City Gives Columbia $15M for Applied Science Institute
July 30th, 2012

The city will support Columbia University’s new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering with up to $15 million in financial aid, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation projects that the new institute will generate $3.9 billion of nominal economic growth over the next three decades, with more than 4,000 permanent jobs created.

Columbia will spend more than $80 million of its own money on the project, and part of the city’s contribution comes from debt forgiveness, discounted energy transmission costs and lease flexibility.

It will create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, and it will encourage the growth of the tech sector in New York City and solidify our leadership in the innovation economy for decades to come, Mayor Bloomberg said in a press release.

This comes as part of the larger Applied Sciences NYC initiative, which aims to increase performance of fields like data science in the city, as well as bolster the city’s economy. Other efforts include the city’s collaboration with Cornell University to create a tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

“The discoveries produced by the Data Sciences Institute will establish a foundation for significant contributions to society and to the marketplace, Professor Kathy McKeown, director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, said in the release.

By 2016, the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering is expected to add 44,000 square feet to Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, with construction starting almost immediately. The university also plans to add approximately 75 faculty jobs in the next 15 years.

However, advocacy groups do not have full confidence in this initiative’s economic promises, seeking full transparency throughout the project.

“More and more, these large universities are running like large corporations,” said Bettina Damiani, project director at Good Jobs NY. “They should be under the same due diligence and expectation to create good jobs.”

By on July 30, 2012, 12:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo: Carrots and Sticks for Schools
January 17th, 2012

Two weeks after he signaled his intention to focus on education, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today filled in some of the details and inserted himself squarely in the dispute over teacher evaluation.

In his budget address Cuomo confirmed that, as announced previously, the state would up its aid to districts by 4.1 percent or $805 million next year for a total of about $20 billion.

Unlike last budget year — when the governor cut spending across the board regardless of a district’s needs — the increase would be weighted toward higher needs areas. These parts of the state will receive 76 percent of the hike and 69 percent of all school aid, according to Cuomo’s Budget Briefing Book.This means New York City stands to gets almost $6.4 billion next year, an increase of 2.6 percent over the approximately $6.2 billion it is getting this year.

Districts also would be able to compete for some $200 million in special state grants, under a New York version of the federal Race to the Top program.

The Road to the Money

But Cuomo put a big condition on all the additional money. To get it, districts will have to come up with a new evaluation system for teachers.

Details after the jump.
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By on January 17, 2012, 5:23 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Bronx Business Incubator Opens
January 9th, 2012

The Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a city-backed business incubator in the Bronx earlier today. The Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator at 890 Garrison Ave. in Hunts Point is set up to house 400 entrepreneurs. The New York City Economic Development Corporation helped started the incubator with a $250,000 grant. The incubator is the 8th to open as part of the city’s network of incubators.
Here is the release from the Mayor’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 9, 2012, 1:13 pm
In category: Economy,Gotham City,Land Use,Public Finance,Tech,Work and Labor | 11 Comments »

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Mayor Vetoes Contract Bill
November 4th, 2011

As expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vetoed the Outsourcing Accountability Act. The measure, passed by the City Council last month, would subject city contracts to a kind of cost-benefit analysis and require agencies to publicly disclose what services they plan to contract out in the coming year.

The veto represents the latest in an escalating fight over the city’s growing contract budget between the Bloomberg administration on the one hand and City Council members and municipal employee unions on the other. As city spending on the contracts has increased, a number of scandals have erupted, particularly with technology contracts.

The mayor, however, has said contracts help cut costs and reduce government efficiency. “To put impediments to us getting the best deal for the taxpayers particularly during this economy is something we can not tolerate. We are just not going to have this bill,” Bloomberg said after it passed.

In her statement on the veto, though, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the measure would save money. “The council simply wants city agencies to consider costs and thoughtfully review decisions to outsource,” she said. “These tough economic times demand nothing less.”

Since the bill passed unanimously, the council has the votes to override the veto. Bloomberg, though, has said he thinks the measure could be unconstitutional, meaning the whole issue could end up in the courts.

By on November 4, 2011, 4:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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The Union on School Cuts
November 1st, 2011

With the city facing a multibillion dollar shortfall and the Bloomberg administration demanding further cuts, the United Federation of Teachers went on the offense today, with a study it says shows that fiscal constraints already have taken a toll on the city’s more than 1.1 million students.

A survey of union chapter leaders (perhaps not the most objective of sources) found, the UFT reports, that 74 percent of elementary schools have seen class size increase this year. The number of students in a class rose at 61 percent of the middle schools reporting and 59 percent of the high schools.

More than half of elementary schools responding have scaled back services to help academically struggling students, and almost two thirds cited reductions in supplies. In general, the chapter leaders at high schools cited fewer effects from cuts than those in elementary schools. And despite Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s pledge to focus on improving middle schools, 63 percent saw their afterschool programs curtailed and 59 percent lost extracurricular activities.

While the administration enthusiastically supports charters schools, which often offer after school and or weekend programs, it has ramped back efforts to expand instructional time for students in its conventional public schools, according to the report. About 60 percent of schools at all levels reported cuts in afterschool programs, and about 40 said weekend programs had been reduced.

In a statement on his union’s report UFT president Michael Mulgrew said, “Based on our survey, an estimated 91 percent of our school population — nearly 1 million children — are in schools where budget cuts are having a direct and immediate effect on their education.”

By on November 1, 2011, 2:09 pm
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Bloomberg's Record on Poverty
September 22nd, 2011

For many months, the Bloomberg administration has boasted that as poverty rose elsewhere in the country, it remained constant here, thanks in part to his policies.

Unfortunately, he can no longer say that.

New census figures, as reported in the Times this morning, show that poverty rose more rapidly in New York City by 1.4 percentage points — than in the nation as a whole from 2009 to 2010. This brought the number of people living in poverty in the city to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. Child poverty rose even more by 3 percentage points leaving three out of every 10 city children in homes below the poverty level.

A report by Alliance for a Greater New York said the situation may be even worse than those numbers would indicate because of the high cost of living in New York a luxury brand, as the mayor has called it.

Incomes across the city fell by 5 percent. But some people continue to do very well. In Manhattan the county in the country with the biggest income gap the average earning of the top fifth of the population came to $371,754,

While deploring this high level of poverty, advocates quickly responded that the figures only confirm what they see every day an increasing level of need in the city. More homeless. Longer lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. People desperate for work.

More reaction and a review of Bloomberg administration poverty policies after the jump.
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By on September 22, 2011, 5:05 pm
In category: Demographics,Economy,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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DiNapoli vs. Murdoch
August 28th, 2011

You might have missed this as you were taping your windows yesterday: The Daily News reports that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has rejected the state Department of Education contracts with Wireless Generation. The educational tech company is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — and as a result under the purview of former Schools Chancellor, now Murdoch consigliare Joel Klein.

In rejecting the $27 million deal, DiNapoli cited the phone hacking scandal that has shaken Murdoch’s British newspaper empire — and Britain’s government as well. “In light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved,” DiNapoli’s office wrote to the Education Department.

The education department blasted DiNapoli’s move, with a spokesperson accusing the comptroller of having “allowed political pressure to get in the way of vital technology that would help our students/”

The state was prepared to use part of its federal Race to the Top money to pay Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on, creating a system similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, that it developed for the city schools.

Even before the phone hacking scandal, the deal did not meet the smell test for many. The contract was a no-bid deal, even though many other companies reportedly expressed interest in it.
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By on August 28, 2011, 12:53 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Murdoch in the Schools
August 5th, 2011

The city and state teachers union are stepping up their opposition to the awarding of a state education contract to a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The unions have not been big fans of the beleaguered press mogul or of former Chancellor Joel Klein, who now heads education technology (and damaged control?) for him. And the deal has been raising eyebrows since June when the Daily News’ Rachael Monahan reported that the state Department of Education was about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop a system for the state similar to the city’s Achievement Reporting and Innovation System or ARIS.

Klein had been a big promoter of Wireless Generation during his days as chancellor. Two weeks after he left the city to take a mega-lucrative deal with News Corp., the Murdoch company bought Wireless Generation. Admittedly Klein himself worked for the city, not the state. But the ties are there - and the former chancellor certainly stands to benefit from a deal that, in the view of a Forbes blogger, “smack of cronyism.”

The phone hacking scandal has raised further doubts. In their letter to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, and state Education Commissioner John King Jr., state United Teachers president Richard Ianuzzi and Michael Mulgrew, head of the city teachers union, stressed those concerns. Parents and educators, they wrote, question “the wisdom of allowing a News Corp.-owned company to have access the the personal data of students from all across New York.”
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By on August 5, 2011, 1:08 pm
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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CityTime Manager Fudges Timesheets
May 25th, 2011

In an impromptu press conference, Comptroller John Liu revealed even the project manager of the Bloomberg administration’s plagued time keeping project couldn’t keep his own time.

According to a letter Liu received today, Science Application International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, put Gerard Denault on administrative leave in December after the project manager fudged his own time sheets. As a result, the company will refund the city $2.5 million.

“The very company entrusted by our city to build a time keeping system for New York City employees has grossly mismanaged their own time keeping and in the process overcharged the city taxpayers for sums of money still to be determined,” Liu said. “This is a sad day for New York City taxpayers.”

Liu said today he would ask the adminsitration to work with him on this issue. He also called for the administration to freeze all payments to SAIC and force the Department of Investigation to conduct a comprehensive review of other possible violations.

In response, Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna sent over the following statement:

We will withhold any and all payments until the completion of the Department of Investigations ongoing review, which includes a forensic accountant we added last year. The project is essentially fully online and operational and SAICs contract with the city expires on June 30th. We already had stated we were not renewing the contract. SAIC is owed $32 million for the completion of the project; no payments will be made until the review is completed.

CityTime has been the bane of Bloomberg’s third term. Mired by delay and cost overruns, the debacle culminated in December when federal authorities indicted six employees for using shell companies to divert city money into their own pockets. Originally the project was supposed to cost about $60 million. Its price tag now is more than $700 million.

By on May 25, 2011, 5:41 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 4 Comments »

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More Scrutiny for Education Contracts
May 13th, 2011

Highly paid consultants are like fat-cat lawyers. No one claims to like them but they keep getting work — and lots of it.

So, not surprisingly, consultant contracts have become a battleground in the fight over whether New York City should lay off thousands of teachers. Opponents say the consultants should get the ax instead. The department defends their contracts — and keeps writing checks.

Today Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer tweeted about and released a copy of a letter he wrote schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and city Office of Management and Budget director Mark Page challenging the department’s spending on consultants.

Charging that Page had been unable to supply adequate figures, Stinger said he crunched the numbers in the executive budget and “was appalled” to learn the education department plans to increase spending on consultants by $54.4 billion so that it will top $982 million next fiscal. Exact numbers for the cost of averting the layoffs vary but Stringer cites $350 million in his letter.

The department rejected Stringer’s depiction of these contract as “a black hole,” saying many fund required services, such as transportation and help for students with disabilities.

“The borough president either fails to recognize an important fact about these consultant costs or he is intentionally misleading people,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the Daily News. “The truth is that over $840 million of the $981 million he cites are dedicated to direct services for our students with the vast majority going toward our students with disabilities which are services that are required under the law.”

In his letter Stringer requests further information on contracts for central computer services, student transportation and teacher recruitment.

Most of these concerns are nothing new, though the impending layoffs certainly give them more weight — and increased political oomph.
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By on May 13, 2011, 12:55 pm
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Living Wage Gets Its Hearing
May 12th, 2011

Labor and city leadership collided this afternoon at a packed and feisty hearing on legislation to require city subsidized developers pay a living wage.

Under a bill introduced nearly a year ago, recipients of more than $100,000 in financial assistance would have to pay all of their employees either $11.50 or $10 an hour plus benefits. The controversial bill has garnered 30 sponsors at the council, but it does not have the Bloomberg administration’s support. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who controls the council’s agenda, has yet to take a position on the measure.

At today’s hearing, the chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, Tokumbo Shobowale, endured two and half hours of back and forth with council members — the vast majority of those in attendance support the proposal. Shobowale attempted to convince the council that the adminsitration agrees with the premise of raising the standard of living for the working poor. It questions, Shobowale argued, whether a wage mandate is the way to do it.

“It’s not a philosophical difference,” Shobowale said. “It’s looking at the data.”

The hearing followed the release of a study on Monday by the Economic Development Corp., which argued the living wage proposal would result in between 33,000 and 100,000 job losses for the city. The study’s methodology and findings drew ire from supporters of the bill today.

“The administration is so full of it, you might want to consider a high-fiber diet,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “It might help with that situation.”

The hearing amounted to a clash of academics and methodology — with supporters citing studies that supported living wage mandates, and the adminsitration calling its recently released analysis solid, current and comprehensive.

Just this morning, supporters of the bill released a counter analysis of the city’s living wage study, which argued its modeling did not rule out other factors that could affect job growth (like an economic downturn). Supporters also claim the city-sponsored study examines the wrong population of projects — it includes an as-of-right subsidy for industrial and commercial properties the bill is not meant to capture.
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By on May 12, 2011, 6:37 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 6 Comments »

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Protesting Cuts to Child Care
May 11th, 2011

Alshawn Rushing wrote this post.

Thousands of daycare workers, parents and children rallied near City Hall today to protest the mayor’s proposed cuts to childcare and education in the city budget.

“New York City’s child care programs are part of the solution — affordable professional child care enables women to work, without it many would not have that option,” said Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We need politicians to make a choice we can be proud of and not take the path of least resistance, balancing the budgets on the backs of children and women.”

The protest comes days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his executive budget, which called for layoffs of thousands of teachers and an array of other cuts. The administration also announced that Bloomberg had decided to save 16,000 of the childcare slots that were originally slated to be eliminated. According to protestors and their political allies, though, the budget only restores $40 million of the original $90 million that has been cut. AFSCME maintains that only 9,000 of the original slots slated to be cut has been restored.

Child care is an essential job support for low income families, said AFSCME Council 1707 Executive Director Raglan George. “As goes childcare so goes the neighborhood. We are beginning to see some economic recovery; it is not time to limit essential services.”
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By on May 11, 2011, 4:40 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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Koppell Would Consider Motion to Discharge for Living Wage
May 11th, 2011

Councilmember Oliver Koppell told Gotham Gazette today he would consider triggering a rare council rule to bring his living wage bill to the floor should Council Speaker Christine Quinn choose to oppose it.

“I would consider it, yes,” said Koppell at the Emigrant Savings Bank. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’m hoping to convince the speaker to support this or some version of this.”

Typically legislation does not move at the City Council unless it has earned the support of the speaker. Quinn refused to say this afternoon whether she would bring the legislation to the floor or when she would decide whether or not to support it.

The bill, which has strong backing from many of the city’s unions, would require city subsidized developers pay a living wage. The Bloomberg adminsitration does not support the measure. On Monday, the city Economic Development Corp. released a study claiming a wage mandate would stall development and reduce jobs in the five boroughs.

Koppell said today, “The assumptions of the mayor are more than questionable.”

Koppell’s bill has been stalled in committee for nearly a year, despite the fact it has garnered 30 sponsors.

At the beginning of Quinn’s tenure — and in the name of transparency — Quinn revised the council rules to make it easier to bring a bill to the floor if it was stalled in committee. A council member must get seven members to sign a memo to bring the bill to the floor. The full council then determines whether the legislation should have a formal vote.

This procedure is rarely ever used and is considered an affront to the speaker’s leadership.

By on May 11, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Case Management Back on the Chopping Block
May 10th, 2011

Back in March, the city’s Department for the Aging was prepared to close more than 100 senior centers thanks to a cut in the state budget.

Those centers were eventually given a reprieve from the State Legislature.

Some expected senior centers, a frequent target in the Bloomberg administration’s recent budget cuts, to make it back on the chopping block last week. But it was the opposite.

The city will open about 10 new “innovative” senior centers in the next fiscal year, said a spokesperson at the department. Some will be completely new centers, others will be expansions of existing facilities. One of the centers will be exclusively for LGBT elderly.

“Innovative senior centers will have bigger budgets, have focus on health and wellness and still provide meals, information and referrals,” said Christopher Miller, a spokesperson for the Department for the Aging.

The news has not quelled opposition from advocates for the elderly, who still say the mayor’s executive budget proposal hurts senior services.

Bobbie Sackman, the director of public policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services, pointed to the largest cut in the department — a $6.6 million decrease for case management services. The same cut was proposed by the Bloomberg adminsitration last year, but the City Council reversed it.

This time around the department plans to cut about 30 percent from its case management contracts, which now link 18,000 seniors to services.

“Some of them are just going to drop through the cracks,” said Sackman. “There is only so much you can do when you lose a third of your work force.”

Sackman and other advocates will rally at City Hall tomorrow to draw attention to the cuts.

With so many other cuts under consideration, including thousands of teacher layoffs, it’s unclear whether this will become a priority at the City Council.

In response to the criticism, Miller said, “The Department for the Aging will work with its case management provider agencies to consider alternate ways to restructure the service to minimize the impact on the citys most fragile and isolated seniors.”

By on May 10, 2011, 5:44 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on Case Management Back on the Chopping Block

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