Archive for August, 2009

Weekly Web Wrap
August 28th, 2009

  • Allowing Water – and New Waterfronts – Into the City
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • Ballot Access Laws Keep Candidates Off Ballot
    (Room Eight)
  • Can Bloomberg Pay Poor People to Do the ‘Right’ Thing?
    (The American Prospect)
  • Campaign Finance Board Must Pursue Cheats During Elections
    (City Hall News)
  • The Green Superintendent Training Program
  • Where’s the Youth Voice on Planning?
    (Municipal Art Society)
  • Rome vs Gotham
    (New Geography)
  • City Shouldn’t Subsidize Developments that Create Poverty-Level Jobs
    (DMI Blog)
  • Sunset Park Gets a High school
  • Coalition Calls for Reform to State’s Juvenile System
  • Photo Essay of Forest Hills Gardens
  • Parsing the the Results of Mayor’s Housing Plan
    (Huffington Post)
  • State Could Become Stem Cell Capital of Nation
    (SEED Magazine)
  • By on August 28, 2009, 6:32 pm
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    Kolb Pushes Reform
    August 28th, 2009

    Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been calling for a constitutional convention for weeks. On Wednesday Kolb launched an online petition to try to marshal support for his idea. Today Kolb’s office began circulating a memo about his “bipartisan legislation” that would make changes to the way a constitutional convention is carried out.

    Kolb hopes to garner support from members of both parties. It is expected the bill will be filed and available to the public in about a week.

    In a constitutional convention, elected delegates from across the state would propose changes in the state’s constitution. The changes would then go to the voters for approval. The idea does not generally have the support of many legislators, but Kolb said that it is time for a change. “The support will come from the grassroots and we will make a dramatic push,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 28, 2009, 4:06 pm
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    Green and De Blasio Spar Over Term Limits
    August 28th, 2009

    The two leading candidates for public advocate appeared to steal the show this afternoon at the first televised debate hosted by the Campaign Finance Board and ABC.

    Councilmember Bill de Blasio took former advocate Mark Green to task for not fiercely opposing Rudy Giuliani’s term extension proposal following the September 11th attacks.

    But after contending that he was a staunch critic of the Giuliani administration, Green fired back, accusing de Blasio of flip-flopping on his term limits position from when he ran for City Council speaker in 2005 to now. De Blasio was a vocal critic of the mayor and the City Council for extending term limits, and he has been campaigning on his position ever since.

    But in 2005, Green recalled, that was not the case.

    In fact, according to a Gotham Gazette transcript of a City Council speaker debate in 2005, de Blasio did say he would want to extend term limits by legislation, overriding two public referendums, after an extensive public debate. Following today’s debate, which will be aired on ABC this Sunday, de Blasio said the most recent extension of term limits was so “fundamentally undemocratic” because the mayor was “trying to ram it through the City Council in three weeks time.”

    This was just one clash between the two candidates, which dominated much of the hour long debate. At one point, Green said that de Blasio “doesn’t have much of a record or a vision.”

    Following the debate, Green said it was no surprise that he was being challenged, and that he regretted his position on the Giuliani term extension in 2001.

    Here is part of the debate transcript, which was moderated by Baruch College’s Doug Muzzio, from 2005:

    Doug Muzzio: Since Bill began answering the second question on term limits, we’ll work back this way. The question to all of you is: As speaker, would you support or advance changes in the current term limits law will allow longer service for council members? Second part, if so, how much longer? And finally, how much should these changes be accomplished, by council or by voter referendum?

    Bill de Blasio: I think next year after extensive public discussion, after extensive hearings, I think we should move forward with an additional four-year term through the legislative process. I think that’s so important because council members must work across mayoral terms. The charter, I think, has not provided the proper balance between the mayor and the council. I think that something we also have to work on, but certainly as we’ve experienced term limits we’ve learned that in practice it further saps some of the councils ability to play the role of a strong legislature and a strong check and balance, and that’s why I think adding an additional four year term would really create greater balance and allow members to gain additional expertise and strengthen their role.

    Doug Muzzio: How should it be accomplished?

    Bill de Blasio: Through legislation, after a full, public debate.

    By on August 28, 2009, 3:55 pm
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    District 35 Democratic Candidates Debate
    August 27th, 2009

    The three Democratic primary candidates for City Council District 35 debated for the first time Tuesday in the Brooklyn Paper’s Metrotech office, about three weeks before the September 15 primary.

    Delia Hunley-Adossa made news when she said that Forest City Ratner, the developer behind Atlantic Yards, gave her nonprofit a “little over a couple of hundred-thousand dollars,” through a community benefits agreement, the Brooklyn Paper reported.

    Hunley-Adossa, the president of 88th Precinct Community and Youth Council and the head of Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, an nonprofit environmental group, supports the Atlantic Yards project and is looking to unseat incumbent Letitia James, who opposes it.

    Hunley-Adossa is the head of a coalition that signed the benefits agreement on Atlantic Yards, in which Forest City Ratner promised benefits to Brooklyn residents. The agreement won over a lot of local groups, like Brooklyn Endeavor Experience. According to Norman Oder, author of the blog Atlantic Yards Report, other groups that signed the agreement have also received funding from Forest City Ratner.

    The remark is the first time Hunley-Adossa has revealed how much money Forest City Ratner gave to her organization. In an interview in early August with this reporter, she refused to say how much money the developer gave her group, and criticized James for funding groups that were opposed to Atlantic Yards.

    The Democratic primary in this district is shaping up to be, in part, a community referendum on Atlantic Yards, a project that calls for an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, as well as skyscrapers for offices and apartments.

    Atlantic Yards will create “a lot of economic development, affordable housing, and [James] seems to have not engaged the developer into bringing forth some of these benefits to the community,” Hunley-Adossa told Gotham Gazette.

    (Check out Gotham Gazette’s profile of the race here.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 27, 2009, 3:06 pm
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    New Yorkers Remember Kennedy
    August 26th, 2009

    New York officials and average citizens today mourned the death early this morning of Sen. Edward Kennedy, a man who served the nation and represented Massachusetts but as City Room observed, had deep ties to New York.

    Kennedy spent part of his childhood in Westchester and married a woman from Bronxville. In 1980 New York Democrats would embrace his failed presidential campaign and when that campaign ended, it was in New York — at the 1980 Democratic convention — that Kennedy delivered one of his most famous speeches, promising that, though his quest for the presidency had ended, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

    For 29 years, Kennedy continued to fight for the cause, the hope and the dream in the Senate. Today New York officials recalled the issue he battled for — and the man who waged those fights.

    In a taped interview with The Politicker this morning, City Council speaker Christine Quinn recalled the senator coming to a gay rights dinner in new York. “He came in the 1990s to urge America to pass a gay rights bill, to urge America to embrace the LGBT community. It was a remarkable thing,” she said.

    Quinn recalled shaking Kennedy’s hand when she was in Washington lobbying to pass a hate crimes bill.” To meet him, she said, “You just really felt his presence and the commitment of a life to justice.”

    Excerpts from statement released today by other New York politicians after the jump:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 26, 2009, 12:33 pm
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    Liu Turns to Mom
    August 25th, 2009

    Faced with continuing — and escalating — allegations that he fabricated parts of his life story, city comptroller candidate John Liu Tuesday evening turned to core supporters and his mother for help. At a rally in Chinatown, hundreds cheered Liu, who hopes to become the first Asian ever elected to citywide office in New York. Supporters such as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilmember Charles Barron and Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, castigated the Daily News for questioning Liu’s official biography and used the allegations to trumpet Liu’s background and the American dream.

    But the star of the event was Liu’s mother Jamy, whose comments to Daily News reporter Erin Einhorn ignited the controversy Sunday. During his campaign, notably in a recent ad, Liu has said that at age 7 he had to work in sweatshop beside his mother. But Einhorn quoted Liu’s mother as saying, “I never go to the factory. I just go there and pick up some material and bring home because I had to take care of my kids.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 25, 2009, 8:43 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Immigrants | 7 Comments »

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    Relief For Yoga Instructors
    August 25th, 2009

    We can all breathe a sight of relief: the battle over the licensing of yoga instructors in New York is over, and the yoga community has triumphed.

    In May the State Department of Education ordered a number of yoga studios all across the state that train their instructors to cease operation until they underwent a curriculum approval process.

    In June Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced legislation that would give licensing exemptions for yoga instruction. The Senate never actually got down to voting on it, what with all that coup nonsense going on, but there was action on the matter nonetheless.

    The State Department of Education approved of the legislation, and has decided not to require the licensing of yoga instructors pending the exemptions approval by the legislature.

    The education department wrote to yoga studios last week to say that they “are suspending any licensing requirements pending action by the New York State Legislature. At this time, we will not require licensure nor will we pursue any organization offering this training as an unlicensed school. Yoga studios that applied for a license can contact the DOE to stop the process and receive a refund of their licensing fee.

    The message from the community has been loud and clear: get your government hands off my yoga mat,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “Next time, the state will think twice before threatening a practice that brings so much tranquility to New Yorkers.”

    By on August 25, 2009, 5:13 pm
    In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

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    Liu Still Stumps on Sweatshop Stint
    August 24th, 2009


    At a senior center in East Harlem this afternoon councilmember and comptroller candidate John Liu defended his claim that he worked in a sweatshop as a child one day after a damaging Daily News story questioned his past.

    In the News story, Liu’s mother and several of her friends said she never worked in a Queens sweatshop nor did Liu. She worked from home, they told the News.

    In Harlem this afternoon, Liu attributed his mother’s version of the events to a generational gap. His mother, he said, was too afraid to admit that he worked at the garment factory in Long Island City.

    “It is true that this is something that a lot of people in my community have gone through, but people don’t talk about it because they are not proud of it. But I am proud of this,” he said, raising his voice amid a crowd of reporters. “The older generation in many cases is not proud of it.”

    He continued defending his work history, which he had not mentioned in his previous runs for City Council. His alleged stint in a sweatshop has been a major theme of his citywide campaign so far, including in his first campaign commercial.

    “I did not talk about it for many years, but now I am talking about it, and we’re going to keep talking about it,” said Liu, who made his typical stump speech this afternoon, which includes a description of his work at the garment factory.

    When reporters asked whether they could confirm Liu’s side of the story with his mother again, Liu said: “My mother is shaken right now. She feels like she hurt me… She was afraid to say that I was involved in legal activity.”

    Liu did say his mother would be attending a 5 p.m. rally for him tomorrow in Chinatown’s Chatham Square.

    By on August 24, 2009, 3:21 pm
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    Weekly Web Wrap
    August 21st, 2009

  • Low-Income Broadband Penetration Problems for State
    (PULP Blog)
  • Union to Train 1,000 Supers in Green Techniques
  • STACKD Links People in Office Buildings
    (Urban Omnibus)
  • New York and the Film Tax Credit
    (IBO Web Log)
  • Where 73 Citywide Candidates Stand on Transportation Issues
  • The Failure of Roosevelt Island’s Main Street
    (Huffington Post)
  • The Need for More Truck Management
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • By on August 21, 2009, 5:45 pm
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    Senate Session in September
    August 20th, 2009

    Senate Democrats are saying they have been asked by their leadership about returning for session on September 10. It is not expected that they will act on the budget deficit as Gov. David Paterson has yet to issue to a proposal.

    The Assembly is also not expected back on that date. Some senators don’t think they will be dealing with the budget until the end of September or early October when more budget numbers should be released.

    Although one senator said, “If the governor issues a proposal in the next week we will be ready to work on it.”

    By on August 20, 2009, 10:04 pm
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    Court Rules Against Lieutenant Governor
    August 20th, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson’s appointment of Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor last month violated the state constitution, a state appeals court panel ruled today. The four judges in Brooklyn said the move was illegal because “no provision of the Constitution or of any statute provides for the filling of the vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor other than by election.”

    The lieutenant governor’s job had been opened since its previous occupant — Paterson — became governor in 20089 after the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The vacancy attracted increased attention this summer, though, when the State Senate was evenly split between the two political parties — and did not have a lieutenant governor to break the deadlock.

    Paterson’s appointment of Ravitch was intended to break the stalemate but Republicans filed suit to block it. In the meantime, the Senate deadlock ended when Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., switched sides again to return to the Democratic fold and give that party a 32-30 edge.

    The governor can now bring the case to the state’s highest court — the Court of Appeals — although some experts predict he will not have much chance of success there either.

    By on August 20, 2009, 3:40 pm
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    Quinn on Betsy and Endorsements
    August 20th, 2009

    Council Speaker Christine Quinn confirmed that she wouldn’t be making any endorsements in the citywide contests and in the mayoral race before the primary.

    At her pre-stated press conference this afternoon, Quinn also declined to completely enter the political fray over whether mayoral candidate and Comptroller Bill Thompson has been a good steward of the city’s pension funds following a critical Times story on his management. She said only that Thompson has been a “good comptroller” and she has “no complaints.”

    Elsewhere, today’s press conference, the subject of which was a bill that requires translation services in large pharmacy chains, was also the first time that Quinn and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum appeared publicly at City Hall together since Gotbaum slammed Quinn for cutting the advocate’s budget by 40 percent.

    Since, Gotbaum has declined to preside over the City Council’s stated meetings — a ceremonial post.

    Today the two seemed cordial. When asked whether there was tension between them, Quinn said, “Not for me.”

    By on August 20, 2009, 1:00 pm
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    Cuomo for De Blasio
    August 19th, 2009

    deblasio cuomo

    Councilmember and public advocate candidate Bill de Blasio clinched the endorsement of former Gov. Mario Cuomo this morning, despite the fact they disagreed on the City Council’s extension of term limits.

    Cuomo was the first person to testify at City Hall in favor of extending term limits from two to three terms. De Blasio was one of the extension’s loudest opponents, and is using his fight as one reason why he would make a good public advocate.

    This morning that didn’t phase the former governor.

    “I endorse people because I like them,” said Cuomo, who was sure to say he had no hard feelings against any of the other candidates (former advocate and current candidate Mark Green ran against his son for attorney general in 2006). “{de Blasio] has not let me down. He has a very extensive record.”

    On another topic, the governor refused to give his position on his son’s prospective run for governor, despite much prying from the City Hall press corp. For now, Cuomo said people should stop giving embattled Gov. David Paterson such a hard time and show their support. If the two were to face one another in a primary, the elder Cuomo said he would have to “know a whole lot more” before lending his support to either candidate.

    By on August 19, 2009, 12:58 pm
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    Thompson Pushes Paterson to Support Authorities Reform
    August 18th, 2009

    City Comptroller William Thompson has joined Sen. Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky in pushing Gov. David Paterson to sign the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act into law.

    “This bill would bring much needed transparency to the States public authorities, which collect and spend billions of taxpayer dollars every single year while conducting business through a process that is largely cloaked in secrecy,” wrote Thompson in a letter to Paterson. Here is the press release from Thompson’s office.

    Critics say Paterson is bowing to pressure from Mayor Michael Bloomberg who does not support the bill. They say Bloomberg is only interested in preserving his control over the authorities.

    Perkins said he thinks the only reason Paterson is considering vetoing the bill is because of pressure from Bloomberg. “Without a doubt there is no other influence that is significant.” said Perkins.

    Thompson, who has not been shy in attacking Bloomberg as he campaigns to replace the mayor, urged Paterson to disregard pressure from Bloomberg’s office.

    Some critics, such as the Mayor of New York City, have complained that by requiring the appointment of independent board members, the proposed law reduces accountability when the reverse is clearly the case. Such disingenuous criticism should be rejected,” wrote Thompson

    By on August 18, 2009, 4:13 pm
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    Turning up the Heat on Paterson
    August 18th, 2009

    Sen. Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky are turning up the heat on Gov. David Paterson in an effort to get him to sign a bill into law that would reform the way public authorities do business. Brodsky and Perkins are set to release a letter sent from the governor’s counsel to the Assembly staff detailing Paterson’s complaints about the bill along with the letter they sent in response. Brodsky said the response basically said, “Those changes would gut the bill.”

    We will have the letters shortly.

    State authorities are supposed to be independent bodies but are known for being controlled by lobbyists and politicians. Rather than serving the public good they have become abused and corrupt.

    The reform bill has bipartisan support and has been trumpeted as one of the good things the Senate managed to pass this year. But Paterson has faced a lot of public pressure from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to veto the bill and he is is reportedly considering doing just that.

    Both legislators say Paterson will only come out worse for wear if he stands against the bill. “The longer he drags this out the more bruised he will be and why would he want to be bruised when he could be praised?” asked Perkins.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 18, 2009, 1:17 pm
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    Authority Over Authorities
    August 18th, 2009

    Created by Robert Moses so he could keep building more and more highways, New York’s public authorities have been likened to a shadow government — fiefdoms, at times rife with corruption and cronyism, that can avoid the public scrutiny required of more conventional government agencies.

    After years of debate the state legislature recently approved legislation intended to address some of these concern. According to Crain’s, the bill, proposed by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky and State Sen. Bill Perkins “would impose fiscal controls on the state authorities that can borrow and spend large sums of money, set fares and tolls and sell state assets such as property development rights.” To do this, the legislation would create an independent budget office to oversee the authorities and makes clear that people who serve on authority boards have a fiduciary responsibility to the authorities and rather than to whatever politicians appointed them.

    The measure, though, has encountered a formidable stumbling block in Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wants Gov. David Paterson to veto it. Bloomberg apparently is particularly aghast at requiring authority directors to protect authority finances — rather than do the bidding of politicians (such as Bloomberg) who appoint them. He also sees the law as hampering development projects. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 18, 2009, 10:16 am
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    Debate Access Denied
    August 17th, 2009


    This in from our Aaron Kinchen.

    Today we are covering the race to try to replace City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

    But last week, dozens of citizens and a few members of the press (including this reporter) were refused admission to the District 3 City Council candidate’s debate, hosted by The Villager, which brought Quinn and her two challengers, Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannante-Derr, in the same room for the first time this campaign season.

    Citing fire safety, New York University security guards only let 188 people into the university lecture hall and another 44 into an overflow room. During a regular school day, hundreds more students meandered throughout the facility located at 19 West 4th Street.

    “Yeah, well, students are different than people from the outside,” grunted a NYU security guard as he blocked the entrance. The debate lasted from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.

    On August 2, The Villager responded to an email inquiring if the press from the Gotham Gazette needed to “sign up” or “get on a list” so that we would be guaranteed admission. Lincoln Anderson, the associate editor, noted in his reply email that because “it’s summer” that he was expecting there to “be some free seats.” At 3:05 pm, the day of the debate, a frantic email was sent out by the Passannante-Derr campaign, alleging that Quinn’s campaign was given a “heads up” and extra tickets, which was inaccurate.

    However, the accusatory tone of the email spurred a phone call to Anderson, who maintained that six tickets were given out to all three candidates. This was later confirmed by Passannante-Derr and Kurland. Apparently, no tickets were set aside for members of the press outside of The Villager’s staff.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 17, 2009, 10:00 am
    In category: City Hall,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    August 14th, 2009

  • Albany Makes Labor Contracts Available Online (City Doesn’t)
    (IBO Web Blog)
  • Rev. Billy on Consumerism in New York
    (Huffington Post)
  • Rethinking the Grand Concourse
    (Architect’s Newspaper)
  • The Brooklyn Typology Project
    (Urban Omnibus)
  • Why Livable Cities Rankings are Wrong
    (New Geography)
  • Another Bronx City Council Candidate Bumped from Ballot
    (Bronx News Network)
  • The Draft State Energy Plan
    (PULP Blog)
  • Transit Workers’ Raise Highest Since 1966
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • By on August 14, 2009, 11:23 am
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    If a Tree Falls in the Woods
    August 13th, 2009

    This is in from Brooklyn-based reporter, Douglas A. Hinnant.

    If you hold a debate in a studio, and you don’t invite the press, and you don’t air the tape, do the candidates make a sound?

    Candidates from three Brooklyn City Council races participated in debates in downtown Brooklyn on Monday. Now all you have to do is wait until next week to see them.

    Hosted by Brooklyn Independent Television in collaboration with Community Newspaper Group, no other press was invited, and the debates were held in a closed television studio with no audience. According to sources inside the campaigns, candidates were instructed to bring themselves and between one and three staffers.

    The debates were moderated by Tom Tracy of Courier Life and Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, both subsidiaries of Community Newspaper Group.

    Candidates for public advocate and city comptroller were scheduled to square off yesterday.

    The debates will be aired between August 17 and August 25 at 9pm.

    By on August 13, 2009, 11:55 am
    In category: City Hall,Governing,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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    A Fight Over Private School in Brooklyn
    August 12th, 2009

    This in from our Douglas A. Hinnant.

    Brad Lander says he’s the only candidate in the District 39 race for City Council with children in public school. His opponent Josh Skaller says to leave his son out of politics.

    On July 8, Kelly Skaller, Josh’s wife, sent out a campaign email entitled, “Protecting Our Son Wolf,” accusing Lander of exploiting their son’s enrollment in a private school, the result of a difficult decision she and her husband made because of Wolf’s special needs. But Lander claims he is merely distinguishing himself as the only public school parent in the race, which he calls relevant, and he is not attacking or criticizing the Skallers in any way.

    Apparently it all began back on April 20. As Candace Carponter, a local attorney and Skaller campaign contributor, recalls it, she was handing out leaflets for the Skaller campaign early one morning outside a public elementary school in Park Slope. After 30 minutes or so, Lander “came rushing up” to her and, without a hello, asked if the flier mentioned that Skaller’s son goes to private school.

    According to another local resident, an admitted Skaller volunteer and also a contributor, who did not want to be named, Lander offered the information without solicitation in an effort to get this resident’s signature during the petition phase of the race.

    Lander admits he may have occasionally mentioned the Skallers’ education choice in response to direct questions from constituents, but he says, “I’ve never proactively said anything about them.” Instead, Lander explains, he talks about his own qualifications, and tries to avoid talking about the other contenders in the race.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 12, 2009, 11:00 am
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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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