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 2023-01-28T07:39:21+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management Offering a 'Working People's Agenda,' Mayor Adams Delivers 2023 State of the City 2023-01-26T13:00:00+00:00 2023-01-26T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11804-mayor-adams-2023-state-of-the-city-agenda Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-first-address-his.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at his 2023 State of the City (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams, a first-term Democrat, delivered his second State of the City speech on Thursday, outlining a “Working People’s Agenda” focused on jobs, housing, public safety, and healthcare for those who need them most.</p> <p>“These are the things that our administration is working for every day,” Adams said in his speech at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was attended by fellow Democratic elected officials including Governor Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, and various others.</p> <p>The speech is Adams’ second since taking office during a tough transition, when the city was facing some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and violent crime had spiked, while tourism and other aspects of the economy were rebounding but still below pre-pandemic levels. On Thursday, Adams had cause for optimism. “One year later, our city is on the pathway to being safer, our economy is recovering, and our stores, subways, and hotels are full,” he said, offering a slightly rosier-than-reality report. “Our children are back in school with their teachers and friends. Our theaters are thriving, our restaurants are booked, and New Yorkers are back to work.”</p> <p>The mayor announced ambitious plans for the years ahead, many of them quite granular, including everything from new job and workforce initiatives to a continued focus on tackling recidivism and gun violence, expanded tenant protections, free tax preparation programs, traffic safety improvements, additional public benefits, investments in public and green spaces, small business loans, student mental health programs, universal dyslexia screenings, and more.</p> <p>“Mayor Adams’ focus on jobs, safety, housing, and care offers many proposals that align with the Council’s priorities to create a safer, healthier, and more equitable city,” said Speaker Adams (no relation), in a statement after the speech. “A strong city government and workforce, supported through our city budget, is essential to the goals that New Yorkers need us to fulfill.”</p> <p>Though she expressed agreement with the mayor’s goals and policy announcements, the speaker did so with a hint of caution about the mayor’s budgeting practices and the acute staffing crunch that city government is experiencing under his watch. “At the end of the day, budget commitments are necessary to achieve our goals,” she said. “None of this work is possible without the full capacity of our city agencies that have lost funding, struggled with dangerously high rates of vacancies, and are at risk of losing additional funds and positions.”</p> <p>In the speech, Mayor Adams repeatedly spoke of Governor Hochul from the stage, underscoring their strong relationship, a marked shift from the warring years of their predecessors, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo. There’s no recent record of a governor attending a mayor's State of the City nor the degree of collaboration that Adams highlighted on job creation, public housing, public safety and more. “This governor is the steady hand we need at the wheel right now. I may be the pilot for the city but she's the pilot for the state,” Adams said.</p> <p>Following the speech, Hochul also reiterated her collaboration with the mayor in achieving their shared goals. “From addressing a generational housing crisis, connecting those experiencing homelessness and severe mental illness to supportive services, to investing in law enforcement and proven crime prevention strategies that keep New Yorkers safe, and making New York City more affordable - I am confident that Mayor Adams' proposals will meet the urgency of this historic moment,” she said in part in a statement.</p> <p><strong>Workforce Development</strong><br />Mayor Adams touted the city’s success in adding 200,000 jobs over the last year, a higher rate than the country and the state, but noted that the recovery has been uneven as Black New Yorkers were three times as likely to be unemployed as white New Yorkers. “This era of inequality must end,” he said. “We're going to make sure that all New Yorkers finally have access to good jobs.”</p> <p>He outlined several major programs to improve job creation and develop the city’s workforce including a new Apprenticeship Accelerator, promoted in a citywide campaign, that will connect 30,000 New Yorkers with apprenticeships by 2030; expanding the CUNY 2x Tech program to ensure more students receive tech-related degrees; a first-in-the nation 50,000-square-foot innovation hub at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to promote the biotechnology industry; a new nursing education initiative in partnership with CUNY to support 30,000 current and aspiring nurses over the next five years; doubling the rate of city government contracting with Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises; a new Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion to connect people with disabilities to jobs; and more.</p> <p>As he announced a new loan fund to help those impacted by the War on Drugs to launch new legal marijuana sales businesses, he also promised a crackdown on unlicensed marijuana retail stores. “We are not going to let bad actors undermine the promise we made to New Yorkers who were impacted by marijuana criminalization,” he said.</p> <p>Adams has often spoken of his own struggles with dyslexia and has made it a priority to ensure that students who similarly suffer from it are not left behind in city schools. Building on previous programs he announced last year, he said Thursday that all schools would get at least one staff member trained in literacy-based interventions, and that the city would launch its first district school dedicated to students with dyslexia, even as dyslexia screenings are provided in every public school.</p> <p>“We're making three fundamental commitments to our young people,” he said. “One, every child will get the support they need to become a strong reader at or above grade level. Two, we will establish a whole-child approach to education, factoring in social emotional learning, and other supportive services. And three, every student who graduates from a New York City High School will have a clear pathway to the future whether that is a job, job training or continuing education.”</p> <p>The mayor said his administration will launch “the biggest student mental health program in the country” and will also update the Fair Student Funding formula to redirect $90 million to support students in temporary housing and schools with higher concentrations of high-needs students.</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong><br />The mayor’s main 2021 campaign focus and top challenge in his first year was tackling the rising crime witnessed during the pandemic. He was able to point to some success in driving down major crime, but acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do. On Thursday, he reiterated his administration’s commitment to public safety, announcing renewed efforts to deal with roughly 1,700 individuals that he says are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime. He has controversially continued to push for changes to state criminal justice reforms that he believes have stymied law enforcement efforts, including pushing for a “dangerousness standard” for judges to be able to consider while setting bail or ordering pre-trial remand, and adjusting discovery laws while providing district attorneys, courts, and public defenders more resources to properly advance cases. While Adams has a sympathetic ear in Hochul, many members of the State Legislature have repeatedly pushed back against the mayor’s rhetoric, which they say is not supported by data.</p> <p>“Our legal system must ensure that dangerous people are kept off the streets, innocent people are not consumed by bureaucracy, and victims can obtain resolution,” Adams said on Thursday. “This is something we can all agree on.”</p> <p>He also promised enhanced crime prevention efforts at the community level by expanding the use of Neighborhood Safety Teams, a controversial NYPD unit he revived and renamed after a prior version was eliminated by his predecessor. And he said that the NYPD will be holding CompStat meetings to discuss crime statistics at the community level.</p> <p>“We're going to use proven methods and intensive community support to keep gun culture from taking root and taking over,” he said. “That means more Neighborhood Safety Teams in more places, more violence prevention programs in neighborhoods with the highest concentration of violent crime and a new neighborhood safety alliance, a partnership between local precincts, service providers and community leaders in many of these same neighborhoods.”</p> <p>The mayor also announced expanded traffic and street safety efforts, pushing for a package of state legislation dubbed Removing Offenders and Aggressive Drivers from Our Streets (ROADS), which would increase penalties for traffic violations. “You must treat traffic violence the same way we treat other dangerous crimes,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Public Spaces and Quality of Life</strong><br />Adams has often stressed the link between quality of life and the city’s economic prosperity, and his speech offered several proposals to improve New York’s public spaces. “For far too long, New Yorkers were asked to accept things that should be unacceptable: crime, rats, trash, traffic,” he said. “When we allow quality of life to deteriorate, it is working class New Yorkers that suffer the most. It also hurts our economic recovery.”</p> <p>He announced that the city’s incipient curbside composting program will expand citywide by the end of 2024; that he will invest $375 million in new public spaces and permanent Open Streets across the city; that he will work with the City Council to implement a permanent Open Restaurants program while ridding the city of many dilapidated outdoor dining structures; and appoint a new Director of the Public Realm to oversee the city’s public spaces (a position that he committed to as part of a joint plan on the city’s future crafted with Hochul and the ‘New’ New York task force they empaneled together).</p> <p>The speech included several climate-related announcements as well. The mayor said that the city will require for-hire vehicle companies like Uber and Lyft to have a zero-emission fleet by 2030 and indicated both companies were on board; add electric vehicle charging stations in all five boroughs; release an updated PlaNYC sustainability agenda in April; and launch a new “climate budgeting” process that links city spending decisions with climate goals.</p> <p>“The future of our city will be cleaner, greener, and healthier for all including our wildlife and marine life like the dolphins who recently visited us in the Bronx River. That's the future of our city. More dolphins, fewer rats,” he said to applause and laughter.</p> <p><strong>Housing and Health Care</strong><br />Last year, Adams announced a major “Get Stuff Built” affordable housing plan with a “moonshot” goal of building 500,000 new homes over ten years. “New York City must remain a city where every day people can find an affordable place to live. Young people, immigrant families and retired folks all need a place to call their own,” he said.</p> <p>In his speech, he announced the impending launch of two community planning processes to build more housing in Midtown Manhattan and the North Shore of Staten Island, praising the local Council members, Keith Powers and Erik Bottcher of Manhattan and Kamillah Hanks of Staten Island, for stepping up. “They're not saying ‘Not in my backyard.’ They're saying ‘Build in my backyard,’” he said.<br /><br />Adams also said he will allocate $22 million to tenant protection programs, expand the Big Apple Connect program that provides free internet and cable services to NYCHA developments, launch a pilot program to give free internet and cable to Section 8 households in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, expand free tax preparation services and public benefits screenings, as well as push for legislation allowing people to keep receiving benefits for six months after getting a new job.</p> <p>“We are committed to fighting for support for working people and actually making sure they get the support they need,” he said. “Don't let it fool you. I may wear nice suits, but I'm a blue collar cat.”</p> <p>As the city continues to experience a crushing homelessness crisis that has strained the budget and tested the limits of the shelter system, the mayor promised that his administration will continue to expand services for the city’s unhoused population. He said he will work with the federal government to allow those who have spent more than a week in the shelter system to receive free health care.</p> <p>Though the mayor did mention the plight of what the city says are more than 42,000 migrant asylum seekers that have arrived over the past year, he did not propose any additional solutions or services for the population. Rather, he repeated his calls for aid from the federal and state governments. “We will continue to do our part. But we need everyone else to do their part as well. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” he said.</p> <p>He also said his administration is formulating a three-part mental health plan that will aid children and families and address the opioid crisis. It includes a $150 million investment – sourced from opioid lawsuit settlements – in harm reduction and treatment programs and through expanding the “clubhouse” model for individuals with severe mental illness.</p> <p>The mayor also reiterated a recent announcement of an all-hands-on-deck summit to be held in March on women’s health, particularly focused on Black maternal mortality, and programs to improve access to healthier food for lower-income New Yorkers.</p> <p><strong>Responses</strong><br />The mayor’s speech was met with mixed responses from elected officials, advocacy groups, and nonprofit think tanks.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli commended the mayor’s speech in a statement, but warned of the fiscal and economic challenges the city faces ahead stemming from the shift to remote work, unequal employment opportunities, and an affordable housing shortage.</p> <p>“The city’s economic recovery is still fragile and relies on the city and state working together to address these challenges,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The mayor identified efficiencies and savings in his budget. Still, more can be done to incorporate recurring costs, including those to help manage the influx of migrants, a fiscal burden that should be carried by the federal government. The city must continue on its path of fiscal discipline to achieve the mayor's vision for a better and fairer New York.”</p> <p>Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, in a statement, agreed with many of the mayor’s priorities. But, he noted, "Building the city the Mayor discussed requires a strong, progressive, effective city government, with the necessary support, staffing, and funding. The Mayor calls this his ‘Aaron Judge year’ - and the city needs it to be - but as we know, that success means committing the spending and the team needed to get stuff done."</p> <p>CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez praised the initiatives the mayor announced on Thursday that rely on expanding CUNY’s successful programs. “These partnerships between the city and its public university system support our shared objectives of a diverse, fully inclusive workforce and an equitable post-pandemic recovery that benefits all New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>Progressive advocates have been particularly critical of Adams, especially in the wake of his recent preliminary budget proposal, which they say will cut funding for critical services for the neediest New Yorkers.</p> <p>“After a full year in office, Mayor Adams’s list of accomplishments is short, while the list of cuts to vital public services grows longer and longer,” said Sharon Cromwell, deputy director of the New York Working Families Party, which has been a consistent critic of the mayor. “Today’s policy proposals are hardly a ‘working people’s agenda,’ and the cuts in his proposed budget will only hurt working New Yorkers. Our communities need more from the Mayor. Just ask the families seeking child care, affordable housing, and quality public schools.”</p> <p>A notable omission from the mayor’s speech was Rikers Island. The controversial jail complex, which is slated for closure in 2027, has seen violence among inmates and against corrections officers skyrocket and witnessed the highest number of detainee deaths last year than in 25 years. The mayor and his administration have also raised doubts about reducing the jail population sufficiently to close the complex and house detainees in four new borough-based jails.</p> <p>Ahead of the speech, elected officials and advocates gathered outside the venue to demand the mayor follow through on the closure plan. “When the mayor questions whether or not we can reduce the jail population enough to close Rikers, what he really means is he's not sure he wants to try,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, in a statement. “We know what works - supportive housing, well-resourced schools, real economic opportunities. And this is a moment where New Yorkers will see if he meant what he said about going ‘upstream,’ or if he is going to continue cutting funding to schools and social services and arguing for more incarceration. Does he actually believe in investing in our people, or is going to keep pushing the old superpredator narrative to convince us that thousands of Black and Brown people need to be banished to Rikers?”</p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, pointed to the mayor’s failure to mention services for immigrants. “By rendering us invisible he failed to acknowledge a large proportion of New York’s population and the crucial role our communities have played in keeping New York open for business throughout this pandemic,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>Beth Finkel, AARP New York’s state director, urged the mayor to do more for older New Yorkers, noting that the city’s 65-plus population grew by 36% over the last decade. “Overall, we are hoping to hear more about the Mayor’s plans to ensure our parents, grandparents, and older loved ones get the services they deserve and need to live safely in their homes and communities,” she said in a statement. “We are also worried about pending budget cuts, especially given that the Department for the Aging currently gets less than half a percent of the city funding.”</p> <p>Leaders focused on housing and economic development liked what they heard.</p> <p>“The economic mobility programs that Mayor Adams announced today are exactly the steps the city should take to build a more equitable economy in New York City,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, in a statement.</p> <p>“The mayor is spot on about the most pressing issue in front of us — the housing shortage," said Carlo Scissura, President and CEO of the New York Building Congress.</p> <p>“Today, Mayor Adams reaffirmed his commitment to the City’s future with bold ideas,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of Regional Plan Association, in a statement applauding the mayor’s housing plan, commitment to the Open Restaurants program, investments in open space and more.</p> <p>“The Mayor’s announcement of a Director of the Public Realm is a victory for New York,” said Jackson Chabot, director of advocacy and organizing for Open Plans, in part in a statement, noting that the mayor mentioned several of the group’s strategic goals. But, the group noted that the mayor “missed the opportunity to champion a livable city” by failing to mention the elimination of parking mandates, expanded Summer Streets in Brooklyn and Queens, trash containerization, curbing car dependence, and reducing the size of the city vehicle fleet.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-first-address-his.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at his 2023 State of the City (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams, a first-term Democrat, delivered his second State of the City speech on Thursday, outlining a “Working People’s Agenda” focused on jobs, housing, public safety, and healthcare for those who need them most.</p> <p>“These are the things that our administration is working for every day,” Adams said in his speech at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was attended by fellow Democratic elected officials including Governor Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, and various others.</p> <p>The speech is Adams’ second since taking office during a tough transition, when the city was facing some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and violent crime had spiked, while tourism and other aspects of the economy were rebounding but still below pre-pandemic levels. On Thursday, Adams had cause for optimism. “One year later, our city is on the pathway to being safer, our economy is recovering, and our stores, subways, and hotels are full,” he said, offering a slightly rosier-than-reality report. “Our children are back in school with their teachers and friends. Our theaters are thriving, our restaurants are booked, and New Yorkers are back to work.”</p> <p>The mayor announced ambitious plans for the years ahead, many of them quite granular, including everything from new job and workforce initiatives to a continued focus on tackling recidivism and gun violence, expanded tenant protections, free tax preparation programs, traffic safety improvements, additional public benefits, investments in public and green spaces, small business loans, student mental health programs, universal dyslexia screenings, and more.</p> <p>“Mayor Adams’ focus on jobs, safety, housing, and care offers many proposals that align with the Council’s priorities to create a safer, healthier, and more equitable city,” said Speaker Adams (no relation), in a statement after the speech. “A strong city government and workforce, supported through our city budget, is essential to the goals that New Yorkers need us to fulfill.”</p> <p>Though she expressed agreement with the mayor’s goals and policy announcements, the speaker did so with a hint of caution about the mayor’s budgeting practices and the acute staffing crunch that city government is experiencing under his watch. “At the end of the day, budget commitments are necessary to achieve our goals,” she said. “None of this work is possible without the full capacity of our city agencies that have lost funding, struggled with dangerously high rates of vacancies, and are at risk of losing additional funds and positions.”</p> <p>In the speech, Mayor Adams repeatedly spoke of Governor Hochul from the stage, underscoring their strong relationship, a marked shift from the warring years of their predecessors, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo. There’s no recent record of a governor attending a mayor's State of the City nor the degree of collaboration that Adams highlighted on job creation, public housing, public safety and more. “This governor is the steady hand we need at the wheel right now. I may be the pilot for the city but she's the pilot for the state,” Adams said.</p> <p>Following the speech, Hochul also reiterated her collaboration with the mayor in achieving their shared goals. “From addressing a generational housing crisis, connecting those experiencing homelessness and severe mental illness to supportive services, to investing in law enforcement and proven crime prevention strategies that keep New Yorkers safe, and making New York City more affordable - I am confident that Mayor Adams' proposals will meet the urgency of this historic moment,” she said in part in a statement.</p> <p><strong>Workforce Development</strong><br />Mayor Adams touted the city’s success in adding 200,000 jobs over the last year, a higher rate than the country and the state, but noted that the recovery has been uneven as Black New Yorkers were three times as likely to be unemployed as white New Yorkers. “This era of inequality must end,” he said. “We're going to make sure that all New Yorkers finally have access to good jobs.”</p> <p>He outlined several major programs to improve job creation and develop the city’s workforce including a new Apprenticeship Accelerator, promoted in a citywide campaign, that will connect 30,000 New Yorkers with apprenticeships by 2030; expanding the CUNY 2x Tech program to ensure more students receive tech-related degrees; a first-in-the nation 50,000-square-foot innovation hub at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to promote the biotechnology industry; a new nursing education initiative in partnership with CUNY to support 30,000 current and aspiring nurses over the next five years; doubling the rate of city government contracting with Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises; a new Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion to connect people with disabilities to jobs; and more.</p> <p>As he announced a new loan fund to help those impacted by the War on Drugs to launch new legal marijuana sales businesses, he also promised a crackdown on unlicensed marijuana retail stores. “We are not going to let bad actors undermine the promise we made to New Yorkers who were impacted by marijuana criminalization,” he said.</p> <p>Adams has often spoken of his own struggles with dyslexia and has made it a priority to ensure that students who similarly suffer from it are not left behind in city schools. Building on previous programs he announced last year, he said Thursday that all schools would get at least one staff member trained in literacy-based interventions, and that the city would launch its first district school dedicated to students with dyslexia, even as dyslexia screenings are provided in every public school.</p> <p>“We're making three fundamental commitments to our young people,” he said. “One, every child will get the support they need to become a strong reader at or above grade level. Two, we will establish a whole-child approach to education, factoring in social emotional learning, and other supportive services. And three, every student who graduates from a New York City High School will have a clear pathway to the future whether that is a job, job training or continuing education.”</p> <p>The mayor said his administration will launch “the biggest student mental health program in the country” and will also update the Fair Student Funding formula to redirect $90 million to support students in temporary housing and schools with higher concentrations of high-needs students.</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong><br />The mayor’s main 2021 campaign focus and top challenge in his first year was tackling the rising crime witnessed during the pandemic. He was able to point to some success in driving down major crime, but acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do. On Thursday, he reiterated his administration’s commitment to public safety, announcing renewed efforts to deal with roughly 1,700 individuals that he says are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime. He has controversially continued to push for changes to state criminal justice reforms that he believes have stymied law enforcement efforts, including pushing for a “dangerousness standard” for judges to be able to consider while setting bail or ordering pre-trial remand, and adjusting discovery laws while providing district attorneys, courts, and public defenders more resources to properly advance cases. While Adams has a sympathetic ear in Hochul, many members of the State Legislature have repeatedly pushed back against the mayor’s rhetoric, which they say is not supported by data.</p> <p>“Our legal system must ensure that dangerous people are kept off the streets, innocent people are not consumed by bureaucracy, and victims can obtain resolution,” Adams said on Thursday. “This is something we can all agree on.”</p> <p>He also promised enhanced crime prevention efforts at the community level by expanding the use of Neighborhood Safety Teams, a controversial NYPD unit he revived and renamed after a prior version was eliminated by his predecessor. And he said that the NYPD will be holding CompStat meetings to discuss crime statistics at the community level.</p> <p>“We're going to use proven methods and intensive community support to keep gun culture from taking root and taking over,” he said. “That means more Neighborhood Safety Teams in more places, more violence prevention programs in neighborhoods with the highest concentration of violent crime and a new neighborhood safety alliance, a partnership between local precincts, service providers and community leaders in many of these same neighborhoods.”</p> <p>The mayor also announced expanded traffic and street safety efforts, pushing for a package of state legislation dubbed Removing Offenders and Aggressive Drivers from Our Streets (ROADS), which would increase penalties for traffic violations. “You must treat traffic violence the same way we treat other dangerous crimes,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Public Spaces and Quality of Life</strong><br />Adams has often stressed the link between quality of life and the city’s economic prosperity, and his speech offered several proposals to improve New York’s public spaces. “For far too long, New Yorkers were asked to accept things that should be unacceptable: crime, rats, trash, traffic,” he said. “When we allow quality of life to deteriorate, it is working class New Yorkers that suffer the most. It also hurts our economic recovery.”</p> <p>He announced that the city’s incipient curbside composting program will expand citywide by the end of 2024; that he will invest $375 million in new public spaces and permanent Open Streets across the city; that he will work with the City Council to implement a permanent Open Restaurants program while ridding the city of many dilapidated outdoor dining structures; and appoint a new Director of the Public Realm to oversee the city’s public spaces (a position that he committed to as part of a joint plan on the city’s future crafted with Hochul and the ‘New’ New York task force they empaneled together).</p> <p>The speech included several climate-related announcements as well. The mayor said that the city will require for-hire vehicle companies like Uber and Lyft to have a zero-emission fleet by 2030 and indicated both companies were on board; add electric vehicle charging stations in all five boroughs; release an updated PlaNYC sustainability agenda in April; and launch a new “climate budgeting” process that links city spending decisions with climate goals.</p> <p>“The future of our city will be cleaner, greener, and healthier for all including our wildlife and marine life like the dolphins who recently visited us in the Bronx River. That's the future of our city. More dolphins, fewer rats,” he said to applause and laughter.</p> <p><strong>Housing and Health Care</strong><br />Last year, Adams announced a major “Get Stuff Built” affordable housing plan with a “moonshot” goal of building 500,000 new homes over ten years. “New York City must remain a city where every day people can find an affordable place to live. Young people, immigrant families and retired folks all need a place to call their own,” he said.</p> <p>In his speech, he announced the impending launch of two community planning processes to build more housing in Midtown Manhattan and the North Shore of Staten Island, praising the local Council members, Keith Powers and Erik Bottcher of Manhattan and Kamillah Hanks of Staten Island, for stepping up. “They're not saying ‘Not in my backyard.’ They're saying ‘Build in my backyard,’” he said.<br /><br />Adams also said he will allocate $22 million to tenant protection programs, expand the Big Apple Connect program that provides free internet and cable services to NYCHA developments, launch a pilot program to give free internet and cable to Section 8 households in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, expand free tax preparation services and public benefits screenings, as well as push for legislation allowing people to keep receiving benefits for six months after getting a new job.</p> <p>“We are committed to fighting for support for working people and actually making sure they get the support they need,” he said. “Don't let it fool you. I may wear nice suits, but I'm a blue collar cat.”</p> <p>As the city continues to experience a crushing homelessness crisis that has strained the budget and tested the limits of the shelter system, the mayor promised that his administration will continue to expand services for the city’s unhoused population. He said he will work with the federal government to allow those who have spent more than a week in the shelter system to receive free health care.</p> <p>Though the mayor did mention the plight of what the city says are more than 42,000 migrant asylum seekers that have arrived over the past year, he did not propose any additional solutions or services for the population. Rather, he repeated his calls for aid from the federal and state governments. “We will continue to do our part. But we need everyone else to do their part as well. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” he said.</p> <p>He also said his administration is formulating a three-part mental health plan that will aid children and families and address the opioid crisis. It includes a $150 million investment – sourced from opioid lawsuit settlements – in harm reduction and treatment programs and through expanding the “clubhouse” model for individuals with severe mental illness.</p> <p>The mayor also reiterated a recent announcement of an all-hands-on-deck summit to be held in March on women’s health, particularly focused on Black maternal mortality, and programs to improve access to healthier food for lower-income New Yorkers.</p> <p><strong>Responses</strong><br />The mayor’s speech was met with mixed responses from elected officials, advocacy groups, and nonprofit think tanks.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli commended the mayor’s speech in a statement, but warned of the fiscal and economic challenges the city faces ahead stemming from the shift to remote work, unequal employment opportunities, and an affordable housing shortage.</p> <p>“The city’s economic recovery is still fragile and relies on the city and state working together to address these challenges,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The mayor identified efficiencies and savings in his budget. Still, more can be done to incorporate recurring costs, including those to help manage the influx of migrants, a fiscal burden that should be carried by the federal government. The city must continue on its path of fiscal discipline to achieve the mayor's vision for a better and fairer New York.”</p> <p>Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, in a statement, agreed with many of the mayor’s priorities. But, he noted, "Building the city the Mayor discussed requires a strong, progressive, effective city government, with the necessary support, staffing, and funding. The Mayor calls this his ‘Aaron Judge year’ - and the city needs it to be - but as we know, that success means committing the spending and the team needed to get stuff done."</p> <p>CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez praised the initiatives the mayor announced on Thursday that rely on expanding CUNY’s successful programs. “These partnerships between the city and its public university system support our shared objectives of a diverse, fully inclusive workforce and an equitable post-pandemic recovery that benefits all New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>Progressive advocates have been particularly critical of Adams, especially in the wake of his recent preliminary budget proposal, which they say will cut funding for critical services for the neediest New Yorkers.</p> <p>“After a full year in office, Mayor Adams’s list of accomplishments is short, while the list of cuts to vital public services grows longer and longer,” said Sharon Cromwell, deputy director of the New York Working Families Party, which has been a consistent critic of the mayor. “Today’s policy proposals are hardly a ‘working people’s agenda,’ and the cuts in his proposed budget will only hurt working New Yorkers. Our communities need more from the Mayor. Just ask the families seeking child care, affordable housing, and quality public schools.”</p> <p>A notable omission from the mayor’s speech was Rikers Island. The controversial jail complex, which is slated for closure in 2027, has seen violence among inmates and against corrections officers skyrocket and witnessed the highest number of detainee deaths last year than in 25 years. The mayor and his administration have also raised doubts about reducing the jail population sufficiently to close the complex and house detainees in four new borough-based jails.</p> <p>Ahead of the speech, elected officials and advocates gathered outside the venue to demand the mayor follow through on the closure plan. “When the mayor questions whether or not we can reduce the jail population enough to close Rikers, what he really means is he's not sure he wants to try,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda, in a statement. “We know what works - supportive housing, well-resourced schools, real economic opportunities. And this is a moment where New Yorkers will see if he meant what he said about going ‘upstream,’ or if he is going to continue cutting funding to schools and social services and arguing for more incarceration. Does he actually believe in investing in our people, or is going to keep pushing the old superpredator narrative to convince us that thousands of Black and Brown people need to be banished to Rikers?”</p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, pointed to the mayor’s failure to mention services for immigrants. “By rendering us invisible he failed to acknowledge a large proportion of New York’s population and the crucial role our communities have played in keeping New York open for business throughout this pandemic,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>Beth Finkel, AARP New York’s state director, urged the mayor to do more for older New Yorkers, noting that the city’s 65-plus population grew by 36% over the last decade. “Overall, we are hoping to hear more about the Mayor’s plans to ensure our parents, grandparents, and older loved ones get the services they deserve and need to live safely in their homes and communities,” she said in a statement. “We are also worried about pending budget cuts, especially given that the Department for the Aging currently gets less than half a percent of the city funding.”</p> <p>Leaders focused on housing and economic development liked what they heard.</p> <p>“The economic mobility programs that Mayor Adams announced today are exactly the steps the city should take to build a more equitable economy in New York City,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, in a statement.</p> <p>“The mayor is spot on about the most pressing issue in front of us — the housing shortage," said Carlo Scissura, President and CEO of the New York Building Congress.</p> <p>“Today, Mayor Adams reaffirmed his commitment to the City’s future with bold ideas,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of Regional Plan Association, in a statement applauding the mayor’s housing plan, commitment to the Open Restaurants program, investments in open space and more.</p> <p>“The Mayor’s announcement of a Director of the Public Realm is a victory for New York,” said Jackson Chabot, director of advocacy and organizing for Open Plans, in part in a statement, noting that the mayor mentioned several of the group’s strategic goals. But, the group noted that the mayor “missed the opportunity to champion a livable city” by failing to mention the elimination of parking mandates, expanded Summer Streets in Brooklyn and Queens, trash containerization, curbing car dependence, and reducing the size of the city vehicle fleet.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Analyzing Mayor Adams' 2023 State of the City, with Errol Louis 2023-01-26T14:00:00+00:00 2023-01-26T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11803-max-politics-podcast-mayor-adams-2023-state-city-errol-louis Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-errol-louis-adams600px.jpg" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams delivers his State of the City (photo: Caroline Willis/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 26, 2023 - Max Politics Podcast: Analyzing Mayor Adams' 2023 State of the City, with Errol Louis<br /></strong></p> <p>Spectrum News political anchor Errol Louis, host of NY1's Inside City Hall and the You Decide podcast, joined the show to analyze Mayor Eric Adams' 2023 State of the City speech and discuss how the mayor is doing a little over one year into his tenure.</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/11803-max-politics-podcast-mayor-adams-2023-state-city-errol-louis">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-errol-louis-adams600px.jpg" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams delivers his State of the City (photo: Caroline Willis/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 26, 2023 - Max Politics Podcast: Analyzing Mayor Adams' 2023 State of the City, with Errol Louis<br /></strong></p> <p>Spectrum News political anchor Errol Louis, host of NY1's Inside City Hall and the You Decide podcast, joined the show to analyze Mayor Eric Adams' 2023 State of the City speech and discuss how the mayor is doing a little over one year into his tenure.</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/11803-max-politics-podcast-mayor-adams-2023-state-city-errol-louis">Read More ...</a></p> Mayor Adams Misses Campaign Promise to ‘Immediately' Take On Property Tax Inequities 2023-01-26T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-26T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11801-mayor-adams-campaign-promise-property-tax-reform Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/presents-fy-tax.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams with Budget Director Jiha &amp; Chief of Staff Varlack (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When he was running for mayor in 2021, then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams promised that, if elected, in his first year he would "finally" tackle a particularly thorny area of city finance that impacts all New Yorkers: property taxes. As he takes the stage to deliver his second State of the City address on Thursday, the mayor has made no apparent progress on this significant campaign promise.</p> <p>Virtually everyone agrees New York City's property tax system is irrational and unfair, that it places the heaviest burden on low-income homeowners and renters, and that it exacerbates and is exacerbated by gentrification. Owners of some of the priciest co-ops pay rates far lower than homeowners in underserved areas of the city, while similarly situated properties often pay vastly different amounts for no discernible reason.</p> <p>"Mayor after mayor has promised to tackle property tax reform, but struggling homeowners continue to wait and pay unfair bills under a fundamentally unfair and overly complicated system," <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11097-adams-2021-housing-reimagine-our-city">Adams wrote</a> in policy platform material posted on his campaign website.</p> <p>"I’m going to immediately put in place a committee to look at these tax laws and come up with real solutions to alleviate co-ops and condominiums and shift the tax burden off of renters and homeowners in less affluent areas to the owners of pricey apartments in wealthy areas," Adams’ platform continued. "Billionaires are not paying their share of taxes."</p> <p>"This will be fairly examined within our first year, with a robust outreach effort that gets maximum input from impacted New Yorkers," Adams wrote about potentially becoming mayor.</p> <p>But there has been no public mention of a property tax committee or outreach efforts to date. Adams' campaign website was removed shortly after his election (the contents have been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11128-eric-adams-2021-campaign-policy-plans">republished</a> by Gotham Gazette). A spokesperson for the mayor said the administration was drafting recommendations for reform, much of which would have to take place in Albany through the State Legislature.</p> <p>“Mayor Adams believes our property tax system is in need of long-overdue reform," wrote Jonah Allon, a mayoral spokesperson, in an email. "Low- and middle-income homeowners deserve relief, especially as the city continues to recover from the pandemic."</p> <p>"While we are still in the process of developing our own updated recommendations and analysis, we look forward to working with our partners in government and advocates to ensure the system is simpler and more equitable for all,” Allon added.</p> <p>Asked whether either the committee or the outreach took place, Allon referred Gotham Gazette to his previous statement.</p> <p>In 2020, an advisory commission established by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson published a series of recommendations. While de Blasio and Johnson never converted those recommendations into firm policy proposals, economists and tax experts agreed the commission had moved in the right direction. It recommended a number of changes, including taxing co-ops and condominiums on their market value like other small homes; instituting "circuit breakers," or tax breaks, for low-income homeowners in rapidly appreciating neighborhoods; and getting rid of a so-called "fractional assessment" method that adds layers of obscurity to the tax formula.</p> <p>Those steps would require changes to state tax law. State lawmakers, including those who support reform, have said they are waiting for city leaders to take the lead. Any major changes could be felt, for better or worse, by every city resident and impact a full third of the city's revenue stream. So far there are no comprehensive legislative packages on the table, though there is an ongoing lawsuit seeking to force changes to the property tax system.</p> <p>Last fall, City Comptroller Brad Lander and City Council Members Joe Borelli and Kevin Riley began mustering forces to reinvigorate the debate, bringing together a larger coalition and calling on state lawmakers to pick up the commission's recommendations and also provide relief to rental properties, which hadn't been addressed. The group met with Adams in December to get him on board.</p> <p>"Fixing our opaque and inequitable #propertytax system isn't easy, but it’s imperative," Lander wrote in a <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCComptroller/status/1602362649538433032">tweet</a> after the meeting. "Thank you @NYCMayor for listening to our broad coalition, including hundreds of New Yorkers who signed our petition. Look forward to working together to ensure tax fairness across NYC."</p> <p>Allon, the mayor's spokesperson, would not say whether property tax reform is a priority for the administration this state legislative session.</p> <p>"If we do any property tax, we have to be thoughtful, look after those small homeowners when we think this through and we want to get this resolved during this fiscal year," Adams told reporters earlier this month as part of a larger response about calls to raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.</p> <p>Adams is expected to unveil his state agenda over the coming weeks, some of which could be included in his State of the City address, which he will deliver on Thursday in Queens.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/presents-fy-tax.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams with Budget Director Jiha &amp; Chief of Staff Varlack (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When he was running for mayor in 2021, then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams promised that, if elected, in his first year he would "finally" tackle a particularly thorny area of city finance that impacts all New Yorkers: property taxes. As he takes the stage to deliver his second State of the City address on Thursday, the mayor has made no apparent progress on this significant campaign promise.</p> <p>Virtually everyone agrees New York City's property tax system is irrational and unfair, that it places the heaviest burden on low-income homeowners and renters, and that it exacerbates and is exacerbated by gentrification. Owners of some of the priciest co-ops pay rates far lower than homeowners in underserved areas of the city, while similarly situated properties often pay vastly different amounts for no discernible reason.</p> <p>"Mayor after mayor has promised to tackle property tax reform, but struggling homeowners continue to wait and pay unfair bills under a fundamentally unfair and overly complicated system," <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11097-adams-2021-housing-reimagine-our-city">Adams wrote</a> in policy platform material posted on his campaign website.</p> <p>"I’m going to immediately put in place a committee to look at these tax laws and come up with real solutions to alleviate co-ops and condominiums and shift the tax burden off of renters and homeowners in less affluent areas to the owners of pricey apartments in wealthy areas," Adams’ platform continued. "Billionaires are not paying their share of taxes."</p> <p>"This will be fairly examined within our first year, with a robust outreach effort that gets maximum input from impacted New Yorkers," Adams wrote about potentially becoming mayor.</p> <p>But there has been no public mention of a property tax committee or outreach efforts to date. Adams' campaign website was removed shortly after his election (the contents have been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11128-eric-adams-2021-campaign-policy-plans">republished</a> by Gotham Gazette). A spokesperson for the mayor said the administration was drafting recommendations for reform, much of which would have to take place in Albany through the State Legislature.</p> <p>“Mayor Adams believes our property tax system is in need of long-overdue reform," wrote Jonah Allon, a mayoral spokesperson, in an email. "Low- and middle-income homeowners deserve relief, especially as the city continues to recover from the pandemic."</p> <p>"While we are still in the process of developing our own updated recommendations and analysis, we look forward to working with our partners in government and advocates to ensure the system is simpler and more equitable for all,” Allon added.</p> <p>Asked whether either the committee or the outreach took place, Allon referred Gotham Gazette to his previous statement.</p> <p>In 2020, an advisory commission established by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson published a series of recommendations. While de Blasio and Johnson never converted those recommendations into firm policy proposals, economists and tax experts agreed the commission had moved in the right direction. It recommended a number of changes, including taxing co-ops and condominiums on their market value like other small homes; instituting "circuit breakers," or tax breaks, for low-income homeowners in rapidly appreciating neighborhoods; and getting rid of a so-called "fractional assessment" method that adds layers of obscurity to the tax formula.</p> <p>Those steps would require changes to state tax law. State lawmakers, including those who support reform, have said they are waiting for city leaders to take the lead. Any major changes could be felt, for better or worse, by every city resident and impact a full third of the city's revenue stream. So far there are no comprehensive legislative packages on the table, though there is an ongoing lawsuit seeking to force changes to the property tax system.</p> <p>Last fall, City Comptroller Brad Lander and City Council Members Joe Borelli and Kevin Riley began mustering forces to reinvigorate the debate, bringing together a larger coalition and calling on state lawmakers to pick up the commission's recommendations and also provide relief to rental properties, which hadn't been addressed. The group met with Adams in December to get him on board.</p> <p>"Fixing our opaque and inequitable #propertytax system isn't easy, but it’s imperative," Lander wrote in a <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCComptroller/status/1602362649538433032">tweet</a> after the meeting. "Thank you @NYCMayor for listening to our broad coalition, including hundreds of New Yorkers who signed our petition. Look forward to working together to ensure tax fairness across NYC."</p> <p>Allon, the mayor's spokesperson, would not say whether property tax reform is a priority for the administration this state legislative session.</p> <p>"If we do any property tax, we have to be thoughtful, look after those small homeowners when we think this through and we want to get this resolved during this fiscal year," Adams told reporters earlier this month as part of a larger response about calls to raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.</p> <p>Adams is expected to unveil his state agenda over the coming weeks, some of which could be included in his State of the City address, which he will deliver on Thursday in Queens.</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Mayor Adams Yet to Launch 'MyCity' Portal Promised in First State of the City Speech 2023-01-25T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-25T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11797-mayor-adams-launch-mycity-portal-services Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/expected-outline-app.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams makes an announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As he gets ready to deliver his second State of the City speech this week, Mayor Eric Adams has yet to launch the ‘MyCity’ universal online portal for city services that he ran on and announced his intention to implement at his first address in April of last year. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams campaigned for City Hall on a plan that included ‘MyCity’ as a centerpiece: a centralized resource for New Yorkers to access services and benefits such as food stamps, unemployment insurance, rental assistance, business permit applications, licenses, and more. As Adams and </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10870-eric-adams-promises-overhaul-how-city-government-works-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">others have acknowledged</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, it is a major technological lift given how diffuse the various programs, platforms, and processes currently are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In his first State of the City speech last year, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11263-nyc-mayor-adams-first-100-days-vision-executive-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the portal would initially focus on subsidized child care applications offered by the city before expanding to the broader suite of city services. “We know that working parents don’t have time to navigate complex bureaucracy to get their children care, and we are going to make sure that city government works for them,” he said in the speech. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In July, an official with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI), which is overseeing the development of the portal, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11448-mayor-adams-mycity-portal-city-services" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Gotham Gazette</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that they aimed to launch MyCity by late 2022. The official said that the portal was being developed in-house, a move that was praised by civic technologists. But, as the </span><a href="https://www.silive.com/news/2023/01/what-is-mycity-and-when-will-nyc-mayor-adams-roll-it-out.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Staten Island Advance reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, OTI has since contracted the development to outside technology companies. In November, an OTI spokesperson </span><a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/policy/2022/11/missed-opportunity-using-data-new-york-city-social-services-report-says/380063/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told City &amp; State</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that they were still expecting to roll it out before the year ended. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this month, when asked for an update on the portal’s progress, OTI spokesperson Ray Legendre referred Gotham Gazette to the agency’s </span><a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/oti/downloads/pdf/about/strategic-plan-2022.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2022 Strategic Plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> published in October. The plan merely lays out what has already been reported about the platform, that it will “enable a single, service-driven, mobile-friendly internet portal for all City services and benefits” integrated with existing websites such as 311 and nyc.gov. Responding to a follow-up inquiry about a project timeline, Legendre referred to the mayor’s comments in recent interviews. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks,” Legendre said by email. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the self-imposed deadline of the end of 2022 passed, Mayor Adams spoke of the importance of MyCity in interviews as he entered his second year in office.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“One of the top things I want to do is something called MyCity Card,” Adams said in a January 9 interview on WBLS 107.5 FM, previewing his administration’s plans for the year ahead. “It’s one card that all New Yorkers can get the resources that they deserve so they'll know what's available to them. It's using technology. That's what this year's about, using technology to improve the quality of life of New Yorkers and continue to address the public safety issue.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a December </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/01/nyregion/eric-adams-mayor.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">interview with the New York Times</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, as he looked back at his first year, Adams admitted that technology and the MyCity portal were areas where he faced a learning curve. He said the portal would launch early this year. In a Wednesday, January 25 <a href="https://www.audacy.com/1010wins/news/local/nycs-shoplifting-spike-adams-tells-wins-theres-a-small-number-of-people-who-are-causing-havoc-in-our-city?json%3Futm_campaign=sharebutton&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_term=WINSAM">interview on 1010 WINS</a>, he reiterated commitment to using technology to improve how the city government functions. "I'm a big believer that we have underutilized technology to run our city more efficiently," he said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The MyCity card is going to be allowing New Yorkers to know all the resources that are available to them and take away the burden and the bureaucracy of navigating government. That's a huge advantage, and we're going to build on that," he added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s a huge disappointment that Mayor Adams stepped into this administration with really big ideas on improving digital services but the infrastructure to build those services have not received adequate support, resources or staff,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC, a civic technology group. He noted that key positions at OTI have not been filled and that the city’s attrition crisis hasn’t spared the agency. “Good people have left. We’re in a worse place than when we started,” he said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hidalgo was also among those who were encouraged when OTI was creating MyCity with internal resources, which would have built up the city’s own technological capacity. Instead, the city is again relying on outside vendors, an approach that has proved disastrous in the past. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What does he expect when the platform finally launches? “My expectation is disappointment,” he said.</span></p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/expected-outline-app.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams makes an announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As he gets ready to deliver his second State of the City speech this week, Mayor Eric Adams has yet to launch the ‘MyCity’ universal online portal for city services that he ran on and announced his intention to implement at his first address in April of last year. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams campaigned for City Hall on a plan that included ‘MyCity’ as a centerpiece: a centralized resource for New Yorkers to access services and benefits such as food stamps, unemployment insurance, rental assistance, business permit applications, licenses, and more. As Adams and </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10870-eric-adams-promises-overhaul-how-city-government-works-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">others have acknowledged</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, it is a major technological lift given how diffuse the various programs, platforms, and processes currently are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In his first State of the City speech last year, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11263-nyc-mayor-adams-first-100-days-vision-executive-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the portal would initially focus on subsidized child care applications offered by the city before expanding to the broader suite of city services. “We know that working parents don’t have time to navigate complex bureaucracy to get their children care, and we are going to make sure that city government works for them,” he said in the speech. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In July, an official with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI), which is overseeing the development of the portal, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11448-mayor-adams-mycity-portal-city-services" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Gotham Gazette</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that they aimed to launch MyCity by late 2022. The official said that the portal was being developed in-house, a move that was praised by civic technologists. But, as the </span><a href="https://www.silive.com/news/2023/01/what-is-mycity-and-when-will-nyc-mayor-adams-roll-it-out.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Staten Island Advance reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, OTI has since contracted the development to outside technology companies. In November, an OTI spokesperson </span><a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/policy/2022/11/missed-opportunity-using-data-new-york-city-social-services-report-says/380063/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told City &amp; State</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that they were still expecting to roll it out before the year ended. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this month, when asked for an update on the portal’s progress, OTI spokesperson Ray Legendre referred Gotham Gazette to the agency’s </span><a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/oti/downloads/pdf/about/strategic-plan-2022.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2022 Strategic Plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> published in October. The plan merely lays out what has already been reported about the platform, that it will “enable a single, service-driven, mobile-friendly internet portal for all City services and benefits” integrated with existing websites such as 311 and nyc.gov. Responding to a follow-up inquiry about a project timeline, Legendre referred to the mayor’s comments in recent interviews. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks,” Legendre said by email. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the self-imposed deadline of the end of 2022 passed, Mayor Adams spoke of the importance of MyCity in interviews as he entered his second year in office.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“One of the top things I want to do is something called MyCity Card,” Adams said in a January 9 interview on WBLS 107.5 FM, previewing his administration’s plans for the year ahead. “It’s one card that all New Yorkers can get the resources that they deserve so they'll know what's available to them. It's using technology. That's what this year's about, using technology to improve the quality of life of New Yorkers and continue to address the public safety issue.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a December </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/01/nyregion/eric-adams-mayor.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">interview with the New York Times</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, as he looked back at his first year, Adams admitted that technology and the MyCity portal were areas where he faced a learning curve. He said the portal would launch early this year. In a Wednesday, January 25 <a href="https://www.audacy.com/1010wins/news/local/nycs-shoplifting-spike-adams-tells-wins-theres-a-small-number-of-people-who-are-causing-havoc-in-our-city?json%3Futm_campaign=sharebutton&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_term=WINSAM">interview on 1010 WINS</a>, he reiterated commitment to using technology to improve how the city government functions. "I'm a big believer that we have underutilized technology to run our city more efficiently," he said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The MyCity card is going to be allowing New Yorkers to know all the resources that are available to them and take away the burden and the bureaucracy of navigating government. That's a huge advantage, and we're going to build on that," he added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s a huge disappointment that Mayor Adams stepped into this administration with really big ideas on improving digital services but the infrastructure to build those services have not received adequate support, resources or staff,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC, a civic technology group. He noted that key positions at OTI have not been filled and that the city’s attrition crisis hasn’t spared the agency. “Good people have left. We’re in a worse place than when we started,” he said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hidalgo was also among those who were encouraged when OTI was creating MyCity with internal resources, which would have built up the city’s own technological capacity. Instead, the city is again relying on outside vendors, an approach that has proved disastrous in the past. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What does he expect when the platform finally launches? “My expectation is disappointment,” he said.</span></p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated. </p>
‘We Need to Build Everywhere’: Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso on Housing, Maternal Health, & Other Priorities 2023-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11789-brooklyn-borough-president-reynoso-priorities-housing-maternal-health Nicholas Liu nliu3@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/5-bp-prb.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One year into his term as Brooklyn Borough President, Antonio Reynoso is taking an expansive view of his office and pushing an ambitious set of policy proposals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso, then a City Council member, emerged through a tough, crowded Democratic primary in 2021, while running as a reform-minded candidate endorsed by progressives like Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Earlier this month, Reynoso delivered his first State of the Borough address, a tradition that had lain dormant through the tenure of his predecessor, Mayor Eric Adams. Reynoso then </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">joined Gotham Gazette’s Max Politics podcast</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to discuss his priorities as borough president, vision for Brooklyn, and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The office of borough president has limited concrete powers and is largely ceremonial, but borough presidents do play a significant role in the land use decision-making process, control tens of millions of dollars in annual discretionary spending, make appointments to community boards and other bodies with say in public policy, and can act as a convener, work with City Council members to advance legislation, and have a bully pulpit. Much of what a borough president focuses on and is able to accomplish depends on the individual office-holder.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso is attempting to take a different approach to some of the core responsibilities of the borough presidency while also redefining the role as the “chief executive” of Brooklyn, he has said. “It would be more than we celebrated this event, we celebrated this heritage, we celebrated New Years Eve,” Reynoso said. “All that stuff is great. But ultimately, did I change people’s lives? Did I make people’s lives better outside of just entertainment? And you’re going to see that in this administration.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In part, Reynoso wants to better utilize the tools that the city Charter has already put at his disposal—appointing some community board members, weighing in on land use matters, and allocating discretionary funds provided by the city budget. “In the Charter, borough presidents are supposed to make appointments and provide technical assistance to community boards,” Reynoso said. “But what does technical assistance mean? We’re going to define that. We’re actually going to go through a rule-making process that’s going to interpret what we think the Charter meant to say. And through that process we’re going to define the roles of the community boards and the role of borough presidents to those community boards.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Housing, Land Use, and Comprehensive Planning</strong><br />For land use matters, Reynoso has begun working on a shift from providing ad hoc recommendations to more comprehensive planning. The need for comprehensive planning, Reynoso said, is rooted in inequities across neighborhoods and communities. “Our Comprehensive Plan aims to address this injustice, guiding future development to prioritize health, well-being, and a sense of community as we build more affordable and accessible housing across our borough,” Reynoso said in his State of the Borough address. He’s also pairing a focus on equity with pursuing more abundant housing supply in the borough and city, which is far behind in keeping up with demand.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need to build and we need to build everywhere,” Reynoso </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Gotham Gazette on the podcast,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “especially around transit-rich corridors. We want to show Brooklyn why that is the case...you have a responsibility to the greater good here to build housing everywhere."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“What we want to say is, look, we want you to build 2,000 units of housing, but don’t worry, because Bay Ridge is going to build some too, and so is Sheepshead Bay. Everyone’s building—so you are no different from any other neighborhood,” Reynoso said. “It isn’t because you’re Black and brown, or because you have no political capital that we’re building in your</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">neighborhood, which is how people feel right now.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Much of the final say over rezonings and development falls under the power of the local City Council member, a process that Reynoso, very familiar from his eight years in the Council, said is too influenced by political considerations. To “take the politics out of it,” Reynoso wants to redirect the process to the borough-wide, comprehensive planning framework, which can allow his office and partners to approve projects based on necessity and equity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Charter already mandates borough presidents to review rezoning applications moving through the Uniform Last Use Review Procedure (ULURP), but Reynoso says that it is by no means a substitute for real or comprehensive planning that would “allow the borough president to submit ULURP recommendations with accountability and predictability to the public.” As part of creating a </span><a href="https://www.brooklyn-usa.org/comprehensive-planning-bk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Comprehensive Plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Reynoso’s office has already published a draft of an existing conditions report, held initial public events, and is taking feedback until the end of January. After public comment closes, the office expects to release a draft recommendations report in Spring 2023, followed by more community input and then a final report in Summer 2023.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said that the plan his office produces — with the help of consultants, other elected officials, and the public — will then be the main guide he uses for weighing in on land use decisions that come before his office as well as the projects he may pursue or back.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said he has been holding conversations with City Council members, impressing upon them the need to build more affordable housing and respond to other specific community needs, such as school seats and supermarkets. “Everything we do has to be data-based,” said Reynoso. “It can't be anecdotal and personal experience trying to dictate the outcomes of a lot of these redevelopment opportunities. We’re going to make data-based, informed decisions on what the needs of a community are, and then we’re going to use our recommendation power to push that onto the [City Council] member.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In her State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Kathy Hochul similarly expressed the need for every locality in the state to put in the work and meet new targets with respect to housing growth. Under her proposal, downstate communities would need to grow their housing stock by 3% over three years, meaning the development of roughly 32,000 new housing units in Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso is optimistic about the governor’s objectives. “I’m not scared about the number that is being proposed, I don’t think 30,000 is too much – as long as it’s doable and reasonable and real, let’s get to it, and I’m going to be a part of that.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And he’s eager to build more housing more quickly, particularly once his plan is in place with its expected guideposts. “If it takes 30 days or 60 days in the borough president’s office to move through an application [for housing development], I’ll do it in three and move it on to the City Council immediately,” he said. “We don’t need to talk about it a lot if you’re falling within the principles of the Comprehensive Plan that we put forth.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although Reynoso agreed with Hochul about building more housing wherever possible and suggested that Hochul’s Brooklyn target is reachable, he also cautioned that equity concerns must be placed at the forefront of the process. “This idea that we’re going to allow for people in single-family or two-family or three-family zoning to move slower than people or neighborhoods who have high-density zoning, I think is unfair,” he said. “I would want everyone to start moving at a faster pace.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said it will be important to take another look at downzonings passed during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, which occurred “almost entirely in white, affluent areas,” he noted, and potentially “undoing them and rezoning those areas for more development opportunities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"They set us back significantly by doing downzonings,” Reynoso said when asked about those Bloomberg decisions (which then-Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11729-max-politics-podcast-dan-doctoroff-plan-new-york-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recently told Gotham Gazette were, in retrospect, a mistake</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The thing with the Comprehensive Plan that we’re pushing is that we’re going to have principles, not specific recommendations for areas,” said Reynoso. “We’re not going to say, hey, Bay Ridge, you need to build a thousand units and you should build it in this area–what we’re going to say is, you fit these characteristics, you’re in an area that’s low-density, transit-rich, good schooling, good parks, that is an ideal development district.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Maternal Health</strong><br />Along with comprehensive planning, maternal health has been Reynoso’s top priority as borough president. It was something he pledged to make a focus when he campaigned for the role, and in year one he followed through. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Reynoso, one in three childbirth-related deaths in New York City come from Brooklyn, and data shows those deaths are disproportionately among Black women especially.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I am going to show that in four years, I’ll make Brooklyn the safest place for women to have babies in all of New York,” </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">he said on the podcast</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. During his first year in office, Reynoso allocated all $45 million of his discretionary budget to the cause, particularly to fund higher-quality birthing facilities in Brooklyn’s three public hospitals. His office also put $250,000 toward a borough-wide education campaign, using ads to inform women of their rights during childbirth and dispel harmful misconceptions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When it comes to the capital dollars and infrastructure, we went all in on year one so we have less of a need in year two to pay on a lot of that infrastructure,” Reynoso said on the podcast. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I don’t like incrementalism, especially when it comes to maternal health,” Reynoso told Spectrum News NY1 in a </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2023/01/13/brooklyn-bp-antonio-reynoso-shares-his-plans-for-the-borough" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">different interview</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> last week. “We needed a big change to see the numbers go down. I could have given $3, $4, $5 million and seen maybe a tick, but I think maybe this is one of the grossest inequities in Brooklyn, maybe in the whole city, and if I really want to make a difference I need to put my money where my mouth is.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In addition to the new hospital facilities, the borough president’s office has been delivering boxes of childcare essentials to new mothers and working with higher education to reduce postpartum depression, Reynoso said. This year, Reynoso plans to expand his maternal health initiative to include participation from other hospitals in Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Other Priorities</strong><br />In his State of the Borough address, Reynoso also outlined several new initiatives aimed at creating space for nonprofits, increasing rooftop solar projects, helping Black-owned businesses, and community board reform. Much of the planned support from Borough Hall for solar panels will be directed towards neighborhoods with a higher utilities burden, in hopes that the investment will lower household energy bills. Comptroller Brad Lander, a Reynoso friend, political ally, and former City Council colleague, has also launched a solar panel initiative and Reynoso said the two may collaborate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso’s Black-owned business program is to be centered in Brownsville, one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the borough. Reynoso describes his method as “shock therapy,”—in essence, simultaneously guiding several Black entrepreneurs in making and executing business plans within a specified time frame, and also creating an appealing space in the neighborhood for them to rent out. His office will provide grants and other assistance, such as helping to connect Black entrepreneurs with large corporate partners.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We want them opening on the same day, we want to beautify the area by adding new trees, talking to the city about re-paving, fixing sidewalks, adding new lighting, throw a block party, invite as many people as we can to frequent these new businesses,” said Reynoso. “We also want to see if we can work with landlords to give [the businesses] six months free rent, so they don’t need to worry about overhead related to rent.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another issue on Reynoso’s plate is the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), which he has hoped in the past would be torn down and replaced with a more sensible array of infrastructure. The Adams administration is currently working through new potential plans for different parts of the expressway.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso has expressed concern over parts of the administration’s still-developing plans to restore the BQE, including around </span><a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/bqe-crumbling-cantilever-brooklyn-pols-adams-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">restoring the triple cantilever portion.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “All we will be doing in moving so quickly with a plan is regurgitating Robert Moses-type transportation and infrastructure policy,” Reynoso said. “It doesn’t give us time to really think about what a city of the future looks like when it comes to transportation, to moving goods and freight, to discouraging people from single-vehicle use and moving into a more walkable, bikeable, public transportation city.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso emphasized that the actors who typically benefit most from these kinds of projects are stakeholders with political capital, not neighborhoods like Williamsburg that got “sawed in half” by special infrastructure. The borough president would prefer more collaboration with the federal government to fully rethink the BQE. “I know the mayor wants to do right by aging infrastructure falling apart, but we should really be talking to the federal government about looking at this corridor from north to south, seeing whether it’s worth having and what opportunities we have moving towards our future transportation vision, which isn’t what we’ve seen so far from the DOT and this administration,” said Reynoso.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other items on Reynoso’s 2023 agenda include re-configuring a “chaotic,” crash-prone, and poorly-designed Atlantic Avenue, attracting tourists to Downtown Brooklyn, maintaining Open Streets for longer than just the summer months and expanding to more locations, expanding bike lanes, and generally moving Brooklyn away from its current level of reliance on cars. When asked, he expressed open-mindedness about a potential casino in Coney Island, as long as it can help solve problems like unemployment and not eclipse more urgent priorities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Judge LaSalle</strong><br />Reynoso also commented for the first time on Governor Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to be Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, which was the source of significant debate, including among top Latino officials as LaSalle could become the state’s first Latino Chief Judge. Shortly after Reynoso gave his State of the Borough address and appeared on Max Politics and other shows to discuss his agenda, the LaSalle nomination was narrowly voted down in the State Senate judiciary committee after many Democrats took issue with what some have called a too-conservative judicial record.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a prominent progressive and Latino elected official, Reynoso offered his perspective.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why are we acting like he is the only Latino who can possibly get this job? Whether or not I agree or disagree with the progressives or the moderates or the Latinos or the non-Latinos is irrelevant,” he said. “We could all be celebrating together with a more unifying candidate. And if I was just playing the politics of it all, I would ask the governor to take a step back, take pride out of it, and let’s talk about if there’s an opportunity to have a candidate we can all agree on.”</span></p> <p>

***
by Nicholas Liu, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/5-bp-prb.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One year into his term as Brooklyn Borough President, Antonio Reynoso is taking an expansive view of his office and pushing an ambitious set of policy proposals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso, then a City Council member, emerged through a tough, crowded Democratic primary in 2021, while running as a reform-minded candidate endorsed by progressives like Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Earlier this month, Reynoso delivered his first State of the Borough address, a tradition that had lain dormant through the tenure of his predecessor, Mayor Eric Adams. Reynoso then </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">joined Gotham Gazette’s Max Politics podcast</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to discuss his priorities as borough president, vision for Brooklyn, and more.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The office of borough president has limited concrete powers and is largely ceremonial, but borough presidents do play a significant role in the land use decision-making process, control tens of millions of dollars in annual discretionary spending, make appointments to community boards and other bodies with say in public policy, and can act as a convener, work with City Council members to advance legislation, and have a bully pulpit. Much of what a borough president focuses on and is able to accomplish depends on the individual office-holder.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso is attempting to take a different approach to some of the core responsibilities of the borough presidency while also redefining the role as the “chief executive” of Brooklyn, he has said. “It would be more than we celebrated this event, we celebrated this heritage, we celebrated New Years Eve,” Reynoso said. “All that stuff is great. But ultimately, did I change people’s lives? Did I make people’s lives better outside of just entertainment? And you’re going to see that in this administration.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In part, Reynoso wants to better utilize the tools that the city Charter has already put at his disposal—appointing some community board members, weighing in on land use matters, and allocating discretionary funds provided by the city budget. “In the Charter, borough presidents are supposed to make appointments and provide technical assistance to community boards,” Reynoso said. “But what does technical assistance mean? We’re going to define that. We’re actually going to go through a rule-making process that’s going to interpret what we think the Charter meant to say. And through that process we’re going to define the roles of the community boards and the role of borough presidents to those community boards.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Housing, Land Use, and Comprehensive Planning</strong><br />For land use matters, Reynoso has begun working on a shift from providing ad hoc recommendations to more comprehensive planning. The need for comprehensive planning, Reynoso said, is rooted in inequities across neighborhoods and communities. “Our Comprehensive Plan aims to address this injustice, guiding future development to prioritize health, well-being, and a sense of community as we build more affordable and accessible housing across our borough,” Reynoso said in his State of the Borough address. He’s also pairing a focus on equity with pursuing more abundant housing supply in the borough and city, which is far behind in keeping up with demand.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need to build and we need to build everywhere,” Reynoso </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Gotham Gazette on the podcast,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “especially around transit-rich corridors. We want to show Brooklyn why that is the case...you have a responsibility to the greater good here to build housing everywhere."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“What we want to say is, look, we want you to build 2,000 units of housing, but don’t worry, because Bay Ridge is going to build some too, and so is Sheepshead Bay. Everyone’s building—so you are no different from any other neighborhood,” Reynoso said. “It isn’t because you’re Black and brown, or because you have no political capital that we’re building in your</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">neighborhood, which is how people feel right now.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Much of the final say over rezonings and development falls under the power of the local City Council member, a process that Reynoso, very familiar from his eight years in the Council, said is too influenced by political considerations. To “take the politics out of it,” Reynoso wants to redirect the process to the borough-wide, comprehensive planning framework, which can allow his office and partners to approve projects based on necessity and equity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Charter already mandates borough presidents to review rezoning applications moving through the Uniform Last Use Review Procedure (ULURP), but Reynoso says that it is by no means a substitute for real or comprehensive planning that would “allow the borough president to submit ULURP recommendations with accountability and predictability to the public.” As part of creating a </span><a href="https://www.brooklyn-usa.org/comprehensive-planning-bk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Comprehensive Plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Reynoso’s office has already published a draft of an existing conditions report, held initial public events, and is taking feedback until the end of January. After public comment closes, the office expects to release a draft recommendations report in Spring 2023, followed by more community input and then a final report in Summer 2023.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said that the plan his office produces — with the help of consultants, other elected officials, and the public — will then be the main guide he uses for weighing in on land use decisions that come before his office as well as the projects he may pursue or back.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said he has been holding conversations with City Council members, impressing upon them the need to build more affordable housing and respond to other specific community needs, such as school seats and supermarkets. “Everything we do has to be data-based,” said Reynoso. “It can't be anecdotal and personal experience trying to dictate the outcomes of a lot of these redevelopment opportunities. We’re going to make data-based, informed decisions on what the needs of a community are, and then we’re going to use our recommendation power to push that onto the [City Council] member.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In her State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Kathy Hochul similarly expressed the need for every locality in the state to put in the work and meet new targets with respect to housing growth. Under her proposal, downstate communities would need to grow their housing stock by 3% over three years, meaning the development of roughly 32,000 new housing units in Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso is optimistic about the governor’s objectives. “I’m not scared about the number that is being proposed, I don’t think 30,000 is too much – as long as it’s doable and reasonable and real, let’s get to it, and I’m going to be a part of that.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And he’s eager to build more housing more quickly, particularly once his plan is in place with its expected guideposts. “If it takes 30 days or 60 days in the borough president’s office to move through an application [for housing development], I’ll do it in three and move it on to the City Council immediately,” he said. “We don’t need to talk about it a lot if you’re falling within the principles of the Comprehensive Plan that we put forth.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although Reynoso agreed with Hochul about building more housing wherever possible and suggested that Hochul’s Brooklyn target is reachable, he also cautioned that equity concerns must be placed at the forefront of the process. “This idea that we’re going to allow for people in single-family or two-family or three-family zoning to move slower than people or neighborhoods who have high-density zoning, I think is unfair,” he said. “I would want everyone to start moving at a faster pace.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso said it will be important to take another look at downzonings passed during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, which occurred “almost entirely in white, affluent areas,” he noted, and potentially “undoing them and rezoning those areas for more development opportunities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"They set us back significantly by doing downzonings,” Reynoso said when asked about those Bloomberg decisions (which then-Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11729-max-politics-podcast-dan-doctoroff-plan-new-york-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recently told Gotham Gazette were, in retrospect, a mistake</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The thing with the Comprehensive Plan that we’re pushing is that we’re going to have principles, not specific recommendations for areas,” said Reynoso. “We’re not going to say, hey, Bay Ridge, you need to build a thousand units and you should build it in this area–what we’re going to say is, you fit these characteristics, you’re in an area that’s low-density, transit-rich, good schooling, good parks, that is an ideal development district.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Maternal Health</strong><br />Along with comprehensive planning, maternal health has been Reynoso’s top priority as borough president. It was something he pledged to make a focus when he campaigned for the role, and in year one he followed through. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Reynoso, one in three childbirth-related deaths in New York City come from Brooklyn, and data shows those deaths are disproportionately among Black women especially.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I am going to show that in four years, I’ll make Brooklyn the safest place for women to have babies in all of New York,” </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">he said on the podcast</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. During his first year in office, Reynoso allocated all $45 million of his discretionary budget to the cause, particularly to fund higher-quality birthing facilities in Brooklyn’s three public hospitals. His office also put $250,000 toward a borough-wide education campaign, using ads to inform women of their rights during childbirth and dispel harmful misconceptions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When it comes to the capital dollars and infrastructure, we went all in on year one so we have less of a need in year two to pay on a lot of that infrastructure,” Reynoso said on the podcast. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I don’t like incrementalism, especially when it comes to maternal health,” Reynoso told Spectrum News NY1 in a </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2023/01/13/brooklyn-bp-antonio-reynoso-shares-his-plans-for-the-borough" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">different interview</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> last week. “We needed a big change to see the numbers go down. I could have given $3, $4, $5 million and seen maybe a tick, but I think maybe this is one of the grossest inequities in Brooklyn, maybe in the whole city, and if I really want to make a difference I need to put my money where my mouth is.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In addition to the new hospital facilities, the borough president’s office has been delivering boxes of childcare essentials to new mothers and working with higher education to reduce postpartum depression, Reynoso said. This year, Reynoso plans to expand his maternal health initiative to include participation from other hospitals in Brooklyn.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Other Priorities</strong><br />In his State of the Borough address, Reynoso also outlined several new initiatives aimed at creating space for nonprofits, increasing rooftop solar projects, helping Black-owned businesses, and community board reform. Much of the planned support from Borough Hall for solar panels will be directed towards neighborhoods with a higher utilities burden, in hopes that the investment will lower household energy bills. Comptroller Brad Lander, a Reynoso friend, political ally, and former City Council colleague, has also launched a solar panel initiative and Reynoso said the two may collaborate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso’s Black-owned business program is to be centered in Brownsville, one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the borough. Reynoso describes his method as “shock therapy,”—in essence, simultaneously guiding several Black entrepreneurs in making and executing business plans within a specified time frame, and also creating an appealing space in the neighborhood for them to rent out. His office will provide grants and other assistance, such as helping to connect Black entrepreneurs with large corporate partners.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We want them opening on the same day, we want to beautify the area by adding new trees, talking to the city about re-paving, fixing sidewalks, adding new lighting, throw a block party, invite as many people as we can to frequent these new businesses,” said Reynoso. “We also want to see if we can work with landlords to give [the businesses] six months free rent, so they don’t need to worry about overhead related to rent.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another issue on Reynoso’s plate is the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), which he has hoped in the past would be torn down and replaced with a more sensible array of infrastructure. The Adams administration is currently working through new potential plans for different parts of the expressway.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso has expressed concern over parts of the administration’s still-developing plans to restore the BQE, including around </span><a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/bqe-crumbling-cantilever-brooklyn-pols-adams-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">restoring the triple cantilever portion.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “All we will be doing in moving so quickly with a plan is regurgitating Robert Moses-type transportation and infrastructure policy,” Reynoso said. “It doesn’t give us time to really think about what a city of the future looks like when it comes to transportation, to moving goods and freight, to discouraging people from single-vehicle use and moving into a more walkable, bikeable, public transportation city.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reynoso emphasized that the actors who typically benefit most from these kinds of projects are stakeholders with political capital, not neighborhoods like Williamsburg that got “sawed in half” by special infrastructure. The borough president would prefer more collaboration with the federal government to fully rethink the BQE. “I know the mayor wants to do right by aging infrastructure falling apart, but we should really be talking to the federal government about looking at this corridor from north to south, seeing whether it’s worth having and what opportunities we have moving towards our future transportation vision, which isn’t what we’ve seen so far from the DOT and this administration,” said Reynoso.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other items on Reynoso’s 2023 agenda include re-configuring a “chaotic,” crash-prone, and poorly-designed Atlantic Avenue, attracting tourists to Downtown Brooklyn, maintaining Open Streets for longer than just the summer months and expanding to more locations, expanding bike lanes, and generally moving Brooklyn away from its current level of reliance on cars. When asked, he expressed open-mindedness about a potential casino in Coney Island, as long as it can help solve problems like unemployment and not eclipse more urgent priorities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Judge LaSalle</strong><br />Reynoso also commented for the first time on Governor Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to be Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, which was the source of significant debate, including among top Latino officials as LaSalle could become the state’s first Latino Chief Judge. Shortly after Reynoso gave his State of the Borough address and appeared on Max Politics and other shows to discuss his agenda, the LaSalle nomination was narrowly voted down in the State Senate judiciary committee after many Democrats took issue with what some have called a too-conservative judicial record.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a prominent progressive and Latino elected official, Reynoso offered his perspective.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why are we acting like he is the only Latino who can possibly get this job? Whether or not I agree or disagree with the progressives or the moderates or the Latinos or the non-Latinos is irrelevant,” he said. “We could all be celebrating together with a more unifying candidate. And if I was just playing the politics of it all, I would ask the governor to take a step back, take pride out of it, and let’s talk about if there’s an opportunity to have a candidate we can all agree on.”</span></p> <p>

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by Nicholas Liu, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Considers Manhattan Board of Elections Nominee Who Ruled in Ranked-Choice Voting Case 2023-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11793-city-council-board-elections-nominee-ranked-choice-voting Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/boe-ruled.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some members of the New York City Council continue to have questions about ranked-choice voting, the new voter-approved system that went into effect in 2021 for party primary and special elections for city government positions. Council members aired those concerns at a hearing on Wednesday as they questioned a nominee to become a commissioner at the New York City Board of Elections. The nominee, Carol Edmead, is a State Supreme Court judge who once ruled against a City Council-led lawsuit opposing ranked-choice voting. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ranked-choice voting (RCV), also known as instant-runoff voting, was overwhelmingly approved by 73.5% of voters in a 2019 ballot measure that amended the City Charter. RCV allows voters to rank up to five candidates in primary and special elections by choice of preference. If no candidate crosses the 50% threshold with first-choice votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their voters’ second-choice votes are reallocated. The process, intended to ensure the winner has a broad base of support, continues until a winner is crowned.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first ranked-choice election was held in February 2021, in a special election for City Council District 24 in Queens. But in the months prior to that election, six members of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, all Democrats, sued to stop its implementation, citing concerns about the pandemic’s disruption and arguing that the Board of Elections had failed to adequately educate voters about the system, which could subsequently disenfranchise racial minorities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But Edmead, a retiring Manhattan Supreme Court Judge </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and ally of Manhattan Democratic county leader Keith Wright</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, refused the Council members’ plea ahead of the special election and eventually </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/us-elections-government/ny-nyc-ranked-choice-voting-lawsuit-rejected-20210506-jdg7mo6hpvfwldlptc2kx7xmd4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">struck down</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the lawsuit in May 2021. On Wednesday, Edmead found herself facing questions about that decision at a hearing of the Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, which was considering her nomination to the Board of Elections as a Democratic commissioner from Manhattan. As required by state law, the New York City Board of Elections has one Democratic and one Republican commissioner from each borough, officials who are nominated through their local party establishments and confirmed at the City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For the past almost quarter-century, I have served the people of the City and State of New York as a jurist, following justice and fairness through law,” Edmead said in her opening remarks, noting that she spent the last decade overseeing election law disputes. “My goal, if appointed to the Board of Elections as a commissioner, is to serve all the people of the City of New York without prejudice or preference,” she added.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Edmead was presiding over the RCV lawsuit, the BLA Caucus was led by Council Member I. Daneek Miller, who has been term-limited out of office, and Council Member Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat who became the Council speaker last year. The other members who signed onto the lawsuit were Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy Jr., Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and Farah Louis, who is the only one of the four still in the Council. Opinions were divided within the caucus itself – several other members endorsed the new voting system. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the hearing on Wednesday, under questioning from Speaker Adams about her most recent decisions on election law, Edmead cited the RCV case. “As in all cases, I followed the law, applied the law, and made a decision. And that's what anyone should expect from a judge,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Edmead would not say whether or how RCV could be improved. “Whether rank-choice voting needs to be tweaked, needs to be adjusted, or is not the right thing at all needs to be fully considered, researched with input from people, town hall meetings, real information sharing before any action is taken,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But she did say she would require more than anecdotal evidence to conclude whether voters rejected the new voting process. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In May 2022, the New York City Campaign Finance Board released its </span><a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/media/reports/voter-analysis-report-2021-2022/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2021-2022 Voter Analysis Report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and found that voters embraced ranked-choice voting, with more than 90% of them ranking more than one candidate in at least one primary race. Democrats used ranked-choice at higher rates than Republicans. The only improvement that the CFB recommended was in reporting RCV results by publicizing a reporting schedule and reorganizing the cast vote record to help researchers analyze it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The recommendation on publicizing a result schedule stemmed from the BOE’s mishandling of the release of the first round of votes in the citywide primary in June 2021, which included 135,000 test votes that were erroneously included. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an </span><a href="https://fairvote.org/rcv_in_new_york_city/#ballot-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">analysis</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of the 2021 primary, Fair Vote, a nonpartisan group that promotes RCV nationally, found that 87% of voters ranked multiple candidates for mayor and 46% of voters used all five ranking spots on their ballot. In other races, a median of 67% ranked multiple candidates. In 49 out of 52 primary races, the first-round leader was the eventual victor, proving that they were the most representative candidate. And in 3 races, a candidate came from behind to win, showing broader consensus in later rounds. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Citizens Union, a good government group, also pointed to </span><a href="https://citizensunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/RCV-Analysis-After-June-2021-Primary-Turnout-Candidates-Voters-Impact.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">several benefits</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from RCV in that election including fewer “wasted” ballots, more victories for women and candidates of color, more women running for office and higher voter turnout, to name a few.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An </span><a href="http://readme.readmedia.com/rank-the-vote-nyc-releases-edison-research-exit-poll-on-the-election/17989282" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">exit poll</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> conducted by Common Cause/NY and Rank the Vote NYC right after the election found that 78% of New Yorkers said they understood RCV extremely or very well and 77% said they want RCV in future elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Voting rights and election advocates overwhelmingly support RCV, which they say encourages candidates to campaign more broadly outside their base and gives voters greater choice and voice in elections. Far from disenfranchising communities of color, studies have found that RCV has helped them have greater influence and that it has helped elect minority candidates to office in other jurisdictions while also boosting women. The city’s first RCV election led to the first-ever female majority in the City Council, with 31 out of 51 seats occupied by women.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Shekar Krishnan is among the new members who were elected in 2021, and the first South Asian representative on the Council. “[T]he reality is that we are seeing the most representative and diverse City Council that we’ve ever had in its history, and turnout that is far higher than it’s been in many other previous years, which to me says that ranked-choice voting really worked,” he said in </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2021/07/16/ranked-choice-voting-nyc-council-members-consider-ending-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">an NY1 interview</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in July 2021, after winning his primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite the data, Speaker Adams still has her reservations. “As one of many who questioned the implementation of ranked-choice voting, my belief is still that education was not appropriate to those that ranked-choice voting was meant to serve,” she said at the hearing.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is some weight to her concerns. An </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2021/09/08/lower-income-areas-of-nyc-had-a-harder-time-with-ranked-choice-voting-1390719" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">analysis by Politico New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> showed that wealthier, whiter neighborhoods were more likely to more extensively use ranked-choice voting than low-income communities of color. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“My opinion is that the data was in the voting itself…People of the City of New York spoke and chose not to use it in way too many cases for my druthers, but that's just my opinion,” she added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams, who was then-Brooklyn borough president and running for City Hall, has previously expressed concerns that the system was being rushed into place despite having supporting it. “Everyone knows that every layer you put in place in the process, you lose Black and brown voters and participation,” Adams </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2020/11/21/top-mayoral-candidate-admonishes-new-voting-system-amidst-efforts-to-delay-it-1337593" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Politico New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in a November 2020 interview. “We can’t disenfranchise those voters.” Frank Carone, Adams’ close ally and mayoral chief of staff for his first year in office, represented the Council members in court in the case that Edmead ruled on.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At Wednesday’s hearing, Speaker Adams’ concerns were echoed by Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, a Queens Democrat who won the February 2021 special election with first-time ranked-choice voting implementation. Brooks-Powers, who is Black, emerged victorious in a crowded field of nine candidates, after nine rounds of votes being counted, ahead of Pesach Osina, who is white, in second place. RCV seemed to benefit Brooks-Powers, helping as intended to eliminate the potential spoiler effect as several other Black candidates ran in the predominantly Black district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonetheless, she said the BOE did not conduct any significant voter education ahead of that special election and that the campaigns themselves had to take on that responsibility. “A lot of it rested on [community-based organizations] doing the work, or the candidates having enough money to do mailers to communicate that to voters, and I thought that was a misstep by the Board of Elections,” she said, insisting that it was an “injustice” not to pause the implementation of RCV. The BOE, the Campaign Finance Board and DemocracyNYC subsequently undertook a concerted effort ahead of the citywide primary to inform and educate voters. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Edmead agreed that the BOE should conduct earlier outreach about RCV. “Can it be done, and more effectively, more efficiently, and early, and in every kind of language, in language that everybody can understand? There's no reason it can’t,” she said. “And it should be, and it should be a mandate, an early mandate.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Board of Elections, an independent body that manages the city’s elections, is composed of ten commissioners, one each selected by the Democratic and Republican parties in every borough and then appointed by the City Council. Edmead was nominated by the Manhattan Democratic Party on January 4 (Wright also made <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/11/pending-power-struggle-over-boe-appointment-manhattan/380001/">a prior nomination </a>that has not yet moved forward). If the Council does not act within 30 days of that nomination, the Council’s Democratic members from Manhattan can then choose to approve Edmead’s appointment. She would then serve the remainder of a four-year term that ends December 31, 2024. </span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Manhattan Democratic Party Chair Keith Wright did not withdraw a second BOE nominee. The Council has not yet acted on that prior nomination. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/boe-ruled.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some members of the New York City Council continue to have questions about ranked-choice voting, the new voter-approved system that went into effect in 2021 for party primary and special elections for city government positions. Council members aired those concerns at a hearing on Wednesday as they questioned a nominee to become a commissioner at the New York City Board of Elections. The nominee, Carol Edmead, is a State Supreme Court judge who once ruled against a City Council-led lawsuit opposing ranked-choice voting. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ranked-choice voting (RCV), also known as instant-runoff voting, was overwhelmingly approved by 73.5% of voters in a 2019 ballot measure that amended the City Charter. RCV allows voters to rank up to five candidates in primary and special elections by choice of preference. If no candidate crosses the 50% threshold with first-choice votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their voters’ second-choice votes are reallocated. The process, intended to ensure the winner has a broad base of support, continues until a winner is crowned.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first ranked-choice election was held in February 2021, in a special election for City Council District 24 in Queens. But in the months prior to that election, six members of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, all Democrats, sued to stop its implementation, citing concerns about the pandemic’s disruption and arguing that the Board of Elections had failed to adequately educate voters about the system, which could subsequently disenfranchise racial minorities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But Edmead, a retiring Manhattan Supreme Court Judge </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and ally of Manhattan Democratic county leader Keith Wright</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, refused the Council members’ plea ahead of the special election and eventually </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/us-elections-government/ny-nyc-ranked-choice-voting-lawsuit-rejected-20210506-jdg7mo6hpvfwldlptc2kx7xmd4-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">struck down</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the lawsuit in May 2021. On Wednesday, Edmead found herself facing questions about that decision at a hearing of the Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, which was considering her nomination to the Board of Elections as a Democratic commissioner from Manhattan. As required by state law, the New York City Board of Elections has one Democratic and one Republican commissioner from each borough, officials who are nominated through their local party establishments and confirmed at the City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“For the past almost quarter-century, I have served the people of the City and State of New York as a jurist, following justice and fairness through law,” Edmead said in her opening remarks, noting that she spent the last decade overseeing election law disputes. “My goal, if appointed to the Board of Elections as a commissioner, is to serve all the people of the City of New York without prejudice or preference,” she added.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Edmead was presiding over the RCV lawsuit, the BLA Caucus was led by Council Member I. Daneek Miller, who has been term-limited out of office, and Council Member Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat who became the Council speaker last year. The other members who signed onto the lawsuit were Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy Jr., Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and Farah Louis, who is the only one of the four still in the Council. Opinions were divided within the caucus itself – several other members endorsed the new voting system. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the hearing on Wednesday, under questioning from Speaker Adams about her most recent decisions on election law, Edmead cited the RCV case. “As in all cases, I followed the law, applied the law, and made a decision. And that's what anyone should expect from a judge,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Edmead would not say whether or how RCV could be improved. “Whether rank-choice voting needs to be tweaked, needs to be adjusted, or is not the right thing at all needs to be fully considered, researched with input from people, town hall meetings, real information sharing before any action is taken,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But she did say she would require more than anecdotal evidence to conclude whether voters rejected the new voting process. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In May 2022, the New York City Campaign Finance Board released its </span><a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/media/reports/voter-analysis-report-2021-2022/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2021-2022 Voter Analysis Report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and found that voters embraced ranked-choice voting, with more than 90% of them ranking more than one candidate in at least one primary race. Democrats used ranked-choice at higher rates than Republicans. The only improvement that the CFB recommended was in reporting RCV results by publicizing a reporting schedule and reorganizing the cast vote record to help researchers analyze it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The recommendation on publicizing a result schedule stemmed from the BOE’s mishandling of the release of the first round of votes in the citywide primary in June 2021, which included 135,000 test votes that were erroneously included. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an </span><a href="https://fairvote.org/rcv_in_new_york_city/#ballot-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">analysis</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of the 2021 primary, Fair Vote, a nonpartisan group that promotes RCV nationally, found that 87% of voters ranked multiple candidates for mayor and 46% of voters used all five ranking spots on their ballot. In other races, a median of 67% ranked multiple candidates. In 49 out of 52 primary races, the first-round leader was the eventual victor, proving that they were the most representative candidate. And in 3 races, a candidate came from behind to win, showing broader consensus in later rounds. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Citizens Union, a good government group, also pointed to </span><a href="https://citizensunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/RCV-Analysis-After-June-2021-Primary-Turnout-Candidates-Voters-Impact.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">several benefits</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from RCV in that election including fewer “wasted” ballots, more victories for women and candidates of color, more women running for office and higher voter turnout, to name a few.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An </span><a href="http://readme.readmedia.com/rank-the-vote-nyc-releases-edison-research-exit-poll-on-the-election/17989282" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">exit poll</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> conducted by Common Cause/NY and Rank the Vote NYC right after the election found that 78% of New Yorkers said they understood RCV extremely or very well and 77% said they want RCV in future elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Voting rights and election advocates overwhelmingly support RCV, which they say encourages candidates to campaign more broadly outside their base and gives voters greater choice and voice in elections. Far from disenfranchising communities of color, studies have found that RCV has helped them have greater influence and that it has helped elect minority candidates to office in other jurisdictions while also boosting women. The city’s first RCV election led to the first-ever female majority in the City Council, with 31 out of 51 seats occupied by women.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Shekar Krishnan is among the new members who were elected in 2021, and the first South Asian representative on the Council. “[T]he reality is that we are seeing the most representative and diverse City Council that we’ve ever had in its history, and turnout that is far higher than it’s been in many other previous years, which to me says that ranked-choice voting really worked,” he said in </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2021/07/16/ranked-choice-voting-nyc-council-members-consider-ending-ranked-choice-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">an NY1 interview</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in July 2021, after winning his primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite the data, Speaker Adams still has her reservations. “As one of many who questioned the implementation of ranked-choice voting, my belief is still that education was not appropriate to those that ranked-choice voting was meant to serve,” she said at the hearing.   </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is some weight to her concerns. An </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2021/09/08/lower-income-areas-of-nyc-had-a-harder-time-with-ranked-choice-voting-1390719" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">analysis by Politico New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> showed that wealthier, whiter neighborhoods were more likely to more extensively use ranked-choice voting than low-income communities of color. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“My opinion is that the data was in the voting itself…People of the City of New York spoke and chose not to use it in way too many cases for my druthers, but that's just my opinion,” she added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams, who was then-Brooklyn borough president and running for City Hall, has previously expressed concerns that the system was being rushed into place despite having supporting it. “Everyone knows that every layer you put in place in the process, you lose Black and brown voters and participation,” Adams </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2020/11/21/top-mayoral-candidate-admonishes-new-voting-system-amidst-efforts-to-delay-it-1337593" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Politico New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in a November 2020 interview. “We can’t disenfranchise those voters.” Frank Carone, Adams’ close ally and mayoral chief of staff for his first year in office, represented the Council members in court in the case that Edmead ruled on.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At Wednesday’s hearing, Speaker Adams’ concerns were echoed by Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, a Queens Democrat who won the February 2021 special election with first-time ranked-choice voting implementation. Brooks-Powers, who is Black, emerged victorious in a crowded field of nine candidates, after nine rounds of votes being counted, ahead of Pesach Osina, who is white, in second place. RCV seemed to benefit Brooks-Powers, helping as intended to eliminate the potential spoiler effect as several other Black candidates ran in the predominantly Black district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonetheless, she said the BOE did not conduct any significant voter education ahead of that special election and that the campaigns themselves had to take on that responsibility. “A lot of it rested on [community-based organizations] doing the work, or the candidates having enough money to do mailers to communicate that to voters, and I thought that was a misstep by the Board of Elections,” she said, insisting that it was an “injustice” not to pause the implementation of RCV. The BOE, the Campaign Finance Board and DemocracyNYC subsequently undertook a concerted effort ahead of the citywide primary to inform and educate voters. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Edmead agreed that the BOE should conduct earlier outreach about RCV. “Can it be done, and more effectively, more efficiently, and early, and in every kind of language, in language that everybody can understand? There's no reason it can’t,” she said. “And it should be, and it should be a mandate, an early mandate.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The New York City Board of Elections, an independent body that manages the city’s elections, is composed of ten commissioners, one each selected by the Democratic and Republican parties in every borough and then appointed by the City Council. Edmead was nominated by the Manhattan Democratic Party on January 4 (Wright also made <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/11/pending-power-struggle-over-boe-appointment-manhattan/380001/">a prior nomination </a>that has not yet moved forward). If the Council does not act within 30 days of that nomination, the Council’s Democratic members from Manhattan can then choose to approve Edmead’s appointment. She would then serve the remainder of a four-year term that ends December 31, 2024. </span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Manhattan Democratic Party Chair Keith Wright did not withdraw a second BOE nominee. The Council has not yet acted on that prior nomination. </p>
City Council Passes New Disclosure Requirements for Spending to Influence Votes on Ballot Referendums 2023-01-18T14:00:00+00:00 2023-01-18T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11787-city-council-disclosure-spending-votes-ballot-questions Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-city-pass.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Passing out ballot info (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Update: The New York City Council passed the campaign finance amendment on January 19, 2022.</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is set to pass legislation this week that would require entities spending to influence voters in local referendums to disclose their funders.</p> <p>The law would close a loophole in the city's campaign finance law that lawmakers, good government groups, and campaign finance regulators have decried for years. If signed by the mayor, so-called independent expenditures (IEs) of $5,000 or more would be subject to disclosure to the New York City Campaign Finance Board. As would the names of the owners and officers of the entity behind the spending, and the names of its major contributors – the same requirements that currently apply to IE spending for or against candidate campaigns.</p> <p>The legislation, which would amend the City Charter, would also require ads for or against ballot questions to include a "paid for by" notice, including the names of up to three of its top donors.</p> <p>Movement on the bill comes after several years of prominent ballot questions in New York City, including three charter revision commissions that put amendments on the ballot in 2018, 2019, and 2022, including ranked-choice voting in certain local elections, expanding police oversight, and strengthening the city's public campaign matching fund system.</p> <p>"Ballot proposals have major implications for New York City, including by making amendments to our charter. That's why spending on ballot measures should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as spending on candidates," said City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, a Queens Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, Int. 855, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Int 855 would get rid of this anti-democratic discrepancy in our election laws and improve transparency."</p> <p>Unlike campaign spending directly by a candidate committee, independent expenditures made without coordination with a candidate campaign are held a protected form of speech by the U.S. Supreme Court and cannot be subject to limits. But they can be subject to disclosure about their funding sources and activity and over the years city law has required more reporting to the Campaign Finance Board (CFB).</p> <p>Good government groups say extending those requirements to ballot referendums is a critical response to the growing electoral influence of large donors, often cloaked in anonymity. Advocates at the Brennan Center for Justice and good government group Citizens Union testified in favor of Brooks-Powers' bill at a hearing in December. No one testified against.</p> <p>“New York City voters deserve to know when someone is spending big money to sway the outcome of ballot contests that affect their daily lives," wrote Marina Pino, a lawyer at the Brennan Center, in an email to Gotham Gazette. "Across the country, wealthy individuals and groups spend huge sums to push their interests and influence voters in these critical contests. This bill takes an important step forward in closing gaps in disclosure laws that shield secret spending, while still capturing only the largest spenders seeking to sway voters.”</p> <p>"Similar disclosure rules in elections for city offices have helped voters learn who is funding campaigns and mitigated the impact of 'dark money' in our city," wrote Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union's policy director, in an email. "Extending these rules to apply to local referenda campaigns is a reasonable response to the increase in Super PAC spending in New York."</p> <p>The bill was first sponsored by Comptroller Brad Lander, then a City Council member from Brooklyn, after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8918-city-council-expand-law-requiring-independent-expenditure-disclosures" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">uncharacteristic spending</a> on referendums in the 2019 elections sparked renewed interest.</p> <p>That year the CFB recommended city lawmakers close the charter loophole after three independent expenditure committees spent roughly $1.15 million in support or opposition to proposed Charter amendments, most of it from a single group in support of adopting a ranked-choice voting system (the group, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, included Citizens Union executive director Betsy Gotbaum as a board member). Ballot proposals the year before, in 2018, saw about $125,000 in independent spending. While the individuals controlling the committees had to be reported, the donors bankrolling them did not.</p> <p>There are no independent expenditures reported on the Campaign Finance Board's online portal on ballot referendums in the 2022 election, which included three amendments proposed by the city's Racial Justice Commission. New York City voters approved every municipal ballot question in 2018, 2019, and 2022 by wide margins.</p> <p>"[W]hen it comes to ballot proposals, our law has a blind spot. Bringing the disclosure for ballot proposals in line with the requirements for independent expenditures about candidates will provide voters with important information that will help them cast informed votes, and we urge the Council to take action,” said Amy Loprest, then-executive director of the CFB, in a 2019 statement urging the Council to pass the Charter amendment to require disclosure around spending for or against ballot questions.</p> <p>“Disclosing donors of independent expenditures for ballot initiatives would be a win for election transparency and our democracy," Lander said in a statement provided by a spokesperson this week. Lander was also the sponsor of the amendment that created the disclosure requirements for outside spending on candidate campaigns in 2014.</p> <p>"The public deserves to know who is paying for the ads about ballot proposals that could become law as we head into another municipal election cycle this year," he said.</p> <p>The bill is scheduled to be voted on the City Council's Government Operations Committee on Thursday and is expected to go to the full Council later that day where it is set to pass. If signed by the mayor or allowed to age into law, the law will take effect on January 1, 2024. The mayor’s office did not provide comment for this article about his stance on the bill.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-city-pass.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Passing out ballot info (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Update: The New York City Council passed the campaign finance amendment on January 19, 2022.</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is set to pass legislation this week that would require entities spending to influence voters in local referendums to disclose their funders.</p> <p>The law would close a loophole in the city's campaign finance law that lawmakers, good government groups, and campaign finance regulators have decried for years. If signed by the mayor, so-called independent expenditures (IEs) of $5,000 or more would be subject to disclosure to the New York City Campaign Finance Board. As would the names of the owners and officers of the entity behind the spending, and the names of its major contributors – the same requirements that currently apply to IE spending for or against candidate campaigns.</p> <p>The legislation, which would amend the City Charter, would also require ads for or against ballot questions to include a "paid for by" notice, including the names of up to three of its top donors.</p> <p>Movement on the bill comes after several years of prominent ballot questions in New York City, including three charter revision commissions that put amendments on the ballot in 2018, 2019, and 2022, including ranked-choice voting in certain local elections, expanding police oversight, and strengthening the city's public campaign matching fund system.</p> <p>"Ballot proposals have major implications for New York City, including by making amendments to our charter. That's why spending on ballot measures should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as spending on candidates," said City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, a Queens Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, Int. 855, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "Int 855 would get rid of this anti-democratic discrepancy in our election laws and improve transparency."</p> <p>Unlike campaign spending directly by a candidate committee, independent expenditures made without coordination with a candidate campaign are held a protected form of speech by the U.S. Supreme Court and cannot be subject to limits. But they can be subject to disclosure about their funding sources and activity and over the years city law has required more reporting to the Campaign Finance Board (CFB).</p> <p>Good government groups say extending those requirements to ballot referendums is a critical response to the growing electoral influence of large donors, often cloaked in anonymity. Advocates at the Brennan Center for Justice and good government group Citizens Union testified in favor of Brooks-Powers' bill at a hearing in December. No one testified against.</p> <p>“New York City voters deserve to know when someone is spending big money to sway the outcome of ballot contests that affect their daily lives," wrote Marina Pino, a lawyer at the Brennan Center, in an email to Gotham Gazette. "Across the country, wealthy individuals and groups spend huge sums to push their interests and influence voters in these critical contests. This bill takes an important step forward in closing gaps in disclosure laws that shield secret spending, while still capturing only the largest spenders seeking to sway voters.”</p> <p>"Similar disclosure rules in elections for city offices have helped voters learn who is funding campaigns and mitigated the impact of 'dark money' in our city," wrote Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union's policy director, in an email. "Extending these rules to apply to local referenda campaigns is a reasonable response to the increase in Super PAC spending in New York."</p> <p>The bill was first sponsored by Comptroller Brad Lander, then a City Council member from Brooklyn, after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8918-city-council-expand-law-requiring-independent-expenditure-disclosures" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">uncharacteristic spending</a> on referendums in the 2019 elections sparked renewed interest.</p> <p>That year the CFB recommended city lawmakers close the charter loophole after three independent expenditure committees spent roughly $1.15 million in support or opposition to proposed Charter amendments, most of it from a single group in support of adopting a ranked-choice voting system (the group, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting NYC, included Citizens Union executive director Betsy Gotbaum as a board member). Ballot proposals the year before, in 2018, saw about $125,000 in independent spending. While the individuals controlling the committees had to be reported, the donors bankrolling them did not.</p> <p>There are no independent expenditures reported on the Campaign Finance Board's online portal on ballot referendums in the 2022 election, which included three amendments proposed by the city's Racial Justice Commission. New York City voters approved every municipal ballot question in 2018, 2019, and 2022 by wide margins.</p> <p>"[W]hen it comes to ballot proposals, our law has a blind spot. Bringing the disclosure for ballot proposals in line with the requirements for independent expenditures about candidates will provide voters with important information that will help them cast informed votes, and we urge the Council to take action,” said Amy Loprest, then-executive director of the CFB, in a 2019 statement urging the Council to pass the Charter amendment to require disclosure around spending for or against ballot questions.</p> <p>“Disclosing donors of independent expenditures for ballot initiatives would be a win for election transparency and our democracy," Lander said in a statement provided by a spokesperson this week. Lander was also the sponsor of the amendment that created the disclosure requirements for outside spending on candidate campaigns in 2014.</p> <p>"The public deserves to know who is paying for the ads about ballot proposals that could become law as we head into another municipal election cycle this year," he said.</p> <p>The bill is scheduled to be voted on the City Council's Government Operations Committee on Thursday and is expected to go to the full Council later that day where it is set to pass. If signed by the mayor or allowed to age into law, the law will take effect on January 1, 2024. The mayor’s office did not provide comment for this article about his stance on the bill.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
'Critical to the Future': City Council Considers Two Board of Correction Nominees 2023-01-19T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-19T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11790-city-council-board-correction-nominees-rikers-jails Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/considers-boc.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams on Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Correction, a nine-seat panel with oversight over city jails, may soon have two new members including a former Rikers Island doctor critical of mass incarceration and a national expert on corrections policy who now leads the advocacy group that successfully advocated for the planned closure of the Rikers jail complex.</p> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections on Wednesday held a hearing to question two of its own Board of Correction nominees – Dr. Rachael Bedard, former senior director of the Geriatrics and Complex Care Service at Correctional Health Services, a division of New York Health+Hospitals running health care in city jails; and DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, which led the Close Rikers Campaign.</p> <p>Bedard and Hoskins are outspoken proponents of the city’s plan to shutter the violence-plagued Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four borough-based jails, as well as the Council’s push to end solitary confinement policies (legislation is pending to do so). While that makes them ideal candidates for a Council where a majority of members support both steps, it puts them at some odds with Mayor Eric Adams, who has repeatedly called into question the Rikers closure plan as well as defended the use of a form of solitary confinement, punitive segregation, as a necessary tool for jail safety.</p> <p>The Board of Correction is an oversight body that monitors and investigates the city’s correctional facilities, creates policies that must be implemented by the Department of Correction, evaluates the performance of Department of Correction employees, and redresses the grievances of staff and detainees. Three of its members are appointed by the City Council, three are appointed directly by the mayor, who also chooses the chair, and the other three are appointed by the mayor on the joint nomination of the presiding judges of the appellate division of the Supreme Court for the first and second judicial departments.</p> <p>Nominees are confirmed by the City Council, first by the rules committee then the full Council. Members of the Board of Correction serve six-year terms.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Council members pressed Bedard and Hoskins on their experience and qualifications, the Rikers closure plan, the importance of borough-based detention facilities and solitary confinement and punitive segregation.</p> <p>“These appointments are really critical to the future…[to] make sure that our correctional system is functioning, that we address outstanding issues in it and that the folks that are in our custody get the attention that they often need and deserve,” said City Council Member Keith Powers, a Democrat who is the Council majority leader and also chairs the rules committee. Last term, Powers oversaw city jails as chair of the Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice.</p> <p>Hoskins, who was once incarcerated herself, has previously served on the city’s task force to eliminate solitary confinement, helped develop corrections and reentry policies for the Obama administration, and worked with 20 state facilities and 80 local jails during her career. “I bring a pragmatic advocacy to this board, and I understand how the system works on the inside and how to move the needle on policy matters,” she said in her opening statement, citing her own experience with the justice system.</p> <p>Bedard, who is an internist, geriatrician, and palliative care physician, works as a research fellow at the Institute to End Mass Incarceration at Harvard Law School and worked at the city’s Correctional Health Services from 2016 to 2022. She has been an outspoken critic of the failed policies at Rikers and the overall corrections system.</p> <p>As Bedard noted in her opening statement, she worked at Rikers during the time that the closure movement gained momentum and the jail’s population fell significantly, and also during the height of the pandemic when the jail complex was in a state of crisis. She pointed out that deaths of people in custody in the Rikers Island complex went from 3 in 2019, the lowest ever, to 19 in 2022, the highest level in 25 years.</p> <p>“I believe that the Board of Correction is more important now than any time in recent memory,” she said. “No other civilian body has unfettered access to visit the jails to talk to the people who live and work there, to request and analyze jail data, and to make recommendations for change.”</p> <p>The City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio passed a law that requires the Rikers jail complex to close by 2027. But it is contingent on reducing the average daily jail population below 3,300 detainees, who would be housed in four new borough facilities that are in various stages of design and construction. But the Adams administration has expressed doubts about hitting that target, with Mayor Adams saying there should have been a “Plan B” and that he has assembled a small task force to create one. There are currently more than 5,700 people in city jails and, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/12/timeline-closure-rikers-island/376662/">according to City &amp; State</a>, Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina told the Council at a December hearing that the number could increase beyond 7,000 by 2024.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Hoskins and Bedard stressed the importance of the borough-based jails plan. “Borough-based facilities are a necessity if we want to keep people close [to their families], reduce the city’s cost of transporting [detainees], running the court system,” Hoskins said, “but also empowering and encouraging our staff that this is not just about monitoring and babysitting individuals who are incarcerated. This is actively being involved in your community.”</p> <p>Bedard expressed concern that the mayor “has pretty explicitly said that he no longer feels beholden” to meeting the target of reducing the jail population. “If we go forward with that, what we end up with is new facilities in the boroughs with either overcrowding or folks you have to put in other places, either keeping the island open or using state facilities or what have you,” she said.</p> <p>Asked by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams if they supported creating gender-specific facilities for the safety of women, both nominees issued a word of caution. “I also believe we have to have gender-specific programs, access, and housing but does that require creating one facility for the women that may defeat the initial purpose of keeping women close to their families, when their caregivers and other people may be taking care of their children?,” Hoskins said.</p> <p>“I would reiterate that I think gender-specific housing or gender-specific units at a minimum are important in maintaining safety for incarcerated women, incarcerated folks who are transgender or nonbinary,” Bedard said. “And at the same time, especially given that so many of the women incarcerated on Rikers Island are parents, it feels imperative to try to colocate those folks as close to their family as we can.”</p> <p>Both nominees spoke out against punitive segregation, which the Council and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are trying to ban through <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5698267&amp;GUID=6F47F49A-06A3-444C-BBB7-3CBFF899DD84">legislation</a>. The bill has the support of Speaker Adams and was considered at a Council hearing in September. That same month, the mayor harshly criticized the proposal.</p> <p>“If someone slashes someone with a knife on the street, I put him in jail. I remove him from population because he’s dangerous,” the mayor <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-mayor-adams-slams-solitary-confinement-ban-jails-20220913-m6vog53r2nbe7pwlafbeynqzbi-story.html">said, at an unrelated press conference</a> in Washington, D.C., when he was asked if he’d sign the bill. “Someone slashes someone in jail, what do I do with him? I remove him from population and put him someplace by himself until he corrects his action and gets the assistance he needs. So what the City Council is saying is if someone slashes someone in jail, you do nothing with them.” (That is not what the bill says, it allows for separation from others in such a situation, but requires evaluations and actions on a short timeline.)</p> <p>Hoskins and Bedard also promised to work on reforms to management that will ensure safety of correction staff and officers as well — violence at Rikers between detainees and between detainees and guards has skyrocketed in recent years. Hoskins suggested improvements to jail infrastructure as one solution, which is part of the plan for the design of the new jails. There have also been major safety issues because of correction officer absences, in part due to abuse of sick leave.</p> <p>Bedard argued for reducing interactions between detainees and officers. “If you create circumstances where you demonstrate some trust in the detainees by allowing them more independence in a safe way for their own day, you decrease the number of contacts that they need to have with officers and if you do that, you just decrease the number of opportunities for tension and conflict,” said Bedard.</p> <p>Though Rikers is already under the purview of a federal monitor because of a consent decree stemming from a 2011 lawsuit, several elected officials and advocates have pushed a federal judge to appoint a receiver who would take over the Department of Correction and the operation of city jails amid the current crisis. In November, the judge in the case, Laura Taylor Swain, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, gave the DOC more time to implement reforms, ordering all sides back to court in April for another review.</p> <p>Council members did not pose any questions about the possible receivership to Hoskins and Bedard.</p> <p>If appointed, Hoskins will serve a six-year term while Bedard will serve the remainder of a term that ends October 12, 2026. There are currently three vacancies on the Board of Correction – Hoskins and Bedard would fill two of them. Mayor Adams has appointed two members of his choice, including the chair, Dwayne Sampson, to the board and a third based on a judicial nomination.</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/considers-boc.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams on Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Correction, a nine-seat panel with oversight over city jails, may soon have two new members including a former Rikers Island doctor critical of mass incarceration and a national expert on corrections policy who now leads the advocacy group that successfully advocated for the planned closure of the Rikers jail complex.</p> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections on Wednesday held a hearing to question two of its own Board of Correction nominees – Dr. Rachael Bedard, former senior director of the Geriatrics and Complex Care Service at Correctional Health Services, a division of New York Health+Hospitals running health care in city jails; and DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, which led the Close Rikers Campaign.</p> <p>Bedard and Hoskins are outspoken proponents of the city’s plan to shutter the violence-plagued Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four borough-based jails, as well as the Council’s push to end solitary confinement policies (legislation is pending to do so). While that makes them ideal candidates for a Council where a majority of members support both steps, it puts them at some odds with Mayor Eric Adams, who has repeatedly called into question the Rikers closure plan as well as defended the use of a form of solitary confinement, punitive segregation, as a necessary tool for jail safety.</p> <p>The Board of Correction is an oversight body that monitors and investigates the city’s correctional facilities, creates policies that must be implemented by the Department of Correction, evaluates the performance of Department of Correction employees, and redresses the grievances of staff and detainees. Three of its members are appointed by the City Council, three are appointed directly by the mayor, who also chooses the chair, and the other three are appointed by the mayor on the joint nomination of the presiding judges of the appellate division of the Supreme Court for the first and second judicial departments.</p> <p>Nominees are confirmed by the City Council, first by the rules committee then the full Council. Members of the Board of Correction serve six-year terms.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Council members pressed Bedard and Hoskins on their experience and qualifications, the Rikers closure plan, the importance of borough-based detention facilities and solitary confinement and punitive segregation.</p> <p>“These appointments are really critical to the future…[to] make sure that our correctional system is functioning, that we address outstanding issues in it and that the folks that are in our custody get the attention that they often need and deserve,” said City Council Member Keith Powers, a Democrat who is the Council majority leader and also chairs the rules committee. Last term, Powers oversaw city jails as chair of the Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice.</p> <p>Hoskins, who was once incarcerated herself, has previously served on the city’s task force to eliminate solitary confinement, helped develop corrections and reentry policies for the Obama administration, and worked with 20 state facilities and 80 local jails during her career. “I bring a pragmatic advocacy to this board, and I understand how the system works on the inside and how to move the needle on policy matters,” she said in her opening statement, citing her own experience with the justice system.</p> <p>Bedard, who is an internist, geriatrician, and palliative care physician, works as a research fellow at the Institute to End Mass Incarceration at Harvard Law School and worked at the city’s Correctional Health Services from 2016 to 2022. She has been an outspoken critic of the failed policies at Rikers and the overall corrections system.</p> <p>As Bedard noted in her opening statement, she worked at Rikers during the time that the closure movement gained momentum and the jail’s population fell significantly, and also during the height of the pandemic when the jail complex was in a state of crisis. She pointed out that deaths of people in custody in the Rikers Island complex went from 3 in 2019, the lowest ever, to 19 in 2022, the highest level in 25 years.</p> <p>“I believe that the Board of Correction is more important now than any time in recent memory,” she said. “No other civilian body has unfettered access to visit the jails to talk to the people who live and work there, to request and analyze jail data, and to make recommendations for change.”</p> <p>The City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio passed a law that requires the Rikers jail complex to close by 2027. But it is contingent on reducing the average daily jail population below 3,300 detainees, who would be housed in four new borough facilities that are in various stages of design and construction. But the Adams administration has expressed doubts about hitting that target, with Mayor Adams saying there should have been a “Plan B” and that he has assembled a small task force to create one. There are currently more than 5,700 people in city jails and, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/12/timeline-closure-rikers-island/376662/">according to City &amp; State</a>, Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina told the Council at a December hearing that the number could increase beyond 7,000 by 2024.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, Hoskins and Bedard stressed the importance of the borough-based jails plan. “Borough-based facilities are a necessity if we want to keep people close [to their families], reduce the city’s cost of transporting [detainees], running the court system,” Hoskins said, “but also empowering and encouraging our staff that this is not just about monitoring and babysitting individuals who are incarcerated. This is actively being involved in your community.”</p> <p>Bedard expressed concern that the mayor “has pretty explicitly said that he no longer feels beholden” to meeting the target of reducing the jail population. “If we go forward with that, what we end up with is new facilities in the boroughs with either overcrowding or folks you have to put in other places, either keeping the island open or using state facilities or what have you,” she said.</p> <p>Asked by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams if they supported creating gender-specific facilities for the safety of women, both nominees issued a word of caution. “I also believe we have to have gender-specific programs, access, and housing but does that require creating one facility for the women that may defeat the initial purpose of keeping women close to their families, when their caregivers and other people may be taking care of their children?,” Hoskins said.</p> <p>“I would reiterate that I think gender-specific housing or gender-specific units at a minimum are important in maintaining safety for incarcerated women, incarcerated folks who are transgender or nonbinary,” Bedard said. “And at the same time, especially given that so many of the women incarcerated on Rikers Island are parents, it feels imperative to try to colocate those folks as close to their family as we can.”</p> <p>Both nominees spoke out against punitive segregation, which the Council and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are trying to ban through <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5698267&amp;GUID=6F47F49A-06A3-444C-BBB7-3CBFF899DD84">legislation</a>. The bill has the support of Speaker Adams and was considered at a Council hearing in September. That same month, the mayor harshly criticized the proposal.</p> <p>“If someone slashes someone with a knife on the street, I put him in jail. I remove him from population because he’s dangerous,” the mayor <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-york-elections-government/ny-mayor-adams-slams-solitary-confinement-ban-jails-20220913-m6vog53r2nbe7pwlafbeynqzbi-story.html">said, at an unrelated press conference</a> in Washington, D.C., when he was asked if he’d sign the bill. “Someone slashes someone in jail, what do I do with him? I remove him from population and put him someplace by himself until he corrects his action and gets the assistance he needs. So what the City Council is saying is if someone slashes someone in jail, you do nothing with them.” (That is not what the bill says, it allows for separation from others in such a situation, but requires evaluations and actions on a short timeline.)</p> <p>Hoskins and Bedard also promised to work on reforms to management that will ensure safety of correction staff and officers as well — violence at Rikers between detainees and between detainees and guards has skyrocketed in recent years. Hoskins suggested improvements to jail infrastructure as one solution, which is part of the plan for the design of the new jails. There have also been major safety issues because of correction officer absences, in part due to abuse of sick leave.</p> <p>Bedard argued for reducing interactions between detainees and officers. “If you create circumstances where you demonstrate some trust in the detainees by allowing them more independence in a safe way for their own day, you decrease the number of contacts that they need to have with officers and if you do that, you just decrease the number of opportunities for tension and conflict,” said Bedard.</p> <p>Though Rikers is already under the purview of a federal monitor because of a consent decree stemming from a 2011 lawsuit, several elected officials and advocates have pushed a federal judge to appoint a receiver who would take over the Department of Correction and the operation of city jails amid the current crisis. In November, the judge in the case, Laura Taylor Swain, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, gave the DOC more time to implement reforms, ordering all sides back to court in April for another review.</p> <p>Council members did not pose any questions about the possible receivership to Hoskins and Bedard.</p> <p>If appointed, Hoskins will serve a six-year term while Bedard will serve the remainder of a term that ends October 12, 2026. There are currently three vacancies on the Board of Correction – Hoskins and Bedard would fill two of them. Mayor Adams has appointed two members of his choice, including the chair, Dwayne Sampson, to the board and a third based on a judicial nomination.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Mayor Adams Raises $428K in Latest Fundraising Haul, Already Has $1 Million in Campaign Cash 2023-01-19T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-19T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11786-mayor-adams-fundraising-campaign-early-2025 Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2-post-big.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams raised $428,000 over the last six months for his reelection in 2025, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the New York City Campaign Finance Board on Tuesday. Adams now has just over $1 million in campaign cash on hand, but already expects more than $920,000 in public matching funds when the board begins to allocate them in December 2024 for the 2025 election cycle.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Adams, a Democrat, ran for mayor in 2021, he proved to be a prolific fundraiser, bringing in more than $9 million in private contributions for his campaign. That fundraising helped him receive $10.1 million in public matching funds from the city’s voluntary campaign finance program, which matches qualifying small-dollar donations at an 8-to-1 ratio to disincentivize the influence of wealthy donors in elections. In all, Adams spent about $18.1 million to get elected. But wealthy donors helped him nonetheless, through maximum donations of $2,100 to his campaign as well as $8.2 million in outside expenditures to support it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[Read: </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10940-eric-adams-18-million-dollar-campaign-spending-2021-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Eric Adams’ $18 Million-Plus Campaign</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the latest filing, covering the fundraising period from July 12, 2022 through January 13, 2023, Adams’ campaign raised $428,000 and spent nearly $133,000.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mayor’s campaign pulled in 386 contributions at an average of $1,110 each. That included 88 max contributions of $2,100, the limit for citywide candidates that participate in the public funds program (nonparticipants can raise as much as $3,700 from a single donor). According to the filing, about $42,700 would qualify for matching funds – for citywide candidates, the program matches the first $250 of each qualifying contribution from city residents – meaning an expected $341,000 in public matching funds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams raised about $213,000 from contributors within the city and slightly more from people who don’t live in the city, just over $215,000. In his first year, the mayor has regularly solicited political donations outside the city, </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/13/nyregion/eric-adams-fundraising-mayor.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">traveling</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to Beverly Hills, Chicago, and the Hamptons to boost his campaign coffers and kicking off a fundraising spree that is unusually early for first-term mayors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If Adams faces a primary in 2025, he already has a strong leg up on any potential challengers. The spending limit for the mayoral primary election is just over $7.9 million, and candidates can spend another $7.9 million on the general election. No other major candidates have filed to run for mayor in 2025 at this time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He is also nearly halfway to meeting the dual threshold for public funds, which requires a candidate to raise a minimum of $250,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 1,000 donors. So far, Adams’ campaign has 1,060 donors and claims more than $126,000 in contributions that are matchable. A mayoral candidate can receive up to $7 million in public funds for each of the primary and general elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Overall, Adams has raised nearly $1.3 million in private donations for his reelection campaign since January 2022, and spent $217,000.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also on Tuesday, the Campaign Finance Board was expected to vote on violations and penalties for Adams’ Transition and Inauguration Entity (TIE), including for accepting prohibited donations, failing to properly wind down the TIE’s activities, and failing to respond to requests for information and documentation. The vote was, however, delayed to the CFB’s next meeting.</span></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/2-post-big.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams raised $428,000 over the last six months for his reelection in 2025, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the New York City Campaign Finance Board on Tuesday. Adams now has just over $1 million in campaign cash on hand, but already expects more than $920,000 in public matching funds when the board begins to allocate them in December 2024 for the 2025 election cycle.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Adams, a Democrat, ran for mayor in 2021, he proved to be a prolific fundraiser, bringing in more than $9 million in private contributions for his campaign. That fundraising helped him receive $10.1 million in public matching funds from the city’s voluntary campaign finance program, which matches qualifying small-dollar donations at an 8-to-1 ratio to disincentivize the influence of wealthy donors in elections. In all, Adams spent about $18.1 million to get elected. But wealthy donors helped him nonetheless, through maximum donations of $2,100 to his campaign as well as $8.2 million in outside expenditures to support it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">[Read: </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10940-eric-adams-18-million-dollar-campaign-spending-2021-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Eric Adams’ $18 Million-Plus Campaign</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">]</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the latest filing, covering the fundraising period from July 12, 2022 through January 13, 2023, Adams’ campaign raised $428,000 and spent nearly $133,000.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mayor’s campaign pulled in 386 contributions at an average of $1,110 each. That included 88 max contributions of $2,100, the limit for citywide candidates that participate in the public funds program (nonparticipants can raise as much as $3,700 from a single donor). According to the filing, about $42,700 would qualify for matching funds – for citywide candidates, the program matches the first $250 of each qualifying contribution from city residents – meaning an expected $341,000 in public matching funds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams raised about $213,000 from contributors within the city and slightly more from people who don’t live in the city, just over $215,000. In his first year, the mayor has regularly solicited political donations outside the city, </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/13/nyregion/eric-adams-fundraising-mayor.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">traveling</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to Beverly Hills, Chicago, and the Hamptons to boost his campaign coffers and kicking off a fundraising spree that is unusually early for first-term mayors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If Adams faces a primary in 2025, he already has a strong leg up on any potential challengers. The spending limit for the mayoral primary election is just over $7.9 million, and candidates can spend another $7.9 million on the general election. No other major candidates have filed to run for mayor in 2025 at this time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He is also nearly halfway to meeting the dual threshold for public funds, which requires a candidate to raise a minimum of $250,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 1,000 donors. So far, Adams’ campaign has 1,060 donors and claims more than $126,000 in contributions that are matchable. A mayoral candidate can receive up to $7 million in public funds for each of the primary and general elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Overall, Adams has raised nearly $1.3 million in private donations for his reelection campaign since January 2022, and spent $217,000.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Also on Tuesday, the Campaign Finance Board was expected to vote on violations and penalties for Adams’ Transition and Inauguration Entity (TIE), including for accepting prohibited donations, failing to properly wind down the TIE’s activities, and failing to respond to requests for information and documentation. The vote was, however, delayed to the CFB’s next meeting.</span></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Stressing Restraint, Mayor Adams Releases $102.7 Billion Preliminary Budget for 2024 Fiscal Year 2023-01-13T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-13T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11782-mayor-adams-releases-preliminary-budget-2024-fiscal-year Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/fiscal-req-billion.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday released an $102.7 billion preliminary budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1, stressing the importance of careful spending and good fiscal management amid a variety of uncertainties and challenges.</p> <p>The mayor’s latest budget proposal is up $1.7 billion from the $101 billion budget that was adopted in June 2022 for the current fiscal year and down $1.3 billion from the latest budget modification in November, which projected $104 billion in spending by the end of the current fiscal year. At least some of the fluctuation relates to federal aid to the city. While Adams focused first and foremost on restraint, savings, and uncertainties in the city’s fiscal picture, he also touted ongoing and increasing investments in affordable housing and tenant protection, education equity, sanitation services, and climate efforts.</p> <p>“Since day one, fiscal discipline has been the hallmark of this administration,” Adams said in his presentation from City Hall. “We are focused on governing efficiently and measuring success not by how much we spend, but by our achievements. This budget protects funding for the essential services that continue to keep the city safe and clean, driving equity and affordability, and keep us on the path to prosperity.”</p> <p>The mayor said the city crafted the budget with the expectations of a “perfect storm” as economic growth is slowing and city revenues are expected to fall. Despite job growth in the city recently outpacing the state and country, several mitigating factors are projected to hurt the city’s finances. Federal pandemic relief funds will run out by the end of the 2025 fiscal year. After a very rough 2022 for the stock market, Wall Street profits have slowed, affecting the city’s tax base. Real estate sales have fallen because of high interest rates and office vacancy rates remain high, negatively impacting property taxes. Municipal labor contracts have yet to be settled and could add billions to spending, the mayor noted, as negotiations are ongoing. Health care costs are increasing. And the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant asylum-seekers in the city has strained the budget further, with associated costs expected to be as much as $1 billion for the current fiscal year.</p> <p>“We will still need to support the core services that New Yorkers depend upon every day, but with fewer resources,” Adams said, warning of slowing revenue growth.</p> <p>The mayor’s preliminary budget is the first major step of the process to craft the next city budget. It will be the focus of a series of City Council hearings, and the Council will press for changes ahead of the mayor’s executive budget, due in April. That budget will likely come after passage of the next state budget, due by April 1, which will impact city finances. The mayor’s executive budget will be the subject of another round of Council hearings, followed by negotiations both public and private, and a city budget agreement between the mayor and Council due by July 1. Adams’ tenure as mayor has already been marked by significant budget conflict with the Council, including over his November modifications for the current fiscal year, which were broadly criticized by the Speaker, Adrienne Adams, and others.<br /> <br />The preliminary budget plan released Thursday by the mayor, a second-year Democrat, projected additional revenues of $1.7 billion by the end of the current fiscal year, creating a $2.2 billion surplus Adams is planning to use for pre-payments into the next fiscal year. There was also $738 million in additional projected revenue for fiscal year 2024.</p> <p>Budget gaps were projected to fall for future years, though their size remains a concern – $3.2 billion in FY25, $5 billion in FY26, and $6.5 billion in FY27.</p> <p>There is little new spending in the mayor’s budget. Among the allocations highlighted by City Hall was $20 million to advance the mayor’s housing and homelessness plan, including assistance with down-payments for low-income prospective homeowners and expanded enforcement against tenant harassment; $2.8 million to streamline affordable housing projects; an additional $80 million (for a total of $160 million) to maintain Fair Student Funding; $2.6 million for the Department of Buildings to implement a citywide building code; $1.8 million to expand the city’s Neighborhood Rat Reduction Initiative into Harlem; and $1.62 million to hire chief decarbonization officers across city agencies.</p> <p>The mayor said that new agency expense spending was covered by additional revenues and savings identified in the budget. Those savings largely came from a vacancy reduction initiative that cut more than 4,300 previously-budgeted vacancies across city government, cutting $181 million in costs in the current fiscal year and $350 million in FY24.</p> <p>As he continues to face criticism over agency personnel shortages and his budgeting choices, Adams noted that more than 23,000 budgeted vacancies still exist at agencies, which gives them sufficient capacity to perform their duties. But he stressed that government retention and hiring remain challenges for his administration, the rest of city government, and beyond. He said his administration must continue to perform regardless.</p> <p>“Some will argue that vacancy reduction results in agencies not being able to do their jobs. Don't believe them,” he said. The mayor has still not offered any new large-scale retention or recruitment policies, which his administration has said are in the works.</p> <p>The preliminary budget also maintained city reserves at $8.3 billion, the highest level ever in city budgeting. That includes $1.6 billion in the general reserve, $4.5 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust fund, $250 million in the capital stabilization reserve, and $1.9 billion in the Rainy-Day Fund.</p> <p>Even prior to the budget release, the mayor faced significant criticism for proposing sweeping cuts to city agencies to rein in spending and close future budget gaps. At the time of the November budget plan, he mandated 3% cuts across the board for agencies to present savings plans to City Hall – though many agencies did not comply and were not held accountable. But the cuts that the mayor did move ahead will affect funding for city libraries, CUNY, early childhood education, and more, which has caused broad consternation among City Council members, leaders of impacted institutions, advocates, and constituents. Adams has insisted that most agencies and entities that rely on city funding can find savings and not reduce programming offered to New Yorkers.</p> <p>“As our city continues to recover from the pandemic, we must prioritize smart investments that maintain essential services to keep all New Yorkers healthy and safe," said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Member Justin Brannan, the Council’s finance chair, in a statement after the budget was released. "We also must prioritize solutions to the staffing challenges that have hindered city agencies in delivering key services to New Yorkers, such as housing and food assistance. To that end, many of our concerns with the Mayor’s November Plan remain with the Fiscal Year 2024 Preliminary Budget."</p> <p>Ahead of the budget release on Thursday morning, Speaker Adams and Brannan had already announced that the Council would not be voting on the November budget modification by the January 20 deadline – a symbolic gesture to show the Council’s disapproval of the mayor’s budgeting. The modification will then automatically go into effect.</p> <p>“The budget vision put forward by the Administration to cut funding for CUNY, libraries, social services, early childhood education, and other essential services for New Yorkers is one this Council cannot support,” Adams and Brannan said in a lengthy joint statement. “The city is facing multiple crises that require smart investments, and the approach in the November Plan only undermines the health, safety, and recovery of our city.”</p> <p>They also took issue with the mayor calling on the City Council to cut millions from its discretionary funding, which is allocated annually to nonprofit human service providers that contract with the city. “We also reject the false choice in this budget modification of having to choose between cuts to city agencies or cuts to non-profit organizations providing services on the frontlines in our communities to underserved and vulnerable New Yorkers,” Adams and Brannan said, accusing the mayor of “undermining” city agencies and services “that meet the essential needs of all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>They indicated that the Council would not vote down the modification because that could jeopardize millions of dollars in funding to nonprofits performing city services, among other uncertainties.</p> <p>Taking questions from reporters after the budget presentation, the mayor projected harmony. “I have partners in every part of government and I consider Adrienne to be one of those partners,” he said. “I may be the pilot but she's the co-pilot and we have to land this plane and we can't land it without each other. And we're going to have disagreements but trust me, we will land this plane and we will have a budget.”</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a statement that the budget “takes an important step towards revenue transparency, allocating the remainder of federal pandemic relief and increasing projections based on year-to-date tax collections.” But he noted that the city failed to account for recurring costs of the migrant crisis, which the mayor hopes will be paid for via federal and state relief funds. “The city must lay out these and other risks transparently so that it may continue to plan and identify new ways to close these gaps without harming services, which would be counterproductive to the city, and state’s, economic recovery,” he said.</p> <p>He also said the city “missed an opportunity” to add funds to reserves despite revenues coming in higher than expected.</p> <p>City Comptroller Brad Lander offered his own mixed reaction to the mayor’s spending plan. In a statement, he noted that the mayor and Governor Kathy Hochul had recently laid out a vision for a ‘New’ New York. “Yet, rather than making investments upstream as that plan envisioned, this budget meanders with little direction,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>He said that reserves remain insufficient to weather a recession, and that the city has failed to adequately budget for costs such as police overtime, housing vouchers, and union contract settlements. He also said vacancy cuts could affect crucial agency functions.</p> <p>Lander also called on the mayor to support efforts in Albany to raise new revenues for the city, presumably through higher taxes on the wealthy, which Lander has called for in the past but Adams is generally opposed to. The mayor again expressed skepticism about increasing taxes on the wealthy on Thursday, saying he does not want to see top earners flee the city for other states.</p> <p>“To confront both the economic uncertainty and inequality facing our city, New York City needs a budget that provides both a strong cushion to weather future blows and one that sets us up for long-term growth,” he said.</p> <p>Andrew Rein, president of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog, said the preliminary budget took some "positive steps" including reducing vacancies, maintaining reserves, making agencies self-fund new spending and avoiding major new spending initiatives. But, he stressed that "much more aggressive action is needed to stabilize future budgets, hedge against a looming recession, and improve the quality and efficiency of services. This should not be delayed." He urged the city to make additional deposits to the Rainy Day fund, prepare for the fiscal cliff from diminishing federal aid, and restructure city services to cut costs in the long term. </p> <p>Also on Thursday, Adams released the updated ten-year capital strategy of $159.3 billion, including a series of new capital investments to pay for infrastructure projects.</p> <p>That includes $259 million to accelerate building retrofits to meet emissions reduction targets; $228 million for street infrastructure projects; $153 million for the Willets Point redevelopment project that includes building 2,500 affordable homes and a new soccer stadium; $62.3 million for reconstructing the Riverside Park Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and plaza; $47.5 million for new safety measures at city schools; $77 million to double signal installation; and $46 million for repairs and upgrades to marine infrastructure in Staten Island and Manhattan.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note- this article has been updated. </p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/fiscal-req-billion.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday released an $102.7 billion preliminary budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1, stressing the importance of careful spending and good fiscal management amid a variety of uncertainties and challenges.</p> <p>The mayor’s latest budget proposal is up $1.7 billion from the $101 billion budget that was adopted in June 2022 for the current fiscal year and down $1.3 billion from the latest budget modification in November, which projected $104 billion in spending by the end of the current fiscal year. At least some of the fluctuation relates to federal aid to the city. While Adams focused first and foremost on restraint, savings, and uncertainties in the city’s fiscal picture, he also touted ongoing and increasing investments in affordable housing and tenant protection, education equity, sanitation services, and climate efforts.</p> <p>“Since day one, fiscal discipline has been the hallmark of this administration,” Adams said in his presentation from City Hall. “We are focused on governing efficiently and measuring success not by how much we spend, but by our achievements. This budget protects funding for the essential services that continue to keep the city safe and clean, driving equity and affordability, and keep us on the path to prosperity.”</p> <p>The mayor said the city crafted the budget with the expectations of a “perfect storm” as economic growth is slowing and city revenues are expected to fall. Despite job growth in the city recently outpacing the state and country, several mitigating factors are projected to hurt the city’s finances. Federal pandemic relief funds will run out by the end of the 2025 fiscal year. After a very rough 2022 for the stock market, Wall Street profits have slowed, affecting the city’s tax base. Real estate sales have fallen because of high interest rates and office vacancy rates remain high, negatively impacting property taxes. Municipal labor contracts have yet to be settled and could add billions to spending, the mayor noted, as negotiations are ongoing. Health care costs are increasing. And the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant asylum-seekers in the city has strained the budget further, with associated costs expected to be as much as $1 billion for the current fiscal year.</p> <p>“We will still need to support the core services that New Yorkers depend upon every day, but with fewer resources,” Adams said, warning of slowing revenue growth.</p> <p>The mayor’s preliminary budget is the first major step of the process to craft the next city budget. It will be the focus of a series of City Council hearings, and the Council will press for changes ahead of the mayor’s executive budget, due in April. That budget will likely come after passage of the next state budget, due by April 1, which will impact city finances. The mayor’s executive budget will be the subject of another round of Council hearings, followed by negotiations both public and private, and a city budget agreement between the mayor and Council due by July 1. Adams’ tenure as mayor has already been marked by significant budget conflict with the Council, including over his November modifications for the current fiscal year, which were broadly criticized by the Speaker, Adrienne Adams, and others.<br /> <br />The preliminary budget plan released Thursday by the mayor, a second-year Democrat, projected additional revenues of $1.7 billion by the end of the current fiscal year, creating a $2.2 billion surplus Adams is planning to use for pre-payments into the next fiscal year. There was also $738 million in additional projected revenue for fiscal year 2024.</p> <p>Budget gaps were projected to fall for future years, though their size remains a concern – $3.2 billion in FY25, $5 billion in FY26, and $6.5 billion in FY27.</p> <p>There is little new spending in the mayor’s budget. Among the allocations highlighted by City Hall was $20 million to advance the mayor’s housing and homelessness plan, including assistance with down-payments for low-income prospective homeowners and expanded enforcement against tenant harassment; $2.8 million to streamline affordable housing projects; an additional $80 million (for a total of $160 million) to maintain Fair Student Funding; $2.6 million for the Department of Buildings to implement a citywide building code; $1.8 million to expand the city’s Neighborhood Rat Reduction Initiative into Harlem; and $1.62 million to hire chief decarbonization officers across city agencies.</p> <p>The mayor said that new agency expense spending was covered by additional revenues and savings identified in the budget. Those savings largely came from a vacancy reduction initiative that cut more than 4,300 previously-budgeted vacancies across city government, cutting $181 million in costs in the current fiscal year and $350 million in FY24.</p> <p>As he continues to face criticism over agency personnel shortages and his budgeting choices, Adams noted that more than 23,000 budgeted vacancies still exist at agencies, which gives them sufficient capacity to perform their duties. But he stressed that government retention and hiring remain challenges for his administration, the rest of city government, and beyond. He said his administration must continue to perform regardless.</p> <p>“Some will argue that vacancy reduction results in agencies not being able to do their jobs. Don't believe them,” he said. The mayor has still not offered any new large-scale retention or recruitment policies, which his administration has said are in the works.</p> <p>The preliminary budget also maintained city reserves at $8.3 billion, the highest level ever in city budgeting. That includes $1.6 billion in the general reserve, $4.5 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust fund, $250 million in the capital stabilization reserve, and $1.9 billion in the Rainy-Day Fund.</p> <p>Even prior to the budget release, the mayor faced significant criticism for proposing sweeping cuts to city agencies to rein in spending and close future budget gaps. At the time of the November budget plan, he mandated 3% cuts across the board for agencies to present savings plans to City Hall – though many agencies did not comply and were not held accountable. But the cuts that the mayor did move ahead will affect funding for city libraries, CUNY, early childhood education, and more, which has caused broad consternation among City Council members, leaders of impacted institutions, advocates, and constituents. Adams has insisted that most agencies and entities that rely on city funding can find savings and not reduce programming offered to New Yorkers.</p> <p>“As our city continues to recover from the pandemic, we must prioritize smart investments that maintain essential services to keep all New Yorkers healthy and safe," said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Member Justin Brannan, the Council’s finance chair, in a statement after the budget was released. "We also must prioritize solutions to the staffing challenges that have hindered city agencies in delivering key services to New Yorkers, such as housing and food assistance. To that end, many of our concerns with the Mayor’s November Plan remain with the Fiscal Year 2024 Preliminary Budget."</p> <p>Ahead of the budget release on Thursday morning, Speaker Adams and Brannan had already announced that the Council would not be voting on the November budget modification by the January 20 deadline – a symbolic gesture to show the Council’s disapproval of the mayor’s budgeting. The modification will then automatically go into effect.</p> <p>“The budget vision put forward by the Administration to cut funding for CUNY, libraries, social services, early childhood education, and other essential services for New Yorkers is one this Council cannot support,” Adams and Brannan said in a lengthy joint statement. “The city is facing multiple crises that require smart investments, and the approach in the November Plan only undermines the health, safety, and recovery of our city.”</p> <p>They also took issue with the mayor calling on the City Council to cut millions from its discretionary funding, which is allocated annually to nonprofit human service providers that contract with the city. “We also reject the false choice in this budget modification of having to choose between cuts to city agencies or cuts to non-profit organizations providing services on the frontlines in our communities to underserved and vulnerable New Yorkers,” Adams and Brannan said, accusing the mayor of “undermining” city agencies and services “that meet the essential needs of all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>They indicated that the Council would not vote down the modification because that could jeopardize millions of dollars in funding to nonprofits performing city services, among other uncertainties.</p> <p>Taking questions from reporters after the budget presentation, the mayor projected harmony. “I have partners in every part of government and I consider Adrienne to be one of those partners,” he said. “I may be the pilot but she's the co-pilot and we have to land this plane and we can't land it without each other. And we're going to have disagreements but trust me, we will land this plane and we will have a budget.”</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a statement that the budget “takes an important step towards revenue transparency, allocating the remainder of federal pandemic relief and increasing projections based on year-to-date tax collections.” But he noted that the city failed to account for recurring costs of the migrant crisis, which the mayor hopes will be paid for via federal and state relief funds. “The city must lay out these and other risks transparently so that it may continue to plan and identify new ways to close these gaps without harming services, which would be counterproductive to the city, and state’s, economic recovery,” he said.</p> <p>He also said the city “missed an opportunity” to add funds to reserves despite revenues coming in higher than expected.</p> <p>City Comptroller Brad Lander offered his own mixed reaction to the mayor’s spending plan. In a statement, he noted that the mayor and Governor Kathy Hochul had recently laid out a vision for a ‘New’ New York. “Yet, rather than making investments upstream as that plan envisioned, this budget meanders with little direction,” he said in a statement.</p> <p>He said that reserves remain insufficient to weather a recession, and that the city has failed to adequately budget for costs such as police overtime, housing vouchers, and union contract settlements. He also said vacancy cuts could affect crucial agency functions.</p> <p>Lander also called on the mayor to support efforts in Albany to raise new revenues for the city, presumably through higher taxes on the wealthy, which Lander has called for in the past but Adams is generally opposed to. The mayor again expressed skepticism about increasing taxes on the wealthy on Thursday, saying he does not want to see top earners flee the city for other states.</p> <p>“To confront both the economic uncertainty and inequality facing our city, New York City needs a budget that provides both a strong cushion to weather future blows and one that sets us up for long-term growth,” he said.</p> <p>Andrew Rein, president of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog, said the preliminary budget took some "positive steps" including reducing vacancies, maintaining reserves, making agencies self-fund new spending and avoiding major new spending initiatives. But, he stressed that "much more aggressive action is needed to stabilize future budgets, hedge against a looming recession, and improve the quality and efficiency of services. This should not be delayed." He urged the city to make additional deposits to the Rainy Day fund, prepare for the fiscal cliff from diminishing federal aid, and restructure city services to cut costs in the long term. </p> <p>Also on Thursday, Adams released the updated ten-year capital strategy of $159.3 billion, including a series of new capital investments to pay for infrastructure projects.</p> <p>That includes $259 million to accelerate building retrofits to meet emissions reduction targets; $228 million for street infrastructure projects; $153 million for the Willets Point redevelopment project that includes building 2,500 affordable homes and a new soccer stadium; $62.3 million for reconstructing the Riverside Park Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and plaza; $47.5 million for new safety measures at city schools; $77 million to double signal installation; and $46 million for repairs and upgrades to marine infrastructure in Staten Island and Manhattan.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- this article has been updated. </p>
Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Antonio Reynoso's Vision for Brooklyn 2023-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-boro-reynoso600.jpg" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 11, 2023 - Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Antonio Reynoso's Vision for Brooklyn<br /></strong></p> <p>Borough President Antonio Reynoso joined the show to discuss his new State of the Borough agenda and vision for the city's most populous borough.</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/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-boro-reynoso600.jpg" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 11, 2023 - Max Politics Podcast: Borough President Antonio Reynoso's Vision for Brooklyn<br /></strong></p> <p>Borough President Antonio Reynoso joined the show to discuss his new State of the Borough agenda and vision for the city's most populous borough.</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/11774-max-politics-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-antonio-reynoso-vision">Read More ...</a></p> Strengthen Nonprofits Providing Key Services by Reducing Administrative Burdens, Report Says 2023-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11781-nonprofits-city-services-administrative-burdens Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/key-city-redu.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Human services (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The nonprofit providers New York City and State contract to deliver essential human services spend hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of dollars each year filing paperwork and performing repetitive administrative tasks in order to receive government funding.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That's because of compounded inefficiencies built up across a largely decentralized contracting and reporting system, according to a new report from Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a policy research group focused on economic mobility. The new </span><a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/reducing-administrative-burdens-on-nonprofits"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> describes issues with duplicative contracting and reporting requirements within and across government agencies, obstacles to reimbursement, excessive and unnecessary audits, and prohibitively arduous discretionary funding requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In one example, a youth-services provider, Good Shepherd Services, had to submit the same general liability information each year for 25 distinct contracts it holds with the Department of Youth and Community Development, and is audited on all 25 of those contracts each budget cycle. In another example, providers are asked to email documents to the state Office of Children and Family Services that are already available for review by other agencies on the state's digital Grants Gateway platform because OCFS doesn't use the same online system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonprofits, many of which operate on shoestring budgets, often have to hire full-time staff to ensure compliance with byzantine requirements like these, positions that could otherwise be dedicated to service provision.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In its report, Center for an Urban Future is calling for standardized and widespread use of city and state contracting systems, and a reduction in overly cumbersome reporting and auditing requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"City and state government have a major opportunity to boost support for human services nonprofits, an opportunity that costs the city almost nothing, and that's by reducing or eliminating these excessive administrative burdens in the contracting process," said Eli Dvorkin, CUF's editorial and policy director, in an interview.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Human services providers meet New Yorkers’ most critical needs, from emergency meals to housing and healthcare. They make up much of the social safety net while often struggling to stay afloat themselves. That was especially true at the height of the pandemic when demands on their services were at their highest levels and government and philanthropic funding at its most uncertain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the city and state have adopted digital platforms to streamline contracting, not all government agencies use them and they still lack standardized document or formatting requirements, according to the report, which is based on nearly 40 interviews with human services providers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When reporting on outcomes from funding, required information is often duplicated over a smattering of isolated systems, making it difficult for providers and government officials to track or analyze results for people receiving multiple services. Even then, some agencies, like DYCD in Good Shepherd's case, audit all contracts, despite federal auditing guidelines requiring between just 15% and 20% of contracts be reviewed, the report notes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vouchers and reimbursements are often turned down over minor filing inconsistencies and even the smallest expenses, in some cases as low as $5.50, require extensive documentation, according to the report.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonprofits seeking New York City Council discretionary dollars to enhance services and secure needed funds outside of the competitive bidding process, face so many paperwork queries that the labor costs often outweigh the potential funding. In one case described in the report, a math enrichment program working with underserved youth called BEAM (Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics) had to file 37 documents in order to receive a $5,000 discretionary award, a burden that proved so costly the organization stopped seeking discretionary funding as part of its model.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The report suggests the City Council, the Mayor's Office of Contract Services, and City Comptroller Brad Lander work together to simplify the application and reporting procedures for discretionary funding.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams has made it a point to ensure nonprofits are paid for the work they are contracted to do, clearing a $4.2 million backlog in unpaid contracts by August after partnering with Lander to launch the Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time. In 2022, Adams established the Mayor's Office of Nonprofit Services and appointed Karen Ford, former COO of HELP USA, a national homeless and housing services organization, to be its executive director.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The CUF report argues reducing administrative burdens in contracting is a separate area of "low-hanging fruit" that the city and state can take to alleviate pressure on human services providers. That includes ensuring all city agencies use the city's digital </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9120-city-s-20-billion-in-contracting-takes-another-step-into-modernity" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">PASSPort system</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and all state agencies use the state's Grants Gateway system for contracting, and that each uses the same documentation standards — steps within the power of Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">​​Government leaders should also reduce the number of audits nonprofits are subject to, the report suggests. While nonprofits have misused funds and wasted tax dollars leading some to call for greater oversight of the industry, Dvorkin argued eliminating frivolous requirements, like universal auditing, is unlikely to compromise existing accountability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the Hochul administration moves forward with plans to replace the Grants Gateway portal, it should conduct robust outreach with nonprofit providers to ensure the new system can function as intended, the report states.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CUF argues other data management steps are relatively simple, like using systems that allow nonprofits to upload information directly from digital spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel. Another is creating so-called document vaults – secure digital repositories for providers to save frequently requested documents directly to the online portals, something PASSPort's predecessor system, the HHS Accelerator, had.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Reforming our nonprofit contracting processes is a major priority for the Adams administration, which is why the mayor announced 'A Better Contract for New York' with the city’s comptroller before he took office during the transition, to ensure nonprofit human services providers are paid in a more timely manner," wrote a City Hall spokesperson, referring to the alternate title of the Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time, in an email. The city has now unlocked over $5.3 billion in unpaid contract dollars to 624 providers, they said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We plan to build on these ambitious steps in the months ahead to reduce unnecessary inefficiencies, and will review the recommendations advanced in the report,” the spokesperson for Mayor Adams wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"New York City’s non-profits provide critical services and deserve timely and efficient access to the city funding allocated to them," wrote a spokesperson for New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, in an email to Gotham Gazette. "The challenges and delays in accessing funds through the contracting process has long been an issue of concern to the Council. It is critical for the City to strike the right balance between administrative requirements and safeguards in funding organizations with varying levels of back-office capacity."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council's committees on aging, contracts, and youth services will hold a joint oversight hearing this month on nonprofit contracting and the Adams-Lander task force recommendations. That will include exploring ways to simplify the discretionary funding process, the Council spokesperson said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Queens City Council Member Julie Won, chair of the Council’s contracts committee, discussed the need for discretionary funding reform at a recent CUF panel that was quoted in the report. “When you’ve been allotted $10,000 in discretionary funds, it is not okay to have a nonprofit with 30 employees dedicate two of those employees to it for weeks at a time,” Won said. “We’ve created such an administrative burden for only $10,000, which isn’t even enough to cover one payroll.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A spokesperson for Lander acknowledged the problems identified in the report and noted the issues were an ongoing focus of the office. “Making our procurement process simpler and quicker for nonprofits providing vital services is critical and we welcome the Center for an Urban Future’s contributions to the conversation on contracting reform," said Chloe Chik, spokesperson for the comptroller. "Together with the Mayor’s office and partners in the Council, we continue to work toward streamlining the procurement and oversight process to ease the burden on nonprofits while maintaining integrity.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chik noted that some of the recommendations in the Joint Task Force </span><a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-better-contract-for-new-york/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> complement CUF's recommendations, including streamlining the discretionary award process. Chik also said there is already a commitment at the city level to integrate all contracting agencies into PASSPort.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The Adams administration should commit to reforming at least a half dozen of the most maddening contracting requirements by the end of 2023," the CUF report states.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"These are relatively modest changes that could be rolled out in a matter of weeks or months, not years. And we've seen other challenges that have unfolded over much longer timelines," said Dvorkin, noting the mayor has laid some of the groundwork already by creating the Mayor's Office of Nonprofit Services.</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/key-city-redu.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Human services (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The nonprofit providers New York City and State contract to deliver essential human services spend hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of dollars each year filing paperwork and performing repetitive administrative tasks in order to receive government funding.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That's because of compounded inefficiencies built up across a largely decentralized contracting and reporting system, according to a new report from Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a policy research group focused on economic mobility. The new </span><a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/reducing-administrative-burdens-on-nonprofits"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> describes issues with duplicative contracting and reporting requirements within and across government agencies, obstacles to reimbursement, excessive and unnecessary audits, and prohibitively arduous discretionary funding requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In one example, a youth-services provider, Good Shepherd Services, had to submit the same general liability information each year for 25 distinct contracts it holds with the Department of Youth and Community Development, and is audited on all 25 of those contracts each budget cycle. In another example, providers are asked to email documents to the state Office of Children and Family Services that are already available for review by other agencies on the state's digital Grants Gateway platform because OCFS doesn't use the same online system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonprofits, many of which operate on shoestring budgets, often have to hire full-time staff to ensure compliance with byzantine requirements like these, positions that could otherwise be dedicated to service provision.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In its report, Center for an Urban Future is calling for standardized and widespread use of city and state contracting systems, and a reduction in overly cumbersome reporting and auditing requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"City and state government have a major opportunity to boost support for human services nonprofits, an opportunity that costs the city almost nothing, and that's by reducing or eliminating these excessive administrative burdens in the contracting process," said Eli Dvorkin, CUF's editorial and policy director, in an interview.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Human services providers meet New Yorkers’ most critical needs, from emergency meals to housing and healthcare. They make up much of the social safety net while often struggling to stay afloat themselves. That was especially true at the height of the pandemic when demands on their services were at their highest levels and government and philanthropic funding at its most uncertain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the city and state have adopted digital platforms to streamline contracting, not all government agencies use them and they still lack standardized document or formatting requirements, according to the report, which is based on nearly 40 interviews with human services providers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When reporting on outcomes from funding, required information is often duplicated over a smattering of isolated systems, making it difficult for providers and government officials to track or analyze results for people receiving multiple services. Even then, some agencies, like DYCD in Good Shepherd's case, audit all contracts, despite federal auditing guidelines requiring between just 15% and 20% of contracts be reviewed, the report notes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vouchers and reimbursements are often turned down over minor filing inconsistencies and even the smallest expenses, in some cases as low as $5.50, require extensive documentation, according to the report.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nonprofits seeking New York City Council discretionary dollars to enhance services and secure needed funds outside of the competitive bidding process, face so many paperwork queries that the labor costs often outweigh the potential funding. In one case described in the report, a math enrichment program working with underserved youth called BEAM (Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics) had to file 37 documents in order to receive a $5,000 discretionary award, a burden that proved so costly the organization stopped seeking discretionary funding as part of its model.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The report suggests the City Council, the Mayor's Office of Contract Services, and City Comptroller Brad Lander work together to simplify the application and reporting procedures for discretionary funding.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mayor Eric Adams has made it a point to ensure nonprofits are paid for the work they are contracted to do, clearing a $4.2 million backlog in unpaid contracts by August after partnering with Lander to launch the Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time. In 2022, Adams established the Mayor's Office of Nonprofit Services and appointed Karen Ford, former COO of HELP USA, a national homeless and housing services organization, to be its executive director.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The CUF report argues reducing administrative burdens in contracting is a separate area of "low-hanging fruit" that the city and state can take to alleviate pressure on human services providers. That includes ensuring all city agencies use the city's digital </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9120-city-s-20-billion-in-contracting-takes-another-step-into-modernity" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">PASSPort system</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and all state agencies use the state's Grants Gateway system for contracting, and that each uses the same documentation standards — steps within the power of Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">​​Government leaders should also reduce the number of audits nonprofits are subject to, the report suggests. While nonprofits have misused funds and wasted tax dollars leading some to call for greater oversight of the industry, Dvorkin argued eliminating frivolous requirements, like universal auditing, is unlikely to compromise existing accountability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the Hochul administration moves forward with plans to replace the Grants Gateway portal, it should conduct robust outreach with nonprofit providers to ensure the new system can function as intended, the report states.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CUF argues other data management steps are relatively simple, like using systems that allow nonprofits to upload information directly from digital spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel. Another is creating so-called document vaults – secure digital repositories for providers to save frequently requested documents directly to the online portals, something PASSPort's predecessor system, the HHS Accelerator, had.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Reforming our nonprofit contracting processes is a major priority for the Adams administration, which is why the mayor announced 'A Better Contract for New York' with the city’s comptroller before he took office during the transition, to ensure nonprofit human services providers are paid in a more timely manner," wrote a City Hall spokesperson, referring to the alternate title of the Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid on Time, in an email. The city has now unlocked over $5.3 billion in unpaid contract dollars to 624 providers, they said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We plan to build on these ambitious steps in the months ahead to reduce unnecessary inefficiencies, and will review the recommendations advanced in the report,” the spokesperson for Mayor Adams wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"New York City’s non-profits provide critical services and deserve timely and efficient access to the city funding allocated to them," wrote a spokesperson for New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, in an email to Gotham Gazette. "The challenges and delays in accessing funds through the contracting process has long been an issue of concern to the Council. It is critical for the City to strike the right balance between administrative requirements and safeguards in funding organizations with varying levels of back-office capacity."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council's committees on aging, contracts, and youth services will hold a joint oversight hearing this month on nonprofit contracting and the Adams-Lander task force recommendations. That will include exploring ways to simplify the discretionary funding process, the Council spokesperson said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Queens City Council Member Julie Won, chair of the Council’s contracts committee, discussed the need for discretionary funding reform at a recent CUF panel that was quoted in the report. “When you’ve been allotted $10,000 in discretionary funds, it is not okay to have a nonprofit with 30 employees dedicate two of those employees to it for weeks at a time,” Won said. “We’ve created such an administrative burden for only $10,000, which isn’t even enough to cover one payroll.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A spokesperson for Lander acknowledged the problems identified in the report and noted the issues were an ongoing focus of the office. “Making our procurement process simpler and quicker for nonprofits providing vital services is critical and we welcome the Center for an Urban Future’s contributions to the conversation on contracting reform," said Chloe Chik, spokesperson for the comptroller. "Together with the Mayor’s office and partners in the Council, we continue to work toward streamlining the procurement and oversight process to ease the burden on nonprofits while maintaining integrity.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chik noted that some of the recommendations in the Joint Task Force </span><a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-better-contract-for-new-york/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> complement CUF's recommendations, including streamlining the discretionary award process. Chik also said there is already a commitment at the city level to integrate all contracting agencies into PASSPort.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The Adams administration should commit to reforming at least a half dozen of the most maddening contracting requirements by the end of 2023," the CUF report states.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"These are relatively modest changes that could be rolled out in a matter of weeks or months, not years. And we've seen other challenges that have unfolded over much longer timelines," said Dvorkin, noting the mayor has laid some of the groundwork already by creating the Mayor's Office of Nonprofit Services.</span></p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Race for New ‘Asian Opportunity’ Brooklyn City Council District Set to Take Off 2023-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 2023-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11776-race-election-asian-opportunity-brooklyn-city-council-district-43 Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/primary-asian-oppor.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A community event in Sunset Park (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The decennial redistricting process in New York created a new “Asian opportunity” City Council district in Brooklyn, and three candidates have declared their intentions to run for the seat in the fast-approaching June primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asian Americans were the fastest growing population in New York City between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census, accounting for more than half of the increase in the city’s population. South Brooklyn is home to one of the largest concentrations of Asian Americans in the city in neighborhoods including Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sunset Park. That led the New York City Districting Commission to redraw Council District 43 into a new district with a majority Asian American population – combining Bensonhurst, New Utrecht, and parts of Dyker Heights and Sunset Park – giving the growing community a prime opportunity to elect one of their own to the City Council. There has never been an Asian City Council member from Brooklyn. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Because of the redistricting process, the entire 51-seat City Council is heading into another election this year, just two years after the most recent citywide election. And the new District 43 is expected to be among the competitive races since there is no incumbent expected to run. (Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents the current, outgoing District 43 is running in the new District 47. And Council Member Ari Kagan, who represents the outgoing District 47, recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, and will likely face Brannan in the general election.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The population of the new 43rd City Council district is almost 54% Asian, 27.3% white, and 15.3% Hispanic, according to the </span><a href="https://nyc.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cc&amp;propA=current_2013&amp;propB=council_plan_oct6&amp;selected=-73.991,40.618#%26map=12.06/40.60737/-73.99858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CUNY Mapping Service’s Redistricting &amp; You project</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Though more than half of voters in the district are registered Democrats, it overwhelmingly went for Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate, in the 2021 mayoral election, over Democrat Eric Adams by a margin of 60.1% to 35.2%.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are already three candidates running in the Democratic primary for the new 43rd district: Susan Zhuang, chief of staff to Assemblymember William Colton; Wai Yee Chan, executive director of Homecrest Community Services; and Stanley Ng, a retired computer programmer. Other candidates could enter the fray any time, and it could be a district where a Republican has a chance to win given recent voting trends in the communities that make up the new district.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In interviews with Gotham Gazette, the three candidates expressed similar priorities and concerns about crime and public safety, education and language services, and cost of living, among other issues that have been salient in Asian American and other communities in recent elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The race has some early echoes of the closely decided election in State Senate District 17 – a newly-created district that overlaps largely with Council District 43 – where Iwen Chu became the first Asian American woman elected to the State Senate </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11695-iwen-chu-win-brooklyn-new-17th-state-senate-district" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">in November</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. But Chu won her Democratic primary without competition, then held on to narrowly defeat a white Republican candidate in the general election, where she had to outrun Governor Kathy Hochul at the top of the ticket by a wide margin to capture the seat. Republicans have done well in the neighborhoods of the new 43rd Council District in recent mayoral, gubernatorial, and other elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Crime and public safety continues to be the top issue for District 43 and I would say for Asians across New York City,” said Yiatin Chu, president of the Asian Wave Alliance, a political club that endorsed both Democrats and Republicans, though mostly the latter, in the recent statewide election. “The other is education. Education remains a top focus for the community and for District 43 in several different ways.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What remains a concern for candidates and activists is low voter turnout among Asian Americans. A </span><a href="https://www.aafederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Assembly-District-49.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recent study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by the Asian American Federation, an advocacy and research nonprofit, of turnout patterns in Assembly District 43, which overlaps with about half of the new Council district, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11739-asian-american-voters-assembly-election-ad49-chang-abbate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">found</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that turnout in the 2022 election was significantly lower in election districts (smaller geographic areas within Assembly districts) with a majority of Asian American voters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's a very immature electorate,” Yaitin Chu said. “That can be said about, you know, all of the significant Asian communities but I would say this one especially, given the demographics of the mostly Chinese, largely newer immigrants that live in this district.”</span></p> <p><b>Susan Zhuang<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I want to help more people in our community,” Zhuang said in a phone interview. “That's my home. I want to help more people at home.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Zhuang, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2007 from China, began her involvement with government as a volunteer for Assemblymember Colton eight years ago, before becoming his chief of staff. She has already been endorsed by Colton as well as former City Council Member Mark Treyger. Colton, who was just reelected, represents Assembly District 47, which covers Bath Beach and large parts of Gravesend.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Colton’s chief of staff, she said she has personally helped thousands of constituents every year as they navigate the city’s bureaucracy. “I talk with them. I know what they want and what they need,” she said. She has also had to work with everyone from law enforcement to victim services, nonprofits groups and social workers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the wake of rising hate crimes, particularly against Asian Americans, in the last few years, Zhuang said she worked to bring together different communities to address the issue. “I bring everyone together to work for one issue, a common issue and then that's how I can empower the community,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Zhuang said she will be focused on crime and education, quality-of-life issues that are essential to her district. “I want public safety and also the best education for our community,” said Zhuang, who has two children in public school. She said she would advocate for gifted and talented programs and specialized high schools, as well as the need for more resources for special education. She wants an enhanced police presence across the district as well as increased funding for the NYPD, while also investing in services for those leaving the justice system. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She also wants to push for more affordable housing and language services and culturally sensitive services for small business owners in the district. </span></p> <p><b>Wai Yee Chan<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, has lived in New York City for 27 years. “I have seen firsthand how immigrants struggle and how they cannot navigate and advocate for themselves,” she said, citing her time attending Teachers College at Columbia University. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan has lived in Queens for the last ten years and is moving back to Brooklyn as she runs for the Council seat, </span><a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2023/01/council-race-new-majority-asian-american-district-heats/381556/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">according to City &amp; State</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. She has worked as a nonprofit executive for much of the last 20 years, most recently becoming the executive director of Homecrest Community Services, a nonprofit that serves Asian American immigrants and seniors, in 2020. She also serves on the Language Assistance Advisory Committee of the citywide Civic Engagement Commission and previously served as community engagement director for Council Member Brannan. She has quickly been endorsed by State Senator Chu and former Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Her primary concern, she said, is improving services for special needs families who have been “neglected and excluded at the city level for a long time.” “My heart is always on this group of people,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan also wants to expand the city’s Geriatric Mental Health Initiative to all senior centers in the district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan supports gifted and talented programs and the Specialized High School Admissions Test, both of which former Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to replace in moves that caused significant controversy, particularly in the Asian American community. “But I do believe that we need to secure more resources for afterschool programs and summer programs on a city level, to help working parents and working families as well as immigrant communities,” Chan also said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Public safety, of course, is also a top concern for Chan. “I do think that residents need to feel safe and socially connected, as well as small businesses need to feel safe to conduct business in our community,” she said. “I believe this is the fundamental need we all ask for. I will lift any concern to the city level and be a voice for that.”</span></p> <p><b>Stanley Ng<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why am I running? I feel that everybody in the community should have a voice,” said Ng, a retired computer programmer and member of the Citywide Council on High Schools. He was also previously a member of the Community Education Council for District 20. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ng said that after retiring during the pandemic to spend time with friends and family, he worked with food banks and pantries to help out his community. “I'm a community person,” he said. “I am not involved with any of the political clubs. I am going to be representing the community that has no voice in the current structure.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ng’s top priorities are tackling crime and improving education. He wants judges to have more leeway in setting bail and urged the State Legislature to rollback bail reforms that were passed in recent years eliminating bail for most nonviolent crimes. “They must give judges more discretion…It is not working,” he said of the bail law. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He’s also focused on bolstering Gifted and Talented programs and specialized high schools. He once sued the New York City Department of Education over the Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), a program that helped prepare students for the SHSAT but excluded Asian and white students. He is one of the founders of the Scholastic Merit Fund, an advocacy group that fought against de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate the SHSAT. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another issue that Ng said he is focused on is food insecurity in the district. “I’m probably one of the few people that can get businesses, nonprofits and the government to combine to get things to work,” he said.</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/primary-asian-oppor.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A community event in Sunset Park (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The decennial redistricting process in New York created a new “Asian opportunity” City Council district in Brooklyn, and three candidates have declared their intentions to run for the seat in the fast-approaching June primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asian Americans were the fastest growing population in New York City between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census, accounting for more than half of the increase in the city’s population. South Brooklyn is home to one of the largest concentrations of Asian Americans in the city in neighborhoods including Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sunset Park. That led the New York City Districting Commission to redraw Council District 43 into a new district with a majority Asian American population – combining Bensonhurst, New Utrecht, and parts of Dyker Heights and Sunset Park – giving the growing community a prime opportunity to elect one of their own to the City Council. There has never been an Asian City Council member from Brooklyn. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Because of the redistricting process, the entire 51-seat City Council is heading into another election this year, just two years after the most recent citywide election. And the new District 43 is expected to be among the competitive races since there is no incumbent expected to run. (Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents the current, outgoing District 43 is running in the new District 47. And Council Member Ari Kagan, who represents the outgoing District 47, recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, and will likely face Brannan in the general election.)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The population of the new 43rd City Council district is almost 54% Asian, 27.3% white, and 15.3% Hispanic, according to the </span><a href="https://nyc.redistrictingandyou.org/?districtType=cc&amp;propA=current_2013&amp;propB=council_plan_oct6&amp;selected=-73.991,40.618#%26map=12.06/40.60737/-73.99858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CUNY Mapping Service’s Redistricting &amp; You project</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Though more than half of voters in the district are registered Democrats, it overwhelmingly went for Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate, in the 2021 mayoral election, over Democrat Eric Adams by a margin of 60.1% to 35.2%.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are already three candidates running in the Democratic primary for the new 43rd district: Susan Zhuang, chief of staff to Assemblymember William Colton; Wai Yee Chan, executive director of Homecrest Community Services; and Stanley Ng, a retired computer programmer. Other candidates could enter the fray any time, and it could be a district where a Republican has a chance to win given recent voting trends in the communities that make up the new district.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In interviews with Gotham Gazette, the three candidates expressed similar priorities and concerns about crime and public safety, education and language services, and cost of living, among other issues that have been salient in Asian American and other communities in recent elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The race has some early echoes of the closely decided election in State Senate District 17 – a newly-created district that overlaps largely with Council District 43 – where Iwen Chu became the first Asian American woman elected to the State Senate </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11695-iwen-chu-win-brooklyn-new-17th-state-senate-district" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">in November</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. But Chu won her Democratic primary without competition, then held on to narrowly defeat a white Republican candidate in the general election, where she had to outrun Governor Kathy Hochul at the top of the ticket by a wide margin to capture the seat. Republicans have done well in the neighborhoods of the new 43rd Council District in recent mayoral, gubernatorial, and other elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Crime and public safety continues to be the top issue for District 43 and I would say for Asians across New York City,” said Yiatin Chu, president of the Asian Wave Alliance, a political club that endorsed both Democrats and Republicans, though mostly the latter, in the recent statewide election. “The other is education. Education remains a top focus for the community and for District 43 in several different ways.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What remains a concern for candidates and activists is low voter turnout among Asian Americans. A </span><a href="https://www.aafederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Assembly-District-49.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recent study</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by the Asian American Federation, an advocacy and research nonprofit, of turnout patterns in Assembly District 43, which overlaps with about half of the new Council district, </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11739-asian-american-voters-assembly-election-ad49-chang-abbate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">found</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that turnout in the 2022 election was significantly lower in election districts (smaller geographic areas within Assembly districts) with a majority of Asian American voters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's a very immature electorate,” Yaitin Chu said. “That can be said about, you know, all of the significant Asian communities but I would say this one especially, given the demographics of the mostly Chinese, largely newer immigrants that live in this district.”</span></p> <p><b>Susan Zhuang<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I want to help more people in our community,” Zhuang said in a phone interview. “That's my home. I want to help more people at home.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Zhuang, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2007 from China, began her involvement with government as a volunteer for Assemblymember Colton eight years ago, before becoming his chief of staff. She has already been endorsed by Colton as well as former City Council Member Mark Treyger. Colton, who was just reelected, represents Assembly District 47, which covers Bath Beach and large parts of Gravesend.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Colton’s chief of staff, she said she has personally helped thousands of constituents every year as they navigate the city’s bureaucracy. “I talk with them. I know what they want and what they need,” she said. She has also had to work with everyone from law enforcement to victim services, nonprofits groups and social workers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the wake of rising hate crimes, particularly against Asian Americans, in the last few years, Zhuang said she worked to bring together different communities to address the issue. “I bring everyone together to work for one issue, a common issue and then that's how I can empower the community,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Zhuang said she will be focused on crime and education, quality-of-life issues that are essential to her district. “I want public safety and also the best education for our community,” said Zhuang, who has two children in public school. She said she would advocate for gifted and talented programs and specialized high schools, as well as the need for more resources for special education. She wants an enhanced police presence across the district as well as increased funding for the NYPD, while also investing in services for those leaving the justice system. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She also wants to push for more affordable housing and language services and culturally sensitive services for small business owners in the district. </span></p> <p><b>Wai Yee Chan<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, has lived in New York City for 27 years. “I have seen firsthand how immigrants struggle and how they cannot navigate and advocate for themselves,” she said, citing her time attending Teachers College at Columbia University. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan has lived in Queens for the last ten years and is moving back to Brooklyn as she runs for the Council seat, </span><a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2023/01/council-race-new-majority-asian-american-district-heats/381556/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">according to City &amp; State</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. She has worked as a nonprofit executive for much of the last 20 years, most recently becoming the executive director of Homecrest Community Services, a nonprofit that serves Asian American immigrants and seniors, in 2020. She also serves on the Language Assistance Advisory Committee of the citywide Civic Engagement Commission and previously served as community engagement director for Council Member Brannan. She has quickly been endorsed by State Senator Chu and former Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Her primary concern, she said, is improving services for special needs families who have been “neglected and excluded at the city level for a long time.” “My heart is always on this group of people,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan also wants to expand the city’s Geriatric Mental Health Initiative to all senior centers in the district. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chan supports gifted and talented programs and the Specialized High School Admissions Test, both of which former Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to replace in moves that caused significant controversy, particularly in the Asian American community. “But I do believe that we need to secure more resources for afterschool programs and summer programs on a city level, to help working parents and working families as well as immigrant communities,” Chan also said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Public safety, of course, is also a top concern for Chan. “I do think that residents need to feel safe and socially connected, as well as small businesses need to feel safe to conduct business in our community,” she said. “I believe this is the fundamental need we all ask for. I will lift any concern to the city level and be a voice for that.”</span></p> <p><b>Stanley Ng<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Why am I running? I feel that everybody in the community should have a voice,” said Ng, a retired computer programmer and member of the Citywide Council on High Schools. He was also previously a member of the Community Education Council for District 20. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ng said that after retiring during the pandemic to spend time with friends and family, he worked with food banks and pantries to help out his community. “I'm a community person,” he said. “I am not involved with any of the political clubs. I am going to be representing the community that has no voice in the current structure.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ng’s top priorities are tackling crime and improving education. He wants judges to have more leeway in setting bail and urged the State Legislature to rollback bail reforms that were passed in recent years eliminating bail for most nonviolent crimes. “They must give judges more discretion…It is not working,” he said of the bail law. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He’s also focused on bolstering Gifted and Talented programs and specialized high schools. He once sued the New York City Department of Education over the Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), a program that helped prepare students for the SHSAT but excluded Asian and white students. He is one of the founders of the Scholastic Merit Fund, an advocacy group that fought against de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate the SHSAT. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another issue that Ng said he is focused on is food insecurity in the district. “I’m probably one of the few people that can get businesses, nonprofits and the government to combine to get things to work,” he said.</span></p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>