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Crawling to a Hearing
February 24th, 2009

Photo via Wiki Commons

Photo via Wiki Commons

Sleep tight, but don’t let the bed bugs bite.

That adage could find new meaning today at City Hall. At 1 p.m., the City Council will hold a hearing on three bills aimed at eradicating the nasty pests from our urban mattresses.

All introduced by Councilmember Gale Brewer, who has been on a bed bug blasting crusade for several years, the first bill would ban the sale of refurbished mattresses and fine violators between $250 and $1,000. It would also create a five-member bed bug task force to look into health concerns caused by the invasive species (For more on other invasive species, check out our package: Know Your Invasive Critters and Invasion New York).
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By on February 24, 2009, 12:17 pm
In category: Gotham City,Health,Immigrants,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Krueger on Food Stamp Access
February 18th, 2009

State Sen. Liz Krueger issued a press release today decrying reports that the Bloomberg administration has declined to take advantage of a provision in the federal stimulus bill that overturns a 1996 rule that placed limitations on the length of time some citizens could receive food stamps.

Under the old rule, healthy people with no dependents were limited to three months worth of food stamps in a three year span. The New York Times reported this week that Bloomberg administration officials insisted they are not obligated to extend benefits to anyone not enrolled in the Work Experience Program, a workfare program that provides temporary jobs, usually in city agencies.

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By on February 18, 2009, 8:22 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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Fast Cash -- At a Price
February 5th, 2009

Instant. Rapid. Fast cash. These are all appealing phrases to low-income New Yorkers dependent on their tax refunds to help pay the bills. Unfortunately, the terms also describe predatory loans that do offer quick access to tax refunds, but come with interest rates as high as 300 percent.

After a four week sweep, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs inspected hundreds of tax preparation services and issued over 1,200 violations. The top violations were for deceptive advertising for such refunds, called refund anticipation loans, or RALs.

In its sweep, the department targeted agencies with prior violations, as well as neighborhoods with high percentages of Earned Income Tax Credit filers. The crackdown will continue through the tax season.

Such loans cost the city’s poorest neighborhoods $324 million dollars between 2002 and 2005, according to a report by the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project.
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By on February 5, 2009, 2:50 pm
In category: Economy,Social Services | 3 Comments »

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Leadership and Taxes
January 6th, 2009

David King reports on the day’s events in Albany:

State Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith may be nearing a deal with the “gang of three,” Jimmy Vielkind of the reports. According to Vielkind, the three rogue Democratic senators would be given committee chairmanships in a deal reminiscent of the one reached in December, which eventually fell apart. Unlike last time, Smith will seek the input of the rest of the Democratic conference before reaching any final accord. And in an indication things remain somewhat unresolved, Vielkind reports that one of the gang of three — Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz — will not attend tonight’s scheduled meeting of Senate Democrats.

Republican Assemblymember James Tedisco lightened the mood at the Capitol today by launching his anti-“iTax” site. Tedisco’s stand against Gov. David Paterson’s proposed 8 percent tax on individual song and movie downloads features a YouTube clip of Tedisco listening to his iPod and singing along with “New York New York.” The site also features iPod commercial-esque dancing silhouettes with phrases like “Don’t break my achy, breaky heart with the iTax” and “The Gov is taxin’ my hip-hop.”
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By on January 6, 2009, 6:46 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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An Ambitious Budget and Deadline
December 16th, 2008

Gov. David Paterson went for drama with his first budget — all five books of it.

Over the next two years, the proposal hopes to fill a $15.4 billion budget gap by both increasing fees (what some may say is a clever disguise for taxes) and cutting services. It will cut $3.5 billion from Medicaid and $2 billion from school aid.

The governor said in his budget address this morning, which was done a month earlier than usual, that he hopes to revise the state’s Empire Zones tax abatement program to make companies more accountable for job creation. He also plans to lay off more than 3,100 public employees, which will likely come from merging seven state agencies and closing “underutilized” state facilities.

What could be his most ambitious pursuit — and certainly the toughest aspect of the budget to accomplish — is the self-imposed deadline of March 1, a month before the state’s budget deadline. Though many have said it can’t be done, Paterson said the state could save $1.3 billion from passing the budget a month early.
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By on December 16, 2008, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Education,Health,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services,Transportation | Comments Off on An Ambitious Budget and Deadline

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How to Cut Spending
October 8th, 2008

As the markets plunge and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson calls for budget cutbacks, opposition to some of the possible reductions in programs has begun to build. A new coalition, One New York: Fighting for Fairness, will hold its first press conference this Friday. According to the press release from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which seeks funding for public schools, the coalition seeks to raise “revenues fairly and reasonably, rather than balancing the budget on the backs of the neediest.” (Sound like a possible millionaire’s tax hike to you?)

Meanwhile an article by Juan Gonzalez in today’s Daily News seems sure to raise the hackles of coalition members. While the Department of Education faces $$185 million in new cuts, Gonzalez reports, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein continues to pack the Tweed Courthouse with high-priced “educrats.” Despite an alleged hiring freeze, the department has announced it seeks to fill several high-paying positions with strange titles: knowledge management domain leader for leadership and organizational management; knowledge management domain leader for mathematics and science; and senior achievement facilitator. All these posts pay $170,000 a year (with benefits).

The new hires, according to Gonzalez, represent a trend as the head count at department headquarters increased by nearly 400 between October 2004 and last April. The greatest boost — ironically, if not surprisingly — has come in the Office of Accountability.

By on October 8, 2008, 8:26 am
In category: Education,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on How to Cut Spending

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The New York Post's War on Poverty
July 21st, 2008

Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed changing the formula for calculating the federal poverty level, the New York Post editorial page has waged a steady campaign to discredit the idea – even questioning the notion of poverty itself.

No family of four could survive for a year in New York City on a total income of $26,138. Period.” the Post declared last week. The problem, the paper believes, is that any measurement of poverty fails to account for the reality of life in this town with its immigrants (legal or otherwise), its hustlers, its elderly, its huge student population – and, above all else, its pulsing underground economy.”

A few days later, columnist Heather McDonald wrotethat any thresholdforpoverty is a “relative measure.” “Under this definition, no general increase in affluence can ever eliminate ‘poverty’ or the need for a larger federal government to ‘cure’ it,” she writes.

And today, the paper warnsthat Bloomberg may be planning a”major expansion of government ‘antipoverty’ initiatives – a la John Lindsay 40 years ago.”

“He may fear that fewer and fewer New Yorkers these days are actually poor,” the Post concludes.

By on July 21, 2008, 10:26 am
In category: Economy,Social Services | Comments Off on The New York Post's War on Poverty

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Calculating Poverty
July 14th, 2008

Good data is almost always a good idea, so it’s hard to dispute Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to update a formula for determining the poverty level, a formula that has existed since the mid 1960s.

If the mayor’s method of calculation were to be used, the percentage of New Yorkers considered poor would increase from about 19 percent to 23 percent. Cynics have observed this could help the city since, in the event that the federal government adopted the mayor’s method, more New Yorkers would be eligible for various types of assistance.

No matter how one does the math, though, the Bloomberg years have not been good for New York’s poorest citizens — despite the general economic boom.
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By on July 14, 2008, 1:35 pm
In category: Demographics,Economy,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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Budget Watch Continues (UPDATE)
June 26th, 2008

So Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s schedule this morning is centered on the city’s new aqua-exhibit, sending him zipping around the a.m. broadcasts.

But maybe he might be able to squeeze in a budget announcement later this afternoon following a courtesy visit with Nobel Laureate Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The News reports that there was a tentative compromise on cuts to the Department of Education, and the Politicker predicts a handshake could happen today or tomorrow.

Others are less optimistic.
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By on June 26, 2008, 2:10 pm
In category: Economy,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Make Money, Help the Environment
February 29th, 2008

When most people think of recycling, they think of the environment. But another, less intuitive reason to recycle is to raise money. Yes, that old shirt or cell phone may actually be used to raise money for your school or to fight cancer. There are at least two programs operating in the city who use recycling as a fundraising tool.

On such program is called EcoPhones, a for-profit company that pays for electronic waste. At least six schools in the city collect old cellphones, CD players and ink cartridges, which EcoPhones collects and pays for.

At Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, they collect electronic waste throughout the school year, and have received about $300 from EcoPhone since September [corrected].

“It’s easy,” says Sandra Pinder, who administers the program, “If you have an old phone, you just bring it to us.” Not only does the school raise some money, it helps keeps trash that is often toxic from entering landfills.

Another program is Wearable Collections, which recycles old clothing and linen. This non profit organization will set up a bin a requested location in Manhattan (and sometimes the outer boroughs) and then collect it when it is full. They pay you for the textiles, and get the second hand clothing into the hands of people who need them all over the world.

Clothing and textiles account for about six percent of the garbage New York City generates, according to the Council on the Environment in New York City.

Wearable Collections’ founder, Adam Baruchowitz, started the program to raise money for spinal cord research after a friend of his was paralyzed in an accident, TreeHugger wrote in 2006.

By on February 29, 2008, 8:32 am
In category: Environment,Social Services,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Bracing for a Cold and Expensive Winter
November 15th, 2007

As New Yorkers begin bracing for winter chills, they may need to start bracing for heating cost shocks as well. According to a report released by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer last week, average heating bills are expected to rise between 7 and 20 percent, leaving residents here with up to $400 bills for oil and $100 for gas. The senator also cited numbers that projected New York City residents will pay $597 million more on heating costs this winter than last year.

To help people here cope with such extraordinary costs, Schumer called for the release of $150 million in federal assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program contingency fund.

New York State receives and distributes the most of these grants in the nation with over $233 million in grants being authorized across the state last year. Over $32 million of that was authorized for about 466,000 households in the city.

But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a national research group, found that in the face of rising costs, almost 208,000 fewer New Yorkers will receive grants this year under President George W. Bushs budget request (via the PULP blog).

New Yorkers that are eligible for the grants are automatically eligible for a weatherization program from the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal. The program improves the energy efficiency of a home by offering such services as caulking and weatherstripping, cleaning or repairing heating systems, and adding insulation, among other things.

By on November 15, 2007, 10:49 am
In category: Social Services | Comments Off on Bracing for a Cold and Expensive Winter

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More Money, More Transparency
October 17th, 2007

The City Council released today a revised “Schedule C,” which includes allocations for each organization that received a grant through the council’s large, citywide initiatives.

They also released a list of organizations that have received funding from individual council members’ discretionary funds earmarked for projects within the Department of Youth and Community Development as well as the Department for the Aging. That list was not included in the initial member items list released when the budget was approved in June (For a breakdown of those items by member click here).

The release of the items is part of Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s budget transparency initiative.

By on October 17, 2007, 4:29 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on More Money, More Transparency

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The Latest from the Feds on Insuring Kids (UPDATED)
September 17th, 2007

The fate of a federal and state subsidized children’s insurance program continues to be threatened, despite a likely compromise in Congress on a boost to the initiative’s funding.

The compromise, reported in The New York Times this morning, would give the State Children’s Health Insurance Program $60 billion of federal funding over the next five years – that’s an increase of $35 billion from the program’s current level.

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By on September 17, 2007, 12:17 pm
In category: Gotham City,Health,Social Services | Comments Off on The Latest from the Feds on Insuring Kids (UPDATED)

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The Path of Welfare Reform
August 31st, 2007

In 1995, then Mayor Rudolph Guiliani enacted expansive welfare reforms that tightened welfare eligibility requirements and expanded a “workfare” program called the Work Experience Program. In order to receive benefits, workers needed to seek and find work. By the time he left office, the welfare rolls had been more than halved.

But this initiative was an anomaly at the time, and it happened a year before federal reforms changed the nation. For such a thing to happen in a large urban environment made it all the more exceptional. So why did this happen here?

John Krinsky, an assistant professor at City College, writes in the Urban Affairs Review that events and actors outside of the city had a lot to do with it, and those actors turned around and used the example of New York to further change the face of welfare nationally.

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By on August 31, 2007, 8:28 am
In category: Social Services | 4 Comments »

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The People's 311
August 24th, 2007

People In response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Scout initiative, which will send out a patrol to document quality of life issues such as potholes and graffiti, a new community run effort to document the same thing has been launched. Called the People’s 311, it is reaching out to New Yorkers, asking them to upload photos of problems they encounter. The goal is to supplement the new city workers.

The project was started by Carrie McLaren, founder and editor of Stay Free! magazine and Steve Lambert of the Anti Advertising Agency.

By on August 24, 2007, 7:41 am
In category: Social Services | Comments Off on The People's 311

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Library Hours Matter
August 17th, 2007

Photo by LesterHead

Congestion Pricing, PlaNYC – but what about libraries? The recent decision to restore library service to six days a week is a major accomplishment that has been overshadowed, says Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future.

Instead, it “should be recognized as a landmark achievement for boosting the competitiveness of the city’s future workforce and improving the quality of life for untold numbers of seniors, parents, children and immigrants,” he wrote in a recent essay.

Bowles points out that libraries do more than lend books, “They foster reading skills in kids, assist adults in addressing skills gaps, help immigrants assimilate and bolster technology access for thousands of seniors and low-income individuals”

But for all the praise he heaps on the city’s initiative, Bowles’ essay includes a less flattering comparison of the library hours of the 20 largest cities. While the expanded hours will bump New York up from last place, it will only advance to number 15 out of the 20, the center’s numbers show. The 45 hours per week the libraries will now be open is still also below the national average of 47.

By on August 17, 2007, 10:23 am
In category: Social Services | Comments Off on Library Hours Matter

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Spitzer Signs Housing Bill
August 16th, 2007

Community Voices Heard is lauding Governor Spitzer’s decision to sign the shelter allowance bill yesterday. The legislation, S.4329/A.7905 will increase the shelter allowance provided to public housing authorities serving families on public assistance, adding (by CVH’s estimate) $47 million in revenue yearly to the NYC Housing Authority’s budget, helping to close a $225 million budget deficit.

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By on August 16, 2007, 11:54 am
In category: Albany,Housing,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on Spitzer Signs Housing Bill

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From Cops' Charm to Round 10: Bruno v. Spitzer
August 1st, 2007

As some police leave their pistols in its holster and turn on the charm in communities across the city, The Times is urging Commissioner Kelly to do more than smile like allow more independent oversight of the department.

The Post criticizes the states hate crimes law, claiming it punishes the thoughts in an individuals head instead of the crime committed, while The News urges Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider moving the citys ceremony on the anniversary of 9/11 an announcement made recently that moves the tribute to a nearby park because of construction at Ground Zero.

And in further comments on the Spitzer versus Bruno battle, The Sun says the only way for the governor to avoid the center ring and get back on track would be to focus on policy and continue to resist a special prosecutor investigation. To do just that, they add, he should veto the welfare legislation, which awaits his signature on his desk.

By on August 1, 2007, 9:21 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law,Parks,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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What They're Saying
June 6th, 2007

The Daily News cheers the prison sentences for former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman and bribe taking judge Gerald Garson. Good riddance to both of them – maybe they can share a ride to Dannemora or sit next to each other in the license plate workshop, the paper crows. But on a more sober note, the editorial questions how much things have changed in Kings County: There is a new leader, Vito Lopez, and new judges, like his girlfriend’s brother, Jack Battaglia, whom Lopez put on Brooklyn Supreme Court last year. Thus it is ever until New York changes the way judges are picked.”

With Albany debating a new law on how to site power plants, Gavin Donohue, president and CEO of the Independent Power Producers of New York, urges legislators and the governor not to turn the measure into environmental legislation. Raising the specter of future electricity shortages, that he argues cannot be addressed by increased efficiency and conservation, Donohue writes in the Post, This measure must give priority to securing future energy supplies.

The Post has compared Eliot Spitzer to a French politician. But now it ups the ante, associating our governor with former Mayor John Lindsay. In an editorial entitled John Vliet Spitzer (Vliet was Lindsays middle name), the Post likens Spitzers plans to help more low-income New Yorkers get food stamps to Lindsays efforts to ensure that people eligible for welfare received it. Not only does Spitzers plan encourage dependency, its also in the Posts eyes, totally unnecessary: “Between the existing food stamp program, local food banks, faith-based pantries and the public-schools’ three-meals-and-a-snack feeding programs, nobody of sound mind goes hungry in New York.

By on June 6, 2007, 9:42 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Law,Social Services | Comments Off on What They're Saying

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What They're Saying
May 14th, 2007

The News and the Post disagree sharply over Governor Eliot Spitzers decision to for give daycare workers the right to unionize, a move opposed by the mayor.

The News cheers Spitzer. Now it says, These self-employed providers – mostly minority-group women who bring children into their homes will be treated with the respect they deserve, leading to more and better day care for New Yorkers, the paper says.

But the Post sees it as a budget-busting gift to Big Labor that, Mayor Bloomberg says, jeopardizes some 15,000 child-care slots in the city. And, the paper says, it is part of a pattern. In general, it writes, Eliot Spitzer has embarked not merely on a drive to reinforce the status quo – but on one that can only make things worse. Far worse.

By on May 14, 2007, 7:55 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Social Services | Comments Off on What They're Saying

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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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