Public Safety Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion 2019-03-25T22:40:21+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Madrid Demonstrates Successful Civic Engagement. Let’s Pay Attention as We Launch New York City Commission 2019-03-24T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8380-madrid-demonstrates-successful-civic-engagement-let-s-pay-attention Devin Balkind dbalkind@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/decide_madrid.jpg" alt="decide madrid" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: @decidemadrid)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Madrid turns its residents’ collective passions and intelligence into tangible improvements to city life. New York should do the same.</em></p> <p>New Yorkers had until February 22 to <a href="https://a002-irm.nyc.gov/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=c285dd2d-5cac-4df8-a246-d0e233ec0f5c" target="_blank" rel="noopener">apply</a> to join the Civic Engagement Commission (CEC), a new entity that city voters approved last election to manage civic engagement processes throughout the city. The commission, which will be officially named in April by a variety of elected officials including the Mayor, has a broad mission and three specific mandates: to improve language access at polling places, expand participatory budgeting citywide, and help nonprofits with civic engagement efforts.</p> <p>Even though these three mandates might seem disjointed, the commission could still be a success. But what does successful civic engagement look like? It looks like Madrid.</p> <p>History won’t explain why Madrid is so good at civic engagement, but <em>Decide Madrid</em> (decide.madrid.es), the city’s official participatory decision-making website, will. Decide is a custom-built, open-source website developed by Madrid’s city council to provide a single online location for the city’s public decision-making processes: participatory budgeting, resident petitions, legislation feedback, and more.</p> <p>By placing all these civic processes into one software platform, Madrid reduces the costs of organizing for government, and streamlines participation for users. Over 400,000 of Madrid’s 3 million residents have accounts, making it the largest system of its kind in the world - and the most impactful.</p> <p><a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proceso/plaza-espana/proyectos/38"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/proyecto-x.png" alt="proyecto x" width="240" height="171" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Decisions made on Decide are genuinely important. If a resident’s petition reaches a certain threshold, then the city government is required by law to come up with an implementation plan that will then go up for a city-wide referendum vote. The participatory budgeting projects are funded to the tune of $100 million a year, making it one of the world’s largest participatory budgeting processes. Every comment made on legislation posted to the platform gets a response from a city staffer. And Madrid is beginning to leverage the system for more complex tasks like decisions related to land-use and public-space renovations.</p> <p>The recent multi-phase process for redevelopment of Plaza Espana, one of the city’s most important public spaces, was a major milestone. The process began with an 18 question survey filled out by over 20,000 people. The results were made public and then used to inform resident proposals, which anyone could post to the website. The public then gave feedback on each proposal via comments, and indicated opinions by clicking a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon. The most popular projects advanced to the next round where they were evaluated by a jury of experts who worked with the finalists to merge the most popular features into two final proposals, which went up for public referendum where residents picked the winning design.</p> <p><a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proceso/plaza-espana-resultados"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/in-general-terms.png" alt="in general terms" width="450" height="205" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></p> <p>Whether you're looking at big processes like the Plaza Espana redevelopment, or the thousands of resident-generated participatory budgeting project proposals posted to the site for the 2018 funding cycle, one thing is abundantly clear: Madrid has found a way to turn its residents’ passions and intelligence into tangible improvements for the city. And the public loves it.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/proyectos-local-geo.png" alt="proyectos local geo" width="450" height="156" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Polls for the upcoming mayoral election show Mayor Manuela Carmena, who made the development and use of Decide a central piece of her first campaign and mayoral administration, is ahead by a wide margin and has never been more popular. The conservatives, who ruled Madrid from 1991 to 2015, are in disarray and the traditional socialist party, which ran against her in the last election, <a href="https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/04/19/inenglish/1524125414_929987.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has offered</a> her leadership in their party. She has refused.</p> <p>This leads to an obvious question: is the key to improving the quality of life in a city giving residents the power to make more direct decisions about their government’s actions? Fortunately, Madrid wants us all find out.</p> <p>The software powering Madrid’s Decide website was built by Madrid’s Office of Civic Participation. It turned the code into an open source project called <em>Consul</em> that anyone can download for their own use. And that’s exactly what has happened: over a dozen cities in Spain and nearly 100 governments around the world, including large cities like Buenos Aires and Quito, are using <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/Consulproject.org" target="_blank">Consul</a> for participatory processes. Software developers in these cities are also contributing code back to the project, enabling Madrid to benefit from the global public’s collective intelligence.</p> <p>And we in New York City can too - but only if we commit to using best practices and open source tools from around the world to do so. Madrid shows us how. We should leverage their success and follow in their footsteps. The soon-to-be-named Civic Engagement Commission that was popularly approved by voters last year is a perfect opportunity.</p> <p>***<br /> Devin Balkind is the president of Sahana Software Foundation, founder of <a href="https://sarapis.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sarapis.org</a>, and a former candidate for New York City Public Advocate. He speaks regularly at conferences around the world about using technology to overcome environmental and political crisis. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DevinBalkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DevinBalkind</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/decide_madrid.jpg" alt="decide madrid" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: @decidemadrid)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Madrid turns its residents’ collective passions and intelligence into tangible improvements to city life. New York should do the same.</em></p> <p>New Yorkers had until February 22 to <a href="https://a002-irm.nyc.gov/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=c285dd2d-5cac-4df8-a246-d0e233ec0f5c" target="_blank" rel="noopener">apply</a> to join the Civic Engagement Commission (CEC), a new entity that city voters approved last election to manage civic engagement processes throughout the city. The commission, which will be officially named in April by a variety of elected officials including the Mayor, has a broad mission and three specific mandates: to improve language access at polling places, expand participatory budgeting citywide, and help nonprofits with civic engagement efforts.</p> <p>Even though these three mandates might seem disjointed, the commission could still be a success. But what does successful civic engagement look like? It looks like Madrid.</p> <p>History won’t explain why Madrid is so good at civic engagement, but <em>Decide Madrid</em> (decide.madrid.es), the city’s official participatory decision-making website, will. Decide is a custom-built, open-source website developed by Madrid’s city council to provide a single online location for the city’s public decision-making processes: participatory budgeting, resident petitions, legislation feedback, and more.</p> <p>By placing all these civic processes into one software platform, Madrid reduces the costs of organizing for government, and streamlines participation for users. Over 400,000 of Madrid’s 3 million residents have accounts, making it the largest system of its kind in the world - and the most impactful.</p> <p><a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proceso/plaza-espana/proyectos/38"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/proyecto-x.png" alt="proyecto x" width="240" height="171" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Decisions made on Decide are genuinely important. If a resident’s petition reaches a certain threshold, then the city government is required by law to come up with an implementation plan that will then go up for a city-wide referendum vote. The participatory budgeting projects are funded to the tune of $100 million a year, making it one of the world’s largest participatory budgeting processes. Every comment made on legislation posted to the platform gets a response from a city staffer. And Madrid is beginning to leverage the system for more complex tasks like decisions related to land-use and public-space renovations.</p> <p>The recent multi-phase process for redevelopment of Plaza Espana, one of the city’s most important public spaces, was a major milestone. The process began with an 18 question survey filled out by over 20,000 people. The results were made public and then used to inform resident proposals, which anyone could post to the website. The public then gave feedback on each proposal via comments, and indicated opinions by clicking a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon. The most popular projects advanced to the next round where they were evaluated by a jury of experts who worked with the finalists to merge the most popular features into two final proposals, which went up for public referendum where residents picked the winning design.</p> <p><a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proceso/plaza-espana-resultados"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/in-general-terms.png" alt="in general terms" width="450" height="205" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></p> <p>Whether you're looking at big processes like the Plaza Espana redevelopment, or the thousands of resident-generated participatory budgeting project proposals posted to the site for the 2018 funding cycle, one thing is abundantly clear: Madrid has found a way to turn its residents’ passions and intelligence into tangible improvements for the city. And the public loves it.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/proyectos-local-geo.png" alt="proyectos local geo" width="450" height="156" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Polls for the upcoming mayoral election show Mayor Manuela Carmena, who made the development and use of Decide a central piece of her first campaign and mayoral administration, is ahead by a wide margin and has never been more popular. The conservatives, who ruled Madrid from 1991 to 2015, are in disarray and the traditional socialist party, which ran against her in the last election, <a href="https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/04/19/inenglish/1524125414_929987.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has offered</a> her leadership in their party. She has refused.</p> <p>This leads to an obvious question: is the key to improving the quality of life in a city giving residents the power to make more direct decisions about their government’s actions? Fortunately, Madrid wants us all find out.</p> <p>The software powering Madrid’s Decide website was built by Madrid’s Office of Civic Participation. It turned the code into an open source project called <em>Consul</em> that anyone can download for their own use. And that’s exactly what has happened: over a dozen cities in Spain and nearly 100 governments around the world, including large cities like Buenos Aires and Quito, are using <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/Consulproject.org" target="_blank">Consul</a> for participatory processes. Software developers in these cities are also contributing code back to the project, enabling Madrid to benefit from the global public’s collective intelligence.</p> <p>And we in New York City can too - but only if we commit to using best practices and open source tools from around the world to do so. Madrid shows us how. We should leverage their success and follow in their footsteps. The soon-to-be-named Civic Engagement Commission that was popularly approved by voters last year is a perfect opportunity.</p> <p>***<br /> Devin Balkind is the president of Sahana Software Foundation, founder of <a href="https://sarapis.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sarapis.org</a>, and a former candidate for New York City Public Advocate. He speaks regularly at conferences around the world about using technology to overcome environmental and political crisis. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DevinBalkind" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DevinBalkind</a>.</p> <p>

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Rep. Nydia Velázquez: My Campaign Finance Pledge 2019-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8360-rep-velazquez-my-campaign-finance-pledge Nydia Velázquez cardejon@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/city-council-reyna-puente-cm.jpg" alt="city council reyna puente cm" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Rep. Nydia Velázquez (photo:&nbsp;William Alatriste/NY City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>When I first ran for Congress, I faced what observers said were impossible odds. No Puerto Rican woman had ever served in Congress, the incumbent was sitting on a $2 million war chest, and I was taking on a powerful party machine determined to stop me. Yet, I won.</p> <p>What guided me in that first race, and every election since, has been my neighbors’ voices, which I have continued to rely on—from town halls to street corners to knocking on doors. My opponent back then spent close to $6 million in today’s dollars, much of it coming from big corporate backers, but it couldn’t outweigh the importance of person-to-person conversations with real voters in our community.</p> <p>Like anyone running for office, I’ve had to raise money over the years, but I’ve always prioritized community organizing and constituent contact over fundraising. While it has long been apparent that our campaign finance system is far from ideal, its problems have grown exponentially worse since Citizens United. That ruling set the stage for an unprecedented influx of corporate money in our political system. It also helped undermine our national political culture. The sheer volume of money aimed at influencing electoral outcomes has bred a degree of distrust among voters more severe than I can ever recall since entering public life.</p> <p>This growing cynicism is bad for our city and our nation. Over the long term, I worry that corrosion of voters’ trust in government threatens our democracy’s health, weakens our civic institutions, and makes policy-making worse.</p> <p>For these reasons, I have made the decision starting this year to stop taking corporate PAC money. What was true before, will be transparent forevermore: the decisions I make and the work I do is on behalf of New York’s working families; not those with a corporate ledger. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is my belief that we are in a unique moment in our political history, making this decision the appropriate step for my campaign, right now. I am proud to join the many Democrats elected in 2018 who have already taken this pledge. Over half (36 of 62) of the Democrats newly elected to Congress last year have committed to do this, but only seven returning incumbents have joined them so far. That needs to change—and as a longtime progressive leader in Congress, I hope others will join this call.</p> <p>In my fights for progressive values here in New York, I have been blessed to build community support for allies who have taken similar steps. In 2013, again facing a predatory party boss, we elected a slate of reformers to the City Council who stood against big-moneyed special interests. In 2018, we took on corporate-backed Democrats who sided with Republicans and real estate interests to elect a crop of reformers to the New York State Senate.</p> <p>Throughout my time in public office, I have always taken on entrenched interests, whether it is party bosses trying to impose a chokehold on local politics or big companies seeking to undermine environmental and consumer safeguards or profit off the sick and the vulnerable. My commitment to those core values has not and never will waver. But, it is my hope that no longer accepting corporate PAC money will send a powerful message to my constituents and my Congressional colleagues that the time for additional change has come.</p> <p>Make no mistake: curing what plagues our political system will require more than elected officials foregoing corporate PAC money. That’s just one piece in a complicated puzzle. For instance, I will also push for the passage of a statewide public campaign finance system in New York that bans corporate money and emphasizes small-dollar, individual contributions.</p> <p>Another problem: since Citizens United, so-called Super PACs injected more than $1 billion into federal elections in 2016 alone, without meaningful transparency. Fixing that problem will almost certainly require legislation. Likewise, we need to be working at both the state and federal levels to reduce voting obstacles. Faith in government didn’t erode overnight and won’t be immediately fixed either. Nonetheless, greater transparency in campaign finance and boosting voter participation can help. Those goals will require more work, but they are certainly worth pursuing.</p> <p>For now, turning away corporate PAC dollars is the right decision for me, my campaign, my community and, most of all my constituents. Ultimately, we are elected to lead and, as more members of Congress follow suit, this can be a modest, but meaningful step toward restoring trust in public service.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens in Congress. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/city-council-reyna-puente-cm.jpg" alt="city council reyna puente cm" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Rep. Nydia Velázquez (photo:&nbsp;William Alatriste/NY City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>When I first ran for Congress, I faced what observers said were impossible odds. No Puerto Rican woman had ever served in Congress, the incumbent was sitting on a $2 million war chest, and I was taking on a powerful party machine determined to stop me. Yet, I won.</p> <p>What guided me in that first race, and every election since, has been my neighbors’ voices, which I have continued to rely on—from town halls to street corners to knocking on doors. My opponent back then spent close to $6 million in today’s dollars, much of it coming from big corporate backers, but it couldn’t outweigh the importance of person-to-person conversations with real voters in our community.</p> <p>Like anyone running for office, I’ve had to raise money over the years, but I’ve always prioritized community organizing and constituent contact over fundraising. While it has long been apparent that our campaign finance system is far from ideal, its problems have grown exponentially worse since Citizens United. That ruling set the stage for an unprecedented influx of corporate money in our political system. It also helped undermine our national political culture. The sheer volume of money aimed at influencing electoral outcomes has bred a degree of distrust among voters more severe than I can ever recall since entering public life.</p> <p>This growing cynicism is bad for our city and our nation. Over the long term, I worry that corrosion of voters’ trust in government threatens our democracy’s health, weakens our civic institutions, and makes policy-making worse.</p> <p>For these reasons, I have made the decision starting this year to stop taking corporate PAC money. What was true before, will be transparent forevermore: the decisions I make and the work I do is on behalf of New York’s working families; not those with a corporate ledger. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is my belief that we are in a unique moment in our political history, making this decision the appropriate step for my campaign, right now. I am proud to join the many Democrats elected in 2018 who have already taken this pledge. Over half (36 of 62) of the Democrats newly elected to Congress last year have committed to do this, but only seven returning incumbents have joined them so far. That needs to change—and as a longtime progressive leader in Congress, I hope others will join this call.</p> <p>In my fights for progressive values here in New York, I have been blessed to build community support for allies who have taken similar steps. In 2013, again facing a predatory party boss, we elected a slate of reformers to the City Council who stood against big-moneyed special interests. In 2018, we took on corporate-backed Democrats who sided with Republicans and real estate interests to elect a crop of reformers to the New York State Senate.</p> <p>Throughout my time in public office, I have always taken on entrenched interests, whether it is party bosses trying to impose a chokehold on local politics or big companies seeking to undermine environmental and consumer safeguards or profit off the sick and the vulnerable. My commitment to those core values has not and never will waver. But, it is my hope that no longer accepting corporate PAC money will send a powerful message to my constituents and my Congressional colleagues that the time for additional change has come.</p> <p>Make no mistake: curing what plagues our political system will require more than elected officials foregoing corporate PAC money. That’s just one piece in a complicated puzzle. For instance, I will also push for the passage of a statewide public campaign finance system in New York that bans corporate money and emphasizes small-dollar, individual contributions.</p> <p>Another problem: since Citizens United, so-called Super PACs injected more than $1 billion into federal elections in 2016 alone, without meaningful transparency. Fixing that problem will almost certainly require legislation. Likewise, we need to be working at both the state and federal levels to reduce voting obstacles. Faith in government didn’t erode overnight and won’t be immediately fixed either. Nonetheless, greater transparency in campaign finance and boosting voter participation can help. Those goals will require more work, but they are certainly worth pursuing.</p> <p>For now, turning away corporate PAC dollars is the right decision for me, my campaign, my community and, most of all my constituents. Ultimately, we are elected to lead and, as more members of Congress follow suit, this can be a modest, but meaningful step toward restoring trust in public service.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens in Congress. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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Are the Votes There to Pass Congestion Pricing Through the State Legislature? 2019-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8379-are-the-votes-there-to-pass-congestion-pricing-through-the-state-legislature Jim Brennan jbrennan@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-mta-fare-increase.jpg" alt="gov cuomo mta fare increase" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>It’s decision time for the New York State Legislature on the State budget, due March 31, and it’s still not clear congestion pricing has the votes to pass. I’ve been an advocate for congestion pricing since Mayor Bloomberg first proposed it in 2007 and I know that this is the year to get it done.</p> <p>The two houses of the State Legislature each pass a “one-house” budget resolution in early March to outline their budget priorities: this year the State Assembly one-house budget articulates that the Assembly majority supports a new long-term source of revenue for the MTA but does not specifically endorse congestion pricing. The State Senate one-house budget contains an articulated statement of support for congestion pricing. But no bill for congestion pricing has actually yet passed either house as the budget deadline approaches.</p> <p>I was fortunate to serve in the Democratic majority my entire 32 years in the State Assembly, from 1985 through 2016; a legislator in the minority party frequently has little chance of getting many of their bills to pass. There are 150 members of the State Assembly and the Democratic majority frequently exceeded 100 in my years there; it is 107 right now.</p> <p>The rule of thumb for putting a potentially controversial but important bill to a floor vote for passage in the Assembly has been that it needed 76 guaranteed Democratic votes, just over half the chamber, and today that means 76 out of the 107 Democrats, without relying on any Republican support. Usually this wasn’t a serious problem, in fact many bills are noncontroversial or routine and frequently pass with large numbers of Republicans voting for them too. A bill without that kind of support going to the floor has been quite rare.</p> <p>Substantial opposition to congestion pricing has been the reason the proposal was never brought to a vote in the Assembly when Michael Bloomberg was Mayor in 2007 and 2008, or when Governor Cuomo announced he was backing it last year. It is why the governor, the Assembly, and the Senate have yet to announce a deal on this concept with less than 10 days before the budget deadline. If Speaker Heastie determines a congestion pricing bill might have 32 Democratic votes against, and therefore at most 75 Democratic votes, he probably wouldn’t put it on the floor for a vote, especially if there was a risk that all 43 Republicans would vote against it.</p> <p>Are 32 Democratic Assembly votes against congestion pricing a real possibility? The answer is yes - a real possibility - or it could be extremely close to 32, with a number of members on the fence or not wanting to be forced to take a vote on the issue. There is substantial opposition in Queens, where there are 17 Democratic members, and, to a lesser extent, Brooklyn, which has 20 Democratic members, where opposition in the southern and furthest east sections of the borough was substantial at the time I was serving just a few years ago.</p> <p>There are ten Democratic members from Long Island, including several just recently elected who might be concerned about taking a risky vote, two Democratic members from Staten Island, and four Democratic members from Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan counties where many people who work in the city drive in and where mass transit options north and west of the Hudson River to New York City are not good. There are seven Democratic members from Westchester and there is no guarantee all of them will vote for congestion pricing, nor is there a guarantee that all 22 members from Manhattan and the Bronx will vote yes.</p> <p>One possibility is that the language authorizing congestion pricing will simply be put into a bigger budget bill, such as the main bill authorizing the transportation and economic development budget as a whole. Since there would be tens of billions of dollars of general road, bridge, and mass transit financing in such a bill, a member would have to vote against the whole package, including things he or she might want, just to vote no on congestion pricing. This is always the dilemma of large authorizations for funding packages, but effective for accomplishing a result despite opposition inside the majority party.</p> <p>Should congestion pricing fail, there are plenty of alternatives but they might face other political problems. Revenue from state taxes is $80 billion a year, three-quarters of which comes from the metropolitan area, and New York City tax revenue is $60 billion a year. Governor Cuomo was seeking about $1 billion a year from congestion pricing - just a fraction of the revenue base of the metropolitan area. However, without congestion pricing, some fraction of a broader-based tax would likely have to be enacted. The new Senate Democratic majority, however, is aware Republicans are gunning for them in the next election, and might be reluctant to consider any tax increase that is broad-based.</p> <p>If congestion pricing passes, it will be a major victory for mass transit, and I remain hopeful. The list of other severe challenges for the MTA is large and will hardly go away, but that can be the subject of another discussion.</p> <p>***<br /> Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-mta-fare-increase.jpg" alt="gov cuomo mta fare increase" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>It’s decision time for the New York State Legislature on the State budget, due March 31, and it’s still not clear congestion pricing has the votes to pass. I’ve been an advocate for congestion pricing since Mayor Bloomberg first proposed it in 2007 and I know that this is the year to get it done.</p> <p>The two houses of the State Legislature each pass a “one-house” budget resolution in early March to outline their budget priorities: this year the State Assembly one-house budget articulates that the Assembly majority supports a new long-term source of revenue for the MTA but does not specifically endorse congestion pricing. The State Senate one-house budget contains an articulated statement of support for congestion pricing. But no bill for congestion pricing has actually yet passed either house as the budget deadline approaches.</p> <p>I was fortunate to serve in the Democratic majority my entire 32 years in the State Assembly, from 1985 through 2016; a legislator in the minority party frequently has little chance of getting many of their bills to pass. There are 150 members of the State Assembly and the Democratic majority frequently exceeded 100 in my years there; it is 107 right now.</p> <p>The rule of thumb for putting a potentially controversial but important bill to a floor vote for passage in the Assembly has been that it needed 76 guaranteed Democratic votes, just over half the chamber, and today that means 76 out of the 107 Democrats, without relying on any Republican support. Usually this wasn’t a serious problem, in fact many bills are noncontroversial or routine and frequently pass with large numbers of Republicans voting for them too. A bill without that kind of support going to the floor has been quite rare.</p> <p>Substantial opposition to congestion pricing has been the reason the proposal was never brought to a vote in the Assembly when Michael Bloomberg was Mayor in 2007 and 2008, or when Governor Cuomo announced he was backing it last year. It is why the governor, the Assembly, and the Senate have yet to announce a deal on this concept with less than 10 days before the budget deadline. If Speaker Heastie determines a congestion pricing bill might have 32 Democratic votes against, and therefore at most 75 Democratic votes, he probably wouldn’t put it on the floor for a vote, especially if there was a risk that all 43 Republicans would vote against it.</p> <p>Are 32 Democratic Assembly votes against congestion pricing a real possibility? The answer is yes - a real possibility - or it could be extremely close to 32, with a number of members on the fence or not wanting to be forced to take a vote on the issue. There is substantial opposition in Queens, where there are 17 Democratic members, and, to a lesser extent, Brooklyn, which has 20 Democratic members, where opposition in the southern and furthest east sections of the borough was substantial at the time I was serving just a few years ago.</p> <p>There are ten Democratic members from Long Island, including several just recently elected who might be concerned about taking a risky vote, two Democratic members from Staten Island, and four Democratic members from Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan counties where many people who work in the city drive in and where mass transit options north and west of the Hudson River to New York City are not good. There are seven Democratic members from Westchester and there is no guarantee all of them will vote for congestion pricing, nor is there a guarantee that all 22 members from Manhattan and the Bronx will vote yes.</p> <p>One possibility is that the language authorizing congestion pricing will simply be put into a bigger budget bill, such as the main bill authorizing the transportation and economic development budget as a whole. Since there would be tens of billions of dollars of general road, bridge, and mass transit financing in such a bill, a member would have to vote against the whole package, including things he or she might want, just to vote no on congestion pricing. This is always the dilemma of large authorizations for funding packages, but effective for accomplishing a result despite opposition inside the majority party.</p> <p>Should congestion pricing fail, there are plenty of alternatives but they might face other political problems. Revenue from state taxes is $80 billion a year, three-quarters of which comes from the metropolitan area, and New York City tax revenue is $60 billion a year. Governor Cuomo was seeking about $1 billion a year from congestion pricing - just a fraction of the revenue base of the metropolitan area. However, without congestion pricing, some fraction of a broader-based tax would likely have to be enacted. The new Senate Democratic majority, however, is aware Republicans are gunning for them in the next election, and might be reluctant to consider any tax increase that is broad-based.</p> <p>If congestion pricing passes, it will be a major victory for mass transit, and I remain hopeful. The list of other severe challenges for the MTA is large and will hardly go away, but that can be the subject of another discussion.</p> <p>***<br /> Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> @JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

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De Blasio Backs NYPD Harassment of Muslim New Yorkers 2019-03-21T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8371-de-blasio-backs-nypd-harassment-of-muslim-new-yorkers Albert Fox Cahn afcahn@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/may-bill-de-blasio-rally-remarks.jpg" alt="may bill de blasio rally remarks" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New Yorkers learned about the experience of Jamilla Clark, a domestic violence survivor who was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyregion/hijab-police-lawsuit-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced by NYPD officers to undress herself</a>, removing her religious headscarf against her will. Jamilla and other women’s experiences led my co-counsel and me to sue the NYPD, bringing a federal civil rights lawsuit.</p> <p>We hoped that self-proclaimed “progressive” Mayor Bill de Blasio would be quick to end this traumatizing practice. We were wrong. Last week, nearly a year after we first brought the lawsuit, <a href="https://puma-turkey-lszz.squarespace.com/s/2019-3-11-de-Blasio-NYPD-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">30 elected officials and community groups condemned the mayor for defending the NYPD policy</a>. Groups ranging from Make the Road New York to the Legal Aid Society to my own group, The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project said it “is wrong for the NYPD to force New Yorkers to violate their faith, and it’s wrong for you, Mayor de Blasio, to defend this policy.”</p> <p>Officers who force Muslim women and other religious New Yorkers to remove their head coverings aren’t breaking NYPD rules, and they don’t face disciplinary action. To the contrary, they are following official, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/public-pguide2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYPD guidelines</a>, which require Muslim New Yorkers to take off the hijab for a mugshot.</p> <p>A hijab is a religious headscarf that covers the hair and ears, but leaves the oval of the face fully visible. New York City’s unlawful and unconstitutional policy forces Muslim women to remove their hijab—a garment that symbolizes their faith and that so many view as an indispensable component of their identity.</p> <p>The signatories to our letter demand that the mayor “immediately end the NYPD policy of forcing arrestees to remove religious head coverings, including turbans, wigs, hats, and the hijab, when arrested.” &nbsp;At a time when other municipalities have stopped this horrific practice, allowing women to retain the hijab when arrested, New York is lagging behind. Cities from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and Long Beach, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota and Portland, Maine have recognized that it is unnecessary to remove religious head coverings for a post-arrest police photo.</p> <p>In the past, New York City settled litigation over this policy, paying women who had been targeted by the NYPD. But though the city was willing to pay victims of the policy, it was unwilling to end the practice. &nbsp;We need to go further and make clear that all arrestees have the right to retain their head coverings.</p> <p>We can fight this out in the courts for as long as it takes. But if it takes a federal court order to make Mayor de Blasio do the right thing, he’ll need to retire the “progressive” label once and for all.</p> <p>City leaders have promised to make New York a sanctuary for all faiths, but actions have fallen sort of our soaring rhetoric. This is the moment for our city to live up to our promise, this is the moment to respect the rights of religious New Yorkers, this is the moment to end New York City’s hijab arrest policy.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of <a href="https://www.stopspying.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project</a>, a New York–based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cahnlawny</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/may-bill-de-blasio-rally-remarks.jpg" alt="may bill de blasio rally remarks" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New Yorkers learned about the experience of Jamilla Clark, a domestic violence survivor who was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyregion/hijab-police-lawsuit-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced by NYPD officers to undress herself</a>, removing her religious headscarf against her will. Jamilla and other women’s experiences led my co-counsel and me to sue the NYPD, bringing a federal civil rights lawsuit.</p> <p>We hoped that self-proclaimed “progressive” Mayor Bill de Blasio would be quick to end this traumatizing practice. We were wrong. Last week, nearly a year after we first brought the lawsuit, <a href="https://puma-turkey-lszz.squarespace.com/s/2019-3-11-de-Blasio-NYPD-sign-on-letter.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">30 elected officials and community groups condemned the mayor for defending the NYPD policy</a>. Groups ranging from Make the Road New York to the Legal Aid Society to my own group, The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project said it “is wrong for the NYPD to force New Yorkers to violate their faith, and it’s wrong for you, Mayor de Blasio, to defend this policy.”</p> <p>Officers who force Muslim women and other religious New Yorkers to remove their head coverings aren’t breaking NYPD rules, and they don’t face disciplinary action. To the contrary, they are following official, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/public-pguide2.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYPD guidelines</a>, which require Muslim New Yorkers to take off the hijab for a mugshot.</p> <p>A hijab is a religious headscarf that covers the hair and ears, but leaves the oval of the face fully visible. New York City’s unlawful and unconstitutional policy forces Muslim women to remove their hijab—a garment that symbolizes their faith and that so many view as an indispensable component of their identity.</p> <p>The signatories to our letter demand that the mayor “immediately end the NYPD policy of forcing arrestees to remove religious head coverings, including turbans, wigs, hats, and the hijab, when arrested.” &nbsp;At a time when other municipalities have stopped this horrific practice, allowing women to retain the hijab when arrested, New York is lagging behind. Cities from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and Long Beach, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota and Portland, Maine have recognized that it is unnecessary to remove religious head coverings for a post-arrest police photo.</p> <p>In the past, New York City settled litigation over this policy, paying women who had been targeted by the NYPD. But though the city was willing to pay victims of the policy, it was unwilling to end the practice. &nbsp;We need to go further and make clear that all arrestees have the right to retain their head coverings.</p> <p>We can fight this out in the courts for as long as it takes. But if it takes a federal court order to make Mayor de Blasio do the right thing, he’ll need to retire the “progressive” label once and for all.</p> <p>City leaders have promised to make New York a sanctuary for all faiths, but actions have fallen sort of our soaring rhetoric. This is the moment for our city to live up to our promise, this is the moment to respect the rights of religious New Yorkers, this is the moment to end New York City’s hijab arrest policy.</p> <p>***<br /> Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of <a href="https://www.stopspying.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project</a>, a New York–based civil rights and police accountability organization. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/cahnlawny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cahnlawny</a>.</p> <p>

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The Route to Cleaner Air for Communities of Color and Low Income: Electric Buses and Congestion Pricing 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8366-the-route-to-cleaner-air-for-communities-of-color-and-low-income-electric-buses-and-congestion-pricing Cecil Corbin-Mark ccmark@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-sign-upgrade-mta.jpg" alt="gov cuomo sign upgrade mta" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Your zip code and how much money you make can determine your health and quality of life in New York City – including the quality of the air you breathe.</p> <p>Recent data from <em>The New York City Community Air Survey</em> shows that certain neighborhoods have more particulate matter and black carbon than others. It should come as no surprise that many of these areas – like East Harlem, Washington Heights, or the South Bronx – are largely inhabited by people of color or people with lower incomes, who historically bear a disproportionate burden of the effects of environmental pollution.</p> <p>Poor air quality leads to increased lung disease and asthma, especially for kids and older people. It can result in higher doctor bills and more missed days of work or school, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/22/climate/air-pollution-deaths.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cut months or even years</a> off of our lives.</p> <p>The city and the state should do everything possible to improve air quality in pollution hot-spots. Yet, in the neighborhoods where air quality is poorest, MTA New York City Transit buses are also the oldest – and thus most-polluting. The depots where the buses are stored are disproportionately located in these areas, resulting in more idling and frequent in-and-out trip movements, all adding to poorer air quality.</p> <p>That’s why there is a pressing need to electrify the city’s buses, reducing exhaust and cleaning the air. New York City knows bus electrification is important: the city set a goal for an all-electric bus fleet by 2040 “to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions." New electric buses should first be deployed in neighborhoods with the worst air quality.</p> <p>But there’s still a question of funding the transition to an electric citywide bus fleet. In his draft budget for next state fiscal year, Governor Cuomo focuses on congestion pricing as a key source of capital.</p> <p>Congestion pricing asks drivers to pay a surcharge when they enter Manhattan south of 60th Street and north of Battery Park. The revenue generated would then be put toward other transportation infrastructure repairs—e.g., our broken mass transit system.</p> <p>The city’s public transit system is deeply intertwined with New Yorkers’ quality of life. People rely on the buses and trains to get to their jobs, schools, and families in a timely and affordable way. They should be able to do so without dirtying the air in local communities and contributing to the environmental burden they already face. New York needs congestion pricing to begin transitioning the city’s buses to clean, electric vehicles.</p> <p>***<br /> Cecil D. Corbin-Mark is deputy director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CecilCorbinMark" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CecilCorbinMark</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/weact4ej" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@weact4ej</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-sign-upgrade-mta.jpg" alt="gov cuomo sign upgrade mta" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Your zip code and how much money you make can determine your health and quality of life in New York City – including the quality of the air you breathe.</p> <p>Recent data from <em>The New York City Community Air Survey</em> shows that certain neighborhoods have more particulate matter and black carbon than others. It should come as no surprise that many of these areas – like East Harlem, Washington Heights, or the South Bronx – are largely inhabited by people of color or people with lower incomes, who historically bear a disproportionate burden of the effects of environmental pollution.</p> <p>Poor air quality leads to increased lung disease and asthma, especially for kids and older people. It can result in higher doctor bills and more missed days of work or school, and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/22/climate/air-pollution-deaths.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cut months or even years</a> off of our lives.</p> <p>The city and the state should do everything possible to improve air quality in pollution hot-spots. Yet, in the neighborhoods where air quality is poorest, MTA New York City Transit buses are also the oldest – and thus most-polluting. The depots where the buses are stored are disproportionately located in these areas, resulting in more idling and frequent in-and-out trip movements, all adding to poorer air quality.</p> <p>That’s why there is a pressing need to electrify the city’s buses, reducing exhaust and cleaning the air. New York City knows bus electrification is important: the city set a goal for an all-electric bus fleet by 2040 “to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions." New electric buses should first be deployed in neighborhoods with the worst air quality.</p> <p>But there’s still a question of funding the transition to an electric citywide bus fleet. In his draft budget for next state fiscal year, Governor Cuomo focuses on congestion pricing as a key source of capital.</p> <p>Congestion pricing asks drivers to pay a surcharge when they enter Manhattan south of 60th Street and north of Battery Park. The revenue generated would then be put toward other transportation infrastructure repairs—e.g., our broken mass transit system.</p> <p>The city’s public transit system is deeply intertwined with New Yorkers’ quality of life. People rely on the buses and trains to get to their jobs, schools, and families in a timely and affordable way. They should be able to do so without dirtying the air in local communities and contributing to the environmental burden they already face. New York needs congestion pricing to begin transitioning the city’s buses to clean, electric vehicles.</p> <p>***<br /> Cecil D. Corbin-Mark is deputy director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CecilCorbinMark" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CecilCorbinMark</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/weact4ej" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@weact4ej</a>.</p> <p>

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Public Financing of Elections is a Matter of Racial Justice 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-20T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8370-public-financing-of-elections-is-a-matter-of-racial-justice Monifa Bandele & Richard Wallace mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/public-financing-cuomo.jpg" alt="public financing cuomo" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>“Black humanity and dignity requires Black political will and power. Despite constant exploitation and perpetual oppression, Black people have bravely and brilliantly been the driving force pushing the U.S. towards the ideals it articulates but has never achieved. In recent years we have taken to the streets, launched massive campaigns, and impacted elections, but our elected leaders have failed to address the legitimate demands of our Movement. We can no longer wait.”</p> <p>Those words launch the policy platform that more than 50 organizations that make up the Movement For Black Lives policy table signed onto last year.</p> <p>A key component of this policy platform is public financing of elections -- because we know that we can’t truly build Black political power and combat racism and oppression if wealthy donors continue to hold outsized influence.</p> <p>While Black representatives may be gaining in number and power, without systemic campaign finance reforms these gains will be fleeting. This is true here in New York, where we celebrate a historic occurrence -- leaders of both chambers in the state Legislature are Black: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>To get true democracy -- especially for historically oppressed people -- you need to have fair elections. That includes both public financing and easier access to the polls.</p> <p>It’s time for New York to become the leader in campaign finance reform. All three top leaders in New York State government (Stewart-Cousins, Heastie, and Governor Andrew Cuomo) -- along with the majority of sitting Senators and Assembly members -- have long supported this important reform that would give public matching funds to candidates who raise small-dollar donations from average New Yorkers. With “fair elections” legislation in place, elections would no longer be funded primarily by wealthy, white donors.</p> <p>New York, under “fair elections,” would be more likely to prioritize the needs of poor and working class New Yorkers, including poor and working class Black people.</p> <p>The current situation is stacked against us. All too often the donors that are funding campaigns in New York have very different needs than the working families that make up a majority of a politician’s constituency. When implemented, these campaign finance reforms -- and specifically, a small dollar matching system -- can bring more and continued diversity to New York State’s candidate and donor pools and improve responsiveness to and accountability with voters.</p> <p>It’s no secret that our country has a legacy of racism and has systematically disenfranchised Black people through our political system — whether through mass incarceration or voter suppression laws. But campaign finance plays a similar, if more hidden, role. The dominance of big money in our politics makes it much harder for poor and working-class Black people to express political power and effectively advocate for their interests. For too long the power and wealth in our country -- and in our state -- is consolidated to a very small, very white population and the Black community has been left behind.</p> <p>New York’s Legislature, now with all-Black legislative leadership, shows that change is possible, but we can’t rest until we change the system for the long-term. For such a progressive state, New York has some of the worst campaign finance rules in the country. Yet finally, with progressives in both houses of the Legislature and a governor who wants to change them, New York campaign finance laws could, should, and must quickly change to make sure everyone's voice is heard -- even if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate.</p> <p>***<br /> Monifa Bandele &amp; Richard Wallace are on the Leadership Team of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/public-financing-cuomo.jpg" alt="public financing cuomo" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>“Black humanity and dignity requires Black political will and power. Despite constant exploitation and perpetual oppression, Black people have bravely and brilliantly been the driving force pushing the U.S. towards the ideals it articulates but has never achieved. In recent years we have taken to the streets, launched massive campaigns, and impacted elections, but our elected leaders have failed to address the legitimate demands of our Movement. We can no longer wait.”</p> <p>Those words launch the policy platform that more than 50 organizations that make up the Movement For Black Lives policy table signed onto last year.</p> <p>A key component of this policy platform is public financing of elections -- because we know that we can’t truly build Black political power and combat racism and oppression if wealthy donors continue to hold outsized influence.</p> <p>While Black representatives may be gaining in number and power, without systemic campaign finance reforms these gains will be fleeting. This is true here in New York, where we celebrate a historic occurrence -- leaders of both chambers in the state Legislature are Black: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>To get true democracy -- especially for historically oppressed people -- you need to have fair elections. That includes both public financing and easier access to the polls.</p> <p>It’s time for New York to become the leader in campaign finance reform. All three top leaders in New York State government (Stewart-Cousins, Heastie, and Governor Andrew Cuomo) -- along with the majority of sitting Senators and Assembly members -- have long supported this important reform that would give public matching funds to candidates who raise small-dollar donations from average New Yorkers. With “fair elections” legislation in place, elections would no longer be funded primarily by wealthy, white donors.</p> <p>New York, under “fair elections,” would be more likely to prioritize the needs of poor and working class New Yorkers, including poor and working class Black people.</p> <p>The current situation is stacked against us. All too often the donors that are funding campaigns in New York have very different needs than the working families that make up a majority of a politician’s constituency. When implemented, these campaign finance reforms -- and specifically, a small dollar matching system -- can bring more and continued diversity to New York State’s candidate and donor pools and improve responsiveness to and accountability with voters.</p> <p>It’s no secret that our country has a legacy of racism and has systematically disenfranchised Black people through our political system — whether through mass incarceration or voter suppression laws. But campaign finance plays a similar, if more hidden, role. The dominance of big money in our politics makes it much harder for poor and working-class Black people to express political power and effectively advocate for their interests. For too long the power and wealth in our country -- and in our state -- is consolidated to a very small, very white population and the Black community has been left behind.</p> <p>New York’s Legislature, now with all-Black legislative leadership, shows that change is possible, but we can’t rest until we change the system for the long-term. For such a progressive state, New York has some of the worst campaign finance rules in the country. Yet finally, with progressives in both houses of the Legislature and a governor who wants to change them, New York campaign finance laws could, should, and must quickly change to make sure everyone's voice is heard -- even if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate.</p> <p>***<br /> Monifa Bandele &amp; Richard Wallace are on the Leadership Team of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table.</p> <p>

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Seizing the Moment for Bold Climate, Green Job & Environmental Justice Legislation in New York 2019-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8367-seizing-the-moment-for-bold-climate-green-job-environmental-justice-legislation-in-new-york Steven Englebright senglebright@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/aerial-solar-panels.jpg" alt="aerial solar panels" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>(photo: mayor's office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, March 15, over 1 million students from 125 countries walked out of school to demand that we act on climate change. &nbsp;As New Yorkers, we’re already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change in our communities. We all remember the damage to homes, lives, and communities caused by Superstorm Sandy, and we know we’ll face more intense storms in the future. As summers get longer and hotter, more of our elderly neighbors will be at risk for heat stroke or even death.</p> <p>We also know that the impacts of climate change do not &nbsp;affect everyone the same way. From heat waves to hurricanes to sea-level rise, low-income communities, communities of color, and communities historically burdened by polluting and extractive industries are often more vulnerable to climate risks.</p> <p>But discussion of climate change does not have to be all doom and gloom. In New York State, we have an opportunity to move to a fossil-fuel-free economy while also investing in good, high-wage jobs and creating real investment in communities most impacted by the climate change.</p> <p>If we want a carbon-free future, or some would say, any future, we need to reduce our emissions from all sources and we need to set an enforceable timeline to do it.</p> <p>This crisis gives us an opportunity to re-imagine our priorities as a state. It will take planning and investments to move to a fossil-free future. We need to direct some of those investments to marginalized communities and people already hurt by the climate crisis. We need to make sure green jobs pay livable wages, and create opportunities among low- and middle-income communities across the state. We need to end our dependence on fossil fuels while building a better economy that does its best not to leave anyone &nbsp;behind.</p> <p>This is part of the reason why I sponsor the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), which has passed in the State Assembly three years in a row. &nbsp;This year has brought with it more opportunities, and the time is right to create a green and equitable future.</p> <p>The CCPA has the support of over 160 grassroots community, labor, and environmental organizations. It creates an enforceable timeline to move our entire economy to 100% renewable energy by no later than 2050. It is based on the timeline scientists recommend to avoid catastrophe. It also includes the strongest equity provisions in the nation to invest in communities hit hardest by the climate crisis.</p> <p>The CCPA is about more than just the environment. Under the bill, 40 percent of state funds directed towards greening our economy would go to environmental justice communities. That includes low-income communities, communities of color, and folks at high risk of being adversely impacted by major storms or sea-level rise, and communities already experiencing polluted air and water from carbon-burning facilities.</p> <p>The CCPA also sets wage and apprenticeship standards so that new green jobs are well-paying, livable jobs. It is estimated that the CCPA will generate the creation of 150,000 jobs related to the green energy transition, revitalizing communities and providing opportunities for New Yorkers across the state.</p> <p>We can and should get this done this year.</p> <p>***<br /> Assemblymember Steven Englebright represents parts of Long Island. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveEngles" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveEngles</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/aerial-solar-panels.jpg" alt="aerial solar panels" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>(photo: mayor's office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, March 15, over 1 million students from 125 countries walked out of school to demand that we act on climate change. &nbsp;As New Yorkers, we’re already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change in our communities. We all remember the damage to homes, lives, and communities caused by Superstorm Sandy, and we know we’ll face more intense storms in the future. As summers get longer and hotter, more of our elderly neighbors will be at risk for heat stroke or even death.</p> <p>We also know that the impacts of climate change do not &nbsp;affect everyone the same way. From heat waves to hurricanes to sea-level rise, low-income communities, communities of color, and communities historically burdened by polluting and extractive industries are often more vulnerable to climate risks.</p> <p>But discussion of climate change does not have to be all doom and gloom. In New York State, we have an opportunity to move to a fossil-fuel-free economy while also investing in good, high-wage jobs and creating real investment in communities most impacted by the climate change.</p> <p>If we want a carbon-free future, or some would say, any future, we need to reduce our emissions from all sources and we need to set an enforceable timeline to do it.</p> <p>This crisis gives us an opportunity to re-imagine our priorities as a state. It will take planning and investments to move to a fossil-free future. We need to direct some of those investments to marginalized communities and people already hurt by the climate crisis. We need to make sure green jobs pay livable wages, and create opportunities among low- and middle-income communities across the state. We need to end our dependence on fossil fuels while building a better economy that does its best not to leave anyone &nbsp;behind.</p> <p>This is part of the reason why I sponsor the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), which has passed in the State Assembly three years in a row. &nbsp;This year has brought with it more opportunities, and the time is right to create a green and equitable future.</p> <p>The CCPA has the support of over 160 grassroots community, labor, and environmental organizations. It creates an enforceable timeline to move our entire economy to 100% renewable energy by no later than 2050. It is based on the timeline scientists recommend to avoid catastrophe. It also includes the strongest equity provisions in the nation to invest in communities hit hardest by the climate crisis.</p> <p>The CCPA is about more than just the environment. Under the bill, 40 percent of state funds directed towards greening our economy would go to environmental justice communities. That includes low-income communities, communities of color, and folks at high risk of being adversely impacted by major storms or sea-level rise, and communities already experiencing polluted air and water from carbon-burning facilities.</p> <p>The CCPA also sets wage and apprenticeship standards so that new green jobs are well-paying, livable jobs. It is estimated that the CCPA will generate the creation of 150,000 jobs related to the green energy transition, revitalizing communities and providing opportunities for New Yorkers across the state.</p> <p>We can and should get this done this year.</p> <p>***<br /> Assemblymember Steven Englebright represents parts of Long Island. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveEngles" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveEngles</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Getting to Truth, and Solidarity, on Loft Law Reform 2019-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8369-getting-to-truth-and-solidarity-on-loft-law-reform Alison Dell, Ximena Garnica, Michael Kozek, Michael McKee, McDavid Moore & Zefrey Throwell mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/nyc_loft_tenants_rally.jpg" alt="nyc loft tenants rally" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Rally for the Loft Law bill&nbsp;(photo via @NYCLT)</p> <hr /> <p>Recently, there has been considerable attention paid to a Loft Law “clean-up” bill that is on the table in the New York State Legislature. Advocates have worked tirelessly for over three years to make it law; an effort stymied by a Republican-controlled Senate in 2017 and 2018, resulting in eviction of many loft tenants.</p> <p>In November 2018, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the Senate this year and thus all of state government. Many Democrats won hard-fought elections, including Julia Salazar, running on a platform of strengthening rent laws to protect tenants. This blue wave raised hopes that, along with other legislative actions to strengthen New York’s rent laws, the Loft Law clean-up bill would finally pass.</p> <p>Early this year, the bill was introduced, sponsored in the Assembly by Deborah Glick – a longtime champion for loft tenants – and in the Senate by Salazar. The bill offers a platform around which housing rights advocates should rally – it protects tenants across the city, creates additional affordable housing units, keeps working-class labor markets intact, and regulates rent in communities threatened by gentrification.<br /> <br />Yet, opposing forces have once more succeeded in stalling its enactment, by disseminating misinformation about its contents, impacts, and the Loft Law in general. This has poisoned solidarity of communities who share the same interests, struggling to fight real estate development.</p> <p>We believe that the strife must end. As diverse groups fighting to protect and strengthen tenants’ rights, we are on the same side and must stand united in solidarity. Universally strengthened rent laws cannot be accomplished if loft tenants are left out in the cold.</p> <p>With that in mind, it is critical to dispel the misinformation and misconceptions around the Loft Law and the clean-up bill. Three central claims have been advanced by critics.</p> <p>The first is that it will negatively impact jobs in the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), threatening approximately 20,000 industrial and manufacturing jobs in the IBZ. This is false. In fact, the bill does exactly the opposite.</p> <p>The bill and Loft Law in general contain structural limitations on which residential units can be protected. Tenants must show that their apartments were residentially occupied during two narrow windows of time in order to be protected (2008 – 2009 and 2015 – 2016). Only units that were and are already occupied residentially will qualify. Thus, future illegal “M-R” conversions (from manufacturing to residential) will not be protected under the Loft Law and are precluded by the IBZ’s zoning restrictions.</p> <p>The current Loft Law provides that the entire IBZ is subject to potential claims for coverage. This has been the state of the law since 2010. There is no evidence, nor has any been presented, that during those nine years there was any job loss in the IBZ caused by the Loft Law or loft tenants. The Loft Law has been amended multiple times since 2010 without any objection regarding the IBZ. Additionally, and missed in this argument, is that the Loft Law does not displace existing manufacturing or commercial use – it protects units and buildings that are and have long been residential. The argument is thus the very definition of a red herring.</p> <p>Nevertheless, to address recently-expressed concerns about the potential impact on the IBZ, the bill removes approximately 90 percent of the IBZ from Loft Law coverage by excluding areas that are zoned for heavy manufacturing (M3) uses, thereby preserving the vast majority of the area for manufacturers and related jobs. Failure to pass it would therefore have precisely the opposite effect of what critics want: the entire IBZ would continue to be subject to the Loft Law.</p> <p>The second criticism is that it will catalyze community displacement.</p> <p>We, as a part of the housing rights community, share the concern over policymakers designing laws that intentionally or inadvertently advantage certain groups at the expense of others. However, an amended Loft Law will contribute to community preservation, not undermine it.</p> <p>The Loft Law protects low-income people and families by preventing landlords from charging higher, market-rate rents for protected loft units. Preserving these units as additional affordable housing units increases market supply, causing downward, not inflationary, pressures on rents.</p> <p>The third criticism is that it will invite residential use in heavy manufacturing buildings, opening the door to unsafe living conditions. As stated above, the bill does not do this – by excluding M3 zones, the bill prevents this outcome. Not passing the bill perpetuates the very problem identified in this critique.</p> <p>The Loft Law has always considered uses such as those in the light or medium manufacturing (M1/2) districts in the IBZ, when conducted as part of a live-work space, to be permissible; and historically there have been many buildings and units containing such mixed uses. But, again, the argument is a red herring, for landlords who illegally rent out spaces for residential use will continue to do so if the clean-up bill does not pass; meaning that any “hazard” posed for tenants will continue to exist, unabated.</p> <p>One fundamental purpose of the Loft Law is to ensure legalization of covered buildings and units already converted into residential use. Part of that process includes measures to ensure that buildings meet the city’s safety and health codes. The bill will therefore increase the safety and well-being of residential tenants.</p> <p>It is dismaying that long-standing allies in the fight for strengthening tenant rights have assumed opposing positions. We believe that has been the result of misunderstandings of the issues addressed here. But the time for disagreements is over. We, as a community of people who share common interests and goals, cannot afford any further division to be sown. People have been, and are on the precipice of, losing their homes, and without passage of the clean-up bill, many more will join them. This is unacceptable, unjust, and inconsistent with the larger movement to strengthen New York’s rent laws, protect tenants, and slow gentrification and displacement. Accordingly, we call on the community to support the passage of the Loft Law clean-up bill.</p> <p>***<br />Alison Dell, Ximena Garnica, McDavid Moore &amp; Zefrey Throwell are New York City Loft Tenants (NYCLT) members and live-work spaces advocates. Michael Kozek is an NYCLT member and Loft Law lawyer. Michael McKee is treasure of Tenants PAC. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/nyclt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLT</a>.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/nyc_loft_tenants_rally.jpg" alt="nyc loft tenants rally" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Rally for the Loft Law bill&nbsp;(photo via @NYCLT)</p> <hr /> <p>Recently, there has been considerable attention paid to a Loft Law “clean-up” bill that is on the table in the New York State Legislature. Advocates have worked tirelessly for over three years to make it law; an effort stymied by a Republican-controlled Senate in 2017 and 2018, resulting in eviction of many loft tenants.</p> <p>In November 2018, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the Senate this year and thus all of state government. Many Democrats won hard-fought elections, including Julia Salazar, running on a platform of strengthening rent laws to protect tenants. This blue wave raised hopes that, along with other legislative actions to strengthen New York’s rent laws, the Loft Law clean-up bill would finally pass.</p> <p>Early this year, the bill was introduced, sponsored in the Assembly by Deborah Glick – a longtime champion for loft tenants – and in the Senate by Salazar. The bill offers a platform around which housing rights advocates should rally – it protects tenants across the city, creates additional affordable housing units, keeps working-class labor markets intact, and regulates rent in communities threatened by gentrification.<br /> <br />Yet, opposing forces have once more succeeded in stalling its enactment, by disseminating misinformation about its contents, impacts, and the Loft Law in general. This has poisoned solidarity of communities who share the same interests, struggling to fight real estate development.</p> <p>We believe that the strife must end. As diverse groups fighting to protect and strengthen tenants’ rights, we are on the same side and must stand united in solidarity. Universally strengthened rent laws cannot be accomplished if loft tenants are left out in the cold.</p> <p>With that in mind, it is critical to dispel the misinformation and misconceptions around the Loft Law and the clean-up bill. Three central claims have been advanced by critics.</p> <p>The first is that it will negatively impact jobs in the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), threatening approximately 20,000 industrial and manufacturing jobs in the IBZ. This is false. In fact, the bill does exactly the opposite.</p> <p>The bill and Loft Law in general contain structural limitations on which residential units can be protected. Tenants must show that their apartments were residentially occupied during two narrow windows of time in order to be protected (2008 – 2009 and 2015 – 2016). Only units that were and are already occupied residentially will qualify. Thus, future illegal “M-R” conversions (from manufacturing to residential) will not be protected under the Loft Law and are precluded by the IBZ’s zoning restrictions.</p> <p>The current Loft Law provides that the entire IBZ is subject to potential claims for coverage. This has been the state of the law since 2010. There is no evidence, nor has any been presented, that during those nine years there was any job loss in the IBZ caused by the Loft Law or loft tenants. The Loft Law has been amended multiple times since 2010 without any objection regarding the IBZ. Additionally, and missed in this argument, is that the Loft Law does not displace existing manufacturing or commercial use – it protects units and buildings that are and have long been residential. The argument is thus the very definition of a red herring.</p> <p>Nevertheless, to address recently-expressed concerns about the potential impact on the IBZ, the bill removes approximately 90 percent of the IBZ from Loft Law coverage by excluding areas that are zoned for heavy manufacturing (M3) uses, thereby preserving the vast majority of the area for manufacturers and related jobs. Failure to pass it would therefore have precisely the opposite effect of what critics want: the entire IBZ would continue to be subject to the Loft Law.</p> <p>The second criticism is that it will catalyze community displacement.</p> <p>We, as a part of the housing rights community, share the concern over policymakers designing laws that intentionally or inadvertently advantage certain groups at the expense of others. However, an amended Loft Law will contribute to community preservation, not undermine it.</p> <p>The Loft Law protects low-income people and families by preventing landlords from charging higher, market-rate rents for protected loft units. Preserving these units as additional affordable housing units increases market supply, causing downward, not inflationary, pressures on rents.</p> <p>The third criticism is that it will invite residential use in heavy manufacturing buildings, opening the door to unsafe living conditions. As stated above, the bill does not do this – by excluding M3 zones, the bill prevents this outcome. Not passing the bill perpetuates the very problem identified in this critique.</p> <p>The Loft Law has always considered uses such as those in the light or medium manufacturing (M1/2) districts in the IBZ, when conducted as part of a live-work space, to be permissible; and historically there have been many buildings and units containing such mixed uses. But, again, the argument is a red herring, for landlords who illegally rent out spaces for residential use will continue to do so if the clean-up bill does not pass; meaning that any “hazard” posed for tenants will continue to exist, unabated.</p> <p>One fundamental purpose of the Loft Law is to ensure legalization of covered buildings and units already converted into residential use. Part of that process includes measures to ensure that buildings meet the city’s safety and health codes. The bill will therefore increase the safety and well-being of residential tenants.</p> <p>It is dismaying that long-standing allies in the fight for strengthening tenant rights have assumed opposing positions. We believe that has been the result of misunderstandings of the issues addressed here. But the time for disagreements is over. We, as a community of people who share common interests and goals, cannot afford any further division to be sown. People have been, and are on the precipice of, losing their homes, and without passage of the clean-up bill, many more will join them. This is unacceptable, unjust, and inconsistent with the larger movement to strengthen New York’s rent laws, protect tenants, and slow gentrification and displacement. Accordingly, we call on the community to support the passage of the Loft Law clean-up bill.</p> <p>***<br />Alison Dell, Ximena Garnica, McDavid Moore &amp; Zefrey Throwell are New York City Loft Tenants (NYCLT) members and live-work spaces advocates. Michael Kozek is an NYCLT member and Loft Law lawyer. Michael McKee is treasure of Tenants PAC. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/nyclt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCLT</a>.</p> <p>

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Charter Revision Commission Needs a Hippocratic Oath 2019-03-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8359-charter-revision-commission-needs-a-hippocratic-oath Carol Kellermann ckellerman@gg.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/citycouncil-vdrr-cm.jpg" alt="citycouncil vdrr cm" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The entire New York City Charter, the city's foundational governing document, is on the operating table, and it is essential that the surgeons act with extreme caution.</p> <p>On March 7 I testified before the Charter Revision Commission created at the initiative of City Council Speaker Johnson, former Public Advocate James, and Manhattan Borough President Brewer. Charter revision can be a very wonky, technical topic, but the Charter is our city’s constitution and any changes made to it can have a significant, lasting impact. The last comprehensive charter revision was in 1989 and it has served us well.</p> <p>I urged the members to follow two guiding principles in their deliberations:</p> <p><strong>First, do no harm.</strong> The current structure of city government has for the most part served the city quite well for the last 30 years. With respect to finance and budgeting in particular, as a result of the fiscal crisis in the ‘70s and the enactment of the Financial Emergency Act in state law, New York City has the most transparent, professional, and sound fiscal management and budgeting process of any state or city in the country. Let’s not fix what isn’t broken.</p> <p><strong>Second, limit charter revision to structural changes that can only be made through the charter.</strong> It is meant to define core powers, structures, and processes. Most changes to current rules and procedures can and should be made through City Council law-making.</p> <p>Every complaint about the way city government functions (and there are surely many valid complaints) cannot and should not be addressed through the charter. It is already cluttered with hundreds of outdated provisions and others that belong in local law. Do not add to that clutter.</p> <p>Here are the most worrisome proposals that should be rejected by the Commission:</p> <p><strong>Independent Budgeting.</strong> This would enable the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough Presidents, and several other offices to self-determine their budgets, in some cases according to a formula that is based on a percentage of another agency’s budget or the entirety of the city budget.</p> <p>While it is arguable that a few totally independent entities should have set budgets so they can do their work without concern about retaliation by an unhappy Mayor or Council (as is now the case for the Independent Budget Office, and only the IBO) it should not be extended to so many agencies, and especially not to the offices of elected officials. Their independence derives from and is protected by their direct election, not the size of their budgets. Spending priorities are to be determined in the budget negotiation process between the Mayor and the Council and removing budgeting for so many entities from this process would, in effect, take a range of positions and functions of city government as well as a significant amount of resources out of the control of those democratically-elected to oversee them.</p> <p><strong>Revenue Estimating.</strong> A proposal by the City Council would create a process whereby the Mayor would submit an estimate of the amount of revenue expected in the following fiscal year, the Council would accept or reject this estimate and if rejected, a revenue estimate would be set by the IBO. This would be a similar process to the one followed by New York State in which the Comptroller sets the revenue estimate if the Legislature and the Governor cannot agree upon one. The revenue estimate is important because it sets a limit on the amount that can be spent in the annual budget. But this new ‘consensus estimate’ is unnecessary in New York City.</p> <p>The City Office of Management and Budget is generally cautious in its revenue estimates, as it should be in order to mitigate downside risk. This has not unduly constrained spending; the city budget has grown an average of more than 5% a year over the last 18 years. Moreover, there are several other revenue forecasts published during budget season including that of the IBO, the Office of the State Special Deputy Comptroller, and the City Comptroller. All of these estimates are already compared and contrasted as part of the Mayor’s negotiation of the city budget with the Council.</p> <p>A more formal procedure for the Council to adopt or reject the OMB revenue estimate would only further politicize the process with each entity compelled to manipulate its forecast to anticipate the reaction of the others. Indeed, you can see how political the revenue estimating process can become by looking at what has just happened in the state process: the Governor announced a very dramatic revenue decline, requiring significant budget discipline; the Assembly and Senate each projected almost $1 billion more in revenue than the Governor, and the Comptroller eventually resolved the conflict with an estimate very close to the Governor’s. There is no reason for New York City to create a similar drawn out form of budget dance.</p> <p><strong>Pre-Audit Contract Screening.</strong> There is widespread dissatisfaction with the city’s procurement process. It is opaque, takes too long, and leaves too much discretion to individual employees. The solution to these problems lies in much better management and oversight, not with adding another layer of review by the Comptroller. It is up to the executive branch to decide the terms and contents of contracts and there should be far more public reporting and disclosure about them, but it is only going to cause even more delay to give the Comptroller the right to review these decisions in advance.</p> <p>A number of other proposals that would improve transparency and better link spending to performance goals, such as more specific Units of Appropriation in the Budget, use of Budget Function Analysis in more agencies, and better publicly-available tracking of capital projects, would be worthwhile but could be required through local law and do not belong in the City Charter.</p> <p>Proposals that are appropriate for the charter and that should be adopted by the Commission are:</p> <p><strong>Better Capital Budgeting.</strong> The Charter should be amended to assure that the capital budgeting process is more transparent, comprehensive and effective. In particular, the AIMS report should be expanded to include all city and city-controlled public authority capital assets (i.e., those of the Health and Hospitals Corporation) with at least a five year life and a minimum replacement cost low enough to cover most assets, including computer equipment and moveable assets. This more comprehensive report should be cross-referenced to the Ten Year Capital Strategy and the Capital Commitment Plan so it is possible to assess whether enough is being invested to keep all city infrastructure in a state of good repair.</p> <p><strong>Rainy Day Fund.</strong> There should be a way for the city to set aside funds to be used in the event of an economic downturn or a crisis that reduces revenue so that spending would not have to be drastically cut or taxes increased to maintain a balanced budget. The Financial Emergency Control Act doesn’t allow for such a fund, so while it is appropriate to include one in the Charter, it would also require state law to implement it. Such a fund should, in my view, be in addition to the Retiree Health Benefit Trust, which already exists but is regarded by some as a de facto Rainy Day Fund. Both of these funds should have specific criteria for mandatory deposits and limitations on withdrawals so that money is steadily deposited in good times and can only be withdrawn under set conditions.</p> <p>Revision of the City Charter should be done with care. It should not be used to settle scores or re-allocate authority in ways that could have unintended adverse consequences despite the best of intentions.</p> <p><strong>Here is an idea for the Commission:</strong> limit your proposed amendments to no more than one page for each of the four topic areas you have delineated. If you can keep it that short you have less chance of doing damage and are more likely to make only adjustments that will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our government.</p> <p>***<br />Carol Kellermann was president of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/citycouncil-vdrr-cm.jpg" alt="citycouncil vdrr cm" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The entire New York City Charter, the city's foundational governing document, is on the operating table, and it is essential that the surgeons act with extreme caution.</p> <p>On March 7 I testified before the Charter Revision Commission created at the initiative of City Council Speaker Johnson, former Public Advocate James, and Manhattan Borough President Brewer. Charter revision can be a very wonky, technical topic, but the Charter is our city’s constitution and any changes made to it can have a significant, lasting impact. The last comprehensive charter revision was in 1989 and it has served us well.</p> <p>I urged the members to follow two guiding principles in their deliberations:</p> <p><strong>First, do no harm.</strong> The current structure of city government has for the most part served the city quite well for the last 30 years. With respect to finance and budgeting in particular, as a result of the fiscal crisis in the ‘70s and the enactment of the Financial Emergency Act in state law, New York City has the most transparent, professional, and sound fiscal management and budgeting process of any state or city in the country. Let’s not fix what isn’t broken.</p> <p><strong>Second, limit charter revision to structural changes that can only be made through the charter.</strong> It is meant to define core powers, structures, and processes. Most changes to current rules and procedures can and should be made through City Council law-making.</p> <p>Every complaint about the way city government functions (and there are surely many valid complaints) cannot and should not be addressed through the charter. It is already cluttered with hundreds of outdated provisions and others that belong in local law. Do not add to that clutter.</p> <p>Here are the most worrisome proposals that should be rejected by the Commission:</p> <p><strong>Independent Budgeting.</strong> This would enable the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough Presidents, and several other offices to self-determine their budgets, in some cases according to a formula that is based on a percentage of another agency’s budget or the entirety of the city budget.</p> <p>While it is arguable that a few totally independent entities should have set budgets so they can do their work without concern about retaliation by an unhappy Mayor or Council (as is now the case for the Independent Budget Office, and only the IBO) it should not be extended to so many agencies, and especially not to the offices of elected officials. Their independence derives from and is protected by their direct election, not the size of their budgets. Spending priorities are to be determined in the budget negotiation process between the Mayor and the Council and removing budgeting for so many entities from this process would, in effect, take a range of positions and functions of city government as well as a significant amount of resources out of the control of those democratically-elected to oversee them.</p> <p><strong>Revenue Estimating.</strong> A proposal by the City Council would create a process whereby the Mayor would submit an estimate of the amount of revenue expected in the following fiscal year, the Council would accept or reject this estimate and if rejected, a revenue estimate would be set by the IBO. This would be a similar process to the one followed by New York State in which the Comptroller sets the revenue estimate if the Legislature and the Governor cannot agree upon one. The revenue estimate is important because it sets a limit on the amount that can be spent in the annual budget. But this new ‘consensus estimate’ is unnecessary in New York City.</p> <p>The City Office of Management and Budget is generally cautious in its revenue estimates, as it should be in order to mitigate downside risk. This has not unduly constrained spending; the city budget has grown an average of more than 5% a year over the last 18 years. Moreover, there are several other revenue forecasts published during budget season including that of the IBO, the Office of the State Special Deputy Comptroller, and the City Comptroller. All of these estimates are already compared and contrasted as part of the Mayor’s negotiation of the city budget with the Council.</p> <p>A more formal procedure for the Council to adopt or reject the OMB revenue estimate would only further politicize the process with each entity compelled to manipulate its forecast to anticipate the reaction of the others. Indeed, you can see how political the revenue estimating process can become by looking at what has just happened in the state process: the Governor announced a very dramatic revenue decline, requiring significant budget discipline; the Assembly and Senate each projected almost $1 billion more in revenue than the Governor, and the Comptroller eventually resolved the conflict with an estimate very close to the Governor’s. There is no reason for New York City to create a similar drawn out form of budget dance.</p> <p><strong>Pre-Audit Contract Screening.</strong> There is widespread dissatisfaction with the city’s procurement process. It is opaque, takes too long, and leaves too much discretion to individual employees. The solution to these problems lies in much better management and oversight, not with adding another layer of review by the Comptroller. It is up to the executive branch to decide the terms and contents of contracts and there should be far more public reporting and disclosure about them, but it is only going to cause even more delay to give the Comptroller the right to review these decisions in advance.</p> <p>A number of other proposals that would improve transparency and better link spending to performance goals, such as more specific Units of Appropriation in the Budget, use of Budget Function Analysis in more agencies, and better publicly-available tracking of capital projects, would be worthwhile but could be required through local law and do not belong in the City Charter.</p> <p>Proposals that are appropriate for the charter and that should be adopted by the Commission are:</p> <p><strong>Better Capital Budgeting.</strong> The Charter should be amended to assure that the capital budgeting process is more transparent, comprehensive and effective. In particular, the AIMS report should be expanded to include all city and city-controlled public authority capital assets (i.e., those of the Health and Hospitals Corporation) with at least a five year life and a minimum replacement cost low enough to cover most assets, including computer equipment and moveable assets. This more comprehensive report should be cross-referenced to the Ten Year Capital Strategy and the Capital Commitment Plan so it is possible to assess whether enough is being invested to keep all city infrastructure in a state of good repair.</p> <p><strong>Rainy Day Fund.</strong> There should be a way for the city to set aside funds to be used in the event of an economic downturn or a crisis that reduces revenue so that spending would not have to be drastically cut or taxes increased to maintain a balanced budget. The Financial Emergency Control Act doesn’t allow for such a fund, so while it is appropriate to include one in the Charter, it would also require state law to implement it. Such a fund should, in my view, be in addition to the Retiree Health Benefit Trust, which already exists but is regarded by some as a de facto Rainy Day Fund. Both of these funds should have specific criteria for mandatory deposits and limitations on withdrawals so that money is steadily deposited in good times and can only be withdrawn under set conditions.</p> <p>Revision of the City Charter should be done with care. It should not be used to settle scores or re-allocate authority in ways that could have unintended adverse consequences despite the best of intentions.</p> <p><strong>Here is an idea for the Commission:</strong> limit your proposed amendments to no more than one page for each of the four topic areas you have delineated. If you can keep it that short you have less chance of doing damage and are more likely to make only adjustments that will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our government.</p> <p>***<br />Carol Kellermann was president of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.</p> <p>

***
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An Agenda to Protect New York Immigrants and Benefit the Entire State 2019-03-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8364-an-agenda-to-protect-new-york-immigrants-and-benefit-the-entire-state Marcos Crespo & Victor Pichardo mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-immigrant.jpg" alt="gov cuomo immigrant" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Immigrants in New York are under attack. In New York City for example, despite municipal policies to welcome and protect immigrants, ICE arrests of immigrant individuals with no criminal convictions have rapidly increased. From fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2018, ICE non-criminal arrests in the New York City area <a href="https://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/eroFY2018Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increased by 414%</a>.</p> <p>These increases reflect the president’s negative rhetoric and policies toward immigrants. Not only is new immigration being discouraged and made nearly impossible, individuals who have long-standing community ties, such as U.S. citizen family members or years-long work histories, are being torn apart from their children, families, and communities.</p> <p>In this past November’s election, Democrats won the majority in both the New York State Assembly and Senate. Now, New York legislators not only have the opportunity but the obligation to stand up for immigrants.</p> <p>Immigrants are integral parts of local communities, but they also contribute to local and statewide economies. In New York there are 4.49 million foreign-born immigrants.</p> <p>This year, both houses of the state Legislature voted to pass The José Peralta New York State DREAM Act. This legislation will allow undocumented students to apply for state aid for higher education. This legislation also creates a Dream Fund for college scholarship opportunities and removes barriers that prevent undocumented families from college saving programs. The DREAM Act will allow talented students to access the financial help needed to earn degrees, access highly-skilled employment, and support their local economies across New York.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the agenda for immigrants can and must go further and is a top priority for state legislators that represent large immigrant communities.</p> <p>Our next priority, The Driver's License Access and Privacy Act would restore access to driver’s licenses for all, regardless of immigration status, in New York. Currently, 13 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico issue standard driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Accessibility to reliable public transportation is many times unavailable to those living and working throughout upstate New York, the downstate suburbs, and the outer boroughs of New York City.</p> <p>Also, data indicates annual revenue of $57 million to state and local governments, with an additional one-time boost of $26 million. This legislation, supported by law enforcement policy analysts, will safeguard hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from possible deportation if pulled over by law enforcement and also aims to ensure all drivers are insured and informed of traffic laws.</p> <p>Our community also needs New York to further break the links between the criminal legal system and the deportation pipeline. First, ICE’s presence in our courts must end. New Yorkers must not fear that while they are seeking protection and justice, they could be detained and separated from their families.</p> <p>Second, under federal immigration law, a one year sentence for a non-violent crime can trigger deportation proceedings and removal from the United States. The One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act modifies the maximum imprisonment sentence for a class A misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days. This bill aims to protect families from personal and financial devastation if a family member is faced with a possible one year sentence.</p> <p>In addition to refusing to participate in Trump’s anti-immigrant game, New York must also expand opportunity for immigrants. New York should take immediate steps to preserve Medicaid access for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients at risk because of the Trump administration’s reckless actions to end TPS. New York should also create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.</p> <p>In the state budget, New York should also fully invest in the civil legal services that are so critical to our community’s well-being. The State must also significantly expand resources for adult literacy classes, which are often the best pathway to a better job and an increased ability to participate in the life of the broader community.</p> <p>Finally, as the 2020 Census approaches, New York must step into the void left by Trump’s negligence. As a Fiscal Policy Institute analysis has shown, the state should invest $40 million in outreach by community-based organizations, in addition to the funds it should allocate for state and government agencies’ work. These resources will more than pay for themselves, as they will help ensure all New Yorkers are counted and thus that all our communities get their fair share of federal resources.</p> <p>In the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies raining down from Washington, D.C, New York must lead by standing up for immigrants throughout the state. By passing an ambitious agenda to keep immigrant families together and invest in the success of our communities, we can do just that.</p> <p>***<br />Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo represents New York’s 86th Assembly District and is Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. Assemblymember Marcos A. Crespo represents the 85th Assembly District and is Chair of the Committee on Labor. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MarcosCrespo85" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MarcosCrespo85</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/Vpichardo86" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@VPichardo86</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-immigrant.jpg" alt="gov cuomo immigrant" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Immigrants in New York are under attack. In New York City for example, despite municipal policies to welcome and protect immigrants, ICE arrests of immigrant individuals with no criminal convictions have rapidly increased. From fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2018, ICE non-criminal arrests in the New York City area <a href="https://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/eroFY2018Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increased by 414%</a>.</p> <p>These increases reflect the president’s negative rhetoric and policies toward immigrants. Not only is new immigration being discouraged and made nearly impossible, individuals who have long-standing community ties, such as U.S. citizen family members or years-long work histories, are being torn apart from their children, families, and communities.</p> <p>In this past November’s election, Democrats won the majority in both the New York State Assembly and Senate. Now, New York legislators not only have the opportunity but the obligation to stand up for immigrants.</p> <p>Immigrants are integral parts of local communities, but they also contribute to local and statewide economies. In New York there are 4.49 million foreign-born immigrants.</p> <p>This year, both houses of the state Legislature voted to pass The José Peralta New York State DREAM Act. This legislation will allow undocumented students to apply for state aid for higher education. This legislation also creates a Dream Fund for college scholarship opportunities and removes barriers that prevent undocumented families from college saving programs. The DREAM Act will allow talented students to access the financial help needed to earn degrees, access highly-skilled employment, and support their local economies across New York.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the agenda for immigrants can and must go further and is a top priority for state legislators that represent large immigrant communities.</p> <p>Our next priority, The Driver's License Access and Privacy Act would restore access to driver’s licenses for all, regardless of immigration status, in New York. Currently, 13 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico issue standard driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Accessibility to reliable public transportation is many times unavailable to those living and working throughout upstate New York, the downstate suburbs, and the outer boroughs of New York City.</p> <p>Also, data indicates annual revenue of $57 million to state and local governments, with an additional one-time boost of $26 million. This legislation, supported by law enforcement policy analysts, will safeguard hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from possible deportation if pulled over by law enforcement and also aims to ensure all drivers are insured and informed of traffic laws.</p> <p>Our community also needs New York to further break the links between the criminal legal system and the deportation pipeline. First, ICE’s presence in our courts must end. New Yorkers must not fear that while they are seeking protection and justice, they could be detained and separated from their families.</p> <p>Second, under federal immigration law, a one year sentence for a non-violent crime can trigger deportation proceedings and removal from the United States. The One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act modifies the maximum imprisonment sentence for a class A misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days. This bill aims to protect families from personal and financial devastation if a family member is faced with a possible one year sentence.</p> <p>In addition to refusing to participate in Trump’s anti-immigrant game, New York must also expand opportunity for immigrants. New York should take immediate steps to preserve Medicaid access for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients at risk because of the Trump administration’s reckless actions to end TPS. New York should also create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.</p> <p>In the state budget, New York should also fully invest in the civil legal services that are so critical to our community’s well-being. The State must also significantly expand resources for adult literacy classes, which are often the best pathway to a better job and an increased ability to participate in the life of the broader community.</p> <p>Finally, as the 2020 Census approaches, New York must step into the void left by Trump’s negligence. As a Fiscal Policy Institute analysis has shown, the state should invest $40 million in outreach by community-based organizations, in addition to the funds it should allocate for state and government agencies’ work. These resources will more than pay for themselves, as they will help ensure all New Yorkers are counted and thus that all our communities get their fair share of federal resources.</p> <p>In the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies raining down from Washington, D.C, New York must lead by standing up for immigrants throughout the state. By passing an ambitious agenda to keep immigrant families together and invest in the success of our communities, we can do just that.</p> <p>***<br />Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo represents New York’s 86th Assembly District and is Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. Assemblymember Marcos A. Crespo represents the 85th Assembly District and is Chair of the Committee on Labor. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MarcosCrespo85" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MarcosCrespo85</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/Vpichardo86" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@VPichardo86</a>.</p> <p>

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Pied-à-Terre Tax Should Be Just The Start 2019-03-14T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8353-pied-a-terre-tax-should-be-just-the-start Jessica Wisneski & Michael Kink mauthors@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/adaptny-mayors.jpg" alt="adaptny mayors" width="600" height="388" /></p> <p>(image: mayor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have all signaled their support for funding the long overdue MTA overhaul with a pied-à-terre tax. Cuomo has said it’s the “only agreed-to new money” for the upcoming state budget. But the challenges facing struggling families in New York demand more than just a pied-à-terre tax. We need an entire reimagining of New York’s upside-down tax system.</p> <p>There are over 75,000 apartments in New York City owned by people who don’t live there year-round. Some of these are second, third, or fourth homes. Earlier this year billionaire hedge-funder Ken Griffin made headlines for purchasing the most expensive home in the country: a $238 million penthouse overlooking Central Park. Griffin already owns multi-million-dollar properties in Chicago, Miami, and London.</p> <p>The pied-à-terre tax, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, would institute a surcharge on non-primary residences worth $5 million or more. The surcharge would start at 0.5% and rise to 4% for homes worth more than $25 million. For people like Griffin, it’s pocket change. State Budget Director Robert Mujica estimates the new tax would generate $9 billion in new revenue over the next decade.</p> <p>New York’s billionaire class has been let off the hook by a regressive tax structure that puts the burden on working families in the form of higher sales and property taxes. These times call for us to have the courage to demand that the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share. New York is already the most unequal state in the country, with the top 1% taking home 45 times more than the bottom 99%. The Trump tax scam has only made the problem worse, as billionaires are now benefiting from some of the lowest tax rates in decades.</p> <p>Austerity measures, fueled by the false narrative that there just isn’t enough money to go around, have wreaked havoc on our communities. In cities like Rochester and Schenectady, half of all children live in poverty. A state as affluent as ours should not have young children going to sleep hungry or elderly people unable to afford their rent.</p> <p>The entire tax system in New York is rigged to benefit the super wealthy. Taxing the rich shouldn’t be a last resort for our Governor and Legislature. New York needs a pied-à-terre tax, an expanded millionaires’ tax, the elimination of the carried interest loophole, and an end to the billion-dollar giveaways to giant corporations.</p> <p>This restructuring of our tax system would allow for investments in our struggling communities. It would mean we could fully fund our public schools, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and expand access to affordable health care and child care.</p> <p>Corporate-backed think tanks like the Empire Center will wave their arms and cry “tax flight,” but this has proven to be a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/20/if-you-tax-the-rich-they-wont-leave-us-data-contradicts-millionaires-threats" target="_blank" rel="noopener">myth</a>. The people who <a href="https://itep.org/no-need-for-the-mythbusters-the-millionaire-tax-flight-myth-is-busted-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">move the most frequently</a> are young people and low-income families seeking good-paying jobs and a better quality of life. And what will improve quality of life in New York and make young families want to live here? Quality public schools, affordable housing, and reliable transportation.</p> <p>The self-imposed shortfalls and spending cuts continue to hurt our communities. The Governor needs to stop kowtowing to CEOs and big developers and insist that the people with the most contribute the most.</p> <p>***<br /> Jessica Wisneski is Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. Michael Kink is Executive Director of Strong Economy for All. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/jesswisneski" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@jesswisneski</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/citizenactionny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@citizenactionny</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/adaptny-mayors.jpg" alt="adaptny mayors" width="600" height="388" /></p> <p>(image: mayor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have all signaled their support for funding the long overdue MTA overhaul with a pied-à-terre tax. Cuomo has said it’s the “only agreed-to new money” for the upcoming state budget. But the challenges facing struggling families in New York demand more than just a pied-à-terre tax. We need an entire reimagining of New York’s upside-down tax system.</p> <p>There are over 75,000 apartments in New York City owned by people who don’t live there year-round. Some of these are second, third, or fourth homes. Earlier this year billionaire hedge-funder Ken Griffin made headlines for purchasing the most expensive home in the country: a $238 million penthouse overlooking Central Park. Griffin already owns multi-million-dollar properties in Chicago, Miami, and London.</p> <p>The pied-à-terre tax, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, would institute a surcharge on non-primary residences worth $5 million or more. The surcharge would start at 0.5% and rise to 4% for homes worth more than $25 million. For people like Griffin, it’s pocket change. State Budget Director Robert Mujica estimates the new tax would generate $9 billion in new revenue over the next decade.</p> <p>New York’s billionaire class has been let off the hook by a regressive tax structure that puts the burden on working families in the form of higher sales and property taxes. These times call for us to have the courage to demand that the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share. New York is already the most unequal state in the country, with the top 1% taking home 45 times more than the bottom 99%. The Trump tax scam has only made the problem worse, as billionaires are now benefiting from some of the lowest tax rates in decades.</p> <p>Austerity measures, fueled by the false narrative that there just isn’t enough money to go around, have wreaked havoc on our communities. In cities like Rochester and Schenectady, half of all children live in poverty. A state as affluent as ours should not have young children going to sleep hungry or elderly people unable to afford their rent.</p> <p>The entire tax system in New York is rigged to benefit the super wealthy. Taxing the rich shouldn’t be a last resort for our Governor and Legislature. New York needs a pied-à-terre tax, an expanded millionaires’ tax, the elimination of the carried interest loophole, and an end to the billion-dollar giveaways to giant corporations.</p> <p>This restructuring of our tax system would allow for investments in our struggling communities. It would mean we could fully fund our public schools, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and expand access to affordable health care and child care.</p> <p>Corporate-backed think tanks like the Empire Center will wave their arms and cry “tax flight,” but this has proven to be a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/20/if-you-tax-the-rich-they-wont-leave-us-data-contradicts-millionaires-threats" target="_blank" rel="noopener">myth</a>. The people who <a href="https://itep.org/no-need-for-the-mythbusters-the-millionaire-tax-flight-myth-is-busted-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">move the most frequently</a> are young people and low-income families seeking good-paying jobs and a better quality of life. And what will improve quality of life in New York and make young families want to live here? Quality public schools, affordable housing, and reliable transportation.</p> <p>The self-imposed shortfalls and spending cuts continue to hurt our communities. The Governor needs to stop kowtowing to CEOs and big developers and insist that the people with the most contribute the most.</p> <p>***<br /> Jessica Wisneski is Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. Michael Kink is Executive Director of Strong Economy for All. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/jesswisneski" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@jesswisneski</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/citizenactionny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@citizenactionny</a>.</p> <p>

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Proposal Would Subvert Efforts to Address Affordable Housing Crisis 2019-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/public-safety/130-opinion/8345-proposal-would-subvert-efforts-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis Jolie Milstein mallen2015.2@hotmail.com <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayorsoffice-aff.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice aff" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the greatest and most immediate challenges facing New York is a statewide affordable housing crisis that continues to affect millions of families. Elected officials must support and promote new legislation and policies that will help our state produce more affordable homes and, correspondingly, do no harm to much-needed housing efforts.</p> <p>The reality today is that more than 3 million households across the state still pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, which means they are “rent-burdened” and often struggle to afford housing and other necessities like health care and child care.</p> <p>This crisis is what led Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to dedicate $2.5 billion to support an ambitious five-year statewide housing plan and preserve crucial low-income housing tax credits that were under threat by the federal government.</p> <p>But our state’s ability to address the affordable housing crisis is now at risk of being undermined by new legislation that proposes to expand the definition of public work and the application of the prevailing wage mandate to private construction projects – including low-income housing developments – based on the public subsidies they rely upon to be built.</p> <p>As an organization whose members deeply believe in supporting the needs of low- and middle-income New Yorkers, we also believe in good, fair wages for all workers. But the wide application of prevailing wage, which is far in excess of the median wage and can raise construction costs by 25 percent or more, is not actually a path to higher pay for construction workers. In fact, it is certainly a way to ensure there are fewer jobs, fewer new developments, and fewer affordable homes for New Yorkers.</p> <p>This would be a step backward for New York, where construction costs are already the most expensive in the world, averaging $362 per square foot in New York City, according to Turner &amp; Townsend’s 2018 report on international construction. The report also notes that those costs will only continue to rise and are expected to jump by another 3.5 percent over the next year. Other costs and regulatory burdens remain major obstacles all across the state.</p> <p>Whether they live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, New Yorkers simply cannot afford to lose opportunities for new housing construction and the many good jobs that come with them. It is worth noting that the creation and preservation of affordable housing supported more than 300,000 total jobs throughout the state between 2011 and 2015.</p> <p>The state Legislature now has an important choice to make. Rather than advancing well-intentioned but misguided legislation that would diminish new affordable homes and good jobs across the state, we hope lawmakers will fully consider these negative impacts before they proceed with imposing prevailing wages on the construction of affordable housing in New York.</p> <p>The further that lawmakers explore this issue, the clearer it will become that it is unwise to hastily advance these proposals and risk undercutting New York State’s much-needed housing plan. And if they make the right choice, all New Yorkers will benefit.</p> <p>***<br />Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade association that represents nearly 400 members responsible for the construction and preservation of affordable housing across the state.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mayorsoffice-aff.jpg" alt="mayorsoffice aff" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>One of the greatest and most immediate challenges facing New York is a statewide affordable housing crisis that continues to affect millions of families. Elected officials must support and promote new legislation and policies that will help our state produce more affordable homes and, correspondingly, do no harm to much-needed housing efforts.</p> <p>The reality today is that more than 3 million households across the state still pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, which means they are “rent-burdened” and often struggle to afford housing and other necessities like health care and child care.</p> <p>This crisis is what led Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to dedicate $2.5 billion to support an ambitious five-year statewide housing plan and preserve crucial low-income housing tax credits that were under threat by the federal government.</p> <p>But our state’s ability to address the affordable housing crisis is now at risk of being undermined by new legislation that proposes to expand the definition of public work and the application of the prevailing wage mandate to private construction projects – including low-income housing developments – based on the public subsidies they rely upon to be built.</p> <p>As an organization whose members deeply believe in supporting the needs of low- and middle-income New Yorkers, we also believe in good, fair wages for all workers. But the wide application of prevailing wage, which is far in excess of the median wage and can raise construction costs by 25 percent or more, is not actually a path to higher pay for construction workers. In fact, it is certainly a way to ensure there are fewer jobs, fewer new developments, and fewer affordable homes for New Yorkers.</p> <p>This would be a step backward for New York, where construction costs are already the most expensive in the world, averaging $362 per square foot in New York City, according to Turner &amp; Townsend’s 2018 report on international construction. The report also notes that those costs will only continue to rise and are expected to jump by another 3.5 percent over the next year. Other costs and regulatory burdens remain major obstacles all across the state.</p> <p>Whether they live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, New Yorkers simply cannot afford to lose opportunities for new housing construction and the many good jobs that come with them. It is worth noting that the creation and preservation of affordable housing supported more than 300,000 total jobs throughout the state between 2011 and 2015.</p> <p>The state Legislature now has an important choice to make. Rather than advancing well-intentioned but misguided legislation that would diminish new affordable homes and good jobs across the state, we hope lawmakers will fully consider these negative impacts before they proceed with imposing prevailing wages on the construction of affordable housing in New York.</p> <p>The further that lawmakers explore this issue, the clearer it will become that it is unwise to hastily advance these proposals and risk undercutting New York State’s much-needed housing plan. And if they make the right choice, all New Yorkers will benefit.</p> <p>***<br />Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade association that represents nearly 400 members responsible for the construction and preservation of affordable housing across the state.</p> <p>

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