Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/466 Tue, 17 Oct 2017 00:08:59 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7201:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-jc-polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7201:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-jc-polanco

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


September 18, 2017 - Max & Murphy with Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco

jcpolanco 277JC Polanco, a Republican running for Public Advocate, joined Max & Murphy to discuss his candidacy, explaining a variety of policy proposals and his overall mission to reform the position itself to give it more power, funding, and teeth. Polanco is attempting to run a campaign on issues and policy, like his proposals to allow some NYCHA residents the opportunity to buy their apartments and expand charter schools, but he is also criticizing incumbent Letitia James, a Democrat seeking reelection, for not being a tough enough voice in holding Mayor de Blasio and the City Council accountable.

Discussing his attempts to unseat James in a very Democratic city where it is challenging to get people to even pay attention to the race for public advocate, Polanco explained that "this is not uphill, this is Mount Everest," and again acknoweldged how hard it is to raise money, in part because he is "not your average, run of the mill Republican" and has not been a supporter of Donald Trump.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco Mon, 18 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7158:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-david-eisenbach http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7158:max-murphy-podcast-public-advocate-candidate-david-eisenbach

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


August 28, 2017 - Democratic Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach

public adv candidate david eisenbach277pxDavid Eisenbach is a history professor at Columbia University seeking to unseat incumbent Public Advocate Letitia James in this year's Demcratic primary. Eisenbach, who has raised minimal funds for his campaign, believes that James has not been a strong enough voice in addressing ethics problems in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also believes James has not been active enough in addressing the city's small business crisis.

On the Max & Murphy podcast, Eisenbach discusses several of the reasons why he is running, what he believes in, and how he would approach the job of public advocate.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy, and guest @Eisenbach4NY. You can hear the conversation through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Mon, 28 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
James Wins Battle in Long War Over Public Advocate's Legal Standing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6518:james-wins-battle-in-long-war-over-public-advocate-s-legal-standing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6518:james-wins-battle-in-long-war-over-public-advocate-s-legal-standing Tish James presser vets

Public Advocate Letitia James (photo via @TishJames)


The Public Advocate’s office was created in 1993 to give a voice to everyday New Yorkers and act as checks on the authority of the Mayor and the function of city agencies. Letitia James, the fourth New York City Public Advocate, has made litigation a major tool in her attempt to fulfill the office’s mandates. James, who has a background as an attorney and has hired several lawyers to her staff since taking office in 2014, has fought the city and its agencies in the courts with mixed success. James’ aggressive use of litigation has raised the question of what legal standing the Public Advocate has on behalf of all New Yorkers.

After multiple occasions where she was either bumped from lawsuits for lack of standing or she withdrew, within the last few weeks James declared victory in two cases where judges recognized her capacity to sue the city. The decisions have served to embolden James in her commitment to legal action and also possibly set a precedent for the powers of her office.

The debate and the proceedings over the legal powers of the Public Advocate are far from over, though, as the de Blasio administration plans its appeals and is likely to move to dismiss legal action from James in the future. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a political ally of James and James’ predecessor as Public Advocate, is also not ready to accept the Public Advocate’s blanket ability to sue the city.

“I think it’s case by case, that’s my understanding,” de Blasio said Sept. 6 when asked by Gotham Gazette at a news conference about the most recent decision. “That was not a blanket assessment, that was about that case,” he added.

James doesn’t agree with de Blasio though. "By its very nature, a judge's ruling sets precedent for the future and this most recent decision affirms the Public Advocate's capacity to sue to protect the rights of New Yorkers,” the public advocate said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

Future cases will either cement the litigious powers of the office or not. Meanwhile, former office holders and legal experts are mixed on the extent to which the Public Advocate can litigate against the City.

The two court rulings that have bolstered James, though, were delivered in August in separate lawsuits initiated by James against the New York City Department of Education and the City of New York. They affirmed and reinforced the legal capacity of the Public Advocate to sue the city.

The most recent decision came on August 30 when a New York County Supreme Court judge issued a ruling on the viability of a lawsuit brought by James against the Department of Education over the lack of air-conditioning on school buses for students with disabilities. The court found that the Public Advocate’s mandate “would include an obligation to explore a serious health problem affecting disabled children of the City and attempt, with the help of the Court, to remedy that problem.” It held that the case could move forward since James had the legal capacity to sue, which the de Blasio administration had argued against in seeking to dismiss the case.

A Law Department spokesperson confirmed that the City will appeal the court’s decision that favored the Public Advocate’s right to sue on behalf of New Yorkers and in conducting the office’s duties. “The DOE is committed to ensuring air-conditioned buses to all students who require them and that any concerns are immediately addressed," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier, on August 11, James hailed another court decision that found her office could compel the DOE to respond to her concerns over its failure to effectively track the needs of students with disabilities in the city’s school system.

These are only the latest in a number of judicial decisions over the years that have in turns enhanced the powers of the Public Advocate and also defined the limits of the office’s jurisdiction in certain cases. James’ litigation, largely aimed at the de Blasio administration, puts the mayor and former public advocate in the unique position of regularly opposing his successor’s claims and even right to sue. The current dynamic is also the first time in the history of the Public Advocate office that the Mayor and Public Advocate are of the same party -- de Blasio and James are both Democrats.

Public Advocates have often used litigation as a tool to take the city and its many agencies to task, and in doing so have managed to expand the jurisdiction of the office, which remains unchanged in the City Charter. The charter does not expressly give the public advocate the right to bring a lawsuit, but it does not forbid it either.

Mark Green, the city’s first Public Advocate, depended on his experience as a lawyer to bring suits against the City. During his tenure, he won two major victories that established precedent for the Public Advocate’s capacity to bring legal action. James has cited these rulings in court to push back against the City’s attempts to dismiss her cases.

The first was Green v. Safir in 1997, in which Green sued then-NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir for access to the police department’s disciplinary case files for officers with substantiated complaints against them. An appellate court that ruled in Green’s favor held that he had standing to do so to further an investigation.

In the second case, Green v. Giuliani in 2000, the public advocate sought a judicial inquiry into then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for disclosing information from the sealed juvenile record of an unarmed African-American man who was shot dead by an NYPD officer. The New York County Supreme court stated in that case that the Public Advocate is an independently elected official with the capacity to sue.

“Those two cases, especially, confirmed that the Public Advocate could bring lawsuits in order to exercise its power as the city’s ombudsman,” said Green, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “That doesn’t mean the Public Advocate can sue anybody for anything, but can, as we did in the Green v. Safir case, compel the city government to disclose information that should be in the public arena.”

In a later case involving Long Island College Hospital, which was initiated by de Blasio when he was Public Advocate, the Kings County Supreme Court ruled that the Public Advocate had the right to intervene and help choose the next operator of the facility since it was in the community’s interest. The case was inherited by James. 

Over the course of several public advocates, the office has, however, hit walls in certain instances, showing the limits of its power. When former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum sought to intervene in a legal dispute involving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a court ruled that she did not have the capacity to challenge decisions made by a state entity. And when Public Advocate James tried to compel the release of grand jury transcripts in the Eric Garner case by suing then-Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, she was denied on the grounds that her charter duties do not extend to criminal investigations. There have been other lawsuits that James has been involved in that were also unsuccessful, wherein she either withdrew or was dismissed.

The Public Advocate office over the years has been defined by its holder and each has opted to use litigation as a tool, to varying degrees. The office has a relatively small budget, which was actually cut under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and partially restored since de Blasio has been Mayor. Some have called for the office to receive so-called independent budgeting wherein it receives a set percentage of the overall city budget and is therefore not susceptible to an unfriendly mayor or City Council.

“The office of the public advocate almost always reflects the personality and priorities of the incumbent,” said Green. “So I did turn it into a sort of Nader’s Raiders public interest organization reflecting my history,” he said, referring to his role in a volunteer activist group of law students created by former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. But Green insisted that litigation was not necessarily the “major tool” of the office. “The ability to bring lawsuits is important but not the core function of the Public Advocate’s office, which is monitoring city agencies, answering complaints on city government and proposing new laws and ideas to make city government more accountable.”

James has been more active in her use of litigation. Now in the third year of her first term, she has been a plaintiff in 11 lawsuits so far and filed numerous amicus briefs in other cases. In contrast, de Blasio initiated only three suits while he held the post for one term, according to a spokesperson for the public advocate.

James has brought to bear her experience as an assistant attorney general and public interest litigator, initiating action on the behalf of members of the public to challenge the performance of city agencies. She said she has redesigned the office of the Public Advocate, raising awareness of its role and capacity in advocating for New Yorkers through a three-pronged approach.

“When I was elected, my vision was advocacy work, litigation and investigatory work,” James told Gotham Gazette. Feeling good about the advocacy and litigation efforts thus far, she said, “In my next term, I want to advance the investigative power of the office including forensic audits to determine the effective of city agencies and programs.” James is up for reelection in 2017.

She points to the victories won by Green and de Blasio as affirmation of her office’s broader ambit, and is bolstered by the recent decisions in her favor as evidence of the effectiveness of litigation. Following the August 11 decision, she told Gotham Gazette, her office is better placed to bring legal action that could also be recognized by higher courts. “I would imagine that a lot of judges will look to that as paramount to our ability to bring lawsuits,” she said.

The de Blasio administration has attempted to stymie many of James’ lawsuits by arguing that cases be dismissed because they are out of the Public Advocate’s purview. It was the same tactic that de Blasio was on the other side of in the Long Island College Hospital case.

Judicial decisions show that the office’s charter-mandated authority is open to interpretation even if its architects did not intend for it to be so. The City Charter establishes the role of the public advocate in monitoring city agencies and their response to complaints from the public; proposing means of improving response to complaints; and fielding, investigating, and redressing individual complaints as well.

One expert on the City Charter said the language in the section that states the Public Advocate’s duties could construe broader authority for the office and that legal standing for lawsuits would exist in cases involving those core powers. “Tish James has been very structured in her approach,” said the expert, who requested anonymity to remain out of public legal and political disputes. “Her view and interpretation of her office’s role includes legal advocacy and impact litigation.” (This legal expert also noted a peculiar conflict in the way the Public Advocate’s office relates to the city’s Corporation Counsel, the head of the Law Department, pointing out that the Corporation Counsel is the attorney on record for both the City of New York and the Public Advocate, and is often on the opposing side of litigation brought by the Public Advocate.)

But Eric Lane, dean of Hofstra Law School, doesn’t believe the Public Advocate’s duties can be interpreted broadly. Lane was executive director and counsel to the New York City Charter Revision Commission between 1986 and 1989 and oversaw the very provisions that established the powers of the public advocate.

Lane said the Public Advocate’s job should be to oversee and report on the system, to be the “public critic” who should only use legal action to further the completion of his or her duties. “I agree that [James] has the right to sue to gain access to information to allow her to fulfill her oversight obligations under the Charter, but I don't believe that Charter provides the Public Advocate with the authority to sue ‘to protect the rights of all New Yorkers,’” Lane told Gotham Gazette, referring to a statement put out by the public advocate’s office after the August 30 ruling. “I think this is inconsistent with the Charter scope of her job and problematic,” he said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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James Wins Battle in Long War Over Public Advocate's Legal Standing Thu, 08 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Independent Budgeting a Little-Used Practice for City Watchdog Agencies http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6373:independent-budgeting-a-little-used-practice-for-city-watchdog-agencies http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6373:independent-budgeting-a-little-used-practice-for-city-watchdog-agencies de blasio budget presentation independent budgeting

Mayor de Blasio makes a budget presentation (photo via Mayor's Office)


During the annual budget process, city agencies and entities are at the mercy of the Mayor and the City Council, who ultimately set the budget. But unlike many, the several agencies and officials who regularly monitor, regulate, or litigate against the mayoral administration are put in an awkward situation, annually appealing for funding in a dynamic that can hamper their ability to carry out charter-mandated duties and, in some cases, lead to politically-motivated budget cuts.

The Public Advocate, for example, is meant to act as a watchdog over the mayor, but relies on the mayor to determine the office’s budget.

Representatives of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, tasked with training and regulating city employees including the Mayor and City Council members, have said this spring that their agency is underfunded but that repeated requests for additional funding have been turned down by the city’s Office of Management and Budget.

Independent budgeting for oversight or autonomous entities, which include Borough Presidents, the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Department of Investigation, District Attorneys, and Conflict of Interest Board, is a solution that was once widely promoted by members of the public and government officials alike. Under independent budgeting, offices would receive a fixed annual amount scaled to the budget for a larger pertinent office or some set percentage of the city’s overall expense budget.

The Independent Budget Office is the only city agency with fully independent budgeting, a position it enjoys because of its unique oversight duties. Rather than have its budget set by the Mayor, IBO receives "no less than" 12.5 percent of the annual budget of the Office of Management and Budget. The Campaign Finance Board also has a somewhat-independent budget—the Mayor must include an annual amount suggested by the CFB in the Executive Budget without adjusting it, but that amount is subject to recommendations made by the Borough Presidents, Comptroller, and Mayor, and can be amended by the City Council.

Support for independent budgeting seems to have peaked during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, seemingly fueled by dissatisfaction with an especially thin budget. According to a 2010 report by government reform group Citizens Union, “most” of the borough presidents, the Conflict of Interest Board, former Public Advocates Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum, and then Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had requested independent budgeting for their respective agencies by that year.

“In this current structure, there is simply no way for a borough president to be a truly independent voice,” Marty Markowitz, then-borough president of Brooklyn, said in a 2010 testimony before the city Charter Revision Commission. “We go in and ‘pitch’ as if we were a nonprofit community group or cultural organization hoping upon hope that in the end, we get the funding we need for the staff and resources to do our Charter-mandated jobs.”

That Charter Revision Commission did not reach a conclusion regarding independent budgeting, but vaguely urged future commissions to “devote significant resources to studying the roles of both COIB and various elected officials so as to make an intelligent assessment of their fiscal needs” and “assure the independence and stability of such entities.”

In the years that followed, however, the $59.5 billion adopted budget for fiscal year 2010 swelled to an $82.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2017 (the budget currently being finalized), and calls for independent budgeting waned. Between those two budgets, borough presidents’ combined operational budgets increased from $24.2 million to $26.7 million, the public advocate’s budget increased from $1.8 million to $3.3 million, and the five district attorneys combined budgets increased from $259 million to $324 million.

Under the current administration, officials are loathe to call for independent budgeting. Last week, Public Advocate Letitia James declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting via a spokesperson. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams did not say he supported independent budgeting, but that he “would be interested in reviewing any proposal” that he deemed fair. The other four borough presidents either declined to comment or did not respond to repeated requests for comment, as did the five district attorneys.

One remaining proponent of independent budgeting is the Conflict of Interest Board, which has been especially vocal in recent years. The board first proposed an amendment to the city charter to establish independent budgeting in 2009. At the time, COIB said that its ability to fairly judge and regulate city officials was impeded by its place in the annual budgeting process, and requested that it receive no less than seven thousandths of one percent (0.00007%) of the city’s annual expense budget.

Last year, COIB reiterated its proposal with its request adjusted to four thousandths of one percent (0.00004%) of the city budget—a proposal that it stood by this year. The reduction corresponds to the Board’s decision to drop its request for investigative authority. Four thousandths of one percent of this year’s $82.2 billion Executive Budget would have given COIB $3.3 million; instead, it is allocated $2.33 million.

Because COIB is an independent ethics agency without a source of revenue or set constituency, the Board’s argument goes, it should not have to rely on the officials it regulates to pass on the board’s funding. COIB has cited similar independent budgeting systems already in place for the state of Michigan’s Civil Service Commission, New Orleans’ Ethics Review Board, and Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics.

Despite reiterations of this proposal by COIB every year, the city administration has not moved toward a charter amendment despite support from some City Council members. COIB Executive Director Carolyn Miller told Gotham Gazette that in her view, this inaction likely stemmed from administrative reluctance to increase the number of agencies not centrally monitored and controlled for financial reasons, which she acknowledged was “reasonable.”

“There hasn't been that much receptivity generally,” Miller said. “I think probably it's more of an administration issue than a Council issue.”

City Council Member Alan Maisel, chair of the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which has oversight of COIB, told Gotham Gazette that he agrees COIB should have independent budgeting.

“They should not be dependent on a particular budget item because then of course there's always the implication that they're being prevented from doing their absolute necessary job,” Maisel said. “But it's not getting much traction. I think when it comes down to assigning dollars to different agencies this is not a priority.”

COIB’s proposal is primarily an ethical one—although its independent budgeting proposal would increase the Board’s funding, Miller says COIB would still be underfunded. The board’s budget has been markedly anemic even after a 2010 charter amendment mandated that COIB provide biannual ethics training to all city employees. That year, the Board’s supervisors took two percent pay cuts in order to maximize training personnel, and although COIB’s adopted budget increased from $1.88 million for fiscal 2010 to $2.22 million for fiscal 2016, those pay cuts have not been reversed, according to Miller. Meanwhile, the city employee headcount continues to swell, giving COIB more people to train and assist with ethical quandaries.

This year, COIB testified at a preliminary budget hearing that it was underfunded and had made repeated requests to the city’s budget office for more funding. After being denied several times, COIB wrote a letter to the city budget office requesting just $26,000 in additional funds for its “most critical budget needs,” which was granted. Mayor de Blasio said he was unaware of the board’s financial struggle when asked about it by Gotham Gazette at a May 15 press conference, but promised to reexamine the board’s funding.

Although calls for independent budgeting seem aimed at an agency’s financial stability, arguments for independent budgeting are rooted in the ability to regulate, monitor, or prosecute independently. Independent budgeting would provide protection for agencies like COIB, the Comptroller, Department of Investigation, Public Advocate, and District Attorneys—all of whom are ostensibly watchdogs of the mayoral administration—against vindictive mayors who might seek to hobble their effectiveness for political reasons.

When the Independent Budget Office upset Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1998, its independent budget ultimately saved it from his attempts to defund the agency in retaliation. IBO had charged the mayor with violating the City Charter by withholding city finance information from the budget office, and Giuliani, a Republican, called IBO “the most partisan group of Democrats” and implied the agency should be abolished. Because of IBO’s independent budget, however, Giuliani was unable to weaken the budget office’s funding in subsequent years.

“IBO would not have come into being were it not for the guaranteed budget line, and it certainly would not have remained in business...Why would the Mayor or Speaker [of the City Council] want the city to fund an agency over which they had no control? You can understand the political calculus,” IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein told Gotham Gazette. “In the past, borough presidents and public advocates have also fought with similar logic to get a budget guarantee.

Throughout his time in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, made his displeasure with the office of the Public Advocate clear in word and deed, calling it a “total waste of everybody’s money” even after reducing its budget from $2.9 million to $1.8 million. Last year, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum told Gotham Gazette that mechanisms should have been in place to protect her office from Bloomberg’s personal motivations.

“The mayor…should not be controlling the budget of the person who’s looking over their shoulder,” Gotbaum said. “Because [Bloomberg] would get furious at me and then come June, July, he’d cut the budget.” (All four public advocates, including the current one, Letitia James, have been Democrats.)

As the first former public advocate to be elected mayor, de Blasio quickly increased the public advocate’s budget to $3.2 million for fiscal 2015 and then to $3.4 million for fiscal 2016. James took advantage of the budget increase to carve out an enhanced, especially litigious role for her office. While taking on certain issues and criticizing specific city agencies, James has not been publicly critical of de Blasio. She has also not called for independent budgeting.

Maisel sees the public advocate’s current power and budget as tenuous. “The job of the public advocate is to look into everything and try to correct the things that need to be corrected. Some people take it personally, like mayors,” Maisel said. “Betsy Gotbaum was not a malicious individual, she saw a need for her to do certain things. And Giuliani and Bloomberg both belittled whoever the public advocate was.”

Maisel’s view is in line with the 2010 Citizens Union report, which concluded that it “undermines honesty and integrity in our elected officials if they feel the need to couch their remarks and opinions for fear of having their budget cut.”

The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, independent budget watchdog organization, does not have a stance on independent budgeting according to Vice President Maria Doulis, who added in a statement to Gotham Gazette that CBC does “caution against dedicated formulas” for funding agencies.

The Comptroller and Department of Investigation are also responsible for weeding out fraud and abuse among city officials, but have not undergone the same level of financial turbulence from administration to administration as the public advocate. While the Comptroller’s funding has increased steadily from $66 million in the fiscal 2010 adopted budget to $96 million in this year’s executive budget, DOI funding has increased by nearly 43 percent in the past year to $47 million in this year’s executive budget, which scales with a newly proactive role the department has taken on. Spokespeople for both the Comptroller and DOI declined to comment on the prospect of independent budgeting.

Like the Public Advocate, who regularly files suits against the de Blasio administration, District Attorneys are responsible for pursuing public corruption cases against city and state officials. In a notable recent example of such action, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance subpoenaed City Hall last month as part of his investigation into the fundraising activities of Mayor de Blasio and his allies.

Some have pointed to a web of political connections between Vance and de Blasio, one strand being the simple fact that de Blasio sets the annual budget for Vance’s office. A spokesperson for Vance declined to comment on the topic of independent budgeting. All five district attorney offices recently testified at a City Council budget hearing that they are in need of more funds.

“In most cases you wouldn't have the investigative agency at the mercy of the executive when the executive is going to be the subject of the investigation, that makes no sense,” Maisel said. “There should be some impartial way of determining how much money a District Attorney gets so it's not subject to the whims of who happens to be in the administration doing the budget.”

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by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that IBO receives no less than 12.5% of the OMB budget, not 10% as previously stated.

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Independent Budgeting a Little-Used Practice for City Watchdog Agencies Thu, 02 Jun 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Private Sector Retirement Security Plans Become Next Progressive Cause http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6192:private-sector-retirement-security-plans-become-next-progressive-cause http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6192:private-sector-retirement-security-plans-become-next-progressive-cause de blasio state of the city

De Blasio delivers his State of the City (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office) 


Experts warn that the entire country could be headed for a financial crisis caused by the fact that an aging workforce has not been saving for retirement.

Whether due to cutbacks of public pensions, the lack of retirement plans offered by private employers, or workers forced to raid their savings, it appears to a growing number of advocates and politicians that many Americans will be forced to keep working far into old age or attempt to survive on below-poverty-level support from Social Security and local welfare programs.

"If we don't make sure something is in place to prevent this, the city and state will have a catastrophe on their hands," Beth Finkel, director of AARP's New York office, told Gotham Gazette. "Ultimately these people are going to turn to the state and city to survive."

City officials cite stark statistics - only 43 percent of working New Yorkers have access to a retirement plan and 40 percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

It appears to be an issue that is keeping New York's political leaders up at night. It also presents an opportunity for elected officials to lead on another progressive policy matter.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both announced plans to confront the issue in their recent annual addresses - Cuomo's State of the State, de Blasio's State of the City. Cuomo appointed SUNY Chairman Carl McCall to head a commission to study the issue, while de Blasio said he plans to work on legislation with the City Council that would allow the city to offer retirement plans to private sector workers who are not offered plans by their employer. He outlined the framework in his Feb. 4 speech.

De Blasio's plan would make the city the first in the country to offer such a retirement program, although a few states have adopted legislation to create something similar.

Many see the issue of government-backed retirement for private sector workers as the next progressive push, after minimum wage and paid family leave. De Blasio said as much during a recent appearance on Bill Samuel's Effective Radio program. "So this is our contribution to New York City towards what I hope will be a much bigger forward march of history and it certainly aligns with what we've done on the other issues you've talked about like paid sick leave and affordable housing, pre-K, et cetera," said de Blasio. "This is a package of things that have to change urgently, not just at the local level, but up to the federal level."

De Blasio's retirement plan would require employers with 10 or more employees to offer voluntary access to a city-run retirement plan. The city would cover upfront costs of starting the plan and a board would be appointed to implement it. Employees would have their contributions automatically deducted from their paychecks. Neither the city nor the state would contribute to the plans.

Businesses would not be able to drop plans they currently offer. The bill will be crafted by the de Blasio administration in collaboration with the offices of City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Tish James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Representatives of the de Blasio administration did not respond when asked about a timeline to introduce a bill.

"[I]t's something the city would manage and we would put some initial investment into," the mayor told Samuels during his Sunday radio appearance. "And it would give every worker the opportunity to join a retirement security plan that they could really depend on, would not evaporate because it would be supported and backed by the City of New York, and it would mean putting their own resources into it," de Blasio said.

The de Blasio administration has also asked the federal government to act to ease burdens and liabilities the city could face in managing retirement accounts. However, not many involved in the issue expect Washington to take action anytime soon. The Department of Labor has been giving guidance to states that have attempted to implement similar programs, but has yet to issue a full set of guidelines. It is likely that the state would have to approve any city-backed retirement program.

The mayor is set to hold a press conference on the plan Thursday afternoon at City Hall at which Stringer, James, and Mark-Viverito will each also speak.

Stringer was one of the first New York officials to take on the issue, constructing a working group of nationally recognized academics to study the retirement crisis in February of last year. The group, which features academics from across the political spectrum, is expected to issue recommendations this spring.

"There's no question we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to retirement security – in New York and the nation," Stringer said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Today, 57 percent of New Yorkers lack access to a workplace retirement plan, which has huge implications both for city services and for the ability of our seniors to live out their lives in dignity."

Citing a "need to recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to retirement security," Stringer said that his "office has been working over the past year with a diverse group of some of the nation's top academics to put together thoughtful, innovative proposals to increase retirement savings options and protect the City's budget."

Public Advocate James proposed a bill in February of last year that would have established a review commission to study the feasibility of a city-backed pension fund for private workers. The bill hasn't made it out of committee, but de Blasio's plan appears to be making it obsolete. James issued a study about the impending retirement crisis.

"There are so many major players who are committed to this that it is hard to imagine we won't get something done, but the devil is in the details," said Finkel of AARP. "I think the major players understand the urgency. Every year we put off is another year people aren't saving."

Samuels, head of public policy think tank Effective NY, said he has been lobbying top state and city leaders on the issue for a few years. Now, he said, even with interest from Cuomo, de Blasio, and a host of other city officials known to compete with each other, "There is a cooperative environment at this point." Samuels says that a number of the leaders involved in the issue have been meeting to hash out a sensible solution.

It is unclear how a state plan might interact with a city plan - whether one would override the other, or if it would make sense to have two if the state acts. Some insiders see de Blasio and Cuomo focused on an issue and wonder when the competition and skullduggery will start. Some hope that city officials will unite around one plan that will then be used by the Cuomo administration as a blueprint. De Blasio administration officials said they would welcome action by the state.

Samuels said he was first moved to address the issue during a trip to his hometown of Canandaigua, in Western New York, while talking to his old friends about their children. "Their kids, even if they had a 401K, they had to raid it for an emergency, so they have nothing for retirement. It was an eye-opener," explained Samuels.

"There is a real national problem and it's not going to get solved in Washington. We have a startling number of people heading into retirement in poverty," Samuels told Gotham Gazette. "I worked for a company that put 15 percent of my salary into retirement. Reagan convinced people they should manage their own money. So What happened was 401Ks were set up and almost all companies stopped putting any money in toward retirement."

There is debate among politicians, academics, advocates, and business leaders about how to offer a retirement plan that actually helps workers save without hurting small businesses. Issues in play include: what size of businesses to target, how to manage employee deductions, what kind of plans make sense for workers, and how to make sure plans are transferable should an employee find a new job or move. There will also be questions about management of the program, as there always are about public pension funds.

The Partnership for New York City, a leading city business group, is supportive of the idea behind de Blasio's plan. The group's president, Kathryn Wylde, said in an interview that the issue is extremely complicated and that she has concerns. "Frankly, I'd rather have the federal government or the state do something broader," Wylde told Gotham Gazette, whiling stressing that she supports de Blasio's action.

Wylde said businesses in different locales would have more of an equal footing if a retirement plan was offered by the federal or state government. She also pointed to underlying economic issues. "I'm not sure that simply providing a plan is a magic bullet," Wylde said. "People living on subsistence wages aren't suddenly going to have enough money to save. So I'm not sure there is a way to make this work without some sort of subsidy."

Mike Durant, state director for the National Federation for Independent Business, said that his members are concerned about having the state get involved in the issue, given their current fight against New York Democrats' push for a higher minimum wage and paid family leave.

"From the small employer perspective, we balloted our members on this topic last Fall with 85 percent of respondents opposed, with wide-ranging fears," Durant told Gotham Gazette.

Durant said members are concerned about liability issues, and "yet another mandate handed down by government that could potentially fail to recognize the significant differences between Main Street and big business." Costs for managing contributions could be prohibitive to small "mom and pop" businesses that operate without a formal human resources office, Durant said.

"Simply, these proposals are concerning and have many moving parts and there is definitely not a simple solution across the spectrum of business," said Durant. "Albany has definitely not proven it is capable of acknowledging the complex differences between big and small business through legislation, which adds to our concerns."

A number of states have passed legislation to implement state-backed private sector retirement plans in a variety of ways.

California adopted such a plan in 2012. There, the bill requires employers of five or more that don't offer a retirement plan to offer a savings plan similar to an IRA that is backed by the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

Illinois adopted a plan in 2014 that requires employers that do not offer a retirement plan, have been in business for more than two years, and employ 25 or more to automatically enroll employees in a state-managed plan that offers a variety of investment plans and payroll deduction levels.

Connecticut has dedicated $400,000 to the creation of a board to study and create a state-based retirement security plan. The plan must be submitted to the state by April of this year.

None of these states have begun accepting contributions to their plans and many are waiting for more guidance from the federal government.

Samuels, of EffectiveNY, said that the wide variety of opinions on how to implement a plan, the number of principles involved, and the scope of the debate are encouraging to him. "Everyone is on the same page that this is an important issue," he said. "There is lots of overlap but we are headed toward a solution. The reason I pushed the city first is I felt it would be tough to get through in the state, but the politics have changed and now Cuomo has named a commission."

Finkel of AARP said that she expects New York City will lead on the issue and that cities and other states across the country will follow.

"Studies tell us that people are 15 times more likely to save if they have something automatically deducted from their paycheck. It's low-hanging fruit and I would hope that New York City will be the first city in the country to implement this kind of plan."

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

Read more by this writer.

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Private Sector Retirement Security Plans Become Next Progressive Cause Wed, 24 Feb 2016 23:31:50 +0000
40 Stories, 40 Years: City Limits and the History of Today's New York City http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6132:40-stories-40-years-city-limits-and-the-history-of-todays-new-york-city http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6132:40-stories-40-years-city-limits-and-the-history-of-todays-new-york-city City Limits 1983 February

History is always a summary. It weaves together disparate threads of individual experiences, and some threads color the pattern more than others. The conventional narrative of New York City after the 1970s fiscal crisis emphasizes what mayors, police commissioners, developers and other powerful people did.

But that's not the story. It's just one.

Since its founding 40 years ago this month, City Limits has told a different tale—one that has sometimes complemented, and other times contradicted the official version. That's because we talked about the New York seen by people like tenants, single mothers, strikers, prisoners, advocates, social workers, the homeless, the young and others who, when they strolled the traditional corridors of power, did so with a visitor's pass.

As the excerpted stories below indicate, those New Yorkers had their own kind of power, and the city has been shaped by it. The stories are just snippets from our work over the past four decades. They reflect the history that City Limits saw and the New York it was founded to cover.

For a look at those stories as City Limits hits its 40th anniversary, click here.

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40 Stories, 40 Years: City Limits and the History of Today's New York City Sun, 31 Jan 2016 05:00:00 +0000
Little-Known Commission Expands Access to City Government http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6025:little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6025:little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government tish james presser childcare

Public Advocate James (photo via @TishJames)


While government transparency can often be a vague concept, one concrete way to see what elected and appointed officials are doing is through live-streamed and archived video of public hearings.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the little-known Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) met for the final time this year at John Jay College in Manhattan. The meeting agenda was centered around the commission getting an update on the implementation of Local Law 103 of 2013, better known as the city’s webcasting law, which requires certain agencies to record all public meetings and make them available online.

At the meeting, officials discussed progress on developing programs to provide training and equipment to municipal entities for webcasting; creating a central repository for municipal webcasts; and establishing COPIC’s own website.

The goal of the commission, established by the City Charter in 1989, is to improve public access to City information and to develop strategies for the use of new communications technologies to improve access to and distribution of city data. It is led by the Public Advocate, currently Letitia James, who has revived the commission since taking office in 2014.

According to COPIC commissioners, programs to provide training and guidance to agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law are almost set, with the first “best practices workshop” likely to be held in February. The COPIC website should be operational mid- to late-January. The commission is still looking into better ways to provide webcasting equipment to agencies, and a venue to host a central archive of the city’s webcasts has yet to be determined.

Nicholas Sbordone, a delegate to COPIC from the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, kicked off the meeting by asking Janet Choi, general manager at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, for an update on the plans to provide training resources and technology aids for agencies looking to comply with the webcasting law.

Choi said that since the last meeting, COPIC has explored how to go about “providing the best guidance for all of the organizations and agencies to help them comply with Local Law 103,” and has examined the potential creation of a “lending library” to provide equipment for webcasting.

As of October 20, 2015, under the webcasting law, 45 boards and commissions must webcast public meetings. According to Sbordone, many agencies subject to the webcasting law are either in full compliance or are willing to comply.

“For the most part,” Sbordone said, agencies that are not actively webcasting “have not yet met, or they have particular meetings that they have on specific topics that are not subject to webcasting...For instance, there’s the Master Electricians and Licensing Board,” which holds a number of meetings on “the details of specific licensee information, which would not be subject to public review anyway.”

As for the “guidance” COPIC has been developing to help agencies comply with the webcasting law, Choi said COPIC is “about ready to host or continue to build the agenda and the training for a best practices workshop to be held in February, the first of what we hope will be a couple per year,” Choi said. “This is essentially to give the agencies and organizations who are looking for guidance tips, pointers, and best standards and practices for effective webcasting.”

Given the rapid rate of technological development, Choi said, COPIC has determined that “there is no one best way to do anything. We can’t possibly say [to the agencies] ‘this is the equipment you should use’…we don’t want to give them information that is obsolete.”

“So,” Choi continued, “We have concluded that the best thing we can do is show them what the goals are. We want clear and audible audio, we want a clear visual representation - everything that is needed to best fulfill the spirit of the law. There’s any number of ways you can accomplish this, and all we can do is provide guidance.”

Regarding the creation of a “lending library” for webcasting equipment, Sbordone said COPIC is “culling and trying to refine a list of facilities that have good audio/visual capability and to the extent that they have WiFi or an internet connection.”

“The thought was that if there is a number of places that the city has or has access to, we can put those into one place, a pool, and then have a calendar developed,” Sbordone continued, “so that agencies might have the ability to reserve certain dates and times and then have their webcasting calendar built out, so if agencies have a meeting, they would know the best place and date to go.”

Public Advocate James, chair of COPIC, turned the discussion toward the establishment of a central repository for municipal webcasts and the use of the City Record.

“The newly launched City Record Online has modules in each of the records that are submitted by the agencies, about a public meeting, where and when,” Sbordone said “it has a module that you could add a link to to a webcast version of the hearing.”

Some agencies, Sbordone said, like the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), will add links to their entries on City Record, which will link to their webcasting archives. “Going forward,” Sbordone said, when the Taxi and Limousine Commission makes “submissions to the city record about upcoming commission hearings,” they will add the link to their webcasting archives.

“We have a number of agencies that we’re conducting outreach to,” Sbordone added. “It’s very iterative, but it’s really starting to come together now where we have the new version of the City Record launched, that itself allows for the better proliferation and dissemination of webcasting materials through the actual technology.”

Still addressing James’ question regarding the establishment of a “central portal” and the use of the City Record, Sbordone brought up finding “some type of central repository where all these archive webcast videos would reside. The City Record, ideally, would be a record that the meeting is taking place or has taken place. The link then would link back out to where this central repository is.”

“I think one of the things that we maybe want to begin discussing for next year is how best to present this to the public,” Sbordone said, floating the idea of creating a place online - “for instance, ‘webcasting.nyc’” - where all of these archive records would reside. “So if someone was looking for everything in one place, they could find it, and that would also be the place that was linked out to from various sites.”

“The shape and the form of what that takes is still yet to be determined,” Sbordone added, explaining that it could be something that the city hosts, or even a YouTube channel that contains all of New York City’s webcasting archives.

“I know the last time [we met] Commissioner Toole had suggested that the Department of Records and Information Systems could also be a possible venue” for hosting the city’s webcasting archives, James suggested.

Toole was unable to attend COPIC’s Dec. 8 meeting, though Sbordone said that she had mentioned “she would love to see, to the extent that it made sense, the government publications portal to play a role in this, again, as a central repository for all the reports and white papers, things like that, that are issued by city agencies across the board.”

The discussion then shifted from the creation of a central repository for the city’s webcasts to the progress in updating COPIC’s own website. COPIC meeting announcements are currently available within the Public Advocate site.

Sbordone passed out a mock-up of the website, which is not yet functional, and which, he said, was actually created at the request of a prior public advocate a number of years ago, though he wasn’t sure which. “We stood it up for them and it’s got basic functionality, as you can see, but the content was never updated.”

The next step, Sbordone said, “between now and the next time we get together, is to try to work to get that content updated with recent information.”

“Due to the work of this commission over the past year now,” Sbordone continued, “we have a good amount of stuff to put up - meeting minutes, meeting agendas, what we’ve accomplished, we have information on webcasting, tips, maybe even links to the webcast hearings that we’ve had, so we have quite a bit we can update the site with.”

“The idea is to institutionalize COPIC,” Umair Khan, Deputy Counsel to Public Advocate James, added, “by having a web presence for a body that’s purpose is to provide City information to the public.”

“That is something that we’re eagerly working on and moving forward with. We hope by mid- to late-January to have a fully functioning operational website for people to access all of our COPIC records,” Khan said. “Over time, we can tweak it and adjust it make it more user-friendly, but at least start to get this information out and make it more accessible.”

In addition to webcasting information, the website could also include information on “how [agencies] can get web cameras to use for their own proceedings,” Khan said, and “will have a mailbox, so people can communicate more directly with COPIC.”

James added that the website should include a list of COPIC members with brief bios on each, then adjourned the meeting, with the next meeting tentatively set for February.

Under James, COPIC is more active than it has been in previous years - COPIC held only one meeting during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time as Public Advocate, according to Politico New York. Though COPIC may have made some strides toward the goal of improving access to City information under the webcasting law, issues remain with both the access to equipment for webcasting, and improving the dissemination of data.

***
by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette
@MegOConnor13

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Little-Known Commission Expands Access to City Government Wed, 09 Dec 2015 00:35:11 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 7 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6020:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-dec-7 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6020:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-dec-7 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


 ***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***

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Monday
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the memorial service for John E. Zuccotti. At 12:30 p.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks at NYPD's Clergy All-In Conference at One Police Plaza." At about 2:45 p.m. at the Staten Island South Shore YMCA, "the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a press conference to make an announcement related to substance misuse."

On Monday morning in Albany, leading experts on the New York State Constitution and the prospects for a Constitutional Convention will hold a media “boot camp.” The event will include Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz; constitutional scholars Christopher Bopst and Peter Galie; Richard Brodsky, senior fellow at Demos and former Assembly member; and Henry M. Greenberg, chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution and former counsel to the New York State attorney general. “The event is sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, New York State Bar Association, Government Law Center of Albany Law School, state League of Women Voters, Siena Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.” 

On Monday at 10 a.m. at City Hall, the push for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) intensifies: “Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Donovan Richards, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the “BRT For NYC” Coalition will co-host a press conference to announce increased community support for bringing high-quality bus rapid transit to Queens. The “BRT For NYC” Coalition will be represented by ABNY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, Pratt Center for Community Development, Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, Transit Workers Union Local 100, and Working Families Party. Bus riders and members of the Queens community will also be in attendance.” [Read our recent look at the issue: All Abord the BRT Express?]

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss a bill about expanding the Metrotech Area Business Improvement District.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet, agenda TBD.
  • At 1:30 a.m. on Monday, the City Council will have a Stated Meeting, prefaced as always by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference, set for 12:30 p.m.

At noon, before the Council’s stated meeting, there will be a rally at City Hall to unveil “First-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation to be unveiled cracking down on deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million.” Members of the Freelancers Union, other labor reps including from the UFT and 32BJ, other activists, and several City Council members led Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Steve Levin, and Margaret Chin will hold a rally at the steps of City Hall to pass legislation protecting New York City’s freelancers. [Read our recent look at the issue: City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy

As the week begins, City Council Member Jumaane Williams is in Washington, DC from Sunday to Tuesday “attending the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies' bi-annual Roundtable Discussion being held at George Washington Law School.” It is a conference “for a select group of 25 elected officials of color from across the nation will feature discussions regarding policy innovations.”

At the State Legislature on Monday: at 11 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly Climate Change Work Group will hold a joint hearing on climate change.

On Monday at noon, The New York City Bar Association is hosting a “Lunch and Public Policy Discussion” with Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.

On Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Katz, will hear details from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP about the department’s new “Parks Without Borders” program, which aims to make New York City public parks more open, welcoming, and beautiful by focusing on improving park entrances and edges, and park-adjacent spaces.”

Monday at 7 p.m. at The New School, “Politics and Policy: The Latino Vote and The 2016 US Presidential Election” with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, among others, offering “a fresh examination of the role of Latinos in the 2016 election. Featuring a panel of journalists, pollsters, and political insiders, we’ll explore political, demographic and economic trends that will shape the outcome in 2016.” The event is organized by Feet in 2 Worlds, The Center for New York City Affairs and the Milano School.

On Monday at 8 p.m., city Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks "at West Side Federation of Neighborhood and Block Associations Annual Holiday Party."

Tuesday
At the City Council on Tuesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet to discuss two bills related to New York City crossing guard deployment.

At the New York State Legislature on Tuesday:

  • At 10 a.m. in Manhattan, a joint committee hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports in New York will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, and the Assembly Legislative Commission on Administrative Regulations Review.
  • At 10:30 a.m. in Albany, a joint committee hearing about law-enforcement officials using body cameras will be held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, a “Public Projects Forum” hosted by City & State NY will have Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, NY; Reginald Spinello, Mayor of Glen Cove, NY; Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora, NYC Department of Design & Construction; and Holly Leicht, Regional Administrator, Housing & Urban Development; speak about the upcoming public projects in the tristate area.

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall, “The Queens Borough Cabinet, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, will hear a briefing from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) on its current counterterrorism efforts in light of recent events in this county and abroad. The briefing will include a review of new counterterrorism technologies employed by the NYPD. In addition, the Fire Department of New York’s (FDNY’s) Fire Education Safety Team will deliver a presentation on how City residents can best keep their homes safe during the holiday season. Also, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation will deliver a presentation on the implementation of the Neighborhoods.nyc domain, which has launched nearly 400 online hubs for civic engagement, information sharing and economic development.” 

Wednesday
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Chairman's Breakfast will take on the presidential transition and the need for the most carefully planned transition in United States history in anticipation of January 20, 2017. [Read an op-ed on the subject from Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chair Ken Biberaj and David Eagles of Partnership for Public Service: Let’s Be Prepared for America’s Biggest Corporate Takeover

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet to discuss a bill to create two new health-focused city government bodies and another that would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “to post a New York City map on its website of the clinics they run, comprehensive care and primary care facilities run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation, voluntary non-profit and publicly sponsored diagnostic and treatment centers, and federally qualified health centers.”
  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on the city’s efforts to address “the homelessness crisis.” [Read our recent look at issues related to how and where homeless shelters are sited.]
  • At 1 p.m., the Committees on Aging and Finance will meet for a joint oversight hearing on the city’s “efforts to conduct outreach” and boost registration for the Rent Freeze Program; and on a new a bill that would “require the Department of Finance to include a notification regarding preferential rent on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to discuss four bills regarding the city’s human rights law.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Immigration will have an oversight hearing about “Resources Available in New York City for Unaccompanied Minors.”

At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday:

  • At noon in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committees on Labor and Small Business as well as the Assembly Commission on Skills Development and Careers Education will hold a joint oversight hearing on the state’s apprenticeship programs.
  • At 1 p.m. in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will hold an oversight hearing on the 2015-2016 budget plan.

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings meet on three bills. The first would create a Department of Buildings-headed task force that would assess the dangers posed by construction sites to motorists and pedestrians and submit recommendations to the City Council and mayor about measures proposed to minimize the hazard. The other two bills would raise penalties for working without a permit and for violating stop work directives.
  • At 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will review two land use applications.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will review five applications.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Committee on Higher Education will have a joint oversight hearing on “Establishing the Murphy Institute as a new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.”

At the New York State Legislature on Thursday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law and the Assembly Standing Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement will hold a joint oversight hearing about “Enhancing the voter experience, preventing voter disenfranchisement and improving emergency voting protocols.”

At 8:30 a.m. at Civic Hall on Thursday, Scott Stringer’s Red Tape Commission will meet in Manhattan to hear suggestions from small business owners and others.

On Thursday, the Staten Island Borough Board is expected to vote on Mayor de Blasio's two rezoning amendment proposals. It will be the fifth borough to do so - the other four have voted against them, sometimes with lists of conditions that the advisory boards would like to see made to revised proposals.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board holds a “New to the CFB” session.

At 6 p.m. Thursday: “Power Lines: Race, Class, The City & Its Schools,” a discussion about segregation in New York City schools.

Friday and the weekend
At the New York State Legislature on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. in Manhattan, a hearing of the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development regarding “Injuries in combative sports.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is launching a Manhattan Youth Council, and is holding an initial information session on Friday afternoon at her offices. “High school students from across Manhattan are invited to meet and talk with Borough President Gale Brewer about the issues that matter most to you...Young people who live, work, or attend school in Manhattan can sign up here.”

***
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 Konstantine Beridze, Ryan Brady, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 7 Sun, 06 Dec 2015 21:57:46 +0000
Assessing City Library Expansion After Budget Boost http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6008:assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6008:assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost van bramer six day library service

CM Van Bramer celebrates expanded library service (photo via @JimmyVanBramer) 


This June, officials added $43 million in funding for New York City’s three public library systems to the fiscal year 2016 budget, allowing for expansion of branch operating hours and a return to six-day service for the first time in nearly a decade.

At an oversight hearing on Monday, November 30, City Council members will seek an update on the libraries’ progress implementing six-day service, with particular focus on staffing and how the added funds are being allocated, as well as outreach efforts to inform the public of the newly expanded hours.

Just as the added budget funding was much-applauded when it was announced, the hearing will likely be a celebratory affair - according to interviews and information obtained by Gotham Gazette, expansion is moving quickly across the systems. This includes more six-day service, hiring of new staff, and more.

The historic funding increase comes after a push by advocates, City Council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, and others. The city’s three public library systems, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library, and the New York Public Library (which has branches in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx), operate 217 local library branches and served 37 million visitors in fiscal year 2014 - more than all of the city's professional sports teams and other major cultural institutions combined.

Today, New York’s public libraries are far more than a place to take out a book - they play a critical role in the lives of New Yorkers who are most in need of the services that libraries offer, like early childhood education, job training, technology classes, free tax assistance, and English classes.

As Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer told Gotham Gazette, “Libraries are really the first line of defense when it comes to bridging the information gap and technology gap. Folks who are working class, working poor, they're working during the week, and so many of them can’t get to libraries during the week. Saturdays and Sundays are the only times they can get to the library.”

Which is why, Van Bramer says, it is “really imperative to have libraries open on Saturdays. It’s absolutely essentially to reach every New Yorker and it is essential for every New Yorker to have access to library services, programs, and materials.”

At the upcoming hearing, Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations, said he “will ask how the three library systems have ramped up, whether every library is at expanded hours at this point, and if not, when will they be expanded?”

Making a few calls ahead of the hearing, which was postponed from an earlier date, Gotham Gazette was able to pull together some of that information.

Since October 19, all of the Brooklyn Public Library’s local branches are now open at least six days a week, while the Queens Public Library’s branches began six-day service November 15. The New York Public Library’s branches already had six-day service, so the added funding is being used to extend hours, bringing the total number of NYPL branches open on Sundays from three to seven.

Van Bramer said he also intends to ask “how their hiring is going - obviously a large part of the funding we allocated to expand days of service goes toward staffing - so how many new librarians and new library workers have been hired? Have they hired everyone they need to hire, or are they still in the process of hiring to get to that staffing level they need for full six-day service? I want to know how much more do they have to do.”

The added funding has “meant a big uptick in hiring,” Queens Public Library Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey told Gotham Gazette. “We’ve hired over 100 positions.”

The New York Public Library, meanwhile, has “hired 60 new librarians,” George Mihaltses, head of government affairs at NYPL, told Gotham Gazette. “And we’re planning to hire 36 more.” 

Even one new librarian can make a significant impact. According to the NYPL, in fiscal year 2015, the library used added funds to hire a children's specialist for a branch in the Bronx. As a direct result of the librarian's arrival, NYPL says, children's programming attendance at that branch increased by about 60 percent.

Council Member Andy King, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries, co-hosting Monday’s hearing with Van Bramer’s committtee, told Gotham Gazette that the committees want to find out specifics about “how the libraries plan on rolling out six-day service. How are they going to be doing programs in the libraries, what services will be provided on that sixth day? What kind of outreach is being made to ensure people know about six-day service? Will we be having events to promote the rollout together? With the...millions that have been allocated to the library system, how will this money be spent?”

In addition to increasing libraries’ hours of operation and hiring more librarians, those added millions will be used to bring more programs, books, and materials, to the NYPL’s branches, Mihaltses said. For the Queens library system, the added funds will be used enhance early literacy and afterschool programs, and to increase the library’s budget to purchase books, videos, e-books, and other materials by 30 percent, a library official told DNAinfo.

Council Member King told Gotham Gazette “making sure the libraries’ outreach is successful” is what he believed is the most important factor to consider when allocating resources to the many branches of New York City’s library systems. “We need to let people know that our libraries are open,” King said, “and we need to be prepared to receive them as they come into the doors.”

As far as outreach goes, David Woloch, executive vice president of external affairs at the Brooklyn Public Library, told Gotham Gazette that much of their outreach would occur “over the next few weeks. We’re going to be communicating to our patrons at all of our branches, we have a very big email list and we’ll be communicating the new hours to our entire email list, and using social media. There’s a lot of pieces to it - basically on every front we want to be getting the word out there.”

The Queens Public Library system took a more festive route to let the community know about the expanded hours, holding celebrations at about two dozen of its branches on Saturday, Nov. 21. “It’s all about making a big splash,” Quinn-Carey said. Scheduled events included meet-and-greets by eleven City Council members, as well as programs like face-painting, arts and crafts, storytelling, science labs, documentary screenings, and live music and dance performances.

“There will be a lot of promotion,” Quinn-Carey added, “not just this Saturday, but ongoing. We’re encouraging our branches to do a lot of local outreach.”

Overall, Monday’s hearing is a chance for city officials to “get some sense of accountability,” King said, adding he would like to know “what the plans are for the upcoming year, and how we all will profit from libraries being open six days a week.”

For many, the expanded hours of service comes as a much-needed relief, giving struggling New Yorkers with hectic work schedules a chance to utilize helpful programs offered by libraries that they simply couldn’t make it to before.

“Whenever we would go out into the communities to see people,” Quinn-Carey said, “they would always say, ‘We really want Saturday service or Sunday service - we need another day.’ Especially for two-parent working families or single-parent families, there really weren't many opportunities to get to the libraries. it just wasn’t convenient for them.”

“More and more people are relying on the library to be the sole source of their internet connection, they rely on us for basic education classes, or preschool classes, or ESL classes. They have a fundamental need to get into the library and it needs to be convenient for them,” Quinn-Carey continued.

“They want to get help for their children's homework. I think that's what so important - that, thanks to support from the city, we are now able...to open doors for the community. This is one of those things where you think to yourself, ‘the government is working for me,’ because it's a service they can see is being provided by public money.”

Although the $43 million in funding added to this year’s budget has rightfully been lauded by library advocates, Council Members, and others, as Van Bramer points out, “six-day service should be the bare minimum. This should be baselined [in the budget] right away and not subject to any further cuts.”

Large funding deficits to the three library systems beginning in fiscal year 2011 required the City Council and the administration to restore funding, which the city began to do in fiscal year 2014. Van Bramer himself played a key role in securing the increased funds for this fiscal year.

“We need the administration and Mayor de Blasio to baseline this funding,” Van Bramer said. “I do think libraries would love to see some additional funding, but I think, at a bare minimum, we need to baseline this funding and then we can talk about potential increases.”

Even with the newly expanded hours, New York City still lags behind other major cities and even other New York counties in terms of how many hours per week public libraries are open, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future. In Suffolk and Nassau counties, libraries are open 64 hours per week. In Rockland County, 60 hours per week; in Westchester, 54 hours per week; and in Onondaga County, 53 hours per week. Public libraries in San Antonio are open 57 hours per week, while those in Los Angeles are open 53 hours.

Woloch said that by adding hours throughout the system, most Brooklyn Public Library branches are now open at least 48 hours a week. Mihaltses said the New York Public Library’s branches “will be open, on average, 50 hours a week per branch, up from 45 hours.”

The eventual goal, City Council sources say, is to expand to seven-day service.

To Jeanette Estima, a researcher from the Center for an Urban Future who helped put together the report on library hours, this much is clear: “Libraries are used more than ever today. They’re used by people who are learning how to do computer programming, people who want to brush up on skills to make themselves more marketable, and when libraries are open for more hours, they are able to reach more people.”

“Libraries are tied to the development of human capital in New York City,” Estima continued. “Today’s market is a knowledge-based economy, and this is the only free resource to build these skills for New Yorkers.”

***
by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette
@MegOConnor13

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Assessing City Library Expansion After Budget Boost Wed, 25 Nov 2015 20:07:09 +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