Environment Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion 2018-12-16T09:26:37+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Building the School Girls Deserve in New York City 2018-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8131-building-the-school-girls-deserve-in-new-york-city Brittany Brathwaite bbrathwaite@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/building-school-girl.jpg" alt="building school girl" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Brittany Brathwaite, the author (photo: Girls for Gender Equity)</p> <hr /> <p>What does the school girls deserve look like? At Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), we know cis and trans girls - and gender non-conforming youth - should go to schools that are safe places to learn, grow, and thrive. Yet, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) continues to let us down, and doing so at a time where the current presidential administration is diligently working against what needs to be done to create those institutions.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ggenyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GGE_school_girls_deserveDRAFT6FINALWEB.pdf">In a participatory action research project we conducted in 2017</a>, one in three students in New York City schools reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment. Further, one in two students shared with us that they felt their gender expression and identity was being unfairly restricted by their schools.</p> <p>Both of these issues can have a tremendous impact on student outcomes, with certain populations being more vulnerable than others. As Dr. Monique Morris documented in Pushout: <em>The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools</em>, black girls across the country face disproportionate and often overlooked barriers to their education and they “have become the fastest growing population to experience school suspensions and expulsions, establishing them as clear targets of punitive school discipline.”</p> <p>Among those being punished? Victims of sexual violence at home and/or at school that are disciplined for ‘acting out’ in the classroom instead of receiving the support that they need to heal and young women who are punished for dress code violations due to their body type.</p> <p>School is far too often a hostile space for youth that so urgently need to be welcomed and affirmed there; hostility that leads to suspensions, expulsions, arrests, and even imprisonment for some of our most vulnerable young people.</p> <p>In 2016, GGE organizers, youth development experts, and young people themselves contributed to a participatory action research project focused on the disproportionate impact of gender and racially biased policies on cis and trans girls and gender non-conforming youth of color in the DOE, which is the country’s largest school district.</p> <p>This work resulted in <a href="http://www.ggenyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GGE_school_girls_deserveDRAFT6FINALWEB.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The School Girls Deserve (SGD)</a> report, depicting the unique ways school pushout and discipline disproportionately impacts girls and TGNC youth of color. This report included 45 recommendations for New York City to improve its policies, addressing gender-specific realities that young people experience rooted in a racial and gender justice lens. We are calling on the city to take action on two of those recommendations.</p> <p>First, we’re looking to the DOE to ensure equal protection for young people in public schools through the enhancement of Title IX, the civil rights law designed to prohibit sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The New York City DOE operates 1,800 public schools with a total student population of 1.1 million -- but employs just <em>one</em> Title IX Coordinator to support them. GGE is calling for trained Title IX Coordinators in each of the 7 DOE Field Support Offices.</p> <p>Second, we’re calling for a citywide dress code that celebrates diverse cultures, body diversity, and gender expression. Girls of color and TGNC youth are disproportionately disciplined for what they wear to school. Yet, the DOE does not currently have a universal dress code policy. Girls and TGNC youth report missing out on class time because of discriminatory dress codes and unfair enforcement. Both informal and formal classroom removals cause girls and TGNC youth to lose out on opportunity to learn. GGE will work with the DOE to develop an affirming, inclusive school dress code, ensuring that schools are supportive and welcoming for all young people.</p> <p>As we are fighting to see Title IX used more effectively, federal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is looking to limit its ability to protect survivors of sexual violence. She <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/16/betsy-devos-proposes-changes-campus-sexual-misconduct-rules/2023775002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently unveiled</a> a series of devastating proposed regulations that would remove Title IX protections from off-campus and online sexual harassment, as well as incidents of harassment that do not result in a student missing classes or dropping out entirely, give schools the ability to claim religious exemption from adhering to anti-sex discrimination policy, and limit investigations of abuse or harassment to cases that are reported to a Title IX official -- again, remember that New York City has just <em>one person</em> in such a position serving 1.1 million students and their families. Earlier this year, DeVos announced plans to remove protections for transgender students from Title IX.</p> <p>This isn’t the first time - at the federal level, this administration has repeatedly demonstrated its blatant disregard for girls, women, and TGNC people. The leader of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Candace Jackson, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/13/trump-official-apologizes-for-saying-most-campus-sexual-assault-accusations-come-after-drunken-sex-breakups/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.75066c48fcc2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> that in her view, “[90% of accusations] fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ we broke up, six months later, I found myself under Title IX investigation because she decided our last sleeping together was not quite right.” &nbsp;</p> <p>When leadership of an agency designed to protect students’ civil rights tries to discredit the courageous people that come forward with their experiences of sexual assault, it sends a message to young people that they shouldn’t come forward and get the support that they need. &nbsp;</p> <p>While we are lucky to have strong protections for women and TGNC folks in New York City, our schools do not reflect that. We must make it clear to our youth that there are adults who are committed to believing and supporting students who experience sexual violence in schools. We need staff and leadership in the DOE who have the skills to shift school climate, and to ensure that schools are not reinforcing harmful messaging that is now, sadly, coming from the highest office in the land.</p> <p>***<br /> Brittany Brathwaite is Organizing &amp; Innovation Manager, Girls for Gender Equity. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/urbintelligence" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@urbintelligence</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/ggenyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ggenyc</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/building-school-girl.jpg" alt="building school girl" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Brittany Brathwaite, the author (photo: Girls for Gender Equity)</p> <hr /> <p>What does the school girls deserve look like? At Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), we know cis and trans girls - and gender non-conforming youth - should go to schools that are safe places to learn, grow, and thrive. Yet, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) continues to let us down, and doing so at a time where the current presidential administration is diligently working against what needs to be done to create those institutions.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ggenyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GGE_school_girls_deserveDRAFT6FINALWEB.pdf">In a participatory action research project we conducted in 2017</a>, one in three students in New York City schools reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment. Further, one in two students shared with us that they felt their gender expression and identity was being unfairly restricted by their schools.</p> <p>Both of these issues can have a tremendous impact on student outcomes, with certain populations being more vulnerable than others. As Dr. Monique Morris documented in Pushout: <em>The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools</em>, black girls across the country face disproportionate and often overlooked barriers to their education and they “have become the fastest growing population to experience school suspensions and expulsions, establishing them as clear targets of punitive school discipline.”</p> <p>Among those being punished? Victims of sexual violence at home and/or at school that are disciplined for ‘acting out’ in the classroom instead of receiving the support that they need to heal and young women who are punished for dress code violations due to their body type.</p> <p>School is far too often a hostile space for youth that so urgently need to be welcomed and affirmed there; hostility that leads to suspensions, expulsions, arrests, and even imprisonment for some of our most vulnerable young people.</p> <p>In 2016, GGE organizers, youth development experts, and young people themselves contributed to a participatory action research project focused on the disproportionate impact of gender and racially biased policies on cis and trans girls and gender non-conforming youth of color in the DOE, which is the country’s largest school district.</p> <p>This work resulted in <a href="http://www.ggenyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GGE_school_girls_deserveDRAFT6FINALWEB.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The School Girls Deserve (SGD)</a> report, depicting the unique ways school pushout and discipline disproportionately impacts girls and TGNC youth of color. This report included 45 recommendations for New York City to improve its policies, addressing gender-specific realities that young people experience rooted in a racial and gender justice lens. We are calling on the city to take action on two of those recommendations.</p> <p>First, we’re looking to the DOE to ensure equal protection for young people in public schools through the enhancement of Title IX, the civil rights law designed to prohibit sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The New York City DOE operates 1,800 public schools with a total student population of 1.1 million -- but employs just <em>one</em> Title IX Coordinator to support them. GGE is calling for trained Title IX Coordinators in each of the 7 DOE Field Support Offices.</p> <p>Second, we’re calling for a citywide dress code that celebrates diverse cultures, body diversity, and gender expression. Girls of color and TGNC youth are disproportionately disciplined for what they wear to school. Yet, the DOE does not currently have a universal dress code policy. Girls and TGNC youth report missing out on class time because of discriminatory dress codes and unfair enforcement. Both informal and formal classroom removals cause girls and TGNC youth to lose out on opportunity to learn. GGE will work with the DOE to develop an affirming, inclusive school dress code, ensuring that schools are supportive and welcoming for all young people.</p> <p>As we are fighting to see Title IX used more effectively, federal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is looking to limit its ability to protect survivors of sexual violence. She <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/16/betsy-devos-proposes-changes-campus-sexual-misconduct-rules/2023775002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently unveiled</a> a series of devastating proposed regulations that would remove Title IX protections from off-campus and online sexual harassment, as well as incidents of harassment that do not result in a student missing classes or dropping out entirely, give schools the ability to claim religious exemption from adhering to anti-sex discrimination policy, and limit investigations of abuse or harassment to cases that are reported to a Title IX official -- again, remember that New York City has just <em>one person</em> in such a position serving 1.1 million students and their families. Earlier this year, DeVos announced plans to remove protections for transgender students from Title IX.</p> <p>This isn’t the first time - at the federal level, this administration has repeatedly demonstrated its blatant disregard for girls, women, and TGNC people. The leader of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Candace Jackson, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/13/trump-official-apologizes-for-saying-most-campus-sexual-assault-accusations-come-after-drunken-sex-breakups/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.75066c48fcc2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> that in her view, “[90% of accusations] fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ we broke up, six months later, I found myself under Title IX investigation because she decided our last sleeping together was not quite right.” &nbsp;</p> <p>When leadership of an agency designed to protect students’ civil rights tries to discredit the courageous people that come forward with their experiences of sexual assault, it sends a message to young people that they shouldn’t come forward and get the support that they need. &nbsp;</p> <p>While we are lucky to have strong protections for women and TGNC folks in New York City, our schools do not reflect that. We must make it clear to our youth that there are adults who are committed to believing and supporting students who experience sexual violence in schools. We need staff and leadership in the DOE who have the skills to shift school climate, and to ensure that schools are not reinforcing harmful messaging that is now, sadly, coming from the highest office in the land.</p> <p>***<br /> Brittany Brathwaite is Organizing &amp; Innovation Manager, Girls for Gender Equity. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/urbintelligence" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@urbintelligence</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/ggenyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ggenyc</a>.</p> <p>

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Instead of Taking Responsibility for Its Failures, The MTA is Targeting People of Color 2018-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8142-instead-of-taking-responsibility-for-its-failures-the-mta-is-targeting-people-of-color Donna Lieberman & Marco Conner mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/44425389202_bd873a0b24_z.jpg" alt="MTA fare beating" width="600" height="428" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA)</p> <hr /> <p>The MTA seems determined to blame New Yorkers for the mess it’s in.</p> <p>The authority’s latest excuse is that poor people who jump turnstiles are responsible for the MTA’s financial woes. The MTA and the politicians and bureaucrats who control it should take responsibility for their own actions -- and inactions -- that have led to the city’s mass transit decline. Instead, the MTA seems to want to pit New Yorkers against each other.</p> <p>The MTA and NYPD pledged last week to crack down on fare evaders. The <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/12/03/mta-will-have-execs-cops-physically-block-fare-beaters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA’s plan</a> is to send agency executives and NYPD officers to subway stations and bus stops across the city. The executives will stand at subway turnstiles and on busses to create body blockades to bar anyone trying to get in without a Metrocard. More armed police officers at subway stations make an already harrowing commute for New Yorkers even more intolerable, and for many, will serve to add unnecessary fear into the way they start or end their day.</p> <p>New York City Transit President Andy Byford also <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/02/01/manhattan-da-will-no-longer-prosecute-turnstile-jumping-229568" target="_blank" rel="noopener">decision</a> earlier this year to stop prosecuting subway turnstile jumpers.</p> <p>The billions of dollars at the MTA’s and the city’s disposal must be spent on fixing the actual causes of the crisis -- aging infrastructure -- not tangential issues like fare evasion, a distraction in the pursuit of solutions.</p> <p>The MTA <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">claims</a> that fare evasion is robbing the agency of $215 million a year, though how it actually reached that number is lacking in clarity and validity. The transit authority appears determined to pin the blame for its <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/mta-fare-hike-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">precarious financial position</a> on poor black and Latinx people who, history tells us, will suffer the most from any increase in fare evasion arrests.</p> <p>And another population that both our mayor and governor have spoken passionately about protecting would stand to suffer greatly as a result of a new enforcement policy: immigrants. Immigrants who have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6774-broken-windows-policing-will-fuel-the-trump-deportation-machine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">even minor contact</a> with the criminal justice system face far more drastic consequences. Under the Trump administration, an arrest for jumping a turnstile or even a criminal summons could result in deportation, family separation, and destroyed lives.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/09/12/subway-policing-in-new-york-city-still-has-a-race-problem" target="_blank" rel="noopener">analysis</a> of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services data from the last four years by the Marshall Project shows that nearly 90 percent of people arrested for turnstile jumping were black or Hispanic. Given the NYPD’s history of targeting people of color for arrests and summonses for low-level offenses, let’s call the new proposal to crack down on fare evasion what it is: a plan that would funnel thousands more black and brown New Yorkers into the criminal justice system, and to scapegoat people of color for the decades of underfunding and mismanagement that are responsible for the MTA’s current problems.</p> <p>Police resources must be spent on working with the community and identifying the types of behaviors that cause the most harm—not physically harmless fare evasion.</p> <p>Years of grappling with the ripple effects of Broken Windows policing have shown us that arrests are not the way to deal with minor offenses, like riding your bike on the sidewalk, having an open container of alcohol, smoking marijuana, or jumping a turnstile. An uptick in enforcement would reverse the recent positive trend of fewer fare evasion arrests. Through October, <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">police have made</a> 5,236 arrests for fare evasion. That is still 5,236 arrests too many, but it represents a 66 percent drop compared to the same period last year.</p> <p>DA Vance’s policy of not prosecuting turnstile jumpers represents real progress away from the dangerous and discredited Broken Windows theory of policing, which posits that if minor crimes are allowed to happen, then they will lead to more disorder and eventually to serious crime. In practice in New York, the theory is used as cover for discriminatory policing and harassment of communities of color, with <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160622/midtown/no-correlation-between-low-level-summonses-drops-major-crime-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">no measurable impact</a> on crime.</p> <p>Poor black and brown people should not take the fall for the sins of politicians who have allowed the MTA to become a laughing stock. Arrests won’t solve the MTA’s problems, but they could devastate New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br /> Donna Lieberman is Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Marco Conner is Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JustAskDonna" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustAskDonna</a>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCLU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLU</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/marco_conner" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@marco_conner</a>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/TransAlt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TransAlt</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/44425389202_bd873a0b24_z.jpg" alt="MTA fare beating" width="600" height="428" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA)</p> <hr /> <p>The MTA seems determined to blame New Yorkers for the mess it’s in.</p> <p>The authority’s latest excuse is that poor people who jump turnstiles are responsible for the MTA’s financial woes. The MTA and the politicians and bureaucrats who control it should take responsibility for their own actions -- and inactions -- that have led to the city’s mass transit decline. Instead, the MTA seems to want to pit New Yorkers against each other.</p> <p>The MTA and NYPD pledged last week to crack down on fare evaders. The <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/12/03/mta-will-have-execs-cops-physically-block-fare-beaters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA’s plan</a> is to send agency executives and NYPD officers to subway stations and bus stops across the city. The executives will stand at subway turnstiles and on busses to create body blockades to bar anyone trying to get in without a Metrocard. More armed police officers at subway stations make an already harrowing commute for New Yorkers even more intolerable, and for many, will serve to add unnecessary fear into the way they start or end their day.</p> <p>New York City Transit President Andy Byford also <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/02/01/manhattan-da-will-no-longer-prosecute-turnstile-jumping-229568" target="_blank" rel="noopener">decision</a> earlier this year to stop prosecuting subway turnstile jumpers.</p> <p>The billions of dollars at the MTA’s and the city’s disposal must be spent on fixing the actual causes of the crisis -- aging infrastructure -- not tangential issues like fare evasion, a distraction in the pursuit of solutions.</p> <p>The MTA <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">claims</a> that fare evasion is robbing the agency of $215 million a year, though how it actually reached that number is lacking in clarity and validity. The transit authority appears determined to pin the blame for its <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/mta-fare-hike-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">precarious financial position</a> on poor black and Latinx people who, history tells us, will suffer the most from any increase in fare evasion arrests.</p> <p>And another population that both our mayor and governor have spoken passionately about protecting would stand to suffer greatly as a result of a new enforcement policy: immigrants. Immigrants who have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6774-broken-windows-policing-will-fuel-the-trump-deportation-machine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">even minor contact</a> with the criminal justice system face far more drastic consequences. Under the Trump administration, an arrest for jumping a turnstile or even a criminal summons could result in deportation, family separation, and destroyed lives.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/09/12/subway-policing-in-new-york-city-still-has-a-race-problem" target="_blank" rel="noopener">analysis</a> of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services data from the last four years by the Marshall Project shows that nearly 90 percent of people arrested for turnstile jumping were black or Hispanic. Given the NYPD’s history of targeting people of color for arrests and summonses for low-level offenses, let’s call the new proposal to crack down on fare evasion what it is: a plan that would funnel thousands more black and brown New Yorkers into the criminal justice system, and to scapegoat people of color for the decades of underfunding and mismanagement that are responsible for the MTA’s current problems.</p> <p>Police resources must be spent on working with the community and identifying the types of behaviors that cause the most harm—not physically harmless fare evasion.</p> <p>Years of grappling with the ripple effects of Broken Windows policing have shown us that arrests are not the way to deal with minor offenses, like riding your bike on the sidewalk, having an open container of alcohol, smoking marijuana, or jumping a turnstile. An uptick in enforcement would reverse the recent positive trend of fewer fare evasion arrests. Through October, <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-fare-evasion-ticket-1.24190875" target="_blank" rel="noopener">police have made</a> 5,236 arrests for fare evasion. That is still 5,236 arrests too many, but it represents a 66 percent drop compared to the same period last year.</p> <p>DA Vance’s policy of not prosecuting turnstile jumpers represents real progress away from the dangerous and discredited Broken Windows theory of policing, which posits that if minor crimes are allowed to happen, then they will lead to more disorder and eventually to serious crime. In practice in New York, the theory is used as cover for discriminatory policing and harassment of communities of color, with <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160622/midtown/no-correlation-between-low-level-summonses-drops-major-crime-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">no measurable impact</a> on crime.</p> <p>Poor black and brown people should not take the fall for the sins of politicians who have allowed the MTA to become a laughing stock. Arrests won’t solve the MTA’s problems, but they could devastate New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br /> Donna Lieberman is Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Marco Conner is Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JustAskDonna" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustAskDonna</a>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/NYCLU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLU</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/marco_conner" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@marco_conner</a>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/TransAlt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TransAlt</a>.</p> <p>

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Secretive Amazon Deal Should Have Us Rethinking Subsidy Programs and More 2018-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8137-secretive-amazon-deal-rethinking-subsidy-programs-scott-stringer Scott Stringer sstringer@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14227564720_907f9ed19a_z.jpg" alt="Stringer de Blasio press conference" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer, the author, at a press conference (photo: NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>What if I told you that moving your business to New York City could land you $3 billion in subsidies? Even better, what if getting those billions didn’t even require publicly disclosing key information required to qualify for the money in the first place?</p> <p>If that sounds like a great deal to you, you’re in good company because Amazon is taking advantage of secrecy and subsidies baked into our outdated system of tax incentives. We all know the Amazon deal to place a “headquarters” in Long Island City was negotiated in the dark, circumventing a comprehensive public review process and leaving an entire community with more questions than answers. Meanwhile, as residents grapple with strained infrastructure and skyrocketing home prices, one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world will receive nothing short of a taxpayer-funded entitlement program.</p> <p>The total package could approach nearly $3 billion when state and city benefits are included -- with an unprecedented $1.3 billion in city incentives alone. The Amazon deal has made it abundantly clear that many aspects of our current tax incentive programs – two in particular – need to be more closely scrutinized, changed or eliminated.</p> <p>First, let’s take a look at the city’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, or REAP, which was originally designed to help attract employment outside of Manhattan’s business core. Amazon stands to receive some $900 million in tax credits for bringing its employees to Long Island City under REAP. To put this into perspective, REAP benefits totaled $32 million last year to 205 firms – but because there’s no cap on the program, Amazon alone stands to gain an unprecedented $75 million per year. In fact, REAP doesn’t just lower Amazon’s tax bill – because it’s a refundable tax credit, the city might actually have to cut a substantial refund check to Amazon.</p> <p>Also, because REAP doesn’t require recipients to meet performance goals, Amazon can still receive benefits regardless of whether it eventually hires the 25,000 it promised, or just 25; or pays its employees an average of $150,000 as promised, or just $30,000.</p> <p>Lost in the discussion is that our economy is already doing the work of REAP. Indeed, from 2007 to 2017, 83 percent of new jobs in New York City were outside of Manhattan, raising the question of whether the REAP program is needed in a city where businesses are already spreading across the five boroughs on their own.</p> <p>Second, we need to pay close attention to the other benefit offered to Amazon, the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program, or ICAP, which offers tax subsidies to companies that renovate or build on properties in boroughs outside of Manhattan to spur economic development. That may have sounded like a great idea when ICAP’s predecessor was originally launched in 1984, but today, at a time when Long Island City is booming, Amazon could benefit from nearly $400 million in property tax abatements for constructing its new “headquarters” in the neighborhood.</p> <p>What’s worse, programs like REAP and ICAP are “as-of-right,” which means there’s no discretion in determining eligibility. If you check the boxes, you get the benefit – whether you’re a startup in need of help or Amazon, which is valued at $1 trillion.</p> <p>The final insult in all of this is that there is little to no publicly available information on the particulars of these deals. In the absence of real detail, it’s impossible to do any serious evaluation of the effectiveness of these programs in the neighborhoods they are supposed to lift up. How can we determine if future incentives are a responsible investment if we do not know who received the benefit, how much they received, or if the subsidy even helped create new jobs? It’s a fiscal black hole.</p> <p>We need legislation that answers these questions by requiring companies to waive their rights to privacy regarding the terms of deals in exchange for receiving benefits. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s not without precedent – the city’s Industrial Development Authority, which provides low-cost financing and other benefits, already requires this of its beneficiaries. And like those agreements, the details of REAP and ICAP deals should be reported annually.</p> <p>Would Amazon have come to New York without the benefit of REAP and ICAP? Clearly, New York City was at the top of Amazon’s list, regardless of the subsidies. But we cannot allow Amazon to be the only winner amid such great need, whether it’s the residents of Queensbridge Houses, seniors struggling to stay in the neighborhood, or local kids yearning to gain the skills that Amazon professes to value.</p> <p>It’s time we re-evaluate these programs and stop doling out billions of tax dollars without knowing what we’re getting in return. Instead we should focus our resources in ways that actually serve to improve the lives of the New Yorkers and not as a handout for wealthy corporations. Above all, New York City taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability for the use of their money, and it’s a price any employer – including Amazon – should be willing to pay to do business in New York.</p> <p>***<br />Scott Stringer is the New York City Comptroller. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCComptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCComptroller</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14227564720_907f9ed19a_z.jpg" alt="Stringer de Blasio press conference" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer, the author, at a press conference (photo: NYCHA)</p> <hr /> <p>What if I told you that moving your business to New York City could land you $3 billion in subsidies? Even better, what if getting those billions didn’t even require publicly disclosing key information required to qualify for the money in the first place?</p> <p>If that sounds like a great deal to you, you’re in good company because Amazon is taking advantage of secrecy and subsidies baked into our outdated system of tax incentives. We all know the Amazon deal to place a “headquarters” in Long Island City was negotiated in the dark, circumventing a comprehensive public review process and leaving an entire community with more questions than answers. Meanwhile, as residents grapple with strained infrastructure and skyrocketing home prices, one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world will receive nothing short of a taxpayer-funded entitlement program.</p> <p>The total package could approach nearly $3 billion when state and city benefits are included -- with an unprecedented $1.3 billion in city incentives alone. The Amazon deal has made it abundantly clear that many aspects of our current tax incentive programs – two in particular – need to be more closely scrutinized, changed or eliminated.</p> <p>First, let’s take a look at the city’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, or REAP, which was originally designed to help attract employment outside of Manhattan’s business core. Amazon stands to receive some $900 million in tax credits for bringing its employees to Long Island City under REAP. To put this into perspective, REAP benefits totaled $32 million last year to 205 firms – but because there’s no cap on the program, Amazon alone stands to gain an unprecedented $75 million per year. In fact, REAP doesn’t just lower Amazon’s tax bill – because it’s a refundable tax credit, the city might actually have to cut a substantial refund check to Amazon.</p> <p>Also, because REAP doesn’t require recipients to meet performance goals, Amazon can still receive benefits regardless of whether it eventually hires the 25,000 it promised, or just 25; or pays its employees an average of $150,000 as promised, or just $30,000.</p> <p>Lost in the discussion is that our economy is already doing the work of REAP. Indeed, from 2007 to 2017, 83 percent of new jobs in New York City were outside of Manhattan, raising the question of whether the REAP program is needed in a city where businesses are already spreading across the five boroughs on their own.</p> <p>Second, we need to pay close attention to the other benefit offered to Amazon, the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program, or ICAP, which offers tax subsidies to companies that renovate or build on properties in boroughs outside of Manhattan to spur economic development. That may have sounded like a great idea when ICAP’s predecessor was originally launched in 1984, but today, at a time when Long Island City is booming, Amazon could benefit from nearly $400 million in property tax abatements for constructing its new “headquarters” in the neighborhood.</p> <p>What’s worse, programs like REAP and ICAP are “as-of-right,” which means there’s no discretion in determining eligibility. If you check the boxes, you get the benefit – whether you’re a startup in need of help or Amazon, which is valued at $1 trillion.</p> <p>The final insult in all of this is that there is little to no publicly available information on the particulars of these deals. In the absence of real detail, it’s impossible to do any serious evaluation of the effectiveness of these programs in the neighborhoods they are supposed to lift up. How can we determine if future incentives are a responsible investment if we do not know who received the benefit, how much they received, or if the subsidy even helped create new jobs? It’s a fiscal black hole.</p> <p>We need legislation that answers these questions by requiring companies to waive their rights to privacy regarding the terms of deals in exchange for receiving benefits. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s not without precedent – the city’s Industrial Development Authority, which provides low-cost financing and other benefits, already requires this of its beneficiaries. And like those agreements, the details of REAP and ICAP deals should be reported annually.</p> <p>Would Amazon have come to New York without the benefit of REAP and ICAP? Clearly, New York City was at the top of Amazon’s list, regardless of the subsidies. But we cannot allow Amazon to be the only winner amid such great need, whether it’s the residents of Queensbridge Houses, seniors struggling to stay in the neighborhood, or local kids yearning to gain the skills that Amazon professes to value.</p> <p>It’s time we re-evaluate these programs and stop doling out billions of tax dollars without knowing what we’re getting in return. Instead we should focus our resources in ways that actually serve to improve the lives of the New Yorkers and not as a handout for wealthy corporations. Above all, New York City taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability for the use of their money, and it’s a price any employer – including Amazon – should be willing to pay to do business in New York.</p> <p>***<br />Scott Stringer is the New York City Comptroller. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCComptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCComptroller</a>.</p> <p>

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For the Future of Our Communities, Labor Support for The Green New Deal 2018-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8138-labor-support-for-the-green-new-deal-32bj Hector Figueroa mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/green_new_deal_via_sunrisemvmt.jpg" alt="green new deal via sunrise movement" width="600" height="389" /></p> <p>(photo: @sunrisemvmt)</p> <hr /> <p>Four years ago, the New York climate march brought 300,000 people to the streets of Manhattan to demand action from national and world leaders. Marching in New York City with my family, we witnessed how thousands of people from all walks of life filled the streets with energy, passion, and hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren. 32BJ SEIU, the labor union I am honored to lead, played a vital part in the People’s Climate March because our members live and work in communities that are affected by climate change.</p> <p>We reside in coastal cities that have been flooded by storms like Hurricane Sandy. Our urban areas suffer with skyrocketing asthma rates. Many of us have families in the global south that have been devastated by climate change. We march and organize to bring attention to this existential crisis and demand action now. And we know that solutions can be found that both generate jobs and deliver sustainable energy.<br /> <br />As the new crop of progressive legislators in Congress is showing us all, the time to be bold on issues like climate change, the economy, and immigration is now. Last week Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the introduction of the Green New Deal, a plan to make climate change, clean air, clean water, and reductions in pollution a priority for the new Congress when its members take office in January.<br /> <br />As a union representing 163,000 doormen, security officers, cleaners, and airport workers up and down the east coast, we support this bold vision to reduce greenhouse gasses, switch to renewable energies, and create good jobs. It’s both doable and indispensable.</p> <p>For labor unions like ours, climate change is an environmental issue, an economic opportunity, and a political challenge that can destabilize our societies. We need to be ambitious and that requires us to think on a large scale and allocate the appropriate finances to fully address the climate threats that our planet is facing.<br /> <br />These threats are environmental and economic, and they will require investments in the communities historically dependent on fossil fuel extraction and production so the transition to renewable energy doesn’t leave “coal country” out in the cold. This is an opportunity to re-industrialize America with a green economy, with jobs that, with the right training, can provide career ladders for many low-wage workers who struggle to afford the high cost of living.<br /> <br />32BJ has a Green Buildings Program that serves as a good example and learning experience. The program, which trains existing building superintendents how to make residential buildings in New York more energy efficient, was meant to reduce the 77% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by residential buildings. It has taught us that investing in long-term training and education programs for current employees can help them transition into the green economy and even become leaders in these efforts.</p> <p>When these jobs are well paid, with benefits and union representation, green initiatives can further support local communities already dealing with the impacts of climate change. Initiatives like the Climate Jobs New York Program, which includes legislative requirements for labor standards in the creation of new wind and solar energy jobs across the state, show us that it is possible and deeply impactful when good union jobs are a central tenet of green job initiatives.<br /> <br />Directly impacted communities, those who have done the least to cause climate change—the poor, people of color, immigrants—and are suffering the most also need good jobs, affordable modernized public transportation, and big investments in renewable and solar energy in order to survive and thrive through the projected climate threats to come.<br /> <br />As Congress weighs the viability of a Green New Deal, we urge elected officials, labor unions, environmental groups, and community organizations to support its vision and to be smart, compassionate, and bold.<br /> <br />While there is much going on around the globe today that is disturbing and disheartening, it is also a time for hope. Let’s keep moving, marching, organizing, voting, and winning.<br /> <br />***<br />Hector Figueroa is president of 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, representing 175,000 property-service workers up and down the east coast. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@figue32bj</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/32BJSEIU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@32BJSEIU</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/green_new_deal_via_sunrisemvmt.jpg" alt="green new deal via sunrise movement" width="600" height="389" /></p> <p>(photo: @sunrisemvmt)</p> <hr /> <p>Four years ago, the New York climate march brought 300,000 people to the streets of Manhattan to demand action from national and world leaders. Marching in New York City with my family, we witnessed how thousands of people from all walks of life filled the streets with energy, passion, and hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren. 32BJ SEIU, the labor union I am honored to lead, played a vital part in the People’s Climate March because our members live and work in communities that are affected by climate change.</p> <p>We reside in coastal cities that have been flooded by storms like Hurricane Sandy. Our urban areas suffer with skyrocketing asthma rates. Many of us have families in the global south that have been devastated by climate change. We march and organize to bring attention to this existential crisis and demand action now. And we know that solutions can be found that both generate jobs and deliver sustainable energy.<br /> <br />As the new crop of progressive legislators in Congress is showing us all, the time to be bold on issues like climate change, the economy, and immigration is now. Last week Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the introduction of the Green New Deal, a plan to make climate change, clean air, clean water, and reductions in pollution a priority for the new Congress when its members take office in January.<br /> <br />As a union representing 163,000 doormen, security officers, cleaners, and airport workers up and down the east coast, we support this bold vision to reduce greenhouse gasses, switch to renewable energies, and create good jobs. It’s both doable and indispensable.</p> <p>For labor unions like ours, climate change is an environmental issue, an economic opportunity, and a political challenge that can destabilize our societies. We need to be ambitious and that requires us to think on a large scale and allocate the appropriate finances to fully address the climate threats that our planet is facing.<br /> <br />These threats are environmental and economic, and they will require investments in the communities historically dependent on fossil fuel extraction and production so the transition to renewable energy doesn’t leave “coal country” out in the cold. This is an opportunity to re-industrialize America with a green economy, with jobs that, with the right training, can provide career ladders for many low-wage workers who struggle to afford the high cost of living.<br /> <br />32BJ has a Green Buildings Program that serves as a good example and learning experience. The program, which trains existing building superintendents how to make residential buildings in New York more energy efficient, was meant to reduce the 77% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by residential buildings. It has taught us that investing in long-term training and education programs for current employees can help them transition into the green economy and even become leaders in these efforts.</p> <p>When these jobs are well paid, with benefits and union representation, green initiatives can further support local communities already dealing with the impacts of climate change. Initiatives like the Climate Jobs New York Program, which includes legislative requirements for labor standards in the creation of new wind and solar energy jobs across the state, show us that it is possible and deeply impactful when good union jobs are a central tenet of green job initiatives.<br /> <br />Directly impacted communities, those who have done the least to cause climate change—the poor, people of color, immigrants—and are suffering the most also need good jobs, affordable modernized public transportation, and big investments in renewable and solar energy in order to survive and thrive through the projected climate threats to come.<br /> <br />As Congress weighs the viability of a Green New Deal, we urge elected officials, labor unions, environmental groups, and community organizations to support its vision and to be smart, compassionate, and bold.<br /> <br />While there is much going on around the globe today that is disturbing and disheartening, it is also a time for hope. Let’s keep moving, marching, organizing, voting, and winning.<br /> <br />***<br />Hector Figueroa is president of 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, representing 175,000 property-service workers up and down the east coast. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/figue32bj" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@figue32bj</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/32BJSEIU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@32BJSEIU</a>.</p> <p>

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New York’s Opportunity to Become a Model for Effective Civics Education 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8130-new-york-s-opportunity-to-become-a-model-for-effective-civics-education DeNora Getachew grever@hotmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-andrew-elementary.jpg" alt="govcuomo andrew elementary" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Could New York be the next state to catch the civics bug and modernize its civics education standards? Hopefully, state legislators and policymakers are watching Massachusetts, which just took a big step forward by creating a national model for effective civics education.</p> <p>Two short days after the November 6 election, Massachusetts adopted cutting-edge legislation (S-2631) that, when implemented, will ensure that every Massachusetts student receives a project-based civics education, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions for lifelong civic participation in our 21st century democracy. This legislation, the most substantive civics education bill passed in the country in recent history, may show New York the way forward.</p> <p>Like many states nationwide that are proposing reforms to their civics education standards, Massachusetts may have felt the need to respond to the current civic reckoning. It seems like policymakers may finally realize that one of the potential consequences of deprioritizing civics education in schools is an electorate that does not understand how democracy works or have the civic skills to advocate for systemic change to issues impacting themselves and their community.</p> <p>The lack of civic knowledge and skills has resulted in an electorate that does not actively participate in politics or believe that government is relevant to their daily lives. In one fell swoop, Massachusetts has positioned itself as a model state for effective civics education. New York, which prides itself on being a state that sets national legislative and policy trends, should take note.</p> <p>To contextualize the current state of New York’s democracy and why civics education is needed “now more than ever,” the state has historically ranked at the bottom of the national voter turnout list. That’s why it’s so impressive that almost 50 percent of registered New York voters cast a ballot on November 6. <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/election-2018-results-new-york-state-voter-turnout-highest-since-1994/1921967002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to the Journal News</a>, this year was the “highest turnout for a midterm election in almost a quarter-century.” Compare that to turnout in 2014 when only 33 percent of New Yorkers cast a ballot in the midterms.</p> <p>Part of the reason for our state’s historic, low voter turnout is our antiquated voting laws. New York requires voters to register 25 days before the election, they cannot register to vote online unless they have a DMV-issued identification, 16- and 17-year-olds are not allowed to pre-register to vote when they obtain said DMV-issued identification, and New Yorkers cannot vote early - unlike voters in 37 states. One can only hope that the new leadership in the state Legislature can bring our voting laws into the 21st century to address some of the root causes of our participation problem.</p> <p>But another root cause for New York’s low voter turnout is that the state isn’t effectively educating young people for civic participation.</p> <p>To be fair, New York already mandates that all students take Participation in Government (also known as PIG), a one-semester civics education course, before graduating from high school. On its face PIG should do the trick as the course is intended to provide students with “opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship.” The reality is that while PIG is aligned with principles of Action Civics on paper, PIG as implemented falls short.</p> <p>Action Civics is a 21st-century civics education pedagogy that is a student-centered, project-based approach to develop the individual skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for 21st-century democratic practice. As implemented, PIG does not educate students about local democratic structure, help them learn about processes by engaging in those processes, or how to research, analyze, propose, debate, and advocate for their collectively determined solution(s). By and large, PIG as implemented is civics as usual, a largely passive form of learning that is often a senior year after-thought based on rote memorization of random government facts.</p> <p>Teaching civics well requires robust professional development and curricular resources from the state. Even if teachers wanted to teach PIG as intended, many are not provided the resources or training necessary to do so effectively. There are very few resources or professional development courses designed to equip educators to navigate the discussion and debate of community issues or local democratic structures, and implement nonpartisan, student-led project-based learning in the classroom.</p> <p>There’s also no accountability system in place to ensure teachers measure student learning and ensure that their students develop the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for lifelong civic participation in our 21st century democracy.</p> <p>The takeaway is that PIG is being implemented haphazardly and inconsistently statewide. The fact that PIG is being implemented inconsistently only further widens the Civic Engagement Gap plaguing underserved school districts statewide. The reality is that students from rural and low socioeconomic urban communities are 50 percent less likely to study how laws are made, and 30 percent less likely to report having experiences with deliberative discussions in their classes.</p> <p>Fortunately, all is not lost. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) made a commitment to modernizing New York’s civics standards when they added the College, Career and Civic Readiness Index (CCCRI) and created a graduation “seal of civic engagement” in the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. While the CCCRI establishes a baseline for holding schools accountable for ensuring students’ civic readiness, NYSED has yet to define “civic readiness.” NYSED also needs to define the criteria for how students can earn the seal of civic engagement and then ensure that every student is granted meaningful opportunities to achieve it.</p> <p>As a member of a task force NYSED recently established to propose recommendations about how to define civic readiness and the criteria for the seal of civic engagement, I will advocate for a robust civics education for every student in New York.</p> <p>It is incumbent upon us as a state to follow the lead of Massachusetts and others in adopting a rigorous definition of civic readiness and investing in professional development to prepare educators to teach modernized civics standards. Most importantly, NYSED must distribute funding equitably to districts, prioritizing those with greatest need to help them implement new mandates. Doing so would help strengthen New York’s democracy by ensuring that more New Yorkers have the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our 21st-century democracy; and hopefully vote in all elections. Anything less would only widen the Civic Engagement Gap.</p> <p>***<br /> DeNora Getachew, New York City Executive Director of Generation Citizen. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DeNoraGetachew" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DeNoraGetachew</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/gencitizen" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GenCitizen</a>.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-andrew-elementary.jpg" alt="govcuomo andrew elementary" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Could New York be the next state to catch the civics bug and modernize its civics education standards? Hopefully, state legislators and policymakers are watching Massachusetts, which just took a big step forward by creating a national model for effective civics education.</p> <p>Two short days after the November 6 election, Massachusetts adopted cutting-edge legislation (S-2631) that, when implemented, will ensure that every Massachusetts student receives a project-based civics education, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions for lifelong civic participation in our 21st century democracy. This legislation, the most substantive civics education bill passed in the country in recent history, may show New York the way forward.</p> <p>Like many states nationwide that are proposing reforms to their civics education standards, Massachusetts may have felt the need to respond to the current civic reckoning. It seems like policymakers may finally realize that one of the potential consequences of deprioritizing civics education in schools is an electorate that does not understand how democracy works or have the civic skills to advocate for systemic change to issues impacting themselves and their community.</p> <p>The lack of civic knowledge and skills has resulted in an electorate that does not actively participate in politics or believe that government is relevant to their daily lives. In one fell swoop, Massachusetts has positioned itself as a model state for effective civics education. New York, which prides itself on being a state that sets national legislative and policy trends, should take note.</p> <p>To contextualize the current state of New York’s democracy and why civics education is needed “now more than ever,” the state has historically ranked at the bottom of the national voter turnout list. That’s why it’s so impressive that almost 50 percent of registered New York voters cast a ballot on November 6. <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/election-2018-results-new-york-state-voter-turnout-highest-since-1994/1921967002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to the Journal News</a>, this year was the “highest turnout for a midterm election in almost a quarter-century.” Compare that to turnout in 2014 when only 33 percent of New Yorkers cast a ballot in the midterms.</p> <p>Part of the reason for our state’s historic, low voter turnout is our antiquated voting laws. New York requires voters to register 25 days before the election, they cannot register to vote online unless they have a DMV-issued identification, 16- and 17-year-olds are not allowed to pre-register to vote when they obtain said DMV-issued identification, and New Yorkers cannot vote early - unlike voters in 37 states. One can only hope that the new leadership in the state Legislature can bring our voting laws into the 21st century to address some of the root causes of our participation problem.</p> <p>But another root cause for New York’s low voter turnout is that the state isn’t effectively educating young people for civic participation.</p> <p>To be fair, New York already mandates that all students take Participation in Government (also known as PIG), a one-semester civics education course, before graduating from high school. On its face PIG should do the trick as the course is intended to provide students with “opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship.” The reality is that while PIG is aligned with principles of Action Civics on paper, PIG as implemented falls short.</p> <p>Action Civics is a 21st-century civics education pedagogy that is a student-centered, project-based approach to develop the individual skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for 21st-century democratic practice. As implemented, PIG does not educate students about local democratic structure, help them learn about processes by engaging in those processes, or how to research, analyze, propose, debate, and advocate for their collectively determined solution(s). By and large, PIG as implemented is civics as usual, a largely passive form of learning that is often a senior year after-thought based on rote memorization of random government facts.</p> <p>Teaching civics well requires robust professional development and curricular resources from the state. Even if teachers wanted to teach PIG as intended, many are not provided the resources or training necessary to do so effectively. There are very few resources or professional development courses designed to equip educators to navigate the discussion and debate of community issues or local democratic structures, and implement nonpartisan, student-led project-based learning in the classroom.</p> <p>There’s also no accountability system in place to ensure teachers measure student learning and ensure that their students develop the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for lifelong civic participation in our 21st century democracy.</p> <p>The takeaway is that PIG is being implemented haphazardly and inconsistently statewide. The fact that PIG is being implemented inconsistently only further widens the Civic Engagement Gap plaguing underserved school districts statewide. The reality is that students from rural and low socioeconomic urban communities are 50 percent less likely to study how laws are made, and 30 percent less likely to report having experiences with deliberative discussions in their classes.</p> <p>Fortunately, all is not lost. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) made a commitment to modernizing New York’s civics standards when they added the College, Career and Civic Readiness Index (CCCRI) and created a graduation “seal of civic engagement” in the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. While the CCCRI establishes a baseline for holding schools accountable for ensuring students’ civic readiness, NYSED has yet to define “civic readiness.” NYSED also needs to define the criteria for how students can earn the seal of civic engagement and then ensure that every student is granted meaningful opportunities to achieve it.</p> <p>As a member of a task force NYSED recently established to propose recommendations about how to define civic readiness and the criteria for the seal of civic engagement, I will advocate for a robust civics education for every student in New York.</p> <p>It is incumbent upon us as a state to follow the lead of Massachusetts and others in adopting a rigorous definition of civic readiness and investing in professional development to prepare educators to teach modernized civics standards. Most importantly, NYSED must distribute funding equitably to districts, prioritizing those with greatest need to help them implement new mandates. Doing so would help strengthen New York’s democracy by ensuring that more New Yorkers have the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our 21st-century democracy; and hopefully vote in all elections. Anything less would only widen the Civic Engagement Gap.</p> <p>***<br /> DeNora Getachew, New York City Executive Director of Generation Citizen. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DeNoraGetachew" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DeNoraGetachew</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/gencitizen" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GenCitizen</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
The Fuzzy Fine Print of Amazon’s Queens Real Estate Deal 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8132-the-fuzzy-fine-print-of-amazon-s-queens-real-estate-deal Norman Oder noder@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/lic_via_edc.jpg" alt="lic via edc" width="600" height="375" /></p> <p>(image via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>The first of several New York City Council&nbsp;<a href="https://council.nyc.gov/amazon-hearings/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">public oversight hearings</a>&nbsp;on the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Long Island City will be held Wednesday at City Hall. Titled by the Council as “Exposing the Closed-Door Process,” the questions should concern not just the big-picture issues but also some fine print regarding the company’s acquisition of city-owned real estate.</p> <p>Of course, the estimated $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in the deal made among Amazon, the state, and the city deserve scrutiny, though, except for a state capital grant that could reach $505 million, those questions -- as Gotham Gazette previously&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8110-a-closer-look-at-the-tax-incentives-in-the-amazon-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported</a> -- mostly concern revising existing policy.</p> <p>For example, the Citizens Budget Commission&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/breaking-down-amazon-hq2-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">warns</a>&nbsp;that "offering Amazon benefits that go well above the current cap and expiration date" of the Excelsior Jobs Program -- up to $1.2 billion in state tax credits -- "sets a concerning precedent.”</p> <p>National subsidy watchdog Good Jobs First&nbsp;<a href="https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdfs/Statement%20day%20after%20HQ2%20finalized%2011-14-18%20V5.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">points out</a>&nbsp;that the city's decision to have Amazon contribute PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes, into a local infrastructure fund, would "further enhanc[e] Amazon’s property value," a benefit worth quantifying.</p> <p>But Council members also should look at&nbsp;two maddeningly complicated passages in the non-binding&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/393104424/Amazon-Agreement-With-ESD" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Memorandum of Understanding</a>&nbsp;(MOU) Amazon signed with <a href="https://esd.ny.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Empire State Development</a> (ESD), Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development authority, and the <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York City Economic Development Corporation</a> (NYCEDC), Mayor Bill de Blasio’s economic development entity.</p> <p>They rather cryptically describe some contemplated transactions that deserve far more sunlight, both now and if/when they move toward fruition.</p> <p>First, look at the proposed map (below), which shows two private development sites, two public development sites, and one city-owned building, known as DOE (Department of Education) Premises.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image1.jpg" alt="image1" width="450" height="462" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Let's put aside the private development sites, which are owned by a company called Plaxall, and were intended to be part of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.anablebasinlic.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">large project called Anable Basin</a>.</p> <p>Instead, let's focus on the two public development sites, which were previously part of a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/new-york-works-nycedc-announces-plan-bring-first-its-kind-industrial-commercial" target="_blank" rel="noopener">planned projec</a>t called the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.timesledger.com/stories/2018/37/licwaterfront_2018_09_14_q.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Long Island City Innovation Cente</a>r, involving developer TF Cornerstone and other partners. (The DOE site was not to be part of <a href="https://a002-ceqraccess.nyc.gov/ceqr/ProjectInformation/ProjectDetail/13102-18DME003Q#b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that project</a>.)</p> <p><strong>An $850,000 lease</strong><br /> The agreement contains a major parenthetical: Empire State Development will lease the public development sites "for a total agreed base rent payment, exclusive of PILOT, of $850,000 per annum (such price being consistent with the competitively procured terms of NYCEDC's prior agreement with the Company's development partner and reflective of the costs to be assumed by the Company that include but are not limited to City agency relocations... and the Specific Infrastructure and Community Commitments...)"</p> <p>That’s a lot to unpack.</p> <p>First, $850,000 won't buy much in New York's rental market: that sum is the same&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/09/former-duane-reade-space-on-west-72nd-street-to-become-child-care-center/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">asked</a>&nbsp;of a child care center in the Upper West Side (in a former Duane Reade) or that which&nbsp;<a href="https://www.6sqft.com/mcnally-jackson-bookstore-is-the-latest-victim-of-astronomical-rent-hikes-for-small-businesses/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drove</a>&nbsp;a bookstore out of SoHo. (I earlier mentioned this issue in&nbsp;<a href="https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2018/11/15/for-amazon-hq2-deal-atlantic-yards-serves-as-a-warning/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an essay</a>&nbsp;for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.)</p> <p>And if that $850,000 reflects "the costs to be assumed by the Company that include but are not limited to City agency relocations," how are those presumably considerable costs calculated?</p> <p>If those costs are absorbed in the first years of the Amazon lease, wouldn't the deal get better for them over time?</p> <p>How exactly was that sum "consistent with the competitively procured terms" of the prior agreement? Why should that prior agreement apply to the Amazon project, given the latter’s scope and the suite of subsidies?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image3.jpg" alt="image3" width="580" height="463" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Also, unlike other tenants in Long Island City, Amazon will not be at the mercy of a landlord aiming to raise rent after an initial lease period. The rent, according to the document, "will escalate in accordance with an agreed upon schedule based on the Consumer Price Index" or CPI.</p> <p>Note that, while that verbiage suggests that the rent increases will&nbsp;correlate&nbsp;with the CPI, that doesn't mean direct correlation. In other words, an "agreed upon schedule" could be a percentage of the CPI. That's worth asking about. And, of course, this non-binding document only presages future negotiations.</p> <p><strong>The DOE building</strong><br /> Now consider the DOE Premises, a hulking <a href="https://newtownpentacle.com/2018/11/29/inquire-what/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">former city warehouse</a> -- approximately 672,000 square feet -- on Vernon Boulevard. According to the city/state memo, Amazon's initial base rent shall not exceed "the value of $500 per built gross square foot multiplied by 6.25%."</p> <p>Why make that calculation so convoluted? It's hard to believe that was not presented as a way of obscuring the math that leads to $31.25 per square foot.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image2.jpg" alt="image2" width="580" height="171" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Note that the base rent "shall equal the fair market rental value as determined by an Appraisal," but...the parties have&nbsp;already&nbsp;stipulated a ceiling of $31.25. That seems like a sweet deal.</p> <p>How would that appraisal work? It might not happen until 90 days before the lease closes, but it will take "into account sales of, and income generated at, comparable commercial use properties exclusively for the period prior to the date of the MOU," as well as capital investments made by New York City.</p> <p>Though an appraisal seems meaningless, the comps could use more attention. Consider the Falchi Building, a former factory building recently spiffed up in another section of Long Island City, below Sunnyside Yard. In 2016, the Commercial Observer reported asking rents&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/08/following-ubers-expandsion-lyft-ups-space-at-lics-falchi-building/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"in the $40s"</a>&nbsp;and also&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/08/uber-expands-to-more-than-36k-sf-at-falchi-building-in-lic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$55 per square foot</a>.</p> <p>Of course, asking rent is not contract rent, and these relatively small deals don't compare to leasing a full building. Still, it's hardly clear that $31.25 is the market rent in the area. Nor do we know how to value the "capital investments" factor cited in the MOU.&nbsp;(Update: However, according to the city's just-released&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/Industries/4_Amazon_HQ2_NY_Metro_Proposal_appendix.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/Industries/4_Amazon_HQ2_NY_Metro_Proposal_appendix.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1544798706749000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGwMgew9RGNN-zmRf0jV44LRFGi8w">response</a>&nbsp;to Amazon's RFP, that site was presented as having a net illustrative rent between $24 and $49.)</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image4.jpg" alt="image4" width="580" height="111" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Note that the base rent will increase by the&nbsp;lesser&nbsp;of either 3% or the area CPI. Is such a cap on inflation standard operating procedure?&nbsp;</p> <p>Maybe city and state officials often come to such seemingly generous agreements. (If so, maybe reconsider those practices, too.) Or perhaps they can defend them as tougher than they seem. But the fuzzy fine print should provoke reason for skepticism—and some hard questions from our elected officials.</p> <p>***<br /> Norman Oder is a Brooklyn journalist who writes the watchdog blog <a href="http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/lic_via_edc.jpg" alt="lic via edc" width="600" height="375" /></p> <p>(image via NYC EDC)</p> <hr /> <p>The first of several New York City Council&nbsp;<a href="https://council.nyc.gov/amazon-hearings/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">public oversight hearings</a>&nbsp;on the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Long Island City will be held Wednesday at City Hall. Titled by the Council as “Exposing the Closed-Door Process,” the questions should concern not just the big-picture issues but also some fine print regarding the company’s acquisition of city-owned real estate.</p> <p>Of course, the estimated $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in the deal made among Amazon, the state, and the city deserve scrutiny, though, except for a state capital grant that could reach $505 million, those questions -- as Gotham Gazette previously&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8110-a-closer-look-at-the-tax-incentives-in-the-amazon-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported</a> -- mostly concern revising existing policy.</p> <p>For example, the Citizens Budget Commission&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/breaking-down-amazon-hq2-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">warns</a>&nbsp;that "offering Amazon benefits that go well above the current cap and expiration date" of the Excelsior Jobs Program -- up to $1.2 billion in state tax credits -- "sets a concerning precedent.”</p> <p>National subsidy watchdog Good Jobs First&nbsp;<a href="https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdfs/Statement%20day%20after%20HQ2%20finalized%2011-14-18%20V5.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">points out</a>&nbsp;that the city's decision to have Amazon contribute PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes, into a local infrastructure fund, would "further enhanc[e] Amazon’s property value," a benefit worth quantifying.</p> <p>But Council members also should look at&nbsp;two maddeningly complicated passages in the non-binding&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/393104424/Amazon-Agreement-With-ESD" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Memorandum of Understanding</a>&nbsp;(MOU) Amazon signed with <a href="https://esd.ny.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Empire State Development</a> (ESD), Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development authority, and the <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York City Economic Development Corporation</a> (NYCEDC), Mayor Bill de Blasio’s economic development entity.</p> <p>They rather cryptically describe some contemplated transactions that deserve far more sunlight, both now and if/when they move toward fruition.</p> <p>First, look at the proposed map (below), which shows two private development sites, two public development sites, and one city-owned building, known as DOE (Department of Education) Premises.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image1.jpg" alt="image1" width="450" height="462" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Let's put aside the private development sites, which are owned by a company called Plaxall, and were intended to be part of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.anablebasinlic.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">large project called Anable Basin</a>.</p> <p>Instead, let's focus on the two public development sites, which were previously part of a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/new-york-works-nycedc-announces-plan-bring-first-its-kind-industrial-commercial" target="_blank" rel="noopener">planned projec</a>t called the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.timesledger.com/stories/2018/37/licwaterfront_2018_09_14_q.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Long Island City Innovation Cente</a>r, involving developer TF Cornerstone and other partners. (The DOE site was not to be part of <a href="https://a002-ceqraccess.nyc.gov/ceqr/ProjectInformation/ProjectDetail/13102-18DME003Q#b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that project</a>.)</p> <p><strong>An $850,000 lease</strong><br /> The agreement contains a major parenthetical: Empire State Development will lease the public development sites "for a total agreed base rent payment, exclusive of PILOT, of $850,000 per annum (such price being consistent with the competitively procured terms of NYCEDC's prior agreement with the Company's development partner and reflective of the costs to be assumed by the Company that include but are not limited to City agency relocations... and the Specific Infrastructure and Community Commitments...)"</p> <p>That’s a lot to unpack.</p> <p>First, $850,000 won't buy much in New York's rental market: that sum is the same&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/09/former-duane-reade-space-on-west-72nd-street-to-become-child-care-center/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">asked</a>&nbsp;of a child care center in the Upper West Side (in a former Duane Reade) or that which&nbsp;<a href="https://www.6sqft.com/mcnally-jackson-bookstore-is-the-latest-victim-of-astronomical-rent-hikes-for-small-businesses/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drove</a>&nbsp;a bookstore out of SoHo. (I earlier mentioned this issue in&nbsp;<a href="https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2018/11/15/for-amazon-hq2-deal-atlantic-yards-serves-as-a-warning/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an essay</a>&nbsp;for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.)</p> <p>And if that $850,000 reflects "the costs to be assumed by the Company that include but are not limited to City agency relocations," how are those presumably considerable costs calculated?</p> <p>If those costs are absorbed in the first years of the Amazon lease, wouldn't the deal get better for them over time?</p> <p>How exactly was that sum "consistent with the competitively procured terms" of the prior agreement? Why should that prior agreement apply to the Amazon project, given the latter’s scope and the suite of subsidies?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image3.jpg" alt="image3" width="580" height="463" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Also, unlike other tenants in Long Island City, Amazon will not be at the mercy of a landlord aiming to raise rent after an initial lease period. The rent, according to the document, "will escalate in accordance with an agreed upon schedule based on the Consumer Price Index" or CPI.</p> <p>Note that, while that verbiage suggests that the rent increases will&nbsp;correlate&nbsp;with the CPI, that doesn't mean direct correlation. In other words, an "agreed upon schedule" could be a percentage of the CPI. That's worth asking about. And, of course, this non-binding document only presages future negotiations.</p> <p><strong>The DOE building</strong><br /> Now consider the DOE Premises, a hulking <a href="https://newtownpentacle.com/2018/11/29/inquire-what/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">former city warehouse</a> -- approximately 672,000 square feet -- on Vernon Boulevard. According to the city/state memo, Amazon's initial base rent shall not exceed "the value of $500 per built gross square foot multiplied by 6.25%."</p> <p>Why make that calculation so convoluted? It's hard to believe that was not presented as a way of obscuring the math that leads to $31.25 per square foot.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image2.jpg" alt="image2" width="580" height="171" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Note that the base rent "shall equal the fair market rental value as determined by an Appraisal," but...the parties have&nbsp;already&nbsp;stipulated a ceiling of $31.25. That seems like a sweet deal.</p> <p>How would that appraisal work? It might not happen until 90 days before the lease closes, but it will take "into account sales of, and income generated at, comparable commercial use properties exclusively for the period prior to the date of the MOU," as well as capital investments made by New York City.</p> <p>Though an appraisal seems meaningless, the comps could use more attention. Consider the Falchi Building, a former factory building recently spiffed up in another section of Long Island City, below Sunnyside Yard. In 2016, the Commercial Observer reported asking rents&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/08/following-ubers-expandsion-lyft-ups-space-at-lics-falchi-building/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"in the $40s"</a>&nbsp;and also&nbsp;<a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2016/08/uber-expands-to-more-than-36k-sf-at-falchi-building-in-lic/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$55 per square foot</a>.</p> <p>Of course, asking rent is not contract rent, and these relatively small deals don't compare to leasing a full building. Still, it's hardly clear that $31.25 is the market rent in the area. Nor do we know how to value the "capital investments" factor cited in the MOU.&nbsp;(Update: However, according to the city's just-released&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/Industries/4_Amazon_HQ2_NY_Metro_Proposal_appendix.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/Industries/4_Amazon_HQ2_NY_Metro_Proposal_appendix.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1544798706749000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGwMgew9RGNN-zmRf0jV44LRFGi8w">response</a>&nbsp;to Amazon's RFP, that site was presented as having a net illustrative rent between $24 and $49.)</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/amznplan/image4.jpg" alt="image4" width="580" height="111" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Note that the base rent will increase by the&nbsp;lesser&nbsp;of either 3% or the area CPI. Is such a cap on inflation standard operating procedure?&nbsp;</p> <p>Maybe city and state officials often come to such seemingly generous agreements. (If so, maybe reconsider those practices, too.) Or perhaps they can defend them as tougher than they seem. But the fuzzy fine print should provoke reason for skepticism—and some hard questions from our elected officials.</p> <p>***<br /> Norman Oder is a Brooklyn journalist who writes the watchdog blog <a href="http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a>. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

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Setting the Record Straight: Mayor de Blasio’s Housing Plan Can and Should Do More for the Homeless 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8135-setting-the-record-straight-mayor-de-blasio-s-housing-plan-can-and-should-do-more-for-the-homeless Giselle Routhier grouthier@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cluster-apartments-convert.jpg" alt="cluster apartments convert" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio has been under constant fire for offering homeless New Yorkers access to just 5 percent of the units created and preserved by his 12-year, 300,000-unit affordable housing plan, even as homelessness has reached a new all-time record high. He has been confronted at his home, at the gym in Park Slope, and on the steps of City Hall, with a growing coalition of advocates, experts, elected officials, and homeless families demanding that the mayor increase that figure to 10 percent of the total, including 20 percent of all new construction. This would result in 30,000 units of affordable, permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers, with 24,000 units to be created through new construction, by 2026.</p> <p>The progressive mayor who campaigned to end the “tale of two cities” has responded dismissively, sometimes with anger – and always with a series of excuses that don’t hold up to closer examination. Let’s take a look:</p> <p>The mayor says his <em>Housing New York 2.0</em> plan addresses the affordable housing crisis for everyone, and adding more homeless units would take access to housing away from other New Yorkers who need it. But here’s the thing: New York City’s affordability crisis disparately impacts those with the lowest incomes. There is no shortage of private market apartments affordable to higher-income households: the vacancy rate for units renting above $2,500 per month is in fact a whopping 8.74 percent, while the vacancy rate for apartments renting for less than $800 per month is only about 1 percent.</p> <p>Yet a full <em>20 percent</em> of the mayor’s housing plan is for households making between $70,000 and $142,000 annually, at rents ranging from $1,700 to $3,500 per month, while at the same time dedicating a mere 5 percent to help homeless New Yorkers. Fully 10 percent of the apartments created through the mayor’s plan will have rents at or above $2,500 per month, a level at which there is currently a glut of vacant units. The mayor’s housing plan should target its help for those who need it most.</p> <p>The mayor says his housing plan is just a small part of what the city is doing to address homelessness. That much is true, but it is not a fact to be proud of. Mayor de Blasio plans to build only 200 new apartments per year for homeless New Yorkers out of the 10,500 apartments per year to be constructed between now and 2026. Other programs implemented by the city that serve homeless people with disabilities, help pay off rent arrears, or provide subsidies for market-rate apartments can’t meaningfully reduce homelessness unless the city also sets aside far more newly-constructed housing for the homeless. The numbers bear this out: homelessness continues at record levels five years into de Blasio's New York, with more than 63,500 people sleeping in city shelters each night, including over 23,000 children. They are paying an extraordinary price for bad policy, as is our city as a whole.</p> <p>And finally, the mayor says that adding more homeless housing to his plan is not financially feasible. But the House Our Future NY Campaign is urging Mayor de Blasio to designate just 10 percent of his overall housing plan, including 20 percent of the new construction target, for homeless New Yorkers: 30,000 units overall, with 24,000 to be created through new construction. Funds the mayor has already committed to the plan, including over $1.3 billion in city funds each year for the next eight years, show that the mayor has the resources to significantly reduce homelessness. He simply lacks the will.</p> <p>The mayor’s obstinacy in the face of record homelessness and an ongoing housing crisis for low-income New Yorkers belies his professed values as a progressive leader. Without swift course correction, this wrong-headed approach will lock the City of New York in a state of ever-expanding homelessness for the foreseeable future. The only way out is with bold solutions. Mayor de Blasio must immediately dedicate 10 percent of his housing plan, including 20 percent of all new construction, to house homeless New Yorkers. Tens of thousands of our neighbors languishing in shelters and on the streets – indeed all New Yorkers – deserve a housing plan that offers a responsive and robust answer to record homelessness, not more equivocation in the false promise of fairness for all.</p> <p>A full examination of the Mayor’s claims can be read in a new policy brief released by the Coalition for the Homeless <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/HousingDisconnectReport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Giselle Routhier is Policy Director for Coalition for the Homeless.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cluster-apartments-convert.jpg" alt="cluster apartments convert" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio has been under constant fire for offering homeless New Yorkers access to just 5 percent of the units created and preserved by his 12-year, 300,000-unit affordable housing plan, even as homelessness has reached a new all-time record high. He has been confronted at his home, at the gym in Park Slope, and on the steps of City Hall, with a growing coalition of advocates, experts, elected officials, and homeless families demanding that the mayor increase that figure to 10 percent of the total, including 20 percent of all new construction. This would result in 30,000 units of affordable, permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers, with 24,000 units to be created through new construction, by 2026.</p> <p>The progressive mayor who campaigned to end the “tale of two cities” has responded dismissively, sometimes with anger – and always with a series of excuses that don’t hold up to closer examination. Let’s take a look:</p> <p>The mayor says his <em>Housing New York 2.0</em> plan addresses the affordable housing crisis for everyone, and adding more homeless units would take access to housing away from other New Yorkers who need it. But here’s the thing: New York City’s affordability crisis disparately impacts those with the lowest incomes. There is no shortage of private market apartments affordable to higher-income households: the vacancy rate for units renting above $2,500 per month is in fact a whopping 8.74 percent, while the vacancy rate for apartments renting for less than $800 per month is only about 1 percent.</p> <p>Yet a full <em>20 percent</em> of the mayor’s housing plan is for households making between $70,000 and $142,000 annually, at rents ranging from $1,700 to $3,500 per month, while at the same time dedicating a mere 5 percent to help homeless New Yorkers. Fully 10 percent of the apartments created through the mayor’s plan will have rents at or above $2,500 per month, a level at which there is currently a glut of vacant units. The mayor’s housing plan should target its help for those who need it most.</p> <p>The mayor says his housing plan is just a small part of what the city is doing to address homelessness. That much is true, but it is not a fact to be proud of. Mayor de Blasio plans to build only 200 new apartments per year for homeless New Yorkers out of the 10,500 apartments per year to be constructed between now and 2026. Other programs implemented by the city that serve homeless people with disabilities, help pay off rent arrears, or provide subsidies for market-rate apartments can’t meaningfully reduce homelessness unless the city also sets aside far more newly-constructed housing for the homeless. The numbers bear this out: homelessness continues at record levels five years into de Blasio's New York, with more than 63,500 people sleeping in city shelters each night, including over 23,000 children. They are paying an extraordinary price for bad policy, as is our city as a whole.</p> <p>And finally, the mayor says that adding more homeless housing to his plan is not financially feasible. But the House Our Future NY Campaign is urging Mayor de Blasio to designate just 10 percent of his overall housing plan, including 20 percent of the new construction target, for homeless New Yorkers: 30,000 units overall, with 24,000 to be created through new construction. Funds the mayor has already committed to the plan, including over $1.3 billion in city funds each year for the next eight years, show that the mayor has the resources to significantly reduce homelessness. He simply lacks the will.</p> <p>The mayor’s obstinacy in the face of record homelessness and an ongoing housing crisis for low-income New Yorkers belies his professed values as a progressive leader. Without swift course correction, this wrong-headed approach will lock the City of New York in a state of ever-expanding homelessness for the foreseeable future. The only way out is with bold solutions. Mayor de Blasio must immediately dedicate 10 percent of his housing plan, including 20 percent of all new construction, to house homeless New Yorkers. Tens of thousands of our neighbors languishing in shelters and on the streets – indeed all New Yorkers – deserve a housing plan that offers a responsive and robust answer to record homelessness, not more equivocation in the false promise of fairness for all.</p> <p>A full examination of the Mayor’s claims can be read in a new policy brief released by the Coalition for the Homeless <a href="http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/HousingDisconnectReport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Giselle Routhier is Policy Director for Coalition for the Homeless.</p> <p>

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New York Needs to Restore Access to Driver’s Licenses for All in 2019 2018-12-10T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8129-new-york-needs-to-restore-access-to-driver-s-licenses-for-all-in-2019 Luis Sepulveda & Javier Valdés mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/access-drivers-op.jpg" alt="access drivers op" width="600" height="370" /></p> <p>a rally for driver's licenses for all (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>For many New Yorkers who cannot access public transportation and need to drive, a routine traffic stop can lead to something much worse than a ticket; it can lead to deportation. That’s why restoring equal access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers is not controversial, it is a necessity.</p> <p>All over the state, immigrants need to go to work, school, and attend doctor’s appointments, but in places like upstate New York, Long Island, and parts of New York City, a lack of public transportation means driving is the only option.</p> <p>Jorge Cotraro, a father and husband on Long Island, has been forced to drive without a license because he needs to get to work, and on time, and because missing his children’s doctor’s appointments is also not something he can afford. Every time that Jorge is forced to drive, he leaves his home with fear and uncertainty if he will be able to come home to his family because a routine traffic stop can lead him down the path to deportation. That’s because interactions with local law enforcement can trigger immigration consequences, as they’re often used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to justify detention and deportation. And it’s why Jorge, a member of community organization Make the Road New York, has joined his neighbors to fight for driver’s licenses for all across the state.</p> <p>New Yorkers should not fear that they will be separated from their family. For the first time in a decade, in January the New York State Legislature will be under complete Democratic control, with leading legislators in all chambers of state government who have stated publicly that they support restoring driver’s licenses for all. Legislation we strongly support will achieve this vital goal, and it’s time for us to move ahead and pass it in 2019.</p> <p>The legislation would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a Standard License to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, would then be able to be properly licensed as well as operate a registered, inspected, and insured vehicle -- helping make everyone safer.</p> <p>Besides being the right thing to do, this would lead to an economic boost to New York State. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, passing this legislation would yield an estimated <a href="https://greenlightny.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/final-drivers-licenses-report-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$57 million</a> in combined annual government revenues, plus $26 million in one-time revenues projected as a result of people getting licenses and purchasing vehicles. It’s no wonder that 12 states throughout the country, and Washington D.C and Puerto Rico, already allow all people of a certain age, regardless of immigration status, to drive. It’s also why our neighbors in New Jersey are moving towards passing a similar measure.</p> <p>Equal access to driver’s licenses for all will not only boost our economy and protect people like Jorge and his family, but it makes sense for the public safety of all New Yorkers. One of us is the ranking member of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction committee, and it is imperative that New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are able to come forward to report a crime. Undocumented New Yorkers should not fear prosecution for not having proper identification when coming in contact with local law enforcement.</p> <p>Support from elected officials for this effort is strong across the state. Governor Cuomo has said he supports this plan. In upstate New York, <a href="http://legislativegazette.com/sepulveda-crespo-bill-looks-to-extend-drivers-liscenses-to-undocumented-immigrants/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra</a> and his police department have spoken in favor of the “Driver’s License Access And Privacy Act.” <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-drivers-licenses-now-20180612-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn Borough President</a> Eric Adams has expressed the urgency and New York City <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-road-to-opportunity-granting-drivers-licenses-to-all-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Comptroller Scott Stringer</a> supports it. Many new State Senators-elect from across the state have expressed their support, making for strong momentum as the new Democratic majority takes the Senate reins in January.</p> <p>It is time we take the necessary steps to protect our communities, make our roads safer, and boost our economy. It’s time to restore access to driver’s licenses to all.</p> <p>***<br /> Luis Sepulveda is the New York State Senator for the 32nd District and sponsor of the driver’s license legislation. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/LuisSepulvedaNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LuisSepulvedaNY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JavierHValdes</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/access-drivers-op.jpg" alt="access drivers op" width="600" height="370" /></p> <p>a rally for driver's licenses for all (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>For many New Yorkers who cannot access public transportation and need to drive, a routine traffic stop can lead to something much worse than a ticket; it can lead to deportation. That’s why restoring equal access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers is not controversial, it is a necessity.</p> <p>All over the state, immigrants need to go to work, school, and attend doctor’s appointments, but in places like upstate New York, Long Island, and parts of New York City, a lack of public transportation means driving is the only option.</p> <p>Jorge Cotraro, a father and husband on Long Island, has been forced to drive without a license because he needs to get to work, and on time, and because missing his children’s doctor’s appointments is also not something he can afford. Every time that Jorge is forced to drive, he leaves his home with fear and uncertainty if he will be able to come home to his family because a routine traffic stop can lead him down the path to deportation. That’s because interactions with local law enforcement can trigger immigration consequences, as they’re often used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to justify detention and deportation. And it’s why Jorge, a member of community organization Make the Road New York, has joined his neighbors to fight for driver’s licenses for all across the state.</p> <p>New Yorkers should not fear that they will be separated from their family. For the first time in a decade, in January the New York State Legislature will be under complete Democratic control, with leading legislators in all chambers of state government who have stated publicly that they support restoring driver’s licenses for all. Legislation we strongly support will achieve this vital goal, and it’s time for us to move ahead and pass it in 2019.</p> <p>The legislation would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a Standard License to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, would then be able to be properly licensed as well as operate a registered, inspected, and insured vehicle -- helping make everyone safer.</p> <p>Besides being the right thing to do, this would lead to an economic boost to New York State. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, passing this legislation would yield an estimated <a href="https://greenlightny.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/final-drivers-licenses-report-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$57 million</a> in combined annual government revenues, plus $26 million in one-time revenues projected as a result of people getting licenses and purchasing vehicles. It’s no wonder that 12 states throughout the country, and Washington D.C and Puerto Rico, already allow all people of a certain age, regardless of immigration status, to drive. It’s also why our neighbors in New Jersey are moving towards passing a similar measure.</p> <p>Equal access to driver’s licenses for all will not only boost our economy and protect people like Jorge and his family, but it makes sense for the public safety of all New Yorkers. One of us is the ranking member of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction committee, and it is imperative that New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are able to come forward to report a crime. Undocumented New Yorkers should not fear prosecution for not having proper identification when coming in contact with local law enforcement.</p> <p>Support from elected officials for this effort is strong across the state. Governor Cuomo has said he supports this plan. In upstate New York, <a href="http://legislativegazette.com/sepulveda-crespo-bill-looks-to-extend-drivers-liscenses-to-undocumented-immigrants/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra</a> and his police department have spoken in favor of the “Driver’s License Access And Privacy Act.” <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-drivers-licenses-now-20180612-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn Borough President</a> Eric Adams has expressed the urgency and New York City <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-road-to-opportunity-granting-drivers-licenses-to-all-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Comptroller Scott Stringer</a> supports it. Many new State Senators-elect from across the state have expressed their support, making for strong momentum as the new Democratic majority takes the Senate reins in January.</p> <p>It is time we take the necessary steps to protect our communities, make our roads safer, and boost our economy. It’s time to restore access to driver’s licenses to all.</p> <p>***<br /> Luis Sepulveda is the New York State Senator for the 32nd District and sponsor of the driver’s license legislation. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/LuisSepulvedaNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@LuisSepulvedaNY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JavierHValdes</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Moving Toward a Metro-Regional Approach to Planning and Advocacy 2018-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8126-moving-toward-a-metropolitan-regional-approach-to-planning-and-advocacy Devin Balkind dbalkind@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/metro-region-explorer3.jpg" alt="metro region explorer3" height="525" /></p> <p>(photo via NYC Planning)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City and its neighbors have a problem. Unlike Los Angeles, Chicago, and the other major U.S. metropolitan areas that fit neatly within the standard city, county, and state political boundaries, our metropolitan area of over 22 million people does not. We’re spread out over four states and 26 counties, five of which are called “boroughs” and were integrated together to create our city over 100 years ago.</p> <p>All these complex boundaries and jurisdictions have resulted in a metropolitan area that has been “divided and conquered” by the politics of patronage, enabling networks of political insiders and special interest groups to dominate New York City’s electorate, advancing their own interests at the expense of ours. This has resulted in our area’s city and state governments passing higher taxes and providing lower quality services, more corruption, and less infrastructure investment than comparable cities and regions around the world.</p> <p>We deserve better.</p> <p>People living in the New York Metropolitan Area (NYMETA) might live over 100 miles apart, but we still work at the same jobs and in the same industries, go to many of the same universities and hospitals, and root for (or at least have strong opinions about) the same sports teams. We often travel the same roads, ride the same train lines, use the same airports, drink from some of the same aquifers, eat the same foods, and get rained on from the same clouds.</p> <p>With so much shared environment and infrastructure, you’d think that there would be powerful entities helping us align our shared interests, coordinate our actions, and deliver us results at a regional scale. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.</p> <p>There is no single entity or group responsible for systematic coordination within our metropolitan area. Instead, we have a hodgepodge of coordinating bodies spanning different sectors, areas and functions. Sometimes those bodies are prestigious nonprofit entities with relatively meager budgets like the Regional Planning Association, other times they’re multi-state authorities with huge budgets run by political elites like the Port Authority, and often it’s informal coordinating bodies that do little more than network individuals and hold annual meetings, and most commonly, there is just no coordination taking place at all.</p> <p>What types of opportunities could a better coordinated region be generating? Here are some examples.</p> <p>We’re experiencing a housing crunch in New York City, and there are a myriad of housing development opportunities in the Hudson River Valley and tons of New Yorkers who’d happily commute from a high rise in Poughkeepsie to a job in Midtown Manhattan if the commute could be done in under two hours and for a reasonable price. A coordinating body -- let’s call it NYMETA -- would be responsible for bringing all the players together: Metro North Railroad, town governments, real estate developers, and New York City to streamline regulatory processes, align incentives, and get deals made and buildings built.</p> <p>Another example: New York City schools are feeding over a million kids a day, our regions small farms are looking for reliable consumers of their products, and the school system is looking for locally sourced healthy food, but their corporate contractors are trucking in frozen produce from hundreds of miles away. The city is also building programs that expose youth to nature, rural communities, and agricultural-based industries. NYMETA could work with rural counties to help them aggregate and organize food supply, and work with New York City to aggregate and organize school demand, and then build the relationships needed to get our kids eating healthy local food and empowering our regional farmers at the same time.</p> <p>Beyond managing classic coordination challenges like road and rail linkages, we also need an entity that can represent our region on the national and global stages, where major cities and their regions are playing an increasingly important role in global affairs. Many leaders, including major CEOs, politicians, philanthropists, philosophers, and futurists have predicted that, over the course of the 21st century, nation-states will cede more and more political power to cities and metro-regional governments, and those governments will network together to coordinate policies at global scale.</p> <p>Evidence of the rise this “municipalist” power structure is everywhere, from the United Nations HABITAT conference that brought cities together through the U.N. structure for the very first time in 2016, to various networks of city governments like the League of Cities and Networks of Cities, and through outcomes like the C40 process to tackle global warming. Places like Paris and Los Angeles have, through the luck of sensible political boundaries, entities that can, to some extent, represent their metro region at these events. NYMETA could perform this function for us, enabling our region to leverage our massive population and other resources when negotiating agreements and deals with other major global regions, not to mention what could be done within the U.S.</p> <p>An important step towards any political organizing project is collecting and displaying the most basic information about geography and demographics. Who would fall within a metro regional government? What would its boundaries be? The new <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Metro Region Explorer</a> website from New York City’s premier digital service organization, <a href="https://planninglabs.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYC Planning Labs</a>, answers these questions with an open source software tool that mashes a bunch of datasets about our metro region together to provide data-driven stories about demographics, employment, housing, and other baseline statistics needed to understand our region.</p> <p>Unlike many GIS tools with lots of confusing check boxes that you need to click off and on to get useful information, Metro Region Explorer does the work for you by giving you some stories you can toggle through and menu items that reveal the most important data. Click around the site and insights will likely pop into your head as they did mine: New Jersey is <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/Housing/multifamily-permitted" target="_blank" rel="noopener">building tons of housing</a> while western Nassau and eastern Westchester counties aren’t. Lots of jobs are <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/Jobs/private-employment-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">moving out of Connecticut</a> and into New York City and Long Island. Central Jersey has a <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/People/foreign-born#6.87/40.857/-73.528" target="_blank" rel="noopener">huge immigrant population</a>. Wow.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/tristate-map.png" alt="tristate map" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Metro Explorer isn’t just a cool mapping tool for planning nerds. As Gotham Gazette reported in its article “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7686-with-new-data-city-takes-first-step-toward-regional-planning" target="_blank" rel="noopener">With New Data, City Takes First Step Toward Regional Planning</a>,” its development indicates that the city is getting serious about improving our region’s capacity to understand itself and coordinate between and among jurisdictions.</p> <p>As the largest government with the most capacity in the region, it’s up to New York City to begin the process of developing a more integrated regional coordinating body. But building a dedicated office to do this work is not enough. We need an entity accountable to the 22 million people, 900 municipalities, and 26 counties of NYMETA. Developing such an entity will produce tangible benefits in the short term and create a whole new set of opportunities over the long term.</p> <p>It’s time to start envisioning NYMETA.</p> <p>***<br /> Devin Balkind is a technologist and nonprofit executive who works on civic technology projects in New York City. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/DevinBalkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @DevinBalkind</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/metro-region-explorer3.jpg" alt="metro region explorer3" height="525" /></p> <p>(photo via NYC Planning)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City and its neighbors have a problem. Unlike Los Angeles, Chicago, and the other major U.S. metropolitan areas that fit neatly within the standard city, county, and state political boundaries, our metropolitan area of over 22 million people does not. We’re spread out over four states and 26 counties, five of which are called “boroughs” and were integrated together to create our city over 100 years ago.</p> <p>All these complex boundaries and jurisdictions have resulted in a metropolitan area that has been “divided and conquered” by the politics of patronage, enabling networks of political insiders and special interest groups to dominate New York City’s electorate, advancing their own interests at the expense of ours. This has resulted in our area’s city and state governments passing higher taxes and providing lower quality services, more corruption, and less infrastructure investment than comparable cities and regions around the world.</p> <p>We deserve better.</p> <p>People living in the New York Metropolitan Area (NYMETA) might live over 100 miles apart, but we still work at the same jobs and in the same industries, go to many of the same universities and hospitals, and root for (or at least have strong opinions about) the same sports teams. We often travel the same roads, ride the same train lines, use the same airports, drink from some of the same aquifers, eat the same foods, and get rained on from the same clouds.</p> <p>With so much shared environment and infrastructure, you’d think that there would be powerful entities helping us align our shared interests, coordinate our actions, and deliver us results at a regional scale. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.</p> <p>There is no single entity or group responsible for systematic coordination within our metropolitan area. Instead, we have a hodgepodge of coordinating bodies spanning different sectors, areas and functions. Sometimes those bodies are prestigious nonprofit entities with relatively meager budgets like the Regional Planning Association, other times they’re multi-state authorities with huge budgets run by political elites like the Port Authority, and often it’s informal coordinating bodies that do little more than network individuals and hold annual meetings, and most commonly, there is just no coordination taking place at all.</p> <p>What types of opportunities could a better coordinated region be generating? Here are some examples.</p> <p>We’re experiencing a housing crunch in New York City, and there are a myriad of housing development opportunities in the Hudson River Valley and tons of New Yorkers who’d happily commute from a high rise in Poughkeepsie to a job in Midtown Manhattan if the commute could be done in under two hours and for a reasonable price. A coordinating body -- let’s call it NYMETA -- would be responsible for bringing all the players together: Metro North Railroad, town governments, real estate developers, and New York City to streamline regulatory processes, align incentives, and get deals made and buildings built.</p> <p>Another example: New York City schools are feeding over a million kids a day, our regions small farms are looking for reliable consumers of their products, and the school system is looking for locally sourced healthy food, but their corporate contractors are trucking in frozen produce from hundreds of miles away. The city is also building programs that expose youth to nature, rural communities, and agricultural-based industries. NYMETA could work with rural counties to help them aggregate and organize food supply, and work with New York City to aggregate and organize school demand, and then build the relationships needed to get our kids eating healthy local food and empowering our regional farmers at the same time.</p> <p>Beyond managing classic coordination challenges like road and rail linkages, we also need an entity that can represent our region on the national and global stages, where major cities and their regions are playing an increasingly important role in global affairs. Many leaders, including major CEOs, politicians, philanthropists, philosophers, and futurists have predicted that, over the course of the 21st century, nation-states will cede more and more political power to cities and metro-regional governments, and those governments will network together to coordinate policies at global scale.</p> <p>Evidence of the rise this “municipalist” power structure is everywhere, from the United Nations HABITAT conference that brought cities together through the U.N. structure for the very first time in 2016, to various networks of city governments like the League of Cities and Networks of Cities, and through outcomes like the C40 process to tackle global warming. Places like Paris and Los Angeles have, through the luck of sensible political boundaries, entities that can, to some extent, represent their metro region at these events. NYMETA could perform this function for us, enabling our region to leverage our massive population and other resources when negotiating agreements and deals with other major global regions, not to mention what could be done within the U.S.</p> <p>An important step towards any political organizing project is collecting and displaying the most basic information about geography and demographics. Who would fall within a metro regional government? What would its boundaries be? The new <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Metro Region Explorer</a> website from New York City’s premier digital service organization, <a href="https://planninglabs.nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYC Planning Labs</a>, answers these questions with an open source software tool that mashes a bunch of datasets about our metro region together to provide data-driven stories about demographics, employment, housing, and other baseline statistics needed to understand our region.</p> <p>Unlike many GIS tools with lots of confusing check boxes that you need to click off and on to get useful information, Metro Region Explorer does the work for you by giving you some stories you can toggle through and menu items that reveal the most important data. Click around the site and insights will likely pop into your head as they did mine: New Jersey is <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/Housing/multifamily-permitted" target="_blank" rel="noopener">building tons of housing</a> while western Nassau and eastern Westchester counties aren’t. Lots of jobs are <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/Jobs/private-employment-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener">moving out of Connecticut</a> and into New York City and Long Island. Central Jersey has a <a href="https://metroexplorer.planning.nyc.gov/People/foreign-born#6.87/40.857/-73.528" target="_blank" rel="noopener">huge immigrant population</a>. Wow.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/tristate-map.png" alt="tristate map" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Metro Explorer isn’t just a cool mapping tool for planning nerds. As Gotham Gazette reported in its article “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7686-with-new-data-city-takes-first-step-toward-regional-planning" target="_blank" rel="noopener">With New Data, City Takes First Step Toward Regional Planning</a>,” its development indicates that the city is getting serious about improving our region’s capacity to understand itself and coordinate between and among jurisdictions.</p> <p>As the largest government with the most capacity in the region, it’s up to New York City to begin the process of developing a more integrated regional coordinating body. But building a dedicated office to do this work is not enough. We need an entity accountable to the 22 million people, 900 municipalities, and 26 counties of NYMETA. Developing such an entity will produce tangible benefits in the short term and create a whole new set of opportunities over the long term.</p> <p>It’s time to start envisioning NYMETA.</p> <p>***<br /> Devin Balkind is a technologist and nonprofit executive who works on civic technology projects in New York City. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/DevinBalkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @DevinBalkind</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Handicapping the Public Advocate Special Election 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8124-handicapping-the-public-advocate-special-election Eli Valentin evalentin@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14907018821_253c6b17b0_z.jpg" alt="Jumaane Williams Melissa Mark-Viverito" width="600" height="385" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams &amp; Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>New Yorkers who think they are done with elections until 2020 will be in for a rude awakening when Mayor Bill de Blasio calls a special election to fill the vacancy of the Public Advocate position. The position’s current occupant, Letitia James, was elected in November to become New York State Attorney General, and will switch posts at the beginning of January. In all likelihood, New York City voters will head to the polls again at the end of February. With so much at stake—the Public Advocate is next in line in the case of a mayoral resignation or death—New Yorkers need to know the lay of the land in this important race.<br /> <br /><strong>The Top Candidates</strong><br /> As can be expected for an open seat election, there is a crowded field of candidates vying to replace James. Who are the top candidates? I believe there are four in the top tier:<br /> <br /><em>Michael Blake</em><br />The young Bronx Assembly member is undoubtedly a formidable candidate. Blake is smart, charismatic, and ambitious. He has several things to capitalize on in this race. One, he’s a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and former member of the Obama administration. His relationship with national Democratic leaders can surely help him raise money quickly, which he did for his initial Assembly win in a competitive race. Being able to raise money quickly in this type of race, which is citywide and short by law, will give him a distinct advantage. Blake is also, at the time of writing, the only Bronx candidate. Manhattan and Brooklyn each have several candidates vying for this seat, so Blake can potentially overwhelm his opponents in the Boogie Down borough.<br /> <br /><em>Melissa Mark-Viverito</em><br />As the former speaker of the City Council, Mark-Viverito will be one of two candidates in this race with higher name recognition. In such a shortened and fast-paced election, name recognition will be especially pivotal. Furthermore, Mark-Viverito has always maintained close relationships with key labor groups, having once been employed by the state’s biggest union, 1199 (though Blake also has close ties to 1199). If some of these bigger labor groups decide to back her, she will be a force to be reckoned with. There are some observers that list Mark-Viverito’s Latina background as another advantage, but with City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in the race (he represents a district with the highest Latino turnout in the city), as well as City Council Member Rafael Espinal, it is not a given that Mark-Viverito will win the lion’s share of the Latino vote.<br /> <br /><em>Danny O’Donnell</em><br />The Upper West Side Assembly member (and brother of comedian/actress Rosie O’Donnell) has long represented the district with the highest Democratic turnout in the nation. As was evident in Scott Stringer’s 2013 race for Comptroller, among others, the Upper West Side vote can be pivotal in a close race. As a long-time progressive champion, and representing this key region of the city, O’Donnell will be one to watch.<br /> <br /><em>Jumaane Williams</em><br />The Brooklyn City Council member is coming off an impressive lieutenant governor race against the eventual winner, Kathy Hochul. Without a doubt, Williams will join Mark-Viverito as the other candidate with the highest name recognition. Yet Williams is hardly a shoo-in for this seat. In that most recent race, he benefited from a certain wing of the Democratic electorate that has been dissatisfied with Governor Cuomo. Williams was able to capitalize on that voter dissatisfaction then. But this is a quite different race.<br /> <br /><strong>Key Outside Players</strong><br />In an election such as this one—a shortened election cycle and a citywide race with candidates that are generally unknown to the wider electorate—the impact of outside groups could be great. Here are a few of the most prominent potential players in the special election for Public Advocate who could help swing the race.<br /> <br /><em>Labor</em><br />Big labor unions can potentially play an outsized role in this race; unions such as 1199, DC 37, 32BJ. These labor groups come with proven and well-oiled political operations that can be quickly put to use on behalf of their candidates, including their access to foot soldiers readily available to promote candidates. Yet much will hinge on whether labor agrees to back one candidate or splinters into different factions -- or if most unions stay out of the race altogether given the many candidates and unpredictable nature.<br /> <br /><em>PACs</em><br />The 2013 citywide elections saw the rise of outside interest groups that spent loads of money on city races for mayor through City Council. Some of the PACs were formed by real estate interest groups and some by charter school advocates, among others. Millions were poured into races across the city. Will these groups see a need to invest in this special election?<br /> <br /><em>Party Organizations</em><br />While the influence of party organizations continues to wane, two party committees persist in wielding some influence—the Queens and Bronx Democratic organizations. In a shortened campaign season, a unified party operation could impact the election. It remains to be seen who these respective party organizations will endorse, and eyes should stay focused on what Chairs Joe Crowley and Marcos Crespo will do.<br /> <br /><strong>Where will the race be decided?</strong><br />History suggests that special elections elicit low voter turnout. This election for public advocate will likely be no different, especially since the election will probably take place in February. New York City voters are not accustomed to battling the brisk winter air to get to the polls.<br /> <br />To complicate matters further for political observers and analysts in New York, there is really no precedent when it comes to a citywide special election, since we have not had one in recent memory. But perhaps the public advocate runoff election of 2013 can suggest how voter participation might look in such a context.<br /> <br />Interestingly, 67% of that vote, when James defeated then-State Senator Dan Squadron, came from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Given Brooklyn’s size and Manhattan’s solid voting participation, expect similar numbers this coming February. What these numbers mean for the respective candidates will remain to be seen. But they would be wise to focus efforts in those two boroughs.<br /> <br />It will be an intense, crowded, short race. Let the campaign for public advocate begin!</p> <p>***<br />Eli Valentin teaches political science at Monroe College and is a frequent guest political analyst on Univision NY. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@elivalentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/14907018821_253c6b17b0_z.jpg" alt="Jumaane Williams Melissa Mark-Viverito" width="600" height="385" /></p> <p>Jumaane Williams &amp; Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>New Yorkers who think they are done with elections until 2020 will be in for a rude awakening when Mayor Bill de Blasio calls a special election to fill the vacancy of the Public Advocate position. The position’s current occupant, Letitia James, was elected in November to become New York State Attorney General, and will switch posts at the beginning of January. In all likelihood, New York City voters will head to the polls again at the end of February. With so much at stake—the Public Advocate is next in line in the case of a mayoral resignation or death—New Yorkers need to know the lay of the land in this important race.<br /> <br /><strong>The Top Candidates</strong><br /> As can be expected for an open seat election, there is a crowded field of candidates vying to replace James. Who are the top candidates? I believe there are four in the top tier:<br /> <br /><em>Michael Blake</em><br />The young Bronx Assembly member is undoubtedly a formidable candidate. Blake is smart, charismatic, and ambitious. He has several things to capitalize on in this race. One, he’s a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and former member of the Obama administration. His relationship with national Democratic leaders can surely help him raise money quickly, which he did for his initial Assembly win in a competitive race. Being able to raise money quickly in this type of race, which is citywide and short by law, will give him a distinct advantage. Blake is also, at the time of writing, the only Bronx candidate. Manhattan and Brooklyn each have several candidates vying for this seat, so Blake can potentially overwhelm his opponents in the Boogie Down borough.<br /> <br /><em>Melissa Mark-Viverito</em><br />As the former speaker of the City Council, Mark-Viverito will be one of two candidates in this race with higher name recognition. In such a shortened and fast-paced election, name recognition will be especially pivotal. Furthermore, Mark-Viverito has always maintained close relationships with key labor groups, having once been employed by the state’s biggest union, 1199 (though Blake also has close ties to 1199). If some of these bigger labor groups decide to back her, she will be a force to be reckoned with. There are some observers that list Mark-Viverito’s Latina background as another advantage, but with City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in the race (he represents a district with the highest Latino turnout in the city), as well as City Council Member Rafael Espinal, it is not a given that Mark-Viverito will win the lion’s share of the Latino vote.<br /> <br /><em>Danny O’Donnell</em><br />The Upper West Side Assembly member (and brother of comedian/actress Rosie O’Donnell) has long represented the district with the highest Democratic turnout in the nation. As was evident in Scott Stringer’s 2013 race for Comptroller, among others, the Upper West Side vote can be pivotal in a close race. As a long-time progressive champion, and representing this key region of the city, O’Donnell will be one to watch.<br /> <br /><em>Jumaane Williams</em><br />The Brooklyn City Council member is coming off an impressive lieutenant governor race against the eventual winner, Kathy Hochul. Without a doubt, Williams will join Mark-Viverito as the other candidate with the highest name recognition. Yet Williams is hardly a shoo-in for this seat. In that most recent race, he benefited from a certain wing of the Democratic electorate that has been dissatisfied with Governor Cuomo. Williams was able to capitalize on that voter dissatisfaction then. But this is a quite different race.<br /> <br /><strong>Key Outside Players</strong><br />In an election such as this one—a shortened election cycle and a citywide race with candidates that are generally unknown to the wider electorate—the impact of outside groups could be great. Here are a few of the most prominent potential players in the special election for Public Advocate who could help swing the race.<br /> <br /><em>Labor</em><br />Big labor unions can potentially play an outsized role in this race; unions such as 1199, DC 37, 32BJ. These labor groups come with proven and well-oiled political operations that can be quickly put to use on behalf of their candidates, including their access to foot soldiers readily available to promote candidates. Yet much will hinge on whether labor agrees to back one candidate or splinters into different factions -- or if most unions stay out of the race altogether given the many candidates and unpredictable nature.<br /> <br /><em>PACs</em><br />The 2013 citywide elections saw the rise of outside interest groups that spent loads of money on city races for mayor through City Council. Some of the PACs were formed by real estate interest groups and some by charter school advocates, among others. Millions were poured into races across the city. Will these groups see a need to invest in this special election?<br /> <br /><em>Party Organizations</em><br />While the influence of party organizations continues to wane, two party committees persist in wielding some influence—the Queens and Bronx Democratic organizations. In a shortened campaign season, a unified party operation could impact the election. It remains to be seen who these respective party organizations will endorse, and eyes should stay focused on what Chairs Joe Crowley and Marcos Crespo will do.<br /> <br /><strong>Where will the race be decided?</strong><br />History suggests that special elections elicit low voter turnout. This election for public advocate will likely be no different, especially since the election will probably take place in February. New York City voters are not accustomed to battling the brisk winter air to get to the polls.<br /> <br />To complicate matters further for political observers and analysts in New York, there is really no precedent when it comes to a citywide special election, since we have not had one in recent memory. But perhaps the public advocate runoff election of 2013 can suggest how voter participation might look in such a context.<br /> <br />Interestingly, 67% of that vote, when James defeated then-State Senator Dan Squadron, came from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Given Brooklyn’s size and Manhattan’s solid voting participation, expect similar numbers this coming February. What these numbers mean for the respective candidates will remain to be seen. But they would be wise to focus efforts in those two boroughs.<br /> <br />It will be an intense, crowded, short race. Let the campaign for public advocate begin!</p> <p>***<br />Eli Valentin teaches political science at Monroe College and is a frequent guest political analyst on Univision NY. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@elivalentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Several Roads to Decarceration, All of Which Should Be Taken 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/environment/130-opinion/8123-several-roads-to-decarceration-all-of-which-should-be-taken Steven Zeidman sZeidman@ag.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govandcuo-dannemora.jpg" alt="govandcuo dannemora" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the year comes to a close, it is undeniably true that criminal justice reform is in the air. The federal First Step Act, even with critics on the left and right, heralds a less punitive approach than the “get tough on crime” policies of the past several decades. Recent elections yielded a number of prosecutors swept into office on platforms focused on confronting racial disparities and rethinking approaches to low-level offenses. Earlier this month, hundreds crammed into a hotel in West Hollywood for <a href="https://bit.ly/2ORPeyg" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Criminal Justice Summit</a> that brought together activists, journalists, celebrities, and philanthropists to talk about dismantling the punishment paradigm that has inflicted incalculable damage on communities of color. &nbsp;</p> <p>All of these efforts are righteous and long overdue but we need to think more expansively to redress the past 50 years of hyper-aggressive policing, processing, and punishing, and to make a dent in the physical embodiment of the plague of mass incarceration – the 2.2 million people, disproportionately black and brown, currently behind bars.</p> <p>To be crystal clear, this is not about innocence or so-called low-level, non-violent drug offenders. &nbsp;To tackle mass incarceration means facing head-on an emotionally charged question about punishment – how long must someone serve in prison for an admittedly violent act? &nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the august American Law Institute, a non-governmental organization of judges, lawyers and academics, approved the first-ever revisions to the historic Model Penal Code. One recommendation specifically addresses the epidemic of people behind bars. The Code now calls for state legislatures to enact a “second look” provision; to create a procedure to reexamine a person’s sentence after 15 years regardless of the crime of conviction or the length of the original sentence. Such a law would be a legislative recognition that a sentence once imposed is not thereby automatically rendered, just, fair and appropriate for eternity.</p> <p>There are several paths for newly-elected prosecutors to take to foster decarceration. One requires rethinking their approach to applications for parole, clemency, or resentencing. The common practice in most prosecutors’ offices is to oppose those applications when the crime of conviction was violent in nature. In those cases, the prosecutor’s focus is on the crime itself to the exclusion of serious consideration of who the person is today, decades after the crime. &nbsp;Instead, prosecutors should carefully examine who the person is at present -- what programs has he completed; has he shown insight into who he was and what he did; has he acknowledged his role in his crime, accepted responsibility, and conveyed genuine remorse for the harm he caused? Ultimately, is the evidence of rehabilitation such that more time in prison serves no purpose beyond inflicting eternal punishment?</p> <p>Many prosecutors’ offices now have Conviction Integrity Units that aim to ensure that innocent people have not been convicted. The best of these units have a significant measure of independence so that they can be as objective as possible and avoid the pitfalls of confirmation bias and tunnel vision. In similar fashion, prosecutors should establish independent Sentencing Review Units. Much like the legislation proposed by the Model Penal Code, these units would review all sentences after 15 years to determine whether a reduction is now appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>Parole boards across the country are regularly roundly criticized. It is common practice for cronyism to mark membership on the board in lieu of a diligent selection process looking for diverse and qualified people with directly relevant backgrounds and experience. It is also common knowledge that parole boards are reluctant or unwilling to release anyone serving time for a violent crime. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The laws, rules and regulations governing parole must be amended to dictate a forward-looking approach centered on what the person has accomplished while incarcerated, as opposed to the prevalent current practice that emphasizes the seriousness of the crime, a fact that can never change. This shift would also acknowledge the countless parole-eligible people who have aged out of crime and present no threat to public safety, as well as the elderly behind bars who are in the midst, or on the cusp, of health related problems.</p> <p>In Pennsylvania, more than 100 people have been released since the Supreme Court ordered states to take a second look at people who had received mandatory sentences of life without parole as juveniles. Not one of those people has been convicted of a new offense.</p> <p>All 50 state constitutions allow for some kind of executive clemency. The authority to grant clemency in the form of a sentence commutation is typically described as absolute and virtually incontrovertible. Power of the sort galvanized at the Summit in West Hollywood should be marshaled to compel governors to exercise their virtually unfettered, but seldom used, power to grant clemency.</p> <p>The timing is right -- besides the current clarion call for criminal justice reform, clemency is traditionally an end-of-year announcement cast as an act of benevolence consistent with the merciful spirit of the holidays. Just last week, California Governor Jerry Brown granted 70 sentence commutations, including for people convicted of murder.</p> <p>The crisis of mass incarceration has fueled a burgeoning movement for criminal justice reform. &nbsp;Multi-pronged efforts to decarcerate must be at the forefront of that movement.</p> <p>***<br /> Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveZeidman</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govandcuo-dannemora.jpg" alt="govandcuo dannemora" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the year comes to a close, it is undeniably true that criminal justice reform is in the air. The federal First Step Act, even with critics on the left and right, heralds a less punitive approach than the “get tough on crime” policies of the past several decades. Recent elections yielded a number of prosecutors swept into office on platforms focused on confronting racial disparities and rethinking approaches to low-level offenses. Earlier this month, hundreds crammed into a hotel in West Hollywood for <a href="https://bit.ly/2ORPeyg" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Criminal Justice Summit</a> that brought together activists, journalists, celebrities, and philanthropists to talk about dismantling the punishment paradigm that has inflicted incalculable damage on communities of color. &nbsp;</p> <p>All of these efforts are righteous and long overdue but we need to think more expansively to redress the past 50 years of hyper-aggressive policing, processing, and punishing, and to make a dent in the physical embodiment of the plague of mass incarceration – the 2.2 million people, disproportionately black and brown, currently behind bars.</p> <p>To be crystal clear, this is not about innocence or so-called low-level, non-violent drug offenders. &nbsp;To tackle mass incarceration means facing head-on an emotionally charged question about punishment – how long must someone serve in prison for an admittedly violent act? &nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the august American Law Institute, a non-governmental organization of judges, lawyers and academics, approved the first-ever revisions to the historic Model Penal Code. One recommendation specifically addresses the epidemic of people behind bars. The Code now calls for state legislatures to enact a “second look” provision; to create a procedure to reexamine a person’s sentence after 15 years regardless of the crime of conviction or the length of the original sentence. Such a law would be a legislative recognition that a sentence once imposed is not thereby automatically rendered, just, fair and appropriate for eternity.</p> <p>There are several paths for newly-elected prosecutors to take to foster decarceration. One requires rethinking their approach to applications for parole, clemency, or resentencing. The common practice in most prosecutors’ offices is to oppose those applications when the crime of conviction was violent in nature. In those cases, the prosecutor’s focus is on the crime itself to the exclusion of serious consideration of who the person is today, decades after the crime. &nbsp;Instead, prosecutors should carefully examine who the person is at present -- what programs has he completed; has he shown insight into who he was and what he did; has he acknowledged his role in his crime, accepted responsibility, and conveyed genuine remorse for the harm he caused? Ultimately, is the evidence of rehabilitation such that more time in prison serves no purpose beyond inflicting eternal punishment?</p> <p>Many prosecutors’ offices now have Conviction Integrity Units that aim to ensure that innocent people have not been convicted. The best of these units have a significant measure of independence so that they can be as objective as possible and avoid the pitfalls of confirmation bias and tunnel vision. In similar fashion, prosecutors should establish independent Sentencing Review Units. Much like the legislation proposed by the Model Penal Code, these units would review all sentences after 15 years to determine whether a reduction is now appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>Parole boards across the country are regularly roundly criticized. It is common practice for cronyism to mark membership on the board in lieu of a diligent selection process looking for diverse and qualified people with directly relevant backgrounds and experience. It is also common knowledge that parole boards are reluctant or unwilling to release anyone serving time for a violent crime. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The laws, rules and regulations governing parole must be amended to dictate a forward-looking approach centered on what the person has accomplished while incarcerated, as opposed to the prevalent current practice that emphasizes the seriousness of the crime, a fact that can never change. This shift would also acknowledge the countless parole-eligible people who have aged out of crime and present no threat to public safety, as well as the elderly behind bars who are in the midst, or on the cusp, of health related problems.</p> <p>In Pennsylvania, more than 100 people have been released since the Supreme Court ordered states to take a second look at people who had received mandatory sentences of life without parole as juveniles. Not one of those people has been convicted of a new offense.</p> <p>All 50 state constitutions allow for some kind of executive clemency. The authority to grant clemency in the form of a sentence commutation is typically described as absolute and virtually incontrovertible. Power of the sort galvanized at the Summit in West Hollywood should be marshaled to compel governors to exercise their virtually unfettered, but seldom used, power to grant clemency.</p> <p>The timing is right -- besides the current clarion call for criminal justice reform, clemency is traditionally an end-of-year announcement cast as an act of benevolence consistent with the merciful spirit of the holidays. Just last week, California Governor Jerry Brown granted 70 sentence commutations, including for people convicted of murder.</p> <p>The crisis of mass incarceration has fueled a burgeoning movement for criminal justice reform. &nbsp;Multi-pronged efforts to decarcerate must be at the forefront of that movement.</p> <p>***<br /> Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveZeidman</a>.</p> <p>

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