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News Feed http://www.gothamgazette.com/ Wed, 01 Jul 2015 20:00:27 GMT FeedCreator 1.8.0-dev (info@mypapit.net) Why Don’t We Ever Hear About Commercial Rent Policy? http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy levine small biz

Council Member Levine & co outside an evicted business (photo: @MarkLevineNYC) 

Mid-June, it was a block in Washington Heights that was poised to be the next to close up shop. The landlord, Coltown Properties, looked to evict the mostly Latino-owned stores on the street, which included a barbershop, restaurant, and income tax service. The store proprietors faced the same issue as many other small business owners in New York — there was nothing they could do.

“Collectively, the businesses on this block have been in operation for over 80 years,” local City Council Member Mark Levine said at a press conference on 162nd Street and Broadway. “At a time when unemployment rates in our neighborhood are disproportionately high, these businesses are vital to the economic livelihood of this area.” Levine’s office is partnering with Legal Aid Society to provide legal assistance to small businesses in his district.

This is New York today, the plight of the city’s small businesses is grumpily accepted like a late train. It’s perceived by many New Yorkers as a part of the city grind, the dog-eat-dog, if-you-can-afford-it-here-you-can-afford-it-anywhere reality of a town teeming with opportunity, but becoming evermore competitive - and expensive.

Echoing all too quietly in the halls of both city and state government, the average retail rent in Manhattan has risen 22 percent over the past decade, causing a sprawl of small businesses to relocate or simply close. It is a disease that’s spread to Brooklyn too.

As news and debate over residential rent regulation dominated Albany and New York City over the past several months, what happens on a daily basis to small businesses throughout the city tends to fall by the wayside. Commercial tenants have far less protection against sudden rent increases than residents do, and now, that deficit is playing out in pockets of the city at an increasingly rapid pace. In comes another Chase, next to the new Duane Reade.

Depending on who you ask, the reasons vary as to why elected officials in New York and Albany have acted — or, to some advocates, failed — on reforming commercial rent policy.

“No one is lobbying the state Legislature for commercial rent control, so obviously legislators are not thinking about the issue,” Michael McKee, the treasurer of Tenants PAC, says. “I am not even aware that there is a bill that would provide protections to small businesses.”

As it stands, the only bill in the New York State government that pertains to commercial rent in New York City is the “Small Business Survival Act,” first proposed by Senator Tony Avella of Queens in 2013. It aims to level the playing field between tenant and landlord by mandating arbitration privileges to small businesses. Landlords must follow certain criteria when setting a lease, and the commercial tenant has more time in negotiations. “The current commercial rental market results in unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive leases for the payment of rent for commercial space in New York City,” the bill reads. As of this legislative session, it has not seen a vote.

The more common small business bills that do exist are like the resources offered by the city and state’s economic development agencies: they seek to provide clarity with forms, regulations, and other bureaucratic nuances that come attached to opening and operating a small business in a tax- and rule-heavy state. The same situation stands in the Business Council, the most prominent lobby for businesses in Albany. Providing commercial tenants with some sort of leverage in lease negotiations did not make its 2015 ‘Top Ten Objectives’ list, or the webpage for its subdivision of small businesses. Rejecting a higher minimum wage did, though.

“If there is ever to be any movement on this issue, folks have to organize,” McKee said, talking with Gotham Gazette while he was in the midst of yet another major push to influence tenant rent regulations being set by lawmakers in Albany and the city’s rent guidelines board.

As many can attest, it is especially tough to compete against what is, without a doubt, the most powerful force in New York politics: real estate. This is a business community that spends millions every year on political campaigns; the contributions of one of its biggest entities, the Real Estate Board, made up a tenth of the entire state’s campaign money last election cycle. And that’s just one group.

To James Parrott, the deputy director and chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, that wealth of influence explains the radio silence both down- and up-state, among Democrats and Republicans, on an issue that directly threatens real estate hegemony. Reasoning seems to be that if small businesses had more protections against space-seeking developers, it would cut into the pace and profits of the city’s longstanding natural order. Landlords either want to charge more for commercial space or developers want tenants out so they can sell or demolish and build anew.

“The real estate community has always been aggressive in campaign contributions,” Parrott explains. “And, by doing so, they’ve successfully prevented anything that would restrict them.”

This, of course, includes commercial tenant rights. Parrott makes a key point: in a state government where the recently former Speaker of the Assembly and Majority Leader of the State Senate are both indicted for crimes involving real estate’s influence, it’s hard to believe a bill called the Small Business Survival Act would even last a day. Not to mention the probe into the abrupt closing of the Moreland Commission by Governor Andrew Cuomo; an investigation that is specifically looking into tax breaks for huge developers.

City government is not excluded, either, Parrott argues.

The tale of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (better known as the SBJSA) in the City Council is a long yet uneventful one. Basically, the bill — which, in structure, is very similar to its upstate counterpart — has been floating around the chambers of City Hall since 2008. (Last year, Gotham Gazette dove into its reintroduction.) It would let commercial tenants have the right to lease renewal ten years or more. If a landlord wants to raise rent, mediation with the tenant would be mandated, and, if the parties don’t come to an agreement, an arbitrator would make the final decision.

In essence, it is a flexing of New York City’s municipal home rule, which allows the Council to bypass Albany and regulate commercial code on its own turf. Similar proposals have existed in the Council for decades now, but all have met the same fate: failure. No surprise, Parrott says: the power of real estate is as strong in the city as it is upstate, if not stronger. Also, past mayors and council speakers have strongly sided with that community, meaning any bill is unlikely to ever see a vote, and even if passed by Council, likely vetoed.

But, to tenant advocates, this time around offers hope. Finally, they argue, a legislative body and a mayor progressive enough to actually take up the issue. At least on paper.

“Historically, the deference to Albany has served as a smokescreen/distraction for elected city officials to validate their appalling inaction on issues that they, in all actuality, have complete control over,” Kirsten Theodos, a spokesperson for Take Back NYC, an advocacy group for tenants, told Gotham Gazette.

Right now, the SBJSA has 20 City Council sponsors in a 51-member boday. Seeing the bill heard at a committee hearing and then brought to a vote is unlikely, and would probably first require a number of additional sponors signing on (Council members can support a bill without co-sponsoring, but sponsorship levels show strength). To land those additional sponsors, Theodos hopes that situations like the eviction of businesses in Washington Heights will shed light on the issue. When asked if Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who endorsed the bill before becoming speaker, would support the bill now, a spokesperson pointed to remarks made by Mark-Viverito to The Villager in late May. She did not provide an endorsement of the bill then, but mentioned an argument that has been repeatedly made by the real estate community in the past: that the SBJSA is illegal.

“The bill gets introduced once the [Council] staff do their due diligence,” the Speaker said. “Then there are hearings to hear from all sides. And then we figure out what the next steps will be — because sometimes options are being explored that legally we don’t have the ability to implement as a city or as a legislative council.”

Last year, in Gotham Gazette, the president of the Real Estate Board, Steven Spinola, called the bill an “unconstitutional intrusion” on property owners. A spokesperson for the Board told me this position hasn’t changed. Essentially, the board believes it is not in the Council’s jurisdiction to regulate commercial tenants. Home rule doesn’t apply here, they say.

Theodos stresses that this is not true; SBJSA would target the negotiations process, she says, and not install commercial rent control. The legal counsel to the Small Business Congress, a coalition of tenant advocates, supported this argument last year, citing Supreme Court decisions that enable local autonomy.

As a member of the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the SBJSA, but he has remained relatively mum on the bill since entering his current office. For many advocates, the hope is that he’ll extend the drive that he has recently demonstrated around housing rent regulations in Albany to the parallel issue for small businesses. However, although he was elected on a ‘helping the little guy’ message and a promise to embrace them, small business owners and their allies also worry that his tendency to meet with representatives from the Real Estate Board and other commercial heavyweights threatens his adherence to their cause. Holding an office that naturally attracts real estate interests, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito has also met with REBNY heads. While neither de Blasio nor Mark-Viverito appears especially cozy with real estate titans, neither has pushed directly on the commerical rent issue either.

That isn’t to say nothing has been done by the de Blasio administration to help small business owners since he took office in January of 2014, though. His office’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is spending upwards of $27 million to streamline and defuse the regulatory process and, with the Department of Consumer Affairs, made sure that fewer fines are handed out to small businesses that can barely afford rent. More importantly, SBS has rolled out initiatives aimed at providing pro bono legal services to small businesses in lease negotiations; a policy which will soon expand, SBS spokesperson Merideth Weber told Gotham Gazette.

“We are working to roll out additional programs that span the range of supports we can provide including education, assistance, and tools that can help businesses avoid pitfalls in leases, and make the retail market more transparent,” Weber said in a statement.

When asked if the mayor supports SBJSA, Weber responded, “We’re reviewing the bill and this administration is working on a comprehensive plan to ensure that small businesses have the tools and resources they need to compete in an ever-changing marketplace.”

Still, tenant advocates argue that these measures dance around the main issue: that small businesses have no legal powers against immediate evictions or rent gouging. In a hyper-developing environment reaching further into several boroughs, small business owners are often defenseless. With a state government not inclined to act on commercial rent policy in New York City, and a city bill that, for now at least, is on the back burner of the Council agenda, the urgency stressed by owners and advocates doesn’t seem to be resonating here nor there.

Council Member Mark Levine, who spoke out against the eviction of the small businesses on a block in Washington Heights, in his district, says that there are other options that can help stem the tide of closing small businesses. And these, he said, do not necessarily require either a dying bill or a dead government. “Albany is not acting in any domain, really,” he quickly noted.

The city government, Levina argues, could set an example by not renting out its own real estate to chain stores. Also, zoning laws can be regulated in order to prevent chains and encourage small businesses — a policy that Columbia University has undertaken in Morningside Heights, Levine said. He added that the city should look into preventing developers who receive city subsidies from renting out to chains.

One of the 20 sponsors of the SBJSA, Levine argues that the city needs to set out a structure in which commercial tenants can have enough time whereby they are properly notified of a lease change. He also referred to a bill recently introduced by Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Dan Garodnick that would raise the commercial rent tax exemption in Manhattan (below 96th Street) from $250,000 to $500,000 per year. As of now, the bill has 16 sponsors.

In terms of Albany attention, residential tenants supersede their commercial counterparts in numbers, Levine says, and the politics involved are different. But still, the council member describes challenges faced by small businesses in New York right now as a “crisis;” one that is perhaps even more alarming than the affordable housing problem, given the conditions. “There’s not much a tenant can do,” he says. “Therefore, we’re seeing dramatic changes in our streetscapes, and the scale of the problem is great.”

“It is the mom and pop stores that make this city,” Levine said. “And the city government should be doing much, much more to protect them.”

John Surico is a freelance journalist. His reporting can be seen in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. He lives in Queens.

Note: this article has been updated, including to reflect that there are now 20 sponsors of the SBJSA.

jsurico@gothamgazette.com (John Surico) Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5792-why-dont-we-ever-hear-about-commercial-rent-policy
Policing Experts Focus on Public Trust, Accountability Measures http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5793-policing-experts-focus-on-public-trust-accountability-measures bratton bdb policing plan

NYPD Commissioner Bratton at a recent announcement (photo: @CommissBratton)

Just one day after NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton resisted calls from City Council members pushing police reform legislation — which followed the news that 1297 new officers will be added to the force— police accountability was scrutinized by several key players, including the NYPD Inspector General, at a forum hosted by good government group Citizens Union.

The event, held Tuesday evening at New York Law School in front of about 125 people, was centered around the idea that because the police work for and to protect the people of the city, department and officer accountability is an essential part of good government. The issue has also been an extremely hot topic over the past several years, largely around the stop-question-and-frisk tactic and broken windows policing; a number of lawsuits, reforms, and high-profile incidents have occurred.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected, in part, on his criticism of the NYPD under his predecessor and de Blasio's promises to reform the department.

Though the panelists— NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure; Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance; former Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Arnold Kriss; and Executive Director for advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform Joo-Hyun Kang— discussed issues including the use of police body cameras, the role of special prosecutors, and community policing, there was one prevalent underlying theme: community trust of police officers, and lack thereof.

The group discussion, moderated by Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey, followed keynote remarks by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a former police officer.

"The job of a police officer is to correct conditions. And he is to carry out that task by ensuring that the public isn't harmed, that he isn't harmed, and believe it or not, that the person he is trying to correct isn't harmed," Borough President Adams said. "That's the goal, and we have gone off track in doing so."

Kang, whose group has been highly critical of the NYPD, including under de Blasio, spoke of "a crisis of public confidence," citing the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed while being arrested on July 17 of last year.

"Underlying the crisis is actually instances where officers have not been held accountable by the department," Kang said. The results of the department investigation of Garner's death have not yet been revealed as a federal probe is ongoing.

Adams, a former state senator who served as a New York City police officer for 22 years, also had strong words for the politicians, judges, and community members he said had relinquished to police commissioners the job of holding police accountable.

"The fact is, countless numbers of good New Yorkers that hung out...at the Museum of Natural History and went to dinner parties and tea parties, they said, 'it's not our children.' So there was a level of non-urgency because many of the children caught up in the system were black and brown and came from economically-challenged communities," Adams said. "We should all be embarrassed by what happened to young people in this city in the last 20 years. We can point to the NYPD in the blue uniform, but the fact is, a whole lot of us in blue suits stood by and watched it happen also - we all participated in it."

Discussion turned to Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement that he would appoint, for one year, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as special prosecutor in cases where a police officer kills an unarmed civilian. Kang and Kriss said they supported the measure; as did Borough President Adams in his opening remarks, saying he believes the relationship between police and local prosecutors is "too challenging for the the prosecutor to examine."

DA Vance warned that unlike a district attorney, a special prosecutor would not be accountable to the public, and that using a special prosecutor "makes a decision about the fairness of the actions of the prosecutor prematurely."

"How does the governor know a special prosecutor should be appointed? Has the prosecutor done something wrong? Is there a basis, other than what we read in the paper to distrust the actions of the prosecutor or the grand jurist? I believe you are relieving me of my responsibility which I take very seriously," Vance said. "You're taking it away and giving it to someone who is accountable to nobody, who has no experience— the attorney general, I'm very fond of Eric Schneiderman, but I'm not sure how many homicide prosecutors you're going to find on his staff."

Though Kriss supports the appointment of a special prosecutor, he doesn't believe the attorney general's office is best equipped to serve in that role, and said he is concerned the governor's executive order may be a "knee-jerk reaction" in an attempt to bring comfort to the families of individuals killed by police officers.

"The question is whether or not the attorney general is the best individual, and I don't really believe so, because I don't know if they're capable," Kriss said, citing the complexities and difficulties of setting up and investigating cases involving police officers, especially in the early hours of the morning. "Are we going to have something effective out there?"

When asked about the future of police accountability, both Vance and Eure spoke of body cameras, which Vance described as a "game changer." Eure - the first ever NYPD Inspector General after the position was created in part as a response to stop-and-frisk abuses - was more reluctant to praise the use of body cameras, which the NYPD is expanding the use of in large numbers after a pilot program.

"We'll be opining on the subject of body cameras in the coming months but that is the trend across the country and a whole host of issues come up in that context: how long should the cameras stay on, should police officers notify citizens they're interacting with the camera is on, there all sorts of issues," Eure said. "These are very big issues, very complex issues that haven't been thought through, quite frankly."

by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette

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

catie.edmondson@columbiaspectator.com (Catie Edmondson) Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5793-policing-experts-focus-on-public-trust-accountability-measures
In End of Session 'Scorecard,' Plenty for Next Year's Albany Agenda http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5791-in-end-of-session-scorecard-plenty-for-next-years-albany-agenda Cuomo Heastie Flanagan

Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (L-R) (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)

In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, it was 122-13; in the Republican-controlled Senate, 47-12. With those votes and a Governor Andrew Cuomo signature, a final policy package brought an underwhelming end to a tumultuous 2015 legislative session in New York's capital. 

Look at the bill, which combines laws on a variety of disparate issues, and see it's headlined "relates to rent-control provisions," referencing what was to many the most important aspect of the deal reached by Governor Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. This year's 'three men in a room' took a little extra time to get to "yes," with the 2015 'big ugly' passed through the Legislature a little over a week after the originally scheduled end of session.

You can forgive Albany lawmakers for being a little tardy, though - as Governor Cuomo has said, it was no ordinary year in Albany. "This was a very difficult year," Cuomo said last Tuesday when announcing the framework of a deal. "There were extraordinary developments...It was almost unimaginable to have this kind of change in this period of time. You wound up with two new leaders." He was, of course, alluding to the fact that both Flanagan's and Heastie's predeccesors were arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

Along with an extension of rent regulations that mostly concern New York City tenants and their allies, the deal includes action briefly extending mayoral control of city schools and the 421-a real estate tax abatement program; providing property tax rebates; setting aside funding for nonpublic schools; and altering the cap on charter schools so more can open in New York City. Cuomo and the Legislature also struck deals on campus sexual conduct and nail salon regulation.

While extensions were passed on major sunsetting items, the 2015 deal may be more notable for how much it did not include than for what it did.

Cases in point: noting the absence of items he had promised action on, Cuomo announced two executive orders he would be issuing on criminal justice issues. Facing an uncooperative Senate, the governor had also already set things in motion to up the minimum wage on his own, with his Department of Labor convening a fast food worker wage board set to deliver recommendations soon.

But on those issues some action is being taken - there is also a wide variety of policy seeing no movement through the end of session deal or Cuomo on his own, angering advocates behind pushes to enact paid family leave, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, the DREAM Act, government ethics and campaign finance reform, and mixed martial arts (MMA), to name a few of the most-sought. New York will continue to be the only state that does not sanction MMA and one of only two that continues to try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

Yet according to Cuomo, the end-of-session deal is a robust package, plenty good for New Yorkers, and further evidence that New York government is functional. Speaking at a press conference announcing a final agreement, Cuomo said, "I am personally very happy and very proud of this legislative package. I think that it is responsive to the problems that are pressing the state right now. I think that it is actually a very robust and extensive legislative package of reforms that goes a long way towards making this state a better state."

The governor also praised Flanagan and Heastie. "These gentlemen were in a very difficult situation to step in as a new leader," Cuomo said, adding that it was "extraordinary" that the two could step into the legislative process in the middle of negotiations and ensure government keeps working.

Flanagan seemed mostly pleased with the session's policy outcomes. Heastie less so. But, Heastie and many of his supporters have been quick to note that the deal appears to be the best the new speaker could do. He was fighting an uphill battle, many Democrats argue, against an obstinate Senate Republican conference and, in some cases, an unsympathetic Democratic governor. New York City Democrats - elected and otherwise - were largely disappointed, and many point a finger at Cuomo, who they say did not fight hard enough on key issues or for tenants.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat who voted against the end-of-session deal, said, "We are far from where we need to be to protect tenants...we need strong rent laws, not a slight improvement."

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said similarly, "When it came to protecting tenants, Albany failed miserably," Stringer said Sunday on John Catsimatidis' radio show, according to the Daily News. "We have an affordable housing crisis," Stringer added, "But the rent stabilization deal didn't address those issues."

The rent laws took center stage as Albany lawmakers let them briefly expire and the session puttered into overtime. But, the regulations were among many issues at play, some of which saw action. In looking at the outcomes of the 2015 legislative session - which some have called anemic or "the absolutely bare minimum" - we see the initial framework for next year's policy agenda.

Rent Regulations: extended for four years, and strengthened slightly with an increase and indexing of the threshold by which units can be removed from the regulated rolls; an increase in civil harassment penalties where owners harass a tenant to obtain a vacancy; and an adjustment to the limits landlords can charge tenants to receive reimbursement for building improvements. Senate Republicans attempted to insert income verification measures, but they did not make the final deal.

Of Assembly Speaker Heastie's push on rent regulations, Governor Cuomo said, "I believe the rent package that he has obtained is a major step forward. You have certain voices that would say rent regulations should just go away - I understand that, but that's not going to happen any time soon. But he has done an extraordinary job in crafting a program that addresses the entire spectrum of the problem."

Reaction: the extension came as a relief to tenants and their allies, but is seen as largely inadequate, as the comments from Espaillat and Stringer indicate. City Council Member Jumaane Williams has said that "Governor Cuomo completely and thoroughly let New York City tenants down."

A spokesperson for a coalition of pro-tenant groups, Real Affordability for All, said "This deal is very bad for tenants, good for corruption and a step further to eliminating the largest source of affordable housing in the state. The changes included to the laws are as insignificant as the reforms made in 2011, which led to the displacement of thousands of working class New Yorkers and to the high record number of families who ended up in city shelters. It completely ignores the affordable housing crisis." Activists say thousands of rent regulated apartments will be lost each year and they plan to continue to protest the deal.

Taxes: the state property tax cap, limiting growth at two percent per year, is extended for an additional four years, and a new property tax credit, "$3.1 billion over four years in direct relief to struggling New York taxpayers," is included. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan said, "We are taking action on long-held Republican priorities that reduce the property tax burden here in New York so that we can create jobs, grow businesses, and help taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money."

Reaction: the governor is largely praised for fiscal discipline when it comes to property tax increases, while the property tax cap and the new tax credit are seen as wins for middle class and wealthy homeowners. The Citizens Budget Commission, however, expresses concern about the tax credit, writing, "The legislative package passed in Albany last week rejected some misguided and expensive proposals, including a tax credit for benefactors of private schools. Unfortunately, other expensive proposals were included, adding to current and future state expenses without providing offsetting savings or revenues...By far the largest part is a new property tax relief rebate program, which will cost $1.3 billion annually when fully implemented."

421-a: "The legislation extends the 421-a program for six months, with a provision that allows representatives of labor and industry groups to reach a memorandum of understanding regarding wage protections for construction workers. If such an agreement is reached, the program will automatically be extended for four years," according to a release from the governor's office. A key piece of the deal is that affordable housing will be mandated as part of any development approved to receive the tax break, a significant change from the previous version, which included major exceptions. The deal also bans the so-called "poor door" setup that some developers enacted with separate entrances for market-rate tenants and affordable unit tenants.

Reaction: 421-a was a source of conflict between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The final plan - assuming that the two sides can come to a wage agreement - is very close to what de Blasio proposed, which he and his aides have pointed out, including through a convincing infographic.

"Some real progress was made on 421-a. We were very proud of that fact," de Blasio said on Monday, according to The Observer. "We're going to have a lot more affordable housing than we would have otherwise, and taxpayers are going to get a much better deal, because any time we subsidize a building, there will be affordable housing as part of that." The deal does not include the so-called "mansion tax" de Blasio called for on sales of apartments over $1.75 million and used to fund affordable housing, which the mayor called "a mistake" and a "lost opportunity."

The deal appears to work for just about all the key stakeholders, though the labor agreement that must be reached could halt the celebration, and even if it is worked out by the parties, the proof of this deal's success will be in the pudding that is real estate development and accompanying affordable housing built over the coming years.

Education: there is $250 million to private schools "for the costs of performing State-mandated services," money which many say the schools are already owed; requirements for the "disclosure of state exam questions and answers" and other measures to improve standardized testing; a "one-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system"; and an "increase in the number of charter schools available to be issued in New York City to 50 and enhanced flexibility in teacher certification rules" for charter schools.

Reaction: de Blasio and his allies had sought at least three years extension of mayoral control (de Blasio had originally pushed for it to be made permanent and the Assmebly had passed a seven-year extension); the one-year deal is seen as an insult to the mayor and, to some, revenge by Senate Republicans for de Blasio's 2014 efforts to swing the Senate to Democrats. It is unclear how much Governor Cuomo fought for a longer extension, though he had himself originally proposed three years early in 2015. "The outcome of the negotiations was the best that we could do," Cuomo said. Mayoral control will now be a focal point again in 2016 as de Blasio seeks another extension.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the deal appears to extend the governor's education reform agenda. Cuomo allies in the charter school sector praised the deal. "Today Albany leaders stepped up and delivered for parents and students who demanded more choice," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. "Too many children are stuck in failing schools without options...Thankfully, Albany leaders understand that charter schools play a critical role in the delivery of free, public education in New York."

Albany lawmakers also announced a deal enacting Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" campus sexual assault conduct policy across the state. "We have a bill on sexual assault on campuses that is the smartest and toughest bill in the United States," Cuomo said announcing the deal. "I think it's going to set a new national model for other states to follow."

The governor is taking executive action on three issues, each of which will still be revisited in terms of legislation, likely in 2016.

Governor Cuomo wanted legislation passed to raise the age of criminal responsibility, but Senate Republicans balked. "To me the single most important piece of 'raise the age' is getting the 16- and 17-year-olds out of state prisons and that's what I can do by executive order," Cuomo said last week. "We'll be creating facilities designed for those 16- and 17-year-olds that will be much more appropriate than a state prison," he said.

Cuomo also announced that since he could not come to a deal with legislative leaders on a special prosecutor in cases where police officers kill unarmed civilians, he was appointing the attorney general as such for one year, and will hope to come to a legislative solution in 2016.

The governor has pushed a further increase in the minimum wage, which is now $8.75 per hour and set to go to $9 at the end of the year. Unable to get Senate Republicans to bite, Cuomo announced he had instructed his Department of Labor to convene a wage board examining wages in the fast food industry. The wage board has held several public hearings and is set to announce its recommendations any day. Hopes are high that the board will "do the right thing and recommend a $15 wage for fast-food workers that will take effect as soon as possible," as a statement from Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton read. Even if the board announces something less than $15 per hour, it is likely to push a significantly higher wage than $9.

While Cuomo acts on his own regarding the minimum wage in the fast food industry, where 16- and 17-year olds are imprisoned, and how investigations into police killings of unarmed civilians are run, it is almost certain that the governor and others will want to see legislative action on the three issues come 2016.

Advocates will have to continue to push for the DREAM Act; paid family leave; the Gender Non-Discrimination Act; raising the age of criminal responsibility and other criminal justice reforms; an increase in the minimum wage; legalizing mixed martial arts; ethics and campaign finance reform; and much more. Cuomo did not get Assembly Democrats to agree to his education tax credit proposal that would have incentivized contributions to nonpublic schools, and it is unclear if there will be another push for it in the future. It is clear, however, that the other issues on this list will remain the focus of much lobbying and activism:

Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform: "I'm disappointed and, frankly, find it incomprehensible, that there were not further measures taken to reform the procedures in our state government and in our campaigns," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday, according to The Observer.

Schneiderman, who has put forth his own sweeping ethics reform package, said he wants to see a special legislative session before the scheduled January return of business to Albany. Good government groups, including Citizens Union, the Brennan Center, and NYPIRG, released a statement saying, "New York's leading civic organizations today decried Albany's continuing failure to fully address the ceaseless ethics problems head-on during the 2015 legislative session. The groups called on Governor Cuomo and the state's legislative leaders to convene a special session to tackle ethics reforms before the end of the calendar year."

Among the reforms the good government groups and Schneiderman want to see are limits on legislators' outside income and the closing of the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations.

The Gender Non-Discrimination Act: The State Assembly has passed GENDA eight times, but the legislation, which, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda, "would update the state's anti-discrimination protections to cover transgender New Yorkers," has stalled in the Senate. The Pride Agenda released a statement saying that with the end of "a deplorably unproductive legislative session," the Senate has left transgender New Yorkers at continued risk "to the vicious discrimination that haunts countless trans lives." The Pride Agenda and allies also want to see action banning "conversion therapy" on minors in New York, which has also passed the Assembly.

Paid Family Leave: It's an issue gaining more and more traction nationally, but New Yorkers are looking to push paid family leave at the state level in the absene of federal policy. Reacting to a lack of movement before the end of the 2015 session, the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance campaign issued a statement, saying, "It now appears that New York families will have to wait yet another year for paid family leave. Meanwhile, thousands of workers upstate and down are still forced to choose between caring for their loved ones and their families' economic security...While employers and employees in California, Rhode Island, and even next door in New Jersey continue to reap the benefits of this overdue policy, New York is still woefully behind." Advocates cite The Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, which passed the Assembly in March and "would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, and deal with issues that arise when a family member is called to active military service."

Business owners and their allies continue to express reservations about any additional mandates placed on owners, both in terms of monetary cost and productivity. Many insist that New York should not take any further action to make the state more unfriendly toward business.

Well before the end-of-session deal was reached, it was clear that little beyond the basics would be done. Those behind the issues above, plus the DREAM Act, a farm workers bill of rights, the abortion plank of the Women's Equality Agenda, MMA, and other pieces of legislation watched the final negotiations in disappointment, and beginning to think about influencing the start of business next year.

In most instances, it is Democrats left wanting more. When the final deal was announced on Thursday, Assembly Speaker Heastie spoke of coming to terms with reality. "You could always want better," he said. "This is a bicameral Legislature and the Republicans in the Senate have their own vision on what they'd like to see and you do the best you can and try to compromise...We would have loved to have done more." 

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

bmax@gothamgazette.com (Ben Max) Tue, 30 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5791-in-end-of-session-scorecard-plenty-for-next-years-albany-agenda
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, June 29 http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5789-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-june-29 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week must be much quieter than last - the city budget is passed; the legislative session in Albany is over; the two escaped upstate prisoners were found (one killed; one shot and captured); and the United States Supreme Court has wrapped up its spring. It's also a holiday week as we head toward Saturday, July 4 - the official holiday is Friday, as you probably know. There is quite a bit happening in New York politics on Monday and Tuesday, as you'll see below. There's also sure to be plenty of examination this week of what happened last week, and with much to consider as people dig further into the city budget, Albany 'big ugly,' and more.

Before looking at what is upcoming, did you read our Week in Review looking at the key things to see and know from last week in New York politics? It's a new feature of ours, a quick end-of-week read to catch you up and also bring you fun items like photos of the week, numbers of the week, and more. Give it a look.

This week we're not only watching for new stories about things that happened last week, but there are also key meetings of the governor's fast food wage board; the city rent guidelines board; and the City Council public safety committee. See details of those events and more below. Also, by Tuesday, The Midtown East Steering Committee, co-chaired by Council Member Dan Garodnick and Borough President Gale Brewer, is set to send their re-zoning blueprint to city planners.

Weekend wrap: the LGBT Pride celebrations continued after Friday's Supreme Court decision dictating marriage equality nationwide (Mayor Bill de Blasio held a celebration at City Hall and performed two marriages Friday afternoon). On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo officiated a wedding ceremony for the first time since being granted the authority to do so as part of the end-of-session deal in Albany. Cuomo presided over a marriage outside of the Stonewall Inn just before the annual Pride parade, which he, de Blasio, and many other city and state officials participated in.

On Saturday, "Mayor Bill de Blasio, Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, and Council Member Jumaane Williams dedicated a plaque marking the site of the colonial-era Wall Street slave market. Standing in Manhattan Park, the plaque is the first official acknowledgement of this slave market."

Upcoming: on Monday, at 10: 15 at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, "Mayor de Blasio and U.S. Representatives Nydia Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler will host a press conference to make an announcement," according to the mayor's public schedule. At 4 p.m. at City Hall, "the Mayor will hold public hearings for and sign Intro. 318-A, in relation to prohibiting discrimination based on a person's arrest record or criminal conviction; Intro. 125-B, in relation to licensing car wash businesses; and Intros 456-A, 723-A, 724-A, 725-A, 726-A, and 729-A, related to the City's outreach and accessibility efforts for small businesses."

Cuomo-De Blasio Detente?: One key item worth watching this week is how well things cool off between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo after a tense stretch leading to Albany's end of session and a deal not very favorable to de Blasio and many city-based lawmakers and their constituents. It's likely that this will be a fairly quiet week, though things could flare up again if either de Blasio or Cuomo (or their surrogates) were to criticize the other when talking with members of the media. Where the relationship between the two 'old friends' goes from here is unclear, as it may have been hit by irreparable damage over the past year-and-a-half, especially the past six months. Stay tuned.

Check out our day-by-day rundown below, and have a great week!

***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:

At 8 a.m. Monday morning, "City Council Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal will be joined by DOT and Parks Department officials to kick-off the first day of car free Central Park north of 72nd Street. Last year, Council Members Rosenthal and Levine introduced legislation, Intro 499, which would ban cars in Central Park for a portion of the year and study banning them year-round...Central Park, West Drive and near 92nd Street Enter the Park at 93rd Street and Central Park West."

On Monday at the City Council: a 9:30 a.m. hearing of the public safety committee on a variety of police reform bills - expect this to be a long, intense hearing. Bills being heard deal with outlawing the use of chokeholds by the NYPD (they are currently banned by department policy); new reporting requirements for the NYPD of high-crime neighborhoods and CCRB complaints against specific officers; rules around officers identifyng themselves to suspects and notifying suspects of their rights to refuse a search that is not being requested due to reasonable suspicion; and more.

At noon outside that City Council hearing, according to police reform groups, "there will be a press conference "to call for New York City Council to pass Right to Know Act" featuring Council Members Brad Lander, Ritchie Torres, Jumaane Williams, and Antonio Reynoso, along with representatives from Communities United for Police Reform, Make the Road New York, VOCAL-NY, New York Civil Liberties Union, NYC Anti-Violence Project, Legal Aid Society, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Streetwise & Safe, Picture the Homeless, Arab American Association of New York, Brooklyn Movement Center, and Audre Lorde Project.

At 10 a.m. the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies is hosting the ribbon cutting for their new office and conference center. Bill Chong, Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development; Steve Banks, Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration; Gilbert Taylor, Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services; Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Council Member Dan Garodnick will be among those attending.

On Monday at 10 a.m., City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will deliver remarks at Broome Street Academy's graduation ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

After a month of testimony, the final public deliberations for the fast food Wage Board will be on Monday at 11 a.m. at the New York State Department of Labor. As has been the case with its other hearings, fast food workers and their allies, those fighting for a higher minimum wage, with the goal of $15/hour, will rally beforehand.

At noon on Monday at the Queens Library, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will hold a "press conference to celebrate six day service at all New York City libraries."

Also at noon, "Street vendors and the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center call for lifting the cap on street vendor permits with the premiere of new video, plaza in front of City Hall," according to City & State NY.

At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hall, Harlem Interfaith Commission for Housing Equality will hold a press conference, attended by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Also at 1 p.m. Monday, "New York City Councilman Mark Treyger joins elected officials, community leaders, clergy members and residents to denounce the recent incidents of gun violence and call on the city to improve safety in Coney Island's residential areas, Surf Avenue and West 30th Street, Coney Island," according to City & State NY.

At 4 p.m. de Blasio and other city leaders will hold a bill-signing ceremony at City Hall.

On Monday at 6 p.m. the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) will hold its final vote after 4 public meetings with testimony. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday, June 23.

Prior to the RGB meeting and vote, there will be a rally outside of Cooper Union, "After tenants were denied important rent protections by the governor, tenants are turning to the Rent Guidelines Board as their final hope for housing stability. Elected officials and the Rent Justice Coalition are rallying before the final Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) vote to demand rent relief for New York's working families. The RGB vote will impact the city's long term financial stability and the immediate welfare of 2.5 million tenants. The final vote comes after four hearings, where thousands of tenants and dozens of elected officials testified about the need for a rent rollback and the dire consequences of a rent increase." Attendees will include "The Rent Justice Coalition, rent stabilized tenants, elected officials including Council Member Jumaane Williams, Council Member Corey Johnson, Council Member Ben Kallos, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Council Member Rosie Mendez, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Council Member Mark Levine, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Assembly Member, Assembly Member Herman Farrell, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Senator Bill Perkins, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and others."

At 6 p.m. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will host that borough's feedback session as First Lady Chirlane McCray and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene put together a "Roadmap for Mental Health."

Monday evening's Inside City Hall on NY1 will feature an interview with Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.

As mentioned, the Midtown East Steering Committee is due to submit its rezoning plans to city hall by Tuesday.

Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. there will be a Google Hangout, "#LatinasRepresent Hangout with NYC's Leading Latinas," with Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas. This will be broadcast live.

Also at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and hearing of the City Council's transportation committee to examine two bills related to the taxicab and for-hire vehicle industry.

Related to that Council hearing: at noon at City Hall, "hundreds of Uber riders and driver-partners will rally in protest of legislation to limit the number of For-Hire-Vehicle (FHV) licenses...The bill, originally proposed three months ago by special interests in the taxi industry, would destroy 10,000 jobs, predominantly in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Upper Manhattan, and result in longer wait times, higher prices, and less reliable service for riders."

The Midtown East steering committee is aiming to send their re-zoning blueprint to city planners by June 30. The area covers stretches from East 39th to East 57th street between Fifth and Third Avenue and will be the culmination of nine months of talks.

On Tuesday at 5 p.m. there will be an immigration consultation and legal help provided by the Immigrant Justice Corps Community at the Brooklyn Public Library.

At 5:30 p.m. a Caribbean Heritage celebration will be hosted at City Hall. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Council Member Mathieu Eugene and the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus co-chairs Andy King and Rosie Mendez will be attending, among others. RSVP by Monday June 29, 2015.

There will be an event on the "role of data in reporting on race" by The New York Times Company's African Heritage Network and ProPublica at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Marcus Mabry, editor at large for The New York Times will be attending.

At 6 p.m. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be hosting Manhattan's session on the "Roadmap for Mental Health" being put together by First Lady Chirlane McCray and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Tuesday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. at New York Law School, good government group Citizens Union hosts "Effective Police Accountability; Building Public Trust and Ensuring Public Safety in Our Community...engaging dialogue on how New York can strengthen police accountability, improve public oversight, boost police-community relations, and ensure public safety." Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will give opening remarks, which will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, former Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and NYPD Deputy Commissioner Arnold Kriss, Communities United for Police Reform's Joo-Hyun Kang, and Philip Eure, Inspector General for the NYPD; and moderated by Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey.

There will be a tenants' forum in Greenpoint on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development in partnership with Council Member Stephen Levin. "This is an opportunity for tenants to get information on issues such as rent stabilization protections, HPD code enforcement, housing court, rent protection for low-income seniors and displaced persons, anti-harassment protections, and much more."

Wednesday is July 1, and it looks like political events in the city are halting for the July 4th weekend.

Catch up on a few recent Gotham Gazette highlights:

Thank you for reading Gotham Gazette. Have a great start to July!

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, Erika Wang, and Ben Max

bmax@gothamgazette.com (Ben Max) Sun, 28 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5789-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-june-29
School Meals in the Budget: Applause for Breakfast, Groans for Lunch http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch Lunch 4 Learning

Lunch 4 Learning at City Hall (photo: Zehra Rehman)

Supporters of expanding free school meals in New York City are expressing mixed reactions to the city budget agreement announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Monday night.

The fiscal year 2016 budget, at $78.5 billion of spending soon to be officially approved, satisfies one key demand of advocates – that of expanding "breakfast after the bell." The name refers to allowing students to eat free breakfast provided by the school in their classroom. The program will be funded for inclusion in 530 elementary schools. The budget also includes funding to continue universal free lunch in all of the city's standalone middle schools. But, this has disappointed advocates who were hoping the free lunch program would be expanded to elementary and high schools.

In New York City, where one in every four child does not have access to enough food, many students depend on schools to provide their only consistently available meals of the day. Members of the City Council, Public Advocate Letitia James, and advocates had led a strong push for the budget to include funding to make school lunches free for all students, regardless of grade level or family income, and for the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell.'

This year's preliminary and executive budgets did not include 'breakfast after the bell' or an expansion of universal free lunch but the final budget includes $17.9 million to expand the breakfast program to 530 elementary schools. City Council leadership considers the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' and the continuation of the middle school free lunch pilot program successes. A continuation of the middle school program was not included by de Blasio when he unveiled his February preliminary budget, but the Council convinced him to restore it in his executive budget, released in May. At the time, Mark-Viverito said, "Bureaucratic hurdles are not an excuse for letting children go hungry."

In response to the budget deal, Council members focused on gains made, praising the 'breakfast after the bell' provision in the budget for reducing negativity around hunger for elementary school children. "Hungry kids will face less stigma at school because of $17.9 million for 'breakfast after the bell' for 339,000 children at 530 elementary schools, which I rallied for and introduced legislation supporting," said Council Member Ben Kallos in a post-budget statement. Kallos, a strong supporter of expanding free school meals, added that "New York City is now an important step away from being near last among big cities in public school breakfast participation."

Advocates for 'breakfast after the bell' also welcomed the announcement. "New York City students were big winners in last night's budget deal," chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength, Josh Wachs, said in a statement Tuesday. "No child should start the school day on an empty stomach. Thanks to leadership from the Mayor, Schools Chancellor, City Council, and partners in the Powered by Breakfast NYC coalition, they won't have to in NYC public elementary schools."

Through the budget, 'breakfast after the bell' will be expanded to include all of the city's elementary schools by fiscal year 2018. At the moment, it is an opt-in program in New York City with principals deciding if their schools participate. Over 300 of the city's schools have opted in so far, either serving breakfast in classrooms or providing "grab and go" carts for students to pick up food to take into class. At Monday night's press conference, de Blasio highlighted the role that the Council's insistence played and called breakfast an area where there was "opportunity for a major breakthrough" in fighting hunger and thus helping kids learn.

As the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' was celebrated, supporters of universal free lunch for all city students were less than satisfied. "I'm a little disappointed that it [universal school lunch] wasn't expanded," Public Advocate Letitia James told Gotham Gazette, while expressing satisfaction with breakfast program gains. "New York City should be leading the national conversation on improving nutrition in public schools but instead we're falling further and further behind."

Other advocates echoed this sentiment. "We knew that the Council was championing this issue and that there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm," says Liz Accles of Lunch for Learning, a coalition-led campaign advocating for universal free lunch. "We're a little stunned that it wasn't in there."

Last year, the city introduced a pilot program under which standalone middle schools provided free lunch to all students. This increased school lunch participation by 10 percent in those schools. While the consensus among advocates was that these numbers were a success, Mayor de Blasio described the results as "mixed" at his executive budget presentation. The mayor reiterated that conclusion at Monday's budget announcement, saying, "The first year of the school lunch program didn't achieve what all of us had hoped." He added that the coming year would involve "a much stronger promotional effort and effort to engage parents and students."

It appears that if the middle school lunch program shows enough progress there may be room for expanding free lunch beyond those grades.

"It's an opportunity that's being passed up," says Accles. "The federal government wants us to do this," she said referring to federal reimbursements for meals served in public schools. Public Advocate James pointed out that because most expenditures would be covered by these reimbursements, it would only cost the city $20 million per year to provide free lunch to all of the city's public school students. This amounts to 0.1 percent of the Department of Education's annual budget.

The drive for universal free lunches and 'breakfast after the bell' has been in large part due to a poverty stigma associated with accepting free school meals, long-offered to students from the poorest households. Around three-fourth of New York City's public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches on the basis of a family income below 130 percent of the poverty level, or other criteria such as being food stamp recipients, homeless, or in foster care. Despite the great need, stigma and a fear of being mocked limits student participation in free meal programs. A third of the students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches don't eat those meals, with participation dropping below 40 percent in high schools. "Given those numbers, I'm really shocked that the mayor did not support expanding free lunch," says James.

Breakfast participation is even lower despite breakfast being free for all students in New York City public schools since 2003. Morning food has been offered before the start of school. Last school year only about 35 percent of the city's low-income students were eating breakfast in school, according to the latest annual report by the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate hunger and under-nutrition. A combination of factors, including the poverty stigma and logistical problems in getting to school much earlier than the start of the school day, drive down breakfast participation numbers.

Supporters of universal free school meals say that there would no longer be stigma attached to accepting a school lunch if schools provide free lunches to all students and family income is no longer a deciding factor. Similarly, if all students are allowed to eat 'breakfast after the bell' together in their classroom, it would not single out those students who have to arrive to school early just to eat a free breakfast in the cafeteria.

The budget decisions that will dictate spending beginning at the July 1 start of the next fiscal year come as this school year is coming to a close. On Wednesday, the Department of Education announced that its "2015 Summer Meals program, which provides free, healthy breakfast and lunch to children across New York City, will begin this Saturday, June 27, the first day of summer vacation." The program is aimed at students who are food insecure and rely on school meals throughout the year.

From the end of June through September 4, the program will provide free meals to "children 18 and younger" at "1,100 locations, including pools, school, libraries, parks, public housing sites, and community-based organization sites." Children don't have to prove New York City residency or be enrolled in summer school; no application or identification is needed to access food. The DOE said that "a record 8.1 million meals were served" last summer.

Advocates want to see something similar all year round. On Tuesday afternoon, students from Lunch for Learning coalition groups delivered a letter to the mayor and a photobook of 330 pictures from its selfie campaign. They were accompanied by advocates, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and leaders from Local 372, a union of the city's Board of Education employees. Barbara Turk, the mayor's director of food policy, was at City Hall to receive the letter and photobook on the mayor's behalf.

The message of the student letter was clear: "We are disappointed that expansion of Universal Free School Lunch for all public schools was left out of the budget. We have been working very hard to make this happen and were surprised and upset when you said the middle school results are mixed."

"If I get on line, the rich students will say that I'm eating 'free-free,'" said 16-year-old Aminata, one of the students at City Hall representing Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council. While she has to try to hide when she gets a free lunch at her high school, she says that her brothers in middle school do not have to worry about bullies in the cafeteria because everyone in their school eats free lunches. She often also has to share her free lunch with friends who don't qualify for reduced-price lunch but still cannot afford to buy food every day. "This is not a want, this is a need," said Shaun D. Francois I, president of Local 372.

Though they are disappointed by the budget, supporters of universal free meals, including the public advocate, plan to carry on their efforts to expand the program to all of the city's schools. "We're going to continue to campaign and we're going to continue to keep the pressure on, working with advocates to expand this program so that students will be better nourished ready for the school day," James told Gotham Gazette.

"We know it's the right thing to do," says Accles. "We're going to keep pushing until we get it done."

by Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette

rehman.zehra@gmail.com (Zehra Rehman) Fri, 26 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5788-school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch
The Week That Was in New York Politics, June 22-26 http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5790-the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-june-22-26 week in review bus readers

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

Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday June 26

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Gov. Cuomo shakes hands with Sen. Flanagan at their Thursday 'big ugly' announcement (top; via The Governor's Office on flickr); Mayor de Blasio hugs CM Ferreras-Copeland at their Monday budget announcement (middle, via William Alatriste); de Blasio officiates three marriages at City Hall on Friday (bottom, via William Alatriste)

Heastie Cuomo Flanagan 

de Blasio ferreras

marriage equlity city hall


1. Albany End-of-Session Policy: The framework for the end of 2015-2016 legislative session deal was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday afternoon; details were negotiated, and the two legislative houses voted the deal through on Thursday evening.

2. New York City Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Agreement: The City’s $78.5 billion budget agreement for Fiscal Year 2016 was announced by Mayor de Blasio, City Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Ferreras-Copeland and Council Members on Monday evening. Highlights include funding for 1,297 additional NYPD officers, six-day library service, seniors centers, and much more, including a new bail fund.

3. New NYPD Plan, "One City: Safe and Fair Everywhere": On Thursday Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced a new community policing plan, possible due to the upcoming addition of about 1,000 police officers to the NYPD force, aimed to unite “neighbors and residents in the fight against crime.” Police officers will go through the “training necessary to deepen relationships within the communities they serve.”

4. De Blasio’s Other Announcements:

  • On Tuesday, de Blasio added the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday.
  • On Wednesday, with Executive Order No.10, de Blasio established the Commission on Gender Equality.
  • Also on Wednesday, de Blasio announced a partnership with eyeglass company Warby Parker, which will allow community school students who need eyeglasses to receive them free of charge.

5. City Council Schedules Hearing on Police Reform Proposals: On Monday June 29 there will be a hearing of the public safety committee on nine police reform proposals, Capital New York reported. One of the bills included would outlaw the use of chokeholds by police officers. There is speculation that the hearing was added to the calendar as part of the budget deal during which de Blasio and the Council decided to include funding for 1,297 new police officers for the NYPD force.


  • 1,297 NYPD officers will be added to the force per the City’s newly released budget.
  • $78.5 billion for the city’s 2016 fiscal year budget. The budget is only a $200 million increase from the mayor’s executive budget released in early May. The new budget includes $52.6 million in City Council discretionary funds to be allocated by the 51 members, and Speaker Marissa Mark-Viverito has $16 million to allocate from her speaker's pot. 
  • 80 different pre-packaged Whole Foods products were tested by the Department of Consumer Affairs and “all the products had packages with mislabeled weights.” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin announced an investigation on Wednesday.
  • 1 year extension for mayoral control of city schools, per the new end-of-session deal in Albany, a major blow to Mayor de Blasio, who had wanted it made permanent.


  • It was a good week for the LGBTQ community with the Stonewall Inn voted as a historic landmark on Monday and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a right on Friday.
  • It was bad week for Mayor Bill de Blasio with mayoral control of schools only extended for a year, the charter cap essentially increased, and the rent regulation extension not matching his desired outcome.


  • This week in 2011, the same-sex marriage bill was approved by the State Senate 33-29 and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo at 11:55 p.m. June 24, 2011. Tweet from Andrew Cuomo, in part: @NYGovCuomo “On this day in 2011, New York State proudly passed #MarriageEquality.”
  • This week in 1915, the current New York City flag was raised for the first time during a flag-raising ceremony.



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

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

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

by Erika Wang and Ben Max

Erika.Wang94@myhunter.cuny.edu (Erika Wang) Fri, 26 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5790-the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-june-22-26
License to Carry: New York's Gun Permit Laws http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5782-license-to-carry-new-yorks-gun-permit-laws Cuomo SAFE Act

Gov. Cuomo signs the SAFE Act, Jan. 2013 (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)

Riders on a Brooklyn-bound 4 train fled in terror when a man responded to taunts from two younger men by pulling a gun and loading a clip. As the confrontation escalated and the train stopped, the melee spilled into the Borough Hall station, with threats and shoving until Gilbert Drogheo, one of the younger men, was lying dead of a gunshot wound on the station floor. Like a number of recent shootings, most of the incident was captured on video.

What stands out about the shooting death is that the firearm that killed Drogheo wasn't obtained illegally. According to law enforcement officials, Willie Grooms, the 69-year-old retired corrections officer who shot Drogheo, had a pistol permit. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that Grooms will not be charged with a crime despite pleas from Drogheo's family. Grooms has maintained that Drogheo was harassing and assaulting him and that he attempted a citizen's arrest.

The incident and several others, such as the seemingly accidental gun shot that injured five people at a recent Waldorf Astoria wedding, raise serious questions for many New Yorkers - as has the recent shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church that killed nine for many across the country. These are questions being seized upon by gun control activists in especially vehement efforts during June, which is Gun Violence Awareness Month in New York. Among the questions being asked are 'who is allowed to carry a gun' and 'how do people get gun permits.'

Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate agree that New York has some of the toughest gun-permitting laws of any state in the nation. However, regulations differ greatly between New York City and the rest of the state, with the city having a much more stringent system. This is evident as The New York Times recently reported on armed upstate New Yorkers on the lookout for two escaped prisoners (The Times then reported that guns may be missing from upstate cabins, possibly taken by those very escapees).

"New York has some of the strongest laws in the country," said Leah Barrett of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "New York is a 'may issue' state, whereas Florida is a 'shall issue.' Meaning [Florida] will basically issue [a gun permit] to anyone with a pulse."

New York is known as a 'may-issue state' because its regulations allow for background checks before issuing a license. However, the licensing process upstate is less restrictive than that of some other states, like Maryland, that rarely issue permits. Other states, such as Florida, are known as 'shall-issue' states because they have an application process that is mostly a formality. States like Texas are known as states 'unrestricted' because its residents are free to carry concealed firearms without going through any application process.

The screening and permitting process in New York differs based on type of firearm. Applicants for pistol permits undergo criminal and mental health background checks at the state and federal level - even when purchasing at a gun show. Permits are issued by local judges or clerks. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, free of a felony conviction or "serious" offense, of good moral character, and not have had a previous license revoked. Applicants must also state whether they have suffered severe mental illness or been institutionalized or hospitalized for such an illness. Permit issuers may deny a license based on that history.

In most of the state outside of New York City, permits are not required for the vast majority of rifles and shotguns used to hunt. Whereas the city does require a permit for guns used for hunting. The SAFE Act banned most assault style shotguns and rifles across the state but grandfathered in those purchased before January 15, 2013. Those grandfathered firearms were required to be registered before January 14, 2014.

According to The Times Union, recently-released data on registration by that 2014 deadline shows 23,847 people applying to register a total of 44,485 of those "newly defined assault-style weapons with the State Police." Many say that this shows a low level of compliance with the registration requirement. According to Gannett, The Shooters Committee on Public Education, a gun rights group, estimates a 4 percent compliance rate. "The majority of gun owners and sportsmen in New York have absolutely no respect for this law," the group's president reportedly said.

Gun rights advocates also point to how difficult it can be to get a new gun permit, especially in the city. "In New York City it is nearly impossible to get a pistol permit without some kind of hardcore need," said Tom King of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. "Getting a concealed carry permit is almost impossible in the city unless you are a politician, a celebrity or very, very wealthy." The New York Police Department is tasked with reviewing applications for concealed carry permits in the city. A New York Times report from 2011 revealed that a number of celebrities and media members like John Catsimatidis, Sean Hannity, Alexis Stewart, and John Mack all have city pistol permits.

Outside of the city, King says, the permitting is less prohibitive but may take some time due to background checks that have recently been enhanced by the SAFE Act - legislation that is much maligned by gun rights advocates. The difficulty of getting a concealed permit varies depending on the county in which someone applies, in most cases the process is overseen by a judge or a clerk.

The NYPD offers a number of different permits that allow for pistols to be carried for business purposes, or restrict the carrier to a specific business or residence. Store owners and security guards appear to be the most-often licensed. Applicants must pay about $400 for a license, wait 12 weeks, and undergo a background check. They then must apply to the NYPD for permission to buy whichever firearm they select. One license can cover up to 25 different weapons. There were over 40,000 permit holders in New York City as of 2011.

Applications for permits in the rest of the state generally cost a lot less - often around $15 - and are completed in about two months. The SAFE Act established that state pistol permits must be renewed every five years. Pistol owners who fail to do so can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Renewal involves submitting an applicant's current address, contact information, social security number, and a list of owned firearms.

King said that New York's current permitting rules seem fairly stable and that his group is mostly involved in fighting off the attempts of local municipalities to tweak gun laws. He notes that most smaller cities have to apply to the state for home rule to make their gun laws tougher and most of the time they are denied, or the law is defeated in court. His group is also actively looking to make repealing the SAFE Act a major issue in the 2016 elections for state Senate and Assembly. It was often used against Governor Andrew Cuomo and others during the 2014 cycle, while when he was campaigning in New York City, Cuomo boasted about passing the law, enacted quickly after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT.

Barrett, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, is concerned that a federal bill that would force states to recognize out-of-state conceal-carry permits is picking up steam. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a host of Republican legislators from states with no permitting laws. "This operates more or less like a driver's license," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told The Hill in February. "So, for example, if you have a driver's license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states."

Advocates of the bill say it would prevent 'gotcha' moments where travelers with out-of-state concealed-carry permits are arrested for toting guns illegally in another state. Barrett and gun-control advocates say the bill would wreak havoc in New York. They say the bill could severely damage efforts to fight gun trafficking from out of state, which the NYPD and others often point to as a major issue in terms of guns used to commit crimes in New York City. "New York would be forced to honor permits from these other states that have weaker laws," said Barrett. "We would likely see an influx of guns from out of state and an increase in trafficking. And how will New York be able to confirm these permits?"

While, New York may very well have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, some in Albany, including legislators who back stricter gun laws, say that in order to get Senate Republicans to negotiate on other bills they may have to concede to their efforts to roll back parts of the SAFE Act. On June 9 the Senate passed a bill that would do away with a SAFE Act provision that requires background checks on those who purchase ammo. A state database to monitor ammo sales has yet to be brought online. The bill would also prevent gun registrations from being made public and allow family members to gift semiautomatic guns to their relatives.

King said he thinks the bill has a real chance to make it through the Legislature. Barrett, however, points to a recent poll her group conducted on the individual elements of the SAFE Act. The poll shows that New Yorkers support the SAFE Act by a 2-1 margin, and their support increases overwhelmingly when asked about the individual gun-safety measures contained in the act.

Background checks for all firearm sales was backed by 89 percent of all voters and 80 percent of gun owners surveyed. Renewal of pistol permits every five years was supported by 79 percent of voters and 53 percent of gun owners. Background checks for ammunition sales was supported by 72 percent of all voters and 37 percent of gun owners.

"New Yorkers overwhelmingly support gun safety, in fact they support the measures contained in the SAFE Act when they learn how common sense they are," said Barrett.
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

dking@gothamgazette.com (David Howard King) Thu, 25 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5782-license-to-carry-new-yorks-gun-permit-laws
Certificate Programs Offer Opportunity for At-Risk Youth http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5786-certificate-programs-offer-opportunity-for-at-risk-youth-cuny-cherry BK Army Terminal

Brooklyn Army Terminal (photo: @NYCEDC)

Today, there are many problems facing disadvantaged New Yorkers but one of the most pressing is the large share of youth who are not transitioning well. This is most apparent with black boys who experience a disproportionate share of suspensions and have low high school graduation rates. Indeed, in New York City, only 28 percent of black males complete high school on time. This weak school progress, however, is not limited to black boys and is so pervasive that New York City has initiated a number of alternative high schools attended by youth who are significant credits behind and often older than eighteen years of age. It is reflected in the almost 200,000 youths, 17 to 24 years old, who are neither in school nor in paid employment.   

What can be done? City school chancellor Carmen Farina has instituted policy changes to dramatically reduce the number of school suspensions. As I wrote earlier this year, policies that reduce suspensions will not be very effective if they ignore an important source of anti-social behavior: often chaotic and sometimes abusive home environments. In another initiative, Farina announced that General Electric Corporation will provide funding to support Career and Technical Education (CTE) pilot programs at ten schools. CTE programs link high school coursework to community college occupational programs.

While CTE programs can be effective, certificate programs can be very beneficial for a large share of the most at-risk students. Certificates are recognition of completion of a course of study based on a specific field. They differ from industry-based certifications and licenses which typically involve passing an examination to prove a specific competency or completing an apprenticeship. By contrast, certificate programs take place entirely in the classroom.

A comprehensive report began, “In America, the postsecondary certificate has become a cost-effective tool for increasing postsecondary education attainment and gainful employment.” The survey involved pointed to studies that found certificates of at least one year provided a wage premium identical to Associate’s degrees—almost 40 percent for women and around 20 percent for men.

While the average certificate of less than one year has more limited value, this is not true in all cases. For example, police and protective services certificates are predominantly short-term and earned by men, but exceed the average 27 percent wage premium for male certificate holders. Certificates in business and office management are predominantly short-term and earned by women, but exceed the earnings of the median female certificate holder.

Nationally, public colleges award half of all certificates. However, in large cities where many at-risk students reside, public community colleges award only one-third of certificates; less than five percent in Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The extremes go from New York City, where community colleges award only 1.5 percent of certificates, to Chicago and Detroit, where two-thirds are awarded by the community colleges.

This evidence indicates that the CUNY system is an outlier and is ill-serving adolescents who are most at risk. CUNY’s neglect leaves many with no choice but to seek certificate programs in the for-profit sector. These schools have been demonized for their high failure rates and level of indebtedness many of their students experience. Yet they do have strengths that other institutions lack. The education sociologist James Rosenbaum suggests “that many for-profits have developed good counseling departments that help student not only with their academic goals, but also with their economic and social problems…They put resources into counselors and they’re much better at retaining students than community colleges.” A recent New York City study contends that the best for-profit schools offer real opportunity.

At-risk students too often must navigate the for-profit world after leaving school and many will make uninformed selections of schools and/or programs. Certainly, if the CUNY system would dramatically expand its certificate offerings this problem could be ameliorated. In addition, if high schools form partnerships with best-practice for-profits, at-risk students can be channeled into the best schools and the most appropriate programs. Given how valuable these links would be for the for-profits, high schools could negotiate very favorable conditions, enabling students to avoid high debt burdens while gaining valuable occupational skills.

For many educators, the ideal is academic learning – meaning a four-year college education – for all. Disadvantaged youth, however, may do better in the long run if we prioritize better and more immediate pathways into the labor market. At a time when 36 million American workers who attended college did not complete a degree, certificates are piecemeal, attainable, bite-size educational awards that can add substantially to postsecondary completion.

Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.
webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Robert Cherry) Wed, 24 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5786-certificate-programs-offer-opportunity-for-at-risk-youth-cuny-cherry
The Assembly Must Act to Prevent Wrongful Conviction http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5787-the-assembly-must-act-to-prevent-wrongful-conviction-central-park-five-salaam yusef salaam

The author, Yusef Salaam, middle, & other members of the Central Park 5 (photo: @venusinorbit)

We were interrogated for over 30 hours. We were accused, threatened, lied to, unable to eat or drink. All of this culminated in severe physical and emotional exhaustion and eventually prompted some of us - teenagers at the time - to provide false confessions to the infamous attack of the Central Park jogger.

Almost none of this interrogation process was video-recorded. Instead, the jury saw video-snippets of what appeared to be damning confessions; not the hours of coercion or the details of the crime that police were feeding us and demanding that we include in the well-rehearsed video "confessions." Although I did not provide a signed or video-taped confession, the police and prosecution claimed that I had offered an admission implicating myself in the crime. I made no such statement, but because there was not video capturing our interrogations from start to finish, the truth was buried. The jury never saw what led to Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise and Antron McCray, all teenagers, to falsely confess on tape. And as a result all of us – the Central Park Five – were wrongfully convicted.

The system failed us, but now New York can enact simple and practical changes in police procedure to ensure that false confession does not result in additional wrongful convictions. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie should use his leadership to pass A8157 out of his chamber. This bipartisan bill, which the Senate has already passed, would address two of the root causes of wrongful conviction in New York and nationally: false confession and misidentification. The bill would require police to video-record interrogations from start to finish and would provide law enforcement with the necessary training and resources to implement eyewitness identification practices that have been scientifically proven to protect against misidentification.

If the camera had been rolling throughout our interrogation, there might not have been the false confessions, and there would have been a record of the fact that I did not offer any "admission." But the phenomena of false confession leading to wrongful conviction is not limited to the Central Park Five; false confession played a role in almost half of New York's wrongful convictions that were proven by DNA evidence. In fact, false confessions or misidentification were contributing factors in nearly all of New York's 29 wrongful convictions that eventually resulted in DNA exonerations. And keep in mind that DNA exonerations only represent a small share of wrongful conviction cases. Physical evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing that can prove innocence is only available in a small percentage of cases, yet the contributing factors that led to the DNA exonerations – eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, etc. – are present in many cases.

In addition to protecting the innocent, A8157 would also strengthen public safety. The real perpetrator who raped the Central Park jogger, Matias Reyes, went on to commit three additional rapes and one murder. In New York's 29 DNA exonerations, 11 real perpetrators were identified. Five of those real perpetrators committed 11 additional violent crimes, which included three rapes, six murders and two other violent crimes.

With the legislative session in overtime, I implore Speaker Heastie and the Assembly to pass A8157. Lawmakers have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that no one else in our great state has to endure the horror of wrongful conviction.

Yusef Salaam is a member of the Central Park Five and was wrongfully convicted of rape and assault.

webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Yusef Salaam) Wed, 24 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5787-the-assembly-must-act-to-prevent-wrongful-conviction-central-park-five-salaam
Albany Must Keep the Charter Cap http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5783-albany-must-keep-the-charter-school-cap-dromm dromm idnyc

Council Member Dromm, the author, with his IDNYC (photo: William Alatriste)

Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed my resolution urging the state legislature to keep the cap on charter schools. That was nothing new: Council Members have long showed their opposition to raising the cap. But, with recent efforts by powerful special interests, including more than $13 million spent in lobbying and campaign ads, we need to remind New York why raising the cap is not only unnecessary, but also harmful to our public school children.

First, there is the capacity question. Charter schools have 2,500 unfilled seats in New York City. In addition, current charter agreements could allow for more than 27,000 additional authorized seats. In other words, these charter schools already are not handling their assigned share of students, and that burdens crowded public schools, making it more difficult for those schools to provide quality education.

Second, charter schools are not required to serve students who transfer to or join schools mid-year because of disciplinary measures or because of a family's choice. They also do not serve nearly the same amount of students with special needs as public schools. This means that when the school year starts, charters receive funding for a certain number of students yet actually end up teaching fewer than they are budgeted for. They then pocket the remainder and can boast lower class sizes while public schools again shoulder the burden.

Finally, the Center for Popular Democracy reported that New York stood to lose over $54 million to charter school-related fraud in 2014 alone. Audits can help uncover instances of fraud, mishandling of funds, conflicts of interest within governing boards, and a number of other troubling findings, yet charter schools largely oppose efforts to increase transparency. The State Comptroller's attempt to audit charter schools has already been foiled at every turn, meaning New Yorkers are left in the dark about how exactly our public dollars are spent.

Meanwhile, more than $5 billion in state money is owed to our traditional public schools to provide every child access to a "sound basic education" per the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling. Forty-four percent of all schools in New York City are overcrowded. The City's Independent Budget Office reports that most schools are at 102 percent capacity or more, and 88 percent of the city's charter schools are co-located within a district school, adding to the space crunch.

Co-located charter schools, by the way, are an exercise in inequality: privately run schools, with access to both private and public funds, that are taking resources from underfunded district schools. What does this mean for the social climate in these schools? Many students feel, and rightfully so, that district schools and their students are not valued the way they should be.

It is sensible to provide the money and attention owed to our public schools to keep them strong. Charter schools already divert resources from the majority of students, who attend public schools. Charter schools do not serve our children, especially the most needy, with enough accountability to justify increasing their share of funding.

All children deserve an education system that celebrates their potential by giving them the space and funding necessary to achieve educational excellence. The raising of the charter cap would be damaging to our public school system in terms of morale, space, funding, and overall quality. Leaders in Albany should finish their legislative session without altering the cap. Instead, it is time to ensure a feasible means of success for public schools by giving them the focus they need and not investing in a private enterprise that has yet to fulfill its promise to New Yorkers.

Daniel Dromm is the Education Committee Chair of the New York City Council.

webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Daniel Dromm) Tue, 23 Jun 2015 05:00:00 GMT http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5783-albany-must-keep-the-charter-school-cap-dromm