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Several candidates who want to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg have responded lukewarmly to City Hall's plans to offer new contracts to city employees in exchange for foregoing retroactive pay increases.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Democratic frontrunner, said in a statement to the Gotham Gazette that she supports fair compensation for city workers and a dialog between union leaders and the administration.

"At the same time," she said, "we must always be mindful of the city budget, and honor our obligations to NYC taxpayers, and should strive to reach agreements that are fair to all parties."

Independence party candidate and former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión also supported ongoing talks balanced with fiscal restraint, as did Republican candidate and former MTA chief Joe Lhota.

"I applaud the mayor for making contract negotiations a priority," Lhota said. "Getting contracts in place for the city's workers that are fair and fiscally responsible is in the best interest of all New Yorkers."

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Corruption in Albany Means Tons of Cash For Legal Fees

State officials have spent nearly $7 million of campaign cash on legal fees related to criminal and ethics investigations into them since 2004 an analysis by The Daily News and the New York Public Interest Group finds. Senate Democrats have proposed a rule banning legislators from spending campaign cash on legal fees. The analysis found that lawmakers have spent $2 million of campaign cash on legal fees in the last two years alone. That spurt is boosterd by former Sen. Carl Kruger who spent $1.5 million of his campaign cash on legal fees. Kruger is currently serving seven years in prison after pleading guilting to a number of corruption charges. Other major spenders are former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, former Controller Alan Hevesi and Assemblyman Vito Lopez.


Other Stories We're Following

Senate Blocks Drive For New Gun Control (NY Times)

Cuomo on Background Check Defeat: 'Sad Statement on Power of Extremists' (Gotham Gazette)

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New York politicians are criticizing the U.S. Senate for its inability to pass a measure that would have required background checks for private sales of firearms at gun shows and on the Internet.

“The failure to pass even the most basic measures to expand background checks for gun sales, despite near-universal support from the American people, is a disgrace," state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement today.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the Senate vote a "damning indictment":

Today’s vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington. More than 40 U.S. senators would rather turn their backs on the 90 percent of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby. Democrats – who are so quick to blame Republicans for our broken gun laws – could not stand united. And Republicans – who are so quick to blame Democrats for not being tough enough on crime – handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows and online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed. Senators Manchin and Toomey – as well as Majority Leader Reid and Senators Schumer, Kirk, Collins, McCain and others – deserve real credit for coming together around a compromise bill that struck a fair balance, and President Obama and Vice-President Biden deserve credit for their leadership since the Sandy Hook massacre. But even with some bi-partisan support, a common-sense public safety reform died in the U.S. Senate at the hands of those who are more interested in attempting to protect their own political careers – or some false sense of ideological purity – than protecting the lives of innocent Americans. The only silver lining is that we now know who refuses to stand with the 90 percent of Americans – and in 2014, our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don’t forget.

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The New York Police Department is taking additional security precautions for at least two public events this weekend following the attack at the Boston Marathon.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that there have been no specific threats to New York City, but that the city remains vigilant in the wake of yesterday's bombing of the annual running event in Boston.

Kelly said the NYPD was reviewing security plans for a 5K Run/Walk and family day for the 9/11 memorial and a four-mile race in Central Park for the City Parks Foundation.

"We are certainly evaluating, or reevaluating them, in light of the event that took place yesterday," he said at a press conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall today. The Boston flag was at half-mast in front of City Hall in remembrance of the victims of the attack.

"We are vigilant, but we are vigilant for a good cause," Kelly said.

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Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said yesterday that she wants the city to control the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which is currently run by the state. "The MTA chair is appointed by the governor. The mayor has a minority of the appointments on the MTA board. The majority of the new members are appointed by the governor and county leaders outside of our city," Quinn said. "This has resulted in an MTA that doesn't respond quickly enough to the needs of New Yorkers and the changing face of our city." Transportation advocates have criticized Quinn's plan. Quinn also said that by 2023 no New Yorker should have a commute of more than an hour in any direction.


Other Stories We're Following

Man Faces Hate Crime Charges in Brooklyn Burning Spree (NY 1)

New Yorkers Brace For Cuts to Unemployment (NY Times)

Cuomo's Re-election Machinery Already at Work (NY Times)

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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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As I reported on Monday, a number of issues important to New York City were tossed out of state budget negotiations or barely dealt with including The DREAM Act, SUNY Downstate and speed cameras.

As it turns out, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not too pleased with the Legislature's failure to enact a bill that would allow the city to use up to 40 speed cameras in high-risk areas.

“Frankly, reckless and negligent are some senators blocking our ability to save lives of our kids with speed cameras,” Bloomberg told reporters today.

Bloomberg told reporters to give out the names of three State Senators who he held responsible for blocking the bill to parents who lose children in traffic accidents — Sens. Dean Skelos, Marty Golden and Simcha Felder.

"I have no idea!" Golden responded on Sunday when I asked him what happened to speed cameras in the budget.

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Yesterday Police Commissioner Kelly spoke for the first time about the idea of creating an inspector general for NYPD. “I think putting in another layer of so-called supervision or monitoring can ultimately make this city unsafe," he said. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg commented on the mayoral candidates' ability to keep the city safe: “What we don’t know is what they will actually do to reduce crime. We don’t even know if it’s a goal.” Mayoral Candidate William Thompson said Tuesday he wants an inspector who would report to the commissioner. In related news, three cops who have stopped-and-frisked an unusual amount of people will offer their perspective on the practice at a trial over its constitutionality.

Other Stories We're Following

State Tells Investors That Climate Change May Hurt Its Finances (NY Times)

Brooklyn DA Gets Reality Show Ahead Of Democratic Primary (Daily News)

Report: Most Gay And Lesbian Students In New York City Are Harassed (Daily News)

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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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Mayor Bloomberg introduced a bill yesterday that would force retailers to keep cigarettes out of view from customers. It would not affect advertising, which falls under First Amendment protections. Speaker Quinn said she is very open to the idea. A Health Department study found that 80 percent of stores selling cigarettes devote most of their space behind the register to tobacco displays. A British study found that simply noticing tobacco on display raised the odds kids would try smoking by threefold. A second proposed bill would raise penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes and create a minimum price of $10.50 per pack. Retailers complain they will lose a lot of business.

Other Stories We're Following

Focus On Three Encounters In Stop-And-Frisk Trial (NY Times)

State Budget To Include $9 Minimum Wage (Associated Press)

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As expected, Mayor Bloomberg signed off on two bills that will limit the city's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“The city values the contributions of immigrants,” Bloomberg said during today’s signing, “and these bills are part of the administration’s continual effort to balance protecting public safety and national security with ensuring that New York is the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.”

Bloomberg said that the bills were a direct response to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program with the New York Police Department. The federal mandate requires that city law enforcement agencies send suspects’ fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security, much like a similar program called the Criminal Alien Program linked the Department of Correction with federal authorities.

The City Council responded to the latter with a bill requiring the DOC’s non-enforcement of the policy in cases where a suspect has either no criminal history or charges and who don’t pose a danger to the community. Bloomberg signed that bill in 2012, and strengthened it with his signature today. The same guidelines for DOC will now also apply to the police department.

Advocates view the bills’ ratification as equally important to the original legislation from 2011, which supporters say prevented 267 deportations by DOC.

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Out of sight, out of mind — that's how Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to reduce smoking rates among youth in the nation's biggest city.

Bloomberg announced today that he's going to push for new anti-tobacco restrictions, including a first-in-the-country law that would mandate retail stores hide away tobacco products except during sales to adults or when they are being restocked.

He said the bill tackles the pervasive in-store marketing of tobacco products to young people.

"New York City has dramatically lowered our smoke rate," Bloomberg said in a statement. "But even one new smoker is one too many — especially when it's a young person."

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the adult smoking rate had decreased from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011. But he said "youth smoking rates have remained flat at 8.5 percent since 2007."

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More People Moving to City Than Leaving

According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg the city's population has reached an all-time high of 8.3 million and for the first time since the 1950's more people are moving into the city than moving out. The city's population grew by 161,000 between 2010 and 2012 bringing the population to 8.3 million. Each borough saw an increase in population but Brooklyn trumped them all with a jump of 61,000 people. "The facts bear out that this is a great place to come, to live, to vacation, to get medical care, to get an education," Bloomberg said.


Other Stories We're Following

Lawsuits Feared From New Unemployment Law (Crain's)

Report Says Bronx Rent Disputes Favor Landlords (NY Times)

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City Jobless Rate Rises

The city's jobless rate rose above 9 percent in January despite the fact that the city started the year with more jobs than it has ever had before. The State Labor Department found that the city added85,000 jobs in 2012 and started 2013 with 3.94 million jobs. The Labor Department has concluded that the city's jobless rate rose no higher than 9.5 percent last year and was at 8.8 percent by the end of the year.


Other Stories We're Following

City Park Staff to be Bolstered (Wall Street Journal)

Amendments to State Gun Law Package in The Works (Albany Times Union)

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't dispute a recent report that homelessness has hit a high not seen in decades — with over 50,000 people a night staying in the city's shelters — but he refuses to accept criticism that his administration has failed to tackle the problem.

Instead, he says the state cut the key Advantage rent subsidy program, and that the Coalition for the Homeless, which released the report, backed that decision.

Capital New York reports that Bloomberg said this at a news conference earlier today:

We are having fewer people coming into the homeless system .... They are staying longer. Why? Because the state cut the Advantage program out. When they cut their money out, we also lost the federal monies. Without those subsidies, people don't move out. So if you want to reduce the population, you've gotta go and get those monies back. Keep in mind, it was the Coalition [for] the Homeless that wanted to kill that program and hurt the people in the shelters. So it's a little bit disingenuous for them to start talking about it.

Mary Brosnahan, president of the Coalition for the Homeless, responded in a statement:

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Gun Advocates Swarm Capitol

The Capitol in Albany was swarmed by an estimated 5,000 gun advocates yesterday in a rally organized to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo's New York Safe Act. The SAFE Act that expanded the definition of assault weapons, banned clips with 7 or more bullets and increased penalties for illegal gun possesion was championed by Cuomo after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.The predominantly male audience carried signs that compared Cuomo to Hitler and chanted "Cuomo's got to go." Many protesters traveled for miles from across the state. Cuomo and legislative leaders have said they do not plan any major changes to the Safe Act besides a few technical corrections. However, one Republican Senator Kathy Marchione has introduced a bill that would repeal most of the SAFE act. The repeal is unlikely to ever come to a vote as Senate Republican leadership supports the SAFE act. The New York Rifle and Pistol Association which organized the protest is working on a legal challenge to the SAFE Act that it plans to file next week.


Other Stories We're Following

Fare Hikes on MTA Commuter Rails Take Effect Today (NY 1)

New State Education Standards Could Cost City Big (NY Times)

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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

Bronx Defenders Offer Legal Aid (NY Times)

Critics Say City Should Pay Wrongly Convicted (NY Times)

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The New York City Parents Union is adding Mayor Michael Bloomberg's name to their lawsuit that aims to stop city schools from losing $250 million in education aid.

The group won a temporary junction to stop Gov. Andrew Cuomo from putting in place the cuts that were triggered by the failure of the Bloomberg Administration and the United Federation of Teachers to work out a deal on teacher evaluations.

In allowing the injunction, a state judge ruled last week that children should not be punished for a failure to reach a deal.

The Parents Union says Bloomberg's attorney informed them today that the Mayor is going forward with the $250 million in cuts. So now the group has added Bloomberg, the New York City Department of Education and Chancellor Dennis Walcot to the lawsuit and asked the judge to extend the temporary injunction to them.

"We are appalled that Mayor Bloomberg has decided to cut $250 million from New York City's public schools despite the fact that parents have obtained an injunction against Governor Cuomo and New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., stopping them from taking education funds due to the lack of agreement between New York City and the UFT on a teacher evaluation system," said NYC Parents Union President Mona C. Davids in a statement. "Is Mayor Bloomberg above the law?"

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