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Scandal Raises Questions About Member Items

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A recording of a wiretap featuring Councilman Dan Halloran bragging that he could extract tens of thousands of dollars from the City Council to use as a bribe has brought attention back to oversight of the council's member items. Although there isn't evidence Halloran did what he bragged a number of mayoral candidates are using the issue to attack fellow candidate Council Speaker Quinn. Bill de Blasio blasted Quinn at a press conference saying, "these things happened under her watch." Bill Thompson and Sal Albanese also attacked Quinn's record on member items. Republican Mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota called for an inspector general to oversee the council in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Lhota has attacked Quinn's proposal for an NYPD inspector general. “There have been so many accusations over the last four to six years about the abuse of member items,” Lhota told the Journal. “I think it’s about time that the council seriously consider having an inspector general for itself, to oversee what is obviously an area that is ripe for people with bad character.”


Other Stories We're Following

Smith Blew $2 Million in Election Cash (NY Post)

City Leave Police Official Without Lawyer to Defend Protesters Lawsuit (City Room)

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Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota says City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support for an independent police monitor is "reckless," "dangerous" and "redundant."

Lhota made the comments about Quinn, a Democrat who is also seeking to be mayor, from a prepared text while standing next to a super-sized printout of New York Police Department CompStat numbers.

"The police department needs to maintain a laser-like focus in the reduction of crime," Lhota said. "We can't allow reckless behavior like putting a handcuff on the police department, which is what the inspector general bill will do."

A supporter of NYPD's stop-and-frisk program, Lhota said that he would expect the NYPD to regularly train officers on how to use what he described as a constitutional practice.

The candidate praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly for their leadership on crime reduction, but also pointed to a spike in felony crimes between 2011 and 2012, which he highlighted on the board next to him. Lhota argued that public safety in the city is in too fragile a state to consider putting in place another level of bureaucracy on the police department.

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Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democratic candidate for mayor, hammered out a deal to move forward legislation that would require many businesses to give paid sick leave to their employees. She made the announcement Friday with supporters and leaders of local chambers of commerce. Quinn had refused to bring the bill to a floor vote for two years. But as the campaign to get the bill passed dovetailed with the mayoral race and a possible revolt from fellow Council members, she met with elected officials, union leaders and supporters of the bill to negotiate a deal.

The result was a seemingly more business-friendly bill that includes a provision that would delay the implementation of the bill if the economy worsens by the time it goes into effect in April 2014. Though acknowledging the effort to address concerns with the bill, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would veto it anyway. Quinn has said she has the votes to override him.

The New York Times' Editorial Board called the deal "good news, although it will take at least a year for most employees to enjoy a basic benefit widely available elsewhere." The New York Post wrote: "The best way to improve life for city workers is not by imposing politically motivated diktats on employers. It’s by giving business the freedom it needs to create a dynamic, expanding economy."

Last night, Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the prime sponsor of the sick leave bill, sent out an email thanking the speaker. She also disclosed the following "outline" of the bill:

• Businesses with 20 or more workers will have to provide five paid sick days beginning April 1, 2014.

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Deal on Paid Sick Leave

The city is set force companies that employ over 15 people to give full-time employees 5 compensated days off a year. The news comes as Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has blocked a vote on paid sick leave for years reached a deal last night with labor and business leaders. The law wouldn't take effect until spring 2014 and for the first 8 months it would only apply to businesses with 20 or more employees. Political pressure mounted on mayoral candidate Quinn over the last few weeks as her opponents and advocates attacked her on her refusal to bring the issue to a vote. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opposed to paid sick leave and like Quinn has said it will hurt business. The council will have to vote on the legislation and likely override a veto from Bloomberg. “We have a good, strong and sensible piece of legislation that recognizes the needs of everyday New Yorkers and the realities that our struggling small businesses face,” Quinn said in a statement.


Other Stories We're Following

NY Assembly Passes State Budget (Daily News)

Pro-Cuomo Group Biggest Lobbying Spender (NY Times)

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg got personal yesterday with state legislators he blames for failing to enact a speed camera program around schools that he says would stop children from being hit and killed by speeding cars. After the next tragedy Bloomberg suggested: “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” Bloomberg named Sens. Martin Golden, Dean Skelos and Simcha Felder as legislators parents should call to complain.“Maybe you want to give those phone numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed,” Bloomberg said. “It would be useful so that the parents can know exactly who’s to blame.” The speed camera plan was in the Assembly's budget plan but did not make it to the final product. When approached on Sunday during budget votes Golden told the Gazette "I have no idea," when asked why speed cameras weren't part of the budget. He told The New York Times on Wednesday that other areas that use speed cameras have found them "unreliable." Republican spokesman Scott Reif issued a statement saying that, "no one has fought harder or longer" to promote safety in New York City.


Other Stories We're Following

Queens Landlord Accused of Endangering Tenants (NY Times)

Police Chief Appointee Hailed as Bridge Builder (NY Times)

Quinn Denies Being Vindictive (NY Times)

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Recording Suggests Race a Factor in Stop and Frisk

A recording played in federal district court in Manhattan on Thursday suggests that race plays a factor in the city's stop and frisk practices. The tape captures a conversation between a patrol officer and his commanding officer. The commanding officer urges the officer to stop "the right people, at the right time, the right location," to prevent crime. The officer asks what the commander means by "right people" and he responds: "The problem, was what, male blacks and I told you at roll call and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21." The tape was played on the fourth day of trial in a class action lawsuit that includes millions of stop and frisk incidents in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed stop and frisk as a method to prevent gun violence and reduce crime. The issue is playing prominently in the race to replace Bloomberg.


Other Stories We're Following

Deal Will Give Cuomo Administration Suite at Bills Stadium (NY Times)

Man Shot By Police in Brownsville Firefight (NY 1)

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It isn't a complete budget but legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced what Cuomo called, "a budget agreement in concept." Leaders have agreed to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016, give households with one child or more under 18 who make $40,000-$300,000 a tax rebate of $350 and extend the millionaires tax for three years. There are also $650 million in tax breaks for businesses. The $135 billion budget plan will age three days and be voted on starting Saturday. Although bills began printing last night not every part of the budget is rock solid--distribution of school aid remains undecided, tweaking the city's marijuana laws was not addressed and neither was tweaks to the state's newly-passed gun laws. Other outstanding issues include providing tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and a deal to criminalize bath salts. Cuomo said that New York City will not see a restoration of $240 million in school aid it lost when the NYC Department of Education and the city's teachers union failed to reach a deal on teacher evaluations but Speaker Sheldon Silver said the money would be made up for through other channels. If lawmakers pass the budget by April 1st it will be the third on-time budget in a row.


Other Stories We're Following

Biden and Bloomberg to Meet on Gun Laws (NY Times)

Cuomo Favors Easing Newly Passed Gun Laws (NY Times)

Groups Decry Minimum Wage Deal (Gotham Gazette)

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Speaker Quinn, the frontrunner in the mayoral race, said a council bill to create an Inspector General's office for the NYPD likely has enough votes to override a mayoral veto. The office would be able to issue subpoenas, interview witnesses, and look broadly at police procedures and policies. Individual misconduct cases would still be handled by Internal Affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Quinn said talks were also progressing on three companion proposals to set new stop-and-frisk rules. A bill to create an NYPD monitor was introduced in June, but Quinn kept it from a vote. Bill de Blasio, a Democrat also running for mayor, said the monitor needed to have a budget independent of the mayor and City Council. Quinn would still retain Commissioner Kelly, who is opposed to the monitor.

Other Stories We're Following

Deal In Albany Would Extend Higher Taxes On Top Earners (NY Times)

NYPD Officer: Police Brass Dictate Stops, Arrests (Associated Press)

Ten Domestic Violence Victims File Lawsuit Against NYCHA (Daily News)

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City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn hasn't changed her mind about paid sick leave.

An unidentified party faked Quinn's mayoral campaign website and posted a message claiming she now supports a vote on legislation that would mandate paid sick days for employers.

But Quinn said on Wednesday that she hadn't changed her position on paid sick leave — and lamented the fake website.

"I think it's unfortunate that someone would create a website that's a replica of my campaign website when it's not," she said.

Quinn has long held that she supports the spirit of the bill, currently being pushed again by Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, but won't let it go to a vote. The Council speaker has consistently argued that the city's economy is currently too delicate for struggling business to comply with the proposal.

The fake website -- quinn4ny.org -- was an almost perfect copy Quinn's official homepage at quinn4ny.com, except for the same e-mail message being repeated on the impostor website.

"As mayor of New York, I pledge to represent all New Yorkers, not just the wealthiest one percent or those with back-channel access to politicians like me," said the message about paid sick leave, which was also emailed. "It's time for an up-or-down vote on paid sick days."

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Council Votes to Curb Deportations

The City Council overwhelmingly voted for two bills yesterday that will further restrict the city's cooperation with federal immigration authorities in an effort to prevent unnecessary deportations. The laws would stop the city from honoring detainment requests except for immigrants with previous felonies, who are on gang or terrorist watch lists, have outstanding criminal warrants, or have committed misdemeanors such as sexual abuse, gun possession and assault. However, the law would prevent holding immigrants charged or having been found guilty of most misdemeanors. The impact of the laws is unclear as they echo recent guidelines from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement chair. "Current policy is eroding the trust between immigrants and local law enforcement and that frustrates the stated purpose of ‘Secure’ Communities,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in a statement. “If immigrants believe that the police will hand them over to immigration authorities, they are less likely to report crimes, and this can only have a negative effect on public safety. We have seen too many families torn apart by current detention and deportation practices


Other Stories We're Following

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The New York City Immigration Coalition may have its work cut out for itself this year: Its 10-point agenda is ambitious and will require action from Albany as well as cooperation from law enforcement.

The groups top policy priority is expanding access to college by passing New York State's version of the DREAM Act. The State's DREAM act which is backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn would open up tuition assistance to students regardless of their immigration status.

Despite massive grassroots pressure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not make the DREAM legislation a part of his State of the State Speech in January. The Democratic-controlled Assembly has passed a version of the DREAM Act in the past and seems poised to do so again.

The Senate is a different story. The breakaway Independent Democratic Conference has indicated major support for the legislation but Senate Republicans have generally been opposed to the measure and have prevented floor votes. To add to the difficulty advocates face, it is unclear how many in the Democratic conference actually support the legislation.

Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo said at a debate in October that he felt his constituents had a hard enough time finding money sending their children to college so he could not support the DREAM Act. His Republican opponent, Councilman Eric Ulrich, said at the time that he supported "some version" of the legislation.

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The National Rifle Association proposed a plan today to position armed men around schools in reaction to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. New York officials are not pleased with the proposal, judging from their reactions:

The NRA's Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA's lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence. While they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives - not only in schools, but in our movie theaters, malls, and streets. Enough. As a country, we must rise above special interest politics. Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns. That's why 74 percent of NRA members support common sense restrictions like criminal background checks for anyone buying a gun. It is time for Americans who care about the Second Amendment and reasonable gun restrictions to join together to work with the President and Congress to stop the gun violence in this country. Demand a plan. — Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The NRA’s response to the tragic events in Newtown is deeply disturbing and underscores just how far out of touch they are from reality and the concerns of most Americans. The answer to gun violence on our street corners, in our shopping centers and in our schools is not more guns. The answer is stronger gun laws and a dramatic expansion of mental health services.

New York can and must be a leader in developing a solution. I am hopeful in the coming weeks the Senate will join together with the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to pass meaningful legislation that will begin to change the culture of gun violence in our society. — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

Seven days after those teachers and children were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut the NRA has broken their silence. I wish they had kept their mouths shut. All they did today was add more pain and heartache to those Newtown families. Their remarks are some of the most stupid, asinine, insensitive, ridiculous comments I have ever heard made in the public arena. All these remarks tell us is that the NRA does not seem to care about protecting our children. I do not understand how even with all of those little coffins being rolled out in Newtown, that the NRA believes the answer is more guns. All that would have happened if there were armed guards in Sandy Hook Elementary is that we would now have dead armed guards. Why do we need an army style gun in that school, a gun we send to Afghanistan? I think the NRA’s comments today were a clear and blatant attempt to throw salt in the wounds of families who lost their loved ones. As a human being, I am surprised and tremendously disappointed in what the NRA did today. — Council Speaker Christine Quinn

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Legislation aimed at fortifying the city's infrastructure to withstand future extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy has been introduced into the City Council.

"Before we see another Hurricane Sandy hit our five boroughs, we must ensure our shoreline, our streets, our transportation system, our electrical system — every part of our city's foundation and groundwork is fully prepared," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn before the legislation was introduced. "If we want to protect our neighborhoods and prevent and limit future devastation, we have to act now."

They mayor's office said it was reviewing the bills.

The Council also announced a series of oversight hearings to look at the city's response to Sandy, scheduled to begin in January.

When asked whether the Council would look at the question of whether some rebuilding along the shoreline should be reconsidered, Quinn said it was a debate worth having.

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New York officials are more than excited that the United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. Here are some of their reactions:

Statement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:


The rights of men and women should not be dependent upon who they love and who they chose to spend their lives with. The Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of DOMA is the right decision and one that brings us another step closer to full marriage equality. The history of our country is defined by the progress we have made expanding the definition of equality to all people, of all races and both sexes. The Supreme Court Justices have often played a central role in these debates, and now they will have a chance to do so again.

Statement of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

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Members of the City Council have called for an overhaul of how the Board of Elections administers elections following the chaos at the polls seen this past November during the general election.

The Council announced the following recommendations during a committee hearing today on the BOE's performance during the election, which was complicated by Superstorm Sandy:

  • Early voting at poll sites
  • Easier access to absentee ballots
  • End the use of voter cards
  • Begin using electronic poll books
  • Better training for poll workers
  • More oversight of poll workers
  • Split shifts for poll workers
  • Larger polling locations
  • Hire an executive editor for the Board
  • Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Here is Speaker Christine Quinn's statement, sent by the Council's press office:

The New York City Board of Elections must take responsibility for systemic problems and fix them immediately. Poorly trained poll workers and chaotic polling place procedures have been recurring issues, election after election. Implementing the reforms we are announcing today is a step towards bringing about the change voters expect and deserve.

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In an effort to regulate how pedicabs set fares, the City Council passed legislation today that would require pedicab drivers to set their rates based on the duration of rides.

If the bill becomes law, drivers of pedicabs, popular in tourists spots like Central Park and Times Square, would be required to use a timer during all rides.

The timer would have to be fastened within clear view of the passengers, along with rates charged.

“Our legislation will bring increased legitimacy to the pedicab industry and will ensure customers know what they’re paying to go on a ride – without being taken for a ride," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement.

Intro. 0597 - 2011 was championed by Councilman Dan Garodnick, the chair of the committee on consumer affairs.

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Today's Lead Stories...

Partial Transit Restored, Free Rides


Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a traffic emergency for today and Friday making mass transit free for those using the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's busses and trains. "The service in many cases is limited, the service in many cases will be crowded," Cuomo said at a late night press conference in the city. The move came afterimmense gridlock Wednesday. City busses were jammed with commuters and gas lines stretched for over half a mile. Commuters who wish to drive into the city will have to car pool. The entire transportation infrastructure has yet to be restored with flooding still impeding some routes but partial service has been restored. Check out the MTA's post-storm stubway map.




In the Press...

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The City Council is taking up the fight against illegal hotels with legislation that would set fines at $1,000 to $25,000.

At a news conference organized to announce yesterday's Council vote on the bill, Speaker Christine Quinn spoke about how resident Charles Seelig, 64, was having to deal with rude transients staying at his brownstone in the Village.

Seelig later told the Gazette that the building had people coming in and hout all hours of the night. "It was really strange," he said. "It gave you a lot of insecurity."

The primary sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), says the bill will help to end illegal hotel use in the city that displaces permanent residents, reduces affordable housing stock and can be a nuisance for neighbors.

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New York City Councilman James Sanders Jr. is imploring Speaker Christine Quinn to bring a stalled paid sick leave bill to a vote. "There is nothing harder to stop than an idea whose time has come," the councilman said in a recent interview with the Gotham Gazette.