Gotham Gazette Wed, 24 Apr 2019 10:26:15 +0000 en-gb (Webmaster) Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' hope knight city planning

Hope Knight (photo via @rorylancman)

"It's an exciting time to be joining the City Planning Commission," City Council Member Brad Lander said Tuesday to Hope Knight, a mayoral nominee to the commission at the nexus of controversial housing-related policy being pursued by the de Blasio administration.

"It's a tough time to be joining," Knight said during her appearance in front of Lander's committee, which is tasked with vetting potential appointees to several commissions. Knight, who is all but sure to be approved Wednesday by the Rules, Elections, and Privileges Committee, then the full City Council, will fill a vacant seat on the 13-member City Planning Commission, which plays a key role in city land use decisions.

The commission is about to hold a major public hearing on de Blasio's zoning plans, then make recommendations for changes before the plans go to the City Council for hearings and, likely, further tweaks before a vote. The plans, which are aimed at spurring more affordable housing development and improving neighborhoods, have received major pushback from local community boards, advocacy groups, and borough presidents. They have also received some support from labor unions, advocacy groups, and others.

Acknowledging the intense circumstances, Knight said of land use planning, "the issue is so important to this city, it's critical to the future. There is this affordability crisis that we've got here. Our local land-use tools are available to us to help address this. And so, I hope that I am able to bring [my] community planning and economic development background and perspective to this position and this process, and be able to consider these issues in a very thoughtful way."

Knight is currently the CEO and President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a position she will retain while creating the necessary "firewall" so that she does not deal with issues before the city, she said Tuesday. Knight explained that she has received guidance from the city Conflicts of Interest Board and will follow it. Previously, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for about 12 years after several positions in finance.

In her pre-hearing questionnaire, Knight wrote to the City Council that the City Planning Commission "must be sensitive to the needs of communities and establish many channels of communication."

Knight also wrote that "The strategy of zoning changes to allow residential buildings with additional density, provided that affordable housing is included, is one of the few land use tools that the City has access to in order to greater leverage the development of more affordable housing units."

While the City Planning Commission does much more than zoning amendments, that is the focus of the work right now.

With Knight there to observe, the City Planning Commission will hold a much-anticipated public hearing Wednesday on two proposals by Mayor Bill de Blasio that are essential pieces of his affordable housing plan. Both proposals are changes to the city's land use rules by way of zoning language and have been the source of a great deal of recent debate.

Many community boards and all five borough boards have voted against de Blasio's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals. These votes are only advisory, though, and the future of the plans, known as MIH and ZQA, will come down to a City Council vote in early-to-mid 2016. Reasons for opposition and desired tweaks to the plans vary by borough and neighborhood, but some include thresholds for affordability, changes in parking requirements, and increased density or allowable building heights.

Between the advice of the community and borough boards and the City Council getting its shot at tweaking the plans, the City Planning Commission will issue its recommended changes. These recommendations will be based, in part, on Wednesday's hearing, which is expected to be long and contentious.

On Tuesday, Knight appeared to grasp what she is signing up for, discussing her long career in community planning and advocacy, as well as her outlook on land use decision-making. Lander and his fellow committee members were impressed by Knight's candidacy and appear ready to vote her through to the full Council for approval.

Knight will join six other mayoral appointees on the City Planning Commission, as well as one appointee from each borough president, and one appointee by the public advocate. The commission is under the leadership of Chair Carl Weisbrod, who is also the commissioner of the city's Department of City Planning and serves at the discretion of the mayor. Other commission members serve alternating five-year terms. Knight will fill the seat vacated by Bomee Jung, who took a position within the de Blasio administration earlier this year, and will serve the rest of Jung's term, until June 30, 2018. She can be reappointed after that.

According to the City Council, the City Charter says that members of the City Planning Commission "are to be chosen for their independence, integrity, and civic commitment."

On Tuesday, Council members including Lander, Dan Garodnick, and Margaret Chin, praised Knight for her dedication to community planning and neighborhood advocacy. Council members also wanted to make sure that Knight would hear community feedback around land use policy. Council Member Steven Matteo asked Knight how much weight she puts on community concerns. "I would put tremendous weight on what the community has to say," Knight responded of her approach if she is indeed approved, adding that she has been "at the table" representing communities in land use negotiatons in the past.

Repeatedly citing the city's "affordability crisis," Knight also explained that she understands fear of gentrification and that the city must be cognizant of an "aging population."

Knight was not questioned about her independence from de Blasio, who nominated her to the commission after his appointments office identified her as a strong candidate.

"[I]n order to create more affordable units," Knight said, "we have to look at various land-use tools to implement the possibility of creating units. So, I think that MIH, ZQA, they're all components of the mayor's...housing plan and will have to be more greatly considered to support the growth of new housing."

During a Tuesday appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio's planning chief, Weisbrod, said of Wednesday's City Planning Commission hearing and the zoning plans, "We expect to hear a lot of comments on all sides of this issue." The controversy around MIH and ZQA, he said, "Won't get fully resolved until the City Council decides this early next year."

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' Tue, 15 Dec 2015 23:40:35 +0000
The Mayor's Media Blitz de blasio media parade col day

The mayor & the media (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Have you heard Mayor de Blasio's voice lately? He's been trying harder to ensure you have, sharply increasing the frequency with which he makes extended appearances on television and radio, and holding events to interact directly with New Yorkers.

Instead of New Yorkers only hearing and seeing quick clips of the mayor on networks covering his press conferences, de Blasio has pursued greater control over his message, making many more broadcast appearances. The push is indicative of a mayor seeking to correct a public perception problem, lift slumping poll numbers, reconnect with his base, and woo more allies.

In September, for example, the mayor averaged about one TV or radio interview per day. In July and August, the mayor averaged just one TV or radio interview per week. Going back to June, it was about two per week - more frequent than during the typically slower summer months that included a family vacation, but less often than recently.

The uptick began in late August after worrisome public opinion polls and de Blasio criticizing media coverage of his administration. The trend then took hold in September as the mayor seized on Pope Francis' visit to New York and the start of a new school year.

The effort to be on the airwaves more is "clearly part of a concerted effort," says Democratic political strategist Alexis Grenell. "It allows him to connect with the electorate, which is good for him and good for the public. Arguably, he should be doing more."

Not coincidentally, the mayor's media blitz has also coincided with an increase in planned in-person interactions with the public: de Blasio did pre-K canvassing, spoke about his housing plans at a church, and held a parents' night at a school, all in Brooklyn; he hosted his first town hall meeting, also focused on housing, on Wednesday evening in Washington Heights.

"It's about time," said Dr. Christina Greer, a Fordham political science professor. Greer thinks that although a bit late into his term, it was smart for de Blasio to do the initial town hall and that it is key for him to be on the airwaves more. "He needs to control the narrative, and you need to give yourself the opportunities to do so. If you don't leave City Hall, the media can craft the narrative more. If you get on the airwaves, you can deliver the message...if you go to the people, they hear it directly from you," Greer says.

With information provided by the mayor's office and gleaned from press advisories, Gotham Gazette counted 13 appearances by de Blasio on radio and TV over 79 days from June 1 through August 18. In the following 55 days, de Blasio made 36 such appearances, beginning with a 40-minute interview on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on August 19.

Asked about the sizeable increase in broadcast interviews, Karen Hinton, the mayor's press secretary, emailed Gotham Gazette to say, "Whether it's walking through a neighborhood - something the Mayor often does spontaneously - or taking questions from the public during a radio show or a Town Hall, Mayor de Blasio is always looking for new ways to communicate with New Yorkers so he can learn more about their problems and find solutions."

Even frequent de Blasio critics see progress. Republican political strategist Jessica Proud told Gotham Gazette that she sees a different, and welcome, approach by the mayor and that she suspects Hinton has been a key force behind it. Proud, who helped run the campaign of de Blasio's general election opponent, Joe Lhota, said the mayor still has a long way to go, but it is positive for all involved if he is on the airwaves more and doing town halls.

"I see a little bit of progress, yes, but he will need a more aggressive pace if he wants to dispel that rap on him," Proud said of the impression that the mayor has been in his own progressive bubble. She said that the mayor and his team have been too siloed, and even as they branch out, they must continue to do more appearances in places like Staten Island, and that the mayor should appear on a broader diversity of radio and TV programs.

"Going on The Brian Lehrer Show, that's right in line with his base and his audience," Proud said, referring to the popular political talk show that appears to be de Blasio's favorite on-air venue. "The media and the public would relish the chance to have more in-depth conversations with him" on a wide variety of topics, she said.

Evan Siegfried, also a Republican strategist, says that more on-air hits are a good thing for any politician, but that de Blasio needs more accomplishments to boast, which comes down to his policies.

Polls show that the mayor must improve voters' perception of him and the direction of the city under his leadership. It's not clear whether New Yorkers are worried about de Blasio's openness to ideas that don't fit his typical focus on inequality and progressivism as he defines it. Proud argued, though, that "there are a lot of city opinion leaders, civic leaders that do matter - their perception of you has a ripple effect."

Grenell, Greer, and Proud all agree that more public exposure is smart for de Blasio in particular because he's actually good at delivering his message. "Some people aren't their own best messengers and need other people to articulate their vision," Greer says, "but [de Blasio] is not that person, he's actually the best person to explain his ideas, he's very good at it."

Grenell thinks similarly: "When you listen to the mayor on the radio, he excels, it is only good for him."

In short, being on the airwaves more, holding more public events to interact with New Yorkers is both good government and good politics.

Still, within de Blasio's media hits lies an ongoing problem for the mayor: his presence on the national stage and the perception that he is not as focused on city governance as he should be.

A handful of the mayor's recent TV appearances have been on national programs, like ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, but that has been a trend for the mayor. The real increase in de Blasio's media presence has been on local radio, with more appearances on WNYC as well as 1010 Wins, Hot 97, and AM 970 The Answer.

While he has mostly feuded with The New York Post, de Blasio has been critical of the media in general, though less so since August, when he expressed concerns with press focus on topics he finds less appropriate than policy points of his agenda.

One way to get around displeasing newspaper coverage is to do fewer press conferences and make more interview appearances over the airwaves. Even if somewhat filtered by the radio or TV host, live appearances offer direct channels to those who tune in.

"I'm baffled by why he and his handlers haven't done this more," Dr. Greer said, "because when he talks to the voters, he resonates. When he talks about New York City he makes you feel like no one wants to fight for New York City more than him."

Greer asserts that de Blasio's favorability will rise "if he does a sustained effort at TV and radio." Similar to Proud, Siegfried said "de Blasio should also be willing to sit down with adversarial media outlets for interviews. It would demonstrate he is not afraid to talk to people that might not laud him with praise."

Greer also said de Blasio should appear on a wide variety of outlets, though she didn't necessarily say they should be "adversarial."

"Hearing him on a station that's not say, NPR, it gives him access to people are who are not necessarily paying attention to the political scene throughout," Greer said, citing what she called a strong appearance on Hot 97.

It's a novel approach aimed at correcting course as de Blasio nears the halfway point of his term: more broadcast interviews, town hall-style events, and even attempting to mend fences with his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

While the mayor is not shying away from his progressive brand of politics and battle with inequality, he and his team are perhaps recognizing a need to change the narrative and do some things differently in order to capture more good will and public approval.

To date, October hasn't shown the pace of radio and TV appearances de Blasio struck last month, when he was not only tying his agenda to the Pope's visit and promoting his pre-kindergarten program, but also addressing the NYPD's mishandling of former tennis star James Blake and sparring with Governor Cuomo over MTA funding.

When de Blasio returns from a weekend trip to Israel, he'll give indication of whether he intends to resume the more frequent pace of media appearances some say is essential to his potential success.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

The Mayor's Media Blitz Fri, 16 Oct 2015 02:35:56 +0000
On Twitter, De Blasio Continues Recent Efforts at Direct Public Contact BdB subway mayors office

Mayor de Blasio on the subway (@NYCMayorsOffice)

Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to be making a concerted effort to increase his direct, public interactions with New Yorkers. The mayor, who is more than halfway through his second year in office and has seen his public opinion poll numbers slide, took to Twitter Monday afternoon for a live chat, during which he replied eleven times to people who tweeted questions for him using the hashtag #BDBchat.

At just before 1 p.m., de Blasio's @BilldeBlasio account wrote "Hey New Yorkers, Bill here" and asked how people were preparing for the start of school. This was quickly followed by a tweet that said, "I'm excited to take your questions for the next few minutes. The team says I need a hashtag. Let's use: #bdbchat."

Monday's social media outreach is another in a series of recent efforts by the mayor to highlight the work of his administration and reassure New Yorkers that he is following through on his promises and that the city is headed in the right direction. It has been a tough stretch for the mayor including an unfavorable legislative session in Albany, an ongoing public feud with Governor Andrew Cuomo, much media attention on the city's homelessness crisis, a battle with car-hailing company Uber, controversy over what to do about topless women in Times Square, and other setbacks and challenges. De Blasio has felt that the press has not treated him fairly and after repeatedly criticizing the media, he appears of late to have taken a more proactive approach to communicating directly with the public.

In less than two weeks, the mayor has made two radio appearances, published a lengthy op-ed column in the Daily News, and held his first Twitter chat. These efforts, along with a Saturday afternoon spent canvassing in Brooklyn to promote his pre-Kindergarten program and other public events have had the mayor interacting with constituents in distinct, direct ways. Since becoming mayor, de Blasio has stressed repeatedly that he hears from New Yorkers all the time when he's out and about in the city, sometimes in response to questions about whether he will hold any public town hall meetings.

Even without any acknowledgment of plans for town halls or a shift in communications strategy, there's a noticable difference of late as the mayor looks to correct any perception of his mayoralty as setting the city on the wrong path. The mayor appeared for more than 40 minutes on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show on August 19, taking several listener calls. He then appeared on Hot 97's morning radio show on August 25, spent time Saturday afternoon promoting pre-K in East Flatbush, and saw his column in the Daily News on Sunday before taking to Twitter Monday afternoon. Not to mention de Blasio taking in a weekend series of Mets games in Queens (the Mets were hosting de Blasio's hometown favorite team, the Boston Red Sox).

A mayoral spokesperson wrote Gotham Gazette to say that "The Mayor is very interested in connecting with New Yorkers directly, both to hear their concerns and thoughts, and to share information about his administration. He will continue to look for creative opportunities to engage with New Yorkers."

On Twitter Monday, de Blasio answered a fraction of the questions sent his way, ignoring the many tweeted by members of the city press corps, who had not been told about the chat ahead of time. The social media outreach was not listed on de Blasio's public schedule sent to members of the media and was given at least an air of spontaneity. De Blasio has said in the past that he does not control his own Twitter account and it is unclear if the mayor himself was typing his tweets on Monday, but the mayor's office assures Gotham Gazette that the answers coming from de Blasio were his.

In answering questions tweeted at him, de Blasio chose a couple of less substantive ones, answering that he is 6'6" tall when asked his height, for example. Otherwise, de Blasio was asked and answered questions about affordability, homelessness, environmental protection, and education. In brief answers that are all that the medium allows, de Blasio provided the link to his OneNYC plan aimed at addressing sustainability and affordability and highlighted efforts to combat homelessness and keep rent increases down in rent-regulated apartments.

On education, de Blasio replied to one particular question two times, writing, "We're focused on improving teacher training and retaining high quality educators" and that his administration has "Moved away from over-reliance on high-stakes testing and ended the misleading grading of schools."

The mayor is due in front of a large group of New Yorkers Monday evening as he is set to make remarks in Queens at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which has just begun. It's unclear if de Blasio will take the opportunity to highlight any of his policies.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

On Twitter, De Blasio Continues Recent Efforts at Direct Public Contact Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:01:02 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 31 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week looks like another relatively quiet one as we head toward Labor Day weekend and then what promises to be a busy September. That's not to say that things will be silent this week, as there are always things happening in New York politics. We give you a few things to watch for and then a bit of a September preview of upcoming political events.

One thing to keep an eye on this week is that we are in the home stretch of the race to replace Mark Weprin in the City Council (Weprin stepped down from his seat to take a job with Governor Andrew Cuomo). A crowded Democratic field heads toward the Thursday, September 10 primary day, and then the winner will have to win the November general election to represent that portion of eastern Queens.

Speaking of Governor Cuomo, he had a week out of the spotlight last week, time spent with family, the governor's office indicated. It is unclear if the governor will be making public appearances in the coming week.

Last week was also a quiet one for several top city officials, though the mayor had a somewhat active week. As this week gets going, the mayor continues to pursue a more positive public perception of his work:

TRACKING DE BLASIO: The mayor took in all three games in the Mets' weekend series with the Red Sox, de Blasio's favorite team from his Massachusetts roots. The Mets won one game of the three, on Sunday, but remain in first place in their division (the Red Sox are in last place in theirs). De Blasio spent time on Saturday afternoon canvassing in Brooklyn, popping in at barber shops and nail salons to encourage New Yorkers to sign up for pre-Kindergarten in the final days before the school year begins (classes start Sept. 9). De Blasio was joined by First Lady Chirlane McCray and other members of his administration, and still other members were out and about promoting pre-K throughout the city over Saturday and Sunday.

The mayor continues to work to get his message to New Yorkers, after two recent radio apperances (one on WNYC, one on Hot 97), the mayor had an op-ed column published in Sunday's Daily News in which he outlined the progress made during his tenure thus far and promises that "quality of life" in the city will not diminish on his watch. Read our recent look at de Blasio's turn from criticizing the media to taking his message directly to voters.

Also, as the mayor seeks to boost his public profile and the perception of his administration and mayoralty, we ask if it is time for de Blasio to hold public town hall meetings.

On Monday, at about 7 p.m., de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the U.S. Open in Queens," according to his public schedule.

As mentioned, there are just a few events on our calendar for this week, see below for those, and then we give you a quick list of September events to watch for, including the City Council's return to regular public hearings just after Labor Day and the Pope's visit to NYC.

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

A few events this week:

On Monday, city schoools Chancellor Carmen Fariña "will visit two charter schools on their first day of classes. She will be joined by James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center." The schools are Girls Preparatory Charter School of the Bronx and Growing Up Green Charter School in Long Island City, according to the chancellor's office.

Monday morning, former Rep. Anthony Weiner will appear on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the relationship between Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio (and more), which he analyzed in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. Weiner says that through a constitutional convention, New Yorkers may be able to adjust some of the city-state dynamics that create so much mayor-governor tension. Also, read our recent look at the issue of a potential New York convention: State Constitutional Convention: Holy Grail or Pandora's Box?

At 7 p.m. Monday evening AARP-NY is sponsoring a forum for New York City Council District 23 candidates at Queens High School of Teaching. AARP State Director Beth Finkel will be moderating and all qualifying candidates were invited to participate. The Queens Tribune/Queens Press is co-sponsoring the debate. A crowded field is competing in a Democratic primary that will be decided on Thursday, September 10. For more information, see the NYC Votes voter guide for the six-candidate primary and footage from a recent NY1 forum: three candidates and three other candidates.

Read our look at all the upcoming voting opportunities for New Yorkers - there are many of them - in 2015 and 2016, starting on September 10.

On Wednesday, at 9 a.m. the New York City Bar will hold "One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City." The event is sponsored by the Bar's Environmental Law Committee and co-sponsored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. Nilda Mesa, the Director of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, will present Mayor de Blasio's One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday Beta NYC will hold a civic hacknight at Civic Hall.

On Thursday at 8 a.m. City & State NY is hosting a "newsmakers" event featuring City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will discuss important issues facing the city and the City Council.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, NYU's Urban Democracy Lab will host "(Still) The Progressive Mayor? Bill de Blasio in Year Two," with a discussion featuring several prominent journalists: Jennifer Fermino, City Hall Bureau Chief at the New York Daily News; Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor and Publisher of City Limits; and Azi Paybarah, Senior Reporter at Politico New York will be panelists. The discussion will be moderated by Mary Rowe of the Municipal Art Society.

On Friday morning at Civic Hall, Citymart is hosting an NYC meetup series launch. Citymart is the firm that has been hired by the de Blasio administration to design challenges in a way that shifts the contract procurement process. Citymart has a deal with the city to experiment on a couple of projects as the city reconsiders its approach to contracting out work.

What To Watch For In September

  • The City Council resumes regular public oversight and legislative hearings after Labor Day. The Council will hold its two full-body Stated Meetings of September on the 17th and the 30th. Along with those, keep an eye out for the September 9 Build It Back oversight hearing. There will also be other especially noteworthy hearings, but details are not up on the Council calendar yet. Keep an eye out in future Week Aheads.
  • 2015 primary day in the city is Thursday, Sept. 10
  • Friday, September 11 will be the 14th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. There will be a variety of 9/11 commemorations throughout the city on and around the 11th. On the morning of the 11th, New York Law School is hosting an event, "The City's Lawyers and September 11th," moderated by Dean Anthony W. Crowell. "Panelists (positions in 2001) – Jeffrey D. Friedlander, Law Department; Steven Fishner, Criminal Justice Coordinator; Marjorie Landa, Law Department; Bryan Grimaldi, Mayor's Office; and Florence Hutner, Law Department."
  • On September 12, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is holding another "Begin Again" event where individuals with open arrest warrants and summonses will be able to have a hearing in front of a judge, with many able to have their warrants expunged. Read our report on Thompson's Begin Again initiative here.
  • The 7-train extension to the West Side is supposed to open mid-September.
  • The Association for a Better New York hosts Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on September 17.
  • ABNY hosts NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on September 22.

Stay tuned for our upcoming Week Aheads for many more events and issues to keep an eye out for. Our next Week Ahead will be published on Monday, Labor Day. In the meantime, check out our latest Gotham Gazette stories.

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

by Erika Wang and Ben Max

Note: this article has been corrected to show that Mayor de Blasio attended all three Mets-Red Sox games this past weekend, not two as first stated.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 31 Sun, 30 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000
Is It Time For The Mayor To Do Town Halls? bdb stickball

Mayor de Blasio greets a constituent (photo: @BilldeBlasio)

Scott Stringer has led 16 town hall-style events since becoming Comptroller; Letitia James, the Public Advocate, hosted her 28th on Wednesday night in Brooklyn. As has been well-documented, Mayor Bill de Blasio - along with Stringer and James, one of three popularly-elected citywide officials - has not yet held a town hall event himself.

Is it time for the mayor to host one?

As de Blasio and his team wrestle with how to combat sagging public opinion poll numbers, what they see as unfair press coverage, and a perception gap that many agree leaves New Yorkers thinking de Blasio is performing worse than he actually is, it may be time for de Blasio to take his message directly to the people and hold his first town hall.

"He might want to look at where his criticism is coming from in his base," says Fordham political science professor Dr. Christina Greer. "If you're going to do a town hall, be strategic about it, so that it is effective for you and for New Yorkers," Greer advises.

Greer says that de Blasio should target where he had the deepest support in his 2013 election, with an eye, though, "especially on people feeling neglected," and go communicate with them. She said that these would be "productive places to start, but can't be the end."

Political consultant Evan Thies argues it would be smart for de Blasio to utilize his elected allies to get his message out, possibly at town hall-style events. "If they believe they can get those surrogates to host friendly conversations with real New Yorkers they should do that," Thies said, adding that de Blasio is suffering from a major perception problem and that he and his team need to resume "politicking."

"The perception" among the public, Thies says, "is not just that he's not the doing the job they hired him for, the perception is that he doesn't care about opinions that aren't his. And I just don't think that's true. He's trying to lead on issues of affordability - it's really just a perception problem and he needs to get out there and talk to people."

Doing so in the form of town halls would surely be risky for the mayor, who mostly plays things safe, but public forums are high-risk, high-reward opportunities. De Blasio could show New Yorkers that he is engaged, that his ear is to the ground, and that he is both tough and humble.

"The risk is not any worse than having the tabloids portray him as they are now," says former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who held many town halls when in office and has urged de Blasio to adopt the practice.

Sure, Weiner says, there can be some tough moments, and the TV cameras will gravitate toward those. But, holding town halls has many advantages: "You become a better representative when you do hear the language real citizens use to describe the problems in their lives," Weiner tells Gotham Gazette.

"It would help him with a lot of the problems that he has," Weiner argues of the mayor. "He develops a little bit more of a fighter identity. If you're standing up in a hostile room, people respect that. There's a sense he's being pushed around too much, town halls gives you the opportunity to change that."

As of now, no one would call de Blasio a hothead or peg him as likely to commit a serious gaffe, but of course a public event with open microphones would leave the mayor prone to all sorts of challenges. (For example, we've seen of late what Black Lives Matter activists have accomplished at several presidential candidate events.) But, these events are always well-staffed with aides and security.

Even if he does a few town halls, there would be inevitable questions about where he's held them, and surely some media latching on to any outrageous moments.

However, nothing says 'I'm listening' like actually listening. And it appears the mayor needs a bit of a correction to perceptions that he's distracted by national politics and not a strong enough chief executive of this very hard to manage city.

In correspondence with City Hall, it does not appear that a de Blasio-led town hall is afoot.

Spokesperson Karen Hinton wrote Gotham Gazette saying, "Mayor de Blasio hears directly from New Yorkers in both formal and informal ways - whether it's through taking calls on public radio, or being stopped on the street - as he often is."

Indeed, in what was a rare formal opportunity for the mayor to engage in unscripted conversation with constituents, de Blasio took calls while on air with radio host Brian Lehrer Wednesday morning. All told, de Blasio's WNYC appearance lasted more than 40 minutes and gave the mayor a chance to speak directly to a wide swath of New Yorkers, and with several who called in.

Doing so, de Blasio again showed he is adept at responding to impromptu gripes about the city and his stewardship of it. Yet, the mayor has made only sporadic appearances on call-in radio.

Hinton's response echoes what the mayor himself has said when asked about holding town halls, something that his predecessors did with varying frequency - but did - and that his current fellow citywide electeds are clearly doing fairly regularly.

Public Advocate James held one town hall in each borough specifically about mayoral control of city schools, releasing a report afterward in which she called for some modifications to the system that would weaken the mayor's power. Among her twenty-plus other open events, James held a public safety town hall Wednesday evening in Brooklyn in response to a recent wave of shootings.

Comptroller Stringer has held at least one town hall in each borough, according to his office. Stringer held a "Sandy Oversight Hearing" in each borough other than the Bronx, which was the borough least damaged by the superstorm.

A spokesperson for the comptroller, Eric Sumberg, said that Stringer "believes that listening to constituents and meeting with them in their communities is one of the best ways to learn how he can use his office to root out waste and fraud and fight for working families."

Hinton, the de Blasio spokesperson, told Gotham Gazette that representatives of the administration are "out in neighborhoods across the city every single day, working directly with New Yorkers and bringing that feedback to City Hall to further shape our work. We are continually looking for additional opportunities to hear directly from New Yorkers across the five boroughs."

Highlighting efforts by the Community Affairs Unit, Hinton cited "dozens of town halls" organized around informing small business owners, improving city services for LGBTQ New Yorkers, and providing information on the city's handling of the recent Legionnaires' Disease outbreak in the Bronx.

To New Yorkers who feel good, bad, or iffy about the mayor, though, those efforts may not be enough. "Sometimes people want to see the mayor, not his proxy," says Dr. Greer, Fordham political science professor.

This, in part, is why the mayor marches in many parades, speaks at churches, and appears at a variety of other community events. There may be nothing quite like the unfiltered town hall, though, to move the public image of de Blasio, as Weiner points out.

In May, de Blasio was asked about plans to hold town halls on at least two different occasions. On May 11, de Blasio said he hears from New Yorkers all the time. "[I]t's amazing how many conversations I have with people every single day because they're not shy about coming up and starting a conversation, I assure you – every time I'm on the subway, every time I'm walking down the street and whether it's the Upper East Side or Park Slope or anywhere else. But beyond that, I talk to people who represent a whole host of communities all the time."

On May 18, de Blasio said of holding town halls, "I don't have a specific plan, but, you know, what I do all the time is go out around different communities in different settings...people just come up and talk about things, and offer their views, raise concerns...I go around all over the place – and the subways, and walking down the street – talk to everybody."

A spokesperson for Public Advocate James wrote Gotham Gazette that the public advocate has "worked aggressively to bring government to every corner of this city" and that the best way to connect constituents and government "is by reaching the people where they are."

It is certainly not a sentiment de Blasio would disagree with, and the mayor often highlights that he's bringing government to those who need it most, whether or not he is holding the type of open evening events his colleagues are. On Thursday, de Blasio held a ground-breaking in Far Rockaway for what will be 154 affordable housing units for low-income seniors.

At the mid-day press conference, de Blasio said affordable housing is the number one thing brought up to him by New Yorkers "on the subway, on the street - wherever I go."

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Is It Time For The Mayor To Do Town Halls? Fri, 21 Aug 2015 00:27:34 +0000
De Blasio Moves From Media Criticism, Toward Direct Contact BdB Gibson August 18 willalatriste

Mayor de Blasio at City Hall Tuesday (photo by William Alatriste)

Mayor de Blasio declined to discuss his recent criticism of the media at a press conference on Tuesday. When asked about it, de Blasio said he wanted to stay focused on substance. The choice, along with several other moves, may be indicative of a turn in communications strategy aimed at promoting more positive news from the de Blasio administration and boosting public approval of the mayor, which recent polls show at its lowest level since the mayor took office.

Regardless of his decision to comment Tuesday, de Blasio has been a somewhat regular media critic during his tenure, appearing frustrated by what he sees as a focus on political rivalries and personalities, and a lack of substance. The mayor, his allies, and those who see much good in what he's done during his first nearly 20 months in office are frustrated that the narrative around de Blasio is not more positive. De Blasio has expressed faith, though, that everyday New Yorkers are seeing and feeling real progress under his watch. On Tuesday the mayor said, "a lot of work is being done and done effectively."

"Crime is down, the number of jobs is up, test scores for our schools are up, the amount of affordable housing being created," the mayor cited as examples of the city heading in the right direction.

Still, the mayor and his team must be noting what many outside City Hall are: the public opinion polls, the perception gap, the caricature of the mayor that has formed, and, likely, the need to reevaluate some of the administration's approach to communications.

The mayor said on Tuesday that he is always "figuring out what can help me be as effective as I can be." He said this, though, in specific reference to a question about his exercise routine, which has come under scrutiny because he continues to work out in Park Slope despite having moved to Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side.

De Blasio and aides were responding to renewed questions about the issue on Friday when the mayor went to work out during a "live-shooter" standoff on Staten Island. Among those aides is a new press secretary, the mayor's top liaison with members of the media, who joined his team in June. Karen Hinton has brought a more attentive and aggressive style to the press office and even to de Blasio's public comments. Both Hinton and de Blasio pushed back against media coverage of the mayor's choices Friday.

It's unclear if the mayor has now begun a long break from media criticism, but experts and observers say he should indeed change tack. They say that the mayor and his emissaries need to get the administration message out more, and directly to the public. This shift may be happening.

While it wouldn't hurt the mayor to win some front pages, he has more control over opportunities for himself and members of his team to speak directly to New Yorkers. Cases in point: the mayor is scheduled to appear live Wednesday morning on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. This, after Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen was a guest on NY1's Inside City Hall Monday evening.

On Tuesday the mayor said that "the most important way we get information out is through the media," but this can come in different forms, of course. The mayor has many members of his administration that are strong on radio and television and good at public forums. Among the strongest are Deputy Mayors Glen and Richard Buery, and commissioners like NYPD's Bill Bratton and head of the Department of Consumer Affairs Julie Menin.

While administration officials do make regular public appearances, it may be smart for City Hall to push the pace of such availability. The administration appears to have missed an opportunity to have the mayor and Menin tout drastic reductions in fines on small businesses that were recently announced with little fanfare.

"The stories have been about him and his feelings, not about his policies," says Dr. Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University. "You want the stories to be about what you're doing for people."

While Greer sees some merit in de Blasio's critiques of media coverage, she acknowledges that going after the press doesn't appear to be working in the mayor's favor. Political consultant Evan Thies agrees, saying, "They need to try something different. Blaming the media is not going to work. Getting the message through surrogates may be a better plan."

Thies says that it's not only time to make sure that de Blasio officials are making public appearances, but to also go outside the administration. "One thing that most elected officials do when their poll numbers are sinking is call on friends that they have various areas of agreement on and ask them to join with them for an event, an announcement, a policy issue, or meeting voters," Thies says. "It may be time to start treating this like a campaign again."

Thies specifically cited powerful allies such as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. All three have been strong de Blasio backers and can help the mayor stay in good standing with his Democratic base, including people of color who continue to support the mayor in stronger numbers than white New Yorkers.

Greer cautions, though, that "sometimes proxies aren't a substitute for the real thing. Sometimes people want to see the mayor, not his proxy." No matter how many appearances are made by deputy mayors, agency commissioners, and other allies touting the administration's moves, it is likely there will continue to be questions about how often the mayor himself is available for interviews or takes questions directly from members of the public - on the air or at town hall-style events.

The mayor, who is strong thinking and responding on his feet, has not held any town hall meetings himself and has taken only a few call-in questions during sporadic radio appearances on WNYC and other stations, including Hot 97. De Blasio was last on WNYC with Lehrer in early June and took a few questions from callers. He is likely to take a few more on Wednesday morning as he discusses year two of his pre-Kindergarten program, jobs, and housing with Lehrer.

Asked about a shift in approach, Hinton wrote Gotham Gazette that "Mayor de Blasio has been in front of the media speaking to New Yorkers since taking office. Nothing has changed except he has many more accomplishments to report on than his first month on the job."

Whether this week shows a shift of any kind is to be determined, and media appearances are different from in-person contact with constituents. The mayor did visit a senior center in the Bronx last week amid the Legionnaires' Disease outbreak his health, buildings, and communications teams have been dealing with. As de Blasio said to the New York Times over the weekend, his administration "can always communicate things better."

On NY1 Monday evening, Deputy Mayor Glen said, "We're not going to worry about poll numbers" and touted progress on education, jobs, and housing. She said what appears to be true about the administration's accomplishments, though: "maybe we need to share them with the public more."

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

De Blasio Moves From Media Criticism, Toward Direct Contact Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:07:04 +0000
18 Months of NYCHA Scrutiny, Reform and Conflict de blasio nycha olatoye

Mayor de Blasio at a NYCHA announcement (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)

"If we were to lose public housing," warns City Council Member Ritchie Torres, "we might have a shelter system overflowing with hundreds of thousands of people."

With more than 400,000 residents, the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, is the largest public housing system in the country. Never far from the headlines due to ongoing problems, NYCHA is under even more scrutiny courtesy of a series of audits by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has made the authority a central focus of his early tenure.

Torres, who grew up in public housing in the Bronx and now chairs the so-named committee in the City Council, points to the stakes as debates over NYCHA management and oversight rage. Mayor Bill de Blasio has made NYCHA a far greater priority than prior administrations, but the push to ensure a sound public housing stock remains urgent for many.

NYCHA houses many of the city's poorest residents. Under NYCHA rules, those residents pay rent that does not exceed 30 percent of their family's income. The housing may be low cost but is often also low quality with recurring and widespread complaints of leaky roofs, mold, slow repairs, unhygienic living conditions, and lack of security. The comptroller's audits - six in 18 months - have aimed a spotlight at these and other long-running problems at the authority.

Representatives of NYCHA, headed by Chair Shola Olatoye, and of de Blasio's office, which is ultimately responsible for NYCHA, have on several occasions pushed back against Stringer's audits. They cite many changes implemented over the past year and a half since de Blasio's inauguration. There has been back-and-forth as the administration and the comptroller's office continue to argue over the data used in the audits and whether Stringer's reports give enough credit for work already underway. But what all stakeholders, including de Blasio, Stringer, Olatoye, Torres, and others do agree on is the need for reform.

"The status quo has forced NYCHA residents to shoulder the burden of billions in disinvestment from the federal and state governments, and live with mold, broken heating, vermin and too many other symptoms of a crumbling Housing Authority," de Blasio stated in May when announcing the "NextGeneration NYCHA" plan. "We will take every action to help NYCHA emerge from the financial crisis that has crippled its ability to provide safe housing in good repair to hundreds of thousands of our city's hardworking families."

According to the announcement of NextGeneration NYCHA, it is "a comprehensive ten-year plan to stabilize the financial crisis facing New York City's public housing and deliver long-needed improvements to residents' quality of life by changing the way NYCHA is funded, managed, and how it serves its residents." And one formulated "with the input of hundreds of stakeholders and residents."

Created in 1934 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, NYCHA is the country's oldest public housing authority. But since 2001, a steep drop in funding from federal, state, and city governments has led to severe deterioration of living conditions in NYCHA housing. Many buildings are crumbling, not having undergone any major repairs or renovations for decades.

"Most municipalities have demolished their public housing," says Torres. "So far, our approach has been demolition by neglect."

As conditions worsened, calls to deal with long-neglected NYCHA housing increased. By 2012, the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to respond due to "the extent and duration of resident outcry," according to Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst at Community Service Society. In its last year, the Bloomberg administration redirected part of NYCHA's administrative budget toward a concentrated effort to target repairs and tackle over 420,000 outstanding work orders.

In 2013, conditions in NYCHA housing were highlighted in the mayoral election, with candidates agreeing that reform was needed. In July, the top five Democratic candidates spent a night in a NYCHA building in Harlem. The 'sleepover' arranged by Rev. Al Sharpton was to raise awareness of the decrepit living conditions and backlog of unresolved repair requests in NYCHA buildings across the city. "People in the city in a million years would never accept this," then-candidate de Blasio said after his night in public housing. "Yet NYCHA tenants are forced to accept this every single day."

With that in mind, since de Blasio became mayor, the administration has taken significant steps to improve life in NYCHA housing. "This administration, this mayor, from day one has made the Housing Authority a key component of his agenda," Olatoye recently told NY1.

To help the financially struggling agency, the mayor has both directed additional funding toward NYCHA as well as relieving it of financial obligations. The most significant changes under de Blasio include waiving NYCHA's $30 million annual payment in lieu of taxes and waiving the $72 million payments the housing authority was being forced to make to the city each year to cover the cost of its policing. "NYCHA effectively every year has over $100 million more to go into its operations for management and repairs than it did before the new mayor," explains Bach. Some of those funds are being used for roof repairs, the removal of unneeded scaffolding and shedding, projects to improve security and energy efficiency, and "fix-it-forward," an initiative to overhaul maintenance by increasing the speed and efficiency of repairs.

In May, NYCHA announced the 10-year NextGeneration plan to cut costs, get new sources of revenue, and improve and modernize its management. "Our plan reflects the tough decisions necessary to deliver a stronger, more effective housing authority that can take care of its buildings and its people," said de Blasio when announcing NextGen.

"What is cause for hope is that NYCHA has a master plan for preserving public housing over the long haul with political capital behind it, the backing of the mayor himself behind it," Council Member Torres told Gotham Gazette. While supportive of Olatoye and of de Blasio's approach, Torres is also wary, and told Gotham Gazette that he will hold oversight hearings this fall.

The NextGen plan includes initiatives such as OPMOM, a pilot program currently operating in 18 NYCHA developments to localize decision-making and give on-site housing management more autonomy. The agency describes such initiatives as a learning experience for its own administration. "We're learning what works and what doesn't on our end as an authority," says Aja Worthy-Davis, NYCHA's deputy press secretary. "It's an ongoing process."

Meanwhile, Comptroller Stringer has carried out six audits of the housing authority, revealing the scale of the problems with NYCHA management and maintenance, including questions about its inventory, apartments kept vacant for years due to renovations, and long wait periods for repairs.

No other city agency has been audited this many times by Stringer. Some, like Council Member Torres, believe this emphasis is justified. "There's no other institution that is confronted with an existential crisis to the extent that NYCHA is," he says.

Stringer frames his focus on NYCHA as a matter of equal treatment for those who live in public housing. "They don't make a lot of money, but they're the heart and soul of the city and they've been discriminated against for too long," he told Brian Lehrer of NYCHA residents, on WNYC radio.

To examine NYCHA's progress so far under its NextGen plan, Torres' Committee on Public Housing will hold a series of hearings, starting in September. "One of the problems with Council oversight is that the Council is largely dependent on the information from the very agencies it oversees," says Torres. "That is why the comptroller's audits are so critical, because it provides the Council with a source of independent information on which to conduct oversight hearings."

Torres has expressed support for de Blasio and Olatoye thus far, even co-authoring a Daily News op-ed with a NYCHA resident association president in June. In the column, the authors highlight major problems at NYCHA and that they "do not agree with everything NYCHA does or plans to do." But, they say that they know they can work with Olatoye and that "it's clear to us, and should be clear to all New Yorkers, that Mayor de Blasio has made the city's Housing Authority a priority."

The Council hearings will give NYCHA a new, very public chance to respond to the comptroller's data and highlight progress under the new administration. So far, NYCHA's response to the succession of Stringer audits has been mixed, at times accepting and at other times defensive.

In a joint press conference with the comptroller on May 15, after an audit of NYCHA's supply inventory, Olatoye took a conciliatory tone. "I thank the Comptroller for uncovering some troubling deficiencies in our supply chain and inventory management practices that hamper our ability to provide timely and quality service to our residents," she said. "These deficiencies are simply unacceptable. We are working in partnership with the comptroller to overhaul our supply and inventory practices to become a more effective and efficient landlord."

"The inventory audit – that was helpful," acknowledges Worthy-Davis. "That was something we stood with him on because that was a clear area that was not handled the way it should have been handled."

While conceding some problems, NYCHA has also defended itself on occasion and responded to some of the criticism in the comptroller's audits, contending the use of outdated information and pointing to reforms made under de Blasio and Olatoye.

The series began with Stringer's first audit of NYHCA, released July 24, 2014. The audit criticized the housing authority for depriving residents of wages by not ensuring that contractors comply with federal laws mandating that 30 percent of new hires are NYCHA residents and low-income New Yorkers. The audit looked at capital project contracts that NYCHA awarded between 2010 and 2012.

NYCHA pushed back, questioning the numbers used - its response read, "Under the new leadership of New York Housing Authority Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye, NYCHA is proud of its job growth and retention initiatives that continue to support our residents and the NYC economy too, so we're disappointed to see these efforts so publically [sic] misrepresented with old and incomplete data."

A financial audit of NYCHA was released on December 16, 2014; it found that cash-strapped NYCHA missed out on at least $692 million in revenue and cost-saving opportunities, and failed to meet revenue and savings projections. In its audit response, NYCHA agreed with "a number of the recommendations" but called the report "seriously flawed" in key aspects, citing the comptroller's use of information from several years prior to the scope of the report and questioning its use of "decisions and activities" that "virtually all" occurred before de Blasio took office. And, NYCHA wrote that the report "exaggerates and/or mischaracterizes" key information around cost-savings opportunities.

Another financial audit, released in May of this year, examined whether NYCHA procedures for verifying Section 8 Housing voucher program participant-reported information met the requirements of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The audit looked at Section 8 participants who were active up to November 2013 and found that NYCHA generally met the HUD requirements though there were discrepancies in the records of some participants. According to Stringer's office, "NYCHA officials were pleased with the report's conclusion" about its general procedures, but pushed back on other conclusions. The audit says that "NYCHA officials do not appear to have closely reviewed the results of our data analysis" and "did not provide any documentation or analysis" to support their claims.

"NYCHA agreed with four of the report's five recommendations," the audit says.

More recently, there was pushback from NYCHA and the de Blasio administration after the release of the June 24, 2015 audit, which stated that NYCHA keeps apartments vacant for an average of seven years while doing major repairs. De Blasio representative Peter Kadushin and Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg got into an argument on Twitter over the validity of the data used in the audit. While Sumberg pointed out that NYCHA told auditors there were 2,342 vacant apartments as of September 2014, Kadushin responded that the number had gone down to 1,024 by May 2015. However, in a Daily News report at the time of the audit, NYCHA shared that it had 2,196 vacant apartments in May - good, though, for "a 39% decrease from the beginning of 2013." According to Stringer's audit, as of December NYCHA had a waiting list of 273,391 people, the News reported.

Earlier this summer, on July 13, Jean Weinberg, NYCHA's chief communications officer, issued a statement in response to the latest audit: "The Comptroller is recycling old news on NYCHA's maintenance and repairs." She called the data used in the audit "outdated," referring to the fact that it had reviewed work orders from January 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014.

The difference in figures is at least in part a matter of timing. Audits take several months to a year to complete and are based on figures available to the comptroller's office at the time they are started. But during the months that an audit is carried out, the situation on the ground can change.

This appears to have been the case with the vacancy audit released in June 2015, which used September 2014 vacancy figures. "We had already started work on a good chunk of those units," NYCHA's Worthy-Davis explains. She says that by the time the report was released, many of the apartments were ready to be rented to tenants. "We didn't get this information and decide to rent those units and start breaking down walls," she added. "This is work that's already been ongoing. It's our goal, even though we already have a low - very, very, very low - vacancy. Our goal is always to obviously turnover apartments and get folks who are on these waiting lists, in them."

"We respect the work that the Comptroller is doing," Worthy-Davis continued. "It's important work, but we as an agency, we make decisions based on the best interests of our residents and what we need to do to sustain our buildings and our infrastructure and keep NYCHA running."

In most cases, NYCHA representatives have agreed with Stringer's assessments in terms of general problems, but don't appreciate the comptroller painting a picture of ongoing dysfunction when they have reforms well under way.

Stringer has pulled no punches, and given NYCHA little credit for implementing reform. He has promised to follow up on his audits and has told Gotham Gazette that NYCHA would remain a central focus. In releasing the latest audit, he said, "For the 400,000 New Yorkers who live in NYCHA housing, the Authority's handling of repairs is a case study in mismanagement." He did add, though, "I know that NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye is committed to turning the Authority around." But, the latter statement was a way of introducing Stringer's own "four-part reform agenda to expand transparency and accountability at the Authority."

While NYCHA and the Comptroller's office debate numbers, for others, those numbers are fairly irrelevant. "I think the findings of the audits point to things that NYCHA needs to pay attention to," says Bach of Community Service Society. For Bach, the difference in the figures presented by both sides is marginal considering the scale of the problem. "I'm less concerned with the nitty gritty of the numbers that the comptroller includes in his audit than with the direction of change and whether things are better than they were two years ago, or worse, or the same."

And he believes things are headed in the right direction. "The problems are still enormous, NYCHA still faces a major challenge," says Bach. "But I think there's no question that the situation today is better than it was two years ago."

"Improvement is happening as broadly across the board as possible, as quickly as possible," says Worthy-Davis. She says the agency understands the frustration of residents who have been dealing with NYCHA over the years under various administrations. But, she adds, "It's going to take a little bit of time."

"This is 40 years of neglect that is not going to change in 15 months," Olatoye said on NY1.

After years of neglect, some NYCHA residents, like Sumner House resident association president Raymond Ballard, are also cautiously optimistic. While he has not yet seen much improvement, he says, he is hopeful that the new NYCHA initiatives will make a difference. "We have to go up now," says Ballard. "I know there are programs put in place to correct some of the things that they have been neglecting over the years." He has already seen efforts to fix brickwork at risk of collapse and the start of roof repairs. Yet, a lot more remains to be done. "I believe now that there will be some changes," he adds.

"I have to be hopeful because otherwise I think we'd be close to being homeless," says Ballard. "That's the shape that most developments are in now."

by Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette

18 Months of NYCHA Scrutiny, Reform and Conflict Sun, 02 Aug 2015 23:46:03 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 26 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

EYES ON ALBANY: The Legislature is back in session on Wednesday and Thursday this week, two of the final 12 days until session is due to end Wednesday June 17. Will there simply be a big end-of-session deal as in years past? Will there be compromise reached to extend New York City rent regulations, the 421-a real estate tax abatement, or mayoral control of city schools? Will there be a deal reached on a hike to the minimum wage - or will Governor Andrew Cuomo continue to move through the wage board he had the Department of Labor convene? Will Senate Republicans agree to some semblance of the DREAM Act or to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18? Will Assembly Democrats agree to the education investment tax credit that the governor and Senate Republicans are behind? Those are among the top questions heading into the final weeks of negotiations. [Read the latest on Albany from Gotham Gazette]

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 26 Mon, 25 May 2015 21:17:46 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 30 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

March madness in Albany has been quite a ride, and word Sunday night is that a fiscal year 2016 budget agreement is in place. At about 9:30 p.m., the governor's office announced that Cuomo is now five for five in on-time budgets as governor - not a small feat: "The Budget agreement includes landmark education reforms and investment, an ethics package with the nation's strongest disclosure laws for legislators with outside income, and new investments in rebuilding and growing the state's economy, including $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $500 million to make New York the first in the nation to have statewide broadband. The Budget agreement holds spending growth below two percent for the fifth consecutive year, continuing a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of state budgets where spending grew at a higher rate than inflation or personal income growth." Full details will be released on Monday.

As negotiations continued the governor has admitted that more and more of the policies that he attempted to include in the budget were being pushed to the legislative session to follow - which has frustrated some fellow Democrats. Policies the governor has said he included in his budget but will be taken up in the legislative session (which runs until mid-June) include the Dream Act, an education tax credit, and 'Raise the Age' juvenile justice reform. Also likely: minimum wage. Education policy and ethics reforms continue to be the big ticket items that the governor has said he is committed to movement on. Over the weekend many rallied outside the governor's New York City office in protest of his education policy reforms; while others rallied at City Hall in support.

In quite the well-timed release, a new unauthorized biography of Cuomo is due out on Tuesday: Michael Shnayerson's "The Contender."

Meanwhile, in New York City, the City Council has just wrapped its month of preliminary budget hearings, calling in city agencies to discuss expenditures, policies, and needs. Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members are eagerly awaiting a final deal in Albany, of course, to see how state policy and funding decisions will impact the city. A city budget is due by July 1. [Read our new look at how the City Council defines "women's issues" when it comes ot the budget and otherwise]

Mayor de Blasio begins his week with a 3 p.m. event: "On Monday, Mayor de Blasio will hold public hearings for and sign Intro. 685, in relation to extending rent stabilization laws; Intro. 435-A, in relation to reporting of special education services provided by the Department of Education; and Intro. 485-A, in relation to requiring the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide outreach and education for young adults."

May 5 is not so far away. It is the date of the special election for New York's 11th Congressional District (and the 43rd State Assembly District). The race in NY-11 between Democrat Vincent Gentile and Republican Dan Donovan is heating up, and the two will meet Tuesday night for a debate in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, along with Green Party candidate James Lane. See below for details.

There's a great deal happening at the City Council this week, including a full-body Stated meeting on Tuesday; and plenty of events all over the city, see our day-by-day run below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's public schedule on Monday includes preparing and distributing kosher for Passover meals with other Council Members, Masbia Soup Kitchen, Queens; and remarks at the Council's Women's History Month celebration.

At 8:15 Monday morning, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will appear live on 91.1 FM's "JM in the AM."

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be a guest on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning, discussing help for small business owners.

Monday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor calling upon the United States Congress to pass, and the President to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act; a meeting of the Committee on Civil Rights to discuss the powers and duties of the Commission on Human Rights, as well as establishing a housing discrimination testing program and an employment discrimination testing program; a meeting of the Committee on Education on a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to reject any attempt to raise the cap on the number of charter schools, a resolution calling upon the Department of Education to amend its Parent’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to include information about opting out of high-stakes testing and distribute this document at the beginning of every school year, to every family, in every grade, and a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to fully implement the education funding requirements for New York City resulting from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v State of New York case.

At 11 a.m., Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will detail his agreement with retail giant GNC to implement landmark reforms in the authentication, testing and public information and transparency of herbal supplements," from his Manhattan office.

Also Monday morning at 11 a.m., "as part of the city's unprecedented tax season outreach cmapaign," an event in Flushing "to promote free tax filing" is being put on by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Rep. Grace Meng, Community Tax Aid, and the Flushing YMCA. DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, Meng and others "are hosting Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Awareness Day to promote free tax preparation services available in Flushing."

On Monday at noon, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña "launches literacy program in 20 Family Shelters with DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor" from HELP Bronx Crotona Park North.

Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries will speak at New York Law School: “Jeffries will speak about innovation in New York and his work in Washington developing policies to further innovation nationally.”

Also at 2 p.m. Monday, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and city Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball announce two major initiatives to further New York City’s life sciences sector, at Rockefeller University - according to City & State NY.

At 3 p.m. Mayor de Blasio will hold his aforementioned bill-signing event.

On Monday at 4:30, "Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer will host a Technology & Education Mixer at Civic Hall, the newly-opened community for civic technology...bringing public school principals seeking partnerships with technology organizations..." Brewer: "With passage of the New York State Smart Schools Bond Act, as well as recent changes to E-Rate funding streams at the federal level, New York City schools stand to receive significant capital funds to invest in education technology. Our event will help both tech organizations and schools prepare." Present will be Hal Friedlander, Chief Information Officer, NYC Dept of Education; over 40 Manhattan Public School principals and staff; Civic & Educational Technology organizations, including Citizen Schools, The LAMP, and others.

Monday afternoon, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Public Advocate Letitia James; Council Women’s Issues Committee Chair Laurie Cumbo; and the City Council Women’s Caucus will host The Second Annual Women’s Herstory Month Celebration at the Council Chambers in City Hall: “This year we recognize Women With Vision, trail blazers who embody the entrepreneurial spirit in pursuit of greatness in the public, political, or private sectors by harnessing opportunities through their vision that transform all of our lives for the better.”

At Brooklyn Borough Hall there will be a Women's History Month celebration hosted by Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Laurie Cumbo. It will feature an expo of women-owned businesses and then an awards ceremony. Rikki Klieman is the highlighted guest speaker.

Council Member Andy King will hold a “Town Hall” meeting in Eastchester Heights: “New York City Council Member Andy King will be speaking at the meeting as a part of an ongoing series to bring constituent services directly to 12th Council District residents, listen to concerns and answer questions from members of the community.”

Also Monday evening, the Queens Library will host an open budget hearing in Flushing: “The public is invited to find out what the library's funding priorities are, and to give the library their input.”

On Tuesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will attend the Council of Institutional Investors 2015 Spring Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration in Washington D.C.

As mentioned, Michael Shnayerson’s Andrew Cuomo biography “The Contender,” is slated for release Tuesday.

Tuesday is the last day of the state's 2015 fiscal year. A new fiscal year 2016 budget is due by midnight.

Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., City & State will host Real Estate, Construction & Housing Awards Breakfast to “honor outstanding professionals from New York’s Real Estate, Construction and Housing Industries.” Attendees will include Adolfo Carrion, Executive VP of Stagg Group, former Bronx Borough President; Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development; and others.

Also Tuesday morning, there will be a Crain's New York Business breakfast forum with New York City Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Brad Lander, Mark Levine, and Jumaane Williams. The council members will discuss how the Council is changing the playing field for businesses, land-use priorities in their districts and citywide, and what they would like from the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations.

Tuesday at 9 a.m., Chalkbeat will present a community schools conversation with Nancy Zimpher and Jeff Edmondson, moderated by Motoko Rich of the New York Times: “SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Jeff Edmunson, co-authors of "Strive Together" about their work in developing community schools in Cincinnati, discuss early lessons for other cities hoping to replicate the model.”

Tuesday’s City Council schedule will include a 10 a.m. meeting of the Committee on Finance to review a resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass a law that would provide a property tax exemption for privately-owned vacant land while such property is being used for the public benefit; and a City Council Stated Meeting at 1:30 p.m. It's the Council's second full-budy Stated meeting of the month. Bills will be introduced and others previously introduced will be voted on - one that will be introduced is from Council Member Dan Garodnick and would require the NYPD to publish its patrol guide.

Tuesday evening, Educators for Excellence will host Manhattan Policy Roundtable: Teacher Evaluation and Tenure.

Also Tuesday evening, Queens College will host Women in Leadership: Economic Justice in ‘UnBankable’ Communities: “Shared Interest, a non-profit social investment fund, provides access to credit and mentorship for microenterprise and small business owners, farmers and cooperative members. The majority of these business owners are women, who would otherwise be considered ‘unbankable.’Donna Katzin, Executive Director of Shared Interest, will highlight themes related to community and international development, impact investing, women’s leadership, and strategies to promote social and economic justice.”

Tuesday at 5 p.m., NYU Wagner and NYU’s Leadership Initiative will host All Things Being Equal: Reflections of a Social Justice Leader: “Join us for a fascinating discussion with one of America’s most influential public service leaders, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. Melody Barnes, NYU’s Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives and Senior Fellow at NYU Wagner, will engage him in discussion about his journey in leadership - from his birth in a charity hospital in Louisiana to becoming President of the second largest philanthropy in the United States.”

Tuesday evening, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence will host its spring meeting: “You’ll get an update from Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett and others about pending state and federal legislation and other NYAGV activities and find out how you can help advocate to reduce gun violence.” [Read a recent op-ed by Barrett on the need to pass Nicholas' Law]

Tuesday at 6 p.m., The Center For New York City Affairs at New School will host Low-Down on Pre-K from Insideschools: “If your child turns 4 this year, he or she is eligible for free pre-kindergarten, either in a public school or at a site run by a community organization. The de Blasio administration gets an A for effort in its rapid expansion of pre-kindergarten, with more than 30,000 new seats last fall and another 20,000 planned for this coming fall. But what is the quality of these new programs?”

There will be a meeting of the National Women's Political Caucus New York City chapter, at which Manhattan BP Brewer will speak.

And also Tuesday evening, a debate in the 11th Congressional District race: 8:15 PM at Guild for Exceptional Children's headquarters in Brooklyn. Staten Island Advance: "Republican District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Democratic Councilman Vincent Gentile and Green Party candidate James Lane will debate on March 31 at an event held by the Bay Ridge Community Council. The three men are facing off in a special election on May 5 for the vacant seat in Congress, left empty by Michael Grimm's resignation in January."

[Read the latest reporting from Gotham Gazette on New York City and State politics and policy]

Wednesday is the first day of the New York State 2016 fiscal year.

Wednesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Housing and Buildings; a meeting of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor jointly with the Committee on Finance for an oversight hearing regarding examining health care savings under recent collective bargaining agreements; a meeting of the Committee on General Welfare jointly with the Committee on Health for an oversight hearing on examining health and safety at ACS-funded Head Start Programs; a meeting of the Committee on Waterfronts jointly with the Committee on Environmental Protection to discuss a resolution calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the application by Liberty Natural Gas, LLC to construct the Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas terminal off the coast of New York.

Wednesday at 1 p.m., School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University will present Dean’s Seminar Series On Race and Policy: At the Intersection of Tech and Social Impact: “Benjamin Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP and current partner at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, will discuss technology and its relevance to social policy.”

Also at Columbia University mid-day Wednesday, Manhattan BP Brewer will speak at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs "One Billion Rising" event raising awareness to end violence against women.

Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., BetaNYC will present NYC Department of Transportation Open Data Forum: “We're joining up with our friends at NYC's Department of Transportation for the third open data forum. Join NYC DOT staff for a town hall-style meeting to discuss open data formatting and access. Bring your questions about DOT's data!!”

Also Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Paul Vallone, in conjunction with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, will celebrate the anniversary of Greek Independence: “The celebration will honor Greek-Americans who have dedicated themselves to serving their communities.”

Thursday evening, Big Apple Coffee Party, Common Cause/NY, Public Citizen and Occupy Wall Street Special Projects Affinity Group  will hold a Rally to Shine a Light on Corruption in Our Democracy: “Join a national campaign to encourage President Obama to sign an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to disclose their campaign activities and contributions.”

Also Thursday evening, the Digital NYC Five Borough Tour will return to Manhattan for a session in partnership with General Assembly and Flatiron BID. Panelists will include Jake Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO of General Assembly, Hagos Mehreteab, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition at AppNexus, Madison (“Maddy”) Maxie, Creative Technologist, and Kristen Titus, Founding Director at NYC Tech Talent Pipeline.

Friday and the weekend
Friday is Good Friday and Passover begins at sundown on Friday, so things will be quiet at the end of the week and into the weekend - we think, at least.

***Read some of the latest original content from Gotham Gazette - explore our stories or recent op-eds***

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

by Rati Mukhuradze, Marco Poggio, and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 30 Sun, 29 Mar 2015 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 9 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will be another dominated by budget negotiations and hearings, both in New York City and Albany. In the city, the City Council began its preliminary budget hearings last week and continues them this week and throughout March, evaluating Mayor Bill de Blasio's spending plans agency by agency. In Albany, discussions swirl around how the Legislature might attempt to move Governor Andrew Cuomo on some of the hard stances he's taking with respect to education and ethics policies and the ways in which he is budgeting them. Both the State Senate and the State Assembly are expected to introduce and vote on their respective one-house budgets this week, which will further intensify negotiations with the governor. Of course, there are key aspects of what de Blasio and other city officials want from the State that are at stake in Albany negotiations. An Albany budget is due by April 1; a New York City budget by July 1.

Mayor de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner are reportedly set to push the governor and the State Legislature for increased education funding on Monday  - apart from Cuomo's education reform plan, which he has tied to funding increases in order to force the Legislature's hand.

Other highlights to watch this week include the race in New York's 11th Congressional District heating up as there is limited time before the May 5 special election between Dan Donovan and Vincent Gentile to replace former Congressman Michael Grimm; Public Advocate Letitia James continues her "mayoral control forums;" and various celebrations of Women's History Month.

As always, there are many events to be aware of this week. See our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray start the week hosting "the Beijing +20 Reception at Gracie Mansion" Monday evening.

On Monday morning, Rep. Joe Crowley and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will hold a press conference to celebrate Women’s History Month in the Bronx, according to City & State NY.

At 10 a.m., on steps of City Hall, there will be a news conference condemning Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the so-called "free" trade deal that has been described as "NAFTA on steroids." Attendees will  include Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (8th District, Brooklyn and Queens), Rep. Grace Meng (6th District, Queens), Mario Cilento, President of NYS AFL-CIO, Vincent Alvarez, President of NYC Central Labor Council, James Conigliaro, Business Representative of Machinists Union District 15, George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, Carmen Charles, President of AFSCME Local 420m, Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer at Food and Water Watch, and Thelma Fellows, Executive Committee at Sierra Club NYC.

Also 10 a.m. Monday, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball will present a $1 billion plan to redevelop property in the Sunset Park area, according to City & State NY.

Monday at 11:30 a.m., on the steps of City Hall, “Council Member Mark S. Weprin, along with his colleagues in the City Council, announces the introduction of a bill to allow and regulate youth hostels in New York City.”

Monday, at 11:30 a.m., schools Chancellor Carmen Farina will be a guest on WNYC’s the Brian Lehrer show discussing why 7th grade is such a pivotal year in a child’s life.

Also Monday morning, "three of the largest New York City faith-based institutions on Monday March 9th to unveil a historic study about poverty reduction in New York City. The three faith-based organizations releasing the study are: The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and UJA-Federation of New York. Together they will release the results of a major new research study that demonstrates the effects anti-poverty policy combinations can have on reducing poverty in New York.

Monday at noon, at Governor Cuomo’s Office in New York City, faith and labor leaders, voters, and community members will take part in a rally organized by Common Cause “to demand morality, fairness and honesty from our elected officials.”

At 1 p.m. Monday, members of Gov. Cuomo’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice will hold a panel discussion on raising the age of criminal prosecution at The New York Bar Association in Albany, according to City & State NY.

"Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will announce a groundbreaking settlement with the nation's three leading national credit reporting agencies to implement critical reforms to protect consumers" on Monday at 1:30, joined by Julie Menin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and Susan Shin, senior staff attorney at the New Economy Project.

Monday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises to review land use in the Soho Cast-Iron Historic District in Manhattan; a meeting of the Committee on Higher Education to consider resolution “calling upon Congress to pass and the President to sign legislation to implement President Barack Obama’s ‘America’s College Promise’ plan to make two years of community college free to anyone who maintains a 2.5 GPA and calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign legislation funding the State’s obligation under the plan”; a meeting of the Committee on Parks and Recreation for preliminary budget oversight; and a meeting of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions to review submitted Land Use Applications.

Monday’s State Senate Committee Hearings will include a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Labor to discuss a variety of acts to amend the labor law; a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions to discuss a variety of legislation, including an act to amend the New York State Urban Development Corporation Act in relation to creating the New York State innovative energy and environmental technology program; and several in relation to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Monday at 5:30 p.m., the Queens Borough Board, as led by Queens BP Melinda Katz, will meet and vote on FY2016 Budget Priorities

On Monday evening, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will make a “special presentation at Women’s History Month reception, Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

And on Monday evening, schools Chancellor Farina will deliver remarks at the Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival at the Imperial Theatre in Manhattan.

Tuesday is the funeral for Cardinal Edward Egan, which will be attended by many, including Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and other elected officials.

That will be part of a busy Tuesday for de Blasio, who before the funeral will visit a classroom at the Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and then host a press conference to make an education announcement. Then, after the funeral, the mayor will deliver remarks at a Mayor's Fund reception and then deliver remarks at the Beijing+20 Opening Reception.

Tuesday’s State Senate Committee Hearing schedule will include a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Education to consider a variety of legislation, including to amend chapter 91 of the laws of 2002, amending the education law and other laws relating to the reorganization of the New York city school construction authority, board of education, and community boards, in relation to the effectiveness thereof; and to repeal section 4 of chapter 91 of the laws of 2002, amending the education law and other laws relating to the reorganization of the New York city school construction authority, board of education, and community boards; a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation to consider a variety of legislation; a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Codes to consider a variety of legislation, including in relation to providing that an elementary or secondary school student shall be incapable of consenting to sexual conduct with a school employee; an act to amend the penal law, in relation to forged instruments and the sale thereof; an act to amend the penal law, in relation to the theft of controlled substances.

Tuesday morning, YWCA will present: “Women’s History Month Breakfast Panel Series: Leadership and Generosity: A Call to Action” featuring local leaders Sheelah A. Feinberg, Jennifer Jones Austin, Cecilia Clarke, Maya Wiley, Akiba Solomon and Anne Williams-Isom.

Tuesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Housing and Buildings to consider the extension of rent stabilization laws, a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to approve, A.1865, in relation to repealing vacancy decontrol, a resolution determining that a public emergency requiring rent control in the City of New York continues to exist and will continue to exist on and after April 1, 2015; a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign legislation that would end deregulation of rent regulated apartments and several others; a meeting of the Committee on Education to discuss introduction of a new bill relating to: “Requiring the Department of Education to report information regarding students receiving special education services” ; a meeting of the Committee on Consumer Affairs to discuss making of a new bill regarding: “Dept of consumer affairs to provide young adults with outreach and education regarding consumer protection issues”;

And preliminary budget hearings in response to Mayor de Blasio’s initial fiscal year 2016 budget outline: the Committee on Land Use; the Committee on Technology jointly with the Committee on Land Use; and the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Tuesday, at 12 p.m., the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research will present “The Truth About Campus Sexual Assault: Is there really an epidemic of campus rape? If so, is government leading a constructive path forward?”

Tuesday evening, Public Advocate Letitia James will host one in her series of Mayoral Control Forums at P.S. 69, in Queens: “New Yorkers are encourage to come and share their thoughts about mayoral control and how modifications to the law can help to improve our education system. This is an opportunity to discuss what real community and parent engagement should look like moving forward.”

Also Tuesday evening, at 6 p.m., Wix Lounge will host NYC Lean In: Women’s History Month Event.

Tuesday at 6 p.m., Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer will host an Immigrant Small Business Town Hall: “My office’s African Immigrant Task Force is sponsoring a Town Hall jointly with the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, Dept. of Small Business Services, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Please join us for a presentation on how to obtain city resources to help manage your small business better, moderated by Lloyd Williams of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. Panelists include myself; Julie Menin, Commissioner, Dept. of Consumer Affairs; Alejandro Alvarez, Director of Community Affairs, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner, Dept. of Small Business Services.”

Also Tuesday at 6 p.m., Council Member Annabel Palma will host a Scam Prevention Forum at New York Public Library’s Parkchester Branch.

Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., the NYC Charter School Center and the NYC Special Education Collaborative will host the 5th annual NYC Charter School Career Fair at Harlem Children's Zone Gymnasium and Cafeteria: “Last year’s fair hosted over 1,000 teachers, counselors, related service providers, and administrators with over 85% of NYC charter schools participating. This year, we’re looking forward to an even larger turnout.”

Wednesday morning in Albany the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, will hold a joint meeting with the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary to “examine the need for reforms to the criminal justice system to ensure fairness, improve community/police relations, and protect the safety of law enforcement officers.”

Also Wednesday morning, the Senate Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, will hold a joint meeting with the Senate Standing Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, and Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, for an oversight hearing “Examining police safety and public protection throughout New York State.”

Wednesday’s State Senate Committee Hearing schedule will include a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities to consider a variety of bills; a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education to consider a variety of legislation, including an act to amend the education law, in relation to changing the eligibility dates for a military service recognition scholarship to include the conflicts that occurred after June 1, 1982; and an act to amend the education law, in relation to providing scholarships for surviving dependent family members of New York state military personnel who have died while performing official military duties.

Also Wednesday, Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action of New York will hold "Parade for Public Education and Lobby: Rally to Save Public Education in New York: We will meet with parents, students, teachers, and community leaders from across the state at the Armory and then we will parade down to the Capitol to demand $2.2 billion in new school aid, $150 billion in pre-K outside of NYC, and that we maintain current cap on charter schools to stop school privatization, as well as a resolution to the 20-year Campaign for Fiscal Equity.”

Wednesday morning, at 10 a.m., there will be a rally for preserving housing and for permanent affordable housing in East New York.

Wednesday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Finance to review submitted land use applications and to go over: “Meatpacking Area business improvement district, Manhattan” and a Stated meeting of City Council at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Wednesday evening, Public Advocate Letitia James will host the Manhattan episode of her Mayoral Control Forum series, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice - co-hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. According to Brewer: “I am co-sponsoring with Public Advocate Tish James a Manhattan Forum on Mayoral Control of schools, one in a series of forums taking place in all five boroughs. The forum will focus on one aspect of mayoral control -- community and parent engagement -- and provide a platform for educators, parents, guardians, and elected officials to discuss what real community and parent engagement should look like under mayoral control, which is set to expire this June.”

Comptroller Scott Stringer is hosting a Women’s History Month celebration Wednesday evening in Manhattan.

Also Wednesday evening, at 6:30 p.m., City Council Member Corey Johnson will host "Let’s Talk!: Reforming the Rent Guidelines Board" at P.S. 3, in Manhattan: “Join Council Member Corey Johnson, housing policy experts and tenant organizers for a discussion about reforming the Rent Guideline Board and confronting New York City’s affordability crisis.”

Wednesday evening, at 6:30 p.m., Manhattan Neighborhood Network will host The State of Women in New York City, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Christina Greer, and including Ashley Emerole, Alexis Grenell, Erica Ford, and Karina Aybar-Jacob.

Wednesday evening, there will be a fundraiser for Vincent Gentile’s congressional campaign, on Staten Island.

At 8:30 Thursday morning, Manhattan Institute will host a breakfast forum discussion titled “Are NYC Charter Schools Doing All They Can to Serve the Neediest Students?” Panelists will include Seth Andrew, Founder and Democracy Prep Public Schools and Democracy Builders; James Merriman, President of New York City Charter School Center; Ian Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of Public Prep; and Marcus Winters, Senior Fellow at Manhattan Institute: “At this breakfast forum, Winters will unveil the findings from his latest study on low-performers. Then, a panel will discuss the broader issue of whether New York City charters are doing all they can to serve the neediest students.”

Also Thursday, Association for a Better New York “cordially invites you to be our guest at a lunch meeting featuring Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Secretary Foxx will discuss his priorities for the federal Department of Transportation.”

Thursday will be the next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, at 10:00 a.m.

"Brooklyn Parents, Students, and Teachers will take to the streets in Carroll Gardens to protest Governor Cuomo's proposed education policies on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 3:15 p.m. The march is led by the Community Alliance for Student Education (CASE), a group formed to support public school students, teachers, and the community. CASE and the parents and students of PS 58 will join parents, students, and teachers from PS 261 in a march to voice their opposition to Gov. Cuomo's plans, which include placing more of an emphasis on the testing of young children, budgeting that reflects less than HALF the increase recommended for public school success, and putting teacher's ratings in the hands of outside "professional" consultants hired by Albany."

The Joint Legislative Budget schedule is to include "Senate and Assembly budget actions," and "joint Senate and Assembly budget conference committees commence."

Thursday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Public Safety and a meeting of the Committee on Standards and Ethics for preliminary budget oversight hearings.

Thursday at 6:30 p.m., PROP Public Forum: "The Whole System Is Guilty: the panel will feature speakers presenting critiques on the key agencies of our so-called system of justice that, in effect, join forces everyday to inflict harm and hardship on low-income New Yorkers of color: the NYPD, prosecutors, judges, the defense bar, jails and prisons, and the New York City Council.”

Also Thursday, at 7 p.m., "How Would the TPP Affect Our Community?: Join us for a community meeting to learn about the threats posed by the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how efforts to fast track this dangerous trade agreement can be stopped. We'll highlight how the TPP risks our jobs, health, communities, and environment. Fortunately, Congressman Charles Rangel can play a key role in stopping the fast tracking of the TPP! Sponsors include Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Food & Water Watch, Communications Workers of America, Working Families Party, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Three Parks Independent Democrats, Sierra Club New York City Group, Broadway Democrats, MoveOn NYC Councils, 350NYC, Franciscan Earth Corps, United for Action, Health GAP, ALIGN-NY, Global Justice for Animals and the Environment, Show Up! America, Environmental Action,, NY4Whales, Polo Democratico NY, Terraza 7, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, OWS Special Projects Affinity Group, OWS Outreach Working Group, TradeJustice New York Metro, Global Justice for Animals and the Environment, Sane Energy Project.”

Thursday evening, City Council Member Andy King will host the State of the 12th District: “The address will highlight the district’s finances, accomplishments over the past year, challenges facing the district, and future planning. All community members are invited to attend the State of the District Address, as well as stay for a birthday celebration for Council Member King.”

Friday morning, the State Senate Standing Committee on Social Services will meet to discuss “Policies to Assist Working Families in New York.”

On Friday, Public Advocate James' mayoral control forum series sees its big finale with an event featuring Diane Ravitch, Assemby Member Cathy Nolan, and others.

Also Friday morning, the Murphy Institute at CUNY, in collaboration with 1199SEIU and Cornell University’s Worker Institute, will present Identity Politics: A Foundation for Coalition Building: “Barbara Smith argues that “identity politics” rather than presenting an obstacle to forming coalitions for social and economic justice – offer an essential foundation for such coalitions. Drawing on forty years of work with civil rights, feminist, LGBTQ and other movements, Smith’s new book, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, poses an urgent set of related questions that she and forum panelists will consider.”

Friday at 11 a.m., the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Financial Empowerment, the DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) at Parsons The New School for Design, the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, and Citi Community Development will host Designing for Financial Empowerment: Improving Tax-Time Services for New Yorkers: “There are about 950,000 New York City families who are eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which averages approximately $2,500, and, combined with other credits, can translate to a refund of as much as $10,000. But one in every five eligible households do not claim this vital tax credit; and of those who do, too many pay an average of $250 to file their taxes instead of using the free tax preparation services available at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites around the city. How can we enable more of our fellow New Yorkers who have low incomes to file for free, claim their money and get access to other financial empowerment services? To answer that challenge, we are re-imagining how free tax preparation is provided in New York City and want your input.” Attendees will include Commissioner of DCA Julie Menin and Darren Bloch, Executive Director at The Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.

Friday’s City Council schedule will include a meeting of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services and a meeting of the Committee on Environmental Protection for preliminary budget oversight hearings.

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

by Rati Mukhuradze, Marco Poggio, and Ben Max

Note: this article has been updated.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 9 Sun, 08 Mar 2015 17:56:50 +0000