Bloomberg Updates Housing Plan
February 22nd, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is injecting the city’s affordable housing plan with another $1 billion, bringing the total investment to build or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing up to $8.5 billion.

The updated plan, which was first announced by the administration in 2002, focuses more on preservation than on the creation of affordable housing.

The update was given at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy’s new Institute for Affordable Housing Policy this morning. The mayor’s prepared remarks are in full after the jump.

For more on the history of plan, see “Affordable Housing Not Included.”

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By on February 22, 2010, 12:32 pm
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Slushgate Reforms Revisited?
February 9th, 2010

Before the ink is dry on the indictment of Larry Seabrook, fellow Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is reiterating his call for a ban on giving discretionary funding to any groups that “employ family members, staff members or former staff members who have been employed by the council within the prior year,” according to a press release from his office.

As weve seen all too often, not-for-profit groups established by elected officials, which then employ family or staff, are often the source of abuse. Preventing city money from flowing to these groups is a necessary step toward reform, Vallone said in a prepared statement.

This morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District released a 65-page indictment charging Seabrook with fraud, extortion and money laundering. Part of the indictment alleges Seabrook directed discretionary funds to nonprofits that he in fact controlled. Seabrook then installed family members and friends as staff at the nonprofits, effectively funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to those closest to him, according to the indictment.

When the slush fund scandal first came to light in 2008, Council Speaker Christine Quinn enacted several reforms at the council to make sure groups that received discretionary funding were properly vetted. The reforms did not prevent council members from directly funding groups that employ their family or friends. Council members must disclose conflicts of interests, and their discretionary funding cannot go directly towards paying a family member’s salary.

Vallone floated his proposed ban immediately after the slush fund broke. But in the last session it received no traction.

By on February 9, 2010, 5:06 pm
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Another One Bites the Dust: Part II (update)
February 9th, 2010

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Councilmember Larry Seabrook has surrendered.

In a press release, the office announced, “Seabrook, 58, surrendered to authorities this morning, and is expected to be presented later today in Magistrate court in Manhattan federal court.”

Elsewhere, the City Council is expected to take up the issue at its first Standards and Ethics Committee meeting, according to Azi. The committee is chaired by Councilmember Inez Dickens.

UPDATE: And this just in from the Yankees:

Statement by Alice McGillion, spokesperson for the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have cooperated fully in this investigation. The Southern District of NY has told us that there is no allegation of wrongdoing on part of anyone within the Yankees organization. The New York Yankees are simply a fact witness. The Southern District of New York has told us that as well. There was no knowledge by anyone in the New York Yankees organization of any wrongdoing.

This contract was of a type encouraged by the Community Benefits Agreement and was performed satisfactorily. When the New York Yankees learned of this situation, they asked their monitor Ed Stier of Thacher Associates to look at it and he confirmed this.

By on February 9, 2010, 1:38 pm
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Another One Bites the Dust
February 9th, 2010

Councilmember Larry Seabrook, who served in the state Assembly and just started his third term at the City Council, is being charged with money laundering, extortion and fraud, according to an indictment released today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District.

seabrook

Some of the charges directly stem from the City Council’s slush fund scandal — which brought down former Councilmember Miguel Martinez last year.

But they also go beyond that.

According to the indictment, Seabrook also solicited payments from a Bronx subcontractor competing for a boiler contract for the new Yankee Stadium and subsequently used the payments for personal expenses.

Between May and October of 2007, that subcontractor was paid more than $283,000 for work done on Yankee Stadium. Between July 2006 and April 2009, checks were made out by the contractor to Seabrook’s local political organization — North East Bronx Community Democratic Club. The checks were made out to the club at Seabrook’s discretion, according to the indictment. On occasion, the councilmember directed those payments to his personal checking account or to the Bronx African American Chamber of Commerce, which he is closely aligned with, the indictment states.

Those “corrupt payments” totaled $50,000, according to the indictment.

Seabrook funneled the money for his personal use by claiming he had purchased expenses for the club, according to the indictment. He allegedly received reimbursements that he then used for personal expenses, including airfare to Florida, parking tickets, and flowers for his sister.

Seabrook then allegedly forged receipts to try to show his expenses were club-related. On one occasion, he submitted a receipt for a sandwich and beverage purchased near City Hall that originally cost $7. The receipt was doctored, the indictment alleges, to cost about $177.

Beyond that, the indictment alleges Seabrook directed more than $2.5 million in the City Council’s discretionary funding to nonprofits he in fact controlled. Seabrook negotiated office space for the groups (which was reported in the Times last year) and often made decisions for the groups, the indictment states.

Through these nonprofits, Seabrook paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to his girlfriend, sisters, nephews and brother in consulting fees. At the same time, these groups fell far short of meeting goals laid out in the council’s discretionary funding initiatives. Some of the groups included the North East Bronx Redevelopment Corp., the Bronx African American Chamber of Commerce, the New York African American Legal and Civil Hall of Fame, and others.

Of the money designated to these groups through the City Council, about $530,000 of it went to Seabrook’s girlfriend and family members, the indictment states. Through this process, Seabrook also allegedly inflated expense and rent payments.

The U.S. Attorney’s has scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. downtown.

Seabrook’s attorney Murray Richman was in court and not available for comment.

The 65 page indictment, which is part of a years-long federal and city investigation, is below.

Seabrook, Larry Indictment

By on February 9, 2010, 12:01 pm
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Libraries Lose Hours
February 4th, 2010

librariessm

Photo (cc) 2007 timetrax23

The New York Public Library announced this morning it would reduce hours at two-thirds of its locations thanks to a nearly $6 million mid-year budget cut.

It will keep all of its locations open six days a week, but five of nine locations will no longer be open on Sunday. On average, neighborhood locations will be open 45 hours per week — a decrease from an average of 51 hours.

These service reductions are from cuts to the city’s fiscal year 2010 budget, which ends in June. Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his preliminary fiscal year 2011 budget last week. In that, the New York Public Library would be cut another $8.2 million.

The unfortunate reality is that more cuts loom on the horizon, and unless there are substantial changes to city and state financial plans, we will be forced to make extremely difficult choices over the next two years, said New York Public Library President Dr. Paul LeClerc in a prepared statement. We will make every effort to ensure that any further cuts are as painless as possible for our patrons, who need our services such as job search assistance and free classes more than ever.

Of the library system’s six networks, the only one unaffected is Staten Island.

The new hours will take effect Feb. 16. Here is list of all the changes.

By on February 4, 2010, 11:56 am
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Bloomberg: No Love for Labor?
January 28th, 2010

Labor, don’t expect a amicable third term with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In his preliminary budget released this afternoon, the mayor has taken a hard line approach to labor, in what some see as a shift from his previous policies toward the city’s unions.

Call it hardball.

Bloomberg asked the United Federation of Teachers to take only 2 percent salary increases next year instead of 4 percent. According to the administration, the city would save $160 million in this year’s budget and $357 million in fiscal year 2011, which starts in July.

If the teacher’s union doesn’t bite, Bloomberg said the city could have 2,500 fewer educators come September.

“They have to decide what they want to protect. Have all of their members have a little bit of pain or 2,500 members lose their jobs?” the mayor said. “The bottom line is we don’t have any money.”

In addition, Bloomberg also warned other labor unions that they too would have to chip in more. Pointing to the more than 30 percent salary increases since 2002, Bloomberg said the city had not budgeted additional wage hikes in fiscal year 2011. He said any wage increase would have to be covered by productivity increases, savings in health insurance and by savings in pension costs. In line with that, the mayor again called for a fifth pension tier for new employees to help reduce pension costs, which have risen 357 percent since 1996.
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By on January 28, 2010, 6:56 pm
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Bloomberg's 2011 Budget Cuts
January 28th, 2010

Calling the city’s fiscal situation “worrisome,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $63.64 billion budget for fiscal year 2011 this afternoon that takes a hard line on labor and cuts $1.6 billion from city agencies.

Bloomberg’s proposal cuts $500 million from agencies this fiscal year and another $1.1 billion from next year’s budget. The cuts from this fiscal year have already been implemented, Bloomberg said. Under Bloomberg’s budget, the city’s workforce would be reduced by 5,177 over those two fiscal years — about three-quarters is expected to come from attrition. The mayor also suggested starting to tax aviation fuel, which could add $169 million to the city’s sales tax revenue in the next fiscal year.

In response to the cuts, the mayor said, “Don’t measure the quality of city services by the quantity of city services.”

Under the mayor’s plan, controllable city services, which do not include health and pension costs, would fall by 1.8 percent from fiscal year 2010, which ends in June. These cuts are the seventh round the administration has taken since 2007.

Here are some examples from the mayor’s proposal:

Libraries:
Reduce Subsides to Library Systems: $12.9 million (10), $22.1 million (11)

Parks:
Close Four Pools and Shorten Outdoor Pool Season by Two Weeks: $1.4 million

Police:
Uniform Attrition of 892 Officers: $55.4 million
Reduction in Overtime Spending via Improved OT Management Strategies: $25 million (10), $50 million

Fire:
Eliminate Staffing of Four Additional Engine Companies: $5.6 million
Eliminate Fifth Firefighter on 60 Engine Companies: $7.9 million

DOT:
Increase Commercial Parking Rates from $2 to $2.50 Per Hour in Midtown Manhattan: $4.1 million
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By on January 28, 2010, 2:27 pm
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Bloomberg Testifies on State Budget
January 25th, 2010

Needless to say, it’s morose.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Gov. David Paterson’s state budget proposal would slice $1.3 billion from New York City, which could result in a workforce reduction of almost 19,000, 8,500 of which would be teachers. The state budget disproportionately affects municipalities, including New York City, and is balanced on the back of the city’s workforce, the mayor said in Albany this morning.

Bloomberg pointed to a proposal that would eliminate the state’s appropriation to homeless shelters, which would effectively slash $55 million from the Department of Homeless Services budget next year. This comes at a time when the city is seeing record number of homeless individuals. The mayor also blasted Paterson’s proposal to completely eliminate state revenue sharing for the city — to the order of $328. Other counties across the state are seeing 1 to 5 percent reductions.

Under this proposal, Bloomberg said the city would have to close 15 senior centers, 500 parks employees would face layoffs (equal to closing recreation centers, pools and beaches, citywide) and 500 soup kitchens would lose funding.

The good news: The mayor did laud the governor’s proposal to tax soda and increase the tax on cigarettes.

We will get a closer look at how these budget cuts affect the city on a micro level on Thursday, which is when the mayor is scheduled to release the city’s preliminary budget, according to his remarks.

Here are his prepared remarks in full:

Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Farrell, Chairman Kruger, my own State Senator Vice Chair Liz Krueger and members of the committees. Seated with me are Mark Page, the Citys director of Management and Budget, and Micah Lasher, our Director of State Legislative Affairs.

All of us, at all levels of government, face difficult decisions this year. You and the Governor have the task of balancing a budget that has a $7.4 billion gap between revenues and spending. Projections are for even greater deficits next year and the year after that. The Governor has presented what he calls a budget of necessity. We all know that hard budget choices are necessary but so are fair ones.
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By on January 25, 2010, 11:44 am
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De Blasio Takes on Bloomberg on Homelessness
January 19th, 2010

homeless

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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Committees Coming?
January 14th, 2010

The speaker’s office has scheduled a rules committee meeting for Thursday, January 21, meaning those less than official committee assignments are gradually becoming official.

The temporary rules committee will vote on the new committee members and chairs. The committee includes Inez Dickens as chair, Joel Rivera, Leroy Comrie, Lewis Fidler, Thomas White, James Oddo and Speaker Christine Quinn.

This committee selection process isn’t just about what issues are closest to members’ hearts. Some seats become even more competitive because they carry influence (like Land Use or Finance) and serious salary bonuses. Heading up Finance or Land Use means those members get an extra $18,000 every year.

It is still unclear whether the council will even keep all of its committees, given the fiscal crisis. When asked at a press conference earlier this week whether they would all stay, Quinn only said, “Maybe.”

Here are some of the assignments so far, via Azi. If you know of any more, send them our way.

By on January 14, 2010, 3:11 pm
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The Race for Simcha's Seat
January 5th, 2010

Officially, Councilmember Simcha Felder is scheduled to be sworn into a third term tomorrow.

But how long that term will last is still unclear. This morning Comptroller John Liu announced the Brooklyn-bred councilmember would be joining his team at the comptroller’s office, taking the reins at a newly formed position — deputy comptroller for accounting and budget.

But now a few residents of the 44th district, which spans Borough Park and Midwood, are already scrambling to get their campaigns together. Three candidates are already reportedly getting ready to ramp up a race, including David Greenfield, the executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, Judge Noach Dear, and Joe Lazar, the former director of fiscal affairs for the Department of Buildings.

“I am very exited that Simcha has a great opportunity,” said Greenfield, who cited education, jobs and senior services as his top priorities. “I’ve been preparing for this race since 2007, and I really believe I’m going to be the best advocate for the community.”

Reached this morning in Miami, Lazar said he would definitely run for the open seat. He said his experience at the buildings department and as the New York City regional director at the state Office of Mental Health would make him a great councilmember. Lazar, who at the age of 61 has never run for office before, plans on announcing formally when Councilmember Felder actually resigns.

“I have every intention of running,” said Lazar. “I figured I’d wait for the body to get cold. … I’ve got a varied background but my bottom line is really to help my constituents.”

Both Greenfield and Lazar had started to fundraise for a council run before the extension of term limits, and each has accumulated a good amount of cash — $180,477 and $116,534, respectively. Before term limits, Felder had voiced support for Greenfield.

Both Lazar and Greenfield dropped out of the race following the approval of the term limits extension, and they subsequently froze their campaign accounts to use at a later date (a move allowed by the Campaign Finance Board in light of the unusual circumstances surrounding term limits).

It is unclear now, however, whether Lazar and Greenfield will be able to use that cash now since they will potentially face off in a special election. A spokesperson at the board said they are looking into the issue currently, calling it “complicated.” Muddling things is the fact that contribution limits are halved in special elections.

By on January 5, 2010, 3:06 pm
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Liu's Appointees
January 5th, 2010

New City Comptroller John Liu this morning announced the appointment of several deputy comptrollers. The list includes Simcha Felder, who will give up his seat on the City Council to serve as deputy comptroller for accounting and budget. Felder, a certified public accountant who once worked in the city comptroller’s officer, was re-elected to his seat from Brooklyn’s 44th district, which includes Borough Park, without any opposition in November. He had avoided a primary challenge as well.

The announcement paves the way for a special election and, according to the Daily Politics, the battle has already begun. The blog’s Liz Benjamin reports that Judge Noach Dear, Felder’s controversial predecessor, is considering trying to get his old seat back and that David Greenfield, executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, is likely to run. Before the term limits extension, Greenfield was a front-runner to succeed Felder.

Whoever takes the seat, he or she probably will not share Felder’s distinction as one of the council’s funniest members. Late last year, though, City Councilmember James Oddo predicted he would “consistently funnier than Simcha Felder” in 2010. Given that Felder now loses a public forum for his quips, Oddo was probably right.

Liu also named Eric Eve, a senior vice president, at Citigroup as first deputy comptroller. The others appointed were: Ricardo Elias Morales, a former general counsel at the New York City Housing Authority, as general counsel; Geneith Turnbull, deputy commissioner, at the city Human Resources Administration, as deputy comptroller for contracts; and H. Tina Kim, former director of audit and civil rights at the state transportation department, as deputy comptroller for audit. Carol Kostik will keep her position as deputy comptroller for public finance.

By on January 5, 2010, 11:43 am
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Fidler Still Wants Finance
January 4th, 2010

Despite the chaos reportedly churning over the City Council’s new committee assignments, Councilmember Lewis Fidler, who currently heads up the council’s Youth Services Committee, says he is still eying the Finance Committee chairmanship.

Talking to Gotham Gazette this morning, Fidler said he still wanted the job, explaining the position’s challenges (especially in a tough budget year) are what makes it so appealing. Fidler said he is a good candidate because he would be “tough with the Bloomberg people when necessary and understands whats going on economically.”

For weeks, City Hall insiders speculated that the position, which comes with one of the council’s most hefty stipends of $18,000, would go to a Brooklyn-based member — either Fidler, Simcha Felder or Domenic Recchia. According to the Daily Politics, though, the position could end up in the hands of the Bronx, which would surely widen the rift between Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez and Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The council’s new committee chairs are not expected to be finalized until after Wednesday’s inaugural meeting — when 13 new members will take the oath of office.

Elsewhere, the speaker’s re-election looks to be moving forward as scheduled. The formal vote will occur Wednesday. Quinn has only one challenger, Charles Barron, who is highly unlikely to orchestrate a coup.

By on January 4, 2010, 1:29 pm
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Another One Bites the Dust
December 23rd, 2009

As expected, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul Cosgrave will “retire” next week, adding to the crew of commissioners who will not be joining the mayor for a third term.

This particular “retirement,” which the News dubbed a resignation, comes after the city’s 911 call system upgrade was two years behind schedule and over budget. The mayor’s statement below boasts Cosgrave’s work on 311, but is silent on the 911 controversy.

In another department, the mayor announced on Monday the appointment of Salvatore Cassano to head the Fire Department following Nicholas Scopetta.

Here is the mayor’s statement on Cosgrave:

When I appointed Paul Cosgrave Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in 2006, our Administration had made unprecedented gains increasing public access to City information and services. Still, I charged Paul with going even farther, giving New Yorkers new ways to interact with City government, and making City government even more transparent. He had great success achieving those goals.

Paul expanded our 311 Customer Service Center, which provides New Yorkers round-the-clock access to information and services in some 180 languages. He helped create an enhanced 311 service for public school families which provides an easy-to-use resource for parents and guardians seeking answers about their childrens education. Thanks to his efforts, New Yorkers can now access 311 by phone, via multiple online channels, and attach pictures and videos to complaints submitted from their desktops or mobile phones. And just last month, we announced an agreement with the MTA to explore streamlining public access to mass transit information. Paul spearheaded the effort to create the New York City Wireless Network, a state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure transforming how City agencies ensure public safety and deliver services, as well as the expansion and adoption of broadband service in low income neighborhoods.

Through it all, Pauls greatest strengths have been his ability to work collaboratively and effectively with a wide variety of stakeholders and find ways to get things done. On behalf of the people of the City of New York, I thank him for his distinguished service and wish him all the best in retirement.

By on December 23, 2009, 12:32 pm
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Signature Theatre Finds a Home
December 22nd, 2009

theater

After years of struggling to get on stage somewhere near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, the Signature Theatre Company has found a home in Hell’s Kitchen just mere blocks from Broadway, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the company announced this morning.

On the still-cement ground floor of a building under construction on 10th Avenue, stars (yes, Maggie Gyllenhaal was spotted!) officials and theater-lovers gathered to unveil the company’s new address — to be known as the Signature Center. The theater, which will have an interior designed by the architect Frank Gehry, will be just one part of the building developed by the Related Companies. The entire 59-story structure will also include a 800 new housing units, 160 of which will are for low-income families, and it comes with a $800 price tag.

The company’s space will be comprised of three distinct theaters, rehearsal studios, a cafe, bookstore and administrative offices.

Following September 11, 2001, the company planned to relocate to a Gehry-designed building in Lower Manhattan at the site of the Ground Zero reconstruction. They were slated to also share the space with the Joyce Theater. But in 2007, the company accepted an offer to relocate — with the city’s help — because the shared space proposal proved to be cost prohibitive.

The city is contributing $25 million to the theater’s construction.

Today, donning a hard hat and nearly drowned out by the sounds of construction workers hammering and drilling overhead, Bloomberg dipped his hands in cement to solidify the announcement. And then the crowd applauded (though there was no standing ovation).

“Theater makers leave only three things behind: legends, play scripts and from time to time, when the economy’s good, landlords get it, when the mayor and City Council support it, buildings,” said Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner, whose works will comprise the company’s 2010-11 season.

The theater is slated to open in 2012.

By on December 22, 2009, 2:15 pm
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Offsetting Service Cuts with Infrastructure Money
December 17th, 2009

As everyone and their mom talks about the MTA’s current mess and how to get out of it, one alternative to chopping transit service has generated the most discussion: using funds from the MTA’s capital budget to plug the deficit. Supported by a number of council members and the Straphangers Campaign, the plan would take money from the capital budget – used for things like maintaining and expanding the system’s infrastructure – and use it for operating expenses, such as salaries and fuel, which is where the immediate gap is. The goal is to make sure the MTA gets through the year without any service cuts while leaders devise a long-term solution.

Gene Russianoff from the Straphangers says it is necessary to do this because of “the harm to riders of service cuts in an already overcrowded system; the new blow to the MTAs credibility if the agency institutes cuts that the riding public (paying a higher fare since June) were told would not happen; and cuts undermining MTA Chairman Jay Walders sensible plans to improve bus service.”

Walder said he’d consider the proposal, according to Reuters, but noted that it was a “slippery slope” which the MTA already once descended in the 1970s, leading to decades of disrepair.

Some advocates get behind the idea only as a last resort. In a post on the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s blog, Kate Slevin said her organization would support using federal stimulus funds meant for capital costs to plug the gap if need be. “This is an unsustainable stopgap measure that will only postpone the problem, and the Campaign does not generally support capital dollars being used for operations,” she wrote. “However, this is a dire situation that may require emergency action.”

But it isn’t even on the table for others. Neysa Pranger of the Regional Plan Association points out that the MTA’s capital budget gap is $9.9 billion dollars over five years while next year’s capital budget is only a fraction of that, at around $383 million. She also stresses that capital spending is important for long-term economic recovery.

The MTA’s cuts would not take place until the summer of 2010, and it must vote to approve them again after the agency holds public hearings on each of the individual service cuts. If recent controversial issues in the state capitol are any indication, no decisions will be made as to whether this is a good or bad idea until the last possible moment.

By on December 17, 2009, 4:36 pm
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Subway Solutions from the Council
December 15th, 2009

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember James Vacca and transportation advocates are calling for their own solutions to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s fiscal woes.

The authority’s board is scheduled to meet tomorrow to vote on a new budget that will eliminate two subway lines and 21 bus routes. It also would eliminate student discounts and trigger service reductions across the system.

In response, council members gathered this morning to urge the authority use $140 million in capital funds to temporarily close the authority’s operating budget gap. They also urged the authority to get Congressional approval to use $90 million in unspent stimulus funding to go towards the gap.

The full release is after the jump.
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By on December 15, 2009, 1:54 pm
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Kingsbridge Vote About Traffic, Jobs?
December 14th, 2009

riveradiaz
Pictured above are Councilmember Joel Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at a rally following the council’s vote.

In a rare move, the City Council rejected a proposal from the Bloomberg administration and developer The Related Companies to redevelop a massive armory in the northwest Bronx this morning.

After weeks of debate, the council voted against the proposal, which would have turned the Kingsbridge Armory into a large shopping mall, by a vote of 45 to 1, with one abstention. The project was effectively toppled by a disagreement between the community, the administration and the developer over whether to require the mall’s retailers to pay a living wage, which the community defined as $10 an hour. Today the City Council, led by its Bronx delegation, sided with the community.

For months the subject of a living wage monopolized the discussion over the Kingsbridge Armory. But any living wage settlement would have likely been agreed to in a community benefits agreement, which is not subject to City Council approval. Therefore at its meeting today, council members cited other areas of the developer’s land use application that did fall within their purview, like traffic, as a reason why the proposal was rejected.

“We have been very clear that there were a number of issues, many have been traffic and environmental, germane to the land use process, some separate from the land use process, which often happens in land use negotiations,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“Obviously none of them were resolved,” said Quinn.

Today was the final day for the council to act on the project. The council has 50 days after a project is approved by the City Planning Commission to either reject or accept it. The armory rejection will now go to the mayor, who is expected to veto it. Quinn said there were enough votes in the City Council to override a mayoral veto.

The project, according to the administration, would have brought thousands of temporary and permanent jobs to the area.

The mayor, who is at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Copenhagen, issued the following response after the council’s vote:
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By on December 14, 2009, 3:06 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Vetoes Parking Bill
December 8th, 2009

And Council Speaker Christine Quinn as well as the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Simcha Felder, “respectfully” fire back.

Here are their statements:

Statement from Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

Issuing New Yorkers a parking violation just two or three minutes past the time when alternate side parking goes into effect or a muni-meter stub runs out is simply unfair. These parking rules are not in place for the purpose of generating revenue. They are in place to promote compliance and that is why creating a 5 minute grace period for drivers to move their vehicles is a fair and appropriate action to take. At tomorrows Stated Council meeting we will accept the Mayors veto of this bill and expect that the vast majority of Council Members will vote to override this veto at the next Stated Council meeting on December 21st.

Statement from Council Member Simcha Felder:

While I am one of the Mayor’s biggest fans I respectfully disagree with this veto. This legislation is about common sense and decency and its passage will help change the ticketing culture of New York City. There is no reason why 300,000 tickets a year are issued within the first five minutes of alternate side parking regulations going into effect. In fact, until recently it was actually the informal policy of the City to give drivers a five minute grace period. I am grateful for Speaker Quinn’s leadership on this issue and I am confident we have the votes in the City Council to override this veto.

By on December 8, 2009, 4:33 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on Bloomberg Vetoes Parking Bill

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A Deal on Authorities
November 18th, 2009

Update: The Senate now is expected to vote on the authorities bill this (Wednesday) evening.

A budget deal still seems far away, but leaders in Albany have apparently reached accord on another vexing issue: changing some of the rules governing the state’s public authorities.

Details are not yet available, David King reports from Albany, but apparently the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office have signed off on a bill designed to make public authorities such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corp. more efficient and accountable. State Sen. Bill Perkins, who has been one of the proponents of “authorities reform,” told King he is happy with the deal, which he sees “as moving in the right direction.”

The Assembly could vote on the measure as early as today, but Perkins does not expect the Senate to. There will be a press conference on the agreement later today with Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, a sponsor of measures to rein in the authorities, Perkins and the governor’s office.

Although the bill is not technically a budget measure, Perkins said it would save money by curbing some of the excess spending at the authorities.

The state had seemed close to passing the Public Authorities Reform Act earlier this year, but then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson raised objections. Bloomberg did not like parts of the measure that would have limited his authority over authorities and claimed the bill would hurt development projects by requiring that, when authorities sell any land they own, they must get the market rate. (So, for example the MTA would have to sell its property at Atlantic Yards to Bruce Ratner for the going price, whatever that might be.) No word yet on whether the soon-to-be-announced agreement addresses these concerns

By on November 18, 2009, 3:25 pm
In category: Albany,Public Finance | Comments Off on A Deal on Authorities

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