Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Rough Road Ahead for City Budget

new york city budget
Photo (cc) Steve Rhodes

Mere hours after the City Council and the Bloomberg administration announced an agreement on a mid-year budget plan, officials and advocates braced themselves.

One budget battle may be done, they said, but more spending clashes and collisions are hurling towards City Hall.

"We're thrilled with any amount of restoration," said Michael Stoller, executive director of the Human Services Council. But, he added, "With no one entertaining any ideas of raising revenue . . . we are really nervous."

He probably should be.

The agreement announced Thursday will reduce this year's $63.1 billion budget by $585 million. The City Council convinced the mayor to trade in slashes to the Fire Department and the Administration for Children's Services for more palatable reductions in the technology and consulting budget at Department of Education. The council dug up excess revenue in other agencies to provide a lifeline for senior case management and programs for runaway and homeless youth.

In total, it prevented $35 million in cuts to its pet programs.

But most see this as merely temporary relief.

The Bloomberg administration has already announced $1 billion in cuts for the fiscal year 2012 budget, which starts in July. On top of that, the city still faces a $2.4 billion budget gap.

"The truth is, this little over half a billion dollar cut to this year's budget isn’t the last conversation we are going to have to have about cutting back spending," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Thursday. "If we want to make sure we don’t raise taxes on New Yorkers, which we don’t want to have to do, we are going to have to rein in spending."

Both the mayor and the leadership of the City Council have said they will not entertain tax increases. That leaves officials, advocates and public employees left to contemplate what else will be on the chopping block and whether their job or program will be gone for good.

Down to the Bone

Already some of the cuts the council staved off will have an encore.

The council prevented parking meter increases in the outer boroughs and the doubling of membership fees at recreation centers.

Both are set to come back in the mayor's preliminary budget, which will be released later this month.

The council staved off a $3.3 million cut to case management services for the city's elderly. But, according to the mayor's November plan, the same program will be cut by twice that in the next budget.

"When the city starts proposing cuts below the bone to 85 and 90-year-old people, it's pretty clear we've gone down a road that’s not good to go down," said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services.

The council prevented the mayor from shutting down 20 fire companies at night.

But fire officials aren't resting easy.

"It seems like the Bloomberg administration is intent on closing fire companies," said Steve Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "I recognize that the city still is in a fiscally tough time, but my argument is going to be on public safety and firefighter safety."

Advocates predicted Thursday that next year's budget could be the most difficult yet for the city. The Bloomberg administration has already gone through nine rounds of budget cuts.

Advocates and officials in areas that have been targeted by the Bloomberg administration over and over and over again (like aging services, the Fire Department and libraries) are especially concerned over the coming budget.

"The New York Public Library has seen a 20 percent reduction in city funding since fiscal year 2008," said Angela Montefinise, public relations director of the New York Public Library. "With 400 fewer employees than in fiscal year 2008, the library anticipates that continued cuts will seriously jeopardize hours and days of service at all of our locations. So, yes, there is concern."

Another Billion or More

Not only will the city have to contend with its own budget deficit, but it is likely to get slammed with state cuts too.

Newly minted Gov. Andrew Cuomo refuses to raise taxes to deal with the state's $10 billion deficit, meaning the state's gap will most likely be closed exclusively by spending cuts and a so-called "reorganization of government."

About two-thirds of the state budget, according to the mayor's office, is aid to cities and towns. At least one-third of that aid goes to the city. City budget officials predict the five boroughs could see a $2 billion to $3 billion cut from the state come April.

"They already expect difficult times ahead," said Doug Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office. "Depending on what the governor proposes and depending on what actions Albany takes to fix its problems and how much of that gets thrown into New York [City's] lap, it could make things harder."

The Independent Budget Office projects the city will end fiscal year 2011 with a $1.7 billion surplus -- a more optimistic projection than the mayor's office. Should that play out, cuts might not be as deep as predicted.

Despite the rough road ahead, the council leadership is confident they can come up with a budget compromise without burdening the city's most vulnerable.

"We have always had productive, focused budget negotiations," Quinn said on the looming fiscal debate. "I am not worried."

2010 Ends Without a Woman Governor, Tax on Soda or Paid Sick Leave


Cliff Lee
Photo by Peter Bond
In a year when no New York pro sport team won a major championship, pitcher Cliff Lee delivered the coup de grace by rejecting a lavish offer from the Yankees to play for the Phillies instead.

(For other year end coverage, see Gotham Gazette's Top Stories of 2010 and our roundup of prominent prognosticators' predictions for 2011.

Cliff Lee did not sign with the Yankees -- who did not, by the way, repeat as World Series champs. Spiderman did not open on Broadway. Lindsay Lohan did not move to New York.

Like every year, 2010 was marked almost as much by what did not happen as what did. Fads fizzled. Phenoms flopped. And sure bets sank.

Here's our roundup of some events that, for better or worse, did not happen in New York in 2010.

Majority Does Not Rule

sick leave
Photo by William Alatriste

Despite the support of 35 of 51 City Council members, the City Council did not pass a bill requiring paid sick leave for people who work in the city. In fact the measure did not even make it out of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, even after sponsor Gale Brewer altered the proposal to make it more palatable for business.

The seeming paradox because while the council has 51 members, when it comes to calling a vote on an issue only one member counts: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. And in October, Quinn, who had remained noncommittal on the issue for month, finally came out against it, saying the city could not afford to put another burden on small businesses. "There are businesses on the brink, and they fear any new cost will put them under," she said.

Quinn's decision means a few other things also did not happen in 2010:

--Quinn did not break with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During her five years as speaker, Quinn has rarely differed with Bloomberg whose job (and so money and backing) she almost certainly hopes to have some day.

In this case, Bloomberg had lashed out at the paid sick leave bill. "It would be a disaster if the government tries to get in to run small businesses. If they run the bars and restaurants, they’ll try to run everything else," said the man who banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

A week later Quinn blocked the bill.

--Council members, even the Progressive Caucus formed in March to pressure Quinn on issues including paid sick leave, did not go head-to-head with Quinn. Although a relatively new council rule allows members to bring stalled legislation to the floor -- even without the speaker's blessing -- paid sick leave proponents shied away from doing that.

White Men Only

Diversity did not reach the highest levels of New York State politics in 2010.

More than half of New Yorkers are women. An estimated 17 percent are black and another 17 percent Latino, with 7 percent Asian.

Despite that all the major party candidates for statewide office this year were white men. Only one woman -- Nassau County district attorney Kathleen Rice -- made it on to the primary ballot, but she lost to Eric Schneiderman. The Democratic and Republican primaries for governor, lieutenant governor attorney general and comptroller had no black, Latino or Asian candidates.

The two contests for New York's U.S. Senate seats this year were whites-only affairs, although a woman, Kirsten Gillibrand, did run for one of the seats - and win.

Back to Buffalo

Carl Paladino
Photo by Azi Paybarah
Carl Paladino

Despite a post primary spike in a Quinnipiac poll (or a faulty poll) Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino did not become governor of New York. Wielding a baseball bat, Paladino tried to appeal to New Yorkers angry at Albany, but they apparently could not embrace a candidate who ranted against gays, sent obscene and racist emails, appeared dazed at a debate and could not escape his Daily News moniker of Crazy Carl.

And in other gubernatorial news that did not happen:

--Andrew Cuomo did not say what in the state budget he would cut. Blessed with a opponent who terrified many New Yorker, Cuomo did not have to say much to win -- and he seemed to like it that way. Stay tuned for next year to see how long the governor can remain mum.

--Xenophobia did not buy a ticket to Albany. The Republican field for governor in 2010 did not exactly look like an ad for national brotherhood week. Democrat turned Republican Steve Levy was known for his anti-immigrant rhetoric and for raids on homes where he suspected illegal immigrants lived. Rick Lazio devoted more space on his campaign web site to his opposition to the Lower Manhattan Islamic Center than to the state budget, and Paladino ran ads vowing to use eminent domain to black the mosque. And let's not forget his emails. One by one they all fell -- Levy at the state convention, Lazio in the primary and Paladino on Election Day.

--David Paterson could not hold on to the governor's mansion. Two years after many New Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief as the more affable Paterson took over from "Steamroller "Eliot Spitzer, Paterson had bowed out of the race. Scandals, his own missteps and Albany inertia appear to have ended his political career -- for the time being, anyway.



The New York City Fire Department did not hire any new recruits in 2010 - and not because of budget cuts.

The city remains locked in an impasse with U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis over efforts to make the department -- only 3.4 percent black and 7 percent Latino -- a bit more diverse. The judge has blamed the imbalance on city administered tests that discriminate against black and Latinos, and has proposed five ways the city could redress the imbalance. The Bloomberg administration has rejected all of them, saying they would essentially set quotas and so be illegal. Garaufis has accused the city of " duplicity and lack of good faith."

With the city down an estimated 370 firefighters, the overtime bill for those the city does have has soared to an expected $160 million this year. The department, though, says it will not back down. Referring to Garaufis' proposals, city Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said, "Every one was a quota, and we're not going to hire firefighters under a quota system."

Moving Ahead

ground zero mosque
Demonstrators protest the proposed Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero.

Opponents -- from Rick Lazio to Sarah Palin -- did not stop the planed Islamic Center near Ground Zero.

In terms of heat and volume, no issue so dominated public debate for much of 2010 than a proposed Islamic Center a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The project attracted little notice until it caught the attention of Pam Geller, an anti Muslim blogger in May, The New York Post came out swinging against it in May. " A mosque rises over Ground Zero. And fed-up New Yorkers are crying, "No!", the papers Andrea Peyser wrote.

Some families of 9/11 victims and others opposed the project as an "affront" to those killed. Rudy Giuliani, always eager to weigh in on anything related in anyway to 9./11 called it a "desecration." A number of New York candidates -- Carl Paladino, Rick Lazio, Richard Brodsky -- sought to capitalize on anti mosque sentiment in their campaigns, as did Republicans across the nation. Eventually most New Yorkers -- and a more lopsided majority of Americans -- opposed the project.

But none of that has derailed it. The local Community Board endorsed it in the spring. Opponents tried to use landmark law -- they said the building that Park51, as the center is called, would replace -deserved preservation - but the landmarks commission overwhelmingly rejected that argument.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who might not have had the legal means to stop the center anyway, made clear he wouldn’t block it even if he could. In a speech on Governors Island, Bloomberg repudiated (or, as Sarah Palin put it during all this, "refudiated") the center's critics, reminding New Yorkers of past struggles for religious freedom and saying that we honor the lives of those who died on 9/11 "by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked."

Financing for the project now remains the big question. Meanwhile reports circulated this month that the mosque might leave the Ground Zero areas in favor of the St. Vincent's Hospital site in the West Village. At least one Villager told Gothamist it would not be a bad idea. "I welcome anything here -- except condos for yuppies," the resident said.

Coke Habit

Photo by Kevin Coles

Despite a fat population and a thin budget, New York did not pas a soda tax.

Facing a budget shortfall and high rates of obesity among the state's children, Gov. David Paterson proposed the state enact a 1 cent an ounce tax on sugary soft drinks. The tax, along with a tax exemption for less fattening beverages, would have brought in an estimated $815 million a year.

"Someone has got to contribute to the $7.6 billion the state spends every year to treat diseases from obesity," Paterson said.

But that somebody should not be the soda industry. Soda companies, operating under the banner of groups with such names as New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes and Alliance for a Healthier New York, launched a barrage of ads aimed at sinking the measure. They succeeded, the Times wrote, "in painting the soda tax as a naked money grab cleverly disguised as a health policy."

While rejecting the soda tax, the legislature restored a sales tax on clothing costing less than $110.

Better Late than Never ?

New York did not pass its state budget remotely on time.

The state budget has created a kind of bizarre ritual in New York. Although the governor and legislature often fail to meet the April 1 deadline, then a few weeks or even a month or two late enact a budget, often in a series of last-minute votes in which rank and file legislators have little idea what they are voting on.

This year, with the state facing a particularly difficult fiscal situation, that never happened. With Gov. David Paterson demanding cuts the legislature did not want to make -- and with the April 1 deadline long gone -- Paterson began inserting budget cuts and revenue generators in emergency budget extenders. The legisature's failure to approve those would bring the state government to a halt.

While most of the budget passed that way, a few pieces remained unresolved, particularly on the revenue side. With hardly a whimper, let alone a bang, the legilsature finally passed the rest f the budget on Aug. 3, changing parts of Paterson's revenue and spending plan. He then vetoed it.

In November with the state facing a $315 million deficit for this fiscal year -- the next one holds far more dire gaps -- Paterson called the legislature back for one last try. Not that Paterson had high hopes -- he said he called the session "as much to clear my conscience as anything else."

And the legislators lived up to the low expectations, failing to act on the budget or an a bill that could have saved Off Track Betting in New York City. No one expressed much surprise. " This all sounds very familiar, the Watertown Daily Times complained.

Party Town

The New York City Charter Revision Commission did not propose nonpartisan elections -- or any other major changes, for that matter.

More than two years after he said he would appoint a commission to revise the City Charter, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made good on the commitment, naming a commission in March. "Everything will be on the table, " he said.

And during the hearings that followed that seemed to be the case. Public officials, advocates and regular New Yorkers showed up to press their favorite cause -- term limits, changes in the city planning process, eliminating certain city offices - or giving them more powerful -- and making city elections non partisan.

No issue attracted quite the passion and attention that that did. Advocates said it could reverse the city's dismal voter turnout and enfranchise the hundreds of thousand of New Yorkers who cannot vote in primary elections because they do not have a party affiliation. Opponents warned it could only help self financed-candidates like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to get voters to approve the idea back in 2003.

In the end, the commission decided not to put nonpartisan elections on the ballot. Even the commissioners who liked the idea worried voters would reject it again. They feared any fallout might that sink other, more popular charter changes at the ballot box. And Bloomberg decided not to pressure his commission to take that risk.

In the end, the commission put two proposals on the ballot: one instituting a two-term limits for city officials and the other a catchall measure of fairly small changes. Voters approved both questions in November.

Free for Now

The bidding for video gambling terminals at Aqueduct racetrack could still land several politicians in legal difficulties.

Many Albany politicians were not indicted in 2010.

There are of course many fine, honest state legislators But even several who came under an ethical cloud remained not only out of jail but out of court.

They include:

--The Racino rascals: A report by the state inspector general charged that State Senate leaders and Gov. David Paterson helped tilt the bidding process for a video lottery terminal at Aqueduct racetrack in favor of Aqueduct Entertainment Group. The report alleged that Senate leaders John Sampson and Malcolm Smith leaked the competition's data to the company, known as AEG. Sampson supposedly put pressure on AEG to hire his preferred developer and make sure the deal helped Sampson's Brooklyn district. Senate leaders allegedly also sought political contributions in return for their support.

AEG first won the contract but then lost it as the controversy over it grew. The report has been referred to the U.S. attorney's office and the Manhattan district attorney.

--Carl Kruger: The long-time state senator from Brooklyn, who ran virtually unopposed last year, has the Senates largest war chest - a cool $1.9 million. And the FBI has reportedly begun looking into how Kruger got some that money. Some of it came from Brighton Beach nightclub Michael Levites, who got Kruger's help to clear up some health inspection problems. In June, Levites was charged with lying to federal law enforcement. Kruger has not been charged.

Levites is reportedly only one of a number of rich Russians Kruger is said to have hit up for cash. "The only time anybody sees Carl Kruger's hands are when they are inside your pockets, or filled with campaign funds," said Levites' lawyer.

Not needing his money for campaign, Kruger uses it to "live like a king," the Post has reported.

--Vito Lopez: At times this year, the Williamsburg assemblyman seemed on track to follow his predecessor as Brooklyn Democratic boss, Clarence Norman, to prison. Lopez has been facing at least three government investigation involving the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which Lopez controls. The investigations involve whether the council made fraudulent claims to the city and salaries paid to people close to Lopez. And then there's the question of whether Lopez rewarded cronies with judicial nominations -- one of the things that got Norman in trouble.

In his probe, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan let Lopez off the hook. (Donovan got a minor Lopez functionary to plead guilty of falsifying an expendse sheet.)

Earlier this month, Lopez got some bad press for filing for his state pension while still serving in the legislature. Nothing though, is illegal about that illegal about that.

Presidential Prattle

The talk of a Bloomberg presidential bid did not end.

It’s the whack a mole of political gossip. One you think it’s gone away, it pops up again. Nothing can end it, not Barack Obama's election, not a packed GOP presidential field, not the mayors re-election to a third term -- or his frequent denials. Not even polls that show most people don't even like him very much.

This year the perennial speculation about a Bloomberg presidential run returned with renewed force, propelled by the seeming partisan gridlock in Washington, a perception by some that the two main parties drifted to the fringes of the political spectrum and the mayor's own fanning of the flames.

No way, not going to happen, Bloomberg said, while at the same time appearing on a national talk show to hold forth on issues far outside the five boroughs. He has pontificated on big issues and chastised other for not adhering to his pro business and socially liberal line. And he has launched a group called No Labels that some see as resembling a nascent presidential campaign.

Why won’t people believe the mayor? Well, remember what he once said about term limits and you might have your answer.

City Steps Up Efforts to Court Bioscience

Photo (cc) Courtney Gross. The new life science center in Manhattan.

Milton Werner loves New York. He worked here for more than a decade, heading up a research laboratory that examined human cancers at Rockefeller University on the East Side.

So when Werner decided it was time to start his own biotechnology company, you'd think he would set up shop in the Big Apple.

But the nationally acclaimed scientist traded apples for peaches.

He opened in Georgia.

"I'm a New Yorker at heart," said Werner, now a resident of Atlanta. "And I love New York. It would be a great place to do this, but the cost of living is astronomical."

To top it off, when Werner launched Inhibikase Therapeutics in 2008, Atlanta sent him a check for $455,000, he said.

Werner is like many other former Big Apple bioentrepreneurs -- they study therapies and technologies at New York City's robust research and medical institutions, but move on to cheaper, more science-friendly hubs to develop their products.

The Bloomberg administration wants to reverse that trend.

Over the last five years, the city has invested at least $25 million to grow the bioscience industry in the five boroughs. It provided seed capital for a newly opened bioscience center on the East River and for the soon to be constructed start-up space at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The State Legislature passed a biotech tax break last year, proposed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, that smaller biotech companies will start to tap into this April.

In the last two weeks, speeches by both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel have addressed how to spur the bioscience industry.

While the effort has not gone unnoticed -- in fact most commend it -- some industry experts think New York will struggle to become the next Boston, San Diego or North Carolina research triangle. Bloomberg's investment, they argue, might never quite pay off.

The Science Race

Security and large silver gates guard the entrance to the city's new bioscience center. Outside, the cobblestone driveway is lined with pictorials of scientific leaders, Barbara McClintock and James Watson among them.

Inside, the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows offer an expansive view of the East River. New York University's Medical Center looms in the periphery.

The approximately $250 million, 15-story tower opened last month with much fanfare. Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio's newest restaurant occupies space on the ground floor. Sleek lab space sits empty waiting for occupants on the fourth floor. The top floors house the new research space for an Eli Lilly and Company subsidiary, the New Jersey-headquartered ImClone .

But the facility, developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, didn't come without sacrifice.

The state contributed $27 million to the project's construction and another $1 million to entice ImClone as the anchor tenant. The Bloomberg administration gave $13.4 million, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave $500,000. All of it was to lure an industry starving for lab space and start-up capital, officials said.

"You look at all the big pharmaceutical companies," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the center's opening. "They are over in New Jersey. We want to make sure those jobs stay here."

The city has a lot of catching up to do. Officials admit they have lagged behind other metropolitan areas -- losing bioscience jobs to Boston's reputation and to San Diego's easy-on-the-pocket lab space.

"[The city] has a lot of the ingredients to be the premiere bioscience center," said Seth Pinsky, the chairman of the city's Economic Development Corp. "We just haven't captured as much of the potential as we should."

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2007 and 2009 the five boroughs added approximately 266 commercial bioscience jobs -- going from 7,247 jobs to 7,513. Manhattan actually lost jobs in research and development in the biotech sector -- the primary target of the city's efforts. Figures by county for 2010 are not yet available.

The Economic Develop Corp. says the city had 132 bioscience companies as of 2010.

According to the bureau, New York City has approximately the same amount of jobs in bioscience as Boulder, Colo. or Dallas, Texas.

San Diego, though, has four times as many bioscience jobs as the five boroughs.

While New York gained a couple hundred positions, other emerging and established bioscience hubs gained more -- and at a faster rate. Dallas added twice as many jobs as the Big Apple between 2007 and 2009.

Durham County, N.C. -- one piece of the state's research triangle -- gained more than 1,100 jobs in the private sector. Cambridge, Mass. took on more than 2,300 additional jobs and Suffolk County, home to Boston, more than 960.

View Bioscience Boosts in a larger map

For a full look at where jobs in bioscience are going, see our interactive map. The map includes private employment in research and development in physical, engineering and biological sciences as well as employment in the pharmaceutical industry and medical device manufacturing.

Forgetting established bioscience clusters, like California and eastern Massachusetts, experts say Palm Beach, Seattle and much of the Southeast are all competition for a slice of the emerging bioscience market.

"One of the main drivers was our proximity to the new Scripps Research Institute," said Robert Middlebrook, the chief financial officer of Envoy Therapeutics, explaining the company's decision to locate in Palm Beach County in 2009. Several of Envoy's scientists have ties to the city's Rockefeller University.

Bigger and Better Incentives

For the city to get businesses like Envoy to come to New York, it will offer $3 million in tax credits for the first time this year. But many other states and counties have already implemented tax credits and incentives -- and some are hooking biosciencebusiness with a larger worm.

Florida used about $450 million in economic development projects to lure large research organizations, like Scripps.

Maryland has promised to invest $1.1 billion in bioscience over 10 years, including $8 million in a refundable biotechnology tax credit this year. Massachusetts has set aside $500 million over a decade for capital investments in life sciences. The Bay State gave out $25 million in tax credits in 2009.

New York state has some tax incentives geared to companies in emerging technologies, but the state Department of Taxation and Finance does not break out data by region or industry. The department forecasts it will hand out $14 million in 2010 for capital expansion and training for emerging technologies.

To catch up with other areas, the city Economic Development Corp. plans to secure a consultant by the end of the year to study what incentives and initiatives New York City can adopt to bring biotech here. The study, said officials, should be completed by next summer.

Bioscience Throughout the Boroughs

Bloomberg administration officials say we already have the research centers. We just need to turn their expertise into a commercial economic boom for bioscience.

At the offices of Google in Chelsea yesterday, newly minted Deputy Mayor Steel said biotechnology and life sciences are crucial to creating a new "innovation economy" for the city. The city has a "marketing problem and a real estate challenge," Steel said.

Despite the national and international competition to entice bioscience, Steel said -- in typical New York fashion -- the city is ready to best them all.

A decade ago, New York City had one large commercial lab space for startups. It now has three others on the map or in the works -- all have been spearheaded with private and public dollars.

Earlier this year, the administration and SUNY Downstate Medical Center announced the first phase of construction on a 486,000 square foot facility at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. SUNY Downstate also expanded another incubator space in central Brooklyn, said professor Eva Cramer, vice president for biotechnology and scientific affairs at SUNY Downstate.

The Alexandria Center for Life Science on the East Side of Manhattan plans to add two more towers -- though the commitment comes with a caveat. Joel Marcus, Alexandria's president and chief executive officer, said it would not break ground on the next tower until it had an anchor tenant. There is no telling when that might occur given the tremulous economy, real estate market and the relative trouble the city has had keeping and recruiting companies.

Experts provided some optimism, arguing a major tenant for a second building would be easier to corral since a biotech presence has been established in the complex.

The new Alexandria tower and the Brooklyn Army Terminal space alone will create about 2,000 new bioscience jobs, officials said.

This multi-borough development strategy epitomizes the city's new bioscience mantra -- "if you build it, they will come."

“New York City has always had many of the ingredients that would make it a center for the bioscience industry -- a talented workforce, accessible venture capital and a concentration of leading academic and medical institutions -– but we’ve had a shortage of commercial lab space," said Economic Development Corp. spokesperson David Lombino. "Now, with new lab space open and even more in the pipeline, the city is better poised to capture companies that spin out of our existing institutions, creating good jobs and strengthening our local economy."

Some scientists just starting companies don't see it so simply. Dr. Allan Rubenstein, a pediatrics and neurology professor at New York University, received nearly $1.5 million for his biotech startup, NexGenix Pharmaceuticals, after attending a city-sponsored seminar on grant applications.

He now has eight employees in Manhattan.

But, Rubenstein said, his lab space is in San Francisco.

"Despite the very positive efforts of the Economic Development Corp., I don’t personally think that biotech is going to thrive in Manhattan," said Rubenstein. "It's basically the cost of doing business."

Manhattan's cost of lab space is one thing. Alexandria's Marcus would not disclose specific rental rates at the new life science center, but said they are less than $80 a square foot.

Boston area lab space goes for approximately $50 per square foot, according to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

Lab space coming online in the outer boroughs is more affordable. Rental rates at the Brooklyn Army Terminal project will be about $40 per square foot, according to the Economic Development Corp. An official running the space said scientists aren't lining up to sign leases, but they have had plenty of inquires.

Lab space in and around San Diego goes for about $36 a square foot, according to California based BIOCOM.

Companies in California tend to get larger spaces -- approximately 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, said a San Diego expert. In wall-to-wall Manhattan, lab spaces can only have so much legroom.

Werner in Atlanta said no startup biotech could really afford more than $20 a square foot.

"I looked at Atlanta as not being so different from New York, but at a much smaller cost," said Werner.

Scientists at New York City startups must also contend with a higher cost of living -- from rent to a gallon of milk.

Back at Google, Steel recognizes this.

"The price is always going to be a challenge," the deputy mayor said. "We are in New York. It's not the same price as other places, but there are other advantages too."

Why Bring Bioscience, Anyway?

In making their argument for investing in bioscience, city officials say bioscience clusters coagulate around medical centers and universities.

The city, they point out, has nine.

The five boroughs receive approximately $1.3 billion in National Institutes of Health funding every year, said officials. Its institutions create at least 20 spinoff bioscience companies a year, they contend.

"Our belief was you had to have meaningful presence in New York City because this is where the science is interesting," said Maria Gotsch, the president and chief executive officer of the New York City Investment Fund, which is sending at least $20 million to start-up biotech companies in the city. "The efforts are less about attracting California companies. It's about keeping what is ours."

But critics mention the bioscience industry made a profit for the first time only last year. It's uncertain whether surpluses will become the norm and how many jobs within the five boroughs can actually be created.

Despite the obvious challenges, New York City is a contender.

"It took 30 years in Massachusetts to grow this industry, and in the early years it was pretty humble," said Peter Abair, director of economic development at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "Other regions of the world that are seeking to focus on this industry, they have to be ready for a long term growth."

Senate Gamble Could Send Horseracing into its Final Lap

When the doors to the three remaining city OTB parlors shut for the final time Monday night, few New Yorkers probably noticed. The parlors seem like a remnant of a forgotten age -- dank, poorly furnished caves where old men waste away their days laying down their remaining dollars on that horse, the one they have that feeling about.

But the closings represented much more than that. For about 1,000 workers it meant the loss of their jobs. While OTB will remain open in the rest of the state, the shutdown in the city brings great uncertainty. Beyond that, the move could deal a death blow to thoroughbred racing across the state.

The city OTB owes the New York Racing Association around $25 million. About half of the purse money that the racing authority pays out comes from the city OTB, which handles about $750 million in wagers a year.

"A thousand New Yorkers are out of work and the whole thoroughbred racing system in New York is in danger," said Sen. Diane Savino, who presided over the State Senate session at which a bill that would have rescued New York City OTB from bankruptcy failed, by a vote of 29-21. "Like John Sabini [chairman of the State Racing and Wagering Board] said, it wasn't like ripples in a pond from a stone; it was like throwing a boulder in there."

The End of OTB?

The city OTB has long been plagued by financial problems. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani famously described it as "the only bookie joint in the city to lose money." Mayor Michael Bloomberg, though, said that it wasn’t OTB's fault.

"OTB did make money," Bloomberg told John Gambling on his radio show, "but they (the state) demanded 120 percent of it go to support the racing industry."

The institution has been on the verge of bankruptcy many times. Bloomberg had the state step in to take over the betting franchise from the city in June 2008 after he threatened to shut it down. “One of the great transactions in history was New York City pushing OTB into the state's lap, Bloomberg told Gambling, "because it isn't that OTB didn't have more revenue than expenses, it is that the state, by law, took … 120 percent of the profits."

Now it seems the parlors will stay closed for good.

Closing the OTB parlors is expected to cost the state $20 million, and the move will leave the state -- i.e. the taxpayers -- with $600 million worth of the OTBs liabilities including the money it owes creditors as well as employee pension and health costs.

Experts say the closure of the city OTB and the loss of the $750 million in annual wagers it brought it in could jeopardize the entire racing industry. Track operators will have less money to keep their doors open, pay jockeys and manage expenses. Sabini has said that he expects the number of race days to decline and possibly to see race tracks close.

OTB chairman Larry Schwartz who is also Paterson's top adviser told a morning radio show, "This is going to have a tremendous impact on the racing industry. I believe upstate tracks will close. Horse farms will shut down, breeders will be moving out of state. Many small businesses that support racing will have to lay off people or shut down their operations. With a 9 percent unemployment rate in the state of New York, the Senate had a chance not to add to those figures by passing a restructuring plan that the Assembly approved."

The Senate's Fumble

Beyond those effects, the shuttering of the city OTBs represents another colossal failure by the New York State Senate to function as a legislative body when it is most needed. With the city OTB facing $67 million in debt, Gov. David Paterson put forward a bill that would have given its creditors, including the racing authority and Yonkers race track, use of telephone and internet betting, which are thought to be worth millions, in exchange for forgiving OTB's debt. The bill also would have exempted the city OTBs from provisions believed to be a strain on them. Other regional OTBs would have continued to operate under those provisions.

Republicans opposed Paterson’s bill, because they wanted to extend those breaks to OTB throughout the entire state. Democrats said that they needed to deal with the city OTB first, because it was on the verge of bankruptcy. They also noted that the city OTB already had done a large amount of restructuring and made concessions that showed it was working in good faith to improve.

"Regional OTBs have their own problems," said Savino, "but they are not facing imminent disaster -- bankruptcy -- and they have not made the concessions the city OTB has. They have not made any concessions. This was not the time to address them. We could have done it next year, but now the entire system is in jeopardy."

Republicans fault Democrats for failing to negotiate, particularly since they did not have enough Democratic votes on hand to pass the bill alone.

"By insisting on a take-it-or-leave-it approach, Senate Democrats voted to close NYC OTB and put people out of work –– plain and simple," said Republican spokesman Scot Reif. "Their bill was brought to the floor even though it didn’t have the votes and despite the fact we had offered a compromise bill that would have passed."

The Senate failed to vote on the OTB bailout when Paterson called them to a special session in late November. The Assembly passed the bill. Facing pressure to act the Democrats called the follow-up session last week. Several Democrats then missed the vote.

Senate President Malcolm Smith was in China, and Sen. Kevin Parker was on the way back from hearing the verdict in his felony assault trial. Sens. Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espada, who lost his bid for re-election, skipped the session. Sen. Liz Krueger was reportedly in the building but only willing to vote on the bill if her vote would put Democrats over the top.

"If the Senate Democrats want someone to blame, they should look in the mirror,"Reif said.

Democrats in turn say that Republicans who had agreed to vote for the bill backed out. The most striking example is Sen. Hugh Farley, whose district includes Saratoga, a town that benefits greatly from the racetrack there. Farley had even voted the bill out of committee and said he intended to vote yes. He explained that he was caught up in a conversation with Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos and missed his name during the roll call vote.

Farley's absence proved crucial, according to Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democrats. "Had Farley kept his promise we could have delayed the vote procedurally," giving missing Democrats a chance to get to the Senate chamber and vote. Shafran said Parker, for example arrived half an hour later.

Savino said that Republicans could have indicated to her that Farley was delayed and she would have waited for him. But she thinks the Republicans really wanted to kill the bill. "This was them deciding that they wanted to manipulate this to their favor to benefit regional OTBs, and instead it failed," Savino said.

"There are 1,000 people out of work because of the cowardice of senate Republicans," Shafran continued. "Seventeen thousand New Yorkers could possibly be out of work statewide," Shafran said, if the OTB closure leads to the downfall of the racing system across the state.

The Next Move

Members of the state's racing industry do not actually support the Republican legislation. They were in favor of saving the city OTB and say that the Republican bill would have given the racing authority $11 million less in payments a year from regional OTB's on top of millions less from the city OTB. "The consequence of the legislation being advocated by the regional OTBs is that NYRA would be forced to close," Charles Hayward, president and CEO of NYRA, told The Saratogian.

Republicans, including Farley and Skelos, continue to insist that negotiations over a broader OTB rescue package continue, but Senate Democrats and Paterson’s office disagree.

"People have talked a lot lately about negotiations," said Savino. "Well, if anyone is negotiating they are negotiating with themselves, because Schwartz would have to reopen this, and so far I don’t think anyone is talking to him."

Paterson told a morning talk show host last week, "The reality is we’re not negotiating." Paterson spokeswoman Jessica Bassett confirmed on Monday that nothing has changed since then.

'Living Wage' Would Hurt Young, Unskilled

Photo by Chris Devers

New York City, which faces a predicted budget gap of $3.3 billion this fiscal year, is considering an expansion of the reach of "living wage" legislation that would make the deficit worse, drive jobs out of the city and raise unemployment among low-skill workers.

The bill pending in the City Council (Intro 0251) would extend New York City’s requirement for payment of a 'living wage," defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living." The new wage would apply to jobs connected with any new development projects that benefit from city subsidies greater than $100,000, both construction work and continuing employment thereafter.

Under present law, the "living wage" applies to contractors doing business with the city in a variety of areas, including food service homecare for seniors and daycare.

The pending bill has nothing to do with alleviating poverty in New York. Without the legislation, the vast majority of people in New York and elsewhere already make more than $11.50 an hour.

Rather, the bill would hurt the young and the low-skilled, people whose skills and productivity are worth less than $11.50 an hour. Forcing employers to pay them that much would prevent them from getting hired and getting their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. Without the bill, most of those making less $11.50 an hour will be paid more after a reasonable time on the job as they acquire experience and do their jobs more efficiently.

Behind the Bill

Under the proposed law, qualifying projects that receive direct subsidies or tax breaks would be required to pay workers $11.50 an hour or $10 an hour plus health benefits.


City Council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma introduced the legislation, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. supports it.

One force behind the bill is the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, whose members would be beneficiaries of the proposed law. The bill has 28 sponsors, and needs 26 votes for a majority on the 51-member council. The council would need 34 votes to override an expected veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has criticized the plan, saying, "It's a nice idea, but is poorly thought out and will not work."

Hurting the Poor

How would the new law operate? It would require firms that accept $100,000 in city subsidies to pay higher wages for some jobs than they pay now, or risk losing the subsidy money.

Not only would the construction contractors be required to pay the "living wage," but later any employees in the development itself. So cashiers and retail workers at a shopping mall would also be paid "living wages."

The prospect of higher construction and operating costs likely would stifle development.

This misnamed variant on the minimum wage would be particularly detrimental to low-skill workers, because the gap between their wages and the "living wage" is greatest. Employers would have an incentive to lay off low-skill workers and replace them with more experienced and skilled hands.

According to University of California (Irvine) economics professor David Neumark, "the adverse effects of living wages fall more heavily on the least-skilled individuals, who are least likely to be employable after a mandated wage increase is enacted." In other words, because a "living wage' is essentially a tax on low-skill labor, less of it is hired.

The truly insidious aspect of the "living wage" movement is that the purported beneficiaries are the losers. The people primarily harmed by the legislation are the poor and the young, those who would otherwise willingly work for less than $11.50 an hour because it is better than the alternative: earning nothing at all.

Job markets are dynamic, and workers earn more with greater experience. Take away initial job opportunities and the "living wage" movement condemns millions of young Americans to unemployment, a loss of opportunity and a lesser future. Young Americans living under the "living wage" movement face horrible choices: accept unemployment and limited opportunities; work illegally and risk getting caught; or move to a more enlightened community.

Admittedly, most cities now face financial shortfalls, but the “living wage” contributes to their dismal fiscal situations by raising the cost of employment for municipal employees and contractors. Just three examples: Boston, which has a "living wage" of $12.79 an hour, has a budget shortfall of $42 million. San Francisco, with a "living wage: of $11.54 or $12.33 an hour, has a gap of $483 million. Chicago, with a "living wage" of $11.03 per hour, has a gap of almost $655 million.

Paying contractors a "living wage" adds to cities’ budget pressure, because they can no longer save money by contracting out jobs and relying on more-efficient private firms. Expanding such a requirement, hence raising employment costs, would increase the deficit and raise New York's unemployment, now at 8.3 percent statewide and 9.2 percent in the New York metro area.

New York has stood up to terrorists, looked them in the eye and proclaimed that it will not be defeated. The city should have little trouble standing up to bullies who would make life harder for young and unskilled workers. It is time for New York to stand tall again and defeat further "living wage" legislation.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Council Cracks Down on Sidewalk ATMs

Photo (cc) empty streets

Getting cash might become a little less convenient.

The City Council approved legislation Wednesday to crack down on illegal ATMs, which saturate city sidewalks, provide a haven for graffiti and pose a security risk for cash-strapped pedestrians, officials said.

Flooding nightlife-laden areas, like the Lower East Side, Williamsburg or either Village, these ATMs have proliferated for more than a decade, council officials said.

But they have done so illegally.

"It really makes them not automatic teller machines," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "It makes them asking for trouble machines."

Under the legislation (Intro 257-A) fines for having an illegal ATM on your property could increase 20-fold -- from $250 to $5,000. Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to sign the bill, which was approved by the council unanimously.

Out of Order

Robert J. Benfatto Jr., the district manager for Community Board 4 in Manhattan, which spans the west side from 14th Street to Midtown, knows these notorious ATMs well.

"There is a sign one after the other, ATM, ATM, ATM," Benfatto said of Ninth Avenue. The Community Board supports the legislation, he added. "[The ATMs] take away from the street space. They are open to crime problems."

Benfatto said the board has also received complaints of identify theft and fraud. Other officials said the ATMs can attract theft.

"It's something that begs criminals to stake it out," said Quinn.

The problem was pointed out across the city -- from Grand Street in Williamsburg to Sixth Avenue in the West Village. These ATMs are only illegal if they are located outside of a store on the sidewalk. The bill will not affect ATMs inside bodegas or bank vestibules.

Council officials could not estimate how many illegal ATMs the city hosts, but a quick survey of any neighborhood shows their prevalence.

A report from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in 2009, which pushed for regulations to discourage their use, found 99 in the East Village -- 70 were between First Avenue and Avenue B alone.

Under the bill, the Department of Transportation will give property owners 30 days to remove the illegal ATM. After that, a property owner can be fined between $2,500 and $5,000 every five days if the ATM is not removed. If the owner racks up unpaid fines of $50,000 over the course of 90 days, the city will seize the ATM.

Officials said the retooled ATM ban would prevent the obstruction of sidewalks and prohibit graffiti. This legislation, said Quinn, would increase New Yorkers quality of life.

Human Rights and Energy Code

The council also unanimously approved legislation (Intro 396-A) to establish guidelines for the Commission on Human Rights to report to the City Council. Currently, the commission must file an annual report with the council, but it is given no deadline or guidance.

The bill will require the commission report to the council by March 1 every year and provide details on complaints, inquiries from the public and outreach efforts.

The council also approved legislation (Intro 343-A) to bring the city's energy code up to date with the 2010 state energy code.

Street Renaming

The council unanimously approved its semi-annual street naming legislation ( Intro 428-A), which ceremonially renames certain corridors and avenues after notable New Yorkers.

Among those named in this round, Det. Omar Edwards, who was the victim of friendly fire in Harlem in 2009, will have a slice of East 123rd Street, and Officer John Scarangella, who was killed in the line of duty, will have a section of Baisley Boulevard named for him in Queens.

Landmark State Law Protecting Domestic Workers Takes Effect

domestic workers
This poster, displayed at a demonstration several years ago in Albany, calls for dignity for domestic workers.

The New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, the first in the United States, becomes law today -- Nov. 29.

By amending the Human Rights Law, Workers Compensation Law and Labor Law, the state government gave the more than 200,000 domestic workers in the metropolitan area -- housekeepers, nannies, home aides -- a package of limited rights and benefits previously denied them.

Limited Protection

The measure provides statutory protections from harassment, mandates for overtime pay, a six-day (or shorter) workweek and three paid vacation days after the first year on the job even if there is only one employee in a household instead of four under prior law. The changes will extend disability benefits to employees who work fewer than 40 hours per week. While the new laws apply to employees who do some work on an ad hoc, or casual, basis, they do not extend to the teenager who baby-sits once in a while or the person hired to clean out closets every spring. The Human Rights Law will prohibit "unwelcome sexual advances," seeking "sexual favors," or verbal and/or physical conduct which tends to be a condition of employment or creates an "intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

Overtime pay is defined as one and one-half times the hourly pay over 40 hours; for live-in domestic workers (who may be present to assist elderly or disabled persons day and night), it is 44 hours. In barring a seven-day work week, the Bill of Rights does not require, but does encourage, allowing that that the day off be the worker's Sabbath or day of worship.

The bill of rights protects workers against discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin and religion, but does not extend that to some of New York's other protected classes, such as those discriminated against because of age, sexual orientation or marital status. Nor is the Bill of Rights about discrimination in hiring, salary issues or other conditions; it covers only what is specified.

A Change in Attitude

Organizers working with a coalition of non-profit groups fought for paid sick leave or sick days, vacation days and severance pay but won none of those benefits. While they did not succeed in getting their entire agenda passed, the changes do represent some shift in attitudes toward those who work in other people’s homes, almost all of whom are minority women employed at the lowest pay scales, often working under difficult and demeaning conditions. According to Joycelynn Campbell, organizing coordinator for Domestic Workers United, 93 percent of domestic workers are women, 95 percent are women of color and 99 percent are immigrants, mostly from Caribbean and Latin American countries.

The new benefits are minimal compared to those that unions regularly negotiate for their members, and are less than what was sought by the 10-year old, non-profit organization Domestic Workers United. Union membership and collective bargaining are explicitly unavailable to domestic workers. The Bill of Rights requires an investigation into the feasibility of a union being established and recognized by the state Employment Relations Act, which applies to private employment.

According to the domestic workers law, the labor department was to examine and report on whether an employee organization could be formed in accordance with the State Labor Relations Act; how bargaining units could be formed; whether there are issues unique to the domestic work context; and alternative frameworks for collective organization., and the unionizing portion has not been released. So far, the state Department of Labor has not authorized unions for these workers.

A report has, however, been issued rejecting several other demands. In addition to the collective bargaining issues, the legislature directed the Department of Labor to consider sick leave, notice of termination and severance pay. All were rejected.

Getting the Word Out

Whether and how covered employees will be made aware of the protections and benefits without a union may depend in part on the good will of and information provided by their employers. Information on the workers' new rights will be available on Domestic Workers United website. The group is considering using billboards to get the information out.

Enforcement will require workers to file complaints about violations with the state, but it may be that, even when employers are not in compliance, employees will be reluctant to make formal complaints or will remain unaware of their options.

This could be a particular issue for the affected workers who are undocumented immigrants. The legislation does not address them or their employers. Campbell of Domestic Workers United said, "Immigration is not an issue. Our members are not afraid of speaking out. They have been educated about their rights, and these are workers' human rights."

Legal representation is available pro bono through NELA, the National Employment Law Association and today, as law goes into effect, Domestic Workers United will announce the opening of its legal clinic at 1201 Broadway (Suite 807-8) in Manhattan.

A complaint of harassment or abuse filed with the Department of Labor could expose the employer to further filings if they have, for example, not paid unemployment and disability insurance or workers' compensation, as well as state and federal taxes.

Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court Justice

Council and Mayor Clash Over Budget Cuts

Photo (cc)

The Bloomberg administration released $1.6 billion in proposed budget cuts Thursday that could force lower-income families to pay more for childcare, shut down 20 fire companies at night and reduce the city's workforce by more than 10,000 employees.

The budget reductions were part of an unusual mid-year plan meant to preempt a dismal fiscal outlook next year, said Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Beyond the budget revisions announced Thursday, the city still faces a $2.4 billion gap in fiscal year 2012, which starts in July.

"This is really just preparation for a much, much, much more difficult situation in 2012," said Goldsmith, who attributes the city's budget gap to out of control pensions costs. "There are teachers that don’t have their jobs. There are firefighters that are going to have station closings or company closings at night. There are police officers that we would like to hire, which we can't do, because we have this huge pension obligation."

The unusual circumstances and gloomy economic projections, however, did not silence the City Council. Just an hour after the administration released its plan, Council Speaker Christine Quinn stood ready to attack pieces of it.

"CUNY, libraries, after-school programs, those are services that our middle class utilizes every day," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said from her temporary offices across Broadway from City Hall. "We are going to have a voice in what happens," Quinn said.

The council must still determine how it plans to do that. Due to the nuances of the City Charter, the city's legislature is not required to vote on budget revisions unless the administration actually increases spending -- that increase could be as minor as shifting a small amount of money from one agency to another.

The mayor, according to the charter, may cut at will regardless of the council's position.

The Cuts Up Close

Yesterday's cuts are the ninth round of budget reductions in the last three years.

But both officials and watchdogs see the slashes as a necessary evil.

"I think it's a responsible plan," said Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission. "There will be serious cuts [to the city] like there were last year in the state budget. The mayor is right to try to be prepared."

Over the next 18 months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed to cut 6,166 teachers at the Department of Education, two thirds of whom would be laid off.

He has proposed to reduce library service by one day and plans on cutting more than 550 positions from the Administration for Children's Services, including some child protective specialist supervisors. This comes just weeks after the Brooklyn district attorney announced an investigation into the death of a 4-year-old Brooklyn girl who had been under ACS watch.

Those cuts in particular caught the attention of advocates.

"We worry that this is the ninth time that we have cut services for children and families," said Stephanie Gendell, associate executive director for policy and public affairs at the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York. "We are worried about the impact on child safety and well being."

The mayor also wants to eliminate 350 civilian positions, through attrition, at the Police Department and increase parking meter rates by at least 20 percent across the city.

At night, staff at 20 fire companies could be reassigned -- effectively shutting down an engine or ladder during those hours. The administration plans to eliminate 15 percent of security guards at city-operated homeless shelters and convert vacant property into privately operated parking lots.

It also proposed to eliminate 2,140 youth summer jobs and reduce after-school care on holidays. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will close two tuberculosis clinics and eliminate funding for two school-based health care centers. Even meals at Rikers Island will be thinner -- inmates will receive six slices of bread a day instead of eight.

Several agencies, including the parks, transportation and health departments, plan on negotiating with unions to institute furloughs to save cash.

Overall, about 10,300 employees could lose their jobs, 60 percent of them through layoffs.

The budget modification does not include any new taxes, but it does have fee increases, such as at parking meters.

Quinn said the council recognizes cuts have to be made. But it's a matter of where you make them.

The Council's Priorities

Already, council members are attacking the proposed library cuts, summer youth employment reductions, the slashes at the Administration for Children's Services and at the City University of New York as well as the potential nighttime company closures at the Fire Department. The speaker also took issue with cuts to case management programs for seniors.

Many of these cuts are in programs that consistently place at the top of the council's budget priorities. Year after year, the administration has cut them.

In a normal budget cycle, the council would have its own pot of money to restore its favorite causes. Because these budget cuts are mid-year, the council is left with little more than its voice.

Quinn said the council would propose alternatives and hold a series of hearings on the proposals in December.

Yesterday the speaker suggested eliminating meter collection staffing at the Department of Transportation, which could potentially save $3 million. She also proposed bringing professional development at the Department of Education in house instead of contracting it out. That would save $4 million, she said. Quinn also said the city could cut the public information budget at the Department of Sanitation.

Nonetheless, much of this could be moot if the Bloomberg administration doesn't increase funding in a certain area, triggering a council vote. If no increase occurs, Quinn said, the council would use its bully pulpit to try to do away with some of the proposed slashes.

"We are going to voice our agreement where we agree. We are going to voice our disagreement where we disagree," said Quinn. "And where we disagree and we are going to fight to prevent cuts, we will come forward with alternative cuts, because we recognize we just can't keep spending at the same rate -- even to protect the most vulnerable."

We will see if Bloomberg administration listens.

City Report Largely Mute on Budget Cuts, Recession

mayor's management report
Photo by The Planet

Here we go again: more mid-year city budget cuts, another Mayor's Management Report that dodges management issues, and another contracting report that celebrates rather than analyzes privatization.

On Sept. 21, Mayor Michael Bloomberg – less than three months after the council’s adoption of the 2011 budget -- told city agency heads to cut their budgets 5.4 percent this fiscal year and by 8 percent for next year -- half those amounts for the education, police and fire departments.

This action, reducing next year's budget by $1.2 billion, is the mayor's ninth such plan in less than three years. The eight earlier plans -- all ultimately authorized by the City Council -- have had the fiscal effect of over $3 billion in spending cuts in 2011 alone.

The day before sending this directive, the mayor quietly released the city-charter mandated document that is supposed to provide a review of these budget-cutting years, the Mayor's Management Report for fiscal year 2010. (As noted in an Independent Budget Office blog, only one city daily noted -- with 145 words -- its release. Gotham Gazette cited and linked to the report.)

A companion report, the annual agency contracting report was released separately and even more quietly. While full of data, neither of these reports provides much of a framework for a new round of budget cuts. At best, they provide some clues that not all is as rosy in the city as advertised.

Accountability by Press Release

The mayor's voice, absent in the management report itself, surfaces only in a couple of sentences in a press release, which reports an "overwhelming record of improvements in service delivery" during his administration. Even with the eight rounds of cuts, "key services" have "generally been maintained and in some cases enhanced."

The press release itself apparently stands as the backup for the mayor's claims. It features 135 "Critical Indicator Performance Indicators" from the report -- organized in six tables (public safety, quality of life, public health, education, human services, economic development), with not a single comment about any individual indicator.

The six tables themselves tell some tales, especially about social and economic conditions in the city in 2010. But few of the indicators actually measure performance. And some that do -- especially in three of the mayor's priority areas -- public safety, homeless services and education -- show mixed or negative results, particularly in the recent years of cutbacks.

Citywide crime statistics, for example, over the first eight years of the Bloomberg administration show declines in all seven major felony areas. (The report does not mention recent media accounts of data manipulation by the police department.) And crime in the transit system is down by nearly 50 percent over nine years. But the past year saw increases in four of the citywide seven felony measures: murder, rape, felonious assault and burglary.

The average number per day of homeless families in shelters skyrocketed after 2001, from 5,563 to 9,938 in 2010, a 79 percent increase. That includes an 8 percent rise in the past year. The number of single adults in shelters in 2010 (7,167) was roughly the same as in 2001 (7,187), but there has been a 10 percent increase during 2010.

The test results for high schools show some progress: The number of students passing Regents exams in all five subject areas was substantially higher in 2009 than in 2001. High school graduation (in four years) rates between 2005 and 2009 increased substantially -- from 46.5 percent to 59.0 percent.

But the test results for elementary and middle schools are negative. The percent of students in grades 3 to 8 meeting or exceeding standards in English Language Arts was 42.4 percent in 2010, up from 39.0 percent in 2001, but down from 68.8 percent in 2009. In math the percent in 2010 was 54.0 percent, up from 34.0 percent in 2001 but down from 81.8 percent in 2009.

In a brief note, the management report explains that because of the "recalibration" of the state test results, the drop in reading and math scores "does not mean that students' performance in English and math declined from the previous year -- only that the students of New York City are now being held to a higher standard."

In a rare hint of emotion, the note concludes, "Scores that may have been proficient a year ago may fall short of the bar this year, but the department remains committed to ensuring that all students meet and exceed the standards set by the state, wherever the bar is set."

The negative effects of budget cuts in education are perhaps most obvious in the class-size statistics. Although average class size in grades K-8 in 2010 (24.2 students per class) is slightly lower than it was in 2001 (25.1), average class size increased in each grade in the past year from 23.5 in 2009.

None of these performance indicators -- positive, mixed, or negative -- are discussed in the news release.

Social and Economic Indicators

The most revealing data among the 135 indicators in the press release, however, are not the few performance measures, but the social and economic indicators.

Although the release blames the budget cuts on a "national economic downturn" -- ignoring the mayor and City Council's reluctance to consider new revenues to minimize cuts -- the press release doesn't speak to the enormity of the social and economic fallout.

Unemployment, for instance has increased by 80 percent during the past nine years, 40 percent in the past year alone. City unemployment was 5.6 percent in 2001, 6.2 percent in 2005, 7.2 percent in 2009, and 10.1 percent in 2010.

Perhaps the most disturbing data are the food stamp numbers. In 2010, over 1.7 million New Yorkers received federal food stamps, more than double the number of recipients in 2001. With a current city population of about 8.4 million, that means more than one in five New Yorkers now receives food stamps. While the city has, at times, attributed some of the increase to better outreach efforts, the report does not comment on that.

The great bulk of recipients -- over a million -- do not receive welfare assistance. In fact, the number of food stamp recipients who are not on welfare has increased almost five-fold since 2001. A puzzling fact not addressed is that the number of cash assistance recipients steadily declined from 2001 to 2009, from approximately 500,000 to 346,100 in 2009 -- and only slightly increased in 2010 to 346,300.

Program and Human Consequences

In terms of recent budget cuts, at least two of the human services indicators suggest problems: The number of children receiving contracted preventive services -- programs offered by private agencies to monitor children and help troubled families remain intact -- increased from nearly 24,000 in 2001 to 31,752 in 2009, a 33 percent increase, but in the last year the number has dropped by 6 percent, to 29,945.

The number of children eligible for adoption who are actually adopted rose in the first half of the Bloomberg administration, from 64.1 percent to 76.7 percent. But since 2005 the percentage has dropped back almost to where it was in 2001, to 64.9 percent in 2010.

The management report includes total human services contract dollars in agencies, and there are some interesting -- an unexamined -- numbers. In the Human Resources Administration, for instance, during the past three years of budget cutting, contracts with non-profit service providers held constant ($623 million in 2008, $622 million in 2011), which, adjusted for inflation, means a real cut.

The Department of Homeless Services, with demand increasing in spite of the mayor's efforts to reduce homelessness, saw contracts with the non-profit providers who provide the bulk of the city’s shelter services, increased in the same three years, by nearly 12 percent, from $577 million to a projected $644 million in 2011. Given the rise in homelessness, that seems a very modest increase.

Two other agencies, whose services are almost exclusively provided by small neighborhood non-profits, show substantial declines: The Department for the Aging saw contract funding drop from $229 million in 2008 to a projected $204 million in 2011, an 11 percent cut. Contracts at the Department of Youth and Community Developmentdeclined from $288 million in 2008 to a projected $263 million in 2011, a 9 percent drop.

The Contracting Report

The report that could inform such shifts in agency contracting is the city's agency procurement indicators report for 2010, but it provides no help in understanding the impact of recent or projected cuts in contracts with non-profit agencies in human, health and social services.

Early in his administration, the mayor separated reporting about city contracting in the city's operating budget (representing nearly $10 billion of a $63 billion budget) from the Mayor's Management Report even though several city agencies -- youth, aging, homeless services, cultural affairs, for example -- are mostly contract agencies. The Mayor's Office of Contract Services now issues a separate report once a year, covering both operating and capital budget contracting.

The transfer of reporting to the contract services offices has centralized administration and oversight of contracts. In fiscal, legal and administrative terms, this has many advantages. And the report has a good deal of useful information, especially on contracting opportunities and procedures. It even offers some analysis of a few identified problems (contract-processing delays, change orders, and nominal progress on opportunities for minority- and women-established company).

But the report does not provide accountability on substantive matters. For example, some 1,836 non-profit human service agencies were awarded $2.3 billion in contracts in 2010, with 536 of the contracts for more than $1 million.

The results? Over 1,000 non-profit leaders and staffs attended 15 training sessions. Some 82 ($1 million-plus) contracts were reviewed. And 96 percent of all city vendors received at least a "satisfactory" rating in 2010.

Left unexamined are some important questions: For instance, how did a city contract intended to save money on tracking the hours of city workers grow from a projected cost of $68 million to a projected $738 million, as reported by the city comptroller in March. How does a September agreement between the comptroller and mayor seek to resolve the issue?

In another March audit, the comptroller found that the Department of Homeless Services paid $152.7 million to "non-contracted" service providers based on an "honor system." Auditors found a "lack of internal controls and monitoring of service providers" and concluded, "Providers did not transition clients to permanent housing in a timely manner." One client remained in a shelter for six years, costing the department $234,397, another in a hotel for over four years at a cost of $118,933.

Because of a technicality in state law, the management report has no obligation to review contracting in the Department of Education. Thus there is no comment on a 16 percent increase in the department's contract budget, from $3.262 billion in 2010 to a projected $3.781 billion in 2011 (nearly 40 percent of the $10 billion operating contract budget), as reported by the mayor's Office of Management and Budget. (The Independent Budget Office and city comptroller have been authorized to analyze education data, and the budget office has already released studies.

Budget Prospects

The city faces big fiscal problems. City Comptroller John Liu in his July report on the adopted budget for 2011 warned (presciently) that there could be a $690 million shortfall in this year's budget. He awarned of future deficits that could reach $4 billion in 2012, $5.1 billion in 2013 and $5.35 billion in 2014.

However, the mayor's repeated use of his administrative powers to cut agency budgets outside of the standard budget cycle ignores alternative strategies, minimizes the role of the City Council, and denies the public any voice in the budget process. At the same time, the paucity of useful fiscal information in the Mayor's Management Report and the contracting report makes it difficult, if impossible, to measure the impact of earlier budget decisions.

Glenn Pasanen, who teaches political science at Lehman College, has been in charge of Gotham Gazette's finance topic page since 2001.

Quinn Rejects Paid Sick Leave Bill

Photo William Alatriste

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Thursday she would not support legislation to require paid sick leave for every worker in New York City, effectively killing the proposal and giving a boost to businesses that lobbied vigorously against it.

Citing the economy, Quinn said the city could not afford to put another mandate on small businesses that are already struggling to make ends meet.

"It would be a great thing if we could mandate every worker got paid sick leave," said Quinn, dressed in a sharp black suit. "But if we do that and it causes people to in fact lose their jobs, what benefit have we actually forwarded?"

The legislation (Intro 97), which was initially introduced by Councilmember Gale Brewer in 2009 and has languished ever since, would require businesses with fewer than 20 employees to provide five paid sick days per year per employee. Businesses with more than 20 employees would have to provide nine days off. Any other paid leave could be counted towards the sick time minimum under the current version of the bill. According to a council analysis, it would have cost businesses between $700 and $1,200 a year per employee.

A veto-proof 35 members have signed on in support of it.

The move not to support the proposal shocked some supporters of the legislation and of Quinn, a presumptive mayoral candidate in 2013 who built her legislative record on fighting for working class New Yorkers.

Both supporters and opponents of the proposal said the speaker's decision would likely set her apart from the other potential Democratic candidates for mayor, many of whom are drifting left.

In killing sick leave, Quinn has become a friend of small business, but has simultaneously angered some of the city's progressive leaders, like one of the bill's strongest supporters, the Working Families Party.

"The first possible woman mayor has just turned her back on a critical but modest lifeline that families around the city need -- a stunning abandonment of working mothers and parents and the progressive women who have supported her from day one," said Donna Dolan, chair of the NYS Paid Leave Coalition, in a prepared statement. "Our efforts to make the Paid Sick Time Act a reality are far from over.”

Sick Goes to Dead

In defense of her position yesterday, Quinn said she did not turn her back on anyone.

Standing alone behind a podium in a standing-room only conference room downtown, Quinn, confident and sharp-spoken, said she had struggling small businesses in mind when she came to her decision.

"There are businesses on the brink, and they fear any new cost will put them under," the speaker said during a press conference that lasted barely 20 minutes.

For months, if not years, opposing sides of the sick leave fight have dueled over numbers, economic impact and job growth. One study, commissioned by the Partnership for New York City which opposed the bill, put the legislation's cost at $789 million a year. Another conducted by the Drum Major Institute, a major supporter of the bill, said it would not affect the city's job growth.

Supporters of the bill looked at similar laws in San Francisco and Washington D.C., citing their success. Meanwhile, detractors pointed to the city's nearly 10 percent unemployment rate and staggering economy.

Nearly all of the other Democratic mayoral hopefuls, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, Borough President Scott Stringer and Rep. Anthony Weiner, have voiced support for the legislation.

Ultimately, Quinn said a compromise could not be reached.

Brewer disagreed. She said calling it quits was premature and a deal was attainable. But Brewer said she would not use the council's rules to bring it to the floor for a vote without the speaker's support -- a rare but doable process.

Nonetheless, Brewer and other members of the City Council have vowed to continue to fight for the sick leave bill.

"It's not dead," Brewer said. "I have three more years on the City Council. I've been in this game for a very long time. I will not let it die."

But already some members appear to be backing away from the proposal.

Councilmember James Sanders Jr., who chairs the council's Committee on Civil Service and Labor, where the bill is slowly drowning, said he plans to sit down with the speaker to hear her out.

"I have further questions about [the speaker's] position," said Sanders, who is listed as a sponsor on the bill. "She may have information that I don’t have."

2011 to 2013

Some political observers see Quinn's decision as smart.

In the 2009 election, both Liu and de Blasio sailed into office on the backs of the Working Families Party. By siding with small business on this fight, Quinn could potentially receive their support come 2013.

"This allows her to become the friend of small business, which creates an area that the others really haven't broached," said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "She has to appeal to those folks if she’s gonna be mayor."

In business circles yesterday, Quinn's move was applauded and called courageous.

Quinn's decision also evokes the position of the city's current chief. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the approval of a paid sick leave bill would be "disastrous."

Quinn, however, vehemently denied her decision had anything to do with political motives.

"I have to go to bed tonight as the speaker of the New York City Council," she said. "I have to go to bed tonight knowing that I made a decision that was not easy based on the requirements of the job that I hold."

The decision she made could make the job she has now more difficult. Many of the new members who joined the council in January were elected with a promise to get paid sick leave approved.

Some of them aren't ready to give up.

"I will say I think it shows how important the Progressive Caucus is," said Councilmember Brad Lander, who co-chairs the council's newest faction. "We clearly need to keep pushing hard and working for public policy that may make life better for hard working New Yorkers."

Can a Comptroller -- Any Comptroller -- Fix New York State's Budget?

 Alan Hevesi
Photo by Alan Bendenko
Disgraced Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Try to catalog how many times the Republican candidate for state comptroller, Harry Wilson, used the term "under investigation" to describe Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli during their Oct. 4 debate. You will likely lose count. But with one release from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office announcing DiNapoli is no longer under investigation, the focus of the contest between the two men -- and of Wilson's attack -- changed.

With the potential scandal evidently out of the way, perhaps the candidates will now focus on other differences between them: what effect, if any, the comptroller can have in navigating the state through this fiscal crisis and how to manage the huge state employee pension fund.

Both candidates have tried with all their might to label each other with the negative baggage of their backgrounds.

Wilson says DiNapoli is an Albany insider picked by the legislature to oversee its spending and he is accustomed to pay-to-play politics.

DiNapoli charges that Wilson has spent years on Wall Street and says that Wilson comes from the kind of reckless financial culture that landed the country in its current financial emergency.

Comptroller as Budget Cutter

As he campaigns, Wilson, who served on President Barack Obama's auto industry task force, hammers away at the state's precarious fiscal situation and says the government must curtail spending. He insists that DiNapoli has not done enough to attack government expenditures, saying DiNapoli should have audited programs in the budget and pointed out areas that need trimming

Wilson, though, said the state comptroller can do far more than that. "I wouldn't start on April 1 when the budget is due but on Jan. 1. There needs to be a review of all spending. The office should come up with spending cuts. I have the skills to do that. I would work with the governor to create a better budget." Wilson said last week.

DiNapoli said he has been using the comptroller's office as it is designed -- he conducts audits of state spending, announces his findings and tells the legislature and public where he thinks spending could be controlled.

Further, Wilson said, if the proposed budget was not balanced he would not certify it. "If spending and income are out of line then you don't certify," he said. In other words he would reject the plan and refuse to pay out the funds allocated in the budget.

But according to DiNapoli the comptroller does not have the power to certify or not certify. "We have no role in certifying it [the budget]. People have the incorrect notion that we do it," he said. "That is a policy change for the governor and legislature."

The comptroller does get to issue revenue estimates for the state when the legislature and governor can't agree on the numbers. DiNapoli has issued projections that are more pessimistic than those of the governor or the legislature.

But DiNapoli said any direct involvement by his office in setting spending or revenue estimates would jeopardize the office's role as independent auditor. "If we were involved in the process it would create a conflict, reduce our independence and could compromise our auditing ability," he said.

Wilson says that he has consulted counsel on the issue of certification and was told a comptroller could legally refuse to approve the governor and legislature's spending plan. "Mr. DiNapoli said he consulted the attorney general and was told that he can't. But during his campaign against [former comptroller]] Carl McCall, the current attorney general Andrew Cuomo criticized Carl McCall for certifying bad budgets, so he must agree with me," Wilson said.

Gerald Benjamin, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz, says that, under his understanding of the law, the comptroller has no role in certifying the budget and is not supposed to directly help the legislature or governor come up with their plans.

"The legislature is not required to prepare a balanced budget," said Benjamin. "The comptroller's duty is to perform his own survey -- he can say if he thinks the budget is balanced and say if he perceives any risks on the spending or income side. He can use the position as a bully pulpit. The idea that the comptroller can stop the budget by not paying out is kind of a nuclear option and I don't think it is politically feasible."

Benjamin points out that Article 5 of the state constitution says that the legislature shall not give the comptroller any "administrative duty."

Tom DiNapoli
Tom DiNapoli

DiNapoli said he has used his office as allowed by state law to weigh in on the state's budget problems. "We have been outspoken and sounded alarms, saying that the budget isn't balanced. It hasn't solved all the budget problems but I am optimistic, given the current climate, that the next governor and the legislature will approach things in a better way," he said.

Wilson, however, said DiNapoli could have done more, and that DiNapoli's loyalties to the legislators who appointed him comptroller have stopped him from seriously examining how they spend taxpayer dollars. DiNapoli also served in the Assembly for 20 years.

"He seemed proud," Wilson said of DiNapoli who told the crowd at the debate how many legislators had approved him as comptroller. But Wilson says that vote ties him to the legislature and he points out that this is the first time voters will get to weigh in on DiNapoli. Both candidates have agreed that they think the comptroller should be replaced by the voters if a similar vacancy should occur in the future.

Wilson suggested he would use audits to put pressure on legislators. "If there is an audit of a spending program that shows serial abuses of spending and it would be embarrassing for legislators if it was aired in public, I will have leverage to change things," he said.

It isn’t clear how this would differ from DiNapoli's approach as he has done many audits.

Wilson said he expects the next governor will want to work with him on putting together a good budget because of the trying fiscal times.


Running the Pension Fund

Still, the most controversial issue surrounds the pension fund. The comptroller's office has almost total control of the state's $124 billion pension fund. The fund has been a source of controversy because of the investigation into how the administration of Alan Hevesi, DiNapoli's predecessor, handled the investments. During Hevesi's time in office, placement agents steered the state's money into investments with their friends' companies. Campaign donations also were allegedly a good way to get the state to invest pension cash.

At the time of the debate, word was that Cuomo was investigating DiNapoli's handling of the state pension fund as an extension of the Hevesi probe. DiNapoli was named to his position by the legislature in 2006 after Hevesi was forced to resign.

But last week Hevesi pleaded guilty to taking $1 million in gifts from Markstone Capital Partners in exchange for the state making $250 million in investments with Markstone, and Cuomo's office finally responded to inquiries about an investigation into DiNapoli's office.

"During the investigation, the office reviewed an investment known as Intermedia, which was approved for investment under then-New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and increased under Comptroller DiNapoli," read the statement. "The office has concluded our review of that investment and determined that no action is warranted. Mr. DiNapoli is not involved in any investigation or matter in this office."

DiNapoli, in other words, was off the hook.

A few days later, the DiNapoli campaign demanded that the Wilson campaign stop airing television spots that refer to the incumbent comptroller as "under investigation." Wilson's campaign responded saying serious questions remain about how DiNapoli handled the pension fund in his first two years as comptroller.

DiNapoli said he has changed the culture of the fund and has done away with placement agents. "It's not like I just sit in my office with the financial papers and decide we are going to put this much money here," DiNapoli said pointing out that his office has a large staff that reviews investments.

Wilson, however, said it took 26 months for DiNapoli to make any reforms in how his office handled the pension funds. "For 26 months the process went on with placement agents," said Wilson. "Who did he meet with?"

According to Wilson, DiNapoli had one meeting "with two people who have paid settlements" arising from their involvement in the pension fund scandal.

Harry Wilson
Harry Wilson

Wilson said his campaign has tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to try to gain access to DiNapoli’s schedule, "but we were told on that on Oct. 28 they will tell us how much it will cost," that would leave the Wilson campaign with little time to explore the calendar and investigate who DiNapoli met with.

"The schedule is FOILable," said DiNapoli. "Journalists have gotten it. My opponent makes things more complicated than they have to be.”"
"Are you kidding me, Mr. DiNapoli?" asked Wilson. "If you don’t have anything to hide then show us your planner."

Where to Put the Money

The candidates also disagree about what kind of investment strategy the office should pursue.

Wilson said he would significantly reduce the amount of risk involved in pension investments, putting the money in safer, if less profitable, places.

"I would reduce the risk portfolio. We would have lower returns but it would be better in the long run," said Wilson. "We have to pay retirees come hell or high water."

DiNapoli says that his office has reduced the risk portfolio and by extension the returns on the fund, but he said the size of the reductions Wilson is considering worry him.

"I've heard him talk about reducing it down to a 5 percent return. That would be devastating. It might make it impossible to meet the needs of the pension. The idea that someone from that Goldman Sachs background would reduce the risk is hard to believe. Reducing the returns could lead to an inability to meet the payouts, and that would lead to tax increases, so in a way it would be more risky," DiNapoli said.

During the financial crisis from spring 2008 to spring 2009, the pension fund dropped from $154 billion to around $110 billion during the financial crisis. The fund has rebounded somewhat and is now around $124 billion. New York's fund has been held up in the press and studies as performing much better than funds in other states.

The Race

Before Cuomo's office gave him a clean bill of health, DiNapoli was thought to be the weakest statewide Democratic candidate, despite his lead in the polls. Wilson is the best funded Republican candidate.

"I think we have strong bipartisan support," Wilson said, "Most of his contributions were from unions and PACS, and mine were from individuals."

On Oct. 1 DiNapoli had $1,407,449 on hand while Wilson had $2,626,236. Wilson loaned himself $500,000 and has loaned himself over $2 million over the span of the campaign. A look at DiNapoli’s fund raising filings show significant contributions from unions and political action committees. Wilson's contributions do mostly come from individuals.

Wilson has attacked DiNapoli for taking campaign donations from trial lawyers that represent his office, calling it another example of "pay to play." DiNapoli's campaign says that donations do not influence DiNapoli’s decisions.

Without the investigation hanging over his head, DiNapoli should enjoy a stampede of Democratic endorsements. But even with a recent endorsement by former comptroller Carl McCall, DiNapoli isn’t betting his house that support will pour in. "I'm not as much involved in getting endorsements as I am in doing interviews, speaking to the people. I am more concerned about the stampede of voters in November," he said.

DiNapoli has yet to be endorsed by Cuomo, and Wilson has distanced himself from Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Perhaps both want to look independent.

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