Archive for September, 2010

Grade Deflation?
September 30th, 2010

The era of the almost automatic A for city schools seems to have ended.

The Department of Education released its progress reports (a.k.a. school report cards) for city elementary and middle schools this year, and the grades, while still high, represented a sharp drop from last year.

In the latest accounting, 25 percent of the schools got A’s and 35 percent B’s — a distribution somewhat preordained by a curve. Only 1 percent failed. While 750 schools saw their grades drop, only 22 improved.

Last year the department came in for widespread derision when it declared that 84 percent of all schools had earned A’s. Following that, the city said it would change its methodology this year and pledged to “raise the bar.” As part of that it has established a grading curve so only 25 percent of school could get As.

When the state announced this summer that it was altering the scale for grading standardized tests — fewer students would be marked as meeting standards — the city set a floor for how much any school could plummet on its report card from one year to the next. In other words, even though many more kids are considered to have failed the state tests, only a limited number of schools will flunk. (For more detail on how the scores are figured, see Gotham Schools.)
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By on September 30, 2010, 12:04 pm
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Paladino Blows His Top
September 29th, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino lost his temper in an exchange with the NY Post’s Fred Dicker outside a meeting of the Business Council in Bolton Landing. Paladino and Dicker seemed close to a physical altercation. You can watch the exchange yourself, here. Paladino recently made accusations that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo cheated on his wife.

Dicker asked for evidence of Cuomo’s infidelity and that is when Paladino snapped. Paladino accused Dicker of sending a photographer to follow his 10-year-old daughter that he had outside of his marriage. Paladino called Dicker a “stalking horse.” Paladino also told Dicker, “I’ll take you out!” Paladino’s campaign manager accused Dicker of working for Cuomo. Paladino and Dicker had to be physically separated.

Isn’t this campaign supposed to be about making New York less dysfunctional?

By on September 29, 2010, 9:03 pm
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The Board of Elections Blames the Mayor
September 29th, 2010

Two weeks ago, after the primary, Mayor Michael Bloomberg accused the city Board of Elections of a royal screw-up in its handling of the first city election using new voting technology. With New Yorkers complaining about polling places opening late and machines that did not work, Bloomberg did not mince words.

“Sometimes you sit there and you say, ‘Could it possibly get any worse?’ And then you look at our Board of Elections, and, yes it can,” Bloomberg told reporters. “What happened is a disgrace and it never should have happened.”

Today at a State Senate committee hearing, the board had a chance to fire back — and it did — aiming at the mayor himself for not giving the board the money it needed to make the transition.

“There is no cheap way to run an election,” Commissioner J.R. Polanco told the senators at the downtown Manhattan hearing. He said the board had asked for $16 million to conduct public education on the new system but received $10 million less.
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By on September 29, 2010, 9:02 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on The Board of Elections Blames the Mayor

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Quinn Says Vacancy Study Too Expensive
September 29th, 2010

Council Speaker Christine Quinn rejected a proposal today being pushed by anti-homelessness advocates to survey vacant buildings throughout the city, calling it “enormously expensive.”

The measure, based off a similar law in Boston, would require the city take an inventory of all of its vacant buildings and lots every year. Advocates hope those spaces would then be used as temporary housing for the homeless.

“Collecting that data is enormously expensive,” Quinn said, putting the cost at “millions of dollars.” In tough fiscal times, she added, “that money may be better spent assisting the homeless.”

Just outside of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, the council’s temporary home, members of Picture the Homeless, the group pushing the measure, gathered to convince the City Council to move on the bill. When asked about the speaker’s response, one board member scoffed.

“That thing about it not being economically feasible is a facade to cover up the fact that this adminsitration is in bed with the real estate industry,” said Jean Rice, the aforementioned board member.

Picture the Homeless has done its own study on the cost of the bill, which they put at under $50,000 per year.

By on September 29, 2010, 3:16 pm
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Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study
September 29th, 2010

For months, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has put off opining on a proposal to require paid sick leave in the city, saying she wanted to wait for the results of a study on the issue by business leader, the Partnership for New York City.

That study came out yesterday, saying the proposal would cost $789 million. Also yesterday, the Drum Major Institute released its own study on the issue, saying the proposal wouldn’t harm job or business growth.

Quinn — granted she has had only one day to mull it over — isn’t ready to say which one she sides with.

“I am considering all of the pros, all the cons,” said Quinn. “There are few bills that are perfect.”

She said the council was “reviewing” the studies and would make a decision on the bill, which has a super majority of support in the council, “very soon.”

By on September 29, 2010, 2:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off on Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study

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CBA Report From Liu is Here!
September 29th, 2010

The much anticipated report (well, for some of us) from Comptroller John Liu’s public benefits task force was released this morning, urging the city to adopt a new public process for community benefit agreements.

Having grown in popularity (included in Columbia redevelopment and in 125th street), the comptroller is calling for greater transparency, the inclusion of a consultant to coordinate the agreement and giving the comptroller’s office oversight over the agreements implementation.

The report is silent on the city’s Industrial Development Agency and its deals (which we covered extensively), despite Liu giving an early indication it might be included in the recommendations.


PBA Task Force – Final Report[1]

By on September 29, 2010, 7:59 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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September 28th, 2010

For the second year in a row Gotham Gazette has been named a finalist for the general excellence award in its size category given by the Online News Association. Last year, we won, so we’re crossing our fingers hoping for a repeat when the association hands out the prizes at the end of October.

The awards have often been likened to the Pulitzers of the digital world. Other finalists include Pro Publica, NPR and the New York Times. (For a complete list, go here.)

By on September 28, 2010, 3:00 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Siena Poll: Republicans Could Take State Senate
September 28th, 2010

A poll by the Siena Research Institute shows that Democrats are at risk of losing the state senate. We recently reported that things seemed to be shifting in favor of Republicans and now this poll seems to back it up.

The poll shows that Sen. Frank Padavan, who was thought to be in trouble, has a large lead over Tony Avella and Sen. Hugh Farley has a significant over Democratic challenger Susan Savage.

Meanwhile Democratic incumbents Darrel Aubertine and Brian Foley are in extremely close races with their Republican challengers. Democrats have enjoyed an extremely thin 32-30 majority in the senate and have suffered a number of major scandals involving their members.

Padavan, who enjoys a 56 to 32 percent lead over his opponent according to the poll, said that the numbers reflect his “sophisticated” constituency and a feeling amongst his constituents that Democrats are responsible for major tax and fee increases. Padavan narrowly kept his seat in 2008 but he attributes that to the “Obama tidal wave.”

“The people see that the senate leadership has brought the state into an abyss,” said Padavan. “The top of their leadership has been under state and federal investigation for one thing or another and people realize that has to change.

Celeste Katz of the Daily Politics has a round up of reaction from Democrats and Republicans to the poll.

By on September 28, 2010, 2:35 pm
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Dueling Numbers on Sick Leave
September 28th, 2010

Council members, choose your numbers! Two studies have been issued today on the effect of a proposal now in City Council that would require employers to give their worker paid sick leavewould have on the economy — and they will almost certainly do nothing to resolve the issue.

One, by the Drum Major Institute, a progressive think tank, found mandatory paid sick leave would “not harm job growth or business growth.”

The Drum Major study used San Francisco’s experience with paid sick leave. It concluded that, in the three years since that city has enacted a mandatory sick leave policy similar to the one proposed for New York, “both job growth and business growth in San Francisco have consistently been greater than in the five neighboring counties of the Bay Area, none of which have enacted paid sick leave.”

Meanwhile a survey by the Partnership for New York City, a business group, also released today, said any mandatory paid sick leave law would “devastate the citys construction, restaurant and non-profit sector.” The partnership study was based on responses to a survey of employers on how their businesses might be affected by any such law.
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By on September 28, 2010, 1:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Health,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Judge Lazio?
September 27th, 2010

It seems the only ways Rick Lazio can get off the ballot as a gubernatorial candidate are to die, move out of state or be nominated for a judgeship. Apparently the first two do not appeal to the former congressman, so tonight Rick Lazio will be nominated for a Supreme Court judgeship from the Bronx, Daily Politics reports.

In case you’re wondering, as State of Politics explains, Lazio does not have to move to the Bronx or even serve as a judge. His name simply must appear on the ballot.

An interesting way of separating the court from politics, don’t you think?

By on September 27, 2010, 12:31 pm
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Lazio Withdraws
September 27th, 2010

The Times is reporting that Rick Lazio has agreed to have his name withdrawn as the Conservative Party candidate for governor, setting up a head-to-head confrontation between Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino, with some minor party candidates as well. Paladino is now expected to be the Conservative Party candidate.

Lazio’s decision is good news for Paladino. Republicans in New York almost always need the Conservative Party line to win. Although last week’s polls on the governor’s race were confusing and contradictory to say the least they did seem to indicate that Paladino closed the gap with Cuomo somewhat when Lazio was not figured into the race.

By on September 27, 2010, 12:19 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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No Home and Then No School
September 24th, 2010

Efforts to improve New York City schools may be leaving some homeless students behind, according to a new study. The report by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness in New York City found that several of the high schools slated for closure last year — notably Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx — had a far higher proportion of homeless students than other high schools in their boroughs.

The report said that more research needs to be done on the effect closing these schools would have on the homeless “given that these students are already housing displaced, at an educational disadvantage, and highly likely to fall through the cracks during transfers and phase-outs.” The institute also called for helping homeless students in schools slated for closure transfer to other schools.

The closings seem to represent just one arc of a vicious circle for homeless students. As Education Week reports today, studies have found they are more likely to repeat a grade than their counterparts. They are also more likely to attend low-performing high schools, which are the schools officials in New York and elsewhere try to close. And, then studies of New York and Chicago have shown, they are at risk of transferring to another low performing school. According to Ed Week, a 2009 study in Chicago concluded that the effects of having to shift to another school eliminated the benefit for students of closing the first low-performing school.

The report is likely to reinforce calls that, before closing schools, the New York City Department of Education more fully consider the impacts that closing would have on the students, community and other schools. The courts earlier this year halted the closing of 20 schools, ruling that the Department of Education had not adequately addressed possible impact. The department has indicated it will try to close the schools again this year.

By on September 24, 2010, 1:23 pm
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Second Thoughts on Mayoral Control?
September 22nd, 2010

“The hard-charging pace of change won widespread praise among education reformers and commentators nationally, but earned the mayor and his schools chief the enmity of many city residents and teachers union members, who felt left out of the loop and harbored bitterness about the dismissal of veteran teachers and other staff members.”

Since you’re reading Gotham Gazette, you probably assume the subject here is Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

It’s not though. This is about Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and his handpicked schools chief, Michelle Rhee. Unlike Bloomberg in 2005 and 2009, Fenty got the boot from voters last week and Rhee will most likely leave with him. (Fenty could get a second shot in November as the Republican candidate in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.)

A week after that vote and victories by three state senators in New York targeted by backers of charter schools, experts continue to mull what the votes mean for the so-called school reform movement and for mayoral control of schools, particularly the iron grip version practiced in New York and Washington D.C.

Opinions after the jump.
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By on September 22, 2010, 3:43 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo Has a Campaign on His Hands
September 22nd, 2010

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino are only 6 points apart in their race for the governor’s mansion according to a Quinnipiac Poll released today.

Surveyed voters went 49 percent for Cuomo and 43 percent for Paladino. If the poll is a true indication of anything. then Paladino is surging and Cuomo has a real race on his hands. Cuomo has reportedly been strategizing how to get tough with Paladino without resorting to direct attacks. Today Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Cuomo.

I spoke to a number of Democratic legislators today who said that while the poll concerns them they think it simply means Cuomo will actually have to get out and sell his candidacy.

Cuomo spent the last few months dodging most press and running a campaign that looked more like he was expecting an anointment than an election. Now Democrats expect Cuomo to use his notorious political savvy to go at Paladino on all fronts.

“He knows now this isn’t a rose garden election,” said one legislator. “It means Andrew will actually have to tell people who he is. Run a real campaign and talk to people. It isn’t a bad thing. I think when people find out who Andrew is they will be very happy.”

By on September 22, 2010, 3:33 pm
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Gotham Gazette on BronxTalk
September 21st, 2010

Here is a link to my appearance on BronxTalk last night. I discussed the primary results with Gary Axelbank and Roberto Perez of the Perez Notes. A fun time was had by most. Please excuse my corpulence, babbling and melon of a head head.

By on September 21, 2010, 4:26 pm
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Labor Slams Bloomberg Cuts
September 21st, 2010

Talk about timing.

After a breakfast this morning where two deputy mayors talked of taking on the city’s unions and the adminsitration announced a new hiring freeze and budget cuts, Lillian Roberts, the executive director of the city’s largest municipal workers union, DC37, is slamming the adminsitration.

Here is her response:

City workers deliver essential services that New Yorkers need to maintain a decent quality of life. Were already working with bare-bones staffing in most agencies. Now, what does the Mayor do? He puts a freeze on citywide hiring of the very men and women who deliver these essential services.

What he needs to do is put a freeze on outside contracts that prop up private consultants by squandering taxpayers dollars on operations with cost overruns in the millions of dollars, like CityTime, or seek to sell off city services and throw experienced, dedicated city workers out on the street, like the HHC restructuring plan.

The Bloomberg adminsitration sent a letter to all agency heads today asking for $800 million in cuts for the current fiscal year (Uniformed forces and education could see cuts of 2.7 percent, while all other agencies could see 5.4 percent cuts). For the next fiscal year, which starts in July, the adminsitration is hoping to see $1.2 billion in savings, with 4 percent cuts for uniformed agencies and 8 percent for all others.

According to the mayor’s office, the city faces a $3.3 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2012. All agency cuts must be submitted by Oct. 8.

By on September 21, 2010, 2:04 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Liu and EDC Make Amends?
September 21st, 2010

Let’s call them frenemies.

Since taking office in January, Comptroller John Liu has gone after the city Economic Development Corp., including its financing arm, the Industrial Development Agency, arguing it is opaque and ineffective. He has gone as far as to vote against every measure in front of the IDA board (where he serves as an ex officio member).

So, when the Industrial Development Agency board approved new governing rules this morning — many of which are aimed at increasing transparency — Liu’s office couldn’t help but take some credit for it. (For an in-depth look at the IDA, see our two-part series: “Subsidies in the City.“)

“It is encouraging that the Economic Development Corporation is now taking seriously the need for better operating practices and
procedures with regard to IDA matters,” said Liu in a prepared statement. “While todays action is an important first step in recognizing previous shortcomings, more can and must be done to ensure that tax dollars are used effectively. My office will continue working with the EDC to make sure that information is available in each instance to determine whether all applicants are treated fairly, the cost per job is reasonable, and if specific benefits are truly necessary.

In this go-round, it’s hard to tell if they are sparring or reconciling.

A spokesperson for Liu’s office said they were “confident” the reforms were in part because of Liu’s influence. But a spokesperson from the Economic Development Corp., however, begs to differ.

“We have the most open and transparent IDA in the state and now its even more transparent thanks to a series of reform measures dating back to 2005,” said David Lombino, a spokesperson for the EDC, in an e-mailed statement. “And that while the comptroller wasnt the impetus for these measures, we welcome his input which is why the invitation to discuss procedures with his office still stands.

Regardless of who takes credit, here are some of the measures that were approved this morning: applicants will have to provide project and citywide wage and employment information, cost-benefit analysis will be posted online 12 days before a hearing, board agendas will be posted online seven days before a meeting, and public hearings and board meetings will be webcast. The full resolution is below.

Omnibus Resolution

By on September 21, 2010, 1:36 pm
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Lopez by a Landslide
September 21st, 2010

Despite having what Tom Robbins of the Voice described as “some of the worst press since Tiger Woods,” Vito Lopez last night was resoundingly re-elected to his post as Brooklyn Party Democratic boss.

In the face of a rapidly mounting pile of allegations of impropriety — and perhaps even outright illegality — at Lopez’s Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, he defeated rival Chris Owens by a vote of 47 to 3 with 2 abstentions. To help seal his victory, the Brooklyn Paper reported, Lopez appointed 11 at-large members to the county party committee.

The New Kings Democrats, which wants Lopez to step down, tried to put the best face on this in a release, saying that the insurgent faction had managed to force Lopez to open the meeting.

We brought people together, we got new business on the agenda, and we made some inroads, Owens told a reporter. We wanted the county leader to understand that were not going to be quiet and roll over like we did before.

By on September 21, 2010, 1:03 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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The Third Term Legacy?
September 21st, 2010

Labor watch out.

If deputy mayors Howard Wolfson and Stephen Goldsmith had their way, you might be in store for cuts to your pension benefits. At a breakfast hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission this morning, Goldsmith and Wolfson (who both joined the Bloomberg adminsitration this year) said curtailing pension costs will be a major goal of a Bloomberg third term.

“New York City runs the risk of becoming General Motors,” said Wolfson of the escalating cost. “We’ll be assuming a debt to retirees that is unsustainable.”

According to the mayor’s executive budget, pension contributions for fiscal year 2011 comprise 12 percent of the entire city budget — now at $63.1 billion. From fiscal year 2010 to 2011, pension costs are projected to increase from nearly $6.8 billion to $7.6 billion.

Unions looking to increase their standard salaries as their contracts expire this year should forget about it, Wolfson said. “There is no money for salary increases,” he warned.

The comments from both Wolfson and Goldsmith indicate the adminsitration will be taking a hard line with labor over the next four years — something some advocates have said is a long time coming. They also come as the adminsitration announces another hiring freeze.

And in a talking point that has become pro forma, Wolfson said: “The mayor is not running for anything.” That makes it all the more likely he will go after controversial policies and proposals, like pension reform, Wolfson said.
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By on September 21, 2010, 12:33 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Diaz for Majority Leader?
September 20th, 2010


Haile Rivera is urging that Sen. Ruben Diaz be made majority leader of the state senate. He also wants Gustavo Rivera, the man who defeated the current majority leader Sen. Pedro Espada, to back Diaz for majority leader. Funny enough, Diaz recently issued a statement saying that another Hispanic should replace Espada, he even suggest Rivera as a candidate, but said he would not take the post.

I was just on BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank and Roberto Perez from the Perez Notes and we discussed who might get that post. Perez touted Gustavo Rivera as a possibility and in some ways I agree that Rivera, who defeated the man who has come to represent corruption, could very well be a candidate. It is unlikely because is a freshman but it all comes down to whether Democrats can hold on to their majority and if the do how much of a majority they have. Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson may very well find himself at the mercy of Diaz if his party does not gain a few seats.

Here is Hailie Rivera’s press release supporting Diaz, (it came in bright-blue font but I am not having that on this blog):


By on September 20, 2010, 11:07 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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