FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
September 21, 2015
Michael Gareth Johnson Executive Editor
The City Council speaker worries female membership is slipping
By Sarina Trangle
By Geoff Decker from Chalkbeat New York
The closing of St. Vincent’s and the nexus
of nonprofits and real estate
Advocates say New York is failing nursing home residents By Jeff Stein from New York Nonprofit
For the housing authority, barely passing is a step in the right direction
BACK & FORTH
By Justin Sondel
Cover: Illustration by Javier Muñoz
SETTING THE AGENDA, PART I
Heastie and Flanagan face a tough year ahead … the medical malpractice statute of limitations and the organ donor registry … LLC loopholes and pension forfeiture … MTA capital plan funding, Hudson River rail tunnels and the upstate perspective … Raise the Age and special prosecutors
By Bob Hennelly from New York Nonprofit
The five big challenges facing New York City’s schools
Nick Powell on what to do with Willets Point … José E. Maldonado on how Cuomo should reach out to Wall Street on behalf of Puerto Rico … David. E. Kirkland on Bill Bratton’s comments concerning black families … Nicholas Jahr on the Iran deal and the silent Jewish majority … Khan Shoieb on how Cuomo has adapted amid his fight with de Blasio
A Q&A with fraud prevention expert Frank Abagnale Jr.
city & state — September 21, 2015
Politics is cyclical. The more time you spend covering politics, especially on the New York state level, the more you realize there is an unofficial calendar for things. Things are busy in January, slow down in February, and pick up in March as the budget is negotiated and lawmakers and advocates from across the state head to Albany for last-minute lobbying. After the budget, things again are slow until late May, when the final push for end-of-session legislation picks up again. There’s also a four-year cycle. In odd-numbered years, the state government is more likely to tackle tough topics, because re-election for state lawmakers is 18-plus months away. On even years, lawmakers are more cautious (and often more distracted) as they prepare to run for office. In presidential election years the stakes are elevated and lawmakers are timid as the electorate grows and all of a sudden positions on national issues with little to no connection to state government can quickly derail a career. 2016 is going to be one of those years in New York. That means that even though there are many wellintentioned officials that would like to get legislation passed, history tells us not much will happen. In this issue, our Senior Correspondent Jon Lentz explores the nuance of the cyclical nature of politics and how it will impact the session, and also dives into how this will impact the sophomore years for the new legislative leaders, Carl Heastie and John Flanagan. For Flanagan, legislative successes and failures will undoubtedly have an impact on whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber in November. For Heastie, Democratic infighting in his massive conference is always a struggle, so if he can’t deliver for his members he could quickly have an internal problem. And for both, it’s unfortunate timing that their honeymoon periods are ending at a time when historically little gets done. It’s the recipe for a perfect storm that could lead to a tough second year. Which is why we went with the “terrible twos” concept for our cover – hiring internationally renowned artist Javier Muñoz to provide the artistic interpretation. As parents will tell you, not all 2-year-olds turn out to be a handful – but it happens often enough to perpetuate the stereotype. It’s even a prevalent term in sports: the “sophomore slump.” And if Heastie and Flanagan want to solidify their roles as leaders, they should be aware that journalists and even members of their respective conferences may be quick to view any misstep through this lens.
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THE FOOTNOTE A REAL PRESS RELEASE, ANNOTATED: SENT AT 5:35 P.M. ON FRIDAY, AUG. 28, FROM NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN ANDY KING
State Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn is also known for sporting a bow tie.
Somehow, King did not
BRONX LAWMAKER OBSERVES NATIONAL BOW TIE DAY
end up on consultant Brad Gerstman’s list of the bestdressed men in government in 2013 or 2014.
“You can’t dribble on bow
One of King’s favorite bow tie stores in his district.
King’s predecessor, Larry Seabrook, was a standard necktie kind of guy.
New York City lawmaker Andy King -- best known for his dapper dress style and bow ties – today treated members of his Bronx staff to bow tie shopping in celebration of National Bow Tie Day. At JCPenney’s in the Mall At Bay Plaza, Bronx, sales associates specializing in bowties consulted with Council Member King and his staff on various selections of bow ties. Said Council Member King, “A man who can tie his own bow tie is a man who has class. My first bow tie put my thumbs in a spin but after I remember what my grandpa taught me, ‘visualize it like you’re tying a shoelace … if you can visualize it you can get there.’ I’m glad to say that thanks to grandpa I found a classic piece of a wardrobe that allows me to remember what it is to be a gentleman.” Many different types of men — like Southern gentlemen, lawyers, academics, doctors, hipsters, and frat boys — wear bow ties. Some prominent, influential, and powerful men are members of this select fellowship. It includes many notable sports figures like Dhani Jones, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Master Chef Junior champ Logan Guleff, and fictional characters like two Doctors from Doctor Who, Sesame Street‘s Mr. Hooper, and NCIS‘s Donald Mallard.
ties.” - Dr. Seuss
5 A turning point for the popularity of bow ties was in the mid-1880s, when a formal style featuring a shorter black coat and bow tie was introduced at the Tuxedo Club, named after New York’s Tuxedo Park.
“Any self-respecting man ties his own bow ties,” King said last year.
When you wear a bow tie, doors open for you.” - Former NFL player Dhani Jones
King has estimated he owns around 80 bow ties.
James Bond also wears a bow tie.
Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois was so closely associated with the bow tie that it is freeway named after him.
city & state — September 21, 2015
included on signs for a
A MORE EQUAL COUNCIL MARK-VIVERITO WORRIES FEMALE REPRESENTATION IS SLIPPING
city & state — September 21, 2015
At a City & State Newsmakers interview Sept. 3, New York City Council Speaker Melissa MarkViverito put a spotlight on women’s issues and women in elected office, highlighting the tussles over topless women in Times Square, the potentially historic presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and the gender makeup of the City Council. Mark-Viverito said that one of her “great concerns” was ensuring legislative bodies include robust female representation. The speaker noted that she was one of 18 female members when she joined the 51-member council in 2005. The number of female lawmakers has since dropped to 15. And six of them, all women of color, will be term-limited out of the council in 2017, she said. “If we don’t make a really conscious effort to recruit, support and to push forward women in this progressive city … we could potentially have a council that has less than 15 women,” MarkViverito said. “And that, to me, is not acceptable. We’re trying to work on that.” Mark-Viverito said the responsibility of promoting gender equity in government extends beyond women and should be shared with unions, advocacy groups and everyone else involved in electoral politics. She did not touch on the influence of gender (or lack thereof) on her past endorsement decisions, such as backing Bill de Blasio for mayor over Christine Quinn, her predecessor and the first female City Council speaker – who would have been the city’s first female mayor. But Mark-Viverito said she “obviously” considered Clinton’s gender in her decision to endorse the former New
“If we don’t make a really conscious effort to recruit, support and to push forward women in this progressive city … we could potentially have a council that has less than 15 women. And that, to me, is not acceptable.” - Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council speaker
York senator. Ahead of Clinton’s first trip to Mark-Viverito’s native Puerto Rico, the speaker said she weighed Clinton’s policy proposals on the criminal justice system, the cost of higher education, immigration and other topics, and decided it was the right time to publicly support her. “I really thought it was the right moment, and then obviously, a woman – that also is a factor,” Mark-Viverito said. She contended that Republican candidate Donald Trump’s platform was “troubling,” particularly his approach to women’s issues. “It’s not only his position on immigration reform, it’s his issues with women, it’s his issues on other things,” she said. “It’s like this race to the bottom, you know? Like how backwards can you take our country when it comes to women’s reproductive rights or when it comes to marriage equality?” On a more local level, MarkViverito said she was concerned the female body was being politicized in the debate over how to address topless women posing for photos in exchange for tips in Times Square. New York law allows men and women to expose their chests in public, but aggressive panhandling is not permitted. Both the mayor and governor have said they want to prevent toplessness amid a spate of tabloid coverage calling the topless street performers a sign of Times Square’s return to its more sordid past. Mark-Viverito reiterated that she believes the city has much more pressing problems. “It usually is women’s bodies that somehow get these overreactions to things, and I don’t understand why that is. It’s almost politicizing cit yandstateny.com
By SARINA TRANGLE
CIT Y them,” Mark-Viverito said. “That really concerns me as a woman.” The speaker discussed her bond to Puerto Rico, but did not delve as much into how her background as a Latina informs her view of who should govern the city. She said she would prefer to see another Latino or Latina replace the retiring Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam BarriosPaoli, but disagreed with Latino advocates who contend they are not
well represented in the ranks of the de Blasio administration. She added that de Blasio engaged “every day” in conversations about how to diversify his team. “Without a doubt, this administration, at the top levels, is the most diverse, I believe, I’ve probably seen in recent history,” she said. “That’s important to acknowledge. I think in terms of Latinos in those high positions, he also has done a good job.”
At City & State’s Newsmakers event, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke at length about what drove her push for the hiring of 1,000 new police officers, as well as her plan to decriminalize certain nonviolent, low-level offenses. The following has been edited for length and clarity. City & State: You scored a major legislative victory when you were able to get more than 1,000 cops added to the budget. Why did you feel so strongly about this, and how were you able to win over the mayor when he was so consistently opposed to it?
Melissa Mark-Viverito: This is an issue that the council has been consistently vocal on since the last budget – the first budget I negotiated with the council. We didn’t get that in the first year. We felt that there is a need to balance the reforms that we’re asking the NYPD to implement. I was very strongly in favor of the inspector general in the last session before I was speaker and the racial profiling bill, which passed, but I also knew with the new administration that we had gotten commitments from the mayor-elect to really look at reforms. So we wanted to push for reforms, but we also felt we needed more resources for the NYPD to really look at a
C&S: What changed his mind? MMV: I don’t know. I know from conversations he was coming in new, he needed to do an assessment of the NYPD, he needed to do an assessment of the existing resources. Transitioning the NYPD from the model that had been in place for 20 years, under Giuliani, under Bloomberg, to a new vision was something that wasn’t going to happen overnight, and he needed more support in order to get it done. So I think that’s probably what led to his decision. C&S: Where do things stand now on your plan to decriminalize certain misdemeanors like public
urination and fare beating? And given the recent heightened concern about quality-of-life crimes in the press and in some polls, do you think this is the right moment to decriminalize these petty crimes? MMV: I don’t consider it decriminalizing. These are low-level nonviolent offenses which people are still going to be held accountable for. There are still going to be penalties and there are still going to be fines in those cases. We’re not there yet, we are talking – and we’ve been very aggressive – with the NYPD that this is something we want to look at: that we do not think, as I said in my State of the City speech, that a nonviolent, low-level offense should mark a 14-year-old or 15-year-old for life. Sometimes overpenalizing these low-level offenses has serious implications on the success of that young person going forward, if they have an arrest record, etc. So these are things we have to balance. They’re systemic. As someone who is very progressive, as someone who really believes strongly about equity and justice, I believe there are systemic injustices that exist. And this is over time. We’re not going to correct those overnight, but these are the things we can do to try to chip away to try to create more equity in the criminal justice system.
city & state — September 21, 2015
new way of interacting with our communities. The communitypolicing model which recently has been presented and rolled out by the NYPD is really true community policing. And so we really wanted to find that balance. This is something that came up through our budget process and our budget hearings, and we continued to make the case that there was a way of balancing both reform and also additional resources. And I think we finally made the case. And having the commissioner on board – he wasn’t on board in the first negotiations last year with our request for resources – we came together and we were able to succeed.
THE BARGAIN THAT CLOSED ST. VINCENT’S THE POLITICAL NEXUS OF NONPROFITS AND REAL ESTATE
city & state — September 21, 2015
It was just another lazy summer afternoon last month when Idrissa Camara, a 53-year-old father of three, agreed to stay late at his job as a private armed security guard protecting the federal offices at 201 Varick St. in Manhattan. A little after 5 p.m., Kevin Downing, a 68-year-old veteran and former federal employee, walked through the metal detectors in the lobby and shot Camara in the head. Downing, who had been at war with the federal government after he was allegedly fired for being a whistleblower several years ago, shot himself in the head and died at the scene. Camara, meanwhile, was transported to Lenox Health Greenwich Village, just a mile uptown, at the site of what had been, up until 2010, St. Vincent’s, a Level 1 trauma hospital capable of handling gunshot wounds. Camara was declared dead at 5:55 p.m. There’s an official blue sign just a block away from Lenox Health Greenwich Village (until recently called Lenox Hill HealthPlex) that uses the upper-case “H” symbol and the word “hospital” to direct the public to the facility. Yet when it opened last summer the management of the Lenox Hill facility, part of the North ShoreLong Island Jewish Health System, were clear that it was not a hospital and would not be the place to handle trauma like a gunshot wound. If someone was brought to the site with such a grievous injury, The New York Times reported, “the doctors at the Healthplex would do everything that would be done in a hospital” and “then transfer the patient by ambulance to the nearest appropriate hospital,” which “for trauma patients” would be Bellevue Hospital Center,
SEAN PAVONE / SHUTTERSTOCK
By BOB HENNELLY for NEW YORK NONPROFIT
nearly 2 miles farther uptown. It is impossible to know whether Camara, a family man who loved his work, could have been saved had St. Vincent’s Hospital still been open. ‘A BIG LOSS’ Since before the Civil War, through the scourge of HIV/AIDS and during
the two World Trade Center terror attacks, St. Vincent’s had served the Greenwich Village neighborhood with distinction. Camara’s tragic scenario had been raised as a hypothetical years before it happened by community members caught in a bitter battle that raged right up until the hospital closed in April 2010. For months up until the
nonprofit hospital’s board of trustees pulled the plug, community members hit the streets and went to court in an effort to save St. Vincent’s. The facility had a long-standing reputation for serving the poor effectively and with compassion. It was also a teaching hospital. Even today, five years after the closure, passions still run high in the cit yandstateny.com
West Village, where the rest of the St. Vincent’s site is now being redeveloped into hundreds of luxury apartments. “A great obstetrics division as well as an ER – it was a full-service hospital,” said Mike Quinn, who grew up in the neighborhood on Charles Street. “It is a big loss. It is a big hole in terms of city services when it comes to hospital services you need.” “You really don’t have a medical facility that is close by,” agreed Elizabeth Warren, a retail worker who has lived in the West Village for 10 years. “It’s more empty luxury apartments nobody can afford.” The fate of St. Vincent’s was ultimately decided at the political nexus where the city’s worlds of nonprofit philanthropy and powerful real estate development converge. There is so much cross-pollination between the two spheres that it can be hard to delineate the two. Nonprofits need the philanthropy provided by developers, who in exchange garner naming rights and influence in how the nonprofits operate – all as a way of “giving back.” Nonprofits also count on the political clout of their real estate patrons, who shower politicians at every level with tens of millions of dollars. By some estimates the real estate industry provides 10 percent of all the campaign cash donated in the Empire State, which is funneled through limited liability companies to mask the source of the funds. Best case, this symbiotic relationship advances the city’s civic agenda and the public interest; in the worst case, nonprofits are co-opted by commercial development interests that use the cover of their good deeds to advance their business agenda. The reality is cit yandstateny.com
likely a messy amalgam of both. TWO TALES OF ONE HOSPITAL In the case of St. Vincent’s, there are two widely disparate narratives: The powers that be did the best they could to advance the public interest in difficult times, or the city’s rich and powerful figured out how to make money off closing the neighborhood hospital. There is strong evidence that the nonprofit Catholic hospital was, in part, a victim of its own generosity and willingness to take all patients regardless of their ability to pay, a core value of the Sisters of Charity,
“You really don’t have a medical facility that is close by. It’s more empty luxury apartments nobody can afford.” - Elizabeth Warren, West Village resident
the religious order that started the hospital. With over $1 billion in debt, the venerable institution was poorly positioned to withstand the Great Recession. At the same time, the state was coming to the conclusion – via the Berger Commission – that it had too many hospitals with some of the weakest balance sheets in the country. The late Dr. Richard Daines, who was the commissioner of the
a panel to advise him on the search for the next Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and CEO, he named Rudin to the search committee. Rudin’s bio included chairing the board of the Battery Conservancy, as well as memberships on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Real Estate Board of New York and New York University. By January 2010 the optimism around the Rudin redevelopment plan
had faded. The hospital’s leadership announced that its fiscal condition was deteriorating rapidly. A handful of potential rescue scenarios surfaced, including one from Continuum Health Partners, which owned St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center. Under the proposal, St. Vincent’s would be closed but a health care center with some walk-in emergency capability would be established instead. It would no longer receive 911 ambulance runs. Continuum would assume St. Vincent’s massive debt load and, in exchange, get the hospital’s valuable real estate. In just a matter of days, local elected officials, led by then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, blasted the proposal because it would leave the West Side from Park Row to 59th Street without a full-service emergency medical facility. “Every minute an ambulance has to travel longer to reach a hospital is another minute with a life in jeopardy,” warned Quinn. Continuum quickly withdrew its bid and Gov. David Paterson announced the formation of a committee to help keep St. Vincent’s open. But the panel would not have long. By April 2010 St. Vincent’s was back seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Attorney Yetta Kurland led the neighborhood legal battle to keep St. Vincent’s open. Kurland says that even though St. Vincent’s was organized as a nonprofit charity, its leadership was cut off from the very community it served, which desperately wanted to save it. “On April 6 in 2010, without any kind of public notice, against all the open-meeting laws and rules that are supposed to be involved in 501(c) (3) happenings, the board of trustees secretly voted to shut down St. Vincent’s hospital,” Kurland told New York Nonprofit Media in an interview. “That was on April 6. By April 30 the hospital had been shut down.” Kurland says that even though the hospital was a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity, its leadership made millions of dollars even as the hospital was saying it was hundreds of millions in debt for years of uncompensated charity care. “We saw the year before the bankruptcy a golf outing for $278,000, professional fundraising fees that they spent almost $4 million for, undisclosed other unknown expenses for over $104 million, management consultants of over $17 million, over half a million dollars for lobbying,”
city & state — September 21, 2015
This sign directs the public to Lenox Health Greenwich Village.
state Department of Health, told The Associated Press in 2010 that St. Vincent’s had about $2 million in debt for every one of its hospital beds, at a time when governments at every level were cutting back. State regulators estimated St. Vincent’s was losing $5 million to $10 million a month. This, of course, begs the question: Where was the regulatory oversight that could have stanched the bleeding out of such an important community institution? Back in 2007, emerging from its first bankruptcy, St. Vincent’s went public with a “hail Mary” rescue plan which called for the building of a new hospital across the street from the existing facility. The ambitious plan relied on funding generated by a $1 billion residential development to be built on the campus by the Rudin family. Before the Great Recession, the plan and its players seemed well matched. The Rudins had been riding to the rescue of New York City sites for decades, even as their real estate business became increasingly more successful. According to Forbes, the Rudins are the 61st-richest family in the nation and can trace their fortune back to 1905. Today William Rudin chairs the Association for a Better New York, a nonprofit founded by his father in 1971 as a civic-minded response to the fiscal crisis when New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed
disclose what their CEOs are getting and the median compensation for the rest of the company’s employees. Critics of the nonprofit sector point to the case of William Rapfogel, the former executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, as an example of the need for more stringent oversight. Rapfogel was convicted last year for his role in a scheme that bilked the social services nonprofit of $9 million since 1992. Rapfogel and his fellow conspirators used overpayment to the nonprofit’s insurance company as a way to steal from the nonprofit. In turn, the insurance company made tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions. In New York City and around the nation, nonprofits employ thousands of people and make land-use decisions that have major impacts on surrounding neighborhoods that have nowhere near the clout and influence that these charity behemoths have. The top executives leading these 501(c) (3)s often make high six figures and sometimes more than $1 million a year. But does that nonprofit designation guarantee the people at the top are always acting in the public interest? Jim Sheehan is the chief of the Charities Bureau under Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. His office is charged with keeping an eye on the 80,000 charities licensed by the state of New York. “Transparency is critical.
“Nobody knows what goes on inside them. We need a much more robust governing structure for nonprofits.” - Eliot Spitzer, former governor, attorney general
city & state — September 21, 2015
well run for decades. This is a classic case where history hindered progress.” THE BIGGER PICTURE The St. Vincent’s saga was playing out as Wall Street was coming under increasing attack for self-dealing and a lack of transparency. As a consequence, under the Dodd-Frank Act, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has promulgated rules that require publicly traded corporations to
That’s what was driving the passage of the Nonprofit Revitalization Act,” Sheehan told New York Nonprofit Media, referring to the reform law championed by Schneiderman and signed into law by Cuomo in 2013. “You have to have effective audits by third parties, and the board members on these nonprofits must be independent.” Former attorney general and governor Eliot Spitzer told New York Nonprofit Media that nonprofits need
WILLIAM ALATRISTE FOR THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
Kurland said. “What’s supposed to happen is a closure plan is submitted to the Department of Health and it outlines how patients are going to be taken care of, how patient records are handled, how all of the services that are happening in the hospital will still be provided to the community in other ways because you just can’t shut down a hospital,” Kurland said. “That’s black-letter law. That’s part of the public health law.” In an in-depth story published in America-The National Catholic Review not long after the closure, Jane Iannucelli of the Sisters of Charity, a St. Vincent’s board member, faulted the state’s Department of Health for the closure. “I think the easiest way to explain why … St. Vincent’s is closing its doors tomorrow is that the state Department of Health said there is no need for an acute care hospital in Greenwich Village,” Iannucelli told the publication. “And while St. Vincent’s had many problems, they were on their way to being fixed. But with the Department of Health saying there’s no need for an acute care hospital here, the board had no choice but accept a vote to close.” Former St. Vincent’s Chief Operating Officer Arthur Webb was quoted in The Villager as conceding that St. Vincent’s had “consultants coming out the eyeballs” and on a “general basis, St. Vincent’s wasn’t
Then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, right, joins a rally to save St. Vincent’s in 2010.
much more scrutiny than they have received in the past. “It took awhile for me to figure this out,” Spitzer said, “but the real unused jurisdiction of the attorney general is in the realm on the nonprofits.” “In the private sector,” Spitzer continued, “shareholders do have a window into how a company operates through proxy statement and filings like a 10-K. You can file shareholder motions. For nonprofits there are no shareholders. As a contributor, once you’ve given money you’re done. Nobody knows what goes on inside them. We need a much more robust governing structure for nonprofits.” AFTERSHOCKS Six months after the closure of St. Vincent’s, the impact on other Manhattan hospitals was seismic. Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, Bellevue Hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, said the closure of St. Vincent’s had been “a significant disaster” for emergency care. “We are seeing people in rapid succession continuously in every space we’ve got and trying to achieve excellence in the face of substantial chaos a good part of the day and night,” Goldfrank told the Daily News at the time. Emergency room admissions at Bellevue spiked by 25 percent and resulted in an unsettling increase in patients assaulting medical staff and threatening other patients lying too close to them, according to Goldfrank. Similar upticks in ER traffic were reported by other Manhattan
hospitals. By March of 2012, Quinn was hailing a grand bargain struck by the City Council, the Bloomberg administration and Rudin development. As part of the deal to clear the way for Rudin’s hundreds of luxury units and town houses, the neighborhood got a new elementary school, a 15,000-square-foot park, an AIDS memorial and commitments for additional historic preservation – but no hospital. At the St. Vincent’s site there would be the freestanding emergency room where Camara died last month. The project was also scaled down from its initial design. The issue would haunt Quinn in her bid for the Democratic mayoral nomination, when her critics went wall to wall with negative ads linking her ultimate support of the St. Vincent’s redevelopment plan to the nearly $30,000 she got from a halfdozen Rudin executives in campaign contributions. As The New York Times reported at the time, Quinn did lobby to reduce the scale of the project and was successful in doing so. Quinn supporters have made the case that the former speaker got the best deal for the neighborhood, which was in her council district. “The thing we were never able to get to was how to hold these people responsible,” said Kurland, who remains convinced that St. Vincent’s was targeted for redevelopment all along because the property had become so valuable. “And in terms of avoiding this kind of stuff, where was the oversight?” cit yandstateny.com
BROWSING ‘VIGILANCE’ Earlier this month, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly released his memoir, “Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City.” Along with stories from Kelly’s childhood and his rise through the ranks of the department, it offers blow-by-blow accounts of how the NYPD foiled 16 terrorist plots – a chapter that reads more like a Tom Clancy thriller than a typical, stuffy autobiography. For those adventures, you’ll have to pick up a copy, but here are some passages that caught our attention:
Bloomberg and Kelly after a 2012 gun trafficking bust.
ON POLICE-RELATED KILLINGS AROUND THE COUNTRY: “The shooting did highlight severe problems inside the Ferguson police department: hostile relations with the community, an abysmal diversity record, unwise strategies on the street. The police in Ferguson handled the Brown incident terribly. … I just wish that amid all the media coverage of the department’s many faults, there’d been a full day devoted to Officer Wilson’s thorough exoneration by the U.S. Justice Department. His behavior can be confidently defended. The city of Ferguson’s cannot.” “After I saw the brutal killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, I became a believer in police officers wearing cameras. You would have to believe that no one required to wear a camera would commit such a dastardly act.” cit yandstateny.com
Bill de Blasio’s mayoral inauguration Jan. 1, 2014.
AFTER THE SEPT. 11 ATTACKS: “... if we suffered another attack, I was convinced, we really did risk losing something crucial: The New York that people everywhere know and loved. The New York that was the center of global commerce. The New York where talented and ambitious people came to realize their dreams. The New York that was a diverse and powerful font of media, entertainment, culture, and the arts. If people no longer felt secure living and working here, how could New York be any of those?”
ON BILL DE BLASIO’S MAYORAL INAUGURATION: “[Harry] Belafonte and [the Rev. Fred] Lucas were fiery. But it was the city’s new public advocate, Letitia James, who really let loose on us. She called the Bloomberg years ‘a gilded age of inequality’ where ‘decrepit’ apartment buildings stood in the shadows of multimillion-dollar condos. Then she lit into stop-and-frisk. … I’m not sure I’d ever heard a policing policy so mischaracterized in so few words. … It was a weird, uncomfortable display all around, especially for a new mayor’s first public event.”
city & state — September 21, 2015
EDWARD REED / NEW YORK CITY MAYOR’S OFFICE
ON BEING HIRED BY BLOOMBERG: “... I was walking on the street near my office at Bear Stearns when my phone rang. It was Mike Bloomberg. ‘So,’ he said, getting right down to business with a minimum of pleasantries, an approach he would rarely veer from in the next twelve years. ‘You want to be police commissioner?’”
‘BASIC HUMAN DIGNITY’ ADVOCATES SAY STATE IS FAILING NURSING HOME RESIDENTS By JEFF STEIN for NEW YORK NONPROFIT
As its population continues to
PERSONAL NEEDS ALLOWANCE
city & state — September 21, 2015
One issue that advocates hope the state Legislature will address in the upcoming session is the long-term stagnation of nursing home residents’ monthly personal needs allowance. The allowance, which is administered by the state to help residents with costs not covered by Medicaid, is set at $50 per month, a rate that has not been changed since 1981. (Adjusted for inflation, that would equal $131 today.) Judy Wirkula, a liaison with the Family Service League’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program in Suffolk County, says many nursing home residents on Medicaid rely on the allowance for items widely considered to be basic necessities. “In many cases, this is the only way that residents can pay for things like toiletries, new clothes, or even just a candy bar from the vending machine,” Wirkula said. “Residents also can have recreational therapy opportunities, but they have to pay for those trips out of their personal needs allowance. They use that money to feel some connection with the rest of the community.” Carol Mortimer, a resident at Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack and a member of the Nursing Home Leadership Group, an advocacy group composed of nursing home residents across the region, says the current allowance rate simply cannot meet residents’ needs. “The way it is now, you can’t afford
to buy even a blouse,” Mortimer said. “You have to save up for months to buy the things that you need. God forbid that you need a winter coat. … And if you don’t have family members – and many don’t – you simply don’t get the support you need for basic items that most people take for granted.” In response to repeated pleas from residents and advocates, a bill has been brought before the Legislature to raise the monthly allowance to $75, and would introduce an annual cost-ofliving adjustment. While advocates are cautiously optimistic that a bill has been taken up for consideration, similar legislation has failed to make it out of committee in previous sessions. “What do we have to do to make an impact on legislators?” Mortimer asked. “I’m sure that they couldn’t survive on that.” Binghamton’s Clifford Crouch, the Republican sponsor of the bill in the state Assembly, agrees. “Too often, we forget the needs of the elderly,” Crouch said. “We need to pay attention to their needs and make sure that number does not get stale. All costs continue to go up.” While he says the $25 per month raise is only a fraction of what residents should really be receiving, Crouch said
the legislation would be an important step in the right direction. “Frankly, I think that if we were to ask for there to be parity with the 1981 allowance in terms of inflation, there would be a lot of pushback because it would be a significant cost to the state,” Crouch said. “However, built into the language of the bill is a clause for the allowance to be automatically adjusted each year. That way, decades won’t go by before we get another adjustment.” Utica Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democratic co-sponsor, said a bipartisan push during the session’s early weeks could keep the bill from faltering again. “I think it’s always hard to get legislation passed that has budget implications,” Brindisi said. He implored fellow legislators to listen to their constituents. “I have one constituent who has been refusing to shave in an act of protest,” Brindisi said. “I get calls from older adults who reside in nursing facilities who will tell me about situations – they can’t afford clothes, can’t afford dentures, can’t send a card to a family member.” “It’s a matter of basic human dignity,” he said.
In addition to the effort to raise the personal needs allowance, other nursing home advocates say the state has not properly administered its Nursing Home Transition and Diversion waiver program, which is designed to help able residents transition out of nursing homes and into home- or community-based Medicaid services. This allegation is the subject of a class-action lawsuit brought by the nonprofit MFY Legal Services on behalf of several New York City nursing home residents against the state Department of Health and the Visiting Nurse Association of Staten Island, a nonprofit that manages the day-to-day operations of the waiver program. The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York in August, alleges several nursing home residents have been unable to take advantage of the waiver program even though they are capable of receiving care in more independent settings. “The NHTD Medicaid waiver program was developed based on the philosophy that individuals with disabilities, or seniors, may be successfully served and included in their surrounding communities,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health said in an email. However, the complaint claims several residents were denied eligibility either without explanation or for reasons outside the scope of the program, such as criminal history. The complaint also alleges that some residents were not informed of their right to a fair hearing upon being denied eligibility. At least one resident who was initially deemed eligible, the complaint says, has waited over a year to access waiver program benefits. Nahid Sorooshyari, an attorney at MFY Legal Services, says the various obstacles keeping residents from accessing the waiver program, such cit yandstateny.com
gray, the state is increasingly turning to nursing homes to care for aging and disabled New Yorkers. But as the number of nursing home residents rises – New York now leads the nation, with more than 100,000 residents in certified homes – advocates claim that lawmakers and state agencies have not done enough to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.
as an overly complicated application process, violate the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Medicaid Act. To apply for the program, an individual must first contact their regional resource center – in the case of the complaint, VNA of Staten Island – which will send a specialist to make a preliminary determination of that person’s eligibility. If a resident is deemed initially eligible, they must select a service coordinator from a list of approved options, who in turn helps the resident complete a formal
Yet Milline was never provided with a list of approved service coordinators, according to the complaint. And after independently finding a service coordinator that agreed to take his case and notifying VNA of Staten Island, he still has not received any NHTD waiver benefits. His initial request for eligibility was over a year ago. Sorooshyari says Milline’s case is not unusual. “The cap for enrollment in this program was set at 4,400 participants; to date, only about 2,200 have been enrolled across the state,” Sorooshyari
Senator Jeff Klein
“It doesn’t matter how worthy the program is if you’re forcing residents to navigate such a convoluted, multi-tiered application process.” - Nahid Sorooshyari, attorney representing nursing home residents
Commissioner Loree Sutton, Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs
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said. “Given the work that we’ve done in the community around this issue, we find it pretty unlikely that the lack of enrollment is due to a lack of interest in receiving these benefits.” VNA of Staten Island has not responded to repeated requests for comment. While declining to comment on the complaint’s specific allegations, a spokesman for the state Department of Health said the state’s Care Management for All initiative could improve the process for recipients of long-term care services. The initiative aims to have all Medicaid enrollees served in care management programs by April 2018. “The Care Management for All approach will improve benefit coordination, quality of care and patient outcomes over the full range of health care, including mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability and physical health care services,” the spokesman said in an email. Despite these efforts, Sorooshyari worries that her clients – and many others – will not be able to experience the dignity of independent living without changes to the implementation of the NHTD waiver program. “Studies have shown that nearly 10 percent of nursing home residents can – and want to – live independently,” Sorooshyari said. “It’s the responsibility of the state to provide them with that opportunity.”
Commisioner Ken Adams
application and identify potential housing in the community. That application then goes back to the original specialist, who will make an ultimate determination and notify the applicant of his or her eligibility. Given the “Byzantine” nature of this process, Sorooshyari says it is not surprising when applications languish at various stages of the process. “There is no question that this program is laudable,” Sorooshyari said. “However, it doesn’t matter how worthy the program is if you’re forcing residents to navigate such a convoluted, multi-tiered application process. Many of these residents don’t even have cellphones, so it is incredibly burdensome to go through the many necessary steps.” The case of one plaintiff, Gary Milline, a 63-year-old resident of Terrace Healthcare Center in the Bronx, highlights the many roadblocks applicants can face. Milline decided he would like to live in the community, since he is able to walk short distances and perform daily activities with proper assistance. During his intake appointment with VNA of Staten Island, the complaint says Milline was incorrectly told that his prior criminal record could impact his eligibility. Two weeks later, Milline’s request was denied. After an appeal, Milline was granted a second interview and was finally told that he was in fact eligible for the program.
SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT
THE HOUSING AUTHORITY’S BARELY PASSING FINANCIAL RATING IS ACTUALLY A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
city & state — September 21, 2015
The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons over the years, but that light has been particularly intense in recent months. Struggling with occupancy rates and the federal funding tied to them, the authority has been under the watchful eye of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with the feds threatening a takeover if the agency can’t get its house in order. In addition, a scandal broke this summer in which, as first reported by The Buffalo News, Joe Mascia – one of two elected tenant commissioners on the seven-member board – was recorded using racial epithets to describe many of the area’s AfricanAmerican officials, including Mayor Byron Brown, authority Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett and Assemblywoman Crystal PeoplesStokes. Brown, with the support of the board and a variety of community and activist groups including the NAACP’s Buffalo Chapter, suspended Mascia from the board in anticipation of a hearing to determine whether he can be forcibly removed from his post. But there is a glimmer of hope for the agency. Documents acquired by City & State through a Freedom of Information Act request to HUD show that the authority’s financial situation may be stabilizing, though a HUD spokesperson stressed that the numbers are unaudited and will need to be verified. The document turned over by the federal agency is the housing authority’s financial data schedule, the annual submission required of all HUD-affiliated housing agencies. The numbers, when calculated through HUD’s Public Housing Assessment System, give the authority a score of 15 on financial health, the lowest score considered “standard.”
The authority’s finances are looking up, but it’s still struggling with occupancy rates.
While still a troubling number, the fact that the authority is not in the “substandard” category can be considered good news, given the speculation surrounding the authority’s financial situation, with some insiders claiming that the housing authority was having trouble paying vendors. “It’s more encouraging than we had expected, the financial piece of it,” the HUD spokesperson said. “... The preliminary 2015 financial report does not suggest a risk of insolvency.” However, the spokesperson also stressed that finances are only one measure HUD uses to assess housing agencies. The major concern for HUD has been the authority’s occupancy rate, which stands around 84 percent, nine points below what the agency deems acceptable. The authority has introduced a plan that involves the renovation of 475 units and the removal of another 342 units from their portfolio in an effort to improve those numbers. “We’re continuing to work with
them on their plan to address that situation,” the spokesperson said. “... Addressing their occupancy issues should further improve the agency’s financial health.” Still, it’s curious that, with all the speculation about defaults and falling into receivership floating around, the housing authority seemingly has no desire to publicly discuss their relatively promising financial situation – or anything else for that matter. City & State has sent three Freedom of Information Law requests to the agency since late April seeking, among other things, financial records, waiting lists and communications between the authority and HUD, and has received only one response of any kind: an email dated May 5 acknowledging the receipt of the first request, saying it would be addressed within 20 business days. At a housing authority board meeting last month, Sanders-Garrett discussed an agency realignment that would see workers at the main administrative offices transferred to the individual housing project offices,
a move that would allow the authority to decrease their pay. “In order to stay within the context of our budget and to service our residents more effectively, the push is to allow staff to be at the (individual project) level so that they can respond to resident concerns,” SandersGarrett said after the meeting. Sanders-Garrett declined to provide details on which administrative positions would be vacated or how employees would be shuffled after the meeting. She also claimed that the financial details would not be available until 2016. The preliminary numbers turned in to HUD this summer are current through the end of June. City & State has repeatedly called and emailed both Sanders-Garrett and David Rodriguez, the housing authority’s general counsel and point person for information requests, asking about the status of the FOIL requests. After the meeting, Rodriguez said he would look into the status of the requests – before disappearing behind a locked door at the Perry Street administrative offices. The officials have yet to respond. While the HUD numbers paint a better picture than the rumors that had been floating around town, they still don’t tell the whole story. The score is based on a broad view of the authority’s financial situation and don’t include many specifics – including answers to the question City & State has been asking since April: How much is left in the authority’s cash reserves? It’s clear that the authority has a lot of work to do to get out from under the close scrutiny of HUD, particularly considering that the federal agency’s greater concern is the substandard occupancy rates. The question remains, will the public be allowed to see what the authority is doing as it tries to right the ship? cit yandstateny.com
By JUSTIN SONDEL
NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS 5 BIG CHALLENGES FACING NEW YORK CITY’S SCHOOLS
More than a million students streamed through school doors this month, the start of a high-stakes year for New York City. This is school year No. 2 for the mayor, who will be trying to pull off a number of complicated education initiatives at once. Sixty-five thousand 4-yearolds were set to be in full-day prekindergarten, a record for the city. Nearly 130 schools are scheduled to get new mental or physical health services, putting a new schoolimprovement strategy to the test and posing another logistical challenge for city officials. And a new system for helping 1,600 schools manage nittygritty issues like budgets and training is making its debut. Other challenges are educational. The city has promised to improve its low-performing schools by flooding them with resources, but students are still entering those schools far behind. Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to fend off state officials critical of his management of the school system. As teachers and students head into the new year, here are five big-picture questions facing the city’s school system: Will the Renewal school turnaround program make inroads? The city spent much of last year helping its low-performing schools develop plans for how they would improve. This year, the strategies will be put to the test at the 94 Renewal schools, whose progress will be closely monitored by state officials and by critics of the mayor’s approach. De Blasio is betting on the premise that struggling schools don’t need to have their staffs overhauled or be replaced with charter schools. Instead, the city is spending millions on teacher training, coaches for principals, extra support for English learners, and partnerships with social services organizations. cit yandstateny.com
Mayor Bill de Blasio visits P.S. 9, The Sarah Anderson School, on West 84th Street on the first day of school this year. Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s visit to the Renaissance School for the Arts in East Harlem on the first day of school highlighted how those partnerships can add time to the school day. The expanded learning initiative, which will cost the city $12.6 million this year, will staff Renaissance’s after-school program with AmeriCorps fellows. At another planned stop that day, Fariña joined union leaders for a tour of Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies in the Bronx, which is part of a city initiative to convert schools into “community schools” offering an array of services for local residents and families. The visit to Morris Academy was symbolic for another reason: Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration created the school after shuttering Morris High School,
and Bloomberg used to return to the building to tout the success of his aggressive school-closure policies. Fariña’s focused on very different themes, including medical and mental health services offered at the school. Will newly powerful superintendents and borough centers effectively replace the old “network” system? One of the biggest changes schools have experienced over the last year is nearly invisible to most parents and students – a wholesale reorganization of the city’s “school support” teams. But for most principals, the changes will be fundamental, and it won’t take long for them to get a sense of what it will be like to work under the new arrangement. The reorganization comes as the system’s 45 superintendents take on
greater authority over the schools within their geographic domains. That power shift has unnerved some principals, who have grown accustomed to being solely in charge of how their schools are run. But Fariña saw the move as necessary to create more uniformity across the city’s schools and ensure schools in need of extra support are not left unsupervised. Replacing the 55 smaller support teams called “networks” are seven new borough support centers, which opened this summer. Now, principals will be relying on the centers to help them with everything from ordering classroom supplies to supporting students with disabilities. What will come of the push for more family engagement? Fariña has said that the first step
city & state — September 21, 2015
DEMETRIUS FREEMAN/MAYORAL PHOTOGRAPHY OFFICE
By GEOFF DECKER from CHALKBEAT NEW YORK
ROB BENNETT/MAYORAL PHOTOGRAPHY OFFICE
to improved student performance is improved attendance, particularly for the 1 in 5 city students who is chronically absent. Getting parents more involved is crucial for accomplishing that, Fariña said in interviews leading up to the start of the school year. The city’s community-schools effort is designed to get parents into school buildings, whether for English language classes, Zumba or free laundry services. This will also be the second year that teachers will have dedicated time during the workday to contact parents. Whether those efforts will reduce chronic absenteeism will be closely watched by researchers and advocates. The city has also announced plans to merge a handful of schools with declining enrollments with other schools – moves that could spark emotional reactions from teachers and families of the schools being eliminated. The city’s education policy panel will have to formally approve the mergers, as well as analyze another round of contentious charter school co-location proposals under a new law that encourages the city to find space in its buildings for new charter schools.
How will the de Blasio administration campaign for mayoral control? The mayor’s fiercest political rivals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican state lawmakers, have the ability to curtail or revoke de Blasio’s control over the city school system. This spring, they gave him just a one-year extension of mayoral control. Before June, when mayoral control expires again, de Blasio will have to mount a campaign to convince them that he should be given a longer lease on the policy. This year, Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan said he wanted to see evidence of de Blasio’s schoolturnaround program taking shape, more information about the city’s spending, and for de Blasio and members of his administration to participate in hearings.
ways more ambitious. Last year, the city leaned heavily on experienced organizations and converting half-day seats into full-day seats. This year, as the city expands from 53,000 seats to over 60,000 seats, the pre-K operation will be stretched further, though it hasn’t appeared to run into new problems yet. If the logistics go smoothly, attention will likely shift to the quality
Will year two of pre-K run as smoothly as year one? The first year of the prekindergarten expansion encountered few hiccups – a significant feat, since the city more than doubled the number of available seats in full-day programs. But the expansion’s second year is in some
of the programs. The city has a vast and varied challenge in the years ahead in making sure that students in new, old, expanded, and communityorganization-run programs are getting a similar learning experience to those in public school programs. Chalkbeat New York is a nonprofit news organization covering educational change efforts. Visit ny.chalkbeat.org.
De Blasio, first lady Chirlane McCray, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz visit Home Sweet Home Children’s School in Queens on the first day of school last year.
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city & state — September 21, 2015
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SETTING THE AGENDA
GET A HEAD START ON THE 2016 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION
YEAR TWO 18 … Heastie and Flanagan face a daunting second year By Jon Lentz
HEALTH CARE 20 … The debate over medical malpractice and the organ donor registry By Ashley Hupfl
17 ETHICS REFORM 25 … Lawmakers are under pressure to curb corruption By Ashley Hupfl
TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE 26 … A state divided By Will Brunelle
CRIMINAL JUSTICE 30 … How to make Cuomo’s policies the law of the land By Justin Sondel
city & state — September 21, 2015
For many organizations, advocates and interest groups, by the time the focus shifts to next year’s legislative agenda in Albany, the leaders will have already charted a new course. As the Boy Scouts motto goes, “Be prepared.” So in that survivalist spirit, City & State is presenting its annual Setting the Agenda special section, an in-depth analysis of the most pressing issues that will be debated in Albany during the 2016 legislative session. After a tumultuous session marked by corruption charges and convictions and unexpected transfers of power, we have reviewed what actually got done in a number of key sectors. We also look ahead to the coming session, which will feature funding fights and policy debates over everything from the minimum wage to medical malpractice to the MTA. In the first installment of this two-part series, you’ll get up to speed on what state lawmakers are planning in terms of health care, transportation infrastructure, criminal justice and ethics. The second installment, coming out later this month, features updates on education, energy, environment and labor. So be a good scout and read through the following pages. You’ll be ready to survive next year’s Albany adventure.
THE TERRIBLE TWOS
2015 WAS A ROUGH YEAR FOR FLANAGAN AND HEASTIE. 2016 COULD BE EVEN TOUGHER.
city & state — September 21, 2015
The 2015 state legislative session was one big surprise after another. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State was hastily postponed after the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and combined with the budget address a few weeks later. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined the governor on stage at the address, but both were hit with corruption charges and ousted as legislative leaders before the session ended. The new Assembly speaker, Carl Heastie, came on in February, in time to negotiate a $142 billion budget, and in his first major act he technically broke the governor’s streak of four straight on-time budgets. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan took over in May, amid a fight over expiring rent regulations and real estate tax subsidies, mayoral control of New York City’s schools and other hot-button issues that kept lawmakers in Albany past the scheduled end of session. “These gentlemen were in a very difficult situation, to step in as a new leader,” Cuomo said in late June as the bills of a final legislative deal were being printed. “And to step in under the circumstances that they stepped in was extraordinarily difficult, and to step in at a point in the process where everything was already in motion.” But for all the turbulence the two legislative leaders weathered in 2015, 2016 could be just as tough. Battle lines will again be drawn over the budget, and while the improving economic climate will mean more funds for schools, transportation infrastructure and other government services, it’s also more cash to quarrel over. Lawmakers took a Band-Aid approach to divisive issues like criminal justice reform and mayoral control, which will be up for debate for a second straight year. The controversial Common Core standards and teacher evaluations will again be scrutinized, with no guarantee that frustrated
DARREN MCGEE / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
By JON LENTZ
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan were hurled into leadership positions amid a tumultuous session. parents and opt-out advocates will be satisfied with another round of tweaks and adjustments. Issues like the Dream Act and the education investment tax credit will continue to simmer, with no clear path to becoming law. Cuomo’s recent push to champion an acrossthe-board $15 per hour minimum wage is vexing Senate Republicans, and the governor is sure to roll out additional proposals in next year’s State of the State that will draw the ire of one house or the other. Heastie and Flanagan will be far more prepared this time around, but they’ll also be taking ownership for their conference’s agendas and strategies – and for their eventual success or failure. As they embark on the long, slow journey of consolidating power, they’ll have to balance competing regional demands, make important staffing decisions and fill open committee chairs. And it’s all set to happen in an election year, a highstakes test for any conference leader, especially for two rookies. “First of all, they’re both going to
be evaluated on their capacity to bring in majorities, especially Flanagan, but Heastie on his capacity to sustain the size of his majority,” said Gerald Benjamin, a longtime observer of Albany politics who is now associate vice president at SUNY New Paltz. “The measure at the end of the day is, did we win, and by how much? This next year is a precursor to that, it all points to that.” Yet getting elected as leader is just the first step. While governors in New York have extraordinary structural advantages and invariably enjoy a honeymoon phase early on, legislative leaders have to build up loyalty over time. It can take years to string together a record of legislative victories at the negotiating table, and just as long to demonstrate an ability to protect vulnerable incumbents and to strategically reward lawmakers with sought-after committee chairmanships and leadership roles. Sheldon Silver, who developed a reputation as a savvy negotiator after being elected Assembly
speaker in 1994, nonetheless faced a rebellion in 2000. Surviving the coup attempt, he altered his leadership style to be more responsive to his members – and shored up his position by rewarding those who stood by him. “There’s a difference between consolidating power, which can happen right away by simply putting together a winning coalition, and actually cementing it, which involves earning and reaffirming loyalties by delivering legislation and money that individual members need – and of course protecting them if they should face a close election, particularly a primary,” said Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “Shelly Silver earned a lot of points by helping members fend off challenges. Because in New York City, in a lot of districts, frankly, primaries are tantamount to election. The leader’s control of the campaign committees and patronage that can be used to influence decisions can go a long way toward cementing the loyalty of people.” cit yandstateny.com
Heastie and Flanagan have gotten off to a good start. Both leaders took a relatively risk-averse approach during the tumultuous 2015 session, and neither had any major stumbles. Both men traveled the state this summer to visit districts of members of the conference, with Heastie in particular generating good press with dozens of stops in upstate locales far from his home in the Bronx. Heastie also notched a small but significant victory when Niagara County Assemblyman John Ceretto, a Republican, announced he would join the Assembly Democrats, a symbolically important addition to an already impressive majority. Flanagan, who squared off against Syracuse-area Assemblyman John DeFrancisco for the majority leadership in the spring, helped mend ties between his Long Island base and upstate by naming DeFrancisco deputy majority leader. But new challenges are looming. Flanagan will have to pick a chairperson for the influential Senate Finance Committee, and will have to shuffle other committee roles that open as a result. Heastie, meanwhile, made clear his commitment to retaining Silver’s staff and keeping the same committee chairs, but he also had to deal with mid-session rumors that Silver was still running things. Heastie will have to replace the veteran counsel Jim Yates, who is retiring, and he’ll eventually leave his stamp when other committee chairs come open. Outside observers say that Democratic Assembly members will also be watching closely to see whether Heastie, who kept his interactions with reporters brief this past session, will grow comfortable as a spokesman for the conference and convey its message effectively. Both leaders will have to get used to speaking for the conference as a whole, which can differ from what resonates in Heastie’s Bronx or Flanagan’s cit yandstateny.com
Suffolk County. And both men will have to juggle a large and diverse wish list. Flanagan, for example, already made a point of trying to reform the SAFE Act – which he had voted for in 2012 – to assuage upstate Republicans. “The final test is how do they do on the substance, and how does the substance and politics interrelate, not only in getting good press, but within the conference do they feel their leader presided over a good budget and a good close of session?” said Bruce Gyory, a Democratic political consultant at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. “The more of them you put in a row, do you string those hits and runs together so people over the course of a couple of sessions people feel they have a lot of confidence in you?” The biggest test, of course, will come several months after the session ends during the fall elections. Although voters will cast their ballots long after the dust has settled on the budget and whatever final compromise package is agreed to, the mood of the electorate will never be far from the minds of Heastie and Flanagan during the flurry of legislating between January and June. As rookie leaders, they will have to prove that they can maintain their numerical majorities, if not expand them. Flanagan, in particular, faces the daunting task of holding on to a razorthin 32-seat majority. While Heastie has more breathing room and is at no risk of ceding control to the Assembly Republicans, Flanagan’s Senate majority depends on retaining Tom Libous’ vacant seat in Binghamton in a special election this year, as well as Democratic state Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn continuing to conference with the GOP come January. Then, in November 2016, Flanagan has no room for error, unless he can fall back on a coalition with Sen. Jeff Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference.
Flanagan applauds the signing of the “Enough is Enough” legislation in July.
have an impact on the majority leader’s ability to keep that majority. Other measures that Cuomo will introduce in January could introduce a similar dynamic for either leader. “I don’t see the governor being actively engaged in trying to generate alternatives to these guys, but I don’t know how much he’ll commit to helping them continue,” Benjamin said. “His calculation might be, if I help these guys they’re likely to continue, and if I help them gain visibility and status as effective, there’ll be a net benefit for me after the interim election. So the calculation of the governor, not necessarily his active engagement but his calculation for credit-sharing and responsiveness to legislative priorities that might arise, will be partly based on his desire to be supportive of their continuity.” The common wisdom is that a higher turnout that accompanies a presidential election year will mean more minorities and younger voters at the polls and a bump for Democratic candidates. If Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. senator in New York, wins the Democratic primary, she could bolster her party in state and local races at the top of the ticket. Indeed, no matter what Heastie and Flanagan accomplish, or how well they avoid the mishaps that could threaten their numerical majorities, the electorate could get swept up in the national mood and swept away by the politics of a presidential race over which the legislative leaders have no control. “Flanagan, if they lose the majority, it could be all because of the population dynamics and the political dynamics of the state, and the turnout rates in a presidential election, but Flanagan will be held accountable,” Benjamin said. “If they retain a majority in a presidential year, he’s in like Flynn.”
city & state — September 21, 2015
JUSTIN SONDEL KEVIN P. COUGHLIN / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Heastie speaks with Buffalo residents during his upstate tour this summer.
“Normally election years are the hardest, particularly when there’s relatively more budget money on the table, which ratchets up expectations for all sorts of constituencies to get a piece of,” Levy said. The Senate Republicans “can’t afford a single misstep. They can’t afford to anger any significant portion of their base. At the same time, they can’t lose the moderate swing voters who could very well decide several Long Island and Westchester and upstate suburban base districts. So it’s a real balancing act for Flanagan, far more than for Heastie and with far more on the line.” The calls for a statewide $15 per hour minimum wage are already setting the stage for one of the major debates in 2016, one that could trip up Senate Republicans. Cuomo’s sudden embrace of the wage hike is not a good sign for the GOP, given the combination of strong support for the measure in polls and ardent opposition among business owners and wealthy GOP donors. Flanagan and his fellow Republicans will undoubtedly scrutinize voter support for a higher minimum wage and could potentially consider more cautious counterproposals, such as a less ambitious hike that’s phased in over time and subject to legislative review. State Sen. Jack Martins, the Republican chairman of the Labor Committee, told City & State that the governor’s $15 figure is a “political number” that isn’t backed up by any evidence or analysis, but the Long Island lawmaker didn’t rule out a wage hike entirely. The wage issue also demonstrates the governor’s status as the wild card: He sets the agenda in his State of the State speech and the executive budget, and whether he finds a way to reach a minimum wage compromise acceptable to Flanagan and his conference could
SHIFTING THE STATUTE
BILL WOULD LENGTHEN THE WINDOW FOR MALPRACTICE VICTIMS TO SUE
city & state — September 21, 2015
Proponents of reforming the statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice case enjoyed a big win this year when the Assembly passed the legislation for the first time, but the bill ultimately failed to pass the state Senate in June during the rushed and chaotic end of the session. Lavern’s Law, named after Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn woman who died in 2013 from a curable form of lung cancer after doctors misdiagnosed her, would start the limitation period to file a medical malpractice suit when the malpractice is discovered, not when the procedure occurred. Fortyfour other states have similar laws. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and goes through the Codes Committee, not the Health Committee. “There are some things where New York laws are different from other states and we’re proud of it – but I don’t think this should be one of them,” Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried said. “If someone runs you down with their car, you know that the minute it happens, but if something is wrong inside you, you have no way to know that until symptoms develop.” Currently, there is a 15-month limitation to file a malpractice suit. Some members of the medical community, such as the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State, have opposed the bill and fear it will cause medical malpractice insurance rates to soar. State Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon believes the issue needs more examination. “I think what has to happen is you need to look at the implications of making any changes at the cost of the system at a time when we are cutting back on the monies that go back
By ASHLEY HUPFL
to hospitals and their admissions,” Hannon said. “It was a compromise at the time. The question is what facts justify it and what facts come up that say it should be changed. It needs a thoughtful conversation, not some headlines.” As one alternative, Hannon proposed a bill to expand the state’s medical indemnity fund to serve as a funding source for future health care costs. The Assembly is expected to again pass the bill during the 2016 legislative session and it could gain traction in the state Senate. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco has publicly supported the bill and pushed for its passage in the Republican-controlled
chamber, but the bill lost a heavyweight proponent when then-state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, who is battling cancer, was found guilty of a felony this summer and removed from office. Toward the end of the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also publicly backed the bill and has said he would sign the legislation if passed. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he wants to discuss the issue as part of a broader package of reforms. “I think it is elemental fairness,” Gottfried said. “The law should certainly expect people to move expeditiously to bring lawsuits, but you
can’t really expect someone to get their case together before they have learned they’ve been injured.”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2015 * The CARE Act ensures caregivers take part in and are educated about patients’ needs once they leave the hospital, reducing the need for future hospitalizations. * Allowing food service establishments to let their customers to bring their pet dogs into outdoor dining areas. * Delaying the requirement that doctors and other prescribers begin using solely electronic prescriptions.
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA * Medical Marijuana – Removing the restriction on the number of producers and dispensaries; removing the requirement that the producer and the dispensary be the same company; allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants – who can prescribe controlled substances – to certify a patient for medical marijuana; and opening up the list of medical conditions. * New York Health Act – The New York Health Act would provide universal health care, eliminate financial barriers
to care, and let people go to the doctor and hospital of their choice. * Retail Clinics – Clinics based in retail stores can be very convenient, but further legislation is needed to enact regulations to limit them to “drop-in” episodic services. * End the Epidemic – Enacting more of the state task force’s agenda for ending the HIV epidemic, including protections for people who possess clean needles and condoms – and provide funding for programs in the budget.
REVAMPING THE ORGAN DONATION REGISTRY Both the Assembly and state Senate health committee chairmen have set their sights on revamping the state’s organ donation registry next year after the state failed to award a contract to a nongovernmental organization to redo the state’s registry. “There has been a total failure to make the award of that contract,” state
Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon said. “Lack of a functioning registry for people willing to make organ donations serves as a total throttle on those who can make donations and cuts down on the donations.” Efforts to improve the system have been ongoing for years. Nationally, an
average of 22 people per day die waiting for a transplant. In 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to boost the number of New Yorkers who register for organ and tissue donation. New York has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the nation. “There have been efforts in New York going back over several years to
improve the registry and the consent process in New York to incorporate some of the changes in the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act,” Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried said. “I would certainly be excited to work with the Senate to improve that process.”
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city & state — September 21, 2015
Inside our walls, babies are born, bodies are mended, and patient-focused care is provided around the clock.
DENNIS P. WHALEN President, Healthcare Association of New York State
city & state — September 21, 2015
New York state’s health care providers are in the midst of tremendous reform, changing the way they deliver care to achieve the “triple aim” of improving population health, enhancing the quality of patient care and reducing the per capita cost of health care. The health care payment and delivery system is shifting from volume to value due to a variety of forces including insurance marketplace trends, empowered consumers, technology and government. As we move toward this population health-based system, health care providers are actively redesigning their care delivery systems to deliver patient-centric, coordinated services efficiently across the continuum of care. From integrating patient care to participating in new collaborations, hospitals and health systems are partnering in new ways to help meet the monumental task of keeping their communities healthy. As part of this effort, our members are hard at work implementing projects to keep Medicaid beneficiaries healthy across the state via the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program. We are moving forward on value-based payment systems to support this ongoing work in Medicaid. We also continue to work on the State Health Innovation Plan to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck
and government efforts do not stifle the innovation and significant work that has and continues to happen organically. We support system transformation to achieve the triple aim and appreciate the state’s efforts to help providers access the resources they need. However, providers still face many financial, workforce and technological challenges. HANYS will continue to advocate for much-needed resources to enable transformation statewide. As this critical work continues, it is essential to understand the breadth of transformation underway and evaluate the capacity for the system to absorb more. In the upcoming state budget and legislative session, HANYS will continue to push for funding to maintain a stable health care system. We will voice our opposition to harmful proposals like one-sizefits-all staffing ratios and piecemeal medical malpractice reform. We will also continue our push for significant regulatory reform to modernize our antiquated and outdated system, make necessary improvements and ensure regulatory barriers do not impede innovation. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the governor and Legislature to ensure a successful transition to the new world of health care.
JILL FURILLO Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association Your spouse wakes up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain and shortness of breath. You rush to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Once there, you may wait several hours
to be seen by a nurse, and even longer in a corridor to talk to a doctor. This is the state of health care in America today. Even as we take one step forward, we seem to take two steps back. Although the Affordable Care Act has extended health coverage to millions more Americans, understaffing and high health care costs continue to threaten patients. As nurses, it is our duty to advocate for patients. The New York State Nurses Association, the largest nurses union in the state, extends that advocacy from the bedside to the community – wherever we can make a difference. The top priority of nurses is safe patient care. One of the most important factors for improving health care in America is ensuring that there are enough nurses at the bedside in hospitals, outpatient clinics and surgical centers and
to the homebound. Numerous studies have shown that having an adequate number of nurses on duty significantly improves health outcomes for patients – literally saves lives. This year, we negotiated groundbreaking contract agreements with more than 20 hospitals across the state. Our recent contracts have added more nurses into hospital units, new enforcement mechanisms for existing staffing ratios and grids. Nurses fought very hard for these improvements, which we know will allow our patients to live healthier and longer lives. We, also, have created over 1,000 new health care jobs for new nursing graduates. Although we are proud of our accomplishments, there is still much work to be done. We know patient care will improve at the hospitals where we
represent RNs, but there are many more facilities throughout the state that will not benefit. When someone becomes ill, they often don’t have the luxury of time or resources to seek out a hospital with a safe patient-to-nurse ratio. They often go to their nearest health care facility looking for help. That’s why safe staffing should be the law of the land. All New Yorkers deserve to know that a nurse will be there when they have an emergency, or when they call out in the middle of the night, or when they need an answer about medication. When the state Legislature reconvenes, NYSNA nurses will be advocating that lawmakers pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which would guarantee enough nurses for all patients, wherever they are in New York.
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city & state — September 21, 2015
AFTER HIGH-PROFILE ARRESTS, LAWMAKERS ARE UNDER PRESSURE TO CURB CORRUPTION
JUDY SANDERS / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Scandals are nothing new at the state Capitol, but after the leaders of both the Assembly and state Senate were arrested during the 2015 legislative session, new scrutiny from the public has pushed ethics reform to the forefront. LLC LOOPHOLE The LLC loophole stems from a 1996 state Board of Elections ruling that found any limited liability company should be treated as if it were an individual under election law. Critics argue the loophole allows special interest groups to funnel millions of dollars into political campaigns by creating multiple LLCs to get around contribution limits. Legislation to crack down on the practice has repeatedly failed in the state Legislature, but in July, New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP filed a suit on the behalf of lawmakers against the state Board of Elections to close the loophole. “I think every time there is focus on this issue, it raises the chances that it will be closed because it’s such an appalling loophole,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron, a vocal opponent of the loophole and sponsor of legislation to close it. “I think there’s no question that this wasn’t a proper decision by the Board of Elections and that it should be corrected by the courts.” PENSION FORFEITURE The initial 2015-16 state budget agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the new legislative leaders included legislation that would strip retirement benefits from public officials who are convicted on cit yandstateny.com
corruption charges, but the measure was excluded from the Assembly’s budget vote because they thought the language was too broad and would apply to all government employees. Afterwards, both the state Senate and Assembly passed their own versions of the bill, but failed to reach an agreement on legislation before the end of the session. The Assembly’s new version introduced language that would specifically strip pensions from convicted state and local elected officials, judges, political appointees of the governor and board members who sit on public benefit corporations or authorities. “I am very hopeful that the Assembly and Senate will be able to reconcile the versions of the bill that each passed and that we will be able to move the constitutional amendment forward,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald, who sponsors the bill in the Assembly. “This is light-years ahead from where this legislation got before last year when it barely saw
the light of day.” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif, meanwhile, said the party stood behind the original version of the bill. “We have already passed a pension forfeiture measure that was the result of a three-way agreement between the governor, Senate and Assembly. The Assembly should act on it as soon as possible.” Buchwald credited the arrests of then-legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos for pushing the legislation into the spotlight. “The increased public scrutiny of government led to more and more of a call to addressing the taxpayer-funded pensions of those who violate their oath of office,” Buchwald said. UP NEXT As the session creeps closer, some legislators remain hopeful that ethics reform legislation will be passed and Albany will not go back to “business as usual” after the high-profile arrests
last year. “I think New Yorkers more and more are demanding high levels of responsiveness from their elected officials and we have an opportunity with new leadership to respond much more dynamically to the needs of New Yorkers, and that’s what the new session will all be about,” Buchwald said. Reif wouldn’t elaborate on what other ethics reforms the Senate Republicans might take up. “That will be a question for the members of the conference to discuss in the coming months.” Lawmakers and political observers are also waiting to see if there will be further indictments. After Skelos’ arrest, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara once again warned Albany to “stay tuned.” “If you look at the underlying issues that we saw pop up last year, they really haven’t been addressed,” Squadron said. “These problems continue to be urgent even if it’s not on the front page and I hope folks continue to realize that.”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2015 * Increased disclosure requirements for public officials who earn outside income. * Reform to the per diem system by establishing a new set of verification requirements. * Expansion of the requirement for disclosing independent expenditures to include expenditures on communications made within 60 days before a general or special election, and 30 days before a primary election that reference a clearly identified client. * The 2015-16 state budget included an additional $1.2 million for enforcement activities at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
city & state — September 21, 2015
By ASHLEY HUPFL
UPSTATERS FEAR NEW YORK CITY’S TRANSIT WOES WILL ECLIPSE STATEWIDE NEEDS
By WILL BRUNELLE When it reconvenes in three months, the state Legislature will face several issues surrounding the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure, with no easy solutions in sight. With New York City’s subways in dire need of repair and maintenance, and the commuter tunnels under the Hudson River deteriorating, the city has perhaps the most high-profile, and most costly, needs. But upstate roads and bridges, according to upstate lawmakers, are in a similar state of disrepair. Funds need to be distributed evenly around the state, they argue, to ensure that upstate communities are not neglected. The most prominent issue is undoubtedly the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year capital plan. The plan still faces a significant shortfall, despite Cuomo’s announcement that the state would commit an additional $8.3 billion to help close the gap. Both Cuomo and MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, a Cuomo appointee, have urged the city to contribute an additional $3.2 billion. A scathing report released this month by the Citizens Budget Commission says that if it continues on its current schedule of upkeep and improvements, New York City’s subway system won’t be in reliably good repair until 2067. The report was underscored by a G train derailment a week later, caused by a deteriorating wall in a station. Prendergast promptly blamed the derailment, and the subway system’s overall disrepair, on the city’s refusal to contribute more money to the MTA. He was joined in his finger-pointing by the head of the union representing transit workers. The pressure being put on the city will be critical to Cuomo and other state lawmakers who, if the city doesn’t agree to offer more money,
MARC A. HERMANN / MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT
TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE city & state — September 21, 2015
TWO SIDES OF THE TRACKS
will have to find it somewhere else. Meanwhile, the $8.3 billion the state promised isn’t yet secure; it will first need to be approved by the Legislature during next year’s budget negotiations. The governor doesn’t anticipate that will pose much of a problem, however, given that downstate members make up a strong majority of both the Assembly and the Senate. “When you look at the MTA region, that’s by far the bulk of the New York state Legislature in terms of members,” Cuomo said during a July appearance on “The Capitol Pressroom.” “But will the upstate people say, what about us? Yes, and we have a big, robust roads and bridges program which we had last year and we’re going to propose again next year and that will be addressing the need for upstate, and the MTA’s downstate.” State Sen. Joseph Robach, who
chairs the chamber’s Transportation Committee, told City & State that he’s curious where Cuomo intends to find over $8 billion, and that any budget negotiations are going to hinge on what funding stream Cuomo and Prendergast have found for the state’s extra contributions. “Although a funding source for the MTA state funding has not been identified, we would want to make sure
that it did not include tax increases and would push for an equitable highway and bridge plan,” Robach wrote in an email. “This of course would have to be considered with all the other components of the budget, which are currently unknown.” Robach, who represents the Rochester region, said he expects any funding plans developed for the MTA’s downstate facilities to have parity with
“Some roads and bridges that are used by a few people, relatively speaking, should be maintained because we are one state.” - state Sen. James Sanders Jr.
MTA personnel attempt to restore service at the scene of a G train derailment Sept. 10. the Department of Transportation’s ability to maintain and improve its upstate services. “The proposed MTA Capital Plan provides needed investments in the New York Metropolitan Region and economic benefits throughout the state,” Robach wrote. “I have always advocated for parity between a DOT Capital Plan and (an) MTA Capital Plan to achieve balance across the state.” He declined to describe exactly what a balanced pair of plans would look like, however, reiterating that it’s impossible to do so without knowing where the state’s extra contribution to the MTA is expected to come from. State Sen. James Sanders Jr. of Queens, a member of the chamber’s Democratic minority, cautioned against rhetoric pitting upstate against downstate. “Now some people have used mass transportation to be a synonym for New York City; that’s wrong in so many different ways,” Sanders said. “Of course, I would remind everyone that New York City is the cash cow for the state, and that we send more money to the state than we get back, so it would be wise for everybody to lower the temperature of their words.” Addressing concerns of upstate infrastructure being neglected, Sanders said he expects the Legislature will take an even-handed approach to funding improvements and repairs statewide. “Some roads and bridges that are used by a few people, relatively speaking, should be maintained because we are one state,” he said. But another major infrastructure concern facing lawmakers is, again, critical primarily to downstate. The commuter rail tunnels running under the Hudson River are in need of replacement, an effort that Cuomo and
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said will cost $20 billion. The governors gave that estimate in a letter sent to the federal government, asking for $10 billion in exchange for a promise that the states will find the other half. Yet again, where New York’s share of that money would come from was not specified. The New York Times reported last week that a White House spokesman responded to the letter, saying U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx would collaborate with both states to find a way to “best support progress on this project.” However, there was no mention of whether the federal government would contribute funds for the undertaking. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx promised in a late August interview with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s editorial board that upstaters’ concerns will not be forgotten by the Legislature in the upcoming session, though he didn’t specifically comment on infrastructure or transportation needs. Sanders, however, said the session will be “stormy” for several reasons, but primarily because of the issues – like the MTA capital plan and commuter tunnels – that legislators “have kicked down the road.” “A wise person wouldn’t kick them anymore,” Sanders said.
CARLO SCISSURA President, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
It’s been said many, many times before: Brooklyn is booming. The borough’s economy is growing at an incredible rate, which has resulted in commercial expansion into new areas. With a strong innovation sector leading the charge, small business and manufacturing hubs – from Sunset Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard – have sprouted up and created thousands of jobs along Brooklyn’s waterfront. Now that the jobs are there, it’s time to get residents from DUMBO, Williamsburg and across Brooklyn and the five boroughs there efficiently, and that begins and ends with our transportation infrastructure. New York City’s subway and bus systems are among the most extensive in the world, but connecting newly
flourishing neighborhoods in Brooklyn is still challenging. In order to solve this issue, we must get creative, think of the big picture and embrace alternate means of transportation. There’s no question that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for ferry service would be perfect for connecting the neighborhoods along Brooklyn’s waterfront and Manhattan, but we also need to explore other options for moving people north and south along the innovation corridor and in the borough, such as bike share, Select Bus Service or express F train service to Coney Island during the summer season. New York City and Brooklyn are always one step ahead – there’s no reason for our transportation infrastructure to be lagging behind.
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2015 * Two-year extension of design-build project bidding. * $250 million for four new Bronx Metro-North stations. * Funds for road and bridge maintenance and upstate transit.
MARC A. HERMANN / MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT
TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE city & state — September 21, 2015
LOUIS J. COLETTI President and CEO, Building Trades Employers’ Association
The Building Trades Employers Association represents 2,000 union contractors who build the physical and human infrastructure on New York City. This year will be an important year in the state Legislature if New York City is to continue to prosper. The major Legislative issues in the upcoming session include: 1. Full funding of the MTA capital plan. We must continue to invest in both keeping our transportation system in a state of good repair and expand the system’s capacity with new projects. Ever ride the 6 train at rush hour? You can’t. Now that the Hudson Yards developments are in full progress, the No. 7 line needs to be expanded. Investments in transportation systems are the foundation of strong economic development. Would there be a Hudson Yards without the investment to build a new No. 7 line? No. Full funding of the MTA capital plan isn’t a luxury – it is a necessity. 2. 240 Scaffold Law reform. How much longer will the state Legislature allow the trial attorneys to become rich at the expense of the taxpayer? Everyone supports requirements to ensure contractors provide a safe construction work site for all
its workers. This law requires the expenditure of much-needed public dollars for lawyers rather than where it should be spent, which is on more public infrastructure. 3. Design/build procurement for New York City and New York state. This method of procurement on large and complex projects has a track record of reducing public construction costs and finishing projects on time. Both New York City and New York state should have the ability to utilize this procurement method for projects it determines is warranted. 4. Reform of the state minority and women-owned business program. Confucius once said, “When goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals – adjust the action steps.” The state MWBE program needs reforms and an investment of financial support in order to do the kinds of programs that will reduce fraud and provide meaningful mentoring programs, access to financing and bonding and other such services that will provide MWBE companies the real tools they need to grow. As Bertha Lewis, president of The Black Institute, recently said, “Are we looking to make noise or build lasting change?”
This fall, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is cheers-ing New York’s craft beverage makers. CHEERS NY, a first-of-its-kind craft beverage festival produced by the Brooklyn Chamber in partnership with the State of New York through its Empire State Development Corporation and Taste NY, is coming to Brooklyn on October 3rd and 4th. This represents the first time that the State has partnered with a downstate chamber to host an event of this capacity. The Brooklyn Chamber’s host partner will be Industry City, a bastion of small-scale, high-quality manufacturing in Sunset Park. CHEERS NY will bring makers together with consumers to celebrate the best of the state’s vineyards, breweries, orchards and farmsteads. The weekend-long festival will present the entire array of New York State-made craft beverages — beer, wine, cider and spirits — with an emphasis on promoting New York State and Brooklyn as prime destinations for tourists interested in wine trails and brewery and distillery tours. The Chamber will also be creating original content to assist tourists in experiencing all that Brooklyn’s local beverage makers have to offer. CHEERS NY will build on the incredible success New York State’s craft beverage industry has recently experienced. According to Empire State Development, the craft beer sector grew by 59 percent from 2013 to 2014; has a statewide economic impact estimated at $3.5 billion; and currently accounts for 6,552 direct industry jobs, while supporting another 4,814 jobs in related industries. Not to be outdone, the New York State grape, grape juice and wine industry generates more than $4.8 billion in annual economic benefits, based on statistics from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. The distillery industry has also surged in the last year, with the number of farm distilleries increasing by more than 25 percent, from 62 to 78, state reports said. Because no wine or beer is complete without a cheese or meat, CHEERS NY will also include a Brooklyn Eats Marketplace, featuring incredible food options from many of the borough’s premier manufacturers, and other high-quality items, such as giftware, crafts and tabletop items. CHEERS NY will be an event unlike any Brooklyn has ever seen, full of amazing drinks and food and great music. New York State and Brooklyn have so much to offer, in terms of high-quality craft beverages and food, that there’s no way any attendee will be disappointed. Thank you to ESD and Taste NY — it’s an honor to be selected by the State as the only chamber of commerce to produce a large-scale downstate event, right here in Brooklyn — and we look forward to CHEERS NY’s longevity as an annual tradition in the borough. The Chamber expects to showcase over 80 beverage and food vendors at CHEERS NY, as well as attract a crowd of over 2,000 people in its first production year. Tickets include a souvenir tasting glass; samplings from over 40 regional wineries, distilleries and breweries; and access to the Sixpoint Beer Hall, two courtyards, outdoor games and the Brooklyn Eats Marketplace. Patrons interested in visiting only the Brooklyn Eats Marketplace can purchase tickets for $10 and have access to Brooklyn-Made food samplings and the Sixpoint Beer Hall. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.cheersny.com.
By Carlo A. Scissura President & CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
city & state — September 21, 2015
Brooklyn Chamber Gives CHEERS to NYS Craft Beverage Makers
LAW & (EXECUTIVE) ORDER
CUOMO NEEDS THE LEGISLATURE’S STAMP TO MAKE HIS TEMPORARY REFORMS PERMANENT
By JUSTIN SONDEL
PHILIP KAMRASS / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
At the end of the legislative session this summer, a number of criminal justice reforms that were debated throughout the year were left on the table. Gov. Andrew Cuomo took matters into his own hands with two issues that were not resolved, appointing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as special prosecutor in cases of civilian deaths at the hands of police, and separating 16- and 17-year-old inmates in state prisons from the general population through executive orders. However, both measures were meant as temporary fixes and will need to be taken up in the Senate and Assembly come January.
city & state — September 21, 2015
RAISE THE AGE In New York, people can be tried as an adult starting at the age of 16. The state is one of only two in the nation, the other being North Carolina, to treat people under the age of 18 as adults in the criminal justice system. Numerous studies show that trying defendants under 18 as adults does not reduce rates of recidivism and can actually increase the likelihood that those adolescents, who are at greater risk of being sexually assaulted or indoctrinated by more hardened criminals, will become repeat offenders. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, chairman of the Assembly Codes Committee, introduced a bill last year that would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, would shift cases of 16- and 17-year-old offenders to Family Court and has a number of other provisions aimed at keeping kids out of the criminal justice system. It passed in his chamber but did not find support in the state Senate. The assemblyman said he doesn’t see Cuomo’s executive order as a permanent solution, but was glad to
see something done after his bill failed to gain traction in the Senate. “It’s certainly not enough, but it’s major,” Lentol said. “It’s a major step to do because of what can happen to a young kid in jail.” Lentol said his bill would establish a system that is fairer for teens and gives them a chance to be rehabilitated. “We want to see the system fairer so that we punish bad kids in a way that’s appropriate for their age, in a way that makes sense according to their level of development,“ Lentol said. Some Republican senators have argued that Lentol’s bill would put more pressure on the already overburdened Family Court system. Lentol said Family Court should be bolstered to deal with teens who fall into the criminal justice system. “If they’re going to be treated as children ... then you’re going to have
to expand the Family Court so that they can deal with it,” Lentol said. Still, without a shake-up in the Republican-controlled Senate, Lentol said he is not holding out hope that the bill will get through. “It’s probably not going to happen unless we change the political landscape, I’m afraid,” Lentol said. “We’re still going to push for it.” He may have good reason. State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, chairman of the Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, was noncommittal when discussing the possibility of raising the age of criminal responsibility, though he said Cuomo’s executive order to separate out children under 18 in adult prisons was an appropriate move. Gallivan stressed that addressing issues of recidivism, especially with adolescents, needs to be a top priority, but said he isn’t certain that the
Assembly bill is the best way to address the problem. “I don’t necessarily agree that we should raise the age of criminal responsibility per se,” Gallivan said. “But I recognize that it’s a common goal of all of us, or I believe that it should be a common goal, to reduce recidivism and try to ensure that our correctional facilities are actually correcting and rehabilitating.” SPECIAL PROSECUTORS The push to appoint a special prosecutor from many community and activist groups comes after a series of high-profile incidents around the country in which civilians have died during interactions with police. The death of Eric Garner, who was put in a chokehold after being approached by police for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island, became one of the cases cit yandstateny.com
to remain uncertain about the consequences of the executive order. “I think if the governor pushes it, clearly it’s something we’ll have to deal with on the agenda,” Gallivan said. “I think what you’ve seen from the Senate majority, for the most part, they’re opposed to the special prosecutor concept.” Lentol also seemed satisfied to allow Cuomo to continue to use his executive power to extend the special prosecutor arrangement. The one-year appointment expires in July. “It makes sense to have the attorney general do it,” Lentol said. “It also may make sense that you want the governor to make the appointment. Either way we’ll have to discuss that.” The current arrangement works because the state does not need to provide the resources for staff, office space and other costs that come along with creating a new agency, Lentol said.
“We could pass a law that gives the power to somebody else, but then you have to equip that person, whoever it is, with resources,” he said. And Lentol added that Cuomo can extend his executive order for as long as he likes, meaning that the Legislature would not have to take any action for the current policy to continue. “It just makes sense to have the attorney general do it,” Lentol said, “because it’s already built into what they do.” WHAT GOT DONE IN 2015 * Executive order appoints Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as special prosecutor in cases of civilian deaths at the hands of police. * Executive order separates 16- and 17-year-old inmates in state prisons from the general population.
OTHER PRIORITIES State Sen. Patrick Gallivan: * Hearings on prison staffing and contraband issues to prevent prison escapes. * Considering revisiting good time, truth in sentencing after a series of high-profile crimes committed by parolees. * Addressing funding levels for law enforcement agencies.
that grabbed national headlines. Both Gallivan and Lentol said they are satisfied with the governor’s executive order appointing Schneiderman and said Cuomo would likely have a tough time getting something through the Legislature. Gallivan, a former sheriff in Erie County, said Cuomo was completely within his authority to appoint a special prosecutor, but he’s not sure the Senate would be in favor of enacting a law to expand the powers of the governor. “I don’t see the Legislature pushing expanding the governor’s authority in that area, which is something that the governor was looking for through legislation last year,” Gallivan said. “It does seem though, now, that most people that are continuing to push that seem satisfied or at least placated at this point with the governor’s action.” Still, Gallivan said, many people in the law enforcement community seem
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol: * Reforms to the prison system, including implementation of double-blind lineups and the mandatory videotaping of custodial interviews. * Grand jury reform. * Bail reform to prevent poor people from languishing in jail on petty crimes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issues an executive order at John Jay College in July naming Attorney General Eric Schneiderman special prosecutor for police-related civilian deaths. cit yandstateny.com
city & state — September 21, 2015
KEVIN P. COUGHLIN / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
WHAT TO DO WITH WILLETS?
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
Whenever my brother and I decide to forgo public transportation and make the pilgrimage from Brooklyn to Citi Field by car to watch our beloved Mets, we find any way possible to avoid paying the ludicrous $22 parking lot fee at the stadium. We inevitably end up circling around to the industrial badlands that is Willets Point, rumbling over potholes brimming with sludge and other unidentifiable fluids to find a vaguely suitable parking spot – artfully dodging tow zones and sketchy shuttered storefronts in the process. While for the time being we will gladly brave this post-apocalyptic corner of Queens for its free parking, the fact is that more than three years after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the site would be transformed into a vibrant commercial sector, Willets Point remains a quixotic, mothballed wasteland ripe for reimagining. Unfortunately, all indications are that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen’s myopic focus on affordable housing at Willets Point will take precedence over any other plan to reinvent the project. Urban planners have spent the better part of the last century trying to avoid undesirable consequences at the expense of bold thinking. The de Blasio administration can change that by taking one of the city’s few parcels of undeveloped open space and charting a different course – using the site to make a strong investment in the city’s future. The city’s commitment to affordable housing at Willets
By NICK POWELL
Point was all but assured after the administration announced in August that they would decline to appeal a court decision blocking the original $3 billion agreement that called for a shopping mall and commercial sector adjacent to Citi Field, with Glen taking issue with the tepid affordable housing commitment the previous administration extracted out of the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, the real estate titans that currently own the land. The problem with committing to affordable housing at this specific site is that by the time the land is remediated and the necessary infrastructure is put in place – an enormous undertaking for an area that lacks even basic sewage and paved roads – housing units that are deemed affordable in 2015 might not be by the time the first residential building begins accepting rental applications. The city will also no longer have a mall to subsidize any potential affordable housing commitment from
Related and Sterling, but even without that component, there are far more imaginative uses of that space. Several urban planning experts I spoke with said that another mall in a region flush with shopping centers would be superfluous. I also spoke with John Liu, the former city comptroller. Liu and I agreed that the city’s proximity to higher education facilities, including Queens College, Touro College, and the Long Island Business Institute, makes the site a natural fit for a higher education partnership like the Cornell/Technion campus on Roosevelt Island. “Housing should be a priority, but that’s a big area, over 50 acres, and it wouldn’t seem optimal to use all of the acreage just for housing, affordable and otherwise, because residents need jobs also,” said Liu, who also represented Flushing and Willets Point as a city councilman. “We still have to, as a city, ramp up our education, particularly along the lines of (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”
The city could build on what downtown Flushing and Corona already have: a thriving network of businesses, and a dire need for jobs for its low-income population. Hundreds of small and large businesses dot these surrounding neighborhoods and serve the local Latino, Chinese and Korean communities. Having an educational incubator in the immediate vicinity could serve as a pipeline to sustaining the commerce in these areas. “It would actually be a stroke of genius, because the reality is that Flushing has already become a center for higher education,” Liu said. A development in this vein would also allay the concerns of environmentalists and engineers who have long argued that any development at Willets Point be self-contained, rather than a tourist or commercial destination that would flood public transportation (namely the No. 7 train, which is at full capacity) and clog the arterial highways. “The idea would be to build a CIT YANDSTATENY.COM
Nick Powell is City & State’s opinion editor. Email him at NPowell@ cityandstateny.com or find him on Twitter: @nickpowellbkny
HOW CUOMO COULD HELP PUERTO RICO BACK HOME By JOSÉ E. MALDONADO
33 Gov. Andrew Cuomo meets with Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla at La Placita de Santurce in San Juan on Sept. 8.
Given the roots of the financial crisis in Puerto Rico, it was surprising that two words were never mentioned during New York’s recent “Puerto Rico Solidarity Mission” held on the island: Wall Street. A New York “dream team” of state officials and members of Congress led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an overnight visit to Puerto Rico this month and announced initiatives to help the island achieve equal treatment in federal health programs, improve energy efficiency and promote tourism, commerce and agriculture. During a public event at the University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences Campus, the visiting officials, as well as Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and his staff, repeatedly pointed the finger at Washington, D.C., for ignoring the disparity in federal Medicare spending. But aside from Cuomo’s first public comments supporting the possibility of allowing Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy, no one pointed a finger at Wall Street, where García Padilla hopes to renegotiate with creditors the $72 billion public debt that is crushing
the island territory. The New York delegation promised to bring attention to the Medicare disparity issue – which is very important and the support is greatly appreciated – but perhaps at this historical junction the Cuomo administration needs to “make some noise” closer to home. Just three hours after the New York mission left, García Padilla was officially handed a five-year fiscal adjustment plan that relies on the premise that creditors will be willing to negotiate with Puerto Rico. “If creditors are not willing to take part in this process, Puerto Rico will have no choice but to go ahead without them,” Puerto Rico’s governor said during a televised message, adding that his preference was to get the creditors on board. If creditors are not willing to negotiate, he continued, it “will result in years of litigation and defaults, and a major humanitarian crisis. It will force us to choose between paying a creditor, a teacher, a policeman or a nurse. These are decisions I’d prefer not to make, but I will make them if
I have to.” Considering Cuomo’s relationship with some of the major creditors, which, according to reports, have contributed $1.28 million to his political campaign committee, a more timely display of solidarity could be to reach out to them on behalf of Puerto Rico to bring them to the negotiating table. But such a possibility was not mentioned during the visit, and Cuomo told the press that García Padilla had not given him any insight on the fiscal adjustment plan. “We’re going to organize, we’re going to mobilize, we’re going to do it here in Puerto Rico, we’re going to do it in New York,” said Cuomo referring to a “March for the Health of Puerto Rico” planned for Nov. 7 on the island. The question for Cuomo is, will a similar march be held on Wall Street any time soon for the health of Puerto Rico’s economy? José E. Maldonado is editor of Mi Puerto Rico Verde.
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
PHILIP KAMRASS / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
development in which people can live and work in the same community,” said Brian Ketcham, an engineer who commissioned a traffic impact study on behalf of Willets Point United, a coalition of businesses that fought the Bloomberg plan. “Create what I call ‘urban activity centers,’ places like downtown Flushing where people can live and work within walking distance.” An academic campus could be cultivated far easier than a tech or manufacturing sector at Willets Point, which would struggle to attract companies to a location that is far flung from the business districts of Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. Liu said that Queens College, in the heart of Flushing, has “plenty of room” for added capacity on the educational and training front. An academic investment in a STEM or businessoriented campus would also go a long way toward expanding the existing talent pool in the city. As recently as last May, the mayor himself spoke about investing in programs to keep talent in the city and away from tech havens like Palo Alto or Silicon Valley. Of course, there are certain immutable facts that may throw a wrench into any future plans at Willets Point, most of which have to do with the exorbitant price tag. The city has already spent $400 million on the parcel of land and making improvements to the contaminated site, and that cost would soar if Related and Sterling balk at the administration’s affordable housing demands and ask to be bought out of the agreement – though there are no indications they intend to walk away from Willets Point at this time. Any change to the Willets Point development would undoubtedly require an enormous additional subsidy, and it stands to reason that the de Blasio administration, like that of his predecessor, would want to commit to a proposal that recoups that kind of public investment. But in a city where open space is precious, and is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, we should not be in the business of giving away land, no matter how dirty it is. If Related and Sterling are getting land at below market value, Willets Point should be a harbinger of greater community development, not the site of more high-rise residential buildings with dubious affordability goals.
BLACK FAMILIES MATTER: WHAT BRATTON DOESN’T GET
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
It seems like a foolish thing that we black people have to remind ourselves and the world of what Ta-Nehisi Coates felt moved to remind his son this year. “(Y)ou must understand, no matter the point ... that I didn’t always have things, but I had people – I always had people. … You need to know that I was loved,” Coates wrote in his latest book, “Between the World and Me.” It was in the echo of Coates’ final words – “I was loved,” as if love, as in family, could at any time be snatched away – that I fell into a deep silence as I listened to MSNBC’s telecast of “Morning Joe” on Sept. 1. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was a guest of the program and had just affirmed former New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s manifestly racist proposition that the disintegration of nuclear families in black communities contributed greatly to the social and economic woes of society. I wasn’t surprised by Bratton’s ignorance regarding the realities of black families or his blatant dismissal of our love. However, I was alarmed by his remarks. “Talk about being prescient about what was going to happen in black society, in terms of he was right on the money, the disintegration of family, the disintegration of values,” Bratton said of the now-disreputable Moynihan Report. He later added, “It’s gone beyond just the black community, although so much of what you are reading in The New York Times today is centered largely
in communities of color in our major cities. We really need to find ways to deal with this.” The “this” to which Bratton was referring is unclear to me. However, his derision for black Americans, particularly black males, comes across loud and clear. In a June 9 interview published in The Guardian, Bratton justified racial disparities in NYPD hiring practices, explaining, “We have a significant population gap among African-American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them.” By omitting from his explanation any critique (or, at the very least, acknowledgement) of racial bias in NYPD hiring practices, Bratton discounts the relationship between black men ensnared in the criminal justice system and the gross proliferation of predatory policing, such as the “stop, question and frisk” policy that leaves many young men of color deluged by the endless quandaries of a legal system weighted against them. For example, in 2006, 1 in every 14 black men was behind bars, compared with 1 in 106 white men. Today, black defendants are 15 percent more likely than white defendants to be imprisoned for misdemeanor crimes and drug offenses, 14 percent more likely than their white counterparts to be imprisoned on felony drug charges, and about 5 percent more likely to be sentenced to time in prison than white defendants facing similar charges. In stark contrast to Moynihan
cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America … and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons. Disregarding the role of the state in destroying black lives/black life (there is a difference), Moynihan, not unlike Bratton, judged that “most Negro youth are in danger of being caught up in the tangle of pathology that affects their world.” In doing so, both Moynihan and Bratton – major state players themselves – fail to acknowledge the myriad ways in which the state (through policies and practices that maintain mass unemployment, inferior systems of education, intense police surveillance and so on) acts as “the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community.” To be sure, Bratton’s avowal of Moynihan is a deep dive into the abyss of paternalistic and racist rhetoric: excoriating blacks to work harder and to behave better to stem the tide of violence and crime in black communities without addressing the realities alighted against black life. According to Coates, a great number of people – including our current president – preach this sinful gospel of “‘personal responsibility’ in a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility.”
Then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan at a Foreign Relations Committee meeting in 1976. CIT YANDSTATENY.COM
MARION S. TRIKOSKO / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and then-Chief Philip Banks in February 2014.
– and Bratton’s – theory of broken black families, the crises plaguing black Americans can be explained by analyzing societal inequities that target black communities. In this light, black families – not always defined by mothers and fathers, but sometimes by grandmothers and faith leaders – can be viewed as a refuge blunting the effects of racist policing, job discrimination, poor schooling, inadequate health care and so forth. Despite the rhetoric condemning them, black families have proven adaptable to the needs of black people, and are perhaps the primary force behind our survival in a society perched against our existence. Black families are themselves non-exempt from the systems that confound black life. Thus, if black families are disintegrating, the U.S. government has had a hand in their downfall. An articled published in The San Jose Mercury Newson Aug. 18, 1996, provides clear evidence. It illustrates a clear link between the rise of crack cocaine use, which devastated black families throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, and the U.S. government: For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. … This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine
ED REED / FOR THE OFFICE OF MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO
By DAVID E. KIRKLAND
ASSEMBLYMAN DOV HIKIND’S FACEBOOK PAGE
If black families are disintegrating, the U.S. government has had a hand in their downfall. two decades following the release of the Moynihan Report. And even as Bratton clings to the Moynihan Report, by his own admission, crime in New York City is in retreat. Had Bratton picked up Coates’s “Between the World and Me” instead of the Moynihan Report, I wonder if he would have sensed the love and deep devotion residing in black families. I wonder, had he picked up Michelle Alexander’s “New Jim Crow” or Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” if he would have understood that one of the main problems afflicting black people is not bad parenting, but bad policing. Instead of focusing on broken windows and broken families, it would be a gift for Commissioner Bratton to focus on new reading material – texts that might help him fix broken policing instead of ones that encourage him to blame black families for the hell that he is partly responsible for maintaining.
David E. Kirkland is an associate professor of English and urban education at New York University. He is also the director of the NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
THE IRAN DEAL AND THE JEWISH SILENT MAJORITY By NICHOLAS JAHR
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler has done everything right. As an undergraduate at Columbia he led a chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. In 1981, while serving in the state Assembly, he drafted a resolution calling on Congress to block the sale of surveillance aircraft to the Saudis. As a member of the House of Representatives, he’s co-sponsored at least a dozen resolutions backing Israel in the last five sessions of Congress. None of that mattered. Within hours of Nadler’s announcement of his support for the Iran deal, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a longtime Orthodox political makher in southern Brooklyn, had parked a double-decker bus outside the congressman’s office, with a banner declaring “#AyatollahThanksAmerica” draped over its side. Keeping with the hashtag motif, City Councilman David Greenfield, who never shies away from an opportunity to one-up Hikind, his political rival, logged on to Twitter and blasted Nadler as “dishonest,” saying he had “lied” to his constituents, and later declared that “if you’re an Orthodox Jew living in Brooklyn you can’t count on a single member of Congress to represent your views.” (New York Democratic Reps. Steve Israel, Eliot Engel and Grace Meng all oppose the deal, though none represent Brooklyn.) According to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, some critics even suggested Nadler “supports the destruction of the state of Israel.” Nadler is just the most recent victim of the self-anointed “pro-Israel”
crowd. Step out of line and they will savagely straighten you out. Any dissent is immediately labeled anti-Israel or support for terrorism, or worse, anti-Semitic. No one is immune: When Anti-Defamation League leader Abe Foxman, frequently the one policing the line, called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his February speech to Congress, the Zionist Organization of America compared Foxman to “the Jewish leaders of the 1930’s-1940s who opposed life-saving efforts to save their European brothers and sisters from extermination.” But Hikind and Greenfield’s hallucinatory rhetoric on the Iran deal is nothing more than incendiary sleight of hand to obscure this undeniable fact: The American Jewish community still solidly supports the president. In 2008, Barack Obama’s share of the Jewish vote was an indomitable 78 percent. After much wringing of hands, the 2012 election saw Obama’s support in the Jewish community slip to a still-robust 69 percent (a healthy majority that seems to have held up during the mid-term elections). The only religious groups who voted for the president in greater numbers that year were black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics. Milton Himmelfarb’s famous line still holds true: “Jews have the incomes of Episcopalians but vote like Hispanics.” As of last April, the president still had the approval of 54 percent of American Jews, as opposed to only 46 percent of the public as a whole, and that was actually a drop. Typically,
Assemblyman Dov Hikind with a bus flying a banner denouncing the Iran deal.
Obama has run up 13-point advantages in the Jewish community. The erosion of that margin, as Jewish Journal Publisher Rob Eshman has pointed out, only happened after a relentless propaganda campaign against the president. And when it comes to the Iran deal, two separate polls found American Jews in support of the agreement by 20-point margins. If that comes as a surprise, it’s because the leadership of major Jewish institutions has been co-opted by conservatives, who have effectively stifled the voice of the silent majority. Hikind, Greenfield, AIPAC, the ZOA purport to speak for the Jewish community as a whole. They do not. They don’t speak for Israel either. While critics of the Iran deal have claimed unanimous opposition to the accord in the Jewish state, they ignore the country’s smaller political parties (Zehava Galon, of Meretz, came out early in support of the deal), past political leaders (former Labor head Shelly Yachimovich was also ahead of the curve), and most importantly its security establishment: Dozens of retired senior officers have come out in favor of the agreement, including past leaders of Israel’s National Security Council, as well as its domestic and international intelligence agencies, the Shin Bet and the Mossad. At this point, it borders on trite to observe that debate in Israel on these issues is far more open than it is in the U.S. In their typically aggressive attempt to keep the silent majority on lockdown – and following Nadler’s courageous willingness to buck the specious “consensus” – conservative Jews have forced these fissures into the light. Continued accusations of anti-Semitism, the censorious tarring of opposing viewpoints as anti-Israel, will only cripple the credibility of these charges in the future. Nadler should be commended for his stance, and he and other Jewish leaders need to continue speaking out. The silent majority demands to be heard. Nicholas Jahr is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn and a member of the editorial board of Jewish Currents.
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
Though I wasn’t surprised by Bratton’s brazen endorsement of Moynihan, I was disturbed by it because the contemporary era has proven Moynihan wrong. Why would Bratton evoke Moynihan, whose dark portrayal of black life is scarcely recognizable today? In the last two decades, homicide rates, like other rates of violent crime in black communities, have been on the decline. Today, African-Americans are about half as likely to be involved in a homicide, either as perpetrator or as victim, as they were in the first
AS CUOMO ADAPTS, DE BLASIO’S GAMBIT FALTERS By KHAN SHOIEB
take stock of his standing with voters, repair his relationships with allies, and chart a new course for his term. Standing with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, Cuomo became the first governor in the country to call for a $15 minimum wage, promptly bringing himself to the fore of a populist wave desperate for answers to the wage slowdown. It was the capstone to a summer where the governor has quietly, but systematically, moved to reposition himself and patch his political vulnerabilities. Cuomo’s central challenge over the past two years has been to grapple with a flammable mix of cynicism stemming from corruption headlines and unrelenting opposition from teachers unions. Taken together, the atmosphere had served to cast old Cuomo strengths, like a forceful persona and fixation on the machinery of government, in a negative light. The governor’s recent declaration of sympathy for parents who opted out of Common Core testing, and the conspicuous inclusion of parents on a panel to recommend legislative changes, was a sign of a man recalibrating his second term, determined to once again command the support he enjoyed in his heyday. To that end, Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers union, was among the first to praise the governor for “listening to teachers and parents.” Never mind that Common Core and teacher evaluations, as Kentucky has shown, can be separate
A reinvigorated Cuomo and faltering de Blasio spells doom for the strategy the mayor wagered on in June, when he unleashed his criticism of the governor. issues – New York’s teachers unions had shrewdly co-opted the opt-out movement. Recognizing the potency of a grass-roots frenzy ignited by a teachers union that voters trust, the governor decided to show parents that someone was trying to address their concerns. His courtship of the left did not end there. Cuomo recently congratulated the new leader of the Public Employees Federation, vowing to work together toward a “fair” contract less than a year after the union endorsed his challenger, Zephyr Teachout. He elevated his frequent rival, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, by giving him a high-profile platform to investigate killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement, and has avoided stepping on his toes. Facing criticisms that he was insufficiently supportive of Democrats in past elections, Cuomo paid no heed to the unfavorable electorate in departing state Sen. Tom Libous’ conservative district and enthusiastically endorsed a Democrat, Barbara Fiala, before she even announced her candidacy. Cuomo has even moved to redefine the terms of his success. Asked by a reporter in 2010 what headline he would like to see in four years, Cuomo replied, “People of the state of New York say they have a new respect and belief in government.” He failed to foresee the parade of corruption that followed, a state Capitol beset by endless indictments of top lawmakers. So last month, Cuomo tried a new tack – a renewed focus on big, perceptible projects designed to bring him above the fray and extricate his agenda from the morass of Albany. “A governor’s legacy is based on public infrastructure projects,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to the Times that came days after announcing a $4 billion redesign of LaGuardia Airport
alongside Biden. These are nascent signs of Cuomo moving to cultivate a new image of a responsive, collaborative governor who is rolling up his sleeves to boost paychecks, build airports and blunt testing anxieties. If he continues on this path, he will find himself in a formidable position come re-election in 2018. De Blasio, on the other hand, has spent this summer struggling to fight off a narrative that his city is backsliding due to managerial mishaps. Seemingly small missteps are exacerbated because he has been unyielding in his refusal to admit mistakes, invoking the purity of his progressive values as a substitute. Alas, despite his roster of tangible, impressive accomplishments – spanning universal pre-K to the municipal ID program and the expansion of paid sick leave – de Blasio’s intense focus on ideology has consumed his messaging bandwidth, leaving voters yearning for vivid, performative displays of competence. It doesn’t matter that de Blasio faces no credible challenge in a Democratic primary. A reinvigorated Cuomo and faltering de Blasio spells doom for the strategy the mayor wagered on in June, when he unleashed his criticism of the governor. In the summer that followed his interview, de Blasio was not counting on Cuomo to readjust so swiftly to the political winds. He was not counting on the possibility that his agenda in his own city might unravel, to say nothing of his legislative priorities in Albany. But such is the outcome of fateful afternoons in June. Khan Shoieb is a former communications director for the New York Working Families Party.
KEVIN P. COUGHLIN / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
On one fateful afternoon in June, Mayor Bill de Blasio pitted his credibility with the left against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s and set out to alter the political fortunes of both men. In a cathartic expression of grievance, de Blasio vowed in an interview to cry foul when the governor’s thirst for political gamesmanship in Albany obstructed his vision for the city. It was designed to be an inflection point, a gambit that voters would trust de Blasio’s fidelity to the progressive cause and sour on Cuomo’s perceived cynicism. “We felt we had nothing left to lose,” a de Blasio spokeswoman told a reporter. The summer of discontent that followed has indeed been one of diverging political trajectories, but all in ways the mayor could not have hoped. The strategy underpinning de Blasio’s outburst was simple: By wielding the threat of outflanking the governor, the mayor would be able to pressure him into doing more to support the city’s legislative agenda in Albany. De Blasio believed voters would side with him in a public clash, even telling reporters he was ready for Cuomo to recoil and react, and to not be “surprised if these statements lead to attempts at revenge.” Instead, as de Blasio spends more of his mayoralty chasing perceptions, Cuomo appears to have used the mayor’s outburst as an opportunity to
There’s the only story here. The media and the Republican Party, together, have capitulated to the most entertaining, and the most dangerous, candidate. He tells you what to do, and you do it, all the while proclaiming the strength and independence of the fourth estate. Laughable. A sad affair with one exception: Ramos, who stood and demanded answers to questions, yet Trump gave none. Shame on this editorial. – Patrick Shields, New York City, on cityandstateny.com
– Eugene Falik, on cityandstateny.com
The following letter is a response to an op-ed by City & State Editor-at-Large Gerson Borrero in the Aug. 31 issue, “Trump and Ramos: Both Were Wrong,” in which Borrero chastises Donald Trump and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos for their confrontation in which Ramos was removed from Trump’s press conference. What I’m hearing from Mr. Borrero is beat journalist self entitlement. This is a presidential election, and you have a circus act presiding from the right. Anything goes. Mr. Borrero would never have said that about Ted Koppel or Barbara Walters or Lester Holt if they had done that. Donald Trump has learned this, and he makes the “beat journalists” follow him around like puppies. Covering Trump is not journalism, it is pure, unadulterated entertainment. He knows he is not going to be president. This is self promotion 101, so how can you pretend it is a journalistic enterprise? I guess we’re back to the “bloggers aren’t as good as us” argument, combined with the laughable notion that you rank more highly than a Ramos, whether or not he crashed Trump’s press conference. The fact is, a major anchor was refused an interview. This was a statement, and Ramos had no choice. How can you remain “objective” when you report to millions, and are not just ignored, but dismissed condescendingly? Any response short of EVERY journalist walking out of the room in support of Ramos was cowardice. He’s one of yours. Back him up. When Trump said, “Go back to Univision,” he meant, “Go back to Mexico,” and he said it with the most condescending and anti-immigrant tone he possibly could have. Trump has identified his core base, and he is inflaming them.
The following letter is a response to an opinion article by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, “Plotting a Course for Manhattan,” which appeared in our Sept. 8 Manhattan special issue, calling for government to collaborate with nonprofits and the private sector on transformative ideas for the borough.
September 8, 2015
I believe that the great ideas in Manhattan will be more incremental than radical. The
– Leonard Lowell, on cityandstateny.com
By GALE BREWER
The following letter is a response to former New York City Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz’s article, “Congestion Relief: Pricing Plan Could Be the Remedy for Gridlock,” in our Sept. 8 Manhattan special issue, which details how the Move NY congestion pricing plan will help to reduce traffic in the borough’s central business district. Where to start? The basic idea is that we need more toll money for the MTA, and this is the plan to supply it. But it fails to address the real issues. It continues to punish average New Yorkers. And it continues subsidies for suburbanites. The Queens Public Transportation Committee (www.qptc.org) has proposed a “QueensRail” solution that for less than a billion dollars would provide north-south transportation from Rockaway to the Queens Center mall (Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard) but the Department of Transportation wants to spend over a quarter billion dollars to make driving on Woodhaven Boulevard more difficult by
To have your letter to the editor considered for publication, leave a comment at www.cityandstateny.com, tweet us @CityAndStateNY, email email@example.com or write to 61 Broadway, Suite 2825, New York, NY 10006. Letters may be edited for clarity or length. CIT YANDSTATENY.COM
Plotting a course for
city city & state & state —— September September 8, 2015 8, 2015
easy use of bicycles on city streets falls under this category as an incremental idea. Thanks to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Bill de Blasio, bike lanes have been developed, but more needs to be done to make bike riding safer and more convenient. One idea to free up space for bicycles would be to scale back use of side streets for the free parking of cars. In cities like Copenhagen, many side streets are set aside for bicycle parking or bicycle lanes. If there is a radical idea, it would be to reduce the number of cars in Manhattan, both coming in daily or parked here all the time. If motorists were exposed to the congestion costs they impose on other cars, buses, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians, there would be fewer cars in Manhattan. Having all of our side streets completely occupied by parked cars, and thus unavailable for other purposes such as the need to temporarily park a car or truck for the drop-off and pick-up of goods or people, is a major inconvenience to residents. Scaling that back could greatly enhance of the quality of life.
As the steward of our borough’s historical maps, the Manhattan borough president’s office will be teaming up with Open House New York this October to display a rarely seen gem: 92 hand-drawn plots of Manhattan by cartographer John Randel Jr., including the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan that created Manhattan’s street grid from Houston Street to 155th Street. It’s hard to overstate the economic importance of Mayor DeWitt Clinton’s initiative to construct the grid. This was the “big idea” of its time, dwarfed only by Clinton’s visionary project as governor to carve the Erie Canal out of upstate rock and seal New York City’s destiny as the nation’s center of trade and commerce. Other big ideas followed throughout the 19th century, including Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the consolidation of the five boroughs. Although many of these development milestones profited private investors and developers, they also greatly improved the quality of life for all. There’s a sharp contrast between those public projects and today’s tax expenditures, which subsidize private luxury residential construction in the borough – towers that offer little tangible benefit for the public at large. Thinking big is in Manhattan’s DNA, and despite prevailing sentiment that the borough has become affordable only for the rich, I am confident that in the years ahead we can revive this legacy of big ideas that make life better for everyone. For my State of the Borough forum in February, we asked Manhattanites to tweet their vision of Manhattan’s future. Many took to Twitter to articulate not only their aspirations, but fears as well, and the one we heard most often can be summarized thusly: “If we don’t have affordable housing,
we don’t have a city.” One tweet captured the frustration of many in noting how the absence of affordable housing resulted in “working New Yorkers stuck with long subway/bus ride early in the morning and late at night.” A study released this spring by Comptroller Scott Stringer showed that New York City workers have the longest commute times among workers in the 30 largest U.S. cities – an average of 6 hours, 18 minutes per week – and have little flexibility in their schedules. Many who work in Manhattan cannot afford to live there – NYPD officers included – and a teetering transit system is just salt in the wound. At a time when our city’s annual subway ridership has reached its highest point in 65 years, the subways largely operate with an ancient signal system and other outdated capital equipment. Chronic crisis control – whether fighting tooth and nail to preserve existing rent-subsidized apartments or begging the governor for adequate funding to bring the MTA into the 21st century – is no way for Manhattan to be dreaming big in 2015. We need transformative ideas on the order of those that mapped out our island in the early 19th century. The best route to achieving these ideas is for city government to work with nonprofit and corporate partners and with the public at large, especially the volunteer members of Manhattan’s 12 community boards, to widen the whiteboard and find new places where our goals intersect. Ironically, if we really want to emulate the chutzpah of the DeWitt Clinton era, we’ll need to start by going off the grid. Gale Brewer is the Manhattan borough president. cit yandstateny.com
CITY & STATE — September 21, 2015
August 31, 2015
removing half (two out of four lanes) and most left turn bays. They argue that this will benefit 30,000 bus riders but fail to say that it will harm over 100,000 motorists. This is more of the same anti-motorist nonsense. Why not enforce the traffic laws against taxis and buses that pick up passengers in traffic lanes? Why not require government employees to use mass transit? Why not charge trucks that use city streets as offices (UPS, FedEx) rent? Why not tow private cars owned by city employees that park illegally? Start with the police.
BACK & FORTH city & state — September 21, 2015
CAUGHT OFF GUARD As a young man, Frank Abagnale Jr. successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor, and cashed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fraudulent checks before his arrest and imprisonment. But Abagnale, whose escapades were dramatized in the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio film “Catch Me If You Can,” went on to help the FBI investigate other scams and con artists. He eventually became an expert on embezzlement, forgery and fraud prevention and a sought-after consultant for major banks, corporations and government agencies. Recently, he teamed up with AARP and its Fraud Watch Network to educate consumers on how to protect themselves against fraud and identity theft. In an interview with City & State’s Jon Lentz, Abagnale discussed whether the film accurately portrayed his life, how much the U.S. government is losing to fraud and why he never uses a debit card. The following is an edited transcript. City & State: Most people know about you through the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” What is the biggest difference between that depiction of you and what actually happened? Frank Abagnale Jr.: I wasn’t really involved in the movie, but I thought Steven Spielberg did a good job. I was one of four children – he said I was an only child. My mother never remarried, and in the movie he had her married and there was a little girl at Christmastime in the window – that didn’t exist. I escaped off the aircraft through the service doors where they bring on the food and drinks, and he had me escape through the toilet. But other than that, I think he stayed pretty close to the story. C&S: You’ve recently partnered with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. How did that come about? FA: This was a unique opportunity for me and one of the reasons I agreed to it is I’ve spent my entire 40-year career
A Q&A WITH
FRANK ABAGNALE JR. speaking to banks and corporations and Fortune 500 companies about cybercrime and fraud, embezzlement, check forgery, identity theft, but very rarely do I ever have the opportunity to speak to a room of consumers, people who really need to know how to protect themselves and their families. When AARP approached me and said, look, we don’t want to sell anything, there’s no fee to come, we simply provide refreshments, we open the door to as many people as want to come, we just want you to come and give your expertise on helping these people protect their identities. That’s why I agreed to do it, and it’s been great so far. C&S: How is the U.S. government doing in responding to cyberattacks? FA: In 2014, Medicare and Medicaid paid out $100 billion in fraudulent claims. That’s 10 percent of their combined budgets. The IRS paid out $5.6 billion of the taxpayers’ money to people who filed using someone else’s Social Security number. We have $7.7 billion in unemployment fraud. And it goes on and on. My experience has been this: If
I go into a company and they bring me in because they feel they have a problem and I say to them, here’s your problem, you have a loophole right here, if you don’t close the loophole, people are going to be able to do this. I leave there and they tell me by 6 o’clock tonight you can rest assured coast to coast we’ll have closed this loophole. If I go into a government agency and say, you know, you have a loophole here, and this is a problem, if you don’t close the loophole you’re going to have a breach – ah, OK, thanks. They never do anything about it. It’s very frustrating when it comes to the government, but I don’t think the taxpayers are aware – and I’m just giving you a few agencies, forget about state government, city agencies – how many billions of dollars of taxpayer money they give away, which is totally unnecessary. As I point out to them, if you cut that just 25 percent, that’s billions of dollars that can go back to build roads, to build schools, to feed the homeless. There’s so many more things you could do with that money than giving it to criminals that don’t even live in this country that are perpetrating these crimes.
C&S: One simple thing you recommend is to use credit cards instead of debit cards. Why? FA: The credit card is truly the safest form of payment that exists on the face of the earth, whether it’s Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Card. That’s what I do. I don’t have a debit card. I’ve never owned a debit card. I have three grown sons and I’ve never allowed them to have a debit card. Every day of my life I spend the credit card’s money. I go to the dry cleaner, I swipe the card to get groceries, I swipe the card to put fuel in my boat, I travel, I swipe the card. If someone looks over my shoulder, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure they don’t, but if someone gets my number and charges $1 million on my credit card tomorrow, by federal law my liability is zero. I have no liability. When I use my credit card and I pay the bill every month, my credit score goes up, so I build credit. When I use a credit card I get points for restaurants, airline travel. When we had all these breaches, Target, T.J.Maxx, the people who had a debit card waited sometimes as much as two months to get their money back, and Home Depot as long as six months to a year while they said they were investigating. Well, that was your money in your bank account, you needed that money. Everyone who had a credit card said, no, they just canceled my card and three days later I got a new card in the mail and went on about my business. But if it’s your debit card, you’re now trying to say to the bank, look, I didn’t do this, you need to put the $6,000 back in my account, I need that money to pay my mortgage, pay my car note. Well, we’re investigating it. Yeah, but I need my money now. So it is a much simpler, easier way to just use a credit card. To read the full interview, including Abagnale’s thoughts on protecting children from identity theft and more of his opinions on the 2002 movie, visit www.cityandstateny.com.
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