City Gives Columbia $15M for Applied Science Institute
July 30th, 2012

The city will support Columbia University’s new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering with up to $15 million in financial aid, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation projects that the new institute will generate $3.9 billion of nominal economic growth over the next three decades, with more than 4,000 permanent jobs created.

Columbia will spend more than $80 million of its own money on the project, and part of the city’s contribution comes from debt forgiveness, discounted energy transmission costs and lease flexibility.

It will create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, and it will encourage the growth of the tech sector in New York City and solidify our leadership in the innovation economy for decades to come, Mayor Bloomberg said in a press release.

This comes as part of the larger Applied Sciences NYC initiative, which aims to increase performance of fields like data science in the city, as well as bolster the city’s economy. Other efforts include the city’s collaboration with Cornell University to create a tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

“The discoveries produced by the Data Sciences Institute will establish a foundation for significant contributions to society and to the marketplace, Professor Kathy McKeown, director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, said in the release.

By 2016, the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering is expected to add 44,000 square feet to Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, with construction starting almost immediately. The university also plans to add approximately 75 faculty jobs in the next 15 years.

However, advocacy groups do not have full confidence in this initiative’s economic promises, seeking full transparency throughout the project.

“More and more, these large universities are running like large corporations,” said Bettina Damiani, project director at Good Jobs NY. “They should be under the same due diligence and expectation to create good jobs.”

By on July 30, 2012, 12:21 pm
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High school entrepreneur wannabes sought for city tech program
July 11th, 2012

A new program aims to expose high school students to the city’s growing Internet technology sector by teaming them up with industry experts to create Android phone apps and business plans.

The New York Economic Development Corp. and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship are sponsoring the bootcamp for teenagers, which starts in August. Thirty high school students will be picked to participate in the program, called NYC Generation Tech. Applications are being accepted until July 20.

“This is another initiative to foster talent in [the technology] sector, which is going to be critical to our economy going forward,” said Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for the EDC.

To be eligible for NYC Generation Tech, students should be rising 10th or 11th graders who are either from a school where 50 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches or who qualify for the food assistance programs themselves.

The primary $100,000 of funding for NYC Generation Tech came from the city.

Terry Bowman, executive director for NFTE New York Metro Area, said the organization is looking to raise more money to provide scholarships and ongoing support for students after they complete the program.

By on July 11, 2012, 2:18 pm
In category: Community Development,Education,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Cornell tech school to be housed temporarily at Google NY
May 21st, 2012

Cornell University’s new tech school will be housed at Google’s New York headquarters while its permanent campus on Roosevelt Island is under construction. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during a visit to Google’s offices today that the company would donate 22,000 square feet at its offices for use by CornellNYC Tech for nearly 6 years or until its campus is completed. Bloomberg was joined by Google Inc. CEO Larry Page and Corrnell President David J. Skorton for the announcement.

Classes at CornellNYC Tech are scheduled to begin in the fall. 

Cornell beat out other universities, including Stanford, in a bid to establishe a cutting-edge technology and enginneering school on city-owned land. 

By on May 21, 2012, 12:20 pm
In category: Tech | 20 Comments »

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A new, digital Green Book for NYC
May 11th, 2012

NYC Green Book

New York City’s Green Book has gone digital.

The city announced today an updated online edition of its widely used directory of city, state and county agencies.

Its the first time the directory has been made available as a digital application, viewable from any modern-day browser.

Created in 1918, the book has a storied history, but hasnt been published since 2008. Dog-eared copies of older editions of the book still sit on the desks of researchers, journalists and policymakers, even though many of the phone numbers are outdated and agency heads have long since changed.

The new edition will still be available in print, available exclusively from CityStore in late June.

Continuing with the green theme of the directory, the new edition sports the citys environmentally conscientious mascot Birdie, holding a compact fluorescent light bulb and wearing a Statue of Liberty crown.

The online directory is searchable and will be updated on an ongoing basis. The new directory is a project of the citys Department of Citywide Administrative Services.


By on May 11, 2012, 11:33 am
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Bronx Business Incubator Opens
January 9th, 2012

The Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a city-backed business incubator in the Bronx earlier today. The Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator at 890 Garrison Ave. in Hunts Point is set up to house 400 entrepreneurs. The New York City Economic Development Corporation helped started the incubator with a $250,000 grant. The incubator is the 8th to open as part of the city’s network of incubators.
Here is the release from the Mayor’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 9, 2012, 1:13 pm
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Bloomberg's Technology Pit
September 29th, 2011

Another day, another disturbing revelation about the city’s handling of its technology contracts.

This time it’s the latest chapter in the scandal involving computers at the Department of Education. The company the department paid $75 million to do technical work on its purchasing, payroll and finance systems Future Technology Associatesbilked the city out of at least $6.5 million, according to a report by Richard Condon, the city’s special commissioner of investigation.

Among other things, Future Tech set up shell companies and then vastly inflated its claims of how much those companies charged. So the Department of Education was being charged between $55 and $110 an hour for work that actually cost Future Tec $10 to $14 an hour.

Concerns about Future Technology have been circulating for some time.

According to a letter-report from the city comptroller’s Bureau of Audit, given to Gotham Gazette today (posted here), in 2005 the department submitted a request that Future Tech get a no-bid contract. (No-bid contracts at the Department of Education have raised concerns in the past.) “This request appears to have contained inaccurate and misleading statements from FTA, which, if DOE had known, should have precluded FTA from being awarded this contract,” says the report from the comptroller’s office, which went to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Condon’s office.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 29, 2011, 4:24 pm
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Digging Into Cuomo's Schedule
September 22nd, 2011

As we reported in our exclusive this morning–Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched a new website called CitizenConnects that among other things has made is past and future schedules more available to the public and reporters. And reporters have wasted no time in digging into Cuomo’s past meetings.

Jimmy Vielkind, of the Times Union, notes that Cuomo’s schedules show that his daughters rode with him on state aircraft.

Ken Lovett of the Daily News discovered that Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ate together days before The Port Authority announced toll hikes.

Expect more news like this throughout the day as journos and good government types digest the wealth of information on the new site. I suggest everyone check it out. Don’t forget that Cuomo will be doing a virtual chat on the site on Saturday.

By on September 22, 2011, 1:21 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Tech | 2 Comments »

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DiNapoli vs. Murdoch
August 28th, 2011

You might have missed this as you were taping your windows yesterday: The Daily News reports that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has rejected the state Department of Education contracts with Wireless Generation. The educational tech company is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — and as a result under the purview of former Schools Chancellor, now Murdoch consigliare Joel Klein.

In rejecting the $27 million deal, DiNapoli cited the phone hacking scandal that has shaken Murdoch’s British newspaper empire — and Britain’s government as well. “In light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved,” DiNapoli’s office wrote to the Education Department.

The education department blasted DiNapoli’s move, with a spokesperson accusing the comptroller of having “allowed political pressure to get in the way of vital technology that would help our students/”

The state was prepared to use part of its federal Race to the Top money to pay Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on, creating a system similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, that it developed for the city schools.

Even before the phone hacking scandal, the deal did not meet the smell test for many. The contract was a no-bid deal, even though many other companies reportedly expressed interest in it.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 28, 2011, 12:53 pm
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Murdoch in the Schools
August 5th, 2011

The city and state teachers union are stepping up their opposition to the awarding of a state education contract to a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The unions have not been big fans of the beleaguered press mogul or of former Chancellor Joel Klein, who now heads education technology (and damaged control?) for him. And the deal has been raising eyebrows since June when the Daily News’ Rachael Monahan reported that the state Department of Education was about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop a system for the state similar to the city’s Achievement Reporting and Innovation System or ARIS.

Klein had been a big promoter of Wireless Generation during his days as chancellor. Two weeks after he left the city to take a mega-lucrative deal with News Corp., the Murdoch company bought Wireless Generation. Admittedly Klein himself worked for the city, not the state. But the ties are there - and the former chancellor certainly stands to benefit from a deal that, in the view of a Forbes blogger, “smack of cronyism.”

The phone hacking scandal has raised further doubts. In their letter to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, and state Education Commissioner John King Jr., state United Teachers president Richard Ianuzzi and Michael Mulgrew, head of the city teachers union, stressed those concerns. Parents and educators, they wrote, question “the wisdom of allowing a News Corp.-owned company to have access the the personal data of students from all across New York.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 5, 2011, 1:08 pm
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Klein Cashes in on Race to the Top
June 9th, 2011

The Daily News’ Rachel Monahan has an eye-opening story today that the state is about to award a chunk of its federal Race to the Top funds to the company now run buy former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. It’s hard to imagine a tale more rife with seeming conflicts of interest.

First the news, according to Monahan: The state Department of Education is about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on. The system would be similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, developed for the city schools when Klein ran them.

The state, according to the News, said the no-bid contract is justified because ARIS already cover a third of the state (i.e. the city) and the system has received national recognition.

Recognition, yes, — but not all of it positive.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 9, 2011, 5:09 pm
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For CityTime Company, the Contracts Keep Coming
June 2nd, 2011

New York’s City almost epic problems with Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, have not kept the Virginia company from continuing to rake in multimillion, if not billion, dollar contracts from other governments.

This week, the Bloomberg administration cut more ties with SAIC, the main contractor on the automated payroll system, cancelling a $50 million deal with the company on what city officials described as an unrelated system

The move reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, came after the arrest of a former company executive, Gerald Denault, on charges he accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks on the City Time contract.

(Find out who’s hiring SAIC now, after the jump.)
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By on June 2, 2011, 2:26 pm
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Another Black Eye for Ed Dept. Tech Effort
April 28th, 2011

The Times is reporting that a former Department of Education consultant has been charged with stealing $3.6 million from the city. Federal prosecutors say Willard Lanham persuaded subcontractors to overbill the city for their work and then kept the difference for himself.

Fernanda Santos writes, “Verizon and I.B.M., the largest of the vendors involved in the projects, played a role in the scheme and profited from it, according to the citys special commissioner of investigation, Richard J. Condon.” Verizon said it would “return any inappropriate profits.”

Lanham, who reportedly already made $200,000 a year, supposedly used the money to buy fancy cars and Long Island real estate. He has denied any wrongdoing. The crime allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2008.

The projects involved were supposed to provide internet access in city schools. The case — assuming the charges are true — involves a number of issues that continue to prove extremely nettlesome for the Bloomberg administration.

(What those problems are — and some connecting of dots — after the jump.)
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By on April 28, 2011, 5:25 pm
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Replacing Indian Point
March 23rd, 2011

Today we cover the Bloomberg administration’s renewed interest in developing waste-to-energy facilities — or plants that burn or heat garbage to create energy.

The administration’s interests are even more timely since Gov. Andrew Cuomo, experts and advocates have called for the closure of Indian Point.

(It should be noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not share their opinion. He said last week: We need energy in this city, and the first thing we have to do is take a very close look at what happened in Japan and see if theres any lessons that we should learn from that and any improvements that we should learn and make at Indian Point.”)

Indian Point provides up to 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Steven Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, estimates waste-to-energy could provide about 10 percent of the city’s needed megawatt hours.

“Particularly if you’d like to get rid of the Indian Point plant, generating 10 percent of the city’s energy from garbage would be feasible,” said Cohen. “What would you rather have? Would you rather have these trucks driving around the city polluting and a nuclear power plant, or would you rather close that down and have a bunch of waste to energy plants?”

Cohen supports the development of small-scale plants throughout the city.

For more on the debate, go here.

By on March 23, 2011, 11:32 am
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Tied to Tech
March 21st, 2011

On Friday, Comptroller John Liu announced he would conduct audits of two Department of Education tech projects: the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, popularly known as ARIS and the Innovation Zone or iZone, the department’s initiative to reshape city schools using on line learning and other technology, among other techniques. The announcement comes at time of increased scrutiny for all the Bloomberg administration technology projects, following the CityTime scandal, including those at the Department of Education.

The Department of Education hired IBM to develop the ARIS system to track student achievement in 2007, spending some $80 million on it. Last week, NY1 reported that many city schools had chosen to buy another system that they claim works better instead. Meanwhile the city is sticking with ARIS and plans on testing a new version of it this spring, Gotham Schools has reported.

Both the past and former chancellor have ties to ARIS The current chancellor, Cathie Black, sat on IBM’s board from 1995 until she stepped down to become chancellor late last year. Over the years, IBM paid Black $300,000 a year for the part-time job, according to the Post In addition to that, Black got a $3.3 million payout when she left the board.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 21, 2011, 1:21 pm
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Schools Respond to Applied Science Request
March 17th, 2011

From Korea to India to the United Kingdom, universities across the globe want to get to New York — at least according to the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced the city has received 18 responses from colleges and universities that are interested in building an applied science campus in the Big Apple. The city will narrow the pool over the summer and make a final decision by the end of the year, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The city has promised to make a “significant investment” towards the construction of a campus. According to the adminsitration, the proposals expressed interest in sites like the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Governors Island, Farm Colony on Staten Island and other privately-owned areas.

The campus is part of a larger effort by the adminsitration to attract emerging technologies to the five boroughs (we cover the race to attract bioscience extensively here).

Here are the schools that expressed interest:

bo Akadmi University, Finland
Amity University, India
Carnegie Mellon University with Steiner Studios
Cornell University
Columbia University and the City University of New York
The Cooper Union
cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea
New York University, Carnegie Mellon, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, and IBM
The New York Genome Center, with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the Jackson Laboratory
Purdue University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stanford University
The Stevens Institute of Technology
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
The University of Chicago
The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

By on March 17, 2011, 1:45 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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City Science Scores
February 24th, 2011

A frequent criticism lobbed at the city’s — and the country’s — addiction to standardized tests for measuring student achievement is that everything not on the test tends to get short shrift.

Science scores released today tend to bolster that argument, at least as far as the city is concerned. New York City students lagged far behind other kids on a national science test given to eighth graders in 2009 and even did worse than their counterparts in other big cities. Sixty-two percent of the city eighth graders who took the test (only a sample do) did not, according to the test, have even basic science skills and knowledge; only 13 percent scored proficient or advanced, the two highest levels. This compares to 38 percent of all U.S. eighth graders scoring below basic and 56 percent of big city kids.

The city’s fourth graders fared better, keeping pace with their fellow students across the country. That could offer scant comfort, though, sine it indicates some 44 percent scored below basic.

According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, among eighth graders, whites and Hispanics scored lower than the big city average; other groups were about the same. No group in New York outperformed on the eighth grade test. Among fourth graders, most groups performed at around the national average for city kids, except for those eligible for school lunch (a measure of poverty), who did better than other eligible students in U.S. cities.

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By on February 24, 2011, 4:52 pm
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Lost in Big Apple Ed
February 15th, 2011

For anyone who fights their way through the Department of Education web site looking for data, Big Apple Ed seems like a godsend. None of those pesky PDFs DOE loves. Instead, type in a school and get an attractive page with lots of data: from admission to average class size, from admissions criteria to special programs. And it has a nice feature that lets the user compare school s– which is exactly what parents want to do when they seek a place for their children.

Unfortunately Big Apple Ed seems to have released itself on the world before it was quite ready for prime time. The search by school name just does not seem to work. Looking for a popular elementary school I tried P.S. 321, ps 321 and 321 each time the site responded, “We couldn’t find any schools for you.”

I then went to the school search site where a visitor can enter one of a number of fields. I typed in Midwood. Once again no schools. Midwood High School. Same answer. Looking for a public (not charter) school near my Brooklyn address, the site recommended two charter schools in the Bronx and an elementary school in Queens.
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By on February 15, 2011, 5:35 pm
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Bloomberg's Business
February 11th, 2011

This blog has been updated to try to make clearer which actions were taken by Bloomberg LP and which by the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes to slam politics as usual, attack special interests and portray himself as someone who’s above all that. Yet, as an article in The Nation spells out, Bloomberg can play the game of politics with the best of them when it comes to his own special interest — his company, Bloomberg LP, and the man himself.

In the article, Aram Roston describes how Bloomberg LP hired high-priced lobbyists who set up an organization with the lofty – and admirable — name Coalition for Competition in Media to push the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to block the merger of NBC and Comcast. The merger went through — to the dismay of many who really want competition in media — but Bloomberg LP, according to the Nation, prevailed anyway. In approving the deal, the FCC required Comcast to group similar channels together — a victory for the nascent Bloomberg financial cable TV channel. This apparently was what he wanted all along.

Bloomberg, Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project told The Nation, “got what it wanted.” Politico proclaimed, “Bloomberg TV a winner in Comcast-NBC deal.”

To accomplish his victory, Bloomberg LP did a few things familiar to all of us in New York who have watched Mayor Bloomberg over the past nine years.

(The details after the jump.)
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By on February 11, 2011, 10:03 am
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Paterson Signs Battery Recycling Law
December 16th, 2010

You know that broken iPod you’ve got sitting around? Those busted flip phones, or that laptop with the hole in the screen?(How on Earth did that get there?) Well they’ve all got batteries in ’em and those batteries are no good for mother nature. Thanks to new legislation, signed yesterday by Gov. David Paterson and sponsored by Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, electronics manufacturers will be required under state law to work with retailers to set up convenient recycling programs for those sorts of batteries. The goal is to keep those toxic batteries out of landfills.

With the Governors signature, New York State is making the statement that through extended producer responsibility, manufacturers accountability does not end once their products are sold,” said Krueger in a statement.

“The final approval of this legislation removes the full burden of accountability from the consumer and shifts responsibility to the experts so that these products will be properly disposed of and recycled. I applaud Governor Paterson for taking this important step in helping protect the environment.”

“By preventing consumers from throwing these items in the trash and ensuring that retailers and manufacturers take responsibility for disposing of them properly, well keep dangerous substances out of our air and water, said Kavanagh in a statement. Recycling and reuse are the path to a sustainable economy and a healthy environment, and were committed to making sure that New York leads the way. I thank Governor David Paterson, Senator Liz Krueger, and Assembly Environmental Committee Chair Bob Sweeney for their critical support in getting this law enacted.

By on December 16, 2010, 3:47 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Tech | 3 Comments »

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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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