Archive for June, 2007

Race, Schools, and NYC
June 29th, 2007

The New York Times calls the Supreme Court ruling that public school systems cannot seek to achieve integration by selecting students based on race “a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.”

The New York Post praises the ruling and urges Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to “unilaterally lift the racial quota system” in New York City.

And the New York Sun, which alsosupports the ruling, hopes that now school vouchers can provide “choice and free-market competition that will give these students the key to a better education and a brighter future.”

By on June 29, 2007, 7:41 am
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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Plummer Gets Six Weeks
June 28th, 2007

So it’s six weeks of suspension for Viola Plummer without pay.

The City Hall staffer’s sentence was revealed today in a statement from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Plummer, the chief of staff for Councilmember Charles Barron, was thrust into the City Hall spotlight after threatening Councilmember Leroy Comrie with political “assassination” following a controversial vote on a street renaming.

After weeks of investigation and deliberation, Quinn revealed she would also require Plummer to sign a statement pledging to “conduct herself appropriately” in addition to her suspension.

Part of the statement reads: “Ms. Plummer’s behavior and subsequent comments were disgraceful and thoroughly unacceptable for a Council employee or anyone on the City’s payroll. We fully respect individuals’ right to free speech and expression. However, no one, most notably Council employees acting in their official capacity, has the right to willfully disrupt Council meetings or to threaten anyone.”

By on June 28, 2007, 4:38 pm
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We're Number 1!
June 28th, 2007

There is absolutely no need to fret that New York City will lose its title as the largest U.S. city anytime soon. According to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, 8.2 million people now call New York City home from about 8 million in 2000.

That number is more than twice the population of the country’s second largest city that being Los Angeles, which hosts approximately 3.8 million people.

The figures show growth from April 2000 to July 2006. At this rate, the city’s growth would fall in line with estimates by the Bloomberg administration that New York’s population will spike by 1 million by 2030. The administration’s PlaNYC is in part a response to this population increase.

By on June 28, 2007, 1:22 pm
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Albany Inaction, Lady Liberty and Bloombergs Subway Ride
June 28th, 2007

The Times this morning is urging the state Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer to act on several measures aimed at protecting New Yorks most vulnerable citizens before it is too late.

The first would ensure sexually exploited children are treated as victims and are guaranteed protection, instead of being labeled as criminals by the courts.

The Times also endorses Spitzers approval of a measure prohibiting disciplinary isolation for inmates with severe mental illness and a proposal that would stop taking those in prison off of Medicaid. Although they would not be eligible for the health benefits while incarcerated, the bill would ensure inmates can immediately receive benefits once they are released.

The Daily News hopes to soon see the doors flung open to Lady Liberty, which has been mostly off limits to the public since 9/11. Blockaded by the National Park Service for so-called safety reasons, The News is recommending the agency hold a public hearing in the city to bring the issues out before a public sick of bureaucrats hiding behind Miss Liberty’s skirts.

The Post chastises Mayor Bloomberg for comments made recently on subway overcrowding. Bloomberg said the subways are not too squeezed by riders, but The Post sees that interpretation as less than honest. Although they have tentatively backed Bloombergs transportation plans, they stated, Spinning the truth to sell folks on his congestion-pricing plan – which would charge Manhattan motorists a fee to get them to switch to subways and buses – is definitely not going to fly.

The Post also takes several swipes at a plan to pay inmates for classes to receive their high school diplomas.

The Sun defends Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno following comments by the governor that criticize the Senate for holding up proposals in Albany this session. Instead of pointing fingers, The Sun urges lawmakers to leave the squabbles behind and to take action.

By on June 28, 2007, 8:16 am
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Plummer's Post Mortem
June 27th, 2007

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she has not yet “made a decision” on whether to take disciplinary action against Councilmember Charles Barron’s chief of staff after the staffer threatened another councilmember last month.

Following the now-notorious street naming controversy sparked by a proposal to commemorate black activist Sonny Carson, Viola Plummer promised to sabotage Councilmember Leroy Comrie’s likely candidacy for Queens borough president after he abstained from voting on the issue. Plummer reportedly said she would do anything to prevent his successful bid for borough president even “if it takes an assassination.”

At a press conference today, Quinn said she takes the comments “very seriously” and would notify the press once a decision has been made on Plummer’s political future. Quinn denied delaying the matter.

“Comments were made of the nature that have never been made before, thank goodness, by a city employee,” Quinn said. “They raise complicated employment matters. All employment matters deserve thoughtful and deliberate research.”

After the incident, reports had emerged that Quinn would suspend the City Hall staffer or that she would send Plummer to anger management classes.

By on June 27, 2007, 5:05 pm
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March Against Violence
June 27th, 2007

STOP THE VIOLENCE! INCREASE THE PEACE! hundreds of youth and area adults shouted as they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn Tuesday. The gathering in the Brownsville/East New York Area was the second annual march and rally put on by the East New York Urban Youth Corps.

The teenagers, who know all too well the dangers of violence, hope to spread the message of non-violence and work to keep small altercations from culminating in fights and even bloodshed. The youth took a pledge of non-violence and were urged on by City Councilman Charles Barron who told them to encourage their peers to put down the guns and pick up a book!

By on June 27, 2007, 10:47 am
In category: Community Development,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on March Against Violence

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Election Rules
June 27th, 2007

Pity the poor lobbyist. The Post admits its a hard sell but its editorial criticizes the campaign finance bill before City Council today for depriving those maligned creatures of their first amendment rights. It also faults the bills for exempting unions from the restrictions and increasing public funding of campaigns.

The Times, on the other hand, likes a bill that would open presidential primaries in the state. The rules for each party would be different: Recognized GOP contenders would not need any signatures to get on the primary ballot, while any Democratic contender would need 5,000. And while the Democratic delegates would be awarded proportionately, based on the percentage of the primary vote a candidate got, the Republican contest remains winner take all. Too bad the two parties could not share their better instincts, the paper says. New Yorks presidential primary on Feb. 5 could then be as open as the Republicans want it and as good about dividing up the delegates as the Democrats.

By on June 27, 2007, 7:21 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Election Rules

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Whitman's Testimony "An Insult to Truth"
June 26th, 2007

The Daily News calls former EPA chief Christine Todd’s testimony that she properly informed New Yorkers about the health hazards generated by the collapse of the World Trade Center a fable and an insult to truth.

The New York Post hopes the Supreme Court gives the city permission to get rid of race as a factor in school admissions. “Desegregating schools may be a worthy goal, but no child – white or minority – should be denied entry based on race,” the Post writes. “It’s time to scrap this ugly practice.”

Newsday hope the “cool-off period” in Albany will help Governor Eliot Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno realize that the “time for finger-pointing has passed.”

By on June 26, 2007, 7:30 am
In category: Albany,Education,Environment | Comments Off on Whitman's Testimony "An Insult to Truth"

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Gay Pride Parade
June 25th, 2007

City Council speaker Christine Quinn, left, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, wave as they march down Fifth Avenue in New York’s Gay Pride Parade, Sunday June 24, 2007. Religious leaders Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Reverend Dr. Troy Perry, both grand marshals of the parade, complained that Mayor Bloomberg stuck to a script that Mayors Koch and Giuliani had followed at previous pride parades: Joining the parade after it passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

By on June 25, 2007, 1:13 pm
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Congestion Plan Caught in Gridlock
June 25th, 2007

Is congestion pricing dead? The legislature went home for a few weeks Friday without having given its blessing to Mayor Michael Bloombergs plan to chare some drivers a fee to drive into and around Manhattan. On Saturday, Bloomberg said he remained optimistic the legislature could hammer out its differences on the program when it returns for a special session in mid July.

In an almost apocalyptic editorial the Times said the legislature must act so New York can receive billions of dollars of new cash to maintain and expand mass transit. If not, the current $2 fare for a bus or subway ride can be expected to increase at least 20 percent and maybe as much as 50 percent. The choice is that stark.

So, why did congestion pricing fail? Certainly not for lack of trying. The Partnership for New York City, a pro-business group, spent $1 million to research and promote the idea. And many organizations and city politicians rallied behind the idea.

But, despite all that, City Room wrote, the plan seemed to lack the grassroots backing, perhaps because all opponents have to do is raise just enough doubt and skepticism. The blog continued, the way the battle has played out so far suggests that the mayors supporters ignore bastions of middle-class populism like Queens at their peril.

To Albany Project congestion pricing was simply a victim of business as usual in the state capital. Albany systematically blocks anything of consequence from happening despite overwhelming public support for numerous important issues, the blog said. It asked, should Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stand in the way specially since his district is in an area that would stand to benefit extremely from the creation of congestion pricing?

New York Blog echoes the criticism of Silver: Hes entrenched, beholden to special interests and what factors he bases his decisions on is, well.kind of eccentric.

Of course, there are those who argue congestion pricing failed at least partly because it is a bad idea. Neighborhood Retail Alliance dismisses the Times pleas for congestion pricing. quipping Maybe the Times will next tell us that the congestion tax scheme will be a cure for ED as well.”

And writing in the Sun, City Councilmember David Weprin, hailed Albanys inaction. I am hopeful that New Yorkers will not be forced to suffer a head-on collision with a congestion tax that could cost them as much as $2,000 a year

By on June 25, 2007, 12:36 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Gotham City,Transportation | Comments Off on Congestion Plan Caught in Gridlock

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Albany Post Mortems
June 24th, 2007

As the state legislature goes home, at least for a few weeks, Newsday looks at the last six months in the state capital and deems it disappointing. And the paper blames Governor Eliot Spitzer, saying his administration proven to be more self-righteous than effective and too arrogant by half.

And the News aims its ire at a bill passed in the closing hours of the session that puts limits on the tax abatement for developers who build housing in the city. While most coverage of this has focused on the gift the bill bestows on Bruce Ratners Atlantic Yards developments (see our earlier posting), its the rest of the measure that the News doesnt like. Contrasting it with the version of the so-called 421-a program passed by City Council late last year, the News claims this bill, intended to encourage construction of affordable homes, will stop production of middle-class housing in neighborhoods across all five boroughs. The requirements the bill sets are, in the News eye, wonderful [but] economically impossible.

By on June 24, 2007, 8:40 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Housing | Comments Off on Albany Post Mortems

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Doing Ratner's Bidding
June 22nd, 2007

UPDATE: After passing the bill yesterday, the Assembly voted on an amended version today — that still includes the Ratner subsidy. Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries called to tell us he was one of six members who voted against that bill (A. 9293). “There is absolutely no justification for treating the Atlantic Yards better than any other development project in the city, particularly when Forest City Ratner has already rceived $300 million in government subsidies,” he said. For more on Jeffries positions, see Atlantic Yards Report.

People in government cannot seem to help themselves when it comes to doing favors for Bruce Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards — whether its ousting members of community boards who dont endorse the megaproject or upping the government subsidy for it.

And now the state is about to hand Ratner a deal that, according to Juan Gonzalez in the News, is worth at least $100 million in real estate tax exemptions and possibly as much as $170 million for the market-rate condos Ratner plans to build on the site. And Gonzalez continues, it will allow Atlantic Yards to charge higher rents for its so-called affordable apartments than any other developer can.

The deal is reportedly the work of the new Brooklyn Democratic Party boss (some things never change, do they?) and State Assembly housing committee chair Vito Lopez and came out of negotiations on the 421-a program, which subsidizes housing construction in New York City

In many ways, the states version of the overall program goes far beyond the City Councils version passed in December by expanding the number of communities where builders would have to include affordable housing in order to get tax breaks (rather than getting money for building any housing at all), reports The Real Estate Blog.

There is one big exception: Atlantic Yards. For example, the state measure provides property tax abatements to developers in certain neighborhoods if 20 percent of the apartments in any building are priced for people who make 60 percent of the areas median incomes. But for Atlantic Yards, the City Room explains, the apartments could be aimed at a more affluent clientele those making 80 percent of the areas income. And the requirement will have to be met in Atlantic Yards as a whole, rather than in each of its 16 buildings, giving Ratner the taxpayers money for four buildings with absolutely no subsidized housing whatsoever.

The bill was crafted in typical Albany style. Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, listed as a cospon sor of the original 421-a bill, told The Real Estate he knew nothing about the special provision. He voted for the bill anyway.

But as word of the deal spread, so did the objections. There is no valid justification for this favoritism, and clearly there has been an utter lack of transparency. Is there any end to the favoritism and backroom dealing that consistently benefits Bruce Ratner? said Develop Dont Destroy Brooklyn spokesman, Daniel Goldstein.

I dont think there should be special side deals for developers, Brad Lander, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development said. If the point is to use tax policy to encourage the production of affordable housing, then the rules ought to be clear and common.

Even some Atlantic Yard backers have their doubts. Bertha Lewis of ACORN, which has backed the project on the ground that it would provide affordable housing, called the deal a “special carve-out” for Atlantic Yards and “bad public policy.”

The bill, with its gift to Ratner, requires approval by Governor Elliot Spitzer. Reflecting his ideals, writes Atlantic Yards Report, the governor could take a stand against the process that led to such special pleading. Then again, Spitzer has long supported Atlantic Yards, so this might not be the time to expect him to act on principle.

The Albany Project summed up the situation: Everything wrong with New York City and New York State politics is represented in the Ratnerville project. Influence peddling, crony capitalism, back room deals, shady legislation, lack of any meaningful public participation, overt favoritism to monied interests – it’s all there. Stories like this make a mockery of the entire system.

By on June 22, 2007, 1:11 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use | 8 Comments »

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The Other NYC Mayor Running for President
June 22nd, 2007

A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attends a meeting of Cuban-Americans supporters at a restaurant, whilst Giuliani is campaigning, in Hialeah, Florida. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By on June 22, 2007, 7:28 am
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What Didnt Get Done in Albany
June 22nd, 2007

The 2007 legislative session in Albany ended last night – and the list of unfinished business is long. Lawmakers did NOT vote on:
-congestion pricing plan
-campaign finance regulations
-legislative and judicial pay raises
-legislation to expand the state’s criminal DNA database
-a capital spending plan
-and an overhaul of a construction mandate known as the Wicks Law.

Governor Eliot Spitzer blamed State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for trying to push through hundreds of millions of dollars in pork. Bruno said Spitzer was holding up important measures to his insistence on campaign finance reform.

For a blow by blow of inaction, see Capitol Confidential, the Albany Times Union blog.

By on June 22, 2007, 7:18 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Tick, Tick, Tick
June 21st, 2007

The clock is ticking, minutes are slipping away and several initiatives are bound to slip through the cracks when the state legislative session ends today.

A couple of city-oriented initiatives to look out for are:

Congestion pricing, of course: The single element accumulating the most media attention out of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, which some say is already six feet under .

Gansevoort : Will the Assembly push through an amendment to the Hudson River Park Act that allows for a recycling station near 14th Street? The measure has already been approved by the Senate and is supposedly crucial to Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan.

And, out of nowhere, the Assembly approved the renters’ tax credit last night a proposed budget initiative from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn that would give a million New Yorkers a $300 tax rebate. Action in the Senate is to be determined.

By on June 21, 2007, 3:21 pm
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Commending and Bashing Bloomberg
June 21st, 2007

For now, The New York Times says it will take a lack of presidential ambition by Bloomberg at face value, despite the clamor following the mayors political party change from Republican to independent. Even so, The Times states, its a relief to stop watching Mr. Bloomberg pretend to be a Republican – a reference to his previous change from Democrat to Republican during his bid for mayor. The announcement, they conclude, should set an example for the dozens of candidates eyeing the oval office in 2008. Candidates should focus on the issues and not on partisan politics.

The Post sees Bloombergs denial as an attempt at coyness and urges the mayor to be honest with his constituents. If anything, Bloombergs recent history i.e. critiquing national policy and gallivanting across the country points to an independent bid for the chief office, The Post writes. Honesty, like the mayor has said himself, is the best policy.

Beyond his choice to run or not to run, The Sun fears the abandonment of the Republican party by Bloomberg signals a larger collapse of the GOP in the state. At that, The Sun says Bloomberg did little to build the party throughout his tenure as mayor.

Leaving Bloomberg behind in its pages this morning, The Daily News backs Police Commissioner Ray Kellys decision to conduct alcohol tests on officers that have wounded or killed someone in a shooting. The testing is one of 19 recommendations from an internal panel formed following the fatal shooting of Sean Bell last November. The News says the recommendations all make sense. They could all save lives.

The News also cautiously commends Bloomberg for an initiative unveiled this week to pay the poor for keeping a job as well as students for doing well in school. The news writes proposing creative, even radical, solutions that later fail is far greater than standing idle.

By on June 21, 2007, 7:59 am
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Katz for Comptroller, Already?
June 20th, 2007

It seems some higher office hopefuls (no, not Bloomberg) are already collecting endorsements, specifically Councilmember Melinda Katz .

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which boasts 45,000 members in New York, is scheduled to endorse Katz for city comptroller tomorrow on the steps of City Hall at noon. In a statement, the union’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said Katz’s commitment to public service warrants such an early endorsement.

With the 2009 election more than 28 months away and publicized support already underway, some New Yorkers may wonder what kind of campaigns they could be in for over the next two-plus years.

By on June 20, 2007, 2:49 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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One Step Forward For Gay Marriage
June 20th, 2007

Just in time for Pride Week, the State Assembly voted yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage, marking the first time that a legislative body in New York has approved such a measure. The majority of Democrats voted in favor of the bill while only four out of 42 Republicans did so.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who is an Orthodox Jew, argued that gay marriage would lead to states sanctioning of incest. He said he would support gay marriage if God gave him a signal, the New York Sun reported. Moments later, there was a loud crack of thunder.

But gay rights advocates expect an uphill battle in the Senate. Were not doing gay marriage by Thursday; thats for sure, or this year, said Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno. Were not going to spend hours debating an issue that, you know, is not going to be of consequence.

By on June 20, 2007, 2:02 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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...And Elsewhere
June 20th, 2007

Amid all the discussion of Bloomberg, there are other issues.

Police misconduct for one. Writing on that topic, the Times praises Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for taking advice from a commission set up after the fatal police shooting last November of unarmed civilian Sean Bell. One measure would require a Breathalyzer test of any undercover police officer who shoots someone. While the police unions are balking, the editorial reasons, Requiring a Breathalyzer test when theres an undercover police shooting isnt much different than the testing that is mandated for some federal transportation workers after accidents.

With the recent resignation of Deputy Schools Chancellor Andres Alonso, a Latino, El Diario/La Prensa expresses concern about the recent decline in the number of Latinos in top Department of Education posts: In a public school system that is 40 percent Hispanic, an absence, or lack of, Latino leaders in the DOEs upper echelons is troublesome.

And Robert Furman, chairman of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Corporation, is upset about plans to seize houses in downtown Brooklyn once used for the underground railway and demolish them to make way for various houses, offices and stores. What would be the reaction if the city Economic Development Corporation suggested tearing down Fraunces Tavern and Federal Hall and replacing them with a hotel and an underground parking garage, Furman wonders in the Sun. Is the history of abolitionism and slavery so much less significant?

By on June 20, 2007, 11:47 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Will He, Wont He, Can He?
June 20th, 2007

Not surprisingly, airwaves, editorial columns and the blogosphere have been abuzz with reaction to Mayor Michael Bloombergs announcement yesterday that he was abandoning the Republican Party, wanted to remain unaffiliated and (do we detect a wink here?) is not running for president.

The Sun takes credit for much of this clamor, noting it began talking about a Bloomberg White House bid in February 2006 only about a month after he took the oath for a second term. People tended to snicker, the paper says, adding with each passing week the logic of a Bloomberg candidacy has grown clearer and the idea of it more exciting.

The News also sees a presidential campaign ahead: You couldn’t get a much clearer signal that Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering a third-party run for president than he gave by switching his voter registration from Republican to undeclared.

And the Washington Post writes, Bloomberg has reportedly told those closest to him that he would spend as much as half a billion dollars if he ran for the presidency, while some reports have suggested that he could spend double that amount. But the Post continues, His advisers say he is likely to jump in only if a series of factors align properly: general dissatisfaction in the country, a willingness to vote for an independent, and the relative standing of the two candidates chosen by the major political parties.

I think its important for him to be on the national stage regardless of whether he runs, Barnard College professor Esther Fuchs, a former Bloomberg adviser, told the Observers Josh Benson.

And if he does run? Well, with Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani (who must be wondering whether he really should have made those ads for Bloomberg after all) in the field, it could mean a trifecta for New York. An all-New York smackdown for the keys to the White House? salivates the New York Post. Could it get any better? It would be like a Yankees-Mets World Series and a Jets-Giants Super Bowl rolled into one, says Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post. Talk about New York City in your face, says Walter Shapiro in Salon. About the only thing for sure is that the Second Avenue subway would be built.

But what might it mean for us New Yorkers whose concerns are a bit less parochial (Iraq, anyone?) and for the rest of the country? It must be noted that Bloomberg has little national security experience, that third-party candidacies have a way of fizzling like sparklers on a rainy Fourth of July, the News admits.

Despite the mayors RINO (Republican in name only image), his candidacy could hurt the GOP because, one consultant has said, “The market for billionaire businessmen is basically with soft Republican voters, and so he is likely to help the Democrats if he runs.”

His first damage would be to the Democratic nominee who could no longer assume that he or she would easily win big Democratic states such as New York and California, Ben Smith writes on Politico. But he continues, Bloomberg would also compete in states that have gone Republican recently, notably Florida. And then Smith indulges in the kind of thinking dear to political junkies and thriller writers everywhere a deadlocked electorate. If Bloomberg won enough electoral votes to prevent any candidate from getting an absolute, 270-vote majority, the election would be decided in the House of Representatives which is under Democratic control.

Dear A on Open Forum has a different take. Seeing Bloomberg as more like a Democrat than a Republican, the blogger writes, If he ran for President, he would be the next Ralph Nader who stole votes from the Democrat. Now, that would be a strange legacy

By on June 20, 2007, 9:14 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 9 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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