Author Archive

What WAS That Smell?
January 22nd, 2007

Although officials reportedly have given up on determining the source of the mysterious smell throughout Manhattan on January 8, five environmental scientists from Columbia University, an essay in the New York Times entitled Sniffing Out The Truth, offer their reasoning for their belief that the odor was caused by gases released from saltwater marshes in the metropolitan area.While these odors do not cause a health threat at low concentrations, they are undesirable. Whats more, they are troubling for what they may signal: an environment in need of our attention.

In an accompanying, more general essay — a sometimes historical disquisition on smells toxic and nontoxic, Luca Turin, a biophysicist who works for a perfume company, is more reassuring: Dont worry, because heres the thing: the more powerful the stench, the less likely it is to do harm

By on January 22, 2007, 9:20 am
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health | 1 Comment »

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Albany Reform In The Next Two Weeks
January 22nd, 2007

An editorial in the New York Times entitled The Reform Window explains why reform of the political process in Albany is more likely within the next couple of weeks than it has been for years, praises the reforms proposed last week by the reining triumvirate such as itemization of member items and the legal requirement that the legislature (not just the governor) propose a balanced budget — and suggests there be several more: an independent budget office (such as New York City has), a later deadline for the budget, and the use of generally accepted accounting principles.

In Newsday, former Assemblyman Nelson Denis offers several reasons why reform will be difficult, and then makes several suggestions of his own: Dismantle the Albany politburoImpose term limitsMove the legislature to New York City Convene a state constitutional convention and create investigate bodies with subpoena power to look into Medicaid, public authorities and member items.

By on January 22, 2007, 8:49 am
In category: Albany,Governing,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Randalls Island -- A Public Park For Private Schools?
January 22nd, 2007

An editorial in
the New York Times explains the pending deal with Randalls Island exclusive use of two-thirds of the 480-acre public park by 20 of Manhattans wealthiest private schools for 20 years, in exchange for some $80 million in upgrades. The Times thinks there should be a greater proportion of the park opened to the public, and agrees with the suggestion that there be better public transportation to the island.

By on January 22, 2007, 8:41 am
In category: Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Protect The Children -- And Adults
January 16th, 2007

Marking the anniversary of the death of Nixmary Brown (as editorials in other newspapers have done previously), an editorial in the New York Times calls for fixing the dysfunctional family court, by increasing the number of judges and decreasing the caseload for the Legal Aid lawyers. Gov. Eliot Spitzer should put the Family Court high on his judicial reform agenda. The Times also approves of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaums call for a childrens public advocate.

Meanwhile, an editorial in El Diario endorses another report by Gotbaum calling for an improvement in the agency known as Adult Protective Services, a division of the citys Human Resources Administration, which provides services for some 6,000 mentally or physically incapacitated adult New Yorkers who have nobody else to care for them. With the aging of the population, there is urgency for improving the quality of service at an agency where 60 percent of caseworkers have caseloads way above the recommended cap of 25.

By on January 16, 2007, 7:20 am
In category: Gotham City,Law,Social Services | 3 Comments »

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Nothing Personal, New York (Or Not For Everybody, Anyway)
January 13th, 2007

When Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean announced the choice of Denver over New York City as the place for the Democratic National Convention in 2008, the analyses were numerous. Some didnt make much sense.

For example,
The National Journal
wrote: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was once enthusiastic about the prospect of a DNC convention, even opening City Hall for meetings of top Democratic financiers. But Bloomberg turned soured [sic] about the prospect the more he dealt with the DNC.

New York City would have been the safe choice, logistically and financially. But it would have been a political nightmare and set Dean apart from his Netroots allies and virtually every strategist, presidential candidate and office holder in the party. But Dean aides have said that he was not prepared to risk holding a convention in a city that was not prepared to handle it.

How could it have been a safe choice and a nightmare at the same time? (And, as one of the commenters on the blog pointed out, “since when do all Democrats hate NYC?”)

A little more clearly, the Daily Kos wait Phew. Among the hundreds of comments on that blog were some negative about New York, e.g.:
I’m sick of NYC being the staging place for conventions
New York would be (1) a logistical disaster, (2) a boring, ho-hum choice, and (3) politically no advantage at all.
NYC was the choice of the old dem party.

But the conventional wisdom seemed to see the choice as having more to do with the advantages of Denver rather than the disadvantages of New York.

The widely-held consensus seems to be that the Democrats, having made notable gains in the West, want to send a signal that they will not take any of the fifty states for granted, wrote the blog Politics Now. The site selection becomes even more significant as the DNC ditched New York City, a traditional Democratic stronghold. In a way, Denver represents the Democrats desire to present themselves as the party of common sense liberal values (implying that New York is the center of irrational liberal values.)

The blogger of Captains Quarters wrote: Democrats in New York fit the Nancy Pelosi/Hillary Clinton model quite nicely. The media center of the Big Apple would have amplified the messages of the convention, and the facilities are second to none. I attended the Republican convention in 2004, and I can attest to New York’s ability to stage an impressive event, and to provide equally impressive security.

However, the Democrats hardly need to woo New York. The Democrats have a lock on the entire state and certainly the city. With a new Congressional majority to protect and to expand, the Democrats need to engage on the frontier of their popularity, and Colorado makes perfect sense for that effort.

By on January 13, 2007, 12:35 pm
In category: Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Nixzmary Brown, One Year Later
January 12th, 2007

A year after seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown died, the alleged victim of child abuse, an editorial in
El Diario La Prensa explains that reports of abuse have gone up (65,000 by December of 2006 compared to 48,000 in all of 2005), but so has the budget and training of the Administration for Children Services; parents who feel they are on the brink of hurting their children can get help. Now whats needed, the paper says, is a citywide outreach and prevention campaign, that addresses the cultural stigma attached to asking for help and the differences in how corporal punishment is interpreted.

By on January 12, 2007, 7:29 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Security Should Not Be Peanut Butter
January 12th, 2007

An editorial in the New York Times today essentially repeats what was in the Daily News three days ago blasting Senator Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for wanting to spread around federal anti-terrorism funds throughout the country rather than concentrate the money on the places where the risks or threats are the greatest. The Times even extends the food metaphor begun by the News. The News wanted Lieberman to stop treating anti-terror money like pork. The Times editorial, entitled Pork, Peanut Butter and Security quotes approvingly of Bloombergs testimony that money to defend against terrorism should be divvied up based on an assessment of risks, not spread across the country like peanut butter.

By on January 12, 2007, 7:18 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Public Finance | Comments Off on Security Should Not Be Peanut Butter

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Rudy: Lessons From New York Can Help Save Iraq
January 12th, 2007

Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich share bylines in an article in the Wall Street Journal today suggesting that there are many lessons from the successful welfare reforms in New York City that can be readily applied in Iraq. Workfare required able-bodied welfare recipients to work 20 hours a week in exchange for their benefits, thus reasserting the value of the social contract, which says that for every right there is a responsibility, for every benefit an obligation. Workfare, the authors say, resulted in a visible improvement in the quality of life of the city (cleaner streets, less graffiti, etc.), and helped reduce crime. A similar model can work in Iraq an Iraqi Citizen Job Corps. Subsidizing unemployed Iraqis with a meaningful wage in exchange for meaningful work rebuilding their society is well within the means of the U.S. and its allies. The entire effort will help stabilize and grow the Iraqi economyOne word of caution: The program should be overseen by the U.S. military, not private contractors, to avoid unnecessary delays in deployment or accusations of cronyism in the bidding process.

By on January 12, 2007, 7:03 am
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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Security Should Not Be Pork
January 9th, 2007

An editorial in the Daily News urges Congress to allocate security funds based on risk, not on pork. It explains that
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be the first witness at a hearing today of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman about federal implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It would be the height of gall for Lieberman to go for all of the panel’s 41 measures but the one that’s perhaps the most important: risk-based funding. The News says that Lieberman owes Bloomberg for supporting his re-election.

By on January 9, 2007, 8:00 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Six Achievable Goals For NYC In 2007
January 9th, 2007

An editorial in the New York Times lays out what it calls achievable goals for the city officials this year:
1. Improving the local campaign finance law, especially the loophole that allows candidates without real competition to collect public funds for campaigns
2. Reducing traffic congestion, including by giving serious thought to congestion pricing.
3. Making the police more responsive to civilian concerns
4. Applying the surplus toward future obligations (not reducing property taxes and unnecessary spending)
5. Winning Albanys approval of a city law that forces developers to build more affordable housing.
6. Providing food stamps to more of those who are eligible.

By on January 9, 2007, 7:49 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Public Finance,Social Services,Transportation | Comments Off on Six Achievable Goals For NYC In 2007

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Waking Up On Day One
January 2nd, 2007

Eliot Spitzer became governor yesterday, and most New York newspaper editorial pages commented on his inaugural address.

In an editorial entitled The Start Of Something Big, the Daily News gushes: His forceful, 20-minute inaugural address, delivered in the frigid outdoors, was filled with moments to warm the hearts of all New Yorkers who care about clean, effective government.

The New York Posts editorial,
Governor Change, also praised the speech for promising change uplifting news for everyone, whether Republican or Democrat – except, of course, for those who have fed off the sclerotic, corrupt culture of Albany politics of past years. Change – deep, cultural, far-reaching – is what New York badly needs now. The Post cautioned that Spitzer revealed few details, but added: For now, Spitzer’s vows of “change” are enough to lift spirits. So give him the benefit of the doubt.

Newsday was happy as well with the tone set by the first day of the Spitzer administration: The state desperately needs a new approach – a new attitude – toward doing the people’s business Day Two, everything is harder. But Spitzer is nothing if not determined. He set out the correct vision yesterday. Day One, at least, everything sounded like spring.

Only the New York Sun held back the praise in its editorial, criticizing Spitzer for failing to mention in his speech what it sees as the accomplishments of his predecessor a record of progress in environmental conservation, a charter schools law in place and at least the stirrings of a parental choice movement in schooling in the state, and the beginning of the end of rent control and focusing on Spitzers remark that “Like Rip Van Winkle, the legendary character created by the New York author Washington Irving, New York has slept through much of the past decade while the rest of the world has passed us by.” But, says the Sun, it is the Democrats who have been asleep during a great revolution in political economy; its editorial is entitled Rip Van Spitzer. He ran for office declaring Day One, Everything Changes. But at the end of Day One, Sheldon Silver is still speaker. Senator Bruno is still leading in the upper chamber, and not everything has changed.”

For more on what Spitzer will do in office, and what some advise him to do, see our book club interview with Spitzer biographer Brooke Masters and also Advising Spitzer, which includes advice from former Governors William Weld and Jim Florio.

By on January 2, 2007, 5:58 am
In category: Albany,Governing | 2 Comments »

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Albany Sleaze Joe Bruno?
December 28th, 2006

Bill Hammond in the Daily News says that, if the allegations against State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno prove true, he should be denied his leadership post: “If the latest reports about his private dealings are true – that a businessman he showered with money from a state funds was also paying him hundreds of thousands in consulting fees – Bruno must either resign the leadership job or face ouster by his Republican colleagues…A vote to keep him as majority leader on Jan. 3 is a vote to tolerate Albany sleaze.”

By on December 28, 2006, 8:36 am
In category: Albany,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Preparing For A Future With A Million More New Yorkers
December 27th, 2006

The New York Times, oddly late-arriving in covering Mayor Michael Bloombergs speech planning for New Yorker in the year 2030 which was commented upon amply in New Yorks other newspapers two weeks ago this week ran an editorial
praising the speech
, though wondering how he was going to pay for it all.

With a projection that New York Citys population will reach nine million in 25 years, there is no question that something must be done, the Times said. Consider how difficult it is to find affordable housing, good schools, uncrowded subway cars and reasonably passable streets. Then imagine having to compete for these same services in a city that will have added a population equivalent to the city of San Francisco… Faced with similar pressures, cities like London and Shanghai are charting paths to smart growth.

By on December 27, 2006, 6:40 am
In category: Demographics,Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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The Richest Man In The World? New York State's Comptroller
December 27th, 2006

In a column in the New York Sun entitled
Control The Comptroller, Herbert London, a former candidate for the office, focuses on the potential for corruption in the office of New York State Comptroller .

If asked, ‘Who is the richest man in the world?’ likely responses might be the Sultan of Brunei, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett, but the correct answer isthe New York State comptroller, for he has unilateral control of a $145 billion pension fund.

What sole control has meant is that the comptroller decides which companies manage the assets of the fund and collect high and easy commissions for doing so. Not coincidentally, those very firms have been responsible for most of the campaign contributions to the comptroller.

A correlation between commissions and campaign contributions is undeniable, London writes. What is at stake is far more egregious than the roughly $200,000 of taxpayer money Hevesi used for limousine transportation and household services to assist his wife [T]he fund should not be used as a way to solicit campaign contributions.

London suggests that New York do what most states have already done and “follow the practice of California, where that state’s legislature monitors the California Pension Fund, the largest pension fund in the country.”

By on December 27, 2006, 6:40 am
In category: Public Finance | 7 Comments »

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Will Silver Kill Atlantic Yards?
December 14th, 2006

An editorial in the
New York Post praises the proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, says there’s virtually no downside, and little real opposition to it but for a handful of holdouts with personal stakes and misguided, ivory-tower, eminent-domain purists. However, the editorial wonders whether it will be killed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is one of the three voting members of the Public Authorities Control Board, which is slated to give the final approval for the project next week. Tune in next week. And keep your eyes on Silver.

By on December 14, 2006, 10:39 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use | 3 Comments »

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Goldman Sachs' Gain, Poor New Yorkers' Loss
December 14th, 2006

Here is an editorial in the Daily News, entitled, “How To End Poverty”:

“The merry moneymakers at Goldman Sachs will end the year with $9.5 billion in profits, and they’ll divide $16 billion in bonuses – about $622,000 for each employee. We do not begrudge these conquerors of capitalism, but we note two points.

“First: Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg lavished Goldman with subsidies so it would build a headquarters near Ground Zero. The giveaway grows more obscene as Goldman rakes in ever more money.

“Second: Goldman’s numbers offer a vivid example of the growing gap between the rich and everyone else in America. In the city, 1.5 million people live below the poverty line of $16,000 a year for a single parent with two kids. Goldman’s bonus pool could raise each of their incomes by more than $10,000. Something is wrong when one firm’s bonus pool is big enough to end poverty in America’s largest city.”

By on December 14, 2006, 10:28 am
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Public Finance | 17 Comments »

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Bloomberg: Schools Are Flabby, Inefficient And Outdated
December 14th, 2006

In an essay in the Wall Street Journal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg uses the occasion of a report on the rate of high school graduation and college enrollment in the United States to criticize the nations education system, which looks a lot like the U.S. auto industry in the 1970s — stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers.

We need, he writes, a top-to-bottom rethinking of our school system, one that insists on a performance-based culture of accountability that is oriented around children, not bureaucracies. It will require us to offer higher teacher salaries to attract more of the best and brightest, and to offer financial rewards to the most successful teachers. It will require us to set and uphold high standards, encourage innovation and competition, and end social promotion — the harmful practice of advancing students to the next grade despite their poor academic performance. And it will require us to invest in early childhood development and distribute funding more equitably.

These are exactly the goals we have been working toward in New York City, and even though we still have a long way to go, the early results are encouraging.

By on December 14, 2006, 7:39 am
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Transgender Reversal
December 12th, 2006

Last month, the New York City Board of Health proposed allowing transgendered New Yorkers to change the gender listed on their birth certificate whether or not they have had sex re-assignment surgery. The proposal inspired much debate, and a strong backlash and the board withdrew its proposal.

In an analysis in Slate, Yale Law School Professor Kenji Yoshino criticizes the Board of Health for a sloppy process: It did not anticipate the wave of practical concerns that surfaced when the plan was publicized Reservations were also voiced by institutions like hospitals, jails, and schools, which routinely segregate according to sex. If transgender people ever win more discretion over their own self-definition, it will be because the countervailing considerations have been overcome rather than ignored. In failing to consider those interests, the board failed the group it was ostensibly seeking to protect.

By on December 12, 2006, 8:49 am
In category: Civil Rights,Demographics,Gotham City,Health | 8 Comments »

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Congestion Pricing
December 8th, 2006

This is the week, for some reason, where traffic was front and center and especially one strategy for addressing traffic congestion, congestion pricing, the practice of charging vehicles for driving into a traffic-clogged part of town during peak periods. It is one of the strategies that has been successfully deployed in London, where traffic has decreased 17 percent.

This week saw two separate reports on traffic and congestion pricing — one of which, from the Partnership for New York City, says that traffic congestion costs $13 billion a year in lost productivity a column by Gotham Gazettes land use topic page writer Tom Angotti, and a public forum.

It has now received some editorial support, more or less:
“While the idea is politically dead on arrival, a serious study would shed light on the value of congestion pricing here, writes the Daily News (second editorial). Would benefits of speedier traffic outweigh the pain of hammering thousands of drivers, many of whom lack viable public transit, for, say, $75 a week? We’re skeptical, very skeptical. But let’s have a look

An echo in an editorial in Newsday: Even though “Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not ready to push for congestion pricing,” he “should quickly apply for federal funding to study what can be done and how it might work in practice.”

Update: The New York Times has now weighed in as well: “The discussion of how New York might implement a pricing plan is less important right now than keeping it on the table as an option.”

By on December 8, 2006, 7:27 am
In category: Gotham City,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Gun Ho
December 8th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Sun, entitled Bloombergs Foot (as in, hes shooting himself in it), seems to oppose the mayors strategy of monitoring out-of-state gun dealers, implying that its a waste of New York taxpayers money, and that Bloomberg will learn how non-New Yorkers hate this approach if he runs for president.

By on December 8, 2006, 7:25 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Gun Ho

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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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