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There is Nothing Innovative About Displacement


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Industry City courtyard development (photo: Industry City on Instagram)


Sunset Park is at a crossroads. With one of the city’s few remaining industrial waterfronts in a heavily, working-class Latino-Asian neighborhood, its development looms large in shaping the future of New York City and, dare I say, the city’s soul.

Since the March announcement of a $1 billion investment by Industry City’s owners – a consortium of commercial real estate titans - the most dramatic changes along the waterfront have not been the building upgrades, bicycle racks, summer dance parties, or high-end artisanal purveyors. Rather, it is the stupefying number of speculative sales of industrial real estate.

Jamestown Properties is working hard to rebrand Industry City as a site for cutting edge, modern manufacturers in technology, media, design, and high-value added fashion and food production. The developer is working to placate community concerns that the Williamsburg experience of massive displacement and gentrification will not be repeated.

To this end, Jamestown Properties announced the establishment of an “Innovation Lab” in collaboration with CUNY; Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, which manages Sunset Park’s Industrial Business Zone; and several community non-profit social service and workforce organizations. Largely funded by public dollars, the Innovation Lab seeks to connect the neighborhood’s immigrant, non-English speaking labor force with low levels of formal education to the innovation economy.

While Andrew Kimball’s success at the Brooklyn Navy Yard should reassure us that his expertise is preserving and promoting industrial jobs and small businesses, Mr. Kimball’s employer is no longer a non-profit organization that manages city-owned properties.

The redevelopment of Industry City is not about modern manufacturing. Industry City is a commercial real estate venture and its rezoning proposal will make that crystal clear. Most of Industry City’s 16-building complex is in a heavy manufacturing M3-1 zone which prohibits retailers and hotels (unlike light manufacturing M1-1 zones). Industry City’s “unprecedented” development proposal entails designating a “special innovation zoning district” to permit a hotel, university facility (some say dormitory), conference center, and retailers.

Industry City’s consortium of owners has hired Fox Rothschild LLP to prepare its rezoning proposal. A website search of Fox Rothschild LLP’s recent projects lists one for New York City – Ian Schrager’s ultra-luxury, condo-hotel at 215 Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side.

Referencing the area’s industrial past, Schrager describes his 28-story, Public Hotel project as “refined gritty” and “tough luxe.” While one journalist described this branding as “enough to make you lunge for the barf bag,” the transparent and cavalier manner in which the lives, experiences, and neighborhood spaces of an everyday public, made up of working-class people and communities of color, are erased and then commodified for a new “public” elite is astounding.

Fox Rothschild LLP secured the necessary permits and zoning changes for its client’s “refined gritty” condo-hotel project on a former urban renewal site.

Mr. Kimball’s participation in numerous real estate conferences, including the Commercial Observer’s recent “Brooklyn’s Renaissance” event held at Industry City, has helped fan real estate speculation and small business displacement in industrial Sunset Park.

A late September Crain’s New York Business article announced the sale of two Sunset Park warehouses by New Jersey-based Hampshire Companies. Approximately two years ago, Hampshire Companies purchased the pair of buildings from Brooklyn Commercial Realty Corporation and Commercial Associates LLC for $18.5 million dollars.

At the time of the sale in June 2013, based on my research of the New York State Department of Labor’s database of registered apparel contractors and manufacturers, there were 35 garment shops located at 341 39 Street employing hundreds of workers. These small businesses included Sew Wonderful US Inc., NYC Fashionwear Inc., and MM Pleating & Sewing Inc. Today, Hampshire Companies is selling the “warehouses” for $50 million dollars having made no physical improvements or changes except for the displacement of numerous small business tenants and their employees.

The Hampshire Companies is marketing the pair of industrial buildings, which are located a few blocks away from Industry City, “as conversions to hip, creative office space or residential units.” In addition to Industry City, there are now several new property owners in Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront anticipating a rezoning to commercial and possibly, residential uses. Sunset Park’s working waterfront is being eviscerated by real estate speculators who see great profits in branding the industrial infrastructure as part of an innovation economy district.

In this hyped real estate context, Mr. Kimball will go to extremes to portray Industry City as a site of modern manufacturing. For example, the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg are great additions to Industry City because, according to Mr. Kimball, they have long-served as “a platform for Brooklyn’s makers.”

Sunset Park is at a crossroads and its future depends on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen recognizing that protecting industrial and maritime-related jobs and land uses are as critical as affordable housing in sustaining the vibrant, diverse neighborhoods that have always made New York City a place of possibilities for working-class families.

While “Brooklyn players (were) mingling and gnoshing on a lucrative breakfast spread” at the Brooklyn Renaissance event at Industry City, UPROSE and Protect the Working Waterfront Alliance were organizing to save Sunset Park because there is nothing innovative about displacement.

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Tarry Hum is a professor at the City University of New York and author of Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park.

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The Right Plan for Addressing the Landmarks Backlog


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The Brooklyn Bridge, in distance, & The Manhattan Bridge (photo: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks)


Meet Backlog95.

Clunky operating system?

Nope – it's a list of 95 historic places before New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan thinks it's time to make some decisions on which will be given historic landmark status – a reasonable position, as some items have been under the agency's consideration since John Lindsay was mayor.

To clear the pile up, Srinivasan put Backlog95 up for debate for the first time in decades. The list includes icons like the Pepsi Cola sign, Green-wood Cemetery, and Coney Island's charming Art Deco Pumping Station.

Beginning at a packed hearing, landmarks commissioners began reviewing research, listening to testimony, and making decisions based on the merit of each property. The plan is to revisit the entire list at the beginning of 2016, with the end goal of clearing the decks of all outstanding properties – one way or another – by December 2016.

But Srinivasan's plan has competition.

Earlier this year, City Council Members David Greenfield and Peter Koo proposed a new bill – known as Intro. 775 – that would clear the backlog using restrictive new rules, including an 18-month timeline and a five-year moratorium on resubmissions to the Commission.

There are consequences to this approach:

Historic landmark designation is a meticulous process, and a timeline encourages bad actors to delay progress in the hopes of dodging landmark designation.

Even the most obvious landmarks can take time to properly research and consider. But under the bill's current timelines and given the way their process unfolded, both Grand Central Terminal and Radio City Music Hall would have exceeded the window for consideration and would have been sent to the back of the class for five years before landmark protection could be reconsidered.

What sounds like a momentary inconvenience is actually a long time to keep the bulldozers at bay. If we are not careful, we could easily lose places essential to our city's history and future.

The bill's proposed moratorium is even more dangerous, as it places the structural integrity of deteriorating buildings at risk for five years once the clock runs out. That's a lifetime for any building facing our city's brutal winters, especially when the Landmarks Commission has no power to ensure historic buildings are protected from the elements.

"This bill seeks to clear the decks – in the crudest possible way – for the destruction of historic fabric," testified one Lower Manhattan resident at a marathon September 9 hearing. Three-quarters of the hundred other speakers agreed.

Nobody wins when the Commission drags its feet. But if the City Council overreacts, New Yorkers risk losing the places and spaces that make our city great.

That's why we support Srinivasan's fix. It's the best upgrade for Backlog95 – and for the city we love.

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Simeon Bankoff is Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council. The organization is on Twitter at @HD_NYC.

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Albany Transparency and the MTA Funding Deal: Show Us Our Money


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Down a dark tunnel (photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin via flickr)


The big news is that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have stopped fighting over who should pay what, and reached a deal to close a huge gap in the MTA's vital $26 billion five-year capital plan. But their story of political conflict and compromise obscures a crucial fact: it's not their money, it's ours. Going forward the public has the right to know exactly what the governor and mayor intend to borrow and spend in our names.

Fully funding the MTA is a must, but New Yorkers are going to be stuck with the bill for the new subway trains and buses long after the governor and mayor have moved on. We need to know what they are getting us into.

So far, Governor Cuomo has refused to reveal a specific funding source for his pledge of an additional $8.3 billion, saying only that the money is coming from "state sources." Based on the State's available sources of funding and borrowing, this means it is highly likely that the State will create a mountain of new debt that the MTA and transit riders will be ultimately responsible for.

The governor has said he does not want to raise new taxes and will not push for the Move NY road pricing plan. The State's bank settlements are already spoken for, and the General Fund will not have anywhere near $8.3B in cash to spend on the MTA over the next four fiscal years, especially if Upstate demands equal funding for its roads and bridges. That leaves borrowing.

The State does almost all of its borrowing by getting public authorities, like the MTA, to borrow on its behalf. The State does this to avoid debt limits and public votes. Therefore, by far the most likely way Governor Cuomo will pay for his $8.3B pledge is by having the MTA borrow the money by selling bonds which the State will pledge to pay for. This is called a "service contract bond."

The key thing about service contract bonds is that the State's commitment to pay for them is not legally binding, and the MTA and transit riders are ultimately responsible for paying bondholders if the State reneges on its commitment. If the state does renege on some or all of the promised payments, the MTA and transit riders could be left holding a very large bag: paying back $8.3B in bonds will cost roughly $500 million a year for 30 years.

Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo has a bad track record with MTA service contract bonds. Since 2013, he has reneged on $70 million in State payments for Pataki-era MTA service contract bonds, and his latest budget calls for reneging on another $60M. Instead of the promised State funds, the Governor used MTA funds for the debt payments.

Admittedly, this is a modest amount of money given the MTA's giant budget, but it shows how easy it is for a Governor to break an old promise. If the Governor is reneging on debt payments in today's prosperous times, what happens during bad times over the next 30 years?

Government transparency can be an abstract idea, but for transit riders it really matters right now. The MTA will borrow billions more to pay for its share of the capital plan, and its debt payments are already a dangerously high share of its operating budget. This debt has translated into more expensive MetroCards and an increasing burden on everyday New Yorkers.

The stakes are high and New Yorkers deserve to know from Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie what the risks and benefits are of service contract bond borrowing and other financing options for the MTA capital plan --- after all, it is our money.

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John Kaehny is the executive director of Reinvent Albany.

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The 'Three-Quarter House' System We Need to Embrace


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A ground-breaking (photo via @NYCMayorsOffice)


New York City is in a housing crisis, you've surely heard, or seen, or felt. Rents are headed skyward, the homeless shelters are bursting at the seams, and formerly poor and neglected neighborhoods are filled with bearded hipsters drinking craft beers. 

For poor people, housing is almost impossible, but for persons in recovery from addiction—or on parole or probation—the challenges are multiplied many times. Felons cannot live in public housing, for example, and the job prospects for someone with a criminal record are very limited. Sobriety is difficult to maintain in the best of circumstances, and stability and peer support are essential.

So what's a poor addict to do? So-called "three-quarter houses" have risen to meet the demand for housing but they are, in some ways, worse than living on the streets. Three-quarter houses can be loosely defined as shared housing for persons in recovery who agree to split expenses and live without illegal drugs or alcohol. They are less restrictive than halfway houses which have strict rules, are usually for felons only, and have paid staff from a managing agency (often the Department of Correction) onsite 24 hours per day.

In New York City, the variant on three-quarter houses that has taken root is unusually predatory and grim. The New York Times has published several articles on these flophouses—a more apt description—where slumlords gouge recovering addicts and former prison inmates for their welfare benefits, house them six to a room and take kickbacks from the treatment programs that the men (mostly) are required to attend.

When a resident completes a drug program they are urged to relapse and be readmitted to a treatment facility, so the landlord can continue getting his kickback. The directors of Narco Freedom, a major provider of substance abuse treatment and three-quarter housing with multiple sites in New York City, have been arrested and indicted on medicaid fraud, and the organization is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

The city made a public relations show of closing down a few of these unlicensed and unregulated abominations, but there are hundreds, according to estimates. And there is an endless supply of people seeking cheap and sober housing; the War on Drugs has not abated the number of sufferers but has produced a bumper crop of convict-addicts seeking shelter as they stream out of the jails and prisons.

An estimated 25,000 people are released from New York prisons each year and another 81,000 from New York City jails. Without adequate housing, an addict's chances of staying sober and avoiding criminality are drastically diminished.

There is, however, another model for three-quarter houses that works - and I know from having lived in one.

I spent two years—after a long saga of depression, addiction, incarceration, and treatment—in a three-quarter house run by the non-profit Oxford House group, which manages thousands of such houses nationwide.

Each Oxford House is run on a cooperative basis by its residents. Paid staff manage the start-up phase of each house by finding a rental unit, negotiating a lease, making the upfront payments, and finding the first cohort of tenants. Once established, the tenants pay equal shares toward the rent and utilities, set house rules, assign chores, choose officers, and manage the house on a democratic basis.

Attendance at a treatment program (of the tenant's choice!) or at 12-step groups is a requirement, and if a person relapses the result is an immediate eviction.
The Oxford model is well-established in several states. In New Jersey, for example, there are about 120 houses but it has not caught on in New York (the website lists 17 total houses statewide).

The basic model is simple and any not-for-profit serving these populations could start a three-quarter house by investing a few months of rent upfront. In fact, payback of the initial investment, through small monthly payments from residents, can be part of the model so it need not cost the sponsoring agency a dime.

The basic model can be modified depending on the sponsoring group and the needs of the particular population. For example, the monthly welfare allowance for shelter is reported to be $215 per month per person. It is a low number and it may not be possible to operate a sober house with, say, ten residents, a typical number for the private houses, if all are on welfare. It is likely that a mix of private, paying residents and welfare residents would be required. Otherwise, a small subsidy from the sponsoring agency might be necessary.

Three powerful and intertwined forces—the housing crisis for the poor, the depopulation of the prisons, and the substance abuse epidemic—have combined to create a demand for affordable housing for these often comingled groups. Three-quarter houses, managed responsibly, are one of many answers that are needed.
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Christopher Beall currently works for the Osborne Association, a nonprofit criminal justice reform group in the Bronx.

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A Better Way to Fund the MTA


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Assembly Member Quart, the author (photo via Facebook)


No New Yorker has been able to miss the recent back-and-forth over MTA funding. Once again, we are trapped in an unwinnable argument. Whose responsibility is the MTA capital plan? Should New York City contribute more funding? Or is it the state's responsibility, since the MTA is a subsidiary of state government?

The conversation has devolved into threats against the New York City transit system and, as of yet, yielded no real solutions. In fact, this debate is exactly the problem. It completely misses the point.

We're funding the MTA Capital Program all wrong.

Nationally, New York City's transit system is unique. It is what allows us to be a city that functions with aberrantly low levels of car ownership. We are 'the city that never sleeps' because of our round-the-clock transit system. Without it, the gears of our city simply won't turn. And without the economic activity that is driven by transit in New York City, the rest of the state suffers as well. The entire state is dependent on a strong city transit system.

Framing the capital funding process as a question of city dollars versus state dollars is just obfuscation. The critical truth about all of these dollars is that they're not guaranteed. The MTA Capital Program, which pays for upkeep and expansion of our transit system cannot count on a single dollar of funding from dedicated budgetary revenue streams.

This means that every five years, we go through through the same argument we are having this year - quibbling over who will pay for the capital plan while our transit infrastructure deteriorates. Our subways and buses are more crowded, less punctual, and far more likely to break down than they were just a few years ago.

Without significantly more funding, these problems will only get worse.

There's an alternative, though, and it's one that we've already seen work. Across the ledger, the MTA operating budget benefits from a number of dedicated revenue streams, including the mortgage recording tax and the commuter tax. These funds are statutorily required to be used for their stated purposes.

We must expanding this idea to the capital side. In order for New York City to continue being a city that drives the state's economy, we need to ensure the upkeep of our transit system, but we also need to continue expanding it, to make sure that every part of the city that never sleeps is equally able to access transit.

It's time to put a stop to the budget dance. It's time to stop enabling unproductive arguments that distract from the real issues. It's long past time for the MTA capital program to be supported with statutory, dedicated, un-sweepable revenue streams that will allow maintenance and improvement of our subways and buses, the critical infrastructure that keeps New York City moving and drives the New York State economy.

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Dan Quart is a New York State Assembly member representing the East Side of Manhattan. He is on Twitter @DanQuartNY.

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Shooting Deaths Recall New York's Long History of Trying to Curb Gun Violence


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Gov. Cuomo (photo: Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)


New York has been shocked by gun violence for a long time.

Recently, on September 7, Carey Gabay, former assistant counsel to Governor Cuomo and a deputy counsel at the Empire State Development office in New York City, was shot in the head near the site where the West Indian American Day Carnival parade was scheduled to kick off a few hours later. He died of his wounds on September 16.

"We must act and we must say we're not going to take it anymore," Governor Cuomo said at Gabay's funeral service. "The killing has to stop."

Since the shooting, Cuomo has called attention to the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act that he pushed through the legislature early in 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. Gun rights activists continue to fight that law. Cuomo consistently declares it a national pacesetter and insists that federal action is needed.

Cuomo repeated his appeal after the October 1 killing of nine people by a gunman at a community college in Oregon. Calling gun violence "a sickness that continues to claim innocent lives and threaten our communities" while "our elected officials in Washington continue to sit on their hands." Guns continue to flow into New York from states with laxer gun laws, the governor added.

Today, New Yorkers continue to argue over the SAFE Act and the gun violence that plagues major cities, while state gun-permitting laws are complicated. New York's gun policies began over a century ago.

On August 9, 1910, New York City Mayor William J. Gaynor, who had taken office in January, was waiting to board the ship SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse at the terminal in Hoboken for a trip to Europe when he was approached by James J. Gallagher, who had been discharged from his position as a New York City dock night watchman earlier in the year for dereliction of duty. Repeated letters to the Mayor appealing for reinstatement got no results.

Gallagher walked up to the mayor and shot him in the neck. Sanitation commissioner William Edwards, who had been there to see the mayor off, was also wounded. Gaynor's aides and bystanders wrestled the would-be assassin to the ground. A New York World photographer happened to be on the dock for what he had assumed would be a routine photo of the mayor. Instead, he snapped a picture an instance after the shot, capturing a bloodied Gaynor reeling from the shot. The photo was soon on the front pages of city newspapers and was widely reprinted. It was a graphic representation of the horror of completely unexpected gun violence.

Gaynor survived but the bullet lodged in his neck and could not be removed. He recovered slowly. It caused him pain and discomfort until his death in 1913.
"I shot him because he robbed me of my position," Gallagher told police who arrested him. "He could have put me back to work and he wouldn't."

At his arraignment, the prosecutor asked Gallagher if he had read about the assassination of other public men. He replied he had read about the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. "Do you believe in it?" asked the prosecutor. Gallagher's chilling reply was: "Yes, if you have a grievance and can't right it any other way."

Apparently because of the mayor's slow recovery, Gallagher was not tried for shooting him but was sentenced to 12 years for shooting Commissioner Edwards. He died in prison in 1913.

David Graham Phillips was a prominent novelist living in New York City in the early 20th century. Phillips' novels often commented on social issues of the day and frequently chronicled events based on his real-life experiences as a journalist before he took up writing fiction. He wrote a series of articles entitled "The Treason of the Senate" in Cosmopolitan in 1906 that exposed corruption in the Senate. Phillips was something of a public figure, often seen strolling on New York sidewalks.

On January 23, 1911, Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, an eccentric violinist and music teacher, gunned Phillips down outside the Princeton Club on the north side of Gramercy Park. Club members heard the assailant cry out "I've been waiting for six months to get you" and then "Here you go!" as he shot the novelist six times. He then muttered "Here I go!" before shooting and killing himself. Phillips succumbed to his wounds the next day.

Police searched Goldsborough's apartment; from diaries and papers they learned he had become fascinated with one of Phillips' novels, "The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig." He believed it drew on Goldsborough family history and portrayed it in an unflattering way, and that the novelist had modeled the central character on Goldsborough's sister. He also believed Phillips could read his mind.

The shootings of Mayor Gaynor and David Graham Phillips provoked public outrage. But it was a rising tide of street gun violence that led to legislative action.

Timothy Sullivan, a Democratic state senator from the Bowery area of Manhattan, was appalled at the Gaynor and Phillips shootings. But he was even more alarmed about a rising tide of gang-related shootings in his district.

Sullivan, often known by his nickname "Big Tim," was unlikely to be mistaken for a do-good reformer. He was a Tammany Hall regular who was involved with gambling, prostitution, and corruption. But he was also concerned with the welfare of his constituents and Tammany Hall itself was becoming more reform-minded. In 1911, Robert F. Wagner was Speaker of the Senate and Alfred E. Smith was majority leader in the Assembly. They were both Tammany men but favored progressive policies.

Sullivan introduced a bill in the 1911 legislature to require licenses for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. Possession of such firearms without a license was defined as a misdemeanor, and carrying one was defined as a felony.

Sullivan explained that "gun toters" (as the press often called gunmen) fell into three categories. The first was professional criminals. The second consisted of people who are deranged or commit gun violence in fits of rage. His law would help in those areas, he said.

But, Sullivan was more concerned with a third category, "...young fellows who carry guns around in their pockets all the time not because they are murderers or criminals but because the other fellows do it and they want to be able to protect themselves....those boys aren't all bad but they're in a mighty bad way. Just carrying their guns around makes 'em itch to use 'em."

The bill was opposed by some gun owners and gun manufacturers. One upstate senator told Sullivan that "your bill won't stop murders. You can't force a burglar to get a license to use a gun." Others warned that people would get guns from other states. But the bill found wide support among concerned New Yorkers in both parties who had been shocked by the assassination of a renown novelist and the assault on their city's chief executive.

Republican District Attorney (later Governor) Charles Whitman said that "carrying a weapon is an invitation to a crime. Reduce the weapons carried and you will reduce crimes of violence. There isn't any debating that point."
The Sullivan Act passed easily. It was challenged in court and debated for more than a century, but its basic provisions are still in place.

Gunfire that is completely unexpected is a frightening specter. Shortly before the shooting, a constituent had warned Mayor Gaynor against going around the city unescorted. "I do not think anyone would do me harm unless he was a lunatic," he responded, "and it is hard to guard against lunatics."

"I'm governor of New York and there's nothing I can say and there's nothing I can do," Governor Cuomo said, after visiting Carey Gabay at Kings County Hospital Center before he died. "Sometimes, it just hurts."

Yet the murder of the governor's aide and the killings in Oregon are certain to provoke more debate over gun violence in New York and elsewhere, and what can be done to curb it.

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Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne is the author of the book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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Next Steps After Eye-Opening NYPD Inspector General Use-of-Force Report


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(photo via NYPD on flickr)


Officer James Frascatore is working behind a desk after assaulting James Blake last month. But if history is a guide, there's far too strong a likelihood that he won't be held accountable for his action.

That's the key finding of the report released yesterday on use-of-force by the NYPD Inspector General: From 2010 to 2014, the NYPD failed to impose discipline in 35.6 percent of cases with substantiated evidence of excessive force. If we are honest, we know that this problem pre-dates Commissioner Bratton and this Administration, but we must rightfully look toward the Commissioner and the Mayor to take corrective action.

The 62-page report digs deeply into NYPD use of force, with a strong set of recommendations for how to fix the problems identified.

We are pleased to see Commissioner Bratton quickly adopt a number of the policy recommendations in the report, including a far more rigorous tracking system for use-of-force incidents, clearer definitions of use of force, better training, and an annual use-of-force report.

These are necessary and important steps in the ongoing effort to improve police-community relations. They must help officers better understand essential procedures and eliminate instances of excessive force like those that resulted in Eric Garner's death and James Blake's assault.

The key remaining issue, though, is accountability when excessive force is used. The NYPD Inspector General's report identifies this as a clear area of concern, and calls for specific and appropriate reforms.

Commissioner Bratton has indicated that he is creating an internal unit to monitor officers with frequent complaints against them and he has voiced his commitment to work more closely with the CCRB on its disciplinary recommendations.

At the same time, however, there is still no explicit acknowledgement of the reality that the IG's report demonstrates clearly: in far too many cases, NYPD officers have faced no accountability for excessive use of force. The real proof of effective reforms will be seen when there are fewer officers inappropriately using force and when officers who use excessive force are held accountable for their actions.

That is why establishing by law an NYPD Early Intervention System for overly-aggressive police officers, as proposed by Council Members Williams and Garodnick, is so important. By establishing a system to quantify excessive force complaints, our city can better understand which officers may be prone to excessive force and who may need additional training, supervision, or other consequences.

We look forward to working with Commissioner Bratton to codify by law the early intervention work he is doing, to consider other legislation before the City Council, including the Right to Know Act, and to adopt the remaining recommendations in the Inspector General's report. While the issues at hand are decades old, span many police commissioners, and are not confined to New York City, there is real opportunity for us to lead the way, and to do so now.

This report - data-driven, thoughtful, and constructive - demonstrates the value of the Office of the NYPD Inspector General, just as we hoped when we passed the Community Safety Act in 2013. In a short time and to the contradiction of critics, the NYPD IG has already made real contributions toward improving public safety and advancing civil rights.

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Jumaane D. Williams and Brad Lander are New York City Council Members from Brooklyn who co-sponsored Local Law 70 of 2013, which established the Office of the NYPD Inspector General.

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Creating a Truly Age-Friendly NYC


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Mayor de Blasio visits older New Yorkers (photo: @mayorsCAU)


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, established by the United Nations General Assembly to both raise awareness of issues affecting older people and commemorate the contributions that they have made to society.

Here in New York City, there's a lot to appreciate.

Older people have helped make New York City the incredible place it is today. They built our infrastructure, led social justice movements, made major advances in health care and technology, and fueled our thriving economy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's platform for social justice and equity, including plans for improving pedestrian safety, increasing the affordable housing stock, facilitating access to the Internet, and renovating the city's parks, has the potential to improve older people's quality of life if they are effectively consulted and considered.
The mayor's recent reconstitution and convening of the Age-friendly NYC Commission to identify and address areas where additional work is needed across the public and private sectors is another step in the right direction. Age-friendly NYC is a one-of-a-kind public-private partnership between the Mayor's Office, the New York City Council, and The New York Academy of Medicine, of which NYAM and AARP are commission members.

About 1.4 million of New York City's 8.4 million residents are 60 or older. That's one in six people. By 2030, this population will grow to one in every five, and older people will outnumber school-aged children. This will be one of the most diverse groups of older people in the world (over half of all older New Yorkers were born outside of the United States).

Healthy, active, and engaged older people are assets to city life. They work, loyally support local businesses, care for spouses and grandchildren, and give back through high rates of volunteerism. The city, in turn, has a great deal to offer older residents, as it does for people of all ages: vibrant neighborhoods, great public transportation, walkability, shopping and commerce, rich cultural institutions, and high-quality health care and social services.

Yet, New York City can be a challenging place for older people to live. Expenses are high, and the poverty rate among older people is nearly 20 percent — significantly higher than the national average. Finding affordable and accessible housing is difficult, with two in every three people over 70 paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent. In many neighborhoods, older people restrict their activities because of crime and safety concerns, as well as difficulty getting around. This can lead to social isolation which is associated with poor health.

In fact, a recent AARP survey of New York City voters shows even more concern about affording rent and mortgage payments among the up-and-coming older New Yorkers – Generation X (64%) – than among Baby Boomers (59%), with even higher numbers of African-American (74%) and Hispanic (70%) Gen Xers and Baby Boomers concerned. And a majority of both generations also worries about being able to pay utility bills, with African-Americans' and Hispanics' concerns again higher.

A separate AARP survey of New York City adults 50 and older found that 90 percent want to stay in their homes as they age and 73 percent say promoting age-friendly living should be a top or high priority for elected officials. Sometimes simple low- or no-cost solutions, such as the strategic placement of a bench or the use of school buses to transport older people to grocery stores during school hours, can make older people's lives easier, fuller, and more satisfying. Age-friendly NYC is dedicated to doing just that — creating a New York City where people of all ages can live, work, and thrive.

Since its inception in 2008, some of the improvements made by Age-friendly NYC include a reduction in senior pedestrian fatalities, increased walkability through the addition of public seating, new programming for older people at parks, educational and cultural institutions, and a better consumer experience offered by many local businesses. We've also worked closely with architects, urban planners, librarians, small business owners, and lawyers, just to name a few, to raise awareness of age-related issues within their respective fields.

We are making great progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the rights and meet the needs of older people, who often report feeling left out or experiencing age discrimination where they live and work. If we are lucky, we will all be old one day, and we will want to continue enjoying everything we've always loved about our city — exercising in the park, shopping at favorite stores, going to concerts, museums, and theaters, and socializing with family and friends. Today, on the International Day of Older Persons, let's recognize the strength of older people and commit to making New York City a place where people of all ages feel included and valued.

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by Lindsay Goldman and Beth Finkel

Lindsay Goldman, LMSW, is Deputy Director, Healthy Aging, The New York Academy of Medicine
Beth Finkel, MSW, is New York State Director, AARP

Read more about Age-friendly NYC here

*note: this column has been updated from its original version to include more information from recent surveys

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Why Arts Educators Support Computer Science


de blasio school visit comp sci

Mayor de Blasio at a school visit (photo: Rob Bennett for the Mayor's Office)


Advocates for arts education support Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal to expand access to computer science in city schools. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Learning to code flexes many of the same creative and problem-solving muscles as participating in the visual and performing arts. In the arts and in computer science students often start with a blank slate and build something from nothing. The tools may be different, but the process of exploration, experimentation, and critical reflection is the same.

Fluency with technology is essential to many applied forms of 21st century art-making: music composition and production, graphic design and architecture, filmmaking, and animation. The earlier students become comfortable with advanced tools, the easier it becomes for them to translate the sounds and pictures of their imagination into tangible media: art.

Mayor de Blasio highlights the doors of opportunity in the technology sector. Openings in the creative industries (which thrive in New York City, the cultural capital of the world) increasingly require computer credentials. As artistically-minded students graduate into the working world, mastery of content-creating tools can be a prerequisite for making a living.

Most importantly, any step to de-emphasize rote, test-focused learning, and toward education of the whole child is entirely welcome. Well-taught computer science curriculum moves in the right direction, teaching students to think, engage, and create.

It's no coincidence that one of the school leaders cited for driving computer science in the schools - Ramon Gonzalez, the superstar principal of MS 223 in the Bronx - has also been a leader in integrating arts education throughout his curriculum.

In fact, the connections between computer science and arts education are driving the "STEM to STEAM" movement, which includes "arts" in the typical science, technology, engineering, and math acronym. Accordingly, The Center for Arts Education has developed curricula that address these connections.

To be sure, those who understand the essential role of arts education would be gravely disappointed if computer science electives pushed out required arts education courses. But, the mayor and schools Chancellor Carmen Farina have demonstrated a strong commitment to expanding access to arts education. Last year, the mayor and the City Council agreed to a historic four-year, $92-million expansion in funding for arts education that is already impacting the lives and educational opportunities of thousands of New York City students.

Some have noted the shortage of credentialed computer science teachers. That's a valid point—and makes the ten-year phase-in period of the de Blasio proposal look wise. We see a similar deficit in the supply of arts teachers. It's a topic for another day, but soon: re-invigorating the city's pipeline of credentialed instructors is essential.

Proponents of computer science instruction and arts education may seem like odd bedfellows, but we are joined in our commitment to teaching the whole child and preparing every child in every school for success in college, career, and life.

As Mayor de Blasio recently laid out his new education plans at Bronx Latin High School, he noted that computer science develops communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking - the very same 21st century skills that quality arts education develops.

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Lori Sherman is Deputy Director of The Center for Arts Education, a leading arts education provider and advocate. On Twitter @centerforartsed.

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A True, New NYCHA Development Plan


NYCHA Chair Olatoye

NYCHA Chair Olatoye, the author, at a NextGen meeting (via NYCHA on flickr)


Public housing has been an integral feature of New York City life since Fiorello La Guardia opened the doors of First Houses eighty years ago, and roughly five percent of the city's population lives in public housing today. As a landlord, NYCHA manages buildings, but our real service is to people— the 615,000 residents who live in our developments and our Section 8 voucher holders.

We are doing everything we can to ensure the long-term survival and health of public housing in New York City. This includes new, creative solutions to major challenges.

We face immense financial obstacles as NYCHA struggles to repair and maintain our buildings and grounds. We can no longer delay making difficult, critical choices about how we operate, how we are financed, and how we rebuild and rehabilitate our 328 developments. To avoid the fate of other housing authorities across the country, NYCHA must find innovative solutions to maintain and improve our properties.

Due in part to federal and state disinvestment, the city is investing more than ever to craft solutions that bring about real change. We are doing this because we recognize the simple truth that we have an ethical responsibility to provide and sustain affordable housing for our city's low-income populations.

Today, just 18 percent of the land on NYCHA's 328 developments is used to house residents. Using some of that land to develop new mixed-income housing can generate significant funds benefiting local and citywide NYCHA residents, as well as those in the surrounding community. We call these developments NextGen Neighborhoods because they provide the funding we need to create the safe, clean, connected communities that we envision in our ten-year strategic plan, NextGeneration NYCHA.

This isn't the first time NYCHA has proposed developing market-rate housing on our properties, but it is the first time resident engagement has been made integral to the process. And the first time an administration has pledged to ensure that just as many units of affordable housing are built as market rate housing.

This 50/50 model will ensure a significant percentage of the proceeds from the affordable and market-rate buildings will be provided to each development for residents to invest back into building new kitchens, fixing the root causes of leakage, and other priorities. The remaining funds will be funneled by NYCHA into making improvements across NYCHA's portfolio.

Our strategic plan aims to preserve this precious resource of public housing for the next generation of New Yorkers. NextGen Neighborhoods is just one of the fifteen initiatives we outlined in the plan to rebuild and repair our properties and sustain NYCHA for the long term.

[Related: Another Way of Looking at NYCHA Infill Development]

The funds we generate through NextGen Neighborhoods will be added to those generated from other strategies— such as our parking initiative, our commercial initiative, and our preservation initiative. None of these strategies work in a vacuum, they all work together as a comprehensive plan to get NYCHA's financial health in order, create more affordable housing, and invest in the Housing Authority and in the future of our city.

I've been clear that upon moving into this position, Mayor de Blasio charged me with the task of resetting the Authority's relationship with residents. We cannot do business as usual with our city's public housing, and expect to see substantive and lasting change.

Our new plan is not the infill proposal put forth by the previous administration— this is NYCHA working together with residents, with community members and advocates, and with elected officials to support the creation of mixed-income affordable housing on NYCHA property.

This is not privatization, but aggressive preservation— a strategy that is smart for residents and surrounding communities as well as NYCHA. We can generate money to repair and upgrade our developments while adding to the city's affordable housing stock, attracting new stores and services to neighborhoods, and producing income that can help NYCHA residents in other parts of New York. NYCHA will not compromise the rights of public housing tenants, unfairly evict tenants, or convert public housing units to market rate housing. We're in the business of housing people.

This is NYCHA moving forward, instead of maintaining the status quo. There is no better way to serve our residents.

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Shola Olatoye is Chair of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), landlord to over 600,000 residents of traditional public housing and Section 8 programs. She is on Twitter at @SholaOlatoye.
@GothamGazette

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Renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Benefit of all New Yorkers


bikes trails river

(photo: @PTNY)


What do Manhattan's Riverbank State Park track, the playgrounds of P.S. 40, 100, 140, and 192, Clay Pit Ponds State Park, the Rockaway and Coney Island Boardwalks, and Battery Park all have in common?

All were established or built through funding from the national Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Nearly all New Yorkers have benefitted in some way from the LWCF's innovative conservation projects.

For over 50 years, the LWCF has protected, renovated, updated, and improved New York's parks and greenspaces for the benefit of New Yorkers. This conservation fund is much more than a rural land purchasing program. The LWCF has funded approximately $44 million worth of projects in New York City alone over the past half century.

Despite the undeniable success of the LWCF, the fund will expire on September 30 if Congress does not pass legislation to reauthorize it. Over its entire history, the LWCF has never once lapsed in authorization. The 114th Congress should not allow a lapse in the LWCF to be a part of its legacy.

Established under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, the LWCF began as an innovative way to acquire or develop recreational resources for a growing American population. Upon signing the bill (the same day he signed the Wilderness Act into law), President Johnson called the LWCF a responsible way to "acquire on a pay-as-you-go basis the outdoor recreation lands that tomorrow's Americans will require."

The LWCF has given New Yorkers city and school playgrounds, pools, park roads and restrooms, ballfields, and bandstands in all five boroughs. The LWCF's redevelopment of park and playground facilities maintains recreation infrastructure to ensure it is safe for all of New York's children.
LWCF funding has also allowed for the acquisition of new greenspaces – a significant challenge in a city as dense as New York. LWCF moneys funded the purchase of land that is now Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx, as well as the small but important floodplains of Udall's Cove and Ravine in Queens.

New parkland acquisitions like these ensure that New York City has green infrastructure that improves resiliency in the face of severe storms, floods, and rising sea levels.

The LWCF is rightly characterized as America's most important conservation program. The LWCF is unique in its flexibility and results, but more important it is unique in structure and purpose: it uses no taxpayer funds, but rather is funded through a small percentage of revenue from oil and gas leases that allow drilling of publicly-owned resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. The LWCF is a grand bargain between resource extraction and resource protection, struck on behalf of the American people, and one that they overwhelmingly support.

Reauthorizing the LWCF is a no-brainer for New Yorkers, since it costs them nothing. Continuing to fund the LWCF is a bipartisan issue that all New Yorkers can get behind. We can continue to fund our playgrounds, ballfields, and green infrastructure without reinventing the wheel legislatively. Congress simply needs to reauthorize the LWCF and allow it to begin a new half century of conservation success.

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by Robin Dropkin, Executive Director, Parks & Trails New York. On Twitter @PTNY.

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