De Blasio Takes on Bloomberg on Homelessness
January 19th, 2010


Take a look at the numbers, and the mayor’s homeless policies just aren’t working.

That was the message Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and homeless advocates sent this morning at a press conference urging the administration to rethink its homeless policies five years after it committed to reduce homelessness by two-thirds. Since the mayor took office, according to Mary Brosnahan of the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of homeless New Yorkers has increased by 45 percent.

“Their original goal was gutsy and noble and I think it took a lot of commitment and focus to even put that goal out,” said de Blasio. “But they did not follow up on it with the same kind of fervor and focus as they have in some other areas. So now acknowledge that the previous strategies have not worked, and borrow from old strategies that did work and create new ones and work with the people that are some of the experts right here next to me,” the newly minted public advocate said from his 15th floor office in the municipal building.

Act one, said de Blasio, should be giving homeless families priority for Section 8 vouchers, which was the practice under the three previous administrations before Bloomberg. The practice was suspended in 2005. The administration should also stop referring homeless individuals to three-quarter houses — small residential buildings that operate as illegal boarding houses, according to the public advocate’s office.

In the council, de Blasio introduced a bill that would have banned the city from referring homeless individuals to facilities that failed to meet occupancy standards.

In a letter to Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs dated January 18, de Blasio implored the administration to hold homeless services harmless in the upcoming budget negotiations by keeping open shelters slated for closure or by securing replacement facilities before their doors are locked. De Blasio also urged the administration to focus more on prevention.

This latest dispute is one of many more likely to come with de Blasio as public advocate.

By on January 19, 2010, 2:03 pm
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Batista Schlesinger Departs DMI, Joins Administration
January 8th, 2010

Longtime Drum Major Institute executive director, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, will leave the progressive public policy group to join the Bloomberg administration as senior policy advisor to Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and special assistant to the mayor.

Batista Schlesinger took a leave of absence from the think tank last year to serve as an advisor to the Bloomberg campaign — which came as a surprise to some of the city’s progressives. Batista Schlesinger had previously served as an aid to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who ran for mayor in 2005 against Bloomberg.

Now — somewhat less surprisingly — she is making a move to the administration full time.

DMI fellow and former council candidate in the 36th district, Mark Winston Griffith, will be heading up the search for her replacement.

At a recent book release party thrown by the institute, Batista Schlesinger and Bloomberg sat down to discuss how to make the city more sustainable (more on that here). Many of the book’s themes — and DMI’s work in general — focus on social and economic justice issues. With Batista Schlesinger in City Hall, you can imagine many of these same issues will end up on Bloomberg’s third term agenda.

The full release from the institute is after the jump.
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By on January 8, 2010, 10:51 am
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Air Pollution Borough by Borough
December 15th, 2009

Image provided by the mayor's office

Image provided by the mayor's office

The Bloomberg administration released its first ever street-level air survey chronicling the air quality in every borough. The survey showed that Manhattan’s high traffic areas have the worst air quality.

The survey compiles data, including measurements of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and elemental carbon, gathered from 150 sites throughout the city last winter. The survey was conducted as part the mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 — his vision for sustainability in the five boroughs.

In a prepared statement, the mayor, who is at the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, said, We are collecting air samples around the city at ground level so we can measure the air New Yorkers breathe while walking on the streets. This study clearly demonstrates the impacts that pollution from vehicles and certain oil-burning boilers has on our neighborhoods and it shows us that the most densely populated areas are also the most polluted.”

The level of pollutants correlated with the level of traffic and building fuel use, according to the survey. All of these contaminants are associated with health problems, like asthma and emphysema.

Just last week, the City Council approved legislation to force large buildings in the city to conduct energy audits every decade. When first introduced, the bill would have also required those buildings to implement the audits’ recommendations, but it was retooled following criticism by property owners. It does require those buildings to conduct maintenance to reduce their energy consumption.

By on December 15, 2009, 6:14 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,Law,nextNY,sustainability | 1 Comment »

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Kingsbridge Armory at the Council today
December 9th, 2009

UPDATE: According to Councilmember Joel Rivera, the council is worried about 432 potential employees at the Kingsbridge Armory project who would probably not receive living wages. In total, the project is expected to create about 1,000 permanent jobs.

Rivera said the Bronx delegation is considering a proposal to use the funds from the sale of the armory, which he says is $4 million, toward subsidizing these workers’ wages.

This project has already received millions in city subsidies.

UPDATE: A vote on The Related Companies Kingsbridge Armory has been delayed at least until Friday and possibly Monday.

Council members are still negotiating with the developer and the administration over whether to require employers pay living wages at the site, which Related plans to turn into a large shopping mall.

The project must be voted on by Monday. If there is no vote by then, the land use review project would have to start over.

All afternoon members of the Bronx community have rallied on the steps of City Hall, calling for the living wage mandate. Councilmember Oliver Koppell, whose district abuts the project, said the major disagreement continues to be a living wage.

“You get the best you can,” said Koppell. “We’re getting closer on the issue of paying people a living wage.”

But not everyone sees the living wage requirement as a reason to delay the project.

“Every job is not designed to support a family, some are designed for people that are retired or kids after school,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone.

The City Council is set to determine the fate of the Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory — a mammoth landmark that developer, The Related Companies, wants to turn into a shopping mall.

At the center of the controversial project is a proposal supported by the community and multiple council members to require the developer pay living wages at the site.

Right now, the City Council’s Bronx delegation is holed up in a small room in City Hall debating the deal. Interesting to note, Councilmember Maria Baez, who was voted out in September, hasn’t been spotted. Her predecessor, Fernando Cabrera, was seen entering the negotiation room.

More to come later, and for more on the project go here.

By on December 9, 2009, 1:56 pm
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The Last Word on Fiterman Hall
December 1st, 2009


This morning, the mayor, Manhattan borough president, administration from the City University of New York and others gathered on Greenwich Street to break ground on the new, and now infamous Fiterman Hall — a 15-story building that hosted classroom space for the Borough of Manhattan Community College, which was severely damaged from debris during the September 11th attacks.

More than eight years later, the city is putting down $139 million for a new building, set to boast 96 classrooms, office space, community areas, a small conference center, art gallery and cafe. The city also says the new 14-story building will be environmentally friendly.

Fiterman Halls reconstruction will be the latest milestone in Lower Manhattans remarkable comeback, and its transformation into a vibrant, 24/7, family-friendly community, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This new world-class academic building is an investment not only in Borough of Manhattan Community College, but in the students and faculty that will occupy the building and the people that live and work in Lower Manhattan.

But it has been a long, long road to get to this place. Gotham Gazette covered the controversy over Fiterman Hall last year. Then, critics accused the administration of not wanting to pay for its fair share of the reconstruction. The city and state share the cost of community colleges within the CUNY system, Gotham Gazette’s Gail Robinson reported.

In total, the project will cost $325 million, which includes $66 million for the deconstruction and decontamination of the old building, according to the Bloomberg administration. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a joint city and state entity, is picking up $186 million of that.

Fiterman Hall was a bit of a blemish in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan following September 11. Now that it is moving forward, you can bet residents and New Yorkers citywide will be wondering when the rest of it will completed (Originally the memorial and the Freedom Tower were supposed to be completed in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Obviously, they are way behind schedule).

For an in depth look at all of the development slated for Ground Zero, take a look at Gotham Gazette’s timeline.

By on December 1, 2009, 4:46 pm
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Broadway Triangle, Kingsbridge Armory Approved (Updated)
October 19th, 2009

<i>The Broadway Triangle from HPD</i>

The Broadway Triangle from HPD

The City Planning Commission approved the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx and the development of the Broadway Triangle in Brooklyn today — both controversial applications that have seen significant community opposition.

Both of the projects will go to the City Council now, which has 50 days to approve or reject them.

Proposed by one of the city’s largest developers, Related Companies, the Kingsbridge Armory is now one step closer to transforming into a large shopping mall, dubbed the ‘The Shops at the Armory.” Estimated to cost $310 million, the project will host a large supermarket, local shops, a movie theater and recreational space. Community leaders and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. oppose the plan and have lobbied Related and the city to require the provision of “living wage” jobs on site.

In response to the vote, Diaz said in a prepared statement, We are not asking for anything radical or extreme. We are simply asking that, in a borough that has the highest poverty rate in the nation and has consistently seen the highest unemployment numbers in New York State, Related and their future tenants provide living wage jobs with benefits that allow Bronxites a chance to provide for their families and to build a better life. I am hopeful that the developer will sit down with my office to negotiate this issue and others prior to the City Councils upcoming vote on the project, and I will continue to stand up and do what is right for the people of The Bronx.”

The project was approved by a vote of 8 to 4 with one abstention. Appointees from the Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn borough presidents as well as the public advocate’s office voted against the proposal.

The Bloomberg administration has been a vocal supporter of the project. In a prepared statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The project represents a tremendous vote of confidence and commitment from the private sector, with an investment of $310 million. It will provide significant benefits to the community, including specialty and local retail shops, a public plaza, dedicated community space, restaurants, a recreational facility and a seasonal farmers market, all while creating 1,200 permanent jobs and more than 1,000 construction jobs at a time when we need them most.”
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By on October 19, 2009, 4:21 pm
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The Eminent Domain State
October 8th, 2009

“New York is perhaps the worst state in the nation when it comes to eminent domain abuse — the forcible acquisition of private property by the government for private development,” according to a new report by the conservative Institute for Justice

The study goes through a litany of examples of what they see as an unfair eminent domain process here. They point out that an area need only be considered in danger of becoming blighted in order to be condemned; describe a byzantine, opaque, and unaccountable hearing process; and focus on the short window of time for property owners to protest at inadequate proceedings.

Nicole Gelinas, at NY Fiscal Watch, adds that the threat of eminent domain can freeze business activity and actually create blight.

Although the report paints a bleak landscape of abuse in the state, it really doesn’t compare New York to other states. Another report by an arm of the Institute for Justice gave New York an ‘F’ – one of eight states to receive the grade – for failing to pass legislation reforming eminent domain.

Hopefully New York can get off that list, writes Damon Root at Reason Magazine. Next week the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments against the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards proeject. Root says this case is an opportunity for the state “to start reining in these abuses”

By on October 8, 2009, 6:25 pm
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Another Audit Day
October 8th, 2009

Take two, or three or ten (I lost count).

Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson released another audit from his comptroller’s office this morning, slamming the administration for failing to secure contracts for minority and women owned businesses. This is the second audit this week that criticizes the administration’s fiscal policies, in what some say has become a politically-motivated trend for Thompson to use his office in the mayoral race.

Thompson said that in fiscal year 2008 the city had more than $369 million in prime contracts with a goal to spend nearly $108 million with women and minority owned businesses. According to Thompson, the city spent $14,882,561 on minority and women owned businesses — about 4 percent of all of the city’s prime contracts. The mayor signed legislation in 2005 to boost the number of women and minority owned businesses with city contracts. Thompson said this morning that the administration has shown “indifference” to that law.

“The agency has demonstrated a stunning pattern of inaction,” Thompson said in front of the City Hall steps this morning regarding the Department of Small Business Services. “We found that SBS was sitting on its hands.”

Just last month, the Bloomberg administration said it had spent more than $1 billion with minority and women owned businesses since fiscal year 2007. Thompson alleges the vast majority of that goes to businesses that were not targeted by the city’s 2005 program. His office said certain minority businesses don’t have issues getting certain contracts. The focus of the law was to get minority firms typically overlooked in certain fields city contracts.

As Thompson berated the administration this morning (the precursor to a term limits rally the candidate held immediately after), Bloomberg’s campaign office announced another endorsement. This time it was from a women and minority owned business advocate: Maria Alvarez Castro, the president of the Manhattan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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By on October 8, 2009, 12:43 pm
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Yes 39, There is a Republican Party (and a Green One Too)
July 23rd, 2009

Reporting from Brooklyn, this post is from Douglas A. Hinnant.

Much to the surprise of the five Democrats running for the City Council’s 39th District, the Republican and Green Parties have candidates in the race. When the candidates heard that all eight would be interviewed for a campaign profile, at least one member of each Democrat’s campaign, and even a couple candidates, raised an eyebrow that said, “Eight?” When I pointed out that the Republicans have two men running and the Greens have one, responses ranged from, “Oh, yeah,” to, “Oh, really.”

In a district where Democrats reportedly outnumber Republicans and Greens eight to one, it might be understandable that Democrats are so focused on the primary. As one campaign worker speaking off the record explained it, for a Democrat to win the primary and not the general election, he would basically have to die. Still, the lack of concern of one party for the others in this election is interesting.

By on July 23, 2009, 1:06 pm
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Promises Kept and Broken
July 14th, 2009

Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday released a report on how well he has kept, or not kept, his 2005 campaign promises. Not surprisingly he gives himself pretty good grades.

(More surprising might be why this report shows up on the official New York City government site rather than on the campaign site, since whatever the merits of the tally, it is difficult to see it as anything other than a campaign document.)

Of some 100 promises Bloomberg made in 2005, the mayor says 38 are “done” and that he has launched another 55. Only two — expanding the gun court into Manhattan and working with the state “to create a family health plus buy-in program” –are listed as “not done.”

Pretty impressive but, of course, it depends a bit on what the definition of “done” is, as Elizabeth Green makes clear in her analysis of the education promises made and kept.
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By on July 14, 2009, 12:18 pm
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New DOB Rules Spark Protest
July 10th, 2009

New rules at the Department of Buildings will go into effect Monday that require all zoning diagrams for approved buildings be put online.

But as part of that rule, the public will be limited to comment on those approvals for only 45 days. Public comment is now unlimited.

What the buildings department says is streamlining the development process and will encourage public comment, advocates and elected officials charge that the public’s voice is being silenced.

At a rally this afternoon, mayoral candidate Tony Avella, comptroller candidate John Liu and public advocate candidate Norman Siegel, as well as the Queens Civic Congress and the Historic Districts Council, blasted the administration for the rule change. They urged the department to rescind its plan or to prepare for an arduous court battle.

“It’s a disgrace that people in their own city have a deadline to complain about out of character development,” said Avella.

In a release announcing the new rules, which when first proposed included only a 30-day comment period, the department argues:

“The 45-day public-challenge process establishes an organized procedure to challenge the Departments zoning decisions, and the Departments responses to those challenges will be posted online for the first time. The current process, which has no formal timeframe, often produces confusion and unnecessary and unintended costs for development. The online diagrams and new challenge process will streamline the review of the thousands of challenges the Department receives each year at no additional cost to the City.”

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By on July 10, 2009, 4:54 pm
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Where's Adolfo?
July 6th, 2009

Borough presidents have notoriously little clout so it must have seemed a huge step up for the Bronx’s Adolfo Carrin Jr. when he got to leave the Grand Concourse and move to the Washington as head of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. But in his five months there, Carrin has become even more obscure than he was back in the city.

“He has yet to make any major speeches about his role, or the administrations vision of urban policy, leaving some to wonder just how much of a force Carrin will be and how big a platform he will have with the new office, writes Nia-Malika Henderson in Politico. The appointment of Carrion, who has been under a bit of an ethical cloud and who is not considered an urban policy expert, led some to wonder whether President Barack Obama was going to give urban policy as much prominence as he indicated during the campaign. And Carrin’s lack of visibility since his appointment has not exactly assuaged those concerns. “The really good feeling about the Office of Urban Affairs has cooled down, Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future told Politico.

For his part, Carrin says his office is hard at work meeting with urban officials, holding strategy sessions and the like. “We are going out into urban America as soon as possible. You wish you could have done it yesterday, but I think its important for us to set up the right structure internally,” he said.

By on July 6, 2009, 2:45 pm
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Water Rate Increased Today
May 15th, 2009

The Water Board today voted to raise rates 12.9 percent, a slightly smaller increase than their original proposal of a 14 percent hike. The Department of Environmental Protection said the lower hike was possible because they were able to cut operating costs, more people are paying their bills on time and energy costs have dropped. They also softened the regulations for pursuing suspected water thieves.

For more, see Gotham Gazette’s “Gold from the Faucet.”

By on May 15, 2009, 11:27 am
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Atlantic Keeps on Giving
April 24th, 2009

This post incorrectly reported that employees of the Atlantic Development Group contributed to the campaign of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., which is incorrect. The group’s principals gave to his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. It has been corrected.

I am invoking the Beach Boys here: Atlantic Development Group, well, they get around.

The employees of the development group which could be at the center of an inquiry by the city’s Department of Investigation have given more than $93,000 to city campaigns since 1999, according to filings by the city’s Campaign Finance Board. The group spearheaded the major development project in the Bronx — Boricua Village — which received a boatload of public subsidies.

The architect of that project also designed renovations to the home of former borough president turned Obama aide, Adolfo Carrion, which he never paid for. Their Sixth Avenue offices were raided by the city yesterday.

Reports allege the group could be involved in a bribery scheme between developers and city officials. The department, according to the Post, has executed a dozen search warrants on several companies during the probe.

According to the Campaign Finance Board’s filings, the group not only gave money to Carrion, but also gave to more than a dozen other city officials. Last year, the group’s principals gave $5,500 to comptroller candidate and Councilmember Melinda Katz. The year before that Council Speaker Christine Quinn received $1,000 from them. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer received $7,000 from the group’s employees last year. Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., public advocate candidate and Councilmember Bill de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz all received campaign contributions as well.

One of the group’s principals, Peter Fine, also did some serious bundling (or acting as an “intermediary” to collect contributions for candidates) for Stringer and on-again, off-again mayoral candidate Rep. Anthony Weiner last year. He bundled $40,150 for the two candidates.
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By on April 24, 2009, 10:53 am
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Bronx BP Race Tomorrow
April 20th, 2009

<i>From Diaz's campaign site.</i>

From Diaz's campaign site.

The approximately 1.4 million residents of the Bronx will get a new borough president tomorrow, but from the looks of it no one seems to notice.

A race where the results are pretty much predetermined, tomorrow’s election pits Assemblymember Ruben Diaz Jr., a Democrat, against actor Anthony Ribustello, a Republican. Technically, tomorrow’s special election — triggered by the resignation of former president Adolfo Carrion who now works for the Obama administration — is nonpartisan. Diaz is expected to win the seat handily.

For more on the intricacies of this race and Bronx politics, see “The Bronx Family Feud.”

In the 2005 general election, 158,761 people turned out to vote for the borough president race. Tomorrow’s election turnout is expected to be much, much smaller.

This race was not always lackluster. At one point, Councilmember Joel Rivera — whose father had headed the Bronx Democratic party until late last year — was expected to challenge Diaz for the seat. That race never happened. Rivera said he wanted to put “politics aside” (in effect, raising the white flag in a political dispute that had mired the Bronx for months).

Since then, Diaz has denied public financing to run the campaign, saying it was less than “competitive.” Since Rivera dropped out, Diaz has doubled the size of his campaign account, from a little over $200,000 to $405,677, according to the latest campaign finance records.
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By on April 20, 2009, 2:57 pm
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New Yorkers in Poverty
March 12th, 2009

The New York State Community Action Association has released a report on New York’s poverty rates. Statewide, 14 percent of the population lives in poverty, compared to 13.3 percent of the nation as a whole. But in New York City, the gap is much wider. The federal poverty line, which is the definition the report uses, is an annual income of $18,310 for a family of three.

Here’s some of the more striking highlights from the five boroughs:

The Bronx poverty rate, at 28 percent, is double the state average. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of children live in poverty there. In Manhattan, which has a poverty rate of 18 percent, blacks and Hispanics are three times as likely to live in poverty than whites.

Both Queens and Staten Island have lower rates than the state and national averages, with poverty rates of 12.1 percent and 10.1 percent respectively. And in Queens, the racial disparity in poverty rates is much less pronounced than the other boroughs; there are less blacks in poverty there than the national average for the general population. But in Staten Island, nearly four times as many blacks are in poverty compared to whites.

The report’s authors note that while the data is as recent as possible, it “is still too old to reflect the current economic conditions facing New Yorkers”

By on March 12, 2009, 9:44 am
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Priming the Pump at Atlantic Yards?
February 17th, 2009

Does the economic stimulus package President Barack Obama is signing today include a great big bailout for Atlantic Yards? The idea of federal stimulation for the problem plagued arena and condo project surfaced in the Observer last week, prompted by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying for the help on behalf of developer Forest City Ratner.

Experts say the money could come from discretionary funds or money set aside for transit. And in its final form the bill does not specifically exclude stadiums (or include them either), throwing out a previous amendment that would have done just that.

But what about the politics?
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By on February 17, 2009, 2:38 pm
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Middle Class Mayor?
February 3rd, 2009

The past few years have been difficult ones for New York middle class, but that should change if the city hopes to thrive in the years ahead, Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes.

Looking at the city today, Kotkin, who is working on a report for the Center for an Urban Future and is executive editor of, sees a middle class battered by the boom, accounting for only 53 percent of city residents (compared with 63 percent for the nation as a whole). This, Kotkin writes, “did not much bother New York’s media, business and political hegemons. Under its ruling Medici, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York has been shaped as a place for the masters and their servants.”
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By on February 3, 2009, 10:03 pm
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Group Interrupts Mayor's Address (Update)
February 3rd, 2009

A new coalition, Right to the City-NY, is taking credit for busting up Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speaking engagement this afternoon.

The group, which is represented by public relations firm BerlinRosen (who sent over the press release below just now), is calling for Bloomberg to address the needs of low-income New Yorkers. (This sounds eerily familiar to what we heard from Comptroller William Thompson’s new campaign manager yesterday.)

Bloomberg had been addressing a Crain’s sponsored luncheon on the “The Future of New York City.”

Update: BerlinRosen called saying they would not be representing this group on a permanent basis. The release was a one-time thing.

The release is after the jump.
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By on February 3, 2009, 2:09 pm
In category: Community Development,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Public Finance | 5 Comments »

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Coney Island Rollercoaster
January 20th, 2009

The city’s plan for Coney Island has not even been officially released yet — that’s to take place this afternoon — but opposition is already building.

A message on Coney says, “This process will determine whether Coney Island remains an amusement park or if it will become another shopping mall filled with retail, high rise buildings and hotels.” The message urges New Yorkers to make their preference known by showing up at today’s presentation. ” We want to put the city on notice that people are paying attention, and that we won’t let their plan be pushed through the zoning process without opposition,” the message says.

The Brooklyn Paper notes that Coney Island’s principal landowner, Joe Sitt of Thor Equities, opposes the city plan. And Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA, complained, the city is ” not doing what they could do to preserve truly historic structures.

Today’s release sets off a lengthy approval process. Next stop, the local community board.

By on January 20, 2009, 9:29 am
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