Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/368 Tue, 25 Jun 2019 18:20:11 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Payphone-Replacing LinkNYC Kiosks Not Generating Projected Revenue https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8502-city-s-much-heralded-link-kiosks-not-generating-projected-revenue https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8502-city-s-much-heralded-link-kiosks-not-generating-projected-revenue mayorslinkunbranded

Mayor de Blasio makes the first LinkNYC call (photo: Appleton/Mayor's Office)


During a February 2016 press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the first phone call on New York City’s first LinkNYC kiosk, stationed at the corner of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue. “It will be the biggest and fastest network in the world, and completely free of charge. And one thing I know about my fellow New Yorkers, they like things that are free of charge," said de Blasio.

Not only that, but New Yorkers were promised money for the city’s general fund. That money would come in the form of revenue based on the agreement with proprietors who would refurbish the city’s obsolete payphones and sell advertising. While the city is indeed set to see the promised money, the financials of the LinkNYC equation have been choppier than the free phone calls or street-side wifi.

The kiosks, which many residents and visitors of the city recognize as the nearly 10-feet-tall rectangular obelisks displaying 55-inch screens of digital advertising that dot the sidewalks, are seen by some as a modern twist on the streetscape to, in part, bridge the digital divide by offering free wireless internet.

There are now roughly 1,800 LinkNYC kiosks installed across the city, according to Samir Saini, the city’s commissioner for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), who discussed Link at a March City Council budget hearing and mentioned a guaranteed $27.5 million in revenue for 2019.

The kiosks do offer fast and free wifi, as well as the ability to make free domestic phone calls, charge USB devices, and make 911 calls, with special red buttons to summon emergency services. (Tablet internet browsing was also an original feature of the kiosks. After it was discovered people were watching pornography on them, however, that feature was quickly disabled.)

While some of the civic technology promises of Link have been realized, what is less clear is the revenue side of things. It’s all part of the deal inked between New York City government and CityBridge, a so-called consortium of Intersection, Qualcomm, and CIVIQ Smartscapes. (Intersection was launched by Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google.)

According to the franchise agreement, signed in 2014, a total of 7,500 LinkNYC kiosks were to be installed across the five boroughs by 2022. In terms of the financials, a November 2014 press release from de Blasio’s office promised $500 million in guaranteed revenue in the first 12 years (2014-2026) of the program. Not mentioned by that press release, the franchise agreement stipulated $750 million in guaranteed revenue by 2029.

But in the first years of the program, revenue generated by the Link kiosk advertising, as outlined in DoITT budget documents and a department spokesperson, show the much-heralded program is not meeting its targets. From 2015 to present, LinkNYC has fallen short of its revenue projections by more than $21 million, and is projected to miss by an additional $13 million for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. It adds up to $34 million under what is guaranteed to the city from CityBridge during that five-year period, calling into question the efficacy of Link advertising.

The basic financing in the deal is that CityBridge gets access to 7,500 payphone sites and must pay for their refurbishment into the Link kiosks and provide certain public services. In exchange, CityBridge gets to keep any advertising revenue beyond what the city is guaranteed in the contract. That revenue would come from contracting with a third party to build out the Links, as well as allowing Intersection to run advertising campaigns on the kiosks’ displays.

The revenue guarantee means CityBridge must pay a specified amount to New York City every year, even if Link advertising campaigns don’t generate that minimum number.

As it sells Link advertising, Intersection is working with BerlinRosen, a local public relations firm (which also ran major aspects of de Blasio’s two successful mayoral races) that has trumpeted the Link expansion.

The guaranteed city revenue can be from advertising revenue and non-advertising revenue, including “the fair market value of any non-monetary consideration (in kind) in the form of materials, services or other benefits, tangible or intangible, or in the nature of barter the Franchisee may receive,” per the franchise agreement. That same agreement stipulates the minimum annual revenue CityBridge has promised the city each year through 2029:

bdb link lv

Actual revenue brought in by the Link kiosks from 2015 through 2018 shows that the kiosks initially failed to sell enough advertising to hit the CityBridge guarantees to the city, meaning the consortium had to make up the difference (there were no Links up and running in 2015). CityBridge has started to hit those targets, if only barely.

The chart below shows those past figures as well as the revenue that DoITT is projecting for the LinkNYC kiosks for 2019 and 2020, next to the minimum guaranteed city revenue each year. According to those city projections, the LinkNYC kiosks will not hit the minimum guarantees that CityBridge must nonetheless pay the city.

Revenue has fallen short over the first four years and is predicted to continue to fall short of the minimum guaranteed city revenue for every year of LinkNYC’s first six years, save 2017, when the actual revenue of $26 million just passed the promised $25 million that had to be paid to the city.

For 2019, Link revenue is expected to fall short of the minimum guaranteed to the city by 23 percent. And 2020 is projected to fall short by a little over 7 percent. The total shortfall in advertising revenue for both years, if the projected revenues are correct, just for CityBridge to meet what it owes the city, would be another $13 million. It doesn’t hurt New York City financially, as CityBridge is obligated to pay the minimum annual guaranteed revenue, but it raises questions about the long-term viability of Link advertising revenue that could boost the city.

Potentially cutting into LinkNYC’s advertising revenue are LinkLocal campaigns, which are, according to a Link spokesperson, “free advertisements for small businesses to promote their stores and nonprofits to promote free local events. Additionally, LinkNYC has partnered with more than 40 nonprofits to help raise awareness for their campaigns.” The spokesperson declined to share any examples or case studies of previous LinkNYC advertising campaigns.

The spokesperson added that over 40 nonprofits partnered with LinkLocal for advertising, with nearly 600 total free campaigns being run through the program.

Intersection first declined to share with Gotham Gazette its advertising rate card, which is typically used to offer potential clients exemplars and costs, and then denied the existence of the rate card upon further questions. Intersection also declined to disclose how many paid campaigns have been run through the kiosks, claiming the number of paid campaigns is not part of their internal data tracking.

Other issues have plagued LinkNYC. In late April, the NYPD arrested a local man for smashing 42 LinkNYC displays. His acts of vandalism were captured by the kiosks’ on-board surveillance cameras, which most New Yorkers were likely unaware of prior to the smashing spree and related news coverage. This led to alarm bells over just how much the Links are watching people, and how much of their data is being collected in the name of providing free wifi.

LinkNYC has responded to these issues, responding to Twitter users that all video footage is deleted after seven days, and that it only shares the footage in response to “valid subpoenas.” As for data, the LinkNYC privacy policy states it collects quite a bit of it, including your IP address and URL requests through the wifi network.

In 2016, the year the program launched, local reports detailed how some people set up living-room-style arrangements around a single Link kiosk, bringing lawn furniture or milk crates to camp out within close range of the units. Other concerns have been raised over the kiosks’ free domestic phone calls being used to arrange drug deals and other illicit and illegal activities.

Despite some issues and concerns, usage of the Links has steadily increased since they hit the streets in 2016. According to the city’s Open Data Portal, over 10,000 terabytes of data (equitable to over 2 trillion songs) has been used by New Yorkers in over 1.5 billion total Link sessions. Perhaps one day Link advertising will pay for all that data usage.

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Payphone-Replacing LinkNYC Kiosks Not Generating Projected Revenue Sun, 05 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 4 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6260-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-april-4 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6260-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-april-4 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

We're about two weeks from New York's April 19 presidential primary vote. The three remaining Republican candidates and two remaining Democrats have been campaigning in New York, which is more in play than it has been in several cycles. Hillary Clinton is set to hold events in New York City and Albany Monday, including a rally with Gov. Cuomo and a meeting with state Assembly Democrats, and while the candidates are also paying attention to Wisconsin as the week begins, New York already has a great deal of their and the nation's focus. It should be an exciting and dramatic two weeks. As this week begins, the Clinton and Sanders campaigns continue to spar over whether there will be a Democratic debate in New York before the state votes.

All three Republican candidates - Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich - are set to attend the New York GOP's annual gala, set for April 14. The candidates are expected to campaign in New York over the next two weeks.

The day of the New York presidential primaries, April 19, is also the date of special elections in the state Legislature, including the races to replace both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both those races appear competitive two weeks out. The Senate race is especially important given that Democrats are eyeing this year's elections as a chance to take control of the chamber - they already have a wide majority in the Assembly.

Monday will see return to a focus on the recently-passed state budget. Hillary Clinton will rally in New York City Monday with Gov. Cuomo and others to celebrate that the budget includes a path to a $15 per hour minimum wage and a paid family leave policy.

There is sure to be more analysis of the $147-plus billion budget this week, it was passed Friday after much last-minute negotiating (a deal was announced just a few hours before the midnight Thursday deadline, with voting by the Legislature taking place through Thursday evening and into Friday - the state's fiscal year begins April 1). The new budget was met with some criticism, largely over the process by which it was agreed upon and passed with little time for review by lawmakers and the public, and much celebration, especially over the minimum wage and paid family leave provisions, as well as increased funding for education, transportation infrastructure, and more. There is a lot of budget language to digest as the details have been made public.

The Legislature is due in Albany for three days of post-budget legislative session this week. Including this week, there are 27 days of session scheduled between now and its scheduled end on June 16. Issues to address include mayoral control of New York City schools, which expires at the end of June (the Senate will hold two May hearings, it recently announced, at which Mayor de Blasio is expected to testify), a property tax abatement program to spur affordable housing development (renewing or replacing the expired 421-a program), raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16, the Dream Act, and much more - including government ethics reform, which the governor says will be his top priority after none was included in the budget deal.

On Monday we expect the City Council's official response to Mayor Bill de Blasio's $82 billion preliminary budget plan. The Council has held a month of budget hearings and now has the state budget to consider, so it is able to give its response to the mayor, who will take it and the state budget into account as he prepares his executive budget. When de Blasio releases his updated spending plan in a few weeks, it will kick off another round of Council budget hearings as the two sides head toward a deal by the end of June and the July 1 start of the city's new fiscal year. Since major cuts in funding to the city from the state that Gov. Cuomo had in his budget plan were taken out of the final deal, there will be little drama to the city budget process the rest of the way. The biggest bone of contention appears to be whether the mayor is insisting on enough agency savings. There will also be small battles over things like levels of library funding.

Many eyes are also on East New York as the week begins. A large area of the Brooklyn community is set to be rezoned, the first of 15 neighborhoods where the de Blasio administration plans to significantly change land use rules to facilitate more housing and community improvements, but the clock is ticking as the administration and local stakeholders, led by City Council Member Rafael Espinal, negotiate the final details of the plan. There is no zoning subcommittee or land use committee vote scheduled as of Sunday evening, but one could be scheduled if a deal is reached. The parties have until the end of the month to reach and pass a deal.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Monday in Albany.

The City Council’s preliminary budget response to Mayor de Blasio is expected on Monday.

At 11 a.m. Monday at the Javits Center in Manhattan, The Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice will hold a "victory rally for $15 minimum wage and paid family leave" - participants will include "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo; Hillary Clinton; George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Chair of the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice; labor leaders; advocates and minimum wage workers." City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is expected to attend the rally, according to her schedule.

On Monday at 1 p.m. at 1 Police Plaza, "Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton will host a press conference to discuss monthly crime stats," according to the mayor's public schedule.

At the City Council on Monday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Transportation will meet to discuss several items, such as the provision of certain parking privileges for press vehicles, the requirement of curb extensions at certain dangerous intersections, and the establishment of Earth Day 2016 as a car-free day for private and all non-essential city vehicles.
  • 10:30 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet to discuss various candidates for appointment to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Board of Corrections, and the City Planning Commission.
  • 1 p.m., the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to address several land use applications.
  • 1 p.m., the Committee on Contracts will hold an oversight meeting on the challenges facing nonprofits in city contracting.

At 11:30 a.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit "a Model Dual Language Program to make an announcement," at High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies in Manhattan.

On Monday at noon, "At a press conference Monday, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance will release a new report on Mayor de Blasio's OneNYC Plan, his administration's blueprint for increasing the city's environmental sustainability and resiliency. The report shows that six low-income communities of color on the waterfront designated by the city as Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas (SMIAs)—the South Bronx, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the North Shore of Staten Island—are still the most vulnerable to the threats of climate change and not sufficiently protected by the OneNYC Plan. A number of constructive recommendations for strengthening the plan are offered in the detailed report."

At 5 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks "at 32BJ Security Contract Rally" at the Wall Street Bull. At 9 p.m., Stringer will appear on BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank (BronxNet TV or Bronxnet.org).

At 7:30 p.m. Monday in Albany, the burgeoning Museum of Political Corruption will host a roundtable discussion and public forum on political corruption following a reception and fundraiser. Speakers include Frank Anechiarico, professor of government and law at Hamilton College; Blair Horner, Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group; Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law School professor and Congressional candidate; Jimmy Vielkind, Politico NY Albany bureau chief; and Thomas Bass, SUNY Albany professor, who will moderate.

Tuesday
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At 8 a.m., Bill Mulrow, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo will discuss the administration’s budget goals and legislative priorities, including a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and infrastructure projects, at a Crain’s New York Business event. Moderating the conversation will be Crain’s New York editor Erik Engquist and Ken Lovett of the Daily News.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday on the Upper East Side, the launch of LinkNYC Kiosks with free Wi-Fi and more, featuring City Council Member Ben Kallos, Assistant Commissioner Telecommunications Planning at NYC Department of Information and Technology Stanley Shor and LinkNYC General Manager Jen Hensley (86th Street and 3rd Avenue, South East Corner).

At the City Council on Tuesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Immigration will address a resolution calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a decision in U.S. v. Texas, which overturns the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and upholds the implementation of President Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs.

At 2 p.m., a town hall meeting to discuss the 2017 referendum to hold a New York constitutional convention will be held at the University at Buffalo. The event will feature a number of experts, such as Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz and Henrik Dullea, who served as director of state operations and policy management for Governor Mario Cuomo from 1983-91, who will discuss what a constitutional convention would look like and the issues at stake in constitutional reform.

At 6 p.m., The Coalition to End Broken Windows will launch a two-day conference, Breaking Broken Windows, at the CUNY Graduate Center. Participants will evaluate, debate, and debunk Broken Windows policing theory, which “contends that policing disorder leads to reductions in serious crime.” They will also analyze the era of mass criminalization and imprisonment while working towards alternative solutions for a better future for New York City. Speakers include a variety of academics, advocates, and journalists, including Noha Arafa, of New Yorkers Against Bratton, Janine Jackson of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, and Professor Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College.

Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Queens, "City Council "Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Access Queens will host a Town Hall on the 7 train with New York City Transit President Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim. At this event, 7 train riders, angry and frustrated by seemingly endless delays, overcrowding, and weekend and evening closures, will have the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns directly with the president of New York City Transit."

Wednesday
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Wednesday in Albany.

The Manhattan Institute and the Fordham Institute will host a conference beginning at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to address “The Future of Charter Schools—And School Choice—In NYC,” following a recent study ranking U.S. cities on various school-choice metrics (by the Fordham Institute) finding that local political support for charters in NYC has fallen from 8th to 26th place, and the city’s overall ranking from 3rd to 12th. Speakers include Priscilla Wohlstetter, professor at Teachers College, Columbia University; James Merriman, president of the New York City Charter School Center; Michael Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute; and Charles Sahm, Director of Education Policy at the Manhattan Institute.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet to address several resolutions on Nicholas’ Law, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, Congressional funding for gun violence research, safeguards against wrongful convictions, and opposing the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.
  • 11 a.m., the Committee on Economic Development will hear a bill requiring a survey and study of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among the leadership of city contractors.
  • 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will meet to address several issues deferred from the meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses.
  • 1 p.m., the Committee on Governmental Operations will meet to evaluate the structure and content of the preliminary Mayor’s Management Report.

On Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Albany, "State Senator Liz Krueger will hold a forum on modernizing sales tax collection in New York State. New York State's current system of sales tax collection has not kept up with changes in retail payment methods and technological innovation. This forum will evaluate proposals for modernizing the collection of sales tax to improve its efficiency for retailers and to reduce the potential for fraud through sales tax suppression. One tax researcher has estimated that sales tax suppression costs New York State $1.7 billion in revenue annually. A number of other states and countries have adopted or are exploring the adoption of new technologies to address these issues."

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host a panel to discuss “Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Creating a Diverse Workplace in the 21st Century.” Panelists include professionals leading Bloomberg LP’s Diversity and Inclusion group; Kristen Titus, Founding Director of NYC Tech Talent Pipeline; Anthony Crowell, President of New York Law School; Eulas Boyd, Dean of Admissions at Brooklyn Law School; and Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs” and will discuss their experiences in building and instituting workplace diversity policies.

Thursday
At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Columbia’s schools of International and Public Affairs and Law will host a public policy forum about policing, criminal justice reform, and public integrity. Loretta Lynch, the 83rd Attorney General of the U.S., will deliver the keynote address. Former Mayor David Dinkins, who the event is named for and is a professor at Columbia, will deliver remarks. Professor Ester Fuchs will moderate a panel on on "Criminal Justice Reform and Public Integrity" featuring Mark Peters, Commissioner, NYC Department of Investigation; Daniel C. Richman, Paul J. Keller Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; Ken Thompson, Brooklyn District Attorney; Nicholas Turner, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice. (This event is by invitation only.)

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to address a land use application and introduce a bill establishing a temporary program to resolve outstanding penalties imposed by the environmental control board.
  • 1:30 p.m., the City Council will hold a full-body stated meeting, which will be prefaced as usual by a pre-stated press conference hosted by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

State Legislature hearings Thursday:

  • 10 a.m. in Albany, the Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance and the Assembly Standing Committee on Health will be hosting a public hearing to evaluate the process of modifying or enhancing health insurance coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Noon in Oakdale, the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will host a public meeting to examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, the MTA will hold a public hearing about a proposal to restore service to the N and Q lines in connection with the opening of Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway, expected to be completed late this year.

Friday and the weekend
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the New York Press Association Spring Convention, which will begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo will join the ROLE Call in hosting the NYC Fatherhood and Family Enrichment Conference at Port Richmond High School. This event aims to enhance Fatherhood Engagement by offering seminars and workshops in family and fatherhood services.

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

***
by Kelly Fan and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 4 Sun, 03 Apr 2016 05:00:00 +0000