CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2022-10-06T16:33:44+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management Fires, Storms, Covid, and Asylum-Seekers: Emergency Spending and the New York City Budget 2022-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11608-emergency-spending-new-york-city-budget-fema-covid-asylum-seekers Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-how-emer-built.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at a City Hall press conference (photo: Violet Mendelsund/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/09/23/adams-seeks-500m-for-border-crisis/">pleaded</a> with the federal government for $500 million in emergency funding to address the “humanitarian crisis” of thousands of migrant asylum seekers who have arrived in New York City in the last few months. But despite the clear health and safety risk to thousands of people, who have the right to shelter under New York law, the crisis is not the type of emergency – like the COVID-19 pandemic or Hurricane Sandy, for instance – that would easily qualify for federal emergency funds.</p> <p>In a typical year, New York City projects spending somewhere between $30-60 million to respond to emergency incidents of varying scale, from structural fires and construction accidents to hazardous material leaks, utility breakdowns, criminal incidents, and extreme weather events. But the last few years have been anything but typical and the city’s emergency spending ballooned amid COVID-19 devastation and ongoing effects.</p> <p>New York City is expected to receive as much as $26 billion in federal relief funds through fiscal year 2026 through the various pandemic relief programs, stimulus bills, and reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s office. Those funds have been and will be distributed across city government and its many agencies for purposes that range from the emergency health response to the pandemic to filling revenue shortfalls, covering essential services, and spurring recovery.</p> <p>Of the various pots, there is little flexibility in how the city can spend emergency funds. FEMA, for instance, reimburses costs that have already been incurred for qualifying purposes like response to the pandemic or the effects of hurricanes that hit the city. The series of federal aid and stimulus bills also awarded funds for purposes like education that must flow through the Department of Education, but with some city discretion in programmatic, supply, and other expenditures. Where the city did have flexible funds to spend, much of it has already been allocated, leaving a limited amount for the next few years.</p> <p>In response to covid, Congress passed several major pieces of legislation, including the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020; the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) in December 2020; and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which included the $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), money sent to governments to fill tax revenue gaps.</p> <p>“All three of those directed recovery funds to the city and the state and other places for different things with different levels of flexibility,” said Ana Champeny, vice president for research at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog.</p> <p>The New York City budget adopted in June 2020 for the 2021 fiscal year only allocated less than $29 million to the city’s Office of Emergency Management, but by the end of that fiscal year, NYCEM’s spending was as high as $557 million. The next budget approved in June 2021, for the 2022 fiscal year, allocated $54.2 million to NYCEM, though actual spending would later be revised to almost $780 million. The increase in those budgets was paid from federal funds.</p> <p>Similarly, the fiscal year 2023 budget passed in June of this year allocated only $60 million to the Office of Emergency Management, which has quickly been strained as it responds to the influx of asylum seekers in the city and even sent teams to help Puerto Rico and Florida in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.</p> <p>Mayor Adams has repeatedly insisted that the influx of asylum seekers constitutes exceptional circumstances that require not just local efforts but a national emergency response. “This is not an everyday homelessness crisis, but a humanitarian crisis that requires a different approach,” he said on September 22, when he announced that the city would set up “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers” to provide immediate services to the migrants. As the <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/09/23/adams-seeks-500m-for-border-crisis/">New York Post reported</a>, the mayor’s administration had quietly requested the White House for $500 million to cover its emergency response.</p> <p>On September 27, after the mayor returned from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to survey the effects of Hurricane Fiona, he justified the funding request. “We requested money to deal with the crisis. That's what we did. And that's what we are going to continue to do,” he said. “It's expensive and we should not have to trade off dealing with the needs of New Yorkers and dealing with the needs of migrants and asylum seekers. That is not fair to New Yorkers…The national government has a responsibility in assisting in this national problem.”</p> <p>Comptroller Lander has similarly called on the federal and state governments to do their fair share. “New York State and the Federal government must not continue to take advantage of the City’s expeditious action; each should step up immediately to bear its share of the costs,” Lander said in a statement as he approved emergency contracting rules for the Office of Emergency Management to respond to the crisis. In an <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-30/nyc-could-spend-1-billion-for-migrant-arrivals-as-economy-strains-budget">interview with Bloomberg News</a>, Lander estimated that sheltering the migrants could cost between $500 million to $1 billion in one year alone.</p> <p><strong>SLFRF Funding</strong><br />The city is due to receive $5.88 billion from the SLFRF fund, half of which was delivered in May and June last year. The fund allowed the city the latitude to spend the money on four broad categories: responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts; providing premium pay to essential workers; providing necessary city services impacted by a loss in revenue; and investing in infrastructure like water, sewer, or broadband internet.</p> <p>“That's what we call, not unrestricted, but flexible spending,” Champeny said. “That’s what was used to fund the Cleanup Corps, a lot of small business incentives, and other things like that. It was also used just for fiscal relief…to fund essential services instead of city funds.”</p> <p>According to estimates from the City Comptroller’s office, in an August 2021 report to the federal government, the city had already allocated almost all the funds to be used during Fiscal Years 2021-2025, though how much has been spent is harder to track since the allocations are not attributed in budget documents.</p> <p>As of August 2021, the city planned to spend about $3.2 billion, or 55%, of the total on revenue replacement to provide government services, $1.2 billion (21%) on the negative economic impact of the pandemic, $1.12 billion (19.2%) on public health, and about $277 million (4.7%) on disproportionately affected communities.</p> <p>A recently-released <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-8-2023.pdf">analysis</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found that the city had “obligated” about $2.5 billion, or 86%, of the $2.9 billion in SLFRF funds it received through March 2022. “That is among the fastest rates among the nation’s 10 largest cities and is higher than the average for the more than 14,000 local government recipients (55.6%) reviewed,” the report states.</p> <p>More than half of that allocation went to revenue replacement, largely for salaries and wages at the Department of Education and the city’s four uniformed agencies (Corrections, Fire, Police, and Sanitation) as well as towards waste collection and removal services. Another 27% went to businesses, nonprofits, households, and workers while 16% went to public health services.</p> <p>An analysis of city data by Citizens Budget Commission showed a more detailed breakdown of the actual spending, which occurred through most of the 2022 fiscal year but not through the end (the final tally of that spending will likely be available this month in spending reports required by the Department of the Treasury after each quarter).</p> <p>On revenue replacement for government services, the city spent roughly $945 million in Fiscal Year 2021 and $356 million in Fiscal Year 2022; on negative economic impact, the city spent $266 million in FY21 and $326 million in FY22; on public health, the city spent $119 million in FY21 and $237 million in FY22; and on disproportionately affected communities, the city spent $15.7 million in FY21 and $8.9 million in FY22.</p> <p>“It's not uncommon for actual spending at the end of the fiscal year to be below the budgeted or projected level, and for that money to get moved over in November,” Champeny said, referring to the city’s annual mid-fiscal-year budget update required each fall. “So what I would expect is that in the November modification, or at the end of October when we get the audited financials for the city, we’ll know what the actual [FY22] revenue is and what's the variance that can be moved over.”</p> <p><strong>Education Funding</strong><br />Through the different stimulus packages – CARES, CRRSAA, and ARPA – the city was given almost $8 billion in federal pandemic relief for education, including $7.7 billion for the Department of Education and about $274 million for CUNY.</p> <p>Education funding has been a particularly contentious issue in the city budget this year, with the Adams administration cutting roughly $469 million from individual school budgets based on falling student enrollment. The cuts caused widespread consternation among the City Council, which voted to approve the budget though members have said they were misled about the size of the cuts that would later be instituted by the Department of Education.</p> <p>City Comptroller Lander has been among the leading voices arguing that the city has sufficient federal funds to restore those cuts (which would mimic actions taken during the end of the de Blasio administration). According to data from Lander’s office, the city has committed about $3.2 billion of the federal aid to the DOE, leaving the city another $4.5 billion that it must use by Fiscal Year 2025.</p> <p><strong>FEMA Funding</strong><br />New York City was awarded nearly $8.2 billion in FEMA reimbursements for costs incurred in response to the pandemic.</p> <p>According to a breakdown of FEMA awards, compiled by the city’s Independent Budget Office at Gotham Gazette’s request, the biggest expenditures include about $1.7 billion for the city to run vaccination centers, almost $1.3 billion for emergency sheltering, about $1.2 billion to support NYC Health + Hospitals, $930 million for the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and more than $503 million for personal protective equipment for NYC H+H.</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/1-how-emer-built.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams at a City Hall press conference (photo: Violet Mendelsund/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/09/23/adams-seeks-500m-for-border-crisis/">pleaded</a> with the federal government for $500 million in emergency funding to address the “humanitarian crisis” of thousands of migrant asylum seekers who have arrived in New York City in the last few months. But despite the clear health and safety risk to thousands of people, who have the right to shelter under New York law, the crisis is not the type of emergency – like the COVID-19 pandemic or Hurricane Sandy, for instance – that would easily qualify for federal emergency funds.</p> <p>In a typical year, New York City projects spending somewhere between $30-60 million to respond to emergency incidents of varying scale, from structural fires and construction accidents to hazardous material leaks, utility breakdowns, criminal incidents, and extreme weather events. But the last few years have been anything but typical and the city’s emergency spending ballooned amid COVID-19 devastation and ongoing effects.</p> <p>New York City is expected to receive as much as $26 billion in federal relief funds through fiscal year 2026 through the various pandemic relief programs, stimulus bills, and reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s office. Those funds have been and will be distributed across city government and its many agencies for purposes that range from the emergency health response to the pandemic to filling revenue shortfalls, covering essential services, and spurring recovery.</p> <p>Of the various pots, there is little flexibility in how the city can spend emergency funds. FEMA, for instance, reimburses costs that have already been incurred for qualifying purposes like response to the pandemic or the effects of hurricanes that hit the city. The series of federal aid and stimulus bills also awarded funds for purposes like education that must flow through the Department of Education, but with some city discretion in programmatic, supply, and other expenditures. Where the city did have flexible funds to spend, much of it has already been allocated, leaving a limited amount for the next few years.</p> <p>In response to covid, Congress passed several major pieces of legislation, including the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020; the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) in December 2020; and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which included the $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), money sent to governments to fill tax revenue gaps.</p> <p>“All three of those directed recovery funds to the city and the state and other places for different things with different levels of flexibility,” said Ana Champeny, vice president for research at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog.</p> <p>The New York City budget adopted in June 2020 for the 2021 fiscal year only allocated less than $29 million to the city’s Office of Emergency Management, but by the end of that fiscal year, NYCEM’s spending was as high as $557 million. The next budget approved in June 2021, for the 2022 fiscal year, allocated $54.2 million to NYCEM, though actual spending would later be revised to almost $780 million. The increase in those budgets was paid from federal funds.</p> <p>Similarly, the fiscal year 2023 budget passed in June of this year allocated only $60 million to the Office of Emergency Management, which has quickly been strained as it responds to the influx of asylum seekers in the city and even sent teams to help Puerto Rico and Florida in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.</p> <p>Mayor Adams has repeatedly insisted that the influx of asylum seekers constitutes exceptional circumstances that require not just local efforts but a national emergency response. “This is not an everyday homelessness crisis, but a humanitarian crisis that requires a different approach,” he said on September 22, when he announced that the city would set up “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers” to provide immediate services to the migrants. As the <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/09/23/adams-seeks-500m-for-border-crisis/">New York Post reported</a>, the mayor’s administration had quietly requested the White House for $500 million to cover its emergency response.</p> <p>On September 27, after the mayor returned from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to survey the effects of Hurricane Fiona, he justified the funding request. “We requested money to deal with the crisis. That's what we did. And that's what we are going to continue to do,” he said. “It's expensive and we should not have to trade off dealing with the needs of New Yorkers and dealing with the needs of migrants and asylum seekers. That is not fair to New Yorkers…The national government has a responsibility in assisting in this national problem.”</p> <p>Comptroller Lander has similarly called on the federal and state governments to do their fair share. “New York State and the Federal government must not continue to take advantage of the City’s expeditious action; each should step up immediately to bear its share of the costs,” Lander said in a statement as he approved emergency contracting rules for the Office of Emergency Management to respond to the crisis. In an <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-30/nyc-could-spend-1-billion-for-migrant-arrivals-as-economy-strains-budget">interview with Bloomberg News</a>, Lander estimated that sheltering the migrants could cost between $500 million to $1 billion in one year alone.</p> <p><strong>SLFRF Funding</strong><br />The city is due to receive $5.88 billion from the SLFRF fund, half of which was delivered in May and June last year. The fund allowed the city the latitude to spend the money on four broad categories: responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts; providing premium pay to essential workers; providing necessary city services impacted by a loss in revenue; and investing in infrastructure like water, sewer, or broadband internet.</p> <p>“That's what we call, not unrestricted, but flexible spending,” Champeny said. “That’s what was used to fund the Cleanup Corps, a lot of small business incentives, and other things like that. It was also used just for fiscal relief…to fund essential services instead of city funds.”</p> <p>According to estimates from the City Comptroller’s office, in an August 2021 report to the federal government, the city had already allocated almost all the funds to be used during Fiscal Years 2021-2025, though how much has been spent is harder to track since the allocations are not attributed in budget documents.</p> <p>As of August 2021, the city planned to spend about $3.2 billion, or 55%, of the total on revenue replacement to provide government services, $1.2 billion (21%) on the negative economic impact of the pandemic, $1.12 billion (19.2%) on public health, and about $277 million (4.7%) on disproportionately affected communities.</p> <p>A recently-released <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-8-2023.pdf">analysis</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found that the city had “obligated” about $2.5 billion, or 86%, of the $2.9 billion in SLFRF funds it received through March 2022. “That is among the fastest rates among the nation’s 10 largest cities and is higher than the average for the more than 14,000 local government recipients (55.6%) reviewed,” the report states.</p> <p>More than half of that allocation went to revenue replacement, largely for salaries and wages at the Department of Education and the city’s four uniformed agencies (Corrections, Fire, Police, and Sanitation) as well as towards waste collection and removal services. Another 27% went to businesses, nonprofits, households, and workers while 16% went to public health services.</p> <p>An analysis of city data by Citizens Budget Commission showed a more detailed breakdown of the actual spending, which occurred through most of the 2022 fiscal year but not through the end (the final tally of that spending will likely be available this month in spending reports required by the Department of the Treasury after each quarter).</p> <p>On revenue replacement for government services, the city spent roughly $945 million in Fiscal Year 2021 and $356 million in Fiscal Year 2022; on negative economic impact, the city spent $266 million in FY21 and $326 million in FY22; on public health, the city spent $119 million in FY21 and $237 million in FY22; and on disproportionately affected communities, the city spent $15.7 million in FY21 and $8.9 million in FY22.</p> <p>“It's not uncommon for actual spending at the end of the fiscal year to be below the budgeted or projected level, and for that money to get moved over in November,” Champeny said, referring to the city’s annual mid-fiscal-year budget update required each fall. “So what I would expect is that in the November modification, or at the end of October when we get the audited financials for the city, we’ll know what the actual [FY22] revenue is and what's the variance that can be moved over.”</p> <p><strong>Education Funding</strong><br />Through the different stimulus packages – CARES, CRRSAA, and ARPA – the city was given almost $8 billion in federal pandemic relief for education, including $7.7 billion for the Department of Education and about $274 million for CUNY.</p> <p>Education funding has been a particularly contentious issue in the city budget this year, with the Adams administration cutting roughly $469 million from individual school budgets based on falling student enrollment. The cuts caused widespread consternation among the City Council, which voted to approve the budget though members have said they were misled about the size of the cuts that would later be instituted by the Department of Education.</p> <p>City Comptroller Lander has been among the leading voices arguing that the city has sufficient federal funds to restore those cuts (which would mimic actions taken during the end of the de Blasio administration). According to data from Lander’s office, the city has committed about $3.2 billion of the federal aid to the DOE, leaving the city another $4.5 billion that it must use by Fiscal Year 2025.</p> <p><strong>FEMA Funding</strong><br />New York City was awarded nearly $8.2 billion in FEMA reimbursements for costs incurred in response to the pandemic.</p> <p>According to a breakdown of FEMA awards, compiled by the city’s Independent Budget Office at Gotham Gazette’s request, the biggest expenditures include about $1.7 billion for the city to run vaccination centers, almost $1.3 billion for emergency sheltering, about $1.2 billion to support NYC Health + Hospitals, $930 million for the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and more than $503 million for personal protective equipment for NYC H+H.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Amy Loprest on 16 Years Running the New York City Campaign Finance Board 2022-10-04T13:00:00+00:00 2022-10-04T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11607-max-politics-podcast-amy-loprest-new-york-city-campaign-finance-board Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/amy-loprest-600.jpg" /></p> <p>Amy Loprest, center (photo: @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 4, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Amy Loprest on 16 Years Running the New York City Campaign Finance Board<br /></strong></p> <p>Amy Loprest, retiring after 16 years running the New York City Campaign Finance Board, joined the show to reflect on campaign finance reform in the city over the last two decades, how the city's public matching system has improved local democracy, other aspects of the CFB's mission, and potential changes ahead.</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/11607-max-politics-podcast-amy-loprest-new-york-city-campaign-finance-board">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/amy-loprest-600.jpg" /></p> <p>Amy Loprest, center (photo: @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 4, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Amy Loprest on 16 Years Running the New York City Campaign Finance Board<br /></strong></p> <p>Amy Loprest, retiring after 16 years running the New York City Campaign Finance Board, joined the show to reflect on campaign finance reform in the city over the last two decades, how the city's public matching system has improved local democracy, other aspects of the CFB's mission, and potential changes ahead.</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/11607-max-politics-podcast-amy-loprest-new-york-city-campaign-finance-board">Read More ...</a></p> 'Alarming to Not Have a Goal': City Council Pushes Adams Administration on Affordable Housing for Seniors 2022-10-04T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-04T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11609-city-council-mayor-adams-affordable-housing-seniors Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2-city-hearing.jpg" /></p> <p>A push for senior affordable housing (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Older New Yorkers, aged 65 and above, are the fastest growing age group in the city, currently numbering at about 1.24 million and expected to grow to as many as 1.4 million residents by 2040. They are also a population that experiences significant housing insecurity and other housing challenges, with more than half considered rent-burdened. As the city continues to grapple with a deepening affordable housing crisis, City Council members on Monday sought answers from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration about efforts to support and prioritize older individuals in the city’s housing plan.</p> <p>At a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Aging and Committee on Housing and Buildings, Council members pressed administration officials on affordable housing production and availability for seniors, support against evictions and rent increases, efforts to make housing more accessible, particularly for seniors with disabilities, and more.</p> <p>“As we continue to govern with the resources of our great city, we must do more, better, faster, not less, slower or in more cumbersome ways,” said Council Member Pierina Sanchez, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the housing committee. “One area in which this is resoundingly clear…is with respect to housing our older adult population, New Yorkers who at times are most vulnerable and face some of the greatest obstacles to accessing even the resources that presently exist.”</p> <p>Mayor Adams has committed to a major course correction on housing with his plan, “<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/office-of-the-mayor/2022/Housing-Blueprint.pdf">Housing Our Neighbors</a>,” which seeks to align previously separate efforts on homelessness, public housing, and overall affordable housing production under one umbrella. It includes several planks focused on senior housing, and an overarching theme of trying to make government work better to make access to housing easier and more efficient. But when he released the plan, he refused to set a broad target for housing creation, insisting that he be judged on the vague metric of “as many people as possible to get into housing” during his tenure.</p> <p>The mayor faces some headwinds as the recently released Mayor’s Management Report, which covers the 2022 fiscal year that ended June 30, showed affordable housing creation dip 45% from the previous year. “We are slowing production. We're going in the wrong direction,” Sanchez said at the hearing. “Our seniors need homes that are safe and affordable in order to live healthy lives and safely.”</p> <p>The latest MMR did set goals of 18,000 affordable housing starts in the 2023 fiscal year, down from 25,000 in the previous year, and 15,000 units completed, up from 13,350 in the previous fiscal year. It did not, however, set any targets for building senior housing. In fact, in the 2022 fiscal year, HPD created and preserved 1,459 units reserved for low-income seniors, about 56% fewer than in the previous fiscal year. That drop was attributed to a one-time increase of nearly 1,000 units of senior housing in the 2021 fiscal year from the conclusion of the Privately Financed Affordable Senior Housing (PFASH) program.</p> <p>The crisis is even greater for older New Yorkers of color, who are more likely to be housing insecure than older white New Yorkers. “New York City has a long history of residential segregation, and disinvestment in neighborhoods of color, which has left many older New Yorkers of color without the supports needed to age healthily including affordable housing, social support, safety, accessible public transportation and health care,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the aging committee, in her opening remarks. “With its high density, urban population, ethnic and racial diversity, and increasing longevity, the city must account for the unique needs of the older adult population.”</p> <p>The mayor’s housing plan does include several measures to help seniors access affordable housing and remain in their homes, which officials outlined at the hearing. But they struggled to provide specific targets for creating affordable housing dedicated to seniors or to accurately account for the pressures of housing insecurity that seniors face.</p> <p>The city’s programs for seniors are spearheaded by the Department for the Aging (DFTA), which provides direct social support while also working with other agencies and offices to provide other services such as protection against against eviction and discrimination. The city has also created a Cabinet for Older New Yorkers, which met for the first time on September 21.</p> <p>“This first of its kind multi-agency collaborative was created to support services, projects, and policies benefiting older adults across New York City with a primary objective to create an age-inclusive New York City,” said Michael Ognibene, first deputy commissioner and COO at DFTA. He promised that when the cabinet produces its report by June of next year, it will ultimately include housing support for seniors.</p> <p>“Supporting older adults is a top priority for the administration,” said Lucy Joffe, assistant commissioner for housing policy at the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), at the hearing.</p> <p>Joffe pointed to several targeted housing programs for seniors such as the Housing Ambassador program to help older adults navigate the city’s affordable housing lottery, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program to freeze rents for eligible seniors living in rent-regulated housing, the Aging in Place initiative to provide free home modifications to seniors for their health and safety, among others. As part of the housing plan, the administration is working to expand eligibility for those programs, while also accelerating the production of more supportive housing that can help seniors transitioning out of homelessness and those with ongoing medical and social services needs.</p> <p>Sanchez, however, pressed her concerns about the slowdown in affordable housing production, which Joffe attempted to rationalize, echoing the mayor’s sentiments from when he released his housing plan. “We are committing to building and preserving as much affordable housing as we can,” Joffe said, “but we're in the midst of a refocusing on the people that we are serving, reducing administrative burdens to speed New Yorkers’ access to our programs and a real focus on how we can best serve them over unit counting.”</p> <p>When asked about how annual production of senior housing compares with the overall need in the city, Joffe did not offer a direct response. “We don't have individual program specific targets,” she said. “But we will be reporting out through the MMR on our production, including on our senior housing production, including on all of the various ways that we're going to serve older New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“I must say it's a little alarming to not have a goal when 1 million New Yorkers are older adults and only growing,” Sanchez said. “We have to be intentional about how we are responding to the crisis for older adults in New York City.”</p> <p>The officials did identify challenges in the city building more affordable housing specifically for seniors. Between 2020-2023, HPD’s capital commitment plan allocates $508.3 million to build 1,000 units of senior affordable housing each year, or roughly $508,000 per unit. But those costs are rising because of inflation, supply chain disruptions and interest rates increases. The costs also vary from project to project depending on the different programs under which HPD allocates the money, either through low-interest loans or direct subsidies to developers.</p> <p>Hudson sought to identify the number of seniors displaced by gentrification pressures in the city over the last five years, but the administration had no clear answer. “Unfortunately, tracking this on an individual level would be incredibly difficult,” said Joffe, noting that the city could only track formal notices of eviction but not cases where a senior may be unable or refuse to resign a lease because of rent increases. She did say, however, that the city is working to improve the annual housing survey to better understand patterns of displacement and improve its services.</p> <p>The hearing also delved into several pieces of proposed legislation and a resolution to support the housing needs of seniors, particularly those with disabilities. The bills — introduced by Council Members Hudson, Diana Ayala, and Justin Brannan, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — would require reporting on affordable housing set-asides for tenants with disabilities; require that tenants with disabilities facing eviction be given information on legal services; require reporting on patterns of discrimination against such tenants; require a percentage of housing units in developments that receive city financial assistance to be universal design units and therefore accessible; and more.</p> <p>The resolution, introduced by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, urges the State Legislature to approve a bill that would automatically enroll eligible seniors in the existing SCRIE program rather than requiring them to sign up. “We owe it to our older neighbors who live with constrained incomes to protect them from rent hikes imposed by profit thirsty landlords,” she said at the hearing.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2-city-hearing.jpg" /></p> <p>A push for senior affordable housing (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Older New Yorkers, aged 65 and above, are the fastest growing age group in the city, currently numbering at about 1.24 million and expected to grow to as many as 1.4 million residents by 2040. They are also a population that experiences significant housing insecurity and other housing challenges, with more than half considered rent-burdened. As the city continues to grapple with a deepening affordable housing crisis, City Council members on Monday sought answers from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration about efforts to support and prioritize older individuals in the city’s housing plan.</p> <p>At a joint hearing of the Council’s Committee on Aging and Committee on Housing and Buildings, Council members pressed administration officials on affordable housing production and availability for seniors, support against evictions and rent increases, efforts to make housing more accessible, particularly for seniors with disabilities, and more.</p> <p>“As we continue to govern with the resources of our great city, we must do more, better, faster, not less, slower or in more cumbersome ways,” said Council Member Pierina Sanchez, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the housing committee. “One area in which this is resoundingly clear…is with respect to housing our older adult population, New Yorkers who at times are most vulnerable and face some of the greatest obstacles to accessing even the resources that presently exist.”</p> <p>Mayor Adams has committed to a major course correction on housing with his plan, “<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/office-of-the-mayor/2022/Housing-Blueprint.pdf">Housing Our Neighbors</a>,” which seeks to align previously separate efforts on homelessness, public housing, and overall affordable housing production under one umbrella. It includes several planks focused on senior housing, and an overarching theme of trying to make government work better to make access to housing easier and more efficient. But when he released the plan, he refused to set a broad target for housing creation, insisting that he be judged on the vague metric of “as many people as possible to get into housing” during his tenure.</p> <p>The mayor faces some headwinds as the recently released Mayor’s Management Report, which covers the 2022 fiscal year that ended June 30, showed affordable housing creation dip 45% from the previous year. “We are slowing production. We're going in the wrong direction,” Sanchez said at the hearing. “Our seniors need homes that are safe and affordable in order to live healthy lives and safely.”</p> <p>The latest MMR did set goals of 18,000 affordable housing starts in the 2023 fiscal year, down from 25,000 in the previous year, and 15,000 units completed, up from 13,350 in the previous fiscal year. It did not, however, set any targets for building senior housing. In fact, in the 2022 fiscal year, HPD created and preserved 1,459 units reserved for low-income seniors, about 56% fewer than in the previous fiscal year. That drop was attributed to a one-time increase of nearly 1,000 units of senior housing in the 2021 fiscal year from the conclusion of the Privately Financed Affordable Senior Housing (PFASH) program.</p> <p>The crisis is even greater for older New Yorkers of color, who are more likely to be housing insecure than older white New Yorkers. “New York City has a long history of residential segregation, and disinvestment in neighborhoods of color, which has left many older New Yorkers of color without the supports needed to age healthily including affordable housing, social support, safety, accessible public transportation and health care,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the aging committee, in her opening remarks. “With its high density, urban population, ethnic and racial diversity, and increasing longevity, the city must account for the unique needs of the older adult population.”</p> <p>The mayor’s housing plan does include several measures to help seniors access affordable housing and remain in their homes, which officials outlined at the hearing. But they struggled to provide specific targets for creating affordable housing dedicated to seniors or to accurately account for the pressures of housing insecurity that seniors face.</p> <p>The city’s programs for seniors are spearheaded by the Department for the Aging (DFTA), which provides direct social support while also working with other agencies and offices to provide other services such as protection against against eviction and discrimination. The city has also created a Cabinet for Older New Yorkers, which met for the first time on September 21.</p> <p>“This first of its kind multi-agency collaborative was created to support services, projects, and policies benefiting older adults across New York City with a primary objective to create an age-inclusive New York City,” said Michael Ognibene, first deputy commissioner and COO at DFTA. He promised that when the cabinet produces its report by June of next year, it will ultimately include housing support for seniors.</p> <p>“Supporting older adults is a top priority for the administration,” said Lucy Joffe, assistant commissioner for housing policy at the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), at the hearing.</p> <p>Joffe pointed to several targeted housing programs for seniors such as the Housing Ambassador program to help older adults navigate the city’s affordable housing lottery, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program to freeze rents for eligible seniors living in rent-regulated housing, the Aging in Place initiative to provide free home modifications to seniors for their health and safety, among others. As part of the housing plan, the administration is working to expand eligibility for those programs, while also accelerating the production of more supportive housing that can help seniors transitioning out of homelessness and those with ongoing medical and social services needs.</p> <p>Sanchez, however, pressed her concerns about the slowdown in affordable housing production, which Joffe attempted to rationalize, echoing the mayor’s sentiments from when he released his housing plan. “We are committing to building and preserving as much affordable housing as we can,” Joffe said, “but we're in the midst of a refocusing on the people that we are serving, reducing administrative burdens to speed New Yorkers’ access to our programs and a real focus on how we can best serve them over unit counting.”</p> <p>When asked about how annual production of senior housing compares with the overall need in the city, Joffe did not offer a direct response. “We don't have individual program specific targets,” she said. “But we will be reporting out through the MMR on our production, including on our senior housing production, including on all of the various ways that we're going to serve older New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“I must say it's a little alarming to not have a goal when 1 million New Yorkers are older adults and only growing,” Sanchez said. “We have to be intentional about how we are responding to the crisis for older adults in New York City.”</p> <p>The officials did identify challenges in the city building more affordable housing specifically for seniors. Between 2020-2023, HPD’s capital commitment plan allocates $508.3 million to build 1,000 units of senior affordable housing each year, or roughly $508,000 per unit. But those costs are rising because of inflation, supply chain disruptions and interest rates increases. The costs also vary from project to project depending on the different programs under which HPD allocates the money, either through low-interest loans or direct subsidies to developers.</p> <p>Hudson sought to identify the number of seniors displaced by gentrification pressures in the city over the last five years, but the administration had no clear answer. “Unfortunately, tracking this on an individual level would be incredibly difficult,” said Joffe, noting that the city could only track formal notices of eviction but not cases where a senior may be unable or refuse to resign a lease because of rent increases. She did say, however, that the city is working to improve the annual housing survey to better understand patterns of displacement and improve its services.</p> <p>The hearing also delved into several pieces of proposed legislation and a resolution to support the housing needs of seniors, particularly those with disabilities. The bills — introduced by Council Members Hudson, Diana Ayala, and Justin Brannan, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — would require reporting on affordable housing set-asides for tenants with disabilities; require that tenants with disabilities facing eviction be given information on legal services; require reporting on patterns of discrimination against such tenants; require a percentage of housing units in developments that receive city financial assistance to be universal design units and therefore accessible; and more.</p> <p>The resolution, introduced by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, urges the State Legislature to approve a bill that would automatically enroll eligible seniors in the existing SCRIE program rather than requiring them to sign up. “We owe it to our older neighbors who live with constrained incomes to protect them from rent hikes imposed by profit thirsty landlords,” she said at the hearing.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Redistricting Drama Underscores Dropped Commission Ethics Policy 2022-10-03T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-03T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11602-city-council-redistricting-commission-conflicts-adams-interference Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/districting-comm-public.jpg" /></p> <p>The NYC Districting Commission at a hearing (photo: @DistrictingNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City's redistricting process was thrown into disarray last month after the commission responsible for drawing new City Council district lines voted down its own draft map. The upset came after an aide to Mayor Eric Adams individually lobbied his appointees on the commission to vote no, <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693">according to Politico reporting</a>, activity the mayor has denied knowing about.</p> <p>There are few formal barriers in place to prevent conflicts of interest between the 15 redistricting commissioners and the elected officials who appointed them. The commissioners and their organizations have received millions of dollars from the Mayor and City Council in campaign spending and discretionary funding. Some of them have run for elected office in the districts whose boundaries they are reshaping. Others have business with the city.</p> <p>The commission's chair, Dennis Walcott, was appointed by Mayor Adams, and while he is a well-respected civic leader and former deputy mayor, he is also CEO of the Queens Public Library, which depends on many millions of dollars in annual city funding. Other commissioners include Joshua Schneps, the local media magnate whose publications received tens of thousands dollars in political advertising last election cycle, and Michael Schnall, whose nonprofit rakes in significant discretionary funding from the City Council each year.</p> <p>The New York City Districting Commission is tasked with redrawing the city's 51 City Council districts every ten years to account for changes in the population found in the U.S. Census. Its 15 members were appointed by Mayor Adams (7), City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (5), and Republican City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (3). </p> <p>The body must draw lines that adhere to federal, state, and city standards, including the Voting Rights Act and the principle of one-person-one-vote. City law prevents city employees, lobbyists, and political party officials from serving on the commission. But there is nothing in the law to limit lobbying of the commissioners and no limits on ex parte communication with appointing authorities, according to experts. </p> <p>At the commission's first meeting in March, Walcott said the body would come up with an ethics policy that dealt with potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>"​​I would like to also raise the important topic of the code of ethics, and what I would like to suggest to the body is that once we have our staff in place that we circulate a proposed code of ethics for us to follow, and that way we can have to review it and then adopt it or make any modifications we feel are appropriate," he said on March 29 at City Hall.</p> <p>"We want to be very clear as far as protecting ourselves and the process as we move forward," Walcott said.</p> <p>The policy never materialized. Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the commission, told Gotham Gazette the effort had been scrapped. Instead, the commissioners received a routine presentation from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board at its next meeting.</p> <p>"The commission explored the feasibility of enforcing an ethics code and determined, with guidance from COIB, that Chapter 68 covers the commission just as it does every other agency," Borges told Gotham Gazette in an email. "In fact, you will find it hard difficult to find another agency that has its own code of ethics separate from Chapter 68."</p> <p>"Training from the Conflicts of Interest Board, as important as it is, is not a substitute for a code of ethics or a comprehensive conflict of interest policy aimed at reducing outside influence in a process that’s vulnerable to politicization," wrote Ben Weinberg, policy director at the good-government group Citizens Union, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Redistricting commissions in California and Michigan have conflicts of interest policies, which in some cases bar certain people from participating as commissioners. In a letter to the commission, shortly after Walcott announced the planned ethics policy, Citizens Union recommended the commissioners disclose any conflicts, such as lobbying current Council members or working on their campaigns, and recuse themselves in those cases. It also recommended commissioners be required to disclose when they discuss maps with people outside the body and its staff and consultants. None of that happened.</p> <p>"We note that the last scandal concerning a political intervention in the Council redistricting process – a map was drawn to help then Assembly Member Vito Lopez mount a run for City Council – occurred following a private meeting between a Council Member and the Commission’s executive director," Citizens Union wrote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693">Politico reported</a> that Mayor Adams’ deputy chief of staff, Menashe Shapiro, had personally lobbied the mayor’s appointees to the commission to vote against the draft map, efforts apparently designed to favor rightward movement in the future City Council and political payback.</p> <p>The mapping process drew widespread criticism and some support when preliminary maps released in July underpopulated Staten Island while carving up communities in south Brooklyn (where some of the mayor's political foes currently hold office), Manhattan, and Queens. The <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting">new maps</a> that came up for a vote last month, altered based on significant public feedback, had largely undone those decisions, including by stretching part of Staten Island into Brooklyn — a nonstarter for Borelli of Staten Island, who appears to be closely allied with the Democratic mayor.</p> <p>But in an unexpected twist, the maps were defeated when the commission brought them to a vote. To the surprise of Chair Walcott and many others watching, it was voted down by four appointees from the mayor, all three of Borelli's appointees, and one appointee of the Speaker, the commission’s lone Staten-Islander.</p> <p>Several of the commissioners voting down the maps cited issues with the map-drawing process and concerns about diluting the vote of Latino voters, but offered few specifics. Others, including Schnall, expressed displeasure about including a small part of Brooklyn in one Staten Island district.</p> <p>The commission is now holding meetings in public to draw maps ahead of another expected vote on October 7, according to Borges. If approved, the maps will go to the City Council for review and feedback, after which they may be approved and certified or sent back to the commission for final revisions and ratification.</p> <p>“The Commission heard public testimony from different communities across the city who were concerned about the dilution of their voting power and the risk of diminished representation in city government,” said Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor. “We applaud the independent redistricting commission for their willingness to continue their great work and address these concerns now, while the public process continues to move forward.”</p> <p>At a press conference, Adams denied knowing about any lobbying efforts. "If the deputy did, I'm not aware of that," he told reporters last week about Politico’s reporting on Shapiro’s influence campaign. "We're going to continue to advocate to have fair maps and I'm not aware of anything other than us complying fully with the rules of mapping. Redistricting is important, and so we want to make sure that we have fair maps and I trust my appointees."</p> <p>Speaker Adams declined to comment on the mayor's involvement during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11604-city-council-speaker-adams-outlines-priorities">recent interview</a>. "I stayed away," she said of her own involvement with the commission and her appointees to it. "Legally and morally, I have to stay away."</p> <p>But the speaker, along with a number of other current Council members, including Finance Committee Chair Justin Brannan and others with influence over city funding, have not been shy about publicly criticizing the preliminary maps. Brannan and many other Council members released statements, made social media posts, and testified publicly before the commission, mostly arguing against changes the commission had made to existing lines, and all part of the feedback the commission received between the preliminary map and draft map that was voted down.</p> <p>None of the mayoral appointees who voted no on the latest map responded to requests for comment for this article.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Appointees</strong><br />Dennis Walcott was appointed by Mayor Adams and selected by the commission to serve as chair. He is the CEO of the Queens Public Library, which received three-quarters of its $165 million budget from the city last fiscal year. The library system has 66 locations across Queens. Walcott voted in favor of the failed draft map in September.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-council-redistricting-take-2/">interview</a> on WNYC, he declined to say whether he was contacted by a representative of the mayor. "The conversations I've had with a variety of people I'll just keep to myself. I think my vote speaks for itself," he told host Brigid Bergin.</p> <p>Borges, the commission spokesperson, said Walcott recused himself from directly lobbying City Hall and the Council for library funds while serving on the commission.</p> <p>Joshua Schneps is a mayoral appointee to the redistricting commission and the head of local news giant Schneps Media, which has dozens of publications in New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Philadelphia. The publications received hundreds of thousands of dollars from City Council candidates for political ads in 2021, including $74,000 from current members, according to a Gotham Gazette analysis of campaign finance records.</p> <p>Schneps, who voted down the draft map, also has close ties to Mayor Adams, having supported previous campaigns for borough president and, in 2019, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-schneps-media-one-brooklyn-newspaper-borough-president-eric-adams-20191209-zesejelixzagzmc4euvlpo7x7e-story.html">publishing the then-Borough President's self-promotional newspaper</a>, "One Brooklyn," distributed with tax dollars and generating ad revenue for Schneps. Adams appointed Vicki Schneps, Joshua’s mother and co-owner of the media empire, to his mayoral transition committee last year. In 2021, Adams' mayoral campaign bought $69,800 in advertising in Schneps publications, including a single $45,000 payment in December 2021, after he had won the general election.</p> <p>Lisa Sorin is the president of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), an association of close to 100 businesses, some of which have city contracts. She was appointed to the commission by Mayor Adams and voted against the draft map. Sorin serves on the mayor's COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Taskforce and with NBCC is part of a $1.5 million partnership to launch the city's Small Business Resource Network. The Chamber of Commerce works closely with the city's Department of Small Business Services and other city agencies.</p> <p>Maria Mateo, Esq., is a Queens-based immigration and family lawyer from the Dominican Republic. According to her website, Mateo has received a number of awards and recognition for her legal work in immigrant communities, including from former City Council Members Eric Ulrich and Fernando Cabrera, both of whom have since joined the Eric Adams administration, and Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, a Democrat representing northern Manhattan and a portion of the Bronx. Mateo voted against the draft map, citing the splitting of Dominican communities in Manhattan's districts 2 and 7.</p> <p>Kai-Ki Wong recently served as assistant chief plan examiner at the New York City Department of Buildings after holding other roles at the agency over the past nearly four decades, according to a Linkedin profile with his name. He was appointed by the mayor and voted no on the map.</p> <p>Monsignor Kevin Sullivan is a mayoral appointee and the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, a network of human services agencies that hold numerous city and state contracts. Catholic Charities recently received city funding for Hurricane Ida relief efforts and immigration services. At a recent City Council oversight hearing, Sullivan testified that Catholic Charities had served 1,100 new immigrants in the recent wave of arrivals that Adams has blamed for straining the city's social safety net. He voted to advance the draft map to the City Council.</p> <p>Marilyn Go is a former federal magistrate judge for the Eastern District of New York, having served from 1993 to her retirement in 2019. She was appointed by the mayor and voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p><strong>Speaker Appointees</strong><br />Michael Schnall is a Staten Islander and the only appointee of Speaker Adrienne Adams to vote against the draft map. That updated map included many of the changes the speaker and other Council members pushed for in the preliminary map released earlier this year. As part of making those changes, it extended a Staten Island district into part of Brooklyn, a boundary opposed by Republican appointees on the commission and Schnall.</p> <p>Schnall is a government relations consultant at Asphalt Green, which has secured $182,500 in City Council discretionary expense funds over the current and last fiscal years. Until the end of 2020 he was also the vice president of government relations for New York Road Runners, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in discretionary expense funding each year. In 2021, Schnall himself unsuccessfully sought a Council seat in District 49 on the north shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>"Once appointed and sworn into office, I immediately recused myself from any meetings or interactions with The Council and individual Council Members since that appointment," Schnall told Gotham Gazette in an email after this article was published. "I've even recused myself from any mapping discussions involving Manhattan due to the location of Asphalt Green's two pools and sports fields in the borough."</p> <p>The rest of the speaker's appointees voted in favor of the recent draft map.</p> <p>Maf Misbah Uddin is a Bronx resident and treasurer of District Council 37, the largest public sector union in the city, and president of AFSCME Local 1407. Uddin is not on the city payroll but his union represents thousands of municipal employees and makes endorsements in City Council and mayoral races. Uddin voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p>Yovan Samuel Collado, the director of community relations for the Carpenter Contractor Alliance of Metropolitan New York, was appointed by the speaker and approved the draft map. According to the <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/02/23/council-democrats-tap-campaign-treasurer-for-redistricting-panel/">New York Post</a>, Collado is married to Ariana Collado, the executive director of the Bronx Democratic Party, which is involved in virtually all political machinations in the Bronx and often beyond.</p> <p>Gregory W. Kirschenbaum is a lawyer at the Arce Law Group, P.C. Phillips &amp; Associates, PLLC. Kirschenbaum's appointment raised eyebrows earlier this year because of his ties to second-term Council Member Keith Powers as treasurer of his campaign. Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, is the chair of the Council Rules Committee. Kirschenbaum voted yes on the draft map.</p> <p>Kristen A. Johnson is a civil rights attorney and a pro bono counsel at the international law firm Cooley LLP. Johnson voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p><strong>Minority Leader Appointees</strong><br />Marc Wurzel is the general counsel and assistant secretary of Grand Central Partnership, which manages Manhattan’s Grand Central Business Improvement District. Like Borelli's other two appointees, he voted against the draft map in September. Wurzel has been on two previous districting commissions.</p> <p>Kevin John Hanratty is bank compliance consultant at BlackWatch Argus Consulting LLC and a perennial Republican candidate for Civil Court justice in Queens.</p> <p>Dr. Darrin K. Porcher is a former NYPD officer and currently an adjunct professor at Pace University School of Criminal Justice and Monroe College School of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this story.</p> <p><em>This article has been updated with additional comments from districting commissioners and spokespeople.</em> </p> <p><em>Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Schnall is a former vice president of New York Road Runners and no longer works there.</em></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/districting-comm-public.jpg" /></p> <p>The NYC Districting Commission at a hearing (photo: @DistrictingNYC)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City's redistricting process was thrown into disarray last month after the commission responsible for drawing new City Council district lines voted down its own draft map. The upset came after an aide to Mayor Eric Adams individually lobbied his appointees on the commission to vote no, <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693">according to Politico reporting</a>, activity the mayor has denied knowing about.</p> <p>There are few formal barriers in place to prevent conflicts of interest between the 15 redistricting commissioners and the elected officials who appointed them. The commissioners and their organizations have received millions of dollars from the Mayor and City Council in campaign spending and discretionary funding. Some of them have run for elected office in the districts whose boundaries they are reshaping. Others have business with the city.</p> <p>The commission's chair, Dennis Walcott, was appointed by Mayor Adams, and while he is a well-respected civic leader and former deputy mayor, he is also CEO of the Queens Public Library, which depends on many millions of dollars in annual city funding. Other commissioners include Joshua Schneps, the local media magnate whose publications received tens of thousands dollars in political advertising last election cycle, and Michael Schnall, whose nonprofit rakes in significant discretionary funding from the City Council each year.</p> <p>The New York City Districting Commission is tasked with redrawing the city's 51 City Council districts every ten years to account for changes in the population found in the U.S. Census. Its 15 members were appointed by Mayor Adams (7), City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (5), and Republican City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (3). </p> <p>The body must draw lines that adhere to federal, state, and city standards, including the Voting Rights Act and the principle of one-person-one-vote. City law prevents city employees, lobbyists, and political party officials from serving on the commission. But there is nothing in the law to limit lobbying of the commissioners and no limits on ex parte communication with appointing authorities, according to experts. </p> <p>At the commission's first meeting in March, Walcott said the body would come up with an ethics policy that dealt with potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>"​​I would like to also raise the important topic of the code of ethics, and what I would like to suggest to the body is that once we have our staff in place that we circulate a proposed code of ethics for us to follow, and that way we can have to review it and then adopt it or make any modifications we feel are appropriate," he said on March 29 at City Hall.</p> <p>"We want to be very clear as far as protecting ourselves and the process as we move forward," Walcott said.</p> <p>The policy never materialized. Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the commission, told Gotham Gazette the effort had been scrapped. Instead, the commissioners received a routine presentation from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board at its next meeting.</p> <p>"The commission explored the feasibility of enforcing an ethics code and determined, with guidance from COIB, that Chapter 68 covers the commission just as it does every other agency," Borges told Gotham Gazette in an email. "In fact, you will find it hard difficult to find another agency that has its own code of ethics separate from Chapter 68."</p> <p>"Training from the Conflicts of Interest Board, as important as it is, is not a substitute for a code of ethics or a comprehensive conflict of interest policy aimed at reducing outside influence in a process that’s vulnerable to politicization," wrote Ben Weinberg, policy director at the good-government group Citizens Union, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Redistricting commissions in California and Michigan have conflicts of interest policies, which in some cases bar certain people from participating as commissioners. In a letter to the commission, shortly after Walcott announced the planned ethics policy, Citizens Union recommended the commissioners disclose any conflicts, such as lobbying current Council members or working on their campaigns, and recuse themselves in those cases. It also recommended commissioners be required to disclose when they discuss maps with people outside the body and its staff and consultants. None of that happened.</p> <p>"We note that the last scandal concerning a political intervention in the Council redistricting process – a map was drawn to help then Assembly Member Vito Lopez mount a run for City Council – occurred following a private meeting between a Council Member and the Commission’s executive director," Citizens Union wrote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693">Politico reported</a> that Mayor Adams’ deputy chief of staff, Menashe Shapiro, had personally lobbied the mayor’s appointees to the commission to vote against the draft map, efforts apparently designed to favor rightward movement in the future City Council and political payback.</p> <p>The mapping process drew widespread criticism and some support when preliminary maps released in July underpopulated Staten Island while carving up communities in south Brooklyn (where some of the mayor's political foes currently hold office), Manhattan, and Queens. The <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting">new maps</a> that came up for a vote last month, altered based on significant public feedback, had largely undone those decisions, including by stretching part of Staten Island into Brooklyn — a nonstarter for Borelli of Staten Island, who appears to be closely allied with the Democratic mayor.</p> <p>But in an unexpected twist, the maps were defeated when the commission brought them to a vote. To the surprise of Chair Walcott and many others watching, it was voted down by four appointees from the mayor, all three of Borelli's appointees, and one appointee of the Speaker, the commission’s lone Staten-Islander.</p> <p>Several of the commissioners voting down the maps cited issues with the map-drawing process and concerns about diluting the vote of Latino voters, but offered few specifics. Others, including Schnall, expressed displeasure about including a small part of Brooklyn in one Staten Island district.</p> <p>The commission is now holding meetings in public to draw maps ahead of another expected vote on October 7, according to Borges. If approved, the maps will go to the City Council for review and feedback, after which they may be approved and certified or sent back to the commission for final revisions and ratification.</p> <p>“The Commission heard public testimony from different communities across the city who were concerned about the dilution of their voting power and the risk of diminished representation in city government,” said Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor. “We applaud the independent redistricting commission for their willingness to continue their great work and address these concerns now, while the public process continues to move forward.”</p> <p>At a press conference, Adams denied knowing about any lobbying efforts. "If the deputy did, I'm not aware of that," he told reporters last week about Politico’s reporting on Shapiro’s influence campaign. "We're going to continue to advocate to have fair maps and I'm not aware of anything other than us complying fully with the rules of mapping. Redistricting is important, and so we want to make sure that we have fair maps and I trust my appointees."</p> <p>Speaker Adams declined to comment on the mayor's involvement during a <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11604-city-council-speaker-adams-outlines-priorities">recent interview</a>. "I stayed away," she said of her own involvement with the commission and her appointees to it. "Legally and morally, I have to stay away."</p> <p>But the speaker, along with a number of other current Council members, including Finance Committee Chair Justin Brannan and others with influence over city funding, have not been shy about publicly criticizing the preliminary maps. Brannan and many other Council members released statements, made social media posts, and testified publicly before the commission, mostly arguing against changes the commission had made to existing lines, and all part of the feedback the commission received between the preliminary map and draft map that was voted down.</p> <p>None of the mayoral appointees who voted no on the latest map responded to requests for comment for this article.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Appointees</strong><br />Dennis Walcott was appointed by Mayor Adams and selected by the commission to serve as chair. He is the CEO of the Queens Public Library, which received three-quarters of its $165 million budget from the city last fiscal year. The library system has 66 locations across Queens. Walcott voted in favor of the failed draft map in September.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-council-redistricting-take-2/">interview</a> on WNYC, he declined to say whether he was contacted by a representative of the mayor. "The conversations I've had with a variety of people I'll just keep to myself. I think my vote speaks for itself," he told host Brigid Bergin.</p> <p>Borges, the commission spokesperson, said Walcott recused himself from directly lobbying City Hall and the Council for library funds while serving on the commission.</p> <p>Joshua Schneps is a mayoral appointee to the redistricting commission and the head of local news giant Schneps Media, which has dozens of publications in New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Philadelphia. The publications received hundreds of thousands of dollars from City Council candidates for political ads in 2021, including $74,000 from current members, according to a Gotham Gazette analysis of campaign finance records.</p> <p>Schneps, who voted down the draft map, also has close ties to Mayor Adams, having supported previous campaigns for borough president and, in 2019, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-schneps-media-one-brooklyn-newspaper-borough-president-eric-adams-20191209-zesejelixzagzmc4euvlpo7x7e-story.html">publishing the then-Borough President's self-promotional newspaper</a>, "One Brooklyn," distributed with tax dollars and generating ad revenue for Schneps. Adams appointed Vicki Schneps, Joshua’s mother and co-owner of the media empire, to his mayoral transition committee last year. In 2021, Adams' mayoral campaign bought $69,800 in advertising in Schneps publications, including a single $45,000 payment in December 2021, after he had won the general election.</p> <p>Lisa Sorin is the president of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), an association of close to 100 businesses, some of which have city contracts. She was appointed to the commission by Mayor Adams and voted against the draft map. Sorin serves on the mayor's COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Taskforce and with NBCC is part of a $1.5 million partnership to launch the city's Small Business Resource Network. The Chamber of Commerce works closely with the city's Department of Small Business Services and other city agencies.</p> <p>Maria Mateo, Esq., is a Queens-based immigration and family lawyer from the Dominican Republic. According to her website, Mateo has received a number of awards and recognition for her legal work in immigrant communities, including from former City Council Members Eric Ulrich and Fernando Cabrera, both of whom have since joined the Eric Adams administration, and Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, a Democrat representing northern Manhattan and a portion of the Bronx. Mateo voted against the draft map, citing the splitting of Dominican communities in Manhattan's districts 2 and 7.</p> <p>Kai-Ki Wong recently served as assistant chief plan examiner at the New York City Department of Buildings after holding other roles at the agency over the past nearly four decades, according to a Linkedin profile with his name. He was appointed by the mayor and voted no on the map.</p> <p>Monsignor Kevin Sullivan is a mayoral appointee and the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, a network of human services agencies that hold numerous city and state contracts. Catholic Charities recently received city funding for Hurricane Ida relief efforts and immigration services. At a recent City Council oversight hearing, Sullivan testified that Catholic Charities had served 1,100 new immigrants in the recent wave of arrivals that Adams has blamed for straining the city's social safety net. He voted to advance the draft map to the City Council.</p> <p>Marilyn Go is a former federal magistrate judge for the Eastern District of New York, having served from 1993 to her retirement in 2019. She was appointed by the mayor and voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p><strong>Speaker Appointees</strong><br />Michael Schnall is a Staten Islander and the only appointee of Speaker Adrienne Adams to vote against the draft map. That updated map included many of the changes the speaker and other Council members pushed for in the preliminary map released earlier this year. As part of making those changes, it extended a Staten Island district into part of Brooklyn, a boundary opposed by Republican appointees on the commission and Schnall.</p> <p>Schnall is a government relations consultant at Asphalt Green, which has secured $182,500 in City Council discretionary expense funds over the current and last fiscal years. Until the end of 2020 he was also the vice president of government relations for New York Road Runners, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in discretionary expense funding each year. In 2021, Schnall himself unsuccessfully sought a Council seat in District 49 on the north shore of Staten Island.</p> <p>"Once appointed and sworn into office, I immediately recused myself from any meetings or interactions with The Council and individual Council Members since that appointment," Schnall told Gotham Gazette in an email after this article was published. "I've even recused myself from any mapping discussions involving Manhattan due to the location of Asphalt Green's two pools and sports fields in the borough."</p> <p>The rest of the speaker's appointees voted in favor of the recent draft map.</p> <p>Maf Misbah Uddin is a Bronx resident and treasurer of District Council 37, the largest public sector union in the city, and president of AFSCME Local 1407. Uddin is not on the city payroll but his union represents thousands of municipal employees and makes endorsements in City Council and mayoral races. Uddin voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p>Yovan Samuel Collado, the director of community relations for the Carpenter Contractor Alliance of Metropolitan New York, was appointed by the speaker and approved the draft map. According to the <a href="https://nypost.com/2022/02/23/council-democrats-tap-campaign-treasurer-for-redistricting-panel/">New York Post</a>, Collado is married to Ariana Collado, the executive director of the Bronx Democratic Party, which is involved in virtually all political machinations in the Bronx and often beyond.</p> <p>Gregory W. Kirschenbaum is a lawyer at the Arce Law Group, P.C. Phillips &amp; Associates, PLLC. Kirschenbaum's appointment raised eyebrows earlier this year because of his ties to second-term Council Member Keith Powers as treasurer of his campaign. Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, is the chair of the Council Rules Committee. Kirschenbaum voted yes on the draft map.</p> <p>Kristen A. Johnson is a civil rights attorney and a pro bono counsel at the international law firm Cooley LLP. Johnson voted in favor of the draft map.</p> <p><strong>Minority Leader Appointees</strong><br />Marc Wurzel is the general counsel and assistant secretary of Grand Central Partnership, which manages Manhattan’s Grand Central Business Improvement District. Like Borelli's other two appointees, he voted against the draft map in September. Wurzel has been on two previous districting commissions.</p> <p>Kevin John Hanratty is bank compliance consultant at BlackWatch Argus Consulting LLC and a perennial Republican candidate for Civil Court justice in Queens.</p> <p>Dr. Darrin K. Porcher is a former NYPD officer and currently an adjunct professor at Pace University School of Criminal Justice and Monroe College School of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this story.</p> <p><em>This article has been updated with additional comments from districting commissioners and spokespeople.</em> </p> <p><em>Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Schnall is a former vice president of New York Road Runners and no longer works there.</em></p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Council Speaker Outlines Priorities, Weighs In On Key Issues Facing the City 2022-09-29T13:00:00+00:00 2022-09-29T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11604-city-council-speaker-adams-outlines-priorities Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/council-speaker-adams.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she wants more transparency at the Department of Education, more discretion for judges in setting bail, and more federal intervention in the city's current shelter crisis – and weighed in on a host of other issues during a public appearance on Wednesday.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaking at a breakfast hosted by good-government group Citizens Union, the speaker discussed some of the most pressing issues of the day along with the nuts and bolts of policy. She drew key distinctions with Mayor Eric Adams (no relation), her fellow Democrat, and outlined some of her top overall priorities in her powerful position.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The event, sponsored by the public relations firm Cozen O'Connor, was part of Citizens Union's Civic Conversation series and hosted by board member and CNN political analyst John Avlon.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams, who represents a southeast Queens district, is finishing her ninth month as speaker presiding over a mostly new, first-time female-majority City Council. Adams herself is the first Black woman to lead the Council. She has developed a reputation as a collaborative speaker and has notched some early legislative achievements including passing bills on fire safety in the wake of the Bronx Twin Parks fire, reproductive rights, and maternal health. She also negotiated her first city budget as speaker, a record-high $101 billion spending plan, with Mayor Adams, and while the two are long-time allies their early relationship in their new top posts has been rocky.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On Wednesday, Adams said her top two priorities as speaker are housing and education equity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Our legacy should be the legacy, quite frankly, that a lot of my colleagues ran on and that was building housing," she said, saying the focus needed to be on mixed production of affordable, very-affordable, and market-rate units. "We cannot be the Council that does not build housing for the city of New York when we need it so desperately."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On education, the speaker said she wants to increase capacity in the city's gifted and talented programs, which lines her up with the mayor who has reversed the late de Blasio-era decision to replace G&amp;T with universal school enrichment programming. Speaker Adams has also been pushing the Department of Education to restore funding to schools after passing the budget earlier this year, which she said was cut despite the administration's guarantees to the Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"DOE has been a very, very tough nut to crack," she said Wednesday. "A lot of those issues happen because of the lack of transparency within the DOE."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said the Council would be seeking more units of appropriation on education spending within the DOE’s roughly $38 billion budget. "There are going to have to be explanations around fair student funding formula, around equity towards individual schools," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker said homelessness in the city has gotten worse, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic and economic climate. The stream of refugees from Central and South America in recent months, some of whom have been sent on buses from southern states, has further hampered a shelter system already under strain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We've seen an influx of individuals coming into our shelter system into a system that really was taxed, burdened, prior to the pandemic," Adams said, calling the situation "dire."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is erecting tents in a parking lot in the Orchard Beach section of the Bronx to serve as emergency shelter for 1,000 single, newly-arrived adults. Mayor Adams has suggested the facility may fall outside the city's legal right to shelter, which guarantees shelter access and standards for all, and would provide temporary, voluntary stays.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker didn't say whether she thought the plan, which involves barracks-style congregate settings with few amenities, met the city's shelter requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The right to shelter is the law in New York, so we can just start there. We don't have a choice. We've got to embrace anyone and everyone coming to our city," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this year, the City Council held an oversight hearing with the Department of Social Services, which runs the shelter system, focused on shelter intake issues after the administration admitted to violating the right to shelter for over 60 individuals and families. On Friday, the Council is holding another oversight hearing, this time on resources for asylum-seekers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We're wondering, why Orchard Beach? We're wondering what else besides Orchard Beach, because we're going to need more than just Orchard Beach to accommodate the influx of people seeking asylum here in New York City," Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The solution, she said, is for the city to continue building shelter capacity and for the federal government to dissuade conservative governors from sending individuals to New York, a situation enabled by a political environment she blamed on former President Donald Trump. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need for President Joseph Biden to kind of take the reins and right this thing," Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker also weighed in on the city’s legislative redistricting process, which hit a wall last week when the commission responsible for redrawing New York's 51 City Council districts voted down its own draft map. The new lines have the potential to recast the political landscape but must first be submitted to the City Council for feedback (the Council may accept the map or send it back to the commission with notes to come up with final lines).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The no vote, which took place after an aide to the mayor </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">reportedly</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> lobbied members of the commission to reject the proposal, meant the body had to postpone submitting the draft to the City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Our work now is pushed off," Speaker Adams said, "but they tell us that they're going to be coming back to us next week." A spokesperson for the New York City Districting Commission said the body expected to hold another vote on October 7.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The timeline really isn't that terrible to deal with," Adams added. "But these are uncharted waters, and you just can't make this stuff up."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker would not comment on the reporting by Politico that the mayoral administration attempted to sway commissioners' votes, including those by Mayor Adams’ own appointees. "I stayed away," she said. "Legally and morally, I have to stay away." The mayor appoints seven members of the 15-person commission, the speaker appoints five, and the City Council minority leader three.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With public safety grabbing headlines for much of the pandemic, the speaker weighed in on the impact of recent state bail reforms on rising crime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"While it plays a role it's been scapegoated, as well, as being the end-all be-all issue and problem," she said of state bail reforms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2019, state lawmakers removed misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies from the list of bail-eligible offenses. The changes, intended to reduce race and class disparities in pre-trial detention, have been the subject of debate and modified a number of times since they were first enacted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked whether she felt recent changes to the state bail law have contributed to rising crime she demurred. "I guess my answer is a little bit of yes, a little bit of no," she said, taking a position that is supported by the available data, which shows a very limited change in rearrests for those released pre-trial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams said she believes judges should be given more discretion to set bail, joining similar calls from the mayor and governor. "I think that our judges have the mind to deal with this issue," she said. "This is what those robes are for in those chambers. And I think that we need to afford them the full capacity to do what it is that they are supposed to do."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Avlon and members of the audience pushed the speaker on election and voting reform, perennial issues in a city with chronically low voter turnout and dysfunctional election administration.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams told the audience she was supportive of the concept of an open primary system, in which party-unaffiliated voters would have a voice in selecting nominees to the general election. She also said she would "definitely" support moving New York's municipal elections to even-numbered years, in line with state and federal elections, to help boost turnout.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams' response to questions about reforming the New York City Board of Elections – the maligned agency responsible for numerous, in some cases major, administrative blunders in recent years – was more tepid. "Yes, there is room for improvement. Yes, it certainly is something for us to consider to take a look at," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked whether she supports making the city's Fair Fares program, which provides discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, open to higher income levels, Adams said the city must first focus on public education to ensure the currently eligible population participates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams also talked about quality-of-life issues like the ubiquity of scaffolding (she supports time limits), speeding e-bikes (she wants more enforcement), and outdoor dining (she's OK with sidewalk eateries but wants curbside sheds removed).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Outdoor dining is a beautiful thing for the city of New York, I think that the characteristics of New York have to be maintained," Adams said. "So we would have to rein in those types of structures that we allowed during the pandemic, which were meant to be temporary."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, subsequently criticized the comments in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Streeteries were initially intended as a temporary solution to save restaurants and jobs during the worst of the pandemic, but due to its popularity, the city is now going through the legislative process to develop a standardized roadway dining program to complement the successful sidewalk cafés that the city’s had for over 45 years," he said. "Outdoor dining with streeteries has incredible supporters including Mayor Adams and many City Council members who have planned to enact an enhanced outdoor dining system that will be a successful and an essential feature of the city’s streetscape for many years to come.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is expected to soon issue new regulations around the outdoor dining program.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaker Adams rejected the mayor's recent Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) plan, which called for across the board cuts to city agency budgets this fiscal year and beyond. That funding, she cautioned, may be crucial to the city's economic and social recovery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I'm hoping for them to retract that plan," she said. "I understand having to tighten our belt, having to be frugal. My hope is that the administration has a plan behind the payment plan."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"What we can't do is jeopardize coming out of this thing stronger by reducing headcount in places where we need headcount the most," she said of city agencies, many of which have struggled to fill vacancies amid questions about the mayor’s workforce policies and about the ability of the city to deliver needed services.</span></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/council-speaker-adams.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she wants more transparency at the Department of Education, more discretion for judges in setting bail, and more federal intervention in the city's current shelter crisis – and weighed in on a host of other issues during a public appearance on Wednesday.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaking at a breakfast hosted by good-government group Citizens Union, the speaker discussed some of the most pressing issues of the day along with the nuts and bolts of policy. She drew key distinctions with Mayor Eric Adams (no relation), her fellow Democrat, and outlined some of her top overall priorities in her powerful position.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The event, sponsored by the public relations firm Cozen O'Connor, was part of Citizens Union's Civic Conversation series and hosted by board member and CNN political analyst John Avlon.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams, who represents a southeast Queens district, is finishing her ninth month as speaker presiding over a mostly new, first-time female-majority City Council. Adams herself is the first Black woman to lead the Council. She has developed a reputation as a collaborative speaker and has notched some early legislative achievements including passing bills on fire safety in the wake of the Bronx Twin Parks fire, reproductive rights, and maternal health. She also negotiated her first city budget as speaker, a record-high $101 billion spending plan, with Mayor Adams, and while the two are long-time allies their early relationship in their new top posts has been rocky.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On Wednesday, Adams said her top two priorities as speaker are housing and education equity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Our legacy should be the legacy, quite frankly, that a lot of my colleagues ran on and that was building housing," she said, saying the focus needed to be on mixed production of affordable, very-affordable, and market-rate units. "We cannot be the Council that does not build housing for the city of New York when we need it so desperately."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On education, the speaker said she wants to increase capacity in the city's gifted and talented programs, which lines her up with the mayor who has reversed the late de Blasio-era decision to replace G&amp;T with universal school enrichment programming. Speaker Adams has also been pushing the Department of Education to restore funding to schools after passing the budget earlier this year, which she said was cut despite the administration's guarantees to the Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"DOE has been a very, very tough nut to crack," she said Wednesday. "A lot of those issues happen because of the lack of transparency within the DOE."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She said the Council would be seeking more units of appropriation on education spending within the DOE’s roughly $38 billion budget. "There are going to have to be explanations around fair student funding formula, around equity towards individual schools," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker said homelessness in the city has gotten worse, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic and economic climate. The stream of refugees from Central and South America in recent months, some of whom have been sent on buses from southern states, has further hampered a shelter system already under strain.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We've seen an influx of individuals coming into our shelter system into a system that really was taxed, burdened, prior to the pandemic," Adams said, calling the situation "dire."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is erecting tents in a parking lot in the Orchard Beach section of the Bronx to serve as emergency shelter for 1,000 single, newly-arrived adults. Mayor Adams has suggested the facility may fall outside the city's legal right to shelter, which guarantees shelter access and standards for all, and would provide temporary, voluntary stays.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker didn't say whether she thought the plan, which involves barracks-style congregate settings with few amenities, met the city's shelter requirements.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The right to shelter is the law in New York, so we can just start there. We don't have a choice. We've got to embrace anyone and everyone coming to our city," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this year, the City Council held an oversight hearing with the Department of Social Services, which runs the shelter system, focused on shelter intake issues after the administration admitted to violating the right to shelter for over 60 individuals and families. On Friday, the Council is holding another oversight hearing, this time on resources for asylum-seekers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We're wondering, why Orchard Beach? We're wondering what else besides Orchard Beach, because we're going to need more than just Orchard Beach to accommodate the influx of people seeking asylum here in New York City," Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The solution, she said, is for the city to continue building shelter capacity and for the federal government to dissuade conservative governors from sending individuals to New York, a situation enabled by a political environment she blamed on former President Donald Trump. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We need for President Joseph Biden to kind of take the reins and right this thing," Adams said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker also weighed in on the city’s legislative redistricting process, which hit a wall last week when the commission responsible for redrawing New York's 51 City Council districts voted down its own draft map. The new lines have the potential to recast the political landscape but must first be submitted to the City Council for feedback (the Council may accept the map or send it back to the commission with notes to come up with final lines).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The no vote, which took place after an aide to the mayor </span><a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/26/eric-adams-city-hall-new-york-council-redistricting-00058693" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">reportedly</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> lobbied members of the commission to reject the proposal, meant the body had to postpone submitting the draft to the City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Our work now is pushed off," Speaker Adams said, "but they tell us that they're going to be coming back to us next week." A spokesperson for the New York City Districting Commission said the body expected to hold another vote on October 7.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"The timeline really isn't that terrible to deal with," Adams added. "But these are uncharted waters, and you just can't make this stuff up."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The speaker would not comment on the reporting by Politico that the mayoral administration attempted to sway commissioners' votes, including those by Mayor Adams’ own appointees. "I stayed away," she said. "Legally and morally, I have to stay away." The mayor appoints seven members of the 15-person commission, the speaker appoints five, and the City Council minority leader three.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With public safety grabbing headlines for much of the pandemic, the speaker weighed in on the impact of recent state bail reforms on rising crime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"While it plays a role it's been scapegoated, as well, as being the end-all be-all issue and problem," she said of state bail reforms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2019, state lawmakers removed misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies from the list of bail-eligible offenses. The changes, intended to reduce race and class disparities in pre-trial detention, have been the subject of debate and modified a number of times since they were first enacted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked whether she felt recent changes to the state bail law have contributed to rising crime she demurred. "I guess my answer is a little bit of yes, a little bit of no," she said, taking a position that is supported by the available data, which shows a very limited change in rearrests for those released pre-trial.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams said she believes judges should be given more discretion to set bail, joining similar calls from the mayor and governor. "I think that our judges have the mind to deal with this issue," she said. "This is what those robes are for in those chambers. And I think that we need to afford them the full capacity to do what it is that they are supposed to do."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Avlon and members of the audience pushed the speaker on election and voting reform, perennial issues in a city with chronically low voter turnout and dysfunctional election administration.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams told the audience she was supportive of the concept of an open primary system, in which party-unaffiliated voters would have a voice in selecting nominees to the general election. She also said she would "definitely" support moving New York's municipal elections to even-numbered years, in line with state and federal elections, to help boost turnout.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams' response to questions about reforming the New York City Board of Elections – the maligned agency responsible for numerous, in some cases major, administrative blunders in recent years – was more tepid. "Yes, there is room for improvement. Yes, it certainly is something for us to consider to take a look at," she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Asked whether she supports making the city's Fair Fares program, which provides discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, open to higher income levels, Adams said the city must first focus on public education to ensure the currently eligible population participates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adams also talked about quality-of-life issues like the ubiquity of scaffolding (she supports time limits), speeding e-bikes (she wants more enforcement), and outdoor dining (she's OK with sidewalk eateries but wants curbside sheds removed).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Outdoor dining is a beautiful thing for the city of New York, I think that the characteristics of New York have to be maintained," Adams said. "So we would have to rein in those types of structures that we allowed during the pandemic, which were meant to be temporary."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, subsequently criticized the comments in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Streeteries were initially intended as a temporary solution to save restaurants and jobs during the worst of the pandemic, but due to its popularity, the city is now going through the legislative process to develop a standardized roadway dining program to complement the successful sidewalk cafés that the city’s had for over 45 years," he said. "Outdoor dining with streeteries has incredible supporters including Mayor Adams and many City Council members who have planned to enact an enhanced outdoor dining system that will be a successful and an essential feature of the city’s streetscape for many years to come.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The city is expected to soon issue new regulations around the outdoor dining program.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Speaker Adams rejected the mayor's recent Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) plan, which called for across the board cuts to city agency budgets this fiscal year and beyond. That funding, she cautioned, may be crucial to the city's economic and social recovery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I'm hoping for them to retract that plan," she said. "I understand having to tighten our belt, having to be frugal. My hope is that the administration has a plan behind the payment plan."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"What we can't do is jeopardize coming out of this thing stronger by reducing headcount in places where we need headcount the most," she said of city agencies, many of which have struggled to fill vacancies amid questions about the mayor’s workforce policies and about the ability of the city to deliver needed services.</span></p> <p>

***
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>
Nearly 9 Months In, Mayor Adams Yet to Name a Fire Commissioner 2022-09-28T14:00:00+00:00 2022-09-28T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11590-mayor-adams-yet-to-name-fire-commissioner Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-name-comm.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Acting FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh with Mayor Adams (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nearly nine months into his tenure, Mayor Eric Adams has yet to appoint a permanent commissioner for the New York City Fire Department, leaving Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in the high-profile role dealing with some of the city’s most pressing emergencies and emergency services. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is highly unusual for a mayor to take this long to name a commissioner for any city agency, much less a uniformed department with an established chain of command and life-saving responsibilities. FDNY commissioner is the last high-profile agency position that remains in limbo, even as the department has faced major emergencies this year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kavanagh, the first woman to lead the department, has a wide base of support, from City Council members to labor union officials, who say she has performed well in the role. Adams has praised Kavanagh in public appearances together, but the Democratic mayor has given no indication of when he might name a permanent fire commissioner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“A decision is long from being overdue,” said Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), the union that represents the city’s rank-and-file firefighters. “The current acting commissioner has done an excellent job in the absence of having a permanent title.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sources say it is a curious delay that both undermines Kavanagh’s standing and presents a missed opportunity for the mayor to not only provide more stability to the fire department and solidify a competent, reform-minded commissioner, but also to name the FDNY’s first-ever female commissioner at a time when the department is attempting to diversify and Adams has taken pride in naming the first woman to lead the NYPD as well as five female deputy mayors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Prior to taking over as acting commissioner in February, Kavanagh served as first deputy commissioner at FDNY for four years. She took over the department after the retirement of Commissioner Daniel Nigro, an appointee of former Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Commissioner Nigro leaves big shoes to fill and Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh is up to the task,” Adams </span><a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/1494094611215798275?s=20&amp;t=nS-zipFJuDZG7LdCTsJRpA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on February 16, the day Nigro retired. “She's a born leader who will guide this department with distinction.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And she was thrown into the deep end almost immediately, dealing with the aftermath of the Twin Parks fire in the Bronx in January, which took the lives of 17 people, including eight children. That was soon followed by the death of a firefighter in February and the death of another firefighter in April as he responded to a house fire in Brooklyn. Through those intervening months, Kavanagh and the department faced intense scrutiny from the City Council and even from Congress over fire safety in housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While many would expect a new mayor to name their own fire commissioner at some point in the first several months of an administration, like with virtually all other agencies and offices, Adams has not, leading to questions about why he would let Kavanagh continue with the uncertainty of the acting title. Some say it has hurt her authority and undercut her ability to get more done, including in hiring an executive team. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In February, Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy </span><a href="https://nypost.com/2022/02/12/laura-kavanagh-to-lead-fdny-on-as-eric-adams-decides-on-new-commissioner/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told the New York Post</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the mayor was conducting a “thorough review” of candidates for FDNY commissioner. “He’s already conducted 20 rounds of interviews and narrowed down his list to three individuals,” Levy said at the time. “As with all other appointments in the administration, Mayor Adams will pick the best person for the job.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mayor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Ansbro of the UFA noted, Kavanagh has done the job without a first deputy commissioner of her own and with several top vacancies unfilled. “She's basically done it alone without that aide and also there's a lot of other appointments that have gone unfilled with the department,” he said, adding that the union supports her for the permanent position. “The department needs this question answered. They need some stability.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">UFA was one signer of a July 14 letter to Mayor Adams obtained by Gotham Gazette wherein several union leaders urged him to make Kavanagh’s appointment as commissioner permanent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“[Acting Commissioner Kavanagh] has proven to be a reliable, battle-tested leader, fully capable of running one of New York’s most vital and complex agencies,” reads the letter. It was signed by Ansbro; Oren Barzilay, president of Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors, Local 2507, which falls under DC37; Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Union, Local 3621; Faye Smyth, president of Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association; and Henry Garrido, executive director of DC37, the largest municipal labor union.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The union leaders wrote that Kavanagh’s work for the department has been “exceptional” and that “her permanent appointment is not only a just reward for that service, but also a great benefit to the citizens [of] New York City.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Therefore, it is our firm belief that her historic appointment as the next FDNY Commissioner would enhance public safety, elevate your administration’s public standing, and exemplify your mayoral legacy,” they said.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A knowledgeable source in the Adams administration, who did not wish to be named in order to speak freely, said that the administration originally seemed to be focused on possibly naming an old ally of the mayor, who was in the NYPD for two decades before winning elected office, either with FDNY or NYPD experience, or a more traditional fire chief from outside the city, all of whom were likely white men. While no potential appointment panned out, the mayor has also been impressed with Kavanagh’s performance, the source said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's definitely unusual that it's gone on this long,” Ansbro said. “I think if he were affording her a grace period to see whether she could sink or swim, I would say without question, she can swim.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, Kavanagh has taken several steps to improve FDNY diversity that have been broadly hailed, though the department does continue to </span><a href="https://gothamist.com/news/fdny-firefighters-are-overwhelmingly-white-men-the-city-council-wants-to-change-that" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">struggle on that front</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in its ranks. Just this week, she </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2022/09/21/fdny-names-new-chief-diversity-and-inclusion-officer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">named</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kwame Cooper, a former chief officer from the Los Angeles City Fire Department. In July, she appointed Malcolm Moore as Chief of Special Operations, the first Black man to hold the role. And in her previous role as first deputy commissioner, Kavanagh overhauled recruitment practices to attract more underrepresented minorities, including women, into the department. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As she's taking on the acting role, she's brought a semblance of continuity and stability to a department through an administration change,” Ansbro said. “And things have been going smoothly. I feel she's earned her spot and it's about time that the appointment is made. If the mayor is looking to go in another direction, it's time to make that decision.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of Adams’ first acts when he came into office in January was to restructure city government, particularly by consolidating most public safety agencies – including the Fire Department – under the newly-created Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, a position he gave to Phil Banks, a former long-time police department official and Adams ally. Adams has said throughout his tenure and during last year’s mayoral campaign that public safety is paramount and that he would bring a new style of decisive executive leadership to the role of mayor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Being the Commissioner of the FDNY is one of the most important positions in the entire city, because it deals with the safety of the public,” said City Council Member Joann Ariola, a Queens Republican who chairs the Council’s Committee on Fire and Emergency Management. “Acting Commissioner Kavanagh has been leading the Department since the start of the Adams administration, so we are certain that we will be seeing an announcement about a permanent commissioner imminently.”</span></p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-name-comm.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Acting FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh with Mayor Adams (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nearly nine months into his tenure, Mayor Eric Adams has yet to appoint a permanent commissioner for the New York City Fire Department, leaving Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in the high-profile role dealing with some of the city’s most pressing emergencies and emergency services. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is highly unusual for a mayor to take this long to name a commissioner for any city agency, much less a uniformed department with an established chain of command and life-saving responsibilities. FDNY commissioner is the last high-profile agency position that remains in limbo, even as the department has faced major emergencies this year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kavanagh, the first woman to lead the department, has a wide base of support, from City Council members to labor union officials, who say she has performed well in the role. Adams has praised Kavanagh in public appearances together, but the Democratic mayor has given no indication of when he might name a permanent fire commissioner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“A decision is long from being overdue,” said Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), the union that represents the city’s rank-and-file firefighters. “The current acting commissioner has done an excellent job in the absence of having a permanent title.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sources say it is a curious delay that both undermines Kavanagh’s standing and presents a missed opportunity for the mayor to not only provide more stability to the fire department and solidify a competent, reform-minded commissioner, but also to name the FDNY’s first-ever female commissioner at a time when the department is attempting to diversify and Adams has taken pride in naming the first woman to lead the NYPD as well as five female deputy mayors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Prior to taking over as acting commissioner in February, Kavanagh served as first deputy commissioner at FDNY for four years. She took over the department after the retirement of Commissioner Daniel Nigro, an appointee of former Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Commissioner Nigro leaves big shoes to fill and Acting Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh is up to the task,” Adams </span><a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/1494094611215798275?s=20&amp;t=nS-zipFJuDZG7LdCTsJRpA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on February 16, the day Nigro retired. “She's a born leader who will guide this department with distinction.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And she was thrown into the deep end almost immediately, dealing with the aftermath of the Twin Parks fire in the Bronx in January, which took the lives of 17 people, including eight children. That was soon followed by the death of a firefighter in February and the death of another firefighter in April as he responded to a house fire in Brooklyn. Through those intervening months, Kavanagh and the department faced intense scrutiny from the City Council and even from Congress over fire safety in housing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While many would expect a new mayor to name their own fire commissioner at some point in the first several months of an administration, like with virtually all other agencies and offices, Adams has not, leading to questions about why he would let Kavanagh continue with the uncertainty of the acting title. Some say it has hurt her authority and undercut her ability to get more done, including in hiring an executive team. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In February, Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy </span><a href="https://nypost.com/2022/02/12/laura-kavanagh-to-lead-fdny-on-as-eric-adams-decides-on-new-commissioner/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told the New York Post</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the mayor was conducting a “thorough review” of candidates for FDNY commissioner. “He’s already conducted 20 rounds of interviews and narrowed down his list to three individuals,” Levy said at the time. “As with all other appointments in the administration, Mayor Adams will pick the best person for the job.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The mayor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Ansbro of the UFA noted, Kavanagh has done the job without a first deputy commissioner of her own and with several top vacancies unfilled. “She's basically done it alone without that aide and also there's a lot of other appointments that have gone unfilled with the department,” he said, adding that the union supports her for the permanent position. “The department needs this question answered. They need some stability.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">UFA was one signer of a July 14 letter to Mayor Adams obtained by Gotham Gazette wherein several union leaders urged him to make Kavanagh’s appointment as commissioner permanent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“[Acting Commissioner Kavanagh] has proven to be a reliable, battle-tested leader, fully capable of running one of New York’s most vital and complex agencies,” reads the letter. It was signed by Ansbro; Oren Barzilay, president of Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors, Local 2507, which falls under DC37; Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Union, Local 3621; Faye Smyth, president of Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association; and Henry Garrido, executive director of DC37, the largest municipal labor union.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The union leaders wrote that Kavanagh’s work for the department has been “exceptional” and that “her permanent appointment is not only a just reward for that service, but also a great benefit to the citizens [of] New York City.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Therefore, it is our firm belief that her historic appointment as the next FDNY Commissioner would enhance public safety, elevate your administration’s public standing, and exemplify your mayoral legacy,” they said.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A knowledgeable source in the Adams administration, who did not wish to be named in order to speak freely, said that the administration originally seemed to be focused on possibly naming an old ally of the mayor, who was in the NYPD for two decades before winning elected office, either with FDNY or NYPD experience, or a more traditional fire chief from outside the city, all of whom were likely white men. While no potential appointment panned out, the mayor has also been impressed with Kavanagh’s performance, the source said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It's definitely unusual that it's gone on this long,” Ansbro said. “I think if he were affording her a grace period to see whether she could sink or swim, I would say without question, she can swim.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, Kavanagh has taken several steps to improve FDNY diversity that have been broadly hailed, though the department does continue to </span><a href="https://gothamist.com/news/fdny-firefighters-are-overwhelmingly-white-men-the-city-council-wants-to-change-that" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">struggle on that front</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in its ranks. Just this week, she </span><a href="https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2022/09/21/fdny-names-new-chief-diversity-and-inclusion-officer" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">named</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kwame Cooper, a former chief officer from the Los Angeles City Fire Department. In July, she appointed Malcolm Moore as Chief of Special Operations, the first Black man to hold the role. And in her previous role as first deputy commissioner, Kavanagh overhauled recruitment practices to attract more underrepresented minorities, including women, into the department. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“As she's taking on the acting role, she's brought a semblance of continuity and stability to a department through an administration change,” Ansbro said. “And things have been going smoothly. I feel she's earned her spot and it's about time that the appointment is made. If the mayor is looking to go in another direction, it's time to make that decision.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of Adams’ first acts when he came into office in January was to restructure city government, particularly by consolidating most public safety agencies – including the Fire Department – under the newly-created Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, a position he gave to Phil Banks, a former long-time police department official and Adams ally. Adams has said throughout his tenure and during last year’s mayoral campaign that public safety is paramount and that he would bring a new style of decisive executive leadership to the role of mayor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Being the Commissioner of the FDNY is one of the most important positions in the entire city, because it deals with the safety of the public,” said City Council Member Joann Ariola, a Queens Republican who chairs the Council’s Committee on Fire and Emergency Management. “Acting Commissioner Kavanagh has been leading the Department since the start of the Adams administration, so we are certain that we will be seeing an announcement about a permanent commissioner imminently.”</span></p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Getting New York Out of Its Housing Crisis 2022-09-23T13:00:00+00:00 2022-09-23T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11597-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-housing-crisis-solutions Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-rpa-gates600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Housing on the way (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 23, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Getting New York Out of Its Housing Crisis<br /></strong></p> <p>Moses Gates, Vice President for Housing and Neighborhood Planning at the Regional Plan Association, joined the show to discuss New York City's housing crisis, what policies are key to addressing it, the unique political moment we're in, and how to find more consensus on this contentious issue.</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/11597-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-housing-crisis-solutions">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-rpa-gates600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Housing on the way (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 23, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Getting New York Out of Its Housing Crisis<br /></strong></p> <p>Moses Gates, Vice President for Housing and Neighborhood Planning at the Regional Plan Association, joined the show to discuss New York City's housing crisis, what policies are key to addressing it, the unique political moment we're in, and how to find more consensus on this contentious issue.</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/11597-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-housing-crisis-solutions">Read More ...</a></p> Redistricting Commission Votes Down Latest City Council Draft Map 2022-09-22T14:00:00+00:00 2022-09-22T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11591-redistricting-commission-votes-down-city-council-draft-map Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-walcott-est.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Districting Commission Chair Dennis Walcott (photo: New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In an 8-7 vote, the New York City Districting Commission on Thursday rejected <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its latest proposal</a> to redraw the city’s 51 Council districts, sending the electoral map back to the drawing board.</p> <p>After months of analysis and more than 9,000 submissions from the public, the 15-member commission could not find consensus on redefining City Council district lines to accommodate population shifts shown in the 2020 Census. Those included an increase in the city’s population of 630,000 residents since the 2010 count and many other demographic shifts.</p> <p>Commission members who voted against the proposal cited varying reasons for their votes, including concerns about divisions of communities of interest to diminished political power for certain regions and neighborhoods. Those who voted in favor pointed to how <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the new map addressed major concerns about the preliminary July proposal</a>, making changes that the commission’s executive director, Dr. John Flateau, explained ahead of the vote. The new map required nine yes votes to be sent to the Council but fell short.</p> <p>If the map had been approved, it would have been sent to the City Council for its assessment. Instead, the Commission will now reconsider the revised proposal as it seeks to address the concerns of dissenting commissioners.</p> <p>The Commission is made up of 15 members – seven appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat; five appointed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat; and three chosen by City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, a Republican of Staten Island.</p> <p>The no votes came from Borelli’s three appointees: Marc Wurzel, Kevin Hanratty, and Darrin Porcher; mayoral appointees Maria Mateo, Joshua Schneps, Lisa Sorin, and Kai-Ki Wong; and Michael Schnall, an appointee of the speaker. The vote made it apparent that Borelli’s and Mayor Adams’ appointees have continued to be largely in lockstep during the process. That was the case even as commission chair Dennis Walcott, an appointee of the mayor, was among the yes votes.</p> <p>“My commissioners were never going to accept a job half-done,” Borelli said in a text message on Thursday. Borelli has been adamant throughout the process that Staten Island's three Council districts should all remain island-only. “The latest drawings still left significant issues on the table, and although they are going back to the drawing board, at least it's with a better idea of what needs to be done,” he said.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The latest map was a revised version of an earlier proposal released in July</a>, which was met with significant opposition from various quarters. The initial proposal had kept the three Council districts on Staten Island largely unchanged and without any crossover into another borough, an anchoring decision that impacted how many other districts were drawn. But the latest map extended the Mid-Island district into Brooklyn and also undid many other contentious boundaries from the preliminary map passed in July.</p> <p>Schnall said he found the final process “a little unsettling and frankly, unfair,” as he voted against the proposed map. “A few individuals undid some of the work of the many, often at the last minutes of a mapping session, which got finalized in these maps,” he said.</p> <p>Schnall criticized what he called the “dilution” of political power in the Bronx from the redrawing of District 8, already a Bronx-Manhattan crossover district, which shifted more toward the East Harlem side in the latest map, as well as the inclusion of a Brooklyn neighborhood in the middle Staten Island district. As a Staten Island resident, he seemed to take particular issue with that latter decision.</p> <p>“I resent the fact that Staten Island has been blamed for all the troubles identified in the first draft…This Brooklyn addition dilutes Staten Island's political power and sets the borough back 10 years in the progress we've made to establish ourselves and chart our own future as a borough,” he said. The new map he objected to included what was said to be about 16,000 Brooklynites in the largely Staten Island 50th Council District.</p> <p>Walcott acknowledged Schnall’s concerns but defended the work of the commission and how it unfolded as he voted for the new maps. “I think the challenge is making sure that we don't undermine all the hard work and allow the process to unfold to the next step because I think the commission has done an excellent job in meeting its responsibility and its due diligence,” he said.</p> <p>But Wurzel echoed Schnall’s criticisms in his own vote against the proposal. “It's ironic that as soon as we as a commission walked away from having three districts on Staten Island, more problems developed, some inevitable and some self-inflicted,” he said of problems with the map he voted against on Thursday. </p> <p>He also took issue with proposed lines in other boroughs. “We've twisted, divided and cannibalized several communities in a handful of competitive, fair-fight districts in Queens and Brooklyn,” he said, in an apparent reference to a perceived lack of Republican-Democratic competition in parts of the new map.</p> <p>Other commissioners who supported the new proposal pointed out that they had listened to feedback on the preliminary maps and corrected perceived deficiencies, reuniting several communities of interest that had been split in the earlier proposal.</p> <p>Mateo voted no on the proposal, raising concerns about the dilution of Dominican voting power in Districts 2 and 7 in Manhattan. She said it is important for the commission to hear more from Latino New Yorkers as it continues its work.</p> <p>Several of the commissioners said the districting process was inherently flawed because of a state law that only allows a 5% deviation in population between the most and least populated districts. The commission also had to adhere to criteria set by the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act, and the City Charter.</p> <p>Following the vote, Dr. Lisa Handley, an expert retained by the commission to conduct a racial voting bloc analysis of the map, testified on the considerations that went into the latest proposed maps. “[T]he plan that you drew passed Voting Rights Act muster, in my opinion,” she said. “I'm not sure what's going to happen now.”</p> <p>Handley told the commissioners that the proposed maps maintained the number of Black and Hispanic opportunity districts in the city while adding one new Asian opportunity district, accounting for the increase in Asian Americans, the fastest growing population in the city. “You would have been successfully sued had you not done that,” she said.</p> <p>For his part, Mayor Adams appears content with the commission continuing its work as dictated by Thursday's vote. “The Commission heard public testimony from different communities across the city who were concerned about the dilution of their voting power and the risk of diminished representation in city government," said mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "We applaud the independent redistricting commission for their willingness to continue their great work and address these concerns now, while the public process continues to move forward.”</p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, on the other hand, expressed dissatisfaction with the vote. "I am disappointed that the Council and public will not have the formal opportunity to review the new maps that the Districting Commission proposed and rejected," she said in a statement. "The public engaged in the redistricting process at record levels over the last several months, providing input and testimony regarding safety measures and protections for historically marginalized communities of color and communities of interest, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act and New York City Charter. The Commission appeared to have taken this seriously in its revisions, with new maps deemed to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Yet, the public has not been able to access these newly proposed maps."</p> <p>"I urge the Commission to make these maps fully available to the public, so there is complete transparency on the newly proposed districts and how they addressed public concerns. It is also critical for there to be a clear timeline of the next steps and public process," she added.</p> <p>With the final approval of the maps now delayed, activists are hoping that their concerns about the proposed maps will be taken into consideration.</p> <p>“In these newly proposed maps, the Commission clearly heard the concerns of some but not all New Yorkers. In particular, in South Brooklyn’s Council Districts the proposed lines are an improvement from the previous version and reflect the city’s Asian and Latino population growth and feedback from residents,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, in a statement. “Yet, we cannot ignore that immigrant communities continue to be split, including in Southeast Queens and in the Northwest Bronx, meaning additional changes need to be made to ensure community members have a chance at fair representation. By not moving the proposed maps to a vote by the NYC Council, we hope the Commission will use the time to work to ensure that more New Yorkers are heard in this process.”</p> <p>The commission will now work on a new map of Council districts, which it must pass to present to the current Council for approval or rejection with notes. If the Council approves the map, it goes into effect for next year’s elections, where all 51 Council seats are on the ballot. If it rejects the maps, the commission must take its feedback into account, hold additional public hearings, and then pass a final map without any outside approval needed. The deadline when the final maps are due is December 7. </p> <p>With little time left till that deadline, Citizens Union, a good government group, urged the Commission to quickly resolve any lingering issues so that the maps can be scrutinized by the public. "Today’s vote demonstrates the need for transparency throughout the process," said Betsy Gotbaum, CU's executive director, in a statement. "Opening the Commission’s deliberations to the public would have allowed all commissioners to weigh in on the issues that led to today's surprise vote. The Commission should hold its next deliberations in public to prompt healthy dialogue between commissioners. This act will reduce the potential power of outside influence on the process."</p> <p>Walcott said the Commission will “reconvene to discuss our next steps” in the process. “Then we will go through the process of addressing any of the concerns because we still have a responsibility to submit these plans to the City Council for their review,” he said.</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/1-walcott-est.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Districting Commission Chair Dennis Walcott (photo: New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In an 8-7 vote, the New York City Districting Commission on Thursday rejected <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its latest proposal</a> to redraw the city’s 51 Council districts, sending the electoral map back to the drawing board.</p> <p>After months of analysis and more than 9,000 submissions from the public, the 15-member commission could not find consensus on redefining City Council district lines to accommodate population shifts shown in the 2020 Census. Those included an increase in the city’s population of 630,000 residents since the 2010 count and many other demographic shifts.</p> <p>Commission members who voted against the proposal cited varying reasons for their votes, including concerns about divisions of communities of interest to diminished political power for certain regions and neighborhoods. Those who voted in favor pointed to how <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the new map addressed major concerns about the preliminary July proposal</a>, making changes that the commission’s executive director, Dr. John Flateau, explained ahead of the vote. The new map required nine yes votes to be sent to the Council but fell short.</p> <p>If the map had been approved, it would have been sent to the City Council for its assessment. Instead, the Commission will now reconsider the revised proposal as it seeks to address the concerns of dissenting commissioners.</p> <p>The Commission is made up of 15 members – seven appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat; five appointed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat; and three chosen by City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, a Republican of Staten Island.</p> <p>The no votes came from Borelli’s three appointees: Marc Wurzel, Kevin Hanratty, and Darrin Porcher; mayoral appointees Maria Mateo, Joshua Schneps, Lisa Sorin, and Kai-Ki Wong; and Michael Schnall, an appointee of the speaker. The vote made it apparent that Borelli’s and Mayor Adams’ appointees have continued to be largely in lockstep during the process. That was the case even as commission chair Dennis Walcott, an appointee of the mayor, was among the yes votes.</p> <p>“My commissioners were never going to accept a job half-done,” Borelli said in a text message on Thursday. Borelli has been adamant throughout the process that Staten Island's three Council districts should all remain island-only. “The latest drawings still left significant issues on the table, and although they are going back to the drawing board, at least it's with a better idea of what needs to be done,” he said.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The latest map was a revised version of an earlier proposal released in July</a>, which was met with significant opposition from various quarters. The initial proposal had kept the three Council districts on Staten Island largely unchanged and without any crossover into another borough, an anchoring decision that impacted how many other districts were drawn. But the latest map extended the Mid-Island district into Brooklyn and also undid many other contentious boundaries from the preliminary map passed in July.</p> <p>Schnall said he found the final process “a little unsettling and frankly, unfair,” as he voted against the proposed map. “A few individuals undid some of the work of the many, often at the last minutes of a mapping session, which got finalized in these maps,” he said.</p> <p>Schnall criticized what he called the “dilution” of political power in the Bronx from the redrawing of District 8, already a Bronx-Manhattan crossover district, which shifted more toward the East Harlem side in the latest map, as well as the inclusion of a Brooklyn neighborhood in the middle Staten Island district. As a Staten Island resident, he seemed to take particular issue with that latter decision.</p> <p>“I resent the fact that Staten Island has been blamed for all the troubles identified in the first draft…This Brooklyn addition dilutes Staten Island's political power and sets the borough back 10 years in the progress we've made to establish ourselves and chart our own future as a borough,” he said. The new map he objected to included what was said to be about 16,000 Brooklynites in the largely Staten Island 50th Council District.</p> <p>Walcott acknowledged Schnall’s concerns but defended the work of the commission and how it unfolded as he voted for the new maps. “I think the challenge is making sure that we don't undermine all the hard work and allow the process to unfold to the next step because I think the commission has done an excellent job in meeting its responsibility and its due diligence,” he said.</p> <p>But Wurzel echoed Schnall’s criticisms in his own vote against the proposal. “It's ironic that as soon as we as a commission walked away from having three districts on Staten Island, more problems developed, some inevitable and some self-inflicted,” he said of problems with the map he voted against on Thursday. </p> <p>He also took issue with proposed lines in other boroughs. “We've twisted, divided and cannibalized several communities in a handful of competitive, fair-fight districts in Queens and Brooklyn,” he said, in an apparent reference to a perceived lack of Republican-Democratic competition in parts of the new map.</p> <p>Other commissioners who supported the new proposal pointed out that they had listened to feedback on the preliminary maps and corrected perceived deficiencies, reuniting several communities of interest that had been split in the earlier proposal.</p> <p>Mateo voted no on the proposal, raising concerns about the dilution of Dominican voting power in Districts 2 and 7 in Manhattan. She said it is important for the commission to hear more from Latino New Yorkers as it continues its work.</p> <p>Several of the commissioners said the districting process was inherently flawed because of a state law that only allows a 5% deviation in population between the most and least populated districts. The commission also had to adhere to criteria set by the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act, and the City Charter.</p> <p>Following the vote, Dr. Lisa Handley, an expert retained by the commission to conduct a racial voting bloc analysis of the map, testified on the considerations that went into the latest proposed maps. “[T]he plan that you drew passed Voting Rights Act muster, in my opinion,” she said. “I'm not sure what's going to happen now.”</p> <p>Handley told the commissioners that the proposed maps maintained the number of Black and Hispanic opportunity districts in the city while adding one new Asian opportunity district, accounting for the increase in Asian Americans, the fastest growing population in the city. “You would have been successfully sued had you not done that,” she said.</p> <p>For his part, Mayor Adams appears content with the commission continuing its work as dictated by Thursday's vote. “The Commission heard public testimony from different communities across the city who were concerned about the dilution of their voting power and the risk of diminished representation in city government," said mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "We applaud the independent redistricting commission for their willingness to continue their great work and address these concerns now, while the public process continues to move forward.”</p> <p>City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, on the other hand, expressed dissatisfaction with the vote. "I am disappointed that the Council and public will not have the formal opportunity to review the new maps that the Districting Commission proposed and rejected," she said in a statement. "The public engaged in the redistricting process at record levels over the last several months, providing input and testimony regarding safety measures and protections for historically marginalized communities of color and communities of interest, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act and New York City Charter. The Commission appeared to have taken this seriously in its revisions, with new maps deemed to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Yet, the public has not been able to access these newly proposed maps."</p> <p>"I urge the Commission to make these maps fully available to the public, so there is complete transparency on the newly proposed districts and how they addressed public concerns. It is also critical for there to be a clear timeline of the next steps and public process," she added.</p> <p>With the final approval of the maps now delayed, activists are hoping that their concerns about the proposed maps will be taken into consideration.</p> <p>“In these newly proposed maps, the Commission clearly heard the concerns of some but not all New Yorkers. In particular, in South Brooklyn’s Council Districts the proposed lines are an improvement from the previous version and reflect the city’s Asian and Latino population growth and feedback from residents,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, in a statement. “Yet, we cannot ignore that immigrant communities continue to be split, including in Southeast Queens and in the Northwest Bronx, meaning additional changes need to be made to ensure community members have a chance at fair representation. By not moving the proposed maps to a vote by the NYC Council, we hope the Commission will use the time to work to ensure that more New Yorkers are heard in this process.”</p> <p>The commission will now work on a new map of Council districts, which it must pass to present to the current Council for approval or rejection with notes. If the Council approves the map, it goes into effect for next year’s elections, where all 51 Council seats are on the ballot. If it rejects the maps, the commission must take its feedback into account, hold additional public hearings, and then pass a final map without any outside approval needed. The deadline when the final maps are due is December 7. </p> <p>With little time left till that deadline, Citizens Union, a good government group, urged the Commission to quickly resolve any lingering issues so that the maps can be scrutinized by the public. "Today’s vote demonstrates the need for transparency throughout the process," said Betsy Gotbaum, CU's executive director, in a statement. "Opening the Commission’s deliberations to the public would have allowed all commissioners to weigh in on the issues that led to today's surprise vote. The Commission should hold its next deliberations in public to prompt healthy dialogue between commissioners. This act will reduce the potential power of outside influence on the process."</p> <p>Walcott said the Commission will “reconvene to discuss our next steps” in the process. “Then we will go through the process of addressing any of the concerns because we still have a responsibility to submit these plans to the City Council for their review,” he said.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
Key Takeaways from New City Council Map Redistricting Commission Will Vote On 2022-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 2022-09-21T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting Ethan Geringer-Sameth & Samar Khurshid ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-key-council.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council members at City Hall (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Districting Commission tasked with redrawing the city's 51 Council districts is expected to vote on a new draft map on Thursday, marking one of the last stages in the city's controversial redistricting process.</p> <p>The new map, which was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/20/nyregion/redistricting-city-council-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported on by the New York Times</a> and previewed by Gotham Gazette on Tuesday, addresses some of the biggest points of contention in the preliminary lines released by the commission in July. If approved, the map will be sent to the City Council for approval or feedback and possible redrafting. While the map may still change substantially after the Council's motion, it paints a picture of the direction the city's political lines are likely to take.</p> <p>Redistricting takes place every decade to account for population shifts captured in the Census count. This year, the redistricting commission had to account for an increase of 630,000 residents in the city from 2010 to 2020, while also adhering to criteria outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act, the State Constitution and the City Charter. The commission received over 9,000 submissions from the public weighing in on the new lines.</p> <p>If the Council accepts the commission's map, the process effectively ends and the new lines go into place for the next City Council elections in 2023 and for government representation as of 2024. If it rejects the maps, the commission will hold another round of public hearings and unilaterally submit a final map in December to be certified by the City Clerk.</p> <p>Seven of the commission's 15 members are appointed by the mayor, five by the City Council's Democratic majority and three by its Republican minority. The map requires nine affirmative votes to pass.</p> <p>The lines will determine how communities are grouped and represented in the City Council, with implications for decisions about city funding, land use, and legislation. The preliminary maps released in July triggered a backlash from many corners of the city, with stakeholders in dozens of neighborhoods raising concerns that their communities would be fractured and their voting power diminished.</p> <p>The commission is also expected to present a racial voting bloc analysis, a breakdown of the racial and ethnic make-up of the voting-age population in each draft district, which the commission has used to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. John Flateau, the body's executive director, is also expected to give a verbal presentation to explain the new lines and the logic behind them, according to a spokesperson for the commission. A final report with those narratives is expected to be published in the weeks after the Thursday vote, the spokesperson said.</p> <p>Here are several key takeaways from the new City Council map that the Districting Commission could pass on Thursday:</p> <p><strong>Population Growth in Asian American Communities</strong><br />New York City's <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/planning-level/nyc-population/census2020/dcp_2020-census-briefing-booklet-1.pdf">population grew</a> by 630,000 residents or 7.7% to 8.8 million between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts, driven largely by an increase in the city's Asian American population. One of the biggest questions around the new map is how it will deal with those communities.</p> <p>The city's Asian American population increased by 345,000 residents, the largest of any racial or ethnic group captured in Census data, with growth in almost every neighborhood of the city.</p> <p>Queens, which has the largest Asian American population, saw the biggest total growth of any borough. The neighborhoods of Flushing, Long Island City, Jamaica, and Elmhurst saw the biggest influxes of the borough. The Long Island City-Hunters Point section, in particular, saw its Asian American population more than quintuple. South Jamaica's Asian American population more than tripled.</p> <p>Brooklyn's southern communities saw another significant increase. Bensonhurst, which grew by close to 12,000 residents, had the most new Asian American residents of any neighborhood in the city. That community is currently divided among four City Council districts and became a flashpoint for achieving a new Asian-plurality district. The new map places much of Bensonhurst into Council District 43, currently held by Council Member Justin Brannan and creates an Asian majority within the district's voting age population, according to Eddie Borges, a commission spokesperson.</p> <p>Downtown Brooklyn also experienced an influx, while across the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, Chinatown, Soho, and the Lower East Side were the only neighborhoods to lose Asian American residents.</p> <p>The Asian American populations in Downtown Brooklyn, Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, Parkchester in the Bronx, and the Grasmere-Arrochar-South Beach-Dongan Hills neighborhoods of Staten Island all more than doubled over the last decade.</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams referred Gotham Gazette to her previous comments on the redistricting process. “It is critical that new City Council district lines not only keep communities of interest together, but also preserve principles that were established to protect and enfranchise historically marginalized communities of color,” Adams said in August.</p> <p><strong>Other Demographic Shifts</strong><br />Asian American communities weren't the only group to see major growth over the last decade. The city's Hispanic population increased by 154,000, about a quarter of the total population growth, according to Census data. The largest growth was in the Bronx, followed by Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Manhattan's Hispanic population saw a slight decline of fewer than 1,000 residents.</p> <p>While the Bronx remained home to the largest Hispanic population, the biggest growth in the number of Hispanic residents was in southern Brooklyn – in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge – where stakeholders in the local Latino and Asian communities fought to be kept whole.</p> <p>Hispanic communities shrunk in southern Queens and northern Brooklyn, East Williamsburg and Sunset Park, in western Brooklyn, and much of northern Manhattan.</p> <p>That growth was offset by decreases in the city's Black population, by 84,000 residents, and to a much lesser extent the white population, by 3,000.</p> <p>Brooklyn had the largest drop in its Black population, followed by Queens, and Manhattan. The Bronx and Staten Island saw modest increases in the number of Black residents.</p> <p><strong>Staten Island</strong><br />The preliminary districting map released in July kept the three districts on Staten Island intact, which had knock-on effects for the rest of the boroughs as different districts had to be drawn to accommodate the increase in the city’s population. The revised map, however, extends District 50 from the Mid-Island to Brooklyn, where it encompasses Fort Hamilton and parts of Bath Beach.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, the Republican majority leader, fought hard to keep Staten Island’s districts contained. Borelli has seemed to wield an <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/27/republican-reshaping-new-york-city-redistricting-00047995">outsize influence</a> over the redistricting process, despite only appointing three members to the 15-member commission, and the news maps seem <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/12/new-york-city-councils-redistricting-could-aid-the-gop-00054184">poised</a> to boost Republican representation on the Council.</p> <p>Asked for comment on the revised maps, Borelli said in a text message, “We will see what happens at the vote.”</p> <p><strong>Brooklyn</strong><br />The Redistricting Commission initially proposed creating an “Asian opportunity district” in South Brooklyn which would have combined parts of District 43, represented by Council Member Justin Brannan, and District 38, represented by Council Member Alexa Aviles, both Democrats. But, in doing so, the commission split up the historically Latino communities of Sunset Park and Red Hook, and would have pit the two Council members against each other. “Pitting one community of interest against another and wiping out hard-fought gains that have existed for a generation is not the path forward,” they said in a joint statement at the time.</p> <p>The new map broadly undoes those changes. The new District 38 will continue to cover Red Hook and Sunset Park while also including large parts of Dyker Heights. Brannan’s base in Bay Ridge will remain intact under the new District 47, which now extends to the east and includes a sliver of Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Coney Island, and Sea Gate.</p> <p>Brannan did not respond to a request for comment and Aviles declined to comment on the new maps.</p> <p>The new District 43 now includes parts of eastern Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and parts of Bath Beach and Gravesend. That may be welcome news to Asian American advocates in South Brooklyn who have been advocating for a district that consolidates Bensonhurst, a community with a large and growing Asian American population which is currently split between four City Council districts.</p> <p>According to Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the redistricting commission, more than half of Council District 43's voting-age population – 54% – is Asian American, which makes it an "effective district" in terms of having a voting majority.</p> <p>"We put as much of the Bensonhurst areas as we could into District 43," Borges told Gotham Gazette of the new draft map. "Not all of it made it because otherwise we'd end up underpopulating other districts."</p> <p>Asher Ross, who is leading the redistricting work for the New York Immigration Coalition, said the new map was an improvement in many ways over the preliminary proposal. In District 39, for instance, he said the new map consolidates the South Asian community in Kensington into a single district. The preliminary map had split that neighborhood into two districts.</p> <p><strong>Queens</strong> <br />Activists in Southeast Queens are likely to be disappointed by the new map, which splits Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park into two districts, dividing a growing population of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian residents that have complained about a lack of representation on the Council. That proposal was also advanced in an alternate map by the Unity Map Coalition, which includes the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), The Center For Law And Social Justice At Medgar Evers College (CLSJ) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF.</p> <p>“While we are still analyzing in detail the Districting Commission’s revised plan, we are not surprised that yet again the commission has cracked and split some protected communities of interest,” said Jerry Vattamala, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “In Queens we see the removal of Elmhurst below Queens Boulevard. The commission's map does not adequately represent many New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. While we appreciate the effort of the commission to make this process inclusive with a record number of community comments and input, we still feel that the Unity Map will better secure the future of New York City and fortify its communities of color. We again urge the commission to adopt the Unity Map in full, which is simply a better plan for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>But Black elected officials and community leaders from Queens <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/9/15/23355842/city-council-redistricting-southeast-queens-south-asian-black-communities-compete">rejected</a> the Unity Map and <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IP658phjjYhEw2acfPmuKEfnbGToXK4t/view">expressed concern</a> that other minority groups could be empowered at the expense of their own constituents. The commission seemed to heed some of their demands, in particular by redrawing Rochdale Village, the largest affordable co-op development of Black homeowners in Queens, into the new District 28 with South Ozone Park rather than splitting it into different districts.</p> <p>The new map does seem to keep communities of interest intact in District 26 in western Queens. In the preliminary proposal, the district had included Roosevelt Island and parts of the east side of Manhattan from 56th Street to 79th Street. But the new map keeps the district contained in Queens and integrates Woodside into the district, preserving the large Asian population there. “That’s definitely a drastic improvement over the previous proposed map,” NYIC’s Ross said.</p> <p><strong>Manhattan</strong><br />Among the major changes in the new map was the consolidation of most of Hell’s Kitchen back into a single district rather than being split across three districts as initially proposed.</p> <p>The map also restored Sutton Place and Roosevelt Island into the new District 5, a move that Council Member Julie Menin, an Upper East Side Democrat, was satisfied with. “I am going to reserve full comment for when the official maps are released on Thursday, but I am thrilled that this leaked map restores Roosevelt Island, Sutton Place, and the Upper East Side to Council District 5,” she said in a statement. “I testified in front of the Commission strongly advocating that they restore these areas to a Manhattan-based District and keep communities of interest intact. It is so important that community voices and input be heard in this process and my district came out in full force on this issue to make their voices heard.”</p> <p><strong>The Bronx</strong><br />Ross said the preliminary map would have created a Latino majority district in the Northwest Bronx, including North Riverdale, Woodlawn, Fiedston, Spuyten Duyvil, Kingsbridge and Norwood. But the new map seems to have rolled those changes back and includes parts of Wakefield while removing parts of Kingsbridge Heights. “It seems that they may have reversed that and kind of gone back to the status quo,” Ross said.</p> <p>“It does seem that there's a lot of splitting of neighborhoods and communities in the map,” he added.</p> <p>Council Member Pierina Sanchez, a Bronx Democrat who represents District 14, praised the map, however, for bringing the Kingsbridge Armory in Kingsbridge Heights back into her district. “This change from the previous revised plan to include Kingsbridge Armory within District 14 is promising and shows how responsive the Commission was to the demands of our community, who came out en masse and in support of keeping this infrastructure,” she said in a statement. “As I mentioned in my testimony, the Kingsbridge Armory has long been a physical manifestation of the immense potential and aspirations of our community. It is only right that our community of strivers, who have fought for so long to put this asset to work for the community, remain at the forefront of deciding its future.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-key-council.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>City Council members at City Hall (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Districting Commission tasked with redrawing the city's 51 Council districts is expected to vote on a new draft map on Thursday, marking one of the last stages in the city's controversial redistricting process.</p> <p>The new map, which was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/20/nyregion/redistricting-city-council-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported on by the New York Times</a> and previewed by Gotham Gazette on Tuesday, addresses some of the biggest points of contention in the preliminary lines released by the commission in July. If approved, the map will be sent to the City Council for approval or feedback and possible redrafting. While the map may still change substantially after the Council's motion, it paints a picture of the direction the city's political lines are likely to take.</p> <p>Redistricting takes place every decade to account for population shifts captured in the Census count. This year, the redistricting commission had to account for an increase of 630,000 residents in the city from 2010 to 2020, while also adhering to criteria outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act, the State Constitution and the City Charter. The commission received over 9,000 submissions from the public weighing in on the new lines.</p> <p>If the Council accepts the commission's map, the process effectively ends and the new lines go into place for the next City Council elections in 2023 and for government representation as of 2024. If it rejects the maps, the commission will hold another round of public hearings and unilaterally submit a final map in December to be certified by the City Clerk.</p> <p>Seven of the commission's 15 members are appointed by the mayor, five by the City Council's Democratic majority and three by its Republican minority. The map requires nine affirmative votes to pass.</p> <p>The lines will determine how communities are grouped and represented in the City Council, with implications for decisions about city funding, land use, and legislation. The preliminary maps released in July triggered a backlash from many corners of the city, with stakeholders in dozens of neighborhoods raising concerns that their communities would be fractured and their voting power diminished.</p> <p>The commission is also expected to present a racial voting bloc analysis, a breakdown of the racial and ethnic make-up of the voting-age population in each draft district, which the commission has used to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. John Flateau, the body's executive director, is also expected to give a verbal presentation to explain the new lines and the logic behind them, according to a spokesperson for the commission. A final report with those narratives is expected to be published in the weeks after the Thursday vote, the spokesperson said.</p> <p>Here are several key takeaways from the new City Council map that the Districting Commission could pass on Thursday:</p> <p><strong>Population Growth in Asian American Communities</strong><br />New York City's <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/planning-level/nyc-population/census2020/dcp_2020-census-briefing-booklet-1.pdf">population grew</a> by 630,000 residents or 7.7% to 8.8 million between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts, driven largely by an increase in the city's Asian American population. One of the biggest questions around the new map is how it will deal with those communities.</p> <p>The city's Asian American population increased by 345,000 residents, the largest of any racial or ethnic group captured in Census data, with growth in almost every neighborhood of the city.</p> <p>Queens, which has the largest Asian American population, saw the biggest total growth of any borough. The neighborhoods of Flushing, Long Island City, Jamaica, and Elmhurst saw the biggest influxes of the borough. The Long Island City-Hunters Point section, in particular, saw its Asian American population more than quintuple. South Jamaica's Asian American population more than tripled.</p> <p>Brooklyn's southern communities saw another significant increase. Bensonhurst, which grew by close to 12,000 residents, had the most new Asian American residents of any neighborhood in the city. That community is currently divided among four City Council districts and became a flashpoint for achieving a new Asian-plurality district. The new map places much of Bensonhurst into Council District 43, currently held by Council Member Justin Brannan and creates an Asian majority within the district's voting age population, according to Eddie Borges, a commission spokesperson.</p> <p>Downtown Brooklyn also experienced an influx, while across the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, Chinatown, Soho, and the Lower East Side were the only neighborhoods to lose Asian American residents.</p> <p>The Asian American populations in Downtown Brooklyn, Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, Parkchester in the Bronx, and the Grasmere-Arrochar-South Beach-Dongan Hills neighborhoods of Staten Island all more than doubled over the last decade.</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams referred Gotham Gazette to her previous comments on the redistricting process. “It is critical that new City Council district lines not only keep communities of interest together, but also preserve principles that were established to protect and enfranchise historically marginalized communities of color,” Adams said in August.</p> <p><strong>Other Demographic Shifts</strong><br />Asian American communities weren't the only group to see major growth over the last decade. The city's Hispanic population increased by 154,000, about a quarter of the total population growth, according to Census data. The largest growth was in the Bronx, followed by Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Manhattan's Hispanic population saw a slight decline of fewer than 1,000 residents.</p> <p>While the Bronx remained home to the largest Hispanic population, the biggest growth in the number of Hispanic residents was in southern Brooklyn – in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge – where stakeholders in the local Latino and Asian communities fought to be kept whole.</p> <p>Hispanic communities shrunk in southern Queens and northern Brooklyn, East Williamsburg and Sunset Park, in western Brooklyn, and much of northern Manhattan.</p> <p>That growth was offset by decreases in the city's Black population, by 84,000 residents, and to a much lesser extent the white population, by 3,000.</p> <p>Brooklyn had the largest drop in its Black population, followed by Queens, and Manhattan. The Bronx and Staten Island saw modest increases in the number of Black residents.</p> <p><strong>Staten Island</strong><br />The preliminary districting map released in July kept the three districts on Staten Island intact, which had knock-on effects for the rest of the boroughs as different districts had to be drawn to accommodate the increase in the city’s population. The revised map, however, extends District 50 from the Mid-Island to Brooklyn, where it encompasses Fort Hamilton and parts of Bath Beach.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, the Republican majority leader, fought hard to keep Staten Island’s districts contained. Borelli has seemed to wield an <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/27/republican-reshaping-new-york-city-redistricting-00047995">outsize influence</a> over the redistricting process, despite only appointing three members to the 15-member commission, and the news maps seem <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/12/new-york-city-councils-redistricting-could-aid-the-gop-00054184">poised</a> to boost Republican representation on the Council.</p> <p>Asked for comment on the revised maps, Borelli said in a text message, “We will see what happens at the vote.”</p> <p><strong>Brooklyn</strong><br />The Redistricting Commission initially proposed creating an “Asian opportunity district” in South Brooklyn which would have combined parts of District 43, represented by Council Member Justin Brannan, and District 38, represented by Council Member Alexa Aviles, both Democrats. But, in doing so, the commission split up the historically Latino communities of Sunset Park and Red Hook, and would have pit the two Council members against each other. “Pitting one community of interest against another and wiping out hard-fought gains that have existed for a generation is not the path forward,” they said in a joint statement at the time.</p> <p>The new map broadly undoes those changes. The new District 38 will continue to cover Red Hook and Sunset Park while also including large parts of Dyker Heights. Brannan’s base in Bay Ridge will remain intact under the new District 47, which now extends to the east and includes a sliver of Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Coney Island, and Sea Gate.</p> <p>Brannan did not respond to a request for comment and Aviles declined to comment on the new maps.</p> <p>The new District 43 now includes parts of eastern Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and parts of Bath Beach and Gravesend. That may be welcome news to Asian American advocates in South Brooklyn who have been advocating for a district that consolidates Bensonhurst, a community with a large and growing Asian American population which is currently split between four City Council districts.</p> <p>According to Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the redistricting commission, more than half of Council District 43's voting-age population – 54% – is Asian American, which makes it an "effective district" in terms of having a voting majority.</p> <p>"We put as much of the Bensonhurst areas as we could into District 43," Borges told Gotham Gazette of the new draft map. "Not all of it made it because otherwise we'd end up underpopulating other districts."</p> <p>Asher Ross, who is leading the redistricting work for the New York Immigration Coalition, said the new map was an improvement in many ways over the preliminary proposal. In District 39, for instance, he said the new map consolidates the South Asian community in Kensington into a single district. The preliminary map had split that neighborhood into two districts.</p> <p><strong>Queens</strong> <br />Activists in Southeast Queens are likely to be disappointed by the new map, which splits Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park into two districts, dividing a growing population of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian residents that have complained about a lack of representation on the Council. That proposal was also advanced in an alternate map by the Unity Map Coalition, which includes the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), The Center For Law And Social Justice At Medgar Evers College (CLSJ) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF.</p> <p>“While we are still analyzing in detail the Districting Commission’s revised plan, we are not surprised that yet again the commission has cracked and split some protected communities of interest,” said Jerry Vattamala, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “In Queens we see the removal of Elmhurst below Queens Boulevard. The commission's map does not adequately represent many New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. While we appreciate the effort of the commission to make this process inclusive with a record number of community comments and input, we still feel that the Unity Map will better secure the future of New York City and fortify its communities of color. We again urge the commission to adopt the Unity Map in full, which is simply a better plan for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>But Black elected officials and community leaders from Queens <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/9/15/23355842/city-council-redistricting-southeast-queens-south-asian-black-communities-compete">rejected</a> the Unity Map and <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IP658phjjYhEw2acfPmuKEfnbGToXK4t/view">expressed concern</a> that other minority groups could be empowered at the expense of their own constituents. The commission seemed to heed some of their demands, in particular by redrawing Rochdale Village, the largest affordable co-op development of Black homeowners in Queens, into the new District 28 with South Ozone Park rather than splitting it into different districts.</p> <p>The new map does seem to keep communities of interest intact in District 26 in western Queens. In the preliminary proposal, the district had included Roosevelt Island and parts of the east side of Manhattan from 56th Street to 79th Street. But the new map keeps the district contained in Queens and integrates Woodside into the district, preserving the large Asian population there. “That’s definitely a drastic improvement over the previous proposed map,” NYIC’s Ross said.</p> <p><strong>Manhattan</strong><br />Among the major changes in the new map was the consolidation of most of Hell’s Kitchen back into a single district rather than being split across three districts as initially proposed.</p> <p>The map also restored Sutton Place and Roosevelt Island into the new District 5, a move that Council Member Julie Menin, an Upper East Side Democrat, was satisfied with. “I am going to reserve full comment for when the official maps are released on Thursday, but I am thrilled that this leaked map restores Roosevelt Island, Sutton Place, and the Upper East Side to Council District 5,” she said in a statement. “I testified in front of the Commission strongly advocating that they restore these areas to a Manhattan-based District and keep communities of interest intact. It is so important that community voices and input be heard in this process and my district came out in full force on this issue to make their voices heard.”</p> <p><strong>The Bronx</strong><br />Ross said the preliminary map would have created a Latino majority district in the Northwest Bronx, including North Riverdale, Woodlawn, Fiedston, Spuyten Duyvil, Kingsbridge and Norwood. But the new map seems to have rolled those changes back and includes parts of Wakefield while removing parts of Kingsbridge Heights. “It seems that they may have reversed that and kind of gone back to the status quo,” Ross said.</p> <p>“It does seem that there's a lot of splitting of neighborhoods and communities in the map,” he added.</p> <p>Council Member Pierina Sanchez, a Bronx Democrat who represents District 14, praised the map, however, for bringing the Kingsbridge Armory in Kingsbridge Heights back into her district. “This change from the previous revised plan to include Kingsbridge Armory within District 14 is promising and shows how responsive the Commission was to the demands of our community, who came out en masse and in support of keeping this infrastructure,” she said in a statement. “As I mentioned in my testimony, the Kingsbridge Armory has long been a physical manifestation of the immense potential and aspirations of our community. It is only right that our community of strivers, who have fought for so long to put this asset to work for the community, remain at the forefront of deciding its future.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this story.</p>
City Council Examines Digital Divide, Bills to Improve Internet Access 2022-09-19T13:00:00+00:00 2022-09-19T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11584-city-council-examine-digital-divide-bills-internet Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-digital-bills.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Students getting connected (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The City Council’s Committee on Technology held a hearing Monday to examine disparities in internet broadband access across the city and to discuss legislation that would ameliorate that digital divide. The hearing took place just hours after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11583-city-free-internet-cable-nycha-residents" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor Adams announced the new “Big Apple Connect” program to provide free internet and cable TV services to thousands of NYCHA residents</a> to better connect low-income public housing residents. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite living in the richest city in the richest country in the world, almost 15% of New Yorkers have </span><a href="https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/documents/HorriganReportNY.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">no access</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to broadband internet of any kind at home and about 24.2% do not have a desktop or laptop computer in their household, according to data from the 2019 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. That gap in access and connectivity proved to be an even more pressing issue at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when much of work, schooling, and access to city services was carried out online. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City launched an Internet Master Plan, released by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020, which is meant to bridge the digital divide by building out broadband infrastructure and using various mechanisms to provide free and affordable internet access across the city. De Blasio allocated $157 million in capital funds towards the plan but it has progressed slowly, and was stalled by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration this year when the new mayor came into office. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At Monday’s hearing, City Council members questioned Adams administration officials on the progress they are making and whether the Internet Master Plan is reaching those most in need in the city.</span></p> <p>"The COVID-19 pandemic and our ongoing recovery from its impacts have made it abundantly clear what was already deeply understood by so many: the internet is a crucial pillar of modern society, and access to the internet is no longer a luxury - it is vital to be able to participate and succeed in our society," said City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, a Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Council’s technology committee, in her opening remarks. </p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The idea was to outline and create a plan for affordability, accessibility to internet access, and really prioritize marginalized and low-income households that we obviously realized, during the pandemic, were not connected and had a really difficult time being connected,” Gutiérrez said in a phone interview prior to the hearing. “We want to make sure that the internet master plan is reflecting solutions for those communities in our city.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gutiérrez said the hearing was an opportunity to hear from New York City Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser and from internet service providers about their efforts to achieve the goals of the Master Plan. “The longer we wait, obviously the longer that we continue to jeopardize families and communities that are suffering because they just don't have access,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council member said the city “can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel” as both the federal and state governments have approved massive funding for broadband infrastructure that the city could avail itself of.  </span></p> <p>Fraser did not attend the hearing but officials from the Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) testified before the committee, updating the Council members on the Internet Master Plan and efforts to expand internet connectivity to those New Yorkers who need it most, including low-income NYCHA residents and public school students. </p> <p>Brett Sikoff, executive director of franchise administration for OTI, said the administration is reconsidering the Internet Master Plan, expressing concerns about "duplication of efforts" as broadband and fiber infrastructure has been increasingly built in the city. "Because of the considerable investment proposed under the Internet Master Plan, we thought it was prudent to take a really hard look at it to make sure that it's been surgically applied," he said.  </p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides oversight of the city plan and efforts the Adams administration is advancing to bridge the digital divide, also on the committee agenda was consideration of four bills, including one sponsored by Gutiérrez that would require the city to purchase and distribute mobile hotspot devices to all New York City public school students.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When public schools went remote because of the pandemic, the de Blasio administration provided hundreds of thousands of tablet computers with data plans to ensure that students who lacked internet access could learn remotely. But even as it operated at a historic scale, the rollout of the program had hiccups and underscored the lack of connectivity and technology in many low-income families’ homes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even as schools have reopened and students are back in class, remote learning may still continue in some form. Mayor Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have announced the continuation of the pandemic era policy that there would be no more snow days in the school year and instead students would study remotely if schools buildings are closed due to snow.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There is a concern that we have somehow kind of disconnected from the families that need access, that need the hotspots because so many of the kids have returned to school,” Gutiérrez said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was not perfect during the pandemic and we want to make sure that we get it as close to perfect as possible,” she added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gutiérrez acknowledged that her bill could cost a significant amount, though she did not specify how much. “It is more than necessary that we talk about funding for our schools. I think we just don't have the capacity to not invest where we know it makes sense,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Julie Won, a Queens Democrat, sponsors two of the other bills heard Monday. One would create a program for city agencies to provide wireless internet access to the public while the second would require the city to create and distribute written materials on affordable internet programs to all school students at the start of the school year. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The second bill, Won said in an interview, is crucial since there are several programs at the state and federal level that subsidize internet access but many New Yorkers remain unaware of them. “Even today, when I go to my NYCHA (developments), I have to tell them about programs that are available for them because they're still paying out of pocket even though they qualify,” she said in a phone interview. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won also pointed out that some of those subsidy programs require people to register online. “Isn't it ironic? You're trying to register people who need free Wi-Fi to register online for Wi-Fi,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won also intends to interrogate internet service providers about their efforts to build connectivity in underserved Black and brown neighborhoods, which have historically lacked access. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The final bill on the agenda, introduced by Council Member Robert Holden, a Queens Democrat, would require the city to create a website with information on franchise agreements with companies that provide cable television services.</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/1-digital-bills.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Students getting connected (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The City Council’s Committee on Technology held a hearing Monday to examine disparities in internet broadband access across the city and to discuss legislation that would ameliorate that digital divide. The hearing took place just hours after <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11583-city-free-internet-cable-nycha-residents" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor Adams announced the new “Big Apple Connect” program to provide free internet and cable TV services to thousands of NYCHA residents</a> to better connect low-income public housing residents. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite living in the richest city in the richest country in the world, almost 15% of New Yorkers have </span><a href="https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/documents/HorriganReportNY.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">no access</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to broadband internet of any kind at home and about 24.2% do not have a desktop or laptop computer in their household, according to data from the 2019 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. That gap in access and connectivity proved to be an even more pressing issue at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when much of work, schooling, and access to city services was carried out online. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City launched an Internet Master Plan, released by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020, which is meant to bridge the digital divide by building out broadband infrastructure and using various mechanisms to provide free and affordable internet access across the city. De Blasio allocated $157 million in capital funds towards the plan but it has progressed slowly, and was stalled by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration this year when the new mayor came into office. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At Monday’s hearing, City Council members questioned Adams administration officials on the progress they are making and whether the Internet Master Plan is reaching those most in need in the city.</span></p> <p>"The COVID-19 pandemic and our ongoing recovery from its impacts have made it abundantly clear what was already deeply understood by so many: the internet is a crucial pillar of modern society, and access to the internet is no longer a luxury - it is vital to be able to participate and succeed in our society," said City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, a Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Council’s technology committee, in her opening remarks. </p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The idea was to outline and create a plan for affordability, accessibility to internet access, and really prioritize marginalized and low-income households that we obviously realized, during the pandemic, were not connected and had a really difficult time being connected,” Gutiérrez said in a phone interview prior to the hearing. “We want to make sure that the internet master plan is reflecting solutions for those communities in our city.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gutiérrez said the hearing was an opportunity to hear from New York City Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser and from internet service providers about their efforts to achieve the goals of the Master Plan. “The longer we wait, obviously the longer that we continue to jeopardize families and communities that are suffering because they just don't have access,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Council member said the city “can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel” as both the federal and state governments have approved massive funding for broadband infrastructure that the city could avail itself of.  </span></p> <p>Fraser did not attend the hearing but officials from the Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) testified before the committee, updating the Council members on the Internet Master Plan and efforts to expand internet connectivity to those New Yorkers who need it most, including low-income NYCHA residents and public school students. </p> <p>Brett Sikoff, executive director of franchise administration for OTI, said the administration is reconsidering the Internet Master Plan, expressing concerns about "duplication of efforts" as broadband and fiber infrastructure has been increasingly built in the city. "Because of the considerable investment proposed under the Internet Master Plan, we thought it was prudent to take a really hard look at it to make sure that it's been surgically applied," he said.  </p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides oversight of the city plan and efforts the Adams administration is advancing to bridge the digital divide, also on the committee agenda was consideration of four bills, including one sponsored by Gutiérrez that would require the city to purchase and distribute mobile hotspot devices to all New York City public school students.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When public schools went remote because of the pandemic, the de Blasio administration provided hundreds of thousands of tablet computers with data plans to ensure that students who lacked internet access could learn remotely. But even as it operated at a historic scale, the rollout of the program had hiccups and underscored the lack of connectivity and technology in many low-income families’ homes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even as schools have reopened and students are back in class, remote learning may still continue in some form. Mayor Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have announced the continuation of the pandemic era policy that there would be no more snow days in the school year and instead students would study remotely if schools buildings are closed due to snow.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There is a concern that we have somehow kind of disconnected from the families that need access, that need the hotspots because so many of the kids have returned to school,” Gutiérrez said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was not perfect during the pandemic and we want to make sure that we get it as close to perfect as possible,” she added. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gutiérrez acknowledged that her bill could cost a significant amount, though she did not specify how much. “It is more than necessary that we talk about funding for our schools. I think we just don't have the capacity to not invest where we know it makes sense,” she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Julie Won, a Queens Democrat, sponsors two of the other bills heard Monday. One would create a program for city agencies to provide wireless internet access to the public while the second would require the city to create and distribute written materials on affordable internet programs to all school students at the start of the school year. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The second bill, Won said in an interview, is crucial since there are several programs at the state and federal level that subsidize internet access but many New Yorkers remain unaware of them. “Even today, when I go to my NYCHA (developments), I have to tell them about programs that are available for them because they're still paying out of pocket even though they qualify,” she said in a phone interview. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won also pointed out that some of those subsidy programs require people to register online. “Isn't it ironic? You're trying to register people who need free Wi-Fi to register online for Wi-Fi,” she said. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won also intends to interrogate internet service providers about their efforts to build connectivity in underserved Black and brown neighborhoods, which have historically lacked access. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The final bill on the agenda, introduced by Council Member Robert Holden, a Queens Democrat, would require the city to create a website with information on franchise agreements with companies that provide cable television services.</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.</p>
Max Politics Podcast: How New York City is Handling an Influx of Asylum Seekers 2022-09-16T13:00:00+00:00 2022-09-16T13:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11582-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-influx-asylum-seekers-immigrants Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/immigrants-port600.jpg" /></p> <p>Asylum seekers arrive in New York City (photo: @NYCImmigrants)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 16, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: How New York City is Handling an Influx of Asylum Seekers<br /></strong></p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, joined the show to discuss the influx of asylum seekers to New York City, how government and nonprofits have responded, as well as ongoing City Council redistricting.</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/11582-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-influx-asylum-seekers-immigrants">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/immigrants-port600.jpg" /></p> <p>Asylum seekers arrive in New York City (photo: @NYCImmigrants)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>September 16, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: How New York City is Handling an Influx of Asylum Seekers<br /></strong></p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, joined the show to discuss the influx of asylum seekers to New York City, how government and nonprofits have responded, as well as ongoing City Council redistricting.</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/11582-max-politics-podcast-new-york-city-influx-asylum-seekers-immigrants">Read More ...</a></p> City to Announce Free Internet and Cable for Thousands of NYCHA Residents 2022-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2022-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11583-city-free-internet-cable-nycha-residents Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/city-announce-free.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><em>UPDATE (9/19/22): Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser on Monday announced the new "Big Apple Connect" program at NYCHA’s Langston Hughes Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The program will provide free internet and cable to 300,000 residents at 200 NYCHA developments by the end of 2023. The piece below has been updated with additional information based on the announcement. </em></p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams announced a new program on Monday to provide free high-speed internet and basic cable TV to hundreds of thousands of public housing residents.</p> <p>The program, called Big Apple Connect, is a partnership between the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation and internet service providers that serve the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers. Before the plan was made public by the mayor’s office, one of the providers, Optimum, had already <a href="https://www.optimum.com/big-apple-connect">publicly posted</a> details of its collaboration with the city.</p> <p>A City Hall spokesperson declined to provide further information but confirmed that the mayor would make an announcement on Monday.</p> <p>Optimum is one of several providers in the city that supply services to NYCHA residents. According to Optimum’s website, under the new initiative, thousands of residents will receive free internet and basic cable services without having to bear the costs for equipment, installation, taxes, or fees. It’s unclear what the terms of the deal are and what it will cost the city to run the program.</p> <p>The program will be available to Optimum customers at the Mott Haven Houses and Patterson Houses in the Bronx and the Langston Hughes Houses and Brownsville Houses in Brooklyn. According to Optimum’s website, the program will last three years, “after which the city may extend the program on a yearly basis.”</p> <p>Besides Optimum, the city has also partnered with Charter, covering the majority of developments owned and managed by NYCHA. According to the mayor's office, the city is also negotiating with Verizon to join the program.</p> <p>“A 21st-century city like New York deserves 21st-century infrastructure, and, today, we continue our quest to bridge the digital divide with the landmark rollout of ‘Big Apple Connect,’” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Monday. “For too long, lower-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color have been ignored when it comes to accessing the critical digital tools to help them succeed. Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to."</p> <p>NYCHA is a public authority largely under the mayor and city government’s purview but it operates under federal regulations and is also partly the responsibility of the state. The authority is currently under a federal monitor and has an estimated $40 billion in infrastructure needs that city and state officials have made limited attempts to fill for years in lieu of federal investment, though there has been more movement recently.</p> <p>The new internet and TV program will also not affect benefits from federal programs such as the Lifeline program which lowers monthly internet and mobile costs and the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes internet bills as well as device purchases. As Optimum noted on its website, customers who currently rely on the ACP benefit for their current internet services “may be eligible to apply for and transfer those benefits to a wireless Mobile plan.”</p> <p>Big Apple Connect is the city’s latest effort at bridging the city’s stark digital divide. Roughly 15% of city residents <a href="https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/documents/HorriganReportNY.pdf">do not have access</a> to broadband internet of any kind at home, a problem that was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic as the city shut down to a significant degree, many services went online and everything from work to school went remote. It’s a particularly pressing issue for NYCHA residents, who are low-income and mostly Black and Latino.</p> <p>In January 2020, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an Internet Master Plan aimed at achieving universal affordable broadband access across the city. In July that year, he accelerated the program with a $157 million capital investment to build broadband infrastructure, with a specific focus on public housing residents. The plan to build out infrastructure was <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nycs-plan-for-public-internet-paused-under-mayor-adams">put on pause</a>, however, by the Adams administration earlier this year.</p> <p>The city has slowly expanded access to either free or affordable internet at dozens of NYCHA complexes. In May 2021, the de Blasio administration <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/338-21/recovery-all-us-new-york-city-free-low-cost-broadband-access-13-nycha&amp;sa=D&amp;source=docs&amp;ust=1663359828181125&amp;usg=AOvVaw0VgA4QDe2-k9PIxz3lAo1S">announced</a> an agreement with five internet service providers to offer high-speed internet access to 30,000 residents in 13 NYCHA developments. Three of the developments received free wi-fi in public spaces while the rest were set to be wired for affordable in-unit internet access. Then, in July, a sixth vendor was selected to provide low-cost internet to 10,000 residents in NYCHA developments in the Bronx. By October, the mayor’s office designated several companies that would provide another 70,000 NYCHA residents and 150,000 residents in surrounding neighborhoods with affordable internet options by 2022.</p> <p>There have been other piecemeal efforts as well. In April this year, City Council Member Julie Menin <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/upper-east-side-nyc/ues-nycha-residents-get-free-broadband-internet-through-new-program">announced</a> a partnership with Stanley Isaacs Center, a service provider, and EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit, to provide affordable Verizon and Spectrum internet plans to residents of the Isaacs Houses and the Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side.</p> <p>The announcement on Monday comes in the wake of yet another controversy involving the scandal-plagued public housing authority. Residents of the Jacob Riis Houses in Manhattan faced a scare over possible arsenic in their tap water, a finding that was later determined to be false. That controversy was quickly followed by Mayor Adams announcing on Thursday that he is restructuring NYCHA’s top leadership, which had been planned before the Riis debacle. Gregory Russ, Chair and CEO of NYCHA, will see his role pared down to only chair of the agency and NYCHA Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel Lisa Bova-Hiatt will serve as interim CEO while the administration searches for a permanent replacement.</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/city-announce-free.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><em>UPDATE (9/19/22): Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser on Monday announced the new "Big Apple Connect" program at NYCHA’s Langston Hughes Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The program will provide free internet and cable to 300,000 residents at 200 NYCHA developments by the end of 2023. The piece below has been updated with additional information based on the announcement. </em></p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams announced a new program on Monday to provide free high-speed internet and basic cable TV to hundreds of thousands of public housing residents.</p> <p>The program, called Big Apple Connect, is a partnership between the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation and internet service providers that serve the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers. Before the plan was made public by the mayor’s office, one of the providers, Optimum, had already <a href="https://www.optimum.com/big-apple-connect">publicly posted</a> details of its collaboration with the city.</p> <p>A City Hall spokesperson declined to provide further information but confirmed that the mayor would make an announcement on Monday.</p> <p>Optimum is one of several providers in the city that supply services to NYCHA residents. According to Optimum’s website, under the new initiative, thousands of residents will receive free internet and basic cable services without having to bear the costs for equipment, installation, taxes, or fees. It’s unclear what the terms of the deal are and what it will cost the city to run the program.</p> <p>The program will be available to Optimum customers at the Mott Haven Houses and Patterson Houses in the Bronx and the Langston Hughes Houses and Brownsville Houses in Brooklyn. According to Optimum’s website, the program will last three years, “after which the city may extend the program on a yearly basis.”</p> <p>Besides Optimum, the city has also partnered with Charter, covering the majority of developments owned and managed by NYCHA. According to the mayor's office, the city is also negotiating with Verizon to join the program.</p> <p>“A 21st-century city like New York deserves 21st-century infrastructure, and, today, we continue our quest to bridge the digital divide with the landmark rollout of ‘Big Apple Connect,’” Mayor Adams said in a statement on Monday. “For too long, lower-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color have been ignored when it comes to accessing the critical digital tools to help them succeed. Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to."</p> <p>NYCHA is a public authority largely under the mayor and city government’s purview but it operates under federal regulations and is also partly the responsibility of the state. The authority is currently under a federal monitor and has an estimated $40 billion in infrastructure needs that city and state officials have made limited attempts to fill for years in lieu of federal investment, though there has been more movement recently.</p> <p>The new internet and TV program will also not affect benefits from federal programs such as the Lifeline program which lowers monthly internet and mobile costs and the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes internet bills as well as device purchases. As Optimum noted on its website, customers who currently rely on the ACP benefit for their current internet services “may be eligible to apply for and transfer those benefits to a wireless Mobile plan.”</p> <p>Big Apple Connect is the city’s latest effort at bridging the city’s stark digital divide. Roughly 15% of city residents <a href="https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/documents/HorriganReportNY.pdf">do not have access</a> to broadband internet of any kind at home, a problem that was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic as the city shut down to a significant degree, many services went online and everything from work to school went remote. It’s a particularly pressing issue for NYCHA residents, who are low-income and mostly Black and Latino.</p> <p>In January 2020, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an Internet Master Plan aimed at achieving universal affordable broadband access across the city. In July that year, he accelerated the program with a $157 million capital investment to build broadband infrastructure, with a specific focus on public housing residents. The plan to build out infrastructure was <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/nycs-plan-for-public-internet-paused-under-mayor-adams">put on pause</a>, however, by the Adams administration earlier this year.</p> <p>The city has slowly expanded access to either free or affordable internet at dozens of NYCHA complexes. In May 2021, the de Blasio administration <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/338-21/recovery-all-us-new-york-city-free-low-cost-broadband-access-13-nycha&amp;sa=D&amp;source=docs&amp;ust=1663359828181125&amp;usg=AOvVaw0VgA4QDe2-k9PIxz3lAo1S">announced</a> an agreement with five internet service providers to offer high-speed internet access to 30,000 residents in 13 NYCHA developments. Three of the developments received free wi-fi in public spaces while the rest were set to be wired for affordable in-unit internet access. Then, in July, a sixth vendor was selected to provide low-cost internet to 10,000 residents in NYCHA developments in the Bronx. By October, the mayor’s office designated several companies that would provide another 70,000 NYCHA residents and 150,000 residents in surrounding neighborhoods with affordable internet options by 2022.</p> <p>There have been other piecemeal efforts as well. In April this year, City Council Member Julie Menin <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/upper-east-side-nyc/ues-nycha-residents-get-free-broadband-internet-through-new-program">announced</a> a partnership with Stanley Isaacs Center, a service provider, and EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit, to provide affordable Verizon and Spectrum internet plans to residents of the Isaacs Houses and the Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side.</p> <p>The announcement on Monday comes in the wake of yet another controversy involving the scandal-plagued public housing authority. Residents of the Jacob Riis Houses in Manhattan faced a scare over possible arsenic in their tap water, a finding that was later determined to be false. That controversy was quickly followed by Mayor Adams announcing on Thursday that he is restructuring NYCHA’s top leadership, which had been planned before the Riis debacle. Gregory Russ, Chair and CEO of NYCHA, will see his role pared down to only chair of the agency and NYCHA Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel Lisa Bova-Hiatt will serve as interim CEO while the administration searches for a permanent replacement.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
With Queens Development Decision, Cabán Recasts Progressive Approach to Housing 2022-09-14T09:00:00+00:00 2022-09-14T09:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11578-caban-development-decision-recasts-progressive-approach-to-housing Sam Mellins smellins@gg.com <p> <img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/caban-dev-recast.jpg" /></p> <p>City Council Member Tiffany Cabán, left, unveils her housing agenda (photo: @CabanD22)</p> <hr /> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">*This article is published in partnership with </span></i><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Focus</span></i></a>*</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán on Tuesday announced her support for a proposed rezoning that will allow a three-tower, 1300-unit housing development in Astoria known as Halletts North, in a shift from how other progressive lawmakers have approached recent land use decisions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán’s support for Halletts North likely ensures the full City Council’s approval of the project, since the Council traditionally follows the lead of the local Council member in deciding whether to give the go-ahead on land use matters. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One in four units in the development will be earmarked for affordable housing. Cabán and local community organizations negotiated with the developer to increase the number of affordable units and the number of two- and three-bedroom apartments in order to accommodate local families, she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The most deeply affordable units will be the 10% reserved for tenants making 30% or less of the New York City area median income, or $35,790 for a family of four. Overall, the development will double the number of local units available to renters making less than 50% of the area median income, Cabán noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The developers have also invested $16 million in cleaning up the site from toxins left by its former industrial use, and agreed to contribute $1 million to the neighboring public housing development, build a community space that local nonprofits will be able to use rent-free, and incorporate a public, waterfront green space into the development, Cabán said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán, a democratic socialist, framed her choice to support Halletts North as “harm reduction.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The best we can hope for without rezoning this lot is a</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8ABAR4g8_3LNgqQfEPO/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.investopedia.com%2Fterms%2Fl%2Flastmile.asp%23%3A~%3Atext%3Dexpert%2520and%2520educator.-%2CWhat%2520Is%2520the%2520Last%2520Mile%253F%2Cwho%2520deliver%2520to%2520these%2520areas." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> last mile [trucking] facility</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> where some massive corporation like Amazon would pay our neighbors garbage wages for backbreaking work,” Cabán said. “A no vote today would be a vote for that.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In recent years, New York has built less housing as a portion of its population than</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8A6OlzCYT9dzw5gXjwU/https%3A%2F%2Fcbcny.org%2Fresearch%2Fstrategies-boost-housing-production-new-york-city-metropolitan-area" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> almost any other large city</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the country. Cabán’s support for the project comes as various factions of New York’s left attempt to work out their approach to housing supply, and decide how to respond to developers seeking city approval to build largely market-rate housing on privately-owned land. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There's currently no consensus on what a progressive land use approach should be,” said Samuel Stein, housing policy analyst at the anti-poverty nonprofit Community Service Society. “Because there's a debate or diversity of approaches, that leaves individual Council members with a bit of latitude in terms of defining their own position.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán’s decision to support the Halletts North rezoning sparked significant and heated debate among members of the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), said DSA member and housing organizer Andrew Hiller. The Queens DSA housing working group </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8I1NWCAAYfgrglakw7j/https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fqueenshousingwg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the decision “is an insult” to nearby public housing residents who couldn’t afford the new units. Cabán is a DSA member and received the group’s coveted endorsement during her 2021 run for City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By supporting the Hallets North development, Cabán is taking a different approach from other members of the City Council who in recent months have blocked, opposed, or threatened to block major developments in their districts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In May, Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan, a socialist who was given a stamp of approval by a political action committee affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_e3tupWRS-TQqxyjTo/https%3A%2F%2Fgothamist.com%2Fnews%2Fdeveloper-kills-plan-for-harlems-one45-complex-after-local-opposition" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">blocked</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a proposed development dubbed One45, which would have built over 900-units of housing in central Harlem. Half of the development would have been earmarked for affordable housing, mostly at higher income levels than the affordable housing at Halletts North.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Richardson Jordan called the development </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8UmZpZGRifk5QR_P1WW/https%3A%2F%2Fkristinforharlem.medium.com%2Fwe-need-contextual-housing-e74a84027a98" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">“nothing less than white supremacy,”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> citing concerns that it would gentrify the neighborhood and that the income eligibility standards for the affordable units would still price out most Harlemites. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Shortly after taking office earlier this year, Richardson Jordan </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AycqjzVm7r9ApiSUqD/https%3A%2F%2Fpatch.com%2Fnew-york%2Fharlem%2Fkristin-jordan-central-harlems-new-council-member-shares-plans" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Patch</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that she “would rather have lots sit empty than have them filled with further gentrification.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just before blocking the development, Richardson Jordan released a </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8E2tns9qi6NsgH_t3C9/https%3A%2F%2Fkristinforharlem.medium.com%2Fwe-need-contextual-housing-e74a84027a98" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">rubric</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> detailing what affordability standards were necessary for any development in her district to receive her support. The rubric requires that over half of all apartments in a development be earmarked for people earning at most 30% of the New York City area median income, and nine in ten earmarked for people earning at most 80% of median income. According to these standards, the rents on most apartments in a development would range from $419 per month for a studio to $722 for a three-bedroom.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since tenants who pay market rates generally subsidize tenants living in affordable units, an arrangement where such a large majority of tenants pay below-market rates is unlikely to work for private developers hoping to make any profit, some affordable housing advocates noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There are limits to how much [affordability] we can get in projects that are on privately-owned sites,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing advocacy group. “It’s really important that the Council members, when they do get these applications, view it as an opportunity to add affordable housing in their communities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last week, Patch </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_EhEuqeDYcIgysbuen/https%3A%2F%2Fpatch.com%2Fnew-york%2Fharlem%2Fharlems-one45-site-host-big-rig-truck-depot-developer-says" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that developer Bruce Teitelbaum, who owns the site that One45 was slated for, plans to turn part of it into a truck depot.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The overwhelming problem with both One45 and Halletts North is that they’re privately-owned parcels of land where the developer has the ability to walk away from the table and then you get no housing,” said Cea Weaver, a democratic socialist and campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, a coalition of New York organizations representing tenants and homeless people. “Tiffany [Cabán] made a different calculation than Kristen Richardson Jordan on what the best path forward is.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Tiffany did a good job, in my opinion, in achieving some kind of affordability on privately owned land,” Weaver added.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Richardson Jordan did not respond to a request for comment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">More recently, Council Member Julie Won, a Democrat who represents a portion of western Queens south of Cabán’s district and was also supported by the AOC-aligned PAC and other progressive groups in winning her election last year, warned that it may be “</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AgYJyVq8-jXA4Q5CeA/https%3A%2F%2Fcitylimits.org%2F2022%2F08%2F01%2Fwant-to-rezone-in-western-queens-heres-how-to-win-over-the-councilmember%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">too late</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">” for a proposed major development in her district to win her support. The proposed Innovation QNS complex, which would be built in a largely industrial section of southeastern Astoria, would contain over 2,800 units, with one in four being set aside for New Yorkers at 30 to 60% of median income. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won and Borough President Donovan Richards are pushing for the developer to make half of the units affordable, the New York Post</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Q0tEbK3XUjOARVbq2w/https%3A%2F%2Fnypost.com%2F2022%2F08%2F14%2Fnycs-astoria-2b-redevelopment-plan-has-hope-despite-pushback%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won did not respond to an email asking whether she would support Innovation QNS if it met the level of affordability agreed to at Halletts North.</span></p> <p><b>‘A Very Heated Question’</b><b><br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">In addition to announcing her support for Hallets North, Cabán also introduced on Tuesday a ten-point platform to promote housing affordability. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first four points in the plan call for New York City to partner with affordable housing developers to create permanently low-rent housing on city-owned land, a strategy that’s seen</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8A7O4LcKB1qvQm1Xy7r/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vox.com%2Fpolicy-and-politics%2F23278643%2Faffordable-public-housing-inflation-renters-home"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> increased interest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from local governments around the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A 2016 </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Anp99LmwclHgRy41Q7/https%3A%2F%2Fcomptroller.nyc.gov%2Freports%2Fbuilding-an-affordable-future-the-promise-of-a-new-york-city-land-bank%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from the city comptroller estimated that this strategy could allow for the creation of nearly 60,000 units of permanently affordable housing — a significant number, but still far short of the</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_BwdLKDwHYBgyxmeeP/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2022%2F08%2F01%2Fnyregion%2Fnyc-affordable-apartment-rent.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> hundreds</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AaGh6bpL13oQFiMZHd/http%3A%2F%2Fthenyhc.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2022%2F05%2FNYC-Housing-Tracker-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> thousands</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of housing units that housing groups estimate are necessary to bring New York’s affordability crisis under control.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most of the other points in Cabán’s platform focused on promoting low-income and disadvantaged tenants’ access to rental units, through strategies like increasing the value of city-sponsored housing vouchers, banning landlords from asking about criminal records, and enacting more stringent eviction protections and limits on rent increases. It also includes a plank to “eliminate parking minimums” that accompany new housing development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The platform does not address how legislators should approach the construction of new housing on privately-owned land — something that DSA doesn’t have an official position on either, Hiller noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most academic research finds that building market-rate housing helps stabilize or lower rents at both the neighborhood and city levels. In a </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8ACAifyKjBUSwdEhjNZ/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.lewis.ucla.edu%2Fresearch%2Fmarket-rate-development-impacts%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">review</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of six recent studies, UCLA researchers wrote that five found that market-rate housing makes nearby rental housing more affordable, while one found mixed results.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán said that she supports “many other things” to increase housing supply that weren’t included in her platform, pointing to legalizing basement apartments as one example. She said that the question of whether more market-rate housing is part of the solution to high rents is “tough.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Would I say that that is in a vacuum, in and of itself, the answer? No,” she said. “For-profit development will never produce the scale or quality of housing that our lowest income neighbors need and deserve.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Much of New York’s left is </span><a href="https://twitter.com/JabariBrisport/status/1569490691780378626" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">skeptical</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of market-rate housing as a tool to promote affordability, preferring measures like the “</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Y2NrKVK3RzqgQeON88/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nysfocus.com%2F2021%2F07%2F16%2Fupstate-cities-good-cause-eviction%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">good cause eviction</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">” bill to cap rent hikes statewide.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There's a broad range of opinion in DSA on that question, and it's a very heated question within the organization. We have work to do amongst ourselves to democratically arrive at a political strategy there,” Hiller said of the approach to housing development on privately-owned land.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many proponents of affordable housing do support a greater focus on adding to overall housing supply.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Being pro-housing in general seems to me like a really important part of a progressive agenda. We really need to add to our supply,” Fee said, noting that her top priority for new development is ensuring maximum affordability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Weaver said that more housing is needed — potentially including privately-owned housing, given current political realities — but that left to itself, the market won’t help the people who need affordable housing most and will do "more harm than good."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I do think that we need tools to be producing more housing, and then we need to take a pretty serious look at what sort of housing constraints exist in the city because I do think that we're not building enough of it. And that has long term impacts on affordability for a ton of people,” she said. “But the thing is, when we build unregulated housing, it doesn't actually serve the people who are most deeply looking for housing.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán said that her priority for the future is creating “high-quality social housing owned and managed by the people who live there.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Even though this is the right choice for today, I want better choices for tomorrow,” she said.</span></p> <p>***<br /><span style="font-weight: 400;">by Sam Mellins of New York Focus</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><i>This article is published in partnership with </i><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><i>New York Focus</i></a></span></p> <p> <img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/caban-dev-recast.jpg" /></p> <p>City Council Member Tiffany Cabán, left, unveils her housing agenda (photo: @CabanD22)</p> <hr /> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">*This article is published in partnership with </span></i><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Focus</span></i></a>*</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán on Tuesday announced her support for a proposed rezoning that will allow a three-tower, 1300-unit housing development in Astoria known as Halletts North, in a shift from how other progressive lawmakers have approached recent land use decisions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán’s support for Halletts North likely ensures the full City Council’s approval of the project, since the Council traditionally follows the lead of the local Council member in deciding whether to give the go-ahead on land use matters. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One in four units in the development will be earmarked for affordable housing. Cabán and local community organizations negotiated with the developer to increase the number of affordable units and the number of two- and three-bedroom apartments in order to accommodate local families, she said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The most deeply affordable units will be the 10% reserved for tenants making 30% or less of the New York City area median income, or $35,790 for a family of four. Overall, the development will double the number of local units available to renters making less than 50% of the area median income, Cabán noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The developers have also invested $16 million in cleaning up the site from toxins left by its former industrial use, and agreed to contribute $1 million to the neighboring public housing development, build a community space that local nonprofits will be able to use rent-free, and incorporate a public, waterfront green space into the development, Cabán said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán, a democratic socialist, framed her choice to support Halletts North as “harm reduction.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The best we can hope for without rezoning this lot is a</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8ABAR4g8_3LNgqQfEPO/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.investopedia.com%2Fterms%2Fl%2Flastmile.asp%23%3A~%3Atext%3Dexpert%2520and%2520educator.-%2CWhat%2520Is%2520the%2520Last%2520Mile%253F%2Cwho%2520deliver%2520to%2520these%2520areas." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> last mile [trucking] facility</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> where some massive corporation like Amazon would pay our neighbors garbage wages for backbreaking work,” Cabán said. “A no vote today would be a vote for that.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In recent years, New York has built less housing as a portion of its population than</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8A6OlzCYT9dzw5gXjwU/https%3A%2F%2Fcbcny.org%2Fresearch%2Fstrategies-boost-housing-production-new-york-city-metropolitan-area" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> almost any other large city</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the country. Cabán’s support for the project comes as various factions of New York’s left attempt to work out their approach to housing supply, and decide how to respond to developers seeking city approval to build largely market-rate housing on privately-owned land. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There's currently no consensus on what a progressive land use approach should be,” said Samuel Stein, housing policy analyst at the anti-poverty nonprofit Community Service Society. “Because there's a debate or diversity of approaches, that leaves individual Council members with a bit of latitude in terms of defining their own position.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán’s decision to support the Halletts North rezoning sparked significant and heated debate among members of the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), said DSA member and housing organizer Andrew Hiller. The Queens DSA housing working group </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8I1NWCAAYfgrglakw7j/https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fqueenshousingwg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tweeted</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the decision “is an insult” to nearby public housing residents who couldn’t afford the new units. Cabán is a DSA member and received the group’s coveted endorsement during her 2021 run for City Council.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By supporting the Hallets North development, Cabán is taking a different approach from other members of the City Council who in recent months have blocked, opposed, or threatened to block major developments in their districts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In May, Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan, a socialist who was given a stamp of approval by a political action committee affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_e3tupWRS-TQqxyjTo/https%3A%2F%2Fgothamist.com%2Fnews%2Fdeveloper-kills-plan-for-harlems-one45-complex-after-local-opposition" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">blocked</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a proposed development dubbed One45, which would have built over 900-units of housing in central Harlem. Half of the development would have been earmarked for affordable housing, mostly at higher income levels than the affordable housing at Halletts North.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Richardson Jordan called the development </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8UmZpZGRifk5QR_P1WW/https%3A%2F%2Fkristinforharlem.medium.com%2Fwe-need-contextual-housing-e74a84027a98" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">“nothing less than white supremacy,”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> citing concerns that it would gentrify the neighborhood and that the income eligibility standards for the affordable units would still price out most Harlemites. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Shortly after taking office earlier this year, Richardson Jordan </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AycqjzVm7r9ApiSUqD/https%3A%2F%2Fpatch.com%2Fnew-york%2Fharlem%2Fkristin-jordan-central-harlems-new-council-member-shares-plans" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">told Patch</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that she “would rather have lots sit empty than have them filled with further gentrification.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Just before blocking the development, Richardson Jordan released a </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8E2tns9qi6NsgH_t3C9/https%3A%2F%2Fkristinforharlem.medium.com%2Fwe-need-contextual-housing-e74a84027a98" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">rubric</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> detailing what affordability standards were necessary for any development in her district to receive her support. The rubric requires that over half of all apartments in a development be earmarked for people earning at most 30% of the New York City area median income, and nine in ten earmarked for people earning at most 80% of median income. According to these standards, the rents on most apartments in a development would range from $419 per month for a studio to $722 for a three-bedroom.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since tenants who pay market rates generally subsidize tenants living in affordable units, an arrangement where such a large majority of tenants pay below-market rates is unlikely to work for private developers hoping to make any profit, some affordable housing advocates noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There are limits to how much [affordability] we can get in projects that are on privately-owned sites,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing advocacy group. “It’s really important that the Council members, when they do get these applications, view it as an opportunity to add affordable housing in their communities.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last week, Patch </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_EhEuqeDYcIgysbuen/https%3A%2F%2Fpatch.com%2Fnew-york%2Fharlem%2Fharlems-one45-site-host-big-rig-truck-depot-developer-says" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that developer Bruce Teitelbaum, who owns the site that One45 was slated for, plans to turn part of it into a truck depot.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The overwhelming problem with both One45 and Halletts North is that they’re privately-owned parcels of land where the developer has the ability to walk away from the table and then you get no housing,” said Cea Weaver, a democratic socialist and campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, a coalition of New York organizations representing tenants and homeless people. “Tiffany [Cabán] made a different calculation than Kristen Richardson Jordan on what the best path forward is.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Tiffany did a good job, in my opinion, in achieving some kind of affordability on privately owned land,” Weaver added.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Richardson Jordan did not respond to a request for comment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">More recently, Council Member Julie Won, a Democrat who represents a portion of western Queens south of Cabán’s district and was also supported by the AOC-aligned PAC and other progressive groups in winning her election last year, warned that it may be “</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AgYJyVq8-jXA4Q5CeA/https%3A%2F%2Fcitylimits.org%2F2022%2F08%2F01%2Fwant-to-rezone-in-western-queens-heres-how-to-win-over-the-councilmember%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">too late</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">” for a proposed major development in her district to win her support. The proposed Innovation QNS complex, which would be built in a largely industrial section of southeastern Astoria, would contain over 2,800 units, with one in four being set aside for New Yorkers at 30 to 60% of median income. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won and Borough President Donovan Richards are pushing for the developer to make half of the units affordable, the New York Post</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Q0tEbK3XUjOARVbq2w/https%3A%2F%2Fnypost.com%2F2022%2F08%2F14%2Fnycs-astoria-2b-redevelopment-plan-has-hope-despite-pushback%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Won did not respond to an email asking whether she would support Innovation QNS if it met the level of affordability agreed to at Halletts North.</span></p> <p><b>‘A Very Heated Question’</b><b><br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">In addition to announcing her support for Hallets North, Cabán also introduced on Tuesday a ten-point platform to promote housing affordability. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first four points in the plan call for New York City to partner with affordable housing developers to create permanently low-rent housing on city-owned land, a strategy that’s seen</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8A7O4LcKB1qvQm1Xy7r/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vox.com%2Fpolicy-and-politics%2F23278643%2Faffordable-public-housing-inflation-renters-home"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> increased interest</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from local governments around the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A 2016 </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Anp99LmwclHgRy41Q7/https%3A%2F%2Fcomptroller.nyc.gov%2Freports%2Fbuilding-an-affordable-future-the-promise-of-a-new-york-city-land-bank%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from the city comptroller estimated that this strategy could allow for the creation of nearly 60,000 units of permanently affordable housing — a significant number, but still far short of the</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy7_BwdLKDwHYBgyxmeeP/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2022%2F08%2F01%2Fnyregion%2Fnyc-affordable-apartment-rent.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> hundreds</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8AaGh6bpL13oQFiMZHd/http%3A%2F%2Fthenyhc.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2022%2F05%2FNYC-Housing-Tracker-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;"> thousands</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of housing units that housing groups estimate are necessary to bring New York’s affordability crisis under control.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most of the other points in Cabán’s platform focused on promoting low-income and disadvantaged tenants’ access to rental units, through strategies like increasing the value of city-sponsored housing vouchers, banning landlords from asking about criminal records, and enacting more stringent eviction protections and limits on rent increases. It also includes a plank to “eliminate parking minimums” that accompany new housing development.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The platform does not address how legislators should approach the construction of new housing on privately-owned land — something that DSA doesn’t have an official position on either, Hiller noted.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most academic research finds that building market-rate housing helps stabilize or lower rents at both the neighborhood and city levels. In a </span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8ACAifyKjBUSwdEhjNZ/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.lewis.ucla.edu%2Fresearch%2Fmarket-rate-development-impacts%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">review</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of six recent studies, UCLA researchers wrote that five found that market-rate housing makes nearby rental housing more affordable, while one found mixed results.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán said that she supports “many other things” to increase housing supply that weren’t included in her platform, pointing to legalizing basement apartments as one example. She said that the question of whether more market-rate housing is part of the solution to high rents is “tough.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Would I say that that is in a vacuum, in and of itself, the answer? No,” she said. “For-profit development will never produce the scale or quality of housing that our lowest income neighbors need and deserve.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Much of New York’s left is </span><a href="https://twitter.com/JabariBrisport/status/1569490691780378626" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">skeptical</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of market-rate housing as a tool to promote affordability, preferring measures like the “</span><a href="https://streaklinks.com/BM1iy8Y2NrKVK3RzqgQeON88/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nysfocus.com%2F2021%2F07%2F16%2Fupstate-cities-good-cause-eviction%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">good cause eviction</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">” bill to cap rent hikes statewide.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There's a broad range of opinion in DSA on that question, and it's a very heated question within the organization. We have work to do amongst ourselves to democratically arrive at a political strategy there,” Hiller said of the approach to housing development on privately-owned land.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many proponents of affordable housing do support a greater focus on adding to overall housing supply.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Being pro-housing in general seems to me like a really important part of a progressive agenda. We really need to add to our supply,” Fee said, noting that her top priority for new development is ensuring maximum affordability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Weaver said that more housing is needed — potentially including privately-owned housing, given current political realities — but that left to itself, the market won’t help the people who need affordable housing most and will do "more harm than good."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I do think that we need tools to be producing more housing, and then we need to take a pretty serious look at what sort of housing constraints exist in the city because I do think that we're not building enough of it. And that has long term impacts on affordability for a ton of people,” she said. “But the thing is, when we build unregulated housing, it doesn't actually serve the people who are most deeply looking for housing.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cabán said that her priority for the future is creating “high-quality social housing owned and managed by the people who live there.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Even though this is the right choice for today, I want better choices for tomorrow,” she said.</span></p> <p>***<br /><span style="font-weight: 400;">by Sam Mellins of New York Focus</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><i>This article is published in partnership with </i><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><i>New York Focus</i></a></span></p>