Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/111 Mon, 11 Nov 2019 22:53:10 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Must Act Now to Protect the Lower East Side https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8913-city-council-must-act-now-to-protect-the-lower-east-side https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8913-city-council-must-act-now-to-protect-the-lower-east-side escr rendering

(rendering: City of New York)


It has been seven years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall on our city, causing billions of dollars in damage and ravaging some of our city’s most critical infrastructure, including our parks. It took years for the famous boardwalks in Coney Island and the Rockaways to re-open. Trees across our coastlines died and continue to be at risk from exposure to salt water. And many of our coastal parks are no less protected from the next big storm today than they were in 2012.

As a steward and advocate for our city’s parks, I know that we can’t pass up an opportunity to protect our coast and our parks in Lower Manhattan with the East Side Coastal Resiliency project (ESCR). This project, built the right way, can protect East River Park and the neighborhoods surrounding it for generations. 

When the city initially proposed a revised ESCR design, my organization, New Yorkers for Parks, voiced our frustration. East River Park is one of the few large, open green spaces with baseball and soccer fields in Lower Manhattan, and so many low- and middle-income New Yorkers rely on it as a home away from home. We made it clear that we would only support a plan that used phased construction, preventing the long-term displacement of park-users from the area.

Today, thanks to the advocacy of City Council Members Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, and Margaret Chin, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the city has committed to a construction plan that is phased, ensuring nearly 50 percent of the park remains open at all times. In addition, the city has provided a plan to ensure local youth sports teams can continue to play in the park and at surrounding sports fields and parks, many of which are receiving long-overdue repairs and upgrades.

And a new tree planting campaign has already been launched in the neighborhood, with over 1,000 trees expected to be planted in addition to the hundreds of new trees replacing the dead or aging trees in East River Park. 

But in order to make this plan truly work for the most impacted communities, we must continue to call on city agencies for greater involvement and community coordination. Part of that effort must include new major maintenance investments in this park and others so that our parks do not fall into disrepair. It is not enough to simply rebuild a park: it is our duty to maintain it, especially when it is our first line of defense for climate change. 

It’s expected that ESCR will provide coastal protections within three years. But if the City Council fails to approve this land action now, the project would likely never return, and we will lose the $335 million in federal funds that must be spent by 2022. This funding is a one-time opportunity. Losing it would be yet another tragedy.

Lower Manhattan residents deserve a park that will not only protect their homes but will protect their future. The city has never embarked upon a resiliency plan of this scale - and while the project may not be perfect, we have to start somewhere. 

During Superstorm Sandy, water infiltrated all five boroughs; storm surges don’t discriminate. Other stretches of our waterfront will require similar investments in the not-too-distant future. 

The time to plan is now. The time to act is now. Let’s make this happen.

***
Lynn Kelly is Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. On Twitter @lynnbod@NY4P.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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City Council Must Act Now to Protect the Lower East Side Sun, 10 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
MTA Capital Plan Hearing; De Blasio Town Hall; City Council Oversight; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 11 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8911-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-11-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8911-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-11-2019 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week begins with President Donald Trump in New York City for the 100th Veterans Day parade and many eyes watching to see what steps former Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes toward running for the Democratic nomination for president.

After much of the New York political world spent the last several days in Puerto Rico for the annual SOMOS conference, with a good deal of buzz around Bloomberg announcing new plans to explore a presidential run, this week begins with Veterans Day celebrations and commemorations, with a great deal of government business to follow. There is an MTA Board meeting this week as well as a rare state legislative hearing on the MTA, this one focused on the proposed $51.5 billion five-year MTA capital plan, which was passed by the MTA Board and awaits approval by the Capital Plan Review Board, which includes representatives of the governor, mayor, and legislative majority leaders.

The week also begins with additional attention on how the subways are being policed -- video of a churro vendor being given a summons by NYPD officers went viral over the weekend, leading to a great deal of criticism, including from a number of elected officials. The incident comes after several other recent ones captured on cell phone video that have raised questions about how the NYPD and MTA police are policing the subways and about Governor Cuomo's plan to hire 500 new MTA police officers, which Mayor de Blasio has endorsed.

De Blasio will get back into the town hall game this week, holding one in southeast Queens. This week also includes a variety of important City Council committee hearings and a full-body Council Stated Meeting, at which bills are introduced or passed. And NYCHA's federal monitor Bart Schwartz will give a public speech at the end of the week.

Those are just a few highlights, there's a lot more to be aware of -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, November 11
Monday is Veterans Day. At noon, the 100th annual New York City Veterans Day Parade will kick off at Madison Square Park in Manhattan. President Trump, Mayor de Blasio, and others will speak at the opening ceremony ahead of the parade. A group called “Veterans for Impeachment” will protest Trump ahead of his remarks.

At 8 a.m. Monday, “Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray will deliver remarks at a breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day at Gracie Mansion.” At  10:30 a.m., de Blasio “will deliver remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Veterans Day Parade.” The mayor will march in the parade, then hold a media availability at about 12:45 p.m. In the evening, de Blasio will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall with Errol Louis, in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At 7:15 a.m. Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will appear on the PIX-11 morning news. At 5:30 p.m., Adams will appear on News 12 “Ask the BP.”

At noon at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn, “Transit riders, street vendors, progressive advocates, and elected officials will join in solidarity Monday, demanding that MTA resources not be diverted to policing from bus and subway service, and that existing enforcement efforts focus on serious crime rather than criminalizing low-income food vendors and teenagers traveling home from school.” The protest, organized by Riders Alliance and others, will feature State Senator Julia Salazar and comes after the arrest of a churro vendor over the weekend, which garnered a great deal of attention and pushback on social media, including from several high-profile elected officials. Participants will “demand an end to Governor Cuomo's plan to hire 500 new MTA police officers and harsh policing practices targeting low-income food vendors.”

Tuesday, November 12
At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, MTA Board committee meetings will begin.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the NYC Board of Correction will hold its next public meeting at 125 Worth Street. 

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Parks and Recreation, the Committee on Contracts, and the Subcommittee on Capital Budget will jointly hold an oversight hearing to improve the efficiency of Parks Department capital projects. 
--At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will hold a hearing.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Technology, the Committee on Public Safety, and the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management will jointly hold an oversight hearing on New York City’s next generation 9-1-1 system.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the State Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and the State Senate Standing Committee on Transportation will jointly hold a public hearing on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 2020-24 Capital Program.

The Food Policy 2019 Pitch event where contestants create “one food policy or food initiative that would change or fix the food system in NYC” will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Hunter College. Judges will include Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams; Michael Hurwitz, GrowNYC Greenmarket Director; Kim Kessler, Assistant Commissioner, NYC DOHMH; Karen Pearl, President, God’s Love We Deliver; and Stephen Ritz, CEO, Green Bronx Machine.

Crain’s New York Business will host its Hall of Fame Luncheon at noon Tuesday. Honorees will include Daniel Doctoroff, President and CEO, Sidewalk Labs; Michael Dowling, President and Chief Executive, Northwell Health; Roger Ferguson, CEO, TIAA; William C. Rudin, CEO and co-chairman of Rudin Management Co.; Charlotte St. Martin, President, Broadway League; and Arthur Sulzberger, Chairman, The New York Times Co.

Wednesday, November 13
At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Fair Elections for NY coalition will hold a rally at Westchester Community College outside a meeting of a state campaign finance commission meeting to “send a clear message to leave fusion voting alone” as the commission proceeds with its work.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health, the Committee on Housing and Buildings, the Committee on Public Housing, and the Committee on Education will jointly hold an oversight hearing on LeadFreeNYC and the enforcement of the city’s lead laws.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor will hold an oversight hearing to examine automation within the city labor force.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Oversight and Investigations will hold an oversight hearing to track agency cooperation with investigations and related legislation.
--At 12 p.m., the Committee on Justice Systems will hold a hearing on legislation that would require “the office of nightlife to report on multi-agency response to community hotspots operations and the mayor’s office of criminal justice to ensure reporting on inspections overseen by the office of special enforcement.”
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts will hold an oversight hearing to update on Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Transportation will hold a hearing on legislation for the establishment of a Hart Island public travel plan.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education and the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation will jointly hold a public hearing on the environmental footprint of colleges and universities in New York State.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday in Manhattan, the State Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary and the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary will jointly hold a public hearing on court consolidation.

The State Senate Standing Committee on Education and the State Senate Standing Committee on Budget and Revenues will jointly hold a public meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Seaford Middle School, Seaford, to “hear stakeholder input regarding the components of the Foundation Aid formula in relation to student, district and community needs with a goal of greater equity in school financing.”

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Social Services, the State Senate Standing Committee on Codes, and the State Senate Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction will jointly hold a public meeting in Spring Creek Educational Campus, Brooklyn, to examine the prevalence of youth violence. State Senator Roxanne Persaud, Chair of the Senate Social Services Committee, and colleagues will host a roundtable discussion on the matter with high-school-aged youth at the venue just before the hearing.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York Attorney General Letitia James will jointly host a “Justice for All” town hall meeting in Brownsville, Brooklyn, to discuss important justice and safety issues. Co-hosts also include Assemblymember Latrice Monique Walker, City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and State Senator Zellnor Myrie.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) will hold its monthly board meeting at the Grand Street Settlement House.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Member Adrienne Adams, in conjunction with Council Members I. Daneek Miller and Donovan Richards will co-host a town hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio at August Martin High School, Jamaica, Queens.

Thursday, November 14
At 9 a.m. Thursday, the MTA Board will meet.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--At 10:30 a.m., the Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on multiple bills.
--At 1:30 p.m., a City Council Stated Meeting will occur, prefaced by the usual pre-stated press conference led by Speaker Corey Johnson.

At 11 a.m. Thursday in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes and the Assembly Standing Committee on Correction will jointly hold a public hearing on Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) and Pretrial Services.

State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud will host an info session with the Legal Aid Society at 6:30p.m. Thursday at P.S. 13 Roberto Clemente School in Brooklyn to discuss the new state rent regulations.

Friday, November 15
At 8:15 a.m. Friday, New York Law School will host a CityLaw Breakfast featuring Bart Schwartz, NYCHA Federal Monitor and Chairman of Guidepost Solutions, to speak about NYCHA.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. 

At 10 a.m. Friday in Albany, the Joint State Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction and Overdose Prevention will hold a public hearing to “hear from stakeholders on strategies for reducing overdoses, improving individual and community health, and addressing the harmful consequences of drug use.”

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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MTA Capital Plan Hearing; De Blasio Town Hall; City Council Oversight; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 11 Sun, 10 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
How the City's New Jails Plan Accounts for Those with Serious Mental Illness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8910-how-city-close-rikers-jails-plan-serious-mental-illness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8910-how-city-close-rikers-jails-plan-serious-mental-illness Rikers Island inmate detainee

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


In an historic vote last month, the New York City Council approved the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with four borough-based jails by 2026. When the Council voted through the plan, estimated at $8.7 billion in new construction costs, it also announced, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a $391-million package of citywide and community investments in criminal justice reforms and initiatives to responsibly accelerate the reduction of the city’s jail population.

For city officials, one of the most complex issues they face is ensuring that the new system is less punitive and more rehabilitative, particularly for the 43% of incarcerated individuals who suffer from some form of mental illness. Experts and advocates say the plan is taking an appropriate approach to that issue but also insist that it provides a novel opportunity to rethink how the criminal justice system deals with the mentally ill, especially those suffering from more acute problems.

Given that one of de Blasio’s signature programs as mayor is the ThriveNYC mental health “roadmap” spearheaded by his wife, Chirlane McCray, the mayor’s approach to services for those with severe mental illness, particularly those who wind up involved in the criminal justice system, has been the source of intense scrutiny, again heightened as the new jails plan was crafted.

With most major crimes at or near record lows in the city and recent shifts in law enforcement and prosecutorial policies, particularly around non-violent offenses, the number of people incarcerated in city jails has been consistently declining. That drop has been so sharp that the de Blasio administration projects the average daily jail population to fall to 3,300 by 2026, when Rikers is set to close, down from about 7,000 this year and aided by state bail reform that will go into effect in January.

The Rikers closure plan will involve building four new facilities in every borough except Staten Island, with roughly 885 beds each. The facilities are meant to be fairer and safer than the dilapidated jails on Rikers. Another 250 new beds will be created in existing public hospital facilities for those individuals who require continuing access to specialized medical services.

Mayor Bill de Blasio himself has acknowledged that the city has its work cut out for it when it comes to individuals with mental illness who are locked up in jails. The day after the Council’s vote, the mayor made his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show and a caller named Winston who was formerly incarcerated on Rikers prodded him on improving access to mental health services. De Blasio emphasized the decarceral aspects of the plan, which include greater investments in alternatives to incarceration, supervised release programs, and mental health initiatives.

“This thing is not in isolation. Six years of changing the approach to criminal justice and it’s all been consistent with reducing crime at the same time and I’m very convinced that this is the right approach,” said the second-term Democrat. “But you’re right, it will take some important adjustments and investments and getting people more access to mental health services, which is the whole concept behind the Thrive[NYC] initiative, is absolutely necessary going forward, and providing better and more consistent mental health for those who do happen to be incarcerated, which is also in this plan.”

One of the key elements of how things unfold will be the dichotomy of mental health services for those with serious mental illness who need treatment while serving jail time versus those who can be removed from or kept out of jail given appropriate treatment options and enrollment in such programming.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, said, “The time of locking people up because they're mentally ill has to come to an end. This is why we are creating new Intensive Mobile Treatment (IMT) teams to provide intensive treatment to adults with recent and frequent contact with the mental health, substance use, criminal justice, and homeless services systems. It is time to eliminate an unjust system that has criminalized mental illness and destroyed so many of our communities.” 

In a background briefing, an official from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which took point on the jails plan, laid out the various pillars of the city’s approach. The official reemphasized what de Blasio said on the radio: that the administration’s focus is to minimize the number of people in jail with behavioral health, mental health, and substance misuse problems, and to prevent reincarceration by providing services that address their needs.

Correctional Health Services, an arm of NYC Health+Hospitals, is charged with providing medical services to the city’s jail system, from pre-arraignment through reentry. According to a H+H spokesperson, roughly one-third of the 43% of detainees who receive a mental illness diagnosis have severe mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar or depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder – making up about 16% of the total jail population. For a population of about 7,000 detainees, that means just over 1,100 people with serious mental illnesses at any given time.

Currently, each jail has what H+H says is the equivalent of an outpatient clinic. For detainees with serious mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or who might be more vulnerable in the general jail population, there are 18 so-called mental observation (MO) units across the 10 jails and Horizon Juvenile Center. There are also inpatient psychiatric beds at Bellevue Hospital for men and at Elmhurst Hospital for women, all of whom are considered part of the city’s jail population while being treated.

The community investments package that the City Council and mayor agreed to includes an expansion by Correctional Health Services of two programs that provide discharge and reentry services to the formerly incarcerated, the Community Reentry Assistance Network (CRAN) and Point of Reentry and Transition (PORT) programs.

Though the city is hoping for the best, it is planning for the worst. About 40% of the beds in the new borough jails will be therapeutic housing units to account for the percentage of the jail population that suffers at least some kind of mental illness.

The city plans to reduce the population through various efforts, including implementing recommendations from the city’s Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force announced last month, which will change how police respond to people experiencing mental health crises. The city is putting $23 million in total towards those recommendations by 2023, which includes adding four Health Engagement and Assessment (HEAT) teams of clinicians and peers who have experienced mental illness to handle non-emergency responses, and six more mobile crisis teams (mental health professionals who respond to calls to the NYC-WELL hotline) to conduct home visits and respond to urgent situations.

These programs aim to ensure that people suffering from mental illness do not wind up in jail, or back in jail as the case may be.

Additionally, the city is investing $11.2 million to add 380 beds of “justice-involved supporting housing,” for a total of 500 across the city, and is increasing the number of post-release transitional beds for those with mental health needs and a history of homelessness to 500 with a $25 million investment.

About $27 million in new funding will go to mental health services (for a total of $37 million) through various programs. And the Council also passed the Get Well And Get Out Act, which will allow those with serious mental illness to push for their release from custody if they improve with treatment.

But the official from MOCJ conceded that there will inevitably be individuals with serious mental illnesses in jails, despite the city’s best efforts to reduce that population, which has stubbornly hovered in the 10-15% range even as the overall numbers of detainees have fallen. Almost all of the people held in city jails are either awaiting trial, locked up due to a parole violation, or serving sentences of under one year.

The new borough facilities and the Rikers plan account for the fact that some detainees will suffer from serious mental illnesses by expanding two key programs that address this population: Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation (CAPS) and Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness (PACE).

The Council’s agreement with the mayor includes $12.8 million to double the number of existing PACE units by the end of the current fiscal year. The city has yet to decide the breakdown of those units in the borough facilities, the MOCJ official said.

The 250 new Outposted Therapeutic Units outside the jail system, however, will be dedicated to those individuals who have some form of substance abuse disorder, mental health or behavioral health issue as well as a complex need for medical care. The MOCJ official said they had identified a gap in the current continuum of care for these detainees, who don’t necessarily require inpatient hospitalization but benefit from proximity to specialized care. They can spend hours going to and from hospitals for even the shortest of check ups with specialists. 

The city is currently in the process of identifying vacant sites for those units and has contracted Lothrop Associates to conduct a feasibility study that is expected to be concluded by the end of the year, the MOCJ official said. The study will help determine the costs and needs of the new facilities and the city will then put out solicitations for redesigning the new spaces to accommodate incarcerated individuals. The project is separate from the borough-based jails plan and the official said it would likely move much faster since it would not require approval through the city’s land use process.

Insha Rahman, director of Strategy and New Initiatives at the Vera Institute, said a larger goal of the Rikers closure plan should be to minimize the harm that jails do to inmates, not just those with mental illness.

“If we're going to say, ‘We are still going to have incarceration in this city,’ which we are, for the foreseeable future, 5, 10, maybe even 20, 30 years from now, we should be constructing these new facilities as buildings first, and then outfitting them to be places of incarceration so that they're not built with just incarceration and jail design front and center,” she said in a phone interview. 

She cited the example of jails in countries like Germany and Norway. “To the extent that we're thinking about how do we address people's underlying needs and how do we provide therapeutic care and counseling for those who are in custody, anything that looks fundamentally like a jail is going to inflict some amount of harm and trauma,” she added, insisting that the city should look not to prison architects but to behavioral and mental health experts for ideas for the new jails.

Rahman also urged the administration and Council to invest further at the community level in permanent affordable housing, community-based treatment and counselling that can preempt interactions with the criminal justice system.

A stark reality that the city faces is dealing with those individuals with serious mental illness who pose a threat to themselves and others, a concern that was brought to the fore last month when a mentally ill homeless man killed four men sleeping on the street in Chinatown. It prompted the city to review how it implements Kendra’s Law, which allows courts to mandate involuntary “assisted outpatient treatment” for such individuals. That review is meant to be completed by next week. The number of individuals ordered into treatment under the law was 2,476 in fiscal year 2018, down from 2,517 in fiscal year 2017 but up from 2,368 in fiscal year 2016 and 2,176 in fiscal year 2015, according to data provided by the de Blasio administration.

Rahman warned against harsher enforcement of the law. “I think enforcing Kendra's Law more strongly is not necessarily going to get us fewer people in our jails that have serious mental health needs,” she said. “I think the most important initial response is more community-based treatments and figuring out how can we actually resource families and neighbors.”

There is some disagreement on that front, however. D.J. Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, criticized the city’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative and called for an expansion of Kendra’s Law in an op-ed in the New York Daily News following the Chinatown murders.

Jaffe argues the City Council should require “the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to start evaluating all seriously mentally ill people being discharged from Rikers; all seriously mentally ill leaving shelters; and all mentally ill patients being discharged from city hospitals after an involuntary commitment. Those are the three highest risk groups; evaluate them all to see if they are eligible for Kendra’s Law and get them into it if they are.”

Minister, Dr. Victoria A. Phillips of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project echoed Rahman’s view, but also stressed that the new jails should prioritize interactions between detainees and health care workers, rather than with corrections officers.

“Behind correctional walls, it’s never the health staff that takes the lead, and I think the Department of Corrections has shown itself to be unable to change its culture of violence,” she said, pointing to the most recent report by a federal monitor with oversight of the city’s Department of Correction, which showed that use of force by corrections officers has risen dramatically while the jail population has dropped.

Former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who led the independent commission that proposed the leading Rikers closure plan, praised the approach the city is taking, while acknowledging that the overarching objective is to keep people with mental illness out of jails. “If you have people who the system decides to incarcerate, then you have to deal with that,” he said in a phone interview. “In an ideal world...people who have serious problems with mental health should get help and not be incarcerated. But, you know, we don't live in the ideal world.”

[READ: 'No One Should Enter the Criminal Justice System for Something Related to Mental Illness']

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

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated. 

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How the City's New Jails Plan Accounts for Those with Serious Mental Illness Thu, 07 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Ranked-Choice Debate; Election Day; Puerto Rico Somos Summit; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 4 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8897-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-4-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8897-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-4-2019 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Election Day is Tuesday! New York's first-ever early voting period is over, ending its nine-day run on Sunday, and Monday is a day for near-final campaigning. In New York City there are very few races on the ballot in what is the quietest of the four-year election cycle that otherwise includes presidential (next in 2020), mayoral (next in 2021), and gubernatorial (next in 2022) elections, not to mention state legislative and congressional elections every other year (next in 2020).

This year there's a Public Advocate election, but only because the seat was prematurely vacated at the start of the year by now-Attorney General Letitia James. After Jumaane Williams won a special election in February to serve the rest of this year, he now must defend the seat to see who holds the citywide post for the rest of the term, meaning 2020 and 2021. Williams, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Joe Borelli and Libertarian Devin Balkind. [Hear all three Public Advocate candidates on the Max & Murphy podcast.]

There's also a second special election of sorts for Williams' old City Council seat in Brooklyn's 45th District. And, there's a regularly scheduled Queens District Attorney election, with Democrat Melinda Katz, currently the Queens Borough President, heavily favored to win after eeking out the primary in a recount [Read: Melinda Katz's Path to the Precipice of Becoming Queens DA]. There are also judicial elections on the ballot. And, lastly, there are five "yes" or "no" questions on the back of the ballot (in tiny font) asked city voters to approve or disapprove a total of 19 city charter amendments that would alter city elections and governance. Two of those -- questions one and two -- have proved contentious. Question one includes instituting a ranked-choice voting system in some city elections and question two would alter and bolster the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which investigates allegations of police misconduct.

After much attention on the election on Monday and Tuesday, most of the New York political world will shift its focus to Puerto Rico for the rest of the week and into the weekend for the annual Somos conference.

Still, there are a variety of other events to be aware of this week -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, November 4

The Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday in Albany. 

At the City Council on Monday:
--At 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will hold a hearing.
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Small Business will hold an oversight hearing on safety issues facing small businesses and related legislation.
--At 1 p.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings and Dispositions will hold a hearing.

At 10 a.m. Monday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will attend the groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting for Ezra Medical Center in Brooklyn.

There will be dueling Monday rallies in support of and against ranked-choice voting, with New York City voters in the midst of deciding via ballot referendum whether such a system will be adopted for party primary and special elections for city-level offices. At 10:30 a.m. a long list of elected officials and advocates led by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Common Cause NY, and others will rally at City Hall in favor of a “yes” vote on ballot question one, which includes ranked-choice voting. At noon, another long list of elected officials and advocates, led by the City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, will rally at City Hall Park in favor of a “no” vote on question one. While many votes have already been cast via early voting, Election Day is Tuesday and still expected to see the bulk of this year’s vote.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday at City Hall, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will speak at the 'Rank the Vote' rally in support of ranked-choice voting. At 11 a.m. in Brooklyn, Williams will join “RWDSU to Demand Justice for 'Housing Works' Workers.” At 4 p.m., Williams will attend a march and rally for police accountability, joining “Arc of Justice and a coalition of advocates for a march to the NYPD 84th Precinct, as well as a press conference held there.”

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will make an announcement at St. George Theatre on Staten Island.

At 12 p.m. Monday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Consumer Protection, the State Senate Standing Committee on Health, and the State Senate Standing Committee on Education will jointly hold a public hearing at 250 Broadway to “investigate the safety and potential harms of electronic cigarettes and vaping, especially among school-aged youth.”

At 6:15 p.m. Monday, First Lady Chirlane McCray "will deliver remarks at a panel discussion featuring artists from Gracie Mansion’s exhibition, She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York 1919- 2019."

At 7 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks at the Fort Greene Association Open Meeting in Brooklyn.

Mayor de Blasio will appear in his weekly segment on NY1's Inside City Hall with host Errol Louis on Monday in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

Tuesday, November 5
Tuesday is Election Day. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, Citizens Budget Commission will welcome New York City First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan at a Trustee Breakfast, where “Fuleihan will discuss key Administration priorities in a question-and-answer session with CBC President Andrew Rein.”

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will hold a public hearing on veterans mental health and well-being at Clarkstown Town Hall, New City.

The annual Somos Puerto Rico Conference will begin on Wednesday. At 7 p.m., State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will host a welcome reception at El San Juan Hotel.

Thursday, November 7
At 9 a.m. Thursday, City & State NY will host its 2019 Collaborative Technology Conference on the intersection of government, technology, and industry in New York. Speakers will include John Paul Farmer, Chief Technology Officer, City of New York; Assemblymember Clyde Vanel, chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Internet and New Technologies; Assemblymember Ron Kim; Cordell Schachter, Chief Technology Officer, New York City Department of Transportation; Deanne Criswell, Commissioner, NYC Dept. of Emergency Management; Matthew Homer, Executive Deputy Superintendent of Research and Innovation, New York State Department of Financial Services; and many others.

Friday, November 8
At 10 a.m. Friday, Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

At 10 a.m. Friday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will deliver remarks at Veteran’s Day Ceremony at Long Island State Veteran’s Home in Stony Brook.

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Ben Max & Gia Ramesh
@GothamGazette

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Ranked-Choice Debate; Election Day; Puerto Rico Somos Summit; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 4 Sun, 03 Nov 2019 04:00:00 +0000
'It's Critical We Get the Planning Right': Council Examines City's Initial Preparations for 2020 Census Count https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8887-council-examines-city-s-initial-preparations-for-2020-census-count https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8887-council-examines-city-s-initial-preparations-for-2020-census-count cm carlina riv carlos m press

(photo: John McCarten/City Council)


With the launch of the 2020 Census barely five months away, the New York City Council on Tuesday summoned officials from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for a progress report on the city’s preparations for the decennial population count. It is a count that has a great deal riding on it, from billions of dollars in federal funding to representation in Congress, and more.

Convening a joint hearing of the Committees on Governmental Operations, Immigration, and State and Federal Legislation, City Council members sought answers from the administration on how it is spending $40 million allocated together by the mayor and the Council to ensure a complete count of the city’s residents and how city agencies are dealing with the various challenges presented by this particular census.

New York City houses various hard-to-count populations – for whom the rate of self-response to the Census is 73% or below – which include children under the age of 5, seniors, immigrants, non-English speakers, homeless people, public housing residents, and predominantly black communities. That’s why in 2010, the city’s self-response rate was only 62%, about 14 points below the national average.

“It is critical that we get the planning right so that come spring 2020, our networks are activated to respond to the [Census] questionnaire,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee and is also co-chair of the Council’s 2020 Census Task Force along with Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of countless state and city programs, political representation, and even our democracy rely on a complete and accurate census count,” Rivera said in her opening remarks.

The census count indeed has broad reaching ramifications for the people of New York. It is used to determine the state’s congressional representation (New York could lose two seats in an undercount) and is used to draw electoral lines for local and state elections. It also affects the distributions of roughly $650 billion in federal funds to states and localities, and determines everything from where businesses invest their money and the level and funding of services for the most vulnerable residents of the city, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

This time around, city officials are hoping to boost the city’s self-response rate even as they face several new challenges. The U.S. Census Bureau has been underfunded at the federal level, which means there will be fewer enumerators that can count residents who do not respond to the Census on their own. The Bureau is also focusing primarily on digital methodology, urging people to fill out the census online through their phones and computers, which has raised concerns about data privacy and security as well as the lack of digital literacy among certain sections of the population.
But for New York City, a particularly pressing issue is the heightened sense of apprehension and mistrust among immigrant communities about the federal government, which has been exacerbated for years by the Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to place a citizenship question on the census questionnaire.

At the hearing, NYC Census Director Julie Menin reassured the Council members that the city’s endeavors are well underway and are split up into four pillars – a $19-million Complete Count Fund to give grants to community-based organizations; a field program involving Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees that will include 2,500 volunteers in 245 neighborhoods; partnerships with city agencies and businesses; and a multilingual mass media campaign with messages tailored to specific communities.

“Given that there is significant overlap between those populations that have been historically undercounted and populations that have been forced to live on the political or socioeconomic margins of society, achieving a complete and accurate count in every census is critical to ensure that every person in the United States has full access to the representation that they deserve,” Menin said in her opening statement.

She said the administration has already received more than 500 applications for grants from the Complete Count Fund and that those would be awarded by December. More than 500 people have also volunteered for the NOCCs and the city has been conducting trainings so that they can recruit more volunteers at the local level.

Menin’s office is also coordinating with more than 50 city agencies, particularly public facing ones such as the library system, to expand outreach. The mass media campaign, she said, will be focused on ethnic and community media and will be announced in the coming weeks, though advertisements will appear by the start of 2020.

The question of state funding loomed large over the hearing, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to release $20 million allocated for census outreach in the state budget earlier this year. A state commission that was supposed to recommend an implementation plan for those funds issued its report on October 8, recognizing many of the issues that were already apparent to city Census officials. But it punted the funding decision back to the governor’s administration.

“The Complete Count Commission released its report just a few weeks ago that was based on several months of research and public hearings,” said Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the state Division of the Budget, in an email to Gotham Gazette. “We are using it as a basis to develop a plan for how the State can best work with local governments and our partners to properly distribute resources so that every New Yorker is counted in the 2020 Census.”

[Read: State Census Commission Releases Report, with Funding Decisions Kicked Back to Cuomo Administration]

City officials had no clue at Tuesday’s hearing as to how those funds would be distributed, however. “I don’t know,” said Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, when Council Member Andrew Cohen asked about the proportion of state funds that would be directed to the city. She did say she was aware that state agencies were “activated” and in various stages of planning as they await funds from the governor’s team.

Mostofi, Menin, and other officials did outline for the Council members how the administration is tackling the other challenging aspects of the census.

To count New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, the Department of Social Services is coordinating with the U.S. Census Bureau, which also does its own “group quarter” operation to find and count unhoused individuals. DSS will also spend three days counting the street homeless population in the spring, Menin said.

Kathleen Daniel, field director for NYC Census, said CUNY would recruit and pay 200 students to assist in the census campaign as leaders of NOCCs, campaign organizers, and to work with the office’s data operation. Amit Bagga, NYC Census’ deputy director, said the office is in talks with agencies that can make computers available to New Yorkers and is negotiating software contracts to provide digital training materials to CBOs.

The city’s 219 libraries will also be pressed into service, with more than 1,000 employees trained to assist New Yorkers in filling out the census online. There will also be hundreds of pop-up centers across the city, in places such as houses of worship, community centers, and elected officials’ offices, where residents can access computers to fill out the questionnaire.

Peter Lobo, director of the population division at the Department of City Planning, said the city has been working since 2016 to update the Census Bureau’s Master Address File (MAF), which includes addresses for every resident of the city. “If a person’s address is not on the MAF, that person cannot be counted in the census,” he said. Last year, he said DCP submitted 123,000 addresses, 59,000 corrections, and 3,200 deletions to the Census Bureau. Only six of the new addresses were rejected and 1,602 of the deletions were accepted. Lobo said the department will also send a list of more than 100,000 newly-constructed housing units to the Bureau on October 30.

Bagga and Menin also noted that the city is helping the Census Bureau recruit enumerators and employees, particularly after the Bureau obtained a waiver to hire noncitizens, who are seen as important in helping achieve a complete count among certain communities.

A major concern for many of the Council members, however, was how the city could overcome the wariness among immigrant communities and urge them to respond to the federal government. Mostofi emphasized that the divide would be best bridged by enlisting the various community groups that are trusted voices in their neighborhoods. “We recognize that the federal government’s efforts to sow fear and confusion must be countered with easy-to-understand information and outreach, including language access for our immigrant population,” she said earlier.

Menin said combating “misinformation and disinformation” is one of the biggest challenges for the city. Menin and Bagga emphasized that the mass media campaign would also account for different communities through culturally competent messages and translations. “We know that slightly different messages are going to resonate slightly differently in different places. So we need to be prepared for that,” Bagga said.

Menin pointed out that in 2010, the federal government was largely in charge of the broad media outreach and the message was uniform. “The messaging being, ‘Fill out the census, it's your civic duty.’...It wasn't micro-targeted. We're completely flipping that model. We want to micro-target our messaging to various communities so that people really understand what's at stake.”

Several data experts, civil rights groups, immigrant rights organizations, business groups, and government reform advocates also testified at Tuesday’s hearing. They included the New York Immigration Coalition, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Taiwanese American Association of New York, the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Association for a Better New York, the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School, Citizens Union, the Arab-American Family Support Center, the Asian American Federation, Community Resource Exchange, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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'It's Critical We Get the Planning Right': Council Examines City's Initial Preparations for 2020 Census Count Tue, 29 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Votes For Suspension, Against Expulsion of Council Member Andy King for Extensive Ethics Violations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8883-city-council-suspends-council-member-andy-king-ethics-violations https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8883-city-council-suspends-council-member-andy-king-ethics-violations cm king do

Council Member Andy King (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


The New York City Council voted on Monday to suspend Bronx Council Member Andy King for 30 days without pay and imposed several other disciplinary measures following repeated ethics violations by King that were recently substantiated by the Council’s ethics committee.

King, a Democrat, was the subject of a monthslong investigation by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, the Office of General Counsel, and outside prosecutor Carrie Cohen, who found that the Council member engaged in a pattern of harassment against aides, retaliated against employees who filed ethics complaints against him, fostered a hostile work environment, misused office resources, and allowed his wife, Neva Shillingford-King, to supervise office staff in clear conflicts of interest.

By a vote of 44-1, the full Council approved a resolution that contained 10 disciplinary recommendations based on a 48-page report from the ethics committee. Besides the suspension, King will pay a $15,000 fine, be removed from all committee positions, and his office will be placed under an outside monitor for the remainder of his term. King was the only member to vote against the resolution. Council Members Inez Barron and I. Daneek Miller abstained from the vote. Council Members Fernando Cabrera, Ruben Diaz Sr., Alan Maisel and Francisco Moya were absent from the hearing.  

The monitor will have the authority to review and approve all hiring and firing decisions for King’s staff and will have access to email accounts of King and all his staff members. The Council will also ensure that employees who left King’s office after facing retaliation will have the opportunity to return to Council jobs. If King does not abide by the disciplinary measures, the Council could reopen proceedings against him.

“Those violations outlined in the report are appalling, particularly coming from an elected official who is duty-bound to serve the public,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson, prior to the vote.

Speaking of the staffers that King had harassed and retaliated against, Johnson said, “I am sickened by what they have endured because of Council Member King’s odious behavior. As for Council Member King, I deplore his cowardice and the disdain with which he treated his employees, the committee, and this entire body.”

Though there have been calls for King’s resignation, including from Speaker Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, several Council members, and others, there was broad hesitation from Council members at expelling King from the body.

Council members worried that there may be legal consequences to going beyond the ethics committee’s recommendations. Speaker Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, and Council Member Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican and chair of the ethics committee, repeatedly noted that King is facing the harshest punishment ever doled out by the Council and that the committee had undertaken a deliberative investigation and its recommendations were appropriate.

“The committee exhaustively deliberated and debated the terms of this resolution, and concluded that the suspension is significant enough that it will function both as a deterrent against future bad behavior, and also give us the chance to get a monitor in place in Council Member King's office who can develop a relationship with staff before Council Member King returns,” Matteo said on the Council floor.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, was the only member to call for King to be expelled from the legislative body ahead of the vote. At Monday’s hearing, he introduced an amendment to the resolution to expel King, but it failed with 12 votes in favor and 34 against in the 51-seat chamber. Besides Van Bramer, the Council members who voted for the amendment included Costa Constantinides, Rafael Espinal, Rory Lancman, Carlos Menchaca, Bill Perkins, Keith Powers, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Treyger and Eric Ulrich. Council Member Mathieu Eugene abstained.  

Van Bramer said he felt compelled to introduce the amendment after King displayed a lack of contrition over his behavior. “While I was prepared to make the amendment, it was only after I heard Council Member King speak that I knew that I had to,” he said. “And the absolute lack of remorse, the absolute lack of even understanding that anything had been done wrong, anything, blaming other Council members, blaming lawyers, blaming staff. That to me is just even more of the pattern of behavior that brought us to this moment in the first place.”

The committee’s report noted that King was uncooperative throughout its investigation, seeking to delay and obstruct its work. At Monday’s hearing, King was defiant, alleging that he had been deprived of his due process rights and that the report contained “outright lies” about him. 

“I'm a man who's very respectful, full of integrity, stands for something, doesn't fall for anything and everything. And because people say things sometimes, don't necessarily make it true,” he said.

He even sought a temporary restraining order against the Council’s vote in Manhattan Supreme Court but was unsuccessful. He could possibly seek an injunction against the enforcement of the resolution but Johnson was confident that the Council’s move would hold up to legal scrutiny.

Matteo, however, rebutted King’s arguments, pointing out that King and his lawyers had ample time to respond to the committee’s charges and that King did not appear at a two-day trial held by the ethics committee. “Indeed, instead of cooperating Council Member King attempted to make a mockery of this committee, and the Council's rules and policies,” Matteo said.

This isn’t King’s first run-in with the ethics committee. He was previously disciplined for paying unwanted attention to a female staff member and ordered to undergo additional sensitivity training. That Council employee, Chloë Rivera, who now works as senior legislative policy analyst for the Committees on Women and Gender Equity and on Higher Education, revealed her identity in an op-ed in the New York Daily News on Monday, calling on the Council to remove King from office.

“Our elected officials must choose to set the right precedent,” she wrote. “They must establish a standard that worker abuse and witness intimidation and retaliation will not be tolerated, that repeat abusers are unfit to serve and will be removed from office.”

Several Council members who approved of Van Bramer’s amendment cited Rivera’s experience as the reason for their vote. Rivera previously worked as a legislative aide for former Assembly Member Vito Lopez and was among several aides who filed sexual harassment complaints against him. Lopez eventually resigned when threatened with expulsion from the Assembly. Rivera watched Monday’s hearing from the balcony in the Council chambers and later expressed her disappointment with the proceedings. “I'm very disappointed that the motion to expel did not pass but I am satisfied that he is going to suffer some consequences for his actions,” she told Gotham Gazette in a brief interview. 

Among the findings of the latest investigation into King was new evidence that the Council member had retaliated against Rivera after her 2017 complaint. At a staff meeting at his home, King disclosed Rivera’s name, questioned her integrity, and called on his staff members to be loyal to him. “Following my first complaint in 2017...he did not receive adequate consequences for his actions,” Rivera said Monday. “And so that resulted in a fallout, which ended up emboldening him and enraging him and taking it out on his staff. It's disappointing and I think it will put a chilling effect on other survivors or other victims from coming forward at the Council who are being victimized by members.” She hoped that the Council would consider strengthening its rules regarding harassment so that there are more clear-cut consequences.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which is made up of former and current aides to state legislators and has been leading advocacy efforts for stronger sexual harassment protections in the state and city, said the Council should not let King off easy.

“If the City Council wants to keep any credibility in the arena of sexual harassment protections, it must lead now, by setting the precedent that it will not tolerate harassment or retaliation against its own workers,” the group wrote in a statement. “City Council staff cannot afford to allow the Council to backtrack on progress made since #MeToo went viral. Anything less than expulsion will send a chilling message to victims that they will not only be denied justice, but they will not be protected from serial predators.”

Johnson has also referred the case against King to outside investigators, which could potentially mean criminal charges for the Council member. Johnson would not say which authorities he made the referral to.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - this article has been updated. 

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City Council Votes For Suspension, Against Expulsion of Council Member Andy King for Extensive Ethics Violations Mon, 28 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Early Voting Continues; Council Member King’s Fate; City Council Passes Major Legislation; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 28 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8878-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-28-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8878-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-28-2019 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

The inaugural session of early voting in New York began on Saturday and continues throughout this week. Find hours for each day in New York City here; find your poll site here. Early voting goes through Sunday, November 3, then there is one day with no voting before Election Day, November 5. See what's on your ballot here.

This week will be a very busy one at the City Council, starting with a full Council vote on discipline for Council Member Andy King, a Bronx Democrat, for a variety of abuses of his power. He's facing suspension by the Council, among other punishments, while he vows to fight the charges, which have been substantiated by an outside investigator and the Council's ethics committee, led by Council Member Steven Matteo, a Republican from Staten Island. King is facing the drafted punishments that the full City Council will vote on Monday, but also calls for his resignation from Speaker Corey Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others.

The week will also feature several important oversight hearings and hearings on key pieces of legislation, as well as a full Council Stated Meeting to pass legislation, which is expected to include Speaker Corey Johnson’s legislation to mandate a five-year master plan for city streets with more bike and bus lanes and pedestrian plazas and Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s bill to create private waste-hauler zones and limits on franchise agreements.

Tuesday is the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy hitting New York City. The Council will hold an oversight hearing on the city's rebuilding and resiliency efforts since, as well as on related legislation. [Read our three-part series, "7 Years After Sandy"

The week will also see more discussion of weekend events involving the NYPD, including an incident in Brownsville that left an officer in a coma and the alleged perpetrator dead from police gunfire, and a brawl between police officers and civilians on a Brooklyn subway platform.

On a related note, we're waiting this week for the promised release by the NYPD of its official policy on release of footage from body-worn cameras that are now being worn by all patrol officers. Early this month an NYPD spokesperson told Gotham Gazette that the policy would be released by the end of October.

It was a busy weekend for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who on Friday announced he was issuing “a proclamation declaring October 27, 2019, the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., as a "Day of Action to Combat Anti-Semitism." The proclamation was presented Sunday at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, where Mayor Bill de Blasio gave remarks as part of the day of action.

On Saturday Cuomo participated in “the second in a series of conferences to raise awareness about the state's Red Flag gun safety law that went into effect this year” and “launched a grassroots effort to bolster his "Make America Safer" campaign -- a four point plan to curb gun violence on the national level. The Governor has called on Democratic presidential candidates to endorse the "Make America Safer" pledge -- and today Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and March for Our Lives joined the Governor's call for candidates to sign the pledge.” The four planks are: “outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; create a mental health database to prevent the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing a firearm; pass universal background checks closing the private gun sales loophole; pass Red Flag legislation preventing individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others from purchasing a firearm.”

Also on Saturday, Cuomo “announced an early voting public awareness campaign....New Yorkers can text "Early Voting" to 81336 to receive early voting information via text message. Additionally, the campaign includes a new web page where New Yorkers can easily find their polling place for early voting. The Governor also announced the launch of a social media campaign throughout the early voting period to raise awareness and inform New Yorkers about early voting.”

Cuomo then tweeted with excitement that on Sunday he “toured the Moynihan Train Hall construction site.”

There are a variety of events to be aware of this week -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, October 28
On Monday Mayor Bill de Blasio will "deliver remarks at the Queens County Democrats Pre-Election Party," which is closed to press. In the 7 and 11 p.m. hours, de Blasio will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall during his usual weekly segment.

At the City Council on Monday: at 1:30 p.m., the Council will hold a meeting on a resolution to discipline Council Member Andy King for a variety of abuses of power.

At 9 a.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will speak on a panel at the Catskill Watershed Farm-to-Chef Forum at Pace University. At 8 p.m. Brewer will speak at the NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders annual meeting.

At the State Legislature on Monday:
--The State Senate Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will hold a public hearing to discuss eating disorders, treatment, and recovery at 10 a.m. Monday at Clarkstown Town Hall in New City.
--The State Senate Standing Committee on Codes will hold a public hearing on the implementation of Discovery Reform at 10 a.m. Monday in Albany. 
--At 1 p.m. Monday, the State Senate Committee on Higher Education will hold a public hearing at SUNY New Paltz to examine the “cost of public higher education and its effects on student financial aid programs, state support, TAP/GAP, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability and accessibility.”

At 1:30 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a roundtable with Rockaway Jewish Community Stakeholders. At 5 p.m. Stringer will host a pop-up town hall outside the Forest Hills-71 Ave subway station in Queens. At 6:30 p.m., Stringer will host a Diwali celebration in Queens.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will host a press conference outside the Jay Street-Metrotech subway station “to call for modified assignment and increased NYPD de-escalation training after Jay Street-Metrotech Station incident.” At 6:30 p.m., Adams will join the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) for a “What’s On Tap” young professionals event.

On Monday afternoon Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits will tape the latest Max & Murphy podcast with guest James Oddo, the Staten Island Borough President. The episode will be available Monday evening. 

At 5:30 p.m. Monday at Foley Square, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will join “the 'National Day of Outrage' Protest.” “The Public Advocate will join the Arc of Justice, Justice League NYC, G.M.A.C.C., and a coalition of advocacy groups for the event as part of a national day of action demanding justice for Atatiana Jefferson and others. The groups will march from Foley Square to 1 Police Plaza.”

At 5:30 p.m. Monday at Queens Borough Hall, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will brief the Queens Borough Board, chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz, on the JFK redevelopment program.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the Regional Plan Association is hosting "Outer Borough Transit," a presentation from RPA and panel discussion featuring State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Latrice Walker, Samara Karasyk of Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and moderator Ben Max of Gotham Gazette. The event will take place at Brooklyn Historical Society.

On Monday at 6:30 p.m., the New York City Bar Association will host a panel discussion on the 2019 charter revision ballot proposals. Speakers will include Charter Revision Commissioners Sal Albanese and Sateesh Nori; Indiana Porta, the Director of Outreach and Counsel for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission; and Jonathan Darche, Executive Director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Education Fund will host its 2019 Annual Benefit and Silent Auction at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Honorees include author Angie Thomas; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins; State Senator Brian Kavanagh; and Youth Over Guns, NYAGV’s youth advocacy group. 

Tuesday, October 29
Tuesday is the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy hitting New York City.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will host the fifth annual “Surviving & Thriving: Domestic Violence Awareness Day of Empowerment” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Borough Hall. It will include a discussion on a domestic violence agenda, led by Brooklyn City Council Member Farah Louis.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--At 12 p.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will hold a hearing on multiple bills
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Governmental Operations, the Committee on Immigration, and the Committee on State and Federal Legislation will jointly hold an oversight hearing in preparation for a complete count of the 2020 Census.
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts and the Committee on Environmental Protection will jointly hold an oversight hearing on the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and hear related bills.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Health will hold a public hearing on Youth Tackle Football.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals will hold its next public hearing.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics will hold a meeting in Albany.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the State Public Campaign Financing Commission will hold a public hearing at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center in Buffalo.

At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, the State Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Governmental Operations, Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, and the Legislative Commission on Governmental Administration will jointly hold a public hearing on New York State’s response to federal government shutdowns. 

The State Senate Standing Committee on Education and the State Senate Standing Committee on Budget and Revenue will jointly hold a public meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Syracuse Center for Excellence to “hear stakeholder input regarding the components of the Foundation Aid formula in relation to student, district and community needs with a goal of greater equity in school financing.” 

At 6 p.m. Monday, the New York State Assembly Manhattan delegation will hold a town hall with tenants on the NYCHA Crisis, at the Johnson Houses Community Center. Attending state Assembly members will include Robert J. Rodriguez, Yuh-Line Niou, and Harvey Epstein. NYCHA representatives will also be on hand.

Wednesday, October 30
At the City Council on Wednesday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will hold hearings on multiple bills including one that would authorize five existing Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) throughout the City to increase the amount they expend annually.
--At 1:30 p.m. the Council will hold a Stated Meeting to pass and introduce bills. Speaker Corey Johnson will host the usual pre-Stated press conference at 12:30 p.m.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Joint State Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction and Overdose Prevention will hold a public meeting in Buffalo to “hear from stakeholders on strategies for reducing overdoses, improving individual and community health and addressing the harmful consequences of drug use.”

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education will hold a public hearing at SUNY Buffalo to examine the “cost of public higher education and its effects on student financial aid programs, state support, TAP/GAP, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability and accessibility.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will host “Meet the Judges: A Discussion with Invited Jurists About Law Related Topics” at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Borough Hall. Speakers will include Theresa Ciccotto, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, Civil Matters; Deborah A. Dowling, New York State, Supreme Court Justice, Civil Matters; Cheryl Gonzalez, Supervising Judge, Kings County Housing Court; Lorna Mcallister, New York City, Civil Court Judge; Lisa S. Ottley, New York State, Supreme Court Justice, Civil Matters; Harriet Thompson, Surrogate, Kings County, Surrogate Court; Carolyn Wade, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, Civil Matters; and Craig Walker, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term. It will be moderated by Robin K. Sheares, Acting Justice Supreme Court. 

Thursday, October 31
Crain’s NY Business and Tech:NYC will together present the Future of New York City Tech Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday in Manhattan. Speakers will include Daniel Ramot, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Via; Laura Fox, Citi Bike General Manager, Bikes and Scooters, Lyft; Rachel Haot, Executive Director, Transit Innovation Partnership; James Patchett, President & CEO, New York City Economic Development Corporation; Rohit Aggarwala, Head of Urban Systems, Sidewalk Labs; Diniece Mendes, Director, Office of Freight Mobility, New York City Department of Transportation; City Council Member Keith Powers; Jessica Schumer, Executive Director, Friends of the BQX; and others.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a public meeting in Manhattan.

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy will host an “Urban Food Policy Forum: New York City & State Budgets and Food Spending” at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Speakers will include Marrisa Martin, Executive Director, The Advocacy Institute; James Parrott, Senior Director for Fiscal and Economic Policy, Center for New York City Affairs; and Liz Accles, Executive Director, Community Food Advocates. The panel will be moderated by Craig Willingham, Deputy Director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health and the Committee on Hospitals will jointly hold an oversight hearing on health access in New York City and the roll out of NYC Care, and will discuss related bills. 
--At 10 a.m., the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations will hold an oversight hearing on upcoming capital projects in libraries and will hold hearings on multiple bills. 
--At 1 p.m., the Committee on General Welfare will hold a hearing on multiple bills in relation to the Administration for Child Services (ACS).

At 1 p.m. Thursday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education will hold a public hearing at SUNY Oswego in Syracuse to examine the “cost of public higher education and its effects on student financial aid programs, state support, TAP/GAP, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability and accessibility.”

Friday, November 1
At 10 a.m. Friday, Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. 

At 12 p.m. Friday, the State Senate Committee on Higher Education will hold a public hearing at the Nassau Community College to examine the “cost of public higher education and its effects on student financial aid programs, state support, TAP/GAP, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability and accessibility.”

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Max & Gia Ramesh
@GothamGazette

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Early Voting Continues; Council Member King’s Fate; City Council Passes Major Legislation; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 28 Sun, 27 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
A Closer Look at the Costs, and Savings, of Closing Rikers and Building Four New Jails https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8857-cost-closing-rikers-building-four-new-jails https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8857-cost-closing-rikers-building-four-new-jails rikers island jails via lippman report

Rikers Island (photo via Lippman Commission report)


Late last week, the New York City Council approved the de Blasio administration’s plan to build four new borough-based jails to replace the detention complex on Rikers Island. The plan hinges on a continued reduction in the city jail population, in large part brought on by state and city criminal justice reforms and changes in city policing. Various aspects of the costs, and potential savings, involved in shuttering the Rikers jails and opening the four new ones – from construction to Department of Correction personnel to transportation of detainees to social services – were part of the larger debate over the plan that intensified to a fever pitch just ahead of the Council’s definitive vote.

But nowhere have all the latest figures and projections been brought together in one place to truly examine what the jails plan, and its many connected pieces, like changes to treatment for some people with serious mental illnesses, might cost and save the city. As with many other city projects and plans, there are capital costs related to physical infrastructure and operational costs related to people and programs.

The cost of the construction of the four new jails was initially pegged at $11 billion, a number that has since been revised down to $8.7 billion and could see further projected reductions based on last-minute changes made to the plan through negotiations that will reduce the height of each new planned facility. That number could also increase, of course, as construction projects, especially larger ones, often come in over projections. But as much as those projected costs were used in arguing against the new jails plan, they do not factor in the money that would be needed to repair and upgrade facilities on Rikers or the several borough-based jails that are currently operational but antiquated.

The jails plan also comes with a spate of additional community investments and funding for citywide initiatives aimed at further reducing the number of individuals caught up in the criminal legal system and incarcerated in city jails, and recidivism among those who spend any time in jail and thus become more likely to return.

Also on the operational side are projected savings from an eventual reduction in Department of Correction officers and the far more limited transportation costs as detainees will be jailed closer to courthouses.

The Rikers Island closure plan was proposed in April 2017 by the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann. The commission was convened by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at a time when Mayor Bill de Blasio was hesitant to support such a plan. The mayor had initially called the closure of the 400-acre jail complex a “noble idea” but dismissed it as impractical. He later changed his tune, with Mark-Viverito, Lippman, and other criminal justice reform advocates all but making it impossible for him to oppose it.

The Lippman Commission estimated in its initial report that building five borough-based facilities would cost about $11 billion in capital funding. In the city’s 10-year capital budget, adopted earlier this year, the de Blasio administration allocated $8.7 billion over ten years for the four borough-based jails, one in each borough other than Staten Island. The jails in the boroughs other than the Bronx will replace existing jail facilities, including two operational and a defunct complex in Queens. The Bronx jail will help close “the barge” in that borough.

The $8.7 billion allocation marked a $7.7 billion increase in ten-year capital costs for the Department of Correction, with the administration reducing the timeline for construction by one year. “We feel confident looking at everything we know for sure that we can get the entire building effort done nine years from day one – so that will be 2026,” de Blasio said at a news conference on the release of his executive budget proposal in April of this year.

Those costs are preliminary estimates and relatively fluid. Ultimately, according to the mayor’s office, the cost of the new facilities will be determined on the basis of a competitive procurement process for design and construction. In final negotiations with the administration, the City Council also reduced the planned heights for the new buildings – the facilities in the Bronx and Queens will rise to 195 feet (about 19 floors) and the ones in Manhattan and Brooklyn will be 295 feet tall (about 29 floors) – which could further reduce the cost.

The city has yet to estimate the operational costs for the new facilities, though the smaller footprint compared to the eight jails currently operating on Rikers along with existing facilities in the boroughs is likely to lead to lower expenses. The current cost of running 11 jails across the city is about $2.7 billion for fiscal year 2020, which includes $1.36 billion in expense funding for the Department of Correction, $681 million in fringe benefits for DOC employees, $500 million for pensions, and $168 million for debt service.

The Lippman Commission approximated in a report put out this month that the new facilities could cut as much as $1.8 billion in annual operating costs from that number. Much of that is simple math. It costs about $247,000 to house an individual in a city jail for a year, according to the commission. The DOC also spends about $31 million each year to transport defendants between Rikers Island and courthouses and other appointments.

The new detention centers will be built to house around 3,300 total detainees and will hold 3,795 beds, down from the current jail population of around 7,200 and 14,000 beds across the system. The city will also reduce the number of correction officers at DOC, which the mayor has said will happen through attrition and not layoffs. That process may already be underway. According to the mayor’s office, there are currently no new incoming correction officer classes.

The 2020 fiscal year budget includes 11,816 full-time budgeted positions at DOC, down from 12,377 in the previous year. Expense funding for the agency, however was projected to increase in the outyears of the budget plan passed in June. In the 2021 fiscal year, the city estimates spending $47 million more on DOC operations and personnel (in city, state and federal funds), with that number dropping only marginally in 2022 and 2023.

The commission also looked at alternate uses for Rikers Island, including a potential expansion of LaGuardia Airport, new energy infrastructure, waste management facilities, and even a water treatment plant. Together, those could lead to about $7.5 billion in annual economic activity and create 50,000 jobs, the commission estimated, even bringing in revenue or reducing costs for other city agencies to the tune of millions. The cost to the city to develop those types of next-generation infrastructure projects would range from $15 billion to $22 billion.

The building of four new jails alone will directly create about 7,800 construction jobs over seven years, according to the Lippman Commission.

As part of the final deal ahead of the City Council vote, the city will also be putting an additional $391 million towards citywide and local investments at the insistence of the Council. “This is not just about making the facilities better, though that is important,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a news conference prior to the Council’s vote on the jails plan. “It's about getting to the root of the problem of mass incarceration, and ensuring that people coming off of Rikers Island or other state prisons are able to reintegrate back into society and get the support they need.”

City Council Member Adrienne Adams, chair of a subcommittee that first voted through the jails plan, had announced that the investments would be about $470 million but that number was later amended. “Originally we included council initiatives for [Fiscal Year 2020] and one-shots by the administration, but the revised numbers only reflect the Points of Agreement,” said a Council spokesperson in an email. The points of agreement, formalized in a letter to the Council, include a range of new initiatives and expanded funding for current ones, and will ramp up till the 2023 fiscal year. 

Those initiatives include $66 million in the 2021 fiscal year (of which $54 million is new funding) to fund the supervised release program and other pre-trial services; $30.6 million in 2021 for alternatives to incarceration programs; and $34 million in 2021 for reentry and discharge programs.

The jails plan estimates, especially on the construction side, do not account for delays and cost overruns, of course, for which the city’s capital planning and execution are notorious. “It's a giant, complex infrastructure project,” said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “I mean, realistically, we're at the end of 2019, so they have five years to demolish three jails, mitigate the sites and build four new jails that they still haven't done design specifications for.”

“I think it would be miraculous really if the city were to achieve this on time and on budget,” she added. She also noted that the $8.7 billion for the jails plan doesn’t account for other facilities the city is building to house severely mentally ill detainees currently at Rikers. In March, as first reported by THE CITY, Health + Hospitals put out a request for proposals for consulting services on building Outposted Therapeutic Housing Units that would be attached to existing hospital facilities. There have been few details of how many beds those facilities would include and at what cost. “You could easily see that costing well above a billion dollars just to do that, and that's completely off the budget right now,” Gelinas said.

Gelinas predicted that the jails plan will face legal delays as well, which are prompted by even the simplest infrastructure projects like bus lanes. And, she said, the city has a lackluster record of capital project construction. “We just built the [Hunters Point library in Queens] that was half a decade late and basically twice its budget and it doesn't have facilities for the handicapped...I mean, even when these things are pretty straightforward, we're not all that good at it.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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A Closer Look at the Costs, and Savings, of Closing Rikers and Building Four New Jails Mon, 21 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Public Advocate Debate; Byford MTA Drama; Vision Zero Oversight; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 21 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8861-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-21-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8861-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-21-2019 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will see continued analysis of the major political event of last week: the City Council’s vote to approve the construction of four new borough-based jails to replace the Rikers Island jail complex by the end of 2026.

As the week begins, we’re also awaiting the discussion at the MTA Board this week after news broke on Friday, first from Politico New York, that MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford had submitted a resignation letter, but then rescinded it. In response to the revelation Byford issued a statement saying he isn’t “going anywhere,” and is committed to continuing to save the subways and buses. The news also comes as the next five-year MTA capital plan, with more than $51 billion in planned expenditures, much of which was informed by Byford Fast Forward plan, was recently passed by the MTA Board and awaits approval from the Governor, legislative leaders, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo had a busy weekend of announcements, including: announcing that the “new southbound off-ramp from the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) to Albany Shaker Road in Colonie, Albany County is now open” and announcing “$10 million for two signature features of what will be the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo,” then attending the Bills football game.

Cuomo also “directed state agencies to investigate an apartment building in the Bronx following allegations of bed bug infestations and drug related crime. The Governor directed the State Department of Health to send an inspection team into the building to perform an environmental health assessment to ensure health standards are being met. The Governor also directed the state Office of Rent Administration to investigate whether rent-regulated units in the apartment complex are being adequately maintained…”

De Blasio had a quiet weekend with family in Connecticut after celebrating the passage of the jails plan at the end of this past week.

Two of the leading Democratic presidential candidates had big appearances in the city this weekend: Bernie Sanders held a rally in Queens with, according to this campaign, more than 25,000 attendees at which he was endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other New York elected officials, including State Senators Michael Gianaris and Jessica Ramos; and Joe Biden received a warm welcome from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) at its annual “Teacher Union Day” celebration in Manhattan. (The third candidate of the three who have been far ahead of all others in the field in polling thus far in the primary, Elizabeth Warren, held a big Manhattan rally a few weeks ago.)

There’s a lot happening this week, from the MTA Board meeting to several interesting hearings being held by the City Council and the State Legislature, a hearing of the state campaign finance commission, and much more -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, October 21
On Monday at 6:30 p.m., "Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Diwali Celebration at Gracie Mansion." In the 7 and 11 p.m. hours, the Mayor will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall.

Monday will see the monthly MTA Board committee meetings.

At 10 a.m. Monday, "Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Announces Opening of Affordable Housing Development for Seniors" in Buffalo.

At 11 a.m. Monday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will make an announcement at his Manhattan office.

At 11 a.m. Monday in Manhattan, the State Senate Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation will jointly hold a public hearing on recycling.

At 11 a.m. Monday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will speak "to the Men's Resource Center at Kingsborough Community College" and "discuss his path to public service and current key initiatives." At 7 p.m. Monday, Williams will attend a town hall meeting with District Leader Olanike Alabi.

On Monday at 11 a.m. in Albany, the State Senate Standing Committee on Aging and the State Senate Standing Committee on Social Services will jointly hold a public hearing to “assess the impact of proposed changes to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and methodology used to determine Official Poverty Measures (OPM), respectively, on New York programs that assist populations served by the human services sector.”

At 4:30 p.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will speak at the CUNY Board of Trustees Manhattan borough hearing at Hunter College. At about 7:45 p.m., Brewer will be honored at the New York Professional Advisors for Community Entrepreneurs’s 2019 Fall Fundraising Reception.

The Eleanor’s Legacy fall reception celebrating New York women will take place at 6 p.m. Monday in Manhattan and will feature New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes will host a “climate and resiliency town hall” on Monday evening, with representatives of various government agencies, at 6:30 p.m. at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, October 22
The Workmen’s Circle will host its latest “Breakfast with Champions” event featuring New York Attorney General Letitia James from 8-9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Workmen’s Circle Headquarters in Manhattan.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Board of Corrections will hold a public meeting at 125 Worth Street.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals will hold its next public hearing, in Manhattan.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission will a public hearing at the Suffolk County Legislature’s William J. Lindsay County Complex.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday at the City Council, the Committee on Standards and Ethics will hold an oversight hearing in relation to Rule 10.80, which deals with Council member conduct. It is unclear which Council member(s) may be the subject of the hearing.

The Manhattan Institute will host a book forum for “How the Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence and the Battle Over School Choice” by Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow at the Fordham Institute, at noon Tuesday. The book focuses on the Success Academy charter school network.

At noon Tuesday in Manhattan’s Oculus Plaza, just before the New York Department of Health hears “testimony from stakeholders to inform legislative recommendations for safe staffing standards in hospitals and nursing homes,” elected officials, patients, members of the Communications Workers of America and New York State Nurses Association, and others “will rally outside the task force hearing to demand any legislation establish safe staffing ratios to ensure patient safety.” Participants are expected to include Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Carlina Rivera, and others.

“New York City state legislators, higher education leaders, and local organizations will host a forum on the state of NYC’s higher education and discuss solutions to ensure every young New Yorker -- regardless of ZIP code, income, or any other factor -- can get a quality, affordable higher education. Titled “Breaking Barriers: Equity in Higher Education in New York City,” the roundtable will include a presentation of a blueprint for closing higher education gaps from #DegreesNYC, a project dedicated to achieving equity in postsecondary access and completion in New York City.” Speakers will include State Senator Robert Jackson; New York State Regent Lester W. Young; Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation; and Cass Conrad, CUNY University Dean of K-16 Initiatives.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will hold a public meeting at the Michael J. Petrides High School on Staten Island.

Community Board 8 Manhattan will host “Criminal Justice Reform: Ending Mass Incarceration in NYC,” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hunter College. Panelists will include Cheryl Roberts, Executive Director of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice; Marvin Mayfield, New York State Organizer at Just Leadership; Karume James, Public Defender and Supervising Attorney at The Bronx Defenders; Abigail Swenstein, Public Defender at The Legal Aid Society; Keith Powers, NYC Council Member and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. The panel will be moderated by Billy Freeland, Secretary at Community Board 8.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Public Advocate candidates Jumaane Williams, the Democratic incumbent, and Joe Borelli, a Republican City Council member, will debate on NY1.

Wednesday, October 23 
At 9 a.m. Wednesday, the MTA Board will meet.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--at 10 a.m., the Committee on Economic Development will hold a hearing on multiple bills related to the New York City tourism economy
--at 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will hold a hearing on several matters.
-- at 1 p.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will hold an oversight hearing on the New York City Department of Sanitation’s 2019-2020 Snow Plan and to discuss related legislation.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Health and the Assembly Standing Committee on Health will jointly hold a public hearing on the New York Health Act at the Bronx Library Center.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Assembly on Standing Committee on Insurance and the Assembly Standing Committee on Local Governments will jointly hold a public hearing on Municipal Health Insurance Alternatives and Affordability at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

On Wednesday at noon, “Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Amida Care, and the National Black Leadership Commission on Health will host a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall to recognize New York State's first ever PrEP Aware Week. (PrEP is a treatment regimen over 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission and a crucial part of the NYS plan to End the HIV Epidemic by 2020.)”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will host an Italian Heritage Reception in Tuckahoe.

Thursday, October 24
City & State NY will hold its 2019 Government Procurement Conference on Thursday to help attendees “learn and foster business partnerships between Government, Prime Contractors, MWBEs and more.” It will feature remarks by Dan Symon, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, and panelists will include State Senator James Sanders; Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte; City Council Member Helen Rosenthal; City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr.; Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services; Sean Carroll, Chief Procurement Officer at the New York State Office of General Services; and Michael J. Garner, Chief Diversity Officer at the MTA.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, The Regional Planning Association will host a breakfast event to release its new “report on fixing the NYCHA crisis. Join RPA staff for a discussion around the key recommendations and findings of the report as well as the next steps needed to repair the condition of public housing for over 400,000 New Yorkers who live with this growing catastrophe on a daily basis.”

At the City Council on Thursday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Transportation and the Committee on Police Safety jointly hold an oversight hearing on “Vision Zero, cyclist safety, and Police Department enforcement” while also discussing several related bills.

At 10 a.m. Thursday in Manhattan, the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, the Assembly Standing Committee on Social Services, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Children and Families will jointly hold a public hearing on the rights of children in court.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Families for Safe Streets will host a special clergy forum titled “The Epidemic of Traffic Injuries and Deaths: The Role of Faith Communities,” from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday at Borough Hall.

The State Senate Standing Committee on Codes will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday in Albany on the bill to repeal section 50-A of the Civil Rights law, “provisions relating to personal records of police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers.”

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, State Comptroller Tom DiNappoli will release his Jackson Heights Economic Snapshot.

At 11:30 a.m. Thursday, the State Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education will hold a public hearing at Brooklyn College to examine the “cost of public higher education and its effects on student financial aid programs, state support, TAP/GAP, student borrowing and other challenges to affordability and accessibility.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will appear at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY “to discuss his top legislative priorities and upcoming initiatives that touch each corner of New York City.”

“Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) will host an Impeachment Forum and community ‘Speak Out’ event on Thursday, October 24th at 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Vladeck Hall at the Amalgamated Housing Corporation” in the Bronx.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Citizens Union will host its 2019 Gotham Greats Awards dinner, honoring William J. Mulrow, Senior Advisory Director, Blackstone Group; Mary Jo White, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; Harry J. Wilson, Founder and CEO, MAEVE Group; and Errol Louis, political anchor, Spectrum News NY1.

Friday, October 25
At 10 a.m. Friday, Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

At 10 a.m. Friday in Manhattan, the State Senate Standing Committee on Consumer Protection and the State Senate Standing Committee on Internet and Technology will jointly hold a public hearing on protecting consumer data and privacy on online platforms.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Max & Gia Ramesh
@GothamGazette

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Public Advocate Debate; Byford MTA Drama; Vision Zero Oversight; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 21 Sun, 20 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
To End the Homelessness Crisis It’s Time to Refocus the City’s Housing Plan - Here’s How https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8859-end-homelessness-crisis-refocus-city-housing-plan https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8859-end-homelessness-crisis-refocus-city-housing-plan homelessness rally

The authors and others at a rally (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


More than 61,000 men, women, and children will sleep in New York City shelters tonight, and this historic homelessness crisis will continue to devastate the lives of even more people unless Mayor de Blasio embraces the common sense plans that we have put forward from a City Council office and the Coalition for the Homeless, respectively.

The record number of homeless New Yorkers will continue to reach new highs every year, according to the latest report from the Coalition. In stark contrast to Mayor de Blasio’s predicted decrease in the shelter census of a mere 2,500 people by 2022, the Coalition’s analysis shows that the number of city residents living in shelters will increase by 5,000 people in that time period.

While the mayor often touts the work his administration has done to prevent homelessness and protect tenants, his failure to meaningfully reduce the shelter census is a direct result of the lack of truly affordable apartments created specifically to house homeless New Yorkers. This is why the House Our Future NY Campaign, with the support of the majority of the New York City Council, has spent more than a year and a half calling on Mayor de Blasio to make his Housing New York 2.0 plan -- badly in need of a third iteration -- address the true scale of the homelessness crisis.

Of the 300,000 apartments the Housing New York 2.0 plan will create or preserve by 2026, only 15,000 apartments will be set aside for homeless New Yorkers – and just 6,000 of those will be created through new construction. The remaining 9,000 of those apartments in the mayor’s plan will be set aside for homeless New Yorkers through the preservation of already-occupied units, which will remain unavailable to homeless New Yorkers for many years.

To address the housing needs of our homeless neighbors, the House Our Future NY Campaign, formed by the Coalition and 66 partner organizations, urges Mayor de Blasio to create 24,000 apartments through new construction (about 20 percent of all planned new construction in Housing New York 2.0) and preserve at least 6,000 more units for a total of 30,000 apartments for homeless New Yorkers.

In the Bronx, we have seen how the issue of homelessness impacts people firsthand. Many hurtful and false narratives have been spread about people in the shelter system, primarily that individuals are unemployed or are looking for handouts. To the contrary, many in the system have full-time jobs or are living on fixed-incomes and turn to the shelter system as a last resort because of rising rents in their communities. Once in the system, people face a lengthy wait to be placed in permanent housing due to a lack of truly affordable housing.

To address this issue and the staggering number of individuals and families in the shelter system, we introduced legislation, Intro. 1211, which requires all new housing developments that receive city financial assistance to set aside at least 15 percent of new apartments for homeless households.

Working together to raise awareness on this proposal, Intro. 1211 has secured a veto-proof majority of Council members signed on as co-sponsors, as well as the support of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. While an overwhelming number of homeless advocates came out in support of the bill at a public hearing held in December 2018, the de Blasio administration declared its opposition to the bill, citing financial concerns. But we have demonstrated that more affordable housing can be built for homeless New Yorkers than is conceptualized in the mayor’s plan.

Starting in April 2018 while drafting the language for Intro. 1211, we began requiring developers who were looking to build housing in Council District 17 in the Bronx to set aside a minimum of 15 percent of developed units for homeless individuals and families. Despite the administration’s insistence that the financing would not work, we were able to secure a 15 percent homeless set-aside in every new construction project that required our Council approval.

In total, our Council office approved 121 new set-aside units over eight projects. While this number of units is a drop in the bucket of the overall need for our homeless population, it shows the impact this legislation could have in changing the tide on homelessness if implemented across New York City.

We are pleased that Intro. 1211 is already having a positive effect on the movement to build more housing for homeless people. Many Council colleagues have begun requiring a 15 percent set-aside minimum in projects in their own districts. With a citywide policy to substantially increase new housing built for homeless New Yorkers, we would be able to move more people out of city shelters and achieve the goal of reaching the 24,000 new units the House Our Future NY Campaign is advocating for.

We cannot continue to accept mass homelessness in our city as a fact of life. We have the means to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers by building more deeply subsidized affordable housing to match the scale of the need. In addition to being the moral thing to do, the New York City Council has demonstrated through its support of the House Our Future NY Campaign and Intro. 1211 that it is entirely feasible. Now it is time for Mayor de Blasio to finally address the ongoing homelessness crisis with the best tool available: building new affordable apartments for homeless New Yorkers.

***
City Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. represents parts of the Bronx. Giselle Routhier is Policy Director at Coalition for the Homeless. On Twitter @Salamancajr80 & @Giselle_Ashley.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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To End the Homelessness Crisis It’s Time to Refocus the City’s Housing Plan - Here’s How Thu, 17 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000