Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/staten-island 2017-10-17T18:35:49+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com New York City Interests Given Varied Priority in Three Albany Budget Plans 2016-03-15T22:33:16+00:00 2016-03-15T22:33:16+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6226:new-york-city-interests-given-varied-priority-in-three-albany-budget-plans Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z.jpg" alt="de blasio heastie albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't need to see the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets to know where he stands with each chamber - Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is a close ally of the mayor, his fellow New York City Democrat, while Senate Republicans hold a major grudge against de Blasio for leading a failed effort to boot them from the majority two years ago. Most Republican legislators, who control the Senate but not the Assembly, are also philosophically opposed to much of de Blasio's agenda.</p> <p>Still, the documents give de Blasio - himself in the midst of a city budget process that depends quite a bit on state decisions - more clarity as budget negotiations truly heat up in the capital. With the governor's executive budget out for two months, plus the newly passed one-house budgets, de Blasio now has an idea of how hard a fight he and his allies have to get what they want.</p> <p>The Legislature uses one-house budgets to set chamber priorities after analyzing the governor's spending plan, which is typically issued at the start of the year. The budgets are non-binding but used to send clear messages about majority conferences' top priorities before entering final negotiations with the governor.</p> <p>While there are a variety of city-specific issues at play, de Blasio has made it clear that he is supportive of Cuomo's push for both a minimum wage increase toward $15 per hour over the next several years and a paid family leave policy. These are two major agenda items for the governor, where Cuomo laregly has Democratic support but must negotiate deals with Republicans.</p> <p>With all three budgets out, Mayor de Blasio, city officials and residents are all taking note of where things stand on several other major issues.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a three-year extension of mayoral control, which is fairly short compared to the seven-year extension Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to win during his tenure. Last year Cuomo also proposed three years, but the three parties only agreed on a one-year extension in June, angering de Blasio and his allies. (The issue was bumped beyond the budget into legislative session last year, as it may again this year.)</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Mayor de Blasio's allies in the Assembly support a seven-year extension of mayoral control, which would make expiration June 30, 2023. Such a distant date would remove the issue from the political equation for years to come and prevent Cuomo and Senate Republicans from holding it over de Blasio's head, even through a potential second term for the mayor.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> While addressing the chamber before the vote on <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/fy_2017_nys_senate_one_house_resolution_fact_sheet.pdf" target="_blank">its one-house budget</a> on Monday, Majority Leader John Flanagan said that he didn't feel mayoral control was a budget issue. He indicated he expects to have relevant hearings later in the year where de Blasio will be asked to testify. When asked about attending hearings by Gotham Gazette de Blasio said on Monday that he had expected them and welcomes the chance to discuss mayoral control. He was quick to remind that he had already met with Flanagan and discussed the subject.</p> <p>"I've already sat down with him, obviously, and talked to him about this," de Blasio said on Monday at an unrelated press conference in Harlem, referring to the mayor's trip to Albany earlier this year. "I certainly made my case to him, it was a very good and respectful meeting. I think he heard my points. I'm not saying he agreed with all of them, but he heard them. He knows a lot about education, obviously, from his own work on the education committee in the Senate. And I will welcome a dialogue. I told him I will happily appear at a hearing any time."</p> <p><strong>CUNY and Medicaid Cost Shifts</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget could cost the city nearly a billion dollars in funding through plans that would see the city assume increasing costs for Medicaid and funding for CUNY. The governor insists that the city can afford to take on a greater share of the costs of both city-state programs.</p> <p>Facing criticism from de Blasio, his allies, and budget watchdogs who warned the shifts would devastate the city's finances, Cuomo insisted his budgeting would simply foster a joint cost-saving exercise that in the end wouldn't cost the city anything. However, no adjustments were made to the plan in the governor's 30-day budget amendments, leaving the cost shifts as an expensive bargaining chip. While aides to de Blasio and Cuomo have been in conversation, there has been no evidence of progress in finding such efficiencies.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Assembly Democrats rejected both cost shifts, winning the praise of the mayor and education groups who have turned up lobbying efforts in recent weeks. Advocates say the cost shifts would devastate CUNY and make it much harder to provide higher education, especially to those who can't afford private school tuition.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Both proposals remain in the Senate plan. Debate over the CUNY shifts took a curious turn on Monday as Republican Sen. Cathy Young, the chair of the finance committee, offered a new rationale for the CUNY proposal: the cost shift as a punishment for recent anti-Semitic incidents at CUNY and what some lawmakers see as an inefficient response to them.</p> <p>"In light of recent anti-Semitic events at CUNY campuses," reads the Senate's budget summary, "the Senate denies additional funding for CUNY senior schools until it is satisfied that the administration has developed a plan to guarantee the safety of students of all faiths. The Senate fully understands the importance of the City University System, and supports the full restoration of State support when this difficult and atrocious situation is adequately addressed."</p> <p>Democrats were taken aback by the rationale. "Everyone agrees that anti-Semitism is bad. But the way you fight it is not by hurting the students," said Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky of Queens.</p> <p>"This administration has been outspoken in ensuring that NYC continues to be a model for other cities in combating anti-Semitism," de Blasio said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Our institutions of higher education must be spaces where people of all faiths can thrive and feel safe, and CUNY must ensure that's the case. The best tool to combat hate is education - and we must be investing in it, not cutting it."</p> <p><strong>Tax-Exempt Affordable Housing Bonds</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a proposal to give the state final say over housing projects financed by federal tax-exempt bonds the state distributes. The Public Authorities Control Board, made up of one appointee each from the Governor and legislative leaders, would have the ability to veto individual affordable housing projects. Cuomo touted the plan as lending transparency to the process, but contractors, housing advocates, Mayor de Blasio, and others expressed significant worry it would lead to instability, uncertainty, and delay to badly-needed affordable housing projects.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p>De Blasio appeared buoyed when asked about both chambers rejecting the plan. "I think in the democratic system that's a rather striking statement," the mayor told reporters on Monday afternoon. "We said from the beginning that we thought this would make it harder to create affordable housing, and would slow the process down. It's quite clear the Senate and the Assembly agree, and we appreciate their support and look forward to working with them, because we need to, in fact, speed up the supply of affordable housing, not slow it down."</p> <p><strong>Construction Takeover</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget proposes the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor. Budget watchdogs and legislators see the plan as a power grab designed to give the Governor say in major construction projects headed by independent agencies such as the MTA.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><strong>MTA Funding</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's plan technically provides $8.3 billion in funding for the MTA capital plan, per an earlier commitment Cuomo made in striking a deal with de Blasio over plugging a funding gap. However, the governor's budget only appropriates $1 billion for the MTA this year and puts off the rest of the funding until the MTA exhausts its current resources.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejecting Cuomo's condition that the MTA exhausts its current funding first, <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20160314/2016_budget_summary.pdf" target="_blank">the Assembly plan</a> appropriates the remaining $7.3 billion Cuomo's plan puts off.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Accepting most of Cuomo's funding plan, the Senate requires the state to provide $3.5 billion in additional funding to the Department of Transportation Capital Plan.</p> <p><strong>Tenant Protection Unit</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget recommends $4.4 million in funding for the agency he credits with restoring 50,000 units to the affordable housing rolls.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Provides a $5.8 million appropriation for the unit.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Denies funding for the unit.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />On Tuesday, the two houses of the Legislature convened a joint hearing to kick off the formal conference committee process whereby representatives of each house meet to hash out the differences in their plans. Leadership announced committee hearings on public protection, mental hygiene, higher education, general government, environment and housing, transportation, economic development, human services/labor, and education all to take place throughout the day on Wednesday.</p> <p>Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan are also expected to pick up their closed-door negotiations with the deadline for a final budget being April 1. When the state budget is decided, de Blasio will then have to weigh its impact on his budget negotiations with the City Council, with a final city budget due at the end of June.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24980864236_5c6038abfd_z.jpg" alt="de blasio heastie albany" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Heastie (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't need to see the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets to know where he stands with each chamber - Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is a close ally of the mayor, his fellow New York City Democrat, while Senate Republicans hold a major grudge against de Blasio for leading a failed effort to boot them from the majority two years ago. Most Republican legislators, who control the Senate but not the Assembly, are also philosophically opposed to much of de Blasio's agenda.</p> <p>Still, the documents give de Blasio - himself in the midst of a city budget process that depends quite a bit on state decisions - more clarity as budget negotiations truly heat up in the capital. With the governor's executive budget out for two months, plus the newly passed one-house budgets, de Blasio now has an idea of how hard a fight he and his allies have to get what they want.</p> <p>The Legislature uses one-house budgets to set chamber priorities after analyzing the governor's spending plan, which is typically issued at the start of the year. The budgets are non-binding but used to send clear messages about majority conferences' top priorities before entering final negotiations with the governor.</p> <p>While there are a variety of city-specific issues at play, de Blasio has made it clear that he is supportive of Cuomo's push for both a minimum wage increase toward $15 per hour over the next several years and a paid family leave policy. These are two major agenda items for the governor, where Cuomo laregly has Democratic support but must negotiate deals with Republicans.</p> <p>With all three budgets out, Mayor de Blasio, city officials and residents are all taking note of where things stand on several other major issues.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a three-year extension of mayoral control, which is fairly short compared to the seven-year extension Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to win during his tenure. Last year Cuomo also proposed three years, but the three parties only agreed on a one-year extension in June, angering de Blasio and his allies. (The issue was bumped beyond the budget into legislative session last year, as it may again this year.)</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Mayor de Blasio's allies in the Assembly support a seven-year extension of mayoral control, which would make expiration June 30, 2023. Such a distant date would remove the issue from the political equation for years to come and prevent Cuomo and Senate Republicans from holding it over de Blasio's head, even through a potential second term for the mayor.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> While addressing the chamber before the vote on <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/fy_2017_nys_senate_one_house_resolution_fact_sheet.pdf" target="_blank">its one-house budget</a> on Monday, Majority Leader John Flanagan said that he didn't feel mayoral control was a budget issue. He indicated he expects to have relevant hearings later in the year where de Blasio will be asked to testify. When asked about attending hearings by Gotham Gazette de Blasio said on Monday that he had expected them and welcomes the chance to discuss mayoral control. He was quick to remind that he had already met with Flanagan and discussed the subject.</p> <p>"I've already sat down with him, obviously, and talked to him about this," de Blasio said on Monday at an unrelated press conference in Harlem, referring to the mayor's trip to Albany earlier this year. "I certainly made my case to him, it was a very good and respectful meeting. I think he heard my points. I'm not saying he agreed with all of them, but he heard them. He knows a lot about education, obviously, from his own work on the education committee in the Senate. And I will welcome a dialogue. I told him I will happily appear at a hearing any time."</p> <p><strong>CUNY and Medicaid Cost Shifts</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget could cost the city nearly a billion dollars in funding through plans that would see the city assume increasing costs for Medicaid and funding for CUNY. The governor insists that the city can afford to take on a greater share of the costs of both city-state programs.</p> <p>Facing criticism from de Blasio, his allies, and budget watchdogs who warned the shifts would devastate the city's finances, Cuomo insisted his budgeting would simply foster a joint cost-saving exercise that in the end wouldn't cost the city anything. However, no adjustments were made to the plan in the governor's 30-day budget amendments, leaving the cost shifts as an expensive bargaining chip. While aides to de Blasio and Cuomo have been in conversation, there has been no evidence of progress in finding such efficiencies.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Assembly Democrats rejected both cost shifts, winning the praise of the mayor and education groups who have turned up lobbying efforts in recent weeks. Advocates say the cost shifts would devastate CUNY and make it much harder to provide higher education, especially to those who can't afford private school tuition.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Both proposals remain in the Senate plan. Debate over the CUNY shifts took a curious turn on Monday as Republican Sen. Cathy Young, the chair of the finance committee, offered a new rationale for the CUNY proposal: the cost shift as a punishment for recent anti-Semitic incidents at CUNY and what some lawmakers see as an inefficient response to them.</p> <p>"In light of recent anti-Semitic events at CUNY campuses," reads the Senate's budget summary, "the Senate denies additional funding for CUNY senior schools until it is satisfied that the administration has developed a plan to guarantee the safety of students of all faiths. The Senate fully understands the importance of the City University System, and supports the full restoration of State support when this difficult and atrocious situation is adequately addressed."</p> <p>Democrats were taken aback by the rationale. "Everyone agrees that anti-Semitism is bad. But the way you fight it is not by hurting the students," said Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky of Queens.</p> <p>"This administration has been outspoken in ensuring that NYC continues to be a model for other cities in combating anti-Semitism," de Blasio said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Our institutions of higher education must be spaces where people of all faiths can thrive and feel safe, and CUNY must ensure that's the case. The best tool to combat hate is education - and we must be investing in it, not cutting it."</p> <p><strong>Tax-Exempt Affordable Housing Bonds</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget includes a proposal to give the state final say over housing projects financed by federal tax-exempt bonds the state distributes. The Public Authorities Control Board, made up of one appointee each from the Governor and legislative leaders, would have the ability to veto individual affordable housing projects. Cuomo touted the plan as lending transparency to the process, but contractors, housing advocates, Mayor de Blasio, and others expressed significant worry it would lead to instability, uncertainty, and delay to badly-needed affordable housing projects.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p>De Blasio appeared buoyed when asked about both chambers rejecting the plan. "I think in the democratic system that's a rather striking statement," the mayor told reporters on Monday afternoon. "We said from the beginning that we thought this would make it harder to create affordable housing, and would slow the process down. It's quite clear the Senate and the Assembly agree, and we appreciate their support and look forward to working with them, because we need to, in fact, speed up the supply of affordable housing, not slow it down."</p> <p><strong>Construction Takeover</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget proposes the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor. Budget watchdogs and legislators see the plan as a power grab designed to give the Governor say in major construction projects headed by independent agencies such as the MTA.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Rejects the plan.</p> <p><strong>MTA Funding</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's plan technically provides $8.3 billion in funding for the MTA capital plan, per an earlier commitment Cuomo made in striking a deal with de Blasio over plugging a funding gap. However, the governor's budget only appropriates $1 billion for the MTA this year and puts off the rest of the funding until the MTA exhausts its current resources.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Rejecting Cuomo's condition that the MTA exhausts its current funding first, <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Reports/WAM/20160314/2016_budget_summary.pdf" target="_blank">the Assembly plan</a> appropriates the remaining $7.3 billion Cuomo's plan puts off.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Accepting most of Cuomo's funding plan, the Senate requires the state to provide $3.5 billion in additional funding to the Department of Transportation Capital Plan.</p> <p><strong>Tenant Protection Unit</strong><br /><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cuomo:</span> The governor's budget recommends $4.4 million in funding for the agency he credits with restoring 50,000 units to the affordable housing rolls.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Assembly:</span> Provides a $5.8 million appropriation for the unit.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Senate:</span> Denies funding for the unit.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />On Tuesday, the two houses of the Legislature convened a joint hearing to kick off the formal conference committee process whereby representatives of each house meet to hash out the differences in their plans. Leadership announced committee hearings on public protection, mental hygiene, higher education, general government, environment and housing, transportation, economic development, human services/labor, and education all to take place throughout the day on Wednesday.</p> <p>Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan are also expected to pick up their closed-door negotiations with the deadline for a final budget being April 1. When the state budget is decided, de Blasio will then have to weigh its impact on his budget negotiations with the City Council, with a final city budget due at the end of June.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Safe and Healthy Housing for All New Yorkers 2016-02-22T03:52:03+00:00 2016-02-22T03:52:03+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6186:safe-and-healthy-housing-for-all-new-yorkers Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/22534262128_1c610bb931_z.jpg" alt="housing march parade" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>I just can't take the mice and the mold anymore.</p> <p>For years, I have lived in a Staten Island apartment in desperate need of repair. I live there with my daughter, and we've constantly struggled to get our landlord to fix the problems that make our home an unhealthy place to live.</p> <p>Over the past six years, we've frequently gone without heat and hot water, faced endless mold growing in our cabinets, and suffered rodent infestations that simply won't go away.</p> <p>We've asked the landlord time and time again to make the repairs to the apartment that we need, but, when he finally does something, he only applies quick fixes. For instance, after we pushed hard for him to replace our moldy cabinets, he finally gave in—but the leak that caused the mold is still there, and it will soon grow again.</p> <p>Ours is the story of thousands of New York families who suffer dangerous and unhealthy living conditions because of landlords who put profit above people. In my case, the conditions caused by the landlord's failure to make the necessary repairs have made my asthma worse; last week, I had to go to the hospital because of a respiratory infection. And, like any mother, I worry constantly about how our unhealthy apartment is affecting my daughter.</p> <p>This type of problem afflicts tenants across the city. That's why it's so important that the New York City Council pass an important bill this year, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015545&amp;GUID=BACAA453-58E7-4FEF-94E1-E12CD7E72758&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 543</a>, that addresses the underlying conditions that bad landlords like mine so often fail to address.</p> <p>Here's what Intro. 543, introduced by lead sponsor Council Member Ritchie Torres, does: in the case that a landlord refuses to address the underlying condition causing a housing violation (for instance, a leak that produces mold), the bill would empower tenants like me to take our claims to housing court.</p> <p>This is important because, all too often, when landlords finally act to address housing violations, they fail to deal with the physical defect or failure in the building system that causes the violation. An example with which many New Yorkers will be familiar: the landlord who patches the dripping ceiling or paints over mold, but fails to fix the leaky pipe that's producing the problem.</p> <p>Currently, the city's housing agency (HPD) is only able to investigate up to 50 cases per year related to underlying conditions. The department does not currently have the capacity to fully take on all the cases that exist, which is why tenants like me need the legal recourses provided by this bill.</p> <p>It's time for landlords to accept responsibility for ensuring that tenants like my family are living in apartments that are safe and healthy.</p> <p>But landlords who profit enormously off of unhealthy apartments won't act alone. We have to make them, and that takes a change in the law. We need the City Council to pass Intro. 543 as soon as possible. If they don't, too many New Yorkers like me won't have the tools to ensure that our landlords make the repairs we need to make the mice and the mold go away.</p> <p>***<br />Dulce María Rivera is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/22534262128_1c610bb931_z.jpg" alt="housing march parade" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>I just can't take the mice and the mold anymore.</p> <p>For years, I have lived in a Staten Island apartment in desperate need of repair. I live there with my daughter, and we've constantly struggled to get our landlord to fix the problems that make our home an unhealthy place to live.</p> <p>Over the past six years, we've frequently gone without heat and hot water, faced endless mold growing in our cabinets, and suffered rodent infestations that simply won't go away.</p> <p>We've asked the landlord time and time again to make the repairs to the apartment that we need, but, when he finally does something, he only applies quick fixes. For instance, after we pushed hard for him to replace our moldy cabinets, he finally gave in—but the leak that caused the mold is still there, and it will soon grow again.</p> <p>Ours is the story of thousands of New York families who suffer dangerous and unhealthy living conditions because of landlords who put profit above people. In my case, the conditions caused by the landlord's failure to make the necessary repairs have made my asthma worse; last week, I had to go to the hospital because of a respiratory infection. And, like any mother, I worry constantly about how our unhealthy apartment is affecting my daughter.</p> <p>This type of problem afflicts tenants across the city. That's why it's so important that the New York City Council pass an important bill this year, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2015545&amp;GUID=BACAA453-58E7-4FEF-94E1-E12CD7E72758&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Intro. 543</a>, that addresses the underlying conditions that bad landlords like mine so often fail to address.</p> <p>Here's what Intro. 543, introduced by lead sponsor Council Member Ritchie Torres, does: in the case that a landlord refuses to address the underlying condition causing a housing violation (for instance, a leak that produces mold), the bill would empower tenants like me to take our claims to housing court.</p> <p>This is important because, all too often, when landlords finally act to address housing violations, they fail to deal with the physical defect or failure in the building system that causes the violation. An example with which many New Yorkers will be familiar: the landlord who patches the dripping ceiling or paints over mold, but fails to fix the leaky pipe that's producing the problem.</p> <p>Currently, the city's housing agency (HPD) is only able to investigate up to 50 cases per year related to underlying conditions. The department does not currently have the capacity to fully take on all the cases that exist, which is why tenants like me need the legal recourses provided by this bill.</p> <p>It's time for landlords to accept responsibility for ensuring that tenants like my family are living in apartments that are safe and healthy.</p> <p>But landlords who profit enormously off of unhealthy apartments won't act alone. We have to make them, and that takes a change in the law. We need the City Council to pass Intro. 543 as soon as possible. If they don't, too many New Yorkers like me won't have the tools to ensure that our landlords make the repairs we need to make the mice and the mold go away.</p> <p>***<br />Dulce María Rivera is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Eyeing 100 Schools, Will Success Academy Expand to Staten Island? 2016-02-15T03:33:41+00:00 2016-02-15T03:33:41+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6170:eyeing-100-schools-will-success-academy-expand-to-staten-island Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/moskowitz_rally.jpg" alt="moskowitz rally" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Eva Moskowitz &amp; students at a charter school rally (photo: @MoskowitzEva)</p> <hr /> <p>With 34 schools currently serving around 11,000 students, Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy is, and will likely continue to be, the largest charter school network in New York City. Success currently <a href="http://www.successacademies.org/" target="_blank">operates</a> in four boroughs and Moskowitz has an ambitious target of reaching 100 schools within the next decade, which prompts the question: Why are there no Success Academy schools on Staten Island?</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy has not sought authorization to run a school on Staten Island. The borough only has three charter schools run by any provider, of the nearly 200 in the city. A fourth charter school is in the process of being set up. Some say that the borough’s current crop of district, charter, and private schools are relatively strong, leaving little demand for Success to move in. But, it may just be a matter of time, especially as the network continues to post extraordinary test scores and seeks to expand its reach further.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a few charter schools that are serving our community’s needs, and if they no longer serve that need then I wouldn’t be opposed to Success Academy coming to Staten Island,” said Sam Pirozzolo, vice-president of the New York City Parents Union, a volunteer organization that has been a vocal supporter of the charter school movement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pirozzolo, who lives on Staten Island and was president of the borough’s community education council (largely parent advisory groups organized through a process run by the city Department of Education), said parents should be able to choose between district and charter schools, and that both have faults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy hasn’t ruled out Staten Island in its expansion plan, said Ann Powell, a spokesperson for the network. “It’s certainly possible in the future,” she said pointing out that the network only expanded to Queens two years ago. “As we move forward,” she said, “we hope to be able to serve families and students in Staten Island.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Eva Moskowitz has a very good reputation with her charter schools,” Pirozzolo told Gotham Gazette, exemplifying the view of many who see Success schools as strong alternatives to traditional district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz, a former City Council member, founded the Success Academy network in 2006 after a failed run for Manhattan Borough President. She has staunchly defended the network’s methods, which elicit much debate. Critics say its strict disciplinary practices and overemphasis on testing are detrimental to students, while supporters cite high performance on standardized tests and stronger school culture than neighboring district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Adding fuel to the fire have been controversies at individual schools. The New York Times on Friday <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FMoskowitz%2C%20Eva%20S.&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=timestopics&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=collection" target="_blank">posted a video</a> from a Success Academy school that shows a teacher harshly reprimanding and shaming a first-grader for stumbling over a math problem. In October last year, the Times also <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/nyregion/at-a-success-academy-charter-school-singling-out-pupils-who-have-got-to-go.html" target="_blank">exposed</a> one Success principal’s “Got to Go” list of underperforming students, whose parents claimed they were being pushed out of the school. There have been separate allegations that students with disabilities are systematically <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/nyregion/success-academy-founder-defends-schools-against-charges-of-bias.html" target="_blank">mistreated</a>. Two <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/02/8590588/another-family-got-go-list-sues-success-academy" target="_blank">federal lawsuits</a> have been filed recently against the network, with several more over the years. Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Member Daniel Dromm, who heads the Council’s education committee (that Moskowitz once ran), have joined one of the newer complaints.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz and Success have also battled with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been an outspoken critic of Moskowitz, over school co-locations, and are currently tangling <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2016/01/29/rise-shine-eva-moskowitz-calls-on-state-to-intervene-in-success-pre-k-spat-with-city/" target="_blank">over pre-kindergarten contracts</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But there is no apparent evidence that these controversies and disputes have been mitigating factors for interest in Success schools among parents, especially in areas of the city with historically troubled schools, nor for interest in a Success school on Staten Island. There are even students who commute from the island to Success schools in other boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We support any school – public, charter, or private – that gives Staten Island students a greater chance of success,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, in an email. “With that in mind, we want Staten Island parents to have a variety of local school choices.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said the “greatest outcry” from parents and advocates was for schools that better serve children with learning disabilities. He cited the example of a private school in Teaneck, New Jersey which specifically helps students who have difficulties with reading. A number of Staten Island students were enrolled there, he said, since their neighborhoods lacked adequate facilities and their tuition was paid by the Department of Education.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If Eva Moskowitz, or anyone else, is interested in talking with us about how they can help us meet the needs of these students, we would certainly welcome that conversation,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mike Reilly, president of Community Education Council 31, which represents the entire borough, believes Success hasn’t made the move to Staten Island because existing public schools are doing well. CECs advise the Department of Education on district needs and communicate with local residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’ve noticed that many charter schools open in areas where there’s a concern over performance of district schools,” Reilly said. “The need for charter schools doesn’t seem to be there in Staten Island. I’ve never heard anyone ask about opening a Success Charter school.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo, a Republican representing the mid-Island district, echoed this opinion. “The public and private schools in my district are well-regarded and I think parents are very happy with the choices they have,” Matteo said in a statement. “I am not sure there is a need, or necessarily a market for Success Academy here."</p> <p dir="ltr">Most Success Academy schools are concentrated in areas of the city with the district schools that struggle the most - areas of the south Bronx, central Brooklyn, and northern Manhattan. Many parents see Success as desperately-needed alternatives to district schools with low standardized test scores and a lack of order. Some appear to be turned off by reports of Success suspension rates <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/02/23/suspensions-at-city-charter-schools-far-outpace-those-at-district-schools-data-show/#.VsFJeWSAOko" target="_blank">far higher than district schools’</a> and the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html" target="_blank">extreme focus</a> on performing well on test scores.</p> <p dir="ltr">James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, believes that there is likely to be demand for Success charters on Staten Island even if it’s not overtly apparent. He speculated that transportation and infrastructure concerns might be holding back such a prospect.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Networks generally try to not have their schools geographically dispersed. Growth might better happen through new independent schools or by someone starting a network, who lives on the island,” he said. He also noted that Success leaders have been adamant in the past about co-locating with existing schools and that Staten Island affords few schools with that capability.</p> <p>Still, Merriman said, “I think there’s been demand for a Success school in most corners of the city.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Carmen Russo contributed reporting to this story.</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/moskowitz_rally.jpg" alt="moskowitz rally" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Eva Moskowitz &amp; students at a charter school rally (photo: @MoskowitzEva)</p> <hr /> <p>With 34 schools currently serving around 11,000 students, Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy is, and will likely continue to be, the largest charter school network in New York City. Success currently <a href="http://www.successacademies.org/" target="_blank">operates</a> in four boroughs and Moskowitz has an ambitious target of reaching 100 schools within the next decade, which prompts the question: Why are there no Success Academy schools on Staten Island?</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy has not sought authorization to run a school on Staten Island. The borough only has three charter schools run by any provider, of the nearly 200 in the city. A fourth charter school is in the process of being set up. Some say that the borough’s current crop of district, charter, and private schools are relatively strong, leaving little demand for Success to move in. But, it may just be a matter of time, especially as the network continues to post extraordinary test scores and seeks to expand its reach further.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a few charter schools that are serving our community’s needs, and if they no longer serve that need then I wouldn’t be opposed to Success Academy coming to Staten Island,” said Sam Pirozzolo, vice-president of the New York City Parents Union, a volunteer organization that has been a vocal supporter of the charter school movement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pirozzolo, who lives on Staten Island and was president of the borough’s community education council (largely parent advisory groups organized through a process run by the city Department of Education), said parents should be able to choose between district and charter schools, and that both have faults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy hasn’t ruled out Staten Island in its expansion plan, said Ann Powell, a spokesperson for the network. “It’s certainly possible in the future,” she said pointing out that the network only expanded to Queens two years ago. “As we move forward,” she said, “we hope to be able to serve families and students in Staten Island.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Eva Moskowitz has a very good reputation with her charter schools,” Pirozzolo told Gotham Gazette, exemplifying the view of many who see Success schools as strong alternatives to traditional district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz, a former City Council member, founded the Success Academy network in 2006 after a failed run for Manhattan Borough President. She has staunchly defended the network’s methods, which elicit much debate. Critics say its strict disciplinary practices and overemphasis on testing are detrimental to students, while supporters cite high performance on standardized tests and stronger school culture than neighboring district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Adding fuel to the fire have been controversies at individual schools. The New York Times on Friday <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FMoskowitz%2C%20Eva%20S.&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=timestopics&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=collection" target="_blank">posted a video</a> from a Success Academy school that shows a teacher harshly reprimanding and shaming a first-grader for stumbling over a math problem. In October last year, the Times also <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/nyregion/at-a-success-academy-charter-school-singling-out-pupils-who-have-got-to-go.html" target="_blank">exposed</a> one Success principal’s “Got to Go” list of underperforming students, whose parents claimed they were being pushed out of the school. There have been separate allegations that students with disabilities are systematically <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/nyregion/success-academy-founder-defends-schools-against-charges-of-bias.html" target="_blank">mistreated</a>. Two <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/02/8590588/another-family-got-go-list-sues-success-academy" target="_blank">federal lawsuits</a> have been filed recently against the network, with several more over the years. Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Member Daniel Dromm, who heads the Council’s education committee (that Moskowitz once ran), have joined one of the newer complaints.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz and Success have also battled with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been an outspoken critic of Moskowitz, over school co-locations, and are currently tangling <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2016/01/29/rise-shine-eva-moskowitz-calls-on-state-to-intervene-in-success-pre-k-spat-with-city/" target="_blank">over pre-kindergarten contracts</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But there is no apparent evidence that these controversies and disputes have been mitigating factors for interest in Success schools among parents, especially in areas of the city with historically troubled schools, nor for interest in a Success school on Staten Island. There are even students who commute from the island to Success schools in other boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We support any school – public, charter, or private – that gives Staten Island students a greater chance of success,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, in an email. “With that in mind, we want Staten Island parents to have a variety of local school choices.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said the “greatest outcry” from parents and advocates was for schools that better serve children with learning disabilities. He cited the example of a private school in Teaneck, New Jersey which specifically helps students who have difficulties with reading. A number of Staten Island students were enrolled there, he said, since their neighborhoods lacked adequate facilities and their tuition was paid by the Department of Education.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If Eva Moskowitz, or anyone else, is interested in talking with us about how they can help us meet the needs of these students, we would certainly welcome that conversation,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mike Reilly, president of Community Education Council 31, which represents the entire borough, believes Success hasn’t made the move to Staten Island because existing public schools are doing well. CECs advise the Department of Education on district needs and communicate with local residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’ve noticed that many charter schools open in areas where there’s a concern over performance of district schools,” Reilly said. “The need for charter schools doesn’t seem to be there in Staten Island. I’ve never heard anyone ask about opening a Success Charter school.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo, a Republican representing the mid-Island district, echoed this opinion. “The public and private schools in my district are well-regarded and I think parents are very happy with the choices they have,” Matteo said in a statement. “I am not sure there is a need, or necessarily a market for Success Academy here."</p> <p dir="ltr">Most Success Academy schools are concentrated in areas of the city with the district schools that struggle the most - areas of the south Bronx, central Brooklyn, and northern Manhattan. Many parents see Success as desperately-needed alternatives to district schools with low standardized test scores and a lack of order. Some appear to be turned off by reports of Success suspension rates <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/02/23/suspensions-at-city-charter-schools-far-outpace-those-at-district-schools-data-show/#.VsFJeWSAOko" target="_blank">far higher than district schools’</a> and the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html" target="_blank">extreme focus</a> on performing well on test scores.</p> <p dir="ltr">James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, believes that there is likely to be demand for Success charters on Staten Island even if it’s not overtly apparent. He speculated that transportation and infrastructure concerns might be holding back such a prospect.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Networks generally try to not have their schools geographically dispersed. Growth might better happen through new independent schools or by someone starting a network, who lives on the island,” he said. He also noted that Success leaders have been adamant in the past about co-locating with existing schools and that Staten Island affords few schools with that capability.</p> <p>Still, Merriman said, “I think there’s been demand for a Success school in most corners of the city.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Carmen Russo contributed reporting to this story.</p>
To Meet Staten Island Needs, Borough President Focuses on Beating Bureaucracy 2016-01-10T20:45:56+00:00 2016-01-10T20:45:56+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6078:to-meet-staten-island-needs-borough-president-focuses-on-beating-bureaucracy Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/oddo_torres_springer_meeting.jpg" alt="oddo torres springer meeting" height="444" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">SIBP Oddo, right, &amp; Maria Torres-Springer of the de Blasio admin (photo from Oddo's Twitter)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Staten Island has the highest rate of homeownership of any city borough, residents largely use cars to get around, since mass transit options are severely lacking, and despite being the city’s third largest borough in terms of square miles, Staten Island is home to just under 500,000 out of more than 8 million New Yorkers. There are a unique set of concerns on Staten Island, to say the least of the often strained relationship between the borough and City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and the borough’s other elected representatives often feel as though they have to scratch and claw to get their constituents due attention and resources. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has been paying more attention to Staten Island than some may have expected considering it was the only borough he lost in his 2013 election, there is still a sense among many Islanders that the administration does not pay enough mind to their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">In sending out an end-of-year message and in a subsequent interview, Oddo indicated the special circumstances of his borough, described an ongoing battle with “the bureaucracy,” and outlined the needs of Staten Islanders, progress made in 2015, and what to expect in 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For far too much of the last two years my staff and I have engaged in a full-fledged steel cage match with the bureaucracy, attempting to get City government to bring long planned projects to fruition,” Oddo said in an end-of-year<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>. “We have fought so that Borough Hall’s new visions and initiatives might take root, and wrestled with city agencies to work in conjunction with us to efficiently and effectively resolve the daily quality of life issues facing Staten Islanders.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That “steel cage match” does not involve the mayor, Oddo explained in an interview with Gotham Gazette, but rather “middle managers or bureaucrats - folks that hold onto the status quo like grim death…deputy commissioner-level folks who have been in those city agencies” long before Mayor de Blasio or Oddo were elected to their current positions (the two were City Council colleagues at one point).</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very pleased with the level of communication I have with the mayor himself, and with the deputy mayors. I think the frustration I’ve felt in the last two years is referring to individual agencies,” Oddo clarified, adding that he finds it “curious that there have been many instances over the last two years where it's been borough hall and the mayor's office versus their own agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo has been particularly consumed with Sandy recovery, health and wellness, transit options, and road repaving.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the borough president and his constituents, Staten Island’s lack of mass transit options and related severe traffic congestion are pressing issues that have a big impact on residents’ day-to-day lives, adding hours to their daily commutes. Yet that sense of urgency is not shared by some officials within city agencies, Oddo says, and as a result, issues go unresolved for long periods of time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I get the sense that for some long-standing agency officials, whether the project is completed in fiscal year ’19 or fiscal year ’29, it really doesn’t matter to them,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The biggest issue to tackle in 2016, Oddo explained, is getting the city to help figure out a way to improve the commute on Staten Island. Staten Islanders spend more time and money on their commutes than the average New Yorker: Staten Island to Manhattan via express bus costs commuters about $57 each week, and while ferry service (the only other mass transit option that connects Staten Island to Manhattan) is free, the boat ride takes almost half an hour, and getting to the ferry can take between ten minutes and an hour-and-a-half for those relying on mass transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is only one train on Staten Island, and that train runs exclusively along the east side of the borough, leaving a majority of those who need to use mass transit to get around Staten Island stuck waiting for the notoriously unreliable buses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The initial draft report of the MTA’s comprehensive study of all existing bus routes on Staten Island (some of which were designed 40 or 50 years ago) should be received in 2016, Oddo said, and while “no one has any delusions that the MTA is going to come in with this unending source of capital money, we believe we can restructure these routes and find a great deal of efficiency. I really expect some improvements. That’ll be big in 2016.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said that he hopes to “improve to some degree the commutes that are worsening by the day. It’s literally robbing hours of your life - it’s two to four hours on top of your workday.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though 2015 has seen progress toward improving Staten Island’s current mass transit options, with movement on the MTA study and Mayor de Blasio investing nearly $5 million a year to ensure the ferry runs every half-hour 24-hours a day, progress toward providing Staten Islanders with more transit options has been less than ideal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m not so happy with the progress that has not been made with the fast ferry,” Oddo said, referring to a new ferry program he’s advocated for. “We still have lots of work to do to make it a reality.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ideally, a fast ferry service would run from transit-starved areas of the borough which are far from the island’s existing north shore ferry location to areas with docks for ferries in Manhattan or Brooklyn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did put forward a fast ferry plan last year, and <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">funding from the city has been set</a>, but the plan adds just one fast ferry location to the island, in Stapleton - a mere six minute drive away from the existing ferry terminal in Saint George.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, Oddo got a fast ferry service to conduct test runs from more remote locations on Staten Island, like Prince’s Bay, to lower Manhattan and midtown in an effort to prove the service would be a viable option for such locations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ferry from Prince’s Bay (which is at least a 45-minute bus/train ride away from the Staten Island ferry terminal) to lower Manhattan took <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">47 minutes</a> during Oddo’s test runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Stapleton fast ferry is arguably not what Staten Islanders looking to save time on their commutes need, given the city’s plans for economic development in the Bay Street Corridor/Stapleton area, the fast ferry could be helpful in the future, Oddo told the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">Staten Island Advance</a> last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s more to be done, and we’re going to keep working on expanding options,” Mayor de Blasio said when asked about the lack of mass transit options on Staten Island during a Jan. 4 press conference to promote the city’s new<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> commuter benefits law</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">While improving the commute for Staten Island residents is something Oddo says still “needs the city’s help in advancing,” the borough president says he is “happy with some of the progress that we’ve made with our <a href="http://www.silive.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/11/bp_oddo_asks_teens_to_take_sodabriety_challenge_and_banish_sugar_from_their_drinks.html" target="_blank">health and wellness</a> program, the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_tours_st_george_with_depu.html" target="_blank">tech hub</a> [that will be created on Staten Island’s North Shore], and the “Too Good for Drugs” program that the mayor came out to <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/12/de_blasio_announces_citywide_t.html" target="_blank">announce</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said out of all the initiatives that progressed in 2015, he is most proud of “Too Good for Drugs,” as Staten Island’s “epidemic in terms of opioid abuse” is a matter of “life and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The educational anti-drug program for students, which started last year in fifth-grade classrooms in five Staten Island schools, “came out of Borough Hall, we’re very proud of it, and the feedback has been fantastic,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The folks at City Hall believe in it and it's one of several fronts that we need” to reduce substance abuse and drug overdose deaths, he added. Oddo said treatment programs are also needed, but preventing substance abuse by teaching “the notion of making smart decisions at as early as an age as possible” is seen as an important first step by Oddo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expanding “Too Good for Drugs” is one of the items on Oddo’s agenda for 2016, with the program <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151209/eltingville/staten-islands-too-good-for-drugs-program-expands-47-schools" target="_blank">set to expand</a> to 47 schools after receiving $70,000 in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio and his administration have made an effort to show City Hall remembers the “forgotten borough.” The mayor made several trips to Staten Island in 2015: he vowed to complete all<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8581277/de-blasio-promises-2016-deadline-build-it-back-repairs" target="_blank"> repairs and construction</a> still needed for Staten Island residents whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Sandy by 2016; he broke ground on Staten Island’s first<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank"> Family Justice Center</a> for domestic violence prevention and response; and announced his administration’s comprehensive effort to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/923-15/transcript-de-blasio-administration-launches-comprehensive-effort-reduce-opioid-misuse-and" target="_blank"> reduce opioid misuse</a> and overdose deaths, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of town halls in 2016, including Staten Island,” de Blasio said during the Jan. 4 press conference when asked about doing a Q&amp;A session on the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Besides continuing to fight that “steel cage match with the bureaucracy” to make the commute better for Staten Islanders and repaving the borough’s roads, 2016 will also “bring a new economic development campaign to entice businesses who are being priced out of other boroughs to think of Staten Island instead of New Jersey,” according to Oddo’s year-end<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo did not get into specifics in terms of his thinking about the ongoing development of the New York Wheel or the accompanying Empire Outlets expected to be constructed near the ferry terminal within the next few years as he spoke about different aspects of economic development, and had a clear focus on quality of life issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other initiatives, he said, include “a new program to match Staten Island high school students with mentors in their areas of interest, and out-of-the-box ideas to help tackle North Shore traffic issues.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/oddo_torres_springer_meeting.jpg" alt="oddo torres springer meeting" height="444" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">SIBP Oddo, right, &amp; Maria Torres-Springer of the de Blasio admin (photo from Oddo's Twitter)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>Staten Island has the highest rate of homeownership of any city borough, residents largely use cars to get around, since mass transit options are severely lacking, and despite being the city’s third largest borough in terms of square miles, Staten Island is home to just under 500,000 out of more than 8 million New Yorkers. There are a unique set of concerns on Staten Island, to say the least of the often strained relationship between the borough and City Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and the borough’s other elected representatives often feel as though they have to scratch and claw to get their constituents due attention and resources. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has been paying more attention to Staten Island than some may have expected considering it was the only borough he lost in his 2013 election, there is still a sense among many Islanders that the administration does not pay enough mind to their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">In sending out an end-of-year message and in a subsequent interview, Oddo indicated the special circumstances of his borough, described an ongoing battle with “the bureaucracy,” and outlined the needs of Staten Islanders, progress made in 2015, and what to expect in 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For far too much of the last two years my staff and I have engaged in a full-fledged steel cage match with the bureaucracy, attempting to get City government to bring long planned projects to fruition,” Oddo said in an end-of-year<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>. “We have fought so that Borough Hall’s new visions and initiatives might take root, and wrestled with city agencies to work in conjunction with us to efficiently and effectively resolve the daily quality of life issues facing Staten Islanders.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That “steel cage match” does not involve the mayor, Oddo explained in an interview with Gotham Gazette, but rather “middle managers or bureaucrats - folks that hold onto the status quo like grim death…deputy commissioner-level folks who have been in those city agencies” long before Mayor de Blasio or Oddo were elected to their current positions (the two were City Council colleagues at one point).</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m very pleased with the level of communication I have with the mayor himself, and with the deputy mayors. I think the frustration I’ve felt in the last two years is referring to individual agencies,” Oddo clarified, adding that he finds it “curious that there have been many instances over the last two years where it's been borough hall and the mayor's office versus their own agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo has been particularly consumed with Sandy recovery, health and wellness, transit options, and road repaving.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the borough president and his constituents, Staten Island’s lack of mass transit options and related severe traffic congestion are pressing issues that have a big impact on residents’ day-to-day lives, adding hours to their daily commutes. Yet that sense of urgency is not shared by some officials within city agencies, Oddo says, and as a result, issues go unresolved for long periods of time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I get the sense that for some long-standing agency officials, whether the project is completed in fiscal year ’19 or fiscal year ’29, it really doesn’t matter to them,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The biggest issue to tackle in 2016, Oddo explained, is getting the city to help figure out a way to improve the commute on Staten Island. Staten Islanders spend more time and money on their commutes than the average New Yorker: Staten Island to Manhattan via express bus costs commuters about $57 each week, and while ferry service (the only other mass transit option that connects Staten Island to Manhattan) is free, the boat ride takes almost half an hour, and getting to the ferry can take between ten minutes and an hour-and-a-half for those relying on mass transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is only one train on Staten Island, and that train runs exclusively along the east side of the borough, leaving a majority of those who need to use mass transit to get around Staten Island stuck waiting for the notoriously unreliable buses.</p> <p dir="ltr">The initial draft report of the MTA’s comprehensive study of all existing bus routes on Staten Island (some of which were designed 40 or 50 years ago) should be received in 2016, Oddo said, and while “no one has any delusions that the MTA is going to come in with this unending source of capital money, we believe we can restructure these routes and find a great deal of efficiency. I really expect some improvements. That’ll be big in 2016.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said that he hopes to “improve to some degree the commutes that are worsening by the day. It’s literally robbing hours of your life - it’s two to four hours on top of your workday.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though 2015 has seen progress toward improving Staten Island’s current mass transit options, with movement on the MTA study and Mayor de Blasio investing nearly $5 million a year to ensure the ferry runs every half-hour 24-hours a day, progress toward providing Staten Islanders with more transit options has been less than ideal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m not so happy with the progress that has not been made with the fast ferry,” Oddo said, referring to a new ferry program he’s advocated for. “We still have lots of work to do to make it a reality.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ideally, a fast ferry service would run from transit-starved areas of the borough which are far from the island’s existing north shore ferry location to areas with docks for ferries in Manhattan or Brooklyn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did put forward a fast ferry plan last year, and <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">funding from the city has been set</a>, but the plan adds just one fast ferry location to the island, in Stapleton - a mere six minute drive away from the existing ferry terminal in Saint George.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2015, Oddo got a fast ferry service to conduct test runs from more remote locations on Staten Island, like Prince’s Bay, to lower Manhattan and midtown in an effort to prove the service would be a viable option for such locations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ferry from Prince’s Bay (which is at least a 45-minute bus/train ride away from the Staten Island ferry terminal) to lower Manhattan took <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">47 minutes</a> during Oddo’s test runs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Stapleton fast ferry is arguably not what Staten Islanders looking to save time on their commutes need, given the city’s plans for economic development in the Bay Street Corridor/Stapleton area, the fast ferry could be helpful in the future, Oddo told the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_pushes_to_bring_more_fast.html" target="_blank">Staten Island Advance</a> last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s more to be done, and we’re going to keep working on expanding options,” Mayor de Blasio said when asked about the lack of mass transit options on Staten Island during a Jan. 4 press conference to promote the city’s new<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6048-new-transit-program-called-win-win-for-many-commuters-employers" target="_blank"> commuter benefits law</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">While improving the commute for Staten Island residents is something Oddo says still “needs the city’s help in advancing,” the borough president says he is “happy with some of the progress that we’ve made with our <a href="http://www.silive.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/11/bp_oddo_asks_teens_to_take_sodabriety_challenge_and_banish_sugar_from_their_drinks.html" target="_blank">health and wellness</a> program, the <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/oddo_tours_st_george_with_depu.html" target="_blank">tech hub</a> [that will be created on Staten Island’s North Shore], and the “Too Good for Drugs” program that the mayor came out to <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/12/de_blasio_announces_citywide_t.html" target="_blank">announce</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo said out of all the initiatives that progressed in 2015, he is most proud of “Too Good for Drugs,” as Staten Island’s “epidemic in terms of opioid abuse” is a matter of “life and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The educational anti-drug program for students, which started last year in fifth-grade classrooms in five Staten Island schools, “came out of Borough Hall, we’re very proud of it, and the feedback has been fantastic,” Oddo said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The folks at City Hall believe in it and it's one of several fronts that we need” to reduce substance abuse and drug overdose deaths, he added. Oddo said treatment programs are also needed, but preventing substance abuse by teaching “the notion of making smart decisions at as early as an age as possible” is seen as an important first step by Oddo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expanding “Too Good for Drugs” is one of the items on Oddo’s agenda for 2016, with the program <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151209/eltingville/staten-islands-too-good-for-drugs-program-expands-47-schools" target="_blank">set to expand</a> to 47 schools after receiving $70,000 in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio and his administration have made an effort to show City Hall remembers the “forgotten borough.” The mayor made several trips to Staten Island in 2015: he vowed to complete all<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8581277/de-blasio-promises-2016-deadline-build-it-back-repairs" target="_blank"> repairs and construction</a> still needed for Staten Island residents whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Sandy by 2016; he broke ground on Staten Island’s first<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank"> Family Justice Center</a> for domestic violence prevention and response; and announced his administration’s comprehensive effort to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/923-15/transcript-de-blasio-administration-launches-comprehensive-effort-reduce-opioid-misuse-and" target="_blank"> reduce opioid misuse</a> and overdose deaths, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There will be a lot of town halls in 2016, including Staten Island,” de Blasio said during the Jan. 4 press conference when asked about doing a Q&amp;A session on the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">Besides continuing to fight that “steel cage match with the bureaucracy” to make the commute better for Staten Islanders and repaving the borough’s roads, 2016 will also “bring a new economic development campaign to entice businesses who are being priced out of other boroughs to think of Staten Island instead of New Jersey,” according to Oddo’s year-end<a href="http://www.statenislandusa.com/end-of-year-2015.html" target="_blank"> message</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Oddo did not get into specifics in terms of his thinking about the ongoing development of the New York Wheel or the accompanying Empire Outlets expected to be constructed near the ferry terminal within the next few years as he spoke about different aspects of economic development, and had a clear focus on quality of life issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other initiatives, he said, include “a new program to match Staten Island high school students with mentors in their areas of interest, and out-of-the-box ideas to help tackle North Shore traffic issues.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> New York City Needs Supervised Injection Facilities 2015-12-23T16:01:24+00:00 2015-12-23T16:01:24+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6053:new-york-city-needs-supervised-injection-facilities Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23261677995_f9d85691e3_z.jpg" alt="mccray bassett thrivenyc" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">First Lady McCray &amp; Health Comm. Bassett (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There is a hot topic trending in the debate over the war on drugs: should there be safe places for intravenous drug users to inject? A panel of experts from around the world convened a symposium in New York City to share their experiences and the panelists and their sponsor, VOCAL NY, called for such a facility in the city. They are completely correct.</p> <p>There are an estimated 100 supervised injection facilities worldwide and advocates credit them with reducing both overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases (HIV and hepatitis C). These facilities offer clean needles, a sterile environment, and emergency services in the case of an overdose. They also provide education, counseling, access to treatment, and other services that might save users' lives.</p> <p>Without such refuge, addicts resort to "whatever it takes" to get high and the resulting health problems resonate throughout society by way of the spread of infectious disease and the death of loved ones.</p> <p>The rise in heroin, the primary drug used via injection, is well-documented and New York is no exception. Staten Island is the borough hardest hit by the heroin epidemic; 74 people there died of overdose in 2014. Many heroin users began by taking prescription painkillers that are chemically similar and after becoming addicted find that heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio traveled to Staten Island in early December to announce measures addressing the heroin crisis there. He has made naloxone, an overdose antidote, available in pharmacies without a prescription and promised to increase the availability of substance abuse treatment by licensing more physicians to prescribe maintenance drugs that dull the cravings for heroin.</p> <p>These are good steps. We still need supervised injection facilities.</p> <p>Naloxone does not prevent overdoses which can occur from the improvised situations that users often find themselves in. Supervised facilities prevent overdoses by providing an environment that is cleaner and less chaotic than, say, a gas station restroom.</p> <p>The spread of infectious disease through unsanitary conditions and instruments represents an even deadlier and widespread threat than overdose - infected users spread disease to unsuspecting loved ones, often through sexual intercourse.</p> <p>One of the thorniest problems in combating illegal drugs is the fact that they are illegal and addicts, because they are punished, deplored, and shamed for their disease, live in the shadows, apart from mainstream society. Supervised facilities provide a place where they are not judged. Staff, often recovered addicts who understand their dire situation, can offer users a path out of their misery and provide education on infectious diseases and methods of prevention.</p> <p>Supervised injection facilities are one example of the "harm reduction strategy" towards substance abuse. Needle exchanges are another example; they accept the fact that users will utilize infected needles if that is their only choice, but respect that users are intelligent and prefer clean needles if they are available. The immediate result of needle exchanges is fewer persons infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, thus the harm of addiction is reduced. New York City has 15 needle exchanges, but only one on Staten Island and, sad to say, no one is asking for more.</p> <p>The harm reduction strategy is the polar opposite of the 50-year-long "war on drugs" which was lost long ago, though few will admit it. Throughout the world opinion is shifting towards decriminalizing all drugs. A recent draft United Nations report recommended decriminalizing drugs and Portugal did so about ten years ago with no discernible detriment to civil society.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.silive.com/opinion/columns/index.ssf/2015/12/safe_spaces_for_heroin_injecti.html" target="_blank">recent editorial</a> in the Staten Island Advance excoriated the idea of safe places like supervised injection facilities, saying that they encourage more drug use - but they do not; they encourage safe drug use.</p> <p>It is the plain fact that many thousands of people, without any encouragement, are seeking out heroin for any number of reasons. On Staten Island, and throughout New York City, it is time to tear down the walls that separate us, bring users in from the cold, and offer them whatever help we can.</p> <p>***<br />Christopher Beall works at a criminal justice nonprofit in the Bronx and is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JailedintheUSA" target="_blank">@JailedintheUSA</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23261677995_f9d85691e3_z.jpg" alt="mccray bassett thrivenyc" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">First Lady McCray &amp; Health Comm. Bassett (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There is a hot topic trending in the debate over the war on drugs: should there be safe places for intravenous drug users to inject? A panel of experts from around the world convened a symposium in New York City to share their experiences and the panelists and their sponsor, VOCAL NY, called for such a facility in the city. They are completely correct.</p> <p>There are an estimated 100 supervised injection facilities worldwide and advocates credit them with reducing both overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases (HIV and hepatitis C). These facilities offer clean needles, a sterile environment, and emergency services in the case of an overdose. They also provide education, counseling, access to treatment, and other services that might save users' lives.</p> <p>Without such refuge, addicts resort to "whatever it takes" to get high and the resulting health problems resonate throughout society by way of the spread of infectious disease and the death of loved ones.</p> <p>The rise in heroin, the primary drug used via injection, is well-documented and New York is no exception. Staten Island is the borough hardest hit by the heroin epidemic; 74 people there died of overdose in 2014. Many heroin users began by taking prescription painkillers that are chemically similar and after becoming addicted find that heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio traveled to Staten Island in early December to announce measures addressing the heroin crisis there. He has made naloxone, an overdose antidote, available in pharmacies without a prescription and promised to increase the availability of substance abuse treatment by licensing more physicians to prescribe maintenance drugs that dull the cravings for heroin.</p> <p>These are good steps. We still need supervised injection facilities.</p> <p>Naloxone does not prevent overdoses which can occur from the improvised situations that users often find themselves in. Supervised facilities prevent overdoses by providing an environment that is cleaner and less chaotic than, say, a gas station restroom.</p> <p>The spread of infectious disease through unsanitary conditions and instruments represents an even deadlier and widespread threat than overdose - infected users spread disease to unsuspecting loved ones, often through sexual intercourse.</p> <p>One of the thorniest problems in combating illegal drugs is the fact that they are illegal and addicts, because they are punished, deplored, and shamed for their disease, live in the shadows, apart from mainstream society. Supervised facilities provide a place where they are not judged. Staff, often recovered addicts who understand their dire situation, can offer users a path out of their misery and provide education on infectious diseases and methods of prevention.</p> <p>Supervised injection facilities are one example of the "harm reduction strategy" towards substance abuse. Needle exchanges are another example; they accept the fact that users will utilize infected needles if that is their only choice, but respect that users are intelligent and prefer clean needles if they are available. The immediate result of needle exchanges is fewer persons infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, thus the harm of addiction is reduced. New York City has 15 needle exchanges, but only one on Staten Island and, sad to say, no one is asking for more.</p> <p>The harm reduction strategy is the polar opposite of the 50-year-long "war on drugs" which was lost long ago, though few will admit it. Throughout the world opinion is shifting towards decriminalizing all drugs. A recent draft United Nations report recommended decriminalizing drugs and Portugal did so about ten years ago with no discernible detriment to civil society.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.silive.com/opinion/columns/index.ssf/2015/12/safe_spaces_for_heroin_injecti.html" target="_blank">recent editorial</a> in the Staten Island Advance excoriated the idea of safe places like supervised injection facilities, saying that they encourage more drug use - but they do not; they encourage safe drug use.</p> <p>It is the plain fact that many thousands of people, without any encouragement, are seeking out heroin for any number of reasons. On Staten Island, and throughout New York City, it is time to tear down the walls that separate us, bring users in from the cold, and offer them whatever help we can.</p> <p>***<br />Christopher Beall works at a criminal justice nonprofit in the Bronx and is on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JailedintheUSA" target="_blank">@JailedintheUSA</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com</p> Two New Reps Join the City Council 2015-11-20T18:51:10+00:00 2015-11-20T18:51:10+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5999:two-new-reps-set-to-join-the-city-council Super User <p><img alt="borelli grodenchik council" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_3563.JPG" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CMs Borelli, right, &amp; Grodenchik are sworn in next to the Speaker (photo by William Alatriste)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council has two new members, each with prior experience in elected office and bringing to the 51-member body the perspective of New Yorkers living in the city's outer-reaches. Both districts being represented by new members are populated by many car- and single-family-home-owners.</p> <p>One new representative - Barry Grodenchik of Queens - brings a fairly moderate Democratic viewpoint to the Council's majority, while the other new Council member - Joseph Borelli of Staten Island - brings an outspoken style to the Republican minority. Both Grodenchik and Borelli were sworn in on Tuesday, November 24, and participated in their first official Council business at that afternoon's "Stated Meeting."</p> <p>Earlier this month, the two former Assembly members were chosen through special elections to fill Council vacancies created by members who resigned to take other jobs: Mark Weprin left to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vincent Ignizio to lead Staten Island Catholic Charities.</p> <p>The New York City Board of Elections counted all absentee and military ballots and officially certified the elections, and the two members took office. They were given a standing round of applause by their colleagues when they were announced into Council Chambers at City Hall.</p> <p>Grodenchik, most recently a deputy Queens borough president after his time in the Assembly, prevailed in a crowded Democratic primary and went on to defeat his Republican opponent, retired police captain Joseph Concannon. Grodenchik will now serve the remainder of Weprin's term through 2017.</p> <p>No stranger to elected office and political work, Grodenchik says he's ready to hit the ground running: "My learning curve is much shorter than a new Council member's would usually be," he said. "I bring experience in government. This is what we campaigned on and obviously people responded to that."</p> <p>While Grodenchik says he's excited to work with his new colleagues, many of whom he knows well, and about the progressive direction of the Council, he also represents a district that largely differs on some of the policies of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, many Council members, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Borelli, meanwhile, represents a district whose residents have even less affinity for the progressive direction the city is heading and the people leading that charge, starting with the mayor. Borelli is expected to bring a strong dissenting voice to the Council as he joins what will be a three-member Republican minority led by his Staten Island neighbor Steven Matteo and also includes Queens Council Member Eric Ulrich.</p> <p>Coming from the Assembly minority, though, Borelli may actually have more opportunity to influence the policy discussions in the Council.</p> <p>"I think it's a great time to be a member of the City Council because the spectrum of opinion is so wide," Borelli told Gotham Gazette. "I'm excited from a policy advocacy standpoint just to be able to present my opinion."</p> <p>Besides their obvious disadvantage, he said the Republican minority is "a small but stalwart band."</p> <p>Both Borelli and Grodenchik plan to make an impact over the next two years, as they described to Gotham Gazette in recent interviews, and will then be up for reelection in 2017, when the entire Council is on the ballot, including 11 seats where the current members are term-limited - chief among those being the speaker.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "Council Members-elect Barry Grodenchik and Joseph Borelli staunchly represented Queens and Staten Island in the New York State Assembly and now bring their strong records of public service to the City Council. I look forward to working with our incoming members to deliver results for New Yorkers across the five boroughs."</p> <p><em>Gotham Gazette spoke at some length with both incoming Council members, Grodenchik and Borelli, about their experience and their priorities:</em></p> <p><strong>Barry Grodenchik, Queens Democrat, District 23</strong><br />"I knocked on close to 5,000 doors in the course of the campaign. The two complaints that I heard over and over was water and sewer rates and property taxes going up each year," Grodenchik told Gotham Gazette. "Taxes on condos and co-ops are unfair. There's no question about it. That's something I'm going to gauge my colleagues on," he added.</p> <p>Along with these issues of home ownership and affordability, Grodenchik cited transportation as a key concern. Situated on the edge of Queens, District 23 lacks much of the mass transit infrastructure in other parts of the city. There are no subway or Long Island Rail Road stops. "We live in what has been rightly called a mass transit desert," he said. "It can take an awfully long time to get from my district to the downtown business district," he said.</p> <p>While he did not say he has any specific legislation in mind, Grodenchik is gathering a policy agenda and continuing to talk with constituents. He's been attending community and private meetings across the district, which covers Queens Village, Bayside, Douglaston, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park and Little Neck. One week this month he had more than a dozen meetings with representatives from community boards, civic, and cultural organizations, he said.</p> <p>Grodenchik also has plans to visit every public school in his district over the next few months to familiarize himself with school officials and parent-teacher associations to "make sure they're getting what they need to be the best schools in the city," he said.</p> <p>As a "good Democrat," Grodenchik has a strong contingent of progressive colleagues, some of whom he has known for years. He admires the progressive direction that the Council has taken in the last two years and says he will likely see eye-to-eye with them on most issues, but not all. "I think people can disagree without being disagreeable," he said, stating his ardent opposition to congestion pricing proposals as an example. "I see it as a tax, particularly for people in Queens. It's a non-starter as far as I'm concerned," he said.</p> <p>But he looks forward to being a part of a Council that has become more equitable, he said, under current Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, with resources allotted to members and districts in a clear, fair fashion.</p> <p>Grodenchik has a long history of serving Queens. He worked under Queens Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn; he was Chief Administrative Officer for Borough President Claire Shulman for more than ten years. He was also a deputy borough president under Helen Marshall. In 2002, he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served till 2014 (Grodenchik ran an abbreviated campaign for Queens BP in 2013 before dropping out of the race during the primary - he went on to become eventual winner Melinda Katz's director of community boards.)</p> <p>Government, at any level, is complicated, Grodenchik says, but "You have to be able to come to the table with people you like and people you don't like to craft a solution that works for both community and the city...to move the city forward in the best possible way."</p> <p><strong>Joseph Borelli, Staten Island Republican, District 51</strong><br />Borelli, a state Assembly member, ran unopposed for District 51 on Staten Island, winning the seat formerly held by Vincent Ignizio. The district covers the southern end of the borough including neighborhoods such as Arden Heights, Bay Terrace, Oakwood, Great Kills, Richmond Valley, Huguenot and Princes Bay. Like Grodenchik's, it is also seen as a transportation desert.</p> <p>For Borelli, the transition to the City Council is relatively easy. "The district is pretty much the same so I'm just sort of moving my bullseye over a bit," he said. With a strong idea of the work ahead, Borelli is making the rounds of the district. He has spent time during the last two weeks in meetings with his predecessor about issues to pursue and with city agencies to discuss capital projects in the district.</p> <p>In setting his agenda, Borelli already has a few concrete priorities. "There are some major land use issues here that are especially important to us," he said of the construction of an outlet mall in Rossville at a massive liquefied natural gas storage site.</p> <p>"These are big projects in this, some would say, backwater of New York City that require the same attention from the city planning and building department as some of the higher-profile projects in Brooklyn or Manhattan," he said.</p> <p>He also hopes to improve the city's solid waste plan for e-waste which, he said, seems to work better in areas with high-rise buildings than it does in his community. "Why should it be more difficult for my community to get rid of a TV?"</p> <p>A Republican, Borelli is not particularly on board with the Council's liberal bent, expressing his concern for many of the proposals recently put forward such as those to reform the NYPD and Riker's Island, and the decriminalization of minor offenses like public urination and open container violations.</p> <p>"Some of the new proposals don't jive well with a bedroom community like Staten Island," he said, citing a bill recently introduced by Council Member Mark Levine which would prohibit credit checks for renters.</p> <p>Borelli believes that "progressivism" doesn't speak to many people who live in the outer boroughs, who aren't represented by "these squeaky-wheel groups" who lobby the Council on issues and who feel the movement has lost touch with middle class New Yorkers.</p> <p>"What group out there hopes for more public urination?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm against progressivism and in favor of restoring some rational thought to policies like that."</p> <p>In doing so, he firmly believes he has his community's support. "My constituents really have my back," he said, "and it's very empowering when you feel like that."</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>This article has been updated to reflect the two new members officially taking office - it had originally been published in the lead up to their formally joining the Council.</p> <p><img alt="borelli grodenchik council" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_3563.JPG" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CMs Borelli, right, &amp; Grodenchik are sworn in next to the Speaker (photo by William Alatriste)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council has two new members, each with prior experience in elected office and bringing to the 51-member body the perspective of New Yorkers living in the city's outer-reaches. Both districts being represented by new members are populated by many car- and single-family-home-owners.</p> <p>One new representative - Barry Grodenchik of Queens - brings a fairly moderate Democratic viewpoint to the Council's majority, while the other new Council member - Joseph Borelli of Staten Island - brings an outspoken style to the Republican minority. Both Grodenchik and Borelli were sworn in on Tuesday, November 24, and participated in their first official Council business at that afternoon's "Stated Meeting."</p> <p>Earlier this month, the two former Assembly members were chosen through special elections to fill Council vacancies created by members who resigned to take other jobs: Mark Weprin left to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vincent Ignizio to lead Staten Island Catholic Charities.</p> <p>The New York City Board of Elections counted all absentee and military ballots and officially certified the elections, and the two members took office. They were given a standing round of applause by their colleagues when they were announced into Council Chambers at City Hall.</p> <p>Grodenchik, most recently a deputy Queens borough president after his time in the Assembly, prevailed in a crowded Democratic primary and went on to defeat his Republican opponent, retired police captain Joseph Concannon. Grodenchik will now serve the remainder of Weprin's term through 2017.</p> <p>No stranger to elected office and political work, Grodenchik says he's ready to hit the ground running: "My learning curve is much shorter than a new Council member's would usually be," he said. "I bring experience in government. This is what we campaigned on and obviously people responded to that."</p> <p>While Grodenchik says he's excited to work with his new colleagues, many of whom he knows well, and about the progressive direction of the Council, he also represents a district that largely differs on some of the policies of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, many Council members, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Borelli, meanwhile, represents a district whose residents have even less affinity for the progressive direction the city is heading and the people leading that charge, starting with the mayor. Borelli is expected to bring a strong dissenting voice to the Council as he joins what will be a three-member Republican minority led by his Staten Island neighbor Steven Matteo and also includes Queens Council Member Eric Ulrich.</p> <p>Coming from the Assembly minority, though, Borelli may actually have more opportunity to influence the policy discussions in the Council.</p> <p>"I think it's a great time to be a member of the City Council because the spectrum of opinion is so wide," Borelli told Gotham Gazette. "I'm excited from a policy advocacy standpoint just to be able to present my opinion."</p> <p>Besides their obvious disadvantage, he said the Republican minority is "a small but stalwart band."</p> <p>Both Borelli and Grodenchik plan to make an impact over the next two years, as they described to Gotham Gazette in recent interviews, and will then be up for reelection in 2017, when the entire Council is on the ballot, including 11 seats where the current members are term-limited - chief among those being the speaker.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "Council Members-elect Barry Grodenchik and Joseph Borelli staunchly represented Queens and Staten Island in the New York State Assembly and now bring their strong records of public service to the City Council. I look forward to working with our incoming members to deliver results for New Yorkers across the five boroughs."</p> <p><em>Gotham Gazette spoke at some length with both incoming Council members, Grodenchik and Borelli, about their experience and their priorities:</em></p> <p><strong>Barry Grodenchik, Queens Democrat, District 23</strong><br />"I knocked on close to 5,000 doors in the course of the campaign. The two complaints that I heard over and over was water and sewer rates and property taxes going up each year," Grodenchik told Gotham Gazette. "Taxes on condos and co-ops are unfair. There's no question about it. That's something I'm going to gauge my colleagues on," he added.</p> <p>Along with these issues of home ownership and affordability, Grodenchik cited transportation as a key concern. Situated on the edge of Queens, District 23 lacks much of the mass transit infrastructure in other parts of the city. There are no subway or Long Island Rail Road stops. "We live in what has been rightly called a mass transit desert," he said. "It can take an awfully long time to get from my district to the downtown business district," he said.</p> <p>While he did not say he has any specific legislation in mind, Grodenchik is gathering a policy agenda and continuing to talk with constituents. He's been attending community and private meetings across the district, which covers Queens Village, Bayside, Douglaston, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park and Little Neck. One week this month he had more than a dozen meetings with representatives from community boards, civic, and cultural organizations, he said.</p> <p>Grodenchik also has plans to visit every public school in his district over the next few months to familiarize himself with school officials and parent-teacher associations to "make sure they're getting what they need to be the best schools in the city," he said.</p> <p>As a "good Democrat," Grodenchik has a strong contingent of progressive colleagues, some of whom he has known for years. He admires the progressive direction that the Council has taken in the last two years and says he will likely see eye-to-eye with them on most issues, but not all. "I think people can disagree without being disagreeable," he said, stating his ardent opposition to congestion pricing proposals as an example. "I see it as a tax, particularly for people in Queens. It's a non-starter as far as I'm concerned," he said.</p> <p>But he looks forward to being a part of a Council that has become more equitable, he said, under current Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, with resources allotted to members and districts in a clear, fair fashion.</p> <p>Grodenchik has a long history of serving Queens. He worked under Queens Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn; he was Chief Administrative Officer for Borough President Claire Shulman for more than ten years. He was also a deputy borough president under Helen Marshall. In 2002, he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served till 2014 (Grodenchik ran an abbreviated campaign for Queens BP in 2013 before dropping out of the race during the primary - he went on to become eventual winner Melinda Katz's director of community boards.)</p> <p>Government, at any level, is complicated, Grodenchik says, but "You have to be able to come to the table with people you like and people you don't like to craft a solution that works for both community and the city...to move the city forward in the best possible way."</p> <p><strong>Joseph Borelli, Staten Island Republican, District 51</strong><br />Borelli, a state Assembly member, ran unopposed for District 51 on Staten Island, winning the seat formerly held by Vincent Ignizio. The district covers the southern end of the borough including neighborhoods such as Arden Heights, Bay Terrace, Oakwood, Great Kills, Richmond Valley, Huguenot and Princes Bay. Like Grodenchik's, it is also seen as a transportation desert.</p> <p>For Borelli, the transition to the City Council is relatively easy. "The district is pretty much the same so I'm just sort of moving my bullseye over a bit," he said. With a strong idea of the work ahead, Borelli is making the rounds of the district. He has spent time during the last two weeks in meetings with his predecessor about issues to pursue and with city agencies to discuss capital projects in the district.</p> <p>In setting his agenda, Borelli already has a few concrete priorities. "There are some major land use issues here that are especially important to us," he said of the construction of an outlet mall in Rossville at a massive liquefied natural gas storage site.</p> <p>"These are big projects in this, some would say, backwater of New York City that require the same attention from the city planning and building department as some of the higher-profile projects in Brooklyn or Manhattan," he said.</p> <p>He also hopes to improve the city's solid waste plan for e-waste which, he said, seems to work better in areas with high-rise buildings than it does in his community. "Why should it be more difficult for my community to get rid of a TV?"</p> <p>A Republican, Borelli is not particularly on board with the Council's liberal bent, expressing his concern for many of the proposals recently put forward such as those to reform the NYPD and Riker's Island, and the decriminalization of minor offenses like public urination and open container violations.</p> <p>"Some of the new proposals don't jive well with a bedroom community like Staten Island," he said, citing a bill recently introduced by Council Member Mark Levine which would prohibit credit checks for renters.</p> <p>Borelli believes that "progressivism" doesn't speak to many people who live in the outer boroughs, who aren't represented by "these squeaky-wheel groups" who lobby the Council on issues and who feel the movement has lost touch with middle class New Yorkers.</p> <p>"What group out there hopes for more public urination?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm against progressivism and in favor of restoring some rational thought to policies like that."</p> <p>In doing so, he firmly believes he has his community's support. "My constituents really have my back," he said, "and it's very empowering when you feel like that."</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>This article has been updated to reflect the two new members officially taking office - it had originally been published in the lead up to their formally joining the Council.</p> Does Staten Island Get Its Fair Share? 2015-08-14T05:00:00+00:00 2015-08-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5849:does-staten-island-get-its-fair-share Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/si_wheel.jpg" alt="si wheel" height="394" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Rendering of proposed New York Wheel on Staten Island. (Perkins Eastman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/09/nyregion/betting-on-the-new-york-ferris-wheel-to-elevate-staten-islands-fortunes.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=2" target="_blank">via NY Times</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There may be no other borough that has the local pride and identity felt by Staten Islanders. To be a Staten Islander often means to be of New York City and to be disconnected from New York City. It often means to know your family, but wonder if you were switched at birth.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since New York City adopted its outer boroughs in 1898, Staten Island has always been the odd child out. Even for a city of islands, Staten Island seems, and is, far away. It is the enigma of New York City in virtually every aspect - at least most of it is, as the stereotypes of Staten Island sometimes belie its diversity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stand Island sits apart, though. Even the island accent is a bit more bombastic — more expressive, even — than the standard New York intonation. It’s important to have your voice stand out when you’re struggling to be heard.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Staten Island existence has been, and continues to be, in some part dominated by its uneasy relationship with the larger city it is a part of, and the ongoing struggle its residents and elected representatives engage in to ensure that “the forgotten borough” gets its fair share.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perhaps it’s fitting that Staten Island is the size of a key at the bottom left of the MTA subway map, which, of course, shows few lines cutting through the borough. It is a borough geographically far from the others, and population-wise, nowhere near a fifth of New York, with just under 500,000 residents in a city of over eight million. While much of the city is chasing rent, Staten Island has higher home ownership than any other borough, and its residents rely heavily on cars. For the most part, Islanders are big supporters of law enforcement, and it is a suburbia to many current and retired uniforms.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not to say that Staten Island is homogenous, of course. It is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Island, aka Richmond County, looks more like America than the rest of New York City. Or, as Joe Borelli, one of only four Staten Islanders who serve in the 150-seat New York State Assembly, told Gotham Gazette, “New York looks at Staten Island weird, but it’s the rest of the country who’s looking at New York weird.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough with <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/36085.html" target="_blank">a clear white majority</a>, at 77 percent of the population, compared to 12 percent African-American and 18 percent Latino, according to recent census figures. And the racial divide is stark: the North Shore is far more ethnically diverse and less wealthy than the South Shore and much of Mid-Island, with a reliance on public housing and apartment complexes to accommodate booming immigration populations. Staten Island has <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2015/03/02/new-gc-maps-reveal-potential-electoral-strength-of-democrats-in-staten-island/" target="_blank">more registered Democrats</a>, but most of its elected officials are Republican. This ruling conservatism makes it an outlier.</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s been a longstanding feeling of disconnect, both figuratively and literally, between the residents of Staten Island and City Hall — pleas unheard, problems ignored. There is an ongoing sense on Staten Island that things simply aren’t fair.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#v=onepage&amp;q=staten%20island%20no%20public%20hospital%20city&amp;f=false" target="_blank">without</a> a full-service public hospital. Its transportation system, as many residents will tell you, is abysmal: besides the ferry, there is no direct route to Manhattan. Commuters are left with the more expensive buses that route through Brooklyn, and the always congested, pricey Verrazano Bridge, whose toll now stands at $5.50 each way (at the resident discount). The only intra-borough train in existence is the SI Rail, while no train operates from east to west. And the borough has been left with spots of land that are widely <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/bussi.pdf" target="_blank">inaccessible</a> by public transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">The discontent is about funding, for sure, but not just about the money. It’s simply often part of what it means to be a Staten Islander - a sense of otherness, of not being understood or served by the public servants who are supposed to represent the *entire* city. But the question is: has the borough really been shortchanged? Under Mayor de Blasio or anyone else. That’s up for debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">And Gotham Gazette is not the only entity looking for answers. Last week, the College of Staten Island <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that a $20,000 study will be conducted into whether or not the “forgotten borough” is truly forgotten. Pushed by City Council Member Steven Matteo and his predecessor as Minority Leader, Vincent Ignizio, the Council-funded research will essentially evaluate city services to see if Staten Island is getting its fair share. So, next time its delegates negotiate the city budget or other upcoming policy, the island will have a better idea of where it stands.</p> <p>Well before that study gets underway, we set out to assess how much of its due Staten Island receives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">As is the case with the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, Staten Island often votes against the city grain — it was the only borough de Blasio lost in his landslide 2013 victory over Republican Joe Lhota. In the City Council, Staten Island has three seats of the 51, which are allotted by population. Brooklyn has 16. “We have less representatives in the Council and Albany, which puts us at a disadvantage,” Borelli argued.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, in late July, the small City Council delegation from Staten Island — Council Members Debi Rose, former Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, and Steven Matteo — held a press conference alongside elected officials to announce big news for the borough: $30 million of Council funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for capital and expense projects across the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new infusion of cash would be pooled by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office, the Staten Island council member delegation, and the Borough President’s office. Causes from libraries and school lunches to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center were getting a financial boost. A Council spokesperson also pointed out efforts in last year’s budget to increase ferry service and establish business improvement districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This Council recognizes the important contributions of Staten Island and is thrilled to invest back into the borough in order to strengthen New York City as a whole,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito noted.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the Staten Island delegation for being partners in crafting a budget that responds to the real needs of Staten Islanders,” Council Member Rose added. Rose is the lone Democrat representing Staten Island in the Council, she is African-American and hails from the North Shore.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the grand scheme of things, though, the $30 million jackpot is due more nuanced analysis. The new city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5799-breaking-down-the-city-budget-de-blasio-nyc-council" target="_blank">budget</a> includes a total of $78.6 billion for expenses. Then there’s $13.9 billion for capital projects across the city. Much of the full picture of what Staten Island receives is buried deep in those amounts, through mayoral agencies and city operations. This fogs up how the $30 million factors into a larger total, and what it means on the local level.</p> <p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the funds for the borough presidents. James Oddo, Staten Island borough president and former member of the City Council, received the smallest BP allotment, $4.2 million, while Eric Adams, of Brooklyn, has $5.8 million to work with. Yet, per capita, Oddo has more money than any other BP. Adams has $5.8 million to spend on 2.6 million people, about five times the population of its somewhat distant neighbor.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ignizio_oddo_si_heynowjo.jpg" alt="ignizio oddo si heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">(former SI Council Members Ignizio, foreground, &amp; Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Generally, it’s quite difficult to break the city budget down borough-by-borough, so much so that the College of Staten Island needs a well-resourced study to get to the bottom of this. You cannot flip open city budget documents to see a full accounting of what resources are devoted to each borough - it’s just not so easy to decipher how much of FDNY or Department of Health expenses are going to serve Staten Islanders, though estimates are surely possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there’s the concept of insurance, that as part of the larger city, Staten Islanders can believe that there are virtually unlimited resources available were they to need them. Though, one need not look further than Superstorm Sandy to see the complicated nature of such a point.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many complicating factors to really trying to suss out how the city allocates resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Let’s say a nonprofit agency based in Manhattan provides some of its services in the Bronx. The value of the contract for the work in the Bronx would show up in the Manhattan district where the agency is located,” Doug Turetsky, a spokesperson for the Independent Budget Office, told Gotham Gazette. “Another problem with these statements, or assigning dollars to a particular location, comes up with NYPD. An officer may be assigned to a particular precinct and that’s where he or she gets paid from, but on any given day that officer may be working in any part of the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Turetsky was referring to what are known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/drs/drs_hra_2014_2015.pdf" target="_blank">District Resource Statements</a>, which are provided by the Office of Management and Budget. These show analyses of the funds dedicated to the districts in every borough by each agency - but, as Turetsky explained, they don’t necessarily give the full picture of what Staten Island is getting, or, perhaps, not getting from the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, Turetsky pointed to Community Board Geographic Reports, which are also OMB documents. This is a fuller borough-by-borough breakdown of the major agencies in the city (e.g. Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, NYPD). So, to get an idea of how Staten Island stacks up, looking at an agency like Parks and Recreation can be helpful.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the latest <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/cbgeo6_15.pdf" target="_blank">Community Board Geographic Report</a>, for FY 2016, which began July 1, the funds for Staten Island borough-wide parks and rec total upwards of $1.8 million, with 27 full-time park employee positions. Queens, meanwhile, has $3.9 million allocated for borough-wide recreation, with 47 full-time positions. Around the same budget increase is set to occur next year for both boroughs: $55,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island parks see about half the funding of Queens’ while the borough has more park land, but many fewer residents. The island boasts the title of “<a href="http://www.silive.com/guide/index.ssf/2010/04/parks_staten_island_is_the_greenest_borough.html" target="_blank">Greenest Borough</a>,” having 113 city parks, which, with state parks included, constitute a <a href="http://www.visitstatenisland.com/parks/" target="_blank">third</a> of the island’s land mass, 12,400 acres in total. Queens has more parks, but covering fewer total acres: 284 parks, 7,000 acres. Queens, though, has 2.3 million residents, while Staten Island has just over 500,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no surprise that in every category for the Department of Sanitation, meanwhile, Staten Island ranks lowest out of the boroughs — less people, less garbage.</p> <p dir="ltr">That’s the main obstacle in comparing Staten Island, in general, with the rest of the city: the demands are completely different. Brooklyn, for comparison, serves nearly 300,000 students in its public schools, while Staten Island has <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/data/stats/default.htm" target="_blank">60,000 students</a>. Speaking with Joseph Viteritti, the chair of the Urban Affairs and Planning Department at CUNY Hunter, about this, Gotham Gazette asked him how to sort through this reality and analyze any discrepancies. “It’s very hard to answer that,” he responded. “You can’t do a straight budget analysis, because the budget is driven by demand.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And it’s not all about population, of course. Yes, Staten Island police districts may have smaller budgets, but if areas in Brooklyn have higher concentrations of violent crime, then it makes sense that Brooklyn precincts receive a bigger piece of the pie. The same applies to schools, sanitation, parks, and so on. Think about Manhattan, Viteritti said. Even with the smallest land mass of the five boroughs, it is home to Wall Street, countless skyscrapers, Central Park, and 1.6 million people; not to mention the hordes upon hordes of tourists.</p> <p>“Of course Manhattan gets more money from the city [than Staten Island],” he explained. “How can you even compare the two?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p>Joe Borelli, the Assembly member set to soon replace Ignizio in the City Council, says Staten Island’s blues arise from its uniqueness. He says the problems faced by residents are unlike those anywhere else in New York. “Since as far back as the American Revolution,” Borelli muses, “Station Island was different, and disconnected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And though there are sections of Queens and other boroughs that resemble large swaths of Staten Island, there’s nowhere in the city with the combination of characteristics of the island, including its remoteness, limited public transportation, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result of “the failures of urban liberalism” in the 1960s and 1970s, Borelli argues, his home island served as a refuge for white flight as crime skyrocketed elsewhere. This is why on the island, “everyone you know is related to a cop,” Borelli added. Yet, after Manhattan and other parts of the city regained social stability, many of the developments achieved over the past decade-plus have failed to make it across the Verrazano.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the ferries that now ride up and down the East River, servicing the re-emergence of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Long Island City. Albeit suspended until 2017, even Rockaway Beach, at the far southeast corner of Queens, had some sort of ferry service (in addition to the A train). Residents on the South Shore of Staten Island, on the other hand, are still <a href="http://observer.com/2015/02/de-blasio-announces-plan-for-fast-ferries-with-a-more-manageable-price-tag/" target="_blank">waiting</a> to be picked up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there’s bikes. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg peppered the city with bike lanes and pedestrian plazas throughout the 2000s, Staten Island watched from the sidelines: the borough is more car-dependent than any other, with a far distance between the North and South shores. Hylan Boulevard, which is arguably the busiest thoroughfare in the whole borough, has rows of perpetually <a href="http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2011/04/hylan_boulevard_bike_rack_plan.html" target="_blank">empty bike racks</a>, which the city spent $60,000 to build, because a solid portion of the avenue has no lane dedicated to cyclists.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether Staten Islanders wanted bike racks—or lanes, for that matter—is up for debate. But the situation, Borelli explained, demonstrates this “general distaste” of residents towards the city’s larger urban planning ideas, of which they’ve been largely left out of. It is this uneven growth that has driven Borelli’s current (and <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150728/tottenville/staten-island-election-one-horse-race-as-single-candidate-runs" target="_blank">unopposed</a>) campaign to fill the empty seat left by Ignizio, who recently became the CEO of Catholic Charities on Staten Island. "Somebody has to speak for the millions of outer-borough, middle class homeowners that are lately placed on the back burner of city policy,” Borelli told DNAinfo, referring to more than just Staten Island woes.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the stark differences — population, size, demand — between Staten Island and the other boroughs, Borelli said that, yes, those things are true, but shouldn’t be the reasoning behind neglect. He then listed conundrums that could happen few places in the city but Staten Island. Parks built without sidewalks leading to them. Bike lanes <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/a_perilous_place_for_bike_ride.html" target="_blank">delayed</a> because of too much brush blocking them. Nearly $5 million <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130714/ECONOMY/307149974/staten-islands-300000-tree" target="_blank">spent</a> on replacing trees.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a lot of resources, but they’re left vacant or without funding,” Borelli argued. “We have more parkland than any other borough, and somehow have less of the Parks budget than everyone else. Where else can you ride an ATV in the city?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Find me a property anywhere else where the city builds a park but doesn’t put sidewalks in,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This frustration, as expressed by Borelli, is part of the Staten Island id. In 1993, it came to a boiling point when Staten Island attempted to secede from New York City. The referendum effort, led by State Senator John Marchi, was, of course, a culmination of built-up emotions, but the immediate catalyst was the approval of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">a new City Charter</a> in 1989, which did away with the Board of Estimate. Instead of having one vote of five, like every other borough, Staten Island now had just three City Council members to represent its interests across the Narrows. The borough arose in protest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Joe Viteritti was the staff director of a commission that looked into the economic self-sustainability of Staten Island, or if an island with the population of a small city could manage alone without the help of sister boroughs and City Hall. The studies showed that it was feasible, Viteritto says, but his team also found that, in 1993, the cost of Staten Island to the city outpaced the revenue it generated by about $200 million. In other words, the city was putting more into Staten Island than it was receiving.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These analyses point to the surprising conclusion that separation of Staten Island from New York would actually provide budget relief for the city,” he <a href="http://www.city-journal.org/story.php?id=1519" target="_blank">wrote</a> then, in City Journal. “From a strictly economic perspective, the other four boroughs would come out ahead.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This didn’t convince either Mayor Ed Koch or Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom strongly opposed the referendum. When Governor Mario Cuomo let the legislation proceed in Albany, Koch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/16/nyregion/cuomo-approves-a-secession-vote-for-staten-island.html" target="_blank">said</a> the Democratic leader was “plunging a dagger into the city’s heart.” But it wasn’t up to him.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Honestly, the only reason secession didn’t go through is that the legislation needed approval in the State Assembly, and it didn’t get it,” Viteritti told Gotham Gazette. “Cuomo, and then Pataki, were ready to sign it. [Former Assembly Speaker from Manhattan] Sheldon Silver bears sole responsibility for why Staten Island is not its own independent city right now.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, over twenty years later, Viteritti doesn’t know if things are the same on Staten Island. The most immediate demands of the secession movement were met, and, in many ways, that’s why everyone Gotham Gazette spoke with for this article said Rudy Giuliani is still the most popular mayor on the island, by far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Giuliani, a Republican, had a 1994 platform aimed at addressing the island’s two main grievances: making the Staten Island ferry free and closing the Fresh Kills dump (both were eventually accomplished). “To think, what was more symbolic to Staten Islanders than a place where the city can leave all of its garbage?” Doug Muzzio quipped.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Muzzio, a political scientist at CUNY Baruch and longtime city expert, was tasked with polling Staten Island residents. He said a “victim narrative” existed, in which residents felt their input surpassed the output (later found to be untrue) and, in return, they got the city’s garbage. While their transportation issues are “legitimate” reasons to be angry, Muzzio added, “Staten Islanders have always thought they were forgotten, and if they did get city services, they were ill-timed,” he said. This is part of the island’s “mythology” - too little, too late.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, to Muzzio, Giuliani fit the Staten Island mold. His last name sounded like it was cut from the borough’s fabric. He was <a href="http://blog.silive.com/politics/2012/10/oddo_rudy_giuliani_guy_molinar.html" target="_blank">close</a> with the renowned Borough President then, Guy Molinari. He was incredibly pro-NYPD, and he was a Republican. Staten Islanders still reminisce about the Giuliani days as a time when the island was truly a part of the city. In a recent <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO/status/629047154330476544" target="_blank">tweet</a>, James Oddo, the current BP, named the Giuliani Years as one of the few times in its history when “Staten Island was treated better than fairly.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The same can almost be said about Bloomberg. Once again, a Republican, if only in his early mayoral years, and very close with the law enforcement base. To Staten Islanders, Bloomberg’s reign was praised for lower crime rates, much-needed rezoning and development, and finally, a focus on fixing their vast parkland. His property tax hike wasn’t received well, but, like with the rest of New Yorkers, maybe it will be down the line.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think his legacy is not fully baked,” now former Council Member Ignizio <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/parks_to_property_taxes_bloomb.html" target="_blank">said</a> when Bloomberg left office. “I think coming from Rudy Giuliani, who was wildly popular on Staten Island...following that act was tough.”</p> <p dir="ltr">More controversially, Bloomberg was mayor during Superstorm Sandy, a storm that devastated Staten Island, perhaps more so than any other borough. It left millions of dollars worth of damages, and still, to this day, has residents rebuilding their homes. Bloomberg’s attention to the disaster was received well, but his funding program — Build It Back — was not. The initiative, which was meant to siphon federal funds to those not insured, hadn’t issued a single check or broke ground on any related construction programs when he left office.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was an utter failure in Staten Islanders’ eyes. And one that was saved by an unlikely, if quite unpopular, new figure who Islanders did not want elected and are still coming to terms with.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">There were all the ingredients for Staten Island scorn: a persecuted policeman, a progressive mayor the borough didn’t vote for, and a publicly drawn-out war that put the hometown base and new city leader on opposite sides. Not to mention that it happened just minutes from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and for all the world to see. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo set off what had already been a begrudged populace. Within a year of his mayoralty, de Blasio had lost any goodwill many Staten Islanders had extended him, largely because of his comments in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since then, his administration has made efforts to make it clear that City Hall does care about the mid-Island and South Shore constituency, with more visits, more funds for extensive capital projects, and a continued <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/04/build_it_back_audit_finds_flaw.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Build it Back that finally has the program up and running - though many still find the pace too slow. Even with a 19 percent <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">approval rating</a> amongst Islanders, de Blasio seems set on establishing some island credentials, even against all odds. A progressive Democrat, from Brooklyn; at least he has the Italian last name.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Mayor de Blasio has invested nearly $5 million a year to deliver 24/7 half-hour Staten Island ferry service, added over $240 million to improve road conditions, brought faster [snow] plowing to Staten Island residential streets, and improved the Build it Back program so residents are finally receiving checks and rebuilding their homes,” Monica Klein, a deputy press secretary for de Blasio, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “showing time and again that he is committed to improving the lives of Staten Islanders and giving the borough the attention it deserves.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: justify;">For the announcement on the repaving efforts, de Blasio made a trip to Staten Island after mounting <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/now-national-spotlight-nyc-mayor-de-blasio-forgetting-city/" target="_blank">criticism</a> that he had zigzagged the country while spending little time in the “forgotten borough.” But praise was in the air from Staten Island officials. “Mayor de Blasio heard our pleas for help and delivered, and we are thankful for his commitment to improving our roads,” BP Oddo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">said</a>, alongside the mayor, and a large "pave baby pave" sign from the borough president's office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/pave_baby_pave_heynowjo.jpg" alt="pave baby pave heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="413" width="250" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">(via BP Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Still, many car-owning Islanders happy about new investments in roads may continue to point to de Blasio’s handling of the Eric Garner saga and a perceived lack of support for the NYPD. They are likely to pin any upticks in crime or perceived quality-of-life issues to the mayor’s legacy; a sentiment that is true across the city, but most acute on Staten Island. But regardless of what happens between the mayor and Islanders, there are strong forces at work that could drastically change just about everything on and about the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the New York Times beat the gentrification drum with a headline that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/realestate/an-islands-turning-point.html" target="_blank">read</a>, “Staten Island’s Turning Point?” The writer, C.J. Hughes, pointed out major developments that will mark the island coast in the near future: the New York Wheel (a massive London-Eye-esque ferris wheel), Empire Outlets (a huge mall complex), and numerous stores, coffee shops, and breweries. Not to mention a condo complex called Lighthouse Point and another called URL Staten Island, which, along with the Wheel and outlets, have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-forgotten-borough-gets-noticed/" target="_blank">deemed</a> the “core four” by The Real Deal, a development-focused publication.</p> <p dir="ltr">While some are excited and see jobs afoot, others are skeptical. One resident remarked, “I like the small-town vibe, and I don’t mind that there’s a little bit of grit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Linda Baran, the director of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, says that the impending development is a conversation that the borough has yet to have. What will it do if thousands of New Yorkers start to move in, once again escaping the mainland, this time because of high rents, not crime? The spike in prices is something that “resonates through every conversation,” she said. Is Staten Island really ready for that?</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is no dialogue about how the borough should receive the people coming in,” Baran told Gotham Gazette. “Now the idea is to bring new businesses here so people don’t have to leave.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Baran argued that development could solve one of the main issues the island faces, and has always faced: vacancy. The shore, she said, is lined with empty industrial lots, which are not only a blight on the islandscape, but bad for business. She’s hoping that development will bring more attention to major borough-wide concerns, like infrastructure and healthcare, as it has in Brooklyn and Queens.</p> <p dir="ltr">She added that the de Blasio administration has done a fine job of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">cutting red tape</a> for small businesses, but other City Council-backed measures, like paid sick leave and ‘ban the box’ legislation disallowing background checks, are “good initiatives,” but have left Staten Island owners weary of City Hall intrusion. “I think the city has talked about fixing the business community here,” she told me. “But the businesses aren’t seeing that just yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Baran touched upon what could be a new chapter in the Staten Island mystique. After feeling forgotten for decades, this could be the future the island has longed for; one where it is on an equal playing field, both economically and culturally, with its borough brethren. There is a fear — or irony — that the borough could be on its way to getting more than it bargained for, with high-rise condos and public attractions threatening the Staten Island way of life, causing more traffic. Be careful what you ask for, some seem to be saying.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We were always used to being last on the totem pole,” Baran said. “We were an escape for everyone. And now, the boroughs are saturated, and growth is a good thing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She paused, then said, “Things are changing.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">John Surico is a freelance metro reporter. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and here, on Gotham Gazette. He lives in Queens. Find him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnSurico" target="_blank">@JohnSurico</a></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">@GothamGazette</span></a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/si_wheel.jpg" alt="si wheel" height="394" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Rendering of proposed New York Wheel on Staten Island. (Perkins Eastman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/09/nyregion/betting-on-the-new-york-ferris-wheel-to-elevate-staten-islands-fortunes.html?ref=nyregion&amp;_r=2" target="_blank">via NY Times</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There may be no other borough that has the local pride and identity felt by Staten Islanders. To be a Staten Islander often means to be of New York City and to be disconnected from New York City. It often means to know your family, but wonder if you were switched at birth.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since New York City adopted its outer boroughs in 1898, Staten Island has always been the odd child out. Even for a city of islands, Staten Island seems, and is, far away. It is the enigma of New York City in virtually every aspect - at least most of it is, as the stereotypes of Staten Island sometimes belie its diversity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stand Island sits apart, though. Even the island accent is a bit more bombastic — more expressive, even — than the standard New York intonation. It’s important to have your voice stand out when you’re struggling to be heard.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Staten Island existence has been, and continues to be, in some part dominated by its uneasy relationship with the larger city it is a part of, and the ongoing struggle its residents and elected representatives engage in to ensure that “the forgotten borough” gets its fair share.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perhaps it’s fitting that Staten Island is the size of a key at the bottom left of the MTA subway map, which, of course, shows few lines cutting through the borough. It is a borough geographically far from the others, and population-wise, nowhere near a fifth of New York, with just under 500,000 residents in a city of over eight million. While much of the city is chasing rent, Staten Island has higher home ownership than any other borough, and its residents rely heavily on cars. For the most part, Islanders are big supporters of law enforcement, and it is a suburbia to many current and retired uniforms.</p> <p dir="ltr">This is not to say that Staten Island is homogenous, of course. It is not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Island, aka Richmond County, looks more like America than the rest of New York City. Or, as Joe Borelli, one of only four Staten Islanders who serve in the 150-seat New York State Assembly, told Gotham Gazette, “New York looks at Staten Island weird, but it’s the rest of the country who’s looking at New York weird.”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough with <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/36085.html" target="_blank">a clear white majority</a>, at 77 percent of the population, compared to 12 percent African-American and 18 percent Latino, according to recent census figures. And the racial divide is stark: the North Shore is far more ethnically diverse and less wealthy than the South Shore and much of Mid-Island, with a reliance on public housing and apartment complexes to accommodate booming immigration populations. Staten Island has <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2015/03/02/new-gc-maps-reveal-potential-electoral-strength-of-democrats-in-staten-island/" target="_blank">more registered Democrats</a>, but most of its elected officials are Republican. This ruling conservatism makes it an outlier.</p> <p dir="ltr">There’s been a longstanding feeling of disconnect, both figuratively and literally, between the residents of Staten Island and City Hall — pleas unheard, problems ignored. There is an ongoing sense on Staten Island that things simply aren’t fair.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is the only borough <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#v=onepage&amp;q=staten%20island%20no%20public%20hospital%20city&amp;f=false" target="_blank">without</a> a full-service public hospital. Its transportation system, as many residents will tell you, is abysmal: besides the ferry, there is no direct route to Manhattan. Commuters are left with the more expensive buses that route through Brooklyn, and the always congested, pricey Verrazano Bridge, whose toll now stands at $5.50 each way (at the resident discount). The only intra-borough train in existence is the SI Rail, while no train operates from east to west. And the borough has been left with spots of land that are widely <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/bussi.pdf" target="_blank">inaccessible</a> by public transit.</p> <p dir="ltr">The discontent is about funding, for sure, but not just about the money. It’s simply often part of what it means to be a Staten Islander - a sense of otherness, of not being understood or served by the public servants who are supposed to represent the *entire* city. But the question is: has the borough really been shortchanged? Under Mayor de Blasio or anyone else. That’s up for debate.</p> <p dir="ltr">And Gotham Gazette is not the only entity looking for answers. Last week, the College of Staten Island <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">announced</a> that a $20,000 study will be conducted into whether or not the “forgotten borough” is truly forgotten. Pushed by City Council Member Steven Matteo and his predecessor as Minority Leader, Vincent Ignizio, the Council-funded research will essentially evaluate city services to see if Staten Island is getting its fair share. So, next time its delegates negotiate the city budget or other upcoming policy, the island will have a better idea of where it stands.</p> <p>Well before that study gets underway, we set out to assess how much of its due Staten Island receives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">As is the case with the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, Staten Island often votes against the city grain — it was the only borough de Blasio lost in his landslide 2013 victory over Republican Joe Lhota. In the City Council, Staten Island has three seats of the 51, which are allotted by population. Brooklyn has 16. “We have less representatives in the Council and Albany, which puts us at a disadvantage,” Borelli argued.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, in late July, the small City Council delegation from Staten Island — Council Members Debi Rose, former Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, and Steven Matteo — held a press conference alongside elected officials to announce big news for the borough: $30 million of Council funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget for capital and expense projects across the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new infusion of cash would be pooled by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office, the Staten Island council member delegation, and the Borough President’s office. Causes from libraries and school lunches to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center were getting a financial boost. A Council spokesperson also pointed out efforts in last year’s budget to increase ferry service and establish business improvement districts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This Council recognizes the important contributions of Staten Island and is thrilled to invest back into the borough in order to strengthen New York City as a whole,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito noted.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the Staten Island delegation for being partners in crafting a budget that responds to the real needs of Staten Islanders,” Council Member Rose added. Rose is the lone Democrat representing Staten Island in the Council, she is African-American and hails from the North Shore.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the grand scheme of things, though, the $30 million jackpot is due more nuanced analysis. The new city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5799-breaking-down-the-city-budget-de-blasio-nyc-council" target="_blank">budget</a> includes a total of $78.6 billion for expenses. Then there’s $13.9 billion for capital projects across the city. Much of the full picture of what Staten Island receives is buried deep in those amounts, through mayoral agencies and city operations. This fogs up how the $30 million factors into a larger total, and what it means on the local level.</p> <p dir="ltr">Take, for example, the funds for the borough presidents. James Oddo, Staten Island borough president and former member of the City Council, received the smallest BP allotment, $4.2 million, while Eric Adams, of Brooklyn, has $5.8 million to work with. Yet, per capita, Oddo has more money than any other BP. Adams has $5.8 million to spend on 2.6 million people, about five times the population of its somewhat distant neighbor.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/ignizio_oddo_si_heynowjo.jpg" alt="ignizio oddo si heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="233" width="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 8pt;">(former SI Council Members Ignizio, foreground, &amp; Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Generally, it’s quite difficult to break the city budget down borough-by-borough, so much so that the College of Staten Island needs a well-resourced study to get to the bottom of this. You cannot flip open city budget documents to see a full accounting of what resources are devoted to each borough - it’s just not so easy to decipher how much of FDNY or Department of Health expenses are going to serve Staten Islanders, though estimates are surely possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there’s the concept of insurance, that as part of the larger city, Staten Islanders can believe that there are virtually unlimited resources available were they to need them. Though, one need not look further than Superstorm Sandy to see the complicated nature of such a point.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are many complicating factors to really trying to suss out how the city allocates resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Let’s say a nonprofit agency based in Manhattan provides some of its services in the Bronx. The value of the contract for the work in the Bronx would show up in the Manhattan district where the agency is located,” Doug Turetsky, a spokesperson for the Independent Budget Office, told Gotham Gazette. “Another problem with these statements, or assigning dollars to a particular location, comes up with NYPD. An officer may be assigned to a particular precinct and that’s where he or she gets paid from, but on any given day that officer may be working in any part of the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Turetsky was referring to what are known as <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/facts/drs/drs_hra_2014_2015.pdf" target="_blank">District Resource Statements</a>, which are provided by the Office of Management and Budget. These show analyses of the funds dedicated to the districts in every borough by each agency - but, as Turetsky explained, they don’t necessarily give the full picture of what Staten Island is getting, or, perhaps, not getting from the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, Turetsky pointed to Community Board Geographic Reports, which are also OMB documents. This is a fuller borough-by-borough breakdown of the major agencies in the city (e.g. Parks and Recreation, Sanitation, NYPD). So, to get an idea of how Staten Island stacks up, looking at an agency like Parks and Recreation can be helpful.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the latest <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/cbgeo6_15.pdf" target="_blank">Community Board Geographic Report</a>, for FY 2016, which began July 1, the funds for Staten Island borough-wide parks and rec total upwards of $1.8 million, with 27 full-time park employee positions. Queens, meanwhile, has $3.9 million allocated for borough-wide recreation, with 47 full-time positions. Around the same budget increase is set to occur next year for both boroughs: $55,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staten Island parks see about half the funding of Queens’ while the borough has more park land, but many fewer residents. The island boasts the title of “<a href="http://www.silive.com/guide/index.ssf/2010/04/parks_staten_island_is_the_greenest_borough.html" target="_blank">Greenest Borough</a>,” having 113 city parks, which, with state parks included, constitute a <a href="http://www.visitstatenisland.com/parks/" target="_blank">third</a> of the island’s land mass, 12,400 acres in total. Queens has more parks, but covering fewer total acres: 284 parks, 7,000 acres. Queens, though, has 2.3 million residents, while Staten Island has just over 500,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no surprise that in every category for the Department of Sanitation, meanwhile, Staten Island ranks lowest out of the boroughs — less people, less garbage.</p> <p dir="ltr">That’s the main obstacle in comparing Staten Island, in general, with the rest of the city: the demands are completely different. Brooklyn, for comparison, serves nearly 300,000 students in its public schools, while Staten Island has <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/data/stats/default.htm" target="_blank">60,000 students</a>. Speaking with Joseph Viteritti, the chair of the Urban Affairs and Planning Department at CUNY Hunter, about this, Gotham Gazette asked him how to sort through this reality and analyze any discrepancies. “It’s very hard to answer that,” he responded. “You can’t do a straight budget analysis, because the budget is driven by demand.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And it’s not all about population, of course. Yes, Staten Island police districts may have smaller budgets, but if areas in Brooklyn have higher concentrations of violent crime, then it makes sense that Brooklyn precincts receive a bigger piece of the pie. The same applies to schools, sanitation, parks, and so on. Think about Manhattan, Viteritti said. Even with the smallest land mass of the five boroughs, it is home to Wall Street, countless skyscrapers, Central Park, and 1.6 million people; not to mention the hordes upon hordes of tourists.</p> <p>“Of course Manhattan gets more money from the city [than Staten Island],” he explained. “How can you even compare the two?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p>Joe Borelli, the Assembly member set to soon replace Ignizio in the City Council, says Staten Island’s blues arise from its uniqueness. He says the problems faced by residents are unlike those anywhere else in New York. “Since as far back as the American Revolution,” Borelli muses, “Station Island was different, and disconnected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And though there are sections of Queens and other boroughs that resemble large swaths of Staten Island, there’s nowhere in the city with the combination of characteristics of the island, including its remoteness, limited public transportation, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result of “the failures of urban liberalism” in the 1960s and 1970s, Borelli argues, his home island served as a refuge for white flight as crime skyrocketed elsewhere. This is why on the island, “everyone you know is related to a cop,” Borelli added. Yet, after Manhattan and other parts of the city regained social stability, many of the developments achieved over the past decade-plus have failed to make it across the Verrazano.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the ferries that now ride up and down the East River, servicing the re-emergence of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Long Island City. Albeit suspended until 2017, even Rockaway Beach, at the far southeast corner of Queens, had some sort of ferry service (in addition to the A train). Residents on the South Shore of Staten Island, on the other hand, are still <a href="http://observer.com/2015/02/de-blasio-announces-plan-for-fast-ferries-with-a-more-manageable-price-tag/" target="_blank">waiting</a> to be picked up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Then there’s bikes. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg peppered the city with bike lanes and pedestrian plazas throughout the 2000s, Staten Island watched from the sidelines: the borough is more car-dependent than any other, with a far distance between the North and South shores. Hylan Boulevard, which is arguably the busiest thoroughfare in the whole borough, has rows of perpetually <a href="http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2011/04/hylan_boulevard_bike_rack_plan.html" target="_blank">empty bike racks</a>, which the city spent $60,000 to build, because a solid portion of the avenue has no lane dedicated to cyclists.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether Staten Islanders wanted bike racks—or lanes, for that matter—is up for debate. But the situation, Borelli explained, demonstrates this “general distaste” of residents towards the city’s larger urban planning ideas, of which they’ve been largely left out of. It is this uneven growth that has driven Borelli’s current (and <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150728/tottenville/staten-island-election-one-horse-race-as-single-candidate-runs" target="_blank">unopposed</a>) campaign to fill the empty seat left by Ignizio, who recently became the CEO of Catholic Charities on Staten Island. "Somebody has to speak for the millions of outer-borough, middle class homeowners that are lately placed on the back burner of city policy,” Borelli told DNAinfo, referring to more than just Staten Island woes.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the stark differences — population, size, demand — between Staten Island and the other boroughs, Borelli said that, yes, those things are true, but shouldn’t be the reasoning behind neglect. He then listed conundrums that could happen few places in the city but Staten Island. Parks built without sidewalks leading to them. Bike lanes <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/a_perilous_place_for_bike_ride.html" target="_blank">delayed</a> because of too much brush blocking them. Nearly $5 million <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130714/ECONOMY/307149974/staten-islands-300000-tree" target="_blank">spent</a> on replacing trees.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a lot of resources, but they’re left vacant or without funding,” Borelli argued. “We have more parkland than any other borough, and somehow have less of the Parks budget than everyone else. Where else can you ride an ATV in the city?”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Find me a property anywhere else where the city builds a park but doesn’t put sidewalks in,” he continued. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This frustration, as expressed by Borelli, is part of the Staten Island id. In 1993, it came to a boiling point when Staten Island attempted to secede from New York City. The referendum effort, led by State Senator John Marchi, was, of course, a culmination of built-up emotions, but the immediate catalyst was the approval of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/08/nyregion/1989-elections-charter-overhaul-new-york-city-charter-approved-polls-show.html" target="_blank">a new City Charter</a> in 1989, which did away with the Board of Estimate. Instead of having one vote of five, like every other borough, Staten Island now had just three City Council members to represent its interests across the Narrows. The borough arose in protest.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Joe Viteritti was the staff director of a commission that looked into the economic self-sustainability of Staten Island, or if an island with the population of a small city could manage alone without the help of sister boroughs and City Hall. The studies showed that it was feasible, Viteritto says, but his team also found that, in 1993, the cost of Staten Island to the city outpaced the revenue it generated by about $200 million. In other words, the city was putting more into Staten Island than it was receiving.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These analyses point to the surprising conclusion that separation of Staten Island from New York would actually provide budget relief for the city,” he <a href="http://www.city-journal.org/story.php?id=1519" target="_blank">wrote</a> then, in City Journal. “From a strictly economic perspective, the other four boroughs would come out ahead.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This didn’t convince either Mayor Ed Koch or Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom strongly opposed the referendum. When Governor Mario Cuomo let the legislation proceed in Albany, Koch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/16/nyregion/cuomo-approves-a-secession-vote-for-staten-island.html" target="_blank">said</a> the Democratic leader was “plunging a dagger into the city’s heart.” But it wasn’t up to him.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Honestly, the only reason secession didn’t go through is that the legislation needed approval in the State Assembly, and it didn’t get it,” Viteritti told Gotham Gazette. “Cuomo, and then Pataki, were ready to sign it. [Former Assembly Speaker from Manhattan] Sheldon Silver bears sole responsibility for why Staten Island is not its own independent city right now.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, over twenty years later, Viteritti doesn’t know if things are the same on Staten Island. The most immediate demands of the secession movement were met, and, in many ways, that’s why everyone Gotham Gazette spoke with for this article said Rudy Giuliani is still the most popular mayor on the island, by far.</p> <p dir="ltr">Giuliani, a Republican, had a 1994 platform aimed at addressing the island’s two main grievances: making the Staten Island ferry free and closing the Fresh Kills dump (both were eventually accomplished). “To think, what was more symbolic to Staten Islanders than a place where the city can leave all of its garbage?” Doug Muzzio quipped.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the time, Muzzio, a political scientist at CUNY Baruch and longtime city expert, was tasked with polling Staten Island residents. He said a “victim narrative” existed, in which residents felt their input surpassed the output (later found to be untrue) and, in return, they got the city’s garbage. While their transportation issues are “legitimate” reasons to be angry, Muzzio added, “Staten Islanders have always thought they were forgotten, and if they did get city services, they were ill-timed,” he said. This is part of the island’s “mythology” - too little, too late.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, to Muzzio, Giuliani fit the Staten Island mold. His last name sounded like it was cut from the borough’s fabric. He was <a href="http://blog.silive.com/politics/2012/10/oddo_rudy_giuliani_guy_molinar.html" target="_blank">close</a> with the renowned Borough President then, Guy Molinari. He was incredibly pro-NYPD, and he was a Republican. Staten Islanders still reminisce about the Giuliani days as a time when the island was truly a part of the city. In a recent <a href="https://twitter.com/HeyNowJO/status/629047154330476544" target="_blank">tweet</a>, James Oddo, the current BP, named the Giuliani Years as one of the few times in its history when “Staten Island was treated better than fairly.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The same can almost be said about Bloomberg. Once again, a Republican, if only in his early mayoral years, and very close with the law enforcement base. To Staten Islanders, Bloomberg’s reign was praised for lower crime rates, much-needed rezoning and development, and finally, a focus on fixing their vast parkland. His property tax hike wasn’t received well, but, like with the rest of New Yorkers, maybe it will be down the line.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I think his legacy is not fully baked,” now former Council Member Ignizio <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/parks_to_property_taxes_bloomb.html" target="_blank">said</a> when Bloomberg left office. “I think coming from Rudy Giuliani, who was wildly popular on Staten Island...following that act was tough.”</p> <p dir="ltr">More controversially, Bloomberg was mayor during Superstorm Sandy, a storm that devastated Staten Island, perhaps more so than any other borough. It left millions of dollars worth of damages, and still, to this day, has residents rebuilding their homes. Bloomberg’s attention to the disaster was received well, but his funding program — Build It Back — was not. The initiative, which was meant to siphon federal funds to those not insured, hadn’t issued a single check or broke ground on any related construction programs when he left office.</p> <p dir="ltr">It was an utter failure in Staten Islanders’ eyes. And one that was saved by an unlikely, if quite unpopular, new figure who Islanders did not want elected and are still coming to terms with.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">*****</p> <p dir="ltr">There were all the ingredients for Staten Island scorn: a persecuted policeman, a progressive mayor the borough didn’t vote for, and a publicly drawn-out war that put the hometown base and new city leader on opposite sides. Not to mention that it happened just minutes from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and for all the world to see. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo set off what had already been a begrudged populace. Within a year of his mayoralty, de Blasio had lost any goodwill many Staten Islanders had extended him, largely because of his comments in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since then, his administration has made efforts to make it clear that City Hall does care about the mid-Island and South Shore constituency, with more visits, more funds for extensive capital projects, and a continued <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/04/build_it_back_audit_finds_flaw.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Build it Back that finally has the program up and running - though many still find the pace too slow. Even with a 19 percent <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/staten_island_city_services_study.html" target="_blank">approval rating</a> amongst Islanders, de Blasio seems set on establishing some island credentials, even against all odds. A progressive Democrat, from Brooklyn; at least he has the Italian last name.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Mayor de Blasio has invested nearly $5 million a year to deliver 24/7 half-hour Staten Island ferry service, added over $240 million to improve road conditions, brought faster [snow] plowing to Staten Island residential streets, and improved the Build it Back program so residents are finally receiving checks and rebuilding their homes,” Monica Klein, a deputy press secretary for de Blasio, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “showing time and again that he is committed to improving the lives of Staten Islanders and giving the borough the attention it deserves.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: justify;">For the announcement on the repaving efforts, de Blasio made a trip to Staten Island after mounting <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/now-national-spotlight-nyc-mayor-de-blasio-forgetting-city/" target="_blank">criticism</a> that he had zigzagged the country while spending little time in the “forgotten borough.” But praise was in the air from Staten Island officials. “Mayor de Blasio heard our pleas for help and delivered, and we are thankful for his commitment to improving our roads,” BP Oddo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">said</a>, alongside the mayor, and a large "pave baby pave" sign from the borough president's office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/pave_baby_pave_heynowjo.jpg" alt="pave baby pave heynowjo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="413" width="250" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">(via BP Oddo)</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Still, many car-owning Islanders happy about new investments in roads may continue to point to de Blasio’s handling of the Eric Garner saga and a perceived lack of support for the NYPD. They are likely to pin any upticks in crime or perceived quality-of-life issues to the mayor’s legacy; a sentiment that is true across the city, but most acute on Staten Island. But regardless of what happens between the mayor and Islanders, there are strong forces at work that could drastically change just about everything on and about the island.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the New York Times beat the gentrification drum with a headline that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/realestate/an-islands-turning-point.html" target="_blank">read</a>, “Staten Island’s Turning Point?” The writer, C.J. Hughes, pointed out major developments that will mark the island coast in the near future: the New York Wheel (a massive London-Eye-esque ferris wheel), Empire Outlets (a huge mall complex), and numerous stores, coffee shops, and breweries. Not to mention a condo complex called Lighthouse Point and another called URL Staten Island, which, along with the Wheel and outlets, have been <a href="http://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/the-forgotten-borough-gets-noticed/" target="_blank">deemed</a> the “core four” by The Real Deal, a development-focused publication.</p> <p dir="ltr">While some are excited and see jobs afoot, others are skeptical. One resident remarked, “I like the small-town vibe, and I don’t mind that there’s a little bit of grit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Linda Baran, the director of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, says that the impending development is a conversation that the borough has yet to have. What will it do if thousands of New Yorkers start to move in, once again escaping the mainland, this time because of high rents, not crime? The spike in prices is something that “resonates through every conversation,” she said. Is Staten Island really ready for that?</p> <p dir="ltr">“There is no dialogue about how the borough should receive the people coming in,” Baran told Gotham Gazette. “Now the idea is to bring new businesses here so people don’t have to leave.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Baran argued that development could solve one of the main issues the island faces, and has always faced: vacancy. The shore, she said, is lined with empty industrial lots, which are not only a blight on the islandscape, but bad for business. She’s hoping that development will bring more attention to major borough-wide concerns, like infrastructure and healthcare, as it has in Brooklyn and Queens.</p> <p dir="ltr">She added that the de Blasio administration has done a fine job of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy" target="_blank">cutting red tape</a> for small businesses, but other City Council-backed measures, like paid sick leave and ‘ban the box’ legislation disallowing background checks, are “good initiatives,” but have left Staten Island owners weary of City Hall intrusion. “I think the city has talked about fixing the business community here,” she told me. “But the businesses aren’t seeing that just yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Baran touched upon what could be a new chapter in the Staten Island mystique. After feeling forgotten for decades, this could be the future the island has longed for; one where it is on an equal playing field, both economically and culturally, with its borough brethren. There is a fear — or irony — that the borough could be on its way to getting more than it bargained for, with high-rise condos and public attractions threatening the Staten Island way of life, causing more traffic. Be careful what you ask for, some seem to be saying.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We were always used to being last on the totem pole,” Baran said. “We were an escape for everyone. And now, the boroughs are saturated, and growth is a good thing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She paused, then said, “Things are changing.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">***</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">John Surico is a freelance metro reporter. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and here, on Gotham Gazette. He lives in Queens. Find him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnSurico" target="_blank">@JohnSurico</a></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank"><span style="font-size: 14.6666666666667px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: transparent;">@GothamGazette</span></a></p>