Archive for February, 2009

Reforming Senate Rules
February 27th, 2009

Critics of New Yorks state government have not shied away from calling the legislature dysfunctional. To change that opinion, members of the State Senate are now taking advice from their critics on how to make the government more effective.

Its not as if any of the good government advocates pointed their fingers directly at the state senators of the Temporary Committee on Rules Reform. But at the third of four public hearings on rules changes last night, advocates lamented the operation of the State Senate as a whole and offered recommendations on how to better serve the public by reforming their rules.

Eric Lane, senior fellow at the Brennan Center, suggested the senate more equitably allocate funds among senators and their committees. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has said each senator will receive a base budget of at least $350,000, more than what some Democrats received when they were in the minority and less than what some Republicans received as the former majority. Enough money for each senator means a better chance of addressing constituent needs and potential legislation.

Republican committee member Joseph Griffo said he supports equal resources. To invigorate the senate and better serve the public, he had a recommendation of his own on senate leadership rules: Id put term limits on him, he said, referring to Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Leaders, Griffo said, have too much power over members and changing leaders more frequently could improve the legislative process.
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By on February 27, 2009, 4:31 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
February 27th, 2009

  • Cut Air Traffic by Redesigning Sky Over the City
  • Paterson: With Democrats Like These…
    (Huffington Post)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Paterson Appointments
    (Adam Zyglis)
  • Can Black New Yorkers Escape Tobaccos Grip? Yes, We Can!
  • How Will New York Close the Budget Gap?
    (The Nation)
  • Yassky Fights Trashy News Boxes
    (Brooklyn Heights Blog)
  • City to Add Ownership Option to Inclusionary Housing Program
    (Campaign for Community-Based Planning)
  • Richard Florida: More on New York’s Survival
    (Creative Class)
  • Police Department Offers Alternative to the Highly Militarized War on Terror
    (The Economist via Re-thinking Reentry)
  • Hearings Urged on Public Service Commission Nominations
    (People’s Production House)
  • An Outcry Over a Relaxation of ‘Submetering’ Rules
    (PULP Blog)
  • Planned Mega-Projects Squashed by the Great Depression
    (The Moment via Strict Constructionist)
  • How Much of New York is Street?
    (Design Trust for Public Space)
  • Can Tedisco Save the G.O.P.?
    (The Weekly Standard)
  • Private Developer Offers to Reopen Midtown Subway Passageway
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • Scientist Discusses Tangible Results of Global Warming on City
    (Brian Lehrer Live)
  • New York Nation’s Second Most Congested City
  • By on February 27, 2009, 1:40 pm
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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    New Committee Heads
    February 27th, 2009

    The City Council’s committee leadership has been restructured since members Mike McMahon, Joe Addabbo and Hiram Monserrate moved on to higher office pastures.

    These changes, which are selected by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, mean every member, except council members Mathieu Eugene and Liz Crowley, receive some sort of extra lulu (or stipend).

    Eugene and Crowley are also the council’s newest members. Crowley joined in January and Eugene joined in May of 2007.

    The changes are as follows:
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    By on February 27, 2009, 12:24 pm
    In category: Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,nextNY,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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    A Bronx BP Update
    February 27th, 2009

    As Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. continues to rack up the political endorsements for his run for Bronx borough president (he just received another one this morning from the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club), two other potential candidates confirmed their campaign statuses to Gotham Gazette.

    One is in. One out.

    Councilmember Joel Rivera said yesterday “his shoes are on,” and he is ready to announce his candidacy as soon as current Bronx Prez Adolfo Carrion steps down formally, which, the young Rivera added, is scheduled for Sunday. Rivera represents the old political faction in the Bronx, which was run by his father, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, who was recently unseated by Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Rainbow Rebellion.

    The younger Rivera said he could announce his candidacy formally as soon as Monday.

    Elsewhere, Councilmember Helen Foster told me yesterday that she would not be running for borough president — a race she definitely expressed interest in when talk of Carrion moving to Washington was whispering throughout the five boroughs. Foster, who has aligned herself with the rebellion squad, said for the first time — she emphasized ever — she recieved a phone call from a Democratic party leader in the Bronx asking to lend her support for their candidate: Diaz Jr.

    She said she would be happy to oblige.

    By on February 27, 2009, 10:47 am
    In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing,nextNY | 5 Comments »

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    Toll Talk
    February 26th, 2009

    Last night during a meeting to address the MTAs fiscal crisis, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed initiating a $2 toll hike on the East River bridges. The toll would equal the cost of a subway ride. Under the MTA bailout plan proposed by Richard Ravitch the tolls would be around $4.15about equal to other MTA crossings.

    The Ravitch plan is designed to close a projected $3.4 billion budget deficit by adding a payroll tax, imposing new tolls and increasing fares. If the Legislature does not take action, the MTA is expected to drastically increase fares among other measures.

    Silver said after the meeting that he was offering another plan so that legislators wouldnt feel there is only one game in town.

    While the proposal received some support from assembly persons from the five boroughs, it still faces significant opposition from legislators whose constituents commute over the East River crossings and would pay the proposed tolls.

    This idea is certainly better than the Ravitch plan, but I remain very apprehensive about any tolls on the East River crossings, Assemblyman Michael Gianaris from Queens told the Daily News.

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    By on February 26, 2009, 3:34 pm
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    Interactive Historical Maps
    February 26th, 2009

    Just because a map may have been drawn with ink on yellowing paper and stored away for safe keeping doesn’t mean they can’t become interactive. The David Rumsey Map Collection has posted their historical maps online, and you can search them, zoom in and out and create widgets for posting the interactive maps on blogs or Web sites. It also allows you to create presentations with the maps.

    The service has hundreds of maps and illustrations of New York, including this 1829 map showing Queens extending as far into Long Island as Oyster Bay.

    By on February 26, 2009, 2:27 pm
    In category: Tech | 5 Comments »

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    A Prequel to the Speaker's Race (UPDATE)
    February 26th, 2009

    To some, the battle over the city clerk position occurring at City Hall right now is merely about political patronage.

    Others see it as a precursor to the speaker’s race this fall.

    By choosing a clerk nominee (current acting Clerk Michael McSweeney) from Queens, Council Speaker Christine Quinn could burn some bridges in both the Bronx and Brooklyn, said one unnamed councilmember, which could spark the emergence of a challenger for the speaker post after the general election this fall.

    Today’s potential vote, said the member, could be a test of her popularity, her strength and her chances of getting another four years as speaker of the City Council.

    If she can get enough votes (remember, the council is sans three members right now until the Board of Elections can certify the results of Tuesday’s special election) and garner a comfortable margin of victory — say 28 or 30 members — then Quinn could go into the speaker’s race with confidence. If a coalition is formed between the Bronx and Brooklyn today, then she may face higher hurdles later this year.

    Both Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan, who heads the Brooklyn delegation and was once a candidate for clerk last year, and the clerk nominee, McSweeney, who was waiting patiently in the council chamber last time I checked, would not comment on the status of negotiations.

    UPDATE: McSweeney was approved by a vote of 32 to 16. Four out of five boroughs voted with the speaker. Fifteen of the 16 dissenters are from Brooklyn. One, Councilmember Helen Foster, is from the Bronx.

    By on February 26, 2009, 1:45 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Governing,nextNY | Comments Off on A Prequel to the Speaker's Race (UPDATE)

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    City Clerk Rerun
    February 26th, 2009

    City Hall is embarking on its own version of “Let’s Make a Deal” over the appointment of a new city clerk, according to reports by Liz Benjamin, as party leaders from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan debate who should get the patronage post.

    The position, which we looked into in depth here, comes with a $185,700 salary and is charged with overseeing City Council records, the city’s marriage bureau, and the registration of lobbyists.

    The awarding of post has, at least in recent memory, been somewhat contentious for some party leaders. Seen as political patronage, leaders want the clerk to hail from their own borough and will maneuver to see that he or she is.

    One year and a day ago exactly, the council had the exact same squabble. Then, the body approved the appointment of Hector Diaz of the Bronx. The Brooklyn delegation was lobbying for one of their own, Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan. When they didn’t get a Brooklyn-based appointee, the entire delegation voted against it. It still passed by a vote of 34 to 16.
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    By on February 26, 2009, 12:13 pm
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    Food Fight
    February 25th, 2009

    The mayor’s controversial refusal to extend food stamp benefits to able-bodied adults who do not work came in for more attack today — this time on the Times’
    editorial page

    Calling Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy “cramped,” the paper said his decision not to take advantage of a provision in the economic stimulus package providing such benefits beyond the city’s three-month limit would deprive the city of the “instant jolt to the economy” that food stamps provide. Citing a calculation by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the editorial said the mayor’s stand could cost the city million of dollars in money from Washington.

    The administration has said the mayor’s position on food stamps simply reaffirms his stand that work is the best way to escape poverty.
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    By on February 25, 2009, 2:55 pm
    In category: Economy,Gotham City,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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    Avella the Underdog
    February 25th, 2009

    Avella from campaign site

    Avella from campaign site

    Odds are not in Councilmember Tony Avella’s favor this September.

    But, somehow, he stays upbeat.

    “If you want to make change in this city, you have to be mayor of this city,” Avella, a mayoral candidate, said at a breakfast hosted by Citizens Union this morning, the sister organization to Gotham Gazette’s publisher. “I think it’s worth my career to have that once in a lifetime opportunity to change city government.”

    This year’s Democratic mayoral primary could put the City Council’s maverick (I know we are all tired of that word, but truly it suits him) against Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

    Avella, needless to say, is the underdog.

    Newspapers often disregard his candidacy and focus on other contenders. He is, by far, behind other mayoral candidates in fundraising.

    And at this morning’s breakfast, the crowd was considerably thin compared to showings for both Weiner and Thompson.
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    By on February 25, 2009, 1:16 pm
    In category: Albany,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance | 5 Comments »

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    Paterson Pushes For Action on Ravitch Report
    February 24th, 2009

    Supporters of the Ravitch Commission Report may have received a little hope as the office of Gov. David Paterson released a statement this evening saying he has conveyed the urgency of the MTA funding situation to lawmakers.

    Both the Assembly and Senate will now hold conferences tomorrow to come to terms on the issue. Paterson wants an agreement “within the next week.”

    Paterson now seems determined to create a sense of urgency that might not have existed amongst legislators earlier today.

    MTA representatives, lobbyists and activists who spent the day pushing legislators to act on the Ravitch Commission Report said they were left unsure exactly how their message was received.

    “They are far more open to this then they were to congestion pricing,” noted one activist trying to muster some optimism.

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    By on February 24, 2009, 10:20 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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    Quinn's Cartoon Response
    February 24th, 2009

    After a rally on the City Hall steps this morning, which included the Rev. Al Sharpton and several council members, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has released a response to the infamous New York Post cartoon.

    Some members have called for the city to pull its advertising from the tabloid or to boycott businesses that advertise in its pages.

    Here are Quinn’s thoughts on the matter:

    The cartoon that ran in last Wednesdays New York Post is offensive in its implications of both racism and violence. Printing the image hearkens back to racist attitudes of the past, when ethnic groups were so horribly depicted as animals.

    The New York Post should have known better.

    Today, rightfully so, Rupert Murdoch more fully recognized the judgment error in choosing to run the cartoon. In his statement, he expressed efforts to engage in dialogue with those who have been rightfully offended. This is a commendable step, one in the right direction, and we hope for this important dialogue to continue.

    By on February 24, 2009, 5:05 pm
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    A Super Slow Special Election
    February 24th, 2009


    We just checked in with Valerie Vazquez, communications czar at the City Board of Elections, and so far, she says, despite three special City Council elections in two different boroughs, today has been “really, really slow.”

    “We have nothing, nothing to report at all,” Vazquez said. “It’s really, really slow.”

    This may or may not be an indication of low voter turnout, which is typical for special elections. The last City Council special election in June had about 7,700 votes. At least one district, 21 formerly held by State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, has one of the lowest turnouts in the city, even during a regular election. In 2005, during a general election, only 8,299 votes were cast in that district. In comparison, 37,327 voters turned out for District 4 on the Upper East Side the same year.

    (Stay tuned to Gotham Gazette later tonight. We will give you election results as they come in.)

    Because local news stations and the Staten Island Advance did a good job notifying voters that paper ballots would be used in District 49 race (thanks to a last minute court decision adding John Tabacco back to the ballot), Vazquez said most Staten Island voters know what to expect at the polls today.
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    By on February 24, 2009, 4:30 pm
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    Crawling to a Hearing
    February 24th, 2009

    Photo via Wiki Commons

    Photo via Wiki Commons

    Sleep tight, but don’t let the bed bugs bite.

    That adage could find new meaning today at City Hall. At 1 p.m., the City Council will hold a hearing on three bills aimed at eradicating the nasty pests from our urban mattresses.

    All introduced by Councilmember Gale Brewer, who has been on a bed bug blasting crusade for several years, the first bill would ban the sale of refurbished mattresses and fine violators between $250 and $1,000. It would also create a five-member bed bug task force to look into health concerns caused by the invasive species (For more on other invasive species, check out our package: Know Your Invasive Critters and Invasion New York).
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    By on February 24, 2009, 12:17 pm
    In category: Gotham City,Health,Immigrants,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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    Klein's New Rich Tax
    February 23rd, 2009

    Sen. Jeff Klein released a bill today that would increase taxes on the wealthy. This is the second bill of this sort now pending before the Senate as Sen. Eric Schneiderman introduced a bill that would increase the income tax on those who make over $250,000 earlier this month.

    Klein’s plan would also increase taxes on that group but offer larger standard deductions to those making less than $250,ooo. The tax cuts would arrive this year in the form of debit cards that would likely have to be used within the year.

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    By on February 23, 2009, 9:40 pm
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    A New Subway Ad Against Subway Service
    February 23rd, 2009


    Half of the city’s subway cars will be hosting these new ads from the Empire State Transportation Alliance, urging straphangers to call on Gov. David Paterson and the State Legislature to fill the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s operating deficit before fare increases take effect next month.

    The authority faces a $1.2 billion operating deficit, in addition to a daunting capital budget hole. The fare hikes, which were included in a budget approved by the authority’s board in December, would increase a monthly unlimited metrocard from $81 to $103 and raise fares on commuter lines on average by 23 percent.

    Serious service reductions, including the elimination of the M and W subway lines, were included in that doomsday proposal.

    The state will have until March 25 to save the transportation authority. The service reductions and fare hikes would take effect after that.
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    By on February 23, 2009, 3:42 pm
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    DiResto Booted From Ballot
    February 21st, 2009

    This election update from Dara Miles:

    Sometimes the tricky part about getting elected in New York is
    getting–and staying–on the ballot. Thanks to arcane election laws
    and super-savvy election lawyers, would-be candidates find that they
    are has-beens, even before the first yard sign goes up. And it’s
    usually the newcomers to politics who learn the hard way.

    Just ask Glen DiResto. He’s the latest victim of the ballot bounce.

    Until this week, DiResto, a former NYPD lieutenant from Rockaway, was
    running for City Council — the Queens District 32 seat recently vacated by now-Senator Joseph Addabbo. When DiResto filed his papers
    with the Board of Elections, he touched off a legal skirmish that
    would bounce around the courts for several weeks.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on February 21, 2009, 12:22 pm
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    Weekly Web Wrap
    February 20th, 2009

  • The Pros and Cons of Quinn’s Fiscal Plan
  • Carrin Lays Out Vision for New Policy Office
    (Washington Post)
  • Carrin Wants to Swap Parks for Parking, Build Parks Atop Parking
    (Village Voice)
  • Bloomberg Ranked World’s Most Powerful Billionaire
  • Bloomberg: Wrong Mayor, Wrong City, Wrong Time
    (The Nation)
  • Public Money for Banks is Dj Vu in New York
  • Where Foundation Money Goes During Economic Crisis
    (Idealist in NYC)
  • Keeping Governors Island Afloat
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • The ‘To Do’ List for Middle-Class New Yorkers
    (New Geography)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Paterson’s Staff Salary Controversy
    (Matt Davies)
  • While New York Bleeds, Washington Thrives
  • By on February 20, 2009, 11:16 am
    In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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    Teachers Saved by Washington?
    February 19th, 2009

    The economic stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday could save the 14,000 teachers the Bloomberg administration said were threatened by state spending cuts.

    Out of the $787 billion stimulus package, the city estimates it would see $535 million in grants for public schools in both 2009 and 2010. While that doesn’t fill the $770 million hole left by state cuts — a figure reported by the Bloomberg administration which is disputed — it puts a serious shovel in the ground. According to a release from the mayor’s office, the city could also be eligible for another $425 million for high needs students, disability education and technology.

    Because the funding filters through the state, the city’s total allocation is a bit hazy still. According to statements in the release, educators will still have to fight for their jobs.

    How would you balance the budget? Play Gotham Gazette’s new game: BALANCE.

    American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who attended the press conference with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the mayor and schools Chancellor Joel Klein, said in a prepared statement: While this aid is exactly what our schools need, parents must understand that we are not out of the woods yet. The State has to make sure that the stimulus money is spent wisely and actually gets into classrooms.”

    We’re waiting to hear from the administration on how many teachers could be saved by this federal boost.

    The full release is after the jump.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on February 19, 2009, 5:24 pm
    In category: Albany,Economy,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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    Gillibrand's Gun Gaffe
    February 19th, 2009

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand shared too much information earlier this week when telling a Newsday reporter that she keeps two rifles under her bed. Gillibrand told the reporter, “If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right.”

    An aid later told the paper Gillibrand has taken “gun safety procedures to ensure family safety.” The aid did not specify exactly what sort of procedures were taken.

    Gillibrand has done her best to distance herself from her conservative stances and prove she is ready for prime time since being named to the Senate by Gov. David Paterson last month. The gun flap did not help on either front.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on February 19, 2009, 5:14 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 5 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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