now we are directing you that you must do this,’” Peters said.</p> <p>As a result, the DOI hired about 50 new staff members, including Philip K. Eure, the first and current Inspector General for the NYPD. Along with the 2015 report on broken windows policing, a philosophy and resulting practice supported by Bratton, O’Neill, and de Blasio, DOI has released other NYPD reports, including one this year that shed light on the NYPD’s handling of sexual assault cases.</p> <p>According to Peters, the report showed that while the number of sexual assault cases have increased by 65 percent in the last decade, staffing for the special victims division remained flat, with only 67 detectives assigned to work adult sex crimes. As a result of the understaffing, a policy relegated ‘acquaintance rape’ (as opposed to ‘stranger rape’) to be sent out from the investigation units to the precincts, where many officers may be unequipped to deal with such cases. The facilities in which the police interview sexual assault victims were additionally deemed inadequate given the sensitivity of the cases. And, perhaps most importantly, DOI obtained documents that revealed that even the top ranks of the NYPD knew about these problems and were not taking sufficient measures to remedy them.</p> <p>NYPD officials pushed back on the report and attacked DOI for not interviewing the then-chief of detectives. They, along with the mayor, urged caution about believing the findings of the report and said that it was being further examined and that the new chief of detectives would be reevaluating everything under his purview anyway.</p> <p>At a City Council hearing last month, NYPD officials acknowledged the poor state of interview facilities for the victims of sexual assault and said they would invest in fixing them. While the NYPD’s formal response to the report is expected at the end of June, Peters sees progress in how much attention and potential change is resulting from the DOI report.</p> <p>“I think what’s happened is you’ve seen we’ve sped up the process of getting at this problem without people having to go to court and use litigation,” Peters said, referring to the lawsuits brought against the NYPD in response to the high rates of stop-and-frisk, a practice deemed unconstitutional in terms of how the NYPD targeted people of color. “As an old civil rights lawyer, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with litigation, but it’s not the most efficient way of changing things.”</p> <p>Peters stressed the value of DOI’s work in terms of transparency. “The only way for the City Council to hold really good, thoughtful hearings is for them to have something like our reports,” said Peters. “Because that’s the baseline material that allows you to then ask questions of the NYPD. If you wanna have the NYPD come in and testify and you wanna ask them the hard questions...the first thing you need is all of DOI’s work telling you what’s going on.”</p> <p><strong>The Department of Correction and Closing Rikers</strong><br />Last summer, the de Blasio administration announced plans to lower the city’s incarcerated population and shut down the Rikers Island jails, while creating additional jail space in four borough-based facilities. While public policy is under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the City Council, it is the DOI’s job to make sure that policy and programs work.</p> <p>“Part of making it successful is pointing out that, in and of itself, taking Rikers and moving it to borough facilities...is not gonna solve the problems of violence and contraband smuggling that we’re seeing,” Peters said, discussing work DOI has done to examine problems at city jails, including those on Rikers.</p> <p>A report that the DOI issued earlier this year found that the problems of violence and contraband smuggling, which are rampant at Rikers, are happening at similar levels at the jail facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peters estimated that about 50 correction officers and facility staff have been arrested so far for involvement in contraband schemes, such as accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling. Additionally, undercover officers were also able to smuggle weapons and drugs into the borough-based jail facilities.</p> <p>“I don’t see any reason to believe that that level of arrests is necessarily gonna go down over the next year or so,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Peters said</a>. “So we still have a huge amount of work that needs to be done to get at those problems.”</p> <p>As a result, Peters doesn’t see the plan to shutter Rikers as a silver bullet solution to the city’s jail problems. “As we plan for this, we need to continue planning for how do we deal with security and mental health and contraband smuggling,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Safety Violations at NYCHA</strong><br />When DOI investigated the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) late last year, it found that the public housing authority not only violated lead paint, smoke detector, and elevator safety procedures, but also falsified documents to the federal government that said it was complying with safety protocols.</p> <p>The report DOI produced based on NYCHA misconduct led to public discussion over the failings of the agency as well as to City Council hearings, where NYCHA officials committed to making internal changes based on the findings of the report. Peters believes that a recent leadership change at NYCHA is linked to the DOI investigation that outed the safety violations and false paperwork.</p> <p>“We said, ‘Look, NYCHA is failing to meet the standards that the city and the federal government have already set for lead safety,’” Peters said. “In other words, no, we’re not experts on how much lead exposure is safe, but the city and the federal government have said, ‘Here are the rules.’ What we then do is come along and say, ‘You’re not following the rules.’”</p> <p>In general, NYCHA is underfunded and lacks the proper resources to fix some major problems, Peters said. To get rid of the mold in NYCHA apartments, for example, the agency would have to fix the roofs, which is difficult to do without the federal funding NYCHA has historically relied upon. According to Peters, the federal government hasn’t paid its fair share to NYCHA over the past decade.</p> <p>“DOI has not spent a lot of time criticizing NYCHA or investigating issues of NYCHA that are related to that kind of funding,” Peters said, explaining, though, that NYCHA must still be organized, honest, and as efficient as possible, “because telling NYCHA that you need the money is true, but they know that. We all know that. And we do not have oversight authority over the federal government.”</p> <p>Simultaneously, other areas of NYCHA, such as following the standard safety protocols for lead paint or smoke detectors, are not related to federal government funding. Instead, it is a matter of management doing its job.</p> <p>Unearthing these problems of mismanagement and malfeasance at NYCHA, and throughout city government and beyond, is the crux of DOI’s mission.</p> <p>“Part of the reason I think it’s important to have a permanent independent inspector general is we’re not going anywhere,” Peters said. “Our investigations into NYCHA aren’t finished. We are continuing to look at this...so that if NYCHA, having said they’re going to deal with this, doesn’t, we’ll be back in six months and we’ll be able to say to the Council and the public and to journalists and to all of you, ‘Here’s what really happened.’”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/peters_vance_presser_doi.jpg" alt="Mark Peters DOI Cy Vance" width="600" height="364" /></p> <p>Commissioner Peters at a press conference (photo: @NYC_DOI)</p> <hr /> <p>It took Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department two years to accept what the city’s Department of Investigation had uncovered in 2015, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said recently: that quality-of-life crime enforcement, like marijuana arrests, does little to reduce violent crime and that these arrests disproportionately affect people of color.</p> <p>When the DOI came out with the report detailing these findings, it experienced pushback from the mayor, who publicly questioned the accuracy and methodology behind the data, as well as from then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. But, at a City Council hearing last month, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who succeeded Bratton, not only agreed that marijuana arrests had little bearing on the reduction of violent crime but also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive study on why these arrests disproportionately affect communities of color -- something DOI’s 2015 report recommended.</p> <p>“Would it be better if everybody agreed on that two years earlier?,” asked Peters, the DOI commissioner since 2014, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on a recent episode of the What’s The [Data] Point podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “Sure. But the point is, two years later, the NYPD in fact has accepted the basic premise of our report [and] has agreed to do the thing we think needs to be done.”</p> <p>Since Peters took over DOI after being nominated by de Blasio and confirmed by the City Council, the department’s work – including investigations into the NYPD, the city’s public housing authority (NYCHA), the Department of Correction, and other city agencies – has made many waves, including by frustrating de Blasio on several occasions as it has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in city government. It is a testimony to the agency’s cherished independence, according to Peters, which is critical to earning and increasing the public’s trust in government and its ability to tackle serious problems.</p> <p>Establishing a clear sense of independence at the department, however, was something Peters had to work early on to establish given that, as treasurer, he had been a key part of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013. But as DOI has released both incremental and bombshell reports over the past four-plus years, Peters has earned praise from skeptics. He has also overseen the doubling of personnel at DOI, in large part due to building out the new office of the Inspector General of the NYPD, which has produced some of the most controversial work of the Peters-de Blasio era, after its creation was enshrined into law by the City Council in 2013 over a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p><strong>The Role of DOI and its Commissioner</strong><br />“DOI’s role is to provide transparency,” Peters said, and, when necessary, “to demonstrate ‘what we have now is not working.’”</p> <p>His department is one of the oldest law enforcement entities in New York. It has jurisdiction to root out corruption, waste, and abuse throughout city government, as well as in companies that do business with or are regulated by the city, such as the construction industry. DOI has a unique ability and mandate, and looks at both specific instances of wrongdoing and larger systems that may be ineffective or corrupt.</p> <p>DOI is designed in the city charter to be largely independent from the mayor, though the mayor does nominate the commissioner, who must also be approved by the City Council.</p> <p>“I’d like to think that the mayor picked me because I’ve spent really the 20-odd years before in law enforcement and, in particular, doing both law enforcement and anti-corruption work,” said Peters, whose resumé includes titles like Chief of the Public Corruption Unit and Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the office of the New York State Attorney General. He also previously worked at various civil rights organizations, such as serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Children’s Inc., a national organization helping abused children.</p> <p>Doubts about Peters’ potential independence dominated public discourse around the time of his confirmation hearings in 2014. Since then, however, contention among DOI, the mayor, and the agencies that DOI investigates – such as the aforementioned tension over the DOI’s 2015 report regarding quality-of-life, AKA broken windows, policing – have laid those doubts to rest. Of his progress so far, Peters said, “I’d like to believe that, four years on, people are reasonably comfortable that we’ve been independent and that we will continue to be independent.”</p> <p>One of the first things that Peters did as the newly appointed DOI commissioner, he said on the podcast, was talk to the mayor about increasing the department’s funding in order to acquire the appropriate amount of staff, especially in regards to overseeing the NYPD.</p> <p>Subsequently, since 2013 the headcount of personnel at DOI has doubled and its budget has similarly increased by 58 percent, rising from $30.6 million in 2013 to $48.2 million today.</p> <p>“Without that,” said Peters, “all the laws in the world saying ‘You’ve got the authority to do it’ are meaningless if you don’t have the troops to actually get the work done.”</p> <p><strong>Investigating the NYPD</strong><br />The city charter has always granted DOI the jurisdiction to create an inspector general for the NYPD, along with the rest of the city government, but while DOI serves as inspector general for all city government and launched specific inspectors for other agencies, one never materialized for the NYPD. “Institutions are governed by a series of laws, but they are also governed by a series of practices and traditions,” Peters said when asked why there hadn’t been an NYPD IG before the City Council legislation. “That’s just true.”</p> <p>The law passed by the Council in 2013 “essentially said, ‘You’ve always had the power to do this, now we are directing you that you must do this,’” Peters said.</p> <p>As a result, the DOI hired about 50 new staff members, including Philip K. Eure, the first and current Inspector General for the NYPD. Along with the 2015 report on broken windows policing, a philosophy and resulting practice supported by Bratton, O’Neill, and de Blasio, DOI has released other NYPD reports, including one this year that shed light on the NYPD’s handling of sexual assault cases.</p> <p>According to Peters, the report showed that while the number of sexual assault cases have increased by 65 percent in the last decade, staffing for the special victims division remained flat, with only 67 detectives assigned to work adult sex crimes. As a result of the understaffing, a policy relegated ‘acquaintance rape’ (as opposed to ‘stranger rape’) to be sent out from the investigation units to the precincts, where many officers may be unequipped to deal with such cases. The facilities in which the police interview sexual assault victims were additionally deemed inadequate given the sensitivity of the cases. And, perhaps most importantly, DOI obtained documents that revealed that even the top ranks of the NYPD knew about these problems and were not taking sufficient measures to remedy them.</p> <p>NYPD officials pushed back on the report and attacked DOI for not interviewing the then-chief of detectives. They, along with the mayor, urged caution about believing the findings of the report and said that it was being further examined and that the new chief of detectives would be reevaluating everything under his purview anyway.</p> <p>At a City Council hearing last month, NYPD officials acknowledged the poor state of interview facilities for the victims of sexual assault and said they would invest in fixing them. While the NYPD’s formal response to the report is expected at the end of June, Peters sees progress in how much attention and potential change is resulting from the DOI report.</p> <p>“I think what’s happened is you’ve seen we’ve sped up the process of getting at this problem without people having to go to court and use litigation,” Peters said, referring to the lawsuits brought against the NYPD in response to the high rates of stop-and-frisk, a practice deemed unconstitutional in terms of how the NYPD targeted people of color. “As an old civil rights lawyer, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with litigation, but it’s not the most efficient way of changing things.”</p> <p>Peters stressed the value of DOI’s work in terms of transparency. “The only way for the City Council to hold really good, thoughtful hearings is for them to have something like our reports,” said Peters. “Because that’s the baseline material that allows you to then ask questions of the NYPD. If you wanna have the NYPD come in and testify and you wanna ask them the hard questions...the first thing you need is all of DOI’s work telling you what’s going on.”</p> <p><strong>The Department of Correction and Closing Rikers</strong><br />Last summer, the de Blasio administration announced plans to lower the city’s incarcerated population and shut down the Rikers Island jails, while creating additional jail space in four borough-based facilities. While public policy is under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the City Council, it is the DOI’s job to make sure that policy and programs work.</p> <p>“Part of making it successful is pointing out that, in and of itself, taking Rikers and moving it to borough facilities...is not gonna solve the problems of violence and contraband smuggling that we’re seeing,” Peters said, discussing work DOI has done to examine problems at city jails, including those on Rikers.</p> <p>A report that the DOI issued earlier this year found that the problems of violence and contraband smuggling, which are rampant at Rikers, are happening at similar levels at the jail facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peters estimated that about 50 correction officers and facility staff have been arrested so far for involvement in contraband schemes, such as accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling. Additionally, undercover officers were also able to smuggle weapons and drugs into the borough-based jail facilities.</p> <p>“I don’t see any reason to believe that that level of arrests is necessarily gonna go down over the next year or so,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Peters said</a>. “So we still have a huge amount of work that needs to be done to get at those problems.”</p> <p>As a result, Peters doesn’t see the plan to shutter Rikers as a silver bullet solution to the city’s jail problems. “As we plan for this, we need to continue planning for how do we deal with security and mental health and contraband smuggling,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Safety Violations at NYCHA</strong><br />When DOI investigated the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) late last year, it found that the public housing authority not only violated lead paint, smoke detector, and elevator safety procedures, but also falsified documents to the federal government that said it was complying with safety protocols.</p> <p>The report DOI produced based on NYCHA misconduct led to public discussion over the failings of the agency as well as to City Council hearings, where NYCHA officials committed to making internal changes based on the findings of the report. Peters believes that a recent leadership change at NYCHA is linked to the DOI investigation that outed the safety violations and false paperwork.</p> <p>“We said, ‘Look, NYCHA is failing to meet the standards that the city and the federal government have already set for lead safety,’” Peters said. “In other words, no, we’re not experts on how much lead exposure is safe, but the city and the federal government have said, ‘Here are the rules.’ What we then do is come along and say, ‘You’re not following the rules.’”</p> <p>In general, NYCHA is underfunded and lacks the proper resources to fix some major problems, Peters said. To get rid of the mold in NYCHA apartments, for example, the agency would have to fix the roofs, which is difficult to do without the federal funding NYCHA has historically relied upon. According to Peters, the federal government hasn’t paid its fair share to NYCHA over the past decade.</p> <p>“DOI has not spent a lot of time criticizing NYCHA or investigating issues of NYCHA that are related to that kind of funding,” Peters said, explaining, though, that NYCHA must still be organized, honest, and as efficient as possible, “because telling NYCHA that you need the money is true, but they know that. We all know that. And we do not have oversight authority over the federal government.”</p> <p>Simultaneously, other areas of NYCHA, such as following the standard safety protocols for lead paint or smoke detectors, are not related to federal government funding. Instead, it is a matter of management doing its job.</p> <p>Unearthing these problems of mismanagement and malfeasance at NYCHA, and throughout city government and beyond, is the crux of DOI’s mission.</p> <p>“Part of the reason I think it’s important to have a permanent independent inspector general is we’re not going anywhere,” Peters said. “Our investigations into NYCHA aren’t finished. We are continuing to look at this...so that if NYCHA, having said they’re going to deal with this, doesn’t, we’ll be back in six months and we’ll be able to say to the Council and the public and to journalists and to all of you, ‘Here’s what really happened.’”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7676-what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7676:what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 41</strong><strong> -- 402,&nbsp;with DOI Commissioner Mark Peters [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mark-peters-podcast-277px.jpg" alt="mark peters podcast 277px" width="277" height="208" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters is one of the most feared officials in New York City. The power of his office has few limits as it investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in and around city government. DOI issues reports, makes arrests, and really gets under the hood of city agencies.</p> <p>Under Peters, who took office in 2014, DOI has issued bombshell reports about the NYPD, NYCHA, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies and entities. Peters joined the podcast to discuss the work of the office, which has grown substantially during his tenure, his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nominated him to the position but has criticized his work on several occasions, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/445390995&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 41</strong><strong> -- 402,&nbsp;with DOI Commissioner Mark Peters [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mark-peters-podcast-277px.jpg" alt="mark peters podcast 277px" width="277" height="208" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters is one of the most feared officials in New York City. The power of his office has few limits as it investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in and around city government. DOI issues reports, makes arrests, and really gets under the hood of city agencies.</p> <p>Under Peters, who took office in 2014, DOI has issued bombshell reports about the NYPD, NYCHA, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies and entities. Peters joined the podcast to discuss the work of the office, which has grown substantially during his tenure, his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nominated him to the position but has criticized his work on several occasions, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/445390995&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Eric Adams Previews Vision for Becoming City’s CEO 2018-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7652:eric-adams-previews-vision-for-becoming-city-s-ceo Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bpericadams-twitter-2.jpg" alt="bpericadams twitter 2" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (photo: @bpericadams)</p> <hr /> <p>“I’m working towards City Hall,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said on Tuesday, explaining during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a wide-ranging interview</a> that he has begun planning his run for mayor.</p> <p>It’s no secret that Adams, 57, who was elected borough president in 2013 and reelected last year, wants to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat who will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021 -- he has made that clear for years. But on Tuesday, during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, Adams for the first time publicly offered insight into his vision for running the city and what part of his campaign pitch will be.</p> <p>“What we’ve been able to do here in Brooklyn, and my perception of where I believe the city needs to go, I think it’s different from all the candidates who are running and thinking about running,” he said, sitting in the vast conference room of Brooklyn Borough Hall. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>That difference comes in part from Adams’ background in policing. For 22 years, the borough president was a member of the NYPD. In the early 1990s, he said on Tuesday, he was active in developing the management system CompStat under Police Commissioner Bill Bratton — a system that has been credited for helping to drastically reduce crime and, according to Adams, “changed the culture of policing not only for New York but for the rest of America.”</p> <p>“When the police department made this change, every agency should have followed,” Adams said, pivoting toward his vision for managing the city’s immense bureaucracy and dozens of agencies. “We have enough money, the right agencies, and the right people in place, but the systems are broken.”</p> <p>A CompStat approach across all agencies, Adams said, would include technology to inspect and track progress in “real time.” “I’m going to professionalize our agencies so...we can start seeing our results not yearly, but daily. CompStat would be a model that would be used in every agency.”</p> <p>CompStat is known for its data-driven approach and tough culture of accountability on NYPD leaders, such as precinct commanders. “Commissioner Bratton came in and said, ‘We have to change the culture’, and he had to move people out of the way who couldn’t understand that change,” Adams said, adding there must be clear goals that relevant agencies are working together to achieve, efforts that today are too disjointed.</p> <p>Adams is typically supportive of de Blasio — even applauding the mayor during the podcast for “doing a good job” in improving access to after-school care and reducing both the use of stop-and-frisk policing as well as crime, among other positives he cited. But the borough president also noted problems with education, healthcare, police accountability, and affordability in the city, saying: “when you look at it, either we’re going downwards or we’re flat-lining, we don’t see any improvements.”</p> <p>Using the example of unemployment (which was at a near-record low of <a href="https://www.labor.ny.gov/stats/laus.asp" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4.2 percent in March 2018</a>, down from 8.3 percent when de Blasio first took office in January 2014) Adams said government agencies must work together more coherently.</p> <p>“I want to create a clear mission for the city that means every agency, although they have their individual portion of the mission, they should be all moving towards that vision. If the goal is to improve unemployment numbers, then we cannot have agencies that are in the way of allowing companies to open and do business in the city,” he said.</p> <p>“Yes, your mission might be to ensure buildings are safe, but that mission should also feed into the overall mission of the city. It should not take a year to grant a building permit.”</p> <p>Though there’s a ways to go until Adams presents voters his promises ahead of the 2021 mayoral election -- where he is expected to face Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and possibly others in the Democratic primary -- the Brooklyn borough president is clearly thinking about how he will make his pitch and what would separate him from the crowd.</p> <p>During <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the podcast</a>, Adams touched on other aspects of current policy debates that may come into play during a future campaign, but are already playing out now.</p> <p>Most notably, Adams said he wants to examine whether the city should “tear down” and rebuild public housing developments. With crises plaguing the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and many billions of dollars in infrastructure needs across its portfolio, Adams said the “only way to change the problem narrative is to think outside of the box.”</p> <p>“We’re asking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do a real analysis of repairs and the cost of going in and doing these repairs,” he said. “We need to have a conversation: do we tear down NYCHA and rebuild it at the quality level it needs to be?”</p> <p>“I say we must be committed to zero displacement: the current tenants are guaranteed to remain there,” he continued. “But there are old pipes, old roofs, and old wiring. What is it going to cost us to make NYCHA housing sustainable for the future?”</p> <p>Adams is also critical of politicians who treat NYCHA like a pony show to garner media attention and boost voter confidence, making apparent reference to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent interest in public housing. Adams recently stepped further into the politics surrounding NYCHA by inviting Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent in this year’s election to tour NYCHA with him -- an offer Cynthia Nixon quickly took him up on, touring Albany Houses in Crown Heights with the borough president.</p> <p>Adams said the way some politicians treat NYCHA has created an “angry and distrustful” community of residents who are living in such impoverished conditions “they’ve given up.”</p> <p>“Folks have finally discovered there is a NYCHA and they’re walking through it, I don’t know where they’ve been all these years, the NYCHA problem did not start now,” Adams said.</p> <p>During the conversation with Gotham Gazette and City Limits, Adams also touched on other areas where he wants to usher in change.</p> <p>A top priority for Adams is campaign finance reform, with the borough president saying the current system means candidates are spending more time in affluent areas, away from where they need to be.</p> <p>“There is no reason we shouldn’t have a public-funded system,” he said. “People are not going to NYCHA or South Bronx or South Jamaica, Queens. They are going to affluent zip codes and focusing on finding donors in those areas.”</p> <p>At the moment, the city’s public financing program matches contributions up to $175 from locals at a six-to-one rate, with several requisite thresholds. As Adams puts it: “If I live in an affluent area, I don’t care what amount you lower [the donation limit to] it’s easier for me to call a hundred friends and say, ‘Hey, on your way to The Hamptons can you get 1,000 of your friends to donate $175?’ I can’t call someone from the Pink House and say, ‘Hey, you’re on your way to Coney Island Beach, can you give $175?’ It’s not going to happen.”</p> <p>“The number of calls you make to raise money is taking away from the quality time you should be spending doing your job,” he said. Adams wants a fully public system, whereby candidates don’t have to raise private money. He said that he wants an upcoming City Charter Revision Commission, on which he will have one of 15 appointees, to pursue such a change.</p> <p>That commission -- organized through City Council legislation at the behest of Public Advocate James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (himself another possible 2021 mayoral candidate) -- will soon be formed, working toward proposals for the 2018 general election ballot. Mayor de Blasio has already formed his own Charter Revision Commission that just began its work, with a mandate to look closely at campaign finance reform.</p> <p>Adams is also particularly concerned with public health. He believes city schools shouldn’t be feeding students processed meat, and he regularly references the World Health Organization’s 2015 report that found “processed meat is carcinogenic to humans” — meaning it causes cancer.</p> <p>His concern for public health is personal, too. Adams completely changed his lifestyle upon receiving a Type Two Diabetes diagnosis in 2016. By changing his diet to vegan and increasing his exercise regimen, Adams’ blood sugar levels had returned to normal six months on from the diagnosis and he says he completely reversed the disease.</p> <p>“We are so dysfunctional as a city when you stop to think about it,” he said. “We have a schizophrenic healthcare philosophy. In one area we say that childhood obesity is an issue, asthma is an issue, yet we feed the children food that cause the diseases. There’s a disconnect.”</p> <p>These are just a few of the issues that are central to Adams’ work now, and could be central to his mayoral campaign.</p> <p>Yet before the 2021 city elections, there is the 2018 New York gubernatorial race and Adams is giving no indication of the candidate he’s planning to endorse in the Democratic primary, choosing between Cuomo, who he’s “disappointed in,” and Nixon (at least one other name is likely to be on the ballot, perennial candidate Randy Credico).</p> <p>“I have not kept it a secret that I’m extremely disappointed in the treatment of Brooklyn in comparison to other boroughs, particularly the Bronx,” Adams said when asked about Cuomo, who has a long, close relationship with Diaz, Jr. “We’re looking at all the candidates to determine which way we’re going to go.”</p> <p>“I think the primaries allow us to hear the voices of those who are running. It’s going to an exciting time,” Adams said. He also spoke about possibly backing Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running for Lieutenant Governor in the primary against incumbent Kathy Hochul and Adams knows well.</p> <p>Also on the podcast, Adams spoke about plans for redevelopment in Brooklyn; his reaction to the April shooting of Brooklyn resident Saheed Vassell by police; the mayor’s recent budget proposal; and de Blasio’s record more broadly.</p> <p><em>Listen to Eric Adams on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>, or find it wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bpericadams-twitter-2.jpg" alt="bpericadams twitter 2" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (photo: @bpericadams)</p> <hr /> <p>“I’m working towards City Hall,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said on Tuesday, explaining during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a wide-ranging interview</a> that he has begun planning his run for mayor.</p> <p>It’s no secret that Adams, 57, who was elected borough president in 2013 and reelected last year, wants to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat who will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021 -- he has made that clear for years. But on Tuesday, during <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a> from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, Adams for the first time publicly offered insight into his vision for running the city and what part of his campaign pitch will be.</p> <p>“What we’ve been able to do here in Brooklyn, and my perception of where I believe the city needs to go, I think it’s different from all the candidates who are running and thinking about running,” he said, sitting in the vast conference room of Brooklyn Borough Hall. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>That difference comes in part from Adams’ background in policing. For 22 years, the borough president was a member of the NYPD. In the early 1990s, he said on Tuesday, he was active in developing the management system CompStat under Police Commissioner Bill Bratton — a system that has been credited for helping to drastically reduce crime and, according to Adams, “changed the culture of policing not only for New York but for the rest of America.”</p> <p>“When the police department made this change, every agency should have followed,” Adams said, pivoting toward his vision for managing the city’s immense bureaucracy and dozens of agencies. “We have enough money, the right agencies, and the right people in place, but the systems are broken.”</p> <p>A CompStat approach across all agencies, Adams said, would include technology to inspect and track progress in “real time.” “I’m going to professionalize our agencies so...we can start seeing our results not yearly, but daily. CompStat would be a model that would be used in every agency.”</p> <p>CompStat is known for its data-driven approach and tough culture of accountability on NYPD leaders, such as precinct commanders. “Commissioner Bratton came in and said, ‘We have to change the culture’, and he had to move people out of the way who couldn’t understand that change,” Adams said, adding there must be clear goals that relevant agencies are working together to achieve, efforts that today are too disjointed.</p> <p>Adams is typically supportive of de Blasio — even applauding the mayor during the podcast for “doing a good job” in improving access to after-school care and reducing both the use of stop-and-frisk policing as well as crime, among other positives he cited. But the borough president also noted problems with education, healthcare, police accountability, and affordability in the city, saying: “when you look at it, either we’re going downwards or we’re flat-lining, we don’t see any improvements.”</p> <p>Using the example of unemployment (which was at a near-record low of <a href="https://www.labor.ny.gov/stats/laus.asp" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4.2 percent in March 2018</a>, down from 8.3 percent when de Blasio first took office in January 2014) Adams said government agencies must work together more coherently.</p> <p>“I want to create a clear mission for the city that means every agency, although they have their individual portion of the mission, they should be all moving towards that vision. If the goal is to improve unemployment numbers, then we cannot have agencies that are in the way of allowing companies to open and do business in the city,” he said.</p> <p>“Yes, your mission might be to ensure buildings are safe, but that mission should also feed into the overall mission of the city. It should not take a year to grant a building permit.”</p> <p>Though there’s a ways to go until Adams presents voters his promises ahead of the 2021 mayoral election -- where he is expected to face Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and possibly others in the Democratic primary -- the Brooklyn borough president is clearly thinking about how he will make his pitch and what would separate him from the crowd.</p> <p>During <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the podcast</a>, Adams touched on other aspects of current policy debates that may come into play during a future campaign, but are already playing out now.</p> <p>Most notably, Adams said he wants to examine whether the city should “tear down” and rebuild public housing developments. With crises plaguing the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and many billions of dollars in infrastructure needs across its portfolio, Adams said the “only way to change the problem narrative is to think outside of the box.”</p> <p>“We’re asking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do a real analysis of repairs and the cost of going in and doing these repairs,” he said. “We need to have a conversation: do we tear down NYCHA and rebuild it at the quality level it needs to be?”</p> <p>“I say we must be committed to zero displacement: the current tenants are guaranteed to remain there,” he continued. “But there are old pipes, old roofs, and old wiring. What is it going to cost us to make NYCHA housing sustainable for the future?”</p> <p>Adams is also critical of politicians who treat NYCHA like a pony show to garner media attention and boost voter confidence, making apparent reference to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent interest in public housing. Adams recently stepped further into the politics surrounding NYCHA by inviting Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent in this year’s election to tour NYCHA with him -- an offer Cynthia Nixon quickly took him up on, touring Albany Houses in Crown Heights with the borough president.</p> <p>Adams said the way some politicians treat NYCHA has created an “angry and distrustful” community of residents who are living in such impoverished conditions “they’ve given up.”</p> <p>“Folks have finally discovered there is a NYCHA and they’re walking through it, I don’t know where they’ve been all these years, the NYCHA problem did not start now,” Adams said.</p> <p>During the conversation with Gotham Gazette and City Limits, Adams also touched on other areas where he wants to usher in change.</p> <p>A top priority for Adams is campaign finance reform, with the borough president saying the current system means candidates are spending more time in affluent areas, away from where they need to be.</p> <p>“There is no reason we shouldn’t have a public-funded system,” he said. “People are not going to NYCHA or South Bronx or South Jamaica, Queens. They are going to affluent zip codes and focusing on finding donors in those areas.”</p> <p>At the moment, the city’s public financing program matches contributions up to $175 from locals at a six-to-one rate, with several requisite thresholds. As Adams puts it: “If I live in an affluent area, I don’t care what amount you lower [the donation limit to] it’s easier for me to call a hundred friends and say, ‘Hey, on your way to The Hamptons can you get 1,000 of your friends to donate $175?’ I can’t call someone from the Pink House and say, ‘Hey, you’re on your way to Coney Island Beach, can you give $175?’ It’s not going to happen.”</p> <p>“The number of calls you make to raise money is taking away from the quality time you should be spending doing your job,” he said. Adams wants a fully public system, whereby candidates don’t have to raise private money. He said that he wants an upcoming City Charter Revision Commission, on which he will have one of 15 appointees, to pursue such a change.</p> <p>That commission -- organized through City Council legislation at the behest of Public Advocate James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (himself another possible 2021 mayoral candidate) -- will soon be formed, working toward proposals for the 2018 general election ballot. Mayor de Blasio has already formed his own Charter Revision Commission that just began its work, with a mandate to look closely at campaign finance reform.</p> <p>Adams is also particularly concerned with public health. He believes city schools shouldn’t be feeding students processed meat, and he regularly references the World Health Organization’s 2015 report that found “processed meat is carcinogenic to humans” — meaning it causes cancer.</p> <p>His concern for public health is personal, too. Adams completely changed his lifestyle upon receiving a Type Two Diabetes diagnosis in 2016. By changing his diet to vegan and increasing his exercise regimen, Adams’ blood sugar levels had returned to normal six months on from the diagnosis and he says he completely reversed the disease.</p> <p>“We are so dysfunctional as a city when you stop to think about it,” he said. “We have a schizophrenic healthcare philosophy. In one area we say that childhood obesity is an issue, asthma is an issue, yet we feed the children food that cause the diseases. There’s a disconnect.”</p> <p>These are just a few of the issues that are central to Adams’ work now, and could be central to his mayoral campaign.</p> <p>Yet before the 2021 city elections, there is the 2018 New York gubernatorial race and Adams is giving no indication of the candidate he’s planning to endorse in the Democratic primary, choosing between Cuomo, who he’s “disappointed in,” and Nixon (at least one other name is likely to be on the ballot, perennial candidate Randy Credico).</p> <p>“I have not kept it a secret that I’m extremely disappointed in the treatment of Brooklyn in comparison to other boroughs, particularly the Bronx,” Adams said when asked about Cuomo, who has a long, close relationship with Diaz, Jr. “We’re looking at all the candidates to determine which way we’re going to go.”</p> <p>“I think the primaries allow us to hear the voices of those who are running. It’s going to an exciting time,” Adams said. He also spoke about possibly backing Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running for Lieutenant Governor in the primary against incumbent Kathy Hochul and Adams knows well.</p> <p>Also on the podcast, Adams spoke about plans for redevelopment in Brooklyn; his reaction to the April shooting of Brooklyn resident Saheed Vassell by police; the mayor’s recent budget proposal; and de Blasio’s record more broadly.</p> <p><em>Listen to Eric Adams on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>, or find it wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Points to Cuomo’s NYCHA Order as ‘Potentially Dangerous’ to City Budget 2018-04-27T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7644:de-blasio-points-to-cuomo-s-nycha-order-as-potentially-dangerous-to-city-budget Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/guvandrcuomo-comm-center.jpg" alt="guvandrcuomo comm center" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo with top NYC officials and others (photo: Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order earlier this month to impose an external monitor on the crisis-plagued New York City Housing Authority has turned into a potential budget boondoggle for the city, with Mayor Bill de Blasio warning on Thursday of the “unforeseen consequences” the order could have on the city’s fiscal future.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/EO_180.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">governor’s order</a> came after months of escalating problems at NYCHA developments that highlighted the decades-long financial struggles and mismanagement at the city-run agency. NYCHA was also sued by a group of tenants and advocates citing the harsh living conditions in NYCHA apartments, including issues with mold, lead paint, and dramatic failures in heat and hot water systems this past winter during extreme cold spells. That led Cuomo to declare in his order that the conditions at NYCHA “constitute a public nuisance affecting the security of life and health in the city of New York” and that the city could not adequately respond to an imminent disaster.</p> <p>The emergency declaration ordered the selection of an “Independent Emergency Manager” to oversee repairs to mitigate harmful conditions and to create a plan to utilize $550 million in state funding pegged for NYCHA. The order also eased procurement rules to speed up the pace of repair and maintenance work.</p> <p>But the order also notes that any repairs ordered by the emergency manager must be paid by the city, as per the state Public Health Law, which Mayor de Blasio took issue with on Thursday during his Executive Budget presentation as he spoke of other “unfunded mandates,” cuts, and cost-shifts that the city was saddled with under the latest state budget.</p> <p>“The more we and other analysts have looked at that executive order, the more we see a very challenging and potentially dangerous element of it in terms of our budget,” de Blasio said at City Hall. He said that “open-ended language” in the order could mean millions in cost for the city, which would not be approved through the city’s budget process, and therefore would not allow the City Council, the mayor, or comptroller any control over spending.</p> <p>“We are concerned that that creates a very problematic precedent and in addition could have many unforeseen consequences for next year’s budget,” he added.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly touted investments he has made in NYCHA since taking office, including $1.6 billion in operating funds and $2.1 billion in capital money. Under his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NextGeneration NYCHA plan</a> to get the struggling agency back on its feet, NYCHA has managed to turn around its operating finances, no longer running an annual deficit, though it still faces many billions in capital repair and construction needs.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio announced an added $20 million investment over the next two fiscal years to further reduce the backlog of repairs at NYCHA by 50,000 cases. But the massive capital need remains, estimated at $25 billion, and growing. The City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7604-in-response-to-de-blasio-proposal-city-council-sets-stage-for-tense-budget-negotiations" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently called</a> on the mayor to add another $2.45 billion in NYCHA capital funding to the budget (the city has separate operating and capital spending plans). Though no additional capital funding was added in the executive budget, the city has already allocated $423 million in capital for fiscal year 2019, according to Freddi Goldstein, a mayoral spokesperson.</p> <p>But for all the potential burden that de Blasio spoke of, the actual effect of Cuomo’s order is unclear and the mayor is not entirely helpless in the process. Budget watchdogs also currently have no idea how much money it could cost the city. “That’s a total unknown at this point,” said Doug Turetsky, communications director for the Independent Budget Office, a city-funded monitor.</p> <p>Sean Campion, senior research associate at Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, said the governor’s order is a “good first step” to chip away at the housing authority’s massive needs, but he acknowledged that the order is “somewhat vague” about the city’s responsibilities. “It definitely sets a new precedent. The impact is yet to be determined. There’s obviously some benefits to having this monitor come in and develop a plan for spending the state money and whatever city money the city wants to chip in as well,” he said.</p> <p>He also noted that, as per the order, the emergency manager will have to be chosen “unanimously” by the mayor, the City Council speaker, and the president of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents. If they fail to do so within the mandated time frame, the decision falls to Comptroller Scott Stringer. “So whoever’s going to be appointed to this position is in some ways going to be appointed by city elected officials, none of whom really have an incentive to essentially give the monitor a blank check for funding all of NYCHA’s repair needs. All that’s sort of tempered the risk,” Campion said.</p> <p>Several elected officials stood with Cuomo when he signed the order -- including Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and City Council Member Ritchie Torres, former chair of the Council’s public housing committee -- and heaped praise on the governor for taking action, though most had not read the language contained in the order. The officials posed with Cuomo for celebratory photos, behind a banner reading “Standing with NY Tenants.”</p> <p>After the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/nyregion/nycha-cuomo-monitor-cost-city.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times first pointed out</a> the potential costs the city would have to bear, some of the same officials demurred.</p> <p>“We have concerns about some of the ramifications of the order, but we are still reviewing it and discussing our options and potential costs,” said Speaker Johnson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “NYCHA is in crisis and the situation required swift action. We will work with the governor, the mayor and the tenants to find solutions to the worst problems affecting the residents. We are all in agreement that they have suffered for too long.”</p> <p>Stringer, the city’s chief financial officer, declined to comment through a spokesperson. Public Advocate Letitia James’ office did not provide a comment for this article. She told the Times that the order was an unfunded mandate and that the state should consider taking on the costs of implementing it rather than the city. &nbsp;</p> <p>Among the group of city officials, the order’s fiercest defender is Torres, who has in recent weeks positioned himself in close proximity to Cuomo in pushing for NYCHA’s interests and castigating the mayor’s perceived failures. “I think the mayor would be wise to view the executive order as an opportunity to improve public housing rather than a challenge,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “[T]he notion that more funding for public housing is a problem is as insulting as it is idiotic.”</p> <p>Torres echoed Campion’s point that the city, not the state, will pick the emergency manager, and said it was “disingenuous” for the mayor to claim he has no role. “So I presume he would select someone who would work with the city to develop a financially feasible plan. Even if the mayor has political objections to the executive order, leadership often means making the best of a bad situation, but there’s no evidence that the administration’s even attempting to do so. It’s simply whining, rather than problem-solving,” he said.</p> <p>He also brushed aside concerns that the city will have to bear more costs, insisting that activists have long pushed for $1 billion annually in funding for NYCHA and that no officials or activists have suggested using the emergency manager to fund NYCHA’s full $25 billion need. “But can the city play a greater role in addressing the most critical infrastructure needs of public housing? I would submit to you that the answer’s ‘yes’ and the executive order creates an opportunity to do so,” Torres said. “The administration has often made piecemeal investments in public housing in response to crises. The executive order forces the city to take a more systematic, a more planned approach to addressing the longer term critical infrastructure needs of public housing.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s latest expense budget plan, presented Thursday, is for $89 billion for next fiscal year, while the updated five-year capital commitment plan is for $82 billion. The mayor has regularly reminded audiences, though, that NYCHA is its own authority, not a mayoral or city agency, and has its own budget plans, which the city has continued to contribute to under his watch.</p> <p>De Blasio hopes to quell some of the overarching concerns about Cuomo’s executive order and optimistically said Thursday that he has had conversations with the governor to modify it.</p> <p>“Even though the Governor and I have disagreements we still talk regularly. I talked to him earlier in the week,” he explained to reporters. “We still attempt to reason together...I don’t think he necessarily intended a massive unfunded mandate on New York City. I think he – I certainly don’t think he intended to interfere with day-to-day operations of NYCHA. We need to have that conversation and work it through...because the last thing you’d want is to have the state issue an executive order that backfires for the people it’s supposed to serve.”</p> <p>Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesperson, <a href="https://twitter.com/RichAzzopardi/status/989874940156563457" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted Friday</a> that the executive order would be adjusted once an ongoing federal investigation into NYCHA’s handling of lead paint concludes and “determines de Blasio’s liability” for what he called a debacle. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for additional comment or offer further clarity.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/guvandrcuomo-comm-center.jpg" alt="guvandrcuomo comm center" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo with top NYC officials and others (photo: Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order earlier this month to impose an external monitor on the crisis-plagued New York City Housing Authority has turned into a potential budget boondoggle for the city, with Mayor Bill de Blasio warning on Thursday of the “unforeseen consequences” the order could have on the city’s fiscal future.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/EO_180.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">governor’s order</a> came after months of escalating problems at NYCHA developments that highlighted the decades-long financial struggles and mismanagement at the city-run agency. NYCHA was also sued by a group of tenants and advocates citing the harsh living conditions in NYCHA apartments, including issues with mold, lead paint, and dramatic failures in heat and hot water systems this past winter during extreme cold spells. That led Cuomo to declare in his order that the conditions at NYCHA “constitute a public nuisance affecting the security of life and health in the city of New York” and that the city could not adequately respond to an imminent disaster.</p> <p>The emergency declaration ordered the selection of an “Independent Emergency Manager” to oversee repairs to mitigate harmful conditions and to create a plan to utilize $550 million in state funding pegged for NYCHA. The order also eased procurement rules to speed up the pace of repair and maintenance work.</p> <p>But the order also notes that any repairs ordered by the emergency manager must be paid by the city, as per the state Public Health Law, which Mayor de Blasio took issue with on Thursday during his Executive Budget presentation as he spoke of other “unfunded mandates,” cuts, and cost-shifts that the city was saddled with under the latest state budget.</p> <p>“The more we and other analysts have looked at that executive order, the more we see a very challenging and potentially dangerous element of it in terms of our budget,” de Blasio said at City Hall. He said that “open-ended language” in the order could mean millions in cost for the city, which would not be approved through the city’s budget process, and therefore would not allow the City Council, the mayor, or comptroller any control over spending.</p> <p>“We are concerned that that creates a very problematic precedent and in addition could have many unforeseen consequences for next year’s budget,” he added.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly touted investments he has made in NYCHA since taking office, including $1.6 billion in operating funds and $2.1 billion in capital money. Under his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NextGeneration NYCHA plan</a> to get the struggling agency back on its feet, NYCHA has managed to turn around its operating finances, no longer running an annual deficit, though it still faces many billions in capital repair and construction needs.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio announced an added $20 million investment over the next two fiscal years to further reduce the backlog of repairs at NYCHA by 50,000 cases. But the massive capital need remains, estimated at $25 billion, and growing. The City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7604-in-response-to-de-blasio-proposal-city-council-sets-stage-for-tense-budget-negotiations" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently called</a> on the mayor to add another $2.45 billion in NYCHA capital funding to the budget (the city has separate operating and capital spending plans). Though no additional capital funding was added in the executive budget, the city has already allocated $423 million in capital for fiscal year 2019, according to Freddi Goldstein, a mayoral spokesperson.</p> <p>But for all the potential burden that de Blasio spoke of, the actual effect of Cuomo’s order is unclear and the mayor is not entirely helpless in the process. Budget watchdogs also currently have no idea how much money it could cost the city. “That’s a total unknown at this point,” said Doug Turetsky, communications director for the Independent Budget Office, a city-funded monitor.</p> <p>Sean Campion, senior research associate at Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, said the governor’s order is a “good first step” to chip away at the housing authority’s massive needs, but he acknowledged that the order is “somewhat vague” about the city’s responsibilities. “It definitely sets a new precedent. The impact is yet to be determined. There’s obviously some benefits to having this monitor come in and develop a plan for spending the state money and whatever city money the city wants to chip in as well,” he said.</p> <p>He also noted that, as per the order, the emergency manager will have to be chosen “unanimously” by the mayor, the City Council speaker, and the president of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents. If they fail to do so within the mandated time frame, the decision falls to Comptroller Scott Stringer. “So whoever’s going to be appointed to this position is in some ways going to be appointed by city elected officials, none of whom really have an incentive to essentially give the monitor a blank check for funding all of NYCHA’s repair needs. All that’s sort of tempered the risk,” Campion said.</p> <p>Several elected officials stood with Cuomo when he signed the order -- including Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and City Council Member Ritchie Torres, former chair of the Council’s public housing committee -- and heaped praise on the governor for taking action, though most had not read the language contained in the order. The officials posed with Cuomo for celebratory photos, behind a banner reading “Standing with NY Tenants.”</p> <p>After the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/nyregion/nycha-cuomo-monitor-cost-city.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Times first pointed out</a> the potential costs the city would have to bear, some of the same officials demurred.</p> <p>“We have concerns about some of the ramifications of the order, but we are still reviewing it and discussing our options and potential costs,” said Speaker Johnson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “NYCHA is in crisis and the situation required swift action. We will work with the governor, the mayor and the tenants to find solutions to the worst problems affecting the residents. We are all in agreement that they have suffered for too long.”</p> <p>Stringer, the city’s chief financial officer, declined to comment through a spokesperson. Public Advocate Letitia James’ office did not provide a comment for this article. She told the Times that the order was an unfunded mandate and that the state should consider taking on the costs of implementing it rather than the city. &nbsp;</p> <p>Among the group of city officials, the order’s fiercest defender is Torres, who has in recent weeks positioned himself in close proximity to Cuomo in pushing for NYCHA’s interests and castigating the mayor’s perceived failures. “I think the mayor would be wise to view the executive order as an opportunity to improve public housing rather than a challenge,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “[T]he notion that more funding for public housing is a problem is as insulting as it is idiotic.”</p> <p>Torres echoed Campion’s point that the city, not the state, will pick the emergency manager, and said it was “disingenuous” for the mayor to claim he has no role. “So I presume he would select someone who would work with the city to develop a financially feasible plan. Even if the mayor has political objections to the executive order, leadership often means making the best of a bad situation, but there’s no evidence that the administration’s even attempting to do so. It’s simply whining, rather than problem-solving,” he said.</p> <p>He also brushed aside concerns that the city will have to bear more costs, insisting that activists have long pushed for $1 billion annually in funding for NYCHA and that no officials or activists have suggested using the emergency manager to fund NYCHA’s full $25 billion need. “But can the city play a greater role in addressing the most critical infrastructure needs of public housing? I would submit to you that the answer’s ‘yes’ and the executive order creates an opportunity to do so,” Torres said. “The administration has often made piecemeal investments in public housing in response to crises. The executive order forces the city to take a more systematic, a more planned approach to addressing the longer term critical infrastructure needs of public housing.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s latest expense budget plan, presented Thursday, is for $89 billion for next fiscal year, while the updated five-year capital commitment plan is for $82 billion. The mayor has regularly reminded audiences, though, that NYCHA is its own authority, not a mayoral or city agency, and has its own budget plans, which the city has continued to contribute to under his watch.</p> <p>De Blasio hopes to quell some of the overarching concerns about Cuomo’s executive order and optimistically said Thursday that he has had conversations with the governor to modify it.</p> <p>“Even though the Governor and I have disagreements we still talk regularly. I talked to him earlier in the week,” he explained to reporters. “We still attempt to reason together...I don’t think he necessarily intended a massive unfunded mandate on New York City. I think he – I certainly don’t think he intended to interfere with day-to-day operations of NYCHA. We need to have that conversation and work it through...because the last thing you’d want is to have the state issue an executive order that backfires for the people it’s supposed to serve.”</p> <p>Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesperson, <a href="https://twitter.com/RichAzzopardi/status/989874940156563457" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted Friday</a> that the executive order would be adjusted once an ongoing federal investigation into NYCHA’s handling of lead paint concludes and “determines de Blasio’s liability” for what he called a debacle. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for additional comment or offer further clarity.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Shola Olatoye Did a Lot of Good for NYCHA 2018-04-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7626:a-fair-look-at-shola-olatoye-s-nycha-tenure Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27504200018_352a1fe99b_z.jpg" alt="NYCHA Olatoye" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>Outgoing NYCHA Chair Olatoye, center (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As faith leaders in communities with large populations of NYCHA residents, we have witnessed the results of chronic disinvestment in public housing first-hand. NYCHA’s aging buildings are crumbling and many residents are worried about the health and safety of their children, elders, and neighbors.</p> <p>Since 2001, NYCHA has been shortchanged $3 billion in federal operating and capital funding. NYCHA has been struggling to maintain and repair its aging housing stock for decades. And this is larger than New York City, public housing authorities all over the country are set up to fail, facing gutted budgets and regulatory barriers.</p> <p>When she took her post as Chair and CEO of NYCHA, Shola Olatoye knew she needed to address these problems, so she worked with communities to make a plan. Under her leadership, we developed NextGeneration NYCHA, a 10-year plan to preserve and protect public housing for current residents as well as the next generation of New Yorkers and beyond. That plan became the road forward to safe, healthy, connected homes and communities for NYCHA residents.</p> <p>Four years later, as NYCHA has strived to meet the NextGen goals, we have begun to see positive changes for the lives NYCHA residents. Under NextGen NYCHA, about 8,000 residents have been placed in jobs and 18,000 have been connected with services. NYCHA launched 14 new Youth Leadership Councils to give young people the tools they need to work with NYCHA leadership to help make policy decisions that impact the quality of life of NYCHA residents, and empower them to bring their perspective to the table.</p> <p>We have also seen repair response times reduced from an average of 13 days down to four days and new “FlexOps” schedules that make frontline staff available for longer service hours. NYCHA has achieved more than $313 million in savings from NextGen initiatives and NYCHA has built up nearly 3 months of operating reserves. We are proud to have served on NYCHA’s Faith Leaders Committee and are grateful for Chair Olatoye’s leadership over the last four years.</p> <p>To be clear, NYCHA’s problems didn’t come with the Chair and they certainly aren’t leaving with her. It is also now up to all of us to continue to fight for the 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home. We all bear some of the burden to fix this.</p> <p>We are heartened to hear the commitment of Mayor de Blasio to the NextGeneration NYCHA plan, and hope the new Chair will continue to build upon this progress. We look forward to continuing to serve on NYCHA’s Faith Leaders Committee, supporting the incoming leadership, and working together for a brighter future.</p> <p>***<br />Rev. Marc Rivera leads Primitive Christian Church and Rev. Al Cockfield leads God’s Battalion of Prayer Church.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27504200018_352a1fe99b_z.jpg" alt="NYCHA Olatoye" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>Outgoing NYCHA Chair Olatoye, center (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As faith leaders in communities with large populations of NYCHA residents, we have witnessed the results of chronic disinvestment in public housing first-hand. NYCHA’s aging buildings are crumbling and many residents are worried about the health and safety of their children, elders, and neighbors.</p> <p>Since 2001, NYCHA has been shortchanged $3 billion in federal operating and capital funding. NYCHA has been struggling to maintain and repair its aging housing stock for decades. And this is larger than New York City, public housing authorities all over the country are set up to fail, facing gutted budgets and regulatory barriers.</p> <p>When she took her post as Chair and CEO of NYCHA, Shola Olatoye knew she needed to address these problems, so she worked with communities to make a plan. Under her leadership, we developed NextGeneration NYCHA, a 10-year plan to preserve and protect public housing for current residents as well as the next generation of New Yorkers and beyond. That plan became the road forward to safe, healthy, connected homes and communities for NYCHA residents.</p> <p>Four years later, as NYCHA has strived to meet the NextGen goals, we have begun to see positive changes for the lives NYCHA residents. Under NextGen NYCHA, about 8,000 residents have been placed in jobs and 18,000 have been connected with services. NYCHA launched 14 new Youth Leadership Councils to give young people the tools they need to work with NYCHA leadership to help make policy decisions that impact the quality of life of NYCHA residents, and empower them to bring their perspective to the table.</p> <p>We have also seen repair response times reduced from an average of 13 days down to four days and new “FlexOps” schedules that make frontline staff available for longer service hours. NYCHA has achieved more than $313 million in savings from NextGen initiatives and NYCHA has built up nearly 3 months of operating reserves. We are proud to have served on NYCHA’s Faith Leaders Committee and are grateful for Chair Olatoye’s leadership over the last four years.</p> <p>To be clear, NYCHA’s problems didn’t come with the Chair and they certainly aren’t leaving with her. It is also now up to all of us to continue to fight for the 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home. We all bear some of the burden to fix this.</p> <p>We are heartened to hear the commitment of Mayor de Blasio to the NextGeneration NYCHA plan, and hope the new Chair will continue to build upon this progress. We look forward to continuing to serve on NYCHA’s Faith Leaders Committee, supporting the incoming leadership, and working together for a brighter future.</p> <p>***<br />Rev. Marc Rivera leads Primitive Christian Church and Rev. Al Cockfield leads God’s Battalion of Prayer Church.</p> <p>

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Suing NYCHA 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7597:max-murphy-suing-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>April 9, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Suing NYCHA<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/suing-nycha-277.jpg" alt="suing nycha 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Danny Barber is the Chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA Tenant Associations and Elie Hecht is the Director of At Risk Community Services, which runs youth programming at NYCHA complexes. Barber and Hecht are also co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against NYCHA, part of the recent increase in scrutiny of the public housing authority, and joined Max &amp; Murphy for the podcast.</p> <p>Barber and Hecht discuss their lawsuit as well as recent actions by Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding NYCHA, how Mayor de Blasio has managed the housing authority, and other issues related to public housing in New York City.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/427147434&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>April 9, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Suing NYCHA<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/suing-nycha-277.jpg" alt="suing nycha 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Danny Barber is the Chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA Tenant Associations and Elie Hecht is the Director of At Risk Community Services, which runs youth programming at NYCHA complexes. Barber and Hecht are also co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against NYCHA, part of the recent increase in scrutiny of the public housing authority, and joined Max &amp; Murphy for the podcast.</p> <p>Barber and Hecht discuss their lawsuit as well as recent actions by Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding NYCHA, how Mayor de Blasio has managed the housing authority, and other issues related to public housing in New York City.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/427147434&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Key New York City Issues in Final State Budget Negotiations 2018-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7567:key-new-york-city-issues-in-final-state-budget-negotiations Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39730099951_3e6898a8b6_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo during his budget address (photo:&nbsp;Darren McGee/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A state budget is due by the April 1 start to the new fiscal year, and lawmakers have pledged to have a spending plan -- which is likely to include several new policy items -- done before Friday, March 30, given the impending Passover and Easter holidays. As Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders negotiate a wide variety of policy and spending issues, many are important to New York City, not the least of which include determinations of state funding to the city for education, juvenile justice, public housing, and more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Cuomo’s January $168 billion executive budget plan a mixed bag for the city, criticizing a handful of funding cuts or shifts, omissions, and proposals that he believes would hurt the city. Plans related to MTA funding, including a possible congestion pricing scheme, or at least one phase of such a program, are toward the top of the list of controversial measures being debated in Albany that are of utmost importance to de Blasio, other city-based elected officials, and city residents.</p> <p>De Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testified in Albany in February</a>, laying out the city’s state budget priorities and critiquing Cuomo’s budget proposals. Since then, controversy surrounding NYCHA, the MTA, design-build authority, and other policy and funding matters has only intensified.</p> <p>Statewide tax reforms are at the top of Cuomo’s list, provoked by the federal tax code changes passed at the end of last year, and could have major implications in New York City. Beyond more basic negotiations over spending and funding, other statewide issues being debated in the state capital that are include sexual harassment prevention and punishment, voting reform, bail reform, and more.</p> <p>Negotiations are largely being held among Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of Long Island, and Jeff Klein, leader of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, which has a ruling coalition agreement with Flanagan’s conference. Those “leaders meetings” as they are often called symbolize the “four men in a room” that is the oft-criticized phrase for Albany’s secretive, concentrated, and male-dominated decision-making. Making talks even more secretive this year is that they’ve mostly been held at The Governor’s Mansion, not at the state Capitol, home of the statehouse press corps and where rank-and-file legislators work.</p> <p>Talks recently heated up after the Senate and Assembly passed their one-house budget resolutions, in which the majorities formalize their policy and spending priorities and proposals. The two houses, each with a different party in control, differ widely on a host of policy matters and budget priorities, though a large bulk of the budget is not controversial because education, Medicaid, and other funding is likely to be allocated from the state to localities largely as it has been for years.</p> <p>Complicating matters is that this is a state-level election year, with Cuomo seeking a third term and all of the Legislature on the ballot as it is every two years. Party control of the state Senate hangs in the balance, in part through special elections set for April 24 that will fill two vacant Senate seats previously held by Democrats, which Cuomo purposefully scheduled for after the budget is set to be done.</p> <p>A rundown of issues of special importance to New York City shows what’s at stake as state budget negotiations hit their final stages.</p> <p><strong>Public Housing and Infrastructure</strong><br />During his state budget testimony, de Blasio singled out NYCHA as in need of reform and increased funding from the state. To that end, the State Assembly’s budget includes $275 million reserved for NYCHA repairs. The Senate included no additional funding for NYCHA in its spending plan. Cuomo has recently been appearing at NYCHA complexes, bashing de Blasio and the city for its management of the housing authority, and pledging state help, including a push for a new $250 million, design-build authority to speed repairs, and a state emergency declaration that would include use of a private company to manage fixes.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants to see design-build authority for the city, including for NYCHA, additional state funds for the housing authority, and the release of millions of dollars in funds allocated in prior budgets. He has been skeptical or critical of the possible emergency declaration.</p> <p>Cuomo had curiously left design-build -- a streamlined contracting and construction process -- for New York City <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7425-cuomo-omits-design-build-for-new-york-city-from-budget-plan">out </a>of his executive budget. The Assembly has passed a bill authorizing design-build for several projects in the city, but the Senate has not, and the Senate did not include design-build authority for the city in its one-house budget. Senate Leader Flanagan has not explained why, but there has been a lot of talk that design-build for the city will be one key piece of horse-trading that annually occurs in finalizing the budget.</p> <p>A failure to allow for design-build, the de Blasio administration says, would impede the city’s efforts on projects such as NYCHA repairs, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway construction, and jail replacements for Rikers Island, which is slated to close within ten years. The state has used design-build on a variety of projects, often touted by Cuomo, to save billions of dollars and years in estimate project time.</p> <p><strong>Transportation</strong><br />Problems with the MTA, namely the city’s subway service (but also bus efficiency), have been felt by most New Yorkers and well-documented over the past year in particular. De Blasio has waged a public relations campaign to ensure that New Yorkers know Cuomo controls the state authority -- where he appoints the leadership and a plurality of the board members -- and called on the state for better spending prioritization and a new source of revenue, which he has said should come from a tax on high earners, but Cuomo has said could be attained through congestion pricing. While de Blasio has been skeptical of congestion pricing, he was somewhat warmer to the three-step phase-in proposed by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel.</p> <p>Those recommendations appear to be the basis for state negotiations, though Cuomo did not publicly embrace the plan, only backing portions of it publicly, while raising a few questions and leaving it out of his budget plan. Both legislative houses are cool to congestion pricing, though Cuomo has said he is pushing hard for a plan, indicating there could be an initial piece -- a surcharge on taxis and app-based for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft, in this year’s budget. The Assembly appears more friendly toward that possibility than the Senate.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to institute “value capture” zones in New York City, which would use property tax revenue the state argues is generated by transit improvements. De Blasio maintains that value capture would “grant the MTA the power to raid our property taxes on properties within a one mile radius of certain projects,” cost the city much-needed funds, and violate city sovereignty.</p> <p>Since February, Cuomo has amended the specifics of his value capture proposal since it was included in the initial budget in new draft of the legislation, Politico New York recently <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/03/20/with-congestion-pricing-on-sidelines-cuomo-doubles-down-on-controversial-subway-funding-measure-323383">reported</a>. City officials, however, are not persuaded by Cuomo’s value capture pitch -- Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and Department of Transit Commissioner Polly Trottenberg came out against the proposal the same day.</p> <p>Meanwhile, short-term, there are ongoing debates over funding for the “Subway Action Plan,” put forth by MTA Chair Joe Lhota and supported by Cuomo, which would allocate $836 million toward repairing the subway and take a variety of other emergency measures to improve subway performance. Cuomo quickly agreed to fund half the plan, and he and Lhota called on de Blasio to fund the other half from city funds, which the mayor declined to do, pointing to money he says the state has raided from the MTA over the years and the fact that city residents already contribute the bulk of the MTA budget.</p> <p>Notably, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has said he believes the city should fund the other half of the Subway Action Plan, but the overall Council position has not been made clear. Comptroller Scott Stringer had said from the start that the city should match the state’s half, prioritizing the subway system and its riders over additional fighting over budget maneuvers and responsibility.</p> <p>Along with the subway action plan, the governor’s budget includes $429 million for MTA repairs, according to a press release. The Assembly budget plan allocates $490 million in new funds to the MTA, would bring MTA funding in the next budget to a total of $5.3 billion, and $10.5 billion to transportation overall, according to a news release. The Senate’s one-house budget does not include new funding for the MTA.</p> <p>Additionally, de Blasio and many in New York City are again calling on the state to allow the city to install more speed cameras in school zones. The Senate blocked the measure last year. The mayor recently added to this agenda, urging the state to enact multiple pieces of legislation to ensure dangerous drivers are kept off the road. It’s not immediately clear if there is any hope for such measures to be included in the budget.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />Unlike many other recent years, there are few education policy issues on the table this year, leaving funding levels as the central schools-related item of significant concern in budget negotiations.</p> <p>The governor’s executive budget increases school aid across the state by $769 million over the current fiscal year, including $338 million in “Foundation Aid,” a supplemental funding formula to aid local school districts based on need. The increase brings the school aid total to $26.356 billion, an increase of 3% over last year. The executive budget claims that this is “double the statutory School Aid growth cap” and that school aid is the “state’s highest funding priority.”</p> <p>Despite this, advocates have charged for years that the state’s funding formula leaves schools not fully funded, including as it relates to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling of more than a decade ago. Cynthia Nixon, who recently announced a challenge to Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, has worked extensively with advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and has made “fully funding” public schools a top campaign plank, adding an additional political element to budget negotiations around this topic.</p> <p>The fault supposedly lies in the flawed Foundation Aid formula; the formula is based on a wealth index that, according to an <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/better-foundation-aid-formula">analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission</a>, “make the neediest districts in the state seem less needy, while the state’s wealthiest districts seem less wealthy.” The 2006 court ruling required the state to provide a more equitable funding formula, which led to Foundation Aid, but local politicians and advocates say that the state has not lived up to its agreement and that high need schools do not receive the aid they require.</p> <p>In his testimony in Albany, de Blasio said that there is a $211 million gap between what the city is designated to receive in the Executive Budget and what it is supposedly owed through the Foundation Aid formula.</p> <p>The Assembly included a larger school aid increase in its own proposed budget, to the tune of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/03/13/assembly-pushes-for-1-5-billion-boost-to-education-spending/">$1.5 billion</a>, to bring total school aid spending to $27.1 billion. This includes a $1.2 billion increase in Foundation Aid to $18.4 billion.</p> <p>The Senate proposal, meanwhile, includes an aid increase smaller than the governor’s, at $717 million with $379 million in Foundation Aid increases, to bring total education investment to $26.1 billion. The Senate proposal also includes a plank calling for a removal of the cap on charter school growth, though after it was a key piece of negotiations and legislation last year, the charter school cap has flown significantly under the radar this year.</p> <p>Both the governor’s and the Assembly’s budgets include increased investments in and expansion of the state’s public pre-kindergarten, but the scale is again different. Cuomo’s budget includes a $15 million increase while the Assembly’s budget include a $50 million increase. Both budgets also include a $50 million set-aside for community school aid, aiming to facilitate the creation and maintenance of schools that double as community hubs.</p> <p><strong>Voting</strong><br />Cuomo’s “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2018-state-state-democracy-agenda-protect-integrity-new">Democracy Agenda</a>,” introduced in December, includes several reforms to the voting process in New York, which has often been described as <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/new-york-has-voting-laws-that-are-just-as-bad-as-many-red-states/">among the worst</a> in the nation. These include items Cuomo has backed in past years like early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>New York is not as behind the curve in enacting automatic and same day registration -- nine states have automatic registration and 15 have same-day -- but on early voting, the Empire State has been substantially outpaced. New York is one of just thirteen states not to have the measure, which is annually blocked by the Senate, though it is unclear how much weight Cuomo and Assembly Democrats have put behind it.</p> <p>Cuomo last month announced 30-day budget amendments to provide 12 days of early voting and added $7 million to pay for it, a move celebrated by advocates and reform-minded legislators. The Assembly and Senate are <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/progressive-leaders-pressuring-cuomo-and-albany-early-voting/?mc_cid=c73b47e40a&amp;mc_eid=6de992e8da">less amicable</a> to early voting: the Assembly proposal provides for eight days of early voting, while early voting is entirely excluded from the Senate proposal. Senate Republicans have historically been hostile to voting reforms.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal does not address other areas of interest for advocates, such as the consolidation of state and federal primaries and easing some of the strictest deadlines in the nation for registration and for switching party registration.</p> <p><strong>Ethics and Transparency</strong><br />Ethics reform is once again taking a backseat in budget negotiations. Cuomo, in his executive budget, called for closing the LLC loophole and banning outside income for legislators. Cuomo also called for social media companies to disclose who pays for political advertising on their platforms in the wake of the discovery of secret ad buys in the 2016 election by Russians. Cuomo also called for a new “Chief Procurement Officer” to “oversee the integrity” of the procurement process, where apparent abuses have occurred under his watch and he has been against reinstating pre-audit oversight to the state comptroller.</p> <p>Cuomo’s executive budget and State of the State speeches devoted little attention to ethics reform, and the Assembly and Senate are not taking up the cause despite the recent high-profile trial and conviction of the governor’s former top aide, Joe Percoco, as well as the upcoming bid-rigging trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic. The Assembly has been more aligned with the governor on campaign finance reform, but the Senate has shown little interest in any additional ethics or campaign finance reform measures.</p> <p>There is some discussion around watchdogs’ call for mandating a “database of deals,” which would create a public database of all economic development contracts in the state, tracking who is getting taxpayer money for development contracts and how it is being spent. Both the Assembly and the Senate included the deals database in their one-house budgets, but the governor has not signaled his support. As it did last year, the transparency and accountability measure could be bounced from the final budget as part of annual horse-trading.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice</strong><br />In his State of the State address in January, Cuomo outlined a <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-22nd-proposal-2018-state-state-restoring-fairness-new-yorks-criminal">criminal justice agenda</a> that he referred to as “the most progressive set of reforms in the nation,” aiming to reshape the criminal justice system in New York towards fairness and equity.</p> <p>The marquee proposal of the pack is eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, which has largely received praise from criminal justice advocates and follows a nationwide push to end a practice that many say is discriminatory against low-income people and people of color. Some <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FREEnewyork-Govs-CJR-Package-Step-Backwards_final.pdf">advocates</a>, however, have said that it could go much further, such as eliminating bail entirely and abolishing the bail bonds system. Advocates have also voiced concerns about the broad jurisdiction of judges to keep people on “preventative detention,” or a judge deeming that a suspect is not fit for release. On the other hand, Senate Republicans have been cool to the notion of reform.</p> <p>The governor also proposed changing discovery process. According to the governor himself, New York is tied for having the worst discovery laws in the nation. New York is one of 10 states that does not require the prosecution in a case to share evidence with the defense on a strict timetable; for instance, in New York, a prosecutor could share potentially exculpatory evidence with the defense just hours before the trial begins, leaving the defense with little room to mount an argument. The reform requires evidence to be shared “incrementally” and in a “timely and consistent manner.”</p> <p>Also included in the governor’s proposal is a ban on asset seizure by police in the absence of an arrest, and the return of assets to those who are not convicted in a court of law. He also put forth proposals to speed up the trial process in order to prevent judicial backlog and long pretrial detention, which has come under fire in the wake of Kalief Browder’s suicide, and to remove “reentry barriers” for the formerly incarcerated, such as ending suspension of drivers’ licenses and removing certain fees such as the “parole supervision fee.”</p> <p>While Cuomo's bail reform proposal has received some support from reformers, many advocates have voiced deep concerns about the governor's discovery reform. The criticism centers around a “right of redaction” of names in the evidence provided to the defense by the prosecution, which the Legal Aid Society <a href="https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/sites/newyorklawjournal/2018/01/18/cuomos-proposed-discovery-reform-gets-cool-reception-from-defenders-bar/?slreturn=20180221133534">told</a> the New York Law Journal would give prosecutors “blanket authority” to black out identifying witness information.</p> <p>The governor’s proposals are out-paced from the left by those of the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180315c.php">Assembly</a> (and the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/andrea-stewart-cousins/senate-democrats-fight-reform-new-yorks-criminal">Senate Democrats</a>, who are in the minority). The Senate Democrats’ proposal eliminates cash bail entirely; the Assembly’s approach is more in line with Cuomo’s, but eases certain restrictions on the payment of bail by charitable bail organizations such as the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. This would allow those funds to pay bail of up to $10,000, up from the current $2,000 cap, and allows them to operate in more than one county.</p> <p>On discovery, the Senate Democrats call for “automatic, comprehensive discovery” of all material possessed by the prosecution while the Assembly’s bill calls for a deadline of 15 days after arraignment, similar to the governor’s. The Assembly and Senate Democrats <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/article/attachment/senator_montgomery_analysis_of_bail_discovery_and_speedy_trial_reform_proposals_0.pdf">both place</a> greater restrictions on prosecutory redactions than the governor’s proposal.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate Democrats both have speedy trial language that is also beyond what Cuomo is pushing, though he has also included measures. Cuomo's speedy trial provisions have received some criticism from advocates: <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FREEnewyork-Govs-CJR-Package-Step-Backwards_final.pdf">#FREEnewyork</a> accuses the governor’s plan of failing to address the issue of “court congestion and under-resourced courts,” failing to eliminate speedy trial release for pretrial detainees, and that it would not fix the “speedy trial clock loophole” that allows prosecutors to stop the statutory time limits that govern New York’s current laws even if the defense isn’t ready, along with other criticisms.</p> <p>The Assembly’s proposal would ban solitary confinement for those under 21, over 55, for people with disabilities, pregnant people or people in the post-partum period, or those in a “newborn nursery program.” It would also set limits on the “use and duration” of solitary.</p> <p>The Assembly’s bill would also establish an “Office of Special Investigation” in the Attorney General’s office to independently investigate instances where individuals die in the hands of law enforcement, either in custody or during an encounter. In 2015, Cuomo named Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as the special prosecutor in charge of investigating civilian deaths at the hands of police officers; the special prosecutor was named as an effort to bypass the alleged closeness between District Attorneys and police departments.</p> <p>Senate Republicans did not include language about the planks of Cuomo’s criminal justice reform package, and some are pushing back against the notion of limiting the use of cash bail. Their opposition represents a significant roadblock to the passage of the governor’s criminal justice agenda items, which could be his signature progressive accomplishment of this budget cycle. On Sunday evening in Albany, after a leaders meeting, Senate Leader Flanagan told reporters that&nbsp;"bail reform is probably going to be one of the policy matters that’s discussed outside the budget,” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/03/25/budget-takes-shape-with-sexual-harassment-and-tax-code-changes-328118" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Child Victims Act appears to be in for its now-annual legislative fight; Governor Cuomo strongly supports the legislation, which extends the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse, and included it in his budget proposal, as did the Assembly. But it was excluded in the Senate one-house budget resolution.</p> <p>Celebrities such as Corey Feldman and Julianne Moore have attempted to raise the profile of the CVA and ensure it is included in the budget, but another high profile figure, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, recently met with legislators in Albany to lobby for the removal of the “lookback” provision, which would allow for the re-opening of “time-barred” cases within a certain window of time; the governor is proposing one year. Given the history of child sexual abuse associated with the Catholic Church, Dolan is claiming that the CVA will be “toxic” to the church with the lookback, prompting sharp rebukes from Cuomo and others.</p> <p><strong>Taxes</strong><br />Perhaps the most challenging aspect of state budget negotiations is agreeing on an attempt to change the state tax code to mitigate the effects of the new federal tax code, established by law in December.</p> <p>“The FY 2019 Budget protects New Yorkers against attacks from Washington and helps further our bold, progressive agenda to move New York forward," Cuomo said in a press release with his 30-day amendments to his executive budget. "After working with experts and stakeholders, I am advancing further reforms through these budget amendments that to safeguard our competitiveness and help protect residents from this federal economic assault."</p> <p>Specifically, after amendments to it in February, Cuomo’s budget allows for employers to implement a 5% payroll taxes, which can still be deducted from federal returns, in order to avoid the federally-mandated $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction. Cuomo would also create new ways for New Yorkers to pay for government services through charitable giving, which might be deductible from federal taxes, though the IRS may have to rule on any new systems put in place, and he wants localities to also be able to create such structures, which would result in state and local tax credits to individuals who give to the charitable entities for education and possibly other services.</p> <p>And in order to avoid the the $1.5 billion of tax increases on New Yorkers due to the new federal tax law, Cuomo’s budget “decouples” state and local taxes from the federal tax code.</p> <p>The Assembly “largely accepts the Executive proposal aimed at protecting New Yorkers from federal tax reforms,” according to a <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180312a.php">press release</a>, and increases income taxes for New Yorkers who earn over $5 million annually.</p> <p>The Senate, however adopted a different approach in its tax plan, leaving out the Cuomo tax code proposals, and omitting what Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan estimates as $1 billion in new taxes in Cuomo’s budget. “We rejected the new taxes and other proposals that would hurt families and businesses, and put forth a plan to give taxpayers the relief they need and deserve. We also make sound investments in education to help our students, fund critical infrastructure, and propose new measures to strengthen our communities,” Flanagan said in a March press release. The Senate’s budget also lowers taxes on utility bills, retirement income and bridge tolls.</p> <p>Cuomo included the "revenue raisers" in his budget plan in order to help close the state budget deficit. Since Cuomo's budget presentation, estimates have changed that indicate the state is expected to take in hundreds of millions of dollars more in tax revenue than previously thought, in part due to reaction to the new federal tax law.</p> <p>De Blasio is opposed to the new federal tax plan on ideological and practical grounds. “The tax bill passed by Congress was written by millionaires for millionaires, while everyone else suffers,” he said in a December press release following the bill’s passage. And, like Cuomo, has also spoken to the need for the state and city to respond to the tax plan, which he believes adversely affects New York City residents. Combatting what the two rivals both see as the harmful effects of the tax plan is one issue that de Blasio and Cuomo agree upon. “I want to commend the Governor for trying to find ways to blunt the effects of the new tax law and I look forward to working with him, and all of you, on solutions,” de Blasio said during his February state budget testimony.</p> <p><strong>Sexual Misconduct</strong><br />Amid a national reckoning with seuxal misconduct, including workplace harassment, Albany lawmakers have made an effort to enact legislation aimed at preventing and punishing such conduct. Cuomo unveiled several policy proposals in his State of the State, and the issue may be one where consensus can be found for a slate of new policies.</p> <p>However, there is a lot of attention on both substance and process, as many are concerned about the possibility of four men -- one of whom, Senator Klein, has recently been accused of forcibly kissing a staff aide in 2015 -- deciding new sexual misconduct policies. There has been some talk of Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins being included in negotiations on the topic, but it is unclear to what extent she or any other women will be allowed to participate.</p> <p>Cuomo’s budget language would prevent state funds from being used for settlements of sexual harassment or assault cases. He would also ban confidentiality agreements unless the victim chooses to agree to one, and mandates that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics creates a units to investigate sexual harassment allegations in state government. “Sexual harassment afflicts people of every gender, race, age and class, and there must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in any workplace, including those of the State and local governments,” reads the <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-outlines-fy-2019-budget-realizing-promise-progressive-government">budget summary</a>.</p> <p>Cuomo’s agenda would also institute uniform policies across state government, instead of the current situation where the executive branch and each of the two legislative houses has its own policy.</p> <p>"The Assembly Majority recognizes that putting families first means making sure that everyone, especially women, never feel that they have to tolerate sexual harassment to earn a paycheck," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "These new policies will empower individuals to hold harassers accountable and help put an end to the culture of harassment that plagued our workplaces for far too long."</p> <p>To that end, the <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180315b.php">Assembly’s proposal</a> lends the Attorney General more authority to prosecute criminal cases and defend victims in civil ones. The Assembly’s budget would also outlaw mandatory arbitration agreements and void clauses in contracts that “waive rights relating to discrimination claims.” In addition, the Assembly budget includes a provision requiring the state’s Division of Human Rights to craft a set of anti-sexual harassment guidelines and share it with the public and for state and local agencies, along with entities who “do business” with the state, to report to the state on sexual harassment matters.</p> <p>Among the Senate’s proposals on sexual harassment is <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S7848">Senate Bill S7848A,</a> sponsored by Republican Senator Cathy Young. Like Cuomo’s, the bill would institute a consistent policy on sexual harassment across all branches of state government, ban confidentiality agreements that prevent survivors from talking about incidents and would allow the state to “recoup” money spent on sexual harassment settlements. “Our legislation will help prevent sexual harassment and ensure all employees throughout this state are provided with the safe work environment they deserve,” said Flanagan of the legislation. However, the Senate's legislation has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7463-state-senate-s-new-sexual-harassment-policy-draws-criticism">drawn criticism</a> from lawmakers, advocates and experts due to certain language around false reporting and omissions.</p> <p>But before the budget is passed, six women who have made sexual harassment allegations against state lawmakers have<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/cuomo-urged-survivor-input-passing-harassment-laws-article-1.3889787"> urged the governor</a> to listen to input from survivors and for the state to take its time in passing legislation, extending past the budget into the legislative session to follow if needed.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Brachfeld, Sam Raskin and Ben Max</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39730099951_3e6898a8b6_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo during his budget address (photo:&nbsp;Darren McGee/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A state budget is due by the April 1 start to the new fiscal year, and lawmakers have pledged to have a spending plan -- which is likely to include several new policy items -- done before Friday, March 30, given the impending Passover and Easter holidays. As Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders negotiate a wide variety of policy and spending issues, many are important to New York City, not the least of which include determinations of state funding to the city for education, juvenile justice, public housing, and more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Cuomo’s January $168 billion executive budget plan a mixed bag for the city, criticizing a handful of funding cuts or shifts, omissions, and proposals that he believes would hurt the city. Plans related to MTA funding, including a possible congestion pricing scheme, or at least one phase of such a program, are toward the top of the list of controversial measures being debated in Albany that are of utmost importance to de Blasio, other city-based elected officials, and city residents.</p> <p>De Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7460-in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testified in Albany in February</a>, laying out the city’s state budget priorities and critiquing Cuomo’s budget proposals. Since then, controversy surrounding NYCHA, the MTA, design-build authority, and other policy and funding matters has only intensified.</p> <p>Statewide tax reforms are at the top of Cuomo’s list, provoked by the federal tax code changes passed at the end of last year, and could have major implications in New York City. Beyond more basic negotiations over spending and funding, other statewide issues being debated in the state capital that are include sexual harassment prevention and punishment, voting reform, bail reform, and more.</p> <p>Negotiations are largely being held among Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of Long Island, and Jeff Klein, leader of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, which has a ruling coalition agreement with Flanagan’s conference. Those “leaders meetings” as they are often called symbolize the “four men in a room” that is the oft-criticized phrase for Albany’s secretive, concentrated, and male-dominated decision-making. Making talks even more secretive this year is that they’ve mostly been held at The Governor’s Mansion, not at the state Capitol, home of the statehouse press corps and where rank-and-file legislators work.</p> <p>Talks recently heated up after the Senate and Assembly passed their one-house budget resolutions, in which the majorities formalize their policy and spending priorities and proposals. The two houses, each with a different party in control, differ widely on a host of policy matters and budget priorities, though a large bulk of the budget is not controversial because education, Medicaid, and other funding is likely to be allocated from the state to localities largely as it has been for years.</p> <p>Complicating matters is that this is a state-level election year, with Cuomo seeking a third term and all of the Legislature on the ballot as it is every two years. Party control of the state Senate hangs in the balance, in part through special elections set for April 24 that will fill two vacant Senate seats previously held by Democrats, which Cuomo purposefully scheduled for after the budget is set to be done.</p> <p>A rundown of issues of special importance to New York City shows what’s at stake as state budget negotiations hit their final stages.</p> <p><strong>Public Housing and Infrastructure</strong><br />During his state budget testimony, de Blasio singled out NYCHA as in need of reform and increased funding from the state. To that end, the State Assembly’s budget includes $275 million reserved for NYCHA repairs. The Senate included no additional funding for NYCHA in its spending plan. Cuomo has recently been appearing at NYCHA complexes, bashing de Blasio and the city for its management of the housing authority, and pledging state help, including a push for a new $250 million, design-build authority to speed repairs, and a state emergency declaration that would include use of a private company to manage fixes.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants to see design-build authority for the city, including for NYCHA, additional state funds for the housing authority, and the release of millions of dollars in funds allocated in prior budgets. He has been skeptical or critical of the possible emergency declaration.</p> <p>Cuomo had curiously left design-build -- a streamlined contracting and construction process -- for New York City <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7425-cuomo-omits-design-build-for-new-york-city-from-budget-plan">out </a>of his executive budget. The Assembly has passed a bill authorizing design-build for several projects in the city, but the Senate has not, and the Senate did not include design-build authority for the city in its one-house budget. Senate Leader Flanagan has not explained why, but there has been a lot of talk that design-build for the city will be one key piece of horse-trading that annually occurs in finalizing the budget.</p> <p>A failure to allow for design-build, the de Blasio administration says, would impede the city’s efforts on projects such as NYCHA repairs, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway construction, and jail replacements for Rikers Island, which is slated to close within ten years. The state has used design-build on a variety of projects, often touted by Cuomo, to save billions of dollars and years in estimate project time.</p> <p><strong>Transportation</strong><br />Problems with the MTA, namely the city’s subway service (but also bus efficiency), have been felt by most New Yorkers and well-documented over the past year in particular. De Blasio has waged a public relations campaign to ensure that New Yorkers know Cuomo controls the state authority -- where he appoints the leadership and a plurality of the board members -- and called on the state for better spending prioritization and a new source of revenue, which he has said should come from a tax on high earners, but Cuomo has said could be attained through congestion pricing. While de Blasio has been skeptical of congestion pricing, he was somewhat warmer to the three-step phase-in proposed by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel.</p> <p>Those recommendations appear to be the basis for state negotiations, though Cuomo did not publicly embrace the plan, only backing portions of it publicly, while raising a few questions and leaving it out of his budget plan. Both legislative houses are cool to congestion pricing, though Cuomo has said he is pushing hard for a plan, indicating there could be an initial piece -- a surcharge on taxis and app-based for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft, in this year’s budget. The Assembly appears more friendly toward that possibility than the Senate.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to institute “value capture” zones in New York City, which would use property tax revenue the state argues is generated by transit improvements. De Blasio maintains that value capture would “grant the MTA the power to raid our property taxes on properties within a one mile radius of certain projects,” cost the city much-needed funds, and violate city sovereignty.</p> <p>Since February, Cuomo has amended the specifics of his value capture proposal since it was included in the initial budget in new draft of the legislation, Politico New York recently <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/03/20/with-congestion-pricing-on-sidelines-cuomo-doubles-down-on-controversial-subway-funding-measure-323383">reported</a>. City officials, however, are not persuaded by Cuomo’s value capture pitch -- Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and Department of Transit Commissioner Polly Trottenberg came out against the proposal the same day.</p> <p>Meanwhile, short-term, there are ongoing debates over funding for the “Subway Action Plan,” put forth by MTA Chair Joe Lhota and supported by Cuomo, which would allocate $836 million toward repairing the subway and take a variety of other emergency measures to improve subway performance. Cuomo quickly agreed to fund half the plan, and he and Lhota called on de Blasio to fund the other half from city funds, which the mayor declined to do, pointing to money he says the state has raided from the MTA over the years and the fact that city residents already contribute the bulk of the MTA budget.</p> <p>Notably, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has said he believes the city should fund the other half of the Subway Action Plan, but the overall Council position has not been made clear. Comptroller Scott Stringer had said from the start that the city should match the state’s half, prioritizing the subway system and its riders over additional fighting over budget maneuvers and responsibility.</p> <p>Along with the subway action plan, the governor’s budget includes $429 million for MTA repairs, according to a press release. The Assembly budget plan allocates $490 million in new funds to the MTA, would bring MTA funding in the next budget to a total of $5.3 billion, and $10.5 billion to transportation overall, according to a news release. The Senate’s one-house budget does not include new funding for the MTA.</p> <p>Additionally, de Blasio and many in New York City are again calling on the state to allow the city to install more speed cameras in school zones. The Senate blocked the measure last year. The mayor recently added to this agenda, urging the state to enact multiple pieces of legislation to ensure dangerous drivers are kept off the road. It’s not immediately clear if there is any hope for such measures to be included in the budget.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />Unlike many other recent years, there are few education policy issues on the table this year, leaving funding levels as the central schools-related item of significant concern in budget negotiations.</p> <p>The governor’s executive budget increases school aid across the state by $769 million over the current fiscal year, including $338 million in “Foundation Aid,” a supplemental funding formula to aid local school districts based on need. The increase brings the school aid total to $26.356 billion, an increase of 3% over last year. The executive budget claims that this is “double the statutory School Aid growth cap” and that school aid is the “state’s highest funding priority.”</p> <p>Despite this, advocates have charged for years that the state’s funding formula leaves schools not fully funded, including as it relates to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling of more than a decade ago. Cynthia Nixon, who recently announced a challenge to Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, has worked extensively with advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and has made “fully funding” public schools a top campaign plank, adding an additional political element to budget negotiations around this topic.</p> <p>The fault supposedly lies in the flawed Foundation Aid formula; the formula is based on a wealth index that, according to an <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/better-foundation-aid-formula">analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission</a>, “make the neediest districts in the state seem less needy, while the state’s wealthiest districts seem less wealthy.” The 2006 court ruling required the state to provide a more equitable funding formula, which led to Foundation Aid, but local politicians and advocates say that the state has not lived up to its agreement and that high need schools do not receive the aid they require.</p> <p>In his testimony in Albany, de Blasio said that there is a $211 million gap between what the city is designated to receive in the Executive Budget and what it is supposedly owed through the Foundation Aid formula.</p> <p>The Assembly included a larger school aid increase in its own proposed budget, to the tune of <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/03/13/assembly-pushes-for-1-5-billion-boost-to-education-spending/">$1.5 billion</a>, to bring total school aid spending to $27.1 billion. This includes a $1.2 billion increase in Foundation Aid to $18.4 billion.</p> <p>The Senate proposal, meanwhile, includes an aid increase smaller than the governor’s, at $717 million with $379 million in Foundation Aid increases, to bring total education investment to $26.1 billion. The Senate proposal also includes a plank calling for a removal of the cap on charter school growth, though after it was a key piece of negotiations and legislation last year, the charter school cap has flown significantly under the radar this year.</p> <p>Both the governor’s and the Assembly’s budgets include increased investments in and expansion of the state’s public pre-kindergarten, but the scale is again different. Cuomo’s budget includes a $15 million increase while the Assembly’s budget include a $50 million increase. Both budgets also include a $50 million set-aside for community school aid, aiming to facilitate the creation and maintenance of schools that double as community hubs.</p> <p><strong>Voting</strong><br />Cuomo’s “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2018-state-state-democracy-agenda-protect-integrity-new">Democracy Agenda</a>,” introduced in December, includes several reforms to the voting process in New York, which has often been described as <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/new-york-has-voting-laws-that-are-just-as-bad-as-many-red-states/">among the worst</a> in the nation. These include items Cuomo has backed in past years like early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>New York is not as behind the curve in enacting automatic and same day registration -- nine states have automatic registration and 15 have same-day -- but on early voting, the Empire State has been substantially outpaced. New York is one of just thirteen states not to have the measure, which is annually blocked by the Senate, though it is unclear how much weight Cuomo and Assembly Democrats have put behind it.</p> <p>Cuomo last month announced 30-day budget amendments to provide 12 days of early voting and added $7 million to pay for it, a move celebrated by advocates and reform-minded legislators. The Assembly and Senate are <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/progressive-leaders-pressuring-cuomo-and-albany-early-voting/?mc_cid=c73b47e40a&amp;mc_eid=6de992e8da">less amicable</a> to early voting: the Assembly proposal provides for eight days of early voting, while early voting is entirely excluded from the Senate proposal. Senate Republicans have historically been hostile to voting reforms.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal does not address other areas of interest for advocates, such as the consolidation of state and federal primaries and easing some of the strictest deadlines in the nation for registration and for switching party registration.</p> <p><strong>Ethics and Transparency</strong><br />Ethics reform is once again taking a backseat in budget negotiations. Cuomo, in his executive budget, called for closing the LLC loophole and banning outside income for legislators. Cuomo also called for social media companies to disclose who pays for political advertising on their platforms in the wake of the discovery of secret ad buys in the 2016 election by Russians. Cuomo also called for a new “Chief Procurement Officer” to “oversee the integrity” of the procurement process, where apparent abuses have occurred under his watch and he has been against reinstating pre-audit oversight to the state comptroller.</p> <p>Cuomo’s executive budget and State of the State speeches devoted little attention to ethics reform, and the Assembly and Senate are not taking up the cause despite the recent high-profile trial and conviction of the governor’s former top aide, Joe Percoco, as well as the upcoming bid-rigging trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic. The Assembly has been more aligned with the governor on campaign finance reform, but the Senate has shown little interest in any additional ethics or campaign finance reform measures.</p> <p>There is some discussion around watchdogs’ call for mandating a “database of deals,” which would create a public database of all economic development contracts in the state, tracking who is getting taxpayer money for development contracts and how it is being spent. Both the Assembly and the Senate included the deals database in their one-house budgets, but the governor has not signaled his support. As it did last year, the transparency and accountability measure could be bounced from the final budget as part of annual horse-trading.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice</strong><br />In his State of the State address in January, Cuomo outlined a <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-unveils-22nd-proposal-2018-state-state-restoring-fairness-new-yorks-criminal">criminal justice agenda</a> that he referred to as “the most progressive set of reforms in the nation,” aiming to reshape the criminal justice system in New York towards fairness and equity.</p> <p>The marquee proposal of the pack is eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, which has largely received praise from criminal justice advocates and follows a nationwide push to end a practice that many say is discriminatory against low-income people and people of color. Some <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FREEnewyork-Govs-CJR-Package-Step-Backwards_final.pdf">advocates</a>, however, have said that it could go much further, such as eliminating bail entirely and abolishing the bail bonds system. Advocates have also voiced concerns about the broad jurisdiction of judges to keep people on “preventative detention,” or a judge deeming that a suspect is not fit for release. On the other hand, Senate Republicans have been cool to the notion of reform.</p> <p>The governor also proposed changing discovery process. According to the governor himself, New York is tied for having the worst discovery laws in the nation. New York is one of 10 states that does not require the prosecution in a case to share evidence with the defense on a strict timetable; for instance, in New York, a prosecutor could share potentially exculpatory evidence with the defense just hours before the trial begins, leaving the defense with little room to mount an argument. The reform requires evidence to be shared “incrementally” and in a “timely and consistent manner.”</p> <p>Also included in the governor’s proposal is a ban on asset seizure by police in the absence of an arrest, and the return of assets to those who are not convicted in a court of law. He also put forth proposals to speed up the trial process in order to prevent judicial backlog and long pretrial detention, which has come under fire in the wake of Kalief Browder’s suicide, and to remove “reentry barriers” for the formerly incarcerated, such as ending suspension of drivers’ licenses and removing certain fees such as the “parole supervision fee.”</p> <p>While Cuomo's bail reform proposal has received some support from reformers, many advocates have voiced deep concerns about the governor's discovery reform. The criticism centers around a “right of redaction” of names in the evidence provided to the defense by the prosecution, which the Legal Aid Society <a href="https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/sites/newyorklawjournal/2018/01/18/cuomos-proposed-discovery-reform-gets-cool-reception-from-defenders-bar/?slreturn=20180221133534">told</a> the New York Law Journal would give prosecutors “blanket authority” to black out identifying witness information.</p> <p>The governor’s proposals are out-paced from the left by those of the <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/files/20180315c.php">Assembly</a> (and the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/andrea-stewart-cousins/senate-democrats-fight-reform-new-yorks-criminal">Senate Democrats</a>, who are in the minority). The Senate Democrats’ proposal eliminates cash bail entirely; the Assembly’s approach is more in line with Cuomo’s, but eases certain restrictions on the payment of bail by charitable bail organizations such as the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. This would allow those funds to pay bail of up to $10,000, up from the current $2,000 cap, and allows them to operate in more than one county.</p> <p>On discovery, the Senate Democrats call for “automatic, comprehensive discovery” of all material possessed by the prosecution while the Assembly’s bill calls for a deadline of 15 days after arraignment, similar to the governor’s. The Assembly and Senate Democrats <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/article/attachment/senator_montgomery_analysis_of_bail_discovery_and_speedy_trial_reform_proposals_0.pdf">both place</a> greater restrictions on prosecutory redactions than the governor’s proposal.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate Democrats both have speedy trial language that is also beyond what Cuomo is pushing, though he has also included measures. Cuomo's speedy trial provisions have received some criticism from advocates: <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FREEnewyork-Govs-CJR-Package-Step-Backwards_final.pdf">#FREEnewyork</a> accuses the governor’s plan of failing to address the issue of “court congestion and under-resourced courts,” failing to eliminate speedy trial release for pretrial detainees, and that it would not fix the “speedy trial clock loophole” that allows prosecutors to stop the statutory time limits that govern New York’s current laws even if the defense isn’t ready, along with other criticisms.</p> <p>The Assembly’s proposal would ban solitary confinement for those under 21, over 55, for people with disabilities, pregnant people or people in the post-partum period, or those in a “newborn nursery program.” It would also set limits on the “use and duration” of solitary.</p> <p>The Assembly’s bill would also establish an “Office of Special Investigation” in the Attorney General’s office to independently investigate instances where individuals die in the hands of law enforcement, either in custody or during an encounter. In 2015, Cuomo named Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as the special prosecutor in charge of investigating civilian deaths at the hands of police officers; the special prosecutor was named as an effort to bypass the alleged closeness between District Attorneys and police departments.</p> <p>Senate Republicans did not include language about the planks of Cuomo’s criminal justice reform package, and some are pushing back against the notion of limiting the use of cash bail. Their opposition represents a significant roadblock to the passage of the governor’s criminal justice agenda items, which could be his signature progressive accomplishment of this budget cycle. On Sunday evening in Albany, after a leaders meeting, Senate Leader Flanagan told reporters that&nbsp;"bail reform is probably going to be one of the policy matters that’s discussed outside the budget,” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/03/25/budget-takes-shape-with-sexual-harassment-and-tax-code-changes-328118" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to Politico New York</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Child Victims Act appears to be in for its now-annual legislative fight; Governor Cuomo strongly supports the legislation, which extends the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse, and included it in his budget proposal, as did the Assembly. But it was excluded in the Senate one-house budget resolution.</p> <p>Celebrities such as Corey Feldman and Julianne Moore have attempted to raise the profile of the CVA and ensure it is included in the budget, but another high profile figure, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, recently met with legislators in Albany to lobby for the removal of the “lookback” provision, which would allow for the re-opening of “time-barred” cases within a certain window of time; the governor is proposing one year. Given the history of child sexual abuse associated with the Catholic Church, Dolan is claiming that the CVA will be “toxic” to the church with the lookback, prompting sharp rebukes from Cuomo and others.</p> <p><strong>Taxes</strong><br />Perhaps the most challenging aspect of state budget negotiations is agreeing on an attempt to change the state tax code to mitigate the effects of the new federal tax code, established by law in December.</p> <p>“The FY 2019 Budget protects New Yorkers against attacks from Washington and helps further our bold, progressive agenda to move New York forward," Cuomo said in a press release with his 30-day amendments to his executive budget. "After working with experts and stakeholders, I am advancing further reforms through these budget amendments that to safeguard our competitiveness and help protect residents from this federal economic assault."</p> <p>Specifically, after amendments to it in February, Cuomo’s budget allows for employers to implement a 5% payroll taxes, which can still be deducted from federal returns, in order to avoid the federally-mandated $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction. Cuomo would also create new ways for New Yorkers to pay for government services through charitable giving, which might be deductible from federal taxes, though the IRS may have to rule on any new systems put in place, and he wants localities to also be able to create such structures, which would result in state and local tax credits to individuals who give to the charitable entities for education and possibly other services.</p> <p>And in order to avoid the the $1.5 billion of tax increases on New Yorkers due to the new federal tax law, Cuomo’s budget “decouples” state and local taxes from the federal tax code.</p> <p>The Assembly “largely accepts the Executive proposal aimed at protecting New Yorkers from federal tax reforms,” according to a <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180312a.php">press release</a>, and increases income taxes for New Yorkers who earn over $5 million annually.</p> <p>The Senate, however adopted a different approach in its tax plan, leaving out the Cuomo tax code proposals, and omitting what Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan estimates as $1 billion in new taxes in Cuomo’s budget. “We rejected the new taxes and other proposals that would hurt families and businesses, and put forth a plan to give taxpayers the relief they need and deserve. We also make sound investments in education to help our students, fund critical infrastructure, and propose new measures to strengthen our communities,” Flanagan said in a March press release. The Senate’s budget also lowers taxes on utility bills, retirement income and bridge tolls.</p> <p>Cuomo included the "revenue raisers" in his budget plan in order to help close the state budget deficit. Since Cuomo's budget presentation, estimates have changed that indicate the state is expected to take in hundreds of millions of dollars more in tax revenue than previously thought, in part due to reaction to the new federal tax law.</p> <p>De Blasio is opposed to the new federal tax plan on ideological and practical grounds. “The tax bill passed by Congress was written by millionaires for millionaires, while everyone else suffers,” he said in a December press release following the bill’s passage. And, like Cuomo, has also spoken to the need for the state and city to respond to the tax plan, which he believes adversely affects New York City residents. Combatting what the two rivals both see as the harmful effects of the tax plan is one issue that de Blasio and Cuomo agree upon. “I want to commend the Governor for trying to find ways to blunt the effects of the new tax law and I look forward to working with him, and all of you, on solutions,” de Blasio said during his February state budget testimony.</p> <p><strong>Sexual Misconduct</strong><br />Amid a national reckoning with seuxal misconduct, including workplace harassment, Albany lawmakers have made an effort to enact legislation aimed at preventing and punishing such conduct. Cuomo unveiled several policy proposals in his State of the State, and the issue may be one where consensus can be found for a slate of new policies.</p> <p>However, there is a lot of attention on both substance and process, as many are concerned about the possibility of four men -- one of whom, Senator Klein, has recently been accused of forcibly kissing a staff aide in 2015 -- deciding new sexual misconduct policies. There has been some talk of Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins being included in negotiations on the topic, but it is unclear to what extent she or any other women will be allowed to participate.</p> <p>Cuomo’s budget language would prevent state funds from being used for settlements of sexual harassment or assault cases. He would also ban confidentiality agreements unless the victim chooses to agree to one, and mandates that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics creates a units to investigate sexual harassment allegations in state government. “Sexual harassment afflicts people of every gender, race, age and class, and there must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in any workplace, including those of the State and local governments,” reads the <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-outlines-fy-2019-budget-realizing-promise-progressive-government">budget summary</a>.</p> <p>Cuomo’s agenda would also institute uniform policies across state government, instead of the current situation where the executive branch and each of the two legislative houses has its own policy.</p> <p>"The Assembly Majority recognizes that putting families first means making sure that everyone, especially women, never feel that they have to tolerate sexual harassment to earn a paycheck," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "These new policies will empower individuals to hold harassers accountable and help put an end to the culture of harassment that plagued our workplaces for far too long."</p> <p>To that end, the <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/files/20180315b.php">Assembly’s proposal</a> lends the Attorney General more authority to prosecute criminal cases and defend victims in civil ones. The Assembly’s budget would also outlaw mandatory arbitration agreements and void clauses in contracts that “waive rights relating to discrimination claims.” In addition, the Assembly budget includes a provision requiring the state’s Division of Human Rights to craft a set of anti-sexual harassment guidelines and share it with the public and for state and local agencies, along with entities who “do business” with the state, to report to the state on sexual harassment matters.</p> <p>Among the Senate’s proposals on sexual harassment is <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S7848">Senate Bill S7848A,</a> sponsored by Republican Senator Cathy Young. Like Cuomo’s, the bill would institute a consistent policy on sexual harassment across all branches of state government, ban confidentiality agreements that prevent survivors from talking about incidents and would allow the state to “recoup” money spent on sexual harassment settlements. “Our legislation will help prevent sexual harassment and ensure all employees throughout this state are provided with the safe work environment they deserve,” said Flanagan of the legislation. However, the Senate's legislation has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7463-state-senate-s-new-sexual-harassment-policy-draws-criticism">drawn criticism</a> from lawmakers, advocates and experts due to certain language around false reporting and omissions.</p> <p>But before the budget is passed, six women who have made sexual harassment allegations against state lawmakers have<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/cuomo-urged-survivor-input-passing-harassment-laws-article-1.3889787"> urged the governor</a> to listen to input from survivors and for the state to take its time in passing legislation, extending past the budget into the legislative session to follow if needed.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Brachfeld, Sam Raskin and Ben Max</p> <p> </p> I’m a NYCHA Resident Who Supports Private Investment in Public Housing 2018-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7565:i-m-a-nycha-resident-who-supports-private-investment-in-public-housing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nycha_aerial_wide.jpg" alt="nycha aerial wide" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>After a harsh winter during which hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents suffered without heat and hot water at one time or another, many people across our city have been asking a simple question: do public housing residents deserve the same quality of life as everyone else?</p> <p>The answer is obvious: of course we do. Better yet, there is a clear path to make that a reality, and soon.</p> <p>The fact is that just a miniscule fraction of New Yorkers living in public housing enjoy the benefits of private management and well-funded maintenance operations. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens do not – and they are bearing the burden of a system that faces a $25 billion deficit, with little hope for anywhere near enough federal funding on the horizon.</p> <p>Around 320,000 of those residents went without heat or hot water at certain points this winter, often during the coldest stretches – and now New York must take action to ensure that this cannot happen again. Public-private partnerships will improve the living conditions of NYCHA families, and it is time for more of those agreements. Not next year, not in two years, not in three years. Now.</p> <p>It is no secret that urging public-private partnerships for NYCHA is politically challenging – and I was once skeptical of these arrangements myself. But if that kind of collaboration means being able to ensure that every NYCHA family has heat when they most need it – and let’s be clear that this is exactly what is at stake here – then public-private partnerships are not a problem, as some critics have said, but are instead part of a solution.</p> <p>I am a resident leader of a NYCHA building that has already benefited from this kind of work. I have firsthand understanding of the type of progress that is possible from these partnerships. Simply put, I am living in a success story every day, but my heart is breaking for the hundreds of thousands of residents still struggling underneath the weight of a broken system.</p> <p>In 2014, NYCHA engaged in a public-private partnership at several Section 8 developments across the five boroughs – totaling nearly 900 homes including my building, Campos Plaza I – because of the potential benefits it could provide for families. Despite what skeptics said at the time, it turns out that they were absolutely right.</p> <p>This winter, our building had the heat and hot water it needed. We got to cook in renovated kitchens. And, this spring, we will enjoy our playgrounds and other open space. Our rents did not increase, and we all feel secure in our homes because we know that NYCHA still has ultimate control of our building and retains the power to remove the private partner should it ever want to do so.</p> <p>At a time when city funds are stretched so thin and federal funds are unlikely to arrive, these positive changes did not come from the wave of a magic wand. They exist because of resources made available through a public-private partnership that provided the necessary investment in our apartments.</p> <p>It is, at the end of the day, a really simple concept: when there are not enough public dollars to ensure that NYCHA buildings receive the maintenance and renovations they need, public-private partnerships can fill those gaps and give residents like me a better quality of life.</p> <p>It was encouraging to see NYCHA move forward on another public-private partnership to leverage private financing at its Ocean Bay complex in Bayside. At that nearly 1,400-unit development, which was battered by Hurricane Sandy and remained in dire need of improvements, the deal generated an additional $560 million in financing for better buildings and new infrastructure. Families in Ocean Bay, too, understand what is at stake.</p> <p>And of course it goes without saying that NYCHA residents believe that the federal government should invest more in public housing. But the reality today is that we cannot yet expect significant federal dollars to come – and that is simply no reason to deny my fellow residents the same quality of life I get to enjoy.</p> <p>So, yes, those of us living in public housing do deserve the same quality of life as those living in private housing – but all of us, not just a lucky few. All of us deserve a decent, comfortable home. The tools are out there, it is now up to elected officials to make that a reality by encouraging more private-partnerships across New York City.</p> <p>***<br /> Dereese Huff is the resident association president at NYCHA’s Campos Plaza I.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nycha_aerial_wide.jpg" alt="nycha aerial wide" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>(photo: @NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>After a harsh winter during which hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents suffered without heat and hot water at one time or another, many people across our city have been asking a simple question: do public housing residents deserve the same quality of life as everyone else?</p> <p>The answer is obvious: of course we do. Better yet, there is a clear path to make that a reality, and soon.</p> <p>The fact is that just a miniscule fraction of New Yorkers living in public housing enjoy the benefits of private management and well-funded maintenance operations. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens do not – and they are bearing the burden of a system that faces a $25 billion deficit, with little hope for anywhere near enough federal funding on the horizon.</p> <p>Around 320,000 of those residents went without heat or hot water at certain points this winter, often during the coldest stretches – and now New York must take action to ensure that this cannot happen again. Public-private partnerships will improve the living conditions of NYCHA families, and it is time for more of those agreements. Not next year, not in two years, not in three years. Now.</p> <p>It is no secret that urging public-private partnerships for NYCHA is politically challenging – and I was once skeptical of these arrangements myself. But if that kind of collaboration means being able to ensure that every NYCHA family has heat when they most need it – and let’s be clear that this is exactly what is at stake here – then public-private partnerships are not a problem, as some critics have said, but are instead part of a solution.</p> <p>I am a resident leader of a NYCHA building that has already benefited from this kind of work. I have firsthand understanding of the type of progress that is possible from these partnerships. Simply put, I am living in a success story every day, but my heart is breaking for the hundreds of thousands of residents still struggling underneath the weight of a broken system.</p> <p>In 2014, NYCHA engaged in a public-private partnership at several Section 8 developments across the five boroughs – totaling nearly 900 homes including my building, Campos Plaza I – because of the potential benefits it could provide for families. Despite what skeptics said at the time, it turns out that they were absolutely right.</p> <p>This winter, our building had the heat and hot water it needed. We got to cook in renovated kitchens. And, this spring, we will enjoy our playgrounds and other open space. Our rents did not increase, and we all feel secure in our homes because we know that NYCHA still has ultimate control of our building and retains the power to remove the private partner should it ever want to do so.</p> <p>At a time when city funds are stretched so thin and federal funds are unlikely to arrive, these positive changes did not come from the wave of a magic wand. They exist because of resources made available through a public-private partnership that provided the necessary investment in our apartments.</p> <p>It is, at the end of the day, a really simple concept: when there are not enough public dollars to ensure that NYCHA buildings receive the maintenance and renovations they need, public-private partnerships can fill those gaps and give residents like me a better quality of life.</p> <p>It was encouraging to see NYCHA move forward on another public-private partnership to leverage private financing at its Ocean Bay complex in Bayside. At that nearly 1,400-unit development, which was battered by Hurricane Sandy and remained in dire need of improvements, the deal generated an additional $560 million in financing for better buildings and new infrastructure. Families in Ocean Bay, too, understand what is at stake.</p> <p>And of course it goes without saying that NYCHA residents believe that the federal government should invest more in public housing. But the reality today is that we cannot yet expect significant federal dollars to come – and that is simply no reason to deny my fellow residents the same quality of life I get to enjoy.</p> <p>So, yes, those of us living in public housing do deserve the same quality of life as those living in private housing – but all of us, not just a lucky few. All of us deserve a decent, comfortable home. The tools are out there, it is now up to elected officials to make that a reality by encouraging more private-partnerships across New York City.</p> <p>***<br /> Dereese Huff is the resident association president at NYCHA’s Campos Plaza I.</p> <p>

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