Archive for December, 2009

Kingsbridge Denied
December 14th, 2009

The city council’s land use and zoning subcommittee have rejected the proposal to redevelop the kingsbridge armory. More to come later.

By on December 14, 2009, 10:31 am
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Council Snubbed by Police on Reporting Bill
December 11th, 2009

This was filed from Gotham Gazette’s Dana Farrington from City Hall.

Several members of the City Council want to force the city’s corporation counsel to report on civil lawsuits against the NYPD — an attempt to hold the police accountable for not only the number of them, but also to prevent further misconduct and unchecked settlements.

For now, though, the department doesn’t appear to be taking their threat seriously.

At a hearing held on the bill (Intro 1025), which is sponsored by the council’s public safety committee chairman, Peter Vallone, this morning, two voices were notably absent: the Law Department and the police. William Heinzen, deputy counselor to the mayor who testified on behalf of the administration, said he shared the council’s goal in trying to curb the number of lawsuits, but the city does not collect that type of data.

Councilmember Helen Sears said the police department failed to respond to the committees request for an appearance. Sears suggested that a way to sidestep the lack of cooperation would be to present the issue as a budgetary matter to get at their pockets and make them pay attention.

Both the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society support the bill. NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn suggested this morning that the committee look into broadening the type of information gathered, including profiles of both the person who files the initial complaint and the officer to divulge larger trends. Dunn hopes that the report will circulate to a larger audience, including the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the comptrollers office. The civil rights group filed a lawsuit itself against the police in November for failing to release information about police shootings since 1997.

Steven B. Wasserman from the Legal Aid Society. He recommended the committee look towards information already filed regarding civil cases, such as the initial notice of claim filed with the city within 90 days by the plaintiff for state cases. Wasserman also pointed to the detailed profiles of claims filed against municipalities, which include claims against the police. This information is available more quickly.

According to a report issued by the comptroller’s office in March, 1,531 settlements were made in 2008, compared to only 287 in 2004. The recent numbers are almost double the number of settlements during 2007. Of claims filed in 2008, 55 percent were related to personal injury.

Leo Glickman, a partner of Stoll, Glickman & Bellina, LLP, recommended that the council add a provision to the bill that would organize claims information by individual precincts in order to address repeat offenders and take preventative, localized action against problem precincts.

The legislation was laid over by the committee and given the time remaining in this legislative session, which ends this month, it is unlikely this bill will be approved.

By on December 11, 2009, 2:13 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | Comments Off on Council Snubbed by Police on Reporting Bill

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Weekly Web Wrap
December 11th, 2009

Moving Beyond Race on the Gay Marriage Debate
(The American Prospect)
City Launches Environmental Health Web Portal
(Health Department)
Cartoonist’s Take on Albany Ethics
(Matt Davies)
Questions About Expansion of the Staten Island Expressway
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
West Chelsea Rezoning Wins Award
(High Line Blog)
Ratner Contradicts Himself on Community Use of Arena
(Atlantic Yards Watch)
Recycle Your E-Waste Throughout January
Times Still Undecided on Pay Wall Model
(Editor & Publisher)
Steam Leaks Help New Yorkers Understand Infrastructure
(Urban Omnibus)
A Survey of the Year’s Lost Landmarks
(Lost City via Curbed)

By on December 11, 2009, 10:36 am
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Espada Offers Paterson "Pearls of Wisdom"
December 10th, 2009

“My mommy taught me not to disparage people in public. So I want to share those pearls of wisdom with the Governor during this holiday season,” said Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, responding to comments Gov. David Paterson made about him on the Brian Lehrer show.

“When Senator Espada makes a decent point in his life I will respond to it,” Paterson told Lehrer. Paterson went on to imply that Espada had been more interested in pandering to the public than in protecting the state’s finances. Paterson has repeatedly slammed the deficit reduction package agreed on by the Senate and Assembly.

Paterson himself was responding to comments Espada made earlier this week where he suggested Paterson has been attacking the legislature to help boost his poll numbers.

Espada didn’t necessarily follow his own advice about public disparagement.”The citizenry did not elect him to be governor,” said Espada. “Ninety-nine percent of us were elected by the people, but he wants to do his job and our job,” said Espada, referring to Paterson’s pledge to withhold local aid payments. Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 10, 2009, 5:53 pm
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Perkins Invites Paterson to Main Street
December 10th, 2009

Sen. Bill Perkins said Gov. David Paterson’s defense of Wall Street yesterday during a speech at the American Museum of American Finance did not sit well with some of his constituents.

“I think there are a lot of people who are unemployed, who need hope, who need to have a champion in the Governor,” said Perkins. “I would like to see him come to Main Street, come to 125th Street to see whats going on with most people. Wall Street is not Main Street.”

Yesterday Paterson said during his speech: “You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder. You don’t hear anybody in Maryland complaining about crab cakes. If you say anything about corn in Iowa, they’ll run you out of town,” Paterson said. “If you say anything about oil in Texas, they’ll string you up the nearest tree. We need to stand behind our engine of economy in New York, and that engine is Wall Street.”

Perkins said that he saw no reason to “put Wall Street on a pedestal.” “Wall Street needs to resurrect,” said Perkins, “but they should be criticized when they do wrong like anyone else and according to a lot of reports the criticism that has been directed at them is valid.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 10, 2009, 1:45 pm
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Scoring the Math Test Results
December 9th, 2009

During the mayoral campaign both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Christopher Cerf, a former Education Department official who had moved over to the campaign, predicted that the city’s scores on a national math test would show an increase. Yesterday the figures for the National Assessment of Educational Progress told a different story: Between 2007 and 2009 city fourth and eight graders showed no significant improvement on the test. This represents a sharp contrast to results on state tests, where city students have improved dramatically during Bloomberg’s tenure.

What does that mean? It depends whose spin you chose to believe. The Department of Education painted the results as good news. “SchoolsChancellor Joel Klein today applauded consistent and sustained gains by New York City public school students” on the math exam, the department release said.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 9, 2009, 2:33 pm
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Kingsbridge Armory at the Council today
December 9th, 2009

UPDATE: According to Councilmember Joel Rivera, the council is worried about 432 potential employees at the Kingsbridge Armory project who would probably not receive living wages. In total, the project is expected to create about 1,000 permanent jobs.

Rivera said the Bronx delegation is considering a proposal to use the funds from the sale of the armory, which he says is $4 million, toward subsidizing these workers’ wages.

This project has already received millions in city subsidies.

UPDATE: A vote on The Related Companies Kingsbridge Armory has been delayed at least until Friday and possibly Monday.

Council members are still negotiating with the developer and the administration over whether to require employers pay living wages at the site, which Related plans to turn into a large shopping mall.

The project must be voted on by Monday. If there is no vote by then, the land use review project would have to start over.

All afternoon members of the Bronx community have rallied on the steps of City Hall, calling for the living wage mandate. Councilmember Oliver Koppell, whose district abuts the project, said the major disagreement continues to be a living wage.

“You get the best you can,” said Koppell. “We’re getting closer on the issue of paying people a living wage.”

But not everyone sees the living wage requirement as a reason to delay the project.

“Every job is not designed to support a family, some are designed for people that are retired or kids after school,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone.

The City Council is set to determine the fate of the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory — a mammoth landmark that developer, The Related Companies, wants to turn into a shopping mall.

At the center of the controversial project is a proposal supported by the community and multiple council members to require the developer pay living wages at the site.

Right now, the City Council’s Bronx delegation is holed up in a small room in City Hall debating the deal. Interesting to note, Councilmember Maria Baez, who was voted out in September, hasn’t been spotted. Her predecessor, Fernando Cabrera, was seen entering the negotiation room.

More to come later, and for more on the project go here.

By on December 9, 2009, 1:56 pm
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Bloomberg, Liu, Thompson Staffers Dish on Campaign
December 8th, 2009

So what does a behind the scenes look at the campaigns for comptroller and mayor reveal?

For one, John Liu’s campaign staff was never aiming for the endorsements of the city’s three major dailies, they were, at times, trying to separate the campaign from its Working Families Party ties and Liu started aiming for citywide office — any office — years before his competitors.

“He was thinking about running for everything,” said Kevin Wardally, a senior advisor to the Liu campaign. “When you make a decision that you’re not going to run for City Council you start to think about everything… Some folks thought about public advocate… Once we looked at John’s qualifications… we made one decision, and that decision was to run for and announce for city comptroller.”

These factoids were revealed at a post-campaign round table discussion this morning at the New School, where foes and friends gathered to digest the ins and outs of campaign ’09.

From the losing side of the comptroller race, representatives from the campaigns of Melinda Katz and David Yassky all said that Liu’s personal story was practically unbeatable, despite the scrutiny over whether or not the comptroller-elect actually worked in a sweatshop. The Katz campaign said they tried to galvanize women — to no avail — while Yassky’s people played up his rational (very comptroller-like) side. They didn’t luck out either.

On the mayoral race, Bloomberg’s campaign revealed a glimpse into their strategy — one that played up the mayor’s win as inevitable. By coming out strong in the beginning, going door to door as early as the spring, Bloomberg campaigners said, it gave his competitors (and the electorate) the feeling he couldn’t be beat.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 8, 2009, 5:40 pm
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Brooklyn Bridge Park: The City Steps In
December 8th, 2009

Gotham Gazette parks topic page writer Anne Schwartz filed this post.

Promising to spend an additional $55 million on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the city is proposing to take over responsibility for the project from the financially strapped state. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe discussed the proposal at a town hall meeting last night sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who was elected in part because of his opposition to the existing plan to bookend the park with high-rise condos.

While many in the overflowing room came hoping that city control would mean a fresh look at the design and funding mechanism, the city’s proposal — while adding active recreation and another access point, committing to building the park ahead of the development, and opening the door to more community involvement — looked very much like the current controversial plan.

Brooklyn residents have been asking for a park and active recreation on the downtown Brooklyn waterfront for 25 years, and many were angry when the final plan by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp., the city-state authority overseeing the project, greatly altered the original design developed with extensive community input. The most controversial change was the inclusion of residential towers to meet the requirement — set as a condition for creating the park — that upkeep would be paid for by commercial development on part of the site.

Squadron said he had asked the city to bring its proposal to the public while still in the discussion stage and added that he hoped the meeting would be a step toward “lowering some of the temperature,” and bringing people together for more of a shared vision. Several speakers in the audience made a point of noting that what they heard and saw at the meeting represented a step in the right direction, even though they would like to see further changes.

Audience member Dorothy Siegel summed up the reaction of the crowd with this comment to the commissioner: “We are hoping that you will take back to the mayor the overwhelming sentiment that we do not want housing and we want active recreation.”

By on December 8, 2009, 5:07 pm
In category: Land Use,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Bruno Fallout Continues
December 8th, 2009

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno resigned his post as CEO of CMA Consulting Services today. Bruno took over the job last year after resigning from the Senate.

CMA has many lucrative contracts with the state and the Times Union reports that those contracts could have been in jeopardy because of Bruno’s felony convictions. James Odato of the Times Union points out that Bruno’s $95,000-a-year legislative pension remains intact.

Bruno’s conviction has good government advocates like New York Public Interest Research Group’s Blair Horner riled up and pushing for a major ethical overhaul in Albany.

This paragraph in the the United States Attorney’s press release, issued following Bruno’s indictment, might give Horner some extra ammunition: “Federal law enforcement in the Northern District of New York will continue to strive to ensure that public officials who breach their public trust will be held accountable, notwithstanding the challenges presented by the states inadequate legislative ethics and disclosure laws.

Meanwhile Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters today that he found Bruno’s conviction “very sad.” He said Bruno was someone “that has helped this city.” Liz points out that Bloomberg was a very generous donor to the Republican Senate during Bruno’s tenure.

By on December 8, 2009, 4:33 pm
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Bloomberg Vetoes Parking Bill
December 8th, 2009

And Council Speaker Christine Quinn as well as the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Simcha Felder, “respectfully” fire back.

Here are their statements:

Statement from Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

Issuing New Yorkers a parking violation just two or three minutes past the time when alternate side parking goes into effect or a muni-meter stub runs out is simply unfair. These parking rules are not in place for the purpose of generating revenue. They are in place to promote compliance and that is why creating a 5 minute grace period for drivers to move their vehicles is a fair and appropriate action to take. At tomorrows Stated Council meeting we will accept the Mayors veto of this bill and expect that the vast majority of Council Members will vote to override this veto at the next Stated Council meeting on December 21st.

Statement from Council Member Simcha Felder:

While I am one of the Mayor’s biggest fans I respectfully disagree with this veto. This legislation is about common sense and decency and its passage will help change the ticketing culture of New York City. There is no reason why 300,000 tickets a year are issued within the first five minutes of alternate side parking regulations going into effect. In fact, until recently it was actually the informal policy of the City to give drivers a five minute grace period. I am grateful for Speaker Quinn’s leadership on this issue and I am confident we have the votes in the City Council to override this veto.

By on December 8, 2009, 4:33 pm
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World Trade Center Health Effects: Finding the Links
December 7th, 2009

Dana Farrington filed this report from City Hall.

Impatience was contagious in City Hall today as three City Council committees heard from concerned parties about the World Trade Center Medical Working Groups second annual report, released in September. Of particular concern was a bill, currently stalled in the U.S. Senate health committee, which would provide long-term medical care for those affected by the World Trade Center collapse — mentally and physically — and worries over which side effects would not be covered in the meantime.

Before the hearing, a man in a full Fire Department captain uniform sat quietly in the front row. The retired captain, John Gallagher, had arrived at the trade center site in the afternoon after the attacks and spent the next 30 hours on duty, followed by another three months of working full time at Ground Zero. He now has pulmonary fibrosis and breathes through an oxygen tank, which sat next to him inside a black rolling suitcase. Though he receives full funding for his medical care because the government has recognized the dust and other hazards at the trade center caused his illness, he said he had come to the hearing to fight for those who are not covered. Among his concerns were people with cancers, such as thyroid and kidney cancers, whose illnesses were not recognized under current coverage programs.

Councilmember Domenic Recchia raised his voice and temper over the reports assertion that cancer is not directly related to the disaster. “I hope your next report says there is a link,” Recchia said.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 7, 2009, 5:58 pm
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Bruno Found Guilty on 2 Counts
December 7th, 2009

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has convicted of two counts of felony corruption charges. Both counts relate to his dealings with upstate businessman Jared Abbruzzese. Bruno was acquitted of five counts and the jury was unable to come to a verdict on one other count. Bruno is set to be sentenced on March 31.

The Times Union has extensive coverage of the trial.

Representatives of good government groups have said they hope that the trial will lead to tighter ethics laws for state officials.

By on December 7, 2009, 4:57 pm
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Charter School Finances
December 7th, 2009

Back when the push for charter schools began in the 1990s, their advocates said that this new model of public financing and private control would save money. Freed of regulations and not bound by union contracts, the line went, these schools could provide a quality education at a discount price.

What a difference a decade make. Several recent reports make clear that, while charter schools may or may not provide a better education, they certainly do not do that for a discount price. Many charter school leaders freely admit they raise money to augment their per-pupil financing from the Department of Education, and they do not mean a bake sale here and there either.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 7, 2009, 4:34 pm
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Weekly Web Wrap
December 6th, 2009

Balancing Private Bus Burdens and Benefits
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
Cartoonist’s Take on Extraordinary Session
(Matt Davies)
Paying for Prospect Park’s Water System
(Water Watch NYC)
Time Banking Comes to New York
(Idealist in NYC)
Fulton Street’s Diverse Building Stock
(Urban Omnibus)
Accessibility as Part of Sustainability
Annulment of a Straight Marriage a Challenge for Equal Rights
(Huffington Post)
Gay Marriage Vote Disappointing but Historic
Power Grid Operator Criticized on Anniversary
(Times Union via PULP Blog)
City Taxpayers Would Pay for Part of Atlantic Yards Default
(NY Fiscal Watch)
Contest Promotions a Loophole for Illegal Advertisers?
(Public Ad Campaign)

By on December 6, 2009, 6:08 pm
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Monserrate Sentenced
December 4th, 2009

Sen. Hiram Monserrate is not going to jail. A judge has sentenced him to three years probation, one year of counseling and 250 hours of civil service. Monserrate was convicted of third-degree reckless assault and could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Monserrate may still lose his Senate seat as a committee lead by Sen. Eric Schneiderman is deciding whether to further punish him. Monserrate also faces a primary challenge by Assemblyman Jose Peralta.

Austin Shafran, spokesperson for the Senate Majority, issued this statement:

A court of law has now ruled and we respect the decision rendered by the justice system. The Senates Special Committee of Inquiry will
continue to conduct an expeditious review of the facts, past precedent, and all relevant law to establish the proper procedures and identify the remedies available to the Senate. Following the completion of its investigation, the committee will report to the Senate with its recommendations.

By on December 4, 2009, 2:09 pm
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The Marriage Vote and The Aftermath
December 2nd, 2009

A bill legalizing same-sex marriage was voted down in the New York Senate 24-38, an overwhelming defeat. Eight Democrats voted against the bill; all Republicans voted against it without saying anything more than the word “no.”

For hours Democrats spoke on the floor about why they would vote in favor of same-sex marriage. Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson revealed that her brother was gay and felt the need to flee to France after being ostracized by her family. She recounted her efforts to reconnect with him years later and how she finally found him and convinced him that, despite what other family members thought, she wanted to be part of his life.

Sen. Eric Adams spoke about the inequalities that blacks had to suffer before gaining equal rights. Many other Democrats spokes at length about there reasons for supporting the measure.

No Republicans contributed to the debate. Finally, Sen. Tom Duane, the only openly gay member of the Senate, stood to give his final arguments. Duane seemed a bit uneasy, not his usual fiery self. And then he uttered the phrase “Do over.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 2, 2009, 6:31 pm
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Bloomberg and Quinn on Same Sex Marriage
December 2nd, 2009

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the defeat of same sex marriage in the State Senate:

Ive been urging the State Senate to stand up and be counted on an issue of importance to me and millions of other New Yorkers: marriage equality. Although Im deeply disappointed with todays result, and know that the sense of anguish and frustration is even more pronounced among gay and lesbian New Yorkers, at least we now know where individual legislators stand. And so now, we begin a new effort to secure the additional votes needed to pass this bill. I want to thank the leaders of the State Senate finally bringing this bill to the floor for a vote and I applaud the 24 senators who courageously and compassionately voted yes. Historic change does not come easily, but this vote was a crucial step that, I believe, will ultimately lead the State to extend full marriage rights to all couples.

From Christine Quinn, the City Council’s first openly gay speaker:

Today the New York State Senate rejected an opportunity to declare that all citizens in New York are equal. The depth of sadness that I and many New Yorkers feel today is difficult to express. This is a loss for every family in New York. This is a loss for every Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender New Yorker.

I want to thank Senator Tom Duane, Senator Sampson and the rest of the Senate leadership for bringing this issue to a vote on the Senate floor. I applaud them for their dogged leadership on this issue.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 2, 2009, 6:19 pm
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Same Sex Marriage Defeated
December 2nd, 2009

After months of maneuvering, same sex marriage finally came to a vote on the State Senate floor this afternoon and, contrary to some earlier predictions, did not pick up any support from Republicans, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports from the Capitol. The measure failed by a vote of 24 to 38, with all Republicans voting no. They were joined by several Democrats including, from the city, Hiram Monserrate, Carl Kruger and Ruben Diaz. Pedro Espada, who has been allied with those three on many issues, voted in favor. Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrats also voted no.

No Republicans spoke during the debate on the measure nor did any offer comments during a “slow roll call,” which allow members to explain their votes on the issue at hand.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an outspoken supporter of same sex marriage, was in the chamber for the vote.

By on December 2, 2009, 3:08 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Katz to Join Greenberg Traurig
December 2nd, 2009

In her holiday greetings, which just landed in our inbox, former comptroller candidate and Councilmember Melinda Katz announced what her post-council plans come January.

She will join the law firm of Greenberg Traurig as a shareholder.

Here is her message:

Dear Friend,

I hope this holiday season finds you and your family well. Carter and I have been enjoying the season and know how fortunate we are in this season of giving thanks. I’d like to wish the best to you and yours and once again thank you for your support during election time.

Since September, I have been considering a wide-array of professional opportunities. I have decided to join the law firm of Greenberg Traurig as a Shareholder when my council term ends later this month. It is the 8th largest law firm in the United States with a substantial New York practice. I am looking forward to working with such a professional and respected firm.

It has been my honor to serve in the New York City Council for 8 years, and especially as chair of the Land Use Committee we accomplished great things for New Yorkers! I am eager, however, for the challenges and opportunities that will come in the future.

Carter and I wish you and your family safe and happy holidays. I look forward to keeping in touch during this transition when I formally join Greenberg early next year.

Below is my personal email for your records.

All the best,

Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 2, 2009, 2:36 pm
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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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