Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/eric-adams 2019-07-22T18:42:10+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Corey Johnson's Big Small-Dollar Bet 2019-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 2019-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8685-corey-johnson-s-big-small-dollar-bet Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/rep-dem-unaff-indie-voters/48127400496_476889782e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s expected mayoral campaign is based in part on a big small-dollar gamble.</p> <p>When Johnson announced in January that he was exploring a bid for mayor – he hasn’t made it official yet – he set a $250 limit on all campaign contributions, far below the maximum possible limit of $5,100. And though the latest campaign finance disclosures show him outpacing his three likely Democratic primary opponents in the number of donations he received, he is well behind the pack in total funds and will have to work overtime to fill the gap.</p> <p>Along with the low self-imposed donation limit ($250 is also the ceiling for how much of each donation can be matched eight-to-one in the city’s public campaign finance system), Johnson has also pledged not to take any campaign money from real estate developers, lobbyists, or corporate political action committees.</p> <p>By constraining himself in these ways, he’s making a calculated bet: that New Yorkers will be impressed enough by his voluntary limitations that so many will donate, albeit in small amounts, to still get him the war chest he needs to spend as much as his competitors given the cap on expenditures that comes with the city’s matching system. And, that he’ll hit those maximums while earning a larger, more enthusiastic grassroots base of supporters than his opponents.</p> <p>He’ll be living out the values that many Democrats espouse, and he’ll have a very effective talking point as he seeks to separate himself from the pack, expected to also include City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.</p> <p>“I’m focused on these small-dollar contributions because there’s a double benefit,” Johnson said in a Wednesday interview. “Of course there’s the money you raise, but also you get to meet a lot more people around the city and spread your message to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“I’m doing this in a way that no one’s ever done before,” he added, “and I was a little concerned when I made the pledge, wondering if I’d be able to raise the amount of money to be able to compete. But after these last five months, I feel good about where I am and I feel like it’s totally doable.”</p> <p>The latest filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board show that Johnson has raised a total of $379,728 from 3,029 contributions. The money came from 2,612 individual donors, with many of them giving more than once. He also transferred $88,780 from his City Council campaign account, spent only about $32,800 and has just under $432,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>“I think it shows the grassroots nature of the campaign and I did it all without raising money from real estate developers or people who work at lobbying firms and with a self-imposed cap of $250,” Johnson said Wednesday. “So I feel excited. I worked really hard. I went around the city and met with voters in their neighborhoods, in their living rooms and talked about the issues that matter to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Johnson will be bolstered by the city’s voluntary public matching funds program, which incentivizes small donations by matching them with public funds and has recently been enhanced by the City Council through legislation, a portion of which stirred controversy given its apparent benefit to Johnson and detriment to his rivals.</p> <p>A ballot referendum approved last year gave candidates the ability to choose one of two versions of the city’s public funds program, run by the Campaign Finance Board. For candidates for citywide positions, they can now opt for a new $2,000 contribution limit and receive an 8-to-1 match for the first $250 of an eligible contribution, or they could stick with the older $5,100 limit and receive a 6-to-1 match for the first $175 of an eligible contribution.</p> <p>The City Council then bolstered the new system further by enhancing the extent of the public match candidates can receive as it relates to the spending cap in their race, and made the new system retroactive to the beginning of the four-year cycle, meaning the start of 2018, which rankled Johnson’s rivals, especially Stringer, who would have to return a significant amount of money in order to opt into the new system.</p> <p>Stringer accused Johnson of playing political games with his government position, while Johnson noted he was acting on a recommendation from the Campaign Finance Board, looking to help take big money out of politics, and that Stringer could stick with the higher donation limits if he’d like (though Stringer had already chosen the new system, not thinking he would have to make refunds from 2018 fundraising). The changes also impact Adams -- who also has criticized Johnson over the move -- and Diaz, Jr., though they have not made clear which system they plan to choose. After this election cycle, the new system will be the only choice.</p> <p>Johnson chose the new system and of his total fundraising, $315,421 qualifies for public matching funds, meaning he could receive eight times that amount in public funds. When the Council increased the cap on the amount of public funds a candidate can receive – from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limit for a campaign – it meant Johnson will be able to stick to his self-imposed limit and spend as much as his three rivals, who are all expected to participate in the matching funds program and therefore abide by spending limits. It’s unclear if any other Democrats will jump into the race, or what the general election field may look like.</p> <p>It's likely that Johnson, Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer are all able to raise as much as they need to, in combination with matching funds, and spend the allowable amount -- $7.3 million for the primary. But Johnson appears to think his pledge will significantly impact how voters and donors see him, and his competitors, which can potentially help him secure more support in the ascendent left wing of the Democratic Party.</p> <p>Johnson sees significant momentum in his first filing period, noting that he currently has the largest amount of funds that can be matched, compared to the other candidates who had been raising funds for well over a year before he began.</p> <p>There are also pitfalls to Johnson’s approach. He said he can’t afford full-time campaign staff and admits that it’s “been a challenge” to vet the thousands of contributions he’s receiving with a mostly volunteer crew. He’s had to return about $4,100 to people who have gone over his campaign limit. It also takes major time and effort to raise so many smaller contributions and not buttress them with larger ones.</p> <p>“Oh my god, it’s very tough. It’s grueling. And sort of nonstop, and it’s house party by house party, 20-25, 30-35 people at a time,” said Johnson, who has been appearing at a variety of small campaign gatherings.</p> <p>Compared to Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer, the Council speaker is currently far behind in money in the bank. Along with taking the larger donations, the other three have been raising funds far longer and have deeper coffers from their own earlier races. No one has received any public matching funds yet, and won’t anytime soon -- the Democratic mayoral primary will be in June, 2021. (If Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for president, doesn’t finish his term for one reason or another, things could speed up a bit.)</p> <p>Stringer leads the pack with nearly $2.6 million in cash on hand. He raised $336,700 in the last six months from 1,447 individual contributors after having raised at a faster rate previously, when he was toying with a challenge to de Blasio head of the mayor’s 2017 reelection. Stringer was able to transfer $1.4 million to his campaign from a previous citywide campaign account and has been prolific in his fundraising. Of his total, he has about $254,554 in funds that qualify for a public match.</p> <p>Opting in to the newer of the two campaign finance systems, Stringer now has to return many thousands of dollars that represent the retroactive lowering of the individual contribution limit. Stringer called the new regulations a “power grab” by Johnson, critiquing him for changing the rules midway through the race (a criticism that Adams echoed).</p> <p>"Time and again, Scott Stringer has stood up for bold progressive solutions to our toughest challenges, and this latest filing shows the growing energy behind our people-powered campaign,” said Emily Bernstein, finance director for Stringer’s campaign, in a statement. “At grassroots events across the city, we’ve talked with New Yorkers about real ideas to make our city more affordable for working families, build a better future for our children, and deliver true progressive change. We’re incredibly humbled by the support we’ve received, and we’re excited to build on our momentum.”</p> <p>After Stringer, Adams has the most funds, with nearly $2.3 million in cash on hand. He raised $583,627 in the last six months from 1,234 donors. He also made an earlier transfer of $332,594 from his borough president campaign account. A total of $273,385 from his fundraising would be matchable by the CFB, though Adams has not yet declared if he is participating in the public matching funds program, much less which of the two versions, and has been accepting donations of the maximum amount allowed, $5,100. “New Yorkers believe in Eric and trust that he shares their vision for our city--that's why so many of them from such diverse backgrounds are supporting his campaign to lead the five boroughs. And he's just getting started,” said Evan Thies, a campaign spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>In comparison, Diaz Jr. has about $931,228 in the bank. He raised $232,334 in this latest filing period, from 385 donors, and he transferred $219,395 to his campaign for this race. He also hasn’t declared whether he will participate in the public funds program but most of his money came from large donations. He has about $57,476 that would qualify for matching funds.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/rep-dem-unaff-indie-voters/48127400496_476889782e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s expected mayoral campaign is based in part on a big small-dollar gamble.</p> <p>When Johnson announced in January that he was exploring a bid for mayor – he hasn’t made it official yet – he set a $250 limit on all campaign contributions, far below the maximum possible limit of $5,100. And though the latest campaign finance disclosures show him outpacing his three likely Democratic primary opponents in the number of donations he received, he is well behind the pack in total funds and will have to work overtime to fill the gap.</p> <p>Along with the low self-imposed donation limit ($250 is also the ceiling for how much of each donation can be matched eight-to-one in the city’s public campaign finance system), Johnson has also pledged not to take any campaign money from real estate developers, lobbyists, or corporate political action committees.</p> <p>By constraining himself in these ways, he’s making a calculated bet: that New Yorkers will be impressed enough by his voluntary limitations that so many will donate, albeit in small amounts, to still get him the war chest he needs to spend as much as his competitors given the cap on expenditures that comes with the city’s matching system. And, that he’ll hit those maximums while earning a larger, more enthusiastic grassroots base of supporters than his opponents.</p> <p>He’ll be living out the values that many Democrats espouse, and he’ll have a very effective talking point as he seeks to separate himself from the pack, expected to also include City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.</p> <p>“I’m focused on these small-dollar contributions because there’s a double benefit,” Johnson said in a Wednesday interview. “Of course there’s the money you raise, but also you get to meet a lot more people around the city and spread your message to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>“I’m doing this in a way that no one’s ever done before,” he added, “and I was a little concerned when I made the pledge, wondering if I’d be able to raise the amount of money to be able to compete. But after these last five months, I feel good about where I am and I feel like it’s totally doable.”</p> <p>The latest filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board show that Johnson has raised a total of $379,728 from 3,029 contributions. The money came from 2,612 individual donors, with many of them giving more than once. He also transferred $88,780 from his City Council campaign account, spent only about $32,800 and has just under $432,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>“I think it shows the grassroots nature of the campaign and I did it all without raising money from real estate developers or people who work at lobbying firms and with a self-imposed cap of $250,” Johnson said Wednesday. “So I feel excited. I worked really hard. I went around the city and met with voters in their neighborhoods, in their living rooms and talked about the issues that matter to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Johnson will be bolstered by the city’s voluntary public matching funds program, which incentivizes small donations by matching them with public funds and has recently been enhanced by the City Council through legislation, a portion of which stirred controversy given its apparent benefit to Johnson and detriment to his rivals.</p> <p>A ballot referendum approved last year gave candidates the ability to choose one of two versions of the city’s public funds program, run by the Campaign Finance Board. For candidates for citywide positions, they can now opt for a new $2,000 contribution limit and receive an 8-to-1 match for the first $250 of an eligible contribution, or they could stick with the older $5,100 limit and receive a 6-to-1 match for the first $175 of an eligible contribution.</p> <p>The City Council then bolstered the new system further by enhancing the extent of the public match candidates can receive as it relates to the spending cap in their race, and made the new system retroactive to the beginning of the four-year cycle, meaning the start of 2018, which rankled Johnson’s rivals, especially Stringer, who would have to return a significant amount of money in order to opt into the new system.</p> <p>Stringer accused Johnson of playing political games with his government position, while Johnson noted he was acting on a recommendation from the Campaign Finance Board, looking to help take big money out of politics, and that Stringer could stick with the higher donation limits if he’d like (though Stringer had already chosen the new system, not thinking he would have to make refunds from 2018 fundraising). The changes also impact Adams -- who also has criticized Johnson over the move -- and Diaz, Jr., though they have not made clear which system they plan to choose. After this election cycle, the new system will be the only choice.</p> <p>Johnson chose the new system and of his total fundraising, $315,421 qualifies for public matching funds, meaning he could receive eight times that amount in public funds. When the Council increased the cap on the amount of public funds a candidate can receive – from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limit for a campaign – it meant Johnson will be able to stick to his self-imposed limit and spend as much as his three rivals, who are all expected to participate in the matching funds program and therefore abide by spending limits. It’s unclear if any other Democrats will jump into the race, or what the general election field may look like.</p> <p>It's likely that Johnson, Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer are all able to raise as much as they need to, in combination with matching funds, and spend the allowable amount -- $7.3 million for the primary. But Johnson appears to think his pledge will significantly impact how voters and donors see him, and his competitors, which can potentially help him secure more support in the ascendent left wing of the Democratic Party.</p> <p>Johnson sees significant momentum in his first filing period, noting that he currently has the largest amount of funds that can be matched, compared to the other candidates who had been raising funds for well over a year before he began.</p> <p>There are also pitfalls to Johnson’s approach. He said he can’t afford full-time campaign staff and admits that it’s “been a challenge” to vet the thousands of contributions he’s receiving with a mostly volunteer crew. He’s had to return about $4,100 to people who have gone over his campaign limit. It also takes major time and effort to raise so many smaller contributions and not buttress them with larger ones.</p> <p>“Oh my god, it’s very tough. It’s grueling. And sort of nonstop, and it’s house party by house party, 20-25, 30-35 people at a time,” said Johnson, who has been appearing at a variety of small campaign gatherings.</p> <p>Compared to Adams, Diaz Jr., and Stringer, the Council speaker is currently far behind in money in the bank. Along with taking the larger donations, the other three have been raising funds far longer and have deeper coffers from their own earlier races. No one has received any public matching funds yet, and won’t anytime soon -- the Democratic mayoral primary will be in June, 2021. (If Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for president, doesn’t finish his term for one reason or another, things could speed up a bit.)</p> <p>Stringer leads the pack with nearly $2.6 million in cash on hand. He raised $336,700 in the last six months from 1,447 individual contributors after having raised at a faster rate previously, when he was toying with a challenge to de Blasio head of the mayor’s 2017 reelection. Stringer was able to transfer $1.4 million to his campaign from a previous citywide campaign account and has been prolific in his fundraising. Of his total, he has about $254,554 in funds that qualify for a public match.</p> <p>Opting in to the newer of the two campaign finance systems, Stringer now has to return many thousands of dollars that represent the retroactive lowering of the individual contribution limit. Stringer called the new regulations a “power grab” by Johnson, critiquing him for changing the rules midway through the race (a criticism that Adams echoed).</p> <p>"Time and again, Scott Stringer has stood up for bold progressive solutions to our toughest challenges, and this latest filing shows the growing energy behind our people-powered campaign,” said Emily Bernstein, finance director for Stringer’s campaign, in a statement. “At grassroots events across the city, we’ve talked with New Yorkers about real ideas to make our city more affordable for working families, build a better future for our children, and deliver true progressive change. We’re incredibly humbled by the support we’ve received, and we’re excited to build on our momentum.”</p> <p>After Stringer, Adams has the most funds, with nearly $2.3 million in cash on hand. He raised $583,627 in the last six months from 1,234 donors. He also made an earlier transfer of $332,594 from his borough president campaign account. A total of $273,385 from his fundraising would be matchable by the CFB, though Adams has not yet declared if he is participating in the public matching funds program, much less which of the two versions, and has been accepting donations of the maximum amount allowed, $5,100. “New Yorkers believe in Eric and trust that he shares their vision for our city--that's why so many of them from such diverse backgrounds are supporting his campaign to lead the five boroughs. And he's just getting started,” said Evan Thies, a campaign spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>In comparison, Diaz Jr. has about $931,228 in the bank. He raised $232,334 in this latest filing period, from 385 donors, and he transferred $219,395 to his campaign for this race. He also hasn’t declared whether he will participate in the public funds program but most of his money came from large donations. He has about $57,476 that would qualify for matching funds.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
It Pays to be Comptroller: Scott Stringer's Mayoral Platform Takes Shape 2019-07-08T04:00:00+00:00 2019-07-08T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8653-it-pays-to-be-comptroller-scott-stringer-s-mayoral-platform-takes-shape Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/scott-stringer-bill-de-blasio-bernie-sanders-inaugural-ceremonies.jpg" alt="scott stringer bill de blasio bernie sanders inaugural ceremonies" width="600" /></p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has made no secret of his plans to run for mayor in 2021, when both he and Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of their current positions. And the outline of his mayoral policy platform is already hiding in plain sight.</p> <p>After briefly entering the 2013 mayoral campaign before shifting to a first successful run for comptroller, Stringer has spent a long time laying the groundwork for a full mayoral bid, so much so that many expected him to challenge de Blasio in the Democratic primary in 2017 had the mayor faced any consequences from dual ethics investigations into his fundraising activities. But the mayor faced no charges and both officials instead sailed to reelection.</p> <p>One of three citywide elected officials, besides the mayor and public advocate, the comptroller is the city’s top fiscal officer, charged with overseeing the mayoral administration’s spending, auditing city agencies for waste, approving city contracts, and acting as the fiduciary to the city’s pension funds (with assets worth nearly $200 billion). Though they have next to no official policy-making power, those who’ve held the office also tend to issue policy reports and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/4139-john-lius-big-speech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">make recommendations for policies</a> the city should implement.</p> <p>In about five-and-a-half years as comptroller, Stringer has released numerous sweeping proposals to tackle everything from the cost of child care to building more affordable housing to abortion funding, improving city bus performance, and hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Stringer fought against term limits for community board members, a ballot measure overwhelmingly passed by voters last year, and he’s pushed for this year’s city charter revision commission to propose creation of a citywide Chief Diversity Officer, building on his focus on city contracting for minority- and women-owned businesses. And, he’s helped lead the effort to divest city pension funds from fossil fuel companies.</p> <p>As a citywide official, he’s weighed in with statements on many issues that don’t directly relate to functions of his job, and he’s taken on certain mantras, like the need for more “community-based planning,” that also indicate the initial building blocks for his all-but-official run for mayor.</p> <p>Stringer’s work in the comptroller’s office has been a continuation of similar efforts he made as Manhattan borough president, unveiling various plans that would have a citywide effect.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Comptroller Stringer has spent his career in public service standing up for working families. From his time as a housing organizer, to his work as Manhattan Borough President, to his leadership as the City Comptroller, he’s proven progressive government isn’t just something he talks about – it’s what he delivers on each and every day,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, Stringer’s press secretary, in a lengthy statement responding to Gotham Gazette’s inquiry about Stringer’s various policy proposals.</p> <p>“He’s used his office to change the face of corporate America and open doors of opportunity to women and people of color; he’s changed the conversation and shined a light on the touchstone progressive issues of our time, including housing and child care; and in every challenge impacting working New Yorkers, Comptroller Stringer sees a progressive solution worth fighting for,” Crampton-Hays continued. “With two and half years left in his term, he will continue the fights that have been at the heart of his entire career -- for equity, affordability, and fairness for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>When Stringer declares his candidacy for mayor in earnest, he’ll have a lengthy, detailed campaign platform on day one, thanks to all of the reports and audits out of his office. It’s a smart and appropriate use of the comptroller’s office, said veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “The New York City comptroller can do whatever the New York City comptroller wants. The office has broad authority under the city charter,” he said.</p> <p>The issues Stringer has examined, Sheinkopf noted, cut across a swath of constituencies in a citywide electorate and have garnered significant attention. “He’s very able to get appropriate coverage for whatever he does. He also knows – because politics has been his life – how to take those issues and turn them into relationship-builders with particular interest groups,” Sheinkopf said. “He will be a highly competitive candidate for mayor, should he choose to run.”</p> <p>Along with his policy proposals, Stringer’s near ubiquitous presence across the city should help him, Sheinkopf added. “No matter what choice New Yorkers will make, anyone who’s paid attention to the news will be able to say, for whatever reason, whether they can identify the issue or not, that somehow Stringer spoke to them about something,” he said. “And that’s a pretty good place to be and what he spoke to them about goes beyond color lines or race lines or ethnic lines or gender lines. He has made himself into the person whose words and even actions have become relevant to people beyond and outside of his social grouping, religion, race, class, and residence, which is not easy for someone who’s a west-sider from Manhattan.”</p> <p>Stringer is expected to compete in a Democratic mayoral primary with <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8626-corey-johnson-want-to-break-the-car-culture-in-new-york-city-subway" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Speaker Corey Johnson</a>, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7652-eric-adams-previews-vision-for-becoming-city-s-ceo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams</a>, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8565-for-ruben-diaz-jr-a-booming-bronx-and-plan-to-run-on-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.</a>, and anyone else who throws their hat in the ring ahead of the June 2021 vote. Each has also been in the process of staking out their policy positions and possible major mayoral platform areas, though none has led the size of operation or had the citywide vantage point, at least for as long, as Stringer in the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>Political consultant George Arzt, who previously served as a campaign spokesperson for Stringer, echoed Sheinkopf. “The comptroller can put out anything on a platform just as the mayor or public advocate would put out anything on their platform,” Arzt said. “Perhaps increasingly so during an election year. But every elected official does it.”</p> <p>Below are a sampling of the ideas that Stringer has proposed over the years, some of which are likely to form the basis for his mayoral campaign platform:</p> <p><strong>Child Care</strong><br />In May, Stringer proposed a plan dubbed “<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-landmark-nyc-under-3-plan-to-expand-affordable-child-care-access-to-new-york-city-working-families/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYC Under 3</a>” aimed at drastically reducing child care expenses for 70,000 families. The plan, paid for with a payroll tax, would purportedly expand child care assistance to families with a combined income of up to $100,000 a year for a family of four, and triple the number of children enrolled in city-funded child care programs. The proposal was broadly <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/coalition-of-advocates-laud-comptroller-stringers-landmark-nyc-under-3-child-care-proposal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">praised</a> by advocates, unions, and educators.</p> <p>“New York City should drive a child care revolution, put working families first and establish a model for the nation to follow,” Stringer said in a statement at the release of the plan. “NYC Under 3 is a down payment on future generations and would benefit children, parents, and the local economy by increasing job stability and economic security.”</p> <p>Since releasing it, Stringer has done a media and local event blitz to talk it up, including a “roundtable discussion” Monday evening with members of advocacy group Community Voices Heard in East Harlem.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing</strong><br />Stringer has repeatedly criticized de Blasio’s affordable housing program, saying it has not created or preserved enough affordable units for low-income New Yorkers and that it has failed to stem the city’s homelessness crisis. In November, he released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-fundamental-realignment-of-the-city-housing-plan-to-address-new-yorkers-most-in-need/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a proposal</a> that would reimagine the city’s housing plan to target the 580,000 households that are in most need.</p> <p>Stringer’s plan would put $375 million in the capital budget annually and repurpose the roughly 85,000 units left to be built under the mayor’s 300,000-unit plan towards extremely low-income households (which earn less than $28,170 annually) or very low-income households (which earn less than $46,950 annually). An additional $125 million would go to operating subsidies to ensure apartments remain affordable. He also proposed increasing the set aside for housing for the homeless by nearly three times to 15%.</p> <p>The plan would be paid for by eliminating the Mortgage Recording Tax and implementing a Real Property Transfer Tax on all home purchases based on price. These measures would raise roughly $400 million each year, Stringer estimated. He also reiterated his call for a New York City Land Bank/Land Trust, which he <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/building-an-affordable-future-the-promise-of-a-new-york-city-land-bank/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first proposed</a> in February 2016, to build housing on vacant lots.</p> <p><strong>Teacher Residency</strong><br />In June this year, Stringer <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/to-combat-teacher-exodus-from-new-york-city-schools-comptroller-stringer-proposes-largest-teacher-residency-program-in-america/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released a plan</a> to reduce teacher turnover in city schools, after an analysis by his office showed that 41% of teachers hired in the 2012-13 school year had left their jobs within five years.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer proposed a paid, year-long residency program to train 1,000 new teachers annually, partnering them with mentors for classroom training and providing them with stipends for living costs.</p> <p>On other education fronts, Stringer’s efforts more closely linked to his core job responsibilities have already shown results. After a May 2015 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-doe-violating-state-laws-regarding-physical-education-in-city-schools-deep-disparities-in-access-new-report-shows/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on inadequate physical education at schools across the city, the de Blasio administration added $100 million to hire physical education teachers in the five boroughs. And following an April 2014 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-report-finds-significant-disparities-in-arts-education/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on broad disparities in arts education, the city allocated $24 million in new city funding to hire more than 100 arts teachers in neighborhoods with the highest needs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Abortion Funding</strong><br />Ahead of the passage of the city budget this year, Stringer rallied with reproductive health rights activists to push the city to allocate $250,000 to the New York Abortion Access Fund, a nonprofit service provider. The push was successful, with the City Council and de Blasio deciding to earmark funding, reportedly making New York the first city in the country to directly fund abortion services.</p> <p><strong>Insurance for Pregnancy</strong><br />In March 2015, the comptroller released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-report-shows-barriers-to-healthcare-for-uninsured-pregnant-women/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> on pre-natal care coverage for pregnant women enrolled in insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The ACA did not recognize pregnancy as a “qualifying event” for immediate coverage. Following Stringer’s report, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas introduced and passed legislation to allow for that coverage in New York, making it the first state to do so.</p> <p><strong>Puerto Rico Recovery</strong><br />In October 2017, after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, Stringer released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-releases-plan-to-finance-puerto-ricos-recovery-and-support-displaced-puerto-rican-citizens/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">six-point plan</a> based on an analysis of federal programs to help the island recover from the hurricane’s devastation. New York City is home to the largest community of Puerto Ricans outside of the island, many of whom continue to have ties to family living there, and the city was one of the main destinations for residents fleeing the island after the hurricane.</p> <p>Stringer proposed federal loan guarantees for the construction of public infrastructure to help the debt-ridden island, called on Congress to authorize Disaster Recovery Private Activity Bonds (which were utilized after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to rebuild Downtown Manhattan), and an expansion of federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit for residents of Puerto Rico. He&nbsp;also pushed for measures to help displaced Puerto Ricans, including additional education funding for displaced and homeless students, and for higher education institutions where Puerto Ricans are enrolled.</p> <p><strong>Chief Diversity Officer</strong><br />Stringer has used his position as the fiduciary to the city’s pension funds to push for greater board diversity at companies where the pension fund invests its money. At the same time, he has pushed for more diversity at city agencies, more city contract spending with MWBEs, and has <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-and-broad-coalition-rally-for-a-chief-diversity-officer-in-city-hall-demanding-charter-revision-commission-focus-on-equity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> for the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer at City Hall (Stringer has appointed his own chief diversity officer). He pushed the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to include the idea among its ballot proposals but was unsuccessful, though the commission is moving ahead with a proposal to enshrine responsibility for the city’s MWBE program at City Hall.</p> <p><strong>Immigrant Services</strong><br />In March 2015, Stringer <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-releases-comprehensive-manual-to-expand-immigrants-access-to-city-services/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released</a> an “Immigrant Rights and Services Manual” – initially translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian and Spanish – to help immigrants navigate local, state and federal services.</p> <p>In February 2016, he also released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-report-soaring-costs-create-barrier-to-citizenship-for-670000-immigrant-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on citizenship application fees, with recommendations for federal and local action. He urged the city to provide more citizenship assistance programs, to add funding for English and civics classes, and to expand free legal services, among other proposals.</p> <p><strong>Commuter Rail &amp; Bus Reliability</strong><br />In October 2018, Stringer released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-unveils-new-transit-plan-to-integrate-all-brooklyn-queens-and-bronx-commuter-rail-stations-with-the-mta/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposal</a> to expand access to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, by reducing fares for in-city trips to the cost of a single MetroCard swipe. He called on the MTA to ensure commuter trains take more local stops, that buses provide enhanced service to commuter rail stations, and that those stations be made ADA accessible. His plan, which would entail providing commuter rail service at 38 stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, would cost about $50 million each year, he estimated.</p> <p>In 2017, Stringer released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-report-mta-buses-already-slowest-in-the-nation-lost-100-million-passenger-trips-since-2008/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a major report</a> on the city's struggling buses, which have lost ridership at a dangerous clip, with an agenda for how to improve the system.</p> <p><strong>Security Deposits &amp; Credit Score Benefits</strong><br />In July 2018, Stringer released an analysis of security deposits in the New York City rental housing market, finding that renters paid about $507 million into security deposits in 2016. He called for legislation to cap security deposits as well as additional regulation regarding payments and refunds. The state Legislature this year put new rent regulations into effect that implement some of those reforms.</p> <p>And in October 2017, Stringer launched <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-proposal-would-allow-residents-to-add-rent-data-to-credit-histories-and-boost-scores-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pilot projects</a> to help renters in roughly 3,000 apartment units to report their rent payment to increase their credit scores. The program was expanded a year later.</p> <p><strong>Playgrounds</strong><br />In April, Stringer launched the “<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-playground-deserts-leave-too-many-nyc-children-with-no-place-to-play/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pavement to Playgrounds</a>” campaign, pointing to a dearth of playgrounds across the city and substandard conditions at hundreds of city playgrounds. Stringer pushed the city to build 200 new playgrounds over five years through partnership between the city’s Parks Department, the Department of Transportation, nonprofits and community boards.</p> <p><strong>BQE Reconstruction</strong><br />In March, Stringer proposed his own <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-new-vision-for-bqe-reconstruction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vision</a> for how the city should rehab the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, including by converting the triple cantilever and Cobble Hill trench into a truck-only thruway and building a new two-mile park on the remaining space. A panel assembled by de Blasio is working on coming up with recommendations for a new plan after the city’s original idea received a great deal of pushback and appears to have been scrapped.</p> <p><strong>Marijuana Legalization</strong><br />Before de Blasio released his administration’s plan embracing the legalization of recreational adult use of marijuana in December, Stringer had already <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/new-comptroller-stringer-analysis-legalizing-marijuana-could-lead-to-millions-in-tax-revenue-for-city-and-state/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">explored</a> the possible ramifications of creating a legal market in the city and <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-new-marijuana-revenues-need-to-go-to-communities-most-impacted-by-cannabis-enforcement/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed measures</a> to ensure that the city creates an equitable industry.</p> <p>Stringer pushed for investing tax revenue from sales into communities most adversely affected by marijuana enforcement, called for equity provisions in state legislation (particularly by making people with marijuana-related convictions eligible for licenses to sell legal marijuana) and proposed a citywide equity program to provide assistance to individuals and businesses seeking to enter the industry.&nbsp;</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/scott-stringer-bill-de-blasio-bernie-sanders-inaugural-ceremonies.jpg" alt="scott stringer bill de blasio bernie sanders inaugural ceremonies" width="600" /></p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has made no secret of his plans to run for mayor in 2021, when both he and Mayor Bill de Blasio will be term-limited out of their current positions. And the outline of his mayoral policy platform is already hiding in plain sight.</p> <p>After briefly entering the 2013 mayoral campaign before shifting to a first successful run for comptroller, Stringer has spent a long time laying the groundwork for a full mayoral bid, so much so that many expected him to challenge de Blasio in the Democratic primary in 2017 had the mayor faced any consequences from dual ethics investigations into his fundraising activities. But the mayor faced no charges and both officials instead sailed to reelection.</p> <p>One of three citywide elected officials, besides the mayor and public advocate, the comptroller is the city’s top fiscal officer, charged with overseeing the mayoral administration’s spending, auditing city agencies for waste, approving city contracts, and acting as the fiduciary to the city’s pension funds (with assets worth nearly $200 billion). Though they have next to no official policy-making power, those who’ve held the office also tend to issue policy reports and <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/4139-john-lius-big-speech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">make recommendations for policies</a> the city should implement.</p> <p>In about five-and-a-half years as comptroller, Stringer has released numerous sweeping proposals to tackle everything from the cost of child care to building more affordable housing to abortion funding, improving city bus performance, and hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Stringer fought against term limits for community board members, a ballot measure overwhelmingly passed by voters last year, and he’s pushed for this year’s city charter revision commission to propose creation of a citywide Chief Diversity Officer, building on his focus on city contracting for minority- and women-owned businesses. And, he’s helped lead the effort to divest city pension funds from fossil fuel companies.</p> <p>As a citywide official, he’s weighed in with statements on many issues that don’t directly relate to functions of his job, and he’s taken on certain mantras, like the need for more “community-based planning,” that also indicate the initial building blocks for his all-but-official run for mayor.</p> <p>Stringer’s work in the comptroller’s office has been a continuation of similar efforts he made as Manhattan borough president, unveiling various plans that would have a citywide effect.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Comptroller Stringer has spent his career in public service standing up for working families. From his time as a housing organizer, to his work as Manhattan Borough President, to his leadership as the City Comptroller, he’s proven progressive government isn’t just something he talks about – it’s what he delivers on each and every day,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, Stringer’s press secretary, in a lengthy statement responding to Gotham Gazette’s inquiry about Stringer’s various policy proposals.</p> <p>“He’s used his office to change the face of corporate America and open doors of opportunity to women and people of color; he’s changed the conversation and shined a light on the touchstone progressive issues of our time, including housing and child care; and in every challenge impacting working New Yorkers, Comptroller Stringer sees a progressive solution worth fighting for,” Crampton-Hays continued. “With two and half years left in his term, he will continue the fights that have been at the heart of his entire career -- for equity, affordability, and fairness for all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>When Stringer declares his candidacy for mayor in earnest, he’ll have a lengthy, detailed campaign platform on day one, thanks to all of the reports and audits out of his office. It’s a smart and appropriate use of the comptroller’s office, said veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “The New York City comptroller can do whatever the New York City comptroller wants. The office has broad authority under the city charter,” he said.</p> <p>The issues Stringer has examined, Sheinkopf noted, cut across a swath of constituencies in a citywide electorate and have garnered significant attention. “He’s very able to get appropriate coverage for whatever he does. He also knows – because politics has been his life – how to take those issues and turn them into relationship-builders with particular interest groups,” Sheinkopf said. “He will be a highly competitive candidate for mayor, should he choose to run.”</p> <p>Along with his policy proposals, Stringer’s near ubiquitous presence across the city should help him, Sheinkopf added. “No matter what choice New Yorkers will make, anyone who’s paid attention to the news will be able to say, for whatever reason, whether they can identify the issue or not, that somehow Stringer spoke to them about something,” he said. “And that’s a pretty good place to be and what he spoke to them about goes beyond color lines or race lines or ethnic lines or gender lines. He has made himself into the person whose words and even actions have become relevant to people beyond and outside of his social grouping, religion, race, class, and residence, which is not easy for someone who’s a west-sider from Manhattan.”</p> <p>Stringer is expected to compete in a Democratic mayoral primary with <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8626-corey-johnson-want-to-break-the-car-culture-in-new-york-city-subway" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Speaker Corey Johnson</a>, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7652-eric-adams-previews-vision-for-becoming-city-s-ceo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams</a>, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8565-for-ruben-diaz-jr-a-booming-bronx-and-plan-to-run-on-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.</a>, and anyone else who throws their hat in the ring ahead of the June 2021 vote. Each has also been in the process of staking out their policy positions and possible major mayoral platform areas, though none has led the size of operation or had the citywide vantage point, at least for as long, as Stringer in the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>Political consultant George Arzt, who previously served as a campaign spokesperson for Stringer, echoed Sheinkopf. “The comptroller can put out anything on a platform just as the mayor or public advocate would put out anything on their platform,” Arzt said. “Perhaps increasingly so during an election year. But every elected official does it.”</p> <p>Below are a sampling of the ideas that Stringer has proposed over the years, some of which are likely to form the basis for his mayoral campaign platform:</p> <p><strong>Child Care</strong><br />In May, Stringer proposed a plan dubbed “<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-landmark-nyc-under-3-plan-to-expand-affordable-child-care-access-to-new-york-city-working-families/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NYC Under 3</a>” aimed at drastically reducing child care expenses for 70,000 families. The plan, paid for with a payroll tax, would purportedly expand child care assistance to families with a combined income of up to $100,000 a year for a family of four, and triple the number of children enrolled in city-funded child care programs. The proposal was broadly <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/coalition-of-advocates-laud-comptroller-stringers-landmark-nyc-under-3-child-care-proposal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">praised</a> by advocates, unions, and educators.</p> <p>“New York City should drive a child care revolution, put working families first and establish a model for the nation to follow,” Stringer said in a statement at the release of the plan. “NYC Under 3 is a down payment on future generations and would benefit children, parents, and the local economy by increasing job stability and economic security.”</p> <p>Since releasing it, Stringer has done a media and local event blitz to talk it up, including a “roundtable discussion” Monday evening with members of advocacy group Community Voices Heard in East Harlem.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing</strong><br />Stringer has repeatedly criticized de Blasio’s affordable housing program, saying it has not created or preserved enough affordable units for low-income New Yorkers and that it has failed to stem the city’s homelessness crisis. In November, he released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-fundamental-realignment-of-the-city-housing-plan-to-address-new-yorkers-most-in-need/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a proposal</a> that would reimagine the city’s housing plan to target the 580,000 households that are in most need.</p> <p>Stringer’s plan would put $375 million in the capital budget annually and repurpose the roughly 85,000 units left to be built under the mayor’s 300,000-unit plan towards extremely low-income households (which earn less than $28,170 annually) or very low-income households (which earn less than $46,950 annually). An additional $125 million would go to operating subsidies to ensure apartments remain affordable. He also proposed increasing the set aside for housing for the homeless by nearly three times to 15%.</p> <p>The plan would be paid for by eliminating the Mortgage Recording Tax and implementing a Real Property Transfer Tax on all home purchases based on price. These measures would raise roughly $400 million each year, Stringer estimated. He also reiterated his call for a New York City Land Bank/Land Trust, which he <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/building-an-affordable-future-the-promise-of-a-new-york-city-land-bank/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first proposed</a> in February 2016, to build housing on vacant lots.</p> <p><strong>Teacher Residency</strong><br />In June this year, Stringer <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/to-combat-teacher-exodus-from-new-york-city-schools-comptroller-stringer-proposes-largest-teacher-residency-program-in-america/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released a plan</a> to reduce teacher turnover in city schools, after an analysis by his office showed that 41% of teachers hired in the 2012-13 school year had left their jobs within five years.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer proposed a paid, year-long residency program to train 1,000 new teachers annually, partnering them with mentors for classroom training and providing them with stipends for living costs.</p> <p>On other education fronts, Stringer’s efforts more closely linked to his core job responsibilities have already shown results. After a May 2015 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-doe-violating-state-laws-regarding-physical-education-in-city-schools-deep-disparities-in-access-new-report-shows/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on inadequate physical education at schools across the city, the de Blasio administration added $100 million to hire physical education teachers in the five boroughs. And following an April 2014 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-report-finds-significant-disparities-in-arts-education/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on broad disparities in arts education, the city allocated $24 million in new city funding to hire more than 100 arts teachers in neighborhoods with the highest needs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Abortion Funding</strong><br />Ahead of the passage of the city budget this year, Stringer rallied with reproductive health rights activists to push the city to allocate $250,000 to the New York Abortion Access Fund, a nonprofit service provider. The push was successful, with the City Council and de Blasio deciding to earmark funding, reportedly making New York the first city in the country to directly fund abortion services.</p> <p><strong>Insurance for Pregnancy</strong><br />In March 2015, the comptroller released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-report-shows-barriers-to-healthcare-for-uninsured-pregnant-women/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a report</a> on pre-natal care coverage for pregnant women enrolled in insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The ACA did not recognize pregnancy as a “qualifying event” for immediate coverage. Following Stringer’s report, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas introduced and passed legislation to allow for that coverage in New York, making it the first state to do so.</p> <p><strong>Puerto Rico Recovery</strong><br />In October 2017, after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, Stringer released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-releases-plan-to-finance-puerto-ricos-recovery-and-support-displaced-puerto-rican-citizens/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">six-point plan</a> based on an analysis of federal programs to help the island recover from the hurricane’s devastation. New York City is home to the largest community of Puerto Ricans outside of the island, many of whom continue to have ties to family living there, and the city was one of the main destinations for residents fleeing the island after the hurricane.</p> <p>Stringer proposed federal loan guarantees for the construction of public infrastructure to help the debt-ridden island, called on Congress to authorize Disaster Recovery Private Activity Bonds (which were utilized after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to rebuild Downtown Manhattan), and an expansion of federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit for residents of Puerto Rico. He&nbsp;also pushed for measures to help displaced Puerto Ricans, including additional education funding for displaced and homeless students, and for higher education institutions where Puerto Ricans are enrolled.</p> <p><strong>Chief Diversity Officer</strong><br />Stringer has used his position as the fiduciary to the city’s pension funds to push for greater board diversity at companies where the pension fund invests its money. At the same time, he has pushed for more diversity at city agencies, more city contract spending with MWBEs, and has <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-and-broad-coalition-rally-for-a-chief-diversity-officer-in-city-hall-demanding-charter-revision-commission-focus-on-equity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> for the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer at City Hall (Stringer has appointed his own chief diversity officer). He pushed the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to include the idea among its ballot proposals but was unsuccessful, though the commission is moving ahead with a proposal to enshrine responsibility for the city’s MWBE program at City Hall.</p> <p><strong>Immigrant Services</strong><br />In March 2015, Stringer <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-releases-comprehensive-manual-to-expand-immigrants-access-to-city-services/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">released</a> an “Immigrant Rights and Services Manual” – initially translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian and Spanish – to help immigrants navigate local, state and federal services.</p> <p>In February 2016, he also released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-report-soaring-costs-create-barrier-to-citizenship-for-670000-immigrant-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> on citizenship application fees, with recommendations for federal and local action. He urged the city to provide more citizenship assistance programs, to add funding for English and civics classes, and to expand free legal services, among other proposals.</p> <p><strong>Commuter Rail &amp; Bus Reliability</strong><br />In October 2018, Stringer released a <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-unveils-new-transit-plan-to-integrate-all-brooklyn-queens-and-bronx-commuter-rail-stations-with-the-mta/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposal</a> to expand access to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, by reducing fares for in-city trips to the cost of a single MetroCard swipe. He called on the MTA to ensure commuter trains take more local stops, that buses provide enhanced service to commuter rail stations, and that those stations be made ADA accessible. His plan, which would entail providing commuter rail service at 38 stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, would cost about $50 million each year, he estimated.</p> <p>In 2017, Stringer released <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-report-mta-buses-already-slowest-in-the-nation-lost-100-million-passenger-trips-since-2008/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a major report</a> on the city's struggling buses, which have lost ridership at a dangerous clip, with an agenda for how to improve the system.</p> <p><strong>Security Deposits &amp; Credit Score Benefits</strong><br />In July 2018, Stringer released an analysis of security deposits in the New York City rental housing market, finding that renters paid about $507 million into security deposits in 2016. He called for legislation to cap security deposits as well as additional regulation regarding payments and refunds. The state Legislature this year put new rent regulations into effect that implement some of those reforms.</p> <p>And in October 2017, Stringer launched <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-proposal-would-allow-residents-to-add-rent-data-to-credit-histories-and-boost-scores-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-new-yorkers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pilot projects</a> to help renters in roughly 3,000 apartment units to report their rent payment to increase their credit scores. The program was expanded a year later.</p> <p><strong>Playgrounds</strong><br />In April, Stringer launched the “<a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-playground-deserts-leave-too-many-nyc-children-with-no-place-to-play/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pavement to Playgrounds</a>” campaign, pointing to a dearth of playgrounds across the city and substandard conditions at hundreds of city playgrounds. Stringer pushed the city to build 200 new playgrounds over five years through partnership between the city’s Parks Department, the Department of Transportation, nonprofits and community boards.</p> <p><strong>BQE Reconstruction</strong><br />In March, Stringer proposed his own <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-proposes-new-vision-for-bqe-reconstruction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vision</a> for how the city should rehab the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, including by converting the triple cantilever and Cobble Hill trench into a truck-only thruway and building a new two-mile park on the remaining space. A panel assembled by de Blasio is working on coming up with recommendations for a new plan after the city’s original idea received a great deal of pushback and appears to have been scrapped.</p> <p><strong>Marijuana Legalization</strong><br />Before de Blasio released his administration’s plan embracing the legalization of recreational adult use of marijuana in December, Stringer had already <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/new-comptroller-stringer-analysis-legalizing-marijuana-could-lead-to-millions-in-tax-revenue-for-city-and-state/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">explored</a> the possible ramifications of creating a legal market in the city and <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/comptroller-stringer-new-marijuana-revenues-need-to-go-to-communities-most-impacted-by-cannabis-enforcement/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed measures</a> to ensure that the city creates an equitable industry.</p> <p>Stringer pushed for investing tax revenue from sales into communities most adversely affected by marijuana enforcement, called for equity provisions in state legislation (particularly by making people with marijuana-related convictions eligible for licenses to sell legal marijuana) and proposed a citywide equity program to provide assistance to individuals and businesses seeking to enter the industry.&nbsp;</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Eric Adams on Criminal Justice Reform, NYCHA Development & 2021 Controversy 2019-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8609-eric-adams-on-criminal-justice-reform-nycha-development-2021-controversy Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/nycmayoroffice-doe.jpg" alt="nycmayoroffice doe" width="600" /></p> <p>Eric Adams (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent interview</a>, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams discussed a number of pressing topics, including the end of the legislative session in Albany, criminal justice reform and plans for a larger jail in downtown Brooklyn, controversy around campaign finance reform that is heating up the 2021 mayoral race, which Adams is a part of, and more.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>&nbsp;last week, Adams, a former state senator before being elected borough president in 2013, said he is happy to see the progress being made by the all-Democratic led state government in Albany, including recently-passed, sweeping rent regulations that Adams had pushed for.</p> <p>Democratic control of both houses of the Legislature “makes it much easier to accomplish the task,” Adams said, but he added “there’s so much more to do,” and expressed his support for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which has since passed both the Assembly and Senate and was signed by Governor Cuomo, and legalization of adult-use marijuana, which has stalled.</p> <p>According to Adams, being arrested for a non-violent drug offense, such as possession of marijuna, “really impacts your quality of life around employment, and other areas that a person can be productive in society.” The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act being debated in Albany and unlikely to pass this session, scheduled to end June 19, has the potential to prevent many of the 800,000 arrests made for marijuana possession in New York each year.</p> <p>Adams called extending driver’s licenses to all who can earn one, through requisite paperwork and driving test, a “win-win,” and noted that the ability to drive legally allows immigrants to step out “from the shadows of government.” Furthermore, Adams noted that equal access to driver’s license allows for more accountability and safety on the road.</p> <p>A former longtime member of the NYPD, Adams said, “It would deal with reporting incidents and accidents, it would allow people to be employed, and that’s just a win-win all the way around.”</p> <p>Adams raised issues of education funding out of Albany and the city budget negotiations around “pay parity” for early childhood educators at Department of Education schools and community-based organizations funded by the city. Speaking just before an agreement was announced by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council on a new city budget for next fiscal year with a “commitment” to agreeing on a pay parity structure through collective bargaining with the labor unions involved, Adams said, “you need to ensure that our teachers in these pre-K locations are receiving the same salaries.” For Adams, this is especially concerning considering that “many of these local community based organizations are in poorer communities.”</p> <p>Asked about the city’s plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with new or larger jail facilities in the four boroughs other than Staten Island, Adams said he plans to wait before releasing his official recommendation on the expanded Brooklyn jail plan. Adams said he was listening to local stakeholders, including community boards and other members of the public, and that he would soon issue his opinion as the jail plan moves through the formal land use review process, in which borough presidents like Adams have an advisory role.</p> <p>Adams, who is in favor of closing the Rikers jails, argues more needs to be done in criminal justice reform to prevent people from engaging in crime in the first place and to ensure that communities are safe.</p> <p>He said it is essential to “properly address the issue of not giving [young people] the services at the beginning of their educational opportunities.” Asked about bail and other reforms recently passed in Albany that will impact the city’s criminal justice system and jail population, Adams said, “I don’t believe that a person who commits a non-violent act, as I said earlier, should be incarcerated in Rikers merely because they do not have enough money to pay for bail.” Adams made a distinction when it comes to violent crime, though.</p> <p>On the perpetually hot-button topic of public housing in New York City, Adams voiced strong support for housing development on NYCHA land, and said that the city should make a greater effort to help the struggling housing authority. NYCHA is crucial, Adams said, because 40% of New Yorkers experience a “sufficiency deficit,” meaning they do not make enough money to afford necessities such as, “food, shelter, and clothing.”</p> <p>“We must get back into the affordable housing mindset,” Adams said, arguing it is important for both low- and middle-income New Yorkers. While expressing concern for NYCHA residents who may be hesitant to move apartments or see major change at their overall developments, he noted the extreme need NYCHA has for tens of billions of dollars in repairs and that many older NYCHA residents in multi-bedroom apartments could downsize, freeing up room.</p> <p>“I think that we should utilize the infill buildings,” Adams said, and “I believe that all of this should be done with a conversation with the NYCHA residents.” Warning that the city must be smarter about managing its properties, Adams said there must be better use of technology and data. As he often does, he cited CompStat, the NYPD tool, and said its essential to use tech and data to eliminate “waste and mismanagement” and bring NYCHA into “the 21st century.”</p> <p>Turning to politics, Adams was asked about a recent controversy over City Council legislation that was on the verge of passage. Other likely mayoral candidates in the next election -- with the all-important Democratic primary set for June 2021 -- have been embroiled in a back-and-forth over the last few weeks, with Comptroller Scott Stringer accusing City Council Speaker Corey Johnson of moving campaign finance reform legislation to benefit Johnson and hurt his competition, particularly Stringer.</p> <p>Under the legislation, which Mayor de Blasio appears supportive of, any candidate who wants to opt into a new system with higher public matching of smaller contributions must retroactively abide by new rules, including returning money raised in 2018 that exceeded the new maximum donation limits from individual donors. Candidates can, for one more election cycle, choose whether to use the old system, with lower public matches but higher individual donations, or the new system. If Stringer -- and Adams and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the other likely mayoral candidate at this point -- wants to use the new system, he’ll have to refund potentially many thousands of dollars.</p> <p>Adams claimed he stands alone on the issue of campaign finance reform, stating that he does not believe there should be any donor money in politics at all, calling for full public financing of campaigns. Fighting about dollar amounts is a “first world problem,” he said when asked about the controversy over the Council bill, and because of the barriers associated with having to raise money for campaigns, “good, qualified people are unable to run for mayor and we will never hear their voices,” he said.</p> <p>Adams said campaigns “should be publicly financed,” and that, “it’s almost an insult to think that lowering dollar amounts is going to change the corruption problem in politics.”</p> <p>On the issue at hand, Adams criticized Johnson, saying, “It’s wrong for any elected official to do something that’s going to impact them while they are in service.” He said he is still reviewing which system he’ll choose for the election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams</a>]</p> <p>

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by Cyan Hunte, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/nycmayoroffice-doe.jpg" alt="nycmayoroffice doe" width="600" /></p> <p>Eric Adams (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a recent interview</a>, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams discussed a number of pressing topics, including the end of the legislative session in Albany, criminal justice reform and plans for a larger jail in downtown Brooklyn, controversy around campaign finance reform that is heating up the 2021 mayoral race, which Adams is a part of, and more.</p> <p><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On the Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>&nbsp;last week, Adams, a former state senator before being elected borough president in 2013, said he is happy to see the progress being made by the all-Democratic led state government in Albany, including recently-passed, sweeping rent regulations that Adams had pushed for.</p> <p>Democratic control of both houses of the Legislature “makes it much easier to accomplish the task,” Adams said, but he added “there’s so much more to do,” and expressed his support for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which has since passed both the Assembly and Senate and was signed by Governor Cuomo, and legalization of adult-use marijuana, which has stalled.</p> <p>According to Adams, being arrested for a non-violent drug offense, such as possession of marijuna, “really impacts your quality of life around employment, and other areas that a person can be productive in society.” The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act being debated in Albany and unlikely to pass this session, scheduled to end June 19, has the potential to prevent many of the 800,000 arrests made for marijuana possession in New York each year.</p> <p>Adams called extending driver’s licenses to all who can earn one, through requisite paperwork and driving test, a “win-win,” and noted that the ability to drive legally allows immigrants to step out “from the shadows of government.” Furthermore, Adams noted that equal access to driver’s license allows for more accountability and safety on the road.</p> <p>A former longtime member of the NYPD, Adams said, “It would deal with reporting incidents and accidents, it would allow people to be employed, and that’s just a win-win all the way around.”</p> <p>Adams raised issues of education funding out of Albany and the city budget negotiations around “pay parity” for early childhood educators at Department of Education schools and community-based organizations funded by the city. Speaking just before an agreement was announced by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council on a new city budget for next fiscal year with a “commitment” to agreeing on a pay parity structure through collective bargaining with the labor unions involved, Adams said, “you need to ensure that our teachers in these pre-K locations are receiving the same salaries.” For Adams, this is especially concerning considering that “many of these local community based organizations are in poorer communities.”</p> <p>Asked about the city’s plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex and replace it with new or larger jail facilities in the four boroughs other than Staten Island, Adams said he plans to wait before releasing his official recommendation on the expanded Brooklyn jail plan. Adams said he was listening to local stakeholders, including community boards and other members of the public, and that he would soon issue his opinion as the jail plan moves through the formal land use review process, in which borough presidents like Adams have an advisory role.</p> <p>Adams, who is in favor of closing the Rikers jails, argues more needs to be done in criminal justice reform to prevent people from engaging in crime in the first place and to ensure that communities are safe.</p> <p>He said it is essential to “properly address the issue of not giving [young people] the services at the beginning of their educational opportunities.” Asked about bail and other reforms recently passed in Albany that will impact the city’s criminal justice system and jail population, Adams said, “I don’t believe that a person who commits a non-violent act, as I said earlier, should be incarcerated in Rikers merely because they do not have enough money to pay for bail.” Adams made a distinction when it comes to violent crime, though.</p> <p>On the perpetually hot-button topic of public housing in New York City, Adams voiced strong support for housing development on NYCHA land, and said that the city should make a greater effort to help the struggling housing authority. NYCHA is crucial, Adams said, because 40% of New Yorkers experience a “sufficiency deficit,” meaning they do not make enough money to afford necessities such as, “food, shelter, and clothing.”</p> <p>“We must get back into the affordable housing mindset,” Adams said, arguing it is important for both low- and middle-income New Yorkers. While expressing concern for NYCHA residents who may be hesitant to move apartments or see major change at their overall developments, he noted the extreme need NYCHA has for tens of billions of dollars in repairs and that many older NYCHA residents in multi-bedroom apartments could downsize, freeing up room.</p> <p>“I think that we should utilize the infill buildings,” Adams said, and “I believe that all of this should be done with a conversation with the NYCHA residents.” Warning that the city must be smarter about managing its properties, Adams said there must be better use of technology and data. As he often does, he cited CompStat, the NYPD tool, and said its essential to use tech and data to eliminate “waste and mismanagement” and bring NYCHA into “the 21st century.”</p> <p>Turning to politics, Adams was asked about a recent controversy over City Council legislation that was on the verge of passage. Other likely mayoral candidates in the next election -- with the all-important Democratic primary set for June 2021 -- have been embroiled in a back-and-forth over the last few weeks, with Comptroller Scott Stringer accusing City Council Speaker Corey Johnson of moving campaign finance reform legislation to benefit Johnson and hurt his competition, particularly Stringer.</p> <p>Under the legislation, which Mayor de Blasio appears supportive of, any candidate who wants to opt into a new system with higher public matching of smaller contributions must retroactively abide by new rules, including returning money raised in 2018 that exceeded the new maximum donation limits from individual donors. Candidates can, for one more election cycle, choose whether to use the old system, with lower public matches but higher individual donations, or the new system. If Stringer -- and Adams and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the other likely mayoral candidate at this point -- wants to use the new system, he’ll have to refund potentially many thousands of dollars.</p> <p>Adams claimed he stands alone on the issue of campaign finance reform, stating that he does not believe there should be any donor money in politics at all, calling for full public financing of campaigns. Fighting about dollar amounts is a “first world problem,” he said when asked about the controversy over the Council bill, and because of the barriers associated with having to raise money for campaigns, “good, qualified people are unable to run for mayor and we will never hear their voices,” he said.</p> <p>Adams said campaigns “should be publicly financed,” and that, “it’s almost an insult to think that lowering dollar amounts is going to change the corruption problem in politics.”</p> <p>On the issue at hand, Adams criticized Johnson, saying, “It’s wrong for any elected official to do something that’s going to impact them while they are in service.” He said he is still reviewing which system he’ll choose for the election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams</a>]</p> <p>

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by Cyan Hunte, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

&nbsp;</p>
Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race 2019-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8601-council-passes-campaign-finance-bill-roiling-early-mayoral-race Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48057358031_112fab51c7_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Kallos City Council" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Council Members Kallos, left, &amp; Rodriguez, right, with Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council passed a much-anticipated, controversial campaign finance bill Thursday, raising the cap on how much public funding a campaign can receive and altering other dynamics of the city’s matching system. The bill -- the source of significant consternation over the past several days, particularly among likely 2021 mayoral candidates - passed by a vote of 41-6, with one abstention, and three absences.</p> <p>The legislation, which Mayor de Blasio has indicated support for, increases the public matching funds ceiling so that campaigns are able to raise only smaller donations and still have enough money to hit their spending limit. It also has a retroactivity component, a bill change within just the past 10 days, that caused a stir and appears likely to impact several upcoming races, including the Democratic primary for mayor.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a likely 2021 mayoral candidate, and City Council Member Ben Kallos, the lead sponsor of the bill, defended the legislation, including retroactivity that will make candidates return money raised in 2018 above new lower donation limits if they choose to opt into the newer of two programs that has more public matching.</p> <p>That portion of the bill stands to benefit Johnson and hurt competitors like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>“We are literally doing something that is entirely consistent with what we did three months ago and now all of a sudden we are being criticized for it,” Johnson said at the press conference, referring to actions the Council took to make new campaign finance rules approved by voters last year apply to the special election for Public Advocate.</p> <p>Johnson, who pledged in January not to take any donations larger than $250 as he explores a mayoral run, said he has long supported the legislation and it has nothing to do with the race. He and Kallos also pointed out that the retroactivity component was discussed during an April hearing on the bill and recommended by the Campaign Finance Board so that an entire four-year election cycle would be run by the same rules, for whichever of the two programs candidates choose.</p> <p>Still, neither Kallos nor Johnson had a clear answer for why the amendment to the bill had come so close to the Council’s votes on the matter.</p> <p>Johnson noted the difficulty in creating legislation that affects lawmakers themselves.</p> <p>“It’s hard to vote on these things because every time you do you’re potentially affecting yourself and your colleagues in what you do. It’s one of the challenging things you deal with as a current elected official when you start to look at the system that exists and you seek to improve it or change it,” Johnson said.</p> <p>“For the current election cycle, just like we did for public advocate, when no one criticized it, you need to pick option A or option B,” Johnson said at the press conference. “No one is being forced to opt into the 8-to-1 [matching] system. We are just saying if you are going to opt into one system, be consistent throughout the entire cycle,” Johnson said.</p> <p>If Stringer or others opt into the new system, they would receive its 8-to-1 match on all qualifying donations $250 or under, but under maximum individual donations of $2,000 (down from $5,100 for citywide candidates), and they would, based on the new Council bill, have to return the difference on any donations above the new maximum. That last aspect is what has driven Stringer and others to call Johnson out.</p> <p>Others have criticized the bill for using more taxpayer money.</p> <p>“I’m not sure how we look a homeless person in the eye and tell them we can’t find them an affordable place to live but don’t worry we have money for our next campaign mailing,” Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said on the Council floor before the vote. He voted no, as he had done in committee on Tuesday.</p> <p>Supporters of the bill pointed out it’s potential to decrease the power of special interests and large donors in politics.</p> <p>“I can’t believe we’re standing here having an argument over how much big money people should get to take after the voters said they want politicians to get less big money,” Kallos said at the press conference.</p> <p>“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say to me ‘I don’t want my dollars matched.’ The public match is increasing participation and the taxpayers, the residents actually like it. They like having their voices amplified and direct access to elected officials that they otherwise wouldn’t,” Kallos added.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of cynicism in government because people feel like big donors have too much access in government, and here’s a way to take big money out and have it be publicly financed,” Johnson said at the press conference.</p> <p>Representatives for Stringer, who would likely have to return the most money under the new system, if he sticks with the program of lower donation limits and higher matching, called Johnson amending the legislation and pushing it through a “brazen power grab” and using his government position to advantage his campaign.</p> <p>“Johnson is rushing through a law that explicitly benefits him,” wrote Stringer spokesperson Tyrone Stevens <a href="https://twitter.com/TyroneCStevens/status/1139232108726161408" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Twitter</a>. “It’s deeply unethical and it’s not good government. Shame on him.”</p> <p>"I’m a firm believer you don’t change the game in the middle of the game,” Adams <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Max &amp; Murphy podcast on Wednesday</a>, “...any major changes in the system should not be beneficial to any party involved. And I think that’s part of what Scott Stringer was saying." Adams said he wasn’t yet sure which of the two campaign finance programs he’ll choose.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Diaz Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>At the Council on Thursday, among those voting no was Yeger, who sits on the Committee on Governmental Operations, which first heard and passed the bill, sending it to the full Council. Joining Yeger in opposition were Council Members Mark Gjonaj and Ruben Diaz, Sr., both Bronx Democrats, and the Council’s three Republicans: Council Members Eric Ulrich, Steven Matteo, and Joseph Borelli.</p> <p>Council Member I. Daneek Miller was the sole abstention. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was absent for the committee vote on Tuesday, was also absent for the vote by the Council, despite having been present during the press conference preceding the full Council meeting.</p> <p>

***
by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48057358031_112fab51c7_z.jpg" alt="Johnson Kallos City Council" width="600" height="393" /></p> <p>Council Members Kallos, left, &amp; Rodriguez, right, with Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council passed a much-anticipated, controversial campaign finance bill Thursday, raising the cap on how much public funding a campaign can receive and altering other dynamics of the city’s matching system. The bill -- the source of significant consternation over the past several days, particularly among likely 2021 mayoral candidates - passed by a vote of 41-6, with one abstention, and three absences.</p> <p>The legislation, which Mayor de Blasio has indicated support for, increases the public matching funds ceiling so that campaigns are able to raise only smaller donations and still have enough money to hit their spending limit. It also has a retroactivity component, a bill change within just the past 10 days, that caused a stir and appears likely to impact several upcoming races, including the Democratic primary for mayor.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a likely 2021 mayoral candidate, and City Council Member Ben Kallos, the lead sponsor of the bill, defended the legislation, including retroactivity that will make candidates return money raised in 2018 above new lower donation limits if they choose to opt into the newer of two programs that has more public matching.</p> <p>That portion of the bill stands to benefit Johnson and hurt competitors like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>“We are literally doing something that is entirely consistent with what we did three months ago and now all of a sudden we are being criticized for it,” Johnson said at the press conference, referring to actions the Council took to make new campaign finance rules approved by voters last year apply to the special election for Public Advocate.</p> <p>Johnson, who pledged in January not to take any donations larger than $250 as he explores a mayoral run, said he has long supported the legislation and it has nothing to do with the race. He and Kallos also pointed out that the retroactivity component was discussed during an April hearing on the bill and recommended by the Campaign Finance Board so that an entire four-year election cycle would be run by the same rules, for whichever of the two programs candidates choose.</p> <p>Still, neither Kallos nor Johnson had a clear answer for why the amendment to the bill had come so close to the Council’s votes on the matter.</p> <p>Johnson noted the difficulty in creating legislation that affects lawmakers themselves.</p> <p>“It’s hard to vote on these things because every time you do you’re potentially affecting yourself and your colleagues in what you do. It’s one of the challenging things you deal with as a current elected official when you start to look at the system that exists and you seek to improve it or change it,” Johnson said.</p> <p>“For the current election cycle, just like we did for public advocate, when no one criticized it, you need to pick option A or option B,” Johnson said at the press conference. “No one is being forced to opt into the 8-to-1 [matching] system. We are just saying if you are going to opt into one system, be consistent throughout the entire cycle,” Johnson said.</p> <p>If Stringer or others opt into the new system, they would receive its 8-to-1 match on all qualifying donations $250 or under, but under maximum individual donations of $2,000 (down from $5,100 for citywide candidates), and they would, based on the new Council bill, have to return the difference on any donations above the new maximum. That last aspect is what has driven Stringer and others to call Johnson out.</p> <p>Others have criticized the bill for using more taxpayer money.</p> <p>“I’m not sure how we look a homeless person in the eye and tell them we can’t find them an affordable place to live but don’t worry we have money for our next campaign mailing,” Council Member Kalman Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, said on the Council floor before the vote. He voted no, as he had done in committee on Tuesday.</p> <p>Supporters of the bill pointed out it’s potential to decrease the power of special interests and large donors in politics.</p> <p>“I can’t believe we’re standing here having an argument over how much big money people should get to take after the voters said they want politicians to get less big money,” Kallos said at the press conference.</p> <p>“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say to me ‘I don’t want my dollars matched.’ The public match is increasing participation and the taxpayers, the residents actually like it. They like having their voices amplified and direct access to elected officials that they otherwise wouldn’t,” Kallos added.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of cynicism in government because people feel like big donors have too much access in government, and here’s a way to take big money out and have it be publicly financed,” Johnson said at the press conference.</p> <p>Representatives for Stringer, who would likely have to return the most money under the new system, if he sticks with the program of lower donation limits and higher matching, called Johnson amending the legislation and pushing it through a “brazen power grab” and using his government position to advantage his campaign.</p> <p>“Johnson is rushing through a law that explicitly benefits him,” wrote Stringer spokesperson Tyrone Stevens <a href="https://twitter.com/TyroneCStevens/status/1139232108726161408" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Twitter</a>. “It’s deeply unethical and it’s not good government. Shame on him.”</p> <p>"I’m a firm believer you don’t change the game in the middle of the game,” Adams <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the Max &amp; Murphy podcast on Wednesday</a>, “...any major changes in the system should not be beneficial to any party involved. And I think that’s part of what Scott Stringer was saying." Adams said he wasn’t yet sure which of the two campaign finance programs he’ll choose.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Diaz Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>At the Council on Thursday, among those voting no was Yeger, who sits on the Committee on Governmental Operations, which first heard and passed the bill, sending it to the full Council. Joining Yeger in opposition were Council Members Mark Gjonaj and Ruben Diaz, Sr., both Bronx Democrats, and the Council’s three Republicans: Council Members Eric Ulrich, Steven Matteo, and Joseph Borelli.</p> <p>Council Member I. Daneek Miller was the sole abstention. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who was absent for the committee vote on Tuesday, was also absent for the vote by the Council, despite having been present during the press conference preceding the full Council meeting.</p> <p>

***
by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 2019-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 2019-06-12T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8597-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-jail-budget-politics Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/bbp-eric-adams-wbai-photo.jpg" alt="bbp eric adams wbai photo" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 12, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/bbp-eric-adams.jpg" alt="bbp eric adams" width="155" height="126" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined the show to discuss a wide range of topics, from his city budget priorities to addressing NYCHA's financial needs, criminal justice reform, a campaign finance controversy swirling around the City Council and the 2021 race for mayor, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/635768466&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/bbp-eric-adams-wbai-photo.jpg" alt="bbp eric adams wbai photo" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 12, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/bbp-eric-adams.jpg" alt="bbp eric adams" width="155" height="126" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined the show to discuss a wide range of topics, from his city budget priorities to addressing NYCHA's financial needs, criminal justice reform, a campaign finance controversy swirling around the City Council and the 2021 race for mayor, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/635768466&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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The Power to Prevent New Infections is In Our Hands 2019-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2019-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8436-the-power-to-prevent-new-infections-is-in-our-hands Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/eric-adams-credit.jpg" alt="eric adams credit" width="600" height="365" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Eric Adams, the author (photo:&nbsp;Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The world of medicine has advanced significantly in the battle against many chronic diseases, including the discovery of the polio vaccine and reversing the effects of diabetes and heart disease. However, one battle continues to be fought in research labs and on the ground in communities across America and around the world — the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.</p> <p>While New York State has been a fearless leader on a national level in the effort to end this disease, Brooklyn remains the epicenter of a persistent health crisis. To tackle this head-on, the State set an ambitious goal of ending the epidemic by 2020.&nbsp;Thanks to the diligent work of advocates, community-based organizations, and health care providers, the target is within reach.</p> <p>Yet statistics reveal a disturbing trend that must be addressed to complete the mission. Data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) reveals that 2017 HIV diagnoses were down to a record low of 2,157 citywide. Though this progress is encouraging, the rate of reduction is slowing, from an 8.6% decline in new diagnoses in 2016 to 5.4% in 2017. Brooklyn bears a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with&nbsp;more than 30,000 of our neighbors living with HIV.</p> <p>In 2017, our borough experienced 640 new HIV diagnoses, representing a 10.15%&nbsp;increase&nbsp;in new diagnoses from the previous year — making Brooklyn the only borough with an increase. Most alarmingly, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights are the hardest-hit neighborhoods citywide, accounting for a quarter of new diagnoses in our borough.</p> <p>Today -- Wednesday, April 10 -- we recognize National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day. I continue to be concerned that each year since 2013 Brooklyn has more HIV diagnoses among youth aged 13-29 than any other borough. We owe it to our community’s young people to allow them to live in a world without AIDS. &nbsp;</p> <p>We cannot let the promise of an end to HIV miss the mark by neglecting our most susceptible communities that have already been neglected through generational poverty, institutional racism, and unequal access to quality health care. We have tools at our disposal to end this epidemic, particularly by expanding Medicaid Special Needs Health Plans (SNPs), which are designed to address the needs of individuals living with or at higher risk for HIV. These specialized health plans help members access treatment so that the virus becomes suppressed or “undetectable,” meaning they are unable to transmit HIV to others.</p> <p>The more people we help achieve undetectable status, the closer we are to a society without HIV and AIDS. SNPs also have the expertise to connect HIV-negative individuals with effective prevention methods such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) so they can remain negative, saving $1 billion in state Medicaid costs for every 2,000 new infections.</p> <p>The sectors of the population most at risk for contracting the virus are certainly those who will benefit most from an expansion of this crucial program. The State’s “Blueprint to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic by 2020” lists include men who have sex with men (MSM), people of transgender experience, women of color, HIV-negative partners in couples in which one person is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive, and people who are intravenous drug users as populations at higher risk for HIV.</p> <p>To reduce the rate of HIV in Brooklyn and reach the 2020 eradication target, we must reach these vulnerable populations and ensure they receive the culturally competent services needed to remain HIV negative. At present, of the populations identified by the State as being at higher risk, only HIV-negative transgender individuals are currently eligible to enroll in SNPs. To reach the end of this epidemic, this must change.&nbsp;</p> <p>Consider the clear scientific evidence that PrEP is more than 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission, yet the largest portion of New York State Medicaid recipients taking PrEP – 37% – are white gay and bisexual men despite black and Latino gay and bisexual men being hardest hit by the epidemic. We need to expand SNP eligibility and outreach to communities of color in the hardest-hit parts of our city to connect them to the services they need to get tested, treated, and enrolled.</p> <p>We have the tools at our disposal to revolutionize the way we combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The power to prevent new infections is in our hands.</p> <p>***<br />Eric L. Adams is the Brooklyn borough president. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BPEricAdams" target="_self">@BPEricAdams</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/eric-adams-credit.jpg" alt="eric adams credit" width="600" height="365" /></p> <p>Brooklyn BP Eric Adams, the author (photo:&nbsp;Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The world of medicine has advanced significantly in the battle against many chronic diseases, including the discovery of the polio vaccine and reversing the effects of diabetes and heart disease. However, one battle continues to be fought in research labs and on the ground in communities across America and around the world — the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.</p> <p>While New York State has been a fearless leader on a national level in the effort to end this disease, Brooklyn remains the epicenter of a persistent health crisis. To tackle this head-on, the State set an ambitious goal of ending the epidemic by 2020.&nbsp;Thanks to the diligent work of advocates, community-based organizations, and health care providers, the target is within reach.</p> <p>Yet statistics reveal a disturbing trend that must be addressed to complete the mission. Data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) reveals that 2017 HIV diagnoses were down to a record low of 2,157 citywide. Though this progress is encouraging, the rate of reduction is slowing, from an 8.6% decline in new diagnoses in 2016 to 5.4% in 2017. Brooklyn bears a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with&nbsp;more than 30,000 of our neighbors living with HIV.</p> <p>In 2017, our borough experienced 640 new HIV diagnoses, representing a 10.15%&nbsp;increase&nbsp;in new diagnoses from the previous year — making Brooklyn the only borough with an increase. Most alarmingly, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights are the hardest-hit neighborhoods citywide, accounting for a quarter of new diagnoses in our borough.</p> <p>Today -- Wednesday, April 10 -- we recognize National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day. I continue to be concerned that each year since 2013 Brooklyn has more HIV diagnoses among youth aged 13-29 than any other borough. We owe it to our community’s young people to allow them to live in a world without AIDS. &nbsp;</p> <p>We cannot let the promise of an end to HIV miss the mark by neglecting our most susceptible communities that have already been neglected through generational poverty, institutional racism, and unequal access to quality health care. We have tools at our disposal to end this epidemic, particularly by expanding Medicaid Special Needs Health Plans (SNPs), which are designed to address the needs of individuals living with or at higher risk for HIV. These specialized health plans help members access treatment so that the virus becomes suppressed or “undetectable,” meaning they are unable to transmit HIV to others.</p> <p>The more people we help achieve undetectable status, the closer we are to a society without HIV and AIDS. SNPs also have the expertise to connect HIV-negative individuals with effective prevention methods such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) so they can remain negative, saving $1 billion in state Medicaid costs for every 2,000 new infections.</p> <p>The sectors of the population most at risk for contracting the virus are certainly those who will benefit most from an expansion of this crucial program. The State’s “Blueprint to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic by 2020” lists include men who have sex with men (MSM), people of transgender experience, women of color, HIV-negative partners in couples in which one person is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive, and people who are intravenous drug users as populations at higher risk for HIV.</p> <p>To reduce the rate of HIV in Brooklyn and reach the 2020 eradication target, we must reach these vulnerable populations and ensure they receive the culturally competent services needed to remain HIV negative. At present, of the populations identified by the State as being at higher risk, only HIV-negative transgender individuals are currently eligible to enroll in SNPs. To reach the end of this epidemic, this must change.&nbsp;</p> <p>Consider the clear scientific evidence that PrEP is more than 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission, yet the largest portion of New York State Medicaid recipients taking PrEP – 37% – are white gay and bisexual men despite black and Latino gay and bisexual men being hardest hit by the epidemic. We need to expand SNP eligibility and outreach to communities of color in the hardest-hit parts of our city to connect them to the services they need to get tested, treated, and enrolled.</p> <p>We have the tools at our disposal to revolutionize the way we combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The power to prevent new infections is in our hands.</p> <p>***<br />Eric L. Adams is the Brooklyn borough president. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BPEricAdams" target="_self">@BPEricAdams</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Where Top Officials Stand on the SHSAT and Specialized High School Admissions 2019-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 2019-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8406-where-top-city-officials-stand-on-the-shsat-and-specialized-high-school-admissions Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40733260400_a45196408a_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio SHSAT" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio announces specialized high schools plan (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In June of 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/06/02/mayor-bill-de-blasio-new-york-city-will-push-for-admissions-changes-at-elite-and-segregated-specialized-high-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rolled out a plan</a> to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) for New York City’s specialized public high schools, in an effort to increase diversity, especially for black and Latino youth, at the city’s eight elite test-based institutions. Joined for a press conference in Brooklyn’s JHS 292 school by a Hunter College student, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and a number of City Council members and State Assembly members, he hosted a rally-like announcement, where he initiated a call-and-response: “Time for change?” de Blasio asked three times. “Yes!” the audience yelled back.</p> <p>“For thousands and thousands of students and neighborhoods all over New York City, the message has been these specialized schools aren’t for you,” de Blasio said in June. “So, the solution is simple: the test has to go.”</p> <p>But it’s not simple. He received swift backlash from the city’s Asian-American community––especially those of low income, who comprise a significant portion of the specialized public high school student body. Though his plan was celebrated by some local politicians, as months passed, some began to shy away from their support for de Blasio’s plan and insisted on a more broadly palatable path.</p> <p>De Blasio had not gotten much of the necessary buy-in to move his plan in the state Legislature -- state law dictates that the SHSAT is the sole criteria for entry into the three largest specialized high schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech -- the mayor did little else to push his plan, and the discussion fizzled.</p> <p>Then came <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/nyregion/black-students-nyc-high-schools.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Feliza-shapiro&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=5&amp;pgtype=collection">the news earlier this month</a> that of the 895 students offered admission to Stuyvesant High School, the city’s most rigorous and exclusive public school, only seven of those students were black. The controversy reenergized the debate around school admissions, the SHSAT, the city’s larger school system, and other key issues, embroiling not only city politicians, but also those who work in Albany.</p> <p>The latest data for admissions to Stuyvesant and the other specialized schools set off a new round of questioning the use of the SHSAT (few if any other learning institutions at any level across the country use a single test to determine admissions) and reinvigorated interest in plans put forth by de Blasio and others to ensure more racial and ethnic diversity at the schools. While those who prefer the current system dug in.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed the lack of diversity at the schools is a problem and said the city should change admissions at the five schools it controls and then put pressure on state legislators to follow suit for the other three. He did not offer any specifics on what he believes to be the right admissions criteria.</p> <p>Neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has taken a concrete position on the SHSAT and specialized high school admissions. Heastie did say on March 8 that he wants to see “more specialized slots” and the schools "more reflective of the city's population," but he did not go further. He said the Assembly majority would take the issue up at some point.</p> <p>A group of state senators called for “open dialogue and consensus-building on school diversity and admissions.” Queens Senator John Liu, who chairs the Senate’s New York City schools subcommittee, said de Blasio’s plan exacerbates racial tension, but brought together colleagues to announce a plan to hold hearings later this year.</p> <p>“What we need is open-mindedness and open dialogue in order to build a consensus for a plan going forward,” Liu said. Other senators echoed Liu, decrying the city’s diversity statistics and calling for a series of community forums, but neglecting to offer any other concrete solutions.</p> <p>De Blasio said he looked forward to future dialogue. A couple of weeks later, on Thursday,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/03/28/de-blasio-shsat-segregation-proposal-asian-american-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he acknowledged</a> that he did not roll out his plan well, and pledged more engagement with the city’s Asian communities.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote an <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/03/28/corey-johnson-nyc-specialized-high-schools/">op-ed in Chalkbeat NY on Thursday</a> in which he called for the eventual elimination of the use of the SHSAT for admissions to the city’s specialized high schools and for “additional City-designated elite high schools, separate from the eight test-based high schools governed by state law.” Johnson wrote that this process “would allow the [Department of Education] to pilot new admissions criteria that will promote diversity without needing state approval.”</p> <p>Johnson also wrote that City Council will soon consider new legislation addressing diversity in specialized high schools and beyond, including a task force to determine new admissions criteria, codification of the School Diversity Advisory Group, establishing District Diversity Working Groups in each school district, and the creation of an oversight role housed in the city Human Rights Commission called a School Diversity Monitor.</p> <p>"The problem with the specialized high schools’ admissions process runs much deeper than one test," said Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee, in a statement, noting that he will hold a hearing on school segregation next month. Treyger also cited an op-ed published <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-keep-the-test-change-the-system-20190327-i5hraxljj5bazhlfgqg77dgdtq-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in the New York Daily News</a> on Wednesday by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who argued against eliminating the test and pushed for expanding gifted-and-talented programs citywide.</p> <p>"I won’t support a plan that solely abolishes an exam, which was essentially the Mayor’s plan," Treyger said. "I’m open to a plan that includes revamping and expanding enrichment programs, adding more crucial seats, across all districts, particularly in communities of color. We must engage with all marginalized communities as we examine how to better integrate schools, from pre-k to high school. We need full integration, which means examining evidence-based multiple measures to enter specialized schools, and the pipeline of schools that populate them and the rest of our school system."</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams initially backed de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the use of the SHSAT and move to multiple measures for admissions to the specialized schools, even appearing at the announcement to lend his support,&nbsp;but <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/06/18/brooklyn-president-turns-on-school-testing-plan-after-donor-backlash/">he then backtracked</a>.</p> <p>Adams <a href="http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2018/jul/02/bp-eric-adams-states-his-shsat-position/">penned an op-ed in the Amsterdam News</a> last July voicing his support for the SHSAT––with caveats. He called for “free preparatory services for every student who wants to take the SHSAT but faces economic hardship,” funded by the city, in addition to expanding middle school gifted and talented programs. Additionally, he advocated creating five new specialized high schools, one per borough, and incorporating other academic metrics like class performance into the admissions process. This week, Adams’ office told the Gotham Gazette that his position remains the same.</p> <p>After de Blasio announced his plan, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. also voiced his support, calling it a “welcome step forward” and a “validation of the diligent work of so many elected officials, educators, activists and parents whose efforts have focused on this issue for years, if not decades.” Like Adams, he has since walked back his support, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8396-max-murphy-podcast-bronx-borough-president-ruben-diaz-jr">telling the Max &amp; Murphy podcast this week</a> that he favors a more holistic admissions approach that includes the SHSAT in addition to a number of other academic criteria.</p> <p>Asked for her position by Gotham Gazette, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer advocated for methods of improving diversity beyond eliminating the entrance exam and also called for community forums. The city should engage in “a back and forth with students and parents about the many options to reform the admissions at these specific high schools,” she said.</p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer has not responded to a request for comment.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the Committee on Education.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40733260400_a45196408a_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio SHSAT" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio announces specialized high schools plan (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In June of 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/06/02/mayor-bill-de-blasio-new-york-city-will-push-for-admissions-changes-at-elite-and-segregated-specialized-high-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">rolled out a plan</a> to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) for New York City’s specialized public high schools, in an effort to increase diversity, especially for black and Latino youth, at the city’s eight elite test-based institutions. Joined for a press conference in Brooklyn’s JHS 292 school by a Hunter College student, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and a number of City Council members and State Assembly members, he hosted a rally-like announcement, where he initiated a call-and-response: “Time for change?” de Blasio asked three times. “Yes!” the audience yelled back.</p> <p>“For thousands and thousands of students and neighborhoods all over New York City, the message has been these specialized schools aren’t for you,” de Blasio said in June. “So, the solution is simple: the test has to go.”</p> <p>But it’s not simple. He received swift backlash from the city’s Asian-American community––especially those of low income, who comprise a significant portion of the specialized public high school student body. Though his plan was celebrated by some local politicians, as months passed, some began to shy away from their support for de Blasio’s plan and insisted on a more broadly palatable path.</p> <p>De Blasio had not gotten much of the necessary buy-in to move his plan in the state Legislature -- state law dictates that the SHSAT is the sole criteria for entry into the three largest specialized high schools, Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech -- the mayor did little else to push his plan, and the discussion fizzled.</p> <p>Then came <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/nyregion/black-students-nyc-high-schools.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Feliza-shapiro&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=5&amp;pgtype=collection">the news earlier this month</a> that of the 895 students offered admission to Stuyvesant High School, the city’s most rigorous and exclusive public school, only seven of those students were black. The controversy reenergized the debate around school admissions, the SHSAT, the city’s larger school system, and other key issues, embroiling not only city politicians, but also those who work in Albany.</p> <p>The latest data for admissions to Stuyvesant and the other specialized schools set off a new round of questioning the use of the SHSAT (few if any other learning institutions at any level across the country use a single test to determine admissions) and reinvigorated interest in plans put forth by de Blasio and others to ensure more racial and ethnic diversity at the schools. While those who prefer the current system dug in.</p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed the lack of diversity at the schools is a problem and said the city should change admissions at the five schools it controls and then put pressure on state legislators to follow suit for the other three. He did not offer any specifics on what he believes to be the right admissions criteria.</p> <p>Neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has taken a concrete position on the SHSAT and specialized high school admissions. Heastie did say on March 8 that he wants to see “more specialized slots” and the schools "more reflective of the city's population," but he did not go further. He said the Assembly majority would take the issue up at some point.</p> <p>A group of state senators called for “open dialogue and consensus-building on school diversity and admissions.” Queens Senator John Liu, who chairs the Senate’s New York City schools subcommittee, said de Blasio’s plan exacerbates racial tension, but brought together colleagues to announce a plan to hold hearings later this year.</p> <p>“What we need is open-mindedness and open dialogue in order to build a consensus for a plan going forward,” Liu said. Other senators echoed Liu, decrying the city’s diversity statistics and calling for a series of community forums, but neglecting to offer any other concrete solutions.</p> <p>De Blasio said he looked forward to future dialogue. A couple of weeks later, on Thursday,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/03/28/de-blasio-shsat-segregation-proposal-asian-american-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he acknowledged</a> that he did not roll out his plan well, and pledged more engagement with the city’s Asian communities.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote an <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/03/28/corey-johnson-nyc-specialized-high-schools/">op-ed in Chalkbeat NY on Thursday</a> in which he called for the eventual elimination of the use of the SHSAT for admissions to the city’s specialized high schools and for “additional City-designated elite high schools, separate from the eight test-based high schools governed by state law.” Johnson wrote that this process “would allow the [Department of Education] to pilot new admissions criteria that will promote diversity without needing state approval.”</p> <p>Johnson also wrote that City Council will soon consider new legislation addressing diversity in specialized high schools and beyond, including a task force to determine new admissions criteria, codification of the School Diversity Advisory Group, establishing District Diversity Working Groups in each school district, and the creation of an oversight role housed in the city Human Rights Commission called a School Diversity Monitor.</p> <p>"The problem with the specialized high schools’ admissions process runs much deeper than one test," said Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee, in a statement, noting that he will hold a hearing on school segregation next month. Treyger also cited an op-ed published <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-keep-the-test-change-the-system-20190327-i5hraxljj5bazhlfgqg77dgdtq-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in the New York Daily News</a> on Wednesday by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who argued against eliminating the test and pushed for expanding gifted-and-talented programs citywide.</p> <p>"I won’t support a plan that solely abolishes an exam, which was essentially the Mayor’s plan," Treyger said. "I’m open to a plan that includes revamping and expanding enrichment programs, adding more crucial seats, across all districts, particularly in communities of color. We must engage with all marginalized communities as we examine how to better integrate schools, from pre-k to high school. We need full integration, which means examining evidence-based multiple measures to enter specialized schools, and the pipeline of schools that populate them and the rest of our school system."</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams initially backed de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the use of the SHSAT and move to multiple measures for admissions to the specialized schools, even appearing at the announcement to lend his support,&nbsp;but <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/06/18/brooklyn-president-turns-on-school-testing-plan-after-donor-backlash/">he then backtracked</a>.</p> <p>Adams <a href="http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2018/jul/02/bp-eric-adams-states-his-shsat-position/">penned an op-ed in the Amsterdam News</a> last July voicing his support for the SHSAT––with caveats. He called for “free preparatory services for every student who wants to take the SHSAT but faces economic hardship,” funded by the city, in addition to expanding middle school gifted and talented programs. Additionally, he advocated creating five new specialized high schools, one per borough, and incorporating other academic metrics like class performance into the admissions process. This week, Adams’ office told the Gotham Gazette that his position remains the same.</p> <p>After de Blasio announced his plan, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. also voiced his support, calling it a “welcome step forward” and a “validation of the diligent work of so many elected officials, educators, activists and parents whose efforts have focused on this issue for years, if not decades.” Like Adams, he has since walked back his support, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8396-max-murphy-podcast-bronx-borough-president-ruben-diaz-jr">telling the Max &amp; Murphy podcast this week</a> that he favors a more holistic admissions approach that includes the SHSAT in addition to a number of other academic criteria.</p> <p>Asked for her position by Gotham Gazette, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer advocated for methods of improving diversity beyond eliminating the entrance exam and also called for community forums. The city should engage in “a back and forth with students and parents about the many options to reform the admissions at these specific high schools,” she said.</p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer has not responded to a request for comment.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the Committee on Education.</p> A Closer Look at ‘Vital Brooklyn,’ Cuomo’s Plan for ‘One of the Greatest Areas of Need in the Entire State’ 2018-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/billion-vital-bk.jpg" alt="billion vital bk" width="600" height="498" /></p> <p>Cuomo &amp; Vital Brooklyn (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In March of 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-transform-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unveiled</a> what he described as a groundbreaking initiative to “bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state.” That place was Central Brooklyn, where roubling health indicators of all types plague residents, from diabetes rates to poverty levels to inadequate access to quality health care.</p> <p>Cuomo said the plan, named Vital Brooklyn, came with $1.4 billion in state funds to pay for a long list of items across the borough, from playground renovations to job training to resiliency projects — all with the aim of fighting “entrenched pockets of poverty” in a comprehensive way, he said <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170309/crown-heights/vital-brooklyn-cuomo-funding-healthcare-affordable-housing/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">at the time</a>.</p> <p>“What is the area in this state that has the greatest social need? If you look at unemployment rates, food stamps, physical inactivity, number of murders, one of the greatest areas of need in the entire state is Central Brooklyn. And it’s not even close,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>Since then, the governor has made nearly a dozen announcements related to Vital Brooklyn, six of them taking place from June to September in the lead-up to this year’s gubernatorial primary in which candidates for statewide offices heavily courted Central Brooklyn voters. At those events, Cuomo emphasized state funding for an oyster reef restoration project ($400,000), 22 community gardens ($3.1 million), fresh food programs ($1.8 million) and a new 407-acre state park to be named after iconic Brooklyn Congressional Rep. Shirley Chisholm — an announcement made eight days before the primary.</p> <p>In total, the governor’s office says there are 8,800 projects funded under the Vital Brooklyn umbrella, funded by the $1.4 billion (a dollar amount unchanged since spring of 2017, according to the state budget office). However, it’s important to note that those touted by the governor — such as those gardens, farmers markets and state park — make up a small slice of the total funding. The much larger pieces of the pie fall into just two (albeit very big) categories: housing and health care.</p> <p>In fact, nine out of every 10 dollars spent through Vital Brooklyn fall into the housing and health care columns: $578 million for subsidized housing in rapidly gentrifying areas (for example, a 2,400-unit project <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-vital-brooklyns-100-percent-affordable-housing-rfp-winners-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener">just announced</a> in East New York) and $700 million, allocated in 2015, for a new health care system that aims to restructure and revive three of Brooklyn's struggling hospitals.</p> <p>While some aspects of Vital Brooklyn are quickly taking shape, others will take months or years to materialize. Some officials, including several who have excitedly joined Cuomo at celebratory announcements, are lauding the investments, but critics of the project worry it’s not enough — and take issue with how Vital Brooklyn was rolled out, and how the money is divvied up.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a recent interview that his office wasn’t asked to give input on the project (the state instead took comments from advisory boards convened through the area’s elected state Assembly members) and he feels the funding is too small in scope and dollar amount, even if the governor’s frequent appearances make it appear otherwise.</p> <p>“We have to have a re-examination of the state allocations and are we doing what’s right by Brooklyn,” he said, particularly in relation to the Bronx, which Adams feels has gotten significantly more financial help from the state; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a close ally of the governor.</p> <p>Earlier this year, he put it more bluntly earlier in an interview on the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>.</p> <p>“You can’t keep brushing off and rolling out the same billion-dollar project,” he said in May.</p> <p>When asked to respond to that claim — and whether or not the Vital Brooklyn announcements were made in relation to this year’s primary — Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens’ comment was brief: “Bogus.”</p> <p>“This is simple: Our significant new investment in Brooklyn is based on a multi-pronged strategy to uplift communities that have been ignored for too long,” Stevens said in an email. “We’re proud of this effort, and we will not be shy about talking to local residents about the important work we’re doing to make their neighborhoods a better place to live.”</p> <p><strong>Big Spending: Health Care</strong><br />Of Vital Brooklyn’s $1.4 billion, fully half is dedicated to a new health care system for Brooklyn. That funding comes from a $700 million capital grant made through the Health Care Facilities Transformation Program included in the 2015-2016 state budget, allocated two years before it was announced as part of Vital Brooklyn.</p> <p>The funding will go to One Brooklyn Health System (OBHS), a newly formed operator that will combine the management of three previously separate Central Brooklyn hospitals — Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center serving Brownsville and East New York — into one not-for-profit corporation.</p> <p>LaRay Brown, previously the president and CEO of Interfaith, is heading up the new venture. She says she’s been pushing for years for the “incredibly impactful” amount of state funding that will support dozens of major projects throughout the new health care system.</p> <p>Inside the buildings, the $700 million will pay for “boring things, but essential things,” Brown said, like replacing elevators, repairing HVAC systems and updating an outdated fire alarm system.</p> <p>“I say they’re boring, but they’re critical to providing safe and comfortable patient care,” she said.</p> <p>The medical centers will get major upgrades to their patient facilities, too. According to Request for Proposal documents from OBHS, Brookdale will build out a new 33-bed intensive care unit, renovate a 40-year-old operating room suite and upgrade all of the facility’s inpatient psychiatric units among others improvements. At Interfaith, the medical center’s emergency room will be upgraded and expanded, inpatient medical units will be renovated and new equipment such as MRI and x-ray machines will be installed. Major medical equipment will be replaced at Kingsbrook, as well, the documents show.</p> <p>Overall, the idea for the restructuring and redesign is to merge services among the three hospitals in order to form a more streamlined organization — and hopefully, in the end, become more financially stable.</p> <p>That’s according to state officials from the Public Health and Health Planning Council who approved the creation of OBHS in December of 2016. A report to the council at the time concluded that, operating separately, the hospitals require hundreds of millions of dollars in operating subsidies from the state every year “and are otherwise not financially sustainable.” (According to budget data from a PHHPC report, operating funds given to the three hospitals from the state totaled $169 million in 2015-16, then rose to $245 million in 2016-17 and $250 million in 2017-18.)</p> <p>“They've come together … in an effort to try to restructure and become more efficient and reduce its dependence on specialty subsidies,” state health department official Charles Abel told the council before it approved the OBHS application.</p> <p>To achieve those efficiencies, OBHS will reorganize how certain operations run within the three hospitals. For example, Brown said, Kingsbrook will no longer have inpatient medical-surgical beds and, though it will still have an emergency room, patients in need of ongoing acute or complex care will be transferred elsewhere, likely to Brookdale, which Brown said will become the system’s “center of excellence.”</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41412467220_754c37b860_z.jpg" alt="LaRay Brown Brooklyn" width="250" height="161" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />“As the inpatient acute care role diminishes at Kingsbrook, that role increases at Brookdale,” said Brown (pictured).</p> <p>But Brown is careful to note the restructuring effort should not be considered a consolidation. Current assessments by OBHS show no material difference between the number of current beds and projected beds in the system, according to OBHS’ Dona Green. In the end, Brown says the quality and quantity of services will expand.</p> <p>“Because these hospitals are coming together and because of the state’s commitment to invest in these hospitals, the Central Brooklyn community served by these hospitals will get more services, and not less,” Brown said.</p> <p>That sentiment was echoed by Assemblymember Latrice Walker of District 55 in Brownsville, who has been waiting for years to see this funding come through for the hospital system, particularly at Brookdale, where many of her constituents go for care — and where her own brother died of gunshot wounds when he was 19, she said.</p> <p>“I’m confident the services will be reinvigorated and enumerated. I don’t think we’re going to lose anything here,” she said. “Quite the contrary — we’re actually gaining.”</p> <p>By the totality of the health facilities in the works under Vital Brooklyn, that appears to be the case. A chunk of the initiative’s healthcare funding — $210 million in all — is allocated to create 32 new ambulatory care facilities, or community health centers, under the OBHS umbrella. The goal there is to create more medical offices, outpatient surgical facilities and urgent care options with a more long-term goal of reducing unnecessary trips to emergency rooms.</p> <p>“We need to start moving toward people having primary care physicians so that the emergency room isn’t their doctor office,” Walker said.</p> <p>Cuomo put it this way when announcing some of the 32 ambulatory care locations <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-locations-expanded-services-and-partnerships-vital-brooklyns-210" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in July</a> of this year: “It's not just about a hospital where you go when you're very sick.”</p> <p>“Prevent the illness in the first place,” he continued. “Have more community-based healthcare systems that are focused on wellness, and health, as opposed to waiting for a person to get sick, and then be in acute need.”</p> <p>These new ambulatory centers are meant to handle a diverse slate of same-day health services, including diagnostic work, rehabilitation, or even major procedures such as hip replacements, according to Bill Hammond, the Director of Health Policy at the Empire Center think tank.</p> <p>Ambulatory centers have a lot of benefits, he said. For the patient, it’s generally a more comfortable experience to avoid spending a night at a hospital, and there’s less risk of infection. For hospitals, increasing outpatient services makes a lot of financial sense.</p> <p>“It’s less expensive,” he said. “Hospitals come with a lot of overhead.”</p> <p>That idea is in line with a healthcare trend more generally to move patients out of traditional inpatient hospitals and toward ambulatory centers for all kinds of services, from preventative doctor visits all the way up to certain surgeries. The move from “reliance on hospital-based services” to more outpatient services “is a major policy shift,” said Brown of OBHS. And it takes place within the context of years of financial struggle, and at times closure, for many hospitals, particularly those serving low-income communities, as costs have continued to rise.</p> <p>To combat that, the Vital Brooklyn plan puts a priority on the financial viability of health care projects funded under the plan. Included in guidelines for evaluating applicants to Vital Brooklyn, the state’s <a href="https://www.ny.gov/transforming-central-brooklyn/vital-brooklyn-initiative-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a> says it will consider “the extent to which the proposed projects further the development of primary care and other outpatient services; the extent to which the proposed projects contribute to the long-term sustainability of the applicant or preservation of essential health services; and the extent to which the proposed projects involve partnerships with community-based health care providers,” among other criteria.</p> <p>With the funding for the new 32 health facilities, the state hopes to roughly double the number of ambulatory care visits in Central Brooklyn, increasing capacity for 742,000 more visits every year, according to the governor’s office.</p> <p>Exactly where all that new health care capacity will be built is unknown; all 32 locations have not yet been finalized. But Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-locations-expanded-services-and-partnerships-vital-brooklyns-210" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> plans in July for renovations and the expansion of several existing health care centers, including the Bishop Walker Health Care Center in Prospect Heights, the Pierre Toussaint Health Center in Crown Heights and the Brownsville Multi-Service Center. In addition to those locations, several health care providers including the Bed-Stuy Family Health Center, Community Health Network, and ODA Primary Health Care Network have been chosen by the state to build new health centers in Brooklyn, providing both primary and specialty care.</p> <p>Some of the 32 new ambulatory health centers will be built within new developments underwritten by the second largest piece of the Vital Brooklyn funding: affordable housing.</p> <p><strong>Housing on State and Hospital Sites</strong><br /> In all, the state will spend $578 million — or more than 40 percent of the total Vital Brooklyn package — on subsidized housing, with a goal to build 4,000 new units over several years.</p> <p>The governor has repeatedly linked overall health goals of Vital Brooklyn to housing, particularly in rapidly gentrifying areas such as East New York where speculative buying and building, combined with a 2016 rezoning, has put pressure on poor residents.</p> <p>“It starts in the home, having the right housing, having the right environment, having the right support. And that's where we're going to start. We need afford affordable housing because out people are being displaced. Gentrification is everywhere,” the governor said at a Vital Brooklyn event <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-launches-phase-two-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earlier this year</a>.</p> <p>How all those units will be constructed is still up in the air, but details on some of the development sites are beginning to emerge. Late last month, the state announced four winning bids to develop housing on land owned by the three OBHS hospitals or on state-controlled land, including one complex in East New York that’s set to deliver the bulk of the subsidized housing funded under Vital Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Nov. 29, the state chose Westchester-based L+M Development Partners, Harlem-based construction group Apex Building, and two social services organizations — RiseBoro Community Partnership and Services for the Underserved — to bring a massive, 2,400-unit development to the site of the former Brooklyn Developmental Center, a home for developmentally delayed adults that closed in 2015. The three other chosen projects — two to be built on land owned by Interfaith hospital and another on land owned by Brookdale Hospital — will bring another 328 subsidized units to the borough.</p> <p>At the same time the state announced those projects, it rolled out another set of request for proposals (RFPs) on eight state-controlled sites around the borough, including several hospital parking lots set to be replaced by new buildings. Proposals for five of the sites are due by February 28, 2019 and the three others are due by April 30, according to the RFP documents.</p> <p>A majority of the affordable housing will be funded by $568 million allocated through the state’s Homes and Community Renewal agency, with a goal of creating 3,000 units. In addition, the governor said <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-1000-affordable-homes-targeted-nycha-seniors-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in August</a> $15 million in federal tax credits have been allocated by the state for future housing developments on land controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). In his announcement on that initiative, the governor said he hopes to support the creation of 1,000 units of housing. However, no specific sites for those developments have been announced and will be “reviewed on a rolling basis by HCR as NYCHA makes properties available through its disposition process,” according to a press release.</p> <p>The need for housing is the number one priority for Brooklyn residents, Borough President Adams said, and he gave credit to Vital Brooklyn for addressing the issue. He also acknowledged the plans would bring much-needed resources — including park space and options for healthy food — to the area. But he thinks it doesn’t go far enough.</p> <p>“We’re dealing with historical inequities. People who were denied food access before —&nbsp;OK, let’s give them more farmer’s market,” he said. “Those things are great. But if we’re going to invest, let’s be visionaries in our investment.”</p> <p>He would have liked to see more funding allocated to grandparent housing, which is set aside for grandparents who are the primary caregivers to young children, and even more resources given to the hospital network, he said.</p> <p>More criticism of the governor’s Vital Brooklyn plan came from the East New York district where the large Brooklyn Developmental Center site is set to be rebuilt under the initiative. The complex will have 100 percent subsidized apartments set aside for a combination of formerly homeless New Yorkers, households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) — a federal guideline for determining the cost of affordable housing — and the rest for households earning less than 80 percent of the AMI. Currently for a family of three, 80 percent of AMI equals $62,150 a year.</p> <p>That may sound like a win in a low-income area like East New York. But with the median household income of East New York at $34,512 per year (according to data from the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency), the development doesn’t satisfy one of the neighborhood’s longtime leaders.</p> <p>Assemblymember Charles Barron says his district needs even more low-cost units because only a fraction of its residents are in the 80-percent income range. And, overall, he thinks Vital Brooklyn doesn’t go far enough in a state with a $168 billion budget, and billions more in capital spending.</p> <p>“You see $600, $700 million and think it’s wonderful and a lot of money,” he said. “That is peanuts.”</p> <p>In particular, he wants to see more support for the healthcare system.</p> <p>“It’s simply not enough money for three hospitals,” he said.</p> <p>In response, Cuomo spokesperson Stevens said in a statement that the Vital Brooklyn investment is “delivering substantial resources and coordinated services to support neighborhoods that have long been neglected.”</p> <p>“We believe this massive commitment is something to celebrate, not politicize with cheap attacks that are untethered to reality,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Looking for Results</strong><br />The governor has often said, for him, Vital Brooklyn is a project that brings his own career full circle, from when he was working on housing in East New York as a young man, to now. In speaking about it, he says he has wanted to help turn Brooklyn around for years.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/28352892617_4fa1267f26_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Brooklyn" width="250" height="176" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />“I never lost the inspiration, and the hope, and the optimism, of what you can do when you do it right,” he said in a speech on the project in April, nearly half-way through his eighth year in office. “For me, this is something special. This is something that is long overdue. It's an investment in people who desperately have needed help, and have been ignored for too long.”</p> <p>But it may take quite a while to see all of the Vital Brooklyn projects come to life. Some of the smaller pieces of the puzzle, like a pilot program for youth-run food markets and construction on new playgrounds, are beginning this year and next, the governor has said. For the larger, more complicated parts, however, it could take years; for example, some of the first units of housing are estimated to come online in 2021 and others — like the East New York project — is not slated for completion until 2026, the governor’s office said.</p> <p>The health center restructuring, too, will takes years to finish. When it’s finally complete, it remains to be seen whether the largest part of Vital Brooklyn — the $700 million in health care capital funding — will make a substantive difference to financially shore up the three Central Brooklyn hospitals.</p> <p>Hammond of the Empire Center said if the plan is a good one that reconfigures the facilities’ operations significantly, it “could put them in a different position to succeed,” though he was hesitant to say whether he believes the restructuring will prove successful long-term.</p> <p>But the health funding is not peanuts, as Barron said, nor is it a groundbreaking amount, as one may think from the governor’s announcements. The reality is somewhere in the middle.</p> <p>“The state routinely spends billions and billions of dollars on health care all over the state,” both in discretionary grants and capital allocations, Hammond said. “On any given day, you could go to a different community and announce a very large-sounding dollar amount…and it would be absolutely routine.”</p> <p>However, on a per-resident basis, Brooklyn is getting more than the average — while falling far below the state’s most generous allocations. Hammond found the state spent $190 per resident in capital health care spending in the last five years in New York State. In Kings County, the per-resident breakdown equaled $264 per resident, which is “significantly more than the state average,” he said. But that figure is dwarfed by another capital grant also given in 2015 to a hospital system in Oneida County, where spending totaled $1,297 per resident.</p> <p>For all those funding plans, however, the dollars have not yet started to flow, according to Brown of OBHS. Before that happens, several bureaucratic steps must take place, including complying with transparency regulations approved by the state comptroller’s office. She hopes that will be complete in the new year.</p> <p>“Everyone is endeavouring to get [approval]…by early 2019,” she said, while emphasizing it’s hard to make an exact estimate, as she and her team are figuring out the complexities of the project as they go along.</p> <p>“We’re all entering a new journey here,” she said.</p> <p>***<br />by Rachel Holliday Smith for Gotham Gazette<br /> <a href="https://twitter.com/rachelholliday"> @rachelholliday</a><br /> <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>All photos via the Governor's Office on flickr.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/billion-vital-bk.jpg" alt="billion vital bk" width="600" height="498" /></p> <p>Cuomo &amp; Vital Brooklyn (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In March of 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-transform-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unveiled</a> what he described as a groundbreaking initiative to “bring health and wellness to one of the most disadvantaged parts of the state.” That place was Central Brooklyn, where roubling health indicators of all types plague residents, from diabetes rates to poverty levels to inadequate access to quality health care.</p> <p>Cuomo said the plan, named Vital Brooklyn, came with $1.4 billion in state funds to pay for a long list of items across the borough, from playground renovations to job training to resiliency projects — all with the aim of fighting “entrenched pockets of poverty” in a comprehensive way, he said <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170309/crown-heights/vital-brooklyn-cuomo-funding-healthcare-affordable-housing/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">at the time</a>.</p> <p>“What is the area in this state that has the greatest social need? If you look at unemployment rates, food stamps, physical inactivity, number of murders, one of the greatest areas of need in the entire state is Central Brooklyn. And it’s not even close,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>Since then, the governor has made nearly a dozen announcements related to Vital Brooklyn, six of them taking place from June to September in the lead-up to this year’s gubernatorial primary in which candidates for statewide offices heavily courted Central Brooklyn voters. At those events, Cuomo emphasized state funding for an oyster reef restoration project ($400,000), 22 community gardens ($3.1 million), fresh food programs ($1.8 million) and a new 407-acre state park to be named after iconic Brooklyn Congressional Rep. Shirley Chisholm — an announcement made eight days before the primary.</p> <p>In total, the governor’s office says there are 8,800 projects funded under the Vital Brooklyn umbrella, funded by the $1.4 billion (a dollar amount unchanged since spring of 2017, according to the state budget office). However, it’s important to note that those touted by the governor — such as those gardens, farmers markets and state park — make up a small slice of the total funding. The much larger pieces of the pie fall into just two (albeit very big) categories: housing and health care.</p> <p>In fact, nine out of every 10 dollars spent through Vital Brooklyn fall into the housing and health care columns: $578 million for subsidized housing in rapidly gentrifying areas (for example, a 2,400-unit project <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-vital-brooklyns-100-percent-affordable-housing-rfp-winners-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener">just announced</a> in East New York) and $700 million, allocated in 2015, for a new health care system that aims to restructure and revive three of Brooklyn's struggling hospitals.</p> <p>While some aspects of Vital Brooklyn are quickly taking shape, others will take months or years to materialize. Some officials, including several who have excitedly joined Cuomo at celebratory announcements, are lauding the investments, but critics of the project worry it’s not enough — and take issue with how Vital Brooklyn was rolled out, and how the money is divvied up.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a recent interview that his office wasn’t asked to give input on the project (the state instead took comments from advisory boards convened through the area’s elected state Assembly members) and he feels the funding is too small in scope and dollar amount, even if the governor’s frequent appearances make it appear otherwise.</p> <p>“We have to have a re-examination of the state allocations and are we doing what’s right by Brooklyn,” he said, particularly in relation to the Bronx, which Adams feels has gotten significantly more financial help from the state; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a close ally of the governor.</p> <p>Earlier this year, he put it more bluntly earlier in an interview on the <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7648-max-murphy-podcast-brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy podcast</a>.</p> <p>“You can’t keep brushing off and rolling out the same billion-dollar project,” he said in May.</p> <p>When asked to respond to that claim — and whether or not the Vital Brooklyn announcements were made in relation to this year’s primary — Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens’ comment was brief: “Bogus.”</p> <p>“This is simple: Our significant new investment in Brooklyn is based on a multi-pronged strategy to uplift communities that have been ignored for too long,” Stevens said in an email. “We’re proud of this effort, and we will not be shy about talking to local residents about the important work we’re doing to make their neighborhoods a better place to live.”</p> <p><strong>Big Spending: Health Care</strong><br />Of Vital Brooklyn’s $1.4 billion, fully half is dedicated to a new health care system for Brooklyn. That funding comes from a $700 million capital grant made through the Health Care Facilities Transformation Program included in the 2015-2016 state budget, allocated two years before it was announced as part of Vital Brooklyn.</p> <p>The funding will go to One Brooklyn Health System (OBHS), a newly formed operator that will combine the management of three previously separate Central Brooklyn hospitals — Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center serving Brownsville and East New York — into one not-for-profit corporation.</p> <p>LaRay Brown, previously the president and CEO of Interfaith, is heading up the new venture. She says she’s been pushing for years for the “incredibly impactful” amount of state funding that will support dozens of major projects throughout the new health care system.</p> <p>Inside the buildings, the $700 million will pay for “boring things, but essential things,” Brown said, like replacing elevators, repairing HVAC systems and updating an outdated fire alarm system.</p> <p>“I say they’re boring, but they’re critical to providing safe and comfortable patient care,” she said.</p> <p>The medical centers will get major upgrades to their patient facilities, too. According to Request for Proposal documents from OBHS, Brookdale will build out a new 33-bed intensive care unit, renovate a 40-year-old operating room suite and upgrade all of the facility’s inpatient psychiatric units among others improvements. At Interfaith, the medical center’s emergency room will be upgraded and expanded, inpatient medical units will be renovated and new equipment such as MRI and x-ray machines will be installed. Major medical equipment will be replaced at Kingsbrook, as well, the documents show.</p> <p>Overall, the idea for the restructuring and redesign is to merge services among the three hospitals in order to form a more streamlined organization — and hopefully, in the end, become more financially stable.</p> <p>That’s according to state officials from the Public Health and Health Planning Council who approved the creation of OBHS in December of 2016. A report to the council at the time concluded that, operating separately, the hospitals require hundreds of millions of dollars in operating subsidies from the state every year “and are otherwise not financially sustainable.” (According to budget data from a PHHPC report, operating funds given to the three hospitals from the state totaled $169 million in 2015-16, then rose to $245 million in 2016-17 and $250 million in 2017-18.)</p> <p>“They've come together … in an effort to try to restructure and become more efficient and reduce its dependence on specialty subsidies,” state health department official Charles Abel told the council before it approved the OBHS application.</p> <p>To achieve those efficiencies, OBHS will reorganize how certain operations run within the three hospitals. For example, Brown said, Kingsbrook will no longer have inpatient medical-surgical beds and, though it will still have an emergency room, patients in need of ongoing acute or complex care will be transferred elsewhere, likely to Brookdale, which Brown said will become the system’s “center of excellence.”</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41412467220_754c37b860_z.jpg" alt="LaRay Brown Brooklyn" width="250" height="161" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />“As the inpatient acute care role diminishes at Kingsbrook, that role increases at Brookdale,” said Brown (pictured).</p> <p>But Brown is careful to note the restructuring effort should not be considered a consolidation. Current assessments by OBHS show no material difference between the number of current beds and projected beds in the system, according to OBHS’ Dona Green. In the end, Brown says the quality and quantity of services will expand.</p> <p>“Because these hospitals are coming together and because of the state’s commitment to invest in these hospitals, the Central Brooklyn community served by these hospitals will get more services, and not less,” Brown said.</p> <p>That sentiment was echoed by Assemblymember Latrice Walker of District 55 in Brownsville, who has been waiting for years to see this funding come through for the hospital system, particularly at Brookdale, where many of her constituents go for care — and where her own brother died of gunshot wounds when he was 19, she said.</p> <p>“I’m confident the services will be reinvigorated and enumerated. I don’t think we’re going to lose anything here,” she said. “Quite the contrary — we’re actually gaining.”</p> <p>By the totality of the health facilities in the works under Vital Brooklyn, that appears to be the case. A chunk of the initiative’s healthcare funding — $210 million in all — is allocated to create 32 new ambulatory care facilities, or community health centers, under the OBHS umbrella. The goal there is to create more medical offices, outpatient surgical facilities and urgent care options with a more long-term goal of reducing unnecessary trips to emergency rooms.</p> <p>“We need to start moving toward people having primary care physicians so that the emergency room isn’t their doctor office,” Walker said.</p> <p>Cuomo put it this way when announcing some of the 32 ambulatory care locations <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-locations-expanded-services-and-partnerships-vital-brooklyns-210" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in July</a> of this year: “It's not just about a hospital where you go when you're very sick.”</p> <p>“Prevent the illness in the first place,” he continued. “Have more community-based healthcare systems that are focused on wellness, and health, as opposed to waiting for a person to get sick, and then be in acute need.”</p> <p>These new ambulatory centers are meant to handle a diverse slate of same-day health services, including diagnostic work, rehabilitation, or even major procedures such as hip replacements, according to Bill Hammond, the Director of Health Policy at the Empire Center think tank.</p> <p>Ambulatory centers have a lot of benefits, he said. For the patient, it’s generally a more comfortable experience to avoid spending a night at a hospital, and there’s less risk of infection. For hospitals, increasing outpatient services makes a lot of financial sense.</p> <p>“It’s less expensive,” he said. “Hospitals come with a lot of overhead.”</p> <p>That idea is in line with a healthcare trend more generally to move patients out of traditional inpatient hospitals and toward ambulatory centers for all kinds of services, from preventative doctor visits all the way up to certain surgeries. The move from “reliance on hospital-based services” to more outpatient services “is a major policy shift,” said Brown of OBHS. And it takes place within the context of years of financial struggle, and at times closure, for many hospitals, particularly those serving low-income communities, as costs have continued to rise.</p> <p>To combat that, the Vital Brooklyn plan puts a priority on the financial viability of health care projects funded under the plan. Included in guidelines for evaluating applicants to Vital Brooklyn, the state’s <a href="https://www.ny.gov/transforming-central-brooklyn/vital-brooklyn-initiative-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a> says it will consider “the extent to which the proposed projects further the development of primary care and other outpatient services; the extent to which the proposed projects contribute to the long-term sustainability of the applicant or preservation of essential health services; and the extent to which the proposed projects involve partnerships with community-based health care providers,” among other criteria.</p> <p>With the funding for the new 32 health facilities, the state hopes to roughly double the number of ambulatory care visits in Central Brooklyn, increasing capacity for 742,000 more visits every year, according to the governor’s office.</p> <p>Exactly where all that new health care capacity will be built is unknown; all 32 locations have not yet been finalized. But Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-locations-expanded-services-and-partnerships-vital-brooklyns-210" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> plans in July for renovations and the expansion of several existing health care centers, including the Bishop Walker Health Care Center in Prospect Heights, the Pierre Toussaint Health Center in Crown Heights and the Brownsville Multi-Service Center. In addition to those locations, several health care providers including the Bed-Stuy Family Health Center, Community Health Network, and ODA Primary Health Care Network have been chosen by the state to build new health centers in Brooklyn, providing both primary and specialty care.</p> <p>Some of the 32 new ambulatory health centers will be built within new developments underwritten by the second largest piece of the Vital Brooklyn funding: affordable housing.</p> <p><strong>Housing on State and Hospital Sites</strong><br /> In all, the state will spend $578 million — or more than 40 percent of the total Vital Brooklyn package — on subsidized housing, with a goal to build 4,000 new units over several years.</p> <p>The governor has repeatedly linked overall health goals of Vital Brooklyn to housing, particularly in rapidly gentrifying areas such as East New York where speculative buying and building, combined with a 2016 rezoning, has put pressure on poor residents.</p> <p>“It starts in the home, having the right housing, having the right environment, having the right support. And that's where we're going to start. We need afford affordable housing because out people are being displaced. Gentrification is everywhere,” the governor said at a Vital Brooklyn event <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-launches-phase-two-14-billion-vital-brooklyn-initiative-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earlier this year</a>.</p> <p>How all those units will be constructed is still up in the air, but details on some of the development sites are beginning to emerge. Late last month, the state announced four winning bids to develop housing on land owned by the three OBHS hospitals or on state-controlled land, including one complex in East New York that’s set to deliver the bulk of the subsidized housing funded under Vital Brooklyn.</p> <p>On Nov. 29, the state chose Westchester-based L+M Development Partners, Harlem-based construction group Apex Building, and two social services organizations — RiseBoro Community Partnership and Services for the Underserved — to bring a massive, 2,400-unit development to the site of the former Brooklyn Developmental Center, a home for developmentally delayed adults that closed in 2015. The three other chosen projects — two to be built on land owned by Interfaith hospital and another on land owned by Brookdale Hospital — will bring another 328 subsidized units to the borough.</p> <p>At the same time the state announced those projects, it rolled out another set of request for proposals (RFPs) on eight state-controlled sites around the borough, including several hospital parking lots set to be replaced by new buildings. Proposals for five of the sites are due by February 28, 2019 and the three others are due by April 30, according to the RFP documents.</p> <p>A majority of the affordable housing will be funded by $568 million allocated through the state’s Homes and Community Renewal agency, with a goal of creating 3,000 units. In addition, the governor said <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-1000-affordable-homes-targeted-nycha-seniors-central-brooklyn" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in August</a> $15 million in federal tax credits have been allocated by the state for future housing developments on land controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). In his announcement on that initiative, the governor said he hopes to support the creation of 1,000 units of housing. However, no specific sites for those developments have been announced and will be “reviewed on a rolling basis by HCR as NYCHA makes properties available through its disposition process,” according to a press release.</p> <p>The need for housing is the number one priority for Brooklyn residents, Borough President Adams said, and he gave credit to Vital Brooklyn for addressing the issue. He also acknowledged the plans would bring much-needed resources — including park space and options for healthy food — to the area. But he thinks it doesn’t go far enough.</p> <p>“We’re dealing with historical inequities. People who were denied food access before —&nbsp;OK, let’s give them more farmer’s market,” he said. “Those things are great. But if we’re going to invest, let’s be visionaries in our investment.”</p> <p>He would have liked to see more funding allocated to grandparent housing, which is set aside for grandparents who are the primary caregivers to young children, and even more resources given to the hospital network, he said.</p> <p>More criticism of the governor’s Vital Brooklyn plan came from the East New York district where the large Brooklyn Developmental Center site is set to be rebuilt under the initiative. The complex will have 100 percent subsidized apartments set aside for a combination of formerly homeless New Yorkers, households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) — a federal guideline for determining the cost of affordable housing — and the rest for households earning less than 80 percent of the AMI. Currently for a family of three, 80 percent of AMI equals $62,150 a year.</p> <p>That may sound like a win in a low-income area like East New York. But with the median household income of East New York at $34,512 per year (according to data from the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency), the development doesn’t satisfy one of the neighborhood’s longtime leaders.</p> <p>Assemblymember Charles Barron says his district needs even more low-cost units because only a fraction of its residents are in the 80-percent income range. And, overall, he thinks Vital Brooklyn doesn’t go far enough in a state with a $168 billion budget, and billions more in capital spending.</p> <p>“You see $600, $700 million and think it’s wonderful and a lot of money,” he said. “That is peanuts.”</p> <p>In particular, he wants to see more support for the healthcare system.</p> <p>“It’s simply not enough money for three hospitals,” he said.</p> <p>In response, Cuomo spokesperson Stevens said in a statement that the Vital Brooklyn investment is “delivering substantial resources and coordinated services to support neighborhoods that have long been neglected.”</p> <p>“We believe this massive commitment is something to celebrate, not politicize with cheap attacks that are untethered to reality,” he said.</p> <p><strong>Looking for Results</strong><br />The governor has often said, for him, Vital Brooklyn is a project that brings his own career full circle, from when he was working on housing in East New York as a young man, to now. In speaking about it, he says he has wanted to help turn Brooklyn around for years.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/28352892617_4fa1267f26_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Brooklyn" width="250" height="176" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />“I never lost the inspiration, and the hope, and the optimism, of what you can do when you do it right,” he said in a speech on the project in April, nearly half-way through his eighth year in office. “For me, this is something special. This is something that is long overdue. It's an investment in people who desperately have needed help, and have been ignored for too long.”</p> <p>But it may take quite a while to see all of the Vital Brooklyn projects come to life. Some of the smaller pieces of the puzzle, like a pilot program for youth-run food markets and construction on new playgrounds, are beginning this year and next, the governor has said. For the larger, more complicated parts, however, it could take years; for example, some of the first units of housing are estimated to come online in 2021 and others — like the East New York project — is not slated for completion until 2026, the governor’s office said.</p> <p>The health center restructuring, too, will takes years to finish. When it’s finally complete, it remains to be seen whether the largest part of Vital Brooklyn — the $700 million in health care capital funding — will make a substantive difference to financially shore up the three Central Brooklyn hospitals.</p> <p>Hammond of the Empire Center said if the plan is a good one that reconfigures the facilities’ operations significantly, it “could put them in a different position to succeed,” though he was hesitant to say whether he believes the restructuring will prove successful long-term.</p> <p>But the health funding is not peanuts, as Barron said, nor is it a groundbreaking amount, as one may think from the governor’s announcements. The reality is somewhere in the middle.</p> <p>“The state routinely spends billions and billions of dollars on health care all over the state,” both in discretionary grants and capital allocations, Hammond said. “On any given day, you could go to a different community and announce a very large-sounding dollar amount…and it would be absolutely routine.”</p> <p>However, on a per-resident basis, Brooklyn is getting more than the average — while falling far below the state’s most generous allocations. Hammond found the state spent $190 per resident in capital health care spending in the last five years in New York State. In Kings County, the per-resident breakdown equaled $264 per resident, which is “significantly more than the state average,” he said. But that figure is dwarfed by another capital grant also given in 2015 to a hospital system in Oneida County, where spending totaled $1,297 per resident.</p> <p>For all those funding plans, however, the dollars have not yet started to flow, according to Brown of OBHS. Before that happens, several bureaucratic steps must take place, including complying with transparency regulations approved by the state comptroller’s office. She hopes that will be complete in the new year.</p> <p>“Everyone is endeavouring to get [approval]…by early 2019,” she said, while emphasizing it’s hard to make an exact estimate, as she and her team are figuring out the complexities of the project as they go along.</p> <p>“We’re all entering a new journey here,” she said.</p> <p>***<br />by Rachel Holliday Smith for Gotham Gazette<br /> <a href="https://twitter.com/rachelholliday"> @rachelholliday</a><br /> <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>All photos via the Governor's Office on flickr.</p> Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8026-prominent-elected-officials-oppose-de-blasio-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/brewer_de_blasio_bill_signing.jpg" alt="brewer de blasio bill signing" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; BP Brewer (photo: Brewer's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is forming an independent expenditure committee to try to defeat two public referenda on the November general election ballot that would impose term limits on community board members and create a new citywide civic engagement agency under the control of the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Last month, the charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio approved three ballot questions to present to voters on November 6. The first would significantly reduce campaign contribution limits and make small but significant enhancements to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which incentivizes small-dollar fundraising. Brewer has not taken a position on that proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>On the other two questions, however, the Manhattan borough president is ardently opposed, and is mobilizing people and money to persuade New York City voters to defeat them.</p> <p>Question two creates a centralized Civic Engagement Commission, with a majority of members appointed by the mayor, to coordinate citywide efforts on participatory budgeting, community engagement, and to provide technical assistance to the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Question three, the most controversial of the proposals, would limit the number of terms community board members can serve while also reforming the recruitment and appointment process that borough presidents use to fill board rosters.</p> <p>Brewer insists both those questions are misguided, and is forming a committee called “Vote No on 2 &amp; 3” to campaign against them.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” she wrote in an email blast to supporters from her personal email account, soliciting funds for the incipient committee and urging recipients to spread the word. (Elected officials are not allowed to advocate for or against ballot proposals in their official capacity under state law and per guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board.)</p> <p>Though the committee does not yet seem to be registered with the state Board of Elections, a sign-up web page declares that it is “an official NYS independent expenditure committee, made up of volunteers, some belonging to Community Boards and some not, who think Proposals 2 &amp; 3 are bad news for neighborhoods and a giveaway to developers and City Hall.” Asked for clarification, a spokesperson for the committee did not respond.</p> <p>Brewer argues, as have other opponents, that community board term limits would lead to a brain drain of experienced and engaged community board members to the benefit of lobbyists and developers looking to exploit communities without facing pushback. In particular, she said, community board members with know-how on complicated land use and zoning issues would be kicked out.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer wrote. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>In a statement, Matt Gewolb, executive director of the charter commission, emphasized the testimony received from across the five boroughs, urging the commission to make community boards more diverse, reflective of the neighborhoods they serve, and to give them additional resources. “The Commission's proposals are designed in response to this community input,” he said. “As the Commission has described in its reports, the proposal seeks to strike a reasonable balance between retaining valuable institutional knowledge and providing opportunities for new voices to have a seat at the table.”</p> <p>Brewer, however, insisted that the proposal is “redundant” since the borough presidents and City Council members that apppoint community board members are themselves limited to serving two terms each. She also took issue with the proposed duties that the Civic Engagement Commission would have in assisting community boards, seeing it as an encroachment on the powers of the borough presidents who currently perform those roles.</p> <p>The Manhattan borough president isn’t alone in her opposition. Of the five borough presidents, only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams has come out in support of community board term limits, which supporters say would diversify the boards, providing more representation for younger people and people of color. The other three -- Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Bronx, Melinda Katz in Queens, and Staten Island’s James Oddo -- all oppose the second and third questions.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Adams said, “This is what democracy is all about. I applaud my colleague and friend Borough President Brewer for making her voice heard.”</p> <p>Brewer ended her appeal by urging supporters to vote against the two proposals and also to testify against them at several forums scheduled over the next week by the charter commission to educate voters. Last month, she also took her message to the 2019 charter revision commission, urging it to reverse the mayor’s commission’s proposals if they are approved by voters. “Community Boards are our first line of offense in promoting neighborhood planning and our first line of defense in protecting neighborhoods from developers who seek only maximum profit from their work in our communities,” she said at the September 27 hearing of the commission that will put proposals on next year’s general election ballot, and on which she appointed one member as part of a process created by legislation she and Public Advocate Letitia James moved through the City Council.</p> <p>Asked last week about the possibility that the 2019 commission could negate the mayor’s commission’s work, mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein said in an email, “We’re not going to predict what the Council Commission will do, and will review any proposals.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/brewer_de_blasio_bill_signing.jpg" alt="brewer de blasio bill signing" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; BP Brewer (photo: Brewer's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is forming an independent expenditure committee to try to defeat two public referenda on the November general election ballot that would impose term limits on community board members and create a new citywide civic engagement agency under the control of the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Last month, the charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio approved three ballot questions to present to voters on November 6. The first would significantly reduce campaign contribution limits and make small but significant enhancements to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which incentivizes small-dollar fundraising. Brewer has not taken a position on that proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>On the other two questions, however, the Manhattan borough president is ardently opposed, and is mobilizing people and money to persuade New York City voters to defeat them.</p> <p>Question two creates a centralized Civic Engagement Commission, with a majority of members appointed by the mayor, to coordinate citywide efforts on participatory budgeting, community engagement, and to provide technical assistance to the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Question three, the most controversial of the proposals, would limit the number of terms community board members can serve while also reforming the recruitment and appointment process that borough presidents use to fill board rosters.</p> <p>Brewer insists both those questions are misguided, and is forming a committee called “Vote No on 2 &amp; 3” to campaign against them.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” she wrote in an email blast to supporters from her personal email account, soliciting funds for the incipient committee and urging recipients to spread the word. (Elected officials are not allowed to advocate for or against ballot proposals in their official capacity under state law and per guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board.)</p> <p>Though the committee does not yet seem to be registered with the state Board of Elections, a sign-up web page declares that it is “an official NYS independent expenditure committee, made up of volunteers, some belonging to Community Boards and some not, who think Proposals 2 &amp; 3 are bad news for neighborhoods and a giveaway to developers and City Hall.” Asked for clarification, a spokesperson for the committee did not respond.</p> <p>Brewer argues, as have other opponents, that community board term limits would lead to a brain drain of experienced and engaged community board members to the benefit of lobbyists and developers looking to exploit communities without facing pushback. In particular, she said, community board members with know-how on complicated land use and zoning issues would be kicked out.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer wrote. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>In a statement, Matt Gewolb, executive director of the charter commission, emphasized the testimony received from across the five boroughs, urging the commission to make community boards more diverse, reflective of the neighborhoods they serve, and to give them additional resources. “The Commission's proposals are designed in response to this community input,” he said. “As the Commission has described in its reports, the proposal seeks to strike a reasonable balance between retaining valuable institutional knowledge and providing opportunities for new voices to have a seat at the table.”</p> <p>Brewer, however, insisted that the proposal is “redundant” since the borough presidents and City Council members that apppoint community board members are themselves limited to serving two terms each. She also took issue with the proposed duties that the Civic Engagement Commission would have in assisting community boards, seeing it as an encroachment on the powers of the borough presidents who currently perform those roles.</p> <p>The Manhattan borough president isn’t alone in her opposition. Of the five borough presidents, only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams has come out in support of community board term limits, which supporters say would diversify the boards, providing more representation for younger people and people of color. The other three -- Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Bronx, Melinda Katz in Queens, and Staten Island’s James Oddo -- all oppose the second and third questions.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Adams said, “This is what democracy is all about. I applaud my colleague and friend Borough President Brewer for making her voice heard.”</p> <p>Brewer ended her appeal by urging supporters to vote against the two proposals and also to testify against them at several forums scheduled over the next week by the charter commission to educate voters. Last month, she also took her message to the 2019 charter revision commission, urging it to reverse the mayor’s commission’s proposals if they are approved by voters. “Community Boards are our first line of offense in promoting neighborhood planning and our first line of defense in protecting neighborhoods from developers who seek only maximum profit from their work in our communities,” she said at the September 27 hearing of the commission that will put proposals on next year’s general election ballot, and on which she appointed one member as part of a process created by legislation she and Public Advocate Letitia James moved through the City Council.</p> <p>Asked last week about the possibility that the 2019 commission could negate the mayor’s commission’s work, mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein said in an email, “We’re not going to predict what the Council Commission will do, and will review any proposals.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>