Archive for November, 2006

Daily News On Transit Hub: We Told You So
November 30th, 2006

An editorial in the Daily News mocks the glorious vision of the Fulton Street Transit Hub which is growing ever more expensive and ever less ambitious. The hub has been an extravagance from the start, the News says; far better to pay for key rider improvements such as digging a tunnel that would bring the Long Island Rail Road and a connection to Kennedy Airport into downtown.

By on November 30, 2006, 6:46 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Cocaine -- Just For The Distaste Of It
November 29th, 2006

By on November 29, 2006, 5:40 pm
In category: Gotham City,Health | Comments Off on Cocaine -- Just For The Distaste Of It

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Dailies on the Hospital Commission
November 29th, 2006

The dailies’ editorial boards weigh in on the state hospital commission’s final report, and most like what they see:

New York Times: “Charged with trying to reform and reorder one of the most expensive and inefficient health care systems in the country, it has come up with a bold and intelligent set of recommendations.”

Daily News: “A special state panel has laid out a credible plan for reforming New York’s vast, creaking, wasteful, inefficient health care system … Many predicted a firestorm, but the big players have kept their guns holstered, recognizing, one hopes, that it’s time to drag New York health care into the 21st century.”

New York Post: “A state panel yesterday made a compelling case for streamlining New York’s bloated hospital system – but then it punted, leaving the most serious problems to be solved some other day.”

Newsday: “It represents a significant first step toward an absolutely necessary restructuring of the system. In its most fundamental recommendations – that this state must close some hospitals, make more rational use of facilities that remain open and find alternatives to long-term care in nursing homes – it is right on the mark.”

By on November 29, 2006, 8:14 am
In category: Gotham City,Housing | Comments Off on Dailies on the Hospital Commission

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After the School Funding Decision
November 28th, 2006

With the legal battle over funding for New York City schools finished - at least for now - political leaders, educators and others can focus on what it really will take to approve student performance, writes Eric Hanushek in todays Sun. In his mind, that involves confronting two problems: a lack of transparency that makes it difficult to “accurately judge which schools and which teachers are performing well” and few incentives for administrators and teachers to excel. In the school system, Hanushek writes, “Somebody doing an exceptional job can expect the same career advancement and the same rewards as somebody doing a dreadful job.”

For more on the ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, see “The Last Word in School Funding?”

By on November 28, 2006, 9:08 am
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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Bell and Diallo, Bloomberg and Giuliani
November 28th, 2006

Mayor Michael Bloombergs comments yesterday criticizing police actions in the shooting death of Sean Bell prompted commentators to draw comparisons between Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani.

“Much has changed in New York since Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, was killed in a hail of 41 bullets fired by city police officers in 1999,” the Times says in an editorial. “Mr. Diallos death sent racial tensions in the city nearly to a boiling point helped along by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who regularly shunned meetings with black leaders and failed to treat the crisis with the urgency it required.”

In his column (Times Select only), Clyde Haberman applauds the changes at City Hall. “When the unarmed Amadou Diallo was killed in 1999 by four police officers who fired 41 shots, Mr. Giuliani failed to grasp that whatever the wrongs or rights of the case,” he writes. Instead, Haberman continues, the city had ” a leader who stood in the Blue Room alone, lashing out almost Lear-like at his critics,” unlike Bloomberg who “understands that flexibility of the spirit does not necessarily mean weakness.”

In calling the 50 shots fired by “unacceptable or inexplicable,” the Daily News writes, “Mayor Bloomberg rendered a fair preliminary assessment of a tragedy that, more and more, appears to have stemmed from a failure to follow proper NYPD procedures by cops who were on the front lines in the war on illegal guns.”

“Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg, flanked by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and several African-American leaders, showed real leadership by firmly stating that he was disturbed by the number of shots fired 50 in total, writes El Diario. Harking back to Bloombergs predecessor, the editorial goes on, “Our city is scarred by the legacy of a former mayor, now running for president. In a series of ugly police incidents that resulted in the abuse or deaths of young African-American, Latino and Asian men, the rash statements of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani needlessly added insult to injury.”

But Bloomberg comes in for criticism as well. Responding to his comments, the Post believes “Mayor Mike needs to hold his horses.” “It must be remembered that as a matter of law, cops have an explicit right to use deadly force if they are in reasonable fear for their lives,” the editorial says, adding that in this case “such a fear was indeed reasonable”

The Blah, Blah, Blahg condemns what it see as a rush to judgement. “If this incident turns out to be a justified use of deadly force … how many of these leaders will come back and publicly apologize for finding the officers guilty in the court of public opinion? Which of them will make an effort to admit to speak to the accused officers then?” it writes.

And whatever the merits of the mayors comments, some believe they only go so far. Beyond Saturdays shooting, there is a disturbing pattern of behavior in Bloombergs police department, writes News columnist Errol Louis. Citing a sharp increase in the number of civilian complaints against the police and in lawsuits brought against the department, Louis says, “Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s NYPD is failing to protect and serve the public the way it should.”

The Jewschool blog agrees: “While Mayor Bloomberg responded, calling 50 shots as unacceptable, unfortunately, the mayor also would not discuss this as a pattern,” which the writer says, includes “daily racial profiling, harassment, beating and arrests of people of color in New York City.”

By on November 28, 2006, 8:56 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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The Shooting in Queens, Continued
November 27th, 2006

With the Queens district attorney investigating the death of Sean Bell and the wounding of two others in a hail of 50 police bullets, much about the incident remains unknown. But that has not kept editorial writers and others from weighing in.

Even as much remains unknown, the Daily News says in its editorial, the number of slugs and trajectories suggest a serious departure from the discipline for which the NYPD is known. One key issue, the paper continues, will involve whether the officer who fired more than 30 of the shots and his colleagues reasonably believed themselves to be in grave danger – or whether there was panicSimply being afraid does not justify pumping off a single round, let alone taking a life while putting at risk lives in a crowded neighborhood.

Such conduct by the police, writes El Diario has drawn public outrage, and with reason. Noting the case raises the issue of whether the police involved used excessive force, the paper continues, Were the officers` lives in danger on Saturday morning? Were that many rounds necessary, or were any even required in the first place? We expect immediate answers from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Largely ignoring the conduct of the police officers, the Sun focuses on protesters who have called for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to resign. Mr. Kelly himself has far more personal credibility than many of the protesters. This is true both on matters of crime and on the matter of race, which the protesters have a way of injecting even where it isn’t relevant, the paper says.

But whatever people think of Kelly, Gothamist writes, One thing that most people agree about is that Mayor Bloomberg has been much more open in communicating with the black community over the shooting, especially when compared to Mayor Giuliani’s handling of the Diallo shooting. (Although it could be argued that it’d be hard for Bloomberg to do worse than Giuliani, as Rudy’s actions mark the a nadir of NYPD-community relations.)

And in a meeting with community leaders today, the Empire Zone reports, Bloomberg called the firing of 50 shots unacceptable and inexplicable.

By on November 27, 2006, 1:22 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | Comments Off on The Shooting in Queens, Continued

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The Death of Sean Bell
November 26th, 2006

Despite the holiday weekend, many bloggers were quick to express outrage over the shooting death of Sean Bell, who was killed in a barrage of police gunfire as he left his bachelor party the day before his wedding.

“Was it necessary for the NYPD to gun down a groom-to-be in a hail of 50 bullets? No weapon was found on the deceased,”” wrote As I See It So Should You.

Kiandra recalls the case of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed African immigrant killed by police in 1999 in what the officers said was a case of mistaken identity and notes that, in both shootings, police fired repeatedly. “Although the story is unclear of how the shooting started or what sparked the shooting, what is clear is that Sean Bell along with his companions, coming from the bachelor party, was reportedly shot at 50 something times. Both Sean and Diallo were 23 years old,” she wrote. “NYPD is becoming known for this.”

Writing “my first instinct thinks the shooting was motivated by racism” (Bell was black and his friends were all black or Hispanic), Yikes reels off several questions about the incident: “Why did the police follow the men out of the club? What was said that would have led to the verbal dispute? And why, when there was no evidence of weapons, were 50 rounds fired at the car? And, when it was known there were no weapons, why were the two wounded survivors of the shooting handcuffed to their hospital beds?”

By on November 26, 2006, 10:44 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 143 Comments »

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Pataki's Borrowing Binge and Alan Hevesi
November 22nd, 2006

In a change of pace, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi is making headlines for doing his job. His office has issued a report accusing the Pataki administration of bingeing with the state’s money on his way out the door. According to Hevesi, the Public Authorities Control Board is set to approve $11.4 billion in bonds; the board has approved about $500 million in bonds each month over the past year.

Daily News reporter Bill Hammond writes on the Daily Politics that Hevesi’s report is an “amazing” illustration of “something I’ve been hearing for a couple of months now,” and others commend Hevesi for doing his job despite the, um, distractions.

The embattled comptroller doesn’t quite escape them, however.

Capitol Confidential points out that Hevesi’s report comes immediately after Pataki signed an executive order pushing forward the investigation which may end his political career.

Hammond comes back to the “Driving Mrs. Hevesi” angle as well:

“Hevesi may also be providing cover for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to vote no on projects he doesn’t like. Hevesi is under pressure from Gov.-elect Spitzer and others to resign over the “Driving Mrs. Hevesi” scandal, in which he assigned a state employee to chauffeur his ailing wife, and Silver has been one of his staunchest defenders.”

By on November 22, 2006, 9:18 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Pataki's Borrowing Binge and Alan Hevesi

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Eminent Domain: Is it "Out of Control?"
November 21st, 2006

Opponents of eminent domain are vastly overstating how common it is, Errol Louis writes in his column in the Daily News today.

The Institute for Justice, which Louis describes as a “conservative, Washington-based legal group”, says it has documented over 10,000 wrongful uses of eminent domain between 1998 and 2002; Louis says that this number was generated by a “quick and dirty count” of press accounts of times that officials said eminent domain might be used. There was no attempt, he writes, to find out if such statements led to the actual use of eminent domain.

The opponents of Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are now using these same numbers to (inaccurately) argue that eminent domain is out of control, according to Louis.

No Land Grab, one of the anti-Atlantic Yards blogs, responds here.

By on November 21, 2006, 3:36 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | 5 Comments »

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School Ruling: Drop Dead Or Good Start?
November 21st, 2006

There is a range of reactions to the ruling by the New York Court Of Appeals in the Campaign For Fiscal Equity lawsuit to provide New York City schoolchildren with enough funds for a sound basic education as evidence in two headlines: School Ruling Is A Real Start (Newsday editorial) and High Court To NYC Kids: Drop Dead (Daily Gotham blog)

The second is closer in tone to most local editorials. In that Daily Gotham post, Daniel Millstone writes that public schools in New York City will continue to be underfunded. Even worse, the Court of Appeals has declined to enforce its decision. No further judicial action is required, as I read it, because, it is beyond the court’s power to enforce its judgment on the Governor and legislature. It is odd to discover that the Court has embraced the idea that our children have rights which it will not enforce.

The editorial in the Daily News (scroll down past O.J. editorial) also had little positive to say about the ruling : After 13 years of litigation, after declaring that New York must provide a “sound basic education” to children, after concluding that the state had failed miserably to do so, the state’s highest court, lacking the courage of its convictions, yesterday issued the legal equivalent of “never mind.” But some good has come out of this case: as a direct result of this litigation, Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer campaigned on a promise to increase funding for the city schools by $4 billion to $6 billion a year – a commitment that he must now keep, court order or no court order.

The editorial in El Diario, entitled Short of Full Justice, concludes: We cant go from cheating poor children to offering the bare minimum. Our children deserve a full, not half, measure of justice. Its up to Spitzer and the legislature, with our nudging, to deliver.

But the New York Post praises the court ruling: “At last: Judicial restraint in a New York court.”

And The New York Sun uses the court ruling to argue, as the paper has in the past, that the money wont do anything to improve the schools, and that parents should be given tax credits to apply towards private-school tuition.

By on November 21, 2006, 4:56 am
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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School Funding Decision a Mere $1.9 Billion
November 20th, 2006

To anyone who thinks that the citys public schools would benefit from an infusion of several billion dollars, todays ruling by the states highest court in the long-running Campaign for Fiscal Equity case comes as bad news. The Court of Appeals upheld its own earlier ruling as well as decisions by lower courts in deciding that the city does indeed need more money to provide all children with a sound basic education. But it set the minimum figure required to achieve that far lower than previous court decisions and even Governor George Pataki had done. Instead of $4 billion to $6 billion in additional funds, the court said the state had to provide $1.9 billion more. Not chicken feed, to be sure, but probably not enough to slash class size, provide universal pre-K, boost teacher training and insure that all kids get a high school diploma.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which has spearheaded the legal fight for more money since the early 1990s, sought to put the best face on the courts finding. The groups executive director, Geri Palast, pronounce herself very pleased with the decision because it set out a state responsibility to fund a sound education, although she said the courts number is insufficient.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed approval as well although with somewhat more justification. For one thing, the ruling may reduce political pressure on City Hall to come up with part of any multibillion settlement — something Bloomberg has repeatedly resisted. Further, in the ruling, as Bloomberg put it, the state’s highest court agreed with the citys argument that our schools don’t need new state oversight and management.

New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson, who brought the suit when his children were starting public school, was among the few to voice open disappointment that the court ruling provided some $4 billion less than many had hoped for. Describing himself as profoundly distressed, Jackson, who now chairs the education committee of the City Council, said in a statement, For the court to recommend the band-aid solution of $1.93 billion, when $4.7 billion was what was required for New York City’s schools to provide our children with a sound basic education, insults common sense and puts the future of our children in jeopardy.

Education advocates, including Jackson and Palast, quickly called on Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer to make up some of the difference, citing earlier statement he had made pledging $4 billion to $6 billion more for city schools. But the Daily Politics reports that Spitzer quickly began backing away from that number after the courts ruling. I asked Spitzer transition spokeswoman Christine Anderson whether he is sticking with $4 billion to $6 billion, wrote Bill Hammond (substituting for blogger Ben Smith). She said: That range was always the range caveated by the court. Now we’ll just need to take another look at things.

However much Spitzer eventually decides to budget for education in New York City and elsewhere in the state, the sharply reduced price tag for the CFE suit has got to make the governor-elect, who has pledged not to increase taxes, feel relieved.

By on November 20, 2006, 5:38 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Law,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Times To Public Officials: Take The Subway
November 20th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times entitled
The Taxpayers Chauffeurs argues that public officials could take public transportation as a matter of public policy.

New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi is not the only one who should not expect the taxpayers to pay for a car and a driver. Gov. George Patakis use of airplanes and limousines has always been hard to track, since his schedule, like much of his administration, is top secret. He should follow the lead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only commutes by subway; he also took away the lights and sirens from New York City administrators accustomed to turning every routine trip across town into a mock emergency.

By on November 20, 2006, 3:05 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Rangel: Giuliani in 2008
November 20th, 2006

Congressman Charles Rangel showed his bipartisan spirit this morning by endorsing former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the 2008 Republican primary this morning in an appearance at Baruch College.

Rangel said he hopes Giuliani runs as the “country’s mayor”, because “people ought to know who he was when he was just the city’s mayor.”

The congressman wasn’t ready to endorse anyone in his own party, however. He said that Hillary Clinton would make a strong presidential candidate, that Barack Obama might be the right choice depending on the Democratic field, and that “I hope Kerry spares me. I really do.”

By on November 20, 2006, 12:57 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Trucks --> Soot --> Asthma
November 19th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Times calls for a war on poisonous diesel fumes in New York City, where scientific studies have made clear the connection between the use of trucks and the high incidents of asthma. The solution lies in reducing the citys dependence on trucks — such as using boats in place of the 12,000 daily trucks at the Hunts Point wholesale markets, and reconnecting the city to the national rail freight system.

By on November 19, 2006, 1:03 pm
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Students Have Rights Too
November 18th, 2006

Darlene Marshall, a recent graduate of Flushing High School, and Alexandra Parrilla, sixth grader at I.S. 291, were two of the hundreds of people who attended the Urban Youth Collaborative Student Rights Convention, to promote a New York City Students’ Bill of Rights, ten statements that include a call for small classes, and teachers “certified in their licensed subjects.”

Of particular interest is number 8: “All students have the right to attend school in a safe, secure, non-threatening and respectful learning environment in which they are free from verbal and physical harassment, as well as from intrusions into their bodily space and belongings by school safety agents, police officers, administrators and teachers.”

City Councilmember Robert Jackson told the conference that he would seek support for the Students’ Bill of Rights from his colleagues on the New York City Council and from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “When I walk into schools, it feels like prison,” he told the crowd.

By on November 18, 2006, 5:04 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on Students Have Rights Too

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Unemployment Rate
November 17th, 2006

The citys shrinking unemployment rate now at its lowest level since such recordkeeping began definitely deserves applause, says the Daily News, which cheers, we know that the good old days were never this good. But, with 1.5 million New Yorkers having incomes below the poverty line and people desperate for good jobs, the editorial continues, there’s still more work required on the employment front.

By on November 17, 2006, 2:57 pm
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Juice in the Tabloid Wars
November 17th, 2006

O.J. Simpson played pro football mostly in Buffalo, was acquitted of murder by a jury in Los Angeles and now lives in Florida but he stands at the center in the latest round of the battle between the Daily news and the Post in New York.

Splashing the words Bloody Outrage across its front page, the News devotes two full pages and parts of others to lambasting Simpsons book If I Did It which reportedly details how he would have killed his wife and her friend the very crime for which he was acquitted. While expressing widely shared revulsion at Simpson, the News quickly turns its attention to its real target: Rupert Murdoch, owner and publisher of the rival Post. The infuriating “If I Did It” will be published by ReganBooks, an imprint in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., on Nov. 30, after namesake publisher Judith Regan does a two-part special with Simpson this month on Murdoch’s Fox TV stations the News reports.

On its editorial page, the drumbeat continues: Many a dollar in profit will flow Rupert Murdoch’s way when his Fox TV network and HarperCollins publishing arm present O.J. Simpson to the world confessing, or not, to slaughtering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald GoldmanCan [Murdoch] Can he really slumber untroubled when his corporate empire is trafficking in blood money?

To defend the Murdoch empire’s position, the Post offers Judith Regan. In more than 2,000 overwrought words she harkens back to her own abuse at the hands of a handsome, brilliant doctor and explains why she took on OJ book: I wanted the confession for my own selfish reasons and for the symbolism of that act. For me, it was personal. From this book, Regan says she hopes children and everyone else [will] to have a chance to see that there are consequences to grievous acts. That the consequences of pain and suffering will ultimately be brought upon its perpetrators. And I wanted, as so many victims do, to hear him say I did it and I am sorry.

Surveying todays opinions, it seems Regan and Murdoch will be hard-pressed to get this line across. Referring to Regans onetime affair with disgraced former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik (whose book she also published) Assimilated Press headlines its somewhat racy item on O.J. book, Adulterer Interviews Murderer For Immoral Media Mogul. This is a new low even for Fox, writes These Are the Daves I Know, adding thatthe book and interview prove there is really nothing that this man won’t do for money.

UPDATE: On November 20 in the face of widespread public outrage, News Corp. announced it would not release the book or air the interview.

By on November 17, 2006, 11:50 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Student Rights
November 17th, 2006

Tomorrow hundreds of city students are expected to gather in Greenwich Village to demand their rights, including an education that prepares them for college and being treated with respect.

“More power to them,” says Errol Louis in todays Daily News. Noting that students are particularly upset about the heavy security presence in schools, he quotes 17-year-old Elisabeth Ortega as saying, “We get treated like prisoners, or looked down on because we’re students.”

Even kids in so-called safe schools complain of being harassed by security guards and having every movement viewed with suspicion, if not outright contempt. Whether tomorrows action can help change that and Mayor Michael Bloombergs stubbornness on his ban on cell phones in schools indicates what a hard job the students have ahead of them Louis applauds the teenagers for trying. Saturdays gathering, he writes, “will help kids pick up on a lesson most New York adults have learned the hard way: The only way to avoid being trampled or swindled is to fuss and fight for your rights.”

By on November 17, 2006, 8:44 am
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on Student Rights

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Should Officials Give Themselves Raises?
November 16th, 2006

Public officials should only get raises if the voters approve them, Barry Popik writes on Room Eight. (For some reason, he is reporting from Texas).

“Why can’t the employers (the people) ever have any say in the salaries of the people they employ (politicians)?” he writes. “(Supposedly employ–politicians work only for special interests, not the people they serve.)”

The Politicker, meanwhile, breaks down the reasons that the five city council members who voted against giving themselves pay raises yesterday did so.

By on November 16, 2006, 11:53 am
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Losing the State Senate
November 15th, 2006

New York State Republicans have been taking solace in the fact that they still control the State Senate. But perhaps not for long. “Party officials fear that their shrinking political base will enable Democrats to wrest control of the State Senate in two years and complete their sweep of statewide offices and both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1934,” the Times observes.

But despite the headiness of the past week, Democrats can have their regrets too. Whatever may happen in 2008, this year, despite a Democratic groundswell of nearly epic proportions, “virtually nothing changed in that grizzled and white-haired old-men’s club called the New York State Senate, which has been controlled by Republicans since 1964,” writes Wayne Barrett in the Village Voice. The Democrats may have picked up one seat but failed to mount challenges in many other promising districts, including a few in New York City. According to Barrett, backroom deals and friendships between Democratic Party officials and GOP officeholders saved at least a few Republican senators.

Democrats did relatively little to try to take the [State] Senate,” says the Daily Kos. “They put some of their star power behind their State Senate candidates but did little to share the wealth that poured into the campaign coffers at the top of the ticket. Republicans, by contrast, raised money at a furious clip for their Senate candidates.”

One beneficiary of this? State Senator Serphin Maltese of Queens. “According to a Democratic operative working on Albert Baldeo’s senate campaign, he is now down 600 votes to incumbent Republican Serph Maltese, with 1,202 votes to be counted,” reports the The Politicker. “If Maltese hangs on, Senate Democrats will have two years to wonder about the what the result might have been if they had actually sunk some money into that race.”

Democrats elsewhere in the country showed more initiative. Swing State Projects initial count finds that across the nation, “Democrats netted 268 pick-ups in state Houses and 60 pick-ups in state Senates.” Republicans won only eight and so lost control of the Indiana House, the New Hampshire House and Senate, the Iowa House and Senate, the Minnesota House, the Michigan House

By on November 15, 2006, 9:54 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 3 Comments »

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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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