CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2022-12-10T02:45:15+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management At Hearing, City Council Criticizes Mayor Adams on Budget Decisions, Depleted Agencies 2022-12-09T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-09T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11716-city-council-mayor-adams-budget-decisions-agency-hiring Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/4-at-hearing-presses.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and City Council Members Announce Budget Deal (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams recently ordered most city agencies to halve their budgeted vacant positions as a means of cutting costs amid fiscal portents. The plan was not accounted for in the mayor’s latest modification to the city budget, released a week prior to the personnel order, and members of the City Council are incensed about the move. Already frustrated by the large number of city agency vacancies, blamed in part on Adams’ workforce policies, many Council members are raising red flags about further effects a lack of hiring could have on critical city services.</p> <p>At a hearing on Thursday, Council members made those concerns known as they delved deeper into the city’s updated financial plan, known as the November budget modification, and the unintended consequences of reducing the size of the budgeted workforce amid a severe staffing shortage that appears to be impacting a number of critical functions, from affordable housing funding deals to social services for children and cybersecurity for city agencies.</p> <p>The first-year Democratic mayor’s latest budget modification released November 15 increased projected spending for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30 2023, to $104 billion, up $3 billion from when the budget was adopted in June of this year. Adams also told every agency to present a plan cutting 3% of spending under a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) – though barely a third of city agencies fully complied – which saved the city $2.5 billion between the current and next fiscal years. Most of those savings came from spending re-estimates (including some personnel vacancy reductions) rather than actual recurring efficiencies.</p> <p>Soon after, the city’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told agencies to save more by cutting 50% of vacancies, with exemptions for uniformed agencies (police, fire, correction, sanitation), revenue-generating, and legally mandated positions. Those cuts come at a time when city agencies have an especially high overall vacancy rate of 8% (up from 2% before the pandemic) and are struggling to hire and retain workers, calling into question whether the city can fulfill its basic functions in everything from building inspections to child services.</p> <p>“We need a municipal government that works for the people of this city, achieved by ensuring agencies are adequately staffed and supported so they can successfully provide essential services for New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Member Justin Brannan, the Council finance chair, in a statement ahead of Thursday’s hearing. “A city often more focused on wasteful contracts than fixing its core workforce shortage will not get us there. Understaffing and underspending on the most critical services for New Yorkers at key agencies that can confront the crises facing our city is not efficiency.”</p> <p>“This Administration cannot decimate the municipal workforce, and then pretend it has no effect on the people of this city simply because they say so,” they added. “A set of ideas focused on increasing the pace of development to confront the affordable housing shortage while simultaneously understaffing and eliminating positions at DOB, HPD, and the agencies required to do the work will not move us forward. New York City cannot successfully address our mental health crisis while cutting mental health programs and understaffing the Department of Health. The Council will continue to confront the inconsistencies between this Administration’s actual budget commitments and its public announcements on how to address New Yorkers’ greatest challenges.”</p> <p>They concluded: “We need consistent and effective management that prioritizes investments in our city’s functionality and its people. The Council is deeply concerned about the Mayor’s budget plan falling woefully short in meeting the needs of our city and communities, and this Council will always prioritize New Yorkers.”</p> <p>At the hearing, OMB officials sat on the defensive as they attempted to explain the reasons for the already high rate of vacancies and why the city needs to reduce vacant positions. Even with the PEG, the city expects to see a budget gap of $2.9 billion in the next fiscal year, growing to $4.6 billion in fiscal year 2025 and $5.9 billion in fiscal year 2026. The vacancy reductions are meant to cut spending by as much as $350 million annually. </p> <p>Kenneth Godiner, first deputy budget director, said that new funding needs and an uncertain fiscal future created pressing demands for the city to cut spending.</p> <p>Losses on Wall Street means the city is projected to spend an additional $5.8 billion from fiscal years 2024 through 2026 to meet its obligations to the city pension fund. The city is also in the midst of spending about $1 billion to provide services for tens of thousands of migrant asylum seekers that have arrived here. Almost all municipal labor contracts have expired and are being renegotiated, likely to result in additional unbudgeted costs. Federal stimulus aid is running out.</p> <p>“Health care costs are rising, energy prices remain high, and inflation has not eased,” Godiner added. (City budget director Jacques Jiha did not appear at the hearing, apparently due to a scheduling conflict and the fact that the hearing was scheduled with limited notice.)</p> <p>City Council members pointed to several deficiencies they see in the administration budget plan. Brannan noted it did not recognize an additional $1 billion in revenue that the Council identified, which could have precluded the need to make cuts (OMB typically issues more conservative revenue estimates than the Council every year). He also said it includes $1 billion in projected federal aid for the migrant crisis, money that has not yet been secured from the federal government. (An <a href="https://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/ibo-asylum-seeker-letter-and-memo-november2022.pdf">analysis</a> by the Independent Budget Office estimated those costs at just under $600 million annually, though it conceded that the calculation is fraught with uncertainty.)</p> <p>Many of the Council members took exception to the PEG and the vacancy reduction plan, which they see as detrimental to agency functions. They echoed concerns from <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/title-vacant/">a report</a> by Comptroller Brad Lander, which <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nyc-comptroller-says-adams-has-exacerbated-widespread-city-worker-vacancies">noted</a> that City Hall’s actions to cut costs have exacerbated the vacancy crisis, which has led to a “severe lack of capacity to get things done in mission-critical areas, from creating new housing to providing services to low-income children to collecting the revenue the City needs to function.”</p> <p>Echoing recent comments from Mayor Adams, Godiner argued that staffing shortages were out of the city’s control, pointing to a tight labor market nationally and locally and higher than usual attrition. He outlined measures the city has taken to ameliorate it including expedited hiring and eliminating a two-for-one hiring restriction that Adams instituted whereby agencies can only hire one new employee for every two that depart. And, he noted that even with half of the vacancies eliminated, agencies have enough budgeted empty positions to fill to meet their duties. “Even if you take a 50% reduction, that means half the vacancies are still there,” he pointed out.</p> <p>The loudest criticism came from Council Member Gale Brewer, whose committee released a report for a hearing earlier this year on the city's depleted workforce. She pointed out that the city did not baseline increased personnel funding for the Department of Investigation, even though it generates revenue through fines and recouping city funds, and critiqued vacancy cuts at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), where understaffing has already <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/05/26/staff-shortage-at-nycs-hpd-stalls-affordable-apartments/">hampered</a> the city’s affordable housing efforts. She also raised, in passing, questions about the administration lowballing salaries to potential hires and the mayor’s refusal to allow work-from-home or hybrid working schedules.</p> <p>“I am livid about this issue that we have nobody inspecting anything, no HPD, no DOB [Department of Buildings], no fire department, no health department,” she said. “And we learned today there's nobody at the Commission on Human Rights. Nobody is doing inspections in this city…[T]his city is not going to function if you don't have these vacancies filled and people doing the inspections. We’ll have no supportive housing, no opening of restaurants, no opening of new business. Nothing.”</p> <p>Godiner did say that inspector titles at HPD were exempt from the vacancy reduction and that a shortage of inspectors is a long-standing problem, particularly made worse when the construction industry is booming and attracting the same talent for better paying jobs. </p> <p>In testimony submitted to the Council on Thursday, Comptroller Lander’s Bureau of Budget presented a new <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/looking-under-the-hood-of-new-york-citys-november-2022-financial-plan-program-to-eliminate-the-gap/">analysis</a> of the PEG in the November plan, identifying several areas where there could be a potential impact on programs including cuts to the city’s 3-K prekindergarten program, libraries, the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division (B-HEARD) initiative, HPD’s supportive housing program, NYCHA, the Department of Youth and Community Development, and the Young Men’s Initiative.</p> <p>The testimony noted that many PEGs from specific agencies were presented with murky information, making them hard to analyze. The office did back the elimination of vacancies that have been unfilled for at least a year, but raised concerns about a sweeping 50% cut. “We urge caution in applying such a blunt instrument to the positions that keep the City functioning,” the testimony reads.</p> <p>At a news conference on Thursday to announce his new affordable housing plan, Mayor Adams addressed some of those criticisms, particularly since his plan calls for quickly staffing up the city’s housing agencies.</p> <p>“It's no excuse to me that we don't have enough manpower. That is not an excuse. The new norm is that there are going to be challenges on staffing up,” he said. He even pointed out that the comptroller’s office, which continues to allow remote work, has a 14% vacancy rate of its own.</p> <p>“We have a national workers shortage problem. Every company I speak with, no matter where I go across the country that's saying the same thing. So now it's up to us to adapt to this norm and come up with innovative ways of getting these projects through,” he added. Still, Adams has not announced any new city worker retention or recruitment policies, though OMB Director Jiha said some were in the works in his letter to agencies on November 21 that instructed them to slash budgeted vacancies.</p> <p>IBO, in its own analysis, presented a rosier fiscal picture than OMB, but nonetheless acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead including the cost of services for asylum seekers and the likely unbudgeted costs of labor contract settlements. George Sweeting, IBO’s acting director, testified that it expects the city to have a budget surplus of $2.2 billion for the current fiscal year, a gap of only $207 million in FY24, followed by gaps of $3.5 billion in FY25 and $4.5 billion in FY26.</p> <p>He pointed out that the PEG fell significantly short, with only 18 city agencies out of about 55 meeting their targets and with overall spending increasing regardless. “Along with not fully achieving the original PEG target,” he said, “the administration's PEG plan is offset in several cases by dollar for dollar increases to the very same budget lines targeted by the PEGs.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/4-at-hearing-presses.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and City Council Members Announce Budget Deal (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams recently ordered most city agencies to halve their budgeted vacant positions as a means of cutting costs amid fiscal portents. The plan was not accounted for in the mayor’s latest modification to the city budget, released a week prior to the personnel order, and members of the City Council are incensed about the move. Already frustrated by the large number of city agency vacancies, blamed in part on Adams’ workforce policies, many Council members are raising red flags about further effects a lack of hiring could have on critical city services.</p> <p>At a hearing on Thursday, Council members made those concerns known as they delved deeper into the city’s updated financial plan, known as the November budget modification, and the unintended consequences of reducing the size of the budgeted workforce amid a severe staffing shortage that appears to be impacting a number of critical functions, from affordable housing funding deals to social services for children and cybersecurity for city agencies.</p> <p>The first-year Democratic mayor’s latest budget modification released November 15 increased projected spending for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30 2023, to $104 billion, up $3 billion from when the budget was adopted in June of this year. Adams also told every agency to present a plan cutting 3% of spending under a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) – though barely a third of city agencies fully complied – which saved the city $2.5 billion between the current and next fiscal years. Most of those savings came from spending re-estimates (including some personnel vacancy reductions) rather than actual recurring efficiencies.</p> <p>Soon after, the city’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told agencies to save more by cutting 50% of vacancies, with exemptions for uniformed agencies (police, fire, correction, sanitation), revenue-generating, and legally mandated positions. Those cuts come at a time when city agencies have an especially high overall vacancy rate of 8% (up from 2% before the pandemic) and are struggling to hire and retain workers, calling into question whether the city can fulfill its basic functions in everything from building inspections to child services.</p> <p>“We need a municipal government that works for the people of this city, achieved by ensuring agencies are adequately staffed and supported so they can successfully provide essential services for New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Member Justin Brannan, the Council finance chair, in a statement ahead of Thursday’s hearing. “A city often more focused on wasteful contracts than fixing its core workforce shortage will not get us there. Understaffing and underspending on the most critical services for New Yorkers at key agencies that can confront the crises facing our city is not efficiency.”</p> <p>“This Administration cannot decimate the municipal workforce, and then pretend it has no effect on the people of this city simply because they say so,” they added. “A set of ideas focused on increasing the pace of development to confront the affordable housing shortage while simultaneously understaffing and eliminating positions at DOB, HPD, and the agencies required to do the work will not move us forward. New York City cannot successfully address our mental health crisis while cutting mental health programs and understaffing the Department of Health. The Council will continue to confront the inconsistencies between this Administration’s actual budget commitments and its public announcements on how to address New Yorkers’ greatest challenges.”</p> <p>They concluded: “We need consistent and effective management that prioritizes investments in our city’s functionality and its people. The Council is deeply concerned about the Mayor’s budget plan falling woefully short in meeting the needs of our city and communities, and this Council will always prioritize New Yorkers.”</p> <p>At the hearing, OMB officials sat on the defensive as they attempted to explain the reasons for the already high rate of vacancies and why the city needs to reduce vacant positions. Even with the PEG, the city expects to see a budget gap of $2.9 billion in the next fiscal year, growing to $4.6 billion in fiscal year 2025 and $5.9 billion in fiscal year 2026. The vacancy reductions are meant to cut spending by as much as $350 million annually. </p> <p>Kenneth Godiner, first deputy budget director, said that new funding needs and an uncertain fiscal future created pressing demands for the city to cut spending.</p> <p>Losses on Wall Street means the city is projected to spend an additional $5.8 billion from fiscal years 2024 through 2026 to meet its obligations to the city pension fund. The city is also in the midst of spending about $1 billion to provide services for tens of thousands of migrant asylum seekers that have arrived here. Almost all municipal labor contracts have expired and are being renegotiated, likely to result in additional unbudgeted costs. Federal stimulus aid is running out.</p> <p>“Health care costs are rising, energy prices remain high, and inflation has not eased,” Godiner added. (City budget director Jacques Jiha did not appear at the hearing, apparently due to a scheduling conflict and the fact that the hearing was scheduled with limited notice.)</p> <p>City Council members pointed to several deficiencies they see in the administration budget plan. Brannan noted it did not recognize an additional $1 billion in revenue that the Council identified, which could have precluded the need to make cuts (OMB typically issues more conservative revenue estimates than the Council every year). He also said it includes $1 billion in projected federal aid for the migrant crisis, money that has not yet been secured from the federal government. (An <a href="https://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/ibo-asylum-seeker-letter-and-memo-november2022.pdf">analysis</a> by the Independent Budget Office estimated those costs at just under $600 million annually, though it conceded that the calculation is fraught with uncertainty.)</p> <p>Many of the Council members took exception to the PEG and the vacancy reduction plan, which they see as detrimental to agency functions. They echoed concerns from <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/title-vacant/">a report</a> by Comptroller Brad Lander, which <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nyc-comptroller-says-adams-has-exacerbated-widespread-city-worker-vacancies">noted</a> that City Hall’s actions to cut costs have exacerbated the vacancy crisis, which has led to a “severe lack of capacity to get things done in mission-critical areas, from creating new housing to providing services to low-income children to collecting the revenue the City needs to function.”</p> <p>Echoing recent comments from Mayor Adams, Godiner argued that staffing shortages were out of the city’s control, pointing to a tight labor market nationally and locally and higher than usual attrition. He outlined measures the city has taken to ameliorate it including expedited hiring and eliminating a two-for-one hiring restriction that Adams instituted whereby agencies can only hire one new employee for every two that depart. And, he noted that even with half of the vacancies eliminated, agencies have enough budgeted empty positions to fill to meet their duties. “Even if you take a 50% reduction, that means half the vacancies are still there,” he pointed out.</p> <p>The loudest criticism came from Council Member Gale Brewer, whose committee released a report for a hearing earlier this year on the city's depleted workforce. She pointed out that the city did not baseline increased personnel funding for the Department of Investigation, even though it generates revenue through fines and recouping city funds, and critiqued vacancy cuts at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), where understaffing has already <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/05/26/staff-shortage-at-nycs-hpd-stalls-affordable-apartments/">hampered</a> the city’s affordable housing efforts. She also raised, in passing, questions about the administration lowballing salaries to potential hires and the mayor’s refusal to allow work-from-home or hybrid working schedules.</p> <p>“I am livid about this issue that we have nobody inspecting anything, no HPD, no DOB [Department of Buildings], no fire department, no health department,” she said. “And we learned today there's nobody at the Commission on Human Rights. Nobody is doing inspections in this city…[T]his city is not going to function if you don't have these vacancies filled and people doing the inspections. We’ll have no supportive housing, no opening of restaurants, no opening of new business. Nothing.”</p> <p>Godiner did say that inspector titles at HPD were exempt from the vacancy reduction and that a shortage of inspectors is a long-standing problem, particularly made worse when the construction industry is booming and attracting the same talent for better paying jobs. </p> <p>In testimony submitted to the Council on Thursday, Comptroller Lander’s Bureau of Budget presented a new <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/looking-under-the-hood-of-new-york-citys-november-2022-financial-plan-program-to-eliminate-the-gap/">analysis</a> of the PEG in the November plan, identifying several areas where there could be a potential impact on programs including cuts to the city’s 3-K prekindergarten program, libraries, the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division (B-HEARD) initiative, HPD’s supportive housing program, NYCHA, the Department of Youth and Community Development, and the Young Men’s Initiative.</p> <p>The testimony noted that many PEGs from specific agencies were presented with murky information, making them hard to analyze. The office did back the elimination of vacancies that have been unfilled for at least a year, but raised concerns about a sweeping 50% cut. “We urge caution in applying such a blunt instrument to the positions that keep the City functioning,” the testimony reads.</p> <p>At a news conference on Thursday to announce his new affordable housing plan, Mayor Adams addressed some of those criticisms, particularly since his plan calls for quickly staffing up the city’s housing agencies.</p> <p>“It's no excuse to me that we don't have enough manpower. That is not an excuse. The new norm is that there are going to be challenges on staffing up,” he said. He even pointed out that the comptroller’s office, which continues to allow remote work, has a 14% vacancy rate of its own.</p> <p>“We have a national workers shortage problem. Every company I speak with, no matter where I go across the country that's saying the same thing. So now it's up to us to adapt to this norm and come up with innovative ways of getting these projects through,” he added. Still, Adams has not announced any new city worker retention or recruitment policies, though OMB Director Jiha said some were in the works in his letter to agencies on November 21 that instructed them to slash budgeted vacancies.</p> <p>IBO, in its own analysis, presented a rosier fiscal picture than OMB, but nonetheless acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead including the cost of services for asylum seekers and the likely unbudgeted costs of labor contract settlements. George Sweeting, IBO’s acting director, testified that it expects the city to have a budget surplus of $2.2 billion for the current fiscal year, a gap of only $207 million in FY24, followed by gaps of $3.5 billion in FY25 and $4.5 billion in FY26.</p> <p>He pointed out that the PEG fell significantly short, with only 18 city agencies out of about 55 meeting their targets and with overall spending increasing regardless. “Along with not fully achieving the original PEG target,” he said, “the administration's PEG plan is offset in several cases by dollar for dollar increases to the very same budget lines targeted by the PEGs.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Donovan Richards on What's Next in Queens 2022-12-09T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-09T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11721-max-politics-podcast-borough-president-donovan-richards-queens-updates Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/donovan-richards-600-a.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Queens BP Donovan Richards (photo: Queens Borough President's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 8, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Donovan Richards on the Latest in Queens and Looking Ahead to 2023<br /></strong></p> <p>Queens Borough President Donovan Richards joined the show to discuss recent developments in Queens, his top priorities, and what's ahead in 2023.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.</p> <p class="feed-readmore"><a target="_blank" href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11721-max-politics-podcast-borough-president-donovan-richards-queens-updates">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/donovan-richards-600-a.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Queens BP Donovan Richards (photo: Queens Borough President's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 8, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Donovan Richards on the Latest in Queens and Looking Ahead to 2023<br /></strong></p> <p>Queens Borough President Donovan Richards joined the show to discuss recent developments in Queens, his top priorities, and what's ahead in 2023.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts at Max Politics.</p> <p class="feed-readmore"><a target="_blank" href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11721-max-politics-podcast-borough-president-donovan-richards-queens-updates">Read More ...</a></p> Manhattan Borough President Adds Affordable Housing Focus to Community Board Appointment Process 2022-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11713-manhattan-borough-president-affordable-housing-community-boards Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2-boro-president.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine (photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is opening up the annual application process for community boards on Thursday with a new question on the application, asking would-be members about their priorities around housing development in the borough as part of an effort to encourage pro-housing voices in local matters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City’s 59 community boards, 12 of which are in Manhattan, are its most local form of government, playing an advisory role in everything from land use and zoning issues to traffic management and quality of life concerns like trash management. Each board has up to 50 members who serve staggered two-year terms, with 25 members appointed or reappointed every year by the borough president.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the work of community boards occurs in the background of New York’s hectic political arena, they tend to occupy outsize real estate when it comes to housing issues. Whether it involves individual developments or large-scale rezonings, community board members are often the loudest voices in the debate as they seek to represent other local residents and advocate for the needs of their neighborhoods. While community board votes are advisory, they are a formal part of the city’s land use review process, ULURP, and they influence decisions made by City Council members, other elected officials, developers, and others. But community boards, especially in wealthier areas, are often known for being unrepresentative of their larger constituencies and, in many cases, opposing new housing development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the city experiencing an ongoing and deepening housing crisis, Levine is changing the community board application to ensure that proponents of affordable housing development are well represented in community boards.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We consider our lack of affordable housing in Manhattan to be a full blown crisis and it's an area where our community boards have real influence,” Levine said in a phone interview. “And we want to add this question because this really is going to be top of the agenda for every board in the next year.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new question will ask applicants what they consider important, and to what degree, when evaluating a housing development proposal: the number of residential units, the number of affordable units, open space and community facilities, neighborhood context, and the impact on existing infrastructure and/or schools. Respondents will be able to rank each of those on a scale of five from “not at all important” to “very important.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We want to understand people's perspective.” Levine said. “These are nuanced and complicated issues. We formulated the question in a way to draw people out, to show their priorities on what we see as an extremely important topic for all the communities of Manhattan.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manhattan, like the rest of the city, is experiencing an acute shortage of affordable housing, as development has failed to keep pace with the city’s growing population. According to the </span><a href="https://tracker.thenyhc.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Housing Conference’s housing tracker</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, between 2010 and 2020, only 52,500 units of housing were permitted in the borough as its population increased by 108,378. The city’s annual </span><a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/services/2021-nychvs-selected-initial-findings.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Housing and Vacancy Survey</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for 2021 also found that Manhattan had the highest median monthly rent of the boroughs, at $1,898. The lack of affordable housing hits particularly hard for low-income families – overall, roughly 53% of city residents were rent-burdened last year, and 32% were severely rent burdened. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Faced with those dire numbers, Mayor Eric Adams has promised sweeping changes to housing policy and zoning regulations to address the housing crisis. During his winning 2021 campaign he repeatedly pledged to upzone wealthier neighborhoods in Manhattan, in part to bring more affordable housing to high-resource areas of the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Levine said he wants to change the narrative on housing development from one focused on hyperlocal projects to a larger borough-wide scope. “We want to make sure that there's a pro-housing perspective represented on boards,” he said. “That doesn't mean we exclude people. We want a diversity of opinion. But we definitely want to strengthen the pro-housing perspective. That doesn't have to exclude neighborhood preservation. Those can be compatible.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Levine’s predecessor, Gale Brewer, who is now a City Council member for the second time, insisted for years on collecting and reporting more data on community boards than was required by the city charter. Besides demographic information, Manhattan community board applications ask prospective members about their professional background, the type of housing they occupy, whether they have children in school, whether they are immigrants, their participation in local community efforts, and the skills they will bring to the board.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last year, at Levine’s insistence, the application was updated to add a question about car ownership, a particularly salient issue for Manhattanites given ongoing debates over use of public space in the most mass transit-rich borough, and as the city and state prepare to implement a congestion pricing program south of 61st street.</span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2-boro-president.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine (photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is opening up the annual application process for community boards on Thursday with a new question on the application, asking would-be members about their priorities around housing development in the borough as part of an effort to encourage pro-housing voices in local matters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City’s 59 community boards, 12 of which are in Manhattan, are its most local form of government, playing an advisory role in everything from land use and zoning issues to traffic management and quality of life concerns like trash management. Each board has up to 50 members who serve staggered two-year terms, with 25 members appointed or reappointed every year by the borough president.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the work of community boards occurs in the background of New York’s hectic political arena, they tend to occupy outsize real estate when it comes to housing issues. Whether it involves individual developments or large-scale rezonings, community board members are often the loudest voices in the debate as they seek to represent other local residents and advocate for the needs of their neighborhoods. While community board votes are advisory, they are a formal part of the city’s land use review process, ULURP, and they influence decisions made by City Council members, other elected officials, developers, and others. But community boards, especially in wealthier areas, are often known for being unrepresentative of their larger constituencies and, in many cases, opposing new housing development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With the city experiencing an ongoing and deepening housing crisis, Levine is changing the community board application to ensure that proponents of affordable housing development are well represented in community boards.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We consider our lack of affordable housing in Manhattan to be a full blown crisis and it's an area where our community boards have real influence,” Levine said in a phone interview. “And we want to add this question because this really is going to be top of the agenda for every board in the next year.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new question will ask applicants what they consider important, and to what degree, when evaluating a housing development proposal: the number of residential units, the number of affordable units, open space and community facilities, neighborhood context, and the impact on existing infrastructure and/or schools. Respondents will be able to rank each of those on a scale of five from “not at all important” to “very important.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We want to understand people's perspective.” Levine said. “These are nuanced and complicated issues. We formulated the question in a way to draw people out, to show their priorities on what we see as an extremely important topic for all the communities of Manhattan.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Manhattan, like the rest of the city, is experiencing an acute shortage of affordable housing, as development has failed to keep pace with the city’s growing population. According to the </span><a href="https://tracker.thenyhc.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Housing Conference’s housing tracker</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, between 2010 and 2020, only 52,500 units of housing were permitted in the borough as its population increased by 108,378. The city’s annual </span><a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/services/2021-nychvs-selected-initial-findings.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Housing and Vacancy Survey</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for 2021 also found that Manhattan had the highest median monthly rent of the boroughs, at $1,898. The lack of affordable housing hits particularly hard for low-income families – overall, roughly 53% of city residents were rent-burdened last year, and 32% were severely rent burdened. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Faced with those dire numbers, Mayor Eric Adams has promised sweeping changes to housing policy and zoning regulations to address the housing crisis. During his winning 2021 campaign he repeatedly pledged to upzone wealthier neighborhoods in Manhattan, in part to bring more affordable housing to high-resource areas of the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Levine said he wants to change the narrative on housing development from one focused on hyperlocal projects to a larger borough-wide scope. “We want to make sure that there's a pro-housing perspective represented on boards,” he said. “That doesn't mean we exclude people. We want a diversity of opinion. But we definitely want to strengthen the pro-housing perspective. That doesn't have to exclude neighborhood preservation. Those can be compatible.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Levine’s predecessor, Gale Brewer, who is now a City Council member for the second time, insisted for years on collecting and reporting more data on community boards than was required by the city charter. Besides demographic information, Manhattan community board applications ask prospective members about their professional background, the type of housing they occupy, whether they have children in school, whether they are immigrants, their participation in local community efforts, and the skills they will bring to the board.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last year, at Levine’s insistence, the application was updated to add a question about car ownership, a particularly salient issue for Manhattanites given ongoing debates over use of public space in the most mass transit-rich borough, and as the city and state prepare to implement a congestion pricing program south of 61st street.</span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Pushes State on Climate Plan, Allocation of Environmental Bond Act Funds 2022-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11715-city-council-state-climate-plan-environmental-bond-act-funds Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-council-pushes-climate.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Lincoln Restler, center, &amp; Jim Gennaro (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council is calling on Governor Kathy Hochul, the State Legislature, and other environmental leaders to strongly consider New York City as they plan and implement the next phases of the state’s sweeping climate agenda.</p> <p>In <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5656545&amp;GUID=1A242249-D42D-4F36-80EF-0D950F6948CC&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">a resolution</a> adopted Wednesday the Council is urging the state to allocate New York City its "fair share" of funding from the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act voters approved last month — going as far as to say the city should receive a proportion of bond act spending equal to its share of the state's tax base. A second resolution calls on the state Climate Action Council to draft, and Hochul to implement, a roadmap to help the state meet its ambitious climate goals while addressing a host of considerations, including the city's own environmental targets.</p> <p>"Unfortunately when it comes to the equitable allocation of funds to New York City's environment and environmental justice communities, the state has been far less than fair to New York City in the past. From the 1996 environmental bond act to the present," said Council Member James Gennaro, who chairs the Council's Committee on Environmental Protection and sponsored the bond act resolution, at a committee hearing ahead of the full-body vote.</p> <p>"As a former DEC deputy commissioner for New York City sustainability and resiliency from 2014 to 2020, I saw firsthand how New York City got short-changed with regard to critical environmental funding," he said. "That's why I resigned that job to run for Council again. Well I'm back and I intend to advocate for fair share of environmental funding for the city, hence this resolution on the bond act."</p> <p>The Environmental Bond Act authorizes the state comptroller to issue up to $4.2 billion in general obligation debt for projects related to climate change, flood mitigation, clean water infrastructure, and land conservation. More than a third of the total spending must go to communities that have borne the brunt of environmental impacts, which are predominantly poor constituencies of color that experience higher rates of pollution, among other ills.</p> <p>The bond act, passed by Hochul and the Legislature to put before voters, is seen as <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act">an important step</a> in the state's efforts to adapt to climate change and also achieve carbon emission targets enshrined in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The governor and the State Legislature will begin selecting the projects to be funded by the bonding during the budget process next year, though there are a number of requirements included in the act. The money will likely be allocated over years or even decades (a small amount of funds are still being spent from a smaller environmental bond act from 1996, the last such bond act in New York).</p> <p>According to a spokesperson for Hochul, the governor has convened an inter-agency workgroup to identify funding needs across the state.</p> <p>"The Administration looks forward to sharing more details shortly and advancing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard clean drinking water and modernize our infrastructure," the spokesperson wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in response to the resolutions. "Governor Hochul also recognizes all of the hard and diligent work of the Climate Action Council and looks forward to reviewing the Final Scoping Plan. Once the Scoping Plan is delivered to the Governor, the administration will review and engage with all relevant parties as we continue to work towards our CLCPA goals."</p> <p>In January, Hochul will release an Executive Budget and State of the State agenda that will shape a great deal of state government activity in 2023.</p> <p>Gennaro's resolution, which the City Council approved along with several pieces of legislation and commission appointments Wednesday, calls on Hochul to allocate to the city funding raised through bonding "in a manner that is commensurate with the city's contribution to statewide tax revenue."</p> <p>New York City accounts for close to 43% of the state population and makes up 62% of its tax base, according to the resolution. As the tax revenue generated in the city will be paying off the bulk of the debt service on the bonds, the city should receive the bulk of its spending, Gennaro argued.</p> <p>"New York City residents are going to pay back most of this $4.2 billion," Gennaro told Gotham Gazette ahead of the hearing vote on the resolutions, which prefaced full Council passage. "We should get something that comes close to fair share."</p> <p>But New York isn't just the single-largest tax base. It is also home to some of the worst polluters and climate-related public health issues, and its long shorelines make it particularly vulnerable to extreme weather.</p> <p>"There's only so much you can put in a resolution. You can't write a book on all kinds of history or whatever," Gennaro said of the decision to tie the bond spending to tax revenue in the resolution.</p> <p>Hochul and the Legislature have broad leeway to spend within four categories: $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation; $1.1 billion for flood risk mitigation; $650 million for water infrastructure; and $650 million for land conservation.</p> <p>In particular, the climate-change spending, which includes projects like methane reduction and renewable energy and efficiency upgrades, will help the state reach CLCPA goals. Those include reducing carbon emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by the end of the decade and by 85% by 2050. The CLCPA targeted 70% of electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2040. A total of 40% of spending under CLCPA must go to underserved communities.</p> <p>The second Council resolution adopted Wednesday calls on the Climate Action Council – a body established through the CLCPA to guide the state's carbon-neutrality efforts – to release a final Scoping Plan that aligns with the city's 2019 Climate Mobilization Act, which set emissions goals for large buildings, one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p>"I'm really excited for us to achieve those ambitious [CLCPA] goals but we're waiting for the specifics," said Council Member Lincoln Restler, who sponsored <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5656545&amp;GUID=1A242249-D42D-4F36-80EF-0D950F6948CC&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the resolution</a>, at the committee hearing Wednesday.</p> <p>"Our resolution provides some very clear direction for what our expectations are of the Climate Action Council for how we can boldly reduce our carbon emissions," he said.</p> <p>At the center of the city's Climate Mobilization Act is Local Law 97, which limits emissions from large buildings, and Local Laws 92 and 94, which require solar and green roofs on new buildings. The resolution passed Wednesday calls for the Scoping Plan to include recommendations for mass building electrification, energy efficiency upgrades, and retrofitting. The recommendations should support the full electrification of all new buildings starting in 2024, the resolution states.</p> <p>Through the resolution, the Council also calls for "equitable access" to geothermal heat pumps, a moratorium on new and repowered fossil fuel plants, and investments in offshore wind and solar power, battery storage and transmission line upgrades.</p> <p>The Climate Action Council – which is made up of representatives from numerous state agencies, public authorities, labor unions, and advocacy groups, and co-chaired by the heads of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) (both gubernatorial appointees) – will have its last meeting of the year on December 19, when it is expected to vote on the final scoping plan, according to DEC spokesperson Haley Viccaro. The plan is due January 1.</p> <p>"The Climate Action Council has been working hard over the last two years to finalize a Scoping Plan that will act as New York’s roadmap to meet our aggressive climate targets and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, while transitioning our economy to one that embraces renewable energy, and ensuring that all communities benefit equitably as part of a just transition," Viccaro wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in response to the City Council resolution. The plan is "focused on promoting equity and climate justice, ensuring that the state’s climate investments reach communities that have long borne the brunt of pollution for decades," she said.</p> <p>During her tenure as governor since August 2021, Hochul has announced many clean energy projects that are part of the pathway to meet the CLCPA mandates and will be featured in the Climate Action Council’s final plan. But members of the Council have also been wrestling with many other key issues, including building electrification requirements, funding mechanisms, and others.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11277-nyc-officials-climate-change-law-priorities">New York City Electeds, Advocates Outline Priorities for State Climate Action Council</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-council-pushes-climate.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Lincoln Restler, center, &amp; Jim Gennaro (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council is calling on Governor Kathy Hochul, the State Legislature, and other environmental leaders to strongly consider New York City as they plan and implement the next phases of the state’s sweeping climate agenda.</p> <p>In <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5656545&amp;GUID=1A242249-D42D-4F36-80EF-0D950F6948CC&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">a resolution</a> adopted Wednesday the Council is urging the state to allocate New York City its "fair share" of funding from the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act voters approved last month — going as far as to say the city should receive a proportion of bond act spending equal to its share of the state's tax base. A second resolution calls on the state Climate Action Council to draft, and Hochul to implement, a roadmap to help the state meet its ambitious climate goals while addressing a host of considerations, including the city's own environmental targets.</p> <p>"Unfortunately when it comes to the equitable allocation of funds to New York City's environment and environmental justice communities, the state has been far less than fair to New York City in the past. From the 1996 environmental bond act to the present," said Council Member James Gennaro, who chairs the Council's Committee on Environmental Protection and sponsored the bond act resolution, at a committee hearing ahead of the full-body vote.</p> <p>"As a former DEC deputy commissioner for New York City sustainability and resiliency from 2014 to 2020, I saw firsthand how New York City got short-changed with regard to critical environmental funding," he said. "That's why I resigned that job to run for Council again. Well I'm back and I intend to advocate for fair share of environmental funding for the city, hence this resolution on the bond act."</p> <p>The Environmental Bond Act authorizes the state comptroller to issue up to $4.2 billion in general obligation debt for projects related to climate change, flood mitigation, clean water infrastructure, and land conservation. More than a third of the total spending must go to communities that have borne the brunt of environmental impacts, which are predominantly poor constituencies of color that experience higher rates of pollution, among other ills.</p> <p>The bond act, passed by Hochul and the Legislature to put before voters, is seen as <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act">an important step</a> in the state's efforts to adapt to climate change and also achieve carbon emission targets enshrined in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The governor and the State Legislature will begin selecting the projects to be funded by the bonding during the budget process next year, though there are a number of requirements included in the act. The money will likely be allocated over years or even decades (a small amount of funds are still being spent from a smaller environmental bond act from 1996, the last such bond act in New York).</p> <p>According to a spokesperson for Hochul, the governor has convened an inter-agency workgroup to identify funding needs across the state.</p> <p>"The Administration looks forward to sharing more details shortly and advancing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard clean drinking water and modernize our infrastructure," the spokesperson wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in response to the resolutions. "Governor Hochul also recognizes all of the hard and diligent work of the Climate Action Council and looks forward to reviewing the Final Scoping Plan. Once the Scoping Plan is delivered to the Governor, the administration will review and engage with all relevant parties as we continue to work towards our CLCPA goals."</p> <p>In January, Hochul will release an Executive Budget and State of the State agenda that will shape a great deal of state government activity in 2023.</p> <p>Gennaro's resolution, which the City Council approved along with several pieces of legislation and commission appointments Wednesday, calls on Hochul to allocate to the city funding raised through bonding "in a manner that is commensurate with the city's contribution to statewide tax revenue."</p> <p>New York City accounts for close to 43% of the state population and makes up 62% of its tax base, according to the resolution. As the tax revenue generated in the city will be paying off the bulk of the debt service on the bonds, the city should receive the bulk of its spending, Gennaro argued.</p> <p>"New York City residents are going to pay back most of this $4.2 billion," Gennaro told Gotham Gazette ahead of the hearing vote on the resolutions, which prefaced full Council passage. "We should get something that comes close to fair share."</p> <p>But New York isn't just the single-largest tax base. It is also home to some of the worst polluters and climate-related public health issues, and its long shorelines make it particularly vulnerable to extreme weather.</p> <p>"There's only so much you can put in a resolution. You can't write a book on all kinds of history or whatever," Gennaro said of the decision to tie the bond spending to tax revenue in the resolution.</p> <p>Hochul and the Legislature have broad leeway to spend within four categories: $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation; $1.1 billion for flood risk mitigation; $650 million for water infrastructure; and $650 million for land conservation.</p> <p>In particular, the climate-change spending, which includes projects like methane reduction and renewable energy and efficiency upgrades, will help the state reach CLCPA goals. Those include reducing carbon emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by the end of the decade and by 85% by 2050. The CLCPA targeted 70% of electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2040. A total of 40% of spending under CLCPA must go to underserved communities.</p> <p>The second Council resolution adopted Wednesday calls on the Climate Action Council – a body established through the CLCPA to guide the state's carbon-neutrality efforts – to release a final Scoping Plan that aligns with the city's 2019 Climate Mobilization Act, which set emissions goals for large buildings, one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p>"I'm really excited for us to achieve those ambitious [CLCPA] goals but we're waiting for the specifics," said Council Member Lincoln Restler, who sponsored <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5656545&amp;GUID=1A242249-D42D-4F36-80EF-0D950F6948CC&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the resolution</a>, at the committee hearing Wednesday.</p> <p>"Our resolution provides some very clear direction for what our expectations are of the Climate Action Council for how we can boldly reduce our carbon emissions," he said.</p> <p>At the center of the city's Climate Mobilization Act is Local Law 97, which limits emissions from large buildings, and Local Laws 92 and 94, which require solar and green roofs on new buildings. The resolution passed Wednesday calls for the Scoping Plan to include recommendations for mass building electrification, energy efficiency upgrades, and retrofitting. The recommendations should support the full electrification of all new buildings starting in 2024, the resolution states.</p> <p>Through the resolution, the Council also calls for "equitable access" to geothermal heat pumps, a moratorium on new and repowered fossil fuel plants, and investments in offshore wind and solar power, battery storage and transmission line upgrades.</p> <p>The Climate Action Council – which is made up of representatives from numerous state agencies, public authorities, labor unions, and advocacy groups, and co-chaired by the heads of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) (both gubernatorial appointees) – will have its last meeting of the year on December 19, when it is expected to vote on the final scoping plan, according to DEC spokesperson Haley Viccaro. The plan is due January 1.</p> <p>"The Climate Action Council has been working hard over the last two years to finalize a Scoping Plan that will act as New York’s roadmap to meet our aggressive climate targets and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, while transitioning our economy to one that embraces renewable energy, and ensuring that all communities benefit equitably as part of a just transition," Viccaro wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette in response to the City Council resolution. The plan is "focused on promoting equity and climate justice, ensuring that the state’s climate investments reach communities that have long borne the brunt of pollution for decades," she said.</p> <p>During her tenure as governor since August 2021, Hochul has announced many clean energy projects that are part of the pathway to meet the CLCPA mandates and will be featured in the Climate Action Council’s final plan. But members of the Council have also been wrestling with many other key issues, including building electrification requirements, funding mechanisms, and others.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11277-nyc-officials-climate-change-law-priorities">New York City Electeds, Advocates Outline Priorities for State Climate Action Council</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Passes Bill Codifying Public Service Corps Program 2022-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11712-city-council-codify-public-service-corps-program Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/codify-expand-o.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Ung, with Speaker Adams (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a bill that would codify the city’s Public Service Corps program, which offers undergraduate and graduate students paid internships at city agencies to introduce them to careers in civil service. The bill, and accompanying legislation, are aimed at recruiting more diverse young people into the city’s workforce.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5839418&amp;GUID=764590CB-DF5F-407D-8896-FBDCF77978B6&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">Intro. 698</a>, sponsored by City Council Member Sandra Ung, a Queens Democrat, would establish into law the Public Service Corps Program, which was first launched in 1966 and is administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which hires and trains city employees. The program offers paid work-study internships and academic internships to qualifying students from both public and private universities. The bill also requires DCAS to try to recruit students from diverse backgrounds for a wide range of city agencies and submit an annual report on the program.</p> <p>The bill was approved Wednesday by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which Ung chairs, before heading to a vote by the full City Council that afternoon, where it also passed.</p> <p>“We should be making every effort we can to recruit the best and brightest students across the five boroughs to work for the City of New York, and that begins by giving them the opportunity to experience working in city government through internships at a broad range of city agencies,” Council Member Ung said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “My bill to codify the Public Service Corps within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services will allow us to review the city’s recruitment efforts and the effectiveness of the program, including ensuring that we are attracting students from a diverse range of backgrounds. Through the Public Service Corps, we can identify and develop the people that will become the future leaders of this city.”</p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has indicated support for the bill. “For more than 50 years, we have successfully managed our own Public Service Corps, and we are committed to working with the City Council to fine tune this bill and introduce a new generation of New Yorkers to careers in civil service,” said Barbara Dannenberg, DCAS’ Deputy Commissioner for Human Capital, at an October 26 hearing on the bill.</p> <p>According to Dannenberg, roughly two dozen city agencies are currently participating in the program and over the last five years nearly 3,400 interns at various stages of school have worked at agencies through the program. The city’s largest partner in the program is the CUNY system, she said, though she did not provide numbers. When asked, she could not provide exact numbers on demographics of the program but she said interns are majority female, over 60%, and majority non-white, over 70%.</p> <p>“They may be freshmen, they may be sophomores, they may be folks who are not really sure where they want to be in their career so the city provides these opportunities for them to get this work experience and hopefully it's a wonderfully positive experience that they will want to come to work for the city once they’ve completed their schooling,” she said.</p> <p>Though thousands of students have received internships through the program, participation plummeted in the 2020-2021 school year, with only about 34 interns availing themselves of the program, Ung noted at that hearing. Dannenberg acknowledged that the dropoff was largely caused by the pandemic and participation has slowly increased, with 89 interns working at agencies in recent months. “[W]e definitely saw a downturn in the number of students who were interested in this program due to the pandemic. I definitely think that that was the largest factor,” she said.</p> <p>Ung’s bill comes at a time when the city faces a vacancy crisis at city agencies that has hampered many crucial services. With the city workforce down roughly 19,000 full-time employees since 2020, Adams has faced questions about personnel management. The first-year mayor had budgeted for an additional 25,000 employees this fiscal year, an unrealistic number, and has told agencies to eliminate about 4,700 budgeted vacant civilian positions. While Adams has said the move is about right-sizing hiring and carefully managing the city budget, he has yet to announce promised measures to improve city employee retention and recruitment.</p> <p>“The goal of this bill is to create a pipeline of students from a variety of backgrounds that are ready and able to fill civil service positions upon the completion of their degree,” Ung said at the hearing. “I’m hopeful that this bill…will help fill the many agency job vacancies with a diverse pool of well-qualified employees that may not have traditionally considered civil service careers.”</p> <p>The Public Service Corps program isn’t the only channel for youth to enter into city government internships, jobs, and civil service careers. DCAS also runs the Urban Fellows Program, a nine-month fellowship where college seniors and recent graduates work in mayoral offices and agencies to learn about and help implement public policy. Additionally, the Department of Youth and Community Development administers the Summer Youth Employment Program, providing youth between the ages of 14 and 24 summer jobs. Under Mayor Adams and the City Council, the program was expanded to 90,000 slots this year, the largest it has ever been.</p> <p>Along with Ung’s legislation, the Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor passed a separate <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5839364&amp;GUID=C18870E7-18F1-4264-9F94-733ADBB033C7&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> on Wednesday, sponsored by Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs that committee, to create a civil service ambassador program. Through the program, the city would conduct education and outreach initiatives on joining the civil service and taking civil service exams.</p> <p>And, on a separate issue at the Government Operations hearing, the committee then full Council passed another <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5812787&amp;GUID=4E1673C6-A420-422B-8B62-2E1E6D20170C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> sponsored by Ung which will simplify ballot instructions for ranked-choice voting elections and improve the layout of ranked choice ballots.</p> <p><em>Note: this article has been updated to reflect that all three bills mentioned were passed by the City Council shortly after this article was first published.</em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/codify-expand-o.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Ung, with Speaker Adams (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a bill that would codify the city’s Public Service Corps program, which offers undergraduate and graduate students paid internships at city agencies to introduce them to careers in civil service. The bill, and accompanying legislation, are aimed at recruiting more diverse young people into the city’s workforce.</p> <p><a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5839418&amp;GUID=764590CB-DF5F-407D-8896-FBDCF77978B6&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">Intro. 698</a>, sponsored by City Council Member Sandra Ung, a Queens Democrat, would establish into law the Public Service Corps Program, which was first launched in 1966 and is administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which hires and trains city employees. The program offers paid work-study internships and academic internships to qualifying students from both public and private universities. The bill also requires DCAS to try to recruit students from diverse backgrounds for a wide range of city agencies and submit an annual report on the program.</p> <p>The bill was approved Wednesday by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which Ung chairs, before heading to a vote by the full City Council that afternoon, where it also passed.</p> <p>“We should be making every effort we can to recruit the best and brightest students across the five boroughs to work for the City of New York, and that begins by giving them the opportunity to experience working in city government through internships at a broad range of city agencies,” Council Member Ung said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “My bill to codify the Public Service Corps within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services will allow us to review the city’s recruitment efforts and the effectiveness of the program, including ensuring that we are attracting students from a diverse range of backgrounds. Through the Public Service Corps, we can identify and develop the people that will become the future leaders of this city.”</p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has indicated support for the bill. “For more than 50 years, we have successfully managed our own Public Service Corps, and we are committed to working with the City Council to fine tune this bill and introduce a new generation of New Yorkers to careers in civil service,” said Barbara Dannenberg, DCAS’ Deputy Commissioner for Human Capital, at an October 26 hearing on the bill.</p> <p>According to Dannenberg, roughly two dozen city agencies are currently participating in the program and over the last five years nearly 3,400 interns at various stages of school have worked at agencies through the program. The city’s largest partner in the program is the CUNY system, she said, though she did not provide numbers. When asked, she could not provide exact numbers on demographics of the program but she said interns are majority female, over 60%, and majority non-white, over 70%.</p> <p>“They may be freshmen, they may be sophomores, they may be folks who are not really sure where they want to be in their career so the city provides these opportunities for them to get this work experience and hopefully it's a wonderfully positive experience that they will want to come to work for the city once they’ve completed their schooling,” she said.</p> <p>Though thousands of students have received internships through the program, participation plummeted in the 2020-2021 school year, with only about 34 interns availing themselves of the program, Ung noted at that hearing. Dannenberg acknowledged that the dropoff was largely caused by the pandemic and participation has slowly increased, with 89 interns working at agencies in recent months. “[W]e definitely saw a downturn in the number of students who were interested in this program due to the pandemic. I definitely think that that was the largest factor,” she said.</p> <p>Ung’s bill comes at a time when the city faces a vacancy crisis at city agencies that has hampered many crucial services. With the city workforce down roughly 19,000 full-time employees since 2020, Adams has faced questions about personnel management. The first-year mayor had budgeted for an additional 25,000 employees this fiscal year, an unrealistic number, and has told agencies to eliminate about 4,700 budgeted vacant civilian positions. While Adams has said the move is about right-sizing hiring and carefully managing the city budget, he has yet to announce promised measures to improve city employee retention and recruitment.</p> <p>“The goal of this bill is to create a pipeline of students from a variety of backgrounds that are ready and able to fill civil service positions upon the completion of their degree,” Ung said at the hearing. “I’m hopeful that this bill…will help fill the many agency job vacancies with a diverse pool of well-qualified employees that may not have traditionally considered civil service careers.”</p> <p>The Public Service Corps program isn’t the only channel for youth to enter into city government internships, jobs, and civil service careers. DCAS also runs the Urban Fellows Program, a nine-month fellowship where college seniors and recent graduates work in mayoral offices and agencies to learn about and help implement public policy. Additionally, the Department of Youth and Community Development administers the Summer Youth Employment Program, providing youth between the ages of 14 and 24 summer jobs. Under Mayor Adams and the City Council, the program was expanded to 90,000 slots this year, the largest it has ever been.</p> <p>Along with Ung’s legislation, the Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor passed a separate <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5839364&amp;GUID=C18870E7-18F1-4264-9F94-733ADBB033C7&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> on Wednesday, sponsored by Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs that committee, to create a civil service ambassador program. Through the program, the city would conduct education and outreach initiatives on joining the civil service and taking civil service exams.</p> <p>And, on a separate issue at the Government Operations hearing, the committee then full Council passed another <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5812787&amp;GUID=4E1673C6-A420-422B-8B62-2E1E6D20170C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> sponsored by Ung which will simplify ballot instructions for ranked-choice voting elections and improve the layout of ranked choice ballots.</p> <p><em>Note: this article has been updated to reflect that all three bills mentioned were passed by the City Council shortly after this article was first published.</em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Series of Major Housing Approvals, Announcements Mark Progress in Adams’ ‘City of Yes’ 2022-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 2022-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11700-affordable-housing-mayor-adams-city-of-yes-development Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/major-project-adams.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams releases his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City is soon to be awash in new housing construction with the City Council approval in recent months of over 12,000 new units and a mayoral administration promising to bring thousands more through major development projects and changes to city zoning rules.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The development is essential to meet the city's demand for housing, particularly affordable housing, where the vacancy rate for the lowest income apartments is less than 1% while tens of thousands of individuals sleep in shelters or on the streets each night. The approved and announced development alone is not enough to meet that need, but it has largely been hailed as a promising start for a new administration and City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Both Mayor Eric Adams and Speaker Adrienne Adams (no relation), two top Democrats, have touted their pro-housing leanings. The mayor came into office on a campaign promise of taking on the housing shortage, in part through a ‘yes-in-my-backyard’ thrust over anti-development politics that have upended some major housing proposals in recent years and scuttled development overall. The speaker has also called addressing the city's housing crisis one of her </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11604-city-council-speaker-adams-outlines-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">top priorities</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. And the two leaders have a like-minded ally in Albany, where Governor Kathy Hochul, fresh off a campaign to win the state's top office, is promising a "bold and audacious" housing agenda in January.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In total, the City Council approved 42 rezonings between January and November, allowing for the creation of 12,245 housing units, of which 7,811 units, or almost 64%, are below market rate, according to a list provided by the speaker's office. (That total only includes housing where Council approval is needed for changes to zoning rules, and does not account for as-of-right private development.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need hundreds of thousands more apartments with a focus on affordable units," Speaker Adams said at a press conference ahead of a November 22 rezoning vote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The lack of affordable permanent housing is the underlying driver of our city's current level of homelessness, which rivals the Great Depression with over 60,000 New Yorkers left unhoused," she said, referring to the number of people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"This is the type of bold action that our city needs to address this crisis and I'm proud that we're stepping up to meet the moment,” she said, referring to the dozens of rezonings to date.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The list includes large developments in low- and middle-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as smaller projects, some in more affluent areas of the Bronx and Manhattan. Those are only the areas that have been rezoned to allow greater housing density or residences in what has been commercial and manufacturing space. As-of-right development and conversions, which do not require zoning changes, are ongoing, often facilitated by financing programs through the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Adams has proposed a number of other major projects, some of which have gotten Council approval as part of the lengthy Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Others are in more nascent stages, like a plan to develop commercial and residential hubs along a strip of new train stations in the Bronx, or a proposal to build a soccer stadium in Queens along with 2,500 units of affordable housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To help that construction and make small-scale as-of-right housing creation easier, Adams has also announced plans to propose zoning text amendments that would apply citywide – changes he says would help make New York a "City of Yes."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We have a severe housing shortage at the root of our affordable housing crisis, and the only way to solve it is to build more housing — especially affordable housing," Mayor Adams said in a November 17 statement after three major rezonings were advanced through City Council committees. "That’s what this administration is doing — building historic levels of affordable housing — and I am proud of what we have accomplished, working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in the City Council."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are some of the city's biggest approved or announced development projects and policies:</span></p> <p><b>Approved or Moving Through the City Council</b></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Innovation QNS<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Council approved the $2 billion, 12-building mixed-use development project known as Innovation QNS in southern Astoria last month, after intense negotiations and the approval of local Council Member Julie Won.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan allows developers to construct 3,190 residential units on a five-block area in Western Queens with 1,436 units slated for affordability caps. That amounts to 45% of units designated affordable, including 658 deeply affordable units reserved for formerly homeless residents and very-low-income families (with an annual income of $36,030 for a family of three). The plan includes 142 supportive housing units and 157 units reserved for holders of CityFHEPS rental vouchers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The rezoning deal comes with a community benefits agreement with the developers to commit $2 million for legal services for nearby tenants facing displacement and harassment, as well as discounted rents and space for small businesses. And it would create a community advisory board and entail a study "on the potential use of geothermal energy."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won's approval came after a contentious debate amid the potential that the rest of the City Council, with support from Mayor Eric Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and a number of prominent labor unions, could potentially overrule her to pass the rezoning. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"As a community, we have set a new standard for building affordable housing on private land, and I commend and thank each community member and elected official for remaining steadfast," Won said in a November 21 statement announcing final contours of the deal along with her support.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Innovative Urban Village<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The same day as the Innovation QNS approval, the City Council also voted to advance a project called Innovative Urban Village, a 100% affordable mixed-use housing development in East New York, that would create 1,975 new residential units. The project includes 200 units of senior housing, and 100 units reserved for sale to moderate-income households. Of the rental units, 750 will be reserved for low-income residents and 1,100 will be set aside for very low-income households.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The development would also include a number of community services, including round the clock daycare, a grocery store, performing arts venue, workforce training center and cyber cafe, open public space, and shuttles to subway stations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"A lot of my projects are not city-owned land. It's privately-owned and city-owned, but when we stay together as a Council, you are the power," said Council Member Charles Barron, who represents the district and helped negotiate the deal, before the floor vote to approve it. (Barron also admonished the mayor, Council speaker, and Borough President Richards for failing to stand behind Won in her push for deeper affordability in Innovations QNS.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Barron’s East New York-based district also saw the approval of a 499-unit, fully-affordable rezoning along Livonia Avenue, and another 751-unit, 100% affordable plan at Gateway Drive a month before.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Celebrating Two Big Deals<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Together the two major projects -- Innovation QNS and Innovation Urban Village -- will add more than 5,000 units to the city's housing stock, of which two-thirds are considered affordable. They account for more than 40% of the new units created through rezonings approved by the City Council this year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"These approved projects are the types of major steps we need to take to address the housing crisis," Speaker Adams said on the Council floor. "They push aggressive affordable housing development forward by demanding more of the administration and private developers by working with this Council to advance affordable housing at deep levels."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Today marks a new day for affordable housing in New York City," Mayor Adams said in the November 17 statement, after the two projects passed. "On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of plans for 2,500 affordable homes in Willets Point, the City Council’s actions today move the ball forward on thousands more. In the last two days alone, we have taken major steps towards delivering nearly 8,200 new homes for New Yorkers, more than three-quarters of which will be affordable.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hallett's North<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In September, the City Council voted to upzone a block in Hallets Point, along the East River in Queens, to allow for mixed-use construction with greater housing density. The plan is projected to create 1,340 housing units, including 335 units that would be permanently affordable under the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which requires certain affordable set-asides in new building on upzoned plots. The rezoning also includes 21,500 square feet of community space, 1,800 square feet of commercial space, 525 parking spaces, 525 bicycle spaces, and an acre of open space along the waterfront.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Approval for the rezoning came after a push by local Council Member Tiffany Cabán and others to secure more deeply affordable units as part of the project. It was hailed by many as a win for affordable housing development after Astoria Owners LLC, the developer, agreed to a deeper level of affordability than was required by law.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The best we can hope for without rezoning is a 'last mile' facility where some massive corporation like Amazon would pay our neighbors garbage wages for non-stop, back-breaking work that would clog our neighborhood streets with dangerous, pollution-heavy delivery vehicles," Cabán </span><a href="https://twitter.com/CabanD22/status/1569693998565949441" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> before voting in favor of the project. In that comment and others, Cabán framed rezoning privately-owned land for housing as a question of choosing the best option among those available to the property holder, which can include a range from doing nothing to as-of-right changes to rezoning under negotiated conditions.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bruckner Boulevard<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In October, the Council approved the rezoning of several blocks along Bruckner Boulevard in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood in the eastern part of the Bronx, after local Council Member Marjorie Velázquez negotiated the project and ultimately reached details she said she could support. It was the first project during Mayor Adams’ administration aimed at adding housing density and affordable housing to a more affluent, predominantly-white, lowrise neighborhood. The mayor was vocal in his support for getting to “yes,” putting public pressure on Velázquez and the Council to come to an agreement with the developers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Moses Gates, an urban planner at Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit thinktank and advocacy group, said the rezoning set an "important paradigm" early on in the Adams administration. It "showed a dedication to making sure that those neighborhoods that haven't done their part in the past, that have traditionally been downzoned and exclusionary, also do their part," Gates told Gotham Gazette. "If the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning had not gone through, I think it would have seriously damaged the efforts of the administration to advance a lot of its other projects."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The rezoning would allow for the construction of four new buildings containing 349 housing units, including 168 affordable units. Of those, 98 will be permanently affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH). A total of 99 (including some of the MIH units) will be income-restricted units reserved for seniors, and 25 more will be reserved for military veterans. The buildings will include a senior center, youth center, and veterans' services, along with a grocery store and other retail, and 309 parking spaces.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hell's Kitchen Rezonings<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council approved a 111-unit rezoning in Hell's Kitchen in August and a 157-unit rezoning a few blocks to the south in October. Both sites will be designated 100% affordable. The first site to be approved, dubbed The Lirio, will include open space and new offices for the MTA. The second site, Rialto, will set aside 23 units for formerly homeless individuals and will also include public open space.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Resilient Edgemere Community Plan<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In July, with a nod from local Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, the body approved the rezoning of 166 acres on the Rockaways waterfront in the Edgemere section of Queens, part of a coastal resiliency project introduced by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. As part of the rezoning, which includes infrastructure upgrades, coastal protection, and home elevation, the city approved the construction of 530 affordable housing units, part of up to 1,200 units that may be built overall.</span></p> <p><b>Harlem's Stalled One45 Proposal<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Not every rezoning proposal has been successful. Among others, a contentious rezoning proposal to build a two-tower complex with housing, offices, and the potential for a civil rights museum in the heart of Harlem reached an impasse earlier this year after the plan advanced from the City Planning Commission to the Council as part of the city’s land use review process.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan signaled her opposition to the plan, known as One45, which, when it passed the City Planning Commission in April, included the creation of 866 apartment units, 220 of them affordable.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The defeat of the proposal, and the absence of new housing, appears to have helped propel more political support for other deals that did get reached.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the midst of New York City’s housing crisis, every new home matters," said Department of City Planning spokesperson Joe Marvilli in an email. "From individual projects to neighborhood plans to our City of Yes initiative, we’re working to find opportunities to create new homes and income-restricted homes throughout the city, and create a more equitable future for all New Yorkers.”</span></p> <p><b>Adams' ‘City of Yes’ Zoning Text Amendments<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Adams in June announced a plan to change the city's zoning rules to streamline development and land conversions to facilitate economic growth, housing development, and new climate infrastructure. The plan is a central component of his "City of Yes" agenda to spur overall development and growth, in part by transforming and revitalizing neighborhoods and commercial corridors throughout the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is carrying out a public engagement process to develop the language of three zoning text amendments that would remove hurdles to repurposing commercial space, increasing housing density, and creating more clean energy storage and retrofits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the exact details remain unsettled, the residential amendment – dubbed Zoning for Housing Opportunity – would make it easier to create housing and affordable housing outside of major development projects and complex rezonings, Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"All throughout New York, there are places we could be developing and building — they're suited for people to live," Adams said in June when he announced the proposal. "But city zoning laws put artificial limits on the number of studio apartments per building" or small-homeowners' ability to "alter and update their property."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The amendment will include increasing the floor area ratio of affordable and supportive housing to allow for more as-of-right development, similar to existing rules for senior affordable housing. It would also make it easier to convert commercial space into residences and for households to turn apartment space into new rental units without what are often prohibitive parking space requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"That's how you really get to scale with those small buildings that aren't going to be able to go through the time expense for the rezoning process," Gates said. "So I think we're on a really good track there."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams also announced the Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Task Force, or BLAST, which he said will bring representatives from city agencies to streamline the review process of private land use applications. There has been little public discussion of the task force outside of the June 1 announcement, but its recommendations are expected any day now.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As we face an ongoing housing and homelessness crisis, we need bold strategies to increase the capacity for new housing supply citywide,” said the mayor's chief housing officer, Jessica Katz, in a statement after Adams first announced the City of Yes zoning framework. “The citywide text amendment will create new housing opportunities in every neighborhood, saving time and resources to house our neighbors faster.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Planning Commissioner Dan Garodnick said in a statement, “we are committed to making our land use process work faster and better as we deliver results. With these changes, we’re setting the stage for a more adaptable New York City that moves with the times.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One major question on which Mayor Adams and his team have been relatively quiet is whether and to what degree the administration will pursue broader neighborhood-wide rezonings aimed at adding housing density and other improvements. Adams, Garodnick, and others have indicated they will be part of the administration’s strategy, but they were not included in Adams’ housing plan when it was released in June. Along with the Metro-North projects, the administration is moving ahead plans for a rezoning along a stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. On the campaign trail last year, Adams promised to pursue upzonings in wealthier communities to ensure more affordable housing in resource-rich areas, but he has yet to propose any. He has said this year that he wants to pursue plans with robust community input.</span></p> <p><b>Other Major Housing Announcements</b></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bronx Metro-North<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the Mayor's Office, the zoning text amendments will help advance development along a corridor of new Metro-North stations the MTA is building in the Bronx. The plan is part of an effort to expand transit-oriented development, which Adams has been calling for since early in his administration, including in the economic recovery blueprint he released in March.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bronx Metro-North developments, plans for which are still being crafted, are slated to be the first of several projects aimed at burgeoning job hubs in each borough, part of Adams’ agenda. The plans will include new affordable homes, job creation, and workforce development, and investments in infrastructure led by the Department of City Planning.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The Bronx Metro-North zonings are showing just kind of a smart way of developing around rail stations that are getting more service," Gates said, calling it "real bread and butter urban development policy."</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Willets Point, Queens<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In November, Adams announced one of the largest development projects of his early administration, a proposal to construct a new Major League Soccer stadium in Willets Point, Queens, along with 2,500 new rent-restricted apartments and a 650-seat public school.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the mayor's office, it would be the largest fully-affordable new construction project in the last 40 years. The seven planned residential buildings would include 220 apartments reserved for low-income seniors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan would dedicate 40,000 square feet in Willets Point, already home to the Mets' Citi Field, to the soccer stadium, with ground floor retail and a 250-room hotel. The administration estimates the project will create 14,200 temporary construction jobs and another 1,550 permanent jobs, and generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan to begin work in 2023 in order to open the stadium by 2027 will first have to go through the City Council's land use process where it will be subject to lengthy negotiation. But it so far has the support of local City Council Member Francisco Moya, who was part of the initial negotiations and announcement.</span></p> <p><b>Housing Policy in Albany<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">How state leaders address housing, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11707-governor-hochul-bold-agenda-housing-2023-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set to be a major issue in the upcoming budget and legislative session</a>, will have a major impact on the city's ability to build more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who just won her first term in the governor’s mansion, has called it a top priority and many of the policies debated in Albany will impact New York City, including whether the state replaces the defunct 421-a tax break for developers. Both Adams and Hochul have said they want to see a replacement to help spur development in the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The governor offered a series of housing proposals earlier this year that did not pass, and she’s now pledged to go “bold and audacious” on housing in her January State of the State agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul has outlined a five-year, $25 billion plan to create and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing, including 10,000 supportive housing units. She secured funding toward that goal in the state budget earlier this year. She is now looking to build on that beginning in 2023.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11707-governor-hochul-bold-agenda-housing-2023-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">As Hochul Promises 'Bold' Agenda, Many Housing Policies on the Table for 2023 in Albany</a>]</span></p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/major-project-adams.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams releases his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City is soon to be awash in new housing construction with the City Council approval in recent months of over 12,000 new units and a mayoral administration promising to bring thousands more through major development projects and changes to city zoning rules.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The development is essential to meet the city's demand for housing, particularly affordable housing, where the vacancy rate for the lowest income apartments is less than 1% while tens of thousands of individuals sleep in shelters or on the streets each night. The approved and announced development alone is not enough to meet that need, but it has largely been hailed as a promising start for a new administration and City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Both Mayor Eric Adams and Speaker Adrienne Adams (no relation), two top Democrats, have touted their pro-housing leanings. The mayor came into office on a campaign promise of taking on the housing shortage, in part through a ‘yes-in-my-backyard’ thrust over anti-development politics that have upended some major housing proposals in recent years and scuttled development overall. The speaker has also called addressing the city's housing crisis one of her </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11604-city-council-speaker-adams-outlines-priorities" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">top priorities</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. And the two leaders have a like-minded ally in Albany, where Governor Kathy Hochul, fresh off a campaign to win the state's top office, is promising a "bold and audacious" housing agenda in January.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In total, the City Council approved 42 rezonings between January and November, allowing for the creation of 12,245 housing units, of which 7,811 units, or almost 64%, are below market rate, according to a list provided by the speaker's office. (That total only includes housing where Council approval is needed for changes to zoning rules, and does not account for as-of-right private development.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need hundreds of thousands more apartments with a focus on affordable units," Speaker Adams said at a press conference ahead of a November 22 rezoning vote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The lack of affordable permanent housing is the underlying driver of our city's current level of homelessness, which rivals the Great Depression with over 60,000 New Yorkers left unhoused," she said, referring to the number of people sleeping in Department of Homeless Services shelters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"This is the type of bold action that our city needs to address this crisis and I'm proud that we're stepping up to meet the moment,” she said, referring to the dozens of rezonings to date.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The list includes large developments in low- and middle-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as smaller projects, some in more affluent areas of the Bronx and Manhattan. Those are only the areas that have been rezoned to allow greater housing density or residences in what has been commercial and manufacturing space. As-of-right development and conversions, which do not require zoning changes, are ongoing, often facilitated by financing programs through the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Adams has proposed a number of other major projects, some of which have gotten Council approval as part of the lengthy Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Others are in more nascent stages, like a plan to develop commercial and residential hubs along a strip of new train stations in the Bronx, or a proposal to build a soccer stadium in Queens along with 2,500 units of affordable housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To help that construction and make small-scale as-of-right housing creation easier, Adams has also announced plans to propose zoning text amendments that would apply citywide – changes he says would help make New York a "City of Yes."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We have a severe housing shortage at the root of our affordable housing crisis, and the only way to solve it is to build more housing — especially affordable housing," Mayor Adams said in a November 17 statement after three major rezonings were advanced through City Council committees. "That’s what this administration is doing — building historic levels of affordable housing — and I am proud of what we have accomplished, working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in the City Council."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are some of the city's biggest approved or announced development projects and policies:</span></p> <p><b>Approved or Moving Through the City Council</b></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Innovation QNS<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Council approved the $2 billion, 12-building mixed-use development project known as Innovation QNS in southern Astoria last month, after intense negotiations and the approval of local Council Member Julie Won.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan allows developers to construct 3,190 residential units on a five-block area in Western Queens with 1,436 units slated for affordability caps. That amounts to 45% of units designated affordable, including 658 deeply affordable units reserved for formerly homeless residents and very-low-income families (with an annual income of $36,030 for a family of three). The plan includes 142 supportive housing units and 157 units reserved for holders of CityFHEPS rental vouchers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The rezoning deal comes with a community benefits agreement with the developers to commit $2 million for legal services for nearby tenants facing displacement and harassment, as well as discounted rents and space for small businesses. And it would create a community advisory board and entail a study "on the potential use of geothermal energy."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won's approval came after a contentious debate amid the potential that the rest of the City Council, with support from Mayor Eric Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and a number of prominent labor unions, could potentially overrule her to pass the rezoning. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"As a community, we have set a new standard for building affordable housing on private land, and I commend and thank each community member and elected official for remaining steadfast," Won said in a November 21 statement announcing final contours of the deal along with her support.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Innovative Urban Village<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The same day as the Innovation QNS approval, the City Council also voted to advance a project called Innovative Urban Village, a 100% affordable mixed-use housing development in East New York, that would create 1,975 new residential units. The project includes 200 units of senior housing, and 100 units reserved for sale to moderate-income households. Of the rental units, 750 will be reserved for low-income residents and 1,100 will be set aside for very low-income households.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The development would also include a number of community services, including round the clock daycare, a grocery store, performing arts venue, workforce training center and cyber cafe, open public space, and shuttles to subway stations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"A lot of my projects are not city-owned land. It's privately-owned and city-owned, but when we stay together as a Council, you are the power," said Council Member Charles Barron, who represents the district and helped negotiate the deal, before the floor vote to approve it. (Barron also admonished the mayor, Council speaker, and Borough President Richards for failing to stand behind Won in her push for deeper affordability in Innovations QNS.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Barron’s East New York-based district also saw the approval of a 499-unit, fully-affordable rezoning along Livonia Avenue, and another 751-unit, 100% affordable plan at Gateway Drive a month before.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Celebrating Two Big Deals<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Together the two major projects -- Innovation QNS and Innovation Urban Village -- will add more than 5,000 units to the city's housing stock, of which two-thirds are considered affordable. They account for more than 40% of the new units created through rezonings approved by the City Council this year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"These approved projects are the types of major steps we need to take to address the housing crisis," Speaker Adams said on the Council floor. "They push aggressive affordable housing development forward by demanding more of the administration and private developers by working with this Council to advance affordable housing at deep levels."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Today marks a new day for affordable housing in New York City," Mayor Adams said in the November 17 statement, after the two projects passed. "On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of plans for 2,500 affordable homes in Willets Point, the City Council’s actions today move the ball forward on thousands more. In the last two days alone, we have taken major steps towards delivering nearly 8,200 new homes for New Yorkers, more than three-quarters of which will be affordable.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hallett's North<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In September, the City Council voted to upzone a block in Hallets Point, along the East River in Queens, to allow for mixed-use construction with greater housing density. The plan is projected to create 1,340 housing units, including 335 units that would be permanently affordable under the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which requires certain affordable set-asides in new building on upzoned plots. The rezoning also includes 21,500 square feet of community space, 1,800 square feet of commercial space, 525 parking spaces, 525 bicycle spaces, and an acre of open space along the waterfront.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Approval for the rezoning came after a push by local Council Member Tiffany Cabán and others to secure more deeply affordable units as part of the project. It was hailed by many as a win for affordable housing development after Astoria Owners LLC, the developer, agreed to a deeper level of affordability than was required by law.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The best we can hope for without rezoning is a 'last mile' facility where some massive corporation like Amazon would pay our neighbors garbage wages for non-stop, back-breaking work that would clog our neighborhood streets with dangerous, pollution-heavy delivery vehicles," Cabán </span><a href="https://twitter.com/CabanD22/status/1569693998565949441" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> before voting in favor of the project. In that comment and others, Cabán framed rezoning privately-owned land for housing as a question of choosing the best option among those available to the property holder, which can include a range from doing nothing to as-of-right changes to rezoning under negotiated conditions.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bruckner Boulevard<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In October, the Council approved the rezoning of several blocks along Bruckner Boulevard in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood in the eastern part of the Bronx, after local Council Member Marjorie Velázquez negotiated the project and ultimately reached details she said she could support. It was the first project during Mayor Adams’ administration aimed at adding housing density and affordable housing to a more affluent, predominantly-white, lowrise neighborhood. The mayor was vocal in his support for getting to “yes,” putting public pressure on Velázquez and the Council to come to an agreement with the developers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Moses Gates, an urban planner at Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit thinktank and advocacy group, said the rezoning set an "important paradigm" early on in the Adams administration. It "showed a dedication to making sure that those neighborhoods that haven't done their part in the past, that have traditionally been downzoned and exclusionary, also do their part," Gates told Gotham Gazette. "If the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning had not gone through, I think it would have seriously damaged the efforts of the administration to advance a lot of its other projects."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The rezoning would allow for the construction of four new buildings containing 349 housing units, including 168 affordable units. Of those, 98 will be permanently affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH). A total of 99 (including some of the MIH units) will be income-restricted units reserved for seniors, and 25 more will be reserved for military veterans. The buildings will include a senior center, youth center, and veterans' services, along with a grocery store and other retail, and 309 parking spaces.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hell's Kitchen Rezonings<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council approved a 111-unit rezoning in Hell's Kitchen in August and a 157-unit rezoning a few blocks to the south in October. Both sites will be designated 100% affordable. The first site to be approved, dubbed The Lirio, will include open space and new offices for the MTA. The second site, Rialto, will set aside 23 units for formerly homeless individuals and will also include public open space.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Resilient Edgemere Community Plan<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In July, with a nod from local Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, the body approved the rezoning of 166 acres on the Rockaways waterfront in the Edgemere section of Queens, part of a coastal resiliency project introduced by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. As part of the rezoning, which includes infrastructure upgrades, coastal protection, and home elevation, the city approved the construction of 530 affordable housing units, part of up to 1,200 units that may be built overall.</span></p> <p><b>Harlem's Stalled One45 Proposal<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Not every rezoning proposal has been successful. Among others, a contentious rezoning proposal to build a two-tower complex with housing, offices, and the potential for a civil rights museum in the heart of Harlem reached an impasse earlier this year after the plan advanced from the City Planning Commission to the Council as part of the city’s land use review process.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan signaled her opposition to the plan, known as One45, which, when it passed the City Planning Commission in April, included the creation of 866 apartment units, 220 of them affordable.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The defeat of the proposal, and the absence of new housing, appears to have helped propel more political support for other deals that did get reached.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the midst of New York City’s housing crisis, every new home matters," said Department of City Planning spokesperson Joe Marvilli in an email. "From individual projects to neighborhood plans to our City of Yes initiative, we’re working to find opportunities to create new homes and income-restricted homes throughout the city, and create a more equitable future for all New Yorkers.”</span></p> <p><b>Adams' ‘City of Yes’ Zoning Text Amendments<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Adams in June announced a plan to change the city's zoning rules to streamline development and land conversions to facilitate economic growth, housing development, and new climate infrastructure. The plan is a central component of his "City of Yes" agenda to spur overall development and growth, in part by transforming and revitalizing neighborhoods and commercial corridors throughout the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is carrying out a public engagement process to develop the language of three zoning text amendments that would remove hurdles to repurposing commercial space, increasing housing density, and creating more clean energy storage and retrofits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the exact details remain unsettled, the residential amendment – dubbed Zoning for Housing Opportunity – would make it easier to create housing and affordable housing outside of major development projects and complex rezonings, Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"All throughout New York, there are places we could be developing and building — they're suited for people to live," Adams said in June when he announced the proposal. "But city zoning laws put artificial limits on the number of studio apartments per building" or small-homeowners' ability to "alter and update their property."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The amendment will include increasing the floor area ratio of affordable and supportive housing to allow for more as-of-right development, similar to existing rules for senior affordable housing. It would also make it easier to convert commercial space into residences and for households to turn apartment space into new rental units without what are often prohibitive parking space requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"That's how you really get to scale with those small buildings that aren't going to be able to go through the time expense for the rezoning process," Gates said. "So I think we're on a really good track there."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams also announced the Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Task Force, or BLAST, which he said will bring representatives from city agencies to streamline the review process of private land use applications. There has been little public discussion of the task force outside of the June 1 announcement, but its recommendations are expected any day now.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As we face an ongoing housing and homelessness crisis, we need bold strategies to increase the capacity for new housing supply citywide,” said the mayor's chief housing officer, Jessica Katz, in a statement after Adams first announced the City of Yes zoning framework. “The citywide text amendment will create new housing opportunities in every neighborhood, saving time and resources to house our neighbors faster.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Planning Commissioner Dan Garodnick said in a statement, “we are committed to making our land use process work faster and better as we deliver results. With these changes, we’re setting the stage for a more adaptable New York City that moves with the times.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One major question on which Mayor Adams and his team have been relatively quiet is whether and to what degree the administration will pursue broader neighborhood-wide rezonings aimed at adding housing density and other improvements. Adams, Garodnick, and others have indicated they will be part of the administration’s strategy, but they were not included in Adams’ housing plan when it was released in June. Along with the Metro-North projects, the administration is moving ahead plans for a rezoning along a stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. On the campaign trail last year, Adams promised to pursue upzonings in wealthier communities to ensure more affordable housing in resource-rich areas, but he has yet to propose any. He has said this year that he wants to pursue plans with robust community input.</span></p> <p><b>Other Major Housing Announcements</b></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bronx Metro-North<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the Mayor's Office, the zoning text amendments will help advance development along a corridor of new Metro-North stations the MTA is building in the Bronx. The plan is part of an effort to expand transit-oriented development, which Adams has been calling for since early in his administration, including in the economic recovery blueprint he released in March.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bronx Metro-North developments, plans for which are still being crafted, are slated to be the first of several projects aimed at burgeoning job hubs in each borough, part of Adams’ agenda. The plans will include new affordable homes, job creation, and workforce development, and investments in infrastructure led by the Department of City Planning.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The Bronx Metro-North zonings are showing just kind of a smart way of developing around rail stations that are getting more service," Gates said, calling it "real bread and butter urban development policy."</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Willets Point, Queens<br /></span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">In November, Adams announced one of the largest development projects of his early administration, a proposal to construct a new Major League Soccer stadium in Willets Point, Queens, along with 2,500 new rent-restricted apartments and a 650-seat public school.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the mayor's office, it would be the largest fully-affordable new construction project in the last 40 years. The seven planned residential buildings would include 220 apartments reserved for low-income seniors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan would dedicate 40,000 square feet in Willets Point, already home to the Mets' Citi Field, to the soccer stadium, with ground floor retail and a 250-room hotel. The administration estimates the project will create 14,200 temporary construction jobs and another 1,550 permanent jobs, and generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The plan to begin work in 2023 in order to open the stadium by 2027 will first have to go through the City Council's land use process where it will be subject to lengthy negotiation. But it so far has the support of local City Council Member Francisco Moya, who was part of the initial negotiations and announcement.</span></p> <p><b>Housing Policy in Albany<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">How state leaders address housing, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11707-governor-hochul-bold-agenda-housing-2023-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set to be a major issue in the upcoming budget and legislative session</a>, will have a major impact on the city's ability to build more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who just won her first term in the governor’s mansion, has called it a top priority and many of the policies debated in Albany will impact New York City, including whether the state replaces the defunct 421-a tax break for developers. Both Adams and Hochul have said they want to see a replacement to help spur development in the city.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The governor offered a series of housing proposals earlier this year that did not pass, and she’s now pledged to go “bold and audacious” on housing in her January State of the State agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul has outlined a five-year, $25 billion plan to create and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing, including 10,000 supportive housing units. She secured funding toward that goal in the state budget earlier this year. She is now looking to build on that beginning in 2023.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[READ: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11707-governor-hochul-bold-agenda-housing-2023-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">As Hochul Promises 'Bold' Agenda, Many Housing Policies on the Table for 2023 in Albany</a>]</span></p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Many Variables, Significant Uncertainty in Latest Fiscal Updates for New York State, City, and MTA 2022-11-22T05:00:00+00:00 2022-11-22T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11694-latest-finances-new-york-city-state-mta Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/novem-updates-shows.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul (photo: Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State and City weathered the worst of the financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to billions in federal aid and a good bit of fortune in revenues from Wall Street and personal income taxes. But fiscal uncertainty looms on the horizon amid major stock market losses, warnings of a recession, ongoing pandemic workplace shifts, and federal relief funds running out, creating future budget gaps that will test the fiscal management of Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams’ administrations.</p> <p>Recent budget updates released by the city and state showed positive signs, with revenues stronger than expected, allowing both levels of government to project somewhat higher spending for their respective current fiscal years as well as added savings and prepayments for next year. Though both the state and city have shown some caution in their budgeting, watchdogs say that the fiscal risks they face could be dire and require further belt-tightening and socking away. New York leaders also face the additional burden of saving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from fiscal disaster as federal aid begins to run out and ridership is expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels.</p> <p>“If you step back, all three [the state, city and MTA] are living on the tail of federal aid and the city and the state are living on the benefits of a really good last year on Wall Street,” said Andrew Rein, president of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog. “So short term, it doesn’t look so bad. Mid- and long-term, there are really big problems…If there's a recession, those problems multiply.”</p> <p>All three entities have had to put out their latest fiscal updates in recent weeks. New York State’s $220 billion budget grew to $222 billion in its update, but there are significant budget gaps by fiscal year 2027, the end of the financial plan period, and structural issues that remain unresolved. The city’s $101 billion budget grew to $104 billion, but with few new savings and major costs looming that were not budgeted. And while the MTA’s update to its $18.5 billion annual budget is still in the offing, the transportation authority continues to have a $2.5 billion structural deficit and faces fiscal disaster once federal relief runs out.</p> <p>The budget updates set the stage for next year, when the budgeting processes will start in January with Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal for the state’s next fiscal year, which begins April 1. That will be followed by Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget proposal, likely to be released in February, for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1. New York State, City, and MTA finances are all intertwined.</p> <p>“One of the challenges when you have long-term significant problems, but short-term resources is, at best, it takes the wind out of the sails of any kind of spending restraints or restructuring efforts. And at worst, it drives decisions that make the future worse,” he added.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br />The state’s <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2022/fy23-enacted-fp-midyear-update.html">mid-fiscal year budget update</a> projects overall spending for the fiscal year at just under $222 billion, marginally lower than previous budget projections but higher than the $220 billion budget adopted in April. Revenues were $3.1 billion higher than in the first quarterly update because of higher than expected personal income taxes and certain other non-tax revenues, and spending was $1.7 billion lower than projected.</p> <p>The state Division of Budget expects that the state will end the fiscal year with a $2.1 billion surplus and that future budget gaps will be unchanged or even lower than expected.</p> <p>“This update to the State’s financial plan reinforces what was known from the prior one – global and national economic headwinds will have an impact in every state of the country, but New York is prepared with fiscally responsible budgeting that puts record-level deposits and balances into our reserves,” said outgoing State Budget Director Robert Mujica, in a statement.</p> <p>But the budget update points to significant uncertainty. “The Financial Plan is subject to economic, social, financial, political, public health, and environmental risks and uncertainties, many of which are outside the ability of the State to predict or control,” it states, citing the continuing covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and actions taken by the Federal Reserve.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the state also has higher reserves than ever before, with $9 billion set aside at the start of the fiscal year and planned deposits of $10.4 billion over the next three years, bringing the total to $19.4 billion, about 15% of state operational spending, by 2025. Budget gaps are estimated at just $148 million in FY24, which begins April 1, 2023; $3.5 billion in FY25, $3.3 billion in FY26, and $6 billion in FY27 when federal pandemic aid runs out.</p> <p>But, as Rein noted, the state has a structural budget problem. On top of that last gap of $6 billion, the state has budgeted for spending another $6 billion from federal aid and from a temporary personal income tax surcharge on top earners that expires in 2027. That could mean $12 billion in funding needs the year after that the state has not yet planned for. “The state has no effort underway to deal with education aid, or Medicaid, or state operations in any way that's going to reduce spending,” he said.</p> <p>It’s also near impossible to predict the exact impact of the expected recession. In an interview, Maria Doulis, the deputy comptroller focused on budget and policy analysis for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, said, “There's still a lot of uncertainty about how that hits the nation, how that hits the state, the differential impacts between those two and of course, when it happens, and for how long.”</p> <p>Doulis did note that the state may have enough reserves to handle the initial impact of an economic downturn and has the flexibility to use unrestricted federal aid, which it did not appear to use for new and recurring programs that would otherwise require continuing funding. “In the event of a shock, economic or otherwise, that can be sort of pulled in quickly,” she said of the leftover federal aid.</p> <p>But, in the case of a recession, the state is far more vulnerable than New York City to a decrease in personal income taxes, which is its largest revenue source. The city’s revenue base depends more on property taxes which tend to be more stable. “I think from the state's perspective, what we need to keep eyes on is the sensitivity of the personal income tax in particular,” Doulis said. The mid-year state budget update does project that Personal Income Tax revenue will fall from $33.4 billion in the last fiscal year to just $22.6 billion for the current fiscal year, before growing to $28.1 billion in FY24; $29.1 billion in FY25; $31.2 billion in FY26; and $37.8 billion in FY27.</p> <p><strong>The MTA Budget</strong><br />A big unresolved question for the state is the future of the MTA, which was already struggling with its finances before being thrown into deep crisis by the pandemic. The authority, which is expected to release its latest budget update any day now, was rescued by federal aid but faces a fiscal cliff as it runs out and ridership on subways, buses, and commuter rail has yet to recover. Governor Hochul, the State Legislature, and New York City will face the difficult task next year of finding new, sustainable revenue streams for the agency while also attempting to cut costs.</p> <p>The MTA’s annual operating budget was about $18.5 billion for 2022 – 38% paid from various taxes, 26% from farebox revenue, 12% from tolls, and 15% from federal aid.</p> <p>As ridership and revenue plummeted, the authority has received a total of $16 billion in pandemic aid from the federal government, which will be expended through the 2026 fiscal year. But the state-run authority also has a $2.5 billion <a href="https://cbcny.org/how-fix-mtas-huge-budget-deficit">structural deficit</a>, up from roughly $750 million before the pandemic, with annual spending higher than revenues, which is being covered with federal funds. And the agency has only proposed a $100 million efficiency plan in its current budget, a mere 4% of that deficit.</p> <p>Rein expects that the MTA’s updated budget will include a larger efficiency plan, and CBC has its own <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/track-fiscal-stability">recommendations</a> that would find as much as $2.9 billion in savings for the agency. “That's really hard to achieve, that full amount or close to it, because it relies on working with the unions and changing contracts,” he said. “The unions have to be part of the solution.”</p> <p>MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber has for some time been calling on state leaders to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/15/nyregion/mta-nyc-budget.html">start funding</a> the MTA as an essential service, like policing and schools, meaning rethinking how it factors into the annual budget cycle. But, as Rein said, the state faces its own budget risks. “There's absolutely no question that New York's economy depends on the MTA being successful. But we have to figure out how to balance the successes in New York. It can't come at the expense of devastating taxes or service cuts somewhere else,” he said.</p> <p>“We do think that there are more savings that are possible without necessarily hurting service,” said Rahul Jain, a deputy state comptroller who focuses on New York City and the MTA.</p> <p>The ideal solution to the MTA’s woes, Jain said, would be to bring ridership back up to pre-pandemic levels. McKinsey, the consulting firm hired by the MTA, has projected that ridership will only reach 80% of 2019 (pre-covid) levels by the end of 2026. “The simplest way honestly, the best way really is to continue to beat the McKinsey projections,” Jain said. Ridership, however, has been difficult to recover as there have been broad pandemic-era shifts to hybrid and work-from-home models, as well as lingering concerns about public safety on the subway system.</p> <p>The MTA also currently has long-planned 4% fare and toll hikes scheduled for 2023 and 2025, after a planned fare hike in 2021 was postponed and then canceled by Hochul earlier this year in an effort to encourage riders back onto the subways and buses.</p> <p>Jain said there could be new recurring revenues raised through taxes but that’s a task left up to the Legislature. “There's pros and cons to sales tax. There's pros and cons to real estate taxes, pros and cons to more broad-based economic taxes like the payroll mobility tax. So that's really kind of a question for the Legislature,” he said.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany, a nonprofit government watchdog, issued urgent warnings about the MTA’s fiscal cliff in a <a href="https://reinventalbany.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Reinvent-Albany-Ridership-Down-Report-Nov-2022.pdf?mc_cid=bbc6c5c617&amp;mc_eid=d5f0c51ef5">recent report</a>, which noted that the agency is continuing to lose revenue, collecting $1.6 billion less in passenger and toll revenues in 2022 than in 2019 through September. “The MTA has emergency aid, but the fact is, it would be far better if they started dealing with the impending budget deficit now,” said Rachael Fauss, the report’s author, in a phone interview.</p> <p>The report makes several recommendations for the MTA, governor, and Legislature to follow: the MTA should continue implementing open data laws to be more transparent about its budget; publicly discuss debt affordability statements and only use recurring revenues in its debt affordability metrics and not count federal aid when measuring debt affordability; and release updated ridership projections with every financial plan update; while state government should ensure existing transit-dedicated funds are sent directly to the authority; use the Outer Borough Transit Fund to improve bus, subway, and commuter rail service, rather than provide toll discounts; and refuse to continue the suspension of the state gas tax holiday; among other measures.</p> <p>Fauss noted that part of the problem is that the MTA has slowly lost state support over the years, particularly under former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who diverted MTA funds to other state purposes. The authority, she said, needs new sources of recurring revenue, which could be achieved in various ways. “There's different ideas of how to do it and I think that it's just really about the political will of finding the best tax or the best source of revenue,” she said.</p> <p>“I don't think we can expect very much good news” from the imminent MTA budget update, said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. She noted that besides the budget update and the struggling ridership, the agency also has to sign a new contract with the Transit Workers Union next year. With high inflation, TWU workers may demand higher raises than the 2% wage growth that the MTA has budgeted for. “If the unions demand a 10% raise, that's close to an extra billion dollars that the MTA hasn't budgeted for at all and that’s something that they haven't even started talking about publicly,” she said.</p> <p>“I think we shouldn't even start thinking about new sources of revenue until they have carefully gone through all of the drivers of their costs and have agreed to a new union agreement with some productivity enhancements,” she added.</p> <p>There’s also the open question of the MTA, with state and city partners, implementing congestion pricing in New York City, which is meant to help fund the MTA’s separate $55 billion capital program by helping it raise more than $15 billion.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br />The city’s November budget revised expected spending to $104 billion, a record level for the city and up $3 billion from when the budget was adopted in June.</p> <p>Prior to the update, Mayor Eric Adams ordered city agencies to cut 3% of their spending in his latest Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which resulted in $2.5 billion in savings across the current and next fiscal years, without making cuts to services or laying off municipal employees. But most of the savings came from spending re-estimates, including eliminating some personnel vacancies, and debt service recalculations rather than finding recurring efficiencies at city agencies.</p> <p>“Fiscal discipline has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of my administration,”  Adams said in a statement. “The city faces significant economic headwinds that pose real threats to our fiscal stability, including growing pension contributions, expiring labor contracts, and rising health care expenses — and we are taking decisive actions in the administration’s first November Financial Plan to meet those challenges.”</p> <p>The PEG helped the city cut its projected budget gap for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year by $1 billion, bringing it down to $2.9 billion. But those gaps are expected to grow to $4.6 billion in FY25 and $5.9 billion in FY26 because of significant losses in the stock market, which hurt revenue as well as increase the city’s pension obligations.</p> <p>On Monday, barely a week after releasing the budget update, the administration took the extraordinary step of announcing that it would eliminate roughly 4,700 vacant civilian positions, about half of those currently budgeted, to cover a budget gap of $3 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/citing-looming-budget-gap-nyc-cuts-civilian-vacant-positions-by-half">Gothamist first reported.</a> The cuts will not affect uniformed agencies or teachers. The decision comes amid a dire staffing crisis at many agencies and follows a budget modification that budgeted for the hiring of 25,000 more workers by June, an unrealistic number but indicative of the extent that city agencies have seen their workforces drop over the last few years and the city’s ongoing hiring challenges.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11693-vacancies-nyc-government-hiring-25000-june-2023-budget-mayor-adams">Facing Depleted Agencies, New York City Government Plans to Add 25,000 More Employees by June 2023</a>]</p> <p>The city’s reserves are also at about $8.3 billion, which includes $1.9 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, $4.5 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust, $1.6 billion in the General Reserve, and $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Reserve. But those reserves only account for about 9% of city tax revenue, far lower than what budget watchdogs recommend.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, the increased spending in the budget was largely funded by federal grants or expected federal funding, including a projected $1 billion to shelter and provide services to tens of thousands of asylum seekers that have arrived in New York City over the last several months. But, it is not clear that the federal government will reimburse the city for those expenses.</p> <p>As the mayor himself acknowledged, the city faces the uncertainty of growing pension costs because of volatility in the stock market, forcing the city to spend more to meet annual pension obligations. The budget also doesn’t sufficiently account for the cost of municipal labor contracts, all of which are expired or expiring and must be renegotiated.</p> <p>Rein of Citizens Budget Commission noted that the projected budget gap of $2.9 billion for the next fiscal year “assumes that there's no new labor contracts that are larger than one-and-a-quarter percent or that there's no recession. Those are risky assumptions.”</p> <p>“Quite frankly, what you're seeing at the city, the state, and the MTA is no concerted effort to restructure operations to keep down spending,” he said. “The city's PEG barely did anything to restructure government at all. By and large, the vast majority is spending re-estimates and a little bit of debt service savings and from vacancy reductions.”</p> <p>Jain from Comptroller DiNapoli’s office noted that unlike the state, the city used federal funds for recurring programmatic expenses, which will be harder to continue to fund if a recession hits. “You've allowed spending to continue, so you kind of need the revenues to come in,” he said. “And then the hard question at the end of that if they don't is where do you start trying to reduce the spend side.”</p> <p>DiNapoli has raised several concerns about the city’s November financial plan, pointing to a “missed opportunity” to put away more money in the Rainy Day Fund and issuing <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-13-2022.pdf">a report</a> recommending several ways the city could strengthen it.</p> <p>He also pointed to the several risks the city faces for which it seems unprepared. The $1 billion in projected federal grants for migrant services has not yet been approved, “which we view as a material risk to its budget in the current fiscal year, and which could create spending pressure in the outyears,” he said. And the city has not yet projected weakening revenues as is widely expected.</p> <p>New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, in his office’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/newsletter/new-york-by-the-numbers-monthly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-71-november-15th-2022/">monthly update</a> on the city’s fiscal outlook, also urged the administration to prepare for a recession and to prudently use reserves in the case of that eventuality.</p> <p>“When economic downturns hit, as people lose jobs and business revenues decline, tax revenues fall just as the needs of the most vulnerable increase. That’s why it’s critical for the City of New York to save for a rainy day,” he stated. “Putting money into our rainy day funds is not an act of austerity – it’s a form of social insurance.”</p> <p>Ahead of the passage of the city budget, Lander had urged the mayor and City Council to adopt a formula for annual deposits into the rainy day fund, a recommendation that went unheeded. He has repeatedly recommended that reserves should be at least 16% of city tax revenues, while they currently stand at closer to 9%.</p> <p>On Monday, in response to the administration’s latest vacancy cuts, Lander reiterated his concerns about how the move could impact city services. “While we agree that savings are critical as New York City faces economic headwinds, confronting those risks cannot come at the expense of diminishing the City’s capacity to get stuff done,” he said in a statement. “Today’s directive to agencies furthers our concerns about recruiting and retaining the staff needed to implement critical programs from traffic safety improvements to processing housing applications.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/novem-updates-shows.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul (photo: Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State and City weathered the worst of the financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to billions in federal aid and a good bit of fortune in revenues from Wall Street and personal income taxes. But fiscal uncertainty looms on the horizon amid major stock market losses, warnings of a recession, ongoing pandemic workplace shifts, and federal relief funds running out, creating future budget gaps that will test the fiscal management of Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams’ administrations.</p> <p>Recent budget updates released by the city and state showed positive signs, with revenues stronger than expected, allowing both levels of government to project somewhat higher spending for their respective current fiscal years as well as added savings and prepayments for next year. Though both the state and city have shown some caution in their budgeting, watchdogs say that the fiscal risks they face could be dire and require further belt-tightening and socking away. New York leaders also face the additional burden of saving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from fiscal disaster as federal aid begins to run out and ridership is expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels.</p> <p>“If you step back, all three [the state, city and MTA] are living on the tail of federal aid and the city and the state are living on the benefits of a really good last year on Wall Street,” said Andrew Rein, president of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog. “So short term, it doesn’t look so bad. Mid- and long-term, there are really big problems…If there's a recession, those problems multiply.”</p> <p>All three entities have had to put out their latest fiscal updates in recent weeks. New York State’s $220 billion budget grew to $222 billion in its update, but there are significant budget gaps by fiscal year 2027, the end of the financial plan period, and structural issues that remain unresolved. The city’s $101 billion budget grew to $104 billion, but with few new savings and major costs looming that were not budgeted. And while the MTA’s update to its $18.5 billion annual budget is still in the offing, the transportation authority continues to have a $2.5 billion structural deficit and faces fiscal disaster once federal relief runs out.</p> <p>The budget updates set the stage for next year, when the budgeting processes will start in January with Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal for the state’s next fiscal year, which begins April 1. That will be followed by Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget proposal, likely to be released in February, for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1. New York State, City, and MTA finances are all intertwined.</p> <p>“One of the challenges when you have long-term significant problems, but short-term resources is, at best, it takes the wind out of the sails of any kind of spending restraints or restructuring efforts. And at worst, it drives decisions that make the future worse,” he added.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br />The state’s <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2022/fy23-enacted-fp-midyear-update.html">mid-fiscal year budget update</a> projects overall spending for the fiscal year at just under $222 billion, marginally lower than previous budget projections but higher than the $220 billion budget adopted in April. Revenues were $3.1 billion higher than in the first quarterly update because of higher than expected personal income taxes and certain other non-tax revenues, and spending was $1.7 billion lower than projected.</p> <p>The state Division of Budget expects that the state will end the fiscal year with a $2.1 billion surplus and that future budget gaps will be unchanged or even lower than expected.</p> <p>“This update to the State’s financial plan reinforces what was known from the prior one – global and national economic headwinds will have an impact in every state of the country, but New York is prepared with fiscally responsible budgeting that puts record-level deposits and balances into our reserves,” said outgoing State Budget Director Robert Mujica, in a statement.</p> <p>But the budget update points to significant uncertainty. “The Financial Plan is subject to economic, social, financial, political, public health, and environmental risks and uncertainties, many of which are outside the ability of the State to predict or control,” it states, citing the continuing covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and actions taken by the Federal Reserve.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the state also has higher reserves than ever before, with $9 billion set aside at the start of the fiscal year and planned deposits of $10.4 billion over the next three years, bringing the total to $19.4 billion, about 15% of state operational spending, by 2025. Budget gaps are estimated at just $148 million in FY24, which begins April 1, 2023; $3.5 billion in FY25, $3.3 billion in FY26, and $6 billion in FY27 when federal pandemic aid runs out.</p> <p>But, as Rein noted, the state has a structural budget problem. On top of that last gap of $6 billion, the state has budgeted for spending another $6 billion from federal aid and from a temporary personal income tax surcharge on top earners that expires in 2027. That could mean $12 billion in funding needs the year after that the state has not yet planned for. “The state has no effort underway to deal with education aid, or Medicaid, or state operations in any way that's going to reduce spending,” he said.</p> <p>It’s also near impossible to predict the exact impact of the expected recession. In an interview, Maria Doulis, the deputy comptroller focused on budget and policy analysis for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, said, “There's still a lot of uncertainty about how that hits the nation, how that hits the state, the differential impacts between those two and of course, when it happens, and for how long.”</p> <p>Doulis did note that the state may have enough reserves to handle the initial impact of an economic downturn and has the flexibility to use unrestricted federal aid, which it did not appear to use for new and recurring programs that would otherwise require continuing funding. “In the event of a shock, economic or otherwise, that can be sort of pulled in quickly,” she said of the leftover federal aid.</p> <p>But, in the case of a recession, the state is far more vulnerable than New York City to a decrease in personal income taxes, which is its largest revenue source. The city’s revenue base depends more on property taxes which tend to be more stable. “I think from the state's perspective, what we need to keep eyes on is the sensitivity of the personal income tax in particular,” Doulis said. The mid-year state budget update does project that Personal Income Tax revenue will fall from $33.4 billion in the last fiscal year to just $22.6 billion for the current fiscal year, before growing to $28.1 billion in FY24; $29.1 billion in FY25; $31.2 billion in FY26; and $37.8 billion in FY27.</p> <p><strong>The MTA Budget</strong><br />A big unresolved question for the state is the future of the MTA, which was already struggling with its finances before being thrown into deep crisis by the pandemic. The authority, which is expected to release its latest budget update any day now, was rescued by federal aid but faces a fiscal cliff as it runs out and ridership on subways, buses, and commuter rail has yet to recover. Governor Hochul, the State Legislature, and New York City will face the difficult task next year of finding new, sustainable revenue streams for the agency while also attempting to cut costs.</p> <p>The MTA’s annual operating budget was about $18.5 billion for 2022 – 38% paid from various taxes, 26% from farebox revenue, 12% from tolls, and 15% from federal aid.</p> <p>As ridership and revenue plummeted, the authority has received a total of $16 billion in pandemic aid from the federal government, which will be expended through the 2026 fiscal year. But the state-run authority also has a $2.5 billion <a href="https://cbcny.org/how-fix-mtas-huge-budget-deficit">structural deficit</a>, up from roughly $750 million before the pandemic, with annual spending higher than revenues, which is being covered with federal funds. And the agency has only proposed a $100 million efficiency plan in its current budget, a mere 4% of that deficit.</p> <p>Rein expects that the MTA’s updated budget will include a larger efficiency plan, and CBC has its own <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/track-fiscal-stability">recommendations</a> that would find as much as $2.9 billion in savings for the agency. “That's really hard to achieve, that full amount or close to it, because it relies on working with the unions and changing contracts,” he said. “The unions have to be part of the solution.”</p> <p>MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber has for some time been calling on state leaders to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/15/nyregion/mta-nyc-budget.html">start funding</a> the MTA as an essential service, like policing and schools, meaning rethinking how it factors into the annual budget cycle. But, as Rein said, the state faces its own budget risks. “There's absolutely no question that New York's economy depends on the MTA being successful. But we have to figure out how to balance the successes in New York. It can't come at the expense of devastating taxes or service cuts somewhere else,” he said.</p> <p>“We do think that there are more savings that are possible without necessarily hurting service,” said Rahul Jain, a deputy state comptroller who focuses on New York City and the MTA.</p> <p>The ideal solution to the MTA’s woes, Jain said, would be to bring ridership back up to pre-pandemic levels. McKinsey, the consulting firm hired by the MTA, has projected that ridership will only reach 80% of 2019 (pre-covid) levels by the end of 2026. “The simplest way honestly, the best way really is to continue to beat the McKinsey projections,” Jain said. Ridership, however, has been difficult to recover as there have been broad pandemic-era shifts to hybrid and work-from-home models, as well as lingering concerns about public safety on the subway system.</p> <p>The MTA also currently has long-planned 4% fare and toll hikes scheduled for 2023 and 2025, after a planned fare hike in 2021 was postponed and then canceled by Hochul earlier this year in an effort to encourage riders back onto the subways and buses.</p> <p>Jain said there could be new recurring revenues raised through taxes but that’s a task left up to the Legislature. “There's pros and cons to sales tax. There's pros and cons to real estate taxes, pros and cons to more broad-based economic taxes like the payroll mobility tax. So that's really kind of a question for the Legislature,” he said.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany, a nonprofit government watchdog, issued urgent warnings about the MTA’s fiscal cliff in a <a href="https://reinventalbany.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Reinvent-Albany-Ridership-Down-Report-Nov-2022.pdf?mc_cid=bbc6c5c617&amp;mc_eid=d5f0c51ef5">recent report</a>, which noted that the agency is continuing to lose revenue, collecting $1.6 billion less in passenger and toll revenues in 2022 than in 2019 through September. “The MTA has emergency aid, but the fact is, it would be far better if they started dealing with the impending budget deficit now,” said Rachael Fauss, the report’s author, in a phone interview.</p> <p>The report makes several recommendations for the MTA, governor, and Legislature to follow: the MTA should continue implementing open data laws to be more transparent about its budget; publicly discuss debt affordability statements and only use recurring revenues in its debt affordability metrics and not count federal aid when measuring debt affordability; and release updated ridership projections with every financial plan update; while state government should ensure existing transit-dedicated funds are sent directly to the authority; use the Outer Borough Transit Fund to improve bus, subway, and commuter rail service, rather than provide toll discounts; and refuse to continue the suspension of the state gas tax holiday; among other measures.</p> <p>Fauss noted that part of the problem is that the MTA has slowly lost state support over the years, particularly under former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who diverted MTA funds to other state purposes. The authority, she said, needs new sources of recurring revenue, which could be achieved in various ways. “There's different ideas of how to do it and I think that it's just really about the political will of finding the best tax or the best source of revenue,” she said.</p> <p>“I don't think we can expect very much good news” from the imminent MTA budget update, said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. She noted that besides the budget update and the struggling ridership, the agency also has to sign a new contract with the Transit Workers Union next year. With high inflation, TWU workers may demand higher raises than the 2% wage growth that the MTA has budgeted for. “If the unions demand a 10% raise, that's close to an extra billion dollars that the MTA hasn't budgeted for at all and that’s something that they haven't even started talking about publicly,” she said.</p> <p>“I think we shouldn't even start thinking about new sources of revenue until they have carefully gone through all of the drivers of their costs and have agreed to a new union agreement with some productivity enhancements,” she added.</p> <p>There’s also the open question of the MTA, with state and city partners, implementing congestion pricing in New York City, which is meant to help fund the MTA’s separate $55 billion capital program by helping it raise more than $15 billion.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br />The city’s November budget revised expected spending to $104 billion, a record level for the city and up $3 billion from when the budget was adopted in June.</p> <p>Prior to the update, Mayor Eric Adams ordered city agencies to cut 3% of their spending in his latest Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which resulted in $2.5 billion in savings across the current and next fiscal years, without making cuts to services or laying off municipal employees. But most of the savings came from spending re-estimates, including eliminating some personnel vacancies, and debt service recalculations rather than finding recurring efficiencies at city agencies.</p> <p>“Fiscal discipline has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of my administration,”  Adams said in a statement. “The city faces significant economic headwinds that pose real threats to our fiscal stability, including growing pension contributions, expiring labor contracts, and rising health care expenses — and we are taking decisive actions in the administration’s first November Financial Plan to meet those challenges.”</p> <p>The PEG helped the city cut its projected budget gap for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year by $1 billion, bringing it down to $2.9 billion. But those gaps are expected to grow to $4.6 billion in FY25 and $5.9 billion in FY26 because of significant losses in the stock market, which hurt revenue as well as increase the city’s pension obligations.</p> <p>On Monday, barely a week after releasing the budget update, the administration took the extraordinary step of announcing that it would eliminate roughly 4,700 vacant civilian positions, about half of those currently budgeted, to cover a budget gap of $3 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/citing-looming-budget-gap-nyc-cuts-civilian-vacant-positions-by-half">Gothamist first reported.</a> The cuts will not affect uniformed agencies or teachers. The decision comes amid a dire staffing crisis at many agencies and follows a budget modification that budgeted for the hiring of 25,000 more workers by June, an unrealistic number but indicative of the extent that city agencies have seen their workforces drop over the last few years and the city’s ongoing hiring challenges.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11693-vacancies-nyc-government-hiring-25000-june-2023-budget-mayor-adams">Facing Depleted Agencies, New York City Government Plans to Add 25,000 More Employees by June 2023</a>]</p> <p>The city’s reserves are also at about $8.3 billion, which includes $1.9 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, $4.5 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust, $1.6 billion in the General Reserve, and $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Reserve. But those reserves only account for about 9% of city tax revenue, far lower than what budget watchdogs recommend.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, the increased spending in the budget was largely funded by federal grants or expected federal funding, including a projected $1 billion to shelter and provide services to tens of thousands of asylum seekers that have arrived in New York City over the last several months. But, it is not clear that the federal government will reimburse the city for those expenses.</p> <p>As the mayor himself acknowledged, the city faces the uncertainty of growing pension costs because of volatility in the stock market, forcing the city to spend more to meet annual pension obligations. The budget also doesn’t sufficiently account for the cost of municipal labor contracts, all of which are expired or expiring and must be renegotiated.</p> <p>Rein of Citizens Budget Commission noted that the projected budget gap of $2.9 billion for the next fiscal year “assumes that there's no new labor contracts that are larger than one-and-a-quarter percent or that there's no recession. Those are risky assumptions.”</p> <p>“Quite frankly, what you're seeing at the city, the state, and the MTA is no concerted effort to restructure operations to keep down spending,” he said. “The city's PEG barely did anything to restructure government at all. By and large, the vast majority is spending re-estimates and a little bit of debt service savings and from vacancy reductions.”</p> <p>Jain from Comptroller DiNapoli’s office noted that unlike the state, the city used federal funds for recurring programmatic expenses, which will be harder to continue to fund if a recession hits. “You've allowed spending to continue, so you kind of need the revenues to come in,” he said. “And then the hard question at the end of that if they don't is where do you start trying to reduce the spend side.”</p> <p>DiNapoli has raised several concerns about the city’s November financial plan, pointing to a “missed opportunity” to put away more money in the Rainy Day Fund and issuing <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-13-2022.pdf">a report</a> recommending several ways the city could strengthen it.</p> <p>He also pointed to the several risks the city faces for which it seems unprepared. The $1 billion in projected federal grants for migrant services has not yet been approved, “which we view as a material risk to its budget in the current fiscal year, and which could create spending pressure in the outyears,” he said. And the city has not yet projected weakening revenues as is widely expected.</p> <p>New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, in his office’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/newsletter/new-york-by-the-numbers-monthly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-71-november-15th-2022/">monthly update</a> on the city’s fiscal outlook, also urged the administration to prepare for a recession and to prudently use reserves in the case of that eventuality.</p> <p>“When economic downturns hit, as people lose jobs and business revenues decline, tax revenues fall just as the needs of the most vulnerable increase. That’s why it’s critical for the City of New York to save for a rainy day,” he stated. “Putting money into our rainy day funds is not an act of austerity – it’s a form of social insurance.”</p> <p>Ahead of the passage of the city budget, Lander had urged the mayor and City Council to adopt a formula for annual deposits into the rainy day fund, a recommendation that went unheeded. He has repeatedly recommended that reserves should be at least 16% of city tax revenues, while they currently stand at closer to 9%.</p> <p>On Monday, in response to the administration’s latest vacancy cuts, Lander reiterated his concerns about how the move could impact city services. “While we agree that savings are critical as New York City faces economic headwinds, confronting those risks cannot come at the expense of diminishing the City’s capacity to get stuff done,” he said in a statement. “Today’s directive to agencies furthers our concerns about recruiting and retaining the staff needed to implement critical programs from traffic safety improvements to processing housing applications.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Facing Depleted Agencies, New York City Government Plans to Add 25,000 More Employees by June 2023 2022-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 2022-11-17T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11693-vacancies-nyc-government-hiring-25000-june-2023-budget-mayor-adams Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/more-than-vac.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at City Hall (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City’s municipal workforce dropped by more than 19,000 full-time employees over the last two years, according to a <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-13-2023.pdf">report</a> released this week by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, and there are currently more than 21,000 vacancies as city agencies struggle to retain workers and maintain city services.</p> <p>Questions have repeatedly been raised about whether Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is able to accomplish its policy goals given low staffing across agencies and the disruptive departures of personnel amid stringent workplace policies and often uncompetitive salaries. A lack of work-from-home flexibility allowed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and now Adams, and many workers choosing a pink slip over the covid vaccine that the two mayors required of the municipal workforce both also appear to have taken a toll.</p> <p>And while Adams has sought to tighten the city's fiscal belt and right-size spending plans, even removing some vacancies from budget projections leaves a very large number of openings that city government still wants to but appears to have no plans to fill.</p> <p>Before the covid pandemic, the city’s workforce peaked at 300,400 full-time employees, up 33,023 employees since the 2012 fiscal year. That number has since dropped 6.4% to 281,333 through August 2022.<br /><br />That recent decline is larger than the 4.7% loss of workers between fiscal years 2008 and 2012 following the Great Recession. (The comptroller’s report does not include the 23,590 full-time equivalent workers that were also part of the workforce in June 2020.)</p> <p>The workforce loss of the last two years hasn’t been equally distributed across city government. Out of the city’s 37 largest agencies, each of which employ more than 250 workers, 11 agencies saw a decline that was twice the citywide average of 6.4%, and even higher in some cases. For instance, the Department of Correction saw a decline of 23.6% (though much of it was planned, the rate was higher than expected, the comptroller noted). Similarly, the Department of Investigation saw its workforce drop by 22.2% and the Taxi and Limousine Commission saw a decline of 20.5%.</p> <p>As the report noted, in absolute numbers, the decline was largest in the city’s uniformed agencies – the NYPD, Fire Department, Department of Correction, and Department of Sanitation – which together accounted for a loss of 6,857 employees, or 7.6%. The Department of Education was next, losing 4,815 workers, or 3.6%, followed by a drop of 3,011 workers, or 13.5%, at social services agencies including the Department of Social Services, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Homeless Services, Department for the Aging, and Department of Youth and Community Development.</p> <p>"The pandemic caused a significant decline to the city’s workforce, and it is particularly troubling that turnover continues to outpace hiring," DiNapoli said in a statement. "Without the hardworking individuals who keep this city running, critical and essential services for our children and most vulnerable residents could be impacted. Budget gaps loom, and while the city needs to find efficiencies, it also must prioritize a clear understanding of staffing challenges at its agencies and be transparent about their potential impact on services."</p> <p>The drop in the workforce was also felt disproportionately across occupational groups, the report noted. In 19 major occupations (which involve at least 250 employees) there were declines of at least 13% and higher, many of which included white-collar administrative roles such as lawyers, clerks, auditors, and more. The highest declines were among executive assistants (27.2%), correction officers (25.9%), and groundskeepers and gardeners (24.5%).</p> <p>The city had expected the municipal workforce to grow and had planned for as many as 302,396 positions across city government through August 2022. But there are 21,063 vacancies, or 7%, owing mostly to a temporary hiring freeze instituted by Mayor de Blasio in the 2021 fiscal year and a sharp increase in attrition. Vacancies remain high despite the fact that the city hired 40,261 new workers in the last fiscal year ending June 30, since attrition far outpaced the hiring rate.</p> <p>The vacancy rate was highest at the Department of Social Services, with 2,386 positions left unfilled, about 18.3% of budgeted headcount. That was followed by the relatively small Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, which had 85 vacancies, or 17.5% of budgeted headcount, and then the Department of Environmental Conservation, which had 1,020 positions vacant, 16.1% of budgeted headcount.</p> <p>In absolute numbers, the city’s largest agency, the Department of Education, had the most vacancies: 10,495 positions, or about 7.5% of the department. The Department of Correction had 1,186 positions empty, about 12.4%, the NYPD had 1,267 vacant positions (2.6%) and the Fire Department had 382 vacancies (2.2%).</p> <p>The comptroller’s report also delved deeper into agency operations and found that 23 agency divisions had vacancy rates of at least twice the citywide average of 7%. Some examples include the Department of Social Services’ division of child support services, which had a whopping 45.5% vacancy rate; early childhood programs at the DOE, which had a vacancy rate of 35%; and the administration division at the Department of Homeless Services, which had a vacancy rate of 25.4%.</p> <p>At a September hearing, the City Council examined some of the reasons behind the city’s continuing attrition and vacancy crisis, raising concerns that vital city services were being affected. Staffing issues were already hurting the city’s work in myriad ways including the <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/7/5/23191750/just-one-staffer-affordable-housing-office-new-york-city">building</a> of new affordable housing, <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2022/06/08/city-staffing-shortages-lead-to-months-long-waits-for-housing-help">getting housing</a> for homeless New Yorkers, and, a prominent example among them, dealing with the <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-correction-officers-sick-leave-20220825-5q5mgg4i6rhezgnkllh5d3k2ni-story.html">ongoing crisis</a> at the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>Among the causes cited for the ongoing vacancy gulf are some of the steps taken by Mayor Adams and his administration. He has <a href="https://www.politico.com/newsletters/new-york-playbook/2022/06/01/mayoral-aide-chides-city-employees-over-remote-work-00036256">insisted</a> on bringing all city workers back to the office full-time even as the pandemic continues and private employers continue to offer more flexibility with hybrid work models. Officials at several agencies have been offering the minimum salaries from job postings, as <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/as-nyc-agencies-struggle-to-fill-thousands-of-jobs-some-city-workers-say-theyve-been-instructed-to-lowball-new-hires">Gothamist reported</a> in September.</p> <p>While Adams has harped on ending remote work in both the private and public sectors, City Comptroller Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have continued to allow employees to work on hybrid schedules, warning of the deleterious effects on worker retention. In an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-let-city-workers-do-their-jobs-at-home-20220803-idmnlyrlrjacnfd7jkctymmzty-story.html">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> in August, Williams said the lack of a remote or hybrid option was among the reasons that the city was experiencing such a high vacancy rate of municipal workers, which in turn was affecting services.</p> <p>“Those job openings aren’t abstract,” he wrote. “When there aren’t enough people on staff at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, homes can fall into disrepair and tenants are left without recourse. When there’s a shortage of civil rights attorneys, New Yorkers are vulnerable to discrimination. Without enough mental health workers, people in crisis could reach out and find no one at the other end of the line.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, at the City Council, central staff members are <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/policy/2022/10/new-york-city-council-staff-wont-give-hybrid-work-without-fight/378709/">resisting efforts</a> by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams to bring them back to the office five days a week.</p> <p>Comptroller DiNapoli did note that vacancy reductions could be a significant source of savings for the city, which could bode well for Mayor Adams, who has repeatedly talked about cutting the city budget and shrinking the city workforce. But DiNapoli echoed warnings from many elected officials and advocates against making budgeted headcount reductions that could affect services.</p> <p>“Understanding the impact of the uneven decline in staffing on the City’s service performance since June 2020 should inform the City’s decisions over which vacancies may be able to be taken for savings and which should be filled to improve or expand municipal services,” he said in the report.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Adams released the <a href="https://www.nyc.gov/site/omb/publications/finplan11-22.page">November modification</a> to the city budget for the ongoing 2023 fiscal year and several years to come. It re-estimated total annual spending upwards to $104 billion for this fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2023, but also included a Program to Eliminate the Gap that found $2.5 billion in savings, including $900 million in the current fiscal year and $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2024. That PEG included $48 million in savings from lower than expected personnel costs because of vacancies, and nearly $46 million in savings from removing 703 vacancies in fiscal year 2023 alone, without making any layoffs or cutting necessary services.</p> <p>At the same time, the November financial plan <a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/nov22-stafflevels.pdf">projected</a> that by June 2023, the city’s full-time workforce will increase to 306,594 positions, which would mean the hiring of 25,261 more workers than are currently employed by the city. That number is marginally higher, about 292 positions, than what the June adopted budget had projected, but after bringing the headcount back up, the city also plans to then cut the full-time workforce by more than 5,400 over the next several years.</p> <p>“Fiscal discipline has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of my administration,” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Tuesday, acknowledging that the city faces economic headwinds and an uncertain fiscal future because of growing pension obligations, expiring labor contracts, and increasing health care costs. “Thanks to a successful Program to Eliminate the Gap, we have achieved significant savings without service reductions or layoffs. We are also investing in new needs that will address our housing crisis, make our streets cleaner, combat climate change, and much more,” he said.</p> <p>The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog, has several recommendations for the city to alleviate its workforce crisis. “The City has plenty of available positions, and in fact many more than it needs. The current staffing issues faced by some agencies and units are the result of management, procedural, and labor market challenges,” said Ana Champeny, CBC’s vice president for research, in testimony at the September Council hearing.</p> <p>Champeny said the city should move vacant positions to where they are needed, providing more flexibility in reallocating headcount, improve systems to expedite recruitment and hiring, improve retention, improve reporting on vacancies and modernize civil service and public sector employment with skills training, bonuses, and negotiating flexibility and other work rules changes.</p> <p>CBC President Andrew Rein said in a phone interview that the city could easily eliminate thousands of vacancies without cutting essential services. “You can eliminate probably half of the vacancies and still hire critical positions…You would still have 10,000 vacancies you can still fill,” he said.</p> <p>“The challenge here is you need to identify what's critical, put the vacancies in the right places,” he added, “because attrition is a blunt tool.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/more-than-vac.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at City Hall (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City’s municipal workforce dropped by more than 19,000 full-time employees over the last two years, according to a <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-13-2023.pdf">report</a> released this week by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, and there are currently more than 21,000 vacancies as city agencies struggle to retain workers and maintain city services.</p> <p>Questions have repeatedly been raised about whether Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is able to accomplish its policy goals given low staffing across agencies and the disruptive departures of personnel amid stringent workplace policies and often uncompetitive salaries. A lack of work-from-home flexibility allowed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and now Adams, and many workers choosing a pink slip over the covid vaccine that the two mayors required of the municipal workforce both also appear to have taken a toll.</p> <p>And while Adams has sought to tighten the city's fiscal belt and right-size spending plans, even removing some vacancies from budget projections leaves a very large number of openings that city government still wants to but appears to have no plans to fill.</p> <p>Before the covid pandemic, the city’s workforce peaked at 300,400 full-time employees, up 33,023 employees since the 2012 fiscal year. That number has since dropped 6.4% to 281,333 through August 2022.<br /><br />That recent decline is larger than the 4.7% loss of workers between fiscal years 2008 and 2012 following the Great Recession. (The comptroller’s report does not include the 23,590 full-time equivalent workers that were also part of the workforce in June 2020.)</p> <p>The workforce loss of the last two years hasn’t been equally distributed across city government. Out of the city’s 37 largest agencies, each of which employ more than 250 workers, 11 agencies saw a decline that was twice the citywide average of 6.4%, and even higher in some cases. For instance, the Department of Correction saw a decline of 23.6% (though much of it was planned, the rate was higher than expected, the comptroller noted). Similarly, the Department of Investigation saw its workforce drop by 22.2% and the Taxi and Limousine Commission saw a decline of 20.5%.</p> <p>As the report noted, in absolute numbers, the decline was largest in the city’s uniformed agencies – the NYPD, Fire Department, Department of Correction, and Department of Sanitation – which together accounted for a loss of 6,857 employees, or 7.6%. The Department of Education was next, losing 4,815 workers, or 3.6%, followed by a drop of 3,011 workers, or 13.5%, at social services agencies including the Department of Social Services, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Homeless Services, Department for the Aging, and Department of Youth and Community Development.</p> <p>"The pandemic caused a significant decline to the city’s workforce, and it is particularly troubling that turnover continues to outpace hiring," DiNapoli said in a statement. "Without the hardworking individuals who keep this city running, critical and essential services for our children and most vulnerable residents could be impacted. Budget gaps loom, and while the city needs to find efficiencies, it also must prioritize a clear understanding of staffing challenges at its agencies and be transparent about their potential impact on services."</p> <p>The drop in the workforce was also felt disproportionately across occupational groups, the report noted. In 19 major occupations (which involve at least 250 employees) there were declines of at least 13% and higher, many of which included white-collar administrative roles such as lawyers, clerks, auditors, and more. The highest declines were among executive assistants (27.2%), correction officers (25.9%), and groundskeepers and gardeners (24.5%).</p> <p>The city had expected the municipal workforce to grow and had planned for as many as 302,396 positions across city government through August 2022. But there are 21,063 vacancies, or 7%, owing mostly to a temporary hiring freeze instituted by Mayor de Blasio in the 2021 fiscal year and a sharp increase in attrition. Vacancies remain high despite the fact that the city hired 40,261 new workers in the last fiscal year ending June 30, since attrition far outpaced the hiring rate.</p> <p>The vacancy rate was highest at the Department of Social Services, with 2,386 positions left unfilled, about 18.3% of budgeted headcount. That was followed by the relatively small Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, which had 85 vacancies, or 17.5% of budgeted headcount, and then the Department of Environmental Conservation, which had 1,020 positions vacant, 16.1% of budgeted headcount.</p> <p>In absolute numbers, the city’s largest agency, the Department of Education, had the most vacancies: 10,495 positions, or about 7.5% of the department. The Department of Correction had 1,186 positions empty, about 12.4%, the NYPD had 1,267 vacant positions (2.6%) and the Fire Department had 382 vacancies (2.2%).</p> <p>The comptroller’s report also delved deeper into agency operations and found that 23 agency divisions had vacancy rates of at least twice the citywide average of 7%. Some examples include the Department of Social Services’ division of child support services, which had a whopping 45.5% vacancy rate; early childhood programs at the DOE, which had a vacancy rate of 35%; and the administration division at the Department of Homeless Services, which had a vacancy rate of 25.4%.</p> <p>At a September hearing, the City Council examined some of the reasons behind the city’s continuing attrition and vacancy crisis, raising concerns that vital city services were being affected. Staffing issues were already hurting the city’s work in myriad ways including the <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/7/5/23191750/just-one-staffer-affordable-housing-office-new-york-city">building</a> of new affordable housing, <a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2022/06/08/city-staffing-shortages-lead-to-months-long-waits-for-housing-help">getting housing</a> for homeless New Yorkers, and, a prominent example among them, dealing with the <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-correction-officers-sick-leave-20220825-5q5mgg4i6rhezgnkllh5d3k2ni-story.html">ongoing crisis</a> at the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>Among the causes cited for the ongoing vacancy gulf are some of the steps taken by Mayor Adams and his administration. He has <a href="https://www.politico.com/newsletters/new-york-playbook/2022/06/01/mayoral-aide-chides-city-employees-over-remote-work-00036256">insisted</a> on bringing all city workers back to the office full-time even as the pandemic continues and private employers continue to offer more flexibility with hybrid work models. Officials at several agencies have been offering the minimum salaries from job postings, as <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/as-nyc-agencies-struggle-to-fill-thousands-of-jobs-some-city-workers-say-theyve-been-instructed-to-lowball-new-hires">Gothamist reported</a> in September.</p> <p>While Adams has harped on ending remote work in both the private and public sectors, City Comptroller Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have continued to allow employees to work on hybrid schedules, warning of the deleterious effects on worker retention. In an <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-let-city-workers-do-their-jobs-at-home-20220803-idmnlyrlrjacnfd7jkctymmzty-story.html">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> in August, Williams said the lack of a remote or hybrid option was among the reasons that the city was experiencing such a high vacancy rate of municipal workers, which in turn was affecting services.</p> <p>“Those job openings aren’t abstract,” he wrote. “When there aren’t enough people on staff at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, homes can fall into disrepair and tenants are left without recourse. When there’s a shortage of civil rights attorneys, New Yorkers are vulnerable to discrimination. Without enough mental health workers, people in crisis could reach out and find no one at the other end of the line.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, at the City Council, central staff members are <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/policy/2022/10/new-york-city-council-staff-wont-give-hybrid-work-without-fight/378709/">resisting efforts</a> by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams to bring them back to the office five days a week.</p> <p>Comptroller DiNapoli did note that vacancy reductions could be a significant source of savings for the city, which could bode well for Mayor Adams, who has repeatedly talked about cutting the city budget and shrinking the city workforce. But DiNapoli echoed warnings from many elected officials and advocates against making budgeted headcount reductions that could affect services.</p> <p>“Understanding the impact of the uneven decline in staffing on the City’s service performance since June 2020 should inform the City’s decisions over which vacancies may be able to be taken for savings and which should be filled to improve or expand municipal services,” he said in the report.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Adams released the <a href="https://www.nyc.gov/site/omb/publications/finplan11-22.page">November modification</a> to the city budget for the ongoing 2023 fiscal year and several years to come. It re-estimated total annual spending upwards to $104 billion for this fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2023, but also included a Program to Eliminate the Gap that found $2.5 billion in savings, including $900 million in the current fiscal year and $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2024. That PEG included $48 million in savings from lower than expected personnel costs because of vacancies, and nearly $46 million in savings from removing 703 vacancies in fiscal year 2023 alone, without making any layoffs or cutting necessary services.</p> <p>At the same time, the November financial plan <a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/nov22-stafflevels.pdf">projected</a> that by June 2023, the city’s full-time workforce will increase to 306,594 positions, which would mean the hiring of 25,261 more workers than are currently employed by the city. That number is marginally higher, about 292 positions, than what the June adopted budget had projected, but after bringing the headcount back up, the city also plans to then cut the full-time workforce by more than 5,400 over the next several years.</p> <p>“Fiscal discipline has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of my administration,” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Tuesday, acknowledging that the city faces economic headwinds and an uncertain fiscal future because of growing pension obligations, expiring labor contracts, and increasing health care costs. “Thanks to a successful Program to Eliminate the Gap, we have achieved significant savings without service reductions or layoffs. We are also investing in new needs that will address our housing crisis, make our streets cleaner, combat climate change, and much more,” he said.</p> <p>The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog, has several recommendations for the city to alleviate its workforce crisis. “The City has plenty of available positions, and in fact many more than it needs. The current staffing issues faced by some agencies and units are the result of management, procedural, and labor market challenges,” said Ana Champeny, CBC’s vice president for research, in testimony at the September Council hearing.</p> <p>Champeny said the city should move vacant positions to where they are needed, providing more flexibility in reallocating headcount, improve systems to expedite recruitment and hiring, improve retention, improve reporting on vacancies and modernize civil service and public sector employment with skills training, bonuses, and negotiating flexibility and other work rules changes.</p> <p>CBC President Andrew Rein said in a phone interview that the city could easily eliminate thousands of vacancies without cutting essential services. “You can eliminate probably half of the vacancies and still hire critical positions…You would still have 10,000 vacancies you can still fill,” he said.</p> <p>“The challenge here is you need to identify what's critical, put the vacancies in the right places,” he added, “because attrition is a blunt tool.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Leading Immigrant Advocacy Group Releases 'Respect and Dignity' 2023 State Policy Agenda 2022-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 2022-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11688-immigrant-advocacy-2023-new-york-state-policy-agenda Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/IMG_2511_2.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A Make the Road rally (photo: Make the Road NY)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road New York, the state’s largest member organization of immigrant advocates, will release its 2023-24 state policy platform on Wednesday and kick off a series of town halls to push for legislation that includes expanded unemployment protections, greater health care access, instituting ‘good cause’ eviction, ending racially-biased school discipline, decriminalizing sex work, raising taxes on the wealthy, and more. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With 25,000 members statewide, Make the Road New York (MRNY) represents a major progressive group in the state that has consistently pushed for pro-immigrant and pro-worker legislation. The group is set to launch its <a href="https://maketheroadny.org/2023-24-state-policy-platform/">“Respect and Dignity” policy platform</a> at its Jackson Heights office in Queens on Wednesday afternoon followed by a town hall in the evening. The group also has town halls scheduled in Brooklyn and Westchester, and is aiming to hold one on Long Island as well.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new Albany agenda includes a series of legislative and budget demands that the group and its allies hope Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul will pay attention to, fresh off her narrow victory in the general election where progressives are taking credit for helping her achieve her first full term in office. As she heads into the new year working with a Democrat-dominated State Legislature, Hochul will also present her second State of the State address and Executive Budget, delineating her own priorities and setting the table for the six-month state legislative session.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was people of color, particularly Black voters, and people of color across New York City that really got Kathy Hochul reelected,” said Jose Lopez, co-executive director of MRNY, in a phone interview. “And I think that what our communities will be looking for given the outcome of this election and the fact that we've protected her seat, is movement on substantive issues that really impact working class and immigrant communities of color.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Following the example of the state’s $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund, which provided aid to those who were unable to receive federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic, MRNY is pushing for the passage of a bill, sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Karines Reyes that would create a permanent unemployment insurance program for “excluded” workers. At a cost of $800 million annually, the bill would establish the first-ever Excluded Worker Unemployment Program to give up to $1,200 per month in support to up to 50,000 workers ineligible for unemployment including freelancers and gig economy workers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new fund would be crucial for people like Gerardo Vital, a father of two and Make the Road New York member. “Immigrants like me, we contribute and help the economy…we contribute like everybody else but at the end of the day we get no help when we lose our jobs with any type of unemployment,” he said in a phone interview, through an interpreter. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vital is currently unemployed and is worried about falling behind on payments for rent and car insurance. “But there's no program that I can apply to to be able to receive any kind of help,” he said. “People think that we don't count but we do because we contribute to the state, we pay our taxes.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">MRNY is also advocating for the passage of a health care coverage bill sponsored by State Senator Gustavo Rivera and outgoing Assemblymember Richard Gottfried to create a state-funded Essential Plan to provide healthcare to all low-income New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status. The group estimates that roughly 154,000 state residents are currently ineligible for federal health insurance programs such as Medicaid and the Essential Plan because of their immigration status, and that the program would cost about $345 million annually and involve participation from at least 46,000 individuals. (With Gottfried leaving the Assembly, the bill will have to be reintroduced by another member in the next legislative session.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Hochul heads into her first term of her own, one of the main items on her agenda is housing affordability and access, a priority that MRNY advocates also share. The group’s agenda pushes for the passage of “good cause” eviction, sponsored by State Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, which would provide crucial eviction protections to tenants including against significant rent annual hikes. The bill has gained momentum in the Legislature in recent years but has yet to pass and Hochul has not said whether she supports it.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">MRNY is also urging the state to create a $200 million Housing Access Voucher Program, with half set aside for households at risk of homelessness and the other half for homeless people and families. That program, championed by State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, had a great deal of momentum in the Legislature last year, but the Hochul administration disputed the cost estimate and declined to support it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Those are things that New Yorkers care about, those are things New Yorkers want to see happen,” Lopez said. “And those are going to be the fights that we help lead with allies across the state to make sure that this administration delivers.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another proposal on the agenda includes the Solutions Not Suspensions Act, sponsored by State Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, who is retiring. As with Gottfried’s bill, the legislation will have to be carried by another member next year. It aims to put an end to harsh school disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities. It would limit the use of suspensions and instead focus on restorative practices. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road also supports the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, sponsored by Salazar, which would decriminalize sex work for consenting adults and scrub records for arrests, convictions, and incarcerations for sex work that is no longer criminal.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though some of those legislative proposals will require significant funding from the state, Lopez said they “aren’t a substantially heavy lift” and could easily be offset by the </span><a href="https://investinourny.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Invest in Our New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> package of bills, which aims to raise as much as $50 billion in revenue by cutting tax loopholes and raising taxes on the uber wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street. That argument is likely to meet resistance, particularly from Governor Hochul, who has repeatedly said she has no plans to raise taxes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We're going to be prepared for those arguments when they come,” Lopez said. “But I think the reality is that we see budgets as moral documents and there is going to be a question, especially post-election, about where we spend.”   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our hope is that [Governor Hochul] draws some lessons from this election and that she understands that in order to perform better, she's going to need to secure some progressive bonafides, especially in this next year,” he added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road has several other priorities for state government to pursue, including adequate budget allocations for the state’s new public campaign finance program, with a $70 million ask for next budget, due by April 1; expanding subsidies and eliminating bureaucratic barriers for child care for low-income families regardless of employment or immigration status; ensuring that Hochul follows through on her commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for public schools; investing $18.6 million in adult literacy education; restoring $5.2 million in funding for the Community Health Advocates Program; increasing funding for the Navigators program that helps people enroll in health insurance; updating the New York Hospital Financial Assistance Law; and passing the Access to Representation Act to provide universal legal representation for New Yorkers under threat of deportation.</span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/IMG_2511_2.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A Make the Road rally (photo: Make the Road NY)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road New York, the state’s largest member organization of immigrant advocates, will release its 2023-24 state policy platform on Wednesday and kick off a series of town halls to push for legislation that includes expanded unemployment protections, greater health care access, instituting ‘good cause’ eviction, ending racially-biased school discipline, decriminalizing sex work, raising taxes on the wealthy, and more. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With 25,000 members statewide, Make the Road New York (MRNY) represents a major progressive group in the state that has consistently pushed for pro-immigrant and pro-worker legislation. The group is set to launch its <a href="https://maketheroadny.org/2023-24-state-policy-platform/">“Respect and Dignity” policy platform</a> at its Jackson Heights office in Queens on Wednesday afternoon followed by a town hall in the evening. The group also has town halls scheduled in Brooklyn and Westchester, and is aiming to hold one on Long Island as well.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new Albany agenda includes a series of legislative and budget demands that the group and its allies hope Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul will pay attention to, fresh off her narrow victory in the general election where progressives are taking credit for helping her achieve her first full term in office. As she heads into the new year working with a Democrat-dominated State Legislature, Hochul will also present her second State of the State address and Executive Budget, delineating her own priorities and setting the table for the six-month state legislative session.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was people of color, particularly Black voters, and people of color across New York City that really got Kathy Hochul reelected,” said Jose Lopez, co-executive director of MRNY, in a phone interview. “And I think that what our communities will be looking for given the outcome of this election and the fact that we've protected her seat, is movement on substantive issues that really impact working class and immigrant communities of color.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Following the example of the state’s $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund, which provided aid to those who were unable to receive federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic, MRNY is pushing for the passage of a bill, sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Karines Reyes that would create a permanent unemployment insurance program for “excluded” workers. At a cost of $800 million annually, the bill would establish the first-ever Excluded Worker Unemployment Program to give up to $1,200 per month in support to up to 50,000 workers ineligible for unemployment including freelancers and gig economy workers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new fund would be crucial for people like Gerardo Vital, a father of two and Make the Road New York member. “Immigrants like me, we contribute and help the economy…we contribute like everybody else but at the end of the day we get no help when we lose our jobs with any type of unemployment,” he said in a phone interview, through an interpreter. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vital is currently unemployed and is worried about falling behind on payments for rent and car insurance. “But there's no program that I can apply to to be able to receive any kind of help,” he said. “People think that we don't count but we do because we contribute to the state, we pay our taxes.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">MRNY is also advocating for the passage of a health care coverage bill sponsored by State Senator Gustavo Rivera and outgoing Assemblymember Richard Gottfried to create a state-funded Essential Plan to provide healthcare to all low-income New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status. The group estimates that roughly 154,000 state residents are currently ineligible for federal health insurance programs such as Medicaid and the Essential Plan because of their immigration status, and that the program would cost about $345 million annually and involve participation from at least 46,000 individuals. (With Gottfried leaving the Assembly, the bill will have to be reintroduced by another member in the next legislative session.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Hochul heads into her first term of her own, one of the main items on her agenda is housing affordability and access, a priority that MRNY advocates also share. The group’s agenda pushes for the passage of “good cause” eviction, sponsored by State Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, which would provide crucial eviction protections to tenants including against significant rent annual hikes. The bill has gained momentum in the Legislature in recent years but has yet to pass and Hochul has not said whether she supports it.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">MRNY is also urging the state to create a $200 million Housing Access Voucher Program, with half set aside for households at risk of homelessness and the other half for homeless people and families. That program, championed by State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, had a great deal of momentum in the Legislature last year, but the Hochul administration disputed the cost estimate and declined to support it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Those are things that New Yorkers care about, those are things New Yorkers want to see happen,” Lopez said. “And those are going to be the fights that we help lead with allies across the state to make sure that this administration delivers.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another proposal on the agenda includes the Solutions Not Suspensions Act, sponsored by State Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, who is retiring. As with Gottfried’s bill, the legislation will have to be carried by another member next year. It aims to put an end to harsh school disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities. It would limit the use of suspensions and instead focus on restorative practices. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road also supports the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, sponsored by Salazar, which would decriminalize sex work for consenting adults and scrub records for arrests, convictions, and incarcerations for sex work that is no longer criminal.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though some of those legislative proposals will require significant funding from the state, Lopez said they “aren’t a substantially heavy lift” and could easily be offset by the </span><a href="https://investinourny.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Invest in Our New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> package of bills, which aims to raise as much as $50 billion in revenue by cutting tax loopholes and raising taxes on the uber wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street. That argument is likely to meet resistance, particularly from Governor Hochul, who has repeatedly said she has no plans to raise taxes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We're going to be prepared for those arguments when they come,” Lopez said. “But I think the reality is that we see budgets as moral documents and there is going to be a question, especially post-election, about where we spend.”   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our hope is that [Governor Hochul] draws some lessons from this election and that she understands that in order to perform better, she's going to need to secure some progressive bonafides, especially in this next year,” he added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the Road has several other priorities for state government to pursue, including adequate budget allocations for the state’s new public campaign finance program, with a $70 million ask for next budget, due by April 1; expanding subsidies and eliminating bureaucratic barriers for child care for low-income families regardless of employment or immigration status; ensuring that Hochul follows through on her commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for public schools; investing $18.6 million in adult literacy education; restoring $5.2 million in funding for the Community Health Advocates Program; increasing funding for the Navigators program that helps people enroll in health insurance; updating the New York Hospital Financial Assistance Law; and passing the Access to Representation Act to provide universal legal representation for New Yorkers under threat of deportation.</span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York City Voters Approve Racial Justice Ballot Measures 2022-11-09T05:00:00+00:00 2022-11-09T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11666-new-york-city-voters-approve-racial-justice-ballot-measures Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/voters-approve-racial.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Supporters promote racial justice ballot measures (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City voters approved three ballot measures meant to alleviate impacts of structural racism on New Yorkers of color and create a more equal city through equitable city services.</p> <p>Questions 2 through 4 on the city ballot were proposed amendments to the City Charter to add a preamble recognizing the impact of racist institutions past and present and establish a new statement of principles; create an Office of Racial Equity required to spearhead the development of a racial equity plan; and develop a new metric for the "true cost of living" in New York City meant to inform policy-making.</p> <p>Initial results show voters approved the measures by wide margins of between 40 and 62 points. About 1.7 million New York City votes had been counted in the governor's race by about midnight Tuesday night, with a chunk of those voters, roughly 300,000, not weighing in on the ballot questions. The numbers will all shift as ballots continue to be counted.</p> <p>The proposals were developed by a commission created by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio after promising major reforms in the wake of protests against police brutality in 2020. In 2021, his last year in office, de Blasio empaneled the Racial Justice Commission, which designed the ballot questions after a public hearing process.</p> <p>The proposals had the tacit support of Mayor Eric Adams, who allocated $5 million to educate the public on the referendums. More than a third of the City Council, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, also backed the questions in a series of get-out-the-vote events leading up to Election Day.</p> <p>The commission and its supporters say the changes will help lay groundwork and take steps toward greater racial equity in the city, helping to ensure that city services are more fairly allocated and delivered.</p> <p>“Today New Yorkers have made history—taking bold, unprecedented steps to upend systematic racism in local government in a way that other cities around the nation can follow," said Racial Justice Commission Chair Jennifer Jones Austin in a statement. "We are very proud of the success of this non-partisan effort to inform NYC voters about these first-of-their-kind initiatives. It is clear from the overwhelmingly positive response that these proposals resonated with voters from all backgrounds and walks of life."</p> <p>Preliminary numbers show city voters approved the new Charter preamble 72-28% among those who voted yes or no (many voters declined to weigh in). It sets out a series of values and non-binding rights to "guide the operation of our city government." The language outlines a call for government to provide to all New Yorkers affordable housing, competent healthcare, government access, economic resources, and a safe and healthy environment.</p> <p>It also acknowledges past atrocities and their legacy in the present, including American slavery, the forced removal of indigenous peoples, ongoing racial segregation, mass incarceration, immigrant exploitation and other injustices. Nothing in the preamble is binding or creates a right to action on which the city could be sued, according to the commission.</p> <p>The new Office of Racial Equity, racial equity plan requirement, and permanent Racial Justice Commission were approved 70-30%, per initial results. It establishes an office under the mayor responsible for developing and implementing short- and long-term plans to ameliorate racial inequity. The plans would be created every two years based on agency-level blueprints using metrics designed by the new office to evaluate disparities. The amendment also establishes a Commission on Racial Equity, appointed by the mayor, City Council, comptroller, and public advocate, to guide planning and track agency compliance.</p> <p>The final question, to develop a new, more accurate cost of living measurement, was approved with the highest mandate at 81-19%, per initial results. It requires the city to develop a metric that accounts for basic needs without considering public and private assistance toward one's income. It is intended to give a more appropriate standard than the federal poverty line, which has used the same criteria for decades. The city is required to report the metric on an annual basis. According to the commission, the measure could be used to inform public assistance policies, labor negotiations, and advocacy related to state and federal laws that rely on the federal poverty guidelines.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/voters-approve-racial.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Supporters promote racial justice ballot measures (photo: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City voters approved three ballot measures meant to alleviate impacts of structural racism on New Yorkers of color and create a more equal city through equitable city services.</p> <p>Questions 2 through 4 on the city ballot were proposed amendments to the City Charter to add a preamble recognizing the impact of racist institutions past and present and establish a new statement of principles; create an Office of Racial Equity required to spearhead the development of a racial equity plan; and develop a new metric for the "true cost of living" in New York City meant to inform policy-making.</p> <p>Initial results show voters approved the measures by wide margins of between 40 and 62 points. About 1.7 million New York City votes had been counted in the governor's race by about midnight Tuesday night, with a chunk of those voters, roughly 300,000, not weighing in on the ballot questions. The numbers will all shift as ballots continue to be counted.</p> <p>The proposals were developed by a commission created by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio after promising major reforms in the wake of protests against police brutality in 2020. In 2021, his last year in office, de Blasio empaneled the Racial Justice Commission, which designed the ballot questions after a public hearing process.</p> <p>The proposals had the tacit support of Mayor Eric Adams, who allocated $5 million to educate the public on the referendums. More than a third of the City Council, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, also backed the questions in a series of get-out-the-vote events leading up to Election Day.</p> <p>The commission and its supporters say the changes will help lay groundwork and take steps toward greater racial equity in the city, helping to ensure that city services are more fairly allocated and delivered.</p> <p>“Today New Yorkers have made history—taking bold, unprecedented steps to upend systematic racism in local government in a way that other cities around the nation can follow," said Racial Justice Commission Chair Jennifer Jones Austin in a statement. "We are very proud of the success of this non-partisan effort to inform NYC voters about these first-of-their-kind initiatives. It is clear from the overwhelmingly positive response that these proposals resonated with voters from all backgrounds and walks of life."</p> <p>Preliminary numbers show city voters approved the new Charter preamble 72-28% among those who voted yes or no (many voters declined to weigh in). It sets out a series of values and non-binding rights to "guide the operation of our city government." The language outlines a call for government to provide to all New Yorkers affordable housing, competent healthcare, government access, economic resources, and a safe and healthy environment.</p> <p>It also acknowledges past atrocities and their legacy in the present, including American slavery, the forced removal of indigenous peoples, ongoing racial segregation, mass incarceration, immigrant exploitation and other injustices. Nothing in the preamble is binding or creates a right to action on which the city could be sued, according to the commission.</p> <p>The new Office of Racial Equity, racial equity plan requirement, and permanent Racial Justice Commission were approved 70-30%, per initial results. It establishes an office under the mayor responsible for developing and implementing short- and long-term plans to ameliorate racial inequity. The plans would be created every two years based on agency-level blueprints using metrics designed by the new office to evaluate disparities. The amendment also establishes a Commission on Racial Equity, appointed by the mayor, City Council, comptroller, and public advocate, to guide planning and track agency compliance.</p> <p>The final question, to develop a new, more accurate cost of living measurement, was approved with the highest mandate at 81-19%, per initial results. It requires the city to develop a metric that accounts for basic needs without considering public and private assistance toward one's income. It is intended to give a more appropriate standard than the federal poverty line, which has used the same criteria for decades. The city is required to report the metric on an annual basis. According to the commission, the measure could be used to inform public assistance policies, labor negotiations, and advocacy related to state and federal laws that rely on the federal poverty guidelines.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
To Address Corruption Risks and Boost MWBE Contracting, Comptroller Asks Mayor to Convene Procurement Board 2022-11-03T04:00:00+00:00 2022-11-03T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11652-comptroller-mayor-contracting-procurement-board-corruption-mwbe Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/comptroller-mayor-hold.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams, Comptroller Lander, &amp; others (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a letter to City Hall last month, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander called on Mayor Eric Adams to make changes to the city's procurement rules to prevent corruption and fraud in nonprofit human services contracts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the October 19 letter, Lander asked Adams to convene the Procurement Policy Board (PPB) to take steps to increase contract procurement for minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) and address </span><a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/press-releases/2021/November/23NFPRelease.Rpt.11.10.2021.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">"corruption vulnerabilities"</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> exposed in a Department of Investigation report released late last year, shortly before Adams took office. Those include few controls on contractors' conflicts of interest and executive compensation, and gaps in spending documentation and review.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams and Lander, both Brooklyn Democrats newly-elected to their citywide positions, have already worked together on addressing other long-standing problems in city contracting, particularly timely payment to nonprofit contractors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Despite procurement being the vehicle for the City's essential services from sheltering the homeless to feeding seniors, procurement reform often falls to the bottom of the priority list," Lander said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The vast majority of human services vendors are well above board and go beyond to serve New Yorkers," he said. "But in order to provide the best services, our vendors should reflect the diversity of this city and our reforms must be able to weed out the occasional bad actor.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The five-member Procurement Policy Board is appointed jointly by the mayor and comptroller, who both may hire and fire members at will. It is responsible for setting out rules related to soliciting bids and awarding and administering contracts. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, a spokesperson for Mayor Adams indicated that the mayor is open to working with the comptroller and Procurement Policy Board on reforms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On October 6, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to allow the PPB to double the level at which the city can contract with MWBEs outside of the competitive bidding process, raising the threshold from $500,000 to $1 million. In his letter to Adams, Lander said it was "imperative" that the PPB meet to raise the threshold, noting that previous increases have raised the average size of MWBE contracts and created more opportunities for those firms to get city business.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The number of non-competitive MWBE city contracts </span><a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-contracts-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">fell nearly 30%</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, from 1,242 in fiscal year 2020 to 870 in fiscal year 2021, a value of close to $8 million, according to the comptroller's Annual Contracts Report.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"This will not only reduce barriers, but also help increase the volume and value of meaningful contracting opportunities for M/WBE firms," Lander wrote of raising the threshold.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked what measures were in place to prevent misuse of these funds or ensure the city is paying for the best available services, a spokesperson for the Comptroller's Office, which shared the letter with Gotham Gazette, said city agencies are responsible for vendor oversight. While contracts under $100,000 do not need to be sent to the comptroller, the office may audit the spending, the spokesperson said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lander also called on the administration to agree to promulgate rules to crack down on opportunities for corruption, fraud, and nepotism in nonprofit human services contracting and subcontracting.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Bad actors inevitably slip through cracks, mismanaging City funds at the expense of the vulnerable New Yorkers they serve," Lander wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fiscal year 2021, New York City spent $12 billion on human services contracts, accounting for roughly 40% of the city's total contracting. The Department of Investigation report published last November found the city had persistent gaps in its contract award and oversight system that made these funds susceptible to misuse.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In one notable example in 2015, the state Attorney General, following a DOI investigation and referral, reached an $800,000 settlement with a Bronx nonprofit that had diverted funds from services for the elderly to its real estate holdings.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of the actions Lander is calling for echo recommendations made in the DOI report. Specifically, Lander called on the mayor, through the PPB, to adopt anti-nepotism rules for contractors and prevent nonprofit providers from subcontracting with businesses owned or controlled by relatives. His letter suggests requiring conflicts of interest disclosures or certifications within the competitive bidding process.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the DOI report, the agency has "repeatedly identified instances of employees providing services on City contracts who are supervised by family members apparently without the knowledge and authorization of the funding City agency, in violation of the Standard Contract." In the course of its investigations, DOI has identified these with vendors contracted by the Administration for Children's Services, Department for the Aging, Department of Youth and Community Development, the city Health Department, and the Department of Social Services – all agencies that spend a significant portion of their budget on contract services.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The comptroller's office also wants to require all city contractors and subcontractors, both for- and not-for-profit, disclose more information about the compensation and demographic make-up of their employees and leadership. Doing so could raise early flags for potential misuse of funds and encourage companies to hire more candidates who are Black or women, and other racial and gender backgrounds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Specifically, the letter called for the PPB to require contractors and subcontractors to disclose the compensation of executive directors and chief operating officers, compensation of full time employees, federally-required reporting on workforce demographic data, and a "board matrix" outlining the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of board members. That disclosure should be published in downloadable datasets on the city's open data portal, the letter said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Outside of the PPB that he and Adams jointly control, Lander called on the mayor to seek state approval to limit the compensation of executives at nonprofits that may do business with the city. In line with the DOI recommendations, Lander said this should be capped at the highest salary paid to a public sector employee – currently pegged at $699,081, the salary of New York City Health and Hospitals President Mitch Katz, in the last fiscal year. Such a cap would require legislation in Albany.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Payment of excessive executive compensation is an important issue because, where it does occur, it is often linked to other types of fraud and waste of public services," reads a passage of the DOI report cited in the comptroller's letter to Adams.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The letter noted that what controls are in place "are extremely limited in scope and inconsistently applied."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The mayor has been focused since Day 1 on ensuring our procurement process is fair, transparent, efficient, and accountable," said Adams spokesperson Jonah Allon, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Through our Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time and the Capital Process Reform Task Force, both of which have involved close coordination with the comptroller’s office, the administration has already made meaningful strides to streamline processes while maintaining appropriate oversights to ensure every entity that contracts with the city is spending taxpayer dollars wisely. We look forward to advancing additional steps through the Procurement Policy Board, and thank the comptroller for his continued partnership.”</span></p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/comptroller-mayor-hold.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams, Comptroller Lander, &amp; others (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a letter to City Hall last month, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander called on Mayor Eric Adams to make changes to the city's procurement rules to prevent corruption and fraud in nonprofit human services contracts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the October 19 letter, Lander asked Adams to convene the Procurement Policy Board (PPB) to take steps to increase contract procurement for minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) and address </span><a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/press-releases/2021/November/23NFPRelease.Rpt.11.10.2021.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">"corruption vulnerabilities"</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> exposed in a Department of Investigation report released late last year, shortly before Adams took office. Those include few controls on contractors' conflicts of interest and executive compensation, and gaps in spending documentation and review.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams and Lander, both Brooklyn Democrats newly-elected to their citywide positions, have already worked together on addressing other long-standing problems in city contracting, particularly timely payment to nonprofit contractors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Despite procurement being the vehicle for the City's essential services from sheltering the homeless to feeding seniors, procurement reform often falls to the bottom of the priority list," Lander said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The vast majority of human services vendors are well above board and go beyond to serve New Yorkers," he said. "But in order to provide the best services, our vendors should reflect the diversity of this city and our reforms must be able to weed out the occasional bad actor.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The five-member Procurement Policy Board is appointed jointly by the mayor and comptroller, who both may hire and fire members at will. It is responsible for setting out rules related to soliciting bids and awarding and administering contracts. In a statement to Gotham Gazette, a spokesperson for Mayor Adams indicated that the mayor is open to working with the comptroller and Procurement Policy Board on reforms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On October 6, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to allow the PPB to double the level at which the city can contract with MWBEs outside of the competitive bidding process, raising the threshold from $500,000 to $1 million. In his letter to Adams, Lander said it was "imperative" that the PPB meet to raise the threshold, noting that previous increases have raised the average size of MWBE contracts and created more opportunities for those firms to get city business.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The number of non-competitive MWBE city contracts </span><a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/annual-contracts-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">fell nearly 30%</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, from 1,242 in fiscal year 2020 to 870 in fiscal year 2021, a value of close to $8 million, according to the comptroller's Annual Contracts Report.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"This will not only reduce barriers, but also help increase the volume and value of meaningful contracting opportunities for M/WBE firms," Lander wrote of raising the threshold.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked what measures were in place to prevent misuse of these funds or ensure the city is paying for the best available services, a spokesperson for the Comptroller's Office, which shared the letter with Gotham Gazette, said city agencies are responsible for vendor oversight. While contracts under $100,000 do not need to be sent to the comptroller, the office may audit the spending, the spokesperson said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lander also called on the administration to agree to promulgate rules to crack down on opportunities for corruption, fraud, and nepotism in nonprofit human services contracting and subcontracting.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Bad actors inevitably slip through cracks, mismanaging City funds at the expense of the vulnerable New Yorkers they serve," Lander wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fiscal year 2021, New York City spent $12 billion on human services contracts, accounting for roughly 40% of the city's total contracting. The Department of Investigation report published last November found the city had persistent gaps in its contract award and oversight system that made these funds susceptible to misuse.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In one notable example in 2015, the state Attorney General, following a DOI investigation and referral, reached an $800,000 settlement with a Bronx nonprofit that had diverted funds from services for the elderly to its real estate holdings.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of the actions Lander is calling for echo recommendations made in the DOI report. Specifically, Lander called on the mayor, through the PPB, to adopt anti-nepotism rules for contractors and prevent nonprofit providers from subcontracting with businesses owned or controlled by relatives. His letter suggests requiring conflicts of interest disclosures or certifications within the competitive bidding process.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the DOI report, the agency has "repeatedly identified instances of employees providing services on City contracts who are supervised by family members apparently without the knowledge and authorization of the funding City agency, in violation of the Standard Contract." In the course of its investigations, DOI has identified these with vendors contracted by the Administration for Children's Services, Department for the Aging, Department of Youth and Community Development, the city Health Department, and the Department of Social Services – all agencies that spend a significant portion of their budget on contract services.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The comptroller's office also wants to require all city contractors and subcontractors, both for- and not-for-profit, disclose more information about the compensation and demographic make-up of their employees and leadership. Doing so could raise early flags for potential misuse of funds and encourage companies to hire more candidates who are Black or women, and other racial and gender backgrounds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Specifically, the letter called for the PPB to require contractors and subcontractors to disclose the compensation of executive directors and chief operating officers, compensation of full time employees, federally-required reporting on workforce demographic data, and a "board matrix" outlining the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of board members. That disclosure should be published in downloadable datasets on the city's open data portal, the letter said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Outside of the PPB that he and Adams jointly control, Lander called on the mayor to seek state approval to limit the compensation of executives at nonprofits that may do business with the city. In line with the DOI recommendations, Lander said this should be capped at the highest salary paid to a public sector employee – currently pegged at $699,081, the salary of New York City Health and Hospitals President Mitch Katz, in the last fiscal year. Such a cap would require legislation in Albany.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Payment of excessive executive compensation is an important issue because, where it does occur, it is often linked to other types of fraud and waste of public services," reads a passage of the DOI report cited in the comptroller's letter to Adams.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The letter noted that what controls are in place "are extremely limited in scope and inconsistently applied."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The mayor has been focused since Day 1 on ensuring our procurement process is fair, transparent, efficient, and accountable," said Adams spokesperson Jonah Allon, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Through our Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time and the Capital Process Reform Task Force, both of which have involved close coordination with the comptroller’s office, the administration has already made meaningful strides to streamline processes while maintaining appropriate oversights to ensure every entity that contracts with the city is spending taxpayer dollars wisely. We look forward to advancing additional steps through the Procurement Policy Board, and thank the comptroller for his continued partnership.”</span></p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Arguments For and Against Questions 2-4 on the 2022 New York City Ballot, Racial Justice Proposals 2022-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 2022-11-02T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11636-arguments-for-against-questions-2-3-4-2022-new-york-city-ballot-racial-justice Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/arg-que-ag.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Out to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the ballots turn this fall, New York City voters will decide the fates of three proposed amendments to the City Charter intended to lay the groundwork for greater racial equity.</p> <p>Voters throughout the five boroughs are able to flip their ballots and vote "yes" or "no" on three separate questions to, respectively, codify a statement of equity and racial justice principles as a new preamble to the City Charter; establish a city government office dedicated to racial equity and require a regularly-updated racial justice plan from city government; and recalibrate the city's cost of living measurement.</p> <p>If approved, the amendments will become part of the city's highest governing document and would, as designed, be used as the basis for policies aimed at reducing racial disparities in how New Yorkers are served by their government.</p> <p>The measures were developed by the New York City Racial Justice Commission, created by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in his last year in office after promising to address wholesale systemic racism of New York's past and present during protests against police brutality in 2020. The proposals now have the backing of Mayor Eric Adams, a fellow Democrat, who allocated $5 million to voter education around the referendums.</p> <p>The three proposals appear on the New York City ballot as Questions 2, 3, and 4, coming after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a statewide referendum on a $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act</a>. The bond act was passed by Governor Kathy Hochul and legislators in the state budget earlier this year but requires voter approval to move ahead.</p> <p><strong>What’s In Questions 2-4</strong><br />Question 2 asks voters whether the preamble to the City Charter should be amended to include a statement of values to help create "a just and equitable city for all."</p> <p>It outlines basic non-binding rights to a safe and healthy environment, affordable housing, culturally-tailored healthcare, and other supports and services. The amended preamble would also acknowledge the legacies of American slavery and the displacement of indigenous peoples, and the ongoing injustices of racial segregation, mass incarceration, and other forms of systemic oppression. The authors of the proposal envision the potential new language to serve as a guideline for policymakers.</p> <p>Question 3, if approved, would create an "Office of Racial Equity" led by an appointee of the mayor and responsible for drafting and overseeing the implementation of a citywide racial equity plan every two years. The plan would be based on individual blueprints developed by city agencies with the purpose of closing gaps between white and Black New Yorkers, and other marginalized groups.</p> <p>The office would establish metrics for city agencies to measure these gaps and identify priority neighborhoods in need of intervention. It would codify the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity, established by de Blasio in 2020 largely to address disparities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and place it within the Office of Racial Equity.</p> <p>In an effort at oversight and accountability, the amendment would also set-up a 15-member Commission on Racial Equity responsible for offering guidance to agencies and the new office on the racial equity plans, and to publicly track compliance with the planning process. Members of the commission would be appointed by the mayor, City Council, comptroller, and public advocate, with the chair appointed jointly by the mayor and Council.</p> <p>Question 4 on the ballot, if approved, would require the city to design a "true cost of living" measurement that would provide a more accurate baseline than the federal poverty line, which has used the same criteria since the 1960s without accounting for regional variances.</p> <p>The metric would take into account the costs of basic needs like food, housing, healthcare, and childcare, without considering public benefits and other forms of assistance toward an individual's income. The city would be required to report on the measure annually.</p> <p><strong>Raising Awareness About the Proposals</strong><br />As statewide races narrow and the fate of Congress appears to rest on turnout in some New York swing districts, the ballot questions have garnered relatively little attention.</p> <p>In addition to the city funding from the Adams administration, the referenda have the support of much of the City Council, the Public Advocate, and civil rights advocacy groups, who have held rallies and distributed materials.</p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin, the chair of the Racial Justice Commission appointed by de Blasio, has done a long series of <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interviews</a> and public appearances to raise awareness about the proposals and advocate for their passage, and several other commissioners have also been active.</p> <p>“Equity and justice go hand in hand and are key to building a prosperous city that serves all New Yorkers. And while our city has come a long way, we have more work to do,” Adams said in a statement in May when he announced the $5 million for public education. “I am proud to support the Racial Justice Commission’s efforts to ensure New Yorkers can fully participate in our democracy with full transparency. These three ballot initiatives intend to place racial equity at the heart of New York City government.”</p> <p>On Friday, the Racial Justice Commission and 22 Democratic members of the City Council, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, held a "Day of Action," to raise awareness of the racial justice proposals.</p> <p>“As early voting gets underway, it is critical that all voters who head to the polls remember to flip the ballot and cast their vote on the ballot proposals,” said Speaker Adams, a Queens Democrat, in a statement, while avoiding saying whether New Yorkers should approve them or not given she is not supposed to do electioneering from her government post. “I urge all New Yorkers to learn about the proposals and how they will impact our communities.<br /><br /><strong>Arguments For and Against Questions 2-4</strong><br />“In November, voters will decide on several ballot measures that address racial equity," said Council Member Nantasha Williams, a Queens Democrat and chair of the Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights. "We need to work together to ensure that these measures pass so that we can begin to make real progress toward creating a society where all voices are heard.”</p> <p>"It is about time to address the barriers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and all People of More Color in New York City face on a daily basis, as well as the additional barriers faced by LGBTQ+ and Disabled People of Color, antisemitism, islamophobia, just to name some," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in testimony at a City Council oversight hearing on the ballot questions, three days before polls opened for early voting. "If these proposals pass, we will be able to move towards an equitable and just city."</p> <p>Spokespeople for the state's Democratic and Republican parties did not return requests for comment on the racial justice ballot measures (the Democratic Party has come out in support of the Environmental Bond Act, the other question on the ballot). A spokesperson for the Conservative Party did not comment on the party's position and told Gotham Gazette it had not issued any statements on the racial justice measures (the party is against the Environmental Bond Act).</p> <p>A smaller faction of conservative New York City elected officials and advocacy groups have come out against the proposals.</p> <p>“With crime spiraling out of control, inflation at all-time highs, and the many other important issues plaguing this city, these ballot proposals are out-of-touch with the realities of what New Yorkers need the government to do," said Council Member Robert Holden, a Queens Democrat who often aligns with Republicans, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"Any idea from the worst mayor of all time, Bill de Blasio, must end up in the wastebin and be ignored,” Holden added.</p> <p>Council Member Inna Vernikov, a Brooklyn Republican, recently told the New York Post that residents “don’t need more equity because equity is a Marxist lie and is the opposite of equality.”</p> <p>“A guarantee of equal outcome has throughout history been dangled before the populace but has ultimately produced tyranny, corruption and trampled on liberty. It is not the American way,” said Vernikov, who was born and partially raised in Soviet Ukraine (the proposals do not include “a guarantee of equal outcome”).</p> <p>The Council's Republican minority leader, Joe Borelli of Staten Island, declined to comment through a spokesperson.</p> <p>A Republican-affiliated group called the Asian Wave Alliance is against all four ballot questions. In a statement, the group called the proposed Charter amendments "racially divisive" ideas that could be used as a "constitutional justification to discriminate against Asians."</p> <p>The group said the "true cost of living" measure would "have the intended effect of giving more to those already on welfare and allowing more people to qualify for government funded housing, food and childcare. This measure aids in the redistribution of income and proliferates the financial burden on working and middle class taxpayers, and would trigger another wave of people exiting the City."<br /><br />The measure would not create any direct or indirect right of action, commissioners have stressed, but could be used by policy-makers to adjust public benefits and services and factor into labor negotiations. The commission designed the proposals to be aspirational with neither the cost of living or statement of values intended to create commitments that could expose the city to lawsuits.</p> <p>"The intention here is not to give everybody a right to a slice of the pie, if you will," Jones Austin told Gotham Gazette of the new preamble, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during a recent podcast discussion</a>, "but to set forth the value base, where New York City can actually govern and structure itself to ensure that everybody has real opportunity, has real access."</p> <p>The language of the proposals was reviewed by the city Law Department, Jones Austin said. "It does not create a private right of action,” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">she said</a>. “It does not."</p> <p>Other long-term plans created by city policy-makers, through executive action or legislation, have been criticized for receiving fanfare when they are announced only to fade into obscurity. Asked how the proposed Office of Racial Equity would be held accountable for its equity plans, Jones Austin said in addition to the commission's oversight role the city comptroller would also be responsible for auditing the plan and city agencies "to ensure that they are beholden to it and are proving themselves responsible in administering it."</p> <p>With New York City led by Democrats, many of whom profess commitments to the racial-justice principles contained in the referendums, some observers have asked why these proposals should be enshrined in the City Charter.</p> <p>"Racism, and bias and inequity, have persisted from government to government, leadership to leadership, executive to executive,” Jones Austin said. “And so if we do not set a vision and then embed it in the laws of this city, then we're going to be beholden to where a particular Mayor may sit on an issue, or where legislators may sit. And we won't get ahead."</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Arguments For and Against Question 1 on the 2022 New York Ballot, The $4.2 Billion Environmental Bond Act</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/arg-que-ag.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Out to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the ballots turn this fall, New York City voters will decide the fates of three proposed amendments to the City Charter intended to lay the groundwork for greater racial equity.</p> <p>Voters throughout the five boroughs are able to flip their ballots and vote "yes" or "no" on three separate questions to, respectively, codify a statement of equity and racial justice principles as a new preamble to the City Charter; establish a city government office dedicated to racial equity and require a regularly-updated racial justice plan from city government; and recalibrate the city's cost of living measurement.</p> <p>If approved, the amendments will become part of the city's highest governing document and would, as designed, be used as the basis for policies aimed at reducing racial disparities in how New Yorkers are served by their government.</p> <p>The measures were developed by the New York City Racial Justice Commission, created by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in his last year in office after promising to address wholesale systemic racism of New York's past and present during protests against police brutality in 2020. The proposals now have the backing of Mayor Eric Adams, a fellow Democrat, who allocated $5 million to voter education around the referendums.</p> <p>The three proposals appear on the New York City ballot as Questions 2, 3, and 4, coming after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a statewide referendum on a $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act</a>. The bond act was passed by Governor Kathy Hochul and legislators in the state budget earlier this year but requires voter approval to move ahead.</p> <p><strong>What’s In Questions 2-4</strong><br />Question 2 asks voters whether the preamble to the City Charter should be amended to include a statement of values to help create "a just and equitable city for all."</p> <p>It outlines basic non-binding rights to a safe and healthy environment, affordable housing, culturally-tailored healthcare, and other supports and services. The amended preamble would also acknowledge the legacies of American slavery and the displacement of indigenous peoples, and the ongoing injustices of racial segregation, mass incarceration, and other forms of systemic oppression. The authors of the proposal envision the potential new language to serve as a guideline for policymakers.</p> <p>Question 3, if approved, would create an "Office of Racial Equity" led by an appointee of the mayor and responsible for drafting and overseeing the implementation of a citywide racial equity plan every two years. The plan would be based on individual blueprints developed by city agencies with the purpose of closing gaps between white and Black New Yorkers, and other marginalized groups.</p> <p>The office would establish metrics for city agencies to measure these gaps and identify priority neighborhoods in need of intervention. It would codify the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity, established by de Blasio in 2020 largely to address disparities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and place it within the Office of Racial Equity.</p> <p>In an effort at oversight and accountability, the amendment would also set-up a 15-member Commission on Racial Equity responsible for offering guidance to agencies and the new office on the racial equity plans, and to publicly track compliance with the planning process. Members of the commission would be appointed by the mayor, City Council, comptroller, and public advocate, with the chair appointed jointly by the mayor and Council.</p> <p>Question 4 on the ballot, if approved, would require the city to design a "true cost of living" measurement that would provide a more accurate baseline than the federal poverty line, which has used the same criteria since the 1960s without accounting for regional variances.</p> <p>The metric would take into account the costs of basic needs like food, housing, healthcare, and childcare, without considering public benefits and other forms of assistance toward an individual's income. The city would be required to report on the measure annually.</p> <p><strong>Raising Awareness About the Proposals</strong><br />As statewide races narrow and the fate of Congress appears to rest on turnout in some New York swing districts, the ballot questions have garnered relatively little attention.</p> <p>In addition to the city funding from the Adams administration, the referenda have the support of much of the City Council, the Public Advocate, and civil rights advocacy groups, who have held rallies and distributed materials.</p> <p>Jennifer Jones Austin, the chair of the Racial Justice Commission appointed by de Blasio, has done a long series of <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interviews</a> and public appearances to raise awareness about the proposals and advocate for their passage, and several other commissioners have also been active.</p> <p>“Equity and justice go hand in hand and are key to building a prosperous city that serves all New Yorkers. And while our city has come a long way, we have more work to do,” Adams said in a statement in May when he announced the $5 million for public education. “I am proud to support the Racial Justice Commission’s efforts to ensure New Yorkers can fully participate in our democracy with full transparency. These three ballot initiatives intend to place racial equity at the heart of New York City government.”</p> <p>On Friday, the Racial Justice Commission and 22 Democratic members of the City Council, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, held a "Day of Action," to raise awareness of the racial justice proposals.</p> <p>“As early voting gets underway, it is critical that all voters who head to the polls remember to flip the ballot and cast their vote on the ballot proposals,” said Speaker Adams, a Queens Democrat, in a statement, while avoiding saying whether New Yorkers should approve them or not given she is not supposed to do electioneering from her government post. “I urge all New Yorkers to learn about the proposals and how they will impact our communities.<br /><br /><strong>Arguments For and Against Questions 2-4</strong><br />“In November, voters will decide on several ballot measures that address racial equity," said Council Member Nantasha Williams, a Queens Democrat and chair of the Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights. "We need to work together to ensure that these measures pass so that we can begin to make real progress toward creating a society where all voices are heard.”</p> <p>"It is about time to address the barriers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and all People of More Color in New York City face on a daily basis, as well as the additional barriers faced by LGBTQ+ and Disabled People of Color, antisemitism, islamophobia, just to name some," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in testimony at a City Council oversight hearing on the ballot questions, three days before polls opened for early voting. "If these proposals pass, we will be able to move towards an equitable and just city."</p> <p>Spokespeople for the state's Democratic and Republican parties did not return requests for comment on the racial justice ballot measures (the Democratic Party has come out in support of the Environmental Bond Act, the other question on the ballot). A spokesperson for the Conservative Party did not comment on the party's position and told Gotham Gazette it had not issued any statements on the racial justice measures (the party is against the Environmental Bond Act).</p> <p>A smaller faction of conservative New York City elected officials and advocacy groups have come out against the proposals.</p> <p>“With crime spiraling out of control, inflation at all-time highs, and the many other important issues plaguing this city, these ballot proposals are out-of-touch with the realities of what New Yorkers need the government to do," said Council Member Robert Holden, a Queens Democrat who often aligns with Republicans, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"Any idea from the worst mayor of all time, Bill de Blasio, must end up in the wastebin and be ignored,” Holden added.</p> <p>Council Member Inna Vernikov, a Brooklyn Republican, recently told the New York Post that residents “don’t need more equity because equity is a Marxist lie and is the opposite of equality.”</p> <p>“A guarantee of equal outcome has throughout history been dangled before the populace but has ultimately produced tyranny, corruption and trampled on liberty. It is not the American way,” said Vernikov, who was born and partially raised in Soviet Ukraine (the proposals do not include “a guarantee of equal outcome”).</p> <p>The Council's Republican minority leader, Joe Borelli of Staten Island, declined to comment through a spokesperson.</p> <p>A Republican-affiliated group called the Asian Wave Alliance is against all four ballot questions. In a statement, the group called the proposed Charter amendments "racially divisive" ideas that could be used as a "constitutional justification to discriminate against Asians."</p> <p>The group said the "true cost of living" measure would "have the intended effect of giving more to those already on welfare and allowing more people to qualify for government funded housing, food and childcare. This measure aids in the redistribution of income and proliferates the financial burden on working and middle class taxpayers, and would trigger another wave of people exiting the City."<br /><br />The measure would not create any direct or indirect right of action, commissioners have stressed, but could be used by policy-makers to adjust public benefits and services and factor into labor negotiations. The commission designed the proposals to be aspirational with neither the cost of living or statement of values intended to create commitments that could expose the city to lawsuits.</p> <p>"The intention here is not to give everybody a right to a slice of the pie, if you will," Jones Austin told Gotham Gazette of the new preamble, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during a recent podcast discussion</a>, "but to set forth the value base, where New York City can actually govern and structure itself to ensure that everybody has real opportunity, has real access."</p> <p>The language of the proposals was reviewed by the city Law Department, Jones Austin said. "It does not create a private right of action,” <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">she said</a>. “It does not."</p> <p>Other long-term plans created by city policy-makers, through executive action or legislation, have been criticized for receiving fanfare when they are announced only to fade into obscurity. Asked how the proposed Office of Racial Equity would be held accountable for its equity plans, Jones Austin said in addition to the commission's oversight role the city comptroller would also be responsible for auditing the plan and city agencies "to ensure that they are beholden to it and are proving themselves responsible in administering it."</p> <p>With New York City led by Democrats, many of whom profess commitments to the racial-justice principles contained in the referendums, some observers have asked why these proposals should be enshrined in the City Charter.</p> <p>"Racism, and bias and inequity, have persisted from government to government, leadership to leadership, executive to executive,” Jones Austin said. “And so if we do not set a vision and then embed it in the laws of this city, then we're going to be beholden to where a particular Mayor may sit on an issue, or where legislators may sit. And we won't get ahead."</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11635-arguments-for-against-question-1-on-2022-new-york-ballot-environmental-bond-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Arguments For and Against Question 1 on the 2022 New York Ballot, The $4.2 Billion Environmental Bond Act</a>]</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Progressive Caucus Announces 2023 Legislative Agenda Focused on Solitary Confinement, Affordable Housing, Police Accountability, & More 2022-10-27T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-27T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11642-city-council-progressive-caucus-agenda Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/city-council-prog.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Hanif &amp; Restler (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus is announcing its legislative agenda for 2023 on Thursday, pursuing 20 bills in seven categories on criminal justice reform, police transparency, housing affordability, public banking, waste and emissions reduction, and gig worker benefits. </p> <p>The Progressive Caucus’ membership, all Democrats, is the largest it has ever been in the 51-member City Council, with 35 members in its ranks, including Speaker Adrienne Adams as an ex-officio member, up from 12 members when it was first created in 2010. </p> <p>The Caucus’ influence in the Council has grown over the years. In 2014, it was instrumental in selecting Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of its founding members, as the Council Speaker, an immensely powerful position in forging the city’s legislative and budget agendas. Though its power <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/01/24/once-dominant-in-the-city-council-progressive-caucus-is-on-the-wane-210808" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has ebbed and flowed</a> in the years since, seeing some high-profile defections at times, it now boasts a majority that, if cohesive, could even override a mayoral veto.</p> <p>But the new agenda is ambitious and just because the caucus has such numbers does not mean that the full package of legislation is by any means a slam-dunk. There is a fair share of political diversity in the Progressive Caucus, and not all members are as far left-leaning as others. And Mayor Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat who has already clashed with the Council and its Progressive Caucus on several fronts, may be especially unwelcoming of several pieces of the agenda, having already expressed opposition to the top priority, a ban on solitary confinement in city jails.  </p> <p>“Working-class New Yorkers, immigrant New Yorkers, and Black and brown New Yorkers are buckling under the weight of multiple intersecting crises in our City,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus with fellow Brooklyn Council Member Lincoln Restler, in a statement. “They are demanding a real comprehensive response from their City government, and where the Mayor is failing to act, the Council will step in.”</p> <p>“The time is ripe for a bold progressive agenda to take hold in this Council that addresses economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, environmental justice, housing justice, and more,” Restler said in a phone interview.</p> <p>“With an unprecedented number of Progressive Caucus members together representing a veto-proof majority in the Council, we have the power to advance and enact the policies that New Yorkers are clamoring for and that we were elected to implement,” he added. </p> <p>The 20 pieces of legislation in the Caucus’ 2023 agenda have all already been introduced before the Council, and several set up clear battles with the mayor.</p> <p>At the top of the agenda is the proposal <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5698267&amp;GUID=6F47F49A-06A3-444C-BBB7-3CBFF899DD84" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to ban solitary confinement</a> in city jails, introduced by Public Advocate and former Council Member Jumaane Williams and Council Member Carlina Rivera, who chairs the Committee on Criminal Justice. Though former Mayor Bill de Blasio, under pressure from the Council and criminal justice advocates, took steps towards reforming the practice, Mayor Adams came into office pledging to retain the use of what he calls “punitive segregation.”</p> <p>While the mayor has called such tactics essential for protecting both detainees and correction officers, his administration is facing widespread criticism and calls for a federal takeover of the jails given that 17 detainees have died this year, some of whom have been in solitary confinement.</p> <p>“We are laser-focused on ending this torturous policy in our own city jails,” Restler said. </p> <p>The second proposal on the agenda, introduced by introduced by Council Member Keith Powers of Manhattan, is the Fair Chance for Housing Act, which would prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of arrest record or criminal history. According to a release from Powers’ office, citing <a href="https://datacollaborativeforjustice.org/work/communities/criminal-conviction-records-in-new-york-city-1980-2019/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a study</a> by John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice, there were nearly 750,000 New York City residents with a conviction history in 2019, almost 11% of the city’s adult population. Under current law, landlords and brokers can deny housing to those individuals, who are also <a href="https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/housing.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ten times more likely</a> to become homeless than the general population. </p> <p>“New Yorkers who have paid their debts still experience severe discrimination, no matter how minor the offense or how long ago,” Powers said in a statement in August, when he introduced the bill. “The Fair Chance for Housing Act will finally give these folks a place to sleep a night—and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”</p> <p>Two other bills, also introduced by Council Member Powers, would require reporting by the city on its bank deposits and use of non-depository city financial services, with the aim of establishing a New York City Public Bank. But that would first require approval from the state Legislature, where a public bank proposal has <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/5/18/23125953/public-bank-bill-blocked-new-york-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">languished for years</a>.</p> <p>The “Progressive Agenda” includes six bills that would require greater transparency from the NYPD, which has traditionally been resistant to most attempts at greater oversight by the Council. They include proposals to mandate reporting on use of force incidents involving an NYPD motor vehicle; banning the department from deploying the Strategic Response Group, a counterterrorism squad, to nonviolent protests; requiring monthly reports from the NYPD on complaints of police misconduct; requiring the department to report on instances where an individual denied an officer consent to a search; requiring reporting on police-civilian investigative encounters; and abolishing the gang database. Lead sponsors of the bills include Council Members Crystal Hudson, Chi Ossé, Tiffany Cabán, Alexa Avilés, Althea Stevens, Rivera, and Public Advocate Williams. </p> <p>“The vision of the Caucus is to put together different packages of legislation that we feel will be transformative for New York City,” said Manhattan Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, co-vice chair of the Caucus, in a phone interview. </p> <p>“When you look across the board, what these bills seek to address, they’re systemic, historic issues that our communities have been dealing with and viable solutions for those issues,” she added.</p> <p>Restler expects that many of the bills will receive pushback from Mayor Adams. “The mayor’s all over the place,” he said. “What I know is that this is the most progressive Council that has ever been elected in New York City, and that when we are organized as a caucus, that we can and will get transformative pieces of legislation through the finish line.” </p> <p>Under de Blasio, who was decidedly more progressive than his successor, the Progressive Caucus had a closer ally on legislative priorities, though the two sides of City Hall clashed nonetheless on issues like NYPD reform. With Adams, the Caucus finds itself pursuing its original mission in the Bloomberg years of pushing leftward a more centrist ideology in the Mayor’s Office. “It's the role of the Council to counterbalance what is coming out of the administration,” De La Rosa said. “So this is our opportunity to fight back on behalf of the communities we represent.”</p> <p>What’s not lost on Restler is that the entire Council is yet again on the ballot next year, with June primaries barely 18 months after dozens of new members were seated, because of the decennial Census and redistricting cycle. Many of the Caucus members are first-timers on the Council, giving the legislative agenda that much more urgency.<br /><br />“I certainly think that a four-year term is a more sensible timeframe to give elected officials the opportunity to fully focus on legislating and serving their communities rather than in constant election mode,” Restler said. “As a predominantly newly-elected body, we need to show real results to our constituents in advance of next year's election. And this is a package that I believe my colleagues and I can proudly run on in our reelection campaigns if we can get these pieces of legislation across the finish line.”</p> <p>Another five bills in the agenda, the Zero Waste legislative package, aim to codify and achieve the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, which was first set by Mayor de Blasio in 2015 but is far behind schedule. Among the proposals are a citywide curbside organics program for residential buildings, enshrining the zero waste by 2030 goal into law, requiring regular reporting on progress towards that goal, and mandating that the Department of Sanitation establish at least one community recycling center and three organics drop-off sites in each community district.</p> <p>Though Speaker Adams is technically a member of the Caucus, and she has embraced many of the proposals including the zero waste package and the solitary confinement ban, she has not yet endorsed the entire agenda. “I think she is a natural ally for the caucus in helping to make this happen,” Restler said. </p> <p>Three other bills aim to create and expand access to permanently affordable housing in the city. They include the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, introduced by Council Member Rivera, which would give nonprofit and community housing developers a right of first refusal on purchasing certain residential properties; the Public Land for Public Good Act, introduced by Restler, which would give nonprofit developers and community land trusts priority when the city sells public land for affordable housing; and a bill introduced by Council Member Gale Brewer that would establish a Land Bank to acquire, warehouse, and transfer property to develop, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable housing.</p> <p>Building on previous efforts to expand paid sick leave, the agenda includes a bill introduced by Council Member Hanif that would extend the benefits of the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act to gig workers under certain conditions.  </p> <p>The Progressive Caucus — including its director, Emily Mayer, who was hired in June to help guide and organize the large and mostly-new group — and a number of allies including Public Advocate Williams, Legal Aid Society, and other groups will hold a press conference on Thursday at noon outside City Hall to formally unveil the agenda.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11237-max-politics-podcast-city-council-progressive-caucus-shahana-hanif-lincoln-restler" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Max Politics Podcast: City Council Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Shahana Hanif &amp; Lincoln Restler</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/city-council-prog.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Hanif &amp; Restler (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus is announcing its legislative agenda for 2023 on Thursday, pursuing 20 bills in seven categories on criminal justice reform, police transparency, housing affordability, public banking, waste and emissions reduction, and gig worker benefits. </p> <p>The Progressive Caucus’ membership, all Democrats, is the largest it has ever been in the 51-member City Council, with 35 members in its ranks, including Speaker Adrienne Adams as an ex-officio member, up from 12 members when it was first created in 2010. </p> <p>The Caucus’ influence in the Council has grown over the years. In 2014, it was instrumental in selecting Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of its founding members, as the Council Speaker, an immensely powerful position in forging the city’s legislative and budget agendas. Though its power <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/01/24/once-dominant-in-the-city-council-progressive-caucus-is-on-the-wane-210808" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has ebbed and flowed</a> in the years since, seeing some high-profile defections at times, it now boasts a majority that, if cohesive, could even override a mayoral veto.</p> <p>But the new agenda is ambitious and just because the caucus has such numbers does not mean that the full package of legislation is by any means a slam-dunk. There is a fair share of political diversity in the Progressive Caucus, and not all members are as far left-leaning as others. And Mayor Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat who has already clashed with the Council and its Progressive Caucus on several fronts, may be especially unwelcoming of several pieces of the agenda, having already expressed opposition to the top priority, a ban on solitary confinement in city jails.  </p> <p>“Working-class New Yorkers, immigrant New Yorkers, and Black and brown New Yorkers are buckling under the weight of multiple intersecting crises in our City,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus with fellow Brooklyn Council Member Lincoln Restler, in a statement. “They are demanding a real comprehensive response from their City government, and where the Mayor is failing to act, the Council will step in.”</p> <p>“The time is ripe for a bold progressive agenda to take hold in this Council that addresses economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, environmental justice, housing justice, and more,” Restler said in a phone interview.</p> <p>“With an unprecedented number of Progressive Caucus members together representing a veto-proof majority in the Council, we have the power to advance and enact the policies that New Yorkers are clamoring for and that we were elected to implement,” he added. </p> <p>The 20 pieces of legislation in the Caucus’ 2023 agenda have all already been introduced before the Council, and several set up clear battles with the mayor.</p> <p>At the top of the agenda is the proposal <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5698267&amp;GUID=6F47F49A-06A3-444C-BBB7-3CBFF899DD84" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to ban solitary confinement</a> in city jails, introduced by Public Advocate and former Council Member Jumaane Williams and Council Member Carlina Rivera, who chairs the Committee on Criminal Justice. Though former Mayor Bill de Blasio, under pressure from the Council and criminal justice advocates, took steps towards reforming the practice, Mayor Adams came into office pledging to retain the use of what he calls “punitive segregation.”</p> <p>While the mayor has called such tactics essential for protecting both detainees and correction officers, his administration is facing widespread criticism and calls for a federal takeover of the jails given that 17 detainees have died this year, some of whom have been in solitary confinement.</p> <p>“We are laser-focused on ending this torturous policy in our own city jails,” Restler said. </p> <p>The second proposal on the agenda, introduced by introduced by Council Member Keith Powers of Manhattan, is the Fair Chance for Housing Act, which would prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of arrest record or criminal history. According to a release from Powers’ office, citing <a href="https://datacollaborativeforjustice.org/work/communities/criminal-conviction-records-in-new-york-city-1980-2019/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a study</a> by John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice, there were nearly 750,000 New York City residents with a conviction history in 2019, almost 11% of the city’s adult population. Under current law, landlords and brokers can deny housing to those individuals, who are also <a href="https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/housing.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ten times more likely</a> to become homeless than the general population. </p> <p>“New Yorkers who have paid their debts still experience severe discrimination, no matter how minor the offense or how long ago,” Powers said in a statement in August, when he introduced the bill. “The Fair Chance for Housing Act will finally give these folks a place to sleep a night—and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”</p> <p>Two other bills, also introduced by Council Member Powers, would require reporting by the city on its bank deposits and use of non-depository city financial services, with the aim of establishing a New York City Public Bank. But that would first require approval from the state Legislature, where a public bank proposal has <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/5/18/23125953/public-bank-bill-blocked-new-york-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">languished for years</a>.</p> <p>The “Progressive Agenda” includes six bills that would require greater transparency from the NYPD, which has traditionally been resistant to most attempts at greater oversight by the Council. They include proposals to mandate reporting on use of force incidents involving an NYPD motor vehicle; banning the department from deploying the Strategic Response Group, a counterterrorism squad, to nonviolent protests; requiring monthly reports from the NYPD on complaints of police misconduct; requiring the department to report on instances where an individual denied an officer consent to a search; requiring reporting on police-civilian investigative encounters; and abolishing the gang database. Lead sponsors of the bills include Council Members Crystal Hudson, Chi Ossé, Tiffany Cabán, Alexa Avilés, Althea Stevens, Rivera, and Public Advocate Williams. </p> <p>“The vision of the Caucus is to put together different packages of legislation that we feel will be transformative for New York City,” said Manhattan Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, co-vice chair of the Caucus, in a phone interview. </p> <p>“When you look across the board, what these bills seek to address, they’re systemic, historic issues that our communities have been dealing with and viable solutions for those issues,” she added.</p> <p>Restler expects that many of the bills will receive pushback from Mayor Adams. “The mayor’s all over the place,” he said. “What I know is that this is the most progressive Council that has ever been elected in New York City, and that when we are organized as a caucus, that we can and will get transformative pieces of legislation through the finish line.” </p> <p>Under de Blasio, who was decidedly more progressive than his successor, the Progressive Caucus had a closer ally on legislative priorities, though the two sides of City Hall clashed nonetheless on issues like NYPD reform. With Adams, the Caucus finds itself pursuing its original mission in the Bloomberg years of pushing leftward a more centrist ideology in the Mayor’s Office. “It's the role of the Council to counterbalance what is coming out of the administration,” De La Rosa said. “So this is our opportunity to fight back on behalf of the communities we represent.”</p> <p>What’s not lost on Restler is that the entire Council is yet again on the ballot next year, with June primaries barely 18 months after dozens of new members were seated, because of the decennial Census and redistricting cycle. Many of the Caucus members are first-timers on the Council, giving the legislative agenda that much more urgency.<br /><br />“I certainly think that a four-year term is a more sensible timeframe to give elected officials the opportunity to fully focus on legislating and serving their communities rather than in constant election mode,” Restler said. “As a predominantly newly-elected body, we need to show real results to our constituents in advance of next year's election. And this is a package that I believe my colleagues and I can proudly run on in our reelection campaigns if we can get these pieces of legislation across the finish line.”</p> <p>Another five bills in the agenda, the Zero Waste legislative package, aim to codify and achieve the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, which was first set by Mayor de Blasio in 2015 but is far behind schedule. Among the proposals are a citywide curbside organics program for residential buildings, enshrining the zero waste by 2030 goal into law, requiring regular reporting on progress towards that goal, and mandating that the Department of Sanitation establish at least one community recycling center and three organics drop-off sites in each community district.</p> <p>Though Speaker Adams is technically a member of the Caucus, and she has embraced many of the proposals including the zero waste package and the solitary confinement ban, she has not yet endorsed the entire agenda. “I think she is a natural ally for the caucus in helping to make this happen,” Restler said. </p> <p>Three other bills aim to create and expand access to permanently affordable housing in the city. They include the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, introduced by Council Member Rivera, which would give nonprofit and community housing developers a right of first refusal on purchasing certain residential properties; the Public Land for Public Good Act, introduced by Restler, which would give nonprofit developers and community land trusts priority when the city sells public land for affordable housing; and a bill introduced by Council Member Gale Brewer that would establish a Land Bank to acquire, warehouse, and transfer property to develop, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable housing.</p> <p>Building on previous efforts to expand paid sick leave, the agenda includes a bill introduced by Council Member Hanif that would extend the benefits of the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act to gig workers under certain conditions.  </p> <p>The Progressive Caucus — including its director, Emily Mayer, who was hired in June to help guide and organize the large and mostly-new group — and a number of allies including Public Advocate Williams, Legal Aid Society, and other groups will hold a press conference on Thursday at noon outside City Hall to formally unveil the agenda.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11237-max-politics-podcast-city-council-progressive-caucus-shahana-hanif-lincoln-restler" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Max Politics Podcast: City Council Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Shahana Hanif &amp; Lincoln Restler</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>