Archive for July, 2007

Parking Meter News
July 31st, 2007

Streetsblog says that critics of Mayor Michael Bloombergs plan to charge drivers to enter busy parts of Manhattan are just making the same arguments as opponents of parking meters in the 1930s.

In related news, the Department of Transportation, which makes about $90 million from parking meters annually, is trying to sell 500 pounds of foreign coins that find their way into machines.

By on July 31, 2007, 6:57 am
In category: Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Rating Klein's Five
July 31st, 2007

Today, the New York Post marks Schools Chancellor Joel Kleins five years in the post by listing his achievements. Then the paper gives this mixed review:

“…there’s no denying that real gains have been made across the board. Not that there haven’t been some significant bumps in the road – many of which still remain – along the way. Even with a rise in achievement, test scores still remain far below what they should be. Still, nobody expected miracles.”

By on July 31, 2007, 6:34 am
In category: Education | Comments Off on Rating Klein's Five

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Washington Square, Continued
July 30th, 2007

The parks department, whose plans to redo Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village have been halted by community opposition and legal action, tried again last week. It presented its latest plan for the iconic park but if initial reaction means anything, it may have to go back to the drawing boards yet again. Based on reactions from community and government representatives attending the forum at which they were presented, the designs are unlikely to be approved, The Sun reports. While the parks department argues Washington Square is badly in need of renovation, some community residents say, that rather than simply spruce it up, the city really wants to change the entire nature of the place.

But controversy aside, many New Yorkers continue to enjoy Washington Square. For a Gotham Gazette summer moment video of the denizens of the arch, click here.

By on July 30, 2007, 3:58 pm
In category: Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Problems in the Projects
July 29th, 2007

The situation in New Yorks City public housing projects constitutes a civic emergency, Errol Louis writes in todays news and city and state leaders must address it. Wracked by budget problems, the New York State Housing Authority has laid off workers and cut back on maintenance, leaving tenants to grapple with broken elevators, piles of uncollected garbage and other threats to health and safety.

Some solutions to the crisis are simple and straightforward, Louis writes, as he listing several. But, he concludes, a permanent, long-term solution to the NYCHA funding meltdown must be created. NYCHA residents – more than 5 percent of the city’s population – have the right to know they have not been abandoned by their fellow citizens and condemned to live in miserable conditions.

By on July 29, 2007, 10:57 am
In category: Gotham City,Housing | Comments Off on Problems in the Projects

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A Week of Scandal
July 27th, 2007

If Eliot Spitzer thought the furor over his aides efforts to spread damaging stories about Joe Bruno were about to go away, todays editorial pages will disabuse him of those hopes.

The peg today is that the Ethics Commission, which has subpoena power, will review the case. Thats good news, says the News, and now the panel must follow through by demanding an accounting from Spitzers chief of staff Richard Baum and suspended communications director Darren Dopp, both of whom did not answer questions from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Baum and Dopp must now step forward and answer the unanswered questions – including, What did the governor know and when did he know it? — under oath, the editorial says.

The Post, noting Spitzer appointed the members of the ethics panel, is more skeptical. While the commission helped drive former Comptroller Alan Hevesi from office, the paper says, Over the years the panel stood motionless as Albany degenerated into a moral and ethical cesspool. If the ethic commission wants to redeem itself with this investigation, the editorial advises it to conduct every one of its actions in the full light of belongs on the Internet – live.

Whatever happens, the scandal cannot be allowed to fester, writes Newsday: The state police caper must not be allowed to derail agreements on campaign finance reform (as minimal as it is), capital improvements or a slew of other business that still needs to be done in Albany.

By on July 27, 2007, 8:05 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City | Comments Off on A Week of Scandal

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Show Me the $$$
July 26th, 2007

Not only are more individuals contributing to city campaigns, but candidates are also actively fundraising earlier, according to an analysis of disclosure reports by the Campaign Finance Board released today.

The data might point to significant impacts from legislative reforms, like term limits and campaign finance reform, that are gradually affecting how elected officials and candidates raise money and when.

Compared to the most recent citywide election cycles in 2001 and 2005, candidates have raised far more by the third disclosure filing which occurred this month for the 2009 election. For instance, in 2001 candidates had accumulated approximately $6.2 million, while for the 2009 election they have raised more than double: $15.6 million.

Some have argued term limits first installed in 1993 have forced elected officials to set their eyes on higher offices long before they vacate their current seats, leading some to solicit campaign contributions ASAP.

Also candidates have accumulated more individual contributions than ever before (a possible side effect of limitations on contributions from corporations and lobbyists). So far, individual donations comprise 84 percent of funding garnered for ’09.

Interestingly, however, this election cycle has seen an unprecedented amount of contributions from limited liability partnerships and companies, which will soon be included in a contribution ban starting in 2008. So far, candidates have received nearly $1.6 million from these entities, while at this point in the 2001 cycle they had about $283,000.

The full breakdown and comparison is here .

By on July 26, 2007, 1:15 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Public Finance | Comments Off on Show Me the $$$

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Fare Hikes and Political Spectacles
July 26th, 2007

With fare hikes looming at subway stations across the city, The Times is urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to investigate every financial avenue before increasing its public transportation fees. The increases, they contend, could be offset by revenue from Mayor Bloombergs congestion pricing plan, which should be discussed over the next several months when the Legislature votes to establish a commission charged with studying the proposal this afternoon. Governor Spitzer could also alleviate the MTAs fiscal prediciment by redirecting state funds back to the authority.

And while Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno chastises and waves the threat of more investigations in front of Spitzer, The News warns not to fall into Brunos staged victimhood. After all, they state, the attorney generals report regarding the feud reveals Bruno, although not illegally, did abuse taxpayer dollars by using state transportation for mostly political journeys.

On the other hand, The Post urges the governor to direct Albany County District Attorney David Soares to conduct a probe into the whole fiasco, after two of the governors aides declined to participate in the investigation by the state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Only then, they state, can the remaining years in the governors tenure be cleared.

Elsewhere, The News chastises Councilman Charles Barrons ex-chief of staff, Viola Plummer, for conducting a political spectacle on the council chamber floor yesterday, while also stating Council Speaker Christine Quinn had no choice other than evicting the former staffer.

By on July 26, 2007, 9:04 am
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Fare Hikes and Political Spectacles

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Plummer Ousted with an Escort
July 25th, 2007

A fiery showdown between Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Charles Barron erupted on the floor of the City Council chambers this afternoon, turning the governing body’s normally routine meetings into an outright battle that included police escorts.

Barron’s Chief of Staff and former City Hall staffer, Viola Plummer, was escorted out of the chambers when she refused to heed a call from city officials that instructed non-city employees to leave the floor. Quinn suspended Plummer after the former staffer threatened another councilmember with a so-called “political assassination” when he abstained from a controversial street renaming vote.

After Plummer refused to sign a code of conduct drafted by the speaker’s office, Quinn fired her. Today’s meeting was Plummer’s first as a so-called ex-staffer. Barron, who recently announced a campaign for Brooklyn borough president, has at times pledged to pay her $50,000-plus salary out of his own pocket.

Plummer has since filed a $1 million lawsuit against the city.

“She illegally fired my staff, and now she’s illegally trying to stop her from coming to a public meeting,” said Barron prior to the meeting in a cramped corner of City Hall flooded with reporters and cameramen. “This is a racist act,” he added, while he threw his arm around Plummer’s shoulder.

Plummer, who was clad in white from head to toe, called the ordeal “absurd.” Following the cramped press conference, Barron and Plummer marched up to the chambers, where she took her normal seat with the rest of City Hall staffers.

But she didn’t sit for long. Police escorted Plummer out shortly after the council’s ceremonial procedures (which occur before all of its stated meetings) when the former staffer refused to vacate the council floor for the beginning of the official meeting. According to Quinn, staffers and council members are the only individuals allowed to remain on the floor during the official proceedings. Barron followed his staffer out and up to the balcony where members of the public sit, but both left the premises shortly after.

Barron did not return to vote on any legislation, which included a bill guaranteeing the right for children to carry a cell phone to and from school as well as several bills regarding the city’s Department of Buildings.

Throughout the rest of the regularly scheduled meeting, certain council members seemed to defend either Barron or Quinn. Councilmember Helen Foster demanded police check everyone on the floor of the chamber to make sure they were supposed to be there under the council’s rule an apparent jab to Quinn’s decision.

Others, like Councilmember Peter Vallone, seemed to side with the speaker.

“I commend the speaker for all of these bills and all of her action today,” Vallone said prior to the council’s vote.

The incident turned cameras away from Councilmember Dennis Gallagher, who returned for the council’s stated meeting for the first time since he was accused of raping a woman at his Queen’s district office. No charges have been filed against Gallagher.

By on July 25, 2007, 5:07 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | 4 Comments »

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Eliot Mess Day 2
July 25th, 2007

More than 36 hours after the release of Attorney General Andrew Cuomos report on the Spitzer administrations use of false stories and the state police to tarnish Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the story remain so big that, as Hub Blog put it not even luscious lush Lindsay Lohan can knock [it] completely off the NY Post’s front page.

Much of the commentary today revolves around whether the governor knew what two top aides were up to, and many commentators are not buying Spitzers protestations of innocence.

Comparing the governor to the television evangelist who ends up with his pants around his ankles, Mike Lupica in the Daily News writes, Spitzer knows everything and if you don’t believe that, ask him. Only we’re supposed to believe that his top lieutenant, Darren Dopp, was the pointman for an operation that basically used the state police as a political spy force, and that he, Spitzer the governor, knew nothing about it.

Let me be blunt, writes another News columnist, Michael Goodwin. I believe Eliot Spitzer not only knew about the scheme, I believe he approved it and maybe even ordered it.

Even if Spitzer was not informed of exactly what was going on, says the Observer, the episode reveals unpleasant truths about the governor: The fact remains that officials whom Mr. Spitzer esteemed high enough to place within his inner circle proceeded to operate without the slightest regard for virtue or common decency. And in a news analysis in the Times, Michael Cooper sees Troopergate or Spitzergate (sorry, Travelgate is taken) as emblematic of the Spitzer style. He writes, That us-versus-them mentality has been a hallmark of the Spitzer administration, which used its mandate to change state government to engage quickly in a series of well-publicized fights with lawmakers in both parties, Albany lobbyists, the states powerful health care industry, and most bitterly with Joseph L. Bruno.

So who loses? We do, writes Gawker sounding an uncustomary sober note. Whatever you think about Spitzer, his main ambition was to scrape away at the calcification that makes the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation an easy-to-use clich for Albany. Now that Bruno can claim victimhood, you can expect more of the same out of Albany. Were right back where we were two years ago, with three men in a room cutting deals that do nothing for the health of the state.

By on July 25, 2007, 9:00 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Eliot Mess Day 2

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Steamrolling Spitzer
July 24th, 2007

The local newspapers have plenty to say about the news that Governor Eliot Spitzer’s aides improperly used State Police to gather information on the governor’s rival, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

The New York Times writes: “If Mr. Spitzer does not make sure he has cleaned up his own house, his ability to clean up the rest of Albany could be severely compromised.”

The Daily News writes: “Only in Albany, where deviancy has been defined virtually down and out of existence, can an amateurish, ill-conceived, ham-handed attempt to reveal a high public official’s abuse of the taxpayers wind up being counted as far more serious than the abuse itself.”

The New York Post wants a deeper probe into the incident, asking: “‘What did he know, and when did he know it?’ That question haunted Richard Nixon during Watergate, and now it’s an apt query concerning Eliot Spitzer and Troopergate.”

And the New York Sun uses its editorial page to praise State Attorney Andrew Cuomo for his handling of the incident. “After eight years of an attorney general who saw successful businessmen, rather than Albany politicians, as his targets, how refreshing it is to have an attorney general in the state who doesn’t shy from turning his attention to his fellow officeholders,” the Sun writes.

By on July 24, 2007, 6:45 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Traffic Jam?
July 23rd, 2007

Its not over until its over

Legislative leaders approved a deal on campaign finance reform and congestion pricing last week but now theres one little detail: The members must vote. Elizabeth Benjamin reports in todays News that the legilslators could vote as early as Thursday — or they could wait until September. And despite the high level agreement, many members may vote no.

Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno has indicated his Republicans wont approve the plan, which calls for a commission to draft a plan to reduce traffic congestion, unless some Democrats in the Senate go along. And, Benjamin writes, Senate Democrats might vote no because of their displeasure with congestion pricings big backer: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Democrats, she says, are still smarting from what they felt was Bloomberg’s dismissive attitude toward them when he trekked to Albany to push his plan – not to mention the six-figure checks he has written to help Republicans hold on to their two-seat Senate majority.

Congestion pricing needs official blessing from Washington too. The plan only moves forward if the city gets at least $200 million in federal transportation funds. (The Bloomberg administration has said it expects $500 million.) But the Post indicates that may not be a slam-dunk: Eight other cities also want some of the $1.2 billion the feds are handing out. While all have some sort of proposal involving tolls, New York, according to the paper, is the only one with planing to charge people to drive around a crowded areas at peak times.

For more on the congestion pricing compromise and the agreement on campaign funding, see Gotham Gazettes Capitol Compromise.

By on July 23, 2007, 11:19 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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No Taxes for Iraq
July 20th, 2007

The Congresswoman at City HallRepresentative Nydia Velzquez wants to put decision-making for the Iraq war in the hands of the people who are footing th bill for it: U.S. taxpayers. In a press conference at City Hall today, the New York Democrat announced that she has introduced the Opt Out of Iraq War Act of 2007 in the House of Representatives. It would require that the Internal Revenue Service amend its tax forms to include a checkbox for voters to opt out of funding the Iraq war. By ticking the box, the taxpayer would block their individual contributions from being spent in Iraq.

The money diverted from the Iraq War would create a trust fund known as the Future Fund. It would be divided equally between the Headstart early childhood education program, reduction of the national debt and a college fund for children of Iraq War veterans.

At City Hall, Velzquez chastised the Bush administration for not heeding public opnion and withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. She asserted that, if the president wont withdraw troops, this bill can end the war by simply not funding it. “I have voted against this war more than 20 times, Velzquez said, adding, we have to leave Iraq so that the Iraqi people can start to determine their own national direction.

Velzquez, who represents parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, was joined by activists, war veterans, and supporters at the press conference. One, Carolyn Eisenburg said that this bill will send a clear message: If our Pinocchio President cant see past his nose, its time for our Congress to show him the way out of Iraq!

By on July 20, 2007, 1:39 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Responding to Albany's Action
July 20th, 2007

Yesterday, legislative leaders in Albany made some decisions, sort of. They agreed to form a commission to consider Mayor Bloombergs idea of charging drivers to bring their cars into Manhattan, and they approved limits on donations to state-wide candidates for office, butto a lesserextent than some had hoped.

The Daily News says that Albany busted gridlock withits decision to consider congestion pricing, but blocked real reform on campaign finance.

The New York Post calls the congestion pricing plan Albanys Definite Maybe.

And in its news coverage of the event, the New York Sun writes that both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Eliot Spitzer, two political leaders, who are usually known for carving deep lines in the sand, resigned themselves to an outcome they had sought to avoid but couldn’t refuse.

By on July 20, 2007, 7:30 am
In category: Albany,Governing,Transportation | Comments Off on Responding to Albany's Action

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Blogging the Blast
July 20th, 2007

The New York Times’ blog City Room has a first person account of the steam pipe explosion written by Kieran Beer, the man helping the bleeding woman in the photo that has become the iconic image of the event. Beer, the editor-in-chief of Fortent Inform, a news and legal data service for financial institutions, writes: I look pretty distressed in the photo. I was, but mostly about the photo being taken. I understood the photographer was doing his job, but I really didnt want be part of the story.

City Room also has its own take on the digital coverage, noting that people used their own blogs, YouTube, and Flickr to tell their personal stories, but that many for-profit web logs were not on top of the event.

By on July 20, 2007, 7:05 am
In category: Gotham City,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Comptroller 2009
July 19th, 2007

In the mad dash accompanying the congestion-pricing saga, campaign figures released for candidates in the 2009 comptroller race by the city’s Campaign Finance Board earlier this week fell by the wayside.

Out of the three declared candidates, Councilmember Melinda Katz leads the way with approximately $1.33 million, followed by Councilmember David Weprin with $1.25 million and finally Assemblyman James Brennan with nearly $246,000.

Although not declared, Councilmember Simcha Felder is also thought to be a possible comptroller candidate. He has raised about $1.06 million.

A list of all registered 2009 candidates, last updated yesterday at 3 p.m., is here.

By on July 19, 2007, 12:17 pm
In category: Gotham City,Governing,Public Finance | Comments Off on Comptroller 2009

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Blaring the Horn for Congestion Pricing
July 19th, 2007

Whatever the fate of congestion pricing may be, The Times is still urging lawmakers to trek up to Albany and solidify a plan before losing out on millions upon millions of dollars in federal funding. And whose fault is the hold up? Every last one of them, they say.

Although The News refers to the closed-door negotiating sessions as “infernal,” they do hold on to some sliver of hope that something might be accomplished. They also blast Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff for failing to provide adequate security funding for New York a sum that represents 18 percent of all terror funding at $134 million.

The Post says it’s time for the Chancellor Joel Klein to drop all race-based policies when it comes to the city’s schools, while The Sun urges authorities to widen their probe into alleged abuses of office by former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

By on July 19, 2007, 11:34 am
In category: Albany,Education,Environment,Gotham City,Health,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Blaring the Horn for Congestion Pricing

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Steam City
July 19th, 2007

The citys steam system is unknown to most New Yorkers until an event like yesterday evenings dramatic and dangerous explosion in Midtown. But some 30 billion pounds of steam flow beneath Manhattan streets every year, heating and cooling some of the citys best-known buildings. For more on New Yorks steam system, see Gotham Gazettes Steam.

The rupture in the 83-year-old steam pipe and the resulting, death, injuries and destruction focuses attention once again on the citys aging infrastructure. Some of the equipment whose failure may have contributed to last summers blackout in Queens was more than 70 years old; a fire in a subway signal room in 2005 dramatized problems with the Metropolitan Transit Authoritys antiquated equipment. For more on the problems facing New Yorks old electric, power, water, sewer and transit systems, see Gotham Gazettes The Aging City.

By on July 19, 2007, 11:27 am
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Tech | Comments Off on Steam City

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The Next Traffic Plan?
July 18th, 2007

With the defeat of congestion pricing, whats next for fighting traffic and for Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

Get on your bicycle, advises David Haskell founder of the New York Bike Share Project in todays Times. Bike sharing, a program that allows riders to pick up and drop off a bicycle anywhere in the city by swiping a card, offers a relatively easy and inexpensive way to reduce auto trips, Haskell says.

Streetsblog looks back by at an article by Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White that appeared in Gotham Gazette last spring. It proposed a three-part effort to reduce parking on city streets: raising prices for parking meters, charging residents for street-parking permits and cracking down on misuse of parking privileges by city employees. This plan makes sense, White wrote, because As any transportation expert will tell you, the carrot of free parking is too irresistible for drivers to refuse, even when they have decent transit options.

Other traffic fighting schemes outlined in AMNY today include requiring commercial buildings to offer bicycle parking; offering incentives for carpooling and even, in a throwback to the days of gasoline restrictions, allowing cars only with specified license numbers to enter congested areas on certain days (odd numbers Tuesday, on even Wednesday?), a scheme floated by congestion pricing foe Assemblymember Richard Brodsky.

But its too early to give up on congestion pricing, writes Newsday. Bloomberg should press ahead, the editorial says: No obstacles to this smart, progressive plan are too onerous to be overcome — if reasonable leaders are willing to put aside their own agendas and think of the greater good.

But the Sun thinks Bloomberg should just fuhgeddaboutit: He has bigger fish to fry. The paper says, It would be better for New York for Mr. Bloomberg to walk away from the feuds with Mr. Silver and the legislative gridlock in Albany. Leave that to Eliot Spitzer. Let the mayor step up to the national stage.

By on July 18, 2007, 9:03 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Pricing Post-Mortems
July 18th, 2007

So who killed congestion pricing?

Streetsblog, which backs the plan, says the mayor made some serious missteps. Bloomberg and his allies, it says, never seemed to understand that the congestion pricing debate was fundamentally going to be a fight about class, and the widening divide between rich and poor in New York City. (Not something we might add that the mayor has ever been particularly sensitive to). As a billionaire, Bloomberg was vulnerable to charges that the plan would be a regressive tax, harmful to small business, the middle class and the aspiring middle class. Even though opponents of the plan (i.e. Richard Brodsky) tend to represent more affluent districts than many of its supporters, anyone who dares to take congestion pricing again, the blog, warns will have to address the fairness issue.

For its part, the Daily News fingers Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith of Queens, who reportedly told the paper in May he supported charging motorists to enter Manhattan. Then the day came to act and, Bloomberg said, Smith told me personally that he would not and his members would not vote for it unless everybody else voted for it,'” the paper writes. He’s not the guy you want in your foxhole.

The Post blames Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who, once again, played obstructionist. And then theres Governor Eliot Spitzer, who the editorial concludes, proved no more effective at getting this through than he has at anything else.

Rather than a sign of dysfunction, the failure of congestion pricing is just, as the old protest chant says, what democracy looks like, writes Newsdays Lawrence Levy. Many people, including Silver simply were not convinced the plan would work. If Silver has his doubts and he doesn’t have the votes for it, why should he be seen as a bad guy for not pushing it on members who wouldn’t have swallowed it if he did? Levy wonders.

While not sparing Silver, Bay Ridge Blog slams outer borough politicians who opposed congestion pricing. It writes, Instead of listening to the big majority of their constituents who commute by bus and subway, they chose to listen to the five percent (or whatever) of voters who think they’re too good to ride the subway with the normal people.

Fred Siegels Contentions blog focuses on Bloomber himself : What may have been [the plans] real undoing was the mix of arrogance and managerial incompetence that the mayor brought with him to Albany.

See it how you like theres no shortage of pointing fingers.

By on July 18, 2007, 8:33 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Gotham City,Transportation | Comments Off on Pricing Post-Mortems

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A Victory for Bloomberg's Gun Battle
July 17th, 2007

After recent battles with out-of-state gun dealers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has something to celebrate: new mandatory minimum sentences for carrying an illegal and loaded weapon in New York. The mayor’s message: carry an illegal, loaded weapon and be prepared to go to jail for three and a half years.

In a news conference this morning, Bloomberg and Citizens Crime Commission of New York City unveiled a new public service campaign to highlight the new penalties for illegal gun possession in New York. The campaign, GUNS=PRISON, will feature posters calling attention to the sentence. The notices will be displayed on donated space on phone kiosks, in buses and subways and in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

The state’s new mandatory minimum sentence for illegal possession of a loaded handgun, increased to three and a half years at the mayors urging, is the toughest such law in the country.

(For more from the mayor’s reaction, gohere. For more on his war on guns go to Gotham Gazette.)

By on July 17, 2007, 5:31 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | 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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