Budget Hearings Breakdown
May 13th, 2010

The City Council kicked off its executive budget hearings this morning, and over the next month there will be dozens more.

This schedule is subject to change, but here is how it’s laid out now.

Friday, May 14

Human Rights Commission, 10 a.m.
City University of New York, 10:30 a.m.
Education and School Construction Authority (Capital), 12 p.m.

Monday, May 17
Citywide Administrative Services, 10 a.m.
Board of Elections, 10:45 a.m.
Campaign Finance Board, 11:45 a.m.
Aging, 12:30 p.m.
Juvenile Justice, 2 p.m.
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By on May 13, 2010, 6:00 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,sustainability,Tech,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg's Film Crew
March 17th, 2010

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides to test the waters for a possible presidential bid in 2012 what will it cost the cash strapped city?

In an article in this week’s Village Voice, Tom Robbins looks at possible costs of the mayor’s last flirtation with the White House. Shortly after he re-election in 2005, Bloomberg began to travel widely and give speeches. “We later learned this was mostly about setting the stage for a potential run for president,” Robbins writes. “One of the interesting features of this publicity push was that — despite his own fabulous wealth — the mayor wasn’t shy about using city resources to promote his image.”

According to Robbins, “starting in February 2006, the Bloomberg administration began assigning a team of video camera operators from the city’s television station — NYC-TV — to follow and film the mayor” on trips to such places as Shanghai, Beijing, Bali, Paris, London, Mexico City, Belfast, Berlin, Jerusalem and cities across the United States. Even though, unlike their boss, the city workers flew commercial, a trip by a camera crew to say, Oklahoma, cost some $3,4000. An Asia jaunt was $16,400.

Robbins reports that he tried to get this information in a Freedom of Information request last May. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications did not respond until a few weeks ago — and then only after a lawyer intervened.

While the tech office has sought to portray the trip — and the filming — as business as usual, when contacted by Robbins, spokespeople for the previous three mayors seemed unfamiliar with such a practice.

By on March 17, 2010, 2:27 pm
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Another One Bites the Dust
December 23rd, 2009

As expected, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul Cosgrave will “retire” next week, adding to the crew of commissioners who will not be joining the mayor for a third term.

This particular “retirement,” which the News dubbed a resignation, comes after the city’s 911 call system upgrade was two years behind schedule and over budget. The mayor’s statement below boasts Cosgrave’s work on 311, but is silent on the 911 controversy.

In another department, the mayor announced on Monday the appointment of Salvatore Cassano to head the Fire Department following Nicholas Scopetta.

Here is the mayor’s statement on Cosgrave:

When I appointed Paul Cosgrave Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in 2006, our Administration had made unprecedented gains increasing public access to City information and services. Still, I charged Paul with going even farther, giving New Yorkers new ways to interact with City government, and making City government even more transparent. He had great success achieving those goals.

Paul expanded our 311 Customer Service Center, which provides New Yorkers round-the-clock access to information and services in some 180 languages. He helped create an enhanced 311 service for public school families which provides an easy-to-use resource for parents and guardians seeking answers about their childrens education. Thanks to his efforts, New Yorkers can now access 311 by phone, via multiple online channels, and attach pictures and videos to complaints submitted from their desktops or mobile phones. And just last month, we announced an agreement with the MTA to explore streamlining public access to mass transit information. Paul spearheaded the effort to create the New York City Wireless Network, a state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure transforming how City agencies ensure public safety and deliver services, as well as the expansion and adoption of broadband service in low income neighborhoods.

Through it all, Pauls greatest strengths have been his ability to work collaboratively and effectively with a wide variety of stakeholders and find ways to get things done. On behalf of the people of the City of New York, I thank him for his distinguished service and wish him all the best in retirement.

By on December 23, 2009, 12:32 pm
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Stray Voltage Around the City
November 5th, 2009

Within a quarter-mile of Gotham Gazette’s offices, there were 103 incidents of stray voltage in the past 21 months. Five of them were potentially fatal, and one shocked a person or a pet.

We know this due to a new map from the Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation that lets you search for stray voltage around the city. The foundation was formed by the parents of a woman who was killed after being electrocuted by stray voltage from Con Edison’s system. The data for the maps are culled from reporting requirements that the city implemented after her death.

By on November 5, 2009, 9:40 am
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Comptroller Candidates Take on TV
August 11th, 2009

Looks like the city’s comptroller candidates are making finance a little bit interesting (this comes from someone who, like most journalists, has a slight disdain for math).

But in television spots released by three of the four Democratic contenders, two of which came out today, voters will see slightly more defined campaign platforms. First up, John Liu, who is going for a man-of-the-people persona and is highlighting his status as an immigrant. “I want to make sure everyone gets an economic fair shake,” he says.

In her first television spot, Katz is taking a far different approach by trumping up her “don’t take no for an answer” attitude, her ability to “fight hard” for New Yorkers, and she even tells a lobbyist to “stick it.”

She released another ad today, which is less bold and triggers the thought of an i-phone promo.

And the final ad of the day came from David Yassky, who went with the standard “stand up to public interest” route. In what is an attempt to tap into the recession-affected New Yorker, Yassky kicks off his commercial by saying, “You don’t know me, but I’m going to save you money.”

The final comptroller candidate, David Weprin, has not yet released television ads, but is beefing up his web presence.

By on August 11, 2009, 3:19 pm
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Mike on Twitter
August 10th, 2009

I am not the best tweeter.

A member for a handful of months, I have only racked up 17 followers so far (I am attributing that to the fact that I have only “tweeted” four times).

But tomorrow, for all those who get a kick out of the social networking phenom, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be managing his own account — a daily task usually reserved for his campaign staff.

Any bets on what our mayor might chirp?

And to keep current on all things Gotham Gazette, you can follow us here.

By on August 10, 2009, 12:54 pm
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A Coup for Reform?
June 11th, 2009

Today, a coalition of good government groups called on the Senate to continue along the road to reform. The coalition, of which the Brennan Center, NYPIRG and others are a part of, call for the posting of records online in an accessible format. Also, they are urging that bills be allowed to move out of committee without the cooperation of leadership. Furthermore, they are pushing for the Senate to allow individual members to bring bills to the floor for debate and vote.

The recommendations come amidst a coup by the Senate GOP, which went into motion under the banner of reform. Indeed, the newly instated majority passed a series of rules changes. Among them is the creation of a “motion for consideration,” which allows for members to move for a vote on whether or not to place a bill on the active list of legislation to be considered.

But it’s up to the acting majority to continue with the rules or not, since they are not law, as Gerald Benjamin, a SUNY professor, notes. “The majority – however it is constituted – adopts its own rules (e.g. There is no commitment to leadership term limits, except the will of future majorities to stick with this rule), and may go back to the status quo ante, or worse,” he points out.

“But it is also possible that the genie could be out of the bottle. Whatever their individual and colelctive motivation, a majority of the legislature has voted for real reforms.”

By on June 11, 2009, 3:45 pm
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And The New Senate Web Site Goes Live
May 7th, 2009

The new State Senate Web site launched today and offers a number of new features. There is individual pages for committees, senators and issues – all of which offer blogs, calendars, press releases and reports that can be subscribed to with RSS readers. You can even find your representative’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

(To find out what is being written about senators and Assembly members in the media, visit Gotham Gazette‘s state representatives page.)

Although there isn’t currently options for commenting on the blogs – including the full Senate blog – there is a new bill mark up page [fixed] where users can comment on legislation that is being debated and vote on other comments throughout.

There is also an ‘Open Data‘ section that will offer plain language versions of legislation and data from other levels of government. The first bill to offer this feature was the MTA bailout.

But the site is still a work in progress. They are working on a multilingual site, a mobile version and considering transcription technology for the live video stream. A new legislative search function should be rolled out within the next couple months. [UPDATE: The streaming videos are being archived uncut on the Senate YouTube channel.]

They are also seeking your input on what else can be done. An ‘unconference’ called Capitol Camp is planned for next month so citizens and civil servants can offer suggestions on how to improve the site and discuss ways technology can be used to make New York better. Although that Web site is not up, you can follow capitol Camp on Twitter for updates, and RSVP for the event, which will be held on June 5.

In the end, all of this is only useful if legislators, staffers and citizens use the new site. “A tool is only a good tool if people make good use of it,” says Andrew Hoppin, the Senate’s chief information officer and head of its new media effort.

By on May 7, 2009, 12:10 pm
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The MTA, in Pie Charts
March 17th, 2009

Albany’s new Senate CIO wasn’t kidding when he said he was going to be trying new things. The State Senate CIO’s office announced a couple of new web initiatives in coordination with the MTA. (Wonkster got this announcement by Twitter — we invite you to follow Gotham Gazette on Twitter.) One, they’ve put a few piles of numbers on a site, Swivel, that lets you review and visualize large data sets. They’re taking your ideas for a rescue of the MTA on NYMTAideas.org and they’ve published the Senate’s MTA Proposal on NYMTAsolutions.org. The MTA regularly comes under fire for keeping their books under wraps, but is this the transparency you’re looking for?

What are your MTA ideas?

By on March 17, 2009, 2:30 pm
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Interactive Historical Maps
February 26th, 2009

Just because a map may have been drawn with ink on yellowing paper and stored away for safe keeping doesn’t mean they can’t become interactive. The David Rumsey Map Collection has posted their historical maps online, and you can search them, zoom in and out and create widgets for posting the interactive maps on blogs or Web sites. It also allows you to create presentations with the maps.

The service has hundreds of maps and illustrations of New York, including this 1829 map showing Queens extending as far into Long Island as Oyster Bay.

By on February 26, 2009, 2:27 pm
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Think You Could Balance the State Budget?
February 12th, 2009

Balance, Gotham Gazette’s latest game, will let you have a crack at balancing the New York City budget, but if you’ve got ideas about how the state can balance its budget, the senate wants to know.

They’ll take your cost cutting and revenue generating ideas by voicemail (800-706-9995), sms (text NYSS to 41411) or Twitter. No word on whether they’re planning to take input via MySpace comments.

PS. You can find Gotham Gazette on Twitter and MySpace, too.

By on February 12, 2009, 1:49 pm
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New York Media Arts Map
February 2nd, 2009

To help media artists, funders, exhibitors and others find each other, the state and two non profit organization created an interactive map that organizes media arts groups by location. Users can hover over a borough or county in the state, and a list of the organizations pops up. Organizations can also be viewed by category, such as policy and advocacy, sponsorship or grantmaking. The New York Media Arts Map was launched in December by American Documentary, the Experimental Television Center and the Electronic Media and Film Program of the New York State Council for the Arts.

By on February 2, 2009, 11:36 am
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IBO Now Blogs
January 16th, 2009

The Independent Budget Office today unveiled a new Web site design that offers a quicker and more efficient user experience. They also posted the first item on their new blog. (The post estimates that a federal stimulus bill under consideration would increase federal Medicaid payments to the city by 8 percent, rising from 50 percent to 54 percent of total Medicaid spending.)

“New Yorkers may be facing hard fiscal times, but we want to provide them with easier access to objective information and analysis of the city’s budget,” said IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein in a statement. “Our new Web design makes it much easier to use the site to find reports and other data produced by IBO. And the Weblog provides a new outlet for presenting short and timely looks at important economic and fiscal issues.”

New Yorkers can now subscribe by RSS to their blog. If they subscribe to the entire site, the agency’s testimonies, letters and other data – including blog posts – are available, as they have been now for months.

Although the site features the ability to subscribe to blog comments, there are no plans to allow comments on the site. “We don’t have the resources to monitor a live comment function at this time,” says spokesperson Doug Turetsky. He points out that New Yorkers can still send comments by email to [email protected].

The new IBO site comes on the heels of the release of a new blog on the City Council Web site. (Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum praised the Council initiative – on her own blog – but held out hope it would offer a commenting function). A City Council Twitter feed is also newly available. The Council site’s RSS feeds still aren’t available, however.

By on January 16, 2009, 11:50 am
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What If Your Office was a Park?
January 9th, 2009

Technology has enabled workers to collaborate from the far corners of the earth, but face-to-face collaboration is still a necessity. So how can we best facilitate that, and make the experience as welcoming as possible?

That’s the idea behind Breakout!, the upcoming “festival of mobile co-working.”

Breakout!, which is planned for the fall, intends to explore that question through a two-week festival of outdoor co-working environments in public places throughout the streets of New York. (The co-working movement is an informal meeting of freelancers who come together to collaborate on new ideas.) It will be part of an exhibition by the Architectural League of New York that will explore the integration of technology into the urban fabric.

According to their online manifesto-of-sorts, the goal is, “to provoke discussion about how urban designers, architects, freelancers and businesspeople can create public spaces that re-integrate the commercial life of knowledge-based cities into public spaces.”

The exhibits – which will be “injecting lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban public spaces” – will offer a combination of three elements: online social networking tools, a set of processes and skills to get people collaborating, and “temporary and mobile infrastructure,” such as new types of portable desks and chairs.

Breakout! doesn’t necessarily see this as a new idea. “If we look back at the city before the office building, the streets were the site of every kind of economic activity,” the online presentation posits. “In the New York of 1900, almost every kind of activity took place in the streets.”

By on January 9, 2009, 4:02 am
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Thompson Chats With the Blogosphere
December 10th, 2008

A new campaign site — designed by the same team that brought the change mantra to computer screens across the country — comes with a buzz word that some hesitated to link with Comptroller William Thompson Jr.


In an attempt to do away with the doubt and skepticism surrounding his mayoral bid, Thompson launched his campaign site today — a tad early by some standards — and chatted with some online media this afternoon.

“I’m somebody who understands the people of New York,” Thompson said during a conference call. “I’m uniquely qualified to be the mayor of the city of New York… This is a race to help determine the future of New York City.”
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By on December 10, 2008, 4:16 pm
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Cab Sharing
December 4th, 2008

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to create a fleet of hybrid taxicabs may have taken a hit by the courts, but there is another way to make cabs more efficient: get more people into one cab.

In that vein, a new company named CabEasy seeks to make cab sharing easier for New Yorkers. On their Web site, users can find other riders going in the same direction they are going, and also find out how much CO2 emissions they will save by sharing a taxi.

The company is the latest in a line to offer similar services, like Ride Amigos, Split A Cab, and Hitchsters.

New York cabs emitted 580,000 tons of CO2 in 2006, according to the city’s inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. Taxis would account for over 10 percent of the total emissions the city government is responsible for if they were included in the overall figure.

But other ideas to pile more riders into a single cab are out there, both technology and policy based.
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By on December 4, 2008, 5:04 pm
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Plan Around That Subway Construction
November 20th, 2008

The need for real-time travel information became glaringly apparent after the subways flooded last summer. Now, a year-and-a-half later, the state has unveiled 511 NY. (Text message alerts from the MTA are coming soon.)

The service provides real time information on road and transit routes via phone or the Web so that you can know what to expect before you leave home.

Users can now call 511, free of charge, and get information on any mode of transportation in the New York City area, including parts of New Jersey and Long Island. (The service is planned to be rolled out statewide by January next year.) Those outside of the service region can call 888-GO-511-NY.

A voice recognition system delivers service updates on highways, bus routes, and number of other options. If the system itself doesn’t have access to the data a user seeks, it will transfer them to the appropriate agency. With 347 transfer options, callers can find information on anything from para-transit to ride sharing.

Updates are available to the public within seconds of an interruption in many cases.

511NY.org offers expanded options, including a trip planner that uses Google maps.

Many users may just use Google Transit. But that service doesn’t account for service interruptions like the 511NY planner. Planned interruptions are also in included.

New York’s 511 is unique in the country as it is the only service to offer regional data that crosses state lines.

“We want to get this fully turned on before the holidays,” says Todd Westhuis, 511 NY’s project director.
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By on November 20, 2008, 5:22 pm
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The Grades Are In
November 12th, 2008

UPDATE: On its site, the education department now has a spreadsheet with results for high schools only. It’s still not exactly easy to use but might prove more user friendly than the single one for primary and secondary schools. Click here.

City high schools received their report cards today from the bosses at Tweed Courthouse and, as with elementary schools and middle schools, grades are up. According to the Department of Education press release, 57 percent of schools kept their A averages or move up by at least one least grade since the first report cards last month. One hundred twelve schools — or 39 percent — got As, including all the city’s so-called specialized schools (Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, LaGuardia, etc.). Only 2 percent, or a total of six, city high schools flunked.

The department advises parents and eighth graders now in the thick of the high school selection process to use the progress reports to help make their selections. But they expect parents to do a lot of clicking and downloading. The list of grades for all schools are available in a cumbersome Excel spreadsheet here that mixes up all grade levels and includes some information parents will find extraneous. Getting a report for an individual school requires going here, filling in the form, waiting for search results to come back and then clicking to download a PDF of the report card which, on my computer at least, was very slow.

By on November 12, 2008, 2:13 pm
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Watch Your Government at Work in Your Boxers
October 31st, 2008

If you want to watch a video online of a cat opening a jar, that’s easy. A haunted Ouija Board? Not a problem. But if you want to watch the City Council hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce poverty, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Councilmember Gale Brewer would like to change that. The Technology in Government Committee, which she chairs, held a hearing this week about a bill to offer live webcasts of all public meetings and archive them online.

The city developed a webcasting pilot six years ago, but Web video has developed increasingly farther since then. For example, live webstreaming is available for free to anybody with a digital camera and internet access (Brooklyn Heights Blog just used one such service to broadcast their debate between State Senate candidates Daniel Squadron and John Chromczak).

In fact, New York city is behind most other big cities on this front, as CityRoom pointed out.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, said in written testimony that webcasts are the “obvious next step” in the city’s efforts to use technology to promote accountability and transparency.

But she would also like to see that written testimony available on the council’s Web site.
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By on October 31, 2008, 4:01 pm
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Digital Manhattan
October 23rd, 2008

Sure, Max Page makes the case that we show our love for New York by destroying it on film. But another way to express feelings for the city is to recreate it online.

Technology company YouCity specializes in doing just that, and has a 3D map of Manhattan on its Web site as a demo that you can peruse. The company creates such maps for individual clients and can embed other programs and search tools into the maps, which can be viewed from different angles.

The Digital Urban blog, which found the maps over the summer, considers them game changing. “Such maps certainly raise the bar on what will become the norm in city mapping over the next few years,” they wrote.

A while back, we covered a similar map of Manhattan that is open to the public, called UpNext. That map can be plugged into social networking sites.

Now, before those of you in the outer boroughs start feeling left out, Elliot Hanson has created a Sim City version of New York, brownstone Brooklyn and all. He was recently crowned “the world’s most dedicated gamer” by the Guinness Book of World Records for his four year effort at this virtual recreation.

By on October 23, 2008, 10:19 pm
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