Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/445 Mon, 23 Oct 2017 17:02:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Members Still Navigating Outside Income Divestment Ahead of Deadline http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7234:city-council-members-still-navigating-outside-income-divestment-ahead-of-deadline http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7234:city-council-members-still-navigating-outside-income-divestment-ahead-of-deadline paul vallone by john mccarten

Council Member Paul Vallone (photo: John McCarten)


Legislation barring City Council members from making outside income will go into effect on January 1, forcing several sitting and incoming Council members to make tough decisions about their side jobs.

The regulations, which were linked to a significant pay increase for all city elected officials, including a salary bump from $112,500 to $148,000 for City Council members, were approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council last year. Only three current City Council members, two of whom voted against the new restrictions, continue to be involved in their private sector businesses, and each is still in the process of figuring out divestment as mandated by the new law.

Council Members Peter Koo, Chaim Deutsch, and Paul Vallone -- all still in the process of being reelected to another term -- were required to submit letters to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito by March 1, 2016 indicating whether or not they intended to continue earning outside income and stating an intention to comply with the rules by the January deadline -- in time for the 2018-2021 Council session.

When reached by Gotham Gazette, each of the three Council members or a representative described legal and logistical complexities in divesting from or dissolving a limited liability company (LLC), resigning from a job, or recusing oneself from duties in anticipation of the deadline.

Meanwhile, some still question whether the Council should have gone to a near-complete ban on outside income (small allowances are provided for members who teach a college course, for example), or if the model should have been akin to the cap on what members of Congress are allowed to make outside of their governmental duty -- a small percentage of their salaries.

Vallone, a Democrat who represents District 19 in Eastern Queens, reported earning between $5,000 and $47,999 from his family’s law practice on his 2016 financial disclosure forms. In opposing the new outside income restrictions on Council members, he introduced a last-ditch amendment -- citing a statement made by good government group Citizens Union -- that Council members’ outside income should be capped at 15 percent of their Council salaries rather than eliminated. The amendment did not pass, and a spokesperson for Vallone said he is working with his lawyers to figure out how the rules apply to the family’s legal firm, which was founded by his grandfather Judge Charles J. Vallone in 1932, and where three generations of Vallones have since practiced.

As managing Partner of Vallone & Vallone, the Council member oversees the company’s day-to-day operations and serves as general counsel for corporate clients, according to the firm’s website. The firm also handles estate law, real estate transactions, civil and personal injury litigation, and criminal law.

Also a Democrat, Deutsch represents the 48th Council District, in Southern Brooklyn, and currently makes between $100,000 and $250,000 a year through a real estate management company he owns. He said he intends to shut down the business by January, but has not yet determined the process for doing so.

“It’s going to take some time to shut down the corporation. I don’t know exactly what the process is,” said Deutsch, who voted against the bills. “What I do know, is that I’m not accepting any more managing fees. I could keep the corporation open for the next five years, and maybe reopen it after term limits. But I will not be receiving the outside income.”

Deutsch, like Vallone and Koo, will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021 if successful on Election Day this year, which each is expected to be.

Koo is a Democrat who owns a chain of pharmacies and represents the 20th Council District in Queens. He reported making between $60,000 and $99,999 as the president of a pharmacy, and another $5,000 to $47,999 at another pharmacy. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but he was the only one of the three who voted in favor of the legislation.

Other newly elected Democratic nominees for the City Council said that they had already quit their jobs to focus on their campaigns and that they have no intentions to returning to work before January.

“I quit in 2017 in April to be a full-time candidate,” said Keith Powers, who won a crowded District 4 Democratic primary and is the favorite to win the seat in November. “No matter what job I had at the time, I would have given it up; you want to make sure you have all the time to talk to voters.”

Like Powers, most candidates for City Council either leave their jobs entirely or take a leave of absence for the key months of the campaign.

Powers, a former government aide and, more recently, lobbyist who ran partly on a reform and transparency platform, said he hopes that the City Council rules can be a model for the state Legislature, where the salaries are far lower but the outside income restrictions are minimal and the job is considered part-time.

“You should be fully committed to the job that you’ve been elected to for the district. In the district that I am in, I don’t know how you would even have time to do both,” Powers said.

State government appeared to be moving toward pay raises for state legislators and others in government last year, but the process was stalled amid disagreements among Governor Andrew Cuomo, members of the Legislature, and appointees to a special panel tasked with determining pay raises and, potentially, other reforms to the relevant jobs. Legislators haven’t had a salary increase in nearly 20 years, with base pay stuck at $79,000, though many legislators receive additional bonuses as well as per diem payouts for trips to Albany.

There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.

“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council,  which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”

Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.

“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.

Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.

“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.

While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”

Certain passive income, such as interest, dividends, rent, annuities, capital gains, copyright royalties, or retirement payouts are acceptable under the new rules. Council members may also accept compensation for speaking engagements or artistic performances, with advance approval by the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), and income for teaching an accredited college course, “so long as such compensation does not exceed that normally received by others at the institution for a comparable type and amount of instruction.”

The language also leaves room for jobs drawing “minimal income, involving a limited time commitment,” with advance approval by the Office of General Counsel, as long as the role does not interfere with the member’s official duties.

The pay raise at the City Council may have helped attract a number of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen since 1999. But, the new city guidelines can also create complications for an Assembly member and state senator earning outside income on the verge of election to the City Council. Three state lawmakers won Democratic City Council primaries in September and are either heavily favored or guaranteed to win the seat in November.

State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who won the primary for Council District 18 in the Bronx, earns between $5,000 and $20,000 for his role as pastor at the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, which he founded, according to his most recent financial disclosure forms. Diaz Sr. could not be reached for comment.

Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, who won the primary for Council District 13 in the Bronx, has earned between $75,000  and $100,000 from a real estate brokerage firm he owns with a family member. A spokesperson for Gjonai said he has started the process with his lawyers and accountants to take the necessary steps to comply with city law.

“It's difficult for him to comment, because he's learning himself about that process,” said Jennifer Blatus, a spokesperson for Gjonaj. “I can say that it’s something the Assemblyman is happy to do in order to better serve his constituents.”

Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who won the primary in Queen’s 21st Council District, receives between $5,000 and $20,000 in rental income, according to his state disclosure filings, and will not be obligated to give up the income.

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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City Council Members Still Navigating Outside Income Divestment Ahead of Deadline Wed, 04 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
New Facility Classification Allows Better Options for City Seniors, If Built http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6432:new-facility-classification-allows-better-options-for-city-seniors-if-built http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6432:new-facility-classification-allows-better-options-for-city-seniors-if-built Hebrew Home Bronx property

Along the property of the Hebrew Home in the Bronx (Sofie Hecht)


Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council recently passed a series of amendments to the city's zoning regulations aimed, in part, at encouraging the construction and expansion of senior housing and elder care facilities. With the package, known as Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), one goal was to address the issue of inadequate options for seniors who want to age in place. An outdated land use code has made it nearly impossible to build flexible senior care facilities, they said.

For older New Yorkers and those heading toward senior citizenship, city government’s first priority with ZQA was creating additional opportunity for building affordable housing. This was accomplished, they exclaimed, through a variety of tweaks to land use rules, including reducing requirements for parking spaces to accompany senior housing. Senior advocates in the City Council and groups like AARP-NY and LiveOn NY pushed hard for and celebrated passage of ZQA for this reason.

Less publicized was the creation, through ZQA, of a new building category called “long term care facility,” which could have significant implications for the city’s aging population and senior care.

The new category allows developers to build nursing homes and residential units on the same property, making it easier to build facilities called Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in New York City. CCRCs provide seniors with increasing levels of care as they age without requiring they move. While there are currently 12 CCRCs across New York state, none exist in New York City. Though city planners and senior advocates look forward to the proliferation of CCRCs, the potential first such facility is mired in controversy.

“It is especially jarring to uproot elderly residents from homes and communities that are familiar to them and from their loved ones in order to accommodate their changing needs,” said Rachaele Raynoff, a spokesperson from the Department of City Planning. “That's why a model with a continuum of care was developed. Under ZQA, NYC zoning now recognizes this model, allowing for the development of new options for aging for our growing elderly population.”

Prior to the creation of the new zoning category, it was effectively impossible to build a CCRC in the city, according to Dan Reingold, CEO of RiverSpring Health. RiverSpring, which owns a nursing home called Hebrew Home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, plans to build the city’s first CCRC by adding a residential campus on a piece of land contiguous to the nursing home.

CCRCs are typically made up of independent living, assisted living, and health care units, which make it possible for residents to move into a CCRC and then age in place with more care and little housing change (other than on-site room shifts). These facilities allow seniors to stay in the same community as they age and make it possible for couples who need different levels of care to stay together.

While the development of CCRCs is exactly what the City Council and the de Blasio administration’s Department of City Planning hoped to encourage by adding the “long term care facility” category to the city’s building code, RiverSpring’s plan has revealed a contentious aspect of the new zoning code. CCRCs may erode zoning protections enjoyed by residents of neighborhoods zoned for low-rise residential housing (“R-1” and “R-2” in zoning parlance).

RiverSpring’s plan involves the construction of four- to six-story apartment buildings for its CCRC on land in Riverdale that is zoned for single-family housing. This is allowed under the new zoning regulations, so long as RiverSpring is able to secure special permission from the Department of City Planning. Community leaders in Riverdale, as well as City Council Member Andrew Cohen, who represents the district including Riverdale, have opposed RiverSpring’s proposal on the grounds that the apartment-style residential units of the CCRC will alter the character of the neighborhood.

“CCRCs are typically designed as apartment buildings, the form and scale of which are not compatible with the single-family homes in this neighborhood,” said Sherida Paulsen, chair of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy. The Riverdale community went through a process in 2006 to down-zone the land now owned by RiverSpring in order to protect the residential nature of the area along the river, according to Paulsen. “This change to the zoning code has opened the door to development that would be non-contextual to the property around it, and it could easily go out of business, leaving the neighborhood changed forever,” she said.

City Council Member Paul Vallone of Queens, who chairs the Council’s senior center subcommittee, opposed ZQA prior to its approval for the same reason. “These sweeping changes to zoning regulations would effectively erase many of the protections that our civic organizations and community boards have fought for years to obtain,” he said in a press release ahead of the Council’s approval of ZQA. He continues to advocate for zoning that he believes will protect the integrity of neighborhoods like Riverdale. "A balance must exist between addressing senior housing in our city and proper community engagement,” he said in a statement for this story.

The initial ZQA proposal would have allowed CCRCs to be built in residential zones as-of-right, according to Council Member Cohen, but the Council interceded. They developed criteria, outlined in ZQA, that require the new facility or expansion be "compatible with the character of the surrounding area," that it's entrance, orientation, and landscaping "create an adequate buffer between the proposed facility and nearby residences," and that the streets leading to the facility are "adequate to handle the traffic generated thereby” (ZQA section 74-901).

Proposals to build CCRCs in residential zones must go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Policy (ULURP) in order to ensure they comply with these criteria. If they are found to comply, the developer is given a special permit to build.

Prior to ZQA, RiverSpring made multiple attempts to get its proposal approved, according to Paulsen. In its first attempt, RiverSpring asked that the zoning of the land be changed so that RiverSpring would not need a special permit. When this failed, RiverSpring attempted to redefine its proposed development as a healthcare facility in its building application, but the city rejected that definition on the grounds that the facility would be primarily residential, according to Paulsen.

Bronx Community Board 8, which represents the area where the Hebrew Home campus is located, opposes the Hebrew Home expansion, as well. CB8 will get a chance to review RiverSpring’s plans as part of the ULURP process, but the City Council will have the final word on whether or not the expansion—and the construction of the city’s first continuing care retirement community—occurs.

On land use decisions, the Council defers to the local Council member, making Cohen’s opinion utmost important. “Hebrew Home, to their credit, has briefed me on their plans, and we've had frank conversations about the project, but we are in no way on the same page yet,” he said, citing RiverSpring’s disregard for the neighborhood’s residential zoning as his primary objection.

RiverSpring submitted its plan to the Department of City Planning on April 27 and it has yet to go to CB8 or Cohen for review. Ultimately, Council Member Cohen believes the ULURP process for obtaining a special permit will protect the community’s interests. “I'm satisfied that there are a significant number of safeguards that the development on that site will be thoroughly vetted by the community,” he said. “If Hebrew Home is able to muster significant community support, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Charles Moerdler, president of Bronx Community Board 8, says that the board has seen at least three proposals of the Hebrew Home expansion plan since the organization bought the property in 2011. According to Moerdler, RiverSpring took many of CB8’s recommendations, such as lowering the apartment tower heights from eight to six stories and building more of the residential units on the current Hebrew Home campus, which is zoned R-4, as opposed to the new land (R-1). But the latest plan presented to the board is still not satisfactory to the majority of its members, he said.

"The issue the Board has with ZQA is not the development of CCRCs but the process by which City Planning is going about doing it," Moerdler said, despite the fact that the City Council will get final say. "ZQA undermines the opinion of the community, which has done so much to preserve the residential zoning status of this land."

Before it passed, there was a great deal of debate over ZQA in relation to it being a “one-size-fits-all” change to zoning and land use rules. The final product includes a number of neighborhood-specific tweaks inserted by the City Council, but given its potpourri nature, ZQA still has something for almost every community to take issue with. As Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly pointed out when ZQA and its companion change to city land use rules, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), were being debated, community boards are well-known for opposing changes to the neighborhoods under their purview.

City Council Member Cohen says that while there is a significant need for senior housing in his district, options other than a new CCRC exist. “We have a full spectrum of options for seniors living in Riverdale. The ideal situation is for people to age in place, but there’s already a lot of infrastructure in Riverdale for people to do that,” he said.

One way seniors living in Riverdale and in other areas of New York City can age in place is through Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), which include publicly funded programs that help seniors stay in their own apartments by providing services like shopping and transportation assistance, on-site nursing, and social activities. NORCs are not easily formed, requiring pre-conditions and lobbying. Currently, Riverdale has one NORC in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative, which has 1,500 units. Cohen says he is currently advocating for the creation of another NORC at the Knolls Cooperative, which has 240 units.

City Council Member Margaret Chin, who chairs the Council’s aging committee, is an advocate of NORCs as an option for seniors who want to age in place, as well. NORCs have historically received money from the state, but the city has had to provide support for them lately, according to Chin. “The state was trying to cut some of that funding last year, and we have been trying to save it,” she said.  

Ultimately, Chin is supportive of the development of CCRCs in addition to NORCs, and was an advocate for passing ZQA. “There is just not enough senior housing to go around,” she said. “I'm looking forward to seeing some integrative long term care facilities go up in New York City.”

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by Kate Groetzinger for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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New Facility Classification Allows Better Options for City Seniors, If Built Sun, 10 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Council to Hold First Budget Hearing for New Veterans' Services Department http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6346:council-to-hold-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-services-department http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6346:council-to-hold-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-services-department city hall veterans flags

Mayor de Blasio with Commissioner Sutton (in blue) (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


On Friday, the New York City Council will hold the first-ever budget hearing for the newly created Department of Veterans’ Services.

The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is transitioning into the Department of Veterans’ Services, a standalone department with a distinct agency budget and providing expanded services for the city’s 225,000 military veterans. The department became official in April and will now proceed to rollout over the next year, increasing staff from a mere half-dozen to more than 30 full-time employees.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget allocates $3.84 million to the Department of Veterans’ Services, about twice as much as MOVA’s budget for the current fiscal year. Commissioner Loree Sutton has already indicated what the agency’s direction will be. Speaking at an event at LaGuardia Community College on May 2, she laid out her top strategic priorities: ending veteran homelessness; implementing elements of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health program; and promoting education, employment and entrepreneurship for veterans.

The department has already taken a few steps in implementing these goals. To fight veteran homelessness, it has hired five peer-to-peer coordinators to undertake outreach to homeless veterans, particularly the “hidden population,” Sutton said, which includes student veterans who have difficulties accessing affordable housing. The city currently has about 432 veterans in the homeless shelter system, down from more than 3,500 six or seven years ago. Last year, the federal government certified the city as having ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning homeless veterans who remain. The department will also appoint two assistant commissioners, one to implement Thrive NYC with an eight-member team and another to connect veterans with educational and economic opportunities.

Sutton stressed that the department is rolling out in phases. “Just because the mayor signed the legislation establishing the Department of Veteran Services last December doesn’t mean that it’s a light switch,” she said at the event. “You don’t go from five folks to 34 folks overnight.”

Using rudimentary military terminology, she explained the process. Until July 1, the department will be in the “transitional planning and budget” phase. With the July start of the new fiscal year, the department will enter Phase II, IOC or initial operating capacity. That phase will go through the entire fiscal year. “We will ramp up to that full 33-34 positions and by July of 2017 we’ll be at FOC - full operating capacity,” Sutton said.

“It’s exciting but we’re not going to move out in front of ourselves,” Sutton added. “We know that it’s our privilege to not just fill slots but rather to build a team, to form a family, to create a culture that can best serve the veterans and families of all five boroughs.”

After the release of the preliminary budget, the department was initially slated for a budget hearing which was later cancelled. For veterans advocates, it would’ve been a chance to hear the administration’s plan to set up its new agency and identify its priorities for veteran services. Tomorrow, advocates and the Council will get those answers.

“I’m excited to hear from the new commissioner about what her long-term vision is for the department,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “how the Council can be an effective partner in assisting the DVS in realizing this vision, and what the main priorities and goals are in the coming fiscal year.”

Mark-Viverito will attend Friday’s hearing, slated for 1 p.m. at City Hall, and deliver brief opening remarks. According to her office, the speaker will highlight the need for expanded services for the city’s veterans - the reason that the Council pushed for a new department outside the mayor's office - citing persistent challenges of mental illness, substance abuse, hunger, and unemployment.

Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, has many expectations of the “ambitious programs” that DVS has on the horizon and hopes to get the budget details on Friday. Rouse’s priorities, which converge largely with Sutton’s outline, include the department’s approach to communications with veterans, implementation of veteran-specific initiatives in ThriveNYC, support for homeless veterans, placement of veteran outreach counselors in every borough, improved support for veteran employees in city agencies, and job placement assistance for veterans.

“I'm also hoping to see a solid commitment of city tax-levy dollars in addition to the federal and state funding to show that the city is truly buying in on veteran programs and not simply going after external funds, or even private or philanthropic funds,” Rouse said.

Navy veteran Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board and founder of NY MetroVets, which seeks to keep veterans informed, is pleased with the level of funding DVS will receive. “It shows that the mayor is committed to building up the department,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Commissioner Sutton about what kinds of resources and services they’ll provide.”

He did have minor concerns, however, about both the budget and Friday’s hearing. He said a vital reason that veterans advocates pushed for the new department was so that the city could ensure streamlined disbursement of funds to local nonprofit organizations that serve veterans. Those funds, he said, usually go through specific city agencies and face delays.

“When we saw the positions they’d put forth, I didn’t see any person to handle the money for nonprofits. I’m hopeful Council Member [Eric] Ulrich will ask about that,” Bello added, referring to the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee, Eric Ulrich. Ulrich, Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Paul Vallone were key driving forces behind the creation of the new department, which Mayor de Blasio had initially rejected.

Ulrich and Council finance committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will lead Friday’s hearing. Ulrich’s office did not return requests for comment ahead of the hearing.

Bello also said he was disappointed that the public would not be able to testify at the hearing, as is the case with all executive budget hearings. “For the first hearing ever, they should’ve given some consideration to that,” he said. “Otherwise I’m excited.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Council to Hold First Budget Hearing for New Veterans' Services Department Thu, 19 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
First Report Under New Law Will Give Key Data to Coming Veterans Department http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5979:first-report-under-new-law-will-give-key-data-to-coming-veterans-department http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5979:first-report-under-new-law-will-give-key-data-to-coming-veterans-department sutton presser new dept

Tuesday's celebratory press conference (photo: @nylag)


On the eve of Veterans Day, the City Council passed a much-celebrated bill to create a new Department of Veterans Services, which will replace the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs in serving New York City’s large military veteran population. While the new department will still be under the mayor’s administration, it will now have access to more resources and be the subject of sharper Council oversight.

And, thanks to a previously passed bill sponsored by Council Member Paul Vallone, who sits on the Council’s veterans affairs committee, the new department will have important data to help it direct resources for veterans.

“It really is historic, creating a full-blown agency,” Vallone said Monday in a phone interview as the bill heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature. Vallone hopes that the mayor, who expressed his support for the bill after having been against it for some time, will be quick to sign the bill into law so the agency can be set up in time for preliminary budget discussions early next year. 

paul vallone william alatriste june 2014(Council Member Paul Vallone (William Alatriste))

Veteran advocacy groups and the City Council have been pushing for a separate agency for years, arguing that the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs has been underfunded, understaffed, and unable to effectively serve more than 200,000 veterans who call the city home. The new agency will provide for increased accountability. “Now we can really play a direct role,” Vallone said of City Council oversight and influence on the department’s budget.

Veterans and veteran advocates are overjoyed at this victory. “(MOVA) was primarily symbolic all these years,” said Kristen Rouse, a veteran and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance. Insisting that MOVA has historically relied on the whims of the mayoral administration, Rouse said the new department will have the staffing and resources necessary to truly coordinate services for veterans.

The new department will also be bolstered by fresh data generated by the city on use of services by veterans in seven key categories. Mandated by the Vallone-sponsored bill passed by the City Council in February, the data is supposed to help determine the degree to which veterans avail themselves of existing services designed to help them secure income and housing, and to identify areas where city government should strengthen or modify services to meet the needs of city veterans.

The report, the first edition of which was presented to Council Member Vallone and his colleagues in time for Veterans Day and was viewed by Gotham Gazette, contains data related to certain housing applications by veterans and their spouses, as well as vending license applications and permits, and civil service exams.

“Earlier there was a void of information and now we have the data,” said Vallone of the report, which will help the city determine to what extent veterans are taking advantage of city services and may indicate where gaps in communication lie.

“It’s the beginning of being able to use facts to solve problems,” said Rouse. “The more the city knows, the more they’re able to do.”

The seven data points the administration must report under the law and the number indicated in the first report, which covers calendar year 2014:

  • The total number of Mitchell-Lama housing applications received from veterans or their surviving spouses and total number approved by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development: 71 and 66, respectively.
  • The total number of fee-exempt mobile food vending licenses and food vending permits issued to veterans by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to veterans: 95 and 65, respectively.
  • The total number of veterans who submitted an application to the Department of Consumer Affairs for a general vending license and the number issued to veterans: 570 and 447, respectively.
  • The total number of veterans residing in the city who utilized a HUD-VASH housing voucher (which help house homeless veterans): 2,268.
  • The total number of civil service examination applications received by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for which the applicant claimed a veterans credit: 3,475.

It will take some time before the City Council or the new Department of Veterans Affairs can do much with this new data, but MOVA and the Council can at least consider it. After celebrating Veterans Day Wednesday, the Council’s veterans affairs committee meets Thursday to look at progress being made in ending homelessness among military veterans.

vallone and presser iava(photo: William Alatriste)

In the meantime, spirits remain high about the coming new department.

“This is a tremendous victory for the veterans movement,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in a statement. Rieckhoff said the passage of the bill is a “truly historic Veterans Day gift for veteran activists” across the city.  

In a Tuesday Gotham Gazette op-ed celebrating the news, veteran and veterans advocate Joe Bello, of NYMetroVets, thanked the many elected officials and advocates who contributed to the victory.

The bill to create the new department, sponsored by veterans committee Chair Council Member Eric Ulrich and supported by Vallone, traversed a rocky road to reach passage. Until last week, the mayor refused to support the proposal as did his commissioner of veterans affairs, Loree Sutton. But, after Mayor de Blasio reached an agreement with the Council last week, the bill sailed through with unanimous support Tuesday and is sure to be signed by de Blasio, who in all likelihood will name Sutton the commissioner of the new department.

“I liken it to how fifteen years ago, people would’ve thought that an agency dedicated to emergency management was duplicative,” Rouse said of OEM, reflecting. “Now we take for granted a separate agency which is absolutely essential.”

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurhsid

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First Report Under New Law Will Give Key Data to Coming Veterans Department Wed, 11 Nov 2015 01:06:11 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 26 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5949:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-26-2015 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5949:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-26-2015 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will be dominated by the World Series, we know that. The New York Mets begin their quest for the title against the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday night, followed by another game in KC on Wednesday and then games in Queens on Friday, Saturday, and, if necessary, Sunday. If the series continues, games six and seven would be the following Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 3 and 4) back in Kansas City. On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a wager over the series, with the loser having to wear the jersey of the winning team to work for a day. There are other aspects of the bet, too, with significant home-state items to be sent from loser to winner.

Now, on to politics sans sport.

It was a quiet political weekend. Mayor de Blasio, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, and others touted the new Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village sales deal to the complex's tenant association on Saturday afternoon. [Read CM Garodnick's thoughts on the sale in this Gotham Gazette op-ed]

On Monday, de Blasio has no public events scheduled. Governor Cuomo is in New York City Monday, though, to make an announcement at 1:30 p.m. at Chelsea Piers.

There is a lot happening Monday and beyond. Services will occur this week to honor Police Officer Randolph Holder, who was killed on October 20. As has been the case since Holder was shot and killed, criminal justice reform and policing are sure to be sources of significant attention this week.

Thursday is the three-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy hitting New York; there are sure to be both rememberances of the people and property lost, as well as assessments of progress made in recovering from Sandy and preparing for the next big storm.

See our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet to discuss a bill that would ban the sale of personal care products or over the counter drugs that contain microbeads, as well as pass a resolution on the Microbeads-free Waters Acts.
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to discuss bills related to the use of biodiesel.

On Monday morning, current and former elected officials and others will honor recently-retired former Assemblymember Joan Millman. Comptroller Scott Stringer is among those who will speak.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit the High School of Fashion Industries to kick off College Application Week and make an announcement.

On Monday at 1 p.m. at City Hall, Congressional Rep. Nydia Velazquez will announce new legislation aimed at reducing the number of guns in New York and nationwide. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries; Public Advocate Letitia James; Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams; Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson; Leah Gunn Barrett, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; and NYC families impacted by gun violence will also participate.

At 3 p.m. Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Hometown Rally to cheer on the Mets as they start Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night in Kansas City. Other elected officials, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James are set to participate.

Later, Mark-Viverito will speak at the 2015 Roy & Lila Ash Innovations Award for Public Engagement in Government, where she and the City Council are receiving an award for their Participatory Budgeting program. [Read more about the award and the participatory budgeting program in our new in-depth report: Participatory Budgeting Grows in NYC - Why Isn't Every Council Member Doing It?]

Then, Mark-Viverito "speaks at 2015 Shine Event for LGBT Immigration Equality."

At 7 p.m. Monday the Bronx Young Democrats will discuss the achievements and current initiatives of young female Bronx leaders. The event will feature Darcel Clark, Democratic candidate for Bronx District Attorney; City Council Member Vanessa Gibson; State Assemblymember Latoya Joyner; and Marsha Michael, Attorney & Law Clerk.

At 7:15 p.m. the Immigration Equality event “SHINE”, celebrating women’s leadership in in the LGBT community, will honor City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and  Denise Chambers, Immigration Equality client and asylum winner from Trinidad.

On Monday evening, several uptown Manhattan Democratic clubs are hosting Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for a discussion of relevant issues. City Council Member Mark Levine will also participate in the dialogue.

Monday evening is the Riders Alliance gala. Public Advocate Letitia James is among those set to attend.

Monday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting event: CM Mark Treyger (District 47, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.

Tuesday
On Tuesday, at 8:30 a.m., Stroock, the public affairs law firm, will host a Government Leadership forum  “What is the Future of Organized Labor?” Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council; Gregory Floyd, President of Local 237 Teamsters; Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers; and Harry Nespoli, President of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association will be on the panel. Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock's Government Relations Practice Group, and Alan M. Klinger, Co-Managing Partner and Co-Chair of Stroock's Litigation Practice Group, will moderate.

On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is in Westchester County meeting with elected officials and touring different areas.

At 10:30 a.m. the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will meet on a number of matters including its ongoing search for a new Executive Director.

At 11 a.m. Vocal-NY, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and others will hold the Fair Chance Rally. The purpose of the rally is to raise awareness about the Fair Chance Act, which makes it illegal for New York City employers to ask about one’s criminal record until after a job offer is made, and is going into effect.

At the New York State Legislature on Tuesday: the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and Assembly Climate Change Work Group will have a roundtable discussion on Climate Change.

At the City Council on Tuesday: at 11 a.m. the Committee on Women’s Issues; the Committee on Health; and the Committee on Education will meet for a joint oversight hearing on sex education in NYC schools. They will discuss three bills that would: require the Department of Education to provide a report on student health services to the Council; require the DOE to report annually on information about health education and HIV/AIDS education for students in grades six through twelve; require the DOE to submit an annual report on the sexual health education received by instructors in public middle and high schools.

Prior to that City Council hearing, at 10 a.m., there will be a "press conference to call for comprehensive sex education in NYC schools" led by Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women's Issues; Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Education; and Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health; as well as representatives from Planned Parenthood of New York City; NARAL Pro-Choice New York; New York Civil Liberties Union; and Reproductive Healthcare Advocates.

On Tuesday at 2 p.m. at 250 Broadway, "State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), together with Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Annabel Palma and Make the Road New York, will release a bombshell investigative report "The American Scheme: Herbalife's Pyramid 'Shake'down.""

At 4 p.m. Safe Passage Project will hold an event composed of two parts. The first will be discussing the unmet needs of recent migrant children and young parent from Central America. City Council Member Rory Lancman will make opening remarks. There will be multiple related panel discussions thereafter.

Tuesday evening, Governor Cuomo is set to deliver remarks at the Business Council of Westchester’s Annual Dinner.

At 6 p.m. the city Panel for Educational Policy will have a public meeting in Manhattan. At the event the Chancellor will give an update on current policies and the panel will discuss a number of important topics including: Race and Diversity in School Admission, Aggregation of Community District Budgets Together with a Proposed Budget for Administrative Expenditures of the City Board and the Chancellor, and more; while also taking public comment.

At 6:30 p.m. during The Hispanic Leadership Awards, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will lead a celebration honoring several people for their outstanding leadership in the Latino community, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will receive a Distinguished Public Service Award.  

At 7 p.m. City Council Members Donovan Richards and I. Daneek Miller will hold a Southeast Queens Transportation Town Hall. Representatives from DOT, MTA, TLC, and NYPD will attend.

Tuesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.

Wednesday
At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Aging along with the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, the Assembly Subcommittee on Community Integration, and the Assembly Subcommittee on Outreach and Oversight of Senior Citizen Programs, will hold a joint public hearing regarding the “New York State Office for the Aging’s study on the benefits of creating an office of community living”

At 6:30 p.m. several groups host “Why She Ran: A Conversation With Women in Politics” discussing the challenges women face in New York politics and encouraging women to run for office. Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal will speak at the event. Sponsors of the event include the Working Families Party, Eleanor's Legacy, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Higher Heights for America, Ladies of Labor, Shirley Chisholm Institute, NOW-NYS, Women's Organizing Network, and WIN NYC.

Also at 6:30 p.m., school district 3 will host a Town Hall meeting with Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Wednesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 6 p.m.
  • CM Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 p.m.
  • CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 p.m.
  • CM Ritchie Torres (District 15, Bronx) time TBA
  • CM Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 8 p.m.
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.
  • CM Jumaane D. Williams (District 45, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.

Thursday
On Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. the Urban Land Institute will hold a conference about the best new practices to help fund public transportation infrastructure in the New York metro area in the face of withering public funding, including solutions through partnerships with the private sector.

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet to hear communication from Orlando Marin of the City Planning Commission
  • At 1:30 p.m. will be a City Council Stated Meeting; prefaced, as always, by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference at 12:30 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m. United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates will discuss the administration’s top goals and priorities at the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School; following the speech will be a Q&A session.

At 5:30 p.m. The Hopkins-Hunter Forum for Education Policy, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and The Hunter College Gifted and Talented Program will host “The Excellence Gap: The State of Gifted and Talented Education,” an event that will discuss the income based education gap among students, and talk about suggestions on how to address the issue in the future.

At 6 p.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio will be hosting a fundraiser for his 2017 campaign, as reported by Politico New York.

Thursday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 4:30 p.m.
  • CM Donovan Richards (District 31, Queens) time TBA
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.

Friday and the weekend
On Saturday and Sunday, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will hold two Spooky Parties at Gracie Mansion, inviting families with children 5-10 years old to come tour their haunted house. Families must have tickets through the ticket giveaway being held prior to the event.

On Sunday at 2 p.m. a large group of Democratic political clubs and progressive organizations will hold a Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Forum. Representatives from the Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley and Lessing campaigns will participate.. The forum will be moderated by Ronnie Eldridge.

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

***
by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 26 Sun, 25 Oct 2015 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will include a focus on what the city can do to stop gas-related explosions after another such explosion occurred this weekend, this time in Borough Park; education politics and policy, as the pro-charter, anti-de Blasio group Families for Excellent Schools will hold a large rally; a continuation of negotiation and criticism between city and state entities over MTA funding; and more.

Oh, and it's the Major League Baseball playoffs, with both the Mets and Yankees in the post-season for the first time in a long time, with many hoping for a "subway series" World Series between the two, a la 2000, when the Yankees defeated the Mets.

TRACKING DE BLASIO: With the threat from Hurricane Joaquin abated, Mayor de Blasio decided to go through with his trip to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore on Friday and Saturday. The mayor delivered remarks at a reception for the State Innovation Exchange Conference on Friday, then attended the United States Conference of Mayors Fall Leadership Meeting on Saturday. The mayor then headed back to Borough Park, Brooklyn, where he attended to the emergency gas explosion that tore apart a building, killing at least one and injuring several.

The incident is another in a string of gas explosions, including East Harlem and the East Village, that has many worried and talking about a need for new measures to combat the deadly incidents. Gov. Cuomo announced he was deploying representatives to investigate and city officials are calling for action. This explosion appears to have been caused by mistakes made during the removal of an oven.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will be on Staten Island for the groundbreaking of The Staten Island Family Justice Center, at which the mayor will speak around 10 a.m. Read more from the Staten Island Advance, including that Staten Island will join the other boroughs, each of which already has such a center, which "provide comprehensive criminal justice, civil legal and social services free of charge to victims of domestic violence, elderly abuse and sex trafficking in the other boroughs."

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Bronx County Courthouse, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will announce a major crackdown on distributors of synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs."

On Monday morning, "State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan joins state Sen. Martin Golden on a walking tour and media availability in Gerritsen Beach, starting in front of 3078 Gerritsen Ave., Brooklyn," according to City & State NY.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will announce the "launch of MonumentArt, an International Mural Festival hosted in East Harlem and the South Bronx," from La Marqueta.

On Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James "will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation conference."

Monday evening, First Lady McCray will be among the honorees of a Feminist Power Award from the Feminist Press.

At 8 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer "Receives the Pacesetter Award at The National Association of Investment Companies 45th Annual Meeting & Convention Welcome Reception."

Monday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens) 7 pm

Tuesday
Tuesday, at 10 a.m., a press conference in PACE University's downtown campus will mark the beginning of Poverty Awareness Week, which is co-sponsored by Pace University and The Mayor's Office. The week will include a series of events. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. will be one keynote speaker; Shola Olatoye, Chair and CEO of NYCHA will participate in a discussion on "Local Initiatives to Eradicate Poverty."

On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the ribbon-cutting for the Brooklyn College Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School for Cinema at Steiner Studios."

At 5 p.m., the Mayor will appear on WCBS Newsradio 880.

In the evening, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and many others will attend a birthday celebration for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host "Why New York? Our Broken Bail System." The event will be moderated by New York Times journalist Shaila Dewan, with panelists: Judge George Grasso, public defender Josh Saunders, criminal justice reform advocate Glenn E. Martin, and an individual who couldn't afford bail.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, NY Tech Meetup will be held at NYU, with a number of New York companies presenting demos of technologies that they are developing.

Tuesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 4 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Brad Lander (District 39, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 8 pm

Wednesday
JCOPE is set to meet Wednesday morning in Albany.

Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., City & State NY holds its fifth annual "On Energy" event, inviting leaders in government, advocacy and business to speak on a number of topics related to the future of energy. Among the topics of discussion will be Governor Andrew Cuomo's regulatory overhaul in New York, Mayor de Blasio's 80 by 50 plan, and more. The event includes a panel with Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future; Nilda Mesa, Director at NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, NYC Department of Sanitation. Other notable speakers to appear include: Richard Kauffman, NYS Chair of Energy & Finance; Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, Chairman of New York AREA; Ambassador Ron Kirk, Chairman of CASEnergy; Kevin Parker, a New York state Senator and ranking member of the Energy & Telecommunications Committee.

On Wednesday, The Families for Excellent Schools rally, postponed from last week because of weather and "to demand equal opportunity in our schools," will take place, starting mid-morning at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a 12:30 p.m. press conference at City Hall. The rally is, in essence, to promote more more charter schools and criticize Mayor de Blasio's education agenda, which does not include more charters. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is expected to headline the rally, along with several high-profile performers, including Jennifer Hudson.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., The Committee on Transportation will meet to discuss a bill that would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along bus routes. DOT would then institute new safety measures based on the data. The Committee will also discuss a bill that would require the identification of dangerous intersections based on incidents involving pedestrians, and implement curb extensions in such areas. The Committee will also make a decision on resolutions that would require the MTA to instal rear guards on bus wheels and to study ways to eliminate blind spots for buses.
  • Also 10 a.m., The Committee on Aging will hold an oversight hearing on older adult employment.

At 10 a.m. The East 50s Alliance will hold a community rally to protest the planned construction of a 900-foot tower in the 58th street residential area. The residents are "deeply concerned that the tower will diminish the safety, accessibility and livability of a narrow side street during a lengthy construction process and forever after." City Council Member Ben Kallos will speak.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivertio, along with Council Members Paul Vallone and Vincent Gentile and others, will hold a Celebration of Italian Heritage at the Council Chambers in City Hall. The event will also celebrate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday.

From 6 to 8 p.m. at Fordham Law School, The Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center and the Women's City Club of New York will host "This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color and the Fight for Economic Security", on "how gender intersects with economic and racial inequality in New York City." Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University, will moderate the panel, with Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York; Luna Ranjit, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Adhikaar; Joanne N. Smith Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equality; and Margarita Rosa, Executive Director of National Center for Law and Economic Justice participating in the discussion.

Wednesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm

Thursday
On Thursday at the City Council:

  • 9:30 a.m., Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet to discuss three land use applications in Manhattan.
  • 10 a.m., Committee on Finance will meet regarding the Department of Finance's Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
  • 11 a.m., Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet to discuss a land use application in Brooklyn
  • 1 p.m., Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss another land use application in Brooklyn

Thursday at the New York State Legislature: the Assembly Standing Committee on Health, Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, and Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities will hold a joint public hearing regarding Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Services. "The Committees are seeking oral and written testimony from patients and their families, clinicians, service providers, and the Department on topics including the incidence, severity and consequences of TBI; treatment and service appropriateness and availability, including the rights of patients sent out-of-state; and issues relating to the transition of the TBI Waiver program to managed care."

At 9 a.m. Thursday New York State Assembly Members Latoya Joyner and Marcos Crespo will kick off "Let's Put Our Cities on the Map," sponsored and hosted by Google at the Bronx Museum of Arts, which will offer free counseling for small businesses on how to reach local customer bases, specifically by using "SmartLogic" online tools.

"The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Thursday, October 8 at 10:00 AM."

At 5 p.m. Thursday, EmblemHealth and LaborPress will honor 12 labor union members, from eight different labor unions, for their remarkable contributions to the labor communities at the fourth annual "Heroes of Labor Awards". EmblemHealth has invited many city elected officials to speak, several are expected.

At 6 p.m. Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Brennan Center for Justice and Vox will hold "The Politics of Participation: Building an Engaged Citizenry for Millennials and Beyond," including City Council Member Eric Ulrich. It is billed as "a candid conversation about what the shifting demographic landscape means for grassroots movements, political action, and civic engagement; how can we shape our democracy into one that is truly representative of the people being governed?"

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will hold "The Changing Face of Activism," which will explore the historical progression of activism from the 1960s desegregation movement to the present day Black Lives Matter movement. Moderated by Alethia Jones, a leader of 1199 SEIU, the panel will feature activist Barbara Smith; Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform; and Jose Lopez, Lead Organizer at Make the Road NY and member of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

At 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Dan Abrams of ABC News will talk with Ray Kelly, the longest-serving NYPD Commissioner, at the 92nd Street Y. Kelly will hold a book signing for his new memoir Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City, after his talk with Mr. Abrams.

Thursday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 5 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 8 pm

Friday and the weekend
Friday at 8:15 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will speak at New York Law School, as part of the CityLaw breakfast series.

Weekend participatory budgeting:

  • Friday, CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 1 pm.
  • Saturday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.
  • Sunday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.

*Note: we'll publish our next 'Week Ahead' on Monday, October 13 given the Columbus Day holiday

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

***
by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 Sun, 04 Oct 2015 05:00:00 +0000
No Fly Zone: Council Members Push Helicopter, Drone Regulations http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5841:no-fly-zone-council-members-push-helicopter-drone-regulations http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5841:no-fly-zone-council-members-push-helicopter-drone-regulations garodnick vallone drones

Council members introduce drone legislation (photo: William Alatriste)


Pointing to insufficient efforts on the part of the Federal Aviation Administration, New York City Council members are taking regulation of the city’s skies into their own hands.

In asserting their authority with respect to helicopters and drones on a turf traditionally maintained by the federal government, council members may find themselves in ambiguous legal territory. But they tell Gotham Gazette that they are acting in the interest of public safety and in part to push other levels of government to act.

Council Members Carlos Menchaca, Helen Rosenthal, and Margaret Chin introduced a legislative package of two bills last month that would prohibit the operation of sightseeing helicopters, citing concerns about noise pollution. The council members are supported by “Stop the Chop NYNJ,” a group of community members who complain the noise from sightseeing helicopters are diminishing quality of life.

“What we’ve tried to do is approach this issue from the perspective of the FAA, from the federal body that’s required to regulate this industry. And we’ve tried so hard to regulate this industry to some avail, but not totally dealing with the problems,” Rosenthal said a press conference in July. “What we’ve done at the City Council is identify a different way to deal with the problem, and that is through the issue of noise. And in fact what the city can do is to ban tourist helicopters...they are responsible for this incessant noise.”

The City Council does not have the authority to regulate airspace over the city in terms of flight patterns— that’s under the purview of the FAA. But the council does have some regulatory power, as Rosenthal referenced.

“If the federal government is regulating a field, then federal law generally will trump state law or local law and the question is, did the federal government intend to preempt the field—  that is, is the federal government doing all regulations of of all helicopters, or did it allow some discretion to the City of New York?” Steven Mirmina, a professor at Georgetown Law and expert in aviation law, told Gotham Gazette. “It looks like [City Council members] did a balancing where they said the federal government regulates a lot of aspects for helicopters, but there is some discretion for the city to regulate also.”

Part of the regulatory power stems from the city’s capacity as a proprietor, according to aviation attorney Brian Alexander.

“The heliports themselves are owned by the city or the Economic Development Corporation, so…their control of the heliports is the principal way in which the city can control or even ban these types of flights,” Alexander said.

This power was affirmed in 1998 after Mayor Giuliani and the City Council approved regulations to reduce helicopter traffic at the 34th Street heliport by nearly 50 percent and to ban weekend flights. The Second Circuit Court largely upheld City Hall’s regulations in an appeal after the operator of the heliport, National Helicopter Corporation, successfully sued the city.

As proprietors of the heliports, the City Council has the power to impose “reasonable, nonarbitrary, and non-discriminatory” regulations on noise levels. In the 1998 case National Helicopter Corporation v. City of New York, the Court held that the city was acting lawfully in its role as a proprietor— and not as a “police power”- when imposing regulations. Had the city been acting as a police power, the legal grounds for regulating the heliports would have been much more tenuous.

“The regulation [banning weekend flights] is based on the City's desire to protect area residents from significant noise intrusion during the weekend when most people are trying to rest and relax at home,” and thus was permissible, Chief Judge Winter wrote in the decision.

Importantly, the bill introduced last month prohibits the operation of helicopters based on their “stages,” or noise levels designated by the FAA (There are three stages— the bill bans all of them). When the Council tried to regulate noise from helicopters in 1996 by putting restrictions on the size of helicopters that could fly in and out of the 34th street heliport (the rationale being that larger helicopters are noisier), the Second Circuit Court found that such regulation was discriminatory.

But Mirmina, the law professor, pointed out that the helicopter bill’s scope— targeting only sightseeing helicopters— could be problematic.

“If they’re concerned about the noise, they could say no helicopters over a certain decibel level. What about media helicopters? Those could be noisier than the tourist helicopters. You could have a sightseeing helicopter that’s really quiet. Why are we going to ban all sightseeing helicopters?” Mirmina asked. “So such a ban to me is, while on its face nondiscriminatory, it may also be viewed as not reasonably calculated to achieve their objective of keeping the skies more quiet.”

Another potential problem with the bill: because the city does not have the authority to control airspace, it can’t ban the tours outright.

“Anything that the city does regulating helicopters…will have no effect on how many helicopters will fly in the city’s airspace, that is 100 percent under the control of the FAA,” said Chapin Fay, vice president of Mercury, the public strategy firm representing tour industry group Helicopters Matter. “So for example, they could take off and land in New Jersey, they could go to Connecticut or Long Island but they still could fly the same routes they’re flying now.”

But sightseeing helicopter operators in New Jersey may soon find themselves shut out of the state as well: in March, three Garden State Assembly members introduced a bill that would prohibit tourist helicopter operations from taking off and landing on “all aviation facilities licensed by the state.”

The bills, now introduced to the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and with eight sponsors in the 51-member body, may see a first hearing as soon as September. They are the latest in a long line of efforts to regulate helicopter traffic in New York.

In 2010, the Economic Development Corporation and helicopter operators agreed that helicopters would no longer fly over Central Park, the Empire State Building, or Brooklyn. The agreement also eliminated short tours between four and eight minutes. Those tours made up one-fifth of sightseeing traffic at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, and were the most profitable for helicopter operators, the New York Times reported.

In 2008, Air Pegasus, the operator of the heliport at 30th Street, agreed to eliminate sightseeing tours after the Friends of the Hudson River Park sued the company, arguing that the location of the heliport on the land side of the park violated the law. This agreement— paired with the 1998 ruling of National Helicopter Corp. v. City of New York— left the downtown Manhattan heliport the only one open to sightseeing tours.

Drones
While helicopter regulation has a fairly lengthy New York City history, drone regulation does not. The question of the extent of the city’s authority to regulate aircraft becomes perhaps more pressing— and more ambiguous— as unmanned aviation vehicles (UAVs), or drones, become more prevalent.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) famously described New York City as the “wild west” of drones. Underlining his point is the series of near-collisions drones have caused near John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports and a close call with a NYPD helicopter over the George Washington Bridge, to name a few of the twelve or more incidents in the past year alone.

In considering regulation, elected officials have also cited privacy concerns, as drones with cameras attached to them become more affordable for the average citizen to purchase. But federal regulations lag behind the increase in popularity.

In 2012, Congress passed a reauthorization act related to the FAA that, among other requirements, compelled the agency to release finalized rules for UAVs by September 2015. A government audit last March, one month after the agency released proposed rules, concluded they would not make the deadline. Finalized rules are not expected for another year.

In the interim, state and local governments are under pressure to tread into the murky territory of drone law.

“Local governments right now are in a really tough position when it comes to drones. And in New York I think that's probably especially true, not just because of what happened at JFK last week. So every time there’s a negative drone incident, it puts additional pressure on local officials,” said attorney Stephen Hartzell, who specializes in UAS law.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown released a statement Tuesday urging hobbyists to “use common sense when choosing to employ unmanned vehicles,” noting that his office “will utilize all legal tools available to insure the safety of those in the air and on the ground.” Queens, of course, is home to both of the city's major airports.

City Council members have introduced two bills looking to curb the use of drones. One, introduced by Council Member Dan Garodnick would ban drones from the city’s airspace with the exception of NYPD drones that had obtained a warrant. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Garodnick acknowledged that his bill starts from the “strictest possible place.”

“Our bill is very strict, largely because there exist insufficient tools for enforcement. If you start allowing drones at certain heights or in certain areas or conditions, law enforcement needs to have the ability to both monitor and take action when people do not follow those rules,” Garodnick said in reference to what could become quite onerous enforcement. “Today, there is no credible way to do that.”

Garodnick said that he believes there is reasonable place and time for drone enthusiasts to operate their unmanned aerial systems, but doesn’t want to “open the floodgates” before tools to enforce regulations exist.

The second bill, introduced by Council Member Paul Vallone, would seek to impose a series of regulations on drone usage.

Vallone’s bill would prohibit using UAVs for surveillance purposes, at night or operating them within five miles of any airport and within a quarter mile of schools, houses of worship, hospitals and “open-air assemblies.” Importantly, it also would require users to operate their drones within their line of sight, a requirement also suggested by the FAA.

“The legal side of me is always looking to put in a bill that’s actually got a good chance of passing, an outright ban on something to me is a real hard way to go about a proper balance,” Vallone said. “This bill was put in with the intention of trying to find a balance of places that really need to be protected and giving people a place to fly these if they so choose to do so for their recreation.”

The two drone bills take different degrees of approaching the same issue. Both bills enjoy support from other council members: Garodnick’s bill has 14 sponsors, Vallone’s has 23 (as of August 7). Interestingly, there’s overlap within those numbers, with Council Members Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Rory Lancman, and Jumaane Williams listed as co-sponsors of both bills.

Vallone explains his bill would act as an interim measure until the FAA releases final rules for UAS operation.

“With the absence of federal, or FAA, guidelines, then we as the greatest city have to take steps to protect ourselves. Once we have our hearing - let’s be positive - the bill gets passed and becomes law, it still would be preempted or superseded by whatever FAA guidelines come out,” Vallone said. “But hopefully they would take note of the steps we took as a city.”

Garodnick struck a somewhat cooler stance when asked how he envisioned his bill would interact with the FAA’s forthcoming regulations.

“When the FAA puts together rules that protect the safety of New Yorkers, and when they fully occupy the field of law with their own rules, we will defer. Until that happens, we need to act to protect the privacy and safety of people here,” Garodnick said.

Whether local governments’ efforts may be preempted by FAA regulation is unclear and likely won’t be resolved for several years, according to Hartzell, the attorney.

“It’s very easy for people to say, ‘wait a second, isn’t this preempted? The FAA regulates the airspace, the federal government has sovereignty over our airspace so therefore how can any local or state authority possibly do anything?’” Hartzell said. “And the answer is, it depends on what they want to do and how they do it, and what I promise you is that we won’t fully know unless and until there is a law passed that winds up being challenged in court.”

To Hartzell, an interesting ambiguity in both Vallone’s and Garodnick’s bills is the clause that would allow someone to operate a UAV “pursuant to and within the limits of an express authorization by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Express authorization, according to Hartzell, could be interpreted to include FAA Advisory Circular 91-57, which sets voluntary guidelines for flying model aircraft. Though the circular was signed into effect in 1981, its scope includes recreational drones (the FAA put in a request last year to formally cancel the advisory).

“There’s going to be someone that challenges a rule or law that flatly prohibits drone operation. This [language] is interesting because it seems to contemplate some sort of operation as long as somebody is expressly authorized by the FAA,” Hartzell said. “So the question is, what does that mean? It could mean that the FAA has to grant somebody specific permission or what somebody is likely to argue is [the advisory circular] could be interpreted as an express authorization written by the FAA itself.”

Garodnick told Gotham Gazette that he does not interpret AC 91-57 as giving “express authorization” because it’s an advisory memo, not an individual grant.

The FAA does grant companies and individuals such authorizations, giving them the permission to operate drones in a “continuing effort to safely expand and support commercial unmanned aircraft operations in U.S. airspace.” The FAA has passed over 1000 of these so-called “Section 333 exemptions.” Those who receive Section 333 exemptions would be allowed to operate drones over the city, Garodnick said.

“Councilman Vallone and I are after the same thing, which is a responsible set of rules that protects New Yorkers in a changing technological environment. We put those bills out to start this conversation,” Garodnick said (he and Vallone held a joint press conference to announce their bills). “We want to hear feedback from the public at a hearing and we hope that we will be able to craft cutting edge rules which protect New Yorkers and also open the door to some of the novel and exciting uses for drones once we have appropriate enforcement mechanisms.”

***
by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette
@CatieEdmondson

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No Fly Zone: Council Members Push Helicopter, Drone Regulations Thu, 06 Aug 2015 21:41:35 +0000
Under-reported Abuse Given Higher Priority in New City Budget http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5812:under-reported-abuse-given-higher-priority-in-new-city-budget http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5812:under-reported-abuse-given-higher-priority-in-new-city-budget seniors rally

Rally for senior funding (photo via Council Member Chin)


After more than a decade of abuse, she finally called for help. Dialing 311, the 80-year-old widow - who had remained silent for years as the granddaughter she had raised yelled and cursed at her, slapped her, and stole from her - reached out for help after the younger woman threatened to seriously injure her.

She was referred by 311 to JASA, a non-profit serving seniors that contracts with the city. JASA staff helped her obtain an Order of Protection to stop the abuse, put her in a support group, and ensured the police would check on her. But even now, she refuses to have her granddaughter removed from her home and continues to live with her abuser.

This grandmother is among the more than 120,000 New Yorkers believed to be suffering from elder abuse. Both her situation and her unwillingness to report it are typical of the vast majority of elder abuse cases. Except in the most horrific instances, these are not headline-grabbing incidents, and the victims are among society's most vulnerable, often unable to fight for themselves.

Elder abuse includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect. Its most common form is financial exploitation. "Elder abuse victims are 300 percent more likely to die prematurely than non-abused elderly," says Risa Breckman, executive director of NYC Elder Abuse Center, citing a medical study. This problem is increasing in scale with New York City's aging population. And with nine percent of the city's seniors estimated to be victims of abuse, it is also a problem that has been remarkably underfunded according to advocates and providers of elder abuse services.

This year, New York City's budget includes $2.8 million in funding for elder abuse services, more than three times the amount devoted to this issue in previous years. "They have it exactly right," says Breckman. "There needed to be more resources for this."

The city's Department for the Aging contracts its elder abuse services to community-based organizations. There are only a handful of organizations—some with surprisingly small staffs—carrying out this work in all of New York City.

These providers execute wide-ranging services such as counseling, support groups, legal advice and counsel, safe haven, and lock changing to keep an abuser out of the house. They also perform outreach to senior centers to make seniors aware of their options and to other groups such as neighbors, doormen, meal delivery personnel, librarians, and even barbers who may be able to recognize and report the signs of abuse.

Since the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, around $800,000 was allocated annually for elder abuse services. This funding often became part of the "budget dance" with the mayor cutting it down and City Council fighting to restore it. Advocates for seniors argued that this was too small an amount for the protection of the over 1.4 million New Yorkers over the age of 60.

Last year, Bill de Blasio's first as mayor, the funding in the budget for elder abuse services did not increase, though the City Council allocated $1 million of its discretionary funds for such services. Seniors and their allies then launched a concerted effort to bring about an increase and it was widely expected that funding by the mayor would jump to over $2 million for fiscal year 2016. But when de Blasio announced his preliminary and executive budgets earlier this year, the funding remained the same as it had been. Advocates then intensified their lobbying, and advocacy groups like LiveOn NY turned out more than a thousand seniors at City Hall between March and June on Advocacy Day, Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and for budget hearings.

In this effort to increase funding, the biggest ally of seniors and senior advocates was Council Member Margaret Chin, chair of the City Council Committee on Aging. "She's a great chair," says Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at LiveOn NY. Hundreds of seniors came for the committee's executive budget hearing, many having to watch the proceedings from an overflow room. "What we need is a budget that really makes seniors a top priority. And this budget right now is not it," Chin said in her opening remarks at the hearing.

"She wouldn't let it go and she kept pushing back...to the administration saying 'you've got to fund this $2 million,'" says Sackman. Fighting alongside Chin was Council Member Paul Vallone, chair of the Subcommittee on Senior Centers. His opening remarks were equally firm. "The senior population will increase by 50 percent [in the next 10 years] and this budget didn't go up by a dollar," he said. "To me, if that's not a cut, I don't know what is."

Eventually the administration conceded and the adopted budget more than tripled the funding to $2.8 million.

Advocates say the toughest challenge in getting funding for elder abuse is the lack of reporting of such cases. "We have a hidden crisis and we're asking them to fund something that you're seeing the tip of the iceberg of," says Sackman. A 2011 study of elder abuse in New York State showed that only four percent of the cases of elder abuse are reported. "That's why it's important to really do education to let people know that there are services available to help them, that it's nothing to be ashamed about and that they would be able to get help," Council Member Chin told Gotham Gazette.

A close relationship with the abuser is one of the main reasons for low reporting rates. In the vast majority of cases—many studies cite the number at 80 percent—the abuser is a family member. "That's one of the reasons it's so hidden, because people are either afraid or ashamed," says Sackman. "Who's going to report on their son or daughter?"

Some also blame ageism for the lack of attention to this problem. "People assume that someone who is over the age of 60 or 70 or 80 will have some form of dementia and won't be able to report reliably or give information that is pertinent," says Martha Pollack, director of elder abuse services for JASA. "And this is not the case at all." People are often less likely to believe seniors when they complain of abuse.

With a few dozen people and $800,000 from the city budget to deal with all the cases of elder abuse in the city, elder abuse fighting organizations' resources have been stretched thin. "Prior to the city providing this [new increase] we were at a point where we would have to tell individuals we may have to shut the program and we would go around scrambling for money," says Donna Dougherty, an attorney at JASA.

Advocates say that the increased funding will ensure that more elderly people are served. Organizations will be able to hire more staff, do more outreach, and collaborate more effectively with the NYPD and offices of the district attorneys. Dougherty says this funding "has made a tremendous, tremendous difference in our ability to provide this service and our ability to provide it ongoing, to expand, and to be able to tell our clients: 'We'll be there tomorrow, we're not going anywhere.'"

The Carter Burden Center for Aging is another organization that will benefit from the increase in funds in the budget. Michelle Galligan, director of their Community Elder Mistreatment & Abuse Prevention Program, says they will use the money to double their staff, which currently consists of only two social workers.

The organizations contracted by the city are also planning to use the additional $2 million to reach out to more diverse and immigrant communities where victims of elder abuse speak out at even lower rates, either because of cultural norms or language barriers.

The City Council also took this into consideration in the distribution of the $335,000 of discretionary spending allocated to non-profits to carry out elder abuse services. They have allocated $135,000 to New York Asian Women's Center, $50,000 to Sakhi for South Asian Women, and $50,000 for Turning Point for Women and Families, a nonprofit helping Muslim women. "We want to make sure that seniors who don't speak English and who are linguistically and culturally isolated, that they are also able to get information about what elder abuse is, how they can access service and what organizations are available to help them," explained Chin.

But Galligan cautions that even this tripling of the funding is not as much as it seems when divided across the city and translates into $480,000 for Manhattan, where her organization operates. "As much as we're grateful for the increase in funding," she says, "we can always use more."

"We just want to make sure that money stays in the budget, that it's not money we have to keep fighting for, because we want to grow it," says Sackman. "It's a good thing, we just need more."

***
by Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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Under-reported Abuse Given Higher Priority in New City Budget Fri, 17 Jul 2015 03:22:37 +0000
With Focus on Mental Health, Push for New City Veterans Agency Continues http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5712:with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5712:with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues vets at hearing

Veterans at Wednesday's City Council hearing (photo: William Alatriste) 


The City Council’s Committee on Veterans held an oversight hearing Wednesday to gauge the effectiveness of the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs (MOVA).

The hearing seemed the latest chapter in a renewed push for a separate Department of Veterans Affairs by Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the veterans committee, and like-minded council members and advocates. Ulrich introduced a bill last year which would create a new department to deal with veteran affairs, removing the office from directly within the mayor’s in order to increase its profile, funding, and transparency. “Ideally such an agency would be fully funded and would act as a one-stop shop for any need that a veteran might have,” Ulrich said at Wednesday’s hearing. He stressed that MOVA needs dedicated funding and personnel to better serve New York City’s 225,000 veterans.

MOVA Commissioner and retired Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton testified before the committee and reiterated her office’s top strategic priorities in serving veterans’ needs, namely ending veteran homelessness, focusing on mental and behavioral health for veterans, and developing employment opportunities for veterans.

Mayor de Blasio announced at his 2015 State of the City address that he would end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and Sutton indicated today that she was confident of reaching that goal.

“Mission and strategy drive programs and budget,” Sutton said in her testimony. She repeatedly stressed that MOVA’s work goes beyond it’s own budget and personnel, working with multiple city agencies to help veterans in need.

Sutton has yet to take a public position on Ulrich’s bill, and it is clear that the de Blasio administration is in no rush to back it. Responding to Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s query on whether an independent agency could be more effective, Sutton said, “I will keep that as an open question going forward. My pledge to the mayor, to the taxpayers, to the veterans, to the families in New York, is to make the best use of the resources that we currently have. We’re in the midst of doing that right now. Once I have convinced myself that we have maximized the resources that we have, then we’ll be in a position to assess what might make sense going down the road. “

When asked, Mayor de Blasio has not supported the idea of creating a new agency. The proposal received overwhelming support today from veterans advocates and organizations and even the office of Public Advocate Letitia James. “Disappointingly, our Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs is not funded in a way that reflects the actual needs of our veterans,” said Oswaldo Pereira, a veteran and outreach coordinator for the public advocate’s office, who was speaking on behalf of James. “Veterans deserve to have a department that can truly serve their needs,” he added.

Joseph Bello, founder of NY MetroVets, criticized Commissioner Sutton for her silence on a new veterans department. “It is time to create a free-standing direct services agency that can not only have preliminary and executive budget hearings on veterans issues, but can funnel contracts awarded to veteran service providers in the boroughs directly, instead of through other city agencies that are unfamiliar with these groups.”

There was much focus at the hearing on mental health issues, a concern raised by committee members Cabrera and Paul Vallone. Sutton told Cabrera that mental health issues were “an area in the system that could use some additional development.” Toward that, she pointed out MOVA’s partnership with First Lady Chirlane McCray through the recently announced Mental Health Roadmap due to be released in the fall.

Vallone was quick to point out that the $54 million plan failed to mention veterans. “When I see this go up and I don’t see my veterans in here, I gotta fight for it,” Vallone said. Sutton promised the committee, however, that when the final strategy is released, veterans would figure significantly.

Representing the Veterans Mental Health Coalition of New York City, Melissa Earle also called for expanding MOVA to the level of a department. “With a department dedicated to serving veterans, greater resources and funding can be secured to better overcome the complex challenges of veterans of all generations,” she said.

Ulrich’s bill has a veto-proof 40 co-sponsors (in the 51-member body) and he has indicated that he would be willing to push it forward even without the mayor’s support. 

***
by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid

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With Focus on Mental Health, Push for New City Veterans Agency Continues Wed, 06 May 2015 19:24:06 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 4 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5708:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-may-4 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5708:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-may-4 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Albany arrest watch: "Federal prosecutors are expected to announce criminal charges against New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos imminently, possibly as soon as Monday, in connection with a continuing corruption investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter," reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday evening.

Traffic alert! Via the White House: "On Monday, May 4, the President will travel to New York, New York to deliver remarks at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization. Following this event, the President will attend DNC events."

There'll be a flurry of activity on Monday and Tuesday around the two special elections taking place in New York City on Tuesday: voters on Staten Island and a small chunk of Southern Brooklyn will select a new congressional rep and voters in central Brooklyn will select a new Assembly member (AD43). See NYC Votes' voter guide here.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James is in Israel this week on a 9-day visit with a 16-member NYC community delegation, which left Sunday evening. Her office says that further details of James' trip will be made available upon her return.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to unveil his fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget on Thursday, May 7. There is a variety of additional spending being sought by City Council members and advocates that was not included in de Blasio's preliminary budget. The most high profile is, of course, funding for additional NYPD officers. The Council has asked the mayor to include funding for 1,000 additional officers and it is looking like the mayor will at least meet the Council half-way, but we're still awaiting confirmed details. De Blasio is also expected to release his administration's first update to the city's 10-year capital plan on Thursday.

On Friday, de Blasio was involved in a strategy session around lobbying for strengthening of rent laws in Albany. As legislative session continues this week in the capital be prepared to see more and more efforts to influence policy as lawmakers negotiate a whole host of issues, from the DREAM Act to rent regulations, mayoral control of schools, minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and much more. Lawmakers are again due in Albany Monday through Wednesday this week. Thursday is set to see a summit on teacher evaluations in Albany and a major Assembly hearing on criminal justice reform in Manhattan - see below for details.

You know what they're saying: the Bronx is the new Brooklyn. And it's Bronx Week 2015 this week, which Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and others kicked off on Sunday. Fitting that the President will be in the Bronx on Monday.

As always, there's a great deal happening at the City Council and all over the city, with many events to be aware of; see below for our day-by-day rundown.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
[Update: event cancelled as Five Star Carting agreed to rehire the two employees] --> At 9 a.m. Monday morning, “In response to the firing of two private sanitation workers who testified about problems in their industry at a City Hall hearing, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso will hold a press conference in front of the sanitation company, Five Star Carting,” in Queens. Reynoso will be joined by a variety of labor leaders and other council members, including Brad Lander and Elizabeth Crowley. [note: this event was cancelled]

Monday morning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will attend a veterans roundtable and brunch hosted by John Jay College.

Monday morning will be a memorial service for Victor Gotbaum, renowned New York City labor leader.

At 10:30 Monday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo will participate in an announcement by phone, according to his public schedule. The announcement will be made from Bak USA in Buffalo.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that "The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City on Monday plans to introduce an initiative to connect 100,000 young New Yorkers with internships, mentorships and summer jobs by 2020...Chirlane McCray and her husband, the mayor, have secured $3.2 million in private donations to create the Center for Youth Employment, a public-private enterprise to increase the number of job programs for New Yorkers age 14 to 24 by 75% during the next five years."

An 11:55 a.m., Mayor de Blasio will be interviewed at Tech Crunch’s Disrupt NY: “New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will join us on stage at Disrupt New York for an amazing interview with our own Kim-Mai Cutler...He’s already working hard at making changes to the city that aim to increase network connectivity for all five boroughs and Digital.NYC, a hub for startups in the city. Join us on Monday at noon for this intimate and unique interview on our Disrupt NY stage.” Watch livestream here.

Also Monday at noon, “Council Member Paul Vallone and Council Member Corey Johnson will hold a rally calling on Mayor de Blasio to include funding for full service animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx in the fiscal year 2016 executive budget.” They will be joined by animal rights activists.

Monday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Transportation for an oversight hearing “examining the importance of federal funding for city transportation systems” and to consider a resolution supporting the GROW AMERICA Act.

At 1:30 Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit "Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to make an announcement."

At 3 p.m. on Monday, the State Senate will be in session.

On Monday at 6 p.m., elected leaders in Brooklyn are holding an “All Lives Matter Criminal Justice Town Hall.” It is being led by Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Assembly Member Nick Perry, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, and District Leader Shirley Patterson.

Monday evening, NYU Wagner will host its Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship Lecture titled “Who Are the Policy Workers and What Are They Doing? A Citizen’s Perspective on Democratic Accountability in Modern Governance,” given by Anthony M. Bertelli, NYU Wagner Professor of the Politics of Public Policy and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Research.

Also Monday evening, the Queens Economic Development Corporation will host its New Idea to New Venture Workshop: “This workshop helps participants develop their business idea, organize their start-up process and create a strategy to launch their business. It also covers key elements of how to start a business including: financing, business registration, permit & licenses, and tax related issues. Learn how to setup a company and avoid missteps that can cost you time and money. This event welcomes all veterans who are interested in starting their own businesses.”

Tuesday
Tuesday is (Special) Election Day! New York’s 11th Congressional District and 43rd Assembly District will see voting and the election of new reps.

Community Service Society is organizing NY Reentry Roundtable Albany Advocacy Day: “members of the NY Reentry Roundtable invite you to join us as we travel to Albany to advocate for passage of three bills that are critically important for thousands of currently and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and their families...buses will take advocates from CSS to Albany to meet with legislators and their staff.”

Tuesday morning, Crain’s will host Crain’s Health Care Summit 2015: Value-Based Payments. “Join Crain’s for a critical discussion as New York’s health care industry prepares to shift away from a fee-for-service model to value-based payments. Health care leaders who have already executed value-based contracts will share their best-practices and share lessons learned. This summit goes far beyond explaining WHY New York is shifting to this new model. It explains, on a peer-to-peer senior executive level, how to make that journey.”

Tuesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises to consider land use applications; and a meeting of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions to consider land use applications.

At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Urban Justice Center will host Community Justice Awards: “This year, we are proud to honor David M. Levine, Head of Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement for the Americas at Deutsche Bank.”

Tuesday afternoon, the State Senate will be in session at 3 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, State Senator Amedore will hold the Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony in Albany: “In honor of Women’s History Month, Senator Amedore is inviting local residents to nominate friends, coworkers and neighborhood leaders whose outstanding work on behalf of our communities makes them deserving of special recognition by the State Senate as a New York ‘Woman of Distinction’.”

“The next public meeting and hearing of the New York City Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) will be held at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, May 5th, in the Office of the New York City Comptroller...The meeting will include welcoming remarks from NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and a special performance by NYC Youth Poet Laureate Crystal Valentine. A detailed agenda will be made available before the meeting and posted on the @NYCVotes Twitter feed.”

Also Tuesday evening, City Council Member Andy King and his staff will be hosting a "Constituent Services Night" at the Edenwald Community Center in the Bronx, part of his series in which "every other week in a different NYCHA housing development in the 12th Council District...Services will include resources and solutions for housing, food stamps, immigration, Access-A-Ride and basic services."

Tuesday evening is the May 2015 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty, at NYU Skirball Center For The Performing Arts: “Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York.”

Wednesday
On Wednesday morning, Mayor de Blasio is due on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

[Update: postponed in wake of the death of Police Offier Brian Moore] There was set to be a demonstration at City Hall on Wednesday by firefighter and police officer unions, according to Capital New York: The Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association will march to push the mayor on disability pension benefits. [Update: postponed]

Wednesday morning, ABNY will host a breakfast session with US Congressman Joe Crowley where the Congressman is set to discuss “his priorities for the current session and beyond, including his recently unveiled Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures plan to address the savings and retirement security crisis in the U.S.”

Also Wednesday morning, Stroock will host a government leadership forum titled “Is New York Still A Democracy?” Panelists will include Congressman Jerrold Nadler; DeNora M. Getachew Campaign Manager and Legislative Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; and Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections. Robert Adams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock’s Government Relations Practice, and Jerry H. Goldfeder, Stroock Special Counsel and Election Law attorney will moderate the panel discussion.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, advocates are expected to rally outside Governor Cuomo's Manhattan office as part of a renewed push to strengthen rent regulation laws that are being negotiated in Albany.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, LiveOn NY will host its 20th Annual City Hall Advocacy Day. “Meet face-to-face with your Council Members; Advocate for those seniors who are too frail to be there; Advocate for more money the Department for the Aging; Represent your senior center; Help to keep programs for future seniors." The day will include morning and afternoon meetings with City Council members sandwiching a City Hall press conference.

Wednesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Land Use for an oversight hearing regarding “Industrial Land Use and Zoning Policy - Challenges and Opportunities”; a meeting of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services for an oversight hearing “Examining Violence in New York City’s Jails and the City’s Response,” and on several bills; and a meeting of the Committee on Veterans for an oversight hearing “Evaluating the Effectiveness of MOVA’s Role Serving New York City’s Veterans.” [Read our look at the question of whether there should be a separate city department for veterans sercices]

Wednesday, the State Senate will be in session at 11 a.m.

Wednesday afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer will host a Small Business Roundtable.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will hold a forum/town Hall to “examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.”

Also Wednesday evening, Council Member Mark Levine will host a Participatory Budgeting Party: “We will share project details for the winners, next steps in the process, and ways you can get involved in next year’s Participatory Budget.” This event is another in a string of PB events by council members in which they reveal and/or celebrate the PB-funded projects chosen by constituents and the PB process.

Thursday
Mayor de Blasio is set to unveil his fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget on Thursday as well as his update to the city's 10-year capital plan.

Thursday in Albany, a teacher evaluation summit will occur, according to Capital New York: “Seven researchers, economists, and professors accepted an invitation to weigh in on the debate at a May 7 summit being held by the State Education Department and Board of Regents, according to a department memo obtained by Chalkbeat. Officials are required by law to collect public comment on how to design the regulations that will govern how a teacher’s performance in the classroom gets graded, a process that must be complete by the end of June.”

Thursday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Land Use to review all items reported out of the Subcommittee hearings.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a public land use hearing.

Also Thursday morning in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes will meet jointly with the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, the Assembly Standing Committee on Correction, and New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus “to examine the need for reforms to the criminal justice system to ensure fairness, improve community/police relations, and protect the safety of law enforcement officers.”

Thursday afternoon, the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will resume its hearing to “examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.”

Thursday evening, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU will hold a discussion titled “State of Money in Politics” - “The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC reshaped the American political landscape, giving the wealthy more power to influence elections than at any time since Watergate and opening the floodgates for dark money in U.S. elections. Five years after the Supreme Court decision that set these trends in motion, what is the state of money in politics today? What are the emerging issues and paths for reform going forward?” The panel will feature Jeff Clements, Board Chair at Free Speech for People and Author of “Corporations Are Not People”; Zephyr Teachout, Associate Professor at Fordham Law School and Author of “Corruption in America”; and Ellen Weintraub, Commissioner of Federal Election Commission.

Also Thursday evening, The NYC Department of Records and Information Services will hold an event titled “A Woman’s Place: Access, Visibility and Making Change in the Workplace...An exciting conversation among trailblazing who’ve stood up to intimidation, injustice and invisibility in the workplace to bring about radical transformations.”

Friday and the weekend
Friday all day, The Murphy Institute will host “Violence & the City...this day-long, interdisciplinary conference will consider the nature and effects of various types of urban violence, and is organized around two themes: violence and urban society; and, crime, politics, and policy. Featured speakers will address these concerns in theoretically, methodologically, or empirically innovative ways.”

On Saturday afternoon, City Council Member Corey Johnson will host the First Annual West Side Summit, where he will deliver his State of the District Address, and announce winning projects from participatory budgeting.

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

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

This article has been updated.

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 4 Sun, 03 May 2015 12:49:30 +0000