Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council Stated Meeting -- September 13, 2006

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Gotham Gazette covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

Christine Quinn's City Council overrode its first mayoral veto on September 13, 2006, passing a bill designed to prevent price gouging at gas stations over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's objections. Speaker Quinn, whose term began in January, said that the Council and the mayor had "agreed to disagree."

After evidence of price gouging arose in the days after Hurricane Katrina, the council began working on a bill to prevent such behavior in the future. In July, it approved Intro 296, which says that gas stations must keep their prices the same for a 24-hour period before they can change them again. The Department of Consumer Affairs would enforce the regulation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bill, saying that existing fraud protection laws were sufficient. "Telling a business how often it can change its prices is just not something that the City should do," said the mayor in his veto message. "It does not address the real issue, and unduly interferes with private enterprise."

The council overrode the veto by a vote of 43 to 6. Democratic council members Simcha Felder, Daniel Garodnick, and Helen Sears voted no, as did Republican council members Dennis Gallager, Andrew Lanza, and James Oddo.

Quinn downplayed the first legislative conflict in what to date has been a remarkably cordial relationship between herself and Mayor Bloomberg.

"A lot has been made of the fact that the mayor and I have a good working relationship, and we do, and we will continue to," she said. "But the mayor and I have both said repeatedly that having a good working relationship is not synonymous with always being in agreement."

Quinn declined to comment when asked whether she would be willing to take the mayor on in court over the matter – something that happened numerous times during Gifford Miller's time at the head of the council.




The council also passed a measure to rezone a four-block area of Northern Tribeca currently zoned for manufacturing. Under the plan, the area would be opened for the development of apartment buildings and 180 spaces of parking in the area bordered by West, Watts, Washington, and Hubert Streets.

What was passed on September 13 was different than the plan first brought by Jack Parker Corporation, a real estate developer. The local community board, Councilmember Alan Gerson, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer all opposed the Parker Corporation's original proposal, saying the development would be too dense. An earlier council vote was delayed at the last minute when an agreement was not reached in time.

The maximum height of the buildings and the heights of the setbacks along Washington Street were reduced, and the developer agreed not to move big box stores into the spaces. Local critics dropped their opposition, and the plan passed the council unanimously.




The council also voted on new appointments to various boards and commissions, a matter one council staffer described as a "housekeeping" matter before the meeting. But the appointments to the Art Commission -- the group that reviews decisions about public art and architecture on city property and serves as the caretaker of the city's public art collection -- provoked a strong response from many members of the members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.

Over a quarter of the members of the council raised concerns about the lack of diversity on the 11-member council, which, they complain, counts no people of color among its ranks. Three white candidates were nominated to serve on the commission: Paula Scher, James Polshek, and Guy J.P. Nordenson. Nine Democratic city council members ended up voting against these appointments: Charles Barron, Helen Foster, Letitia James, Darlene Mealy, Hiram Monserrate, Annabel Palma, Kendall Stewart, Albert Vann, and Melissa Mark Viverito.

"I believe that it is inexcusable to have a commission that does not reflect the diversity of the city," said Monserrate. "I think it is disrespectful. I think it is insensitive."

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for September 27, 2006.  

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