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Publisher Runs for Mayor
July 12th, 2011

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg set to exit the city’s political scene in 2013, another wealthy albeit not nearly that wealthy — publisher has started eying his job.

Tom Allon, publisher of Manhattan Media, which owns neighborhood weekly, City Hall and the New York Press, among other publications, has told Crain’s he wants to run for mayor.

Whatever else Allon’s candidacy might or might not do, it raises interesting campaign finance questions, Azi Paybarah of the Observer reports. While the papers can continue to cover the news , including politicking by their boss, they could raise questions, Eric Friedman of the Campaign Finance Board, told Paybarah “if they put him on the front page and say, Here’s why this guy is going to be a great mayor.”

In their morning email, City Hall and the Capitol, its sister publication said, “We’re putting up a wall between Allon’s aspirations and our coverage of New York politics, and well cover him like any other candidate — which means well wait to see if he’s taken seriously before we do.”

Expressing skepticism on that very point, the email said, “What seems like a vanity run to push his pet issue of improving city schools is a long shot at best.”
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By on July 12, 2011, 7:09 pm
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Raising Money for 2013
July 12th, 2011

The reporting period for contributions to city campaign ended yesterday, and some candidates have already filed their reports.

Two declared candidate for City Council - Helen Rosenthal in the sixth district in Manhattan (now represented by Gale Brewer, who is term limited) and Ari Hoffnung in the 11th district in the Bronx (now represented by Oliver Koppell, also term limited) have filed their reports. Hoffnung has raised a total of slightly more than $79,000 going back to 2008. Rosenthal has brought in almost $55,000.

Both candidates originally contemplated council bids in 2009 but pulled back when the mayor and City Council extended term limits, letting the incumbents in their districts run for another four years.

Several candidates considering bids for mayor also will file their disclosures forms in the next few days. Crain’s reports several will report substantial war chests, with Christine Quinn expected to have about $4 million - some $1 million of it raised in this six-month filing period. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer apparently has amassed $2.5 million and Bill de Blasio $657,000.

This will also be the first filing period since 2009 where Bill Thompson the former comptroller and unsuccessful 2009 mayoral candidate shows up. He has reportedly raised about $82,000 (though its not on the Campaign Finance Board web site yet.)

By on July 12, 2011, 6:31 pm
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From Weiner to Weprin
July 7th, 2011

The Queens and Brooklyn Democratic parties have reportedly selected State Assemblymember David Weprin as the party’s choice to replace Anthony Weiner as the Congress member from New York’s 9th District.

He will face an as yet to be determined Republican — and maybe a Conservative too — in a special election on Sept. 13. Although Democrats have held the seat for decades, Republicans hope they have an opening because of Weiner’s demise and, by New York City standards, a fairly high number of registered Republicans in the district.

Weprin served on the City Council where he chaired the powerful Finance Committee until he left to make an unsuccessful run for city comptroller, coming in fourth in a field of four. He then moved to the State Assembly, replacing his brother, Mark, who had been elected to his old council seat.

Weprin reportedly has said he would not try to run for a full term next year — a key issue since the district is likely to be redistricted out of its existence leaving meaning he would have had to take on another Queens incumbent if he wanted to stay in Washington. This could lead the way to Weprin’s making another bid for city office — comptroller, perhaps.

If Weprin wins on Sept. 13, there then could be yet another special election – that one to fill his Assembly seat. That post has been held by one member of the Weprin family or another since 1971.

By on July 7, 2011, 3:11 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing | 2 Comments »

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Developers' Dollars
July 5th, 2011

The New York Post’s David Seifman reported Sunday that developers left without a candidate in the 2013 mayoral race after the demise of Rep Anthony Weiner might support Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. This has the appeal of a man bites dog story — de Blasio a favored candidate of many unions and the Working Families Party, would seem an unlikely politician for developers to embrace.

Whatever the merit of Seifman’s story, it was a little puzzling for its omission of at least one candidate who already has a lot of support from the real estate industry: Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Using Gotham Gazette’s Councilpedia, we examined Quinn’s major contributors for the 2013 race (many of who actually gave in 2007 and 2008, before the extension of term limits sunk Quinn’s 2009 run for Gracie Mansion). And we discovered a large number of $4,950 contributions — the maximum allowed for citywide candidates — from people involved in real estate.

In a number of cases, several people associated with a company anted up. At least six people
with links to Rudin Management, one of the citys largest building developers and owners, gave $4,950, as did five members of the Gural family of the global real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank and the president of Newmark, James Kuhn. Three members of the Walentas family of Two Trees Management, which has developed much of DUMBO< gave $4,950 each, as did two executives with the company, Amish Patel and Richard Shill. Thee people associated with Rose Associates opened their wallets for the maximum, as did two Roses with the Georgetown Co. At least five people with ties to The Benjamin Companies on Long Island gave Quinn $4,950, and so did at least four people with ties to Related. And so on.

More on the money trail after the jump
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By on July 5, 2011, 3:40 pm
In category: City Hall,Environment,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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It's a Budget!
June 29th, 2011

By a vote of 49 to 1, the City Council today approved a $66 billion budget for New York City for fiscal year 2012. The measure contains no teacher layoffs and does not shut any fire companies — but it does include layoffs for at least 1,000 other city workers and cutbacks in some popular programs, such as scholarship for student at the City University.

Despite that most council members clearly thought they had done a pretty good job.

This is, Speaker Christine Quinn said, “not a perfect budget. It would be impossible to have a perfect budget when the city and our tax revenues are still feeling the effects of the recession.”
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By on June 29, 2011, 2:31 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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The Pork List
June 28th, 2011

The New York City Council apparently is still planning to vote on the 2012 budget later today (maybe much later – stay tuned).

In the meantime, the council has released its Schedule C, which lists “funding for community based not-for-profit and other public service
Organizations.” This is, in other words, the list of so-called member items, also known as earmarks or pork — some 700 pages worth.

We’ll be combing through it and posting much of it on Councilpedia in the coming days. In the meantime, you can take a look yourself by going here.

Let us now if you find anything interesting — and we’ll do the same.

By on June 28, 2011, 1:06 pm
In category: City Hall,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Session Adjourns With No Action on Rent
June 17th, 2011

As Democrats prepared to vote in favor of a temporary extension on rent regulation (see below), the Senate Republican leadership ended a session without taking a vote on the measure, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports.

Only minutes later they seem to have reversed course and headed back into session, likely under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Earlier this week Republicans had favored the temporary extension on the grounds it could likely lead to a straightforward extension of existing laws, rather than the strengthening that tenant advocates are seeking. Now, though, the calculus has changed as Gov,. Andrew Cuomo apparently has entered the fray on the side of tougher laws.

By on June 17, 2011, 5:33 pm
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Cuomo Threatened Rent Emergency
June 17th, 2011

In an apparent effort to jumpstart negotiations on rent regulation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly threatened to essentially return the power to control rents to the New York City Council, David King reports from Albany.

Sources tell King that the decision by many Senate Democrats to vote against a temporary extension yesterday apparently spurred the governor to act. He responded by contacting the two key real estate industry groups — the Rent Stabilization Association and the Real Estate Board of New York — and threatened that, without an extension, he would declare an emergency that would put rent regulation into the hands of the pro rent control council.

That, sources say, would have paved the way for repeal of the Urstadt law, the 1971 measure that bars New York City from adopting its own, more stringent rent regulations. Tenant groups have long sought repeal of the law with no success.

The move has reportedly prompted the two powerful associations to realize they might have to make concessions. And pro-tenant Democrats, now seemingly confident substantive negations will actually take place, seem likely to support a temporary extension.

By on June 17, 2011, 5:22 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Rent Negotiatons
June 17th, 2011

With state legislators eager to get home for the weekend and to break for the end of session on Monday or Tuesday, this afternoon has seen a flurry of activity around rent regulations, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports.

The Senate will likely consider a full extension of the rent laws early next week, with a vote on Monday or Tuesday, according to Sen. Kevin Parker. There is no indication whether any bill would strengthen the existing rules or keep them as is.

In the meantime, though, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a temporary extension, and has vowed to call legislators into special session tomorrow if they do not approve a one today. Just such a stopgap measure has gone to the Senate rules committee. Democrats, citing progress on the rent issue, seem likely to vote for the temporary bill — and enjoy their June Saturday somewhere other than in the Capitol.

For more on the rent negotiation, see Tenants on the Brink and follow DavidHowardKing on Twitter.

By on June 17, 2011, 4:52 pm
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Smokers Park?
June 15th, 2011

Marissa Miller filed this post.

Smokers take note: The city’s ban on smoking in parks so far does not apply to Hudson River Park. It is not part of the city’s park system — it is state regulated – and therefore does not fall under its jurisdiction.

That could change, though. The park is in somewhat of a “gray” area and so, according to the parks department, its exemption from the ban is currently under review.

For now, Hudson River Park has refrained from installing the “no smoking” signs found in other city parks. However, some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods worry that it will turn into a smokers “paradise,” infested by smokers from all around the city.

In an e-mail statement, David Katz, vice president of marketing and events at Hudson River Park Trust, wrote, “The state’s Administrative Procedures Act requires us to provide a public review and comment period and a hearing prior to issuing or amending our park rules. We are not allowed to ban smoking until this process is completed. At our most recent board meeting, we were asked to commence this process. We expect to hold a public hearing this summer on a proposal to ban smoking in the park.”

So, New Yorkers will have to wait and see if this park will remain a smoker’s oasis for much longer.

It was reported elsewhere that Battery Park City would also participate in this exemption from the ban as it also falls under state jurisdiction. However, a spokesperson from the Battery Park City Authority confirmed, “Battery Park City will follow New York City Park rules and regulations” and thus abide by the smoking ban.

By on June 15, 2011, 9:14 am
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Tapping a Labor Fund
June 14th, 2011

Talks are continuing over whether the city labor unions would give the city money from a rainy day healthcare fund to go avert layoffs of 4,100 teachers and other city workers, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today. Any money might also go to save some fire companies and seniors centers now slated to be shut.

At a press conference before todays scheduled council meeting, Quinn made it clear the idea of using money from the fund had come from the Municipal Labor Committee and its chairman, Harry Nespoli.

“I want to be vey clear how very grateful I am to Harry Nespoli and the Labor Council that they are even entertaining” helping the city government in this way, Quinn said.

She said the idea came up after “I said to Harry, ‘we need help,’… Harry said, “‘yes, let me see what we can do,’ and they got back to me.”

Currently, Quinn said, the labor group is considering what its specific proposal might be. Once they do, discussions can proceed from there, she said.

Nespoli and the committee are reportedly planning to discuss the idea tomorrow.
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By on June 14, 2011, 5:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Tallying the Marriage Votes
June 13th, 2011

This morning we cited a story in the Post reporting that seven Republicans have told Gov. Andrew Cuomo they are prepared to vote in favor of marriage equality if and when the measure comes to the Senate floor.

The story by Fred Dicker cited Kemp Hannon of Nassau County, Charles Fuschillo of Suffolk County, Betty Little of Glens Falls, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, Greg Ball of Putnam County, James Alesi of Rochester and Roy McDonald of Rensselaer County — all of whom voted against marriage equality when the issue went down to defeat in December 2009 — as being “unexpected potential Senate Republican ‘yes’ votes.” Their switch, along with that of some Democrats, would be “more than enough to put the controversial and historic measure over the top this week, ” Dicker wrote.

But supporters of same-sex marriage should not pop the cork on the champagne bottles yet. Several of the senators cited in Dicker’s piece have told Liz Benjamin of State of Politics that they remain opposed to gay marriage. These include Hannon, Little and Fuschillo.

And in an interview with the Times, Alesi played it coy saying, “I do believe in the sanctity of marriage… I grew up a Roman Catholic. Its a sacrament,” and then adding, “It’s a sacrament that exists in the 21st century.”

While no Republicans publicly backs the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said he will let members vote their conscience on the matter.

As for Democrats, the Times reports that one or more of three previously undecided Democrats who voted no last time around — Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo and Carl Kruger — could endorse the bill in the next day or so.

By on June 13, 2011, 2:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Klein Cashes in on Race to the Top
June 9th, 2011

The Daily News’ Rachel Monahan has an eye-opening story today that the state is about to award a chunk of its federal Race to the Top funds to the company now run buy former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. It’s hard to imagine a tale more rife with seeming conflicts of interest.

First the news, according to Monahan: The state Department of Education is about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on. The system would be similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, developed for the city schools when Klein ran them.

The state, according to the News, said the no-bid contract is justified because ARIS already cover a third of the state (i.e. the city) and the system has received national recognition.

Recognition, yes, — but not all of it positive.
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By on June 9, 2011, 5:09 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Tech | 2 Comments »

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More Elections, Less Suspense
June 9th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected and material about Pheffer’s seat added.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Assemblymember Jonathan Bing’s appointment as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau, City Hall reported that Democrat Daniel Quart, a community board member and lawyer, is the frontrunner for the seat from Manhattan’s 73rd Assembly District.

With the election not even scheduled yet, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose congressional district includes Bing’s Assembly district, assured City Hall that Quart will be the candidate.

No disrespect of Quart intended but the rapid development underscores once again the rather undemocratic nature of special elections — especially those in districts, such as this one, where one party holds a lopsided edge.

More on threefour Assembly vacancies and how they’ll be filled after the jump.
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By on June 9, 2011, 2:51 pm
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Another Vacant Assembly Seat
June 8th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected.

It looks as though there will be another opening in the city’s delegation in the State Assembly. Gov Andrew Cuomo has announced the appointment of Manhattan Assemblymember Jonathan Bing as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau.

The agency’s mission, according to its web site, is to protect policyholders and creditors of insurance companies that have gone bankrupt. Bing would replace Dennis J. Hayes.

The city already has twothree unfilled Assembly seats: District 54 in Brooklyn, which became vacant when Cuomo named Darryl Towns CEO for Homes and Community Renewal; District 27, left vacant by the retirement of Nettie Mayersohn; and District 23, which became open when Audrey Pheffer resigned to become Queens County clerk.

So far, no special election has been scheduled.

By on June 8, 2011, 12:35 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Barriers to Cleaner Boilers
June 8th, 2011

Zachary Bergson filed this post.

Manhattan borough President Scott Stringer released a report this week criticizing the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to phase out boilers that consume highly polluting No. 4 and No. 6 oil.

In the report, Stringer said the department’s plan to phase out dirty boilers that burn the two dirty oils did not go far enough and failed to consider the financial burdens boiler conversions will place on residents of rent-regulated buildings.
The city has estimated that boilers burning the polluting oil account for over 3,000 deaths and 6,000 asthma related emergency department visits every year. Although only 1 percent of buildings use this oil, it is blamed for 86 percent of soot pollution from buildings.

According to Stringer’s report, approximately 63 percent of the 8,912 buildings that use dirty boilers contain one or more rent regulated units. In the Bronx, rent regulated buildings accounted for over 80 percent of dirty boiler buildings, the highest concentration in the city.

As part of the update to his environmental program — PlaNYC2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg in April announced that the city would phase out boilers that burn the heaviest — and so most polluting — No. 6 oil by 2015 an No. 4 by 2030. But Stringer’s report said thousands of residents of rent-regulated buildings would continue to be at risk because of financial loopholes that would allow owners to delay boiler conversions.
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By on June 8, 2011, 12:02 pm
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Weiner's Millions
June 7th, 2011

However low his political stock may have fallen this week, Anthony Weiner’s campaign bank account balance remains high, leaving the Tweeting representative from Brooklyn and Queens with lots of cash and perhaps no place to spend it.

According to city Campaign Finance Board records, Weiner has collected $5.1 million for a likely mayoral run in 2013, most of it raised in 2007 and 2008. That was back in the days when Weiner — single and perhaps not yet on Twitter — was coming off a strong showing in the 2005 Democratic mayoral primary and Mayor Michael Bloomberg still dreamed of the White House, not a third term in Gracie Mansion. Weiner backed out of the 2009 race — reportedly much to Bloomberg’s relief — after the mayor extended term limits and decided to run for re-election. Records show Weiner has not raised any money since 2008 — although he has returned some contributions during that period.

As he is allowed to do under city campaign law, Weiner rolled the money over into a new account for 2013. And he has made some modest expenditures.

That leaves him with somewhere around about $4 million as of the last filing deadline: January 2011. (For a summary of Weiner’s raising and spending go here.)

Weiner has a substantial fundraising edge over his closest rival — Christine Quinn who has raised about $3.2 million and spent a little less than $500,00 of it — and dwarfs the amounts raised by other possible mayor contenders Scott Stringer (a little les than $1.1 million raised), John Liu ($513,472) and Bill de Blasio ($392,576).

As they say, though, money isn’t everything. And however much Weiner might like to use funds to say escape to a dessert island where no one Tweets (assuming there is such a place), he is fairly constrained about how he can use the money, according to Eric Friedman, director of external affairs for the Campaign Finance Board.

More on what he can and can’t do after the jump.
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By on June 7, 2011, 5:24 pm
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Quinn, Recchia Offer More Budget Brainstorms
June 6th, 2011

The City Council leadership continues the drumbeat against the city’s burgeoning contract budget. In a release issued today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic Recchia contend that cutting 5 percent of the contract budget in four areas — unspecific general contractual services, data process equipment and commuter consultants, legal services and other professional services — would free up money to save all 20 fire companies slated for the ax.

The contract budget has surfaced as a key point of contention this year, fueled by scandals over CityTime and various education department technology deals — and by its sheer size. The contract budget has grown by more than 70 percent since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and is slated to top $10.3 billion next fiscal year. (For more on the dispute over city contracts and consultants, see Officials Call for Holding the Line on Contracts.

Recchia and Quinn also target some particular programs, raising them as alternatives to some areas the mayor has called for cutting. Under the council, the city’s sustainability play — PlanNYC would take a big hit — losing $4.4 million for a parks plan and$2.6 million for an air quality study. Other proposed savings of a million or more would defer or cut evaluation in the Center for Economic Opportunity ($2.2 million), reduce parking meter collection staff ($2.3 million), reduce the subsidy to the Central Park Conservancy ($1 million); reduce the strategic planning group division ($1.1 million) and the research and policy unit ($1.1 million) in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and eliminate the sanitation department’s public information budget ($2 million).
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By on June 6, 2011, 1:59 pm
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The Return of the Bag Tax
June 3rd, 2011

Zachary Bergson filed this post.

The controversial plastic bag tax is back as some lawmakers and environmental groups are questioning the effectiveness of a state-recycling program intended to reduce plastic bag waste.

Plastic bags have been littering New York and other major cities for years. In response, cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C. instituted bans and taxes on plastic bags at large retailers. Some New Yorkers think this city should take similar action to reduce plastic bag waste, protect the environment and generate revenue.
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By on June 3, 2011, 10:57 am
In category: Environment,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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For CityTime Company, the Contracts Keep Coming
June 2nd, 2011

New York’s City almost epic problems with Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, have not kept the Virginia company from continuing to rake in multimillion, if not billion, dollar contracts from other governments.

This week, the Bloomberg administration cut more ties with SAIC, the main contractor on the automated payroll system, cancelling a $50 million deal with the company on what city officials described as an unrelated system

The move reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, came after the arrest of a former company executive, Gerald Denault, on charges he accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks on the City Time contract.

(Find out who’s hiring SAIC now, after the jump.)
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By on June 2, 2011, 2:26 pm
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