Archive for February, 2010

Liu Calls on Paterson to Resign
February 26th, 2010

City Comptroller John Liu is calling on Gov. David Paterson to resign. He says the state needs Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch at the helm to deal with the budget crisis. A number of other legislators want Ravitch to head budget negotiations. There is likely to be a tide of calls for Paterson’s resignation in the coming days.

Here is Liu’s statement:

“We have a $4.1 billion budget deficit to grapple with in New York City and cannot make real progress until the State budget is resolved on time one month from now. In order for this to happen, we need Governor Paterson to step down now. Richard Ravitch has an abundance of integrity, experience and creativity. As Governor, Richard Ravitch would be the person most able to steer clear of politics, bring people together, and bring about a balanced, on-time state budget.

“I have stood by my friend and Governor David Paterson until today. David Paterson is a fighter whose commitment to the overall well-being of New Yorkers is without doubt, and deserves our thanks for his service. Given New York’s precarious fiscal situation and the investigation involving the Governor, even if self-imposed, New York should move forward under Governor Ravitch.”

By on February 26, 2010, 4:07 pm
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Paterson Suspends Campaign, Not Resigning
February 26th, 2010

In what sounded like a campaign stump speech combined with a resignation, Gov. David Paterson has announced that he is ending his campaign for governor.

“I am being realistic about politics,” said Paterson. “It hasnt been the latest distraction it has been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public.”

“Therefore, there are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service but to step back. And that moment has come for me.”

Paterson spent most of his time listing things his accomplishments as a public servant. He said he had “fought against special interests,” repealed the Rockefeller Drug Laws, reduced the deficit, and improved the quality of lives of all New Yorkers.

Paterson spoke mostly in the past tense but dispelled rumors that he will resign. “There are 308 days left in my term and I will spend everyone of them fighting for the people of New York,” he said.

Paterson said he was looking forward to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation, saying that the truth would exonerate him and that he did not abuse his office.

The press were only allowed a few questions. Paterson responded to a question about Cuomo’s campaign by saying he had offered Cuomo his assistance, “should he become a candidate.”

Legislators are concerned that Paterson’s move leaves the state in the hands of a lame duck governor who is absolutely incapable of mustering support for his budget plans. A number of officials have called for Paterson to resign including Sen. Bill Perkins who currently holds Paterson’s former senate seat.

The state is drowning in debt and most agree that the budget needs serious trimming. But without strong leadership it seems unlikely that legislators will coalesce around a strong package of cuts.

A number of legislators have been pressing for Paterson to allow Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to head up budget negotiations. In fact, legislators were calling for Ravitch to take over for Paterson in budget negotiations before the recent scandal broke.

By on February 26, 2010, 3:45 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
February 26th, 2010

Dealing with the City’s Debt Service
(Citizens Budget Commission)
Taxi Share Program Starts Today
New York Ranked Least Affordable Place to Buy a Home
(CNN Money via Planteizen)
Expanding Transit to Southeast Queens
(The Transport Politic)
Advocates Skeptical About Immigrant Dentition Center Move
(The Nation)
Courts Reject Columbia Eminent Domain Parallel
(Atlantic Yards Report)
CBS: No Marijuana-Legalization Billboard for Times Square
Competitor Also Question’s Voting Machine Selection Process
How New York Can Grow as a Walkable City
Keyspan Settles in Antitrust Case
(PULP Blog)
Newly Elected Officials and Accountable Development

By on February 26, 2010, 2:16 pm
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Paterson at 3 p.m.
February 26th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson is expected to announce that he is suspending his campaign for governor at 3 p.m. today from his Manhattan office. You can watch the press conference here.

By on February 26, 2010, 2:09 pm
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Paterson's Announcement
February 26th, 2010

Obviously no announcement this a.m. Stay tuned….

Various news outlets are reporting that Gov. David Paterson has decided to end his bid to seek election as governor. He is expected to make an announcement later this morning.

By on February 26, 2010, 10:22 am
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Paterson Still Not Looking For Popularity Points
February 25th, 2010

Remember in December when Gov. David Paterson withheld $750 million in aid payments to schools and local governments and lots of folks got steaming mad? Well, it looks like he is going to do it again. State Budget Director Robert Megna announced today during the Economic and Revenue Forecasting Conference that Paterson plans to withhold $1.4 billion worth of payments due in March.

Megna said the move is necessary to keep the cash-strapped state fiscally solvent. It is not yet clear who is going to have to wait for their cash.

Paterson has already made it known that he is considering the ultra-unpopular move of delaying state income tax refunds in an effort to hold on to some cash. Legislators have already voiced their displeasure. Paterson’s move has even fostered some rarely-seen bipartisan cooperation. This week, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution recommending Paterson not withhold refunds.

Democratic Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Republican Sen. George Winner are working together to pass a resolution that would require the state issue tax refunds within 30 days of being received by the tax department.

“This has been a bi-partisan effort since 2005 and has gained support in reaction to the recently proposed withholding of income tax refunds,” said a statement from Brodsky’s office. “The time has come for immediate resolution of this problem.”

By on February 25, 2010, 6:25 pm
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State Police in the Spotlight, Again
February 25th, 2010

Denise O’Donnell, deputy secretary for public safety, resigned earlier today citing State Police involvement in the handling of a domestic incident involving Gov. David Paterson’s aide David Johnson.

In a statement O’Donnell said that she was told of the incident involving Johnson earlier this year and assured by State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt that State Police were not involved in the incident. Corbitt’s comments in the Times story seem to contradict that.

“My immediate concern was what role the State Police would take in the investigation and I was assured by Superintendent Corbitt that the State Police were not involved,” said O’Donnell in a statement. “It was only last night when I learned from press reports the contrary details, including the involvement of the State Police.”

Since then Corbitt has issued a statement saying that O’Donnell’s description of his statements was correct but that she drew “incorrect” assumptions about them.

A number of legislators say they are dismayed by Corbitt’s statements in the Times. “I was disappointed to hear the superintendent suggest this is the normal response,” said Sen. Neil Breslin.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 25, 2010, 5:55 pm
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Breslin: If Allegations Are True, Paterson Should Resign
February 25th, 2010

“I think of this as the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Sen. Neil Breslin of the scandal surrounding Gov. David Paterson and his aide David Johnson. “If the story proves to be true this will be the last in a lot of missteps for the governor. It is just too much and a resignation should follow.” Breslin is a veteran Democrat from Albany who chairs the insurance committee.

“There allegations are very serious,” said Breslin. “I see some parallels between this and Hiram Monserrate.”

Breslin said he hopes to see Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch take over budget negotiations from the governor. “I hope to look back and see this as a pivotal time where we do the people’s business and pass an on time budget.”

Breslin and a number of Democrats find it hard to believe that Paterson will recover from the David Johnson scandal. “Now he doesn’t have anyone to defend him. He has attacked everyone around him.” Paterson began the year with a combative state of the state address and has been trading barbs with legislators ever since.

By on February 25, 2010, 5:15 pm
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Approving Chips and Charters
February 25th, 2010

Approving Charters and Chips

It was by all accounts, another raucous Panel on Educational Policy meeting last night. This time the issue was allocation of school space — largely putting charter schools in building already occupied by regular public schools — and most of those who came to the microphone, according to the Daily News, backed the Department of Education’s plans.

Not surprisingly the Panel of Educational Policy largely did too, though it did, apparently, postpone plans to place Eagle Academy, an all-male school for grades six through twelve, in IS 59 in Queens after it fell one vote short of the seven needed to approve the proposal.

Last night’s hearing came after months of arguments about school space throughout the city, with some accusing the Department of Education of pitting parents against parents — conventional schools vs. charters — in the drive for precious classrooms. Earlier this week, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and several City Council members called for a moratorium on co-locations and for an independent panel to review allocations of space.

Although charters receive public money, it cannot go for facilities, a restriction that has prompted the Bloomberg administration, big fans of charter school, to give them space. (For more on these issues, see Charter Schools Enter Uncharted Waters.)

While last night’s meeting was a victory for charter supporters, it represented a stunning defeat for lovers of home-backed brownies. The panel unanimously approved a policy that would ban home-backed goodies from school bakesales in favor of such toothsome treats as individually sized portions of Doritos.

By on February 25, 2010, 1:23 pm
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Schneiderman's Take
February 25th, 2010

Here is a statement from Sen. Eric Schneiderman on the David Johnson situation and Gov. David Paterson’s decision to have Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigate.

“The Governors decision to turn the charges of domestic violence by his aide David Johnson and of the conduct of the New York State Police in response to those allegationsover to the New York State Attorney General for a full investigation is the right way to handle this ugly situation. I am confident that the Attorney General will conduct a thorough inquiry.

“Crimes of domestic violence often involve efforts to manipulate, intimidate or control the victim. Social friends and family members are often involved in such efforts. As we found in our Select Committees report on Senator Monserrate, it is particularly offensive when public servants are used in efforts to control or manage a domestic violence victim. The reported actions of the New York State Police that emerged in todays New York Times story fit squarely within this well-documented pattern of conduct. If there was any effort to manipulate, intimidate, or pressure the victim by any law enforcement official, they should be sanctioned to the full extent of the law, including termination and prosecution. Any official who approved or authorized such misconduct should be treated the same way.

“This is not a matter of legal nuance – this is a matter of right and wrong. Any effort to intimidate or control a victim of domestic violence is just plain wrong. It is despicable. And it is unlawful. We pay the State Police to uphold the law and to protect victims, not to intimidate and pressure them.

“I fully support the Attorney Generals investigation and expect the swift imposition of sanctions on anyone who engaged in or approved such conduct.

By on February 25, 2010, 12:55 pm
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Legislators: We Want Ravitch
February 25th, 2010

Liz Benjamin of the Daily Politics reports that Sen. Liz Krueger wants Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to take over budget negotiations for Gov. David Paterson in light of the recent Times story.

“Given the critical and timely nature of the budget negotiations, I would urge him to turn over responsibility for the budget and day-to-day negotiation on the budget to Lieutenant Governor Dick Ravitch,” Krueger told Benjamin.

Sen. Neil Breslin told the Gazette on Tuesday, before the scandal broke, that he thought it was appropriate for Ravitch to take the lead on negotiations, given the governor’s relationship with the legislature.

“If the governor let the lieutenant governor negotiate on his behalf, he would be very well served,” said Breslin.

By on February 25, 2010, 11:32 am
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Paterson's Last Stand?
February 25th, 2010

The New York Times reports that the state police and possibly Gov. David Paterson might have tried to pressure a woman not to pursue an order of protection against Paterson aide David Johnson. Johnson allegedly assaulted the woman. Paterson has responded by suspending Johnson and requesting that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigate the matter. Cuomo’s office has reportedly agreed.

Paterson was quick to defend Johnson last week when the Times published a piece that brought up allegations that Johnson had been involved in violent incidents against women. Many around Albany wonder if Paterson’s already feeble administration can possibly survive this scandal. Some suspect the report may lead to an avalanche of support for Cuomo’s bid for governor. What’s Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch up to these days anyway?

Here is Paterson’s statement regarding the most recent Times story:

“Serious questions have been raised about contact the State Police may have had with a private citizen who filed a complaint against a member of my staff. Any allegation of improper influence must be investigated thoroughly and completely.

“Superintendent Harry Corbitt has directed the State Police to conduct an internal investigation into this matter. I have full faith and trust in the integrity and ability of the State Police to conduct a thorough investigation.

“Because of the seriousness of these allegations, and the sensitive role of this staff member in my Administration, I am asking the Attorney General to investigate the matter to ensure in the public’s mind that a comprehensive and independent inquiry has been conducted. Pending the outcome of the investigation, I am suspending David Johnson without pay.”

By on February 25, 2010, 10:00 am
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Half Baked?
February 24th, 2010

Now I know I was born too soon — or at least my kids were.

Just as my bakesale days are drawing to a close, the Department of Education has banned homemade treats for most school bakesales. Parents will no longer have to churn out batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (compete with lots of old-fashioned, cholesterol-busting rolled oats) as I did: All they have to do is buy a box of Pop-Tarts.

The department, which craves standardization in curriculum and in testing, has decided it’s good for food too. According to a report by Sharon Otterman in today’s Times, the department will allow the sale of 27 specific items in individual packages “that have been approved for sales in city vending machines” including two varieties of Doritos (at least one of which comes heavily laced with chemicals) and one type of Pop-Tart. Fresh fruits and vegetables are OK as well.

Homemade items, however healthy, are verboten because “its impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is, deputy chancellor Kathleen Grimm told Otterman.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 24, 2010, 10:51 am
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Protecting Pedestrians
February 24th, 2010

The hit and run accident that critically injured mayoral aide Errin Phelan early Sunday morning and hurt her friend Alma Guerrero points up how dangerous it can be to simply cross a street in New York. And while on the face of it, the conduct of the driver seems completely egregious, if past cases are any indication, there is no guarantee anyone will be convicted of a major offense for the crime.

As Gotham Gazette reported late last year, people who kill with their vehicles usually get off with a slap on the wrist — unless it can be proved they were drunk at the time of the accident. Since the driver who struck Phelan has not yet been apprehended, there is no way to determine whether she was drunk, stoned or high when she mowed down the two young women on Flatbush Avenue. (Police questioned the owner of the car, Cindy Jasmin, who says her sister Frances was driving. Investigators reportedly are skeptical.)
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By on February 24, 2010, 9:09 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Health,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Clamping Down on Co-location?
February 23rd, 2010

The word of the day is co-location — and in the eyes of some New York City parents, that’s not a good thing.

With the Panel of Education Policy set to vote Wednesday on placing more charter schools in public school buildings, a group of education activists and politicians tried to stay out of the cold rain Tuesday and called for a moratorium on such “co-locations.”
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By on February 23, 2010, 6:39 pm
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Ravitch: "I Personally Wouldn't Raise the Payroll Tax"
February 22nd, 2010

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch told the Gazette today that he personally does not support Gov. David Paterson’s plan to change the structure of the payroll tax on all counties serviced by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“I personally wouldnt raise the payroll tax in the city or cut it in the suburbs. At this point leave well enough alone.” said Ravitch.

Paterson’s plan would raise the tax on businesses in New York City from .34 to .54 percent. The tax on businesses outside of New York City would drop from .34 to .17 percent. New York City would go from paying 70 percent of the overall tax burden to 88 percent.

The commission Ravitch headed recommended the payroll tax along with bridge tolls to provide the MTA with a steady funding source but the plan was rejected by a recalcitrant Senate and only some of Ravitch’s recommendations were enacted.

Ravitch said he came to the conclusion that the payroll tax was an appropriate fundraiser for the MTA, “After consulting with business groups, the fed, every economic forecaster the state and the city use, all the budget offices and everybody concluded that would have the least adverse impact of all possible tax revenue.”

Paterson’s plan clashes with Ravitch’s previous assertions that the entire metro area benefits from the MTA and should therefore share the burden. However there has been great outcry in the suburbs against the tax.

The payroll tax has yielded lower than forecasted returns, leaving the MTA with a growing budget gap.

“I think had the legislature passed the tolls that I recommended we would have had a cushion up to this point,” said Ravitch.

By on February 22, 2010, 6:04 pm
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Troubled Charters
February 22nd, 2010

The controversial New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction will not be moving into the Alfred E. Smith High School building after all, the Daily News reports.

The school has been the subject of scrutiny — and critical press reports — over the past weeks. (For more go here and here. The charter’s founder is under indictment, and two of its current or past board members hold powerful positions at the city Department of Education — which originally decided to give the charter the coveted space. Smith is being phased out.

The move comes as the city Panel on Educational Policy prepares to vote Wednesday evening on placing more charters in Department of Education buildings and amid increased scrutiny of publicly funded, privately operated charter schools (For more on the current debate over charter schools, see Gotham Gazette’s Charter Schools Enter Uncharted Waters.)

Meanwhile another charter has attracted controversy, the time the Ross Global Academy. Now in the East Village, the school, gave the school space in its own Tweed Courthouse, until Ross moved into its current quarters in September.

The school was created by Courtney Sale Ross as the free urban sibling of the posh, new age Ross School in East Hampton.

By on February 22, 2010, 1:00 pm
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Bloomberg Updates Housing Plan
February 22nd, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is injecting the city’s affordable housing plan with another $1 billion, bringing the total investment to build or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing up to $8.5 billion.

The updated plan, which was first announced by the administration in 2002, focuses more on preservation than on the creation of affordable housing.

The update was given at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy’s new Institute for Affordable Housing Policy this morning. The mayor’s prepared remarks are in full after the jump.

For more on the history of plan, see “Affordable Housing Not Included.”

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By on February 22, 2010, 12:32 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Weekly Web Wrap
February 19th, 2010

City Ranks as 16th Most Miserable
Understanding Health Disparities Among the Boroughs
(Department of Health)
Comparing the Government Structures of London and NYC
(Urban Omnibus)
Turning Columbus Circle into an Express Stop
(Second Avenue Sagas)
Newly Released Memo Suggests Overstated Economic Benefits
(Atlantic Yards Report)
How the Planning Department Sabotages Sustainability
The Whine About Wine in Grocery Stores
(The Real Estate)
Behind the Scenes With Adolfo Carrion
(CEOs for Cities)
Animated Google Map Car Chase Through Atlantic Yards
(Digital Urban)
Some Nuance on Congestion Pricing
(NY Fiscal Watch)
Renewable Energy Certificates Now Available for New Yorkers
(Business Green via Freshkills Park Blog)
Beekeeping as an Essential Part of Urban Farming
(Food Systems Network NYC)
The Non-Profit that Saved Central Park
(City Journal)

By on February 19, 2010, 3:40 pm
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Parks Slated to Shutter
February 19th, 2010

This just in from our Parks Topic Page Writer Anne Schwartz:

Governor David Patersons $11 million cut from the state parks operating budget would close parks for the first time in the systems 125-year history. Today, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation released a list of 56 parks and historic sites recommended for closure as well as 24 locations where service would be reduced.

Among the parks that would be affected in the New York City area are Riverbank State Park in Harlem, where the outdoor swimming pool would be closed and operating hours reduced, and popular destinations in Long Island and Westchester.

In addition to the loss of recreational outlets for families squeezed by the recession, closing parks would actually result in a net financial loss for the state, according to one study.

State parks and historic sites generate $1.9 billion annually in economic activity statewide and 20,000 non-park jobs statewide, according to a 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Group. For every dollar the state spends on parks, it gets back $5 dollars in economic activity.

Closing parks would also erase decades of state investment, leaving buildings, bathrooms, trails, sports facilities and natural areas vulnerable to neglect and vandalism. Repairing the damage could be far more costly than keeping parks open. Once a park is closed, they could remain shuttered for years.

It makes more sense to invest in the parks and make them part of the plan to revitalize our economy, as the government did during the Great Depression.

By on February 19, 2010, 3:16 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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