A Little Indy Comes to NYC (Update)
April 30th, 2010

OK, so he’s a Colts fan.

The Harvard prof and former Indianapolis mayor admits he doesn’t know enough about the Big Apple, but Stephen Goldsmith, the new deputy mayor for operations, says he is ready to take on the challenge.

Whether that means the reputable Republican will be leaving behind some of his politics, we don’t yet know.
goldsmith

Photo (cc) Det.Logan


For instance, in November the new deputy mayor donated $250 to Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Yes, Tiahrt stands for Tiahrt amendment — the same amendment that prevented municipal police, like the NYPD, from accessing federal gun trace data. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaigned vigorously for the amendment’s repeal. (You can see video of Bloomberg denouncing the amendment here.)

In his new role at City Hall Goldsmith will oversee the police and fire departments. He will also be in charge of the transportation, sanitation, environmental protection and buildings departments.

Goldsmith, who served as chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, helped spearhead the integration of faith based programs into the Bush policy agenda. In 2008, he donated $2,300 to John McCain’s presidential campaign.

He is the author of six books on government and is credited with revitalizing downtown Indianapolis. He served as mayor there from 1992 to 1999.

The former mayor of the Circle City assumes the post long held by Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who leaves City Hall today to become the chief of communications for Citigroup.

UPDATE: Bloomberg Spokesman Marc LaVorgna said Goldsmith contributed to Tiahrt because of his support of the public service AmeriCorps program. LaVorgna also said, “The mayor doesn’t make hires based on finding people that agree with him on every single issue, and Steve was hired because he is the premier expert on government innovation and is a renowned expert on management of government.”

By on April 30, 2010, 4:28 pm
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Liu Takes on the EDC, Again
April 28th, 2010

Comptroller John Liu took another swipe at the city’s Economic Development Corp. today, accusing the agency of hoarding away $125 million in profits from so-called public deals.

In an audit released this morning, the comptroller alleges the corporation collected funds from the sale of city assets and lease payments and held onto the cash for its own purposes.

Officials at EDC say its well within their rights to collect and keep the funding — and they have an opinion from the city’s Law Department (seen below) to prove it.

“There are plenty of questions and even concern about what exactly the EDC does, as it deals with substantial amounts of City funds and publicly subsidized economic development,” Liu said in a prepared statement. “This episode only accentuates the need to reign in the EDC.”

This is not the first time the comptroller has gone after the EDC in his relatively short tenure. He has established a task force to look into the distribution of public subsides — including deals at the IDA (which we report on extensively here) — as well as community benefit agreements.
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By on April 28, 2010, 3:17 pm
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Assemblywoman's Grandson Still on Staff
April 15th, 2010

A month after pleading guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $100,000 from a Bronx nonprofit, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo is still acting as the chief of staff to his grandmother, Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo, he confirmed this afternoon.

When asked during a phone interview whether he had considered resigning from his post in the assemblywoman’s office following his guilty plea, Izquierdo Arroyo said, “I think this conversation is over.” He then hung up the phone.

According to SeeThroughNY, Izquierdo Arroyo made $82,964 in 2009 as the assemblymember’s chief of staff. Izquierdo Arroyo is also the nephew of Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, and he was indicted in June of last year.

Izquierdo Arroyo pleaded guilty in March to embezzling $115,000 from SBCC management, a nonprofit that manages residences for low-income tenants, between May 2005 and February 2009. He was president of the organization at the time. The cash went to clothes, shoes, airfare, hotels and restaurants as well as campaign contributions to the assemblymember and a new floor for her office.

Izquierdo Arroyo, 33, is scheduled for sentencing on June 25. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, and he has agreed to pay $115,000 in restitution.

By on April 15, 2010, 3:17 pm
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Bouncing the Rubber Rooms
April 15th, 2010

Like the Pentagon’s $640 toilet seats and the bridge to nowhere, New York City’s rubber rooms have emerged as a symbol of government programs run amok. Well, critics of the teacher’s union wont have those rubber rooms to kick around any more.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew today announced an agreement to eliminate the rubber rooms where teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence can spend years literally doing nothing while they wait for their cases to be resolved. According the city’s figures, some 550 teachers currently wile away the hours in this temporary reassignment center, costing the city $30 million a year.

The agreement would speed up the process for hearing cases, requiring the Department of Education to act quickly or send a teacher back to his or her class. To further accelerate the process, the department will increase the number of arbiters. And while teachers do wait to learn their fate, instead of sitting in a rubber room, they will now do administrative chores in Department of Education office or non-classroom work in their schools.

By on April 15, 2010, 2:11 pm
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Rough Road Ahead
April 13th, 2010

Watch out, there may be some rough roads ahead.

After snowstorms and other winter wear, some New York City streets have come to resemble war-torn terrain and not the byways of a well-kept metropolis.
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Photo (cc) 2008 shoehorn99


Now Gotham Gazette and The Huffington Post want to know what kind of craters mark your streets. Is your block a virtual obstacle course? Has your car or bike tire exploded thanks to an avenue’s neglect?

Send us photos and addresses of neglected roadways in your neighborhood, along with any other lurid details you care to provide, and we’ll report back next week.

By on April 13, 2010, 11:37 am
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Jumping the Bloomberg Administration
March 30th, 2010

skyler_hiressm
A report on City Room has been confirmed by the Bloomberg administration: Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler will be leaving City Hall next month.

At his post, Skyler oversaw the fire, police, sanitation, environmental protection, buildings and transportation departments. He even moonlighted as a robber-stopping samaritan. Skyler was also one of Bloomberg’s top aides that reportedly opposed a third term.

He is now moving on to the private sector after serving 8 years with the Bloomberg administration. Skyler is not the first to go.

The full release from the mayor’s office is after the jump.

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By on March 30, 2010, 10:59 am
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Jet Blue Calls Queens Home
March 22nd, 2010

jetblue

Photo (cc) 2008 matt.hintsa

Score one for New York City. Florida — zero.

The Bloomberg administration and JetBlue announced this afternoon that the airliner would not be moving to Florida as it had considered last year. It will be calling Queens, specifically Long Island City, its permanent home.

The Big Apple and Florida had been in a bidding war over JetBlue, which recently built a $734 million terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The airline said last year it was considering moving its headquarters, and it had narrowed its pick down to New York City and Orlando, Fla.

As part of the deal to stay in New York, the city will contribute up to $3 million to JetBlue’s hub at JFK. The airliner was also offered other tax incentives from both the city and state, including up to $7 million in city job growth credits and $6 million in state capital grants for job retention and growth, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

The airliner, currently in Forest Hills, will headquarter in the Brewster Building, now 1 MetLife Plaza, in Long Island City.
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By on March 22, 2010, 4:47 pm
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Liu Convenes Task Force on Public Benefits (update)
March 19th, 2010

In an effort to make sure the public receives benefits when the city gives out public subsides, Comptroller John Liu convened the first meeting of a task force this morning that will look into reforming the process of economic development.

Liu announced the task force in February, saying in a press release at the time: “It is simply common sense to have clear standards that ensure benefits for the public when private developers receive benefits from the public.”

Initially charged with looking at community benefit agreements, the task force has expanded its scope to all deals that receive public subsidies, according to Sharon Lee, the comptroller’s spokesperson. They will report back to the comptroller in six months with recommendations, she said.

Over the years, community benefits agreements, which are unregulated, have become standard practice for development deals. The agreements are struck between community groups and stakeholders and developers, often quelling community opposition and ensuring a development moves forward. They are outside of the land use process.

Since the City Council defeated Kingsbridge last year, some officials have questioned the use of public subsidies and are promising to scrutinize projects that receive public benefits.

UPDATE: Here are the co-chairs of the task force:

JOHN “JACK” AHERN President of the New York City Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO)
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By on March 19, 2010, 10:00 am
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Ending Wage Theft
March 12th, 2010

Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Carl Heastie stood with advocates today to announce their support for legislation that would reform labor laws t0 punish businesses that illegally shirk overtime and minimum wage requirements.

A report by the National Employment Law Project found that $18.4 million in wages a week is stolen from workers in New York City alone. They estimate more than $1 billion is stolen from them in a year.

“This money that would otherwise be spent on food, rent and school supplies,” said Anna Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, “This bill will turn around the perverse economic incentives that currently encourage wage theft, undermine responsible businesses, and steal from our tax base.”

“The Wage Theft Prevention Act is a comprehensive bill to change the perverse incentive by increasing penalties, increasing protection for workers who speak up, and adding tools that the Department of Labor and Courts can use to investigate cases and actually collect the money that workers are owed,”said Heastie in a statement.

The bill,S.7050, has been refereed to the Senate Labor Committee.

By on March 12, 2010, 2:11 pm
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Another One Bites the Dust
February 9th, 2010

Councilmember Larry Seabrook, who served in the state Assembly and just started his third term at the City Council, is being charged with money laundering, extortion and fraud, according to an indictment released today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District.

seabrook

Some of the charges directly stem from the City Council’s slush fund scandal — which brought down former Councilmember Miguel Martinez last year.

But they also go beyond that.

According to the indictment, Seabrook also solicited payments from a Bronx subcontractor competing for a boiler contract for the new Yankee Stadium and subsequently used the payments for personal expenses.

Between May and October of 2007, that subcontractor was paid more than $283,000 for work done on Yankee Stadium. Between July 2006 and April 2009, checks were made out by the contractor to Seabrook’s local political organization — North East Bronx Community Democratic Club. The checks were made out to the club at Seabrook’s discretion, according to the indictment. On occasion, the councilmember directed those payments to his personal checking account or to the Bronx African American Chamber of Commerce, which he is closely aligned with, the indictment states.

Those “corrupt payments” totaled $50,000, according to the indictment.

Seabrook funneled the money for his personal use by claiming he had purchased expenses for the club, according to the indictment. He allegedly received reimbursements that he then used for personal expenses, including airfare to Florida, parking tickets, and flowers for his sister.

Seabrook then allegedly forged receipts to try to show his expenses were club-related. On one occasion, he submitted a receipt for a sandwich and beverage purchased near City Hall that originally cost $7. The receipt was doctored, the indictment alleges, to cost about $177.

Beyond that, the indictment alleges Seabrook directed more than $2.5 million in the City Council’s discretionary funding to nonprofits he in fact controlled. Seabrook negotiated office space for the groups (which was reported in the Times last year) and often made decisions for the groups, the indictment states.

Through these nonprofits, Seabrook paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to his girlfriend, sisters, nephews and brother in consulting fees. At the same time, these groups fell far short of meeting goals laid out in the council’s discretionary funding initiatives. Some of the groups included the North East Bronx Redevelopment Corp., the Bronx African American Chamber of Commerce, the New York African American Legal and Civil Hall of Fame, and others.

Of the money designated to these groups through the City Council, about $530,000 of it went to Seabrook’s girlfriend and family members, the indictment states. Through this process, Seabrook also allegedly inflated expense and rent payments.

The U.S. Attorney’s has scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. downtown.

Seabrook’s attorney Murray Richman was in court and not available for comment.

The 65 page indictment, which is part of a years-long federal and city investigation, is below.

Seabrook, Larry Indictment

By on February 9, 2010, 12:01 pm
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Quinn Deputy Gets Fined
February 1st, 2010

The City’s Conflicts of Interest Board fined Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s former deputy chief of staff for soliciting campaign donations while also working on the city’s campaign finance reform legislation in 2007.

The staffer, Maura Keaney, also worked on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign last fall.

The City Charter prohibits any public employee with “substantial policy discretion” from soliciting donations for any elected official. In April 2007, Keaney made between six and a dozen phone calls to unions members requesting they be on a host committee for a Quinn fundraiser, which would have entitled them to make a contribution to Quinn’s then-campaign for mayor.

Keaney was fined $2,500 by the board.

The disposition is below.

Press Release Disposition (Council)

By on February 1, 2010, 2:08 pm
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Bloomberg: No Love for Labor?
January 28th, 2010

Labor, don’t expect a amicable third term with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In his preliminary budget released this afternoon, the mayor has taken a hard line approach to labor, in what some see as a shift from his previous policies toward the city’s unions.

Call it hardball.

Bloomberg asked the United Federation of Teachers to take only 2 percent salary increases next year instead of 4 percent. According to the administration, the city would save $160 million in this year’s budget and $357 million in fiscal year 2011, which starts in July.

If the teacher’s union doesn’t bite, Bloomberg said the city could have 2,500 fewer educators come September.

“They have to decide what they want to protect. Have all of their members have a little bit of pain or 2,500 members lose their jobs?” the mayor said. “The bottom line is we don’t have any money.”

In addition, Bloomberg also warned other labor unions that they too would have to chip in more. Pointing to the more than 30 percent salary increases since 2002, Bloomberg said the city had not budgeted additional wage hikes in fiscal year 2011. He said any wage increase would have to be covered by productivity increases, savings in health insurance and by savings in pension costs. In line with that, the mayor again called for a fifth pension tier for new employees to help reduce pension costs, which have risen 357 percent since 1996.
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By on January 28, 2010, 6:56 pm
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Bloomberg Testifies on State Budget
January 25th, 2010

Needless to say, it’s morose.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Gov. David Paterson’s state budget proposal would slice $1.3 billion from New York City, which could result in a workforce reduction of almost 19,000, 8,500 of which would be teachers. The state budget disproportionately affects municipalities, including New York City, and is balanced on the back of the city’s workforce, the mayor said in Albany this morning.

Bloomberg pointed to a proposal that would eliminate the state’s appropriation to homeless shelters, which would effectively slash $55 million from the Department of Homeless Services budget next year. This comes at a time when the city is seeing record number of homeless individuals. The mayor also blasted Paterson’s proposal to completely eliminate state revenue sharing for the city — to the order of $328. Other counties across the state are seeing 1 to 5 percent reductions.

Under this proposal, Bloomberg said the city would have to close 15 senior centers, 500 parks employees would face layoffs (equal to closing recreation centers, pools and beaches, citywide) and 500 soup kitchens would lose funding.

The good news: The mayor did laud the governor’s proposal to tax soda and increase the tax on cigarettes.

We will get a closer look at how these budget cuts affect the city on a micro level on Thursday, which is when the mayor is scheduled to release the city’s preliminary budget, according to his remarks.

Here are his prepared remarks in full:

Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Farrell, Chairman Kruger, my own State Senator Vice Chair Liz Krueger and members of the committees. Seated with me are Mark Page, the Citys director of Management and Budget, and Micah Lasher, our Director of State Legislative Affairs.

All of us, at all levels of government, face difficult decisions this year. You and the Governor have the task of balancing a budget that has a $7.4 billion gap between revenues and spending. Projections are for even greater deficits next year and the year after that. The Governor has presented what he calls a budget of necessity. We all know that hard budget choices are necessary but so are fair ones.
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By on January 25, 2010, 11:44 am
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