Archive for March, 2006

That's What Friends Are For
March 30th, 2006

In an effort to reach out for more voters, Democratic candidate for Governor Tom Suozzi posted on his Web site pictures of him and his ethnic friends. It even has a picture of Suozzi helping make matzohs in Brooklyn in the Jewish Friends section. Other friends included in the gallery are African American, Greek, Irish, Italian and Latino, most of them in the kind of outfits that people only wear in parades.

Missing from the list are the Asian friends. But it is common knowledge that Asian friends are difficult to find, especially for a political photo op. Just ask last years mayoral candidate, C. Virginia Fields.

By on March 30, 2006, 7:14 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 13 Comments »

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Campaign Funds For Lifestyle Padding
March 30th, 2006

Recentresearchfrom Common Cause/NY and a slew of news stories have made it clear that the problem of candidates for political office in New York state using their campaign funds to pad their lifestyles is pervasive.

From spa visits to vacations toexpensive car leases, the stories of candidates using campaign funds for purposes that stretch the definition of “campaign expense” beyond any plausible limit have been unceasing. It’s time to make it clear to candidates that this practice has to end.

The problem of candidates using campaign funds for personal uses is not isolated to one candidate or one party. In fact, the single largest category of expenses for legislative candidates in the 2004 election cycle was not TV ads or fundraising but “other.” This, combined with the fact that winning candidates tend to spend a significant portion of their money outside of the height of the election season, highlights the pervasiveness of the practice of using campaign funds for purposes that stretch the definition of “campaign expense” to its breaking point.

To read specific examples of the practice, please check out the news stories from the Utica Observer Dispatch and the Journal News:

By on March 30, 2006, 5:45 pm
In category: Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Campaign Funds For Lifestyle Padding

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Arena and Stadium Money Flows Freely
March 30th, 2006

The organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the plan to build a professional basketball arena in downtown Brooklyn, has posted a page from the recent state budget agreement on its Web site that shows an allocation of $33 million for the Atlantic Yards Project. (The New York Observer’s Real Estate blog says it has confirmation of the amount from a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.)

The $33 million is less than the $100 million developer Bruce Ratner is seeking, but state lawmakers may have to explain why they included it as an amendment to the Education, Labor and Family Assistance section of the budget.

In the New York Times, columnist Joyce Purnick takes on another sports venue, the new Yankee stadium proposal. The article (available only to subscribers) discusses an overlooked issue in the plan – how $700,000 in cash grants to community organizations and 15,000 Yankee tickets will be distributed and how that will affect the City Council’s vote on the project on April 5.

By on March 30, 2006, 12:51 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Fighting Catholic School Closings
March 30th, 2006

Parentswith studentsin Catholic schools and local church parishioners are reacting to the news that the Archdiocese of New York is planning to close 11 schools and eight churches in New York City and vowing to fight to keep them open.

The Daily News urges those who want to mount a campaign to look for advice from those who fought a similar battle in Brooklyn last year and “through innovative fund-raising and consultation with cost-cutting experts and the help of an ‘angel’or two – as well as local pols – managed to save a few schools that had been earmarked for closure

The battle will be uphill and may well end in disappointment,” the editorial page states. “But, while there’s still hope, the fight would be a good one.”

The New York Sun sees a connection between the school closings and the proposed state budget, which would send additional education funding to New York City.

“The two events aren’t directly linked, but they’re related,” the editorial page states. “Although many factors account for the Church’s decision- many of those schools are affiliated with parishes being closed due to declining attendance – higher public school spending is putting the squeeze on parochial institutions. Without the new aid from Albany, the city already spends about $18,000 on each student including capital expenditures. Catholic high schools spend a third of that while facing many similar challenges, including aging school buildings.”

By on March 30, 2006, 7:59 am
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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The "A" Word
March 29th, 2006

To say that the immigration reform bill, passed by Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, is an amnesty is like taking [a cow] into the woods in hunting season, paint the word deer on it and stand back, writes the New York Times Editorial.

The bill provides the path for undocumented immigrants to leave or stay in the country legally. But it would take 11 years, a clean record, a steady job, payment of a $2,000 fine and back taxes, and knowledge of English and civics for an immigrant to become a US citizen. That’s not amnesty,said the Times.

Michael Goodwins of the Daily News, meanwhile, pointed out the shocking truth that no one in Washington has a plan to stop the flow of people coming into country illegally.

The biggest illusion, he said, is that America must somehow first legalize the 11 million-plus illegals here before closing the borders. Right, let’s clean up the water on the floor before we plug the leaky pipe.

By on March 29, 2006, 4:49 pm
In category: Gotham City,Immigrants | 1 Comment »

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48 Hours
March 29th, 2006

Remember the 48 hour rule? It gave New York City police 48 hours to talk to their own lawyers before answering questions from department investigators, and so according to critics, helped officers cover up their crimes and improprieties. Yesterday the state’s highest court issued a decision (in pdf format) that ends the controversial rule.

Those who are justifiably suspicious of the fuzz will rejoice at the demise of the 48-hour rule, writes Jarrett Murphy in Power Plays. There’s no denying it looked damn fishy in cases like Diallo. But as a practical matter, it’s also undeniable that many New York cops feel their rights as workers are under fire.

By on March 29, 2006, 1:36 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | Comments Off on 48 Hours

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The State Budget
March 29th, 2006

The New York Times looks at the state budget deal and decides the states surplus may be more a bane than a blessing. The Republicans want to use it to help the rich and the Democrats want to spend it on schools and tax cut for the poor – a better tactic but not good enough, in the Times view. Both sides, the editorial continues, are utterly uninterested in paying down debt to increase long-term solvency. The paper then calls on our leaders in Albany to show a little backbone, writing, It’s ridiculous that the legislators, who are almost all from districts gerrymandered into impregnability, and a governor whose presidential hopes are still a mirage can be doing so much damage with an eye toward pleasing the voters.

Writing in Newsday, Lawrence Levy also bemoans the states propensity to cut taxes and spend: It’s clear that billions of dollars in new spending and tax cuts already agreed upon will turn this year’s big surplus into bigger deficits in the future. This could all cave in one the next governor who would have no choice but to govern a slash-and-burn artist.”

By on March 29, 2006, 8:33 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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Push For A Car-Free Central Park
March 28th, 2006

The recent report from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that New York City has the most polluted air in the country — residents of Manhattan are three times more likely than Americans as a whole to get cancer from it has given new oomph to an old campaign by Transportation Alternatives to ban cars from Central Park, for public health and safety. There was a rally last weekend at City Hall to push for a car-free Central Park, a petition reportedly now has more than 100,000 signatures to close the park drive for the summer, and it is hard to find anybody against the idea. Some argue that closing the park to traffic will greatly increase traffic nearby, said the blogger What I See, who included pictures of the rally. My feeling is that its incorrect Let’s try it for one summer and see how much of a difference it makes. Wildlife photographer and park frequenter Cal Vornberger wrote on his blog recently that dodging speeding cars with a large lens on a tripod is not my idea of a good time, and learned of an adult Screech-owl that last month was struck by a car as it flew across the drive. Momentarily stunned, the owl flew off before it could be struck by another car… Its only a matter of time before a jogger, pedestrian, or tourist gets run down by one of these madmen meaning drivers.

By on March 28, 2006, 9:17 am
In category: Environment,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Childstat: A Half-Step
March 27th, 2006

The city announced last week that its Administration for Children’s Services would analyse computer data to make it more effective, just as the Police Department has with Compstat, the Parks Department has with Parkstat, and the City Council is planning with Councilstat. But the New York Post says that the city’s Childstat program will not succeed unless it uses the data it collects to hold people accountable for their shortcomings.

“The NYPD program is not just about monitoring crime levels. It’s about holding cops – and brass – responsible when it spikes,” it writes in an editorial today. “But at ACS, staffers see Mattingly defended, even applauded, by the mayor – despite one dead child after another.

By on March 27, 2006, 3:05 pm
In category: Social Services,Tech | Comments Off on Childstat: A Half-Step

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March Madness…Wonk Style
March 27th, 2006

Theresprideon the line, murmurs around the water cooler and intense competition.
Instead of office pools, your tax dollars and government services are at stake.
Instead of stats and brackets, youre focused on appropriations and negotiations.
Instead of ESPN news, youre reading Albany Matters.
Instead of the final four, youre enraptured by tax cuts, school aid, Medicaid funding and municipal projects.

If any of the above apply, you might have a case of March Madnesswonk style.

While the NCAA basketball championship will be settled by next Monday, the New York State budget could drag on for weeks past its March 31 deadline.

A basketball play can take as little as a couple of seconds, but proposed budget bills must be printed and aged (ideally, even read by members) before legislature can vote. In Albany, the shot clock has to last several days, clearly thwarting the states chance to boost revenues by selling tickets and television spots to the big drawn-out event.

Will Albany pass an on time budget for the second time in a row, or will this years budget talks go into overtime? It all depends on the Albany final fourBruno, Silver, Pataki and the Courtsas the remaining contentious items are settled.

Despite his health problems last month, Pataki (and his surrogates) spent little time on the bench during the negotiations. He recently returned to the state capitol to continue these remaining days of deliberations in person.

Currently, the proposed Senate and Assembly budgets are larger than the Governors, with discrepancies, such as competing plans to deal with Medicaid fraud and what sort of tax cuts to offer, including per child education credits, as well asreductions in sales, property and other taxes. Two other important stats that don’t seem to reconcile are the $48 billion in state debt (up from when Pataki took office and significantly higher if you include public authority debt loads) and this Novermber 7th…Election Day. Local aid is always a favorite topic for representatives, especially inan election year, and this time around the Legislature agreed upon a $648.6 million package to various municipalities.

The hottest match up this budget season may be the education issue. Just last week, the courts affirmed the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement decision, asserting that the state owes city schools somewhere between $4.7 and $5.63 billion due April 1, with an additional $9.2 billion to fix up school infrastructure.

Though the court issued a ruling, it does not have the standing to be an effective referee.As such, the Governor and Legislature can hustle the court on the specifics. Whether or not authorities will be able to enforce this budget foul is unclear, but lawyers will likely be coming off the bench again.

With the players all on the court in the final minutes (in reality days or weeks) of budget talks, the words are getting spicy. At a recent briefing, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said of the Patakis budget office, I think they ought to go back to kindergarten and learn how to count, and following up with the retort, I have a budget director who knows how to count. Pataki played the wrong and inappropriate comments off, also suggesting that Bruno was under pressure.

Perhaps Assembly minority leader and former NCAA basketball star Jim Tedisco (R-Schenectady) can push for changes. Journalists have suggested hell press the Legislature and now is the time, but being in the minority on the Assembly, he is effectively playing from the bench, perhaps serving as a cheerleader.

Officials may benefit in other ways from running down the clock as well. Slow budget negotiations give politicians leeway when handling crises. Just three weeks ago, Assemblymen Paul Tonko and Jim Tedisco assured constituents that a potential budget shortfall in the Mohonasen School District would not be a problem, stressing the budget is nowhere near finalized.Procrastination and stall tactics can have a comforting effect too, but now with regulation time ticking down, someone must act or at least explain the delays.

SUNY Albany lost to UCLA in the NCAA tournament this month, but perhaps the Governor and Legislature can turn things around for the capitol city in time for the big dance. Either way, be sure to pop plenty of popcorn for your budget watching party and remember to cheer loudly for your favorite appropriation.

By on March 27, 2006, 1:00 pm
In category: Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Unscripted Moments In A Budget By April Fools
March 27th, 2006

Its been interesting watching the debate over the enactment of a state budget. While a lot of the debate continues behind closed doors, it is nothing like it used to be.

Until the last few years, very little was known about the substance of budget negotiations. Like waiting for the white smoke to appear over the Vatican proclaiming the choice of a new Pope, New Yorkers waited for the announced results of budget items. And the wait was often hardly worth it. Not only were budgets enacted late, they usually resulted in millions in pork spending found in slush funds, increases in state debt and legislative gridlock on important non-budget issues.

The result was 20 years of late budgets and an angry electorate. So last year in an effort to placate voters, lawmakers tried something new. Some of the budget discussions were held in public.

In 2005, state lawmakers were able to agree on a budget by the beginning of the fiscal year for the first time in a generation.

This year, lawmakers are at it again making an attempt to get the budget finished by April 1st.

Legislators are holding public meetings in which representatives of the Senate and Assembly convene to discuss specific portions of the budget. There are 10 subcommittees that are assigned budget areas to resolve. These subcommittees hold meetings to try to come to an agreement on specific issues — for example state aid for schools, spending on health care and the environment. At each meeting 10 legislators 5 from the Senate and 5 from the Assembly meet to discuss policy options.

Once the subcommittee resolves its work - either by compromise or by not agreeing on a particular topic - it presents it to a leadership committee jointly headed by Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno. This leadership committee debates issues that are unresolved.

Unlike real working meetings, these budget discussions are almost always scripted. No real work is actually done in public. In the public debate, legislators usually discuss their respective houses perspective on a topic, identify areas of agreement and disagreement, and then assign the staff to work behind closed doors to try to figure out a compromise. The public is not invited into these private meetings. But as you can guess lobbyists play a big role.

This year, though, you can watch the public proceedings on cable television unfortunately only on a digital channel.

So is the process better? Yes. In a democracy, policymakers should be conducting the publics business in public. How can the public be informed if they are in the dark?

Moreover, these public meetings do help move the process. That lawmakers must hold public meetings to report on their progress creates new pressure that motivates legislators to produce results.

And sometimes those few unscripted moments have an effect. Sunday night, for example, there was such an unscripted debate between the Assembly Speaker and a Senate Republican from Long Island. The debate was over how best to attack fraud in the states Medicaid program. The Assembly Speaker made a substantive and extremely compelling argument in support of a provision to grant whistleblowers the right to go to court when they identify fraud in government programs.

Whether the Speakers argument will change policy is unclear at this time, but the discussion clearly has forced a serious debate on this issue.

Is the process really open? No. Far too much of the real decisions are made behind closed doors. In addition, meetings are often held with virtually no public notice and there are no published agendas.

Are the budgets that are approved better? Hard to say. They certainly dont seem to be worse.

But the process is an improvement over the bad old days. New Yorkers should demand that candidates discuss details of how they plan to make the states budget process more open and accountable.

By on March 27, 2006, 9:38 am
In category: Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Unscripted Moments In A Budget By April Fools

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Some Questions About Adding Cops
March 27th, 2006

The city has recently said it will hire 800 new cops. This weekend, Sewell Chan of the New York Times explored the question: “How many officers are enough?

New York City already has almost twice as many cops per resident as Los Angeles and almost six times the officers per square mile. Further, more cops don’t necessarily translate into less crime. Take Washington, which has far more cops per resident than New York, but among the highest crime rates of any large city.

Then again, cops in DC spend a lot of time shuffling around public officials and foreign dignitaries, or attending demonstrations. New York’s police department also has duties that go beyond conventional crime-fighting — 1,000 officers are dedicated to counter-terrorism.

All this adds up to some fuzzy science, and there are vastly different theories used to determine the correct number of police officers for a city.

Today, the New York Post looks at other angle, based on a much more straightforward rule of economics: when you pay someone less to do a job, you’ll find less people who want to do it.

In an article entitled “Pay Cut Hits Police Recruiting,” the Post interviews students from John Jay College of Criminal Justice who plan to become cops. While one says that “The NYPD is real police work. Nassau and Suffolk aren’t”, others say the pay is driving them away, especially since along with the prestige of the city beat comes added danger.

“It seems like it could be a more dangerous job in the city,” said Ed Hanson, who decided to apply for a position in Nassau instead. “I don’t think the pay fits the details of the job.”

By on March 27, 2006, 9:05 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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The Times Wants Congestion Pricing
March 26th, 2006

An editorial today in the New York Times calls on New York City to follow the example of London and institute congestion pricing — charging daytime drivers a fee for entering the central business district. London has seen a drop of nearly one-third in vehicle traffic. Gridlock can be measured in appointments missed, tardiness, environmental damage and even elevated blood pressure, the Times editorial observes. Taking a third of the vehicles off New York’s most heavily used streets can’t hurt.

The editorial cites by name the study conducted by Bruce Schaller, Gotham Gazettes transportation topic page writer, on the effects of such a plan in New York City. For details, see Schallers March update
Congestion Pricing, and an earlier Issue of the Week by Gail Robinson, Endless Traffic: Can It End?

By on March 26, 2006, 4:41 pm
In category: Transportation | 4 Comments »

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The Times Wants No-Fault Divorce
March 26th, 2006

An editorial in The New York Times today calls for the state legislature to overhaul New York’s divorce and child custody rules, following the recommendations of a court-appointed commission that studied the issue for two years. One way that would bring the law into line with most of the rest of the country would be to institute a “one-step, ‘no fault’ divorce….Under present [New York] law, a marriage cannot merely die. It must be killed by one spouse or the other, through adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment, or abandonment even when none of these things have actually occurred, and even when both people agree on all the particulars. This means, in effect, that people have to lie [in court]…”

For more on the matrimonial commission’s recommendations, see Gotham Gazette’s law topic page, Divorce, New York Style, by Justice Emily Jane Goodman.

By on March 26, 2006, 4:15 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Law | 2 Comments »

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Criticism Of The New Yankee Stadium
March 25th, 2006

On the heels of the Empire State Development Corporation‘s approval for the new Yankees Stadium proposal, and the eve of the City Council subcommittee hearing this Tuesday, the blogosphere and op-ed pages have lit up.

Daily News Columnist Errol Louis, says the project needs to be overhauled.

Pointing to the Bronx’s dangerous asthma levels, and the city’s title of worst air in the nation – according to the EPA – he derides the $70 million in state financing for parking garages, and instead supports the proposal for a new Metro-North station as advocated by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. He goes on to say, “a no-more-cars approach to the new stadium [should be] a nonnegotiable demand.”

He goes on to mention Good Jobs New York’s critique that the city and state are subsidizing the wealthiest sports franchise in the nation, which will wind up paying poverty wages, on average, for the permanent in-stadium jobs it will create.

NY Sun columnist Andrew Wolf sees a revived Tammany Hall philosophy in the stadium deal. He views the trust fund set up as part of the agreement as being reminiscent of an idea called “honest graft”, where an official would learn of the city’s plan for an area, then go and buy up the property, then sell it to the city at exorbitant prices.

Instead of Thanksgiving turkeys, the Bronx machine “will dispense construction jobs, grants to community groups, and even Yankee tickets to ensure a steady stream of voters and campaign workers who owe allegiance to the party.” As further proof that you can buy support, he points to the Yankee’s owner’s decision to hire the lobbying firm Mirram Global. The group’s clients – Mirram also does political consulting – always end up winning the Bronx Democratic machine’s endorsement, he says.

Curbed has a great listing of entries on the topic, including a comprehensive mapping of the plan by OnNYTurf, as well as criticism of the stadium deal by Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, and more.

By on March 25, 2006, 11:52 pm
In category: Community Development,Environment,Land Use,Parks,Transportation | 5 Comments »

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Who's Gifted?
March 24th, 2006

Whatever one thinks of Joel Klein and the Department of Education, there are times one has to feel some sympathy for them. Take the never ending furor over elementary school gifted and talented programs. As Inside Schools has pointed out, for years, low-income neighborhoods charged they had fewer of these programs than more affluent parts of the city, and black and Hispanic parents said their kids got short shrift in the admission project.

In response, the Department of Education has opened more of the programs and changed the selection process to create, as the Times wrote, a new admissions policy…with a standard application process to replace the hodgepodge of methods that had been used.

This is a huge improvement over the old system which was…well, no system at all, writes Gothamist. But many parents, particularly on the Upper West Side complained. It seems nearly every child on the Upper West Side is gifted, Gothamist observes, wondering how many of NYC’s ‘gifted’ are just the products of over-zealous parenting….Are they gifted or just well trained?

But such parents have an advocate in the Daily News Michael Goodwin (reprinted here on the Insignificant Thoughts blog) Prejudice against smart kids seems to be acceptable among some educrats, he writes. Thousands of smart kids are stuck in dumbed-down classes because the city has too few gifted slots.

At a recent City Council hearing, Klein said he had added more programs and denied that there is a shortage of gifted and talented classes. Rather, he said, there are not enough slots in some specific, highly sought after programs. Under persistent questioning from Councilmember Lewis Fidler, an exasperated Klein said there could never be enough spaces in gifted and talented programs to satisfy parents because all parents believe their child qualifies. Anyone who thinks their child is not gifted and talented, Klein told the council and audience, raise your hand. Only Councilmember Simcha Felder did. While we applaud his apparent honesty, we wonder if his four kids know about this.

By on March 24, 2006, 1:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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Does the Education Funding Ruling Solve Anything?
March 24th, 2006

An appeals court made a ruling on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit yesterday, and both sides immediately declared victory. ( Wonkster looked at the decision yesterday).

Today, the New York Suns editorial page also praises the outcome and, for a change of pace, Eliot Spitzer, who argued that the judicial branch did not have the power to demand that the other branches of government fund specific programs.(Getting back on track, the Sun concludes by saying that neither the suit nor the courts will ever be as effective at bringing New York children a quality education as would be a system of parental choice, such as vouchers.)

The New York Post, meanwhile, says the ruling only delays confronting what has become the lawsuits core conflict:

Given the political realities in New York, the Court of Appeals (the state’s highest bench) likely is still going to have to resolve the constitutional issue at the heart of yesterday’s ruling: Who decides the schools budget – courts or elected officials?

By on March 24, 2006, 7:57 am
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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CFE Ruling
March 23rd, 2006

People on both side are praising todays ruling by a state appeals court that would provide New York City schools with billions more in funding. In the latest round in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court said the state must “appropriate the constitutionally required funding for the New York City schools by the next fiscal year, which begins April 1.

The court was acting on an appeal by Governor George Pataki, who has fought the long-running legal effort to boost funding for city schools. And the court apparently gave the governor one victory. While the trial court had said that the city would eventually need an additional $5.7 billion a year in operating funds and more than $9 billion in additional funding for capital projects, the Appellate Division gave the governor some wiggle room, saying, according to the Associated Press, that state officials must provide $4.7 billion to $5.63 billion more for annual operating expenses for city schools,” as well as billions more for building projects. This, the court said, results from our adherence to well-established constitutional doctrine that it is for the governor and the legislature, not the courts, to adopt a dollar-specific budget.

In a statement Pataki hailed the court action: “Today’s court decision reaffirms the longstanding constitutional principle of separation of powers, and has again made clear that budgetary decisions must be made by the governor and legislature, not the courts.”

According to CFE, he has little reason to be happy. The court brushed aside the governor’s latest appeal, ruling that it is undisputed that the state has failed to appropriate the amount of funding needed to meet the CFE mandate, it said.

Calling the ruling ” a ringing victory for children in underfunded New York City public schools and children in high-need school districts, state United Teachers president Richard Iannuzzi said, “This decision delivers a clear message: Enough is enough. City teachers union president Randi Weingarten agreed: ” This is a clear directive to the legislature and the governor to do the right thing and provide – in this year’s budget – the educational opportunities this money would give New York City’s public school children.”

Robert Jackson, who brought the case and now chairs the City Council education committee, harked back to the beginning. When we began this battle in 1993, we stood confident that the State Constitution would support an equal education for all the children of New York, he said in a statement. “Today, we stand on not one, but four court decisions, declaring that the governor must provide our students with the opportunity to succeed.

The courts ruling that at least some of the additional funding must appear in the budget effective April 1 would seem to put pressure on the legislature and governor. But Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno, a vocal opponent of the CFE case, claimed to be undaunted. He told reporters he feels vindicated by todays ruling and said it would not change the proposals for state aid to education now on the table.

The real indication of who won and who lost could come in the negotiations in Albany in the days to come and in whether who, if anyone, decides to continue the legal battle and take the case to the states highest court.

By on March 23, 2006, 6:44 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Bishops and Immigration Reform
March 23rd, 2006

The Daily News editorial argues that Brooklyn’s Catholic spiritual leader, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio strikes the right note when he stressed the need for secure borders but at the same time expressed his opposition against a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representative that said anyone who assist an illegal immigrant would be guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

DiMarzios statement came a day after an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Roger Mahony, the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles, directing the priests of his archdiocese to disobey the bill if it becomes law.

Critics view these statements as part of a campaign by the American Catholic bishops to wage an intense, sophisticated campaign to promote their version of immigration reform.

Proponent of the bill said that the cardinal points to a provision of the bill that makes it illegal to assist an illegal immigrant to remain in the United States, writes National Review editorial. [The bills] language largely replicates existing legal provisions that have never been applied against charitable work.

By on March 23, 2006, 2:47 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Bishops and Immigration Reform

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Cheering (and Jeering) New Public Toilets
March 23rd, 2006

The city has unveiled a new design for public toilets shiny, self-cleaning, and only 25 cents for 15 minutes of privacy. About 20 of the new toilets will be constructed across the city, but the exact locations have yet to be decided.

Many New Yorkers, who know the pain of not being able to find a public restroom at the right time, are cheering.

In the New York Times article, Fred Bell, the executive director at the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, called the toilets “elegant and functional.”

Toby on Gothamist’s message board writes; “I have used these self cleaning loos in London and they are not bad.”

And the blogger Polis writes; “It’s about freaking time! Go to any other global city (and even a few villages in Europe) and you’ll see well-designed, contemporary street furniture instead of the overflowing trash cans that are the most interesting thing on most NYC blocks.”

Of course, New Yorkers have long devised their own ways of dealing with the problem, like using coffee shops and stores and recently, mapping out locations of restrooms on the Internet with Web sites like and

Others are more skeptical of the new pay toilets. Gawker wonders if the “toilets of tomorrow” will become the “homeless sleeping places of tomorrow night.”

For a history of the battle to build public toilets, see GothamGazette’s 2001 article.

By on March 23, 2006, 1:42 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Parks,Tech | Comments Off on Cheering (and Jeering) New Public Toilets

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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