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News Feed http://www.gothamgazette.com/ Fri, 22 May 2015 20:48:10 GMT FeedCreator 1.8.0-dev (info@mypapit.net) City Council Highlights Gains in Participatory Budgeting Program http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5735-city-council-highlights-gains-in-participatory-budgeting-program kallos pb vote

PB voting in CD5 (photo: @BenKallos)

51,362. That's how many New Yorkers cast ballots in the recently-finished participatory budgeting cycle to determine which community projects receive funding. Implemented this year in 24 of the City Council's 51 districts, the participatory budgeting program sees council members devote $1 million or more in capital funding toward the community initiative. In a year-long process that engages district residents in local decision-making and community-building, New Yorkers not only have the opportunity to interact with each other and their local representatives, but also to learn about city government and budgeting.

And, perhaps most importantly, they have the chance to directly determine where some of the many billions of dollars the city govenrment spends each year goes. This year, those 24 council members dedicated a total of over $32 million to what is often referred to as "PB."

Rapidly expanding and just finishing its fourth year in New York City, "participatory budgeting breaks down barriers that New Yorkers may face at the polls—including youth, income status, English-language proficiency and citizenship status," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement Wednesday touting the cycle's results. Before becoming speaker, Mark-Viverito was one of the initial class of four council members who ran PB programs in their districts in the 2011-2012 cycle, when she was joined by Council Members Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, and Eric Ulrich. All four continue to run the program in their districts. After the first year, the program expanded to eight, then ten districts in the following two cycles.

The four aforementioned council members are now joined by 20 colleagues, in a big jump that may signal even more participation next year - members will decide this summer whether to hold PB in their districts for 2015-2016. Since becoming speaker in early 2014, Mark-Viverito launched a PB-focused unit in the Council that helps facilitate the process in the participating districts. Still, though, some council members have hesitated to run PB because of how demanding it can be on them and their staff - council members typically have to dedicate one staff member to PB almost full-time, especially during the busiest months of the cycle. The PB process includes informational sessions, brainstorming and project proposal meetings, and a voting process. Like many community initiatives, it leads to quite a bit of constituent engagement, which can tie up staff in terms of fielding inquiries and complaints as well as running events.

Brooklyn Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who is new to the Council and ran the program this year, said of those who took part in PB in his district: "In eight months they became extensions of my office in which they went on site visits and attended nightly meetings. They also took on the difficult task of assessing the various needs of our changing district, and participated in outreach to get people to vote." Winning projects in Reynoso's district are "P.S.19/Brooklyn Arbor for their Environmental Upgrade, P.S.196/M.S. 582 for their Community Media and Technology Libary, and Williamsburg Houses for their Playground Renovation."

The voting that was held in April was part of the 2014-2015 process - winning projects will soon be funded directly, with the city's 2015 fiscal year ending June 30 - and the Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio are currently negotiating the fiscal 2016 city budget, which will likely come in just shy of $80 billion and begins July 1. One thing that can be challenging for constituents is that the capital funding, spending, and building processes in New York City are not often as quick as many would like. It can take years for funded projects to be finished.

Relative to the city's eight-million-plus population, 51,362 may not appear a striking number, but, council members and community groups hail participatory budgeting as an effort that is working to expand democracy and engage New Yorkers with their local government and neighborhoods in new and important ways. The fact that the projects funded fall within capital spending allows district residents to shape the physical landscape of their communities - some of the funded projects include additions to parks and schools, the building of a playground or a dog run. One of the central community groups that receives Council funding to help implement PB is Community Voices Heard, and it is largely tasked with helping to ensure that people know about the opportunity to get involved. The organization's executive director, Sondra Youdelman, said that "At Community Voices Heard, we focused our efforts on engaging public housing residents and other people typically less active in traditional political processes. Allowing people's voices and votes to determine how to spend real money on real projects in their community is helping to transform how people see their relationship to government."

Individual council members made big productions in announcing the voting results in their districts, adding to the attention that many are focusing on PB as a progressive program. In its press release publicizing the overall results of the process, Mark-Viverito's office highlighted that about 5,000 of those who voted were under 18 years old. PB allows those 16 and older to participate, with some districts even allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to vote. The Council also highlights that of the 50,000-plus PB votes, "nearly 60% identified as people of color...nearly 30% reported an annual household income of $25,000 or below...more than a quarter were born outside of the U.S... 63% identified as female" and that about 5,000 reported "they were not U.S. citizens."

PB can also provide council members with important insights. Julissa Ferreras, council member from Queens and chair of the finance committee, said that not only did her community respond "with many great ideas to improve public safety, public spaces and education," but that "this process has affirmed what the priorities are in my district, and I will continue to use this information to guide my work moving forward." The newly funded projects in Ferreras' district include school smartboards, NYPD cameras, street lighting, and trees.

Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Note: this article has been updated to better reflect the annual PB process and delink it from specific fiscal year budgets; and corrected to reflect that CM Ulrich was part of the inaugural PB class, not CM Halloran.

bmax@gothamgazette.com (Ben Max) Thu, 21 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5735-city-council-highlights-gains-in-participatory-budgeting-program
Three 2015 District Attorney Races Set to Begin http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5736-three-2015-district-attorney-races-set-to-begin donovan swearing in

Former SI DA Dan Donovan is sworn in to Congress (@dandonovan_ny)

Voters can look forward to soon having a clearer picture of the potential contenders for the district attorney races on November’s ballot.

Three of New York’s five district attorney positions will be voted on this fall — in Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx — and signature petitioning to get on the ballot begins the first week in June. Brooklyn’s District Attorney, Ken Thompson, and Manhattan’s District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, will not face reelection until 2017.

While the incumbents in Queens and the Bronx are expected to run unopposed, former Staten Island district attorney Daniel Donovan’s departure in May following his election to Congress leaves that position up for grabs, with Republicans and Democrats grappling to choose official county party nominees. The parties will select their nominees at their respective conventions next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, in advance of the day on which candidates can begin petitioning, Tuesday June 2.

“I think the key date in many ways is next week, basically,” Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant and co-founder of Prime New York, said of the race in Staten Island. “If you want to start petitioning on June 2, you have to have your papers printed by June 1, I mean theoretically, people like to start on time.”

According to Skurnik, Democratic voters on Staten Island may find themselves faced with a competitive primary on September 10.

Matthew Smalls, a criminal defense attorney from Staten Island, announced in December that he would run against Donovan, motivated by the lack of indictment from the Eric Garner grand jury. Smalls confirmed to the Observer in February that he would still run following Donovan’s departure.

Former Congressmen Michael McMahon, Surrogate Court Judge Robert Gigante, and Criminal Court Judge Mario Mattei are also said to be considering running as Democrats. As sitting judges, Gigante and Mattei have been unable to comment on their possible involvement in the race.

Meanwhile, state Senator Andrew Lanza is considered the front-runner for Republicans, if he chooses to run. The Staten Island Advance reported Wednesday that GOP committee members are considering three contenders to fill the role: Lanza, retired New York Supreme Court Justice Andrew Giacobbe, and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon. The committee will choose a candidate at its party convention Tuesday.

“I read quotes from various other elected officials saying that if [Lanza] wanted to run they’d support him, which indicates to me that he wants to run and he’ll get the Republican nomination,” Skurnik said. “I think he’s clearly the strongest Republican candidate.”

Both Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown confirmed to the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago that they plan to run for reelection.

Johnson has found himself at the center of a series of controversies spanning his 26-year career as district attorney, most recently in April when it was reported that the Bronx DA’s office failed to take proper legal action as new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who is from the Bronx, made nearly $200,000 from property gained through his mother’s embezzling and despite court orders that he relinquish the property.

Still, Johnson is expected to cruise to reelection.

In Queens, DA Brown has served in the role since 1991, earning the title of the longest-serving DA in the borough’s history. There have been rumors that the 83-year-old Brown may retire, but he does not seem to be on the verge of stepping aside. And, Brown's support in Queens appears to continue to be strong.

"Judge Brown has done a phenomenal job as District Attorney," said Queens City Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the Council’s courts and legal services committee and a potential successor to Brown who is staunchly backing the incumbent. "He's maintained the highest conviction rate in the five boroughs while supporting new initiatives like Veterans Court and Human Trafficking Intervention Court that provide treatment and keep nonviolent offenders out of jail."

But Skurnik said the records of Johnson and Brown will not matter if they continue to run unopposed. (City Council Member Vincent Gentile attempted to make aspects of Donovan’s record as DA an issue in their congressional race, but his attacks had little effect.)

“Write-ins are always allowed in an election, but very rarely in a borough-wide election could a write-in candidate win. So if they run opposed it’s not going to matter as far as their election is concerned,” Skurnik said of their records. “Unless something happens I think they’re both going to be elected without opposition.”

Skurnik also predicted low voter turnout in Queens and the Bronx come November, especially given that it is a year without a mayoral, gubernatorial, or presidential election for New York City voters.

“An election like this year in most parts of the city where there’s no opposed candidates in November, the turnout is going to be really low,” Skurnik said. “People don’t come out if their vote is not needed.”

by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette

catie.edmondson@columbiaspectator.com (Catie Edmondson) Thu, 21 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5736-three-2015-district-attorney-races-set-to-begin
Fix NYCHA First http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5733-fix-nycha-first-de-blasio-bloom-lasner rangel-1

NYCHA buildings in Harlem (photo: David Schalliol)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have turned heads with bold plans for lifting 800,000 families out of poverty, boosting school performance, and making the city more livable and equitable for all. His OneNYC plan aims to do nothing less than convert New York City into a progressive Sweden on the Hudson. The affordable housing component of the plan, the outline of which was first announced last year, alone promises to help finance construction of 80,000 units of below-market subsidized housing, extend subsidies for 120,000 existing units, and stimulate construction of 160,000 market-rate apartments, in part to relieve overall pressure on prices.

Mayor de Blasio's planned investments stand in clear contrast to the strategies available to leaders of many other U.S. cities, such as Baltimore and Detroit, where permanent economic decline has rendered city halls all but helpless. De Blasio's broad ambition is laudable. But the truth of the matter is that the figure that matters most for the mayor's legacy is 178,000: the number of apartments in the city's public housing portfolio. If Mayor de Blasio doesn't fix NYCHA first, every other initiative will be forgotten.

NYCHA - the New York City Housing Authority - is an irreplaceable asset — home to half a million or more poor New Yorkers, some in the workforce and some living on disability and old-age pensions or other public assistance. Apartments are comfortably sized. Most are in decent neighborhoods, and some in highly desirable ones, with access to transit, shopping, and other services. Rents, which are tabulated as a share of a tenant's income, average just $464 a month. Evictions are rare, and only for egregious violations of policy. During the past recession, when many working families at NYCHA lost their jobs, having a public housing apartment prevented homelessness. Most complexes also offer a range of on-site social programs.

But these apartments are suffering from chronic underfunding and deferred maintenance after a decade and a half of attacks by conservative lawmakers in Washington on funding for public housing. (Historically, approximately fifty percent of funds of maintenance and operation came from federal grants.) What had been America's best big-city housing authority, known for a solid level of service and balanced budgets, now shows signs of severe strain.

Elevators have not been replaced or repaired quickly; major capital projects (facades, bathrooms, pipes, and roofs) have been deferred. Many local maintenance positions on NYCHA grounds — the key to swift repairs — have gone unfilled. Thousands of remaining staff still make millions of repairs every year, but leaky walls, aging pipes, and unsound parapets often undo even the best efforts. Inflexible union rules, a legacy of more financially flush eras, further complicate maintenance goals. The mayor's decision to move more homeless families into NYCHA buildings is adding further stresses, as the rents these families can pay is even less likely to cover costs than that of the current mixture of tenants.

Allowing this disinvestment to continue will devastate families and communities across the city. And further decline in conditions would cancel out any benefits of the new housing the mayor has called for, not least because few NYCHA residents are financially stable enough to qualify for the new units or would be lucky enough to secure one, given that homes are distributed by lottery and demand far outpaces supply. Most important, replacement — should conditions slide far enough to require that — is all but inconceivable, with construction costs for 178,000 new apartments estimated at $66 billion.


[Inside a NYCHA building (David Schalliol)]

Mayor de Blasio ran on a strong platform of revitalizing NYCHA and there are some encouraging signs of progress. New subsidies have been earmarked for NYCHA by the State of New York for the first time in years. And an impressive $3 billion dollars has also been promised by the federal government, although not through usual housing funds but in the form of disaster relief to aid 33 NYCHA developments damaged by Sandy.

Locally, de Blasio's NYCHA Chair, Shola Olatoye, has decentralized maintenance operations, returning control to on-site managers. Renovation contracts have been streamlined and are moving forward. A quick decision was made to sell a half-share in certain privately built complexes that had been developed under HUD's project-based Section 8 program but that were never up to NYCHA standards for quality, and that are now too far-gone for NYCHA to repair on its own. An additional 16,093 deteriorated units are planned for partial sale.

Of equal importance, de Blasio has begun relieving NYCHA of many expenses, making it more like a typical city agency than a semiautonomous authority responsible for generating its own income. Under this initiative, the city has installed new security cameras, relieved NYCHA of annual payments for policing and PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes), subsidized NYCHA community programs, and will shortly assume responsibility for 1,000 NYCHA administrative and clerical staff. Chair Olatoye has also announced plans to raise fees for parking and improve rent collection, although these will likely face resistance from residents.

BDB NYCHA via coreyinnyc

[Mayor de Blasio unveils his new NYCHA plan (photo: @CoreyinNYC)]

But Mayor de Blasio needs to do much more to keep the system from falling into complete disarray. Billions of additional dollars for capital improvements are needed (by one reckoning, $17 billion) to bring NYCHA complexes back to the high standards of earlier eras and ensure the health and safety of tenants. Yet unlike in those earlier eras when the city could count on Albany and Washington for aid, the only entity today with the liberal will to devote that kind of money to public housing is New York City itself.

The most promising solution is for city leaders to create a permanent, dedicated capital fund for rebuilding NYCHA with clear annual targets rather than dole out a limited amount each year as is done today, such as the $300 million recently allocated for roof repairs — an amount that is far less than required to undo the mold and leaks found in far too many buildings. To address the real scale of renovation needed, it may even be necessary to create a new city entity, outside NYCHA, with renovation of public housing as its sole purpose.

The proposal to lease or sell NYCHA parking lots, now back on the table with the administration's NextGeneration NYCHA plan, also merits wide support because it can yield additional millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of dollars for these necessary repairs. Some residents will lose their parking spaces and views, but the potential benefits to NYCHA residents as a whole outweigh any losses to individuals. Shifting the 10,000 NYCHA staff who will remain on NYCHA's books to city payrolls will also be required because rents paid by tenants are simply too far out of line with the agency's high wages.

The New York City Housing Authority's vast system is the legacy of a great period of liberalism in the U.S. that started in the 1930s and has endured in New York, despite many challenges, while fading elsewhere. The best way for Mayor de Blasio to reinvigorate broad support — locally but also in Albany and Washington — for the kinds of liberal programs on his agenda is to prove that existing ones like public housing are flexible, solvent, and of the highest quality. The 178,000 families who call NYCHA apartments home will hardly benefit from universal prekindergarten and other generous new initiatives if their homes become unlivable. And if that happens, Mayor de Blasio won't be remembered for much else.

by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner

Nicholas Dagen Bloom is associate professor at New York Institute of Technology and Matthew Gordon Lasner is assistant professor at Hunter College. They are co-editors of the forthcoming book "Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies that Transformed a City."

webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner) Wed, 20 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5733-fix-nycha-first-de-blasio-bloom-lasner
As He Campaigns for Top Priorities, Many Wonder Where Cuomo is on DREAM http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5734-as-he-campaigns-for-top-priorities-many-wonder-where-cuomo-is-on-dream Cuomo EITC

Gov. Cuomo on Sunday in Brooklyn (photo: Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)

It was as if Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on the campaign trail again last week, visiting Long Island and Buffalo one day and then four churches and a Yeshiva in Brooklyn on another. Cuomo doesn't have to run for office again for another three years, of course, but his barnstorming last week was designed to promote what he's calling a top priority: passing a $150 million plan mostly aimed at giving tax credits to families whose children attend private and religious schools and to others who donate to those schools. The push is so campaign-like that Cuomo's visage is plastered across television screens in ads sponsored by supporters of the Parental Choice in Education Act.

With the 2015 legislative session winding down Cuomo has been saying in no uncertain terms that he is committed to seeing the education tax credit pass. To some, Cuomo sounds like a guardian angel. To others, he sounds more like a villain. The governor's message has pained advocates and legislators who support the DREAM Act, which would allow qualifying undocumented immigrants access to state tuition assistance when attending college or university.

"It's upsetting to us because our members have been receiving daily mail with his face on it pushing for the education tax credit," said Javier Valdes of Make the Road New York, an advocacy group that includes many immigrants. "The only time we got mailers with his face on it supporting the DREAM Act is when he was running for re-election."

Cuomo touted The DREAM Act as a major priority during his 2014 re-election campaign - especially during visits to New York City - but it appears to many advocates and legislators that Cuomo is still holding the act hostage in an attempt to force the Assembly to pass the education tax credit. The Democrat-heavy Assembly has deep ties to teachers unions that oppose the tax credit, saying that it will take money away from traditional public schools.

At the same time, some advocates and legislators have withheld criticism of Cuomo, believing that Cuomo will move on the DREAM Act. The governor has continued to express support for the act, but not in such grand terms. Many believe he could and may still take executive action to create a tuition assistance program for immigrants within SUNY and CUNY. Even that possibility would not satisfy some legislators who want the act passed and fear executive action might serve as a distraction.

Cuomo linked the DREAM Act and an older version of the education tax credit in his budget proposal, angering supporters of each. Both measures were discarded from a final budget deal, but legislators who support DREAM say they had Cuomo's assurance he would return to the issue with a vengeance. Public enthusiasm from the governor has thus far been absent in the post-budget session. "Heck yes, it bothers me the governor isn't doing for the DREAM Act what he is out there doing now for the education tax credit," Assembly Member Francisco Moya told Gotham Gazette.

In some ways it appears the two issues have become wrapped up in Cuomo's war of attrition with forces in public education. Education advocates like Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education and Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers, both Cuomo foils, are adamantly opposed to the education tax credit because they say it will take away funding from public schools while benefitting large corporate donors - donors who have close relationships with Cuomo. The UFT has even launched a radio campaign called "Mr. Money Bags" slamming the tax credit and Cuomo.

Many legislators remain under the impression that Cuomo won't put his full force behind the DREAM Act until the Assembly passes the tax credit. "We need to see if the Assembly can't sort things out on the tax credit and after that I believe the Dream Act will come into play," Sen. Jose Peralta told Gotham Gazette.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which supports the DREAM Act, said the Assembly has plenty of reason to believe action on the tax credit will not get them anything on DREAM. "At the end of session everything is connected," said Horner. "But I would counsel the Assembly that some people have been known to promise things and forget those promises when it becomes convenient."

Cuomo was asked if he might link the DREAM Act and the education tax credit in his future advocacy during his stops in Brooklyn on Sunday.

"Yes," Cuomo responded. "There are about seven or eight bills that we're pushing. This is an event on this bill. You can go to the events on sexual assault and say 'are you only doing sexual assault? Why didn't you mention the Education Tax Credit at the sexual assault event?' It's because it's a sexual assault event. You can go to a DREAM Act event and say 'why didn't' you mention sexual assault?' So the DREAM Act is a priority, sexual assault is a priory, ETC is a priority, mayoral control is a priority, 421-a is a priority. They're all priorities."

If both issues remain linked it appears likely they will both fail, as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Tuesday that there wasn't enough support for the tax credit bill to pass his conference. "I still think the conference is where it is," Heastie said. "It still has some members that support it. It's an unwritten rule, but it's a rule: This is a governmental body and majority rules. I've been very clear that if we don't have a majority of Democrats to pass a bill, we're not going to bring it to the floor."

Heastie then tweaked Cuomo on the DREAM Act:

"We'd love to see the Dream Act passed," said Heastie. "But I think that's a question you need to ask the governor, why he's not out campaigning to get the Senate to pass the Dream Act."

As for executive action around the DREAM Act, there are some legislators who believe that Cuomo may be in the mood to make an impact on the issue without the help of the Legislature. Hamstrung by Senate Republicans on a minimum wage increase, Cuomo recently called for a state wage board to consider hiking the hourly rate for fast food workers. Some observers believe the move is boxing Republicans in on the issue by highlighting the popularity of a minimum wage increase and showing that Cuomo can take action without them.

However, some advocates worry that the move may give Republicans more reason to oppose actual legislation and that the same could happen if Cuomo takes executive action related to DREAM. Moya doesn't think things are that complicated.

"I think it would be a good thing but we are focused on working to see the governor keep his promise and deliver the DREAM Act before the end of the session," said Moya. "We've seen that when he puts his energy into an issue he can make anything happen."

Horner said that his organization has advocated the governor take executive action on other issues before and he doesn't see much reason the governor shouldn't act on tuition assistance for undocumented students.

"If the governor can take action and help students without giving the Legislature something then I think it is pretty cut and dry," said Horner.


by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) Wed, 20 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5734-as-he-campaigns-for-top-priorities-many-wonder-where-cuomo-is-on-dream
Now Law, New York to Create City Cultural Plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5730-now-law-new-york-to-create-city-cultural-plan BdB Van Bramer Levin

Mayor de Blasio signs the cultural plan bill into law (photo: @JimmyVanBramer) 

New York may be the considered the country's cultural capital, but the city has never had a comprehensive plan to outline its immense cultural assets, identify areas of need, and chart a path forward. A new law, passed by the City Council and signed on Monday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will change that.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, one of the bill's co-sponsors and chair of the Council's cultural affairs committee, laid out the plan's importance when introducing the bill. "Culture is the lifeblood of our city," he said to his City Council colleagues. "It inspires us, it teaches us, it engages us, it binds us - particularly in times like these. It drives our economy, but more importantly it feeds our collective souls."

Modeled after plans in other cities - such as Denver, Chicago and Boston - the goal is to assess cultural needs in each of the five boroughs and find new ways to support existing groups, especially in underserved communities. Ideas will also be explored to increase educational programming, develop partnerships with government agencies, and ensure affordability for artists.

The bill's other co-sponsor, Council Member Steve Levin, said that preserving all types of culture is key to the city's identity. "Our culture is who we are," he said. "If you look at every neighborhood throughout New York City it has a history, it has a heart, and it is made up of the hard work of generations that have come from all over the world here. And then we make this amazing, amazing mosaic of what it means to be New York."

The bill quickly earned the favor of the mayor as its thrust fits nicely with his push toward greater equity and opportunity across the city's five boroughs.

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, president of Manhattan's Caribbean Cultural Center, teaches a class at NYU called "Cultural Governance: The Process of Creating a Cultural Plan for New York City," with a focus on engaging local communities in the process. She stresses that maintaining diversity is essential to a city's character.

"How can you expect a city to thrive if you don't have the mix that you should have at all levels of the economic spectrum?" she asked rhetorically.

Vega said that one way to maintain this diversity is by funding smaller, community-based cultural groups. Currently, a handful of large institutions receive the majority of city funding. Yet programs run by local groups can often have a more direct effect on residents than a big museum might.

"It's not based on going some place. It's based on the quality of life that you live on a daily basis," she said.

ARTs East New York takes a local approach. The group provides arts education to children as young as three through their Young Artist Institute, helps revitalize the Brooklyn neighborhood with murals, holds free performance events, and encourages economic development with projects such as the recently opened [re]New Lots Market and Artist Incubator.

The group's founder, Catherine Green, said she hopes the new cultural plan will open up more funding opportunities for smaller organizations.

"We've been doing a lot with very little for a very long time," she said. "We just really want a playing field where we'll be able to compete for a fair amount of dollars."

Money is also a big factor when it comes to local artists being able to afford housing and studio space. In Mayor de Blasio's recently unveiled OneNYC plan, the city committed to building 1,500 units of "affordable live/work spaces" and 500 "below-market workspaces" for artists by 2024.

Paul Parkhill, executive director of Spaceworks, said this affordability issue is an ever-growing one as New York's cost of living continues to rise. His group is a non-profit that helps provide affordable workspace for artists in Long Island City and Gowanus, with plans to expand to Williamsburg and Governors Island soon.

"Artists get a bad rap often for being agents of gentrification, when they are in fact very rarely the beneficiaries of neighborhood change," said Parkhill.

He said that artists are often forced to move as neighborhoods become more expensive and that he's looking forward to seeing the cultural plan's data on how this trend is playing out citywide.

"I think that artists are actually becoming a lot more deliberate about some of these issues, and what their role is in neighborhood development, so I think it's a good time in many ways for this study to happen," he said.

Answering these questions of diversity, funding, access, and affordability will fall to the city's Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA). As outlined in the cultural plan law, the agency will work with a specially formed "citizens' advisory committee" - made up of 12 members appointed by the mayor, city council speaker, DCLA commissioner, and borough presidents - to gather information and make recommendations.

While this plan aims to develop a more long-term strategy, cultural equity has already been on the de Blasio administration's agenda. The new IDNYC municipal identification card has been popular and comes with a year's free membership to dozens of cultural institutions, and $23 million was added to the art education budget for public schools last year after an audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer showed major disparities. Van Bramer thanked the mayor for these added funds at Monday's bill-signing.

DCLA is also in the process of studying diversity among board members, staffs, and visitors at the city's major cultural institutions.

Mayor de Blasio and DCLA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl are excited about the cultural plan, as they both highlighted when de Blasio signed the bill into law.

In a statement Monday, de Blasio put the new law into context. "There's no doubt New York City is a cultural center of the world, and the arts are essential to our economy, our schools, and our vibrancy as a city," de Blasio said. "We are committed to ensuring all New Yorkers have access to cultural activities, and this comprehensive plan will help unify our initiatives aimed at lifting up all New Yorkers through arts and culture."

Once all of the initial information has been gathered, the official plan must be completed by July 2017, just over two years from now. An option to revise it every 10 years is written into the law, with a report required every two years on progress being made to achieve the goals in the plan.

Just before the law was signed, Finkelpearl told Gotham Gazette that he and his agency are looking forward to working toward "this vision of 'one New York' as it's expressed in our cultural community and to seek feedback and new ideas from residents."

Marta Moreno Vega said the most important thing to keep in mind while conducting surveys across the five boroughs is that art can mean many different things to different people.

"Art is everywhere. It's cooking, it's how you dress, it's how you understand how other people live," she said. "The question becomes how do you have a society that allows its richness to flourish?"

by Cole Rosengren for Gotham Gazette

cdrosengren@gmail.com (Cole Rosengren) Tue, 19 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5730-now-law-new-york-to-create-city-cultural-plan
Mostly Questions and Criticism Ahead of Cuomo Email Summit http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5731-mostly-questions-and-criticism-ahead-of-cuomo-email-summit Cuomo Indian Point

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

On Friday - the Friday of Memorial Day weekend - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a summit on email retention policy. It is a much-anticipated meeting that a large number of key stakeholders don't see a need for, and it's unclear what attendance will look like in terms of representation from the major entities in state government being called together to agree on a uniform approach to keeping and deleting official emails.

Good government advocates and legislators say that outcry over Cuomo's 90-day email deletion policy was what birthed the meeting and it is in Cuomo's hands to silence the critics. They say that a grand summit is unnecessary. "This is misdirection, plain and simple," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

As of late Monday the administration had yet to decide on whether the meeting would be held in Albany or New York City, whether it would be open to the press and public, and what exactly would be on the agenda.

"In terms of what can be accomplished at this summit - it just isn't clear," said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a group that initially drew attention to the administration's implementation of the deletion policy. "This is 100 percent in his control," Kaehny said of Cuomo. "All that should happen is a meeting of the mind between his ears."

Horner, lamenting the information already lost and the lack of transparency, agrees: "The governor has successfully purged the state's email system. There is no going back. All we could hope for is the end to a bad policy to prevent future deletions."

The Cuomo administration did not return requests for comment.

Cuomo called the summit after mounting criticism over his policy that state workers say interrupts their workflow and costs them time, and that good government groups say allows the administration to operate in secret, especially troubling at a time when Albany is the target of ongoing investigations by US Attorney Preet Bharara's office. Seemingly in an attempt to deflect, the Cuomo administration reacted to critics by pointing out that the Legislature has not opened itself to the Freedom of Information Law. But while advocates certainly do want FOIL to apply to the Senate and Assembly, they reject the idea that there is any deal to be made on the subject. "There is no quid-pro-quo on this issue," said Kaehny.

The Cuomo administration has not invited any reform groups to the summit, or national experts on email retention and archiving. In fact, it is unclear if anyone of note will be in attendance.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he will not attend or send a delegate; former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had said the same, while Skelos' successor Sen. John Flanagan has not indicated what his plans are and his office did not return calls for comment. A spokesperson for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office told Gotham Gazette that they plan on sending a representative, while Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office declined a request for comment on their plans for the summit. Neither DiNapoli nor Schneiderman have 90-day deletion policies - Schneiderman suspended his office's in reaction to outcry over Cuomo's.

There is also no indication that Cuomo himself will be in attendance if the policy meeting does indeed take place on Friday.

Legislators in both houses have introduced bills that would end the policy. Sen. Liz Krueger, Democrat of Manhattan, has an overarching bill that would both end Cuomo's policy and make the Legislature subject of FOIL, but advocates think it is too unwieldy and offensive to legislative leaders to pass.

A spokesperson for Krueger said, "Regardless of whether or not the summit actually happens, [Sen. Krueger] urges the governor to sit down with experts from the State Archives and Bob Freeman from the Committee on Open Government to implement an email retention policy that ensures transparency and protects important state records."

Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, Democrat from the Bronx, has a bill that would amend the Public Officers Law to require all government agencies retain emails for seven years, bringing the state into parity with incoming federal regulations. Advocates tend to favor the bill because of its relative simplicity, but it currently lacks a Senate sponsor. According to a number of sources, potential sponsors have been pressured by Senate Majority leadership and the Cuomo administration not to sign on.

Dinowitz said he is "always hopeful" the bill will find a sponsor in the Republican Senate Majority."This is a timely topic, we have five weeks left of session and that is a lifetime in Albany," Dinowitz told Gotham Gazette about the bill's prospects this session. "This is a very focused bill so a lot of good government groups like the approach."

Dinowitz seems less hopeful for Cuomo's email policy summit. "The issue has been out there for months now," said Dinowitz. "A summit is fine, but I would like to see some real action taken. I'd like to do more than just talk about it."

Kaehny said the administration should be embarrassed by its lack of action on the issue and that the public should be outraged that the governor is continuing a policy of secrecy during a time when scandal hangs heavy in the air over Albany: "It is hard to understand why he is so adamant about this policy at the same time two leaders have been arrested during major corruption scandal that goes to the heart of power in Albany."

by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) Tue, 19 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5731-mostly-questions-and-criticism-ahead-of-cuomo-email-summit
Let's Note the Mayor's Budget Investment in an Instrumental Workforce http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5732-lets-note-the-mayors-budget-investment-in-an-instrumental-workforce-belsky-cola BdB OneNYC

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently unveiled his Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2016. Since then, there has been much comment on what the budget includes, notably $100 million for homelessness, and omits, namely funding to hire 1,000 NYPD officers. Nearly absent in budget conversation, though, is the important investment that the city is making in the human service nonprofit sector in the form of a 2.5 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and an unprecedented $11.50 per hour wage floor.

What makes the investment so vital, and therefore its omission from summary and analysis so glaring, is its connection to the financial and socioeconomic well-being of New York City.

Not only does this de Blasio administration commitment provide a long-absent infusion of city dollars into a sector that provides a range of vital services - from early childhood education, foster care, and after-school programming to case management for homeless individuals and families as well as elder care - it also contributes to the economic well-being of the city and helps address pervasion economic inequality and homelessness.

Investment in the human services nonprofit sector helps to ensure that the city remains on sound financial footing. The sector constitutes a significant economic engine in New York City: there are 116,000 private sector social service workers, not including health care; and the City contracts out $5 billion in critical social services to human service nonprofits each year. Flat funding has made it difficult for these nonprofit organizations to manage amid the rising costs of rent, utilities and health care. For example, this year at Urban Pathways, we endured another double-digit increase in our health care costs for our over 200 employees. City investment reduces the likelihood that additional human services nonprofits experience the precarious financial footing of organizations like Pathways to Housing and FEGS.

Investment also helps address income inequality in New York City - a major focus of the mayor, and rightfully so. Members of the human services nonprofit workforce struggle to make ends meet. The average salary across the workforce is less than $29,000 annually. An astounding 40 percent of social service workers earn below $12 an hour. As a result, workers increasingly seek similar services as their clients, including public housing, food stamps, and soup kitchens. A wage increase thus reduces city expenses in government benefit programs. It also creates revenue in terms of increased tax liabilities.

The COLA and wage floor also constitute vital components of the city's efforts to reduce homelessness. Outreach, drop-in centers, safe havens, and supportive housing succeed, much in part, due to the workers staffing them. Like other human services nonprofits in the city, our organization struggles to retain staff, in part due to our inability to adequately compensate them. (Turnover in some areas of the social services sector has risen to 30% annually.) As a result, our homeless single adult clients incur multiple case managers. This potentially disrupts the trust and comfort our clients develop with their case managers, which is critical to moving them from the street into housing. It also interrupts the continuity in their care and jeopardizes their path to permanent housing and self sufficiency.

Still, there is more work for the city to do. In the next month, the City Council can follow the mayor's lead and make the $11.50 wage floor permanent by adding language to the city charter. Salaries should not return to amounts that do not reward work because of who is in Gracie Mansion.

As a board member, I am proud to dedicate my time and resources to the work of a human service nonprofit organization. Recent city investment in our sector coupled with additional action by the City Council can go a long way towards ensuring the sector continues to do the important work it has done for the city's most vulnerable.

Gary Belsky has been an Executive Board Member of Urban Pathways since 1996, serving as Board President from 2000-06.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Gary Belsky) Tue, 19 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5732-lets-note-the-mayors-budget-investment-in-an-instrumental-workforce-belsky-cola
SAFE Act Haunts Movement on Gun Safety Legislation http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5728-safe-act-haunts-movement-on-gun-safety-legislation students NYAGV

Student activists in Albany (photo: @NYAGV1)

Earlier this month, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence brought 150 school children from the Bronx and Harlem to Albany to recite poetry, sing songs, and perform skits about the impact gun violence has on their daily lives.

They didn't get the warmest of welcomes. Kicked out of the space they had booked - the very public well of the legislative office building - they were forced into a hearing room. They were replaced in the well by a wine tasting.

Leah Barrett, executive director of NYAGV, told Gotham Gazette she had booked the well months ahead but at the last minute the Republican Senate Majority moved her group to a hearing room, well out of public eye.

The move would fit a theme. For the past year gun issues have been taboo in Albany, especially as they became a flashpoint during the 2014 election cycle. Gov. Andrew Cuomo felt blowback in upstate counties for advocating for and signing The SAFE Act after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT, as did legislators from both parties who voted for it.

In the face of this trend, gun control advocates have slowly been ramping up efforts to introduce new gun-safety measures and educate the public about what they say are the "common sense protections of the SAFE Act." As they set their sights on the last weeks of this year's legislative session and beyond, their effort became more challenging given developments last week, when the leadership vote brought up upstate-downstate divides in the Senate Republican conference.

"Contrary to what many lawmakers probably think, we're not done with guns," Barrett told Gotham Gazette, saying that NYAGV and regulation-minded legislators will not be dropping their agenda, which includes things like tougher requirements for keeping guns locked up in homes.

Gun rights groups, angry that upstate Senators backed Sen. John Flanagan of Long Island to take over as majority leader, turned up the pressure on Senate Republicans to repeal the SAFE Act. They threatened to primary upstate legislators who backed Flanagan, who voted for the act, while his opponent in the leadership race, Sen. John DeFrancisco, voted against it.

"How can we possibly support an institution that is being run by someone who voted for the SAFE Act, which was probably the most draconian piece of legislation to affect the Second Amendment in New York State in our lifetime?" Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said this week of the Senate and its majority conference.

Flanagan told The Buffalo News and other interviewers that he would consider bills to reform the SAFE Act, but cast doubt that the Assembly or Governor would take them up, much less a full repeal.

Gun rights advocates insisted from the start that the SAFE Act was rushed through the Legislature by Cuomo out of political expediency and that some of its measures don't make practical sense.

NYAGV's Barrett dismissed the uproar in the Senate as "just bluster," but it certainly hasn't made her job any easier.

Barrett and legislators had been pressuring new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, to dedicate a session day to passing laws encouraging gun safety and combating gun violence. So far Heastie has rebuffed those efforts. And since the leadership change in the Senate, advocates appear to have backed off those efforts.

"We are less concerned about a day than just allowing bills to come to a vote - that is what is important and I believe the speaker is more inclined to do that," Barrett said.

Heastie's office did not return request for comment.

Assembly Member Amy Paulin, a Democrat from Scarsdale who has a long history of sponsoring gun safety bills, admitted that the time may not be right for major action on guns. "There is really nothing onerous about anything in the Safe Act, but that isn't how people think of it now. Any real change is hard. All the parts of the SAFE Act were bills that we fought for over years. Change doesn't happen quickly," Paulin said.

Barrett has a list of legislation her group would like to see addressed, at least by the Assembly this year - even though those votes would be largely symbolic, with advocates and legislators knowing the Senate is extremely unlikely to take any up. The laws include legislation that would require gun owners to more safely store firearms, fight interstate gun trafficking, mandate safety training for employees of gun retailers, and train employees to better recognize buyers who simply plan to resell guns on the black market.

Barrett said that some of these bills are unlikely to pass the Senate because of pressure from the gun-rights lobby. However, she does expect some gun safety laws could make it through both houses. For example, Republican Senator Kathy Marchione of Rensselaer County and Manhattan Democratic Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh are sponsors of a bill that would provide tax credits to those who purchase gun safes.

Nicholas' Law, which requires safer storage of guns, is sponsored by Paulin in the Assembly and Sen. Jeff Klein, Independent Democrat of the Bronx, in the Senate.

The bill is named after 12-year-old Nicholas Naumkin, a resident of Saratoga Springs who was shot dead by a friend who was playing with his father's pistol, which had been left loaded and unlocked.

"Nicholas' law is a gun safety bill that advocates from both sides can agree on. It's common sense," said Paulin. "So I think we can pass that as a one-house bill this year," she said of at least moving it through the Assembly.

Paulin's general hesitancy about advancing further gun regulations likely has to do with some of the pressure upstate Democrats feel from their constituents around the SAFE Act. Many continue to voice a desire to see at least tweaks to the act.

Buffalo Democratic Senator Mark Panepinto broke with his party to challenge Flanagan to pass a series of bills that would tweak the law to make it easier for families to pass guns down through estate planning and keep private except to law enforcement all information regarding pistol permits. "We've got five weeks and I hope that Senator Flanagan will do the right thing and bring these things to the senate floor and I'm confident they'll pass," Panepinto recently told reporters.

Panepinto's seat is critical for Senate Democrats who hope to reclaim the majority in 2016. It may make strategic sense for Democrats to look the other way as Panepinto and others challenge the SAFE Act.

Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens is the Senate sponsor of a bill that would implement tougher restrictions on gun retailers like requiring them to have a security plan, ban those 18-years-old and younger from their premises, and require that guns are only sold on the premises or at gun shows. Paulin is the Assembly sponsor. Peralta said that he would be surprised to see any action on relevant issues in the Senate this year.

"I think it is really about education upstate," said Peralta. "Not only senators, but constituents because it's the constituents who move legislators. New Yorkers Against Gun Violence are working on that, but it's not easy."

While most of the consternation over the SAFE Act is based in upstate and western New York it appears its effects are being felt increasingly downstate where there is more gun violence. State records show that from March 2013 to the start of 2015 about 3,300 arrests were made under the SAFE Act. The majority of those arrests were made due to the provision making possession of an illegal firearm a felony. The majority of the total arrests were in New York City, with a large portion of those coming in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Barrett said that NYAGV plans to continue educating legislators and the public about the impact of gun violence in cities across the state while advocating local gun safety ordinances. She notes that New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester already have an ordinance like Nicholas' Law on the books. She hopes cities like Albany will soon follow. "It takes a long time to pass any good piece of legislation, we know that," said Barrett. "We're patient."

by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) Mon, 18 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5728-safe-act-haunts-movement-on-gun-safety-legislation
Restorative Justice is Key to School Discipline Reform http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5729-restorative-justice-is-key-to-school-discipline-reform solutions not suspensions

A discussion on school discipline (photo: @Teachers_Unite)

Since the founding of Bronx Lab School in 2004, "student discipline" has been an ongoing topic of discussion. Students, staff, and parents are continually debating the merits and efficacy of suspensions, detentions, and mediations in addressing the realities of student conflict and non-adherence to school policies and values. What we know for sure after more than a decade of these conversations is that there are no simple answers. What we have learned is, though, is that Restorative Justice supports our community's mission and values, and offers a humanizing approach to the ever-present "discipline" question.

Bronx Lab School first started exploring and investing in restorative justice practices a little more than a year ago; it's been an exhilarating but bumpy ride.

When an individual school – and for that matter, the educational system and society in which it resides – has a history of responding to harmful student behaviors using traditional, punitive methods, it's a tremendous philosophical shift to consider the alternative of a restorative approach. Students and teachers alike have been tacitly trained in many instances to criminalize student behavior: teachers want to file police reports for aggressive insubordination and students often consider police involvement an inevitability. I'll never forget when one of my students said to me last year after his involvement in a fight: "Miss, I'm a young man growing up in the Bronx, of course I knew one day I would end up in handcuffs. I just didn't know it would be today."

Inspired by our school community's commitment to justice in light of these realities, Bronx Lab embraced the possibility of another path.

A dozen staff members participated in week-long restorative justice trainings provided by the Department of Education; advisors started leading community-building circles on a weekly basis with their advisory classes; we formed a "visionary team" to work with Teachers Unite and Morningside Center; and our student affairs team began implementing tier two restorative mediations in response to student conflicts. These were just first steps in what will undoubtedly be a many-year, ongoing journey. Already we have committed dozens of hours of unbudgeted preparation and professional development, not to mention countless hours of research, reflection, and recruitment.

During our first year foray into restorative justice, we've had some beautiful moments of success, but the lingering question of sustainability is ever-present. At last June's staff retreat, one of our own teachers led a powerful circle on belonging - together, a group of 30 colleagues recounted personal stories and bonded over shared values. We cried and we laughed, and we understood through lived experience the power of circle in building community. We were transformed; we were hooked.

In January, I facilitated a 90-minute post-suspension circle to repair the harm following a fight involving three Bronx Lab students. Community-building sometimes involves restoring relationships through conflict resolution. Participants in this circle included six staff members, three students, and four parents, and it delivered as promised. By the end, one parent expressed that she felt like she'd "been to church," and the parents told all three students that any of the kids could reach out to any of them for support.

Students need consistency to feel safe and staff need it to be able to respond with a unified voice, but we simply do not have the infrastructure or capacity at this point to respond to conflict in a restorative manner every time. We don't have the systems in place to use restorative justice in every case, so we implement inconsistently. Teachers and advisors want to know, 'what do I do when students don't want to participate in our community building circle? How do I handle rude, aggressive, or threatening behavior from students without either ignoring the problem or kicking them out of school?'

The city Department of Education's recently-revised school discipline code supports the work we're doing - a restorative conference is now officially an acceptable response to almost every student infraction. But, building alternative accountability takes a lot of time and requires supports that schools don't necessarily have at this point.

Schools need funding for a full time restorative coordinator with the sole focus of coordinating a consistent, positive, restorative climate and approach to discipline at the school. We need the resources to train students, educators, and parent leaders in planning and implementing restorative practices in schools.

Restorative justice is a humanizing answer to much of what ails our schools, but it is a messy, slow, and difficult undertaking of reflecting on and undoing ineffective methods, while simultaneously learning, experimenting, and constructing new, effective ones. At Bronx Lab we are committed to restorative justice, but we need a little more help from the DOE in making our vision a reality.

Sarah Marcy is the principal at Bronx Lab School.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Sarah Marcy) Mon, 18 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5729-restorative-justice-is-key-to-school-discipline-reform
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, May 18 http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5727-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-may-18 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

EMAIL SUMMIT ANYONE? The much-anticipated, long-awaited e-mail deletion policy summit organized by the Cuomo administration is set for Friday in Albany - will it happen? Will anyone go?

WAGE BOARD: Happening on a much faster timeline is Cuomo's new Department of Labor fast-food worker wage board - the first meeting is set for Wednesday. There are high hopes that this will soon lead to a higher minimum wage for all New Yorkers, not just fast-food workers, but it is unclear exactly where the panel's work is heading, other than that it is very likely there will be executive action on fast-food worker wages. There could, of course, be a new minimum wage deal before legislative session ends...

SESSION DWINDLING: Governor Cuomo spent a large portion of his Sunday speaking at five Brooklyn events to promote the Education Income Tax Credit - four stops were churches, the fifth a Yeshiva. The EITC is one of many issues on the negotiating table in Albany as time is running low in legislative session. Legislators are due in the capital Monday through Wednesday for session (then off until Wednesday May 27 and in session for just Wednesday and Thursday next week after the Memorial Day holiday). Session is scheduled through June 17.

There are big public pushes being made around rent regulations and lots of discussion about mayoral control of schools, among other key issues. With little time left in session, lots of recent upheaval, and many issues on the table, who knows what will wind up being dealt with. There could easily be fairly basic extenders of items due to soon expire, such as the rent regs and mayoral control, but there is also likely to be some sort of big end-of-session deal that includes legislation on a whole host of topics all tied together. This is often referred to as a "big ugly."

CITY BUDGET: In New York City, City Council Executive Budget hearings are set to begin this week. The hearings, at which council members ask questions of mayoral administration officials about the spending plans for the coming fiscal year, will last for several weeks. A budget deal is due by June 30, with fiscal year 2016 set to begin July 1. Looking for more discussion about whether the city should hire more police officers? See Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, two city council members announced last week that they will be resigning (and the fate of a third, indicted CM Ruben Wills, is still TBD). CMs Mark Weprin and Vincent Ignizio are both leaving the Council: Weprin to serve in the Cuomo administration, Ignizio to run Catholic Charities of Staten Island. Neither has set an official date to step down, but we outline the next steps here.

May 18-21 is Internet Week New York: "Where business, technology, & culture meet." Via Digital.NYC (a de Blasio administration initiative): "Internet Week NY returns May 18-21 with 250+ events celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit and global impact of technology on business, entertainment and culture. Speakers from NYC include Minerva Tantoco (CTO, City of NY), Reshma Saujani (Founder, Girls Who Code), Paul Berry (CEO, RebelMouse), Milena Berry (CEO, PowerToFly), Sarah Chipps (Founder, Jewelbots), Jonathan Jaglom (CEO, Makerbot) and Mark O'Neill (CTO, Thrillist) and Nate Silver (Statistician, 538) and many more."

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

According to WNYC education editor Beth Fertig, the New York Board of Regents will present its teacher evaluation plan on Monday.

At 9 a.m., elected officials including New York City Councilman Brad Lander will hold a rally against the Department of Health's failure to protect seniors at Prospect Park Residence, at Brooklyn Supreme Court, according to City & State NY. Public Advocate Letitia James is expected to participate. And in the evening, James will speak at "at Tenants' Rally for Safe and Habitable Living Conditions," 482 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn.

The Bronx GOP is having its annual golf outing on Monday "In Support of The Bronx Republican Party, The Bronx Veterans Welfare Fund and The Bi-Centennial Veterans Memorial Park" at St. Andrews Golf Club.

On Monday at 11 a.m., "Comptroller Scott M. Stringer will be joined by affected workers, as well as labor and immigrant rights advocates to announce a settlement with a former city subcontractor who cheated immigrant workers out of nearly $1 million dollars in prevailing wages. The Comptroller will also present checks to some of the workers."

Also Monday at 11 a.m., in the Bronx, City Council Members Andrew Cohen and Ritchie Torres "will hold a press conference at a yeshiva to advocate for the passage of Introduction 65. The legislation, introduced by Council Member David Greenfield, would require the NYPD to assign a school safety agent to any public or private school that requests one. School safety agents are unarmed, and are trained by and work for the NYPD. The legislation addresses the most basic need for all students attending school in New York City: a safe learning environment." The council members expect to be joined by "principals, teachers, concerned parents and students."

Monday's City Council schedule: the Committee on Finance meets at 10 a.m. for the initial executive budget hearing.

The state Senate is in session on Monday. From 12 to 1 p.m. the labor committee will have a meeting to discuss various amendments to labor laws, state finance laws, worker compensation laws. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. the insurance committee will meet to discuss amending various aspects of insurance law. The committee on children and families will meet from 1 to 2 p.m. to discuss amendments to various child protection laws regarding social service operations in relation to illegally operating day-cay providers, as well as a number of other issues regarding domestic abuse and custody in guardianship matters. From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. the committee on civil service and pensions will meet on a variety of matters. The Senate will then be in session from 3-5 PM.

The Assembly is also in session Monday.

At noon on Monday at City Hall, "Council Members, Advocacy Groups & Business Leaders Will Urge Mayor de Blasio to Address NYC's Mounting Infrastructure Needs & Identify New Ways of Funding Critical Infrastructure Projects...Mayor's 10-Year Capital Plan is an Important Step Forward, but Greater Investment is Needed." Participants are said to include City Council Members, and reps from New York Building Congress; New Yorkers for Parks; General Contractors Association of New York; Association for a Better New York; Regional Plan Association; Natural Resource Defense Council; Center for an Urban Future; Riders Alliance; Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Transportation Alternatives; AAA; Global Gateway Alliance; New York League of Conservation Voters; American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Metropolitan Section.

At 2:30 p.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Ben Kallos will speak on an Internet Week civic tech panel.

At 3 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will hold a bill-signing ceremony at City Hall: he'll sign "Intro. 419-A, in relation to a comprehensive cultural plan; Intro. 178-A, in relation to price displays for second-hand automobiles; Intro. 51-B, in relation to requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to issue an annual report regarding hepatitis B and hepatitis C; and Intro. 181-A, in relation to notice requirements for hotel development plans."

From 4-8 p.m. "On Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer will host an open house and grand opening event for her new Northern Manhattan Office. The 125th Street location will be the first street-level storefront office operated by a Manhattan Borough President, and reflects Brewer's commitment to make the resources of her office accessible to all residents across the borough of Manhattan."

At 5:30 p.m., the city DOE holds a public meeting of the PEP contracts committee, at Tweed; and at 7 p.m. New York City School Chancellor Carmen Farina speaks at a schools forum hosted by the Daily News and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, at Town and Village Synagogue in Manhattan - according to City & State NY.

"A Celebration of the Life of Herman Badillo" on Monday at 6 p.m. at Hunter College. Mayor de Blasio is scheduled to deliver remarks, plus "New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Gail Badillo, Geraldo Rivera, CUNYBoard Vice Chairperson Philip Alfonso Berry, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab, City College of New York President Lisa S. Coico and other selected speakers join The City University of New York in "A Celebration of the Life of Herman Badillo."" Badillo was "America's first Puerto Rican-born congressman and leader in a New York City politics for four decades."

From Council Member Jumaane Williams: "I invite you to attend my fifth annual Haitian Flag Day celebration, co-hosted by Regine M. Roumain, taking place this Monday, May 18th from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM at Brooklyn Borough Hall."

At 6:30 p.m. Monday at Mitchell Square Park, "The Uptown Community Democrats announces its official launch...UCD, is a new political club focused on serving our uptown community and inspiring voters to participate in our democratic process. Speakers will include "Johanna Garcia, Leonel de Jesus, Dana Hockenbury, Cheryl Pahaham, Robert Jackson and Frances Escano."

Monday at 7 p.m., City Council Member Laurie Cumbo invites you to "Attend an info session on how to preserve Prospect Heights."

"NYLCV's Annual Spring Gala will take place Monday, May 18th...the Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York will deliver our keynote address. He has exhibited true leadership in preparing our state for the next big storm, while also making investments in clean energy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Honorees include "Citi, our 2015 Corporate Honoree...David Kenny, CEO and Chairman of the Weather Company, will receive our 2015 Environmental Leader Award...acclaimed landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh will be honored by our Education Fund."

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, "The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC), Chaired by Public Advocate James will hold a hearing on focused on the City's compliance with Local Law 103 of 2013, which requires the webcasting of public meetings," at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Tuesday's City Council schedule includes the executive budget hearing for the committee on general welfare, the committee on juvenile justice and the committee on women's issues, beginning at 10 a.m. At 1:00 PM, the subcommittee on planning, dispositions and concessions will meet to discuss an urban development action plan for properties located in Brooklyn's Community Board 13 and Council District 47.

There will be a "public forum on New York State's efforts to combat climate change" led by State Senator Brad Hoylman on Tuesday morning in Albany. "Forum comes as members of Senate Republican Conference openly deny the existence of man-made climate change...The forum will feature scientific experts, environmental advocates, and New York residents and business owners impacted by climate change and determine what steps need to be taken to make New York a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions...Dr. Radley Horton of Columbia University; Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York Peter Iwanowicz; Richard Schrader of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Jessica Ottney Mahar of The Nature Conservancy; other scientific experts, environmental advocates, New York residents and business owners."

Along with Sen. Hoylman's climate change forum the state Senate's Tuesday includes a 10:00 a.m. meeting of the committee on aging to discuss various issues and laws, including a campaign to raise awareness of elder abuse; a 10:30 a.m. meeting of the committee on transportation to discuss various amendments to traffic, vehicle, and highway laws; an 11 a.m. meeting of the finance committee to consider amending various laws; a noon meeting of the health committee to discuss amending various public health laws in relation to establishing some banned substances, setting nutrition standards, and more; a 12:30 p.m. meeting of the committee on investigations and government operations; a 12:30 p.m. meeting of the senate committee on cities to discuss administrative code including an act to direct New York City to conduct a storm water analysis in southeast queens, and an act that requires passengers use seatbelts in taxi-cabs, and that a sign is prominently displayed informing passengers do so; and a 1 p.m. meeting of the committee on local government. And, Senate session at 3 p.m.

The Assembly is also in session on Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening, City Council Member Andy King and his staff will be hosting another in its series of constituent services nights in different NYCHA housing developments in his district: "6:30 -8:30 p.m. at the Baychester Houses Community Center...Services will include resources and solutions for housing, food stamps, immigration, Access-A-Ride and basic services."

Tuesday evening will see Capital New York TAMI Talks: The Millennial Workplace, "an in-depth look at how the TAMI sector is creating a workplace that appeals to a growing generation of Millennials who are taking over the workforce. The event will discuss how Millennials and digital disruption are creating new workflows, redrawing org charts, changing the nature of work, and driving change in the commercial real estate landscape of New York City." Welcome from Josh Benson, Co-founder, Capital New York, Sponsor One-on-One with Josh Kuriloff, Executive Vice Chairman, Cushman & Wakefield and panel conversation with Nick Denton, CEO, Gawker Media; Maria Gallione, SVP, Account Management Development Director, Grey; Tracy Kim, Chief of Staff, Shutterstock; Miguel McKelvey, Co-founder, WeWork; Amanda Ramos, Director of Innovation, Gensler.

On Wednesday, The Atlantic's fourth annual "New York Ideas" - "an event dedicated to bringing to together today and tomorrow's top leaders" - is taking place in Manhattan and will feature Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, and others. Moskowitz is due to speak around 9:15 a.m., Bratton at about 2:15 p.m., according to event organizers.

Wednesday at 8 a.m. at New York Law School: "The Conflicts of Interest Board and the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School are pleased to announce the 21st Annual Citywide Seminar on Ethics in City Government."

On Wednesday morning in Albany, City & State will host "High Anxiety: Gen X and Boomers Struggle with Stress, Savings & Security" - "AARP will release its groundbreaking statewide survey on the financial security of the Gen X and Baby Boom generations. Specifically, we will discuss retirement readiness, access to retirement savings vehicles, loans and debt, and support for a state-facilitated retirement savings option." New York State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate will keynote. "Labate is newly appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to oversee the state's billion dollar budgetary process and replaces former director Robert Megna." A panel discussion will include Thomas Nitido, deputy comptroller to Tom DiNapoli, and Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte.

Governor Cuomo's office announced that its Department of Labor Fast Food Wage Board will hold its initial meeting on Wednesday "at 11 a.m. at 75 Varick Street, 7th floor, New York City and connected by videoconference to 290 Main Street, Buffalo, Regional Office Conference Room. The purpose of the meeting is for Wage Board members to hear the Commissioner's Charge and to finalize a calendar of public hearings. The meeting is open to members of the public; however, no public testimony will be taken at this meeting.More information about the Fast Food Wage Board, including meeting documents and videos of the meetings after they occur, is available at www.labor.ny.gov/fastfoodwageboard."

Council Members Margaret Chin and Corey Johnson will lead a town hall meeting to figure out ways to make an "age-friendly" community in New York City, 10 a.m. Wednesday: "The New York Academy of Medicine, Community Boards 1, 2, & 3, and the Age-Friendly Neighborhood Initiative will host a town hall meeting to hear about what matters most to older adults in the Lower Manhattan and Lower West Side communities."

Wednesday's City Council schedule includes the committee on mental health, developmental disability, alcoholism, substance abuse and disability service will look at two resolutions that propose increases in income thresholds for the senior citizen homeowner's exemption program at 9:30 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m. the same committee, as well as the committees on health and finance will hold an executive budget hearing; and at 1:30 PM the committee on economic development and the committee on small business will meet for an executive budget hearing.

The state Senate is in session on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Before that, at 9:30 a.m., the committee on cultural affairs, tourism, and parks and recreation will have a meeting; at 10 a.m. there will a public hearing led by both houses of the Legislature to address New York State's cyber security infrastructure, including the challenges, risks and protocols used to protect state information, hardware, software and systems; at noon there will be a public hearing by both houses for an update on the Energy Highway and Reform of the Energy Vision Initiatives; and at 1:30 p.m. the Senate will have its annual meeting of the legislative commission on rural resources.

The Assembly is also in session on Wednesday. And, at 11 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Correction will meet "To examine the efficacy of sex offender residency restrictions and identify best practices to promote public safety and prevent recidivism of sex offenders."

The New York City Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Prospect Heights Educational Campus in Brooklyn.

From "NYC Let Em Play" about the PEP meeting: "Please come testify about the state of high school sports at your high school. Chancellor Farina has put this on the agenda for this month's Panel for Educational Policy. This is rare opportunity for students, staff, and parents to let the Chancellor know if the Public Schools Athletic League is doing a good job meeting the sports needs of your school."

On Wednesday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host "a Neighborhood Planning & Rezoning Forum in East Harlem."

Thursday will see a de Blasio administration "day of action" led by the Department of Consumer Affairs and seeking "to educate New Yorkers about their rights and responsibilities" regarding the nail salon industry. This comes as part of the response to the damning New York Times investigative report on the nail salon industry, which is state-regulated (Gov. Cuomo announced his administration's response last week as well).

Thursday morning: Crain's Business Breakfast Forum: Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor New York Board of Regents, 8 a.m. at The Yale Club of New York City: Tisch will discus "standardized testing, teacher evaluations and charter schools. She will also address mayoral control of city schools and the state of education in New York" with moderator Erik Engquist, Assistant Managing Editor, Crain's New York Business.

There will be a Manhattan Borough Board Meeting led by BP Brewer on Thursday morning.

On Thursday at the City Council, the committee on public safety and the committee on finance will meet at 10:00 a.m. for an executive budget hearing. There will also be a land use committee hearing on Thursday.

And, the Assembly will hold a 10 a.m. public hearing regarding fishery management which will discuss the effects that fisheries have on the local/state economies, and to solicit comments regarding fishery management as a whole.

Thursday evening, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club is hosting "Is Albany About to Raise Your Rent?" Featuring: Assembly Member Keith Wright, Housing Committee Chair; Ilana Maier, Metropolitan Council on Housing; and Delsenia Glover, Tenants and Neighbors. "Learn about the fight to save rent regulation in our city, and how you can help. We'll have a panel of distinguished guests, as well as several attorneys who will be able to answer any specific housing questions you might have."

Friday and the weekend
Albany e-mail summit, anyone? Anyone?

*Have a good Memorial Day weekend! We'll be back with a new Week Ahead on the night of Monday, May 25 (probably). Send us things to include - whether it's issues to keep an eye on or specific events. And please do tweet and share the Week Ahead! We're @GothamGazette*

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

by Bernard Agrest and Ben Max

bmax@gothamgazette.com (Ben Max) Sun, 17 May 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5727-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-may-18