Archive for July, 2006

What To Demand Of Your State Legislators
July 31st, 2006

In two editorials over the weekend (and a promise of more to come), The New York Times asks New Yorkers not to give state legislators their votes without demanding something in return reform.

In Note To Voters: Dont Go Easy, The Times specifically asks voters to question the candidates to see if they support
1. an independent redistricting commission
2. a campaign finance reform package proposed by many good-government groups, including the Brennan Center, Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group.
3.a real ethics reform law that would (among other things) strengthen bans on the personal use of campaign contributions no more golf outings or parking tickets on the political dole.”
4. rules reform.

A second editorial Promises, Pensions and Politics, urges the defeat of a current crop of bills that would increase pensions for county sheriffs and other state workers. In an ideal world, we would all like to have better pensions. But as New York City staggers under its long-term obligations to retired workers, it cannot afford to have Albany adding extra costs without any suggestion as to how to pay for them. The survival of the politically connected is no way to run benefit programs.

By on July 31, 2006, 6:52 am
In category: Albany,Governing | 4 Comments »

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Drunken Kids And The Clubs In Chelsea
July 31st, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled Kids + Booze = Mayhem notes the proliferation of nightclubs on the western fringes of Chelsea — in just three square blocks, the number of clubs with liquor licenses has tripled (from eight to 24) over the past five years and the thousands of young people, most under the legal drinking age, that these clubs attract. It was to one of these clubs that 18-year-old Jennifer Moore traveled last week, and reportedly became inebriated, contributing to a series of events that led to her murder. The legal drinking age in New York is 21. How Moore and a friend were able to gain entry into the club isn’t yet clear; her friend says an adult purchased their alcohol once inside. The clubs are clearly paying insufficient attention to proper identification, the Post concludes, and the State Liquor Authority needs to yank some licenses.

By on July 31, 2006, 6:27 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Social Services | 6 Comments »

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Investigate The Blackout
July 31st, 2006

An editorial in the Daily News calls for a full and independent investigation of the blackout, dismissing the reports that Con Ed is scheduled to give Mayor Michael Bloomberg later this week and that the state regulators at the Public Service Commission will be preparing over the next few months. The Public Service Commission should have been leaning on Con Ed to make sure it was keeping its infrastructure in tip-top condition and otherwise had its act together. Since it wasnt, the Daily News charges, they’re the wrong people to lead the much-needed investigation of Con Ed’s screwups.

By on July 31, 2006, 6:09 am
In category: Tech | Comments Off on Investigate The Blackout

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How To Keep The Lights On
July 31st, 2006

The New York Times asked eight experts to write essays advising Con Ed on what can be done to prevent future blackouts.

Two suggest decreasing customer demand. Mike Gordon of ConsumerPowerline recommends giving financial incentives to large energy consumers for curtailing electricity use in peak periods. Amory B. Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute says there should be a decrease of customer usage, in particular by increasing the efficient use of power in buildings and equipment (“especially air-conditioners”) ; he also suggests increasing clean, local micropower plants

Energy consultant George C. Loehr believes that the electric power supply should be re-regulated; similarly, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan writes that we must restore adequate oversight of utilities.

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris believes that Con Edison should be held more accountable for its action (or inaction): The recent debacle in Queens, the death by electrocution of Jodie Lane in 2004 and the 1999 blackout in Washington Heights all have one thing in common: in none of these instances did Con Ed and its executives face serious consequences for their failings.

Gianaris believes fines should be levied, and the amount of cash reimbursement that Con Ed gives to affected customers should be increased with Con Ed legally prohibited from passing on the cost of these expenses to the public through rate increases.

Peter Fox-Penner of the Brattle Group proposes redesigning the entire United States power grid to deal with the increasingly extreme weather, perhaps the early effects of global climate change, that he says was the real cause of the power failure in Queens.

Three of the experts Nolan, engineering professor Anjan Bose and Nicole Gelinas of City Journal all focus on upgrading the aging equipment.

For more about the problem of the citys aging infrastructure not just its electrical system, but also the subway and the sewer see this weeks Issue of the Week, The Aging City.

By on July 31, 2006, 5:19 am
In category: Tech | Comments Off on How To Keep The Lights On

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The Posts Sarcastic Tribute To The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
July 28th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled THE LMDC’S GIFT TO N.Y. begins by listing all the accomplishments achieved by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation at Ground Zero over the last five years, now that the agency has announced it will soon go out of business. But then the editorial stops midway (Er, wait a minute) and admits this was an exercise in sarcasm. In fact, none of that work is done not the completion of the Freedom Tower, not an agreement on a plan for a memorial and a museum on the site, not the replacement of the terminally-damaged Deutsche Bank and Fiterman Hall buildings, which still stand, etc.
The Post blames, first, Governor George Pataki and then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who each appointed half the agencys members, and then concludes that things may actually start moving, now that the LMDC is stepping out of the way.

By on July 28, 2006, 1:55 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | Comments Off on The Posts Sarcastic Tribute To The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

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Mrs. Astor And Elder Abuse
July 28th, 2006

In an editorial inspired by the allegations that 104-year-old philanthropist Brooke Astor has been suffering from deprivation and elder abuse, the New York Times focuses on the increasing case of physical, emotional or financial abuse of the elderly. The editorial suggests that state governments should ensure that court-appointed guardians are more than just another raft of patronage appointments, and urges Congress to pass the Elder Justice Act.

By on July 28, 2006, 1:21 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Social Services | 8 Comments »

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Washington Square Park Renovation Blocked
July 27th, 2006

State Supreme Court judge has halted the citys plan to redesign Washington Square Park, saying the Bloomberg administration violated the City Charter by failing to notify the public about all of the proposed changes. The ruling bars the Department of Parks and Recreation from beginning a $16 million renovation until the redesign plan goes through the entire approval process again, beginning with the local community board.

The city will likely appeal the decision, arguing that the ruling “ignores the fact that the Parks Department’s renovation plan for Washington Square Park has been the result of more than two years of public outreach and input.”

But the process may prove even more complicated the second time around.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson is reportedly threatening to withhold $6 million from the project because he is angry with the process. And Village Voice blogger Jarrett Murphy says that the ruling “may have wider significance for future land use disputes.”

By on July 27, 2006, 7:23 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Parks | 3 Comments »

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Drinkable Water Is A NYC Accomplishment?
July 26th, 2006

This weeks Time Out New York includes a list of
NYC accomplishments
[that] make other cities weep with envy.

1. The ball drop
2. Free delivery
3. 311
4. NY1
5. All-night subways
6. Pop Art
7. Abstract Expressionism
8. Graffiti artists
9. Christopher Walken
10. Punk rock
11. New wave
12. Hip-hop
13. Hipsters
14. The hipster backlash
15. Drinkable tap water
16. Melvin Van Peebles
17. Central Park SummerStage
18. The Mermaid Parade
19. Blackout sex
20. Wigstock
21. The AMNHs blue whale
22. The neurotic polar bear
23. The gay penguins
24. The High Line
25. Hudson River Park
26. Tar beach
27. Real-estate blogs
28. Blossom Dearie
29. The New York Times crossword
30. Whaddaya gonna do?
31. Fuhgeddaboudit

Anybody have anything to add (or subtract)?

By on July 26, 2006, 3:16 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Suozzi vs. Spitzer
July 26th, 2006

The day after what will probably be the only televised debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Eliot Spitzer and Tom Suozzi the consensus among bloggers and others seems to be good, Tom, but not good enough.

No knockout blows were landed, said Empire Zone, echoing what has been the cliche of the day. Or as Elizabeth Benjamin put it in Capitol Confidential, The post-debate consensus seems to be that Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi performed well last night – butnot wellenough to make a serious dent in AG Eliot Spitzer and change the course of this race.

But there were, the Politicker notes, genuine and not-insignificant differences on substance between the candidates on a number of issues, including – to name three more or less at random — medical marijuana, the amount of state money for city public schools and the next leader of the MTA.

Following the debate, Suozzi picked up on the school funding issue. In a statement, the campaign said Suozzi was the only candidate (out of two) who “offered specific and credible numbers and plans for settling the [Campaign for Fiscal Equity] decision and fairly funding New York City’s schools, while Spitzer made up a CFE number on the fly.

Probably not surprisingly, it was the marijuana issue that caught Wonkette’s attention . Responding to Spitzers answer that he was against the use of medical marijuana but had smoked pot himself, the blog commented, Hell smoke it, but he wont let you smoke it if you have tumors. What the hell next? Is he going to start insider trading?

Empire Zone noted that the two men also had a differing approach to the blackout in Queens. Suozzi, it said, become only the second politician, as far as we can tell, who is not already prepared to send Con Eds chairman, Kevin Burke, to the gallows.

But Gothamist may have summed it up best: The Democratic primary is on September 12. Spitzer is leading Suozzi, 78 percent to 9 percent, but it doesn’t hurt to know about both candidates.

By on July 26, 2006, 10:20 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Now That The Lights Are On
July 26th, 2006

The blackout may be over – but not the criticism of Con Ed or of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for defending the utility.

In its editorial today the Times is not impressed that Con Ed and its chief executive Kevin Burke worked to restore power: Thats their job. But did the utility do enough to avert the blackout? What about its fuzzy lowball math that grossly underestimated the problem at the beginning of the crisis? Through all this, the paper says, the mayors praise for Burke and Con Ed has been out of sync with the mood in western Queens.

No surprise there, writes Times reader Joseph Hirsch in a letter to the editor, who says Bloombergs continued defense of Burke reveals his insensitivity to working and middle-class people. When the transit workers went on strike last year, the mayor was not shy about expressing his opinion about their illegal actions. But when corporate executives are derelict, Mr. Bloomberg not only does not remain neutral, but he also extols them.

Robert Laird agrees. Laird was the deputy press secretary to John Lindsay when the then-mayor came under attack for not clearing Queens streets after a 1969 snowstorm. Repeatedly defending Con Ed’s conduct before all the facts are in,” Laird writes, “is not only the sign of a political tin ear, but the mark of an instinctively pro-management man.” But Laird writes in the News that Bloomberg still sits on a reservoir of goodwill.

What can the mayor and Con Ed due to fix things? In an editorial, the News notes that when Con Ed became aware of the problems in Queens last week it and the city should have issued urgent warnings to cut energy use. Noting that similar blackouts are likely to occur again, the paper says the city should establish ways to cut back before the lights go out.

But a Times reader has a more drastic remedy. Burke, says
Lawrence Racies did what he is supposed to: run Con Ed for the benefit of its stockholders. The customers may suffer if Con Ed doesnt make needed improvements, but stockholders benefit from saving the money. And so, Racies says, The realistic solution is not Mr. Burkes removal, but the takeover of Con Ed by New York City.

By on July 26, 2006, 8:01 am
In category: Gotham City,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Permitting My Parade
July 25th, 2006

There has been considerable criticism of the citys proposed new policy regarding parade permits, which are almost universally seen as an effort to clamp down on public protest. Now Ezekial Edwards of the Bronx Defenders, writing in the DMI Blog, argues that the policy would create some very strange new parades that under the new rules would be forced to get such a permit
Two Elderly People Crossing the Street When the Sign Says ‘Don’t Walk’ Parade”;
“Four Little Kids Riding Their Scooters on the Sidewalk Parade;
“5th Grade Class Trip to the Natural History Museum Parade”

By on July 25, 2006, 8:55 am
In category: Civil Rights,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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The Anti-Politician Does It Again
July 25th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled No Thanks, Mr. Mayor criticizes Mayor Michael Bloomberg for thanking Con Ed head Kevin Burke for his efforts during the week-long blackout in Queens. This, the Post argues, fits a pattern of this mayor, who refuses to demand accountability from top officials, no matter how horrific their foul-ups citing as examples,
Administration for Childrens Services Commissioner John Mattingly after the death of Nixmary Browns death, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall after the death of 11 passengers on the Staten Island ferry, and Rikers Island chaplain Umar Abdul-Jalil after his comments about terrorism at a conference last year.

By on July 25, 2006, 7:00 am
In category: Governing,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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NYS Campaign Finance Laws and Practices Exposed
July 25th, 2006

On July 20th, the Brennan Center released Paper Thin: The Flimsy Faade of Campaign Finance Laws in New York, a report on the apparent toothlessness of campaign finance laws in New York and abundance of loopholes. The report highlights several flaws in state campaign finance law and makes recommendations to reform public financing, contribution limits, disclosure and enforcement.

As the report mentions, reforms are especially needed when the Campaign Disclosure Project gave New York a C- in accessibility of campaign finance disclosure information and an F in the usability of that content.

Though the state is failing, the municipal and federal campaign finance laws can offer guidance.The city has a model campaign financing system, matching up to $250 of an individuals contribution 4 to 1 for participating candidates, with additional funds for candidates facing wealthy, self-financed opponents.

Over the course of primary and general elections, an individual donor in New York can give more money to a candidate running in the state legislature ($13,900) than one running for federal office ($4,200 ). These lax limits in the statemagnify the power of individual dollars, along with special interests and other contributors.

Campaign finance reform is a perennial issue for Albany and good government advocates.WiththeLegislature andGovernor loathe to agree on specifics, both get to claim reform while actually passing little. Perhaps this report and continued conversations will finally force consensus and genuine action.

By on July 25, 2006, 7:00 am
In category: Eye on Albany | Comments Off on NYS Campaign Finance Laws and Practices Exposed

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High Museum Fees Help Create A Culturally Segregated City
July 25th, 2006

In the Daily News, David Jones of the Community Service Society criticizes the decision by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to raise its suggested admission fee to $20, starting next week. The Museum of Modern Art already charges $20, and the Museum of Natural History can cost $98 for a family of four. More and more, New York is moving toward a city divided by income and class – a culturally segregated city, where many affluent people can afford cultural amenities, while many low-income families, largely minorities, are being priced out. This is unacceptable. Major cultural institutions in other cities such as the Getty Center in Los Angeles and (soon) the Baltimore Museum have found a way to offer free admission.

By on July 25, 2006, 6:25 am
In category: Arts | 3 Comments »

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Affordable Housing Has Helped Nearly Kill New York
July 25th, 2006

In an article in the new edition of City Journal entitled Is There A Housing Crisis?, Nicole Gelinas argues that rent regulation has caused great damage in New York City, and blames Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not letting it naturally wither and die. Bloomberg is the just the latest of generations of New York politicians, confusing rational housing policy with utopian social policy, [who] wont trust the market to do its job. Bloombergs plan to create or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing will prolong Gothams ill-starred twentieth-century attempt to achieve an impossible social goal: tip-top housing for the poor. However well-intentioned this plan, a look at the citys dismal history of housing intervention shows that past efforts to do good by thwarting market and social forcesfrom implementing strict rent controls to constructing acres of public housinghelped nearly kill New York.

By on July 25, 2006, 3:25 am
In category: Housing | 5 Comments »

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Daily News Forum on Atlantic Yards
July 24th, 2006

Yesterday the Daily News ran pro and con articles discussing whether the proposed Atlantic Yards project is good for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz writes the Yes article, claiming that Brooklyn needs to think seriously about how it will grow without worsening existing housing and employment challenges. “Without serious leadership in Washington or Albany, we must look to public-private collaborations such as Atlantic Yards to be part of the solution – that’s reality, not theory,” he argues.

In the No article, architecture and urban design professor Ron Shiffman argues that the project is not the best solution to provide housing, and that the lack of transparency throughout the planning process has led to a plan that ignores the communities that surround it. ” What subsidized housing is included in Atlantic Yards must not become the stalking horse for an ill-conceived development that consumes public lands, adversely impacts our communities and blatantly abuses the powers of government,” he writes.

“In an editorial this morning entitled Eminent Sense in Brooklyn Domain, the Daily News sides with Markowitz, saying that the project’s opponents are “holding Brooklyn’s future hostage.”

“Eminent domain,” it writes, “was created for cases like this”

By on July 24, 2006, 3:41 pm
In category: Land Use | 2 Comments »

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Preventing Future Blackouts
July 24th, 2006

As the blackout in Queens enters its second week — and some experts say such events are likely to be more common in the future — both the New York Times and the New York Post are calling on the city to make a priority of improving the city’s aging infrastructure.

“Con Eds immediate priority is to make sure that every customer is up and running. It should make every effort to reimburse people who suffered, and it simply has to insure more transparency in its dealings with the public,” writes the Times. “But its biggest task to be undertaken in concert with regulators, power producers and other suppliers is to modernize the citys infrastructure, spreading the cost so as to minimize the financial pain for consumers.”

The New York Post, meanwhile, complains that city and state officials don’t have the stomach for pursuing such issues — and regularly sacrifice projects to improve the city’s infrastructure for political convenience.

“We know there isn’t much of a constituency for water-delivery systems, power plants and garbage-transfer stations (let alone the waste-to-energy plants the city should be building). You won’t see any street protests arguing for, say, better signal-switching equipment in the subways any time soon,” writes the New York Post. “Which may be why pols kick these issues down the road.”

By on July 24, 2006, 7:17 am
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Blackout: Incompetence, Indifference, and Dishonesty
July 21st, 2006

The blackout in Astoria is attracting more and more attention. It had been going on for three days before the mayor visited the area. Now reports estimate that the outages are affecting up to 100,000 residents of Astoria and other parts of Western Queens, not 1,900 as Con Edison has been saying. The sudden change in the reported facts, the paper writes, is another indication of Con Edison’s tendency to bend inconvenient truths:

“Forgive our cynicism, but Con Ed has developed a track record for short-circuiting the truth when the truth is embarrassing,” it writes. “It is unacceptable that so many people have been without power for so long. It is unacceptable that subway service had to be cut. It is unacceptable that businesses are closed, and food is rotting in homes, groceries and restaurants, and traffic signals are out, and people in high-rises are trapped, and many have no water.”

Resident bloggers also seem shocked and angry at what they say as Con Edison and the mayor’s incompetence and indifference.

“Tuesday was the hottest day of the year in NYC, and so [a blackout] can be expected,” wrote one Queens resident who still has no power. “What cannot be expected is the length of time is has taken to get the power back on and the massive incompetence of the NYC mayor’s office and the folks at the utility monopoly Con Edison.”

“I can’t help but feel neglected,” wrote another.

One blogger simply apologized for not posting much lately, pointing out that there is no power at his house.

By on July 21, 2006, 3:47 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Blackout: Incompetence, Indifference, and Dishonesty

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Sending City Workers to the Suburbs
July 21st, 2006

El Diario laments the decision of the city to lift residency requirements on workers in DC 37, the city’s largest union for municipal employees. The contract allows them to live either in the city or six counties nearby, ending a 20-year requirement that they live in the city (firefighters, police officers, teachers and sanitation workers are excluded).

Saying that the requirement has helped keep the middle class from fleeing to the suburbs, el Diario adds that the contract is “an acknowledgement that the cost of living here is out of control, and renting or owning a decent home is less of a reality every day for many people. It underscores the need for more affordable housing in the city, despite the administration`s gains in this area.”

El Diario says that keeping workers in the city strengthens their connection to those they serve, and that “when city workers live outside the city, we all pay the price.”

By on July 21, 2006, 6:49 am
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Marine Transfer Station
July 20th, 2006

Marine Transfer Station at 59th Street and 12th.

By on July 20, 2006, 3:08 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Marine Transfer Station

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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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