Cuomo's Medicaid Design Team Hands in Report
February 24th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team submitted their plan to the governor and he has accepted it. The team was tasked with saving the state billions of dollars in Medicaid costs as part of the governor’s 2011-2012 budget and their plan would do just that–it trims over $2 billion in costs. Their recommendations include putting a four percent cap on all annual Medicaid funding, reducing aid for home health care, as well as reforming policy relating to malpractice and pharmaceuticals. Two legislators who were part of the team, Assembyman Richard Gottfried and Sen. Kemp Hannon abstained from the vote as did Lara Kassel from Medicaid Matters New York.

Legislators have been concerned that Cuomo’s team would not be able to make the deadline for changes to be maid to Cuomo’s budget proposal. Their concern was misplaced as the group was scheduled to meet tomorrow as well but came to a decision a day early.

By on February 24, 2011, 6:11 pm
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Getting the PCBs Out
February 23rd, 2011

As the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, the city has just announced a plan to remove PCBs from some 722 schools where tests have found elevated levels of the toxic substance. The city says the $708 million program will include removing lighting ballasts with PCBs from the school system as well as energy audits and retrofits.

In announcing a plan that will come as a relief to many parents across the city, the Department of Education sun it, not as a response to what may saw as a critical health risk, but as a program to “increase energy efficiency and environmental quality” and reduce greenhouse gasses.” No where does the release mention the rising concern among parents, many public officials the federal government over what they saw as the city’s foot dragging on the PCB issue.
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By on February 23, 2011, 11:38 am
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Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011


Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.

The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.

One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)

According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”

In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.

When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”

Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.

In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”

When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.

“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.

This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
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By on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
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MTA Not Taking Any More Questions
January 4th, 2011

From the MTA

Image from the MTA

Were you befuddled by the stranded passengers on the A or the lack of service for days on the Q post Boxing Day blizzard?

Well, at least for now, you’re not going to get any answers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When Gotham Gazette touched base with the authority this afternoon, spokesperson Charles Seaton said the agency won’t be taking any more questions on the service-stalling storm.

“We are being investigated by the [Inspector General’s] office and the City Council,” said Seaton. “We are not taking any more questions on the storm.”

But they will have to on Monday.

Seaton said authority officials would testify at the City Council’s hearing on the blizzard response, scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. Several top officials at the Bloomberg adminsitration have also been invited to testify, including Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Sanitation Commission John Doherty and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Today’s response from the MTA follows a Daily News editorial, which blasts the authority for its slow response to the massive snowfall and demands an explanation.

The investigation by the authority’s inspector general is expected to take 60 days, an official said.

By on January 4, 2011, 5:06 pm
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Silver On Zadroga Signing
January 3rd, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver congratulated President Barack Obama for signing legislation that will provide health care to emergency responders and others who became sick after working at ground zero. Here is his statement:

“The United States has now met its moral obligation to the heroes of 9/11. By providing crucial care to the brave rescue workers who sacrificed their health for our country after we were attacked, as well as to the thousands of Downtown residents who became casualties of this tragedy, we as a nation now stand behind those who stood up for us.

I want to thank President Obama for signing this bill into law. It will literally save the lives of many of my neighbors, as well as those around the country who answered the call on 9/11.

I would also like to thank Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congress members Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Weiner and the rest of our congressional delegation for their determined efforts to make sure the Zadroga bill became law and for never giving up the fight to deliver justice to the 9/11 heroes.”

By on January 3, 2011, 4:54 pm
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Senate Passes Zadroga
December 22nd, 2010

The U.S. Senate passed a scaled down version of the Zadroga bill that will provide health care to 9/11 responders and survivors for a five-year period. Democrats held marathon negotiations with Republicans who opposed the expense of the bill. The bill originally provided $7.4 billion in funding over eight years but was shaved down to $4.3 over five. The bill must now be approved by the House.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand issued as statement calling the deal a “Christmas Miracle.”

Over the last 24 hours, our Republican colleagues have negotiated in good faith to forge a workable final package that will protect the health of the men and women who selflessly answered our nations call in her hour of greatest need. This has been a long process, but we are now on the cusp of the victory these heroes deserve.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued this statement:

“This afternoons Senate vote literally will save lives. With the passage of the Zadroga bill, our brave and suffering 9/11 rescue workers and the thousands of Downtown residents who are also casualties of the attacks, have overcome the primary obstacle in their path to receiving the health care they so desperately need. I am pleased that Congress has acknowledged our moral and national obligation to care for the casualties of this tragic attack on America. I applaud Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congress members Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Weiner and the rest of our congressional delegation for their dedication and persistence in securing passage of this critical legislation. I look forward to President Obama signing this historic bill into law.”

By on December 22, 2010, 3:47 pm
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Zadroga Delayed
December 9th, 2010

The so-called Zadroga bill to provide health care and compensation to 9/11 responders is the latest hostage in the battle over tax cuts, according to the office of Sen Kirstin Gillibrand, who has been pushing for the measure. A press release said Senate Republicans today have refused to vote on the bill until Congress extends the Bush era tax cuts.

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to a deal extending the cuts earlier this week, but some Democrats and a few Republicans have balked at the agreement, saying it is too generous to the very rich and would enlarge the deficit.

Gillibrand’s statement said in part: “The idea that tax cuts for millionaires would derail this legislation is simply outrageous and offensive. The men and women who rushed to the burning towers and worked for hundreds of hours on the pile did not delay and the Senate should not have delayed either, certainly not to give tax breaks for millionaires. .

By on December 9, 2010, 12:19 pm
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Council Set to Expand Housing Law
November 30th, 2010

For some New Yorkers, their apartments are far from welcoming.

Their one or two-bedroom abodes actually make them sick.

Three years ago, the City Council approved legislation to target buildings with the worst housing code violations — those perennially without heat or hot water or collapsed floors and roofs. Together, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the City Council targeted 200 buildings a year and forced landlords to make the repairs.

Now, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced this morning, the council is set to consider legislation to expand the program to target larger buildings with hazardous conditions related specifically to asthma, such as vermin or mold.

“We are recognizing peoples’ homes can actually make them sick,” said Quinn, surrounded by a crowd of officials and advocates on the steps of City Hall.

Hazardous building conditions have long been connected to the city’s concentrated asthma pockets, which affect neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Corona or Bushwick. By using targeted enforcement of these violations, Quinn said the city could curtail asthma rates in these areas.

The legislation, she said, promises to more than double the amount of units in the program. The council will have its first hearing on the proposal on Dec. 14.

By on November 30, 2010, 12:04 pm
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Critics Say Study is a Sham (Update)
October 27th, 2010


Advocates and council members gathered on the steps of City Hall today to slam a city commissioned study on living wages, calling it “smoke and mirrors.”

The $1 million study, which is being conducted by Boston-based Charles River Associates, will examine the sustainability of a living wage policy in the five boroughs. A bill to require living wages at city-subsidized developments is currently languishing at the council.

At issue is one economist on the study team — David Neumark of the University of California. Supporters of living wages say Neumark is inherently biased, having authored several studies critical of living and minimum wage policies.

“Hiring David Neumark to advise the city on wage policies is like hiring a global warming skeptic to evaluate the city’s greenhouse gas strategy,” said Paul K. Sonn of the National Employment Law Project.

The city Economic Development Corp., which commissioned the study after advocates started to call for living wages last year, argues Neumark is in the top 5 percent of economists. City officials point to studies where Neumark found living wages reduced poverty — albeit those studies show his “support” for the policy overall is tepid at best.

The city also says a diverse stakeholder group will review the study’s findings, which should be completed this spring.

All of those arguments aren’t silencing critics.
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By on October 27, 2010, 2:49 pm
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Sick Leave Dead?
October 14th, 2010

Council Speaker Christine Quinn will announce this afternoon that she won’t support the paid sick leave bill languishing in the City Council.

The bill, sponsored by 35 council members, would force businesses with fewer than 20 employees to provide five days of paid sick leave, while businesses with more than 20 employees would have to give nine days per employee. Other paid time off can be counted towards the sick time.

The bill was vehemently opposed by the city’s businesses community, including the powerful Partnership for New York City and all five chambers of commerce.

Most of the time, the speaker’s support, or lack thereof, will determine of the fate of all legislation. However, the majority of council members who do support the bill have one option.

To bring the bill to the floor, 10 council members must support a “motion to discharge,” which would give the full council an opportunity to vote on it. But they also must keep their solid 35-member strong support, otherwise the bill would not survive a mayoral veto.

The motion has only been used once, during the term limit debate. Other times there was talk of tapping the power, it was quickly quashed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently called the bill “disastrous.”

There are all sorts of political calculations and angles to this news today, so stayed tuned for further analysis at Gotham Gazette.

By on October 14, 2010, 12:36 pm
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Sick Leave Movement
October 7th, 2010

We got word Council Speaker Christine Quinn is sitting down with supporters and opponents of the sick leave bill today in hopes of potentially finding a compromise.

Supporters of the proposal, which would require businesses to provide sick days, take the sit-down as a good sign, saying the speaker has expressed willingness to create an open dialogue and negotiate.

One critic of the bill seemed less optimistic — saying only to check back in tomorrow.

Just last week, the opposing sides released dueling studies on the bill’s impact. The study from the Partnership for New York City put the proposal’s price tag at $789 million annually, while a study from the Drum Major Institute said it would have no deleterious effect on city business.

After the sit-downs were scheduled, a rally scheduled for this morning by supporters of the bill was abruptly canceled.

By on October 7, 2010, 2:14 pm
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Quinn, Stringer Showdown?
October 1st, 2010

Yes, both are potential mayoral candidates in 2013.

It might be a little early for a full-blown rivalry, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer definitely disagree on a proposal to survey the city’s vacant properties stalled at the City Council. The bill, which has 28 sponsors, would create an annual accounting of all of the city’s vacant buildings and lots.

The group pushing the proposal, Picture the Homeless, hope it would spur the development of those properties as temporary housing for the homeless. Quinn said this week the survey would be “enormously expensive” and the money for it would be better used serving the homeless.

In response to our reporting on the issue, Stringer sent over the following statement.

I am disappointed that the City Council quashed legislation that would survey vacant buildings throughout the city, in order to identify new sources of temporary housing for the homeless.

In 2007 I released the results of Manhattan’s first ever survey of vacant properties, finding that there is a significant number of vacancies in the borough representing potential for thousands of new affordable housing units. Along with the results, I proposed an annual survey of vacant buildings which had been actively backed by Anti-Homeless organizations. Although there is a cost to this idea, its potential long-term value to the city is so obvious.

If a citywide vacant lot count would indeed cost millions of dollars, then I believe we should look to more creative options, rather than throw up our hands and pull the plug on this important initiative.

One possible approach to a vacant lot count that keeps costs low would be to utilize volunteers from the Mayors NYC Service program. The City already dispatches volunteers for its annual street homeless count, so this approach would not be without precedent. And, to be honest, counting vacant lots isnt rocket science. It would require a minimal amount of training. Most able bodied New Yorkers interested in enhancing the long-term vitality of their communities could make a positive contribution by participating in a city-wide vacant lot count.

I call on the City Council to reconsider this decision and let this badly-needed housing program go forward. We cannot afford to be pennywise and pound foolish at a time when the recession has made day to day survival for the homeless tougher than ever.

In response to Stringer’s statement, Maria Alvarado, Quinn’s spokesperson, said the bill at the council would require the survey of vacant buildings, which is “more complicated” than just counting empty lots. The council applauds the borough president for his study, Alvarado said, but simultaneously asks what “clear policy changes” came out of it?

By on October 1, 2010, 1:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study
September 29th, 2010

For months, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has put off opining on a proposal to require paid sick leave in the city, saying she wanted to wait for the results of a study on the issue by business leader, the Partnership for New York City.

That study came out yesterday, saying the proposal would cost $789 million. Also yesterday, the Drum Major Institute released its own study on the issue, saying the proposal wouldn’t harm job or business growth.

Quinn — granted she has had only one day to mull it over — isn’t ready to say which one she sides with.

“I am considering all of the pros, all the cons,” said Quinn. “There are few bills that are perfect.”

She said the council was “reviewing” the studies and would make a decision on the bill, which has a super majority of support in the council, “very soon.”

By on September 29, 2010, 2:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off on Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study

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CBA Report From Liu is Here!
September 29th, 2010

The much anticipated report (well, for some of us) from Comptroller John Liu’s public benefits task force was released this morning, urging the city to adopt a new public process for community benefit agreements.

Having grown in popularity (included in Columbia redevelopment and in 125th street), the comptroller is calling for greater transparency, the inclusion of a consultant to coordinate the agreement and giving the comptroller’s office oversight over the agreements implementation.

The report is silent on the city’s Industrial Development Agency and its deals (which we covered extensively), despite Liu giving an early indication it might be included in the recommendations.


PBA Task Force – Final Report[1]

By on September 29, 2010, 7:59 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Dueling Numbers on Sick Leave
September 28th, 2010

Council members, choose your numbers! Two studies have been issued today on the effect of a proposal now in City Council that would require employers to give their worker paid sick leavewould have on the economy — and they will almost certainly do nothing to resolve the issue.

One, by the Drum Major Institute, a progressive think tank, found mandatory paid sick leave would “not harm job growth or business growth.”

The Drum Major study used San Francisco’s experience with paid sick leave. It concluded that, in the three years since that city has enacted a mandatory sick leave policy similar to the one proposed for New York, “both job growth and business growth in San Francisco have consistently been greater than in the five neighboring counties of the Bay Area, none of which have enacted paid sick leave.”

Meanwhile a survey by the Partnership for New York City, a business group, also released today, said any mandatory paid sick leave law would “devastate the citys construction, restaurant and non-profit sector.” The partnership study was based on responses to a survey of employers on how their businesses might be affected by any such law.
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By on September 28, 2010, 1:24 pm
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City Gets FMAP Funding
August 4th, 2010


After a slew of warnings and threats of layoffs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today New Yorkers need not fear for the city’s share of federal Medicaid funding. It was approved today by the Senate, bringing another $400 million to the city. In addition, the city will get another $200 million in education aid.

According to the mayor’s statement, in full below, the budget approved by the council in June assumed the city would get this funding.

Here is the mayor’s statement:

Todays vote in the Senate is a major step towards extending the Federal Medicaid cost relief that was initially provided in the stimulus package known as FMAP and increasing Federal support for education. The Senate and House each previously passed bills including an extension of the FMAP program and cities and states around the country, including New York City, factored the assistance into their budget plans. A strong majority of the Senate today rightly decided to put partisan and electoral politics aside to ensure cities and states receive this funding, preventing possible layoffs and harmful budget cuts.

Early this summer, State leaders joined me to convene a meeting at Gracie Mansion with members of our congressional delegation to stress the importance of these dollars and the serious implications that would result if the funding did not come through. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew joined me in Washington this summer to tell our Congressional leaders that increased Federal support is essential to continuing the progress we have made in our schools. Todays vote demonstrates our message was heard.
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By on August 4, 2010, 4:09 pm
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Horses Get Sick Time
July 15th, 2010

In an attempt to move the stalled paid sick leave bill, advocates showed up at Central Park yesterday to point out carriage horses get time off (the result of a bill passed earlier this year), but people aren’t guaranteed sick time.

We couldn’t make it, but they sent over photos.

What a juxtaposition.

horseaction 007

In March, the paid sick leave bill got a hearing, but nothing has happened since. Council Speaker Christine Quinn still hasn’t taken a position on it.

By on July 15, 2010, 10:30 am
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Housing Works Sues City Over HASA Cuts
June 22nd, 2010

The city’s budget hasn’t even been approved, and they are already in court over it.

Housing Works, which provides housing services to the homeless living with HIV and AIDS, is making good on a promise to sue over cuts to the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration. The adminsitration plans to slash 248 caseworkers, which advocates at Housing Works say violates a court order requiring certain case worker to client ratios at the agency.

As part of the cut, the adminsitration has proposed to count caseworkers it contracts with in the mandated ratios. The city says it reduces service redundancies. Advocates charge those caseworkers play a different role than the city’s workers and counting them towards the ratio would be illegal.

“We’ve shown in the past that when they cut HASA our folks suffer tremendously,” said Armen Merjian, a senior staff attorney at Housing Works. “We dont want to wait for further devastating consequences to befall our plaintiffs.”

This statement was e-mailed over from a spokesperson at the Human Resources Administration, which oversees the HIV/AIDS program:

“The Human Resources Administration has received the plaintiffs papers and is in the process of reviewing them. However we do not believe there is any violation of the court order or the local law. Because this is now in active litigation, we will strenuously defend the authority of the Administration.”

The first motion from Housing Works, which was filed in federal court in Brooklyn this morning, is below. The state is also named in the suit.

TRO Brief

By on June 22, 2010, 5:43 pm
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A Budget Breakdown
May 24th, 2010

Not all is fair in fiscal year 2011 — at least to the hordes of advocates and politicians vying to save their favorite projects and programs.

Below you can find out how your favorite agency has fared, whether its proposed cuts are deeper than other departments and how much it’s slated to spend this year.

Click on the chart to interact. You can click through agencies on the side and roll over the graphic to view the funding level by fiscal year. If you want an expanded view, you can click on the title.


By on May 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Immigrants,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Fire Company Closures Delayed For Now
May 17th, 2010


Photo (cc) 2008 dietrich.

To Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, no news on the mayor’s decision to close fire companies is good news.

“She thinks it’s a good sign,” said Crowley spokesperson Meredith Burak. “We’ve rallied in every borough. Firefighters are the ones that are protesting these cuts.” Crowley chairs the council’s Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today he won’t release the list of 20 fire companies the administration proposes to close until more is known about the state budget.

The Fire Department must notify the City Council 45 days before it decides to close any company. Given this timeline, fire companies will stay open until at least July 2. According to the executive budget, closing 20 companies would save the city $5.6 million in fiscal year 2011.

Last year, the mayor proposed to shutter 16 companies to help close a budget gap. The City Council restored the Fire Department’s funding to save them.

By on May 17, 2010, 4:13 pm
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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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