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In New De Blasio Heath Care Plan, Limited Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants


bdb mmv idnyc alatriste

Mayor de Blasio holds his IDNYC (photo: William Alatriste)


According to a recent report from Mayor Bill de Blasio's office, there are 345,507 undocumented immigrants in New York City who do not have health insurance. The Mayor's Task Force on Immigrant Health Care Access seeks to provide coverage next year to 1,000 of those individuals.

A new plan from the de Blasio administration, called Direct Access, is intended to expand health care to New Yorkers who do not have it and diminish the mounting number of undocumented immigrants without insurance. Direct Access is lauded by Task Force members, whose work led to the plan, but has critics and immigrants wondering if it is enough.

The Direct Access program will launch in the Spring of 2016 as a year-long pilot, coordinating access for 1,000 uninsured, undocumented immigrant New Yorkers, while accomplishing other goals. The launch is intended to be a preliminary step to collect data to design a larger citywide model. The estimated cost of the pilot is $6 million, paid for by a mix of public and private funds.

Dr. Ramin Asgary, professor of population health at the NYU School of Medicine, is skeptical. “The thinking is right, but it is nothing and close to a joke,” he said of the plan and its affect on the overall population of uninsured undocumented New Yorkers. “On paper they can say we are doing something, but it is a drop in a bucket in the ocean.”

Nancy Berlinger of the Hastings Center for Bioethics and Public Policy defended the number. “You don’t want to launch a citywide program and then realize you don’t have enough doctors, social workers, and nurses,” she said. “You make a commitment to people when you promise ‘direct access.’” The Hastings Center co-released a report on immigrant health care access with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) in March with recommendations for the mayor’s office.

Uninsured undocumented immigrants in New York City have a handful of insurance options, but all come with hurdles in an increasingly complex health system.

For instance, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is not an option. The healthcare legislation from 2009 shut out undocumented immigrants, and made them ineligible for federal Medicaid. As a result of few options, 64 percent of undocumented immigrants in New York City go uninsured.

In emergencies, older immigrants use safety net health insurance at some hospitals. The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and community health centers are the primary safety-net providers that care for uninsured New Yorkers.

However, some undocumented people find the cost of care prohibitive, and have major gaps in referrals to specialists for chronic conditions, according to the Hastings Center and NYIC report. Community centers and hospitals do not have access to the same specialists, so health providers often find themselves at a loss for where they can send their patients in situations of chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

Young people are the select few with the opportunity to apply for help through Medicaid, but only on a state level, and only after applying for the protected status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). While the program’s participants are not eligible for the Affordable Care Act at the national level, five states, including New York, offer health insurance to low-income youth granted DACA.

Direct Access, Mayor de Blasio’s plan, aims to address four issues for the undocumented uninsured: language barriers; coordination shortfalls between health centers and hospitals; lack of education of healthcare options; and the mountain of high-priced services.

The mayor’s task force brought together 25 agencies and nonprofits beginning in June of 2014. The plan, released in early October, estimated the large number of undocumented immigrants who are uninsured, a higher figure than the previous estimate of 250,000 in Beringer’s 2015 report. The NYC Center for Economic Opportunity's Poverty Research Unit worked with the task force to develop a model to estimate the number of uninsured undocumented immigrants in New York City based on information contained in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data.

Young Adults Struggle through a Two-Step Process
Applying for DACA is no easy task.

The initial deferred action application requires applicants to prove their age; that they arrived to the U.S. before their 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the US since 2007; were physically present on June 15, 2012 - the date of the president's announcement; are currently in educational programs (school, vocational training, etc.) or graduated from high school/have a GED; and haven't been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors.

Many of the above are difficult for people who did not keep records, don't have a bank account, cannot speak English, or were not enrolled in school. Limited DACA enrollment keeps undocumented youth from accessing Medicaid, and creates more need for a program like de Blasio’s Direct Access.

Cesar Andrade is a 23-year-old deferred action holder interested in becoming a physician in order to address the very problem he endured— lack of access to vital services for undocumented immigrants. Andrade was insured through the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired when he was 19. He was uninsured between the ages of 19 and 22, while he was attending CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College.

“I always had to be cautious,” Cesar explained, “If you play soccer and tear your ACL, that’s a lot of physical therapy. Once I got insurance, there was a sense of relief. I got glasses and got treatment for an autoimmune disorder.”

In the meantime, CUNY was able to offer him clinic check-ups, which cost $20 each. Cesar became insured last year through Medicaid after DACA made him eligible.

Deferred action applications are seven-page forms, and must be mailed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services along with a $465 fee. Cesar said it was straightforward if you know English, but what gets most people, other than any language barrier, is the evidence one must submit.

Claudia Calhoon, director of health advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition said, “The take home is really that given how tough it is for you and me to understand, you can imagine how this is for an immigrant with low-English proficiency, who may be new to navigating the U.S. healthcare system.”

As DACA enrollment continues, the number of enrollees in Medicaid will increase. According to the New York State Statistical Handbook, the average monthly number of Medicaid beneficiaries in New York has increased, with approximately 424,740 new enrollees in 2013. Sixty-three percent of the recipients lived in New York City. An unspecified number were new DACA holders and thus undocumented immigrants.

Kinsey Dinan, acting deputy commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration’s Office of Evaluation and Research said in an email, “We do not have the ability to specifically identify DACA clients in our Medicaid data.”

An unknown number of DACA recipients are accessing an already existing healthcare option. One of the plans for the Direct Access program is to educate uninsured immigrants on the options they may have if they have a protected status like DACA.  

Harvard Professor Roberto Gonzales is working on an initiative, the National UnDACAmented Research Project, which is a study to assess the effects DACA access has among undocumented young adults.

Gonzales and the American Immigration Council published a report in 2014 that announces preliminary findings where over 21 percent of survey participants obtained health care since receiving the benefit. Although the number of applicants to health insurance is low, he thinks there are reasonable explanations for this.

“The more likely option is that some DACA beneficiaries are acquiring health care coverage through work and college. Our survey was carried out in late 2013, 16 months after the initiation of deferred action. I suspect that since then more of our respondents have acquired health insurance.”

Still, Medicaid for deferred action recipients only addresses a small percentage of the 345,000 uninsured immigrants in New York City.

Can Community Health Centers and HHC serve the rest of the population?
Community health centers do not ask for documentation for patient treatment, so undocumented immigrants often go to these centers for emergency procedures. Over 400,000 of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s 1.4 million annual patients are uninsured.

For those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, these patients are offered a sliding scale for HHC health care services, including prescription drugs. However, patients and taxpayers often fall under tremendous financial burdens from copayments and subsidized care.

“If they are undocumented and don’t have financial resources, they aren't going to be able to pay the bill. The government will have to pay the bill. It is a cost effective perspective that is idiotic not to address,” said Dr. Asgary, of NYU Medical.

Asgary also mentioned that most undocumented immigrants do not have preventative care options that accompany being insured. “Imagine if someone has diabetes or heart problems, and doesn’t see a doctor in ten years. If they have kidney failure or an emergency, society has to pay for dialysis or surgery. One single night in a CCU in a public hospital will cost [taxpayers] $6,000. Five nights in a hospital will cost 20-30K, and they will need follow-up care. Forget just being a decent human being. There are a lot of costs on the line.”

An official statement from the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene mentioned the expansion of current safety net services as outlined in the task force plan.

“The Direct Access program will build on New York City’s strong safety-net health care system. It will help make our safety net system more coordinated, will focus on prevention and primary care by providing “primary care homes” and will improve coordination of care while still preserving federal and state funds,” a representative from DOHMH wrote.

The Plan
Launching in the Spring of 2016, the initial $6 million cost of the plan will be partially funded by the Robin Hood Foundation through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The New York City Council has also committed $2.5 million toward related education and outreach efforts, including a recommended medical interpreter training program to address language barrier issues in immigrant health care access.

In a statement, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs expanded on the details: “The Direct Access program will provide predictable costs, provide a primary care home, and increase coordination of care. By providing a defined network and package of health services, set eligibility criteria and predictable fees, we will be enhancing the existing system for the uninsured in our city.”

The hope is that the program will expand access to health care, and coordinate many independent efforts throughout the city, including the new Caring Neighborhoods initiative, recently announced by Mayor de Blasio. Caring Neighborhoods,  a new program led by HHC and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), will expand community health centers in all five boroughs, so that 100,000 new patients will be able to receive care. The City is dedicating $20 million over two years to cover costs for new health centers.

According to the de Blasio administration press release on Caring Neighborhoods, the initiative will complement the Direct Access plan for immigrant New Yorkers by expanding services at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrants.

There is also hope that the recently launched municipal identification card program, IDNYC, will play into removing the paperwork barrier for the undocumented. The Direct Access program will require a verification of identity and residency in New York. The program will allow use of IDNYC to verify both, and as a participant ID card that will expedite access to care.

Berlinger, of the Hastings Center, is hopeful that the plan will bring together private and public health providers who do not typically work together. “You have to figure out how they share information, how they work together, how they share patient info. Then you have to figure out what it is a better way to reach the population,” she explained.

Enough?
Not everyone is satisfied with the plan as it stands. The Task Force report shows that in the neighborhood of Flushing, 14-37 percent are uninsured non-citizens.

City Council Member Peter Koo, of Flushing, is aware of the high population of uninsured undocumented immigrants, and has held community meetings that promote the use of MetroPlus Health Plan, the insurance plan of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

A recent Monday afternoon meeting had 75 attendees. Koo’s Chief of Staff, Elaine Cheung, said, “In terms of the Mayor’s Task Force report, Councilman Koo believes that there will be a huge demand for these services and we would like to see the number of participants expanded, especially in an community such as Flushing.”

In Brooklyn, 14-37 percent residents in Sunset Park are also uninsured non-citizens. City Council Member Carlos Menchaca addressed the issue in a statement: “The inaccessibility of care for immigrant communities in our City continues to be of great concern for me, and for the City Council as a whole. In the Council, we’ve allocated millions of dollars in the last year alone to help bridge some of the information and access gaps that exist on this front.” The Caring Neighborhoods Initiative recently announced that two of the community health expansion sites would be in Sunset Park and Queens.

Asgary recommends the pilot target senior citizens. “I would target the elderly undocumented. In terms of cost saving, it should be directed toward elderly. They are equally neglected as children. This program moves in the right direction but needs to be expanded.”

The Direct Access plan is modeled after assessments of several other cities’ health plans for immigrants. The plan, with adjustments, is based on Los Angeles’ My Health LA, a no-cost program for low-income residents regardless of immigration status. It offers care through 164 community clinics, and incorporates a preventative health approach.

Of the estimated 400,000 remaining uninsured in Los Angeles County, 280,000 are being served through the plan.

***
by Sarah Betancourt for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Note: this article has been corrected to note that the Hastings estimate for undocumented uninsured New Yorkers is 250,000, not 150,000; to remove mention of use of passport for DACA age verification; and to clarify City Council funding toward relevant initiatives and rates of non-citizens who are uninsured in certain neighborhoods.

As New Yorkers Go to the Polls, Activists Launch 'Vote Better' Campaign


voter registration via NYC Votes

Voter registration efforts (photo: @NYCVotes)


On Tuesday morning - Election Day - in Manhattan's Foley Square, a large group of New Yorkers will hold a rally, kicking off a campaign to address two of New York's enduring problems: voting access and voter turnout.

While New York City voters go to the polls Tuesday to fill vacant City Council, District Attorney, and state legislative seats, as well as to vote for judges, a coalition of advocates and activists, including good government and community groups, will launch a petition drive toward passing legislation it says will "modernize elections in New York."

The "Vote Better NY" coalition is led by NYC Votes, the voter outreach arm of the city Campaign Finance Board; and also includes Dominicanos USA; Generation Citizen; New York Immigration Coalition, and other advocacy groups, along with good government organizations Citizens Union, League of Women Voters, and NYPIRG. The push is to garner popular support and "show lawmakers" that "New Yorkers from across the state want election reform to be a priority in Albany."

The petition calls for three key reforms to make voting easier in New York:
-The Voter Empowerment Act (A5972/S2538A) to upgrade our voter registration system
-The Voter Friendly Ballot Act (A3389) to establish better ballot design
-Early voting so New Yorkers have more than one day to cast their ballots

The hope is that Albany lawmakers will pass these measures during their 2016 legislative session.

Speaking of 2016, New Yorkers will go to the polls several times next year as they vote in presidential, congressional, and state-level elections on a variety of dates. Then, come 2017, there will be another round of New York City elections featuring a mayoral race as well as other citywide and City Council seats.

First, though, there's this Tuesday's Election Day. There aren't a lot of high-profile races on the ballot, but New York City will soon have two new members of the City Council (one in Queens, one on Staten Island), two new District Attorneys (Staten Island and the Bronx), two new Assembly members (Queens and Brooklyn), a new state Senator (Brooklyn), and perhaps a few new judges.

Judicial elections can often be the most mysterious, as City Limits recently pointed out, along with its discussion of how the election for Bronx District Attorney has transpired in a fashion that good government groups and other watchers have called an insult to democracy.

On Staten Island, the district attorney race has been far different as two candidates seek to replace Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan. It's unclear who has the edge heading into Tuesday's vote as former Rep. Michael McMahon, the Democrat, faces Republican Joan Illuzzi, a longtime prosecutor.

Along with its voter guide for Tuesday's city elections, the New York City Campaign Finance Board offers, "To learn more about judicial candidates running in your district, visit the online Judicial Voter Guide published by the New York State Unified Court." Still, there's limited information to be found on the candidates, as City Limits has shown.

The CFB outlines candidates for several special elections taking place on Tuesday to fill vacant seats in the City Council or the state Legislature.

The two Council vacancies are due to members who resigned to take other jobs. There are three vacancies in the state Legislature that are being filled. One, a Brooklyn Assembly seat (District 46), is due to a resignation for another job opportunity. Two others are due to corruption, where the former members were forced to resign. Those two seats include one Queens Assembly seat (District 29) and one Brooklyn Senate seat (District 19).

In District 23 in Queens there is a City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Mark Weprin, who took a job in Governor Cuomo's administration. The Democratic candidate, Barry Grodenchik, faces Republican candidate Joseph Concannon. Grodenchik, a former Assembly member, came out of a crowded Democratic primary.

In District 51 on Staten Island, there is another vacancy being filled - it is an uncontested race for City Council, where Assemblymember Joseph Borelli will be elected to the Council to fill the seat vacated by former Minority Leader Vinny Ignizio, who resigned to take a job as a nonprofit leader. Like Ignizio, Borelli is a Republican.

Borelli and the winner of the Grodenchik-Concannon race will have to run for re-election in 2017, when the entirety of the City Council and the citywide officials will be on the ballot.

First, a year from now, there will be elections for all the seats in the New York State Assembly and Senate. Just ten months from now, there will be primaries in those races.

As both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and form Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos head to trial this month on corruption charges (Silver's trial starts Monday), speculation continues to swirl around whether either will still be in office come next year's elections, and if they are, whether they will see significant challenges.

While there is more intrigue ahead in 2016 and 2017, don't forget to go out and vote on Tuesday in the 2015 elections, if you have races to vote in - check your poll site here, via the City Board of Elections. Turnout is expected to be quite low this year, even lower than it has been in other recent years with more high-profile offices on the ballot, part of why 'Vote Better' activists are launching their campaign Tuesday.

***
by Ben Max, editor, Gotham Gazette
@TweetBenMax

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 2


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Tuesday is Election Day 2015! There aren't many high-profile races on the ballot, but we will soon have two new members of the City Council, two new District Attorneys (Staten Island and the Bronx), and a few new state legislators. There are also lots of judges on the ballot. Tuesday sets the stage for several voting opportunities coming up for New Yorkers in 2016 (presidential, congressional, state-level primaries, etc.).

A year from now, there will be elections for all the seats in the New York State Assembly and Senate. Just ten months from now, there will be primaries in those races. As both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and form Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos head to trial this month (Silver's trial starts Monday) on corruption charges, speculation continues to swirl around whether either will still be in office come next year's elections, and if they are, whether they will see significant challenges. [Read: As Sheldon Silver Heads to Trial, At Least One Democrat Prepares to Run]

We're even closer to the 2016 presidential primaries - yes, there are *many* opportunities to vote coming up (too many, some say). Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday morning. De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as many other New York Democrats, are now firmly behind Clinton and it will be interesting to see how much surrogacy they perform.

Over the weekend, de Blasio celebrated the Mets and Halloween: on Saturday afternoon, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray hosted a Halloween party at Gracie Mansion. In the evening, the Mayor and First Lady marched in the Park Slope Halloween Parade in Park Slope. They were dressed as Mets players. On Sunday, de Blasio kicked off the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on Staten Island in the morning and, in the evening, was set to speak at the 60th Annual Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club Dinner Dance in Brooklyn, according to his public schedule.

There will likely be increased attention this week around traffic safety and de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative in the aftermath of a tragic weekend crash, which saw three people killed and several injured in the Bronx during Halloween festivities.

On Monday, at 1 p.m., "Mayor de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials will host a press conference to make a fire safety announcement." This will take place in Brooklyn. "In the evening, the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a reception for the 50th Anniversary of the Lindsay Administration," at Gracie Mansion, according to de Blasio's public schedule.

This week sees Election Day as well as several other interesting hearings and events. It also features the annual Somos conference in Puerto Rico, where many New York politicos will head toward the middle or end of the week. See our day-by-day rundown below, and stay tuned for updates on Monday.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption trial is set to start on Monday. [Read: As Sheldon Silver Heads to Trial, A Democratic Challenger is Poised to Run]

At 9 a.m. on Monday the Center for New York City Affairs in New School will host “Low-Wage NY: Pay Raises and Working New Yorkers” with economists, labor leaders, activists and policymakers. Experts will discuss the pros and cons of the $15 per hour minimum wage initiative that Governor Cuomo is pushing. Darrick Hamilton, associate professor of economics and urban policy, will moderate a conversation with Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City; Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU; Paul Sonn, program director, National Employment Law Project; Jennifer Jones Austin, chief executive officer, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; and Edmund J. McMahon, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and president of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Also Monday at 9 a.m., at City Hall, “Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Andrew Cohen, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Brad Lander, Local 372, principals, and public school parents will call on the NYPD to provide much needed crossing guards for downtown Manhattan public schools to increase child safety in one of the most heavily trafficked areas of the City.”

At 10 a.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit an elementary school, P.S. 133 in Brooklyn, to read with 2nd-graders and make an announcement, according to her public schedule.

Monday is the only day this week where the City Council has hearings scheduled; at the City Council Monday:

  • At 1 p.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss several land use matters.

  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Technology will meet to discuss a five-year plan to expand wi-fi access in city parks.

  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Contracts and the Committee on Community Development will meet for a joint oversight on meeting self sufficiency standards for workers on Human Service Contracts. [Read our preview, with a deep dive into the issue of pay for city workers and workers at city-funded nonprofits: Hearing to Examine Pay for Workers Serving City’s Most Vulnerable.]

On Monday at 1 p.m. in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams “will launch Code Brooklyn, his initiative to give every public school student in Brooklyn the opportunity to learn how to code.” It is a five-point plan. “The announcement will be made in the library of PS/MS 282 Park Slope School...Among the speakers at the press conference will be New York City Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco.”

On Monday at 1:30 p.m. at 7 World Trade Center, “Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Frank Pallone (NJ-6) Nydia Velázquez (NY-7) and Steve Israel (NY-3) and others will join 9/11 first responders and survivors to state their strong opposition to recent proposals from the Majority House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees that would provide an underfunded and temporary extension of the World Trade Center Health Program and Victim Compensation Fund.”

On Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James will have a "meet and greet with Brooklyn Community Board 3."

At 6 p.m. NYC Collaborates will host “Diverse Schools: Opportunities, Challenges in Integrating NYC Public Schools” at Brooklyn Law School. The event, focused on ways to increase diversity in the city’s schools, will include opening remarks by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, then a panel discussion with City Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres; Todd Sutler, co-founder of Compass Charter School, and others.

At 6:30 p.m. New Yorkers Against Gun Violence will hold its annual benefit, at which it is honoring Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and comedian Lewis Black. Political analyst Nomiki Konst will be the MC. Public Advocate Letitia James will attend.

Tuesday
Tuesday is Election Day! As mentioned earlier, via Tuesday's votes we'll know two new District Attorneys, two new City Council members, other new state representatives, and more.

In the spirit of Election Day, on Tuesday the "Vote Better NY" effort led by NYC Votes, good government groups, and others will launch a new petition drive in order "to modernize elections in New York." A rally will commence the campaign Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., Foley Square in Manhattan. Participating organizations include Citizens Union, NYPIRG, League of Women Voters, and more.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy will host a panel event on the on the 2016 primary elections and the challenges that each party faces while campaigning. Lis Smith, deputy campaign manager for Martin O'Malley; leading Republican strategist and CNN contributor Kevin Madden, and top aides from several other 2016 campaigns will be participating in the conversation with Robert George, deputy editorial page editor for the New York Post. Jeff Smith, assistant professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy will moderate the discussion.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday the November NY Tech Meetup will take place at NYU.

Tuesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting event is via CM Jumaane Williams (District 45, Brooklyn) at 7:30 p.m. [Read our recent look at the pros and cons of PB: Participatory Budgeting Grows in NYC - Why Isn't Every Council Member Doing It?]

Wednesday
The annual Somos El Futuro conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico will begin on Wednesday and run through Sunday. As always it is a way for New York lawmakers, lobbyists, and others to convene for all sorts of conversation and networking. It also comes at a most-tense time for Puerto Rico and as Gov. Cuomo has offered special New York government assistance to the island, which is facing harsh economic circumstances and issues with its healthcare system. Attendees will discuss a range of social issues including healthcare, education, juvenile justice, and more. A large health care rally will also take place in conjunction with the conference.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday another Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program event will be held, at Queensborough Community College. Sponsored by Governor Cuomo, Congressional Rep. Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, the program is aimed to help citizens be prepared in for emergencies.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday the New York City Civilian Complaint Review will hold a public board meeting.

At 7 p.m. #BetaNYC will hold a Civic Hack Night.

Wednesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting event is via CM Jumaane Williams (District 45, Brooklyn) at 6 p.m.

Thursday
At 8 a.m. Thursday, Crain’s New York Business will host a breakfast forum featuring Maria-Torres Springer, president and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. She will discuss the de Blasio administration’s economic development strategy and agenda. She will specifically address subsidy policies and upcoming projects. Erik Engquist, Crain’s’ assistant managing editor, will moderate the event.

At 9 a.m. Thursday the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on potential landmarks throughout the city which have been under consideration for more than five years.

At 5 p.m. Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, City & State NY will host its kickoff event for the Somos El Futuro conference. Expect many elected officials, staffers, and other politicos to attend.

At 6 p.m. Thursday the Alliance for Quality Education will host its 2015 “Champions of Education” gala to honor Natasha Capers, Coordinator, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice; Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President, The New York State United Teachers; Laura Wolff, former program director, The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, for their contributions and dedication to educating future generations.

At 7 p.m. Thursday the New York Young Republican Club will have a gala honoring Congressional Rep. Chris Gibson for his service to the country.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday the Arab American Association of New York will host its 14th annual benefit gala.

Thursday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting event is via CM Jumaane D. Williams (District 45, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.

Friday and the weekend
At the New York State Legislature on Friday, the Assembly Standing Committee on Libraries and Education Technology will have a public meeting to discuss funding for Public Libraries.

On Friday evening at NYU, the Muslim Democratic Club of New York and NYU Muslim Students Association host "Being Muslim in 2016: Why We Can't Wait," a panel discussion on anti-Muslim sentiment gaining political currency as we approach the 2016 elections and asking how Muslim Americans can stem the tide of Islamophobia among politicians and elected officials and gain political power in New York and elsewhere. The panel discussion will be moderated by Ben Max, editor of Gotham Gazette, and will include Faiza Ali, Vice President, MDCNY; Zaheer Ali, Oral Historian, Brooklyn Historical Society; Moustafa Bayoumi, Professor, Brooklyn College; and Essma Bengabsia, NYU MSA Member.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

Note: this post has been updated since its original publish

The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 26-30


week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 30

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Officers line up on Merrick Blvd in Queens outside the funeral of fallen officer Randolph Holder, killed in the line of duty and posthumously promoted to detective, via the 103rd Precinct; Mayor de Blasio on Staten Island for the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, via John Kenny

NYPD funeral

bdb sandy john kenny

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:
1. Three Years After Sandy: October 29 marked three years since Hurricane Sandy hit New York, destroying thousands of homes, killing 53 people, and causing $32 billion in damages statewide. On Thursday on Staten Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s Build it Back program aims to finish its work repairing homes by the end of 2016. So far, the Build it Back program has spent more than $100 million to repair homes and has began construction on nearly 1,900 homes, according to a report released by the Mayor last week.

2. Success Academy Scrutiny: A report published by The New York Times on Thursday revealed that at least one school in the network singled out students who they wanted to get rid of - allegations that the network and CEO Eva Moskowitz had repeatedly denied. Success Academy representatives defended their integrity at a Friday press conference. The network’s high student suspension rates continue to draw attention while Moskowitz continues to explain the schools’ approach.

3. Departures: On Monday, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch announced that she would step down from her post when her term ends. This week, Andrew Albanese, acting superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services, and Matthew Anderson, the agency’s spokesman, resigned from their respective positions amid a disagreement with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office over the agency’s independence. And, one of Cuomo’s top aides, Joe Percoco, is leaving the administration. Cuomo says Percoco’s departure was a personal decision and is not related to ongoing investigations in Albany.

4. Gun Control: On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bratton, and Manhattan District Attorney Vance announced two indictments of gun traffickers for selling loaded handguns, assault weapons, and ammunition. Over the past six years, the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit, working with the NYPD, have taken over “1,000 illegal guns off city streets over the course of 21 indictments filed against 64 gun traffickers,” said Vance. Most of the guns are believed to have come from out of state. On Friday, the New York Times reported that Governor Cuomo plans to take a lead role in the national fight to enact more gun control laws, pledging to work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. [Read: As Cuomo Pushes for Federal Action on Guns, New York Measures Await His Support]

5. Honoring Police Officer Holder: Services took place this week to honor Police Officer Randolph Holder, who was shot and killed while on duty October 20. Thousands of police officers gathered at Holder’s funeral on Wednesday to pay their respects. Holder has been posthumously promoted to Detective by Commissioner Bratton. Holder’s death marks the fourth time in less than a year that a New York City police officer has been killed while on duty.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • 91 cents is how much New York gets back in federal spending for every dollar it sends to Washington, D.C. in taxes - well below the national average of $1.22.
  • 1.8% decline in shootings citywide, with 947 incidents as of October 25.
  • $837,000 in restitution and fines for more than 6,000 employees has been secured by the Department of Consumer Affairs since New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law went into effect.
  • $750 million in incentives is how much New York State has offered SolarCity to locate its GigaFactory in Buffalo, which has promised to create 5,000 jobs.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who held his first re-election fundraiser Thursday night, which was expected to bring in about $1 million for the mayor’s campaign.
  • It was a bad week for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Friday morning after his delay in doing so earned him a lot of negative publicity and, likely, fewer friends in the Clinton camp.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time 111 years ago, on October 27, 1904, the New York City subway opened.
  • Around this time 29 years ago, on October 27, 1986, the New York Mets won the World Series by defeating the Boston Red Sox 8-5 in Game 7 at Shea Stadium.
  • Around this time 129 years ago, on October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.
  • Around this time 3 years ago, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York, resulting in the death of 53 people and the destruction of thousands of homes, causing an estimated $32 billion in damages statewide.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

De Blasio Attempts to Undo Negative First Impressions, by Ben Max

Hearing Will Examine Pay for Workers Serving City’s Most Vulnerable, by Meg O’Connor

As Sheldon Silver Heads to Trial, A Democratic Challenger is Poised to Run, by David Howard King

Brooklyn Neighborhoods Look to Address School Overcrowding, Avoid Rezoning Issues Seen Elsewhere, by Ryan Brady

As Cuomo Pushes for Federal Action on Guns, New York Measures Await His Support, by David Howard King

More NYC Families Will Soon Have Access to Care, by Nisha Agarwal, Commisioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • In an interview with City & State NY, David Miranda, president of the New York State Bar Association, discusses the organization’s constitutional convention committee and some of its priorities for 2016, including gun control reform.

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NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

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by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

Hearing Will Examine Pay for Workers Serving City’s Most Vulnerable


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Council Member Rosenthal (photo: William Alatriste)


For six years, a particular group of workers employed through contracts with the city, and filling important roles, saw their wages stagnate. In May of this year, however, Mayor de Blasio announced that his Executive Budget for the 2016 fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2015, would provide a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase and an $11.50 per hour wage floor for some of New York City's human services providers - workers who staff senior centers, homeless shelters, foster care agencies, and more.

Though the wage adjustments have been hailed as a much-needed step and heralded as part of the mayor’s equity agenda, an upcoming City Council oversight hearing will explore the process for implementing them and ways in which wages can be raised even further.

On Monday morning, Council members and advocates intend to discuss ways to raise the wages of a human services workforce that is increasingly in need of the types of provisions and programs - such as food stamps - that they help provide for others. One aspect of this is ensuring that the mayor’s promise materializes, part of the impetus behind the hearing, according to Contracts Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, one of two City Council members who will preside over the hearing - which comes five months after de Blasio’s announcement.

Previewing the hearing, Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette, “It’s truly an opportunity for the administration to explain how they’re implementing this policy goal and I think we’ll learn a lot of critical details and answers to questions we've been asking for the last few months."

Mayoral spokesperson Amy Spitalnick told Gotham Gazette in a statement that "The City is actively working with the non-profit service provider community and the appropriate City agencies to ensure that implementation covers all the intended employees and programs, and that it is done in an efficient manner that doesn’t place any undue burden on providers. It will be retroactive to July 1."

Human services nonprofit organizations, which employ these workers and contract with the city, have seen years of cuts in funding. The wage floor and cost of living adjustment announced by de Blasio came much to the relief of the sector’s many low-wage workers, Michelle Jackson, associate director and general counsel of the Human Services Council, a coalition of nonprofit human service providers, told Gotham Gazette.

"Our workforce has been chronically underfunded for years. During the recession, there was divestment, and [prior to this year] we hadn't seen a reinvestment since the recession. Since 2010, there had been about $1 billion in cuts to human services across the state," Jackson said.

"I think there’s a misperception that people who work for nonprofits do it as volunteer work - these are crucial services that government is not providing, that they have contracted out to nonprofits," Jackson explained. "Looking at state and city cost of living adjustments over the last few years up until this year, human services workers have been forgotten about. We’re about 15 percent of the state’s workforce, and it's the government’s job to make sure that human services workers are compensated fairly because they are employed through contracts."

These human services workers provide a range of critical programs to some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including in foster care, senior services, early childhood education, after-school programs, homeless shelters, job training and placement, and community health services. Nonprofit organizations on human services contracts delivered about $2.3 billion in services to New York City in fiscal 2015, according to the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

On Monday, November 2, the City Council Committee on Contracts, in conjunction with the Committee on Community Development, will hold an oversight hearing to evaluate the administration's progress in implementing the policy change and allocating funding for the wage floor and the cost of living adjustment.

Council Member Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette that she expects representatives of the de Blasio administration to come to the hearing "with a clean and easy-to-understand explanation of how the money is being allocated. We want to find out which agencies and which programs within each agency is being affected, how many employees are getting the increase, and what the cost is per program.”

Although the mayor set aside a certain amount of money in the budget to pay for the wage adjustments, Rosenthal explained, "the budget did not dictate exactly which agencies and which contracts and which programs would get that pay increase. So, it's my understanding that what's been happening over the last three or four months is that city has been collecting information from contract service providers about the workers they have, the titles, and how much they’re currently being paid in order to now allocate the lump sum of money to the specific agencies."

Allocating the funds can be a complicated process, given that in Fiscal Year 2015, eight City agencies, including the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Homeless Services, registered 16,524 contract actions, according to the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. In the human services industry, those contracts are awarded to vendors, predominantly nonprofits, for the purpose of providing programs such as day care, housing and shelter assistance, and counseling services.

The 2.5 percent increase for approximately 35,000 of the city's 125,000 contracted human services workers and the wage floor for roughly 10,000 social services employees fall short of salary adjustments advocates were pushing for, but are still generally viewed as a significant step in the right direction.

"It really is a crucial first step and shows a real commitment from the mayor in investing in human services workers," Jackson told Gotham Gazette.

Going forward, human services advocates plan to push for continued investment into the sector. "We want to see the cost of living adjustment systematized so it's not the case that every five years, groups have to advocate for one," Jackson said, "there should be consistency in how cost-of-living adjustments are applied for nonprofits."

Rosenthal said she also hopes the hearing will "help to give us a sense of how much money it would cost to get these workers up to $15 an hour. As we understand that, we can start to advocate for that increase in the budget for next year - I think we'll learn a lot more about the details of getting us there from this hearing."

Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently come out in support of a statewide $15 hourly minimum wage for all workers, calling for the wage to be phased in by 2019 in New York City and by 2021 across the state. The move is part of a nationwide push to raise the minimum wage, as cities like Seattle ($15 by 2021), Los Angeles ($15 by 2020), San Francisco ($15 by 2018), and Chicago ($13 by 2019) have passed legislation to phase in a minimum wage increase.

Just last week, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner increased the minimum wage for the city's employees to $15 an hour. The raise affects about 69 employees, including laborers and information aides, some of whom had previously made as little as $8.75 an hour (the state’s current minimum wage), The New York Times reported.

Some have wondered why Cuomo, who said during his minimum wage announcement last month, “every working man and woman in the state of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage,” doesn’t lead the way by raising the wages of state employees, more than 15,000 of whom make less than $15 an hour living wage, according to a New York Post review of records kept by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

There is room to ask the same of de Blasio with those on the city payroll or working through city contracts.

Though the human service nonprofit sector would indeed be affected by a statewide minimum wage increase, Jackson told Gotham Gazette, nonprofits under contract with the government would need more funding in order to pay their employees higher wages since, unlike businesses, human service nonprofits cannot simply raise the price of their services to cover the costs of paying their employees more. "We would need the increase to be covered in contracts. The government would need to pay that," Jackson said, explaining that when Mayor de Blasio wanted human services workers to have a higher wage floor, for example, he increased funding for contracts in order to pay for that increase.

Human services workers are not the only ones who would benefit from higher wages. Research has shown that higher wages sharply reduce employee turnover. “We [human services workers] have a very high turnover rate,” Jackson said. “There’s a consequence of that turnover rate on the people in need of services. You want to retain talented workers. These are people who do really important jobs in the community - taking care of your children, your parents, people with mental health issues and substance abuse problems.”

Raising the wages of human services workers by increasing funding in the human service nonprofit sector would contribute to the city’s efforts to reduce homelessness and inequality, since outreach programs, supportive housing, drop-in centers, and other programs are more successful with greater consistency and quality of service.

“These are workers who basically work for the city,” Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette. “The city is having these workers provide services for our residents, whether it's in homeless services, senior services, or as caregivers. I think it’s critical that we pay our workers $15 an hour, and for many years, these workers have languished without any salary increases.”

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
@MegOConnor13
@GothamGazette

De Blasio Attempts to Undo Negative First Impressions


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De Blasio at a press conference (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


It's hard to go a few hours in New York political circles without hearing a joke about the mayor being late. Mayor de Blasio earned the taunts, having had a punctuality problem, which offended many New Yorkers. These days, de Blasio is almost never late for public events, though, seeming to have corrected what should have been an avoidable mistake of his early tenure.

Still, nearly two years into his term, de Blasio is dogged by a reputation for tardiness, as well as other negative elements of the first impression he gave many New Yorkers. The mayor is now in the midst of efforts to solve a public perception problem that siphoned some of his popularity and led de Blasio to adjust his approach on several fronts.

While you only get one chance to make a first impression, de Blasio and his team are at work to see how much they can do to change popular criticisms of him and the general sense, among some, that he has the city headed in the wrong direction.

Along with chronically late, some have come to see de Blasio as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and insulated; Self-aggrandizing, with his head in the clouds - more concerned with national politics than New York potholes; Ineffective at mitigating problems like homelessness; Anti-business, anti-wealth, and, perhaps most damaging, anti-cop.

Fair or not, these are the details of the de Blasio caricature. Most don't see de Blasio as all these things, but each appears a popular - or damaging - enough characterization that the mayor has sought to correct them all.

Negative public perception of the mayor has been fueled by unnecessary errors, like showing up late or frequent trips out of town; by calculated decisions - insisting Albany approve a tax increase on the city's highest earners, for example; and by those who never liked de Blasio, disagree with his worldview, and want to see him defeated.

The number of de Blasio critics has grown, media memes have taken hold. This summer, as cries about the mayor's focus and about a rise in street homelessness blared, de Blasio's poll numbers sunk.

The mayor appears to have taken notice.

Consciously, assertively, de Blasio is working to change his first impression. The mayor talks about the NYPD in almost exclusively positive terms now; he has made more appearances on the radio and on Staten Island, partnered with real estate developers and other business leaders, and even begun treating his predecessor with more esteem.

To some extent, he has already been successful. With wealthier New Yorkers and police unions, de Blasio appears to be digging himself out of holes he burrowed last year. But while de Blasio insiders feel they are on firmer footing, they await public opinion polls showing more widespread improvement.

"The mayor has made a concerted effort in the last year to reach out to members of the business community," said Kathy Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for NYC, a leading business group, "to get to know them, to hold roundtables with various sectors - finance, media, tech - where he has listened to the issues that the key industries are facing. For those that have had the opportunity to sit down with him, to get to know him, they have felt very positive about his commitment to many priorities that the business community shares."

On the day of this article's publication, de Blasio was set to "meet with CEOs from the TAMI – technology, advertising, media and information – sector" and then hold a press conference outside a home on Staten Island to make an announcement about Sandy recovery, according to his public schedule.

"There's an appreciation that he's made a real effort to build relationships," Wylde said on Wednesday in a phone interview, "most recently including reaching out to Mayor Bloomberg."

Wylde confirmed that de Blasio's changed tone toward Bloomberg and the fact that they had planned an event together had been received positively in the business community, which Bloomberg is of and adored by. The event, a tree-planting to celebrate completion of a Bloomberg initiative, was rescheduled due to the killing of police officer Randolph Holder.

De Blasio's relationship with the police and strident NYPD supporters has been more tense than with any other group. Holder is the fourth police officer killed during de Blasio's mayoralty, a statistic not lost on his harshest critics, who despised the mayor's campaign - which focused on NYPD reform and criticized Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly - and predicted a return to 'the bad old days' with de Blasio in office.

The city has not experienced such unraveling, but as de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton reform policing, scrutiny of public safety is heightened. As is de Blasio's perceived level of support for the police. While Holder's death is certainly a setback, the mayor has made some headway since last winter, when two officers were murdered and others turned their backs on the mayor.

Last December, before those officers were killed, de Blasio reacted to the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner by explaining that he and his wife had to teach their son to take extra care when interacting with police. In 2015, his tone is different. De Blasio reacted to Holder's murder by stating that "We need to understand that the police are us." Officers did not turn their backs on the mayor at Holder's funeral, at which he made remarks.

Since last December, de Blasio has become more protective of the police. He announced new bullet-resistant vests and technology for officers; and funded 1,297 new officers in his latest budget. He has heaped praise on the NYPD at numerous ceremonies and press conferences.

Late last month, one of de Blasio's loudest critics, sergeants union president Ed Mullins, said that the mayor "takes a look a little differently at policing today than he did nine, ten, twelve months ago," according to the Daily News.

Mullins, who is a registered Republican, also said that he continues to see a philosophical difference with de Blasio.

That has been and will continue to be key for de Blasio: figuring out certain shifts in rhetoric and behavior that smooth important relationships with people who don't share his liberal bend, building broader support, and also remaining true to his progressive bona fides and base.

Asked about the mayor's efforts to correct negative impressions and build better relationships, de Blasio spokesperson Karen Hinton said in a statement, "The Mayor is the same man today that New Yorkers voted for two years ago. That said, an effective leader always adjusts to changing circumstances involving city programs and services. Mayor de Blasio listens to the views of all New Yorkers and works to reflect their input in actions and policies that are appropriate and fair."

Wylde, of Partnership for NYC, indicated that this is happening. She gave the mayor and his team credit for working with business leaders to alter some of the more "intrusive" City Council bills aimed at regulating industry and personnel decisions; and praised the mayor for his essential support of state-level changes to the corporate tax code.

Of de Blasio and the city's business elite, Wylde said, "The political ideological alignment is never going to be there, but that doesn't stand in the way of the commitment that the business community feels to having a strong city and supporting the mayor's efforts to ensure that New York has a great education system and its economy continues to thrive."

Asked if grumbling about the mayor had quieted in the business community, Wylde said, "New York City is a place where there's always grumbling, but people understand the city is doing well."

And of de Blasio's 2014 pursuit of higher taxes on top earners and a different 2015 relationship with business, Wylde said, "He hasn't called for a tax increase since, and that's appreciated."

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
@TweetBenMax

As Sheldon Silver Heads to Trial, A Democratic Challenger is Poised to Run


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Paul Newell at a housing rally (via @NewellNYC)


Manhattan District Leader Paul Newell is gearing up for his second bid to replace Assemblymember Sheldon Silver. Newell told Gotham Gazette that he has started fundraising and is "close to running." A political lifetime ago, in 2008, Newell ran a grassroots campaign to unseat Silver, who was then at the height of his power.

Things have changed since then. Silver was indicted on multiple corruption charges earlier this year and then deposed from the Assembly speakership that he held for 21 years. His trial starts November 2, almost exactly one year before Election Day, though Newell would be challenging Silver in the September 2016 Democratic primary. That is if Silver is still in office and decides to run for reelection.

Silver has already pleaded not guilty to charges that he hid what amounted to political kickbacks, traded state funds for referrals to his law firm, and influenced real estate companies to do business with his law firm. "This is going to trial and I hope, I'm confident I will be vindicated after a full hearing," Silver told reporters earlier this year. Silver will remain in office unless he is convicted.

According to the state Board of Elections website, Newell has raised a little over $46,000 this year through his Friends of Paul Newell committee and has a little over $47,000 on hand.

Newell ran in 2008 as an anti-Albany candidate, pushing ethics reforms and calling out Silver as an impediment to real reform in Albany. The stance won him the endorsement of the New York Times, whose editorial board wrote:

"[T]here are two Democratic races in New York City that offer a chance to make a change in Albany or, at least make a strong statement about how badly change is needed. The most important of these races is in Lower Manhattan, where Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful people in the state, is facing his first real challenge in decades. It is still an uphill fight for any opponent, but the race has already made one difference. It has brought the ever-secretive Mr. Silver out to meet voters and campaign for his job."

Silver faced Republican challenger Maureen Koetz in 2014. She ran on Silver's mishandling of a number of sexual harassment suits against his members, but Silver won easily. Generally Silver has escaped facing any well-funded challengers thanks to his immense power and connections.

Newell said Silver's very public fall from grace this year has residents of lower Manhattan's 65th Assembly District excited for new representation.

"Mr. Silver has the right to a trial, but there is no question the era of Sheldon Silver is over," Newell told Gotham Gazette. "Lower Manhattanites are aware of that. We are going to have new representation whether it is now or two years from now. We have a representative who no one wants their photo taken with, someone who can not actively represent our community, not because he is distracted, but because he no longer has the capacity to build the type of coalitions you need to help the district."

Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, said that should Silver survive his trial and run for reelection, Newell could easily find himself the underdog again. "The bottom line is you can't beat somebody with nobody even though Silver is clearly weakened," said Muzzio.

Newell, who has served as district leader since 2009, is a community organizer who currently consults for a number of non-profit organizations. He's used his non-paid role as district leader to raise his profile, and this year there have been more opportunities as his district faces the reality that their representative, who was once arguably the most powerful man in Albany, will no longer be bringing millions of dollars in funding to community organizations. Newell has been outspoken about the need for local service organizations to reduce redundancy and work together in what are sure to be leaner times.

Newell also said Silver's replacement has to focus on reform of social service funding in the state "so that it isn't based on who sits where in Albany." He said going forward Silver's replacement, whoever it may be whenever it might be, will have to work at "building coalitions statewide" and working with the new leadership in the Assembly and Senate.

In the wake of Silver's arrest, Newell quickly took to The Daily News to write an op-ed expressing disappointment in Silver on behalf of the community and outlining the need for reform in Albany. He also explained his on-the-ground role as a district leader.

It is unlikely Newell will be the only one looking to either challenge or replace Silver. Another district leader, Jenifer Rajkumar, is also rumored to be interested in the seat. Rajkumar was defeated by incumbent City Council Member Margaret Chin, a Silver ally, in a 2013 bid for the Council. Rajkumar did not return Gotham Gazette's calls at publication of this story.

A number of other potential challengers appear to be waiting for the outcome of Silver's trial before committing to a run. Many observers expect that if Silver doesn't run, he will certainly have a horse in the race.

"If he gets convicted everybody and his mother is going to jump in," said Muzzio.

No matter how many candidates run, it's virtually certain the race will focus on Silver, Albany, and ethics.

The attention on the race could boost voter turnout. In 2008 only five percent of the district's 127,000 residents voted in the primary contest between Silver, Newell, and Luke Henry. Silver won 68 percent of the vote with 6,743 in his favor. Newell received 23 percent with 2,301 votes and Henry received 879 votes.

Newell said that regardless of the outcome of the trial anyone who challenges Silver next year is not likely to face the same resistance he did in his unsuccessful 2008 bid.

"It's unlikely you will have 25 members of the Assembly standing with [Silver] on Grand Street like I did in 2008," said Newell.

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
@DavidHowardKing

Brooklyn Neighborhoods Look to Address School Overcrowding, Avoid Rezoning Issues Seen Elsewhere


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The community school forum (photo: @JoAnneSimonBK52) 


As rezoning problems plague some city school districts, leaders in one area of Brooklyn are looking to avoid similar pitfalls while reducing overcrowding.

In Carroll Gardens last week, local officials and parents gathered in the PS 58 auditorium to discuss overcrowding issues facing three elementary schools. Like others across the city, District 15 - which includes the schools at hand, PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 - is facing challenges around booming development and school-aged populations, school crowding and zoning.

Wednesday’s forum, featuring several area elected officials, school leaders, and moderated by Professor David Bloomfield of CUNY, was an attempt to get ahead of these issues.

“Often when we’re dealing with overcrowding, we’re not able to address it until it’s a full-blown crisis,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a local district leader. A parent of second- and third-graders at PS 58, Bellenbaum noted that since 2005, the school’s enrollment has more than doubled.

Bellenbaum and other concerned residents heard from and spoke to a panel of elected and appointed decision-makers. The panel included local lawmakers, Department of Education (DOE) planning officials, the School Construction Authority (SCA) external affairs director, PTA parents with rezoning experience, and others.

Amid unprecedented growth and development in District 15 - which contains Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Sunset Park schools - those who spoke cited the need to “work together in advance to get ahead of the curve,” as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon put it. City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, also co-organizers of the event, expressed a similar point.

As the district looks to the DOE and SCA to add capacity and rezone neighborhoods, anxiety is high. Local officials organized the forum to begin a dialogue earlier than has occurred in other places facing similar issues.

In District 15, the average utilization rate for classrooms is already 111.5 percent. PS 58, its principal explained, has been forced to cap entry into third and fourth grades. “In 2005, enrollment was about 400 students. In 2015, it was 996,” Bellenbaum said.

Recently, overcrowding-caused rezonings of four district schools last year and the 2012 rezoning of two Park Slope schools have caused controversy. Perhaps compounding anxiety about rezonings are the current uproars concerning PS 8 and PS 307 in downtown Brooklyn and PS 191 and PS 199 on the Upper West Side. PTA parents from other public schools that had experienced the rezoning process gave advice to parents from District 15 at last week’s forum.

Kim Glickman, co-president of the PS 8 PTA, offered her advice to District 15 parents on participating in school rezoning processes. “As leaders of your own schools, you need to be able to understand what the triggers causing the school to be overcrowded are and to be able to speak to them clearly,” Glickman said.

Because race and class lines are not as sharply drawn around the three District 15 schools as they are in the other aforementioned school pairings, it is unlikely that a rezoning dispute in the neighborhoods will be the kind of “gentrification battle” seen elsewhere. PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 were also all deemed either “good standing” or “reward” status by the DOE in its assessment after the 2013-2014 school year.

Still, school district rezonings almost always leave some parents frustrated as their home zones are changed and their children are assigned to different elementary schools than they had planned.

Although overcrowding has not yet reached a crisis level in District 15, it has had a corrosive effect on its schools, speakers at the forum said. And, given the scale of development happening in the district - the Lightstone Group’s 700-unit residential complex is being built in the PS 32 zone, for example - the creation of many more school seats will be necessary to accommodate all of the students it will likely receive. Already, PS 32 has been using trailers in its rear yard for about fifteen years because of overcrowding.

The Lightstone building students (“200-ish” of whom will eventually go to PS 32, according to Council Member Lander) will get seats in the school. A 436-seat annex will be added to the school, Lander and CSA officials recently announced.

“So, it’s good that we’re building 400-plus seats,” Lander told community stakeholders. “But it does speak to the fact that it won’t create enough new capacity to solve our problems collectively.”

The annex is also not slated to be completed for a few more years, at which time the rezoning conversation will be at the forefront as officials determine which students are assigned to the new seats.

As Community Education Council 15 President Naila Rosario explained with a powerpoint, overcrowding is already having negative effects, including the elimination of enrichment programs, worse building maintenance, and the loss of rooms for art, music, and special services.

Though overcrowding appears in many ways as an inevitable result of more people moving into a neighborhood, it is perfectly preventable, according to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group. Haimson, who was at last week’s forum and frequently speaks to school capacity issues, says policymakers can take concrete steps to keep overcrowding from happening.

“The median utilization rate for elementary schools is over a hundred percent across the city,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette. The problem, she said, is fixable, though there has been a lack of political will. The DOE’s five-year capital plan includes 38,754 new seats for students, a figure that Haimson and her allies believe should be at least doubled.

The PS 32 annex is part of that capital plan, and while it will add seats in District 15, it is clear the district will need even more capacity to serve all of the students in the area.

A 2014 report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one third of elementary schools in New York City registered at least 138 percent of their capacity in 2012. During February of last year, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña created the Blue Book Working Group, which was tasked to review the space utilization formulas of the DOE’s “Blue Book” and recommend reforms to it.

After the group gave its recommendations to the DOE last December, the department did not publish them until July, when it announced that some of them would be adopted. But it rejected the recommendation to shrink class sizes to those outlined by the Contracts for Excellence Law: on average, 19.9 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22.9 for grades 4-8 and 24.5 for grades 9-12. As DNAinfo recently pointed out, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to abide by these sizes during his mayoral campaign.

City school officials were criticized several times at the forum last week in Carroll Gardens.

The DOE has not built schools in Sunset Park, which has District 15 schools, where money was allocated to do so in order to ease overcrowding. “Sunset Park has been slotted to have schools for at least the last ten years,” one audience member said. “It’s not a budget issue.”

One parent, to enthusiastic applause, asked the panel why schools weren't included in new residential developments. When in response, SCA External Affairs Director Michael Mirisola said that his organization is not able to force the creation of schools, an audience member angrily interrupted, “Why not?”

It is up to local elected officials and the de Blasio administration to require public benefits like school seats in development deals. Officials are really only able to do so when developers are utilizing rezonings and other public incentives when they build. The administration and local officials in District 15 are currently negotiating a possible deal with the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, where a rezoning may be allowed so that a larger development can be built in exchange for public benefits including school seats.

Haimson touched on another overcrowding issue, though not one at play in District 15 per se, decrying the state ensuring in law that any newly approved charter school is guaranteed space. “Here, we have this massive overcrowding problem in New York City where there are communities that have waited 20 years for a school, and yet any charter school can snap its fingers and the city has to give them space or pay for their rent,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette before the forum (she also spoke briefly as an audience member during the Q&A).

The DOE has faced criticism from Brooklyn residents for its handling of the PS 8/PS 307 District 13 rezoning, among others. Early talks with the department could prevent District 15 from having an adversarial relationship with the DOE when its rezoning process begins in earnest. The purpose of last week’s forum was to get dialogue started so that the lines of communication are open and community input is front and center.

“By coming together here with no specific group of so-called winners or so-called losers or people who want one thing and others who have a different goal, it is a really important step,” Sen. Squadron said in his remarks. “But it does not end here, because we have also seen that early engagement alone does not force the Department of Education to do what they're supposed to.”

***
by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Note: this article has been corrected to indicate the schools at the center of rezoning talks on the Upper West Side - they are 191 and 199, not 32 and 29 as initially indicated

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 26


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will be dominated by the World Series, we know that. The New York Mets begin their quest for the title against the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday night, followed by another game in KC on Wednesday and then games in Queens on Friday, Saturday, and, if necessary, Sunday. If the series continues, games six and seven would be the following Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 3 and 4) back in Kansas City. On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a wager over the series, with the loser having to wear the jersey of the winning team to work for a day. There are other aspects of the bet, too, with significant home-state items to be sent from loser to winner.

Now, on to politics sans sport.

It was a quiet political weekend. Mayor de Blasio, City Council Member Dan Garodnick, and others touted the new Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village sales deal to the complex's tenant association on Saturday afternoon. [Read CM Garodnick's thoughts on the sale in this Gotham Gazette op-ed]

On Monday, de Blasio has no public events scheduled. Governor Cuomo is in New York City Monday, though, to make an announcement at 1:30 p.m. at Chelsea Piers.

There is a lot happening Monday and beyond. Services will occur this week to honor Police Officer Randolph Holder, who was killed on October 20. As has been the case since Holder was shot and killed, criminal justice reform and policing are sure to be sources of significant attention this week.

Thursday is the three-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy hitting New York; there are sure to be both rememberances of the people and property lost, as well as assessments of progress made in recovering from Sandy and preparing for the next big storm.

See our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet to discuss a bill that would ban the sale of personal care products or over the counter drugs that contain microbeads, as well as pass a resolution on the Microbeads-free Waters Acts.
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to discuss bills related to the use of biodiesel.

On Monday morning, current and former elected officials and others will honor recently-retired former Assemblymember Joan Millman. Comptroller Scott Stringer is among those who will speak.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit the High School of Fashion Industries to kick off College Application Week and make an announcement.

On Monday at 1 p.m. at City Hall, Congressional Rep. Nydia Velazquez will announce new legislation aimed at reducing the number of guns in New York and nationwide. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries; Public Advocate Letitia James; Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams; Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson; Leah Gunn Barrett, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; and NYC families impacted by gun violence will also participate.

At 3 p.m. Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Hometown Rally to cheer on the Mets as they start Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night in Kansas City. Other elected officials, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James are set to participate.

Later, Mark-Viverito will speak at the 2015 Roy & Lila Ash Innovations Award for Public Engagement in Government, where she and the City Council are receiving an award for their Participatory Budgeting program. [Read more about the award and the participatory budgeting program in our new in-depth report: Participatory Budgeting Grows in NYC - Why Isn't Every Council Member Doing It?]

Then, Mark-Viverito "speaks at 2015 Shine Event for LGBT Immigration Equality."

At 7 p.m. Monday the Bronx Young Democrats will discuss the achievements and current initiatives of young female Bronx leaders. The event will feature Darcel Clark, Democratic candidate for Bronx District Attorney; City Council Member Vanessa Gibson; State Assemblymember Latoya Joyner; and Marsha Michael, Attorney & Law Clerk.

At 7:15 p.m. the Immigration Equality event “SHINE”, celebrating women’s leadership in in the LGBT community, will honor City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and  Denise Chambers, Immigration Equality client and asylum winner from Trinidad.

On Monday evening, several uptown Manhattan Democratic clubs are hosting Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for a discussion of relevant issues. City Council Member Mark Levine will also participate in the dialogue.

Monday evening is the Riders Alliance gala. Public Advocate Letitia James is among those set to attend.

Monday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting event: CM Mark Treyger (District 47, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.

Tuesday
On Tuesday, at 8:30 a.m., Stroock, the public affairs law firm, will host a Government Leadership forum  “What is the Future of Organized Labor?” Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council; Gregory Floyd, President of Local 237 Teamsters; Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers; and Harry Nespoli, President of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association will be on the panel. Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock's Government Relations Practice Group, and Alan M. Klinger, Co-Managing Partner and Co-Chair of Stroock's Litigation Practice Group, will moderate.

On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is in Westchester County meeting with elected officials and touring different areas.

At 10:30 a.m. the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will meet on a number of matters including its ongoing search for a new Executive Director.

At 11 a.m. Vocal-NY, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and others will hold the Fair Chance Rally. The purpose of the rally is to raise awareness about the Fair Chance Act, which makes it illegal for New York City employers to ask about one’s criminal record until after a job offer is made, and is going into effect.

At the New York State Legislature on Tuesday: the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation and Assembly Climate Change Work Group will have a roundtable discussion on Climate Change.

At the City Council on Tuesday: at 11 a.m. the Committee on Women’s Issues; the Committee on Health; and the Committee on Education will meet for a joint oversight hearing on sex education in NYC schools. They will discuss three bills that would: require the Department of Education to provide a report on student health services to the Council; require the DOE to report annually on information about health education and HIV/AIDS education for students in grades six through twelve; require the DOE to submit an annual report on the sexual health education received by instructors in public middle and high schools.

Prior to that City Council hearing, at 10 a.m., there will be a "press conference to call for comprehensive sex education in NYC schools" led by Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women's Issues; Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Education; and Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health; as well as representatives from Planned Parenthood of New York City; NARAL Pro-Choice New York; New York Civil Liberties Union; and Reproductive Healthcare Advocates.

On Tuesday at 2 p.m. at 250 Broadway, "State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), together with Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Annabel Palma and Make the Road New York, will release a bombshell investigative report "The American Scheme: Herbalife's Pyramid 'Shake'down.""

At 4 p.m. Safe Passage Project will hold an event composed of two parts. The first will be discussing the unmet needs of recent migrant children and young parent from Central America. City Council Member Rory Lancman will make opening remarks. There will be multiple related panel discussions thereafter.

Tuesday evening, Governor Cuomo is set to deliver remarks at the Business Council of Westchester’s Annual Dinner.

At 6 p.m. the city Panel for Educational Policy will have a public meeting in Manhattan. At the event the Chancellor will give an update on current policies and the panel will discuss a number of important topics including: Race and Diversity in School Admission, Aggregation of Community District Budgets Together with a Proposed Budget for Administrative Expenditures of the City Board and the Chancellor, and more; while also taking public comment.

At 6:30 p.m. during The Hispanic Leadership Awards, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will lead a celebration honoring several people for their outstanding leadership in the Latino community, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will receive a Distinguished Public Service Award.  

At 7 p.m. City Council Members Donovan Richards and I. Daneek Miller will hold a Southeast Queens Transportation Town Hall. Representatives from DOT, MTA, TLC, and NYPD will attend.

Tuesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.

Wednesday
At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday: The Assembly Standing Committee on Aging along with the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, the Assembly Subcommittee on Community Integration, and the Assembly Subcommittee on Outreach and Oversight of Senior Citizen Programs, will hold a joint public hearing regarding the “New York State Office for the Aging’s study on the benefits of creating an office of community living”

At 6:30 p.m. several groups host “Why She Ran: A Conversation With Women in Politics” discussing the challenges women face in New York politics and encouraging women to run for office. Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal will speak at the event. Sponsors of the event include the Working Families Party, Eleanor's Legacy, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Higher Heights for America, Ladies of Labor, Shirley Chisholm Institute, NOW-NYS, Women's Organizing Network, and WIN NYC.

Also at 6:30 p.m., school district 3 will host a Town Hall meeting with Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Wednesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 6 p.m.
  • CM Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 p.m.
  • CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 p.m.
  • CM Ritchie Torres (District 15, Bronx) time TBA
  • CM Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 8 p.m.
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.
  • CM Jumaane D. Williams (District 45, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.

Thursday
On Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. the Urban Land Institute will hold a conference about the best new practices to help fund public transportation infrastructure in the New York metro area in the face of withering public funding, including solutions through partnerships with the private sector.

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet to hear communication from Orlando Marin of the City Planning Commission
  • At 1:30 p.m. will be a City Council Stated Meeting; prefaced, as always, by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference at 12:30 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m. United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates will discuss the administration’s top goals and priorities at the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School; following the speech will be a Q&A session.

At 5:30 p.m. The Hopkins-Hunter Forum for Education Policy, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and The Hunter College Gifted and Talented Program will host “The Excellence Gap: The State of Gifted and Talented Education,” an event that will discuss the income based education gap among students, and talk about suggestions on how to address the issue in the future.

At 6 p.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio will be hosting a fundraiser for his 2017 campaign, as reported by Politico New York.

Thursday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 4:30 p.m.
  • CM Donovan Richards (District 31, Queens) time TBA
  • CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.

Friday and the weekend
On Saturday and Sunday, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will hold two Spooky Parties at Gracie Mansion, inviting families with children 5-10 years old to come tour their haunted house. Families must have tickets through the ticket giveaway being held prior to the event.

On Sunday at 2 p.m. a large group of Democratic political clubs and progressive organizations will hold a Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Forum. Representatives from the Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley and Lessing campaigns will participate.. The forum will be moderated by Ronnie Eldridge.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 19-23


week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 23

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio and other officials announce sale of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village, via Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office; Governor Cuomo receives an award and announces planned protections for transgender New Yorkers at the Empire State Pride Agenda gala, via Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office

de blasio stuyvesant town

Cuomo pride transgender

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. Cuomo To Extend Protection For Transgender New Yorkers: At the Empire State Pride Agenda gala on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he will take executive action to extend legal protections for transgender New Yorkers.

2. City & State Make New Moves In K2 Fight (Separately): Governor Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York is expanding its public awareness campaign against synthetic drug abuse with ads and a 33-foot-tall billboard in the Bronx that reads "Synthetic marijuana can kill!" On the same day, Mayor de Blasio signed three measures into law that criminalize the manufacture and distribution of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as K2, intensifying the city's ongoing crackdown.

3. Federal Court Upholds SAFE Act: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the New York SAFE Act on Monday, keeping in place signature Cuomo gun regulations which were passed in the wake of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

4. Stuyvesant Town Sold: This week, the Blackstone Group, a Wall Street investment firm, reached a deal to buy Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, a 11,232-apartment complex near the East Village. As part of the deal, 5,000 units will be preserved for middle-class families. The deal was negotiated with the de Blasio administration, City Council Member Dan Garodnick (who wrote this Gotham Gazette op-ed with his thoughts on the deal), and other key stakeholders.

5. De Blasio Moves On Bail: In the aftermath of the killing of Police Officer Randolph Holder on Tuesday evening, Mayor de Blasio and others are scrutinizing the processes by which the alleged killer was still on the streets given a long criminal record and recent arrests. De Blasio is calling on the state to change its bail laws: as he and allies such as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ask for elimination of bail for low-level nonviolent offenders, they also want to see judges allowed to consider the dangerousness of someone facing charges when setting bail.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • 38 female firefighters in New York City’s over 10,700-member force.
  • 43% of Assembly housing chair Keith Wright’s congressional campaign has been funded by real estate interests regulated by his committee.
  • 5,485 classrooms in New York City are overcrowded, according to data from the teachers’ union - a 15% drop from last year.
  • $21.1 million increase in spending by lobbyists to influence Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers in the first six months of 2015, bringing the total spent so far this year to $130.9 million.
  • 28 separate incidents of rape behind bars were reported by Rikers Island inmates last year - though the city Department of Corrections failed to inform the NYPD about any of them.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Governor Cuomo and gun control advocates as a federal appeals court upheld key components of New York's SAFE Act.
  • It was a bad week for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, each of whom saw legal setbacks as they approach their separate corruption trials, set to begin early next month.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time last year, on October 23, 2014, Dr. Craig Spencer, who had just returned from treating Ebola patients in Africa, became the first person in the city to test positive for the Ebola virus, sparking fear and urgent efforts to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
  • Around this time 7 years ago, on October 23, 2008, the New York City Council voted 29-22 in favor of extending the term limit on the offices of Mayor and others to three consecutive four-year terms, allowing then-mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for office a third time (and win) in the 2009 mayoral election.
  • Around this time 20 years ago, on October 19, 1995, the Metropolitan Transit Authority approved a fare hike of 25 cents, bringing the single-ride fare to $1.50.
  • Around this time 51 years ago, on October 22, 1964, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner and the City Council reached agreement on a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $1.50 an hour - the highest in the nation - though it was struck down later that year, on the grounds that state law prevented cities from increasing the wage on their own.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Spurred by Buffalo Billion, Reformers Look to Fix State Business Subsidies, by David Howard King

In Effort to Ensure Sound Education, City Battles Student Homelessness, by Colin O’Connor

As Healthcare Landscape Changes, City Hospital Authority Charts New Path, by Christian Zhang

One 'Raise the Age' Story at Center of Push for Legislative Action, by David Howard King

Participatory Budgeting Grows in NYC - Why Isn’t Every Council Member Doing It?, by Colin O’Connor

The Future of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village, by Council Member Dan Garodnick (opinion)

There is Nothing Innovative About Displacement, by Tarry Hum (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • WNYC's Robert Lewis and Data News Team put together an in-depth series on "The Hard Truth About Cops Who Lie."

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max



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