Which Queens 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls?
Currently NYS Senator Jose Peralta, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin & CCM Van Bramer, Richards & Reynoso Publicly Support Installing $8 Tolls on Queensborough & Other East River Bridges to Raise Capital for the MTA
Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley & NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past
The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.
Governor Cuomo's Words
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.
Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,
“It’s not, ‘Can I support it?’ Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a congestion plan passed and we’ve gone through this a couple of times and it was an overwhelming ‘no’ and I haven’t seen anything happen that would change my opinion,”
The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.
Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions
But while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Plan.
Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.
It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.
Congressman Crowley's Position Circa 2007
Democratic Party Chairman, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, supported the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan backed by former Mayor Bloomberg, according to a June 11, 2007 report by the New York Times which quoted Crowley as saying,
“the overall  plan — and congestion pricing is just a part of it — will make this a more livable city and make it easier to attract the best and the brightest not only from around the country but from around the world.”
We've not yet seen any comments by Congressman Crowley on the current Move NY Plan which was recently introduced.
Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
We studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money], researched the assumptions they used to create the estimates they provide in the plan, and looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.
In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the bridge and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion].
Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Manhattan Developers & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees To Fund MTA Capital Budget
The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from about East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].
The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.
When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.
The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time [I have #7 photos that look the same, but didn't have time to find one]. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.
Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to charge taxpayers $8 tolls on the East River Bridges to develop and operate an expensive new tolling system [that aids the wealthy & economically discriminates against those who are not], so they can raise some extra revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.
Click here for the rest of our story about the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as we explore in greater detail a connected web of people, lobbyists and organizations behind Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan and their possible motivations. We critique the plan including a review of the assumptions, and a closer look at independent studies done with regard to motorists response to toll prices and changes.
A Closer Look into the Role of the NY Daily News Coverage in the Takeover of the Queens Library
Updated December 20 / December 16, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens News Analysis & Opinion - Issues / Gotham Buzz / By Michael Wood & Edited By Agnes Wood. With special thanks to Paul Maringelli - Graphic Artist.
Please note that to date no public official have spoken about any development deals using Queens Library property.
NY Daily News Publication of Leaks with No Announcement of Real Wrongdoing - What Happened to Presumption of Innocence?
I’m going to work under the assumption that Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante is innocent of all charges until proven guilty. That is the way things are supposed to be done in America.
Many leaks of all kinds of confidential information about the Queens Library CEO have made their way into Real Estate Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News this year - including plenty of minutiae - but not a single word about any real wrongdoing.
NY Daily News Headlines Appear to Play Role in Queens Library Takeover - Urging Replacement of Governance Team
The NY Daily News appears to have done more than just report on the Queens Library crisis of confidence. In fact, the NY Daily News was the first to report the crisis - and they appear to have played a major role throughout it - as their organization urged the dismissal of President & CEO Galante and the trustees who supported him on numerous occasions in the headlines alone. The following are some examples of headlines taken from stories in the NY Daily News:
The NY Daily News - Name Calling in its Editorial Coverage
Last week, the Daily News provided the public with more details of Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante’s expense reports over the past (few) year(s). Their presentation of the information appeared one-sided and cast Queens Library CEO in a negative light, as little effort seems to have been made to explain the business purpose or provide context for the expenditures.
The NY Daily News also published an editorial, which resorted to name-calling including calling Galante:
This was not the first time they called him names in their publication this year.
We'll explore recent coverage by the Daily News in a more detail further down in this report, as it is reflective of their coverage of this crisis of confidence in the Queens Library all year. A crisis which the Daily News in fact began, with a series of exclusive reports earlier in the year.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Appears To Have Had Prior Relationship with NY Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a Lobbyist
According to a source, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz appears to have had prior relationship with NY Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a lobbyist working for Greenberg Traurig law firm in 2012.
A New York Observer story dated, April 10, 2012, states:
"... Still, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has expressed skepticism toward the project, which he would like to see reduced in size, and the community panned the rezoning outright."
"To help makes its case, NYU recently retained Ed Wallace and Melinda Katz, two land-use attorneys who have helped shape a number of important development projects as they wended their way through public review—not least because both of them also once spent time as members of the City Council, the body that will have the ultimate say on NYU’s rezoning."
And a bit later in the story.
"Mr. Wallace served as the councilman-at-large for Manhattan and chief of staff to the council president back in the old days of the Board of Estimate, after which he joined Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties before moving over to Greenberg Traurig, the law firm where he is now co-managing partner of the New York office. Ms. Katz joined the firm in 2010 as a partner in the real estate division after serving two terms in the council, one of which was spent as chair of the influential land-use committee, where she oversaw a number of redevelopments similar to NYU’s."
The NYC government maintains a website showing registered lobbyists' relationships with clients. We took this image from the NYC.gov website which shows that from March through December of 2012 - one year before she became Queens Borough President - Melinda Katz was a registered lobbyist working for the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, with a client relationship with Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties.
Click here to read our report regarding the Queens Library controversy and the Daily News reporting of it.
Clinton Defeats Sanders, Trump Defeats Rivals
Clinton 58% vs Sanders 42%; Trump 60% vs Kasich 24% & Cruz 15%
April 20, 2016 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Elections / Gotham Buzz.
Bernie Sanders has been campaigning in New York the past week, drawing large crowds ranging from thousands to tens of thousands, as if he were a rock star. But on Tuesday, the voters weighed in and handed Hillary Clinton a convincing victory, helping her widen her delegate lead, and likely put her on the path to the Democratic Party nomination.
Democratic Delegate Count
To win the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate needs 2383 delegates of 4763 total. Within that total there are 712 super delegates, who can align themselves / vote for whomever they want but there's pressure to vote in favor of the direction that the state voted. The remaining 4051 delegates are won via the voting process and are called pledged delegates.
According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win Hillary Clinton now has 1428 pledged delegates and 469 super delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 1151 pledged delegates and 31 super delegates. There are 1472 pledged delegates remaining, so to win a majority of pledged delegates, Hillary has to win 598 or 41% of the remaining pledged delegates, while Bernie has to win 874 or 59% of them. Clinton has already received commitments from more than half of the 'super delegates'.
Given Sanders is generally still behind in the polls in some of the larger remaining states [behind 16% in Pennsylvania and behind 8% in California], that seems a tall order. While the polls were dead wrong in Michigan, they were spot on in New York. The Sanders campaign told a news outlet Tuesday evening that they will see how they do in the contests this coming week and then evaluate their chances going forward. The Democratic Convention has been scheduled from July 25 - 28, 2016 in Philadelphia.
Republican Delegate Count
Meanwhile on the Republican side there wasn't much news. Trump won handily defeating Kasich and Cruz. The Republicans have 2473 total delegates and 1237 are needed to win. According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win, Trump has 845 delegates, while Cruz has 559 and Kasich has 147.
Trump needs 392 more delegates [about 40%] to go uncontested to the Republican Convention. There are 992 delegates remaining, but according to CBS only 674 delegates are available in the remaining voting contests prior to the Convention. So Trump may have to win 60% of the remaining unpledged delegates to go to the Convention uncontested. The Republican Convention is scheduled for July 18 - 21, 2016 in Cleveland.
The voting contests next week include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware.
The fat lady hasn't yet sung, but it is beginning to look like a Clinton / Trump race to the White House.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Progress Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and a few exchanges with the teachers and students of MS 223 in the Bronx.
Brewer Gives State of the Borough Address
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Talks About Manhattan 2016
February 1, 2016 / NYC Government, Media & Politics / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz.
I attended Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer's State of the Borough Address on Sunday afternoon. The event was held at the New School at 63 5th Avenue just south of 14th Street in the Village neighborhood. Last year Gale Brewer gave her State of the Borough Address up at Columbia University, followed by a forum where she discussed general issues facing the borough. This year, at the New School, the forum topic was about engaging Manhattan borough youth through school and after-school activities.
Gale Brewer's State of the Borough Address
Brewer began her address by thanking all of the other government officials in attendance, as well as members of her family. She encouraged folks to keep out their phones and use Twitter to comment on the forum as it proceeded. The Twitter posts were shown on a big screen behind her, which is something I found more a distraction / nuisance than helpful - but I don't have Attention Deficit Disorder - so my opinion may not reflect the general populace.
Social & Economic Issues Facing Manhattan
Brewer focused on about four topics: 1) affordable housing, 2) small business, 3) urban gardening, 4) police / community relations and 5) public schools.
She told us that she introduced 32 pieces of legislation this year, 8 of which were passed by the NYC City Council. The bills included: 1) shielding applicants arrest records from employers so they can't discriminate against people who had conflicts with the police, 2) the passage of paid sick leave for employees where she claimed that she did all the work to get the bill passed, while the Mayor got the credit, rezoning bills for 3) Midtown that she worked on with NYCCM Garodnick and NY City Planning for Midtown East and 4) rezoning for the South Street Seaport with NYCCM Chin wherein the real estate developer finally withdrew their plans for a large tower along the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge. She mentioned something about the Zoning legislation set forth by the de Blasio Administration to enable development of affordable housing, which didn't pass, but I didn't catch the gist of it.
Manhattan Borough President's Community Efforts in 2015
There were other things that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer talked about that she and her staff had done last year including, a) working with the police and the community to improve relations [not sure what], b) hosting small business round tables and an urban gardening symposium, c) organizing two mixers with teachers and private businesses in the arts and technology, and d) something about presenting a large scale map of Manhattan on the 19th floor gallery.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer noted that the Upper West Side was heralded as the second most livable communities for the 50 plus crowd by some organization or magazine, which also cited New York City as the 5th most livable city for the 50 plus crowd in the larger cities category. Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer noted that the age to serve on Community Boards had been lowered to 16 years and that applications to serve on the Community Boards must be submitted by February 1, 2016 [now closed].
[Editor's Comment: One has to question the wisdom of allowing 16 year olds to represent a community as there's a great deal of life's lessons that one doesn't have at that age which leaves them susceptible to manipulation by powerful people and politicians. Isn't 18 or 21 young enough?]
Manhattan Borough President Hosts Panel Discussion About Youth at the New School
Then the panel began which featured: 1) an African American Khary Lazarre-White of the Brotherhood / Sister Sol, 2) an Asian Sumie Okazaki of the NYU Steinhardt School, 3) a Hispanic Francisco J. Nunez of Young Peoples Chorus of NYC and 4) a Caucasian Marc Murphy who is a chef / restaurateur.
The topic of the discussion was how to engage youth. They talked about: 1) income / opportuity inequality and discrimination, 2) that not everyone is able or interested in being a Rhodes Scholar and hence need to be engaged with in other endeavors or they become lost, 3) that music, farming and food are several of such avenues, 4) that income segregated housing isn't good for society, 5) that immigrant parents' language capabilities limit their ability to help their children evolve, 6) that ethics should be a part of the school curriculum because it's not always taught and reinforced in the home, and 7) that managing the impact of social media on kids complicates educators and parents ability to manage social situations that go awry.
Unfortunately I could not stay for the entire discussion, but I think you can get a flavor of the event from what I've reported above. Have a good year.
Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker
Columbia School of Journalism Dean Coll Moderates Conversation with Authors Gay Talese & Thomas Kunkel
January 18, 2016 / Upper West Side Neighborhood / Manhattan History / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz.
I received an invitation to attend a conversation at the Columbia School of Journalism about a new book covering the professional life of one of the most prominent writers of The New Yorker magazine. The Columbia University School of Journalism is easily one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the nation; and Columbia also hosts the judging for the Pulitzer Prize, which is considered one of the highest awards a journalist or author can receive.
It was a fairly warm October evening as I made my way north on the subway along the Upper West Side. I got off at 116th Street and walked east through the main campus to the Faculty House. The Faculty House sits atop the Morningside Heights ridge overlooking Harlem, the Upper West Side and the rest of Manhattan.
The entrance into the Faculty House was from an interior courtyard where Columbia University students were hanging around in casual conversations. Once inside, I was directed to an upper floor where the event was being held.
Seated at the head of the room was Gay Talese, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of numerous books including The Kingdom & The Power. He was in the company of the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, Steve Coll, who is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author having penned several tomes about issues in Asia, most notably the Middle East. And of course, there was the guest author of the evening, Thomas Kunkel, who is the President of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and who had penned the book being discussed this evening entitled Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker.
CCM Ben Kallos Hosts Superscraper Zoning Forum
July 23, 2015 / Manhattan / NYC Real Estate / Gotham Buzz NYC.
I attended a ‘Superscraper Forum’ hosted by NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side neighborhood on a comfortable Thursday evening at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. It was to begin at 6.30 pm and 250 people had reserved seats for an auditorium that held 140 seats and had space for about 40 standing.
To be sure the auditorium was full when I arrived and I caught only the tail end of what the first speaker had to say. There were over a half dozen speakers, including NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos who organized the meeting which was attended by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer who arrived near the end of it.
The other speakers included the first speaker who was from the NYC Department of Housing & Planning, who I missed, as well as the following: Emma Marconi Bologna of Civitas NYC, Tara Kelly of the Friends of the Upper East Side, Margaret Newman of the Municipal Art Society, and three other people whose names and associations I did not catch. One may have been an architect, one may have been a representative of the East 50’s Association which is a group dedicated to reining in Superscrapers, and there might have been one from the Sutton Area Community neighborhood association.
Click here to read the rest of our report about NYC Zoning Laws: Superscraper Zoning for the Upper East Side & Sutton Place.
Albany Legislative Session To End Friday
Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law
June 15, 2015 / NYC Neighborhoods / NYC Politics & Government / Gotham Buzz.
There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.
I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.
Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?
From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.
As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.
It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.
You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form at http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php
Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws
The Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.
There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.
Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.
Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.
NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.
Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.
Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll
On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.
Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.
Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:
"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."
As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:
"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."
"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."
"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."
As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.
New York City Makes 'Budget Handshake'
June 23, 2015 / NYC Neigbhorhoods / NYC Government & Politics / Gotham Buzz.
We received this missive from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side. We've made few edits, but the text is essentially a reprint of her email.
Over 100 hours of budget hearings revealed much information that helped to shape the final agreement. [Helen Rosenthal said that] As a member of the City Council's Finance Committee and the Budget Negotiating Team, I can honestly say that all 51 members of the Council had input to ensure that New Yorkers in every borough will get the services they need. In addition to major investments in neighborhood police, there is additional funding for mental health services, veterans, and Vision Zero education.
Photo Credit: William Alatriste for the New York City Council
Education and Youth
• There will be an increase of 80 school crossing guards citywide, and the Upper West Side will gain more crossing guards. Renewed focus on recruitment and retention will happen in discussions over the summer.
• There are unprecedented amounts of funding for our young adults from summer jobs and year-round jobs to support for City University of New York (CUNY) students to keep them in college and help them graduate.
• The additional $39 million for libraries will yield 6-7 day a week service in every borough.
• The free lunch program in middle schools will continue, and there will be an expansion of the "breakfast after the bell" program, so that all elementary schools will offer it by 2018.
• Teachers will receive up to $125 in reimbursement for school supplies that they bring into the classroom. While this is an improvement, it is not enough. We must give teachers all the tools they need to teach well, and I will continue to work to improve this system in the next fiscal year.
• Over $35 million for lawyers, clinics, and advocacy to support tenants who experience harassment by landlords - the largest the City has ever dedicated to this issue.
• Dedicated legal advice for public housing (NYCHA) residents in housing court at 250 Broadway.
• Dedicated team of inspectors to investigate particularly egregious landlords.
Seniors and Safety Net
• Elimination of the wait list for seniors needing home care services.
• Commitment to build 5,000 new units of senior affordable housing over the next five years with dedicated on-site social services.
• Additional funding for the emergency food program and local food banks.
• The largest investment in addressing elder abuse through outreach and social services.
Small Business Support
• Dedicated funds to local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and civic associations. Council members will be able to designate money to support small business in their area.
• Double the investments in worker cooperative support yielding an additional 30-40 new worker-owned businesses throughout the City.
• Community-based organizations providing EarlyLearn NYC services will receive wage parity with DOE employees providing that service.
• Increase of the minimum wage of "Human Service" contract workers to $11.50/hour with targeted career ladder support.
• Funding to continue providing local services from small, community non-profits that lost contracts through the citywide process.
The City Council will formally "adopt" the City's budget at a Stated meeting later this week. At that time, we will have additional information about my dedicated funding for the Upper West Side.
Again, this a reprint of an email from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side.
Elizabeth Warren @ Union Square
Capacity Crowd Considers A Fighting Chance
Are Buffett & Investment Bankers Trying To Pre-emptively Define Her As 'Angry' & 'Too Liberal' Before The Rest Of America Hears Her Speak?
April 6, 2015 / Village Neighborhood NYC / Government & Politics NYC / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz.
In the past few months I have overheard a number of people chatting about Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts. So when I heard that she would be speaking at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in late March of 2015, to promote the paperback release of her book entitled A Fighting Chance, I decided to see for myself what they were talking about.
Up until this time I knew little about Senator Warren except that she had retaken the Massachusetts Senate seat for Democrats - that Scott Brown had won for Republicans - shortly after the death of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy.
I arrived a bit early to get my bearings, as there has been a growing groundswell of support for Senator Warren to run for President. Like Barack Obama in 2008, she would probably have to beat Hillary Clinton, even though Hillary has not yet formally announced that she's running.
Nonetheless, just like eight years ago, Hillary has already been anointed the Democratic candidate / victor by the mass media political polls and pundits. Queen Hillary's coronation may be premature, as she continues to slip in the polls versus her potential Republican rivals, including Prince Jeb - likely due to the email debacle, and perhaps a growing reminder of the Clinton family public dramas of years gone by.
Many of the seats facing the podium on the fourth floor were filled, while the remainder of them were filling up steadily. I had been told by someone earlier in the day, that most of the folks in the audience would likely be older people. So I was surprised to see that while the audience contained a number of older people [let's say over 50 / 60], a majority of those in attendance were actually younger people [under 40 / 50].
What follows is an account of the Elizabeth Warren speech - or shall I say her Law-School-like lecture - and the crowd's reaction to it. The report also includes a preliminary examination into why those in the investment banking sector, like Warren Buffett, seem uncomfortable with the idea of Elizabeth Warren's rise as a potential or eventual Democratic candidate for president. And at the end of the report we added a brief historical review of the front running Bush and Clinton family performances on the national stage over the past three decades.
Click here to read the rest of our story about Elizabeth Warren in Manhattan NYC.
De Blasio's State Of The City Address
NYC Mayor Maps Out A Framework To Tackle NYC's Affordable Housing Crisis
Real Estate Lobbyist: "Zoning Is The Equivalent Of Minting Money"
February 9, 2015 / NYC Neigbhorhoods / NYC Government & Politics / Gotham Buzz.
Mayor Bill de Blasio sent the NYC political, media and real estate worlds abuzz on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 when he laid out his administration's plan to solve one of the severest shortages of affordable housing in the history of New York City. It seems everyone had something to say in response to it - from the folks on the street to the NYS Governor. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown standing in the bottom left corner of the photo, after giving his first State of the City Address.
The housing crisis in New York City reached crisis proportions during the Bloomberg Administration. Former Mayor Bloomberg's approach to the issue was to let rent regulated apartments expire or become transformed to encourage investment, provide generous tax incentives and city land deals to real estate developers to build luxury high rise apartments, and build more homeless shelters.
A severe shortage of affordable housing was lurking in the background, as candidate Bill de Blasio began running for the office of mayor with the theme of "the tale of two cities". His campaign keyed into the pinch being felt by the 70% of New Yorkers who rent.
Thus one year later, while giving his first State of the City Address, the 109th Mayor of New York City put the affordable housing problem front and center for his Administration in a manner similar to what he had done on the campaign trail.
And in doing so, the Mayor set afire talk about affordable housing by city and state pols, the media and city real estate developers.
Click here later in the week to read the rest of our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address, including reactions by banking and real estate executives, members of labor unions and other government officials. By Michael Wood.
Tuesday - Primary Elections
The Real 'Choice' Is In The Primaries
September 8, 2014 / Manhattan Neighborhoods / Manhattan Politics / Gotham Buzz.
Tuesday, September 9th, is an important election day as most Manhattan races are decided at that time given the borough of Manhattan is comprised of about 80% Democrats.
On Tuesday the polls open at 6 am and close at 9 pm for the primary elections for New York state and federal offices. The polls are primarily staffed by civic volunteers.
The number of people who vote in the primaries is about 10 - 25% of the electorate, generally ending up on the lower end of that range. Hence, every vote carries far more weight than in the general election.
Knowing who the candidates are, what they really stand for and voting for them is one of the key pillars of our democracy. Many of our ancestors died fighting for this right and almost all of our early American ancestors took great risks to come here to exercise that right.
One of my favorite quotes of Thomas Jefferson is, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . . it expects what never was and never will be".
I know you're busy with all kinds of other responsibilities. But I hope you'll do your best to stay informed about who the candidates are and make the effort to vote for those who best represent your point of view. It's a small investment to make to ensure we maintain our rights and freedoms. You needn't look far around the world to see what life is like in places that don't enjoy the right to elect / choose those who govern them.
Click here to find your Manhattan polling place - and again polls are open from 6 am - 9 pm.
De Blasio Wins Primary But May Face Runoff, Stringer Edges Out Spitzer
September 11, 2013 / NYC Politics / NYC Neighborhoods / Gotham Buzz.
Scott Stringer, outgoing Manhattan Borough President, edged out Elliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary. Bill De Blasio won the Democratic NYC Mayoral primary with about 40% of the vote. A tabulation of some paper ballots may determine whether there will be a runoff later this month.
And Gale Brewer, City Council Member of the Upper West Side inManhattan District 6 won nearly 40% of the vote in the race for Manhattan Borough President. Jessica Lappin, formerly Community Board One Chair won nearly 24% of the vote and City Council Member Robert Jackson of District 7 of Morningside Heights and West Harlem won 29% of the vote. In District 5 Ben Kallos won nearly 46% of the vote, while Assemblyman Micah Kellner won nearly 40% of the vote. And in District 4 there wasn't any primary as the candidates went uncontested.
Stringer Conditionally Approves Midtown East Development
September 12, 2013 / Manhattan Politics & Government / Gotham Buzz. We attended the Community Board 6 Meeting in Manhattan on Wednesday following the election and heard the announcement that outgoing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer had conditionally approved the large scale development in the eastern section of Midtown Manhattan.
We'll have more about the Midtown East real estate development, including residents' and businesses' concerns about it in a future report.
Borough Presidents Race September 10thJuly 2013 / Manhattan Neighborhoods / Manhattan Politics / Gotham Buzz. The primary election for Manhattan Borough President will come to a close on September 10th. Click here to find your NYC polling place at http://www.vote.nyc.ny.us/html/voters/where.shtml
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