Weekly Web Wrap
June 26th, 2009

  • If I Knew BLANK About New York, I’d BLANK
    (Open My City)
  • Project Aims to Green Space Below Queensboro Bridge
    (Urban Omnibus)
  • What New York Can Learn About Dutch Flood Prevention
    (NY 400 Blog)
  • Subway Station Naming Rights Absurdly Underpriced
    (BLDGBLOG)
  • The Downside of Small Schools
    (Huffington Post)
  • State Approves $3 Million in Biotech Startup Tax Credits
    (GenomeWeb via FierceBiotech)
  • New Yorkers Who Prefer “Daddy” to Mayor
    (Alternet)
  • Five Open Tenants of NYSenate.gov
    (Talkin’ Bout a Revolution)
  • State Change to Graduation Stats Could Implode Gains
    (Edwize)
  • New Budget No Longer Plans to Eliminate School Trailers
    (IBO Weblog)
  • Comptroller Supports Expansion of Cheap In-City Commuter Rail Travel
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Senate Power Struggle
    (Matt Davies)
  • By on June 26, 2009, 10:21 am
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    Goading the Governor?
    June 25th, 2009

    As negotiations continue over if, when and how the State Senate can get back to business, the senators seems to be reaching consensus on one point, David King reports from Albany: They do not like the way Gov. David Paterson is dealing with the situation.

    Republican leader Dean Skelos and the man who started all this, Pedro Espada Jr., both emerged from talks today to accuse Paterson of pouring gasoline on the fire.

    Meanwhile three members of Paterson’s own party– Hiram Monserrate, who broke with the Democrats and then returned; Carl Kruger, who is allied with the Democratic renegades; and Eric Adams — now want the governor to put his signature where his mouth is. The three do not think the legislation passed during the special Senate sessions Paterson has called are legal, because the the Assembly has not been called into session as well. But in throwing down the gauntlet to Paterson, the three argue that, if Paterson thinks the legislation is legal, he should sign the 11 bills Senate Democrats passed on Wednesday. To bolster their argument that the Assembly should be on hand too, they note that some measures Paterson want the Senate to act on have not yet passed the Assembly.

    To Paterson, of course, the passage of legislation may be a bit beside the point. He might well reason that the special session is the only way to keep senators in Albany, so they will negotiate and end this crisis sometime in the foreseeable future.

    By on June 25, 2009, 1:12 pm
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    We Want to Know About Unemployment
    June 23rd, 2009

    Between April and May, the city’s unemployment rate jumped from 8 to 9 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.

    That amounts to more than 361,000 people within the five boroughs who are collecting unemployment insurance from the state — at a maximum of $430 a week per individual. In a city where the least expensive one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan goes for approximately $1,611, those unemployment checks may barely cover your rent.

    We want to know how you do it. In our first partnership with Huffington Post New York, which launched yesterday, we are kicking off a citizen journalism project that will take an in-depth look at unemployment in New York City and state.

    If you rely on unemployment insurance or have contemplated heading to the unemployment office, we want to hear from you. How are you stretching $430 or less across a week? What sacrifices are you making? What help have you received in searching for a new job? Send your responses to [email protected]

    Gotham Gazette will be using your stories for our investigation into the state’s unemployment benefits.

    By on June 23, 2009, 10:30 am
    In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Housing,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    June 19th, 2009

  • New York Home Prices Forecast to Drop 40 Percent
    (Time)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Albany
    (Adam Zyglis)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Albany and Iran
    (Matt Davies)
  • Weprin Willing to Give up Comfortable Albany Seat
    (Queens Campaigner)
  • The Merits of Full Wrap Ads on Empty Storefronts
    (Public Ad Campaign)
  • Report on Child Deaths Offers No Solutions to Biggest Problem: Traffic
    (Streetsblog)
  • Brooklyn Academy of Musics Green Rooftop Aviary for Migrating Birds
    (Inhabitat)
  • By on June 19, 2009, 2:42 pm
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    Don't Cross Betsy
    June 19th, 2009

    The normally reserved, quiet public advocate came out with a bite this morning at City Hall thanks to what she says is a budget cut that would cripple future public advocates.

    Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said her budget wasn’t restored, unlike other elected officials, by the City Council, because of her “spirited” opposition to the extension of term limits late last year. Gotbaum pointed to Council Speaker Christine Quinn mostly, whom she said she had a “spirited” meeting with last week over her office’s cut. So “spirited,” she said, she was surprised the City Hall Press Corp. missed it.

    “This cut by the speaker is an attempt to turn a watch dog into a lap dog,” Gotbaum said. “The council is spending almost $50 million on member items, and the borough presidents, I hear, have been restored. I congratulate them. I find it appalling that the speaker could not find the money to restore my budget, but had $17 million to hand out.”

    Gotbaum is so furious that she said she will no longer preside over the City Council’s meetings. She says she serves at the pleasure of the speaker — sitting at the front of the council chamber steering the body through their twice-monthly gatherings — but no more.

    Gotbaum also said she would not be laying off any staff. They work too hard, she argues. With that, Gotbaum said she would continue as if it were business as usual in the public advocate’s office. But she did promise to leave money for the incoming advocate. She is leaving public office in January — halfway through the fiscal year.

    The advocate’s budget this year is expected to be a tad over $2.8 million. According to the mayor’s executive budget, they were slated for a cut of $1.06 million, bringing down the budget to $1.77 million.

    By on June 19, 2009, 11:30 am
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    De Blasio on Democracy
    June 17th, 2009

    To Bill de Blasio, democracy is down in New York City.

    As public advocate, he argues, he would change it.

    At a Citizens Union breakfast this morning, de Blasio, a councilmember from Brooklyn turned borough president candidate turned public advocate candidate (a post-term limits change), said New Yorkers have been growing more and more distant from their government at no fault of their own.

    “Our city government does not attempt to bring people in,” said de Blasio.

    No city department exemplifies this like the Department of Education.

    “The Tweed building is impenetrable,” said de Blasio.

    With a mayoral office whose power far outweighs any other branch of government, someone like the public advocate needs to provide checks and balances, said de Blasio. De Blasio said he would act as an advocate and attempt to strengthen the position, which, he argues has been steadily defunded throughout the Bloomberg administration.

    That is, if he is elected.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 17, 2009, 4:54 pm
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    Thompson Chimes In
    June 16th, 2009

    Democratic mayoral contender and Comptroller William Thompson just released this statement in response to the mayor and the City Council’s budget agreement last night:

    During tough times we must all work to make sacrifices, but the budget agreed upon by the mayor and City Council, while moving to save some important city services, unfairly affects the small business and middle class communities throughout the city.

    The approximately $380 million in cuts to the Department of Education is unacceptable. Mayor Bloomberg would rather pull money out of classrooms than admit that under his administration, the DOE has become a top heavy agency that has wasted millions of dollars in no bid contracts and fiscal mismanagement.

    The citys agreement to raise the sales tax is a regressive move that will adversely affect New York Citys families and small businesses, which are the backbone of our local economy. In a time of economic recession, asking hard-working New Yorkers to pay more for goods and services is simply unfair.

    Instead, the city would have been better served by raising the Personal Income Tax on those New Yorkers making $500,000 or more annually, as I have recommended. This would bring in more than $1 billion annually in additional revenue to the city.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 16, 2009, 2:14 pm
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    Tier V Out in 2010?
    June 16th, 2009

    There are plenty of proposals that we will soon find out were left out of this year’s budget agreement, which was announced last night by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn — documents are pending.

    One which is definitely not included in this plan is the creation of a fifth pension tier for city employees, which earlier this week the administration said was one of its top priorities in Albany this session. A new tier for employees could save the city billions over the long term by reducing benefits and possibly raising the retirement age. The governor brokered a similar deal with state employees’ unions earlier this month.

    Whether it was the Senate stalemate or a backlash from city unions, we don’t know. But it looks like the administration isn’t anticipating it for this budget cycle. Here is the mayor’s response last night when asked whether it was in the new budget:

    “We are expecting and hoping that Albany will help us The biggest problem we have is our uncontrollables, mainly those in the hands of Albany, (which) are up 6 percent. And we just have to do it. We cannot afford going forward (with) the kind of pension costs and health care costs that we have had. We did negotiate some health care costs with the unions, and they deserve a lot of credit for coming to the table. It was a long negotiation. It was not an easy one, but we came to an agreement. Thats what democracy is all about. Thats exactly the kind of relationship we want to have We have to do something in Albany for changing the pension system cause otherwise it will be something we cant afford whatsoever in another few years. It is growing unchecked and if the stock market does not recover between now and the end of this month we are going to have to repay into the system all the monies they lost. We can do it over a six year period, but we have to make up those.”

    A spokesperson later confirmed it wasn’t in the plan.

    By on June 16, 2009, 2:10 pm
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    Council Sends Sales Tax to Assembly
    June 15th, 2009

    The City Council thinks something might gone done in Albany this week — at least in the Assembly.

    In a rare move that splices the city’s budget process, the City Council approved a revenue package this afternoon, which will increase the sales tax by .5 percent and removes a sales tax exemption for clothing purchases more than $110. The Bloomberg administration and the City Council have not yet agreed on a spending package for fiscal year 2010, although I am told one might be pending very shortly.

    The tax package, which includes tax breaks for corporations and small business owners, was approved by a vote of 48 to 0, with the exception of the sales tax increase, which was approved by a vote of 37 to 10 with one abstention (a full breakdown is after the jump). The revenue package must now be approved by the State Legislature.

    The bills have already been introduced in the State Assembly, and it is likely they will be approved there before it adjourns June 22. The State Senate is, of course, another story.

    The business taxes include doing away with “double-taxing” freelancers and unincorporated businesses who make under $100,000. The break would apply to about 11,000 freelancers and small businesses, according to the council. The city will also move to a single sales factor for its corporate business tax. Currently it uses property, payroll, and sales to tax corporations. If approved in Albany, the city would move to a formula which bases taxes solely on sales. The move is expected to bring more businesses to the city.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 15, 2009, 2:12 pm
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    Meeting A United Senate?
    June 12th, 2009

    Gotham Gazette’s Jackie Pearce reports from 250 Broadway:

    Senate Democrats came out of their meeting at 250 Broadway in the same fashion they went in an hour before: Saying nothing about the fate of their majority.

    But they had no problem displaying a cohesive front.

    Our conference is very united, reported Sen. Malcolm Smith, the disputed leader of both the (former) majority and the State Democrats.

    Were a united conference doing the business of the people of the state of New York, echoed Sen. John Sampson, who could be stepping in for Smith.

    Smith did not respond to questions over whether or not he was still, in fact, the majority leader. Notably absent from the meeting was Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who supposedly will not rejoin the Democrats unless Smith is replaced.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 12, 2009, 5:37 pm
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    Domestic Workers Push for Bill of Rights
    June 12th, 2009

    Taking care of children and the elderly: Check.

    A bill of rights: left blank.

    Early this morning, dozens of domestic workers and their allies set up shop outside City Hall, participating in a 24-hour vigil to lobby for a bill that would provide basic labor protections for domestic workers in New York.

    Domestic laborers said that the 24-hour vigil is symbolic of their working situation. “We work in the employers’ house around the clock, 24 hours,” said Joycelynn Gill-Campbell, a former nanny from Barbados who is now a full-time organizer with Domestic Workers United, a grassroots group.

    If passed, the domestic workers’ bill of rights would be the first bill to address their exclusion from federal and state labor laws. Though its prospects, according to some legislators, looked good at one point, it too could become a casualty of the Senate stalemate.

    “I know what it is to be treated less than a human being and to be exploited and abused,” Gill-Campbell said. “We have to create history. The bill of rights is about correcting all the injustices that have been done.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 12, 2009, 5:23 pm
    In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Immigrants,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    June 12th, 2009

  • Senate Control More Important After 2010 Redistricting
    (Ballot Box)
  • Breakdown of the 2008 Election Results
    (Prime News)
  • Bloomberg, Quinn Discuss Green Building Laws
    (Charlie Rose)
  • Councilmember Nelson Aide Gets Large Earmark
    (City Council Watch)
  • Chow Takes Fundraising Lead in Race for Liu’s Seat
    (The Queens Campaigner)
  • Work Continues on Making Senate Data Accessible Online
    (NY Senate CIO)
  • Did Paterson Agree to No Layoffs for Two Years in Union Deal?
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • Ruiz Declines to Challenge Baez in Bronx Council Race
    (Bronx News Network)
  • New Magazine Covers Strategic Planning and Design
    (CATALYST via Core 77)
  • Making Grocers More Appetizing to Developers
    (Planetizen)
  • Train Tunnel Project Receives $3 Billion from Feds
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • Photographs of Harlem in its Most Neglected Age
    (Slate)
  • City Seeks New Approach to Ad-Based Free WiFi
    (GovTech)
  • Bloomberg Might Yet Buy Your Love
    (Huffington Post)
  • Advocates Call for Redirection of $900 Million to Schools
    (Manhattan Borough President’s Blog)
  • By on June 12, 2009, 1:02 pm
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    Session Live Again
    June 11th, 2009

    You can view it here.

    Right now, (Majority Leader) Sen. Dean Skelos is addressing the chamber.

    Here are some comments:

    “I want to reach out to my Democrat friends and colleagues to join this coalition. If you look at the active list that we had today, I would say that 95 percent of the bills that we were prepared to act on were sponsored by Democrats. So this is a new day in Albany. I would ask the press, I would ask the public, look at the rules that we passed this past Monday and how they open up democracy right there in this chamber. They are excellent rules…

    We are all going to work with one goal… We are going to restore this state to being the Empire State.”

    By on June 11, 2009, 10:26 am
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    Smith Reinstated? (Update)
    June 11th, 2009

    According to the New York Post a judge has reinstated Sen. Malcolm Smith as Senate Majority Leader. They say Republicans intend to appeal the decision.

    Update: The judge has actually declined Smith’s request for an order restraining Sen. Pedro Espada from using the powers of the “temporary president.”

    A hearing to determine the merits of the coup, orchestrated by Senate Republicans and Sens. Espada and Hiram Monserrate, has been scheduled for Friday morning.

    Update x2: The doors to the Senate chamber are open but it seems no actual voting will take place today.

    By on June 11, 2009, 10:02 am
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    Quinn Stays Out of New Indictment
    June 10th, 2009

    When asked about an indictment released today that accuses two Bronx nonprofit leaders of funneling money from a section 8 program for personal expenses and several campaign accounts, Council Speaker Christine Quinn directed questions to the federal government.

    It’s the feds that funded the program, she said. Not the council.

    “Every request for funding is getting thoroughly reviewed at a number of different levels by the city council staff and the mayor’s office of contracts, all in a process that we have put in place together and that review will continue,” she said. That process was put in place after the messy slush fund scandal last year.

    This complaint does not identify the assembly member nor the council member. Those identified in the complaint are Richard Izquierdo Arroyo and Margarita Villegas.

    By on June 10, 2009, 2:02 pm
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    Quinn on Coup
    June 10th, 2009

    Despite the mayhem upstate, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the city is moving forward with the budget process to the best of its ability, and she is confident that the council and the administration will have an on-time budget.

    “We are moving forward on the city level within the council, as it relates to the mayor’s office, with the budget process with the belief, the firm belief, that we will be able to pass a budget by the deadline of the end of June,” Quinn said at a press conference this afternoon.

    The city’s revenue package, announced last week which includes a sales tax hike, needs Albany’s approval.

    But other matters — especially those close to her heart, like same-sex marriage — are surrounded by uncertainty, she said.

    “I have spoken to Tom (Duane) recently,” said Quinn. “I think the question of where gay marriage is, every piece of legislation, as we have referenced, is in a state of question at the moment given we don’t have an active majority and an active state senate.”

    Sen. Duane, who is close with the speaker, is rumored to be conferencing with the G.O.P. in hopes of possibly brokering a deal on same-sex marriage. Quinn, though, wasn’t confirming whether that was true. She didn’t deny it either.

    By on June 10, 2009, 1:53 pm
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    Community Boards Get the Steps
    June 9th, 2009

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    Scores of community board members, comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr. and four out of the five borough presidents took to the steps of City Hall this afternoon to urge the administration and the City Council to roll back cuts to the city’s 59 community boards.

    These cuts, they say, would cripple the boards so much that they could be “rendered ineffective.” That, said Thompson, may be the point.

    “One has to believe at a certain point that is what the mayor is intending to do,” said Thompson. “They are trying to cut them to the point that he’ll be able to turn around and say, ‘Let’s get rid of borough presidents. Let’s get rid of community boards,'” Thompson said of the mayor.

    For an in-depth look at the future of community boards, see Endangered Community Boards.

    Saying it’s the “best buy for city government,” Borough President Scott Stringer argued community boards are necessary to ensure the administration has a link to communities. The cuts would “hamstring” City Hall, he added.

    “The bottom line is this mayor will not get re-elected if he picks apart democracy,” Stringer said.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 9, 2009, 2:01 pm
    In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY | 2 Comments »

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    Diaz Jr.: Glad Sr. Stayed Out of It
    June 9th, 2009

    The newly minted Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is glad his father, State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and member of the Gang of Three, stayed out of this one.

    “I’m so happy that Rev. Diaz is not a part of it,” said Diaz Jr. at a rally at City Hall this morning.

    He also thinks aligning with Republicans could make Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. vulnerable in his Bronx district later.

    “Pedro Espada had problems in the past when he sat with the Republican party,” said Diaz Jr. “When it’s all said and done, people in their district are Democrats, want them to sit with the Democrats to push the Democratic agenda, not the Republican agenda, not to empower people like Dean Skelos, who is not friends to people in our community.”

    Diaz, who along with Assemblymember Carl Heastie, helped orchestrate a change in leadership in the Bronx late last year, wouldn’t say Espada will definitely have a challenger, but he imagines Bronxites will want a Democratic representative who will caucus with the Democrats.

    By on June 9, 2009, 12:47 pm
    In category: Albany,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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    Worst Case Scenario
    June 9th, 2009

    So let’s say Albany is deluged in chaos and mayhem for another three weeks.

    Let’s say they can’t get their acts together — whoever is in charge — and the city is left without an approved revenue package.

    Then what?

    “Without that we have a $900 million hole in our budget,” said Councilmember David Weprin, a comptroller candidate and head of the council’s finance committee. “If it goes on past (the July 1 budget deadline), then we will have to do some temporary measure to close that.”

    The council and the Bloomberg administration are banking on the State Legislature to approve a revenue package they agreed upon last week. The package includes a 0.5 percent increase in the sales tax, the rolling back of a sales tax exemption for clothing sales over $110 and an expansion of the sales tax to non-utility customers. It also includes a number of restructured corporation and unincorporated business taxes.

    The whole package is worth $887 million.

    If that is stalled upstate, Weprin said the city would only have a number of options. The only tax they could increase on their own is the property tax, which they could be less inclined to do since they raised it last year. Weprin said they could take funding from the city’s health care trust fund — worth $2.6 billion.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on June 9, 2009, 12:14 pm
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    Responsible New York
    June 9th, 2009

    For your perusing pleasure, here are the state Board of Elections filings for last year’s legislative elections for Responsible New York — Rochester Billionaire Tom Golisano’s political action committee.

    In this latest election, Golisano put $5 million in the account in July 2008, then doled out about $4 million to state candidates in the last six months of the year. The account’s current balance is $983,709.80. The 11-day pre-general election report has the most expenditures — at about $1.9 million — and many of them went to Democrats.

    Take a look.

    By on June 9, 2009, 9:57 am
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    Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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