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 2022-11-30T16:19:25+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management Many Variables, Significant Uncertainty in Latest Fiscal Updates for New York State, City, and MTA 2022-11-22T05:00:00+00:00 2022-11-22T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11694-latest-finances-new-york-city-state-mta Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/novem-updates-shows.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul (photo: Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York State and City weathered the worst of the financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to billions in federal aid and a good bit of fortune in revenues from Wall Street and personal income taxes. But fiscal uncertainty looms on the horizon amid major stock market losses, warnings of a recession, ongoing pandemic workplace shifts, and federal relief funds running out, creating future budget gaps that will test the fiscal management of Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams’ administrations.</p> <p>Recent budget updates released by the city and state showed positive signs, with revenues stronger than expected, allowing both levels of government to project somewhat higher spending for their respective current fiscal years as well as added savings and prepayments for next year. Though both the state and city have shown some caution in their budgeting, watchdogs say that the fiscal risks they face could be dire and require further belt-tightening and socking away. New York leaders also face the additional burden of saving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from fiscal disaster as federal aid begins to run out and ridership is expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels.</p> <p>“If you step back, all three [the state, city and MTA] are living on the tail of federal aid and the city and the state are living on the benefits of a really good last year on Wall Street,” said Andrew Rein, president of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog. “So short term, it doesn’t look so bad. Mid- and long-term, there are really big problems…If there's a recession, those problems multiply.”</p> <p>All three entities have had to put out their latest fiscal updates in recent weeks. New York State’s $220 billion budget grew to $222 billion in its update, but there are significant budget gaps by fiscal year 2027, the end of the financial plan period, and structural issues that remain unresolved. The city’s $101 billion budget grew to $104 billion, but with few new savings and major costs looming that were not budgeted. And while the MTA’s update to its $18.5 billion annual budget is still in the offing, the transportation authority continues to have a $2.5 billion structural deficit and faces fiscal disaster once federal relief runs out.</p> <p>The budget updates set the stage for next year, when the budgeting processes will start in January with Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal for the state’s next fiscal year, which begins April 1. That will be followed by Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget proposal, likely to be released in February, for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1. New York State, City, and MTA finances are all intertwined.</p> <p>“One of the challenges when you have long-term significant problems, but short-term resources is, at best, it takes the wind out of the sails of any kind of spending restraints or restructuring efforts. And at worst, it drives decisions that make the future worse,” he added.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br />The state’s <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/press/2022/fy23-enacted-fp-midyear-update.html">mid-fiscal year budget update</a> projects overall spending for the fiscal year at just under $222 billion, marginally lower than previous budget projections but higher than the $220 billion budget adopted in April. Revenues were $3.1 billion higher than in the first quarterly update because of higher than expected personal income taxes and certain other non-tax revenues, and spending was $1.7 billion lower than projected.</p> <p>The state Division of Budget expects that the state will end the fiscal year with a $2.1 billion surplus and that future budget gaps will be unchanged or even lower than expected.</p> <p>“This update to the State’s financial plan reinforces what was known from the prior one – global and national economic headwinds will have an impact in every state of the country, but New York is prepared with fiscally responsible budgeting that puts record-level deposits and balances into our reserves,” said outgoing State Budget Director Robert Mujica, in a statement.</p> <p>But the budget update points to significant uncertainty. “The Financial Plan is subject to economic, social, financial, political, public health, and environmental risks and uncertainties, many of which are outside the ability of the State to predict or control,” it states, citing the continuing covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and actions taken by the Federal Reserve.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the state also has higher reserves than ever before, with $9 billion set aside at the start of the fiscal year and planned deposits of $10.4 billion over the next three years, bringing the total to $19.4 billion, about 15% of state operational spending, by 2025. Budget gaps are estimated at just $148 million in FY24, which begins April 1, 2023; $3.5 billion in FY25, $3.3 billion in FY26, and $6 billion in FY27 when federal pandemic aid runs out.</p> <p>But, as Rein noted, the state has a structural budget problem. On top of that last gap of $6 billion, the state has budgeted for spending another $6 billion from federal aid and from a temporary personal income tax surcharge on top earners that expires in 2027. That could mean $12 billion in funding needs the year after that the state has not yet planned for. “The state has no effort underway to deal with education aid, or Medicaid, or state operations in any way that's going to reduce spending,” he said.</p> <p>It’s also near impossible to predict the exact impact of the expected recession. In an interview, Maria Doulis, the deputy comptroller focused on budget and policy analysis for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, said, “There's still a lot of uncertainty about how that hits the nation, how that hits the state, the differential impacts between those two and of course, when it happens, and for how long.”</p> <p>Doulis did note that the state may have enough reserves to handle the initial impact of an economic downturn and has the flexibility to use unrestricted federal aid, which it did not appear to use for new and recurring programs that would otherwise require continuing funding. “In the event of a shock, economic or otherwise, that can be sort of pulled in quickly,” she said of the leftover federal aid.</p> <p>But, in the case of a recession, the state is far more vulnerable than New York City to a decrease in personal income taxes, which is its largest revenue source. The city’s revenue base depends more on property taxes which tend to be more stable. “I think from the state's perspective, what we need to keep eyes on is the sensitivity of the personal income tax in particular,” Doulis said. The mid-year state budget update does project that Personal Income Tax revenue will fall from $33.4 billion in the last fiscal year to just $22.6 billion for the current fiscal year, before growing to $28.1 billion in FY24; $29.1 billion in FY25; $31.2 billion in FY26; and $37.8 billion in FY27.</p> <p><strong>The MTA Budget</strong><br />A big unresolved question for the state is the future of the MTA, which was already struggling with its finances before being thrown into deep crisis by the pandemic. The authority, which is expected to release its latest budget update any day now, was rescued by federal aid but faces a fiscal cliff as it runs out and ridership on subways, buses, and commuter rail has yet to recover. Governor Hochul, the State Legislature, and New York City will face the difficult task next year of finding new, sustainable revenue streams for the agency while also attempting to cut costs.</p> <p>The MTA’s annual operating budget was about $18.5 billion for 2022 – 38% paid from various taxes, 26% from farebox revenue, 12% from tolls, and 15% from federal aid.</p> <p>As ridership and revenue plummeted, the authority has received a total of $16 billion in pandemic aid from the federal government, which will be expended through the 2026 fiscal year. But the state-run authority also has a $2.5 billion <a href="https://cbcny.org/how-fix-mtas-huge-budget-deficit">structural deficit</a>, up from roughly $750 million before the pandemic, with annual spending higher than revenues, which is being covered with federal funds. And the agency has only proposed a $100 million efficiency plan in its current budget, a mere 4% of that deficit.</p> <p>Rein expects that the MTA’s updated budget will include a larger efficiency plan, and CBC has its own <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/track-fiscal-stability">recommendations</a> that would find as much as $2.9 billion in savings for the agency. “That's really hard to achieve, that full amount or close to it, because it relies on working with the unions and changing contracts,” he said. “The unions have to be part of the solution.”</p> <p>MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber has for some time been calling on state leaders to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/15/nyregion/mta-nyc-budget.html">start funding</a> the MTA as an essential service, like policing and schools, meaning rethinking how it factors into the annual budget cycle. But, as Rein said, the state faces its own budget risks. “There's absolutely no question that New York's economy depends on the MTA being successful. But we have to figure out how to balance the successes in New York. It can't come at the expense of devastating taxes or service cuts somewhere else,” he said.</p> <p>“We do think that there are more savings that are possible without necessarily hurting service,” said Rahul Jain, a deputy state comptroller who focuses on New York City and the MTA.</p> <p>The ideal solution to the MTA’s woes, Jain said, would be to bring ridership back up to pre-pandemic levels. McKinsey, the consulting firm hired by the MTA, has projected that ridership will only reach 80% of 2019 (pre-covid) levels by the end of 2026. “The simplest way honestly, the best way really is to continue to beat the McKinsey projections,” Jain said. Ridership, however, has been difficult to recover as there have been broad pandemic-era shifts to hybrid and work-from-home models, as well as lingering concerns about public safety on the subway system.</p> <p>The MTA also currently has long-planned 4% fare and toll hikes scheduled for 2023 and 2025, after a planned fare hike in 2021 was postponed and then canceled by Hochul earlier this year in an effort to encourage riders back onto the subways and buses.</p> <p>Jain said there could be new recurring revenues raised through taxes but that’s a task left up to the Legislature. “There's pros and cons to sales tax. There's pros and cons to real estate taxes, pros and cons to more broad-based economic taxes like the payroll mobility tax. So that's really kind of a question for the Legislature,” he said.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany, a nonprofit government watchdog, issued urgent warnings about the MTA’s fiscal cliff in a <a href="https://reinventalbany.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Reinvent-Albany-Ridership-Down-Report-Nov-2022.pdf?mc_cid=bbc6c5c617&amp;mc_eid=d5f0c51ef5">recent report</a>, which noted that the agency is continuing to lose revenue, collecting $1.6 billion less in passenger and toll revenues in 2022 than in 2019 through September. “The MTA has emergency aid, but the fact is, it would be far better if they started dealing with the impending budget deficit now,” said Rachael Fauss, the report’s author, in a phone interview.</p> <p>The report makes several recommendations for the MTA, governor, and Legislature to follow: the MTA should continue implementing open data laws to be more transparent about its budget; publicly discuss debt affordability statements and only use recurring revenues in its debt affordability metrics and not count federal aid when measuring debt affordability; and release updated ridership projections with every financial plan update; while state government should ensure existing transit-dedicated funds are sent directly to the authority; use the Outer Borough Transit Fund to improve bus, subway, and commuter rail service, rather than provide toll discounts; and refuse to continue the suspension of the state gas tax holiday; among other measures.</p> <p>Fauss noted that part of the problem is that the MTA has slowly lost state support over the years, particularly under former Governor Andrew Cuomo, who diverted MTA funds to other state purposes. The authority, she said, needs new sources of recurring revenue, which could be achieved in various ways. “There's different ideas of how to do it and I think that it's just really about the political will of finding the best tax or the best source of revenue,” she said.</p> <p>“I don't think we can expect very much good news” from the imminent MTA budget update, said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. She noted that besides the budget update and the struggling ridership, the agency also has to sign a new contract with the Transit Workers Union next year. With high inflation, TWU workers may demand higher raises than the 2% wage growth that the MTA has budgeted for. “If the unions demand a 10% raise, that's close to an extra billion dollars that the MTA hasn't budgeted for at all and that’s something that they haven't even started talking about publicly,” she said.</p> <p>“I think we shouldn't even start thinking about new sources of revenue until they have carefully gone through all of the drivers of their costs and have agreed to a new union agreement with some productivity enhancements,” she added.</p> <p>There’s also the open question of the MTA, with state and city partners, implementing congestion pricing in New York City, which is meant to help fund the MTA’s separate $55 billion capital program by helping it raise more than $15 billion.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br />The city’s November budget revised expected spending to $104 billion, a record level for the city and up $3 billion from when the budget was adopted in June.</p> <p>Prior to the update, Mayor Eric Adams ordered city agencies to cut 3% of their spending in his latest Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which resulted in $2.5 billion in savings across the current and next fiscal years, without making cuts to services or laying off municipal employees. But most of the savings came from spending re-estimates, including eliminating some personnel vacancies, and debt service recalculations rather than finding recurring efficiencies at city agencies.</p> <p>“Fiscal discipline has been, and continues to be, a hallmark of my administration,”  Adams said in a statement. “The city faces significant economic headwinds that pose real threats to our fiscal stability, including growing pension contributions, expiring labor contracts, and rising health care expenses — and we are taking decisive actions in the administration’s first November Financial Plan to meet those challenges.”</p> <p>The PEG helped the city cut its projected budget gap for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year by $1 billion, bringing it down to $2.9 billion. But those gaps are expected to grow to $4.6 billion in FY25 and $5.9 billion in FY26 because of significant losses in the stock market, which hurt revenue as well as increase the city’s pension obligations.</p> <p>On Monday, barely a week after releasing the budget update, the administration took the extraordinary step of announcing that it would eliminate roughly 4,700 vacant civilian positions, about half of those currently budgeted, to cover a budget gap of $3 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, <a href="https://gothamist.com/news/citing-looming-budget-gap-nyc-cuts-civilian-vacant-positions-by-half">Gothamist first reported.</a> The cuts will not affect uniformed agencies or teachers. The decision comes amid a dire staffing crisis at many agencies and follows a budget modification that budgeted for the hiring of 25,000 more workers by June, an unrealistic number but indicative of the extent that city agencies have seen their workforces drop over the last few years and the city’s ongoing hiring challenges.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11693-vacancies-nyc-government-hiring-25000-june-2023-budget-mayor-adams">Facing Depleted Agencies, New York City Government Plans to Add 25,000 More Employees by June 2023</a>]</p> <p>The city’s reserves are also at about $8.3 billion, which includes $1.9 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, $4.5 billion in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust, $1.6 billion in the General Reserve, and $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Reserve. But those reserves only account for about 9% of city tax revenue, far lower than what budget watchdogs recommend.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, the increased spending in the budget was largely funded by federal grants or expected federal funding, including a projected $1 billion to shelter and provide services to tens of thousands of asylum seekers that have arrived in New York City over the last several months. But, it is not clear that the federal government will reimburse the city for those expenses.</p> <p>As the mayor himself acknowledged, the city faces the uncertainty of growing pension costs because of volatility in the stock market, forcing the city to spend more to meet annual pension obligations. The budget also doesn’t sufficiently account for the cost of municipal labor contracts, all of which are expired or expiring and must be renegotiated.</p> <p>Rein of Citizens Budget Commission noted that the projected budget gap of $2.9 billion for the next fiscal year “assumes that there's no new labor contracts that are larger than one-and-a-quarter percent or that there's no recession. Those are risky assumptions.”</p> <p>“Quite frankly, what you're seeing at the city, the state, and the MTA is no concerted effort to restructure operations to keep down spending,” he said. “The city's PEG barely did anything to restructure government at all. By and large, the vast majority is spending re-estimates and a little bit of debt service savings and from vacancy reductions.”</p> <p>Jain from Comptroller DiNapoli’s office noted that unlike the state, the city used federal funds for recurring programmatic expenses, which will be harder to continue to fund if a recession hits. “You've allowed spending to continue, so you kind of need the revenues to come in,” he said. “And then the hard question at the end of that if they don't is where do you start trying to reduce the spend side.”</p> <p>DiNapoli has raised several concerns about the city’s November financial plan, pointing to a “missed opportunity” to put away more money in the Rainy Day Fund and issuing <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/osdc/pdf/report-13-2022.pdf">a report</a> recommending several ways the city could strengthen it.</p> <p>He also pointed to the several risks the city faces for which it seems unprepared. The $1 billion in projected federal grants for migrant services has not yet been approved, “which we view as a material risk to its budget in the current fiscal year, and which could create spending pressure in the outyears,” he said. And the city has not yet projected weakening revenues as is widely expected.</p> <p>New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, in his office’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/newsletter/new-york-by-the-numbers-monthly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-71-november-15th-2022/">monthly update</a> on the city’s fiscal outlook, also urged the administration to prepare for a recession and to prudently use reserves in the case of that eventuality.</p> <p>“When economic downturns hit, as people lose jobs and business revenues decline, tax revenues fall just as the needs of the most vulnerable increase. That’s why it’s critical for the City of New York to save for a rainy day,” he stated. “Putting money into our rainy day funds is not an act of austerity – it’s a form of social insurance.”</p> <p>Ahead of the passage of the city budget, Lander had urged the mayor and City Council to adopt a formula for annual deposits into the rainy day fund, a recommendation that went unheeded. He has repeatedly recommended that reserves should be at least 16% of city tax revenues, while they currently stand at closer to 9%.</p> <p>On Monday, in response to the administration’s latest vacancy cuts, Lander reiterated his concerns about how the move could impact city services. “While we agree that savings are critical as New York City faces economic headwinds, confronting those risks cannot come at the expense of diminishing the City’s capacity to get stuff done,” he said in a statement. “Today’s directive to agencies furthers our concerns about recruiting and retaining the staff needed to implement critical programs from traffic safety improvements to processing housing applications.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
'In Almost Every Measure We Are Doing Very Well': City Releases New 'Snapshot' Tracking Economic Recovery 2022-10-27T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-27T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11643-nyc-economic-report-progress-recovery Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/city-econ-shows.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and city officials talking jobs (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Many indicators tracked by New York City’s economic development agency to chart the health of the local economy are showing signs of growth, according to a new monthly report being released Thursday.</p> <p>The initial data shows some major gains in job creation and business start-ups in the last year, and a multi-year increase in venture capital funding. It also indicates a sluggish return to the office amid ongoing hybrid work models.</p> <p>The city has seen an explosion of new businesses in the first year of the Eric Adams mayoral administration, with 27,500 new ventures, or 10% of all businesses, opening in the last year. "That's a pretty extraordinary stat," said Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), in an interview.</p> <p>The <a href="https://edc.nyc/sites/default/files/2022-10/NYCEDC-NYC-Economic-Snapshot-October-2022.pdf">report</a>, titled "New York City Economic Snapshot" and previewed by Gotham Gazette, is the first in a monthly series from EDC, a mayor-controlled public benefit corporation. The snapshots are aimed at capturing the city's economic progress since the start of Mayor Adams’ administration and tracking the city’s recovery from the many challenges of the covid pandemic. The report shows monthly metrics on the labor market, business activity, real estate, tourism, and transit, with the first iteration painting a picture of a slow but persistent mend.</p> <p>"In almost every measure we are doing very well,” said Kimball. “When you look at our national competitors -- Boston San Francisco Dallas Miami -- we are competing very strongly."</p> <p>"The point of this report is to share with the broader business community, elected officials, and policy-makers our view on a monthly basis of what the most important metrics are and the metrics we look to as we measure where the economy is and where we need to take it," Kimball said of the snapshot.</p> <p>New businesses are not launching as much in Manhattan's commercial hubs as they are in burgeoning sections of the other boroughs, like Jamaica, Queens, Broadway Junction in Brooklyn, and Morris Park in the Bronx, Kimball said. Those areas are more vibrant now than they were in the pre-pandemic era, he added.</p> <p>"When you map where the new businesses are [it] shows where we have work to do," he said. "And a lot of that is in midtown and downtown [Manhattan] right now.</p> <p>"Having more thriving commercial hubs outside of Manhattan, and our other central business districts like Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, is only going to strengthen the city from a long-term sustainability point of view," said Kimball, who was appointed to his position by Mayor Adams earlier this year after serving as Industry City's longtime CEO.</p> <p>The exact direction city government – and EDC as its primary economic development arm – will take to strengthen these commercial districts will be informed by a panel of business, nonprofit, and labor leaders convened by Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul in June. The group, known as the 'New' New York Panel, is expected to make recommendations to policymakers some time in the coming weeks, Kimball said.</p> <p>In Manhattan, the mayor and governor have talked about making commercial centers in midtown that have seen significant drops in commuters into more residential neighborhoods, which they say could revitalize parts of the city that were built to serve a different kind of work-life model. The process of converting office and retail space into housing and business districts into livable neighborhoods is a complicated process that would involve billions in capital investment, local buy-in, and navigating New York's cumbersome land use regulations. </p> <p>"Central Manhattan will remain our business district, but we are going to have to do a zoning rethink the way we did with downtown after September 11,” <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/economy/2022/9/21/23365829/nyc-return-office-eric-adams">Adams said</a> at a breakfast hosted by Crain's New York Business in September.</p> <p>The office vacancy rate -- meaning unleased office space -- in New York City has increased less than a percentage point to 12.7% during the Adams administration, per data covering the first two quarters of the year. That average vacancy rate in 2019 was only 7.6%.</p> <p>Transit and tourism indicators have also moved in a positive direction during the Adams administration, according to the report. Subway ridership in October has been at roughly 64% of pre-pandemic levels, Times Square saw 80% of foot traffic return, and Broadway attendance similarly reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Hotel occupancy has increased by 5.2 percentage points since the start of the Adams administration. The only travel metric in the report to remain stagnant since the beginning of the year was bus ridership, which has remained frozen at 63% of pre-covid levels since January.</p> <p>"We know it's not going to be the same as before covid but there's been steady increases," Kimball said of the return to commuting. "But if you have more live-work [neighborhoods], that will also encourage more local business start-ups in those areas, which is something we care a lot about."</p> <p>EDC is focused on the fastest growing industries including "green tech," life sciences, machine learning, cybersecurity, and fintech, he said. The level of venture capital investments has grown significantly in New York City since the onset of the pandemic, particularly in these sectors. That trend is "reassuring," Kimball said, despite a recent downturn.</p> <p>Total venture capital funding -- meaning private investment in companies headquartered in New York City -- reached $9.4 billion in the second quarter of 2022 and dropped to $5.8 billion in the third quarter of this year, according to the EDC report. That's still higher than the pre-pandemic level of $3.9 billion, measured in the third quarter of 2019. Overall this year, venture capital funding reached $23.6 billion, compared to $34.5 billion during the same period in 2021. That year set a record, with venture capital investments nearly doubling what they were during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.</p> <p>"We think that's a shift that's here to stay," Kimball said of the increase in venture capital investment in new businesses.</p> <p>"It's no surprise that big tech companies, while they've slowed down hiring in recent months, continue to expand their real estate footprint throughout covid, and it's because this is where the talent wants to be," Kimball said.</p> <p>New York City is adding jobs at a faster rate than much of the rest of the country, leading all metropolitan areas in the number of new jobs created in the last year, according to the EDC report.</p> <p>The New York City metro area added over 450,000 jobs in the last year and 34,500 last month. The city's unemployment rate, while still well above the national average, continued to fall, reaching 5.6% in August, down from 7.4% at the beginning of the Adams administration, but still higher than the 3.7% before the pandemic. In recent months, however, labor force participation has been relatively stagnant and the number of job postings in the five boroughs decreased from nearly 90,000 in August to 85,000 in September.</p> <p>The numbers echo findings in another recent economic <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/newsletter/new-york-by-the-numbers-monthly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-70-october-11th-2022/">report</a> from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, which shows overall private sector employment reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels in August.</p> <p>"Sure that does give pause," Kimball said, chalking up the dip to cyclical oscillations in the job market and inflation pressures in national and global markets. "I would say in that context we are doing very well," he said.</p> <p>But the unemployment rate among Black New Yorkers, particularly Black men, is still "unacceptably high," Kimball added. (At just six pages, the EDC 'snapshot' does not include demographic breakdowns.)</p> <p>"In every instance where we have a project or initiative on the ground in New York City we're making sure we're putting in place the kinds of career pathways that are most likely to support those populations," Kimball said. That often means partnerships with local high schools, universities, and workforce development programs.</p> <p>He gave the example of SPARC Kips Bay, a recently-announced plan to develop a life sciences campus on the East River incorporated with three CUNY schools – a two-year school, four-year school, and graduate school – focused on healthcare and biotech careers along with a new public high school with a public health theme. The project is a joint endeavor by Adams and Hochul.</p> <p>Overall, Kimball said the data in the report offers important insight and perspective, and is complementary to other focus areas for Mayor Adams.</p> <p>"The mayor has been relentlessly communicating around more direct quality-of-life issues, you know, public safety, cleanliness, those issues," he said. "This is really a complement to that."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/city-econ-shows.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor Adams and city officials talking jobs (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Many indicators tracked by New York City’s economic development agency to chart the health of the local economy are showing signs of growth, according to a new monthly report being released Thursday.</p> <p>The initial data shows some major gains in job creation and business start-ups in the last year, and a multi-year increase in venture capital funding. It also indicates a sluggish return to the office amid ongoing hybrid work models.</p> <p>The city has seen an explosion of new businesses in the first year of the Eric Adams mayoral administration, with 27,500 new ventures, or 10% of all businesses, opening in the last year. "That's a pretty extraordinary stat," said Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), in an interview.</p> <p>The <a href="https://edc.nyc/sites/default/files/2022-10/NYCEDC-NYC-Economic-Snapshot-October-2022.pdf">report</a>, titled "New York City Economic Snapshot" and previewed by Gotham Gazette, is the first in a monthly series from EDC, a mayor-controlled public benefit corporation. The snapshots are aimed at capturing the city's economic progress since the start of Mayor Adams’ administration and tracking the city’s recovery from the many challenges of the covid pandemic. The report shows monthly metrics on the labor market, business activity, real estate, tourism, and transit, with the first iteration painting a picture of a slow but persistent mend.</p> <p>"In almost every measure we are doing very well,” said Kimball. “When you look at our national competitors -- Boston San Francisco Dallas Miami -- we are competing very strongly."</p> <p>"The point of this report is to share with the broader business community, elected officials, and policy-makers our view on a monthly basis of what the most important metrics are and the metrics we look to as we measure where the economy is and where we need to take it," Kimball said of the snapshot.</p> <p>New businesses are not launching as much in Manhattan's commercial hubs as they are in burgeoning sections of the other boroughs, like Jamaica, Queens, Broadway Junction in Brooklyn, and Morris Park in the Bronx, Kimball said. Those areas are more vibrant now than they were in the pre-pandemic era, he added.</p> <p>"When you map where the new businesses are [it] shows where we have work to do," he said. "And a lot of that is in midtown and downtown [Manhattan] right now.</p> <p>"Having more thriving commercial hubs outside of Manhattan, and our other central business districts like Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, is only going to strengthen the city from a long-term sustainability point of view," said Kimball, who was appointed to his position by Mayor Adams earlier this year after serving as Industry City's longtime CEO.</p> <p>The exact direction city government – and EDC as its primary economic development arm – will take to strengthen these commercial districts will be informed by a panel of business, nonprofit, and labor leaders convened by Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul in June. The group, known as the 'New' New York Panel, is expected to make recommendations to policymakers some time in the coming weeks, Kimball said.</p> <p>In Manhattan, the mayor and governor have talked about making commercial centers in midtown that have seen significant drops in commuters into more residential neighborhoods, which they say could revitalize parts of the city that were built to serve a different kind of work-life model. The process of converting office and retail space into housing and business districts into livable neighborhoods is a complicated process that would involve billions in capital investment, local buy-in, and navigating New York's cumbersome land use regulations. </p> <p>"Central Manhattan will remain our business district, but we are going to have to do a zoning rethink the way we did with downtown after September 11,” <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/economy/2022/9/21/23365829/nyc-return-office-eric-adams">Adams said</a> at a breakfast hosted by Crain's New York Business in September.</p> <p>The office vacancy rate -- meaning unleased office space -- in New York City has increased less than a percentage point to 12.7% during the Adams administration, per data covering the first two quarters of the year. That average vacancy rate in 2019 was only 7.6%.</p> <p>Transit and tourism indicators have also moved in a positive direction during the Adams administration, according to the report. Subway ridership in October has been at roughly 64% of pre-pandemic levels, Times Square saw 80% of foot traffic return, and Broadway attendance similarly reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Hotel occupancy has increased by 5.2 percentage points since the start of the Adams administration. The only travel metric in the report to remain stagnant since the beginning of the year was bus ridership, which has remained frozen at 63% of pre-covid levels since January.</p> <p>"We know it's not going to be the same as before covid but there's been steady increases," Kimball said of the return to commuting. "But if you have more live-work [neighborhoods], that will also encourage more local business start-ups in those areas, which is something we care a lot about."</p> <p>EDC is focused on the fastest growing industries including "green tech," life sciences, machine learning, cybersecurity, and fintech, he said. The level of venture capital investments has grown significantly in New York City since the onset of the pandemic, particularly in these sectors. That trend is "reassuring," Kimball said, despite a recent downturn.</p> <p>Total venture capital funding -- meaning private investment in companies headquartered in New York City -- reached $9.4 billion in the second quarter of 2022 and dropped to $5.8 billion in the third quarter of this year, according to the EDC report. That's still higher than the pre-pandemic level of $3.9 billion, measured in the third quarter of 2019. Overall this year, venture capital funding reached $23.6 billion, compared to $34.5 billion during the same period in 2021. That year set a record, with venture capital investments nearly doubling what they were during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.</p> <p>"We think that's a shift that's here to stay," Kimball said of the increase in venture capital investment in new businesses.</p> <p>"It's no surprise that big tech companies, while they've slowed down hiring in recent months, continue to expand their real estate footprint throughout covid, and it's because this is where the talent wants to be," Kimball said.</p> <p>New York City is adding jobs at a faster rate than much of the rest of the country, leading all metropolitan areas in the number of new jobs created in the last year, according to the EDC report.</p> <p>The New York City metro area added over 450,000 jobs in the last year and 34,500 last month. The city's unemployment rate, while still well above the national average, continued to fall, reaching 5.6% in August, down from 7.4% at the beginning of the Adams administration, but still higher than the 3.7% before the pandemic. In recent months, however, labor force participation has been relatively stagnant and the number of job postings in the five boroughs decreased from nearly 90,000 in August to 85,000 in September.</p> <p>The numbers echo findings in another recent economic <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/newsletter/new-york-by-the-numbers-monthly-economic-and-fiscal-outlook-no-70-october-11th-2022/">report</a> from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, which shows overall private sector employment reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels in August.</p> <p>"Sure that does give pause," Kimball said, chalking up the dip to cyclical oscillations in the job market and inflation pressures in national and global markets. "I would say in that context we are doing very well," he said.</p> <p>But the unemployment rate among Black New Yorkers, particularly Black men, is still "unacceptably high," Kimball added. (At just six pages, the EDC 'snapshot' does not include demographic breakdowns.)</p> <p>"In every instance where we have a project or initiative on the ground in New York City we're making sure we're putting in place the kinds of career pathways that are most likely to support those populations," Kimball said. That often means partnerships with local high schools, universities, and workforce development programs.</p> <p>He gave the example of SPARC Kips Bay, a recently-announced plan to develop a life sciences campus on the East River incorporated with three CUNY schools – a two-year school, four-year school, and graduate school – focused on healthcare and biotech careers along with a new public high school with a public health theme. The project is a joint endeavor by Adams and Hochul.</p> <p>Overall, Kimball said the data in the report offers important insight and perspective, and is complementary to other focus areas for Mayor Adams.</p> <p>"The mayor has been relentlessly communicating around more direct quality-of-life issues, you know, public safety, cleanliness, those issues," he said. "This is really a complement to that."</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With the Massive Bronx Building Still Vacant, Officials are Again Asking: What's the Future of the Kingsbridge Armory? 2022-10-17T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11622-future-kingsbridge-armory-bronx-development Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-future-kingsbridge.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Officials touring the Kingsbridge Armory (photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The Kingsbridge Armory, the largest of its kind in the world at 520,000 square-feet, has sat vacant for more than three decades as plans to redevelop the structure have repeatedly failed. But the city is undertaking yet another attempt to reenvision the armory for modern use, and local lawmakers are optimistic that this time they will succeed.</p> <p>Built in 1917 for the New York National Guard, the armory had been used for myriad purposes until it was decommissioned in 1991 and then given over to the city in 1996. But the armory, occupying an entire city block between Jerome Avenue and Reservoir Avenue in the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, is a complicated site to redevelop. It was designated a city landmark in 1974 and then listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.</p> <p>Over the years, the city has proposed various uses for the space, which includes a 180,000-square-foot column-free drill hall, five garage units, and 120-foot ceilings roughly as tall as an 11-story apartment building. Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to convert the armory into a retail mall, a plan that was shot down by the City Council in December 2009 in a near-unanimous vote, chiefly over concerns that the project failed to require “living wage” job provisions for the developer. Bloomberg vetoed the Council’s vote but was overridden.</p> <p>The last proposal, first <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/140-13/mayor-bloomberg-plans-transform-kingsbridge-armory-the-bronx-world-s-largest#/2">announced</a> by Bloomberg in 2013, involved turning the armory into the world’s largest ice rink facility, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC), a 750,000-square-foot complex with nine indoor regulation-size ice rinks, 5,000 seats and 50,000 square feet of space for community use. The plan was estimated to create about 180 permanent jobs and 890 construction jobs.</p> <p>The KNIC plan was unanimously approved by the City Planning Commission and then <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/kingsbridge/city-council-approves-kingsbridge-ice-skating-rink/">passed</a> by the City Council in a 48-1 vote in 2013, as the mayor’s third and final term wound down, as well as the terms for many City Council members.</p> <p>Over the years, however, the project stalled as the city’s development partner, KNIC LLC, which included former New York Rangers star hockey player Mark Messier, failed to obtain sufficient capital to fund it. In 2016, seeking to galvanize the project, the state’s Public Authorities Control Board approved a $30 million loan from the Empire State Development Corporation to KNIC to begin construction on the first phase of the project. In 2017, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.riverdalepress.com/stories/photo-by-michael-winfreykingsbridge-armory-located-at-west-kingsbridge-road-and-jerome-avenue-on,59145">announced</a> another $108 million loan to the project in his State of the State address.</p> <p>Questions about transfer of the lease for the armory from the city to the development group became a contentious affair among the group, Cuomo, and then-Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr on one side and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and city entities on the other.</p> <p>In December 2021, the plan finally fell through and the city ended its contract with KNIC LLC, after a lengthy court battle that ended with a judge ordering that the armory’s lease would remain with the city’s Economic Development Corporation.</p> <p>Now the city is taking up the task of another community engagement process to determine how to overhaul and rehabilitate the armory more than a hundred years after it was built. The effort comes on the heels of the controversial redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Brooklyn, a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/prospectheights/see-bedford-union-armory-community-center-opens-crown-heights">mixed-use project</a> redeveloped by the real estate firm BFC Partners, with 415 units of housing and a 60,000-square-foot community center that opened last October.</p> <p>Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and City Council Member Pierina Sanchez, whose district includes the armory, set aside $5 million for initial renovations on the structure. The state also re-appropriated the $108 million in this year’s budget for any potential future redevelopment of the armory, the governor’s office confirmed.</p> <p>“There have never been successful conversations about the permanent uses [of the armory], uses that will serve the community,” said Sanchez, a former urban planner who is just over nine months into her Council tenure, in a phone interview. Sanchez is co-chairing a community working group, along with Sandra Lobo, executive director of Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, to oversee a six-month community visioning process along with the EDC.</p> <p>The next project will also likely need to go through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which only starts once there's a project plan and, if needed, private partners on board.</p> <p>“The hope for the armory is a space that is really a driver of economic development for the community,” Sanchez said, “that is bringing good jobs, local hire…could be business, could be other kinds of uses that are responsive to the community and are going to be helping to build wealth and health in the community.”</p> <p>Sanchez wants to oversee a robust community engagement process, supported by technical assistance from the city, and a strong community benefits agreement like the one that was included in the KNIC proposal, which would have provided living wage jobs for all employees, 51% of jobs and contracts reserved for Bronx residents, 51% of contracts for Minority and/or Women Owned Businesses, a Green Action Plan to improve the environmental impact of the project, free access to ice rinks for Bronx Title 1 schools and community groups, a small business technical assistance fund, among other things.</p> <p>“That's the floor, not the ceiling,” Sanchez said. “That’s the floor in these discussions. Community is at the center.”</p> <p>As Sanchez noted, the armory is often considered as a space for emergency uses, including recently as the city has experienced an influx of thousands of migrant asylum seekers, burdening the already struggling shelter system. But she said the armory has hazards that make it unfit for those uses, including potential lead and asbestos contamination. The Council’s $5 million allocation is meant to remediate those immediate concerns.</p> <p>“It's a downpayment on addressing some of those environmental hazards and concerns so that the community can actually access the space and be a part of the visioning process,” she said. “I will yell at the top of my lungs to get as much more funding as I can from the city side of things.”</p> <p>“We are excited to learn more about the community’s priorities for the Kingsbridge Armory,” said an EDC spokesperson in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “As New York City continues its recovery from the pandemic, redevelopment of the Armory can support outer-borough economic development, bringing new investment, good-paying jobs, and overall benefits to the neighborhood, the Bronx, and the city at large.  We look forward to an open conversation with community members so the new Kingsbridge Armory becomes an asset every Bronxite can feel proud of.”</p> <p>The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.</p> <p>The armory is also getting attention at the national level. U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh recently toured the armory with U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, whose district includes the armory, Council Speaker Adams, Council Members Sanchez and Oswald Feliz, (whose district neighbors the armory) Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, and others.</p> <p>“We don't know how much subsidy dollars beyond what we have today we will be able to secure,” Sanchez said. “These are political processes and budgetary processes…So us local members who represent the community and represent the armory are going to be fighting but it's not guaranteed.”</p> <p>Espaillat's office did not reply to multiple requests for comment for this story. Walsh's office acknowledged an inquiry but did not provide comment.</p> <p>State Senator Gustavo Rivera, whose district includes the armory, supported the previous KNIC proposal because of its strong community benefits agreement, and wants something similar for any new redevelopment project. “What's important and has always been important for me is what is at the core of it, and that is…it has to be driven by community needs and community wants,” he said in a phone interview.</p> <p>“There is a consensus amongst all of us that we need to actually bring together state resources, city resources, and national resources to actually make this into a reality, to make it into a viable economic engine for this community,” he added. “We are working in concert in ways that has not necessarily happened before so I'm quite excited about what the possibilities will bring in the next couple years.”</p> <p>As Borough President Gibson, a former State Assembly and City Council member who took her current office in January, noted in a phone interview, the current zoning of the area does not allow either building a school or housing. While that zoning could be changed through the city's land use review process, under the current restrictions, Gibson said she would ideally like to see multiple uses for the space including a community recreation center, a health care center, space for businesses (for instance the tech and video gaming industries), and potentially coworking space for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and worker cooperatives. Crucially, the new project should generate revenue for the city, she said.</p> <p>“We're not waiting, because time is of the essence,” she said. “We have money that's been allocated, money that's already designated from the state and we want to make sure that that money doesn't go away.”</p> <p>Gibson said the failure of the KNIC project also served as a lesson for local elected officials. “We're going to learn from the past mistakes, and we're going to do things different and better,” she said. The ice center project wasn’t necessarily the best use of the space, she said, but rather just the best proposal at the time.</p> <p>“I think we need buy-in from the mayor, from the governor,” said Gibson. “We need buy-in from every level of government because this is really an all-hands-on-deck project.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/1-future-kingsbridge.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Officials touring the Kingsbridge Armory (photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p>The Kingsbridge Armory, the largest of its kind in the world at 520,000 square-feet, has sat vacant for more than three decades as plans to redevelop the structure have repeatedly failed. But the city is undertaking yet another attempt to reenvision the armory for modern use, and local lawmakers are optimistic that this time they will succeed.</p> <p>Built in 1917 for the New York National Guard, the armory had been used for myriad purposes until it was decommissioned in 1991 and then given over to the city in 1996. But the armory, occupying an entire city block between Jerome Avenue and Reservoir Avenue in the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, is a complicated site to redevelop. It was designated a city landmark in 1974 and then listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.</p> <p>Over the years, the city has proposed various uses for the space, which includes a 180,000-square-foot column-free drill hall, five garage units, and 120-foot ceilings roughly as tall as an 11-story apartment building. Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to convert the armory into a retail mall, a plan that was shot down by the City Council in December 2009 in a near-unanimous vote, chiefly over concerns that the project failed to require “living wage” job provisions for the developer. Bloomberg vetoed the Council’s vote but was overridden.</p> <p>The last proposal, first <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/140-13/mayor-bloomberg-plans-transform-kingsbridge-armory-the-bronx-world-s-largest#/2">announced</a> by Bloomberg in 2013, involved turning the armory into the world’s largest ice rink facility, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC), a 750,000-square-foot complex with nine indoor regulation-size ice rinks, 5,000 seats and 50,000 square feet of space for community use. The plan was estimated to create about 180 permanent jobs and 890 construction jobs.</p> <p>The KNIC plan was unanimously approved by the City Planning Commission and then <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131210/kingsbridge/city-council-approves-kingsbridge-ice-skating-rink/">passed</a> by the City Council in a 48-1 vote in 2013, as the mayor’s third and final term wound down, as well as the terms for many City Council members.</p> <p>Over the years, however, the project stalled as the city’s development partner, KNIC LLC, which included former New York Rangers star hockey player Mark Messier, failed to obtain sufficient capital to fund it. In 2016, seeking to galvanize the project, the state’s Public Authorities Control Board approved a $30 million loan from the Empire State Development Corporation to KNIC to begin construction on the first phase of the project. In 2017, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.riverdalepress.com/stories/photo-by-michael-winfreykingsbridge-armory-located-at-west-kingsbridge-road-and-jerome-avenue-on,59145">announced</a> another $108 million loan to the project in his State of the State address.</p> <p>Questions about transfer of the lease for the armory from the city to the development group became a contentious affair among the group, Cuomo, and then-Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr on one side and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and city entities on the other.</p> <p>In December 2021, the plan finally fell through and the city ended its contract with KNIC LLC, after a lengthy court battle that ended with a judge ordering that the armory’s lease would remain with the city’s Economic Development Corporation.</p> <p>Now the city is taking up the task of another community engagement process to determine how to overhaul and rehabilitate the armory more than a hundred years after it was built. The effort comes on the heels of the controversial redevelopment of the Bedford Union Armory in Brooklyn, a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/prospectheights/see-bedford-union-armory-community-center-opens-crown-heights">mixed-use project</a> redeveloped by the real estate firm BFC Partners, with 415 units of housing and a 60,000-square-foot community center that opened last October.</p> <p>Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and City Council Member Pierina Sanchez, whose district includes the armory, set aside $5 million for initial renovations on the structure. The state also re-appropriated the $108 million in this year’s budget for any potential future redevelopment of the armory, the governor’s office confirmed.</p> <p>“There have never been successful conversations about the permanent uses [of the armory], uses that will serve the community,” said Sanchez, a former urban planner who is just over nine months into her Council tenure, in a phone interview. Sanchez is co-chairing a community working group, along with Sandra Lobo, executive director of Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, to oversee a six-month community visioning process along with the EDC.</p> <p>The next project will also likely need to go through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which only starts once there's a project plan and, if needed, private partners on board.</p> <p>“The hope for the armory is a space that is really a driver of economic development for the community,” Sanchez said, “that is bringing good jobs, local hire…could be business, could be other kinds of uses that are responsive to the community and are going to be helping to build wealth and health in the community.”</p> <p>Sanchez wants to oversee a robust community engagement process, supported by technical assistance from the city, and a strong community benefits agreement like the one that was included in the KNIC proposal, which would have provided living wage jobs for all employees, 51% of jobs and contracts reserved for Bronx residents, 51% of contracts for Minority and/or Women Owned Businesses, a Green Action Plan to improve the environmental impact of the project, free access to ice rinks for Bronx Title 1 schools and community groups, a small business technical assistance fund, among other things.</p> <p>“That's the floor, not the ceiling,” Sanchez said. “That’s the floor in these discussions. Community is at the center.”</p> <p>As Sanchez noted, the armory is often considered as a space for emergency uses, including recently as the city has experienced an influx of thousands of migrant asylum seekers, burdening the already struggling shelter system. But she said the armory has hazards that make it unfit for those uses, including potential lead and asbestos contamination. The Council’s $5 million allocation is meant to remediate those immediate concerns.</p> <p>“It's a downpayment on addressing some of those environmental hazards and concerns so that the community can actually access the space and be a part of the visioning process,” she said. “I will yell at the top of my lungs to get as much more funding as I can from the city side of things.”</p> <p>“We are excited to learn more about the community’s priorities for the Kingsbridge Armory,” said an EDC spokesperson in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “As New York City continues its recovery from the pandemic, redevelopment of the Armory can support outer-borough economic development, bringing new investment, good-paying jobs, and overall benefits to the neighborhood, the Bronx, and the city at large.  We look forward to an open conversation with community members so the new Kingsbridge Armory becomes an asset every Bronxite can feel proud of.”</p> <p>The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.</p> <p>The armory is also getting attention at the national level. U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh recently toured the armory with U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, whose district includes the armory, Council Speaker Adams, Council Members Sanchez and Oswald Feliz, (whose district neighbors the armory) Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, and others.</p> <p>“We don't know how much subsidy dollars beyond what we have today we will be able to secure,” Sanchez said. “These are political processes and budgetary processes…So us local members who represent the community and represent the armory are going to be fighting but it's not guaranteed.”</p> <p>Espaillat's office did not reply to multiple requests for comment for this story. Walsh's office acknowledged an inquiry but did not provide comment.</p> <p>State Senator Gustavo Rivera, whose district includes the armory, supported the previous KNIC proposal because of its strong community benefits agreement, and wants something similar for any new redevelopment project. “What's important and has always been important for me is what is at the core of it, and that is…it has to be driven by community needs and community wants,” he said in a phone interview.</p> <p>“There is a consensus amongst all of us that we need to actually bring together state resources, city resources, and national resources to actually make this into a reality, to make it into a viable economic engine for this community,” he added. “We are working in concert in ways that has not necessarily happened before so I'm quite excited about what the possibilities will bring in the next couple years.”</p> <p>As Borough President Gibson, a former State Assembly and City Council member who took her current office in January, noted in a phone interview, the current zoning of the area does not allow either building a school or housing. While that zoning could be changed through the city's land use review process, under the current restrictions, Gibson said she would ideally like to see multiple uses for the space including a community recreation center, a health care center, space for businesses (for instance the tech and video gaming industries), and potentially coworking space for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and worker cooperatives. Crucially, the new project should generate revenue for the city, she said.</p> <p>“We're not waiting, because time is of the essence,” she said. “We have money that's been allocated, money that's already designated from the state and we want to make sure that that money doesn't go away.”</p> <p>Gibson said the failure of the KNIC project also served as a lesson for local elected officials. “We're going to learn from the past mistakes, and we're going to do things different and better,” she said. The ice center project wasn’t necessarily the best use of the space, she said, but rather just the best proposal at the time.</p> <p>“I think we need buy-in from the mayor, from the governor,” said Gibson. “We need buy-in from every level of government because this is really an all-hands-on-deck project.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max Politics Podcast: Racial Justice Proposals on the New York City Ballot 2022-10-14T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-14T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot Gotham Gazette ggstaff@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-rj-600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Racial justice bills set to be signed by the mayor (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 13, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Racial Justice Proposals on the New York City Ballot<br /></strong></p> <p>New York City voters can approve or disapprove three proposed City Charter amendments on the 2022 general election ballot. Questions 2-4 on the ballot for city voters (<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11620-max-politics-podcast-environmental-bond-act-ballot-proposal-climate-ny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Question 1 is on the statewide Environmental Bond Act</a>) are proposals from the New York City Racial Justice Commission. Jennifer Jones Austin, Chair of the Racial Justice Commission and President and CEO of FPWA, joined the show to discuss the three proposals as well as broader themes of social, economic, and racial justice in New York City.</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/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot">Read More ...</a></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/mp-rj-600.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Racial justice bills set to be signed by the mayor (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>October 13, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Racial Justice Proposals on the New York City Ballot<br /></strong></p> <p>New York City voters can approve or disapprove three proposed City Charter amendments on the 2022 general election ballot. Questions 2-4 on the ballot for city voters (<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11620-max-politics-podcast-environmental-bond-act-ballot-proposal-climate-ny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Question 1 is on the statewide Environmental Bond Act</a>) are proposals from the New York City Racial Justice Commission. Jennifer Jones Austin, Chair of the Racial Justice Commission and President and CEO of FPWA, joined the show to discuss the three proposals as well as broader themes of social, economic, and racial justice in New York City.</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/11621-max-politics-podcast-racial-justice-proposals-new-york-city-ballot">Read More ...</a></p> Council Examines City's Renewable Energy Progress, Future Plans 2022-10-14T04:00:00+00:00 2022-10-14T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11624-city-council-nyc-renewable-energy-progress-climate-action Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-council-renewable.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Rooftop solar (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Eric Adams’ administration follows ambitious mandates to achieve carbon neutrality over the next few decades, the City Council on Thursday examined the state of renewable energy infrastructure in the city, needs for the future, and both city and state legislation that could help expedite the path towards a zero-emissions energy grid and economy.</p> <p>At a hearing of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, chaired by Queens Council Member Jim Gennaro, administration officials testified to ongoing efforts at sourcing and converting to renewable energy, decarbonizing the city’s building stock, and investing in climate workforce development. The hearing comes just ahead of the ten year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated New York City and caused about $19 billion in damage, the effects of which have yet to be fully remediated.</p> <p>Gennaro, a Democrat, has long been working at tackling the effects of the climate crisis. He noted in his opening remarks that when he was previously a Council member in 2012, the city codified into law the New York City Panel on Climate Change, just two months ahead of Sandy hitting the city. The panel was meant to examine the effects of climate change on city infrastructure, the economy, and marginalized communities. The law creating the panel also created the New York City Climate Adaptation Task Force “to figure out how the city in a sensible, measured, studious way could walk down the field towards the climate in a resilient future that we all want,” Gennaro said.</p> <p>At the hearing, he sought answers on the task force’s work over the last decade. “That's a real thing. It's in law. No one seems to be able to find it,” he said. “And I didn't write the law for nothing.”</p> <p>Rebecca Fishman, a policy advisor from the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ), said that the Climate Adaptation Task Force convened under the previous administration and compiled “an inventory of risks and infrastructure,” which was nearly complete but could not be finished because of the pandemic. “The new office of the mayor, the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, will need to revisit this,” she said.</p> <p>Gennaro was dissatisfied with the answer, calling on the administration to better coordinate its efforts and follow the “black letter law” which requires the task force to convene every six months. The task force, he said, “has to exist. That's in law, that's a mandate. It's not discretionary. And it's supposed to work hand in glove with the New York City Panel on Climate Change.”</p> <p>The broader focus of the hearing was on the city’s efforts to meet the renewable energy mandates set by law in recent years.</p> <p>Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, in 2019, the city passed a “<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/209-19/action-global-warming-nyc-s-green-new-deal#/0">Green New Deal</a>” legislative package that committed to a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and 100% clean electricity, along with several measures intended to drastically reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. That same year, the state approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires the state to cut economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 85% by 2050.</p> <p>In October of last year, the Council <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10812-city-council-pass-bill-citywide-climate-adaptation-plan-resiliency">passed another law</a> requiring a Citywide Climate Adaptation Plan, which was due September 30 but has not been published by the administration yet. Council members did not question administration officials about the required report at Thursday’s hearing, however.</p> <p>Anthony Fiore, the city’s Chief Decarbonization Officer and Deputy Commissioner for Energy Management at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), outlined the many efforts and investments the city is making in renewable energy, including some that were put into motion by the previous administration.</p> <p>DCAS, which manages city-owned buildings and vehicles, is deploying 100 megawatts of solar energy on city properties by 2025, he said. The city, in partnership with the state, is also investing in building two new transmission lines to bring renewable energy to the city from Canada and Upstate. The city is also a partner on some of the many other efforts the state is taking the lead on, including offshore wind.</p> <p>The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) also announced last year a 15-year plan to invest $191 million to build offshore wind energy infrastructure and technology. EDC and the City University of New York (CUNY) also announced awards worth $4 million to six colleges for climate career training and education.</p> <p>Fiore also pointed to the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, which is leading PowerUp NYC, an energy planning study to meet the city’s sustainability goals. The administration is expected to release that study in the spring, officials said Thursday.</p> <p>The city’s long-term efforts have made progress, Fiore noted. “Since 2014, DCAS has invested nearly $1 billion in efficiency and clean energy generation projects across 2000 city-owned buildings, contributing to a reduction in city government energy use by the equivalent of about 250,000 residencies, and avoiding about $115 million in annual energy costs, reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by almost 25% between fiscal years 2006 and 2019 and generating more than 4,000 family-sustaining jobs,” he said.</p> <p>He also emphasized that efforts have been focused on “historically marginalized communities that experience cumulative disproportionate impacts of environmental hazards and climate risks.” He said the city is undertaking a study of environmental injustice in the city and will release a report that “will identify communities being disproportionately impacted by environmental burdens and will form the basis of an implementation plan to promote environmental justice and ensure equity is an integral part of the city's decision-making processes at large.”</p> <p>Council Member Sandy Nurse, a Brooklyn Democrat, noted that the recently-approved federal Inflation Reduction Act could help the city achieve many of its climate goals by investing in green infrastructure. “We are still looking at it, but it's something that is on our radar,” said Ellie Kahn, senior policy advisor at the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice. “We're absolutely paying attention to it and it's a very, very exciting opportunity.”</p> <p>Federal, state, and city leaders all <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11545-inflation-reduction-act-new-york-climate-action">expect</a> the Inflation Reduction Act’s many billions of dollars in investments in renewable energy to supercharge New York’s efforts.</p> <p>Thursday’s City Council hearing also focused on several pieces of proposed legislation and resolutions on climate action.</p> <p>One bill, sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, would require the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to study vacant and underutilized city-owned sites for potential use for building renewable energy infrastructure. Another, sponsored by Gennaro, would require the city to create a database of subsurface conditions that can allow the installation of geothermal heat pumps, a renewable energy source.</p> <p>Fiore said the administration supports the intent of both bills. Mapping vacant and underutilized space is a “worthwhile exercise” he said, not only for building renewable energy but a myriad of purposes. And he said geothermal energy “is an important tool in the transition to a clean energy economy and in some locations will be a primary method for decarbonizing building heating systems.” He said the city has already created a geothermal screening tool and is carrying out a pilot program to install geothermal systems on city-owned sites, the results of which will begin to be reported in March.</p> <p>The city’s efforts to decarbonize the privately-owned building stock are also front and center as the Department of Buildings (DOB) is in the process of creating rules that owners of the city’s largest buildings will have to meet to comply with Local Law 97, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11387-nyc-city-budget-climate-mobilization-act">part of 2019’s Climate Mobilization Act</a>. That law is meant to require major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings, the city’s biggest source of carbon emissions. The DOB recently released a first set of draft rules that will now be the subject of a public feedback process.</p> <p>Also on <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=999777&amp;GUID=65278329-A320-4F0D-859F-3424CC460A19&amp;Options=info%7C&amp;Search=">the agenda</a> were three resolutions, non-binding pieces of legislation that often urge action by another level of government. One, sponsored by Council Member Lincoln Restler, a Brooklyn Democrat, encourages the state to follow the mandates of the CLCPA in aggressive fashion. “The City Council knows all too well that the climate crisis is the single greatest threat facing the people of New York. It's here, it's now and it demands nothing less than urgent and comprehensive action,” he said.</p> <p>Ahead of the hearing, Council members and environmental advocates from Sierra Club, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, New York Public Interest Research Group, Jewish Climate Action Network, and other organizations rallied outside City Hall in support of the resolution.</p> <p>As that was happening, the state’s Climate Action Council, created in the CLCPA to help execute it, was meeting to take its next steps toward developing its “scoping plan.” The Climate Action Council has released a draft plan, and continues to take feedback and adjust it toward issuing a final plan by the end of the year.</p> <p>Another resolution, sponsored by Council Member Alexa Avilés, a Brooklyn Democrat, calls for passage of the Build Public Renewables Act, a bill before the State Legislature that would allow the New York Power Authority to own and build renewable energy infrastructure. “The Build Public Renewables Act will lead us into the future not just on renewable energy, but on labor and employment standards and will undoubtedly serve as a model to other states who pursue democratization of utility services,” she said.</p> <p>Finally, Gennaro sponsors a resolution in support of the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11620-max-politics-podcast-environmental-bond-act-ballot-proposal-climate-ny">which is a ballot referendum in the November general election</a> after having been passed by the Governor and Legislature. Voters will approve or disapprove the new state borrowing for environmental and climate-related projects.</p> <p>Governor Kathy Hochul pushed to increase the bond act by more than $1 billion to get to the $4.2 billion now before voters to help fund infrastructure projects across the state that deal with clean water, electric school buses, resiliency projects, and more. Hochul <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11616-hochul-zeldin-differ-vastly-climate-change-environment-energy">is running for a full term this year in part on her climate record and promise to continue advancing renewable energy projects</a>. There are also several state-level measures that did not pass this year that advocates hope to see advanced next year, including a state ban on new gas hook-ups in buildings to match the city’s, the Build Public Renewables Act, and more -- some of which Hochul has expressed support for.</p> <p>Also on Thursday, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a Democrat and major <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11254-lander-adams-nyc-public-solar-rooftop-energy">proponent of climate action</a>, released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/ten-years-after-sandy/">a report</a> analyzing the city’s expenditure on climate resiliency over the last decade and the obstacles to climate infrastructure projects. It shows that the city has not spent nearly all of the federal money received in Sandy’s aftermath.</p> <p>“The climate crisis is moving far faster than we are,” Lander said in a statement. “Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call for the devastating risks that climate change poses to our city – but from the trudging pace of too many resiliency projects, it seems like we’re still asleep. Without significant improvements to infrastructure design and delivery, New York City will fail to get ready in time for the next storm.”</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/3-council-renewable.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Rooftop solar (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Eric Adams’ administration follows ambitious mandates to achieve carbon neutrality over the next few decades, the City Council on Thursday examined the state of renewable energy infrastructure in the city, needs for the future, and both city and state legislation that could help expedite the path towards a zero-emissions energy grid and economy.</p> <p>At a hearing of the Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, chaired by Queens Council Member Jim Gennaro, administration officials testified to ongoing efforts at sourcing and converting to renewable energy, decarbonizing the city’s building stock, and investing in climate workforce development. The hearing comes just ahead of the ten year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated New York City and caused about $19 billion in damage, the effects of which have yet to be fully remediated.</p> <p>Gennaro, a Democrat, has long been working at tackling the effects of the climate crisis. He noted in his opening remarks that when he was previously a Council member in 2012, the city codified into law the New York City Panel on Climate Change, just two months ahead of Sandy hitting the city. The panel was meant to examine the effects of climate change on city infrastructure, the economy, and marginalized communities. The law creating the panel also created the New York City Climate Adaptation Task Force “to figure out how the city in a sensible, measured, studious way could walk down the field towards the climate in a resilient future that we all want,” Gennaro said.</p> <p>At the hearing, he sought answers on the task force’s work over the last decade. “That's a real thing. It's in law. No one seems to be able to find it,” he said. “And I didn't write the law for nothing.”</p> <p>Rebecca Fishman, a policy advisor from the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ), said that the Climate Adaptation Task Force convened under the previous administration and compiled “an inventory of risks and infrastructure,” which was nearly complete but could not be finished because of the pandemic. “The new office of the mayor, the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, will need to revisit this,” she said.</p> <p>Gennaro was dissatisfied with the answer, calling on the administration to better coordinate its efforts and follow the “black letter law” which requires the task force to convene every six months. The task force, he said, “has to exist. That's in law, that's a mandate. It's not discretionary. And it's supposed to work hand in glove with the New York City Panel on Climate Change.”</p> <p>The broader focus of the hearing was on the city’s efforts to meet the renewable energy mandates set by law in recent years.</p> <p>Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, in 2019, the city passed a “<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/209-19/action-global-warming-nyc-s-green-new-deal#/0">Green New Deal</a>” legislative package that committed to a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and 100% clean electricity, along with several measures intended to drastically reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. That same year, the state approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires the state to cut economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 85% by 2050.</p> <p>In October of last year, the Council <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10812-city-council-pass-bill-citywide-climate-adaptation-plan-resiliency">passed another law</a> requiring a Citywide Climate Adaptation Plan, which was due September 30 but has not been published by the administration yet. Council members did not question administration officials about the required report at Thursday’s hearing, however.</p> <p>Anthony Fiore, the city’s Chief Decarbonization Officer and Deputy Commissioner for Energy Management at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), outlined the many efforts and investments the city is making in renewable energy, including some that were put into motion by the previous administration.</p> <p>DCAS, which manages city-owned buildings and vehicles, is deploying 100 megawatts of solar energy on city properties by 2025, he said. The city, in partnership with the state, is also investing in building two new transmission lines to bring renewable energy to the city from Canada and Upstate. The city is also a partner on some of the many other efforts the state is taking the lead on, including offshore wind.</p> <p>The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) also announced last year a 15-year plan to invest $191 million to build offshore wind energy infrastructure and technology. EDC and the City University of New York (CUNY) also announced awards worth $4 million to six colleges for climate career training and education.</p> <p>Fiore also pointed to the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, which is leading PowerUp NYC, an energy planning study to meet the city’s sustainability goals. The administration is expected to release that study in the spring, officials said Thursday.</p> <p>The city’s long-term efforts have made progress, Fiore noted. “Since 2014, DCAS has invested nearly $1 billion in efficiency and clean energy generation projects across 2000 city-owned buildings, contributing to a reduction in city government energy use by the equivalent of about 250,000 residencies, and avoiding about $115 million in annual energy costs, reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by almost 25% between fiscal years 2006 and 2019 and generating more than 4,000 family-sustaining jobs,” he said.</p> <p>He also emphasized that efforts have been focused on “historically marginalized communities that experience cumulative disproportionate impacts of environmental hazards and climate risks.” He said the city is undertaking a study of environmental injustice in the city and will release a report that “will identify communities being disproportionately impacted by environmental burdens and will form the basis of an implementation plan to promote environmental justice and ensure equity is an integral part of the city's decision-making processes at large.”</p> <p>Council Member Sandy Nurse, a Brooklyn Democrat, noted that the recently-approved federal Inflation Reduction Act could help the city achieve many of its climate goals by investing in green infrastructure. “We are still looking at it, but it's something that is on our radar,” said Ellie Kahn, senior policy advisor at the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice. “We're absolutely paying attention to it and it's a very, very exciting opportunity.”</p> <p>Federal, state, and city leaders all <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11545-inflation-reduction-act-new-york-climate-action">expect</a> the Inflation Reduction Act’s many billions of dollars in investments in renewable energy to supercharge New York’s efforts.</p> <p>Thursday’s City Council hearing also focused on several pieces of proposed legislation and resolutions on climate action.</p> <p>One bill, sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, would require the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to study vacant and underutilized city-owned sites for potential use for building renewable energy infrastructure. Another, sponsored by Gennaro, would require the city to create a database of subsurface conditions that can allow the installation of geothermal heat pumps, a renewable energy source.</p> <p>Fiore said the administration supports the intent of both bills. Mapping vacant and underutilized space is a “worthwhile exercise” he said, not only for building renewable energy but a myriad of purposes. And he said geothermal energy “is an important tool in the transition to a clean energy economy and in some locations will be a primary method for decarbonizing building heating systems.” He said the city has already created a geothermal screening tool and is carrying out a pilot program to install geothermal systems on city-owned sites, the results of which will begin to be reported in March.</p> <p>The city’s efforts to decarbonize the privately-owned building stock are also front and center as the Department of Buildings (DOB) is in the process of creating rules that owners of the city’s largest buildings will have to meet to comply with Local Law 97, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11387-nyc-city-budget-climate-mobilization-act">part of 2019’s Climate Mobilization Act</a>. That law is meant to require major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings, the city’s biggest source of carbon emissions. The DOB recently released a first set of draft rules that will now be the subject of a public feedback process.</p> <p>Also on <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=999777&amp;GUID=65278329-A320-4F0D-859F-3424CC460A19&amp;Options=info%7C&amp;Search=">the agenda</a> were three resolutions, non-binding pieces of legislation that often urge action by another level of government. One, sponsored by Council Member Lincoln Restler, a Brooklyn Democrat, encourages the state to follow the mandates of the CLCPA in aggressive fashion. “The City Council knows all too well that the climate crisis is the single greatest threat facing the people of New York. It's here, it's now and it demands nothing less than urgent and comprehensive action,” he said.</p> <p>Ahead of the hearing, Council members and environmental advocates from Sierra Club, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, New York Public Interest Research Group, Jewish Climate Action Network, and other organizations rallied outside City Hall in support of the resolution.</p> <p>As that was happening, the state’s Climate Action Council, created in the CLCPA to help execute it, was meeting to take its next steps toward developing its “scoping plan.” The Climate Action Council has released a draft plan, and continues to take feedback and adjust it toward issuing a final plan by the end of the year.</p> <p>Another resolution, sponsored by Council Member Alexa Avilés, a Brooklyn Democrat, calls for passage of the Build Public Renewables Act, a bill before the State Legislature that would allow the New York Power Authority to own and build renewable energy infrastructure. “The Build Public Renewables Act will lead us into the future not just on renewable energy, but on labor and employment standards and will undoubtedly serve as a model to other states who pursue democratization of utility services,” she said.</p> <p>Finally, Gennaro sponsors a resolution in support of the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11620-max-politics-podcast-environmental-bond-act-ballot-proposal-climate-ny">which is a ballot referendum in the November general election</a> after having been passed by the Governor and Legislature. Voters will approve or disapprove the new state borrowing for environmental and climate-related projects.</p> <p>Governor Kathy Hochul pushed to increase the bond act by more than $1 billion to get to the $4.2 billion now before voters to help fund infrastructure projects across the state that deal with clean water, electric school buses, resiliency projects, and more. Hochul <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11616-hochul-zeldin-differ-vastly-climate-change-environment-energy">is running for a full term this year in part on her climate record and promise to continue advancing renewable energy projects</a>. There are also several state-level measures that did not pass this year that advocates hope to see advanced next year, including a state ban on new gas hook-ups in buildings to match the city’s, the Build Public Renewables Act, and more -- some of which Hochul has expressed support for.</p> <p>Also on Thursday, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a Democrat and major <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11254-lander-adams-nyc-public-solar-rooftop-energy">proponent of climate action</a>, released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/ten-years-after-sandy/">a report</a> analyzing the city’s expenditure on climate resiliency over the last decade and the obstacles to climate infrastructure projects. It shows that the city has not spent nearly all of the federal money received in Sandy’s aftermath.</p> <p>“The climate crisis is moving far faster than we are,” Lander said in a statement. “Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call for the devastating risks that climate change poses to our city – but from the trudging pace of too many resiliency projects, it seems like we’re still asleep. Without significant improvements to infrastructure design and delivery, New York City will fail to get ready in time for the next storm.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Redistricting Commission Sends New Map to City Council for Review 2022-10-06T14:00:00+00:00 2022-10-06T14:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11613-redistricting-commission-new-map-nyc-city-council-review Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3-red-comm-map.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>The Mayor &amp; City Council (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In a near-unanimous vote, the New York City Districting Commission voted on Thursday to send its latest plan for redrawing the 51 City Council districts to the Council for its review. The Council now has three weeks to either approve the map or reject it and send it back to the Commission with proposed changes. </p> <p>The Commission’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/districting/maps/maps.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">latest proposal</a> made few major changes to a proposed map that a majority of members <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11591-redistricting-commission-votes-down-city-council-draft-map" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">voted down last month</a> in a surprising turn of events in part <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11602-city-council-redistricting-commission-conflicts-adams-interference" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">based on influence</a> from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">That draft map</a> had undone or altered a number of controversial aspects of <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11473-city-council-redistricting-public-draft-map" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the preliminary map the commission passed in July</a>, which was then the subject of extensive public feedback.</p> <p>Commission members who voted against the recent proposal cited various concerns, including about the dilution of political power among certain communities and a slight weakening of Staten Island’s influence in the Council.</p> <p>After that proposal was rejected, the Commission held two hearings where they publicly redrew district lines, seemingly assuaging members’ concerns despite making just minor alterations. On Thursday, of the 15 members on the commission, 13 voted in favor of the new map. Only Michael Schnall, who was appointed by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, voted against the proposal, while Maria Mateo, a mayoral appointee, had to leave the meeting before casting her vote due to a professional commitment.</p> <p>“I think we have done a really excellent job,” said Commission Chair Dennis Walcott, who was appointed by the mayor, at the meeting, “in the amount of time we both devoted to the mapping but also I think the respect that we've shown each other as commissioners in trying to make sure the various issues have been addressed to the best of our ability.”</p> <p>“Redistricting stems from the concept of political equality,” said Marilyn Go, who was also appointed by Speaker Adams, as she voted for the proposal. “The districting commission has tried to pursue this road to political equality by making it a more open process. We've tried to be upfront with each other. We've been open to hear comments from the public. But to paraphrase Abe Lincoln, we can't please all of the people all the time with all of the lines.”</p> <p>The Commission was charged with redrawing the city’s 51 Council districts to accommodate an increase in the city’s population by 630,000 residents reflected in the 2020 Census. The body had to follow strict guidelines set by the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state law, and the New York City Charter. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor (7), Council Speaker (5), and Council Minority Leader (3).</p> <p>Commissioner Marc Wurzel, who was appointed by City Council Republican Minority Leader Joe Borelli, pointed to those restrictions as he explained his vote. “It is not perfect, it's far from perfect, but I am satisfied with the work product and I'm happy to lend my name to it,” he said of the approved proposal.</p> <p>In particular, Wurzel and others have criticized a recent state law change that reduced the allowed population deviation between the most and least populated districts from 10% to just 5%. “If people are upset, don't direct your ire at us,” he said. “Look at the governor and look at the Legislature who adopted a poorly worded law in October that severely limited this Commission's ability to keep as many communities of interest together.”</p> <p>Asian Americans were the largest growing population in the Census and the new map creates a new “Asian American opportunity district” in Brooklyn, bringing the number of minority opportunity districts in the city to 29. Previously, that new district had been carved in a way that separated historically Latino communities in Sunset Park and Red Hook, and would also likely pit Democratic Council Members Alexa Avilés and Justin Brannan against each other by combining their bases into the new district. But the latest map undid those lines and maintained both Avilés’ and Brannan’s bases while increasing the possibility of Asian American representation. </p> <p>The map also reunited other neighborhoods that had been divided among several Council districts. That includes Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, which had been split into three districts in the Commission’s preliminary July proposal. And it also reversed the drawing of a district on the East Side of Manhattan that extended into Queens, maintaining the district’s lines in Manhattan alone. </p> <p>Among the most contentious issues in the initial map was the proposal to keep the three Council districts on Staten Island intact at virtually the largest allowable undercount population deviation, which had a domino effect across other boroughs that had to then fit the city’s population increase. But the latest map, just like the one that was voted down in September, extends Staten Island’s Mid-Island District 50 into parts of South Brooklyn with a few changes. </p> <p>Schnall, the sole vote against the proposal, cited that as the basis for his objection. “There are no other reasons why I oppose these maps,” he said.</p> <p>The new lines could help strengthen Republican representation in the Council, where they currently hold five seats out of 51. In South Brooklyn, in particular, Democratic Council Member Ari Kagan stands to see his district gain thousands more Republican voters, putting him in a precarious position as he heads into reelection next year. </p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an immigrant advocacy group, expressed support for some of the “positive changes” made by the latest map and the transparency through which they were enacted. But, he said in a statement, “it’s clear that more work needs to be done.” He said the city should heed calls for representation by the growing South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities in  Southeast Queens. “To accomplish this, the city should consider a Charter Review Commission to potentially create more council districts, so that all groups can get fair representation,” he said. And he said the commission failed to create a new majority minority district in the Northwest Bronx, where there has been a significant increase of Latino New Yorkers since the last Census. </p> <p>The map will now head to the City Council, which has the option of approving it and bringing the redistricting process to a conclusion. The Council could also choose to reject the map and return it to the Commission with suggested changes. The Commission would then hold another round of public hearings before having the final say on the map that will be in place for the next ten years.</p> <p>The deadline for the final map is December 7. It will then dictate the political lines for City Council elections in 2023 for all 51 seats, with party primaries in June of next year, and the governmental lines as of January 1, 2024. </p> <p>The new maps were created after a months-long process that involved an initial proposal released in July, the revised proposal from September, and now the latest map approved Thursday. The commission received more than 9,600 submissions from the public, involved more than 35 hours of public hearings, and 77 hours of actual drawing of the maps. </p> <p>Citizens Union, a good government group that has been closely monitoring the redistricting process, applauded the Commission for finalizing the map in public hearings and celebrated the level of public input that went into the process.</p> <p>“Since the Commission released their first draft of City Council district maps in July, thousands of New Yorkers have offered feedback on the proposed district lines. This is a testament to how important this process is to the future of our local democracy,” said CU Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum, in a statement. “It is imperative that the public remain engaged in this process. The City Council must expeditiously review these maps and submit its response. They should be free to do so without outside interference.”</p> <p>Seven of the Commission's members, including Chair Walcott, were appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat; five were appointed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat; and three were picked by Council Member Borelli, a Staten Island Republican. </p> <p>At Thursday’s hearing, the Commission’s executive director, Dr. John Flateau, only outlined “modest changes” that were made to the previous proposal. Dr. Lisa Handley, a national expert on Racial Bloc Voting Analysis retained by the commission, noted that the new map “doesn't make many changes to the districts with significant minority populations.”<br /><br />There was a last-minute attempt to make a technical amendment to the proposal from Joshua Schneps, a mayoral appointee. Schneps pushed for consolidating into the new District 47 the Warbasse Houses, an affordable Mitchell-Lama co-op in Coney Island, which are split between the new Districts 47 and 48. Despite significant discussion of the proposal, it was rejected, with only five members voting in favor, eight voting against, one member abstaining and one absent. That change could still be incorporated into the final map if the Council rejects this version and the Commission gets another shot at changes.</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/3-red-comm-map.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>The Mayor &amp; City Council (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In a near-unanimous vote, the New York City Districting Commission voted on Thursday to send its latest plan for redrawing the 51 City Council districts to the Council for its review. The Council now has three weeks to either approve the map or reject it and send it back to the Commission with proposed changes. </p> <p>The Commission’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/districting/maps/maps.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">latest proposal</a> made few major changes to a proposed map that a majority of members <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11591-redistricting-commission-votes-down-city-council-draft-map" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">voted down last month</a> in a surprising turn of events in part <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11602-city-council-redistricting-commission-conflicts-adams-interference" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">based on influence</a> from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11588-key-takeaways-new-city-council-map-redistricting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">That draft map</a> had undone or altered a number of controversial aspects of <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/11473-city-council-redistricting-public-draft-map" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the preliminary map the commission passed in July</a>, which was then the subject of extensive public feedback.</p> <p>Commission members who voted against the recent proposal cited various concerns, including about the dilution of political power among certain communities and a slight weakening of Staten Island’s influence in the Council.</p> <p>After that proposal was rejected, the Commission held two hearings where they publicly redrew district lines, seemingly assuaging members’ concerns despite making just minor alterations. On Thursday, of the 15 members on the commission, 13 voted in favor of the new map. Only Michael Schnall, who was appointed by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, voted against the proposal, while Maria Mateo, a mayoral appointee, had to leave the meeting before casting her vote due to a professional commitment.</p> <p>“I think we have done a really excellent job,” said Commission Chair Dennis Walcott, who was appointed by the mayor, at the meeting, “in the amount of time we both devoted to the mapping but also I think the respect that we've shown each other as commissioners in trying to make sure the various issues have been addressed to the best of our ability.”</p> <p>“Redistricting stems from the concept of political equality,” said Marilyn Go, who was also appointed by Speaker Adams, as she voted for the proposal. “The districting commission has tried to pursue this road to political equality by making it a more open process. We've tried to be upfront with each other. We've been open to hear comments from the public. But to paraphrase Abe Lincoln, we can't please all of the people all the time with all of the lines.”</p> <p>The Commission was charged with redrawing the city’s 51 Council districts to accommodate an increase in the city’s population by 630,000 residents reflected in the 2020 Census. The body had to follow strict guidelines set by the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state law, and the New York City Charter. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor (7), Council Speaker (5), and Council Minority Leader (3).</p> <p>Commissioner Marc Wurzel, who was appointed by City Council Republican Minority Leader Joe Borelli, pointed to those restrictions as he explained his vote. “It is not perfect, it's far from perfect, but I am satisfied with the work product and I'm happy to lend my name to it,” he said of the approved proposal.</p> <p>In particular, Wurzel and others have criticized a recent state law change that reduced the allowed population deviation between the most and least populated districts from 10% to just 5%. “If people are upset, don't direct your ire at us,” he said. “Look at the governor and look at the Legislature who adopted a poorly worded law in October that severely limited this Commission's ability to keep as many communities of interest together.”</p> <p>Asian Americans were the largest growing population in the Census and the new map creates a new “Asian American opportunity district” in Brooklyn, bringing the number of minority opportunity districts in the city to 29. Previously, that new district had been carved in a way that separated historically Latino communities in Sunset Park and Red Hook, and would also likely pit Democratic Council Members Alexa Avilés and Justin Brannan against each other by combining their bases into the new district. But the latest map undid those lines and maintained both Avilés’ and Brannan’s bases while increasing the possibility of Asian American representation. </p> <p>The map also reunited other neighborhoods that had been divided among several Council districts. That includes Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, which had been split into three districts in the Commission’s preliminary July proposal. And it also reversed the drawing of a district on the East Side of Manhattan that extended into Queens, maintaining the district’s lines in Manhattan alone. </p> <p>Among the most contentious issues in the initial map was the proposal to keep the three Council districts on Staten Island intact at virtually the largest allowable undercount population deviation, which had a domino effect across other boroughs that had to then fit the city’s population increase. But the latest map, just like the one that was voted down in September, extends Staten Island’s Mid-Island District 50 into parts of South Brooklyn with a few changes. </p> <p>Schnall, the sole vote against the proposal, cited that as the basis for his objection. “There are no other reasons why I oppose these maps,” he said.</p> <p>The new lines could help strengthen Republican representation in the Council, where they currently hold five seats out of 51. In South Brooklyn, in particular, Democratic Council Member Ari Kagan stands to see his district gain thousands more Republican voters, putting him in a precarious position as he heads into reelection next year. </p> <p>Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an immigrant advocacy group, expressed support for some of the “positive changes” made by the latest map and the transparency through which they were enacted. But, he said in a statement, “it’s clear that more work needs to be done.” He said the city should heed calls for representation by the growing South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities in  Southeast Queens. “To accomplish this, the city should consider a Charter Review Commission to potentially create more council districts, so that all groups can get fair representation,” he said. And he said the commission failed to create a new majority minority district in the Northwest Bronx, where there has been a significant increase of Latino New Yorkers since the last Census. </p> <p>The map will now head to the City Council, which has the option of approving it and bringing the redistricting process to a conclusion. The Council could also choose to reject the map and return it to the Commission with suggested changes. The Commission would then hold another round of public hearings before having the final say on the map that will be in place for the next ten years.</p> <p>The deadline for the final map is December 7. It will then dictate the political lines for City Council elections in 2023 for all 51 seats, with party primaries in June of next year, and the governmental lines as of January 1, 2024. </p> <p>The new maps were created after a months-long process that involved an initial proposal released in July, the revised proposal from September, and now the latest map approved Thursday. The commission received more than 9,600 submissions from the public, involved more than 35 hours of public hearings, and 77 hours of actual drawing of the maps. </p> <p>Citizens Union, a good government group that has been closely monitoring the redistricting process, applauded the Commission for finalizing the map in public hearings and celebrated the level of public input that went into the process.</p> <p>“Since the Commission released their first draft of City Council district maps in July, thousands of New Yorkers have offered feedback on the proposed district lines. This is a testament to how important this process is to the future of our local democracy,” said CU Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum, in a statement. “It is imperative that the public remain engaged in this process. The City Council must expeditiously review these maps and submit its response. They should be free to do so without outside interference.”</p> <p>Seven of the Commission's members, including Chair Walcott, were appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat; five were appointed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat; and three were picked by Council Member Borelli, a Staten Island Republican. </p> <p>At Thursday’s hearing, the Commission’s executive director, Dr. John Flateau, only outlined “modest changes” that were made to the previous proposal. Dr. Lisa Handley, a national expert on Racial Bloc Voting Analysis retained by the commission, noted that the new map “doesn't make many changes to the districts with significant minority populations.”<br /><br />There was a last-minute attempt to make a technical amendment to the proposal from Joshua Schneps, a mayoral appointee. Schneps pushed for consolidating into the new District 47 the Warbasse Houses, an affordable Mitchell-Lama co-op in Coney Island, which are split between the new Districts 47 and 48. Despite significant discussion of the proposal, it was rejected, with only five members voting in favor, eight voting against, one member abstaining and one absent. That change could still be incorporated into the final map if the Council rejects this version and the Commission gets another shot at changes.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
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>