GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: The Record

The Record: August 2002

8/31
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum yesterday vowed to fight a decision that would strip her of the title of presiding officer of the City Council. (NY Post)

Most public libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx will be cutting back to a five-day week over the coming months in response to recent citywide budget cuts. (New York Times)

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's top education aide will be paid a whopping $250,000 a year - more than any other city official and as much as her boss, it was revealed yesterday. (NY Post)

8/30
As former City Councilman Angel Rodriguez of Brooklyn pleaded guilty yesterday in a federal bribery case, the race to succeed him was already taking shape. A wide range of contenders have emerged in the district represented by Mr. Rodriguez for the last four years. Some had formed official campaign committees to run for the seat months before Mr. Rodriguez resigned on Wednesday. (New York Times)

The city's Conflicts of Interest Board yesterday urged Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to sell all of his stocks, along with his interests in a hedge fund, within 90 days because the holdings - valued at possibly tens of millions of dollars or more - violated a provision of the City Charter. (New York Times) (New York Post) (Newsday)

A committee appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to study broad changes suggested for the City Charter is set to reject the two proposals sought by the mayor, people involved with the committee's plans said yesterday. It is highly uncommon for a charter revision committee appointed by a mayor to decline outright to bring his proposals to ballot. Bloomberg was hoping the committee would put on the ballot in November his proposal to eliminate partisan elections in New York City and change the line of mayoral succession. (New York Times)

8/29
City Councilman Angel Rodriguez of Brooklyn resigned his post yesterday as he prepared to plead guilty to federal charges that he took bribes in exchange for throwing his support behind a supermarket project in Red Hook that he had once opposed. (New York Times) (New York Post) (Newsday)

After a four-week search that he managed to keep utterly private, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein introduced the five top members of his team yesterday. In a news conference at the Tweed Courthouse, the newly renovated building behind City Hall where the newly named Department of Education will soon be based, Mr. Klein spoke of the need to "drive the money toward the classroom" and to apply "steely discipline" to every task, from finding administrative savings to teaching children to read. "The code word is going to be discipline," Mr. Klein said as his new cabinet members and his boss, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, stood around him. "It's going to be discipline in the classroom, it's going to be discipline in the department." (New York Times) (Daily News)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told relatives of Sept. 11 victims that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should not be involved in rebuilding Lower Manhattan, according to several people who attended a meeting with the mayor at City Hall yesterday. The mayor called several family members, particularly some who have taken on leadership roles, to discuss matters like the commemoration ceremony, a future memorial, and the physical status and future of the site. It was the first time since February that he had met with some of the participants, his aides said. (New York Times) (Daily News)

8/28
Brooklyn city councilman Angel Rodriguez, charged with shaking down a developer for more than $1.5 million, is set to plead guilty to bribe-conspiracy charges and serve nearly four years in prison. He is expected to go public with the plea bargain at a hearing tomorrow in Brooklyn federal court. (New York Post)

Twenty City Council members threw their support Tuesday behind the police union in its dispute with the Bloomberg administration over salary increases. (Newsday)

Gay couples who are married abroad or who have civil unions in other states will now be officially recognized by the city, under a bill signed yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg. (New York Post)

8/27
Standing behind a chest-high pile of more than 237,000 confiscated cigarettes yesterday, city officials announced a crackdown on stores selling tobacco without a license. But now that a recently enacted tax hike has pushed the price of cigarettes to $7.50 a pack, and with Mayor Bloomberg's new, tighter smoking restrictions, smoker advocates say black market sales will only grow in New York. (New York Daily News) (New York Post)

The idea that a mayor would attend a major international sports event in his own backyard would not normally qualify as big news, but Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's trip to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens, reflected a policy change of sorts: his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, refused to attend the tournaments for eight years. (New York Times)

8/26
Everything about the fund-raiser was set. The event, honoring Democratic state Senate candidate Guillermo Linares, was being led by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.And Mayor Bloomberg had graciously provided the use of his East Side townhouse.Now it turns out graciousness only goes so far. Bloomberg has dumped Gotbaum from the Sept. 3 event, a clear sign of increasing testiness between the city's top elected leaders. (Daily News)

Many see Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to put an amendment on the ballot this November to eliminate partisan elections in New York City as nothing less than the dismantling of a way of life she has come to cherish. Though not everyone feels this way, many of the foot soldiers and party faithful do ˝ the people who wear the buttons, who pass out the campaign literature at subway stations at dawn and who make the telephone calls for candidates when they get home from work. To them, Mr. Bloomberg's proposal is not an academic exercise, nor does it accomplish any real political purpose. (New York Times)

8/25
Perhaps it annoys him, or maybe he finds it a badge of honor. Either way, the inescapable fact is that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is making enemies - finally. Bloomberg, whose mayoralty was formed early on with equal parts inclusiveness and inoffensiveness, has in recent weeks angered constituents as varied as the city's neighborhoods: advocates for the homeless, smokers, minority politicians and garden-variety New Yorkers who now feel guilty every time they look at an empty Pepsi bottle. Add them all to the list of the usual suspects, like the once-invisible public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, who now sends out weekly news releases denouncing the mayor's charter reform attempt, and members of the City Council, whose term limits bill was just vetoed by Mr. Bloomberg. Suddenly, it is starting to feel like New York City again. (New York Times)

Mayor Bloomberg plans to be in the stands at the National Tennis Center in Flushing tomorrow night for the tournament's opening ceremony. His presence will mark the first time a sitting New York City mayor has attended the U.S. Open in eight years. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani declined to attend the annual tournament during his two terms to protest against a clause in the city's 99-year lease of the stadium - brokered by predecessor Mayor David Dinkins. (NY Post)

8/24
Mayor Bloomberg will soon give development officials his overall "vision" for Ground Zero and lower Manhattan in a detailed plan as he tries to influence the rebuilding process. The mayor has directed several city agencies to work on priorities for downtown, including transportation, housing, parks and business development, sources said, noting that the effort goes beyond what would happen at the World Trade Center site itself. While Bloomberg announced last month he would present some of his ideas about Ground Zero to planners, this is the first time it has been revealed that the mayor will offer a blueprint not only for the site but for downtown as well, and the move is timed to have an strong impact on the process. (NY Post)

With his peculiar seclusion, Joel Klein's first week as schools chancellor was a stark contrast from the public relations showcases of his immediate predecessors. While Harold Levy, Rudy Crew, and Joseph Fernandez filled up their first days with public appearances and compelling pronouncements of their plans for the school system, Klein opted for a more hermetic existence during his first week. (Newsday)

After seven months as a top aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michael Carey, the son of former Democratic Gov. Hugh Carey, has resigned to work for a law firm. Carey's decision to move to the law firm of is the first major personnel departure from the Bloomberg administration. Carey was appointed special assistant to the mayor on Jan. 16 and drew a $150,000 salary, making him one of the highest-paid officials in the administration. (Newsday)

8/23
After months of negotiations with the U.S. State Department, the city finally settled on an agreement that Bloomberg said is aimed at preventing future parking abuses by officials using the 2,600 diplomatic and consular cars in the city. However, Mayor Bloomberg conceded that most of the $20 million in currently outstanding tickets will never be collected. (New York Post)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that his administration will continue to search the city for temporary shelter for the homeless despite criticism from community groups and elected officials. Bloomberg said that no neighborhood would be spared or targeted in the cityĘs search for shelter during a record surge in homelessness. The city has recently been under increased pressure to find shelter for the homeless, and it has faced harsh criticisms for its choices. The Legal Aid Society sued the city after it decided to place some homeless in the former Bronx House of Detention, which had been converted to a shelter. (Newsday)

The New York Public Interest Research Group criticized the hiring of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone as a lobbyist for the city's largest garbage hauler. According to public records, Waste Management of Houston will pay a consulting firm consisting of Vallone and his brother-in-law, Anthony Constantinople, $15,000 a month - which amounts to $180,000 a year. Vallone dismissed concerns about his lobbying role, saying, "What I'm trying to do in my private capacity is help the city [solve its garbage crisis], and if I can get paid doing it, it's the best of both worlds." (Daily News)

Under budget pressure from city officials, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has told 52 new prosecutors not to show up for work until January, a four-month delay, a spokesman said. Hynes will save nearly $800,000 in salaries by pushing back the starting date for the assistant district attorneys to Jan. 6 from Sept. 5. The lawyers, who will earn $45,000 a year, were informed of the change in a letter. (Daily News)

8/22
This was the year that a huge class of newcomers would bring a fresh sense of activism and urgency to the City Council, furiously passing laws and creating a true partnership with the mayor. Things have not quite worked out that way. Despite its high spirits and a constant flood of proposals, this City Council is on track to be the least prolific in more than a decade. Caught up in assembling its own bureaucracy from scratch and wringing budget restorations out of the Bloomberg administration, the Council has moved much more slowly than its predecessors in putting new laws on the books. (New York Times)

Data from the city's Human Resources Administration show the welfare caseload dropped 9% from January through July this year, to 418,277 from 459,056 - a level not seen since January 1965. (Daily News)

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone acknowledged yesterday he is a lobbyist for the country's largest garbage hauling company, which handles 35% of the city's massive garbage output. Vallone, a lawyer who was forced to give up his powerful post last year by the city's term limits law, joined Constantinople Consulting after leaving office. Waste Management of Houston is one of the clients he represents, Vallone said. (Daily News)

8/21
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg used his veto power for the first time yesterday on a measure that would have revised term limits and given eight City Council members an extra two years in office. (New York Times)

Michael McMahon, the ruddy Democratic councilman from Staten Island, talks trash with the best of them: with mayors, governors, his long-suffering spouse, whomever he can get to listen. Garbage is, pardon the expression, his bag. Never been on the receiving end of an impassioned monologue on cutting-edge urban sanitation capped off by a nostalgic ode to the recycling program presently under partial lockdown by the Bloomberg administration? Then you've never been shut in a room at City Hall with Mr. McMahon, the slightly obsessive chairman of the City Council's effervescent Sanitation and Solid Waste Committee.With him, monitoring garbage goes beyond mere civic duty: it's a psyche thing. (New York Times)

The Justice Department has delayed approving an important piece of the new state law that gives Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg control of the New York City school system. The change in question would strip the city's 32 community school boards of their role in appointing district superintendents. Under the new law, Mr. Bloomberg's hand-picked schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, would have sole responsibility for hiring and firing the superintendents. (New York Times)

An influential state lawmaker yesterday charged that Mayor Bloomberg's planned overhaul of special education violates a new state law. "The attempt to circumvent the deal we made in the school-governance law shows bad judgment and bad faith," said Assemblyman Steven Sanders (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Assembly's Education Committee. (NY Post)

8/20
The Bloomberg administration has quietly turned over 11 buildings in Manhattan to a nonprofit developer, which will give the buildings to people who have squatted in them for years, city officials said yesterday. The agreement is a drastic shift in New York City's policy on the issue. (New York Times) (New York Post)

Mayor Bloomberg today is expected to veto legislation that would lift term limits for some City Council members - but the council appears to have enough votes to override the veto. (New York Post)

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum released guidelines telling New Yorkers how to prepare for a terrorist attack as part of her new Preparedness Project, an effort to inform city residents about both their role and the city government's role in keeping New York safe. Funded by a $50,000 private grant, Gotbaum will distribute an informational brochure at public libraries and other locations, and launch a Web site accessible from her home page, www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov. (Newsday)

8/19
Joel Klein is being slapped with a civil-rights lawsuit today - his first day on the job as the new city schools chancellor.... Advocates for autistic children have named Klein as one of the defendants in a suit alleging the city is violating the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. They said they plan on serving Klein the papers today. (New York Post)

8/18
It's a brave new world for the city's public schools and new chancellor, Joel Klein. As Mayor Bloomberg's handpicked choice, Klein is in a unique position to attack the many problems in the city's troubled schools - without interference from the now-abolished Board of Education. The Daily News asked a cross section of New Yorkers what they believe are the school system's biggest problems and how Klein should tackle them. (Daily News)

The NYPD's newly formed Cigarette Interdiction Group has arrested seven bootleggers and seized 1,305 cartons of untaxed smokes since the city hiked cigarette taxes July 2. (NY Post)

8/17
New York City officials met for five hours yesterday with advocates for the homeless and a special master assigned by the courts, trying to avoid further legal action over the city's decision to starting using a vacant jail this week as temporary shelter for homeless people and their families. But the talks, which were expected to continue through the weekend, did not appear to be close to a resolution. Faced with a surge of hundreds of homeless families streaming into the Emergency Assistance Unit intake center in the Bronx, where many have been sleeping on the floor in recent months in violation of a court order, the Bloomberg administration had decided to use a wing of the unused Bronx House of Detention for Men to house families temporarily. (New York Times)

Under fire for housing homeless children in a former Bronx jail, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday he would check out alternative sites, including some unused convents. (Daily News)

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday told cops clamoring for a pay hike to accept an arbitrator's verdict, even as a stinging anonymous flier circulated at Police Headquarters attacking the mayor's "caviar" lifestyle. Bloomberg suggested the 15,000 cops and firefighters who staged a massive protest in Times Square on Thursday direct their fury instead at the police union for choosing to arbitrate with an independent panel instead of negotiate. (NY Post)

The city will shut down its only Queens jail within the next month to save money and because the citywide inmate population is dropping, the Department of Correction said Friday. The department will move more than 300 prisoners out of the facility behind the Kew Gardens courthouse on Queens Boulevard, department spokesman Tom Antenen said. The prisoners will be moved to several other facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. (Newsday)

Harold Levy ended his 2-1/2-year run as schools chancellor yesterday, spending his last day on the job thanking his staff and urging them to support his replacement. "It's a privilege to serve the city," Levy said as he left his office for the last time, before taking his top team to a late lunch at a downtown Brooklyn restaurant. (Daily News)

8/16
When it comes to the seemingly intractable problem of what to do with homeless families, Mr. Bloomberg's personal management style may have backfired. His administration's decision on Sunday to house homeless families in an unused jail in the Bronx has been pitted with problems, including a lawsuit and the discovery of high levels of lead in the jail. Faced with sending families back to the intake unit - 51 families slept on the floor there Wednesday night - the specter of further lawsuits and newspaper photographs featuring children lingering outside what is clearly a jail, Mr. Bloomberg may be facing one of the first major embarrassments of his mayoralty. (New York Times)

The City Council unveiled its recommendations for rebuilding lower Manhattan yesterday with a plan that focuses on affordable housing and public spaces - including an outdoor market. Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) said affordable housing would help revitalize the area, making it a 24-hour neighborhood. Buildings constructed at the site should be environmentally friendly, according the Council report, which also calls for a public market, similar to the Pike Place Market in Seattle. (Daily News) (New York Times)

Lawmakers yesterday overwhelmingly approved yesterday strengthening benefits and protections for gay relationships. The bill - which passed 34 to 7, with four abstentions - extends legal benefits of domestic partnership laws to visitors to the city and newcomers whose gay relationships are legally recognized elsewhere. Under city law, domestic partners who register with the city clerk and meet other qualifications are entitled to such benefits as insurance and inheritance rights. Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the bill's chief sponsor, said he supports recognition of gay marriages, but added, "I'm not sure that the rest of my colleagues here are ready for that." (Daily News)

The Palestinian Authority was branded a terrorist organization yesterday by the City Council, which demanded the feds padlock its U.N. mission. The council, by a voice vote, passed three Israel-related resolutions that condemned acts of terror against civilians in Israel. (New York Post)

8/15
From the day he took office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he would usher in the city's new era of austerity by starting at the top: he pledged to cut his office by 20 percent and called on other elected officials to do the same. Nevertheless, the city budget that took effect last month appears to increase spending on the mayoralty slightly. It calls for spending a total of $78.6 million on the mayoralty this fiscal year, up from $78.3 million last year. (New York Times)

Four days after opening a homeless shelter in an unused jail in the Bronx, city officials said last night that they would stop sending children younger than 6 there, at least for now, after advocates for the homeless said that large amounts of chipping and peeling lead-based paint had been found throughout the jail. (New York Times)

As a moratorium on issuing tickets for violating the city's new recycling rules comes to a close, the Bloomberg administration has been quietly urging a reluctant City Council to double the fines the city can impose. The increase was originally included in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposed budget back in April, but it was not passed with the rest of the fiscal package. The measure would raise the first fine for, say, mixing paper with glass, to $50 from $25. The fines for repeated violations, currently from $50 to $500, would double as well, officials said. Officials in the mayor's office estimate that the increase would bring in $1.7 million to the city's depleted coffers. (New York Times)

Women are stuck waiting weeks and sometimes months for potentially life-saving mammograms in New York, according to a City Council report obtained by the Daily News. Female investigators called 22 public hospitals and clinics and 23 private facilities for mammogram appointments, saying they were 40-year-old women looking for routine screening. What they found were waiting times as long as 24 weeks at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and 13 weeks at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. (Daily News)

City cops - who will join firefighters for a massive union rally in Times Square today - will get a 14.1 percent pay raise under a contract arbiter's proposal, sources said. The raise, however, comes with strings attached. And that angers officers. (NY Post)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a big splash by announcing that the Board of Education bureaucracy will be working under his watchful eye at the Tweed Courthouse - but only a fraction of the 1,900 or so central board employees actually will be moving. Since the space at the majestic Tweed Courthouse, next door to City Hall, is only large enough for about 600 employees, most bureaucrats will have to stay at board headquarters in Brooklyn. So the move to Tweed is more a symbol than a dramatic relocation of the system. (Newsday)

8/14

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to revise the City Charter to change the mayoral succession law and establish nonpartisan elections got hooted down last night in Brooklyn by protesters who disrupted the first of five public hearings on possible charter revisions. About 60 Working Families Party members entered the auditorium chanting, "Change the mayor, not the charter," and brought the hearing to a standstill for 20 minutes. Members of the Independence Party, which supports the mayor's proposals, traded chants with the protesters. (Daily News)

City Councilmember Philip Reed will introduce a bill to ban the use of cell telephones "while in a place of public performance," including theaters, museums, concert halls and movie houses. Violations would be punishable by a $50 fine and, Reed hopes, the loss of the phone for a week or two. (Daily News) (New York Post) (Newsday)

Incoming Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has been soliciting advice from educators, academics and children's advocates, especially about whom he should hire to oversee instruction for the system's 1.1 million students. Klein is to meet today with top education officials in San Diego, where students have made solid academic gains.

One person whom Klein is said to be considering for his top educator is Anthony J. Alvarado, a highly regarded former New York City educator who is now the chancellor for instruction in San Diego. Alvarado briefly served as chancellor in New York City in the 1980s before questions of financial misconduct led to his resignation. But he is best known for his work as superintendent of District 2 in Manhattan in the 1990s. While many people involved in education would like Alvarado to return, officials who have spoken to Klein and to Dennis Walcott, the deputy mayor in charge of education, said that they appeared to be leaning toward hiring an educator from inside the school system for the instruction job. (New York Times)

A few key aides in the Bloomberg administration reportedly made the decision to place homeless families in a former jail. Officials in the administration said that only a select few people, even in government, were aware of the decision before it was announced. The idea of putting families in a former jail was considered briefly by the Giuliani administration, but rejected out of concerns for children, said former city officials. (New York Times)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending his summer in the city and has no plans to take a significant vacation until winter at the earliest. (Daily News)

8/13
On Sunday, the Bloomberg administration reopened an old jail in the Bronx as a temporary shelter for homeless families, who have been crowding the city's Emergency Assistance Unit in record numbers over the last year. The specter of children sleeping on prison cots, just beyond a wall of razor wire and among strangers -- a week after a 16-year-old with a history of mental illness killed himself in a Harlem shelter -- underscores how few good solutions there are to the city's homeless problem. (New York Times) (Newsday)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a sweeping anti-tobacco bill yesterday that would ban all smoking for the first time in bars, restaurants, bingo parlors and bowling alleys. In addition, private offices and other workplaces would have to eliminate smoking lounges. (Newsday) (Daily News)

Eleven members of the New York City Council on Monday visited the site of a bomb attack on a Jerusalem university campus that killed eight people, including five Americans. At a memorial ceremony, Council Speaker Gifford Miller compared Israel's struggle with terrorism to the situation facing the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Associated Press)

8/11
Sen. Chuck Schumer urged President Bush yesterday to allow the city to use $500 million of post-Sept.11 federal aid to supplement raises for city cops and firefighters - an unprecedented proposal for using emergency money. (Daily News)

Outgoing Schools Chancellor Harold Levy has ordered his administrators to investigate charges that city educators are pressuring parents into medicating their children with psychiatric drugs. (New York Post)

Harold O. Levy, who is leaving his post as New York schools chancellor described himself as a "happy camper." (New York Times)

8/10
Mayor Bloomberg ran for office on the theme that as a businessman unencumbered by political baggage and full of private sector ideas, he could be more successful at solving the city's problems than a lifetime politician. New Yorkers gave him the chance, and in many cases, have applauded him for his efforts. But in recent weeks, he has found that there are certain things that bedevil every mayor, no matter his background. For instance, in spite of the mayor's efforts to take the Department of Homeless Services in some new directions, the commissioner of that agency has been threatened in court with a contempt order for letting homeless families sleep in a city office, a problem that has also plagued previous administrations. And after months of insisting that he could come up with a cheaper way of carting away the city's garbage, he conceded that his plan, which he announced last week, was better than the current one, but probably not cheaper. (New York Times)

The mayor's proposal to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants reverberated through the city yesterday, with partisans on both sides brandishing studies, statistics and anecdotal evidence to bolster their arguments. (New York Times)

Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to ban smoking in the workplace extends well beyond bars and restaurants - it covers all commercial offices in the city, the Daily News has learned. That includes the Park Ave. headquarters of tobacco giant Philip Morris, which since 1995 has enjoyed a special exemption that allows workers there to light up almost anywhere. Bloomberg's plan - to be officially unveiled Monday - was previously thought to be limited to the city's bars and restaurants, where the proposal was setting barstools on fire all day yesterday. (Daily News)

In the Bloomberg administration, many things old are new again, including the first recent official step yesterday toward bringing public toilets to the streets of New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has submitted legislation to the City Council that would award a single company a "coordinated street furniture franchise" to provide public toilets and revamp and maintain bus shelters, newsstands, news racks and benches. City officials say such a law would reduce clutter on streets, provide a financial incentive for maintaining such structures and generate revenue for the city. (New York Times)

The city's school budget was balanced by a series of one-shot deals - to the tune of more than $592 million - and the bill will come due next year, warns the latest report on school finances. City schools won a major bailout in June, with an extra $662 million in city, state, federal and private funds. The cash infusion paid for the first year of a 16% pay hike for teachers and kept the budget ax from landing on classroom services. But 90% of the increase comes from one-time pots of money that can't be counted on for the school year that starts in September 2003, according to a review by the Independent Budget Office. (Daily News)

8/9
The Bloomberg administration will ask the City Council next week to amend the city's antismoking regulations to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars. The intention of the proposed change is to insure a smoke-free environment for workers within all restaurants and bars, according to officials in the mayor's office. Currently, smoking is allowed in stand-alone bars or taverns, in restaurants with fewer than 35 seats and in restaurant bar areas that are separate from eating areas. The change would make the city's antismoking ban one of the toughest in the nation and would be the first of its kind in New York State. (New York Daily News) The State Assembly earlier this year passed a bill banning smoking in all restaurants in the state. However, after lobbying efforts by the tobacco and liquor industries and restaurant associations, the Senate chose not to vote on the bill. (New York Times) The United States State Department is so concerned that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to tow the cars of diplomatic scofflaws could lead to retaliation against U.S. diplomats abroad that Secretary of State Colin Powell personally intervened yesterday. Powell asked Bloomberg to resume negotiations with the State Department. (Newsday)

8/8
The borough presidents of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx yesterday announced their appointments to the city's new Panel for Educational Policy, including two former members of a citywide parent group and a retired school district superintendent. All four appointees have children who attend city schools, as required under the new school control law pushed through by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Virginia Fields appointed Jacquelyn M. Kamin, a mother of four and former lawyer for the city's Department of Consumer Affairs who lives on the Upper West Side. Ms. Kamin was chairwoman of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, a parent advocacy group, in the late 1990's.The other appointees are Evita Belmonte of Queens, a supervisory aide at Junior High School 231 in Springfield Gardens; Natalie M. Gomez-Velez of the Bronx, special counsel to New York State's chief administrative judge; and Donald Weber of Brooklyn, a former superintendent of School District 21 whose 17-year tenure was not without controversy. Staten Island's borough president, James P. Molinaro, announced his appointee, Joan McKeever-Thomas, last month. Ms. McKeever-Thomas is a longtime parent leader in the Staten Island public schools. (New York Times)

Brooklyn representative Donald Weber, a former school district superintendent, was still shaking hands at City Hall when critics called for Borough President Marty Markowitz to dump him. "This is a blatant insult to parents," said Robin Brown, a Brooklyn parent and chairwoman of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council. "We thought this process would give grassroots parents a way to participate," Brown added. "Instead, our borough president appointed a political hack." Weber was among several officials targeted in two separate investigations by the Brooklyn district attorney's office, in 1989 and 1995, into allegations of cronyism and patronage in the District 21 school district and the local school board. Weber, who was the District 21 superintendent at the time, was not charged in either probe. (Daily News)

Brooklyn City Councilmember James Davis has been hit with two subpoenas by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who is investigating whether the former cop used money from a nonprofit group he runs to aid his political campaigns. Davis charged last night that the probe was nothing more than a political witch hunt orchestrated by his longtime nemesis, Kings County Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman. (Daily News)

Lame-duck Schools Chancellor Harold Levy could walk away with more than $90,000 in his pocket when he quits this month. Levy's $245,000-a-year contract provides for a three-month severance package - a $60,000-plus payout - once the new schools chief, Joel Klein, takes over Aug. 19. Besides the severance cash, Levy's original contract gives him a $30,000 bonus when he leaves - 90 days' worth of his $10,000-a-month housing allowance. (Daily News)

8/7
New Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is searching nationwide to find a number two person who has the education credentials that he lacks. Klein hopes to have found a deputy by August 19, when Klein begins work as leader of the nation s largest school system. (Daily News)

Harold Levy will leave his post as schools chancellor on August 16, somewhat earlier than originally planned, and Joel Klein will take over the job on August 19. Klein will report to 110 Livingston Street, the longtime Board of Education headquarters in Brooklyn, for his first few weeks of work, because the Tweed Courthouse, which will soon house those offices, will still be under renovation. (New York Times)

Members of the City Council's Black and Hispanic Caucus are planning to travel to Zimbabwe for a week-long fact-finding mission. The government of the African nation, which has been under attack for seizing land owned by white farmers, is paying for the trip. řWe are taking this as a fact-finding mission to get informed about the land issue there," said Councilmember Charles Barron. (New York Post)

8/6
The first post-cigarette-tax numbers are in, and they show that New Yorkers are smoking less, and - at least financially - City Hall is enjoying it more. New Yorkers bought half as many cigarettes citywide last month as they did in July 2001, while - thanks to the whopping new tax - the city raked five times more cash during the same period. The city Department of Finance released figures yesterday that show that local smokers purchased 15.6 million packs in July - down from 29.2 million for the same period a year ago. But because Mayor Bloomberg hiked the city's per-pack tax to $1.50 from 8 cents on July 1 - a nearly 20-fold increase - revenues have burned through the roof. And that's after the state took its cut. All told, the city took in $12.3 million last month from cigarettes, up from $2.3 million a year before. (Daily News)

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller is headed to Israel with about 15 colleagues this weekend to show support for the terror-torn Jewish state. Miller (D-Manhattan) plans to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the mayor of Jerusalem and other high-level government officials. He does not plan to meet with Palestinian Authority officials. (NY Post)

8/5
Mayor Bloomberg's push to do more with less apparently hasn't hit home with City Council members, who are spending big bucks to spruceup their district offices. Thirty-eight freshmen entered the council in January -- and got right down tobusiness, buying new computers, furniture and other office equipment attaxpayers' expense. Allan Jennings (D-Queens) spent close to $65,000 on a 3,000-square-foot office. About $22,000 went for furniture, including a 14-seat conference table, $2,000 for a projector and $2,450 for a Canon digital-camera kit. "This is the City Hall in downtown Jamaica," Jennings told The Post. "It's open for public use, and we have several civic organizations that hold meetings here." ...Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) picked up a Sony organizer for $540, saying it allows him to download up-to-date schedules from any computer..."It helps me to stay organized," Rivera said. "I'm trying to take away the stigma of politicians being late all the time." Larry Seabrook (D-Bronx) got himself a JVC camcorder for $379.97 and a Sony digital camera for $339.97. (New York Post)

The city's desperate cash crunch hasn't stopped some council members from running up whopping cell-phone bills...City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) ordered six mobile phones for himself and his staff. The monthly charges run around $1,000. By June, Rivera had shelled out $6,023 to Nextel -- despite a deal that the council negotiated with the company to keep costs down...."We have a very big field operation, and it's much easier to have constant communication," Rivera said...Veteran Councilman Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who's running for the state Senate, has three cell phones. Hismonthly bills average between $600 and $700...Helen Foster (D-Bronx) has one cell phone - but she still manages to talk up a storm: Her monthly tab averages about $500. Others with cellular phones include Andrew Lanza (R-S.I.), who turned in bills between $500 and $600, and Miguel Martinez (D-Manhattan), whose phone tab for April hit $469. (New York Post)

8/4
As quickly as it was floated, a trial-balloon notion of the city surrendering its Queens airports for control of the World Trade Center site may be getting shot down, insiders said yesterday. Under a plan initiated within the Bloomberg administration by Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the city would let the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey own the land under LaGuardia and Kennedy airports rather than lease them from the city as it now does. In exchange, this concept goes, the bi-state port agency would give up control of the lower Manhattan site to be developed and whatever long-range income it may generate. A sketchy description of the proposal was leaked to selected news outlets on Friday -- angering some parties who were not consulted but who may have power over its fate, two knowledgable sources said. (Newsday)

Express buses could resume service in southeastern Queens as early as Wednesday morning if striking workers approve a contract reached between their union and three private bus companies yesterday. The deal - which members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 are tentatively scheduled to vote on tomorrow - includes a $3.75 million advance from the city to the bus companies to cover health insurance costs. (Daily News)

This summer, as New Yorkers watched soccer, sipped Frappuccinos and lamented their fate in sweltering subway stations, the Bloomberg administration was busy making profound changes to the administration of the city's public school system. But for all the political capital, ideological debates and behind-the-scenes maneuvering that went into creating these changes, how much of them will be even remotely apparent next month, when the classroom doors close and the process of schooling 1.1 million children begins? (New York Times)

With the shift to mayoral control, and a host of unresolved governance questions, Joel I. Klein, the incoming chancellor, will be navigating New York City's schools into new territory at a time when the faltering economy is forcing big budget cuts. Nonetheless, many education experts say he will have a strong wind at his back in charting a course ł both because of the mayor's support, and because of the groundwork that is already in place. (New York Times)

The city's child welfare agency is trying to limit the number of infants and toddlers accepted into publicly funded day care programs, a money-saying move that some children's advocates say would deny care to thousands of children. (Newsday)

Boiling with anger and frustration, police officers said yesterday they were outraged an arbitration panel is on the verge of ruling that cops should get a pay raise in line with other uniformed city workers and teachers. According to an exclusive Daily News story yesterday, a three-member panel named by the state Public Employment Relations Board is set to give NYPD officers a two-year contract with raises of 5% per year. (Daily News)

8/3
City Hall is strongly considering offering the Port Authority a land-swap deal that would put the city in full control of Ground Zero, The Post has learned. The trade would give the PA direct control of Kennedy and La Guardia airports in exchange for the city getting the World Trade Center site. (NY Post)

Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday he's not a fan of corporate tax breaks - even though his firm sought a $14 million incentive last year - as he dismissed threats by the New York Stock Exchange to move some of its operations out of town. (NY Post)

8/2
Lawyer and corporate executive Joel Klein was granted a waiver yesterday to become New York City schools chancellor, despite his lack of education experience. The waiver, which is required by law, was granted by State Education Commissioner Richard Mills. The waiver was signed by Mills and a panel he chose to decide if Klein's experience compensates for his limited academic background. Klein, who attended New York City public schools, briefly taught sixth-grade math at a Long Island City middle school in 1969. (New York Times) (Newsday)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plan to refashion the system with giant trash compactors and barge-transport docks in each borough would reshuffle the winners and losers in New York's garbage game - perhaps by a little, perhaps by a lot - sanitation experts, environmentalists and city officials say. The system, once complete, would eliminate the need for truck-based transfer stations and the diesel exhaust that residents and environmentalists say have fouled neighborhoods like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Jamaica, Queens. Staten Island would be spared any hint of reopening the Fresh Kills landfill, which absorbed all the city's trash for decades before closing last year. The system of transfer stations would also be operated by the city - not private contractors, as a previous plan called for - thus signifying a victory for municipal workers. Losers include Manhattan, which the Sanitation Department under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had found unsuitable for trash compacting because of space constraints at its three transfer stations. (New York Times)

8/1
A is a name, as the poet suggested. Or is it? When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the appointment of his schools chancellor on Monday, he also announced the creation of a city agency, the Department of Education. It would have a new headquarters, he said, in the old Tweed Courthouse next to City Hall. But, it turns out that the new name was merely a conceit in a news release and was not in a legal document. The governance changes adopted by the State Legislature in June, giving Mr. Bloomberg control of city schools, did not change anything else, not even the name of the Board of Education. (New York Times)

Mayor Bloomberg had no sympathy yesterday for school superintendents unhappy they will have to hoof it into lower Manhattan in September, instead of sticking close to home in their district offices. (Daily News)

Vowing to wage a vigorous battle, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and a high-profile group of civic leaders lambasted Mayor Bloomberg yesterday for trying to "railroad" revisions to the City Charter. (Daily News)

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