Archive for March, 2011

Silver Touts Budget Restorations for NYC
March 31st, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver does not agree with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assessment that the city got hosed by the state budget. Silver is going to lengths to show that he fought for his city and the district he represents.
I am proud that we in the Assembly led the way, working with the Governor, to address the needs of hard working families and some of our most vulnerable citizens, Silver said in a statement. The states struggling economy required my colleagues and I to make difficult compromises, forcing us like families across our state to reduce expenses and do more with less. But we made sure that we didnt balance this budget on the backs of those who can least afford it and were able to win some key funding restorations to soften the impact of these cuts.

Here is the full release from his office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 31, 2011, 5:52 pm
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Budget Hangover
March 31st, 2011

Legislators have finished passing their budget bills and the protesters have finished their chanting and pizza eating. New York State has a new, on-time budget and those responsible for it aren’t wasting anytime celebrating.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office released a statement with comments from all the legislative leaders. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office put out a separate statement that congratulated Cuomo but ended with this passage:

“Although the millionaires tax was not included in the final budget agreement, we will continue our efforts to convince our partners that it was and is the right thing to do at this time.”

Will Silver be able to press Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos into supporting a millionaire’s tax because of the massive protest that took place at the Captiol and all the labor support it has? We shall see. Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 31, 2011, 1:45 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Budget TV
March 29th, 2011

Want to see the Senate possibly take on a couple of budget bills? Trust me, you do. Nothing the senate does is ever simple. Check it out here.

By on March 29, 2011, 3:35 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Budget TV

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Budget Sleep Over! Bring Marshmallows!
March 29th, 2011

Unhappy with the budget? Want to turn your anger at cuts to school aid and Medicaid into something fun that involves marshmallows? Then we have something right up your ally–or at least a number of protest groups do.

On Wednesday advocacy groups plan to bring thousands of protestors to the capital to camp out and decry the parts of the budget that irk them the most. Here is a snippet of the press release put out by the Alliance for Quality Education and New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness.:

“Capitol Camp-In

WHAT: Hundreds of New Yorkers, unhappy with the budget agreement presented to the Legislature will protest at the Capitol on Wednesday. The groups, representing a broad coalition, will being camping-in all night at the Capitol to bear witness to the votes on this painful budget that includes huge cuts for children, families, seniors, schools and communities combined with a $4.6 billion tax cut for the wealthiest three percent of New Yorkers. The budget also fails to proactively renew and strengthen the rent laws, a sign that the State Legislature is more concerned with pandering to real estate interests than protecting the millions of New Yorkers who depend on these laws to stay in their homes.

WHERE: New York State Capitol, Albany, NY

VISUAL: Hundreds of New Yorkers. Signs. Chanting. Folk Songs. Marshmallows”

By on March 29, 2011, 3:26 pm
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Budgeting for Success
March 29th, 2011

The Senate is scheduled to take up a couple of budget bills this afternoon in an effort to get all of the budget bills voted on before the end of Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bragging rights to an on time budget would be lost if bills are left sitting around un-passed when the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday. But the bills scheduled for a vote today are the easy stuff. The hard parts, education aid, may still be under negotiation–or just being held until the last minute so that legislators don’t decide to vote against the education bills when they realize their districts didn’t get as much funding as another legislator’s district.

The Alliance for Quality Education would like legislators to have a chance to mull over how much school aid their districts are getting and released this statement:

“When Governor Cuomo announced that budget negotiations were completed on Sunday night reporters were told that school aid runs would be available Monday morning,” said Billy Easton executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education in a statement. ” Later this was updated to Monday afternoon, then Tuesday morning, maybe Tuesday afternoon and now published reports say sometime Wednesday. Clearly budget negotiations on Governor Cuomos historically large school aid cuts and the distribution of the small restoration are ongoing. Senate Majority Leader Skelos has made clear that one of the major sticking points for his conference is shares, which is a long standing Albany tradition of manipulating school aid formulas to produce a pre-determined regional distribution. Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 29, 2011, 3:17 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo Strikes Back at Bloomberg
March 28th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Josh Vlasto issued this statement in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assertion that the city is getting royally hosed by the state budget.

“Facing an historic $10 billion deficit, the budget agreement between the Governor and the state legislature closed the gap with shared sacrifice from communities across the state. The budget not only addresses the short term crisis but also puts the state on a path of long term fiscal stability and growth. The agreement restores tens of millions of dollars in additional education aid, millions to keep senior centers open, and millions to protect the homeless. AIM aid to the city was not cut 100%. AIM aid was eliminated last year, so it is a zero percent decrease for fiscal year 2011-2012. Prudent budgeting would not have counted that as an increase. In addition, the City Department of Education has a surplus of over $300 million and the City revenue position has improved so they have much less pressure on their overall budget.

By on March 28, 2011, 2:53 pm
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There is a Budget Deal
March 27th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Dean Skelos have reached an accord on the state budget and the did it before the weekend was out. Here are the details from the governor’s office:


Historic Budget Provides Transformational Plan for State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced an agreement on a 2011-2012 budget that eliminates a $10 billion deficit.

The agreement includes historic reforms that redesign state government, create efficiencies through consolidation, cap spending increases for education and Medicaid, and transform the future budgeting process.

The approximately $132.5 billion budget will reduce spending overall by over 2 percent from the current year, eliminate 3,700 prison beds, establish regional economic development councils, bring performance funding to education, redesign Medicaid, and cap next year’s education and Medicaid spending.

This budget reaches its financial goals with no new taxes and no borrowing, and will also cut next year’s projected budget deficit from $15 billion to about $2 billion.

Recent changes to the budget include an additional $272 million in education which includes restoration of funding for schools for the blind and deaf (4201) and summer school special education. Human services funding of $91 million was added and $86 million for higher education including SUNY hospitals, SUNY and CUNY community colleges. There are also miscellaneous program additions of $33 million including aid to localities and agriculture programs. The budget proposal requires the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to reduce its budget by $170 million to reflect a more proportionate share of the state’s reductions. There were also $54 million in miscellaneous cuts. As a result, the net add spending to this budget is approximately $250 million. In addition, there are no new member items.

“I have said that New York is at a crossroads one road leading to further dysfunction and decline, the other towards fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. I believe this budget puts us on the right path,” Governor Cuomo said. “This budget makes tough choices, which is what you sent me to Albany to do. It closes a $10 billion dollar deficit with no new taxes or borrowing, redesigns government to force it to cut waste and inefficiency, and finally delivers real results for hard-working families across New York State. I applaud and thank Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for working together to reach this agreement.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 27, 2011, 5:31 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Krueger Weighs in On Landlords' Love for Espada
March 24th, 2011

I cant help but wonder what kind of trade association chooses a man currently under Federal indictment for embezzling millions of dollars as their beacon of leadership? If I were a member of the RSA, I would be mortified by the notion that a criminal is given such reverence for the past successes of my trade organization,” Sen. Liz Krueger said in a just-released statement responding to comments made by Rent Stabilizatiion Association president Joe Strasburg. Strasburg recently told landlords that indicted former Sen. Pedro Espada saved the industry. The backlash against those comments is rolling in.

In 1997 and 2003 Joe Bruno, Dean Skelos and the Republican Majority were able to weaken rent regulation laws that affect millions of people, outside of their own districts, because they didnt have a strong Democratic Governor to standing up for the best interests of New Yorks middle class citizens,” Krueger’s statement continues. “Well, now the RSA has the right to be worried. They picked their leadership to be Pedro Espada, and we picked Andrew Cuomo. I’ll stand with my strong Democratic Governor; they can stand with Pedro.

By on March 24, 2011, 5:37 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Landlords Praise Espada
March 24th, 2011

The Times Union posted a YouTube video earlier today of Rent Stabilization Association president Joe Strasburg telling landlords: “The guy who saved this industry was Pedro Espada. The Working Families Party issued a quick response to Strasburg’s comments.

It’s no surprise that the landlords’ association has been relying on backroom deals with legislators in order to stomp on tenants, kill affordable housing, and raise rent. We just didn’t expect them to be so forthright about their connection to criminal enterprise. We applaud their newfound transparency,” said Dan Cantor executive director of the Working Families Party.

Governor Cuomo and the Assembly who Joe Strasburg is apparently no fan of are right to stand up to the landlord lobby. Two million tenants in New York are counting on the Governor and the Speaker to strengthen and extend the rent laws now.

By on March 24, 2011, 4:12 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Budget Deal for Friday?
March 24th, 2011

That’s what Majority Leader Dean Skelos seems to think…or at least sort of. “Im very optimistic that were going to announce a conceptual agreement, perhaps even more than a conceptual agreement Friday. Thats my goal, thats our conferences goal and we believe it can happen,” Skelos told reporters while exiting a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. According to Skelos a millionaires tax will not be part of the budget nor will the renewal of rent regulation.

Silver however said that rent regulations were still on the table. Silver was less certain about a budget deal–saying he “would hope” to have a deal by this weekend.

Leaders have remained fairly optimistic that a budget deal is close but yesterday Cuomo released a video threatening to use budget extenders to enact his budget. If legislators miss the April 1 deadline for the budget they would be forced to either vote for the extenders or shutdown the government. Cuomo has made it more than clear that he is willing to take it to the brink to get what he wants.

By on March 24, 2011, 2:20 pm
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Vote Breakdown for Koch Queensboro
March 24th, 2011

We have had a number of requests for a breakdown of yesterday’s vote on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

(We cover the debate this morning here.)

So, without further ado, here you go:

Maria Del Carmen Arroyo — absent
Charles Barron — no
Gale A. Brewer — yes
Fernando Cabrera — yes
Margaret S. Chin — no
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. — no
Elizabeth S. Crowley — yes
Inez E. Dickens — yes
Erik Martin Dilan — yes
Daniel Dromm — yes
Mathieu Eugene — yes
Julissa Ferreras — yes
Lewis A. Fidler — yes
Helen D. Foster — no
Daniel R. Garodnick — no
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 24, 2011, 11:08 am
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Council to Move Forward Bus Bill
March 23rd, 2011

The City Council is voting on a home rule message today that would give Albany the authority to pass legislation to require the regulation of intercity buses.

The move is an indication that the legislation will be approved in Albany.

The bill, introduced in Albany in February by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, would require discount buses register with the city. It would affect the types of discount buses involved in recent fatal accidents in New Jersey and in the Bronx. Supporters say it would give city officials a better indication of who is operating what vehicles, from where and when.

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with monitoring safety conditions on these vehicles. Council officials said the bill would not regulate safety and would not supersede federal authority.

The City Council must approve a home rule message before the legislation can move in Albany.

By on March 23, 2011, 2:35 pm
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Replacing Indian Point
March 23rd, 2011

Today we cover the Bloomberg administration’s renewed interest in developing waste-to-energy facilities — or plants that burn or heat garbage to create energy.

The administration’s interests are even more timely since Gov. Andrew Cuomo, experts and advocates have called for the closure of Indian Point.

(It should be noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not share their opinion. He said last week: We need energy in this city, and the first thing we have to do is take a very close look at what happened in Japan and see if theres any lessons that we should learn from that and any improvements that we should learn and make at Indian Point.”)

Indian Point provides up to 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Steven Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, estimates waste-to-energy could provide about 10 percent of the city’s needed megawatt hours.

“Particularly if you’d like to get rid of the Indian Point plant, generating 10 percent of the city’s energy from garbage would be feasible,” said Cohen. “What would you rather have? Would you rather have these trucks driving around the city polluting and a nuclear power plant, or would you rather close that down and have a bunch of waste to energy plants?”

Cohen supports the development of small-scale plants throughout the city.

For more on the debate, go here.

By on March 23, 2011, 11:32 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | Comments Off on Replacing Indian Point

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Cuomo on Indian Point
March 22nd, 2011

The Indian Point nuclear plant has become the point of much scrutiny in light of the nuclear disaster in Japan. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he has the assurance of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they will make Indian Point its priority when reviewing seismic risk at nuclear plants across the country. Indian Point is in close proximity to New York City and sits on two fault lines. Here is the release from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 22, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Health | Comments Off on Cuomo on Indian Point

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Parker Gets Three Years Probation
March 21st, 2011

Sen. Kevin Parker was sentenced earlier today to three years probation and a $1,000 fine for his two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief. Parker was accused of assaulting a New York Post photographer who was assigned to snap shots of Parker’s home for a story on the legislator’s mortgage problems.

Parker is known for having a temper and had at least one outburst at his own conference members. Parker’s sentencing comes on the heels of Federal corruption charges against Democrats Sen. Carl Kruger and Assembyman William Boyland.

By on March 21, 2011, 3:00 pm
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Tied to Tech
March 21st, 2011

On Friday, Comptroller John Liu announced he would conduct audits of two Department of Education tech projects: the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, popularly known as ARIS and the Innovation Zone or iZone, the department’s initiative to reshape city schools using on line learning and other technology, among other techniques. The announcement comes at time of increased scrutiny for all the Bloomberg administration technology projects, following the CityTime scandal, including those at the Department of Education.

The Department of Education hired IBM to develop the ARIS system to track student achievement in 2007, spending some $80 million on it. Last week, NY1 reported that many city schools had chosen to buy another system that they claim works better instead. Meanwhile the city is sticking with ARIS and plans on testing a new version of it this spring, Gotham Schools has reported.

Both the past and former chancellor have ties to ARIS The current chancellor, Cathie Black, sat on IBM’s board from 1995 until she stepped down to become chancellor late last year. Over the years, IBM paid Black $300,000 a year for the part-time job, according to the Post In addition to that, Black got a $3.3 million payout when she left the board.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 21, 2011, 1:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Tech | 5 Comments »

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Mapping Classrooms
March 18th, 2011

Under the Department of Education’s revised capital plan for 2010-2014, some districts are winners and some losers.

Overall the department plans to build 19 fewer schools than it had slated a year ago — largely the effect, it says, of cuts in state money for school construction.

Despite the decrease, the Upper West Side is getting a school not in the plan a year ago, but District 26 on the Nassau County border will lose its new school.

To see how your district will fare go here.

By on March 18, 2011, 3:27 pm
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Brennan Tries to Block Crash Tax (UPDATE)
March 18th, 2011

Assemblymember Jim Brennan is taking aim at the Fire Department’s proposed crash tax by introducing legislation in Albany that would prohibit the city from charging drivers for services provided at the scene of an accident.

The controversial tax is part of the FDNY’s attempt to close a looming budget gap. The department already has 20 fire companies on the chopping block.

The tax, which other cities across the country have implemented, would require drivers to pay between $365 and $490 if the Fire Department responds to a motor vehicle accident. The tax would not need City Council approval and is scheduled to go into effect in July.

City residents already pay taxes for these core, fundamental, public-safety services. People should not have to check their wallets before calling for the police or fire departments to respond to an accident, Brennan said.

Though dozens of officials have criticized the tax, it’s unclear whether the proposal has support of the full State Legislature.

UPDATE: Brennan’s office said they don’t know whether the State Senate would support the measure, but they have 23 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

By on March 18, 2011, 12:24 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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New Yorkers Want Wal-Mart (UPDATE)
March 18th, 2011


Photo (cc) Wal-Mart

Despite fierce opposition from the city’s unions and a majority of the City Council, New Yorkers favor bringing the world’s largest retailer to the five boroughs.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University, 57 percent of New York City voters say officials should allow Wal-Mart to open up in the the city, while 36 percent say the retailer should be kept out. If Wal-Mart set up shop in the Big Apple, 68 percent of New York City voters would shop there if it was convenient.

In response to the poll, Steven Restivo, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, sent over the following statement:

The results affirm what we have been hearing for months: New Yorkers want Walmart. Whether it’s physically leaving the city to shop our stores, responding favorably in polls or just voicing their opinion on Facebook and at neighborhood rallies, city residents show their support for Walmart every day. With too many communities living with double-digit unemployment and limited access to affordable groceries, we continue to evaluate local opportunities that will allow us to do what we do best: open stores, create jobs, stimulate economic development and lower the cost of living for customers.

Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement: “Voters agree that Walmart can be tough on its employees and on its mom-and-pop competitors, but even voters in union households say 63 – 34 percent they’ll shop there anyway.”

For months — years actually — city officials have been blocking Wal-Mart’s attempt to infiltrate the New York City market. They claim the retailer’s wages are below average, they have a poor record of providing health care and discriminate against certain employees, specifically women. Officials have also said Wal-Mart would drive out New York City’s mom and pop shops.

On the other hand, the five boroughs already is home to Target, Costco, Best Buy and other big-box retailers. We looked into whether there were stark differences between them.

Here is what we found.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart Free NYC sent over this response to today’s poll:

“New York didn’t become great because of Walmart, it became great because of the thousands of small businesses owners who worked hard to make our mom and pops the engine of our economy — the same neighborhood mom and pops that New Yorkers agree Walmart would destroy,” said Eric Koch, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Free NYC

By on March 18, 2011, 11:28 am
In category: City Hall,Demographics,Economy,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,nextNY | Comments Off on New Yorkers Want Wal-Mart (UPDATE)

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Schools Respond to Applied Science Request
March 17th, 2011

From Korea to India to the United Kingdom, universities across the globe want to get to New York — at least according to the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced the city has received 18 responses from colleges and universities that are interested in building an applied science campus in the Big Apple. The city will narrow the pool over the summer and make a final decision by the end of the year, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The city has promised to make a “significant investment” towards the construction of a campus. According to the adminsitration, the proposals expressed interest in sites like the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Governors Island, Farm Colony on Staten Island and other privately-owned areas.

The campus is part of a larger effort by the adminsitration to attract emerging technologies to the five boroughs (we cover the race to attract bioscience extensively here).

Here are the schools that expressed interest:

bo Akadmi University, Finland
Amity University, India
Carnegie Mellon University with Steiner Studios
Cornell University
Columbia University and the City University of New York
The Cooper Union
cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea
New York University, Carnegie Mellon, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, and IBM
The New York Genome Center, with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the Jackson Laboratory
Purdue University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stanford University
The Stevens Institute of Technology
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
The University of Chicago
The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

By on March 17, 2011, 1:45 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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