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Gotham Gazette-WNYC General Election Guide 2016 Mon, 31 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Council to Hear One of Two Police Accountability Bills http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6381:city-council-to-hear-one-of-two-police-accountability-bills http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6381:city-council-to-hear-one-of-two-police-accountability-bills NYPD training

photo via @NYPDNews


NOTE: this article was originally published June 7, but the hearing discussed was postponed to June 28; it has been edited to refllect the new date and other recent news

Following on the heels of passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which diverts the prosecution of a number of low-level nonviolent offenses to civil rather than criminal avenues, the City Council will hear a bill on Tuesday that also addresses criminal justice reform, but this time by targeting bad actors within the NYPD.

The bill, Intro. 119, is sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams and was first heard in May 2014 by the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Tweaked ahead of this second hearing, the bill would require the inspector general for the NYPD to review police misconduct, including civil cases against police officers, to identify systemic issues in the department. With input from the Law Department, the NYPD and its Internal Affairs Bureau, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, the IG would then recommend systemic changes in discipline, training and monitoring of officers.

Williams, along with Council Member Brad Lander, was one of the two lead sponsors of the Community Safety Act, which established the NYPD Inspector General and was passed in 2013 over a veto by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His new police accountability bill currently has eight sponsors in the 51-member Council. The NYPD IG was in the news last week after the office released a new report discrediting the claim that broken windows policing, which relies on rigorous enforcement of low-level crimes to prevent larger ones, does indeed prevent felonies. A war of words ensued between the Department of Investigations, which includes the NYPD IG, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, the leading proponent of broken windows policing, which he is credited with implementing.

At one time, Tuesday’s hearing was to be held earlier this month and jointly with the Committee on Public Safety to consider another bill, Intro. 927, which is sponsored by Council Member Daniel Garodnick. That bill, which mandates that the NYPD create an early intervention system to identify aggressive police officers for enhanced training or monitoring, was taken off the docket for this hearing, which itself was postponed. A representative for Garodnick said the bill was still being worked on and would be rescheduled for a hearing. The two bills are seen as complementary, but Garodnick’s is newer, having been introduced in September, and has not had a hearing yet.

For police reform advocates, these bills show efforts in the right direction. Michael Sisitzky, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Williams’ bill is “a good way to exercise the inspector general’s ability to look into abuses of power” and identify systemic problems that can be addressed through systemic changes in the department. The NYCLU has also long advocated for an early warning system to identify potentially abusive police officers, he said.

Other advocates, while supportive of the bills, shared a lukewarm sentiment for the Council’s effort by large. “The kind of reforms being proposed and that have been enacted are not going to make much difference in terms of day-to-day practices on the ground,” said Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). He said meaningful reform could only come from abandoning Broken Windows policing, abolishing quota systems for tickets, and taking strong executive action against errant officers. He likened the Council’s “superficial effort” to a house in a state of collapse being slapped with a single coat of paint.

“It might help policy-makers claim they’ve made significant changes,” Gangi said, “but might actually fool some segments of the public that meaningful change has happened.”

Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, shared the same concern. BMC is a member of the Communities United for Police Reform coalition, which has been pushing for more extensive legislative reform, particularly the Right to Know Act. Under that act, police officers would be required to identify themselves, let people know the reason for stopping or questioning them, and inform them of their right to deny a search where probably cause does not exist. Griffith believes that should be the priority rather than the Williams and Garodnick bills, which are politically “easier and safer,” but not necessarily designed to have a critical impact. In spirit, Griffith supports the two bills, but worries that there seems to be significant discretion involved. “It seems good on paper but it’s only as good as it’s execution,” he said.

Neither Williams nor Garodnick was made available for an interview for this article.

When Garodnick introduced his bill last year, he told WNYC at the time that the bill was in part a response to the case of James Blake, a professional tennis star who was forcefully arrested by NYPD officers when at least one mistook him for a suspect in an investigation. The officer who arrested Blake was facing two federal lawsuits for the use of excessive force. In late 2014, WNYC reported extensively on issues related to officers’ use of force.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton was particularly emphatic in pushing back against Garodnick’s proposal. “It’s exactly what the cops resent about the City Council,” he said after speaking at an event on September 22. “These continual efforts. They say they want to support the cops, and then they keep coming up with new ways to try and effectively micromanage the police department. It’s not needed. It’s a waste of time and energy, and it’s grandstanding, being quite frank with you.”

Bratton stressed that the NYPD was already implementing its own risk assessment system. Garodnick responded, telling the Daily News that if the commissioner was supportive of the concept of his bill, he should work with the Council to "strike the right balance for the sake of the NYPD and the public." Discussions between the parties may ongoing and appear to have led to the delay in the hearing on Garodnick's bill.

Eugene O’Donnell, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former NYPD officer, believes the Council is overstepping. “The City Council has to knock it off,” he said. “It’s getting ridiculous. The cops are totally risk-averse at this point. Recruitment is destroyed and [the Council is] still going.”

The hearing comes as a federal investigation into corruption in the NYPD continues and several high-ranking officers have been arrested and others disciplined, while some are filing retirement paperwork, seemingly to secure their pensions before other indictments are handed down. None of the allegations involved appear to be related to use of force. There continue to be questions of low morale at the NYPD, dating to well before news of the federal probe, something Commissioner Bratton has discussed on several occasions and Mayor Bill de Blasio has sought to downplay.

O’Donnell said the Council was “beating a dead horse” and would create a less proactive police force that would be too concerned about civil and criminal liability to do their jobs effectively. Noting that there are already numerous oversight entities -- the Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney, the District Attorney, the Internal Affairs Bureau -- he said there was no need for additional cumbersome oversight legislation. “The net effect is that anyone who thinks of becoming a New York City cop should be disqualified,” he said, “because you’d have to be insane to consider joining the NYPD.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Council to Hear One of Two Police Accountability Bills Sun, 26 Jun 2016 04:00:00 +0000
With Clock Ticking, East New York Negotiations to Heat Up http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6262:with-clock-ticking-east-new-york-negotiations-to-heat-up http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6262:with-clock-ticking-east-new-york-negotiations-to-heat-up espinal east new york hearing

City Council Member Espinal (photo: William Alatriste) 


With only two weeks left for the City Council to vote on the proposed rezoning of East New York, all eyes are on City Council Member Rafael Espinal, who is leading negotiations with the de Blasio administration and whose approval of a revised plan will determine its fate. Espinal has promised significant improvements to the plan put forward by the city and community organizers and advocates are calling on him to reject the rezoning if it does not deliver what they see as adequate affordable housing, local hiring, and other provisions.

Meanwhile, Espinal's colleagues and many others are looking to him as the East New York negotiations with the de Blasio administration will set the precedent for rezonings across the five boroughs.

The city's proposal to rezone East New York was passed almost unanimously by the City Planning Commission on February 24, giving the City Council the next fifty days to vote on it as part of the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The neighborhood is the first of 15 the city plans to rezone as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The plan aims to change land use rules and implement community improvements in order to make East New York more desirable and liveable, while fostering development that will include thousands of new units of housing, many of them with rent regulations.

Negotiations so far have been slow going, leading to a series of news reports this past week indicating that Espinal and others on the City Council side of the bargaining table are frustrated with the de Blasio administration. The parties are set to hold another meeting on Monday afternoon at City Hall, which participants hope will yield progress.

"There's a lot of frustration because we've proposed changes to the plan and we've been waiting for [the administration] to come back to us," said Espinal, whose district covers a vast swathe of the area in the plan - the City Council traditionally defers to the local Council member to approve or disapprove land use deals.

Espinal has made his priorities clear: "serious anti-displacement measures, a strong jobs plan and truly affordable housing." While he insists there has been no push back from the administration against his demands, the lack of movement seems to be testing his patience.

"The clock is ticking," he said. "We've been working on this for over a year. It's time to talk turkey." Espinal did say that one cause for delay was that both the administration and Council had been preoccupied until last week with the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposals, two citywide zoning amendments that lay the groundwork for the neighborhood rezonings that are set to go from East New York to Flushing, corridors in the Bronx and on Staten Island, East Harlem, and beyond.

The de Blasio administration has reiterated its commitment to the process. "The city is currently having very productive conversations with Council Member Espinal on the East New York rezoning plan," said Austin Finan, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement. "Since the beginning of the East New York planning process, we have been and remain committed to ensuring that the final proposal to be voted on by the City Council meets the affordable housing and community infrastructure needs of East New York residents."

Espinal will meet with city officials on Monday to hammer out the details of the East New York plan. On the Council side of the table, he'll be joined by Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, and Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the land use committee. Also expected to participate are the Council's land use director, Raju Mann, and the chief of staff to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ramon Martinez.

According to a source with knowledge of the discussions around the rezoning, key sticking points include not only ensuring deeper levels of affordability in new housing, but also extending affordability for about 1,000 current residents whose rent-regulated apartments are nearing expiration of their terms; details of the city's commitment to a Workforce1 job training center; and progress around adding school seats and day-care slots - two areas of need in the administration's final environmental impact assessment of the rezoning plan.

"We have an opportunity to show that we are attacking inequality head on in East New York and the administration needs to take this issue seriously as we negotiate the first rezoning under MIH and ZQA," said Council Member Richards in a statement. "The lack of progress thus far on these negotiations is deeply concerning and we need to see legitimate movement soon to ensure that the needs of the community and Council Member Espinal are met."

All the stakeholders -- Espinal, his colleagues, community leaders, housing advocates, de Blasio administration officials, real estate developers, and others -- recognize that these rezoning negotiations will set the tone for the next fourteen and determine the future of housing and development in the city for decades to come.

"What I'm doing in East New York is the reason I ran for office," Espinal said. "It's an opportunity to create the strongest affordable housing plan in the city and set a precedent for how the rest of the city approaches rezoning." He has received strong support from his colleagues who, he said, "feel that whatever deal I'm able to reach with the administration, they can work off of when their neighborhoods are up for rezoning."

Council Member Peter Koo from Queens is likely to be next in the hot-seat as the Flushing West rezoning proposal moves through the ULURP process.

"We're certainly watching what happens in East New York closely," Koo said in an email, "but the Flushing West rezoning proposal is significantly different. Our rezoning area is on the waterfront which limits depth, and the LaGuardia flight path limits height. Flushing also has serious infrastructure needs that a large-scale rezoning of this nature would need to address. So we're watching East New York to see how the city responds to the community because Flushing also has a long list of needs."

Housing advocates also recognize the immense pressure that Espinal is facing, although different groups have taken varied approaches to respond.

"The guy's in a difficult spot," said Jonathan Furlong, zoning technical assistance coordinator, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. "What he decides in East New York has vast and far reaching implications for the Bronx, East Harlem, Flushing, Upper Manhattan."

ANHD has provided technical assistance to the Coalition for Community Advancement, a collaborative effort by housing advocates to address issues of rezoning across the city, communicating with administration officials, elected representatives, and residents. Members have met with Espinal numerous times to air their concerns and will also be meeting with Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.

The CCA has called for a scaling back of the East New York plan and has proposed its own alternative community plan. Besides more affordability for current residents, they want manufacturing sites removed from the plan to protect manufacturing jobs, a $15-million small homes preservation fund, the preservation of the Arlington Village development as affordable housing, and mechanisms to set aside space for community facilities.

On Sunday, the coalition held a rally outside City Hall to tell the Council to vote against the rezoning plan unless these proposals are embraced. The group said Sunday night that about 120 people rallied, including community members, State Senator Martin Dilan and Assembly Member Latrice Walker.

Furlong commended Espinal for being firm with the administration, but faulted him for not being more vocal on specific proposals. "It's tough to get a read on him," he said of the Council member.

New York Communities for Change, a grassroots advocacy group, has been more critical. NYCC released a report titled "Educating Espinal: How to Deepen Affordability for Thousands of Apartments in East New York and Protect Low-Income Residents" in which they directly called on Espinal to fight for more affordability in the plan.

"The Council member has not yet come out in support of a growing cry in the community for deeper affordability for low-income families," said Jonathan Westin, NYCC executive director. The group, which claims about 1,000 members, has two demands: 50 percent of units in new developments affordable for families making about 40 percent of the $77,000 annual area median income (AMI), and union jobs for workers in any new construction along upzoned areas. AMI is a federally-calculated number for all of New York City and surrounding counties. The area median income in East New York is significantly lower - about $35,000 per year for a family of four, about the same as 40% of AMI.

"We're pushing that if that's not part of the plan, he should vote "no,"" said Westin. "He should not vote against the interests of his constituents."

Asked recently about the East New York rezoning and the pushback it has received, Mayor de Blasio said that development and gentrification are taking place all over the city and that the city must take action to harness it. On WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, the mayor said on March 18 that "the worst thing in the world is to do nothing about" gentrification. "And bluntly," he said, "that was the broad approach of the previous administration and I point to neighborhoods like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy as classic examples where there was no rezoning" to offer developers more in exchange for community benefits.

Saying that there needs to be "a coherent governmental response" to gentrification and displacement, de Blasio said that "rezonings are absolutely necessary to create that affordability...if we don't do it, you'll see displacement with no countervailing action by the government." The mayor indicated that the East New York plan will include many affordable units for both lower- and middle-income residents.

It is negotiations on the plan that will yield the full details of what that government response is, in East New York and elsewhere.

On Thursday, New York Communities for Change led a rally in East New York, blocking traffic along Atlantic Avenue to draw attention to their demands. "Along Atlantic Avenue is where lots of developers have bought property and stand to make a windfall of profits from the rezoning," said Westin. "We need to ensure that with the increase in density that they get from the rezoning, there are deep affordability standards and real job standards for workers building these buildings."

Espinal was blunt about NYCC's efforts. "I don't need any educating," he said of their report. "I was born and raised there. I know exactly the struggles my constituents are going through."

Insisting that he prefers a "pragmatic approach," Espinal said he wants a holistic plan that covers all constituents and their needs, and that the administration has been receptive.

"To be fair, they've been listening," Espinal said. "But the time to listen is over. It's time to take action."

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been updated with details of the Sunday rally.

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With Clock Ticking, East New York Negotiations to Heat Up Mon, 04 Apr 2016 00:52:30 +0000
Criminal Justice Reform Act is No Alternative to Broken Windows Policing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6112:criminal-justice-reform-act-is-no-alternative-to-broken-windows-policing http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6112:criminal-justice-reform-act-is-no-alternative-to-broken-windows-policing  bratton times sq group

NYPD ceremony in Times Square (photo: @CommissBratton)


Monday morning the City Council will begin consideration of a series of bills, called the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which would limit the use of criminal penalties to manage a variety of low level “quality of life” offenses such as public drinking, park code violations, noise, and public urination. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, said she hopes these changes will reduce the problem of excessive criminalization in communities of color, a sentiment echoed by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the courts committee, on WNYC radio last Friday. Lancman noted that too many areas of the city have experienced overpolicing and overcriminalization.

The Act, being spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito,  already has broad support in the Council and the endorsement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and thus, Mayor de Blasio. It's encouraging that political leaders in New York City are exploring ways of reducing the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color, but this package of reforms is at best a baby step, and at worst, may open the door to more racially discriminatory police actions.

The bills, if passed, would create new civil penalty options for these offences by allowing police to choose between a criminal summons and a civil one when encountering an offender, a choice made based on departmental guidelines. The criminal codes remain on the books per Bratton’s insistence, which he says is necessary so that officers can demand identification, conduct searches, and perform background checks.

With a criminal summons, people must appear in summons court and if they fail to do so a warrant is issued for their arrest. Over a million such arrest warrants are currently on the books, leading to numerous unfortunate encounters with the police, such as being arrested on the way to work or to pick children up from school.

The new civil process, to be administered by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, will be more like traffic court in which people must pay a fine or perform community service, but no warrant will result from failure to comply. Instead, a civil judgement will be issued, which could result in the garnishment of wages or bank accounts, or seizure of property. This might also affect one’s credit rating. None of this will result in incarceration, which is positive, but the penalties can still be substantial, with fines ranging from $25 to $250 for a first offense.

In addition, these financial penalties are likely to fall heaviest on areas where quality-of-life, or broken windows, enforcement is the most widespread, removing resources from already poor communities. While some will escape these penalties through community service programs, many working poor will not.

Vincent Riggins, chair of the public safety committee of Community Board 5 in East New York has actually called for the return of half of all those fines to the local community board to be spent on community development projects. It is a great idea that would reduce the financial incentive that has driven excessive and discriminatory summonsing in places like Ferguson, MO.

Riggins has raised another important point. By leaving these offenses on the books, rather than truly decriminalizing them, the door is left open for the kinds of invasive policing experienced under stop, question, and frisk in recent years. By keeping open alcohol an offense, police will have “reasonable suspicion” to stop anyone drinking a beverage in a bag or unmarked container, potentially leading to exactly the kinds of unwarranted police intrusions that we have worked so hard to reduce. While Bratton rightly touts reductions in police enforcement encounters, racial disparities persist.

Another area of concern is the discretionary nature of the new rules. The NYPD insisted that it would only support the bill if it retained the ability to treat these offences as criminal when officers felt it appropriate. This gives them the ability to demand ID and run people for warrants. But what will determine who gets a civil summons, who gets a criminal one, and who gets run for warrants? There is a real risk that the more punitive practices will become heavily concentrated in exactly those poor, non-white communities that bore the brunt of stop, question, and frisk, and who bear the burden of most criminal summonses and low level arrests now.

Council Member Gibson says that there will be a process of determining policies for guiding officer discretion, and that the City Council is calling for the default to be a civil summons. This outcome, however, is far from assured, since the ultimate decision rests with the NYPD and the officer on the street. Therefore, there is a real risk that the police will perceive the need to take harsher and more invasive action in exactly the same places they do now, with milder penalties reserved for more prosperous parts of the city. If these changes are enacted, this must be monitored closely, something Council Members Jumaane Williams and Mark Levine are proposing through a bill mandating reporting by the NYPD.

Any reduction in the use of criminal penalties is welcome, but this measure retains an adherence to using punitive mechanisms to manage so called quality-of-life problems in keeping with the deeply conservative Broken Windows theory. There is nothing in the bill to develop non-punitive mechanisms for addressing community problems.

As one caller to WNYC pointed out, the current criminal penalties seem to be largely ineffective in reducing the amount of public urination, why should the civil penalties be any more effective? They won’t. The reality is that public bathrooms are largely non-existent in New York City. Other major cities around the world have much more developed amenities in place and have largely avoided this problem. If you don’t want people to pee in public, give them functional and accessible public bathrooms, not a choice between criminal and civil sanctions.

In addition, a lot of quality-of-life problems are driven by pervasive underemployment for youth of color, a lack of positive social activities for young people, and widespread homelessness. While the Mayor and City Council have started to acknowledge the extent of some of these problems, their focus has been primarily on hiring more police and tinkering with what kind of punitive sanctions to use, rather than a major redistribution of resources away from police, courts, and prisons, and towards housing, healthcare, and youth services.

In his book The Silent Black Majority, Michael Fortner shows that the push for criminal justice solutions to community problems was supported by many in poor black communities and my own research on the rise of quality-of-life policing in the ‘90s shows the same thing. But what I also found was that these communities also called for youth centers, improved housing, and better schools, but what they got was only the policing and prisons. It’s time our political leaders quit asking the NYPD for permission to really shift resources away from the criminal justice system and towards improving communities in positive ways.

In Los Angeles, the Youth Justice Coalition has called for redirecting 1% of all criminal justice spending ($100 million) in the county towards youth jobs, community centers, and violence reduction outreach workers. That would be real reform. The Police Reform Organizing Project here in New York is currently exploring a similar initiative on an even broader scale. Crime and disorder matter and need to be addressed, but we must strive to develop affirming rather than punitive solutions whenever possible. If the City Council is serious about reducing the negative impacts of the criminal justice system, it should start by revisiting its decision to expand the NYPD. More police with more discretion is not the answer.

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Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission. You can follow him on Twitter: @avitale

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

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Criminal Justice Reform Act is No Alternative to Broken Windows Policing Sun, 24 Jan 2016 19:01:27 +0000
New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6080:new-york-one-signature-away-from-calling-for-overturn-of-citizens-united http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6080:new-york-one-signature-away-from-calling-for-overturn-of-citizens-united nys

(photo: nysenate.gov)


In a landmark year for corruption in the state legislature, 2015 saw the arrest and conviction of two of the most powerful political leaders in New York. A crescendo of voices across the state -- from good government watchdogs to lawmakers -- expressed outrage and demanded stronger ethics laws and campaign finance reforms. In one sense, Albany now has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is -- and all it needs is one signature.  

New York is one signatory away from becoming the 17th state in the country to call for a constitutional amendment to negate the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which gave entities such as corporations and unions the same rights as individuals in contributing to electoral campaigns.

A successful bipartisan appeal for a federal constitutional amendment in the State Assembly has yet to be replicated by the State Senate, where 31 senators -- one short of a majority -- support overturning Citizens United to minimize the role of money in politics. While agreement by a majority of each house from New York would only be advisory, like the other states that have reached consensus, a groundswell for negating Citizens United could influence Congress.

"As we've seen again and again, Citizens United has opened the floodgate to unchecked and often opaque corporate political contributions, muscling real people out of the political process,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Squadron is leading the effort among the Senate Democratic Conference and has 23 co-signers on a letter addressed to the United States Congress which calls for the constitutional amendment.

(Squadron also said that the state legislature should support his Corporate Political Activity Accountability to Shareholders Act, which would increase transparency and accountability.)

Senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder are the only Democrats who have not joined their colleagues on the letter. The five members of the Independent Democratic Conference together signed an identical version of Squadron’s letter while Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins independently wrote to members of Congress. (Felder is elected as a Democrat but caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, and Diaz Sr. is often difficult to pin down ideologically.)

Sen. Stewart-Cousins, in her missive, said that the independent contributions made possible by Citizens United “represent a deliberate effort to unfairly influence the electorate and empower a small group of individuals and corporations. Elected officials are becoming more beholden to the interests facilitating these outside funds while the public’s trust in our democracy erodes.”

Stewart-Cousins is adamant about reforming the state’s campaign finance system and believes that Senate Democrats have led the fight on many fronts. She lays blame with the members on the other side of the aisle. “We need to restore the public’s trust in state government and that will only happen when the Senate Republicans agree to listen to the voters and take meaningful steps to clean up Albany,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

While the Democrats who support overturning Citizens United total 29 votes, only 2 Republican state senators have supported the effort -- Senators Phil Boyle and Kemp Hannon, albeit in language different from the Democrats’ letters (it, for example, decries the massive potential outside spending to support Hillary Clinton's presidential bid). Sen. Boyle, who circulated his letter among his colleagues, refused to comment for this article.

Reluctance of New York Republicans to join the effort comes as a growing number of voters, including Republicans, oppose Citizens United. In a Bloomberg poll from September, 78 percent of respondents said they wanted the decision overturned.

“We’re at a crossroads in the movement where Democrats who hadn’t signed on are signing on, and where Republican voters are strongly in favor of a constitutional amendment, but we’re working to make that transition with Republican legislators,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of the Democracy Is For People campaign at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been garnering a coalition to lobby state legislators for their support in the matter.

Senior attorney Gene Russianoff, from the New York Public Interest Research Group, is not surprised by the Republican legislators’ lack of support. Some of these state senators, he said, “feel teflon-proofed” and he applauded those who signed the petition. “Citizens United is the right target to fight the influence of money and political interests,” he said.

For good government groups like NYPIRG and Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Supreme Court’s decision to treat corporations as individuals in campaign finance has wreaked untold havoc on elections.

“New York State is severely hampered by federal court decisions in terms of how it can address the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy, Citizens Union. “Action by the New York State Legislature would help drive attention to this national problem, and put New York on the record as being against campaign money being considered free speech.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom many reformers look to be more of a leader on campaign finance reform in New York, recently made clear he thinks that as long Citizens United is around, his hands are largely tied. In an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Dec. 21, the governor promised that he will advocate for campaign finance reform in 2016, but conceded that he could only do so much.

“If you say, 'Well, money influences,' then forget it, because [with] Citizens United you're not going to get the money out of the system until the federal government changes the court or the law or both,” he said. He was also dismissive of New York City’s public campaign financing system, calling it a “mockery” that independent committees can donate large sums of money to candidates as a result of Citizens United.

Advocates and reform-minded legislators continue to push Cuomo to call for a statewide public campaign finance system, which he has given lukewarm support for in the past.

Just a few hours after Cuomo’s Dec. 21 WNYC remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a roundtable with members  of the news media at which he also said passing a constitutional amendment was an “imperative” without which “we’re in an environment where a lot of very wealthy, powerful people will use their money to reinforce the status quo.”

In an editorial on Dec. 22, a day after Cuomo’s remarks on WNYC, the Albany Times Union called on the remaining state senators to take the bold step and join the growing call for an amendment.   

On the surface, New York calling for a constitutional amendment may be symbolic in the absence of Congressional action. But, according to Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, “In this instance, symbolism is especially potent.” She believes that owing to New York’s large congressional delegation, even symbolic measures carry significant weight.

“Remember, New York is a donor state,” she said, referring to New York’s influence on elections all over the country. “Everybody running for office comes to New York for campaign contributions. When New York elected officials say the system has gotten out of control, it’s particularly applicable.”

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid    @GothamGazette

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.

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New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:11:32 +0000
Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda Cuomo announcement infrastructure

Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.

Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.

Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.

Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.

There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.

Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.

Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.

Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:

Full-Time Legislature
A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.

A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 interview with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.

Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.

Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he told reporters, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."

Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.

LLC Loophole
The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.

Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.

Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.

"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."

Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," he explained.

Minimum Wage Hike
Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.

Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.

The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.

Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.

Tax on the Rich
With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."

Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.

Criminal Justice Reform
Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.

Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.

While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.

Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.

The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.

Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.

Car Service Apps
In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.

The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," Cuomo said. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.

Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.

Fantasy Sports Gambling
A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.

Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."

"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer told the Buffalo News.

A Variety of Others
Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.

Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.

A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for bills that would encourage guns are stored safely. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.

Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room to pass smaller pieces of legislation this year.

The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.

The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.

The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.

Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."

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

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Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda Wed, 06 Jan 2016 22:17:26 +0000
Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6040:hope-knight-to-join-city-planning-commission-at-exciting-time http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6040: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."

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
@tweetBenMax

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Hope Knight to Join City Planning Commission at 'Exciting Time' Tue, 15 Dec 2015 23:40:35 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, November 16-20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6000:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-november-16-20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6000:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-november-16-20 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday November 20, 2015

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio, former Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and others at Friday's tree-planting ceremony, via @NYCCouncil; former Mayor Bloomberg speaks on Friday, via Howard Wolfson, @howiewolf

tree planting ceremony via NYC Council

bloomberg tree planting wolfson

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. Mayor Announces Supportive Housing: On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city will invest over $2.6 billion to create 15,000 new units of supportive housing over the next 15 years. Supportive housing is considered by many to be both the most cost-effective and successful method to reduce homelessness among those with acute needs, such as those battling substance abuse and mental illness. The Mayor’s move puts new pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo, with whom negotiations for greater state support in creating supportive housing have stalled, despite the fact that a bipartisan group of legislators have repeatedly called on Governor Cuomo to commit to the creation of 35,000 units of supportive housing statewide. [Read: Pressure Shifts to Cuomo as De Blasio Announces Supportive Housing Plan]

2. New York Reacts After Paris Attacks: The NYPD stepped up security in certain areas of the city simply as a precaution this week in the wake of last Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. On Monday, the NYPD launched a new counterterrorism unit, known as the Critical Response Command. On Wednesday, following the release of a video by the Islamic State showing images of Times Square and threatening an attack on the city, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton held a late night press conference to reassure the public that there is no credible threat to the city. Mayor de Blasio said that New York will not be intimidated and encouraged residents to continue going about their daily lives.

3. Cuomo, with Clinton, on Gun Control: At a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gala on Thursday evening, Governor Cuomo and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised one another for their respective actions on gun control. Clinton, who received an award named after Governor Cuomo’s late father at the event, commended the Governor for passing the SAFE Act in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, saying “Congress may have let us down, but Andrew Cuomo did not.” At the event, Governor Cuomo reiterated his strong support of greater gun control, saying “This is a man-made crisis that costs 33,000 lives per year. It is something we can solve. The answer is going to be federal legislation and that is the only way we’re actually going to make a difference.”

4. Albany on Trial: The trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son began this week just as the trial of former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver entered its third week. Skelos and his son face eight charges of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy with federal prosecutors alleging that Skelos “abused his power” to “line the pockets” of his son. Silver also faces charges of corruption and abuse of power, and on Wednesday, prosecutors rested their case after almost three weeks of testimony. Silver will not take the stand nor will Silver’s lawyers call witnesses, and Silver’s lawyers have asked the judge to acquit Silver on all counts before jurors get the case, insisting that the government had not met the burden of proof.

5. Rikers Reform: On Wednesday, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Neil Barsky, founder and chairman of The Marshall Project, and several others discussed Rikers Island jails at an event with a panel moderated by Errol Louis at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. Stringer added his voice to calls for shutting down the dysfunctional jail complex, saying, “Right now, Rikers Island is a case study in poor outcomes.” [Read: Stringer Joins Calls to Shut Down Rikers]

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • 51% of New Yorkers say they are struggling economically, just barely making ends meet, if at all, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.
  • $5.3 million will be paid by the city to settle lawsuits over the deaths of two Rikers Island inmates, The New York Times reports.
  • $112,000 per inmate is how much it costs annually to keep an individual locked up on Rikers Island - a 67% increase since 2007, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday.
  • 49th is New York State's rank in state tax systems in the country by the Tax Foundation’s 2016 Business Tax Climate Index, though the index noted the substantial corporate tax reform package enacted by policymakers in 2014 will likely improve New York’s ranking once fully phased in.
  • $50 million will be spent by New York on efforts to market and promote the state as a destination for domestic and international tourism, Governor Cuomo announced on Wednesday.
  • 14% of the nation's homeless population is in New York City, according to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

It was a good week for supportive housing advocates, as Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will invest over $2.6 billion to create 15,000 new units of supportive housing over the next 15 years.

It was a bad week for former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whose trial on federal corruption charges began and included some damning and embarassing audio from federal wiretaps.

THE FLASH:

Around this time four years ago, on November 15, 2011, the NYPD evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.

Around this time last year, on November 18, 2014, a giant snowstorm hit many parts of the United States, causing one New York county to declare a state of emergency and killing 13 people in New York.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Pressure Shifts to Cuomo as De Blasio Announces Supportive Housing Plan, by David Howard King

Two New Reps Set to Join the City Council, by Samar Khurshid

Stringer Joins Calls to Shut Down Rikers, by Ryan Brady

As Homelessness Crisis Continues, Shelter Siting Questions Intensify, by Christian Zhang

All Aboard the BRT Express? by Colin O’Connor

Boards to Offer Peek Into New Ways to Access Campaign Finance Data, by David Howard King

A City We All Want to Live In, by Lawrence Mone (opinion)

IDNYC Cardholders Await Assurance Ahead of Year Two, by Lauren A. Haynes (opinion)

Improving CUNY’s Equity and Efficiency: Requiring Some Tuition for All, by Robert Cherry (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

Gerald Benjamin, SUNY New Paltz legend and scholar, appeared on WNYC’s “Capitol Pressroom” to provide an update on the trials of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Gannett Albany’s Joseph Spector reports that even as the two former leaders of the state Legislature stand trial on a number of corruption charges, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says he has no plans for new ethics laws, despite calls from good government groups. 

On City & State TV, City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod discussed two zoning amendments and what they mean for the Mayor’s affordable housing program.

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

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by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, November 16-20 Fri, 20 Nov 2015 19:19:14 +0000
The Mayor's Media Blitz http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5935:the-mayors-media-blitz-de-blasio http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5935:the-mayors-media-blitz-de-blasio 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
@TweetBenMax

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The Mayor's Media Blitz Fri, 16 Oct 2015 02:35:56 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 21 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5895:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-21 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5895:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-21 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

THE POPE IS COMING: Pope Francis is coming to New York City at the end of the week, with public events on Thursday and Friday. The Pope's visit to the city will coincide with the UN General Assembly, at which he will speak, and will include mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday after a procession through Central Park, a visit to a school in East Harlem, and a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Significance, attention, security, and traffic will all be heavy.

TAKING ON K-2: There's a new drug crippling New Yorkers and it is "K-2" or "synthetic marijuana" (though it is not actually a form of marijuana) and city officials are working to quickly combat what some have said could lead to a new crack epidemic. Mayor de Blasio announced a multi-agency strategy last week and the City Council has seen several bills introduced to up regulation and enforcement. The Council will hold a hearing Monday on the bills, which have been introduced by Council Member Dan Garodnick, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and others.

TRACKING DE BLASIO: The mayor gave a big education speech on Wednesday last week and followed it up with efforts to spread the word about his plans, including an interview with the Daily News Editorial Board and another appearance on WNYC. De Blasio has said he will be taking his message to New Yorkers more and more in the coming weeks as he ramps up efforts to improve his public approval numbers and make sure that his programs and plans are known.

De Blasio had no public events Saturday. On Sunday, the mayor appeared on This Week on ABC, delivered remarks to the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, and marched in and deliver remarks at the African American Day Parade in Harlem.

On Monday, de Blasio is set to hold a noon press conference to discuss the upcoming papal visit. De Blasio is also meeting privately with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and former tennis star James Blake regarding NYPD reforms and the recent incident in which Blake was mistakenly arrested by an NYPD officer and handled roughly in the process.

We also know that on Thursday evening, de Blasio is expected to speak at an event at The New School: "to engage with world-leading Mayors and local government representatives as they pledge their support for the United Nations' new Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in their cities and commit to implementing the new urban agenda between now and 2030."

AS FOR THE GOVERNOR: Governor Cuomo also participates in events related to the African-American Day Parade on Sunday. His remarks Sunday morning focused on calling for federal action on gun regulations and raising the minimum wage. Cuomo was asked about recents reports that federal prosecutors are investigating his Buffalo Billion program around the contracting process - the governor maintains he knows nothing about the investigation other than what he reads in the newspaper and downplays subpoenas being issued, saying that as Attorney General he used to issue many as part of fact-finding, but that does not mean there's been criminal behavior.

On Monday, Cuomo has no public events scheduled.

See below for more details about Monday and the rest of a very busy week in New York politics in our day-by-day rundown...

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At the City Council on Monday:

  • 10 a.m. the Committee on Consumer Affairs in conjunction with the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, Committee on Health, Committee on Public Safety, Committee on Aging  will meet to discuss “The Proliferation of Illegal Synthetic Cannabinoids: Health Impacts and Enforcement.” The bill would suspend cigarette dealer licenses for any “dealer who violates the provisions of the proposed synthetic drug prohibition” and “create a mandatory revocation for a second violation of such proposed prohibition.” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will give opening remarks.
  • 11 a.m. the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet to discuss three land use applications for Landmarks, Corbin Building, 11 John St, Manhattan , Landmarks, Stonewall Inn, 51-53 Christopher St, Manhattan , Landmarks, Riverside-West End Historic District Extension II, Manhattan.
  • 1 p.m. The Committee on Civil Rights will meet to hear the introduction of four initiatives. The first bill, presented by Council Member Deborah L. Rose, prohibits “employment discrimination based on an individual’s actual or perceived status as a caregiver.” The following three propose expansions on the New York City Human Rights Law. Rose will also introduce one of these bills, as she seeks to expand the definition of “employer under the human rights law to provide protections for domestic workers.” She will be joined by Council Members Inez D. Barron and Brad S. Lander who will introduce legislation to clarify “reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities,”  “expand the right to truthful information” and to create “an express cause of action for employers and principals whose rights are violated by conduct to which their employees or agents are subjected.”

At 9 a.m. Monday the New York State Department of Health will hold one in a series of “From Blueprint to Action: Ending the Epidemic - New York Statewide Regional Discussions,” to address the problem of HIV/AIDS in New York State. Monday’s event, on the Upper West Side, will provide information about HIV/AIDS and related services, include opportunities for public input, and offer a Call to Action to end the epidemic by 2020.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, "The New York State Democratic Committee will hold its Fall business meeting on Monday, September 21st in New York City."

Monday on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will appear to discuss “the film industry’s expansion into the Bronx, with several television shows being shot in the borough as of late and Silvercup Studios, home to shows such as "Girls"  and "30 Rock," spending $35 million to convert a warehouse in Port Morris to a film and television production complex.”

At 11 a.m. Monday in Brooklyn, "Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, joined by citywide elected officials, residents, and community organizations will gather at the Raymond V. Ingersoll Houses on Monday to make a public appeal for community cooperation to aid in NYPD apprehension of suspect(s) involved in Sunday's triple homicide." Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James are set to attend.

At noon in downtown Brooklyn, "At a major news event organized by the Real Affordability for All campaign, Mayor de Blasio will be pressured to revise his rezoning plan for East New York, the South Bronx, and other neighborhoods to ensure that current low-income residents have access to real affordable housing and good-paying union construction jobs...This event comes as the public land review process is set to begin Monday for the rezoning of East New York and amid growing concern that de Blasio's plan will accelerate gentrification and displacement in low-income communities of color, leaving behind too many vulnerable New Yorkers."

Also at noon, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito will moderate the Q&A session with Chelsea Clinton at the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee Annual Fall Luncheon.

At 1 p.m. in the Bronx, “New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye will announce the launch of "MyNYCHA," a new mobile application for residents to make repair requests. With the free app, residents can create, schedule, and manage work tickets via their mobile devices (smartphones or tablets). They can also subscribe to alerts for outages in their developments (NYCHA Alerts) and view inspection appointments.”

“Freelancers across New York City gather on Monday, September 21st for the #FreelanceIsntFree Campaign Launch and Brooklyn Town Hall Meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall.” The event will be led by Sara Horowitz, Founder of Freelancers Union, Brooklyn City Council Members including Brad Lander, and “New York City’s finest freelancers to talk about the issue and ways we can make a change.”

At 6:30 p.m. The New School’s Milano School is set to host Politics & Policy Series: Examination of Voting Rights in 2016 US Election at 6:30 p.m. Ari Berman of the Nation will read from his book Give Us the Ballot. Following a brief reading, New School urban policy professor Jeff Smith will moderate a conversation with Berman, New York Times national political correspondent Maggie Haberman, and Fordham political science professor Christina Greer.

On a similar note, at 7 p.m. Monday The New York City Campaign Finance Board will host its National Voter Registration Day Kick-Off, part of a non-partisan effort to register all eligible citizens nationwide. Lisa Evers of Fox 5 News and Hot 97 will discuss voting rights and the immigrant vote with panelists Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of National Urban League; L. Joy Williams, President of the Brooklyn NAACP; Steven Choi, Executive Director of the NY Immigration Coalition; and Jaime Estades, Director of Latino Leadership Institute, voting rights and the immigrant vote in 2016. Crystal Valentine, the 2015 Youth Poet Laureate, will perform after the discussion.

Also at 7 p.m., Daniel A. Zarrilli, Director of the city’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, invites the public to join his office at the second public hearing regarding an update on Lower Manhattan resiliency efforts.  The discussion will touch on issues of coastal protection, stormwater management and resiliency upgrades for affordable housing developments. The draft for the Resiliency Update is available for review online at nyc.gov/cdbg.

"On Monday, September 21, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will be the guest on the 1,000th episode of "BronxTalk," hosted by Gary Axelbank and airing on Bronxnet. The show, which airs at 9 p.m., will be streamed live at www.bronxnet.org, and can be viewed in The Bronx on Cablevision channel 67 or Verizon FiOS channel 33."

City Council Participatory Budgeting events Monday, September 21:

  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 1:30 p.m.
  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 p.m.
  • CM Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Steven Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 6:30
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Andrew Cohen (District 11, Bronx) 7 p.m.
  • CM Costa Constantides (District 22, Queens) 7 p.m. 

Tuesday
Tuesday morning NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will speak at an Assocation for a Better New York (ABNY) breakfast event. He will discuss “the NYPD’s efforts to address public safety and quality of life conditions in New York.”

At 9:30 a.m. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a meeting at Queens Borough Hall, which “focuses on city service delivery and agency responsiveness across the borough and hears presentations on these issues from City officials and others.”

At the City Council on Tuesday:

  • 10 a.m. The Committee on Contracts will meet with the Committee on Public Housing to examine “the Need for Contracting Accountability and Transparency at NYCHA in Light of Leaking Roofs at King Towers”
  • 10 a.m. The Committee on General Welfare will conduct a “Review of HRA’s Employment Plan Concept Papers.”
  • 10 a.m. The Committee on Environmental Protection will discuss “Use of geothermal energy in New York City.”
  • 10 a.m. The Committee on Higher Education will meet to discuss, “Higher Education Access for Incarcerated and Recently Incarcerated Individuals.” and  “Support of President Barack Obama’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program”

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. Over the next several months drives will be held to increase awareness about the importance of voting. The list of the events can be found on this calendar. "Only 81% of NYC's eligible voting age population is registered to vote, and just 20% of eligible voters actually voted in 2014. NVRD is about increasing those numbers and invigorating the voting population. Our democracy, after all, is only as strong as its participants.”

On Tuesday, "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the New York State Department of Labor and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation will co-host a Bronx Job Fair."

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday the New York State Preparedness Corps Training Program will host a two hour long event intended to provide residents with “the tools and resources to prepare for any type of disaster” and to “respond accordingly and recover as quickly as possible to pre-disaster conditions.” The program is sponsored by Gov. Cuomo, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Queens BP Melinda Katz, State Senator James Sanders Jr. and City Councilman Donovan Richards.

City Council Participatory Budgeting events Tuesday, September 22:

  • CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.
  • Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 p.m.
  • Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday
Wednesday looks slower in New York City as many participate in the Yom Kippur holiday. Other events can, of course, pop up last-minute.

City Council Participatory Budgeting events Wednesday, September 23:

  • Carlos Menchaca (Distict 38, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • I. Daneek Miller (District 27, Queens) 7 p.m.

Thursday
At 8 a.m. Thursday, City & State NY will hold its 4th Annual "On Diversity" event featuring leaders in government, business, and advocacy to discuss the social and economic advantages of promoting diversity in both the public and private sectors. Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor, will make keynote remarks. Panels will include R. Fenimore Fisher, Chief Diversity and EEO Officer at the New York City DCAS; Carra Wallace, Chief Diversity Officer at the Office of the NYC Comptroller; Charissa Fernandez, Executive Director of Teach for America; Bertha Lewis, Founder and President of The Black Institute; Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of MWBEs; and Assemblymember Michael Blake, Chair at the Subcommittee on Mitchell-Lama.

At 10 a.m. Thursday the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold its next public meeting.

At 10 a.m. the New York State Assembly will have a public hearing regarding child poverty in the NY state. New York currently has “some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country.”

At about 5 p.m. Thursday Pope Francis will arrive at JFK airport. It will be his first visit to New York and the first Papal visit since 2008. At 6:45 p.m. Pope Francis will hold an evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. [On Friday the Pope will visit the United Nations, attend a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, visit Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, hold a mass at Madison Square Garden and have a historic procession through Central Park.]

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, a panel hosted by the New York City Bar Association: “New York City- Building Energy Benchmarking Law: Acting On the Results” will evaluate NYC’s landmark Local Law 84. The event is co-sponsored by the Bar’s Environmental Law Committee and chair Michael G. Mahoney in conjunction with the Sallan Foundation, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School.

At 7 p.m., Cities Deliver Sustainable Development: Global Urban Leaders Endorse and Operationalize the SDGs will be hosted by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) at the New School, in association with the Campaign for Urban SDG, the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments and the Tishman Environment and Design Center. Expected speakers include Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor of California; Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris; Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro; Xu Qin, Mayor of Shenzhen; Mpho Franklyn Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg; Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of Istanbul; and Park Won-soon, Mayor of Seoul.

City Council Participatory Budgeting events Thursday, September 24:

  • CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan) 5:30 p.m.
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 p.m.
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Andrew Cohen (District 11, Bronx) 7 p.m.

Friday and the weekend
At the City Council on Friday:

  • 10 a.m. Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet to discuss two bills. The first “would require new grocery store owners to retain the previous owner’s staff for a transition period after a business is sold.” After the transition period, the new employer would also have to evaluate each employee and consider keeping them. The second bill seeks to “extend health insurance coverage to the surviving spouses, domestic partners and children of employees of the Sanitation Enforcement Division of the Department of Sanitation who died on or after July 29, 2015."
  • 10 a.m. the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to discuss three pieces of legislation. The first would require owners of buildings with over 50,000 gross square feet to file energy efficiency reports every five years. The second pushes “low energy building requirements for certain capital projects.” The bill would also require the Mayor to produce several reports that track and confirm capital project compliance with the law. The final bill would impose “green building standards for certain capital projects.”
  • 10 a.m. the Committee on Juvenile Justice will meet to examine “ACS’s Juvenile Offender Population.”
  • 11 a.m. Committee on Land Use will meet in the Committee Room in City Hall.
  • 1 p.m. the Committee on State and Federal Legislature will meet to pass resolutions on: Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act of 2015, Improving the Treatment of the U.S. Territories Under Federal Health Programs Act of 2015, and Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the “Jones Act.”
  • 1 p.m. Committee on Small Business will meet to discuss two bills. The first “would require an employee within the Mayor’s Office For People With Disabilities to be designated as a small business accessibility coordinator, responsible for liaising with agencies involved in accessibility projects and for educating business owners and operators about their obligations under local, state, and federal law to make their businesses accessible to people with disabilities.” The second “would create a cause of action for harassment of small businesses and other non-residential tenants by landlords.”
  • 1 p.m. the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet to discuss the Build It Back 2015 Update.

Friday will be a busy day for Pope Francis in New York City.

  • At 8:30 a.m. he is set to visit the United Nations and give an address to the UN General Assembly. His speech will concentrate on challenges that face humanity in the 21st century, such as sustainable development and climate change. He will also meet with UN officials.
  • At 11:30 a.m. the Pope will visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • Later, the Pope will pay a visit to an East Harlem School, Our Lady Queen of Angels, that has been providing elementary level education in the area for 120 years.
  • Then, in the late afternoon, Pope Francis will participate in a Central Park procession.
  • Lastly, at about 6 p.m., Pope Francis will hold mass at Madison Square Garden. He departs for Philadelphia on Saturday.

On Friday beginning at 9 a.m.: “NYC Media Lab's Annual Summit is a snapshot of the best thinking, projects, and talent in digital media from universities in NYC and beyond. This is an opportunity for media executives, technologists, and decision makers to explore interesting technologies and applications related to the future of media.” The event, being held at NYU, will include remarks from Maria Torres-Springer, head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Luis Castro of the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday Crain’s New York Business is hosting an “Art & Culture Breakfast: The Next Generation of New York’s Cultural Leaders.

A City Council Participatory Budgeting event is being held Friday by CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, there will be City Council Participatory Budgeting events held by CM I. Daneek Miller (District 27, Queens) at 1p.m. and CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, Participatory Budgeting events are being held by:

  • CM Robert Carnegy (District 36, Brooklyn) 1p.m.
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 9:45 a.m.
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 6 p.m.

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

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

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 21 Sun, 20 Sep 2015 05:00:00 +0000