Coalition For Homeless Blasts Bloomberg
August 23rd, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was recently quoted as saying that the sharp rise in the length of stays at city homeless shelters has to do with “more pleasurable” shelter conditions. The Coalition for the Homeless called the comments “shocking.” and their executive director Mary Brosnahan issued this statement:

“The Mayor’s assertion that homeless New Yorkers are staying in shelters longer because they are ‘much more pleasurable’ is shocking and offensive. Mayor Bloomberg systematically closed every single path to affordable housing once available to homeless families with vulnerable children. His failed policies are the major factor leading to the record shelter population this summer. Blaming homeless families and suggesting they are luxuriating in ‘pleasurable’ accommodations shows just how badly the mayor is out of touch.”

By on August 23, 2012, 2:07 pm
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The housing deal that wasn't
June 21st, 2012

Last night a deal on housing legislation came together between the Assembly and Senate that would have extended the controversial J-51 tax abatement until 2015 without making any changes to it, as well as making changes in the housing code for loft tenants.

The deal looked like it was going to become reality when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier today that he might issue messages of necessity but the governor has seemingly changed his mind and therefore the deal is dead, for now. Of course, anything can happen in Albany: legislators could hang around to pass the bill or return later this year.

Michael McKee of Tenant’s PAC sees that as a good thing. “Its a complete sell out and I am shocked to see some of the Assemblyman who have signed their names to it.” The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Martin Golden and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Check out our story on J-51 and the tenant community’s mobilization before the elections.

By on June 21, 2012, 8:21 pm
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Developers Chosen for Brooklyn Bridge Park Hotel Complex
June 19th, 2012

The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park announced today the final plan for construction of a hotel and residency complex by the park’s Pier 1.

Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group will collaborate on the approximately 550,000-square-foot complex, slated for completion in the fall of 2015, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has quickly become one of the most loved public spaces along our citys waterfront, Mayor Bloomberg said in the release. The major private investment is a vote of confidence in Brooklyn and its future as a great place to live, work and visit.

The $295 million project is set to break ground next summer, generating as many as 510 jobs, both permanent and temporary. The board’s aim is to keep the park financially sustainable with a series of hotels along the piers when completed, it will cost $16 million a year to run the park. They expect to take in $3.3 million yearly in rent and other payments, adding up to an expected $119.7 million net revenue by the end of the 97-year ground leases on the hotel and residential sites.

The mayor’s office also released four renderings of the proposed complex, showing its stone-and-glass facade and surrounding green space. Rogers Marvel Architects designed the 10-story hotel, called 1 Hotel, which will include 200 rooms, 18,000 square feet of banquet, meeting and retail space and a 6,000 square foot spa. There will also be a five-story building with 159 residential units.

Todays vote helps to ensure Brooklyn Bridge Parks future, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in the press release.

By on June 19, 2012, 4:25 pm
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State Does Not Support New Shelter Rules After All
November 10th, 2011

At yesterday’s acrimonious hearing on changes in the city’s procedures for admitting single adults to homeless shelters. Council Speaker Christine Quinn pressed Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond over whether the state had - as Diamond contended — actually approved the change.

To some in the audience it may have seemed as though Quinn was splitting hairs. Diamond certainly seemed peeved at her approach.

Now, though, it looks as though she was correct. In a letter to Diamond dated yesterday and released this morning by Quinn’s office, Elizabeth Berlin of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, says that any suggestion that her office approved the new eligibility procedure is “inaccurate.”

And Berlin went further:

Moreover, this office has serious concerns that DHS failed to submit this proposal to the New York Supreme Court for review. For over 30 years, such a review process has been DHS’s practice when making a policy change relating to the Callahan Consent Decree. Given DHSs failure to share this policy with the court, OTDA finds the Nov.14 implementation date a mere 10 days after the policy change was announced to be completely unreasonable and is not supported by the state.

The Callahan decree, reached between the city, state and advocates in 1981 provides a right to shelter for adults who qualified for welfare or who are homeless “by reason of physical, mental or social dysfunction.”

To read more on the issue and the debate over it, go here. And more on the exchange between Quinn and Diamond after the jump.

At the hearing yesterday, Diamond told the council that the state had informed his office that the change, which seeks to compel people to find alternatives to shelters including staying with relatives or even leaving the country, is “consistent with state rules.” Quinn countered that that did not mean the state approved it. “Our understanding from the governor’s office is that they have not approved it,” she said.

Diamond responded that the department did not need approval. “We have the flexibility to implement procedure that are consistent with state laws and regulations,” Diamond said, adding he believed his office had “what is needed to allow us to go forward.”

Berlin’s letter explicitly addresses that point. “OTDA has not commented on the substantive merits of the proposed change, but instead determined that the proposal was not inconsistent with state law,” her two-paragraph letter said,

We’ll try to get some reaction and pass it along.

By on November 10, 2011, 11:54 am
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Change for the Homeless
November 4th, 2011

Advocates for the homeless and some City Council members are reacting with alarm to reports that the city will institute a policy later this month that will make it more difficult for single adults to gain admission to city shelters.

According to WNBC, which first reported on the move, workers will subject people applying to stay in shelters to more questions about where they have lived recently and whether they have another place to stay. This could create a problem for someone who, say, lost her apartment, doubled up with a sister for a short time and then was asked to leave.

The move apparently an effort to save money has been in the works for a while but needed state approval. City officials told NBC they received the OK yesterday. The city already conducts similar reviews for homeless families.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond told Reuters that many people applying to shelters these days may have other options. They include, he said, “a lot of people who are working or capable of work, who may have gone through a little bit of a rough time — their employer may have reduced their hours, or they may have lost their jobs.”

But advocates dispute such arguments. “The city is playing with fire by implementing this policy, particularly in the winter,” Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society told WNBC. “It’s certainly going to result in vulnerable New Yorkers ending up on the streets. He said the society would go to court to try and block the change.

Earlier today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee chair Annabel Palma. Issued a statement condemning the move. “This policy is cruel, risky, unacceptable and will not reduce homelessness in the city of New York. Denying people shelter because they have found another option for some period of time is punishing people for trying to do the right thing,” they said.

The council will hold an emergency oversight hearing on the policy at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
By on November 4, 2011, 3:28 pm
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Citizen Action Rallies Around Schneiderman
August 24th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was recently unceremoniously ousted from the panel of prosecutors working on a nationwide foreclosure settlement with U.S. banks because he is interested in prosecuting the banks himself and does not want to wave their liability. Schneiderman may be off the panel but progressive groups are rallying around him.

Citizen Action is circulating a pettition in support of Schneiderman and Karen Scharff of Citizen Action sent this message to supporters today:


Home foreclosures have devastated our economy and destroyed too many families. In fact, nearly 8 million homes have entered the foreclosure process since 2007.

Americas biggest lenders have allowed abuse and fraud to continue. Thats why a committee of state Attorneys General have been taking enforcement action against these mortgage servicers. Our Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, was serving on that committee as an outspoken advocate for consumers, until last night when he was forced off of it.

Attorney General Schneiderman has been a true advocate for New Yorkers and all those in America who have been touched by the mortgage crisis. According to a New York Times article today, Mr. Schneiderman has said that he opposes any deal that gives participating banks a release from other litigation surrounding their mortgage activities.1

Lets show Attorney General Schneiderman our support. Lets tell him that we stand behind him while hes fighting for us!

Click here to sign our petition in support of our Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 24, 2011, 4:34 pm
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Cuomo's Democratic Credentials
June 22nd, 2011

Its a dreary rainy day in Albany that has brought yet another leaders meeting and a lot more of the same–waiting. According to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos there remain a number of sticking points in the deal on rent regulations and mandate relief. He expects to vote on parts of the deal this afternoon–including the SUNY 2020 deal. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that he would like to finish voting on all the issues today. But Skelos repeated a familiar refrain–that same sex marriage was not part of the discussion with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Silver. A refrain that has disturbed both same-sex marriage advocates and Democratic legislators. Their faith in Cuomo’s negotiations are waning.

As the details of the deal are hashed out few Democratic legislators and tenant advocates are not exactly hopeful that the rent deal will get any better for them. An emergency meeting of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative caucus was called today to discuss the rent deal. Yesterday many minority legislators from the city were trying to come to terms with the deal Cuomo negotiated. They thought they had made it clear him that he needed to deliver big on rent laws if he wanted their continued support.

For the last three months members have been talking about how the Cuomo administration has neglected them and could only make it right with a big delivery on rent laws and a vote on gay marriage to prove that Cuomo is still a Democrat. With such small gains in the rent package lawmakers are wondering whose side Cuomo is on and what exactly he was able to get for Democrats in the deal. It seems almost certain that gay marriage will pass if it comes to a vote but Skelos has made it clear that his members will decide whether to bring it to a vote.

With only a few days likely left of session in Albany minority lawmakers are trying to decide how best to represent themselves and their districts–go along with the popular Cuomo but go back to their districts with very little to show for it, or demand more of Cuomo, challenge the popular and powerful governor and be able to make it clear to their constituents that their best efforts were thwarted. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 22, 2011, 2:13 pm
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Another Day, Another Extender
June 21st, 2011

You guessed it. While the big three hash out the details in the end-of-the-year deal legislators will have to pass yet another extender to keep the city’s rent laws going. It is becoming a big of a habit. See here and here.

Here is the statement from Make the Road New York on the Rent deal:

Statement from Gladys Puglla, Co-Chair of Make the Road New York’s Board of Directors:
On the Agreement of New York State Legislature to Renew and Strengthen Rent Laws

“As an immigrant New Yorker who struggles to pay rent each month, I am disappointed by the deal on rent regulation that is being discussed in Albany. The deal, as it stands right now, is wholly inadequate to protect New York City’s fast dwindling stock of affordable housing.

“As inadequate as it is, I want to acknowledge the incredible hard work that went into crafting this deal. We want to thank those legislators that supported our campaign for stronger tenant protections in both houses. Make the Road New York will continue to work with tenant advocates across the state to ensure real rent reform.”

By on June 21, 2011, 7:51 pm
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The Let Down on Rent
June 21st, 2011

Tenant advocates and Democratic legislators from the city were confused when the news first hit–the outline of how rent laws would be renewed and amended under the “big ugly” negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, just didn’t make sense to them.

“If this deal is as it has been reported to us it is an unmitigated disaster,” said Tenants PAC treasurer Michael McKee. McKee said that he felt “sold out” by Cuomo and what tenants were getting for what Cuomo gave up to Republicans was pathetic. After reports of Cuomo’s tough talk last week they expected much more. So what does the deal do?

Landlords who claim to have made major improvements will have to have their work checked by the state housing department. The 421-a tax credit that gives developers a tax break for setting aside 20 percent of a building for affordable housing will continue for four years. Vacancy decontrol is not done away with but the guidelines for it have increased. Rent will go from 2,000 to 2,500 and maximum annual income will increase from $175,00 to $200,000. The rent laws will expire in 4 years and will be combined in a bill the a property tax cap that will expire in 5 years. Sound similar to what Fred Dicker of the New York Post reported yesterday? Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 21, 2011, 7:41 pm
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Rent Law Extender, Again *Update*
June 20th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Sheldon Silver walked out of a meeting earlier today and had no announcements on deals to move forward the important legislative issues of the day. Even before that announcement I was told by a number of sources to expect another rent law extender to be introduced by the governor’s office tonight. Senate Democrats aren’t exactly thrilled by the idea. ” A third extender? This is getting to be like the budget last year,” said Sen. Adriano Espaillat who voted against the first extender but voted for the one on Friday.

Leaders in the Senate Democratic conference are telling their conference that they should vote for the extender but it isn’t exactly clear if they are all on board yet.

* The extender passed and it will expire at Midnight on Wednesday. The Senate will return at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Rent groups are pushing for Cuomo to declare and emergency and kick control of rent back to the New York City Council. We broke the news on Friday that Cuomo threatened landlords with that move last week. They say the governor is legally able to do that. Silver isn’t so sure.

There is a lot of talk about what could be in a possible long term rent extender. Capital Tonight reported that Cuomo’s office is floating a two-year extender, while sources have told me they expect a deal similar to the one floated by NY Post columnist Fred Dicker in his column today but with a few more concessions by landlords. The Cuomo administration has a habit of testing out policy in Dicker’s column.

Senators expect to be in session until midnight tonight and plan to be in town til Wednesday–no word on when a vote on same-sex marriage will take place–just not today.

By on June 20, 2011, 6:18 pm
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Gustavo Rivera on Rent Extender
June 17th, 2011

Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s singing may not have moved the rent control debate forward but he thinks his vote against the first extender, along with other Senate Dems, may have gotten negotiations into gear.

“I am glad that negotiations are moving forward so that we can come back to Albany on Monday and pass stronger rent laws. With the Governor’s support and the help of the Assembly, I believe we can get this done and vote for a bill that not only extends, but also strengthens tenant protections,” said Rivera.

Sen. Liz Krueger joked as she was leaving the chamber after the hastily reassembled session to pass the rent extender that she hoped not to have to vote on another extender on Monday. Who knows–this is Albany.

By on June 17, 2011, 6:59 pm
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Rent Negotiatons
June 17th, 2011

With state legislators eager to get home for the weekend and to break for the end of session on Monday or Tuesday, this afternoon has seen a flurry of activity around rent regulations, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports.

The Senate will likely consider a full extension of the rent laws early next week, with a vote on Monday or Tuesday, according to Sen. Kevin Parker. There is no indication whether any bill would strengthen the existing rules or keep them as is.

In the meantime, though, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a temporary extension, and has vowed to call legislators into special session tomorrow if they do not approve a one today. Just such a stopgap measure has gone to the Senate rules committee. Democrats, citing progress on the rent issue, seem likely to vote for the temporary bill — and enjoy their June Saturday somewhere other than in the Capitol.

For more on the rent negotiation, see Tenants on the Brink and follow DavidHowardKing on Twitter.

By on June 17, 2011, 4:52 pm
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Cuomo Threatens Special Session
June 16th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not happy that there is no deal on renewing the rent laws and is making it clear that he will keep legislators in Albany until he gets one.

“Affordable housing is an all too scarce commodity, especially in New York City and the surrounding areas. Our states rent protection laws are essential and any long term expiration would create a crisis. Last night the State Senate both Democrats and Republicans failed to continue the laws beyond their expiration,” said Cuomo in a statement. We are making progress but the Senates failure to act last night was unacceptable and a betrayal of the one million tenants living in rent protected apartments. I will not allow the legislature to go out of session and go home until tenants are protected. I am prepared to call special session to keep the legislature in place until there are rent protection laws in place.

Cuomo’s anger about the Senate’s failure to pass a two day extension for rent laws differs from the press release he issued yesterday in which he said that the sky would not fall if an extension did not pass. Legislators and tenant advocates agreed that tenants would not be in jeopardy if their is a brief lapse.

Senate Democrats issued this statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 12:53 pm
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Bloomberg in Albany
June 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a visit to Senate Republicans this morning as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He was in town to discuss the same-sex marriage vote. Although Bloomberg clearly put pressure on Republicans to bring the bill to a vote Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos left the meeting with Bloomberg and told reporters that his conference needed to further discuss the issue.

Bloomberg described giving his counsel to legislators who are on the fence, he said he told them that he “I remember being in their shoes.”

If the bill does come to a vote he expects it to pass with more than just the bare minimum number of votes–saying it would pass “comfortably.” Bloomberg described marriage as, “a force of stability for families,” and said that same-sex marriage is consistent with conservative principles. Bloomberg said he thinks the public expects same-sex marriage to come to a vote.

As for rent control renewal Bloomberg said he expects a bill to be passed by the end of session but that some may not be “ecstatic” about the bill.

Bloomberg also touched on the Anthony Weiner scandal saying that he thought Weiner needs to talk with his family and make a decision. But he also said the scandal has, “become a diversion away from all the important things this country has to deal with.” Weiner is expected to announce his resignation at 2 p.m. today.

By on June 16, 2011, 12:42 pm
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Silver On Rent Extension *Update*
June 15th, 2011

As the Assembly finished up its vote on same-sex marriage legislation Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement saying he the Assembly will pass an extension to New York’s rent laws. The same sex marriage looks to be close..but it seems that it will pass. Same-sex marriage passed by a margin of 80-63 and the Assembly approved the rent law extension by a vote of 90-42.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“The Governor has sent, and the Assembly has agreed to pass, a short-term emergency extension to New Yorks rent laws. This extension will expire at 3 p.m. on Friday. The Assembly Majority is committed to keeping housing affordable for more than two million New Yorkers and remains focused on expanding and strengthening these laws. Thats why the Assembly passed legislation more than a month ago to renew and expand rent laws. With the Governors leadership we hope to convince our colleagues in the State Senate to commit to strengthening these laws so that middle class New Yorkers are able to remain in their homes.”

By on June 15, 2011, 9:04 pm
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Rent Laws to Get an Extension
June 15th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered a bill that would extend rent laws until 3 p.m. on Friday. A message of necessity has been attached so both houses are expected to act on the bill tonight. If the legislature doesn’t vote the rent laws will expire at midnight. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic legislators and tenant advocates all say that there won’t be any major catastrophe if the laws do expire. A temporary extension of the laws will be seen as a victory for Senate Republicans who want to see a straightforward extension of the laws rather than the strengthening that tenant advocates are pushing for.

However, Cuomo promised earlier today that he will keep legislators in Albany until they manage to pass a bill extending and strengthening the rent laws. Negotiations on the bill will come to a head just as the legislators try to wrap up all the major legislation they have put off until now–including same-sex marriage and a property tax cap.

By on June 15, 2011, 8:26 pm
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Rent is the Issue of the Day
June 14th, 2011

The laws that keep housing affordable for millions of New Yorkers will expire tomorrow and the debate over whether to simply renew or strengthen the laws is front and center today in Albany. A number of Democrats spoke to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today to tell him that they don’t want to vote on same-sex marriage legislation until there is a deal to permanently extend and strengthen the rent law. A tax cap also hinges on a rent laws.

A number of Democratic Senators are becoming increasingly worried that Cuomo will be willing to simply extend the laws as a way to get Republicans on board with other issues he wants to tackle. These Democrats say they will not be able to back Cuomo in the future if he abandons the fight.

Meanwhile Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver insists that he is not interested in the Senate Republicans’ rent law extender that would last til Friday. Silver told reporters that the governor can send an emergency bill to both houses if a deal is reached.

By on June 14, 2011, 2:33 pm
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Silver to Cuomo: The Assembly Has Already Acted on Rent Regs
May 17th, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s video message about renewing and strengthening the city’s rent regulations. Silver points out that the Assembly already passed a rent regulation renewal bill last month while the Senate has yet to act. It seems Silver is not happy with being lumped into the legislature that needs pressuring in Cuomo’s video. Meanwhile, tenant advocates say Cuomo has to do more to force the Senate to act.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“The Assembly has made strengthening New York’s rent laws a priority and passed a comprehensive bill last month. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have instead focused on giveaways to landlords and policies to undercut rent protections, which would have devastating consequences for middle and low income New Yorkers who will be squeezed out of their neighborhoods and communities. The clock is ticking New York’s rent laws are set to expire on June 15 and families are counting on the state legislature. Working with Governor Cuomo, we are confident that we can provide hard working families with the protections they deserve. That is why we are pleased that Governor Cuomo is providing strong leadership to renew and strengthen our rent laws. Our goal first and always should be to ensure that working families, children and senior citizens can afford to remain in their homes and in their communities.”

By on May 17, 2011, 2:27 pm
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Bloomberg Releases Budget, Slashes Teachers
May 6th, 2011

As expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $65.7 billion budget this morning, which slashes 6,166 teaching positions, would close 20 fire companies and shutter four swimming pools this summer.

Bloomberg deflected all of the blame for the fiscal pain. Instead, he pointed towards Albany and Washington.

“Both places are keeping our tax dollars to close their budget deficits,” Bloomberg said. “If the state was paying 50 percent of the Department of Education, we would not be talking about laying off teachers.”

While Bloomberg did not hesitate to blame Albany, he also acknowledged the city was unlikely to receive any reprieve from the state or federal government. For now, the city will use the remainder of its surplus to close the budget hole.

The mayor’s executive plan did back away from slashing 16,000 child care slots — the result of a loss in federal funding. The administration plans to save the positions by expanding after school programs and increasing funding for the Administration for Children’s Services. The cost of the slots was originally put at $91 million. Officials said the program could be saved with just $40 million.

Advocates and council members, however, questioned the mayor’s calculations.

“With the budget released today, the administration is continuing its assault on early childhood education by cutting $50 million from our city’s child care,” said Councilman Steve Levin. “It is an outrageous sleight of hand that this administration would present itself as the savior of child care while simultaneously destroying it for thousands of New Yorkers. It’s like someone starting a fire, just so he could take the credit for putting 40 percent of that fire out.”

In a joint statement, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia identified teacher layoffs, the child care cuts, a 29 percent cut to libraries and fire companies as their top priorities.

“Since the recent financial crisis and recession, the City Council has worked aggressively to control spending and manage the citys budget in a fiscally responsible manner while protecting vital services,” they said. “Thats why we have grave concerns about a budget that allows for teacher layoffs, which would be immensely damaging to our education system and children’s opportunities for a quality education. Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to prevent teacher layoffs.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 6, 2011, 2:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Silver Says Cuomo Needs to Weigh in on Rent
April 12th, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says that Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to throw his weight around the get the Republican-controlled Senate to renew and strengthen rent control laws set to expire on June 15. “We need him (Cuomo) to join us and use his clout to bring together the relevant stakeholders to make it happen,” Silver said yesterday.

His comments echo those of tenant advocates who say they lost their leverage in the battle for stronger rent laws when the measure was not made part of the budget. The Assembly passed a bill yesterday to strengthen and renew the rent laws but the bill is unlikely to go anywhere as the Senate Republicans are heavily supported by real estate interests.

By on April 12, 2011, 5:13 pm
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