Vol. 2, No. 22 - NOVEMBER 18, 2013
TOP New York TEN City MAYORS
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Q&A WITH ACTOR CHARLES GRODIN
SPEAKER’S RACE HEATS UP AT SOMOS
SPOTLIGHT ON THE COMMON CORE
A MAYOR FOR ALL CITIES
AROUND NEW YORK The best items from City & State’s website City & State’s website is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at www.cityandstateny.com.
Morgan Pehme EDITOR
ew Yorkers didn’t need the national media to dub Rudy Giuliani “America’s mayor” to believe our mayor was of outsize importance. We’ve always presumed that our mayor is the only one who really matters—a skyscraping figure who sets urban policy not just for the city but the nation, and stands above governors and senators at the altitude of the president. It has been observed that in New York City we have a grand tradition of electing mayors who are reflections of their times: rakish Jimmy Walker in the Roaring Twenties, scrappy Fiorello La Guardia during the Depression, steady Robert Wagner during the sober Fifties, and so on. But more accurately, we expect out mayors not to be a product of their age but an embodiment of it—a prism through which our city’s identity shines and the rest of world can see exactly what we’re made of. My father used to say to me that there was no danger of ever being perceived as too tough when running for mayor of New York—indeed, we demand a mayor as rough and tumble as our city. We want to feel that we can walk up to the mayor on the subway, curse him out, and that he’ll give it right back to us—and more. We also embrace eccentricity in our mayors. It suits us just fine that our mayors are
brash and quirky, and proud of it—just like a New Yorker is supposed to be. That’s probably the reason why no elected mayor in our city’s history has ever attained higher office. If you can make it here, it appears, you’re too weird for everywhere else. When John Lindsay called the city’s mayoralty “the second hardest job in America,” no New Yorker had any doubts that the claim was true— except those who thought it was an understatement. Though we have no tolerance for failure and our expectations are impossibly great, so too is the affection we heap upon our mayors who live up to them. We love our best mayors as we love our city—with fierce pride and absolute certainty. Already a cavalcade of commentators have conjectured what kind of mayor Bill de Blasio will be, and what kind of era he will come to epitomize, but the truth is that no one knows. Right now, rather than spinning our wheels in spurious prognostication, we are better served by simply wishing Mayor de Blasio well, for as the incarnation of our city in the years ahead, his triumphs will belong to all of us, just as we will all bear the weight of his failures. So let us root for the mayor, root for New York, and hope that the next chapter in our city’s remarkable history is a Golden Age.
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NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
Now that voters have approved the casino amendment legalizing up to seven full-fledged casinos in New York, state Sen. John Bonacic (below) is hopeful that the winning bids for the initial four upstate casinos will be selected by the middle of next year. “I’m optimistic that we’ll know who the winners are by this summer,” said Bonacic, the chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and a longtime proponent of casino expansion in the
destinations, help create jobs and raise property values, especially in his economically depressed district in the Catskills. “This is a great victory for the people of the state of New York,” Bonacic said. “I always trust the wisdom of the people, and—especially for my district—this is a game changer.”
NEW YORK CITY
Catskills. The next steps include filling the three vacancies on the state’s Gaming Commission, whose members will set up a five-person siting board made up of independent financial experts, economists and real estate professionals. The siting board will then put out a request for applications and will analyze the bids before making a decision. Bonacic acknowledged that expanded gambling comes with costs, but said that any new “resort” casinos would spur tourist
Shortly after arriving at the Somos El Futuro conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, New York City Comptroller-Elect Scott Stringer (right) artfully dodged questions about Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for universal pre-K. Stringer, who came to San Juan with his mother and stepfather, was noncommittal about the idea, carefully sidestepping a direct response. “We have a lot of priorities in this city, and part of what I have to do as comptroller is to be the arbiter of what we can afford and also what we can’t afford,” Stringer said. “I do like the fact that
we have a mayor who’s not just talking about expanding pre-K or a wish list of things he’d like to do, but he’s also saying, ‘Look, here’s a potential revenue source that should be considered.’” Further pressed for an answer, Stringer said he was “very hopeful” that the state Legislature would approve de Blasio’s plan, and he implied that the mayor-elect’s margin of victory
should give him considerable clout. “If I was a legislator, I would pass it,” he said.
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Josh Greenman @joshgreenman: Clear eyes. Full hearts. Sixto-one Democratic registration advantage. Bloomberg fatigue. Lackluster opponent. Can’t lose.
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UPFRONT BY THE NUMBERS THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE’S FIRST READ EMAIL
“The Citi Bikes come in only three speeds. Slow, very slow and ultraslow.” —John Liu, the New York City comptroller and annual member of the city’s bikeshare program, via The New York Times
POLL CHECK The three major polls accurately predicted Bill de Blasio’s blowout victory against Joe Lhota in the New York City mayor’s race, although the Democrat picked up a few more percentage points than expected. Here’s a look at the final polls in New York City and around the state, and how they stacked up against the preliminary Election Day results on Nov. 5.
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR’S RACE
THE ACTING MAYOR This year’s contest for mayor of New York City was made up of a diverse cast of characters. But to find some real characters who ran City Hall, we looked to a handful of well-known films—and one TV show.
Mayor (Unnamed) Played by James Gandolfini The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)
Mayor Kate Hennings Played by Candice Bergen Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
BILL DE BLASIO
MARIST COLLEGE (NOV. 4)
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY (OCT. 30)
SIENA COLLEGE (OCT. 28)
NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE
ED MANGANO Mayor John Pappas Played by Al Pacino City Hall (1996)
Mayor Lenny Clotch Played by David Margulies Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989)
SIENA COLLEGE (NOV. 3)
CASINO GAMBLING AMENDMENT
57.0% Mayor Ebert Played by Michael Lerner Godzilla (1998)
Mayor Randall M. Winston Jr. Played by Barry Bostwick Spin City (1996–2002) Source: IMDB.com
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
SIENA COLLEGE (OCT. 21)
(SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS, SIENA RESEARCH INSTITUTE, MARIST POLL, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE)
Help Is on the Way More Than 700 Students Join New CUNY Service Corps STANDING AT THE 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, John Jay College of Criminal Justice student Andrei Stump is ready to help when the victims’ families need him. As a volunteer member of the new CUNY Service Corps initiative, Stump’s duties include answering visitor questions, explaining the significance of the two pools at the memorial, and finding names on the wall of nearly 3,000 victims. Stump said many break down in tears upon tracing an imprint of their loved one’s name. For them, he provides compassion. “I cannot describe the feelings that I have,” said Stump, 24. “Just to see the people’s reaction, the emotion on people’s faces and the joy when they leave the memorial. Even though they come sad, they reflect and you’re able to make an impact.” In an unprecedented campaign of public service, Stump and more than 700 students from the City University of New York have been deployed to work with community groups, nonprofit organizations, museums and government agencies as part of an ambitious project known as CUNY Service Corps. CUNY Service Corps students are guiding visitors at the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan; caring for the homeless at a shelter in the Bronx; planting new gardens in Van Cortlandt Park; providing nutritional education to mothers in Bedford Stuyvesant; helping senior citizens in Chinatown; counseling young ex-offenders in Brooklyn courts; teaching children about animals at the Queens Zoo; and assisting families and businesses recovering from Hurricane Sandy throughout the city. “The mission of the University is to educate the children of the whole people, to create a vital public sphere to contribute to civil society,” said Interim Chancellor William Kelly. “The CUNY Service Corps gives our students … an opportunity to serve the interests of the city and at the same time to develop their own skills and talents, along the way.” While other universities offer service opportunities, the CUNY Service Corps project is unprecedented in both size and scope with goals of career advancement, promoting civic responsibility and improving the city. “The CUNY Service Corps is allowing students to be of service to New York City communities and also gain skills that they can use in their academic courses and also in their professional lives,” said Rachel Stephenson, director of CUNY Service Corps. “It’s a chance for CUNY to be visibly part of the city’s health and well-being.” Lydia Amoa-Owusu, a junior at Borough of Manhattan Community College, said she joined the CUNY Service Corps because
Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly meets with members of the new CUNY Service Corps of her concern over the rising number of homeless in the city. She and four other CUNY students were assigned to work at Susan’s Place, a shelter in the Bronx managed by Care for the Homeless. “We live in a society where we think everything is going well and that’s not the case,” she said. “This is something I really wanted to do. I told the people at Susan’s Place, I need this organization more than they need me.” As members of the CUNY Service Corps, students gain valuable real-life work experience in addressing some of the city’s most pressing problems while earning $12 an hour, and in some cases gaining college credit. Service Corps students work an average of 12 hours a week, with assignments lasting 24 weeks over two semesters. Over 1,900 CUNY students applied to participate in the Service Corps program. Students were required to be full time, with a GPA of at least 2.5 and at least 24 college credits earned. The selection process was rigorous and competitive, involving an online application with short essays and a reference, and participation in a group interview. Students in the CUNY Service Corps were selected from seven CUNY colleges including Borough of Manhattan Community College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Queens College, New York City College of Technology, Kingsborough Community College, Lehman College and College of Staten Island. The Service Corps students are a diverse group, representative of the overall CUNY student body, with 40 percent first-generation college students, 43 percent non-native English speakers, and half from low-income households. Kenneth Holmes, dean of students at John Jay College, said being a part of Service Corps provided many working-class students with the opportunity to help while earning a paycheck. “We have a lot of low-income, a lot of
first-generation college students, who would love to be involved in the community but many times, they can’t afford it because they have to work,” Holmes said. After completion of a two-week training program and a celebratory launch event at John Jay College, students began their assignments in October. Of the 160 agencies that applied for the program, CUNY faculty and staff chose 95 organizations and nonprofit groups that developed jobs for students focused on four key areas: education, health, economic development and environmental sustainability. Some of the participating groups are the 9/11 Memorial, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Brooklyn Community Services, Care for the Homeless, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Literacy Partners and Green City Force. Damilola Iroko, a senior at John Jay College, was excited when he learned he would be working for the Participatory Budgeting Project, based in the East Flatbush office of City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams. Iroko hopes to interact with neighborhood groups in need of government funding. Iroko said he worries that his generation is too obsessed with technology and out of touch with their communities. “I do think CUNY Service Corps is a good example for the generation coming after. They really need to see people caring for people,” he said. CUNY’s history of public service dates back to the University’s beginnings as The Free Academy 166 years ago. Since its founding, the nation’s largest urban public university has maintained an implicit understanding with its students: public service while in college or after graduation in return for the high quality, low-cost, public higher education that is accessible to all. A century ago, in 1913, City College affirmed that value by introducing recitation of the Ephebic Oath by graduating students. Echoing young Athenian students of antiquity, today’s CCNY graduates still recite
the oath, which says in part: “We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty…. We will strive to transmit this city … greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” Queens College, founded in 1937, adopted the motto “Discimus ut Serviamus: We learn so that we may serve.” In 1959, nearly 50 years after CCNY adopted the Ephebic Oath, some 8,100 students at the city’s public colleges contributed 313,520 hours to social, educational and welfare agencies, according to a report from the Board of Higher Education, which then supervised the smaller, pre-CUNY municipal system. The inspiration for today’s CUNY Service Corps came in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Standing amid the destroyed homes in her neighborhood, College of Staten Island graduate Marybeth Melendez, a visually impaired student, helped victims by setting up a food distribution center in the street. The center soon became a command post for the National Guard. In addition to the work by Melendez and other College of Staten Island students, CUNY organized numerous volunteer efforts to help storm-distressed communities, including providing campus facilities to house displaced victims. Soon after, then Chancellor Matthew Goldstein established the Service Corps to maintain an ongoing program of community service, building on the spirit of helping that was displayed by CUNY students, faculty and staff.
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THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT THE CONCLUSION OF OUR 10-MONTH-LONG SERIES
MOTT HAVEN, THE BRONX: CAMAGUEY RESTAURANT
UPPER WEST SIDE MANHATTAN:
BROWNSVILLE, BROOKLYN: VAN DYKE HOUSES
TOTTENVILLE, STATEN ISLAND: W’S BAR & RESTAURANT
By JON LENTZ, JARRETT MURPHY, KATE PASTOR, NICK POWELL AND AARON SHORT
n a transformative election cycle that came to an end earlier this month, New Yorkers picked a new mayor for the first time in a dozen years. New York City residents also selected a new city 6
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
comptroller, public advocate and nearly two dozen freshmen members of the City Council. Brooklynites elected a new district attorney, four of the five boroughs selected new borough presidents and voters all across the city weighed in six state ballot initiatives, including a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling, which passed. Over the course of the long campaign, City & State and City Limits chronicled
the candidates and the issues from the perspective of the average New Yorker. Since February we followed the election from five locations: a deli in Manhattan, a NYCHA building in Brooklyn, a bar in Staten Island, a restaurant in the Bronx and a residential neighborhood in Queens. Each week on a rotating basis we visited one of these five places to get a grounded angle on the election as it evolved. We heard mixed opinions of outgoing
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, witnessed evolving views on former front-runners Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner, and ultimately saw voters coalesce around Bill de Blasio, now the mayor-elect. At the same time we found widespread voter apathy, distrust in elected officials and a lack of knowledge about the races, the issues or even how to participate. These articles are the final installments in The Five Borough Ballot series.
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
VAN DYKE HOUSES
HOPES FOR DE BLASIO: HIGH AND LOW
bout five hours before Bill de Blasio took the stage at the Park Slope Armory YMCA on Election Night to talk about his expectations for the mayoralty, Elliot Trivio walked out of his polling place at the Van Dyke Senior Center on Dumont Avenue and outlined his own. “I’m looking for an even field,” he said. “Give everybody a shot. I hope he brings jobs to the community for these young black men.” Teach people skills, he urged. Give kids a place to play basketball. “Because, you know, you want to see change.” Dusk was falling on Brownsville on Election Day, and hopes for de Blasio were all over the map. An elderly woman came out of the voting site leaning on her walker. She couldn’t really say what issues she hoped the new mayor would focus on. “I don’t know,” she said. “They’re all interesting, and we have to take care of them.” A woman in her 40s simply said, “I’m a Democrat” when asked about her vote. A guy in his 20s said he voted for de Blasio “because he’s got a black wife.” “Seriously?” asked a friend walking with him. He answered: “Yes.” A yellow cab and a private car collided in the nearby intersection of Blake and Powell. Kids who’d had the day off played in gathering darkness at a playground just west of the senior center. A middle-aged couple came out of the center without having voted. They were two of many residents whose polling place had switched, and they were on their way from the senior center—where people from the 65th Election District had voted for years, including as recently as Primary Day—up to their new polling place at P.S. 150, four blocks away. According to preliminary results provided by The New York Times, of the 2,330 active registered voters at the three election districts voting at P.S. 150, only 384 cast ballots—a turnout of 16.5 percent. In the two election districts assigned to the Van Dyke Senior Center, turnout was a considerably stronger but still low 24 percent. Joe Lhota received no more than 1.6 percent of the vote between the two polling sites. De Blasio won 97 percent of ballots cast. “I voted for him when he was public advocate,” said Terence Watford, a 20-year resident of Brownsville, as he emerged from P.S. 150 and began listing his reasons for voting for the Democrat. “I’ve met him once or twice. I’m a Democrat, and don’t usually switch my vote.” Did he have any specific expectations of de Blasio? “I know better than that, man.” He hoped de Blasio would accomplish something but “the mayor and the president don’t really run the city and the country. They can’t just come in and say, ‘Change things.’ ”
But Daniel, who has lived nearby for a decade and had come to vote with his wife and two children, did have a list of things he wanted de Blasio to tackle. “I’m just hoping for change. Gun violence. Jobs. Eliminate drugs. Gang
violence.” Linette Espejo also had a lengthy wish list. “Better schooling. Less guns. And a better minimum wage for the upcoming generation. A lot of kids are helping their own parents,” she said, and needed to
make more money to support their folks. Did she think de Blasio would accomplish all that? “You can only hope for the best. You always hope everything they say will come to be. The only way we can do that is by voting,” she said. —J.M.
With tighter budgets, I work even harder At the end of the day, we want everyone to be productive, contributing members to society. I think that’s what we’re really striving to do. When I see a family that I’ve worked with doing well — in the workforce — it makes me feel proud of the work that I do. I’m very proud of what I and my co-workers do for a living.
I plan on staying here and having a family here. I want the community to be a strong one.
On the line every day. LOCAL 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO DA N N Y D O N O H U E , P R E S I D E N T
9014_Alison 7.458x10 CS.indd 1
People working together to make a better New York for all.
SMART | DYNAMIC | CARING | DEDICATED cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013 7 11/13/13 11:52 AM
City workers were left behind in Bloomberg era By Michael Mulgrew
President, United Federation of Teachers
Mayor Bloomberg has spent recent years claiming poverty -- that the city has no money for its workers. He has described retroactive pay, including for workers who haven’t gotten a contract raise in four years, as “something the city can’t possibly afford.” But the reality is that the city has consistently had more money available than the Mayor has maintained. Rather than be fair to city employees, the Bloomberg administration has repeatedly chosen to spend public resources on tax breaks for developers or for consultant contracts on failed or overpriced projects.
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN ARTIE’S DELI
UPPER WEST SIDERS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT DE BLASIO MAYORALTY
Underestimating revenue, overestimating expenses
As part of the city’s multi-year financial planning process, budget games begin well before each fiscal year begins. In January 2010, for instance, the Mayor’s Financial Plan projected a deficit of $4.8 billion for fiscal 2013, (the fiscal year that just ended June 30, 2013). At the beginning of that fiscal year the Mayor took great credit for having eliminated that projected $4.8 billion deficit, but in reality most of it was accomplished by little more than budget legerdemain – re-estimates, adjustments and unspecified ‘efficiencies.” And when fiscal 2013 finally ended, there was actually a budget surplus of more than $2.8 billion. How did that happen? As the city Comptroller’s final report on the last fiscal year shows, revenues came in well above what the city had projected, while spending in many categories was substantially smaller. Taxes, including personal income and general corporation tax, along with real estate and sales taxes, came in more than $2 billion over projections. Meanwhile, the city “saved” nearly $1 billion because it had overestimated how much it would have to spend for expenses like supplies and materials, the cost of borrowing for bond issues and fuel and energy costs. In fact the Comptroller’s report shows that the total of under-spending and revenues above budget projections was nearly $6 billion ($5.827). This amount made it easy for the city to deal with issues like the loss of funds from the expected taxi medallion sale, an unrealistic estimate of increases in state aid, and some higher-than-expected other expenses, even while rolling its $2.8 billion surplus into the next year.
Breaks for developers and consultants
After years of indulging in corporate loopholes and giveaways like more than $100 million in tax breaks for the new Goldman Sachs headquarters and paying consulting firms hundreds of millions of dollars to work on failed technology projects like CityTime, the Mayor saved one of his largest corporate handouts for the final moments of his tenure: hundreds of millions of dollars for developers through the midtown east rezoning. The rezoning was stopped only recently by the City Council, which balked at the potential loss of millions in tax revenues from letting air rights in the neighborhood go to developers at fire-sale prices. Transportation advocates calculated that the deal that the administration proposed would have left more than $360 million on the table. Most of the Bloomberg administration’s claimed successes – from falling crime stats to higher high school graduation rates – came from the efforts of city workers. Yet Bloomberg leaves office with a multi-billion-dollar budget surplus and every single union contract expired. The city’s workforce doesn’t expect favoritism from the de Blasio administration. But we do expect fairness, and an acknowledgment that it is our work that keeps this city going. 8
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
Supporters of Councilwoman-elect Helen Rosenthal outside of Artie’s.
pper West Siders were sure who was going to win on Election Day—and they turned out to vote for him. Customers at Artie’s Deli on 83rd and Broadway overwhelmingly supported Bill de Blasio for mayor and were eager to bubble in his name. “I think he’s great,” Paul Hogan, an Artie’s diner said. “He’s an exceptionally good candidate. He’s a serious, lifelong political activist, unlike most of the mediocrities running for office. They’re all about, ‘Vote for me, because I’m me.’ They’re all about power and money for the sake of power and money, and de Blasio is nothing like that.” Many voters said they were excited for a change after 12 years of Michael Bloomberg’s mayoralty, and most said they felt good about the direction of the city. Artie’s customer Blanca Bojaca said de Blasio was a better candidate than his Republican rival, Joe Lhota, and thought de Blasio would not discriminate against New Yorkers. And Artie’s customer Paul Dolan voted for de Blasio because he’s a Democrat. “I’m optimistic, always,” Dolan said. “Because it’s New York!”
Some voters who originally supported one of de Blasio’s opponents in the September primary were anxious about his leadership abilities, but couldn’t stomach the thought of Lhota in office. “I am only concerned about de Blasio getting rid of stop-and-frisk,” said Patricia, an Artie’s customer who declined to give her last name out of concern for her job. “I don’t think he’ll do it. I think he’ll just change it, which is fine, but if that goes, then I’m pessimistic about the city.” Despite the overwhelming pro–de Blasio sentiments at the restaurant, one customer, who also declined to give his name, said he would be voting against de Blasio because it would be a “disaster” if he were elected. “When was the last time we had a non-Republican mayor?” he said. “What was the effect on the city? There were an average of 2,000 murders a year. Today, there are 300 murders.” But most voters argued that 20 years of Republican rule in City Hall was enough for the Upper West Side. “After the last 12 years, and 8 years before that, it’s a pretty low bar to meet for him to qualify as an excellent mayor,” Hogan said. —A.S.
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
MOTT HAVEN, THE BRONX
BRONX VOTERS SKIP BALLOT QUESTIONS IN BIG NUMBERS
Voters at the Mill Brook Houses polling site. Only about 13 percent of registered Bronx voters voted on the ballot questions, which dealt with casinos, veterans, mining, sewers and judges.
ot only did the Bronx have the lowest voter turnout of any borough in the city this election, ballot initiatives were a losing proposition even among those who made it to the polls. For decades low voter turnout has plagued the borough, particularly neighborhoods in the South Bronx, and that pattern continued this year. Of the 649,978 active registered Bronx voters as of Nov. 1, unofficial results (not including absentee, affidavit and military ballots) show that 133,465 Bronxites cast ballots on Tuesday— a rate of 20.5 percent, compared with the city’s 22 percent turnout rate overall. Queens had a turnout rate of 23.6 percent; Brooklyn, 25.8 percent; Manhattan, 26.6 percent; and Staten Island, 27 percent. And when it came to the single most publicized constitutional amendment of the six on the ballot, Proposition 1—a nowsuccessful referendum to allow up to seven full Vegas-style casinos in the state—Bronx voters weighed in at a lower rate than those in any other borough. Only 86,814—or 65 percent—of people who voted in the Bronx on Tuesday gave thumbs up or down to Proposition 1. In Staten Island 85 percent of voters weighed in on the ballot measure, in contrast to 68 percent of voters in Brooklyn, 77 percent of voters in Manhattan and 73 percent in Queens. LOWER TURNOUT IN SOME AREAS
n some of the poorest parts of the Bronx, the total turnout rate was even lower than in the borough overall, and the rate of return on the ballot measures was also a lower percentage of the total votes cast. In the 84th Assembly District, which
includes Highbridge, Melrose, Longwood, Mott Haven, Port Morris and Hunts Point, voters turned out at a rate of 16 percent (9,847 people out of 59,188 active, registered voters). A total of 4,926 people in the 84th AD weighed in on the ultimately successful gaming proposition, with “Yes” votes outnumbering “No” votes more than threeto-one (3,908 to 1,018, respectively). And more people voted on Proposition 1 than any other referendum in the 84th AD. In the 84th AD’s 61st Election District, where the neighborhood anchor Camaguey Restaurant stands, the turnout rate among registered, active voters was a mere 5.8 percent. Only 31 of the 157 people who cast votes (19 percent) marked “Yes” or “No” on the casino proposal, according to the unofficial BoE data.
had voted in the mayoral and City Council races only. When asked about the questions on the back, he said, “That’s new for me. I didn’t know about them.” According to BoE Executive Director Michael Ryan, there are rules in place to ensure that all voters are reminded about ballot measures such as the amendments presented on Tuesday. “It is part of the protocol anytime we have to use the back of the ballot for our staff to remind voters that there are things on the back of the ballot,” he said, adding that information about how to instruct voters was provided to workers after they were trained on the issue. NO TIME TO FLIP THE PAGE
ut at Election Districts 58 and 59, located at Ramirez houses, no such instructions were given. There, of the 329 people who voted in those two EDs, 143—43 percent—voted
on Prop 1. However, at the Mitchel Houses polling site—where staff hung large samples of both sides of the ballot and reminded voters to look on the back—the rate was 30 percent. Jose Ortega, who voted there, said he knew about the questions but could hardly read the small print, and didn’t vote on them. Emmanuel Polonia, 11, a student at South Bronx Preparatory School, accompanied his mother to the voting booth wellinformed about the amendments. Even he forgot about them without a reminder, however. Desiree Ford, 48, simply had more pressing issues on her mind. She was concerned that, because her New York Housing Authority rent was going up but her city salary was not, she could end up homeless. As for the ballot measures, “I really didn’t care,” she said. “I just wanted de Blasio … working people don’t have time for that.” —K.P.
hile a variety of factors contributed to low turnout, and voters complained of small print for the ballot initiatives, not every polling site followed protocol for informing voters to flip the double-sided ballot over to where the referenda were. Zuma Espinal, who voted at the Mill Brook Houses polling site, said she didn’t realize there were amendments on the back. “If I knew, I would do it,” she said. She had clearly learned about at least one of the issues. On the casino question she said, “I would have voted ‘Yes’ because it could have raised the economy.” She would only support casinos located outside of the city, she added. Outside the Judge Gilbert Ramirez Apartments, Mario Gonzalez, 78, said he cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
TOTTENVILLE, STATEN ISLAND W’S BAR & RESTAURANT
TOTTENVILLE VOTERS HAVE LITTLE ENTHUSIASM FOR DE BLASIO OR LHOTA
he old “flip-a-coin” Election Day edict seemed to be holding true in Tottenville, Staten Island, where most voters were favoring Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota over Democrat Bill de Blasio, though their lack of enthusiasm for the former MTA chairman was palpable. Staten Island was a crucial borough for Lhota if he had any chance of pulling off a monumental upset. Typically the most conservative of New York City’s five boroughs, Staten Island was a bugaboo for Lhota in the primary, as many voters found his personality too bland and instead voted for his Republican primary opponent, supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, who ended up carrying the borough. Anecdotally, it seemed that many voters in Tottenville, a town on the island’s South shore, were still not smitten with Lhota, despite his strong connection to popular—at least on Staten Island— former mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “He’s a Republican, that’s why I voted for him,” said Ron, a Republican who
voted at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Tottenville with his wife, Francis. Francis elaborated a bit more on why she had voted for Lhota, despite being a registered Democrat. ”I don’t like the things [de Blasio’s] said. He’s hiding behind this racial thing. He should be behind all of us,” Francis said. It was not immediately clear what “racial thing” Francis was referring to, but de Blasio has received widespread media coverage highlighting his biracial family. Another elderly couple, Ed and Joanne, were not fans of either de Blasio or Lhota. Ed, a retired electrician, bucked both major parties and went with Jack Hidary, an independent mayoral candidate and tech entrepreneur. Ed did not know much about Hidary, and conceded “de Blasio’s a shoo-in,” but said he simply couldn’t bring himself to cast a ballot for a candidate for whom he was so unenthusiastic. Joanne, a registered Democrat, voted for de Blasio, “because going [Republican] is a wasted vote,” and added that this would likely be their last time voting in New York City.
“We’re moving,” Joanne said. “Going to Delaware. I would rather not have voted, but we’ve never missed a vote.” Tottenville, like many areas of the borough, is home to many city workers, firefighters, and policemen, which means unions have an enormous sway over the way these municipal employees vote. Greg Broms, a firefighter and member of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association of Greater New York, laid out the pros and cons of voting for Lhota versus de Blasio, but said in the end he would go with the union’s preferred candidate: de Blasio. “I’m not real pleased with either one of them,” Broms said. “I’m voting for de Blasio because the union says that he would be easier to negotiate with. I don’t think de Blasio knows what he has in store for him. I’m hoping five months from now he’s not a flop and is able to get some of the things done that he wants to. He’s a visionary, but I don’t think he’s a realist.” As for this year’s potential constitutional amendments, none of the voters who spoke with City & State experienced any of the trouble that has been reported
at some polling sites where poll workers failed to notify voters of the referenda on the back of the ballot. However, many of the voters did not necessarily understand the implications of each proposal, save for the amendment to expand casino gaming in the state. “I’m not for the gambling,” said a female retired teacher and member of the United Federation of Teachers, who declined to give her name so she could speak candidly. “The same thing happened in Jersey. They put in casinos, they said it was going to help the economy, and you look at the area around the casinos and it’s still a slum.” Other voters went with a simpler calculus in deciding how to vote on the amendments: oppose change of any kind. “I don’t want gambling; I still think it’s a scourge to society,” said William, a retired city worker. “I voted ‘No’ on [raising the retirement age of] judges; they’re old enough—and I voted ‘No’ on everything else. I don’t care too much for change, that’s what it comes down to.” So much for talk of the “change election.” —N.P.
A TALE OF CHOICES: DE BLASIO OR NOTHING
n Election Day in Bayside, Queens, residents seemed to have two choices: vote for Bill de Blasio, or don’t bother voting. On the corner of 48th Avenue and Bell Boulevard, passersby were roughly split between those voting for the Democratic candidate, who went on to win in a landslide, and those who weren’t voting for anyone. A college student named Alan explained that he had not paid attention to the New York City mayor’s race since he was too busy with school. “Don’t you have to sign up first?” he asked before dashing off to catch a bus. “I didn’t sign up for it.” Another Bayside resident, Colleen Bergen, was on her way to vote at P.S. 31,
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
where she planned to cast her ballot for de Blasio. The reason was his support for reforming the NYPD’s controversial stopand-frisk policy, she said. “I was personally affected by it, so there need to be some restrictions,” said Bergen, an employee at the Administration for Children’s Services. Bergen couldn’t say how she planned to vote on anything else on the ballot, including the race for city comptroller and public advocate, whose candidates’ names she could not recall, or the six constitutional amendments. “I can’t think of it offhand, but I know when I get there, I’ll choose,” she said. Other residents were more wellinformed. Steve and Lorraine Kramer, who were on their way back from voting, said
they had voted for de Blasio; Scott Stringer, the Democratic candidate for city comptroller; and Letitia James, the Democratic nominee for public advocate. As expected, all three candidates won. Steve Kramer, a retired teacher, said he had voted for de Blasio because of his progressive positions and his focus on income inequality, while his wife mentioned housing issues as another reason for supporting him. Party affiliation was reason enough to disqualify Lhota. “He’s a Republican. What more can I say?” Steve said, laughing. “More benign than Cruz or Boehner or the other wackos, but still he’s a Republican. There is essentially no message except for lowering taxes on the rich and keeping rich people happy.”
The couple also noted that they were fed up with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, perhaps another reason why they wanted to see a Democrat in City Hall. “I think three terms was too much,” said Lorraine, a retired occupational therapist. “I think that was disgraceful that he did that, that he changed the law just for himself.” “He was really overbearing and egotistical,” her husband added. “It’s probably hard to avoid when you’ve got $40 billion.” His wife offered a more nuanced take. “I mean, he did a lot for the city,” she said. “I think the city has improved, but I think that his attitude is not a positive one in general in terms of communicating with the people, and really he created a city for rich people.” —J.L.
ADVICE DO AS I SAY A POLITICAL ADV IC E COLUMN
By JEFF SMITH
I work for a New York state assemblyman who has consistent turnover of attractive female staffers in the office. I recently heard that one reason behind the turnover is that he has slept with more than one of them. At least he’s not married, I guess. Even though it’s not exactly ideal, do you think it is problematic enough that I should leave, or does it sort of come with the territory in politics? —No name or initials, obviously, New York City
Is this kind of thing more pervasive in politics than elsewhere? Perhaps; as Kissinger said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” But that doesn’t make it right. If he’s slept with multiple members of his staff who have then quit or been fired, then yes, this is problematic enough for you to leave. Do people in supervisory positions occasionally fall in love with subordinates? Sure, and yes, it can be complicated. But if it’s happened multiple times and caused “consistent” turnover (your words), then it’s not a fairy tale connection between principal and aide. It’s a pattern, and one with which you should avoid any association, because politicians (or bosses in any field) whose offices have patterns remotely like this don’t typically have bright futures (see: Filner, Bob).
I work in a charter school in New York City and believe in the mutually beneficial relationship between a public school and its community, though in the charter world that’s hard: We are often treated as outsiders and insurgents. Relatedly, I am very concerned with what happened in the mayoral campaign around charter schools. Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, with a few other schools, held a rally and march across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was obvious from the media coverage and the way it was discussed internally that the intent was to warn one of the mayoral candidates that
opposition to charter schools would be dangerous. My concern, shared by many of my colleagues, is whether such a protest is unethical—or even worse. The organizers seem to have made a point to keep the rally from [using] obvious campaign rhetoric, but it seems that a rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating. The twist, perhaps, is that charter employees are not government employees, unlike district schools’ staff. Our schools’ budgets rely on public funds, yet the workforce is made up of private individuals. The call to action was done during work time; thus, while we were being paid with public dollars, flyers sent home to parents were printed on a copier paid for with tax dollars. I’m curious what you think about both the legality and the ethics of such an action. —Concerned, New York City
The narrow legal question is whether the protest organizers acted inappropriately. By using taxpayer resources to engage in political activity during work hours, the answer appears to be yes. (I am not a lawyer, and—for the uninitiated—I violated election law myself a decade ago.) The broader question relates to this assertion: “[A] rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating.” I completely disagree. Even if charter school employees were government employees, lots of public employees have interests that are “inescapably political” around which they organize during election season. Have you ever heard of AFGE (a union of federal government workers) or AFSCME (state and local government employees)? Their members don’t take vacations from political organizing because it’s election season. Quite to the contrary, election season finds them at their most active; elections focus the attention of voters, journalists and candidates, so timely activism is savvy. No one—unless their job specifically requires them to refrain from partisan political activity—should be precluded from participating in political activity during election time or any other time. And charter schools in particular—whose very existence hinges upon state law and local regulation—may find employee (and family) mobilization critical to their survival.
Jeff Smith (@JeffSmithMO on Twitter) is a former Missouri state senator who resigned from office after a felony conviction and served a year in federal prison. Now an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the New School, Jeff recently co-authored The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.
Wal-Mart’s Holiday of Sorrow
By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
he holiday decorations are starting to appear, and that means the busiest shopping season is almost upon us. And as Black Friday approaches, consumers will be faced with choices as to how they’ll spend their money for holiday gifts. They’ll be buying gifts to spread joy to friends and family, but many unfortunately will be doing it at Wal-Mart, where one of the main holiday “presents” will be sorrow for its workers at their stores and within their production chain.
For consumers who want to do their holiday shopping responsibly, Wal-Mart simply isn’t an option, regardless of the Black Friday sales specials the world’s largest retailer comes up with this season. Their disregard for workers’ For consumers who want to health and safety became apparent in do their holiday shopping the wake of the tragedy at a Bangladesh responsibly, Wal-Mart clothing factory earlier this year, where simply isn’t an option. 1,127 people were killed and over 2,500 people were injured. The factory produced clothing for numerous western retail chains including Wal-Mart, and spurred an outcry from workers and their advocates demanding corporations take responsibility for the safety of workers who produce the things they sell. In the wake of the disaster, many international companies — including H&M, which employs members of RWDSU Local 1102 — agreed to sign the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,” which calls for corporations to take an active role in the inspection and supervision of their suppliers’ factories. Wal-Mart, which uses hundreds of factories in Bangladesh, refused to sign the Accord, and instead in a phony public relations gesture created a toothless safety “program” that provides no legally-binding protection for workers. In what is literally a matter of life and death, Wal-Mart chose to callously shrug off the safety of workers in Bangladesh It should come as no surprise that Wal-Mart holds its international workforce in such low regard — after all, Wal-Mart has also been mistreating its workers here at home poorly for years. The average Wal-Mart associate makes just $8.81 an hour, meaning that hundreds of thousands of full-time Wal-Mart workers live below the poverty line. The retailer’s low wages and weak benefits force their workers to seek out state-subsidized benefits, costing U.S. taxpayers over $1 billion annually. Wal-Mart routinely forces its workers onto “flexible schedules,” meaning they don’t get the hours they need and have little control over their daily lives. It won’t be a happy holiday season for countless Wal-Mart workers, for whom paying the bills and providing for their families can be a daily struggle. These workers deserve better, and Wal-Mart doesn’t deserve consumers’ money. This holiday season, conscientious consumers will be shopping elsewhere.
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TOP New York TEN City MAYORS S BY MORGAN PEHME
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
ince Thomas Willett became the first mayor of New York on June 12, 1665—the day the Dutch governance system of burgomaster, schepen and schout was officially replaced by the English one of mayor, alderman and sheriff—the mayoralty has exchanged hands 108 times. Yet Bill de Blasio is not the 109th man to be mayor. Twelve of his predecessors served nonconsecutive terms, including Willett—both New York’s first and third mayor. Over the years, the job has changed
dramatically. All but one of the first 60 mayors of New York were appointed. Mayors 61 through 90 were popularly elected, but they only governed Manhattan, until parts of the Bronx were annexed in 1874. As for Robert A. Van Wyck, the first mayor of the five boroughs, when he entered office the city was still six years away from having subways, the tallest skyscraper was around 20 stories, and there were five million fewer people than today. Given the immensity of the city’s trans-
formation, how can we compare mayors of different eras? Should mayors before the 1898 consolidation even receive consideration? Could an appointed mayor be worthy? City & State assembled a distinguished panel of professors and historians to rank their top 10 greatest mayors of all time, according to whatever criteria they saw fit. We hope this list of their ultimate selections inspires great debate, and gets all of us reflecting upon the lessons of the past at the dawn of a new administration.
JOHN PURROY MITCHEL
WILLIAM GAYNOR (1910–SEPT. 10, 1913) 94th MAYOR
aynor is best remembered for being the only mayor of the City of New York to be shot by an assassin—and for surviving the attempt, despite the bullet lodged in his throat! This bit of trivia—his successor, John Purroy Mitchel, was also shot at, but his assailant missed—tends to diminish the recognition Gaynor deserves. On the day of his inauguration, Gaynor walked from his home on Eighth Avenue in Park Slope across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall; it was the first time he had ever visited the building. A former judge of eminent integrity, Gaynor was elected by Tammany Hall, though Tammany quickly regretted its support. He made
(1914–17) 95th MAYOR
independent, merit-based appointments, axed no-show jobs and sought to eliminate waste. He also did away with East River bridge tolls and pushed for municipal ownership of the subway system. While serving as mayor he was considered a legitimate potential candidate for President of the United States in 1912, despite the bullet in his throat. Nonetheless, Tammany refused to nominate him for re-election, and though Gaynor agreed to run as an independent reformer, he finally succumbed to his wound before the expiration of his term, making him the only New York City mayor in modern history to die in office.
ubbed “the Boy Mayor of New York,” Mitchel, who was sworn in at the age of 34, is actually the secondyoungest man to ever hold the job (Hugh J. Grant was 30 when he took office in 1889). On balance, Mitchel’s record was mixed. An anti-Tammany reformer elected on a fusion ticket, Mitchel took aim at corruption and sought to modernize the government by such means as drafting the city’s first comprehensive budget and creating the first zoning plan in the nation’s history. Mitchel was particularly successful in improving the police department, but not all of his reforms were embraced. Many groups pushed back against his emphasis on vocational education, and his advocacy
7 (1994–2001) 107th MAYOR
(1902–03) 92nd MAYOR
for universal military training was unpopular. Some also viewed him as too cozy with the city’s ruling class; others judge his failure as an inability to master practical politics. Despite serving only one term, Mitchel laid the groundwork for some of Fiorello La Guardia’s achievements. “A reform meteor,” in the words of one of our jurors, Mitchel won election by a record 125,000 votes in 1913; four years later, he lost by more than 150,000 votes—a new record. After his defeat, Mitchel joined the Air Service as a pilot. Six months after leaving the mayoralty, Mitchel died when his plane took a sudden nosedive, and he fell out because he was not wearing a seatbelt.
s one of our jurors writes, Low’s administration “foreshadowed the modern mayoralty and produced a bright example of what professional government would ultimately become.” A former mayor of Brooklyn and president of Columbia College, Low was integral in drafting the charter that consolidated the city, and then was defeated by Tammany’s Robert Van Wyck in the first election of the new entity. Four years later, with the support of Mark Twain, Low won his second bid for the mayoralty, defeating Tammany as a fusion candidate on the Republican and Citizens Union lines. When he assumed office, Low reportedly compelled all of the department heads he selected to agree to a pledge that they would immediately resign if he requested them to do so—a condition never before imposed upon mayoral appointees. While
Low’s most famous accomplishment was the introduction of merit-based civil service hiring, he also improved education, committed to public works, lowered taxes, and took on graft in the police department. Despite these successes, he served only a single two-year term in office before Tammany regrouped and defeated Low by running the son of Civil War hero Gen. George McClellan against him. More significant to the city perhaps then his legacy as mayor was the lasting impact Low had on Columbia. It was largely on his initiative that the university moved from its campus in Midtown to its current location in Morningside Heights. Low donated a then extraordinary sum of $1 million of his own money to the school, which was used to build the university’s majestic library, designed by McKim, Mead and White, and named after Low’s father.
iuliani will always be remembered for his performance on 9/11, when he rose to the occasion to earn the title “America’s mayor.” His other signature achievement is the staggering reduction in crime during his administration—the number of murders went from 1,561 in 1994 to a once unimaginable 649 in 2001. More than one of our jurors observed that Giuliani “sold the business community on the idea that the city could be governed.” The quality of Giuliani’s mayoralty is a subject that tends to engender strong feelings. Some of our jurors left him off their lists altogether—and made note of their decision to do so—while others had him in their top three. “When Giuliani was good, he was very, very good, but when he was bad he was horrid,” wrote one juror, who gave him high marks overall. “He needlessly divided the city, with his reaction to the [Amadou] Diallo tragedy being the capstone of his irresponsibility on race …
Nevertheless, Giuliani’s significant substantive achievements leave him third on my list. Had he reached out to cross racial gaps while fighting crime, and not treated all disagreements as either disloyalty or the actions of enemies, he might have had a claim to being New York’s greatest mayor.” Giuliani’s critics maintain that his success in reducing crime should be attributed at least in part to policies begun by his predecessor, David Dinkins, and they argue that the city’s strong fiscal health was the result of a wave of economic prosperity nationally. “Never well loved by residents, but largely respected,” concluded one juror. “As La Guardia embodied the New Deal, Giuliani embodied a more conservative era. The city has undergone a dramatic change since 1993, which no resident of that time can deny. Although he can’t take credit for everything, it would be one of history’s greatest coincidences if he were not given some of the credit for the city’s turnabout.” cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
ROBERT F. WAGNER JR.
JOHN V. LINDSAY (1966–73) 103rd MAYOR
indsay’s appearance in this ranking, particularly so high up, may cause consternation to some. By the time he left office, Lindsay was deeply unpopular, and his mayoralty is generally regarded as a failure. As one of our jurors put it, “His years were marked by labor strife, racial tensions, rising crime and disorder, and during his second term, a weakening city economy and untenable fiscal policies.” Another juror observed, “The Beame, Koch and Giuliani mayoralties were in many respects run as a repudiation of the Lindsay years.” Nonetheless, on the whole, our jurors were willing to reflect favorably on the dashing mayor of “Fun City,” about whom the great journalist Murray Kempton once
(1954–65) 102nd MAYOR
wrote, “He is fresh and everyone else is tired.” “I continue to be struck by the number of gifted public servants and publicminded leaders in the private sector—even now, four decades after he left office—who got their start with Lindsay,” wrote one juror. “He was a deft leader during a polarized and polarizing period of race relations in the U.S. and probably one of the reasons New York did not explode the way that D.C. and Newark did.” Lindsay also received praise for his role in crafting the 1968 Kerner Report for President Johnson, which warned that the nation was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal. “If vision counts,” wrote one juror, “then he needs to be on the list.”
our of the top five greatest mayors, according to our panel, were also the only four mayors to serve three fouryear terms—a testament to the necessity of time for a mayor to cement his legacy, at least in our jurors’ view. Wagner, whose father and namesake was one of the great champions of the New Deal as a U.S. senator from New York, was first elected mayor six months after his father’s death, and won re-election over Republican Robert Christenberry in 1957 by 923,0007 votes—the largest margin of victory by number of votes by any mayor. Wagner prevailed in his second re-election campaign by breaking with Tammany Hall and running as a reformer with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Herbert Lehman. As his New York Times obituary recounted, over his 12 years in office “Wagner won infusions of state and federal funds to clear slums in urban-renewal areas, build public housing and to help maintain the 15-cent subway fare. He granted collective-bargaining rights to municipal labor unions. He integrated government with more black and Hispanic appointees who began to reflect the city’s rapidly changing
DEWITT CLINTON (1803–07, 1808–10, 1811–15) 47th, 49th AND 51st MAYOR
he only mayor of New York City ever to attain higher office, Clinton came in No. 1 on City & State’s list of the Top 10 Greatest Governors in New York State History. To be fair to Clinton, he was already a U.S. senator when he stooped to accept his first appointment as mayor in 1803, but he gladly resigned from the Senate, preferring to live in New York than Washington, D.C. A man of astonishing ambition and achievement, Clinton is immortalized by history as the visionary who built the Erie Canal, which transformed New York into the commercial capital of the country. As mayor “he helped form the Free School Society, the New York Historical Society, the Literary and Philosophical Society, and the Orphan Asylum, improved sanita14
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tion, administered public markets, guided plans to expand the city northward, and strengthened the defenses of New York Harbor to prepare for war with Britain,” according to The Encyclopedia of New York City. One of three mayors of New York to serve three nonconsecutive terms, Clinton was forced from office in 1807 and 1810, because in those years his political opponents held sway over the state’s Council of Appointments. In 1812, while serving as mayor, Clinton ran as the Federalist candidate for President of the United States, and lost only narrowly to the incumbent, James Madison, receiving 89 electoral votes to Madison’s 128. Less than two years after he left the mayoralty for the last time, he was elected governor—running unopposed!
population. And his third-term campaign against his estranged political mentors dealt the Democratic machine a defeat from which it has never recovered.” His administration also gave rise to the City University of New York, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Lincoln Center, Shakespeare in the Park, and the New York Mets—although the Dodgers and the Giants both left for California under his watch. Wagner’s preference for proceeding deliberatively provoked some critics to label him as “indecisive.” Others debate whether, as the Times put it, his administration “marked the peak of the good old days, or the beginning of the city’s fiscal and social crises.” After his wife died during his third term, Wagner declined to seek a fourth in 1965. Following a stint as ambassador to Spain, however, he tried to regain his seat in 1969— and lost by four points in the Democratic Primary to Mario Procaccino. In 1973 he again contemplated running, but a deal that would have landed Wagner on the Republican and Liberal lines as a fusion candidate fell through.
EDWARD I. KOCH (1978-1989) 105th MAYOR
ne of only four mayors to receive a first place vote from one of our jurors, Koch’s stock has risen in recent years, helped in part by his ubiquity as a commentator and New York City icon over the decades following his mayoralty until his recent death. Koch came into office in the aftermath of the mid-70s fiscal crisis, and just months after the blackout of 1977 and the end of Son of Sam’s rampage. “It was Koch’s leadership that helped
the city restore its fiscal independence,” wrote one juror, echoing the sentiments of several other panel members. “He worked to institute austerity in a fair way, always with an eye to gaining control back from the Emergency Control Board. It wasn’t just his policies, but also his personality that helped raise the spirits of New Yorkers.” Indeed Koch’s larger-than-life personality, his flair for theatrics, and his titanic ego—crystallized in his trademark
phrase, “How’m I doing?”—are difficult to separate from any appraisal of his mayoralty. As one juror wrote, “From 1978–1987 Koch bestrode New York City as a political colossus,” winning re-election by 61 percentage points in 1981—when the Republicans gave Koch their line too— and 67 points in 1985, even though he went back to running only as a Democrat. Just as Koch was at the apex of his popularity, however, his administration was steadily plunging into turmoil. While Koch had recruited many exceptional civil servants, he had also allowed parts of his administration to be taken over by corrupt party bosses, who used the agency posts to plunder the government. The Parking Violations Bureau and related scandals shattered Koch’s reputation as a reformer and led to mass arrests,
taking down some of his closest allies and advisors. One juror maintained that Koch’s inaction during the AIDS crisis was unforgivable. Another panelist, who observed that Koch had a “penchant for playing with racial politics too cavalierly” and needlessly pitted the middle class against the poor, nonetheless praised him for his housing plan, which “laid the groundwork for the growth of housing stock for the emerging minority middle class. That achievement shines above all Koch’s shortcomings.” On the question of Koch’s greatness, the same juror continued, “The ultimate proof in the pudding is that New Yorkers still revere Koch for what he was so good at, while they long since forgave him for his warts.”
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (2002–13) 108th MAYOR
arely are individuals in any field recognized among the greats of history during their own lifetimes, so the fact that our panel ranked Michael Bloomberg nearly at the top of this list while he is still in office is striking. Receiving three first place votes and ranked in the top five by all but one of our jurors, Bloomberg has said on numerous occasions that his goal has been to be the greatest mayor in New York City history, and, according to our panel, he has come pretty close to achieving that aim. As one juror who ranked Bloomberg No. 1 wrote, “He dealt capably with not one but two epochal shocks (9/11 and the 2008–09 recession), either one of which could have sunk a less gifted public servant. He has done more than anyone else to reshape the physical face of the city—reclaiming waterfront, building new parks and improving old ones, making Governor’s Island a destination, building out Atlantic and Hudson Yards and overseeing the most extensive rezoning we’ve ever undertaken, and now reinforcing the city’s storm defenses— most of which efforts will serve us well for decades if not centuries to come. He has maintained over three terms, hands-down, the most effective team of commissioners and deputy commissioners ever assembled. The environmental record, which is superb, would have been even better had he had more cooperation from Albany. For better or for worse: He got the schools under mayoral control. And of course there’s the smoking ban, and bike lanes, and tourism, and better high-rise architecture, and...”
Still, even while letting that ellipsis grasp at the immensity of Bloomberg’s accomplishments, that same juror continued, “He is far from a perfect mayor. His inability to listen to, well, anyone, has created a greater perception of division and isolation than objective conditions merit (and they merit plenty). He has not built an engaged civil infrastructure to go along with the much-improved physical infrastructure. He kicked the contracts can into the next term and that will do more violence to his legacy, I suspect, than he bargains for. But on balance, this has been an exceptional, transformative period for New York and he has been at the center of it.” Other jurors bristled at Bloomberg’s “chronic tone deafness,” as illustrated by his appointment of Cathie Black as schools chancellor, his initial insistence on running the marathon after Superstorm Sandy and his imperiousness in extending term limits. At the same time he received high praise for making New York the safest big city in the nation, shielding it from terror attacks and driving down the murder rate to 1950s totals—even though some of the policing tactics he embraced provoked anger. In a remark typical of several jurors’ responses, one panelist aimed to capture the enormity of Bloomberg’s legacy by comparing him to the controversial figure generally credited with playing the greatest role in building the modern City of New York: “I would call Bloomberg the Robert Moses of the 21st century, [with] both the positive and negative attributes.”
FIORELLO H. LA GUARDIA (1934–45) 99th MAYOR
o enamored was our jury with La Guardia that one of our panelists ranked him not just the greatest mayor of all time, but slotted him in as No. 2 and No. 3 on the list, too. Overwhelmingly the panel’s top choice, La Guardia is often mentioned by historians as one of the greatest mayors in United States history— the “original vintage for America’s mayor,” wrote one juror. Ed Koch, who sought to outdo “the Little Flower” (fiorello in Italian) by becoming the first four-term mayor, said, “I know that every mayor of New York since Fiorello La Guardia has been measured by the public, and has measured himself against the ‘Little Flower.’ He has created the standard.” Like Bloomberg, La Guardia was forced to grapple with two enormous crises during his time in office: the Great Depression and World War II. Though La Guardia was a Republican, he eagerly embraced President Roosevelt and the New Deal—and got the city more than $1 billion in federal funds at a time when building the Triborough Bridge cost around $60 million. In addition to the Triborough, one of the biggest public works projects of the era, La Guardia, along with Robert Moses, built the East River Drive, West Side Highway, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the Throgs Neck Bridge and the airport that would ultimately
bear his name. He also purchased the last private subway lines, enabling the creation of a unified public transit system. Politically La Guardia was a reformer who took on Tammany and won, a champion of the middle class and immigrants, and a scrappy fighter always ready to slug it out in defense of the little guy. Physically he was an unlikely hero. His obituary in The New York Times described him as “only about 5 feet 2 inches in height, a rotund little man with a swarthy skin and a belligerent independence that often verged on irascibility. A forelock of black hair invited comparison with Napoleon. His voice was high, and in debate often became a screech.” As has been considered the case regarding all four mayors who served 12 years, La Guardia’s last term was his weakest. He became overly immersed in trying to play a personal role in the war effort at the expense of focusing on the city; he had antagonized all of the political parties for one reason or another; and Roosevelt, La Guardia’s most valuable ally, had died. Realizing that defeat was inevitable if he were to seek a fourth term, La Guardia bowed out—insisting at the same time that he would have won “without any trouble” if he had run. Summing up his virtues as mayor, one juror observed of La Guardia, “During the worst of times, he was the best of men.”
City Hall has served as the office of New York’s mayors since 1812. cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
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Bruce Gyory Political consultant, Corning Place Communications; adjunct professor of political science, University at Albany, State University of New York Kenneth Jackson Barzun Professor of History, Columbia University; editor, The Encyclopedia of New York City
Lisa Keller Professor of history, Purchase College, State University of New York; executive editor, The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd Ed.)
Doug Muzzio Professor, School of Public Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York
Henry Stern President, New York Civic; New York City Parks commissioner under Mayors Koch and Giuliani; former president of Citizens Union and councilman-at-large for Manhattan
Andrew White Director of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School; lecturer at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy
Mason Williams Schwartz postdoctoral fellow at the New School; author of City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York
IN ADDITION TO THE TOP 10 FINISHERS, 16 OTHER MAYORS RECEIVED VOTES FROM OUR JURORS.
GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN JR.
DAVID DINKINS (1990–93) 106th MAYOR
(1904–09) 93rd MAYOR
congressman at the time of his election, and a former president of the Board of Alderman, McClellan was brought in by Tammany Hall to unseat reform mayor Seth Low. Despite his allegiance to Tammany boss Richard Croker, McClellan was, according to one of our jurors, “probably the most successful of the Tammany Democrat mayors” and ran “an unexpectedly clean and effective government.” As the Bowery Boys blog points out, during his five years in office he oversaw the development of the Catskill water supply, inaugurated the first subway line, licensed the first taxicab, opened the Williamsburg Bridge, propelled the construction of Chelsea Piers, the New York Public Library, Manhattan Bridge and Grand Central Terminal, and renamed Longacre Square in April 1904 Times Square, after the newspaper that had just moved its headquarters there.
he first and only black mayor in New York City history, Dinkins has largely been judged by history as a failure in office—the Big Apple’s Jimmy Carter is one oft-repeated unfavorable comparison. Still, some of our jurors were ready to re-evaluate Dinkins’ legacy. One panelist wrote, “Like George H. W. Bush, with whose presidency his mayoralty coincided, Dinkins is coming to look much better with time. It is now easier to see that Dinkins’ mayoralty was very much constrained by circumstances outside his control: the national recession (which was especially rough in New York) and the last years of the crack-violence epidemic. It is now clear, as well, that Dinkins deserves some credit for the crime drop of the 1990s, which began under his watch and which owed something—it’s hard to say how much—to the thousands of additional police officers he put on the streets.”
JAMES J. WALKER
(1926–SEPT. 1, 1932) 97th MAYOR
iven that Jimmy Walker resigned during his second term and promptly fled to Europe with his mistress to avert criminal prosecution for secretly accepting large sums of money from a businessman angling for city contracts, “Beau James,” as he was known, seems an unlikely choice for inclusion on a list of greatest mayors. “Walker was a corrupt and lazy mayor who also flouted, spectacularly, both Prohibition and the laws of marriage,” wrote one juror, who nonetheless ranked Walker at No. 5, continuing, “But he was also a brilliant politician and a much more capable administrator than is commonly recalled. And no mayor in the city’s history, including La Guardia, was more beloved by the people.” As La Guardia himself said, “Even [Walker’s] enemies have never questioned his ability.”
WILLIAM RUSSELL GRACE
(1881–82, 1885–86) 84th AND 86th MAYOR
he first Irish Catholic mayor of New York, Grace entered politics after having achieved success as the founder of W.R. Grace and Company, a business that thrives to this day with current annual sales of $2.5 billion. Though he was elected as a Democrat, Grace was an early reformer who challenged Tammany Hall, and took aim at vice, patronage and corruption. Defeated for re-election in 1882, he bounced back two years later, this time attaining the mayoralty as an independent. It was during his second term that Grace accepted the Statue of Liberty from France. He declined to run for a third term in 1886, instead turning his attention to philanthropy.
FERNANDO WOOD WIKIPEDIA
(1855–58, 1860–62) 73rd AND 75th MAYOR
WILLIAM HAVEMEYER (1845–46, 1848–49, 1873–NOV. 30, 1874) 66th, 69th AND 80th MAYOR
avemeyer was the last mayor to serve three nonconsecutive terms in office, and the only one to be elected to do so. Initially a Tammany Democrat, Havemeyer was supported by the political machine in 1844 and 1848—he declined to run in 1846 and 1849 because he believed the mayor should not serve consecutive terms— but he answered the call of reformers in the aftermath of the Tweed ring scandal, and ran successfully as a Republican in 1873, getting elected to a third term—an incredible 24 years after the end of his second! Havemeyer would go out on top, dying in office with a month remaining in his final term.
RICHARD VARICK (1789–1801) 45th MAYOR
he only mayor who served in the 18th century to receive a vote from our panelists, Varick is best known today as the eponym for both Varick Street in Manhattan and the town of Varick in Seneca County. Varick, George Washington’s private secretary during the Revolutionary War, was attorney general of New York State when Gov. George Clinton appointed him mayor of Manhattan in 1789. During his time in office, the city’s population doubled, making disease control and providing basic necessities like water principal concerns of his tenure. Varick was swept out of office when Thomas Jefferson became president and replaced all of New York’s Federalist appointees with Republicans.
Another surprising choice, Wood is described by the Bowery Boys blog as “absolutely in the top 10% of the most corrupt mayors” in New York history, and “the first mayor ever to be forcibly dragged from City Hall and arrested.” The Encyclopedia of New York City characterizes Wood, who was a popular favorite of immigrants and the poor, as a forerunner of “Boss” Tweed, and recounts that “he proposed innovative programs to improve the city but few passed, because of his scandalous reputation (he was convicted of defrauding investors during the Gold Rush), dictatorial methods, and reputation for politicizing the police.” Though Wood is also recognized for vetoing legislation that would have prevented Central Park from coming to fruition, that decision is generally considered his only praiseworthy act. Despite the high number of dead people who cast their ballots for him in 1858, Wood was defeated in his second bid for re-election. Abandoned by Tammany Hall, Wood
formed his own Democratic organization, Mozart Hall, and regained his seat in 1860. It was during his second stint as mayor that Wood, a virulent racist and defender of slavery, proposed that New York City secede from the United States along with the South and morph into the “Free City of Tri-Insula” by merging Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island. Drummed out of office after the outbreak of the Civil War provoked an outpouring of support for the Union, Wood returned to the U.S. Congress, to which he had previously been elected, rising to chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and serving until his death. cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
COVER AMBROSE KINGSLAND
(1851–53) 71st MAYOR
K ABRAHAM BEAME (1974–77) 104th MAYOR
he first Jewish mayor of the consolidated city, Beame received but a single, solitary vote from our jury. Despite having been city comptroller when he was elected, Beame was overwhelmed by the worst fiscal crisis in the city’s history. With New York teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, he had to slash the budget, lay off municipal employees, let a host of city services slide, and delay a slew of critical capital expenditures. The terror inspired by the Son of Sam’s rampage and the blackout were the final nails in Beame’s political career, and he came in third in the 1977 Democratic Primary behind Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo.
ROBERT A. VAN WYCK
JOHN F. HYLAN
(1898–1901) 91st MAYOR
an Wyck, for whom the expressway is named, received acknowledgement from our jury for two reasons: the distinction of being the first mayor of the consolidated city of New York, and for spearheading the construction of the Interborough Rapid Transit, Manhattan’s first subway. A Tammany hack, Van Wyck and his administration ended up embroiled in scandal, with the mayor himself accused of receiving $680,000 in stock from the American Ice Company for which he apparently did not pay. Though an investigation ordered by Gov. Theodore Roosevelt cleared Van Wyck of any personal malfeasance, the damage to Van Wyck’s reputation was already done, and Seth Low swept him out of office running as a reformer in 1901.
(1918–25) 96th MAYOR
ylan is another dubious choice for a list of the city’s greatest mayors. One juror, who ranked Hylan No. 6 all-time, acknowledged the selection was “eccentric,” explaining that “Hylan was regarded during his own time as a rank fool; when his successor, Jimmy Walker, rescued him from post-mayoral oblivion by appointing him to the Queens Children’s Court, Walker quipped to newspapermen that the children of Queens could now be ‘judged by one of their peers.’ While it is certainly true that Hylan’s mind was a blunt instrument, ‘Red Mike’ nevertheless presided over a number of very significant developments. He pushed for the first rent control measures to fight housingmarket inflation after World War I. His administration established tax incentives for the construction of new housing and fought to preserve the five-cent fare—both major factors in the development of the outer boroughs. But the cornerstone of Hylan’s legacy is the independent transit system—the subway lines which now bear letters.”
EDWARD COOPER (1879–80) 83rd MAYOR
(1946–AUG. 31, 1950) 100th MAYOR
’Dwyer rose to prominence prosecuting members of the infamous Murder Incorporated syndicate as Brooklyn D.A., but his mayoralty collapsed amid allegations that O’Dwyer had his own ties to organized crime. In his first term O’Dwyer successfully lobbied for the United Nations to be headquartered in the city and, as one juror wrote, “ably managed post-War reconstruction and labor unrest.” However, six months after the start of his second term, he abruptly resigned from office rather than face a burgeoning corruption scandal in the police department. His departure was hardly ignominious: Upon his resignation, a ticker tape parade was thrown in his honor, and President Truman appointed him ambassador to Mexico.
NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
he son of the great inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper, Edward Cooper received a vote from our jury for his role in enacting the Tenement House Act of 1879. Despite being a Democrat, he investigated Boss Tweed during his sole term in office, and promoted sanitation reform. Though Cooper’s mayoralty was largely unremarkable, one episode—perhaps apocryphal—recounted in his New York Times obituary certainly was not. While traveling during college with his friend Abram Hewitt, who would later marry Cooper’s sister and become mayor in his own right, the pair was among a group shipwrecked off the coast of New England. At one point the castaways reached such a dire point of near starvation that they drew lots to determine whom the others would cannibalize. Cooper lost, but Hewitt insisted he be eaten instead. “I have brothers,” said Hewitt, “but you are your father’s only son and his life is wrapped up in you. Let me take your place.” According to the Times report, Hewitt’s offer was being debated when the ship that ultimately rescued them came into sight.
JAMES HARPER (1844–45) 65th MAYOR
he founder of the printing company J. & J. Harper, which would eventually become HarperCollins, Harper served only a single one-year term in office, though he received a vote from our panel for being the father of the city’s municipal police force—one of the oldest in the nation. From the outset Harper outfitted the police in blue, though the officers argued successfully in favor of dressing in plain clothes on the basis that their uniforms made them targets for violence.
ingsland, a successful sperm oil merchant, was decidedly less successful over his single twoyear term as mayor. He came into office following a change to the city charter that weakened the mayoralty at the expense of the bicameral Board of Aldermen— which was dominated by a gang of corrupt councilmen known as “the Forty Thieves.” Some sources claim that Kingsland joined in on the infamous municipal plunder spree during his administration, though his 1878 obituary in The New York Times called him “a man of scrupulous integrity, upright and honest in all his dealings with his fellow men.” Despite his uneven legacy, Kingsland is owed a debt of gratitude by all New Yorkers—he was the mayor who proposed the legislation that led to the creation of Central Park.
PETER DELANOY (1689–91) 18th MAYOR
he earliest mayor to receive a vote from our jurors, Delanoy was the first directly elected chief executive in New York City history—and the only one to hold that distinction until 1834, when Democrat Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence was elected following a change in the law. Delanoy’s status as a footnote in city history was a result of Leisler’s Rebellion, a popular revolution that was precipitated by the overthrow of King James II of England. His mayoralty came to an end when the British regained control of the city and Jacob Leisler, the German-American merchant and militia captain who had led the uprising, was executed.
DE BLASIO’S MAYORALTY A TEST FOR PROGRESSIVES By NICK POWELL
BILL DE BLASIO FOR MAYOR, VIA FACEBOOK
ill de Blasio is New York City’s next mayor. Six months ago that statement seemed like the hallucination of a Brooklyn progressive on an acid trip, but there he was in the flesh, onstage on election night at the Park Slope Armory, receiving a standing ovation after his crushing victory over Republican Joe Lhota, in which de Blasio won roughly three quarters of the vote. That de Blasio chose his home turf—he and his family live a few blocks away from the Armory—as the location of his celebration is significant. Park Slope has long been regarded as one of the incubators of progressive politics in the city; home to the white liberals that were often the most vociferous critics of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayor Rudy Giuliani—even though the voting records of those neighborhoods sometimes told a different story. (Bloomberg largely fared well with liberal voters in the 2009 general election.) There was a palpable sense of accomplishment at the victory party, with a swelling number of brownstone denizens in the cavernous recreation center rejoicing with the sense that they had finally gotten one of their own into the highest office in the city. No longer would they have to bemoan the reign of Bloomberg, the mayor-CEO with a billionaire’seye perspective of the city; no longer would they have to seethe at the snarling, iron-fisted Giuliani and his law-and-order regime. All of that agony seemed a distant, fading memory now that Lhota, perceived by many to be a proxy for the Giuliani era, had been utterly rejected by a city that appears finally ready to embrace their progressive values. For the first time in 20 years, a trueblue Democrat will occupy City Hall—and perhaps Gracie Mansion, though a de Blasio family huddle will ultimately make that decision. Given the Democrats’ long, painful time in the wilderness, de Blasio’s ascension to the mayoralty comes with great expectations. His first four years will be a litmus test for the city’s progressive movement, beginning with de Blasio’s first 100 days in office, and even before then as he appoints the key positions that will shape his administration. “Progressives believe this is a moment,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College. “You’ve got them talking about a 21st century city, talking to folks about giving their input. Whether there’s this zeitgeist shift is up for question, but it is an opportunity fraught with obstacles because expectations are so high. It’s an added burden on the mayor-
elect; it begins to transcend him and New York.” There is a common feel among de Blasio’s supporters that the incoming administration cannot afford to be mediocre—or rather, that there will be little margin for error. During his campaign de Blasio staked out as his clearest position raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers in order to fund his proposed $500 million universal preschool and afterschool program, presented as a small step toward bridging the gap between what he termed “A Tale of Two Cities.” His supporters and detractors alike are certain that de Blasio will strive to tackle this issue head-on in his first year, though there is disagreement on the question of whether he has bitten off more than he can chew by committing himself to
horizon, the consensus among political observers is that de Blasio will make his first priority public safety, and that one of the first appointments of his administration will be a new police commissioner. For this critical position de Blasio will have to pick a candidate who strikes the delicate balance of being loyal to his vision while also earning the respect of the members of the force, who can play a huge role in sinking a mayoralty if disenchanted with its leadership. Appointing a criminal justice coordinator, someone who oversees the nuts and bolts of the city’s public safety system—the funding of courts, incarceration programs, probation and corrections—is also a top concern. Much of the focus around policing is on stop-and-frisk and the disproportionate targeting of young minorities, but just as
Bill de Blasio celebrates his primary election victory with his family. a plan which requires coaxing the state Legislature and governor to raise the city’s taxes during an election year. Should de Blasio fall short of his promise to deliver universal pre-K, his opponents will surely leap at the opportunity to prey upon his failure and use it as political ammunition for the next four years. Upon the start of his term, de Blasio will also have to plunge right into collective bargaining negotiations with the city’s municipal unions—many of which have been working without a contract or pay raise for the last five years. These negotiations will be a closely scrutinized, highly difficult test of the new mayor’s ability to responsibly manage the city’s finances, while maintaining his strong relationship with organized labor. Though these battles loom large on the
important will be returning an emphasis to community involvement in neighborhood policing—an area in which community justice centers have been successful—and conveying empathy—never Bloomberg’s strong suit. Along those same lines, another big challenge for the next administration will be to find different ways of connecting with people on the local level, and investing in neighborhood organizations as a gateway to promoting civic participation. Who de Blasio appoints as commissioners and deputies will provide some indication of the importance de Blasio places on engaging all New Yorkers. De Blasio has said that he would like his administration to reflect the diversity of the five boroughs, but some question whether the incoming administration’s budgetary limitations
(the city is running a $2 billion deficit) and the high-pressure environment that comes with running the nation’s largest municipality might turn off some of the most qualified candidates from accepting positions in his government. “One of the things he’s gonna have to do is look for the best talent,” said John Mollenkopf, director of CUNY’s Center for Urban Research. “But really talented and experienced black and Latino professionals are people that have lots of choices in life. In general, recruiting people into this administration is not going to be easy, [with a] tough budget situation, [and] a lot of expectations that are going to be tough to meet. It’s not easy to turn the till of the ship of state and have it change course.” Having worked in the administration of David Dinkins, the city’s most recent Democratic mayor, de Blasio is likely to be cognizant of avoiding mistakes made by his former boss, whose City Hall was a sieve for leaks, creating the perception that Dinkins lacked the discipline to police his own backyard. By contrast, Bloomberg ran a tight ship, though he afforded his commissioners a great deal of latitude to run their own show, and saw, in many cases, the dividends of doing so, most notably in the Department of Health, where Bloomberg’s commissioners transformed public healthy policy in the United States, and the Department of Transportation, where Commissioner Janette SadikKhan turned a once opaque, bureaucratic agency into a hotbed of innovative ideas that have had a profound, tangible impact on the city’s streets. “Bloomberg has run a very commissioner-centric government, where he has set the priorities, and given his commissioners a very wide berth in achieving them,” said Nat Leventhal, a veteran of several administrations, and the point person on overseeing the transition teams of Dinkins and Bloomberg. “The test will be how [de Blasio] organizes City Hall … Every mayor faces the same issue of how he’s going to get his priorities translated throughout the government.” This tension between asserting and directing management will be key for de Blasio to master as he organizes his administration. Conveying a clear vision of what he wants will be equally trying. The progressive ideology he championed during the campaign is certain to be put to the test, and his supporters will be watching carefully, hoping that the man in whom they have placed their hope can be the catalyst for the seismic shift in New York City government they desire. cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
City Council Speaker Candidates Emerge At Somos By NICK POWELL
Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio receives an award from Assemblyman Félix Ortiz at the Somos El Futuro conference in San Juan.
hether you were an elected official or otherwise in attendance at this year’s Somos El Futuro conference in San Juan, there’s a good chance that a handful of the conversations you took part in revolved around the behind-the-scenes campaign for Speaker of the New York City Council. With Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and his wife only making brief cameo appearances at the conference before ducking away for a vacation, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo skipping out altogether, the unofficial focus of Somos—aside from beach time and postconference carousing—was which of the five to six (depending on whom you ask) candidates for Speaker would emerge as Christine Quinn’s successor? In the weeks prior to Somos, it seemed that every day a new Council member was floated as being “interested” in the position, with some names pulled out of thin air and others with some actual momentum behind them. Some combination of Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dan Garodnick, Mark Weprin, Jimmy Vacca, Inez Dickens, Jimmy Van Bramer, Annabel Palma and Jumaane Williams constituted the usual suspects, with other names amounting to little more than whisper campaigns in a game of City Council telephone. The beauty of Somos was that, unlike the opacity of the Council offices back in New York City, many of the members were all in one place. Political heavyweights openly mingled with candidates, various interest groups hosted parties for their preferred Speaker, and—since the Council body decides the position—Council members maneuvered for face time with one another. On Thursday, the first official night of the conference, Keith Wright was chatting up Weprin in one room at the same time MarkViverito was making the rounds in another at a reception hosted by the powerful 1199SEIU healthcare union in her honor. At the same party, Garodnick made small talk 20 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
with some of the incoming members of the newly emboldened progressive wing of the Council. At one point Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield, who fashions himself as a power broker in southern Brooklyn, held court as Weprin, Garodnick and Vacca sat with him near the hotel bar—but one of many instances of the candidates’ naked lobbying of their colleagues. Mark-Viverito, Garodnick and Weprin are likely the most serious candidates, based on numerous conversations with Council sources, political insiders and Somos observers; sources indicate that Mark-Viverito and Garodnick are likely to emerge out of the fray. Mark-Viverito, especially, was the rising star of the Speaker field during the weekend. Once seen as something of a long shot because of her unabashedly liberal positions and perception—possibly unfounded—that she was not well-liked, sources now say MarkViverito’s candidacy has received a boost from the mayor-elect himself, who has begun to lean on members in her favor through back channels. Her connection to Puerto Rico—she was born and raised in San Juan—served Mark-Viverito well at Somos and, jibing with the talk of de Blasio’s involvement in elevating her candidacy, the mayor-elect’s speech at the conference on Friday night contained a notable line that was parsed by many attendees. Standing at the podium on stage in a large banquet hall at the Condado Hilton, his wife and political factotum, Chirlane, by his side, de Blasio said, “Going forward, we want to make sure that we have a government that looks like New York City … and that means a strong Latino representation.” Ethnicity is only one factor in making the selection, according to some of the folks involved in the crowning of the Speaker. Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio noted that personality and leadership style tend to take precedence. “I don’t think ethnicity or culture should
be first. I think qualifications should be first, competence should be first, and most importantly of all in that position, you have to have the ability to get along with others,” Seddio said. “The Speaker has to work in our system by being able to have the members support [the Speaker’s] views.” To that end, Council members say there is a desire for a Speaker who would only have one more term to serve out, to guard against the political ambitions that at times dogged Quinn. Quinn, whose every legislative decision was viewed through the lens of her eventual decision to run for mayor, was accused of stalling popular measures such as the Community Safety Act and paid sick leave because of how it would affect her mayoral candidacy. One member at the conference, who asked not to be named, used the term PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to describe the general feel of the Council with regard to selecting Quinn as Speaker in 2005. This could work in the favor of Mark-Viverito and Garodnick, both of whom have one term left to serve out, as opposed to Weprin, who has two. “There are members who had significant difficulty with Christine Quinn. I think many of those members who had those difficulties feel that things should be different,” Vacca said. “I think all members see that we should be looking at reform. Which reforms and what they are is another issue.” Council sources say Weprin has been making the case to members that a lame duck Speaker would immediately become a target of special interest groups, and would have difficulty passing key legislation and instituting the much-discussed package of legislative reforms proposed by Councilmen Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Greenfield and Williams, including taking the politics out of the distribution of member items and establishing an independent body within the Council to draft and introduce legislation. Of the three leading Speaker candidates, Garodnick is easily the most guarded. While he’s made no secret that he’s interested in
the position, Council insiders say he didn’t work the room at Somos as energetically as Weprin and Mark-Viverito did. Still, he’s generally well-liked by his colleagues and is considered something of a happy medium between Mark-Viverito, the progressive voice, and Weprin, who is more politically moderate, though closer to the former than the latter. A prevailing sentiment at Somos was that Dickens and Vacca simply don’t have the numbers to sustain their candidacies, while the other candidates are long shots. Something to keep an eye on, however, is the growing influence of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, which added several new members to its ranks this year. The Caucus is said to be all-in on supporting Mark-Viverito, giving her the most solid “Yes” votes at the moment but also setting the stage for a power struggle with the city’s county leaders, all of whom were in attendance at Somos and had dinner together to discuss the Speaker’s race, among other topics. The nightlife scene after de Blasio’s Somos speech on Friday reflected the political fault lines in the Speaker’s race. Mark-Viverito escorted several Progressive Caucus members and her staff to La Respuesta, a club featuring live music that would be right at home in the hipster enclaves of Bushwick or Greenpoint. Weprin and Garodnick mingled with colleagues at the El San Juan, a casino hotel where beautiful women danced to a live band, and where Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Carl Heastie was notably situated. Throwing a curveball into the Speaker mix, a staffer for Dickens approached me at the El San Juan, asking for my email address so he could send me a photo. When I returned to my hotel room at an ungodly hour, I opened my email to find a picture of Dickens smiling with Crowley, Seddio and Wright at a party she was hosting that night. Whether this raises Dickens’ profile remains to be seen, but it is another story line that bears watching in the coming weeks.
New York City Council members converge at a reception honoring Melissa Mark-Viverito hosted by 1199 SEIU in San Juan.
NY / NJ SUPER BOWL, VIA FACEBOOK
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
Al Kelly (at podium), president and CEO of the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, says everything will be ready in time for the big game.
NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee Prepared For Big Game By MICHAEL JOHNSON
he kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII is less than three months away, but both Jonathan Tisch, the co-chair of the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, and Al Kelly, its president and CEO, say they are prepared for the big game. In Last Look interviews with City & State, Tisch, the New York Giants’ co-owner, and Kelly, the former CEO of American Express, said they believe they have prepared for any possible challenge that could come their way, from transportation and hospitality to security and weather preparedness. “Every day we focus on making sure our plans are the right plans, that any contingency has other contingencies,” Tisch said. “Al Kelly and his team and the host committee have been working very closely with the NFL. They have tried to think of everything. But we know the saying:
Stuff happens. And that is what you really have to be prepared for, when you didn’t think of something and how you can react quickly.” The weeklong festivities leading up to and including the Super Bowl are expected to bring $500 to $600 million to the region, spread between New York and New Jersey depending on where fans and tourists choose to stay and celebrate. The NFL and the host committee are taking steps to provide opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, or MWBEs, by signing them up for a database of vendors and outside contractors. “We have them in a database,” Kelly said. “We are training them and, very importantly, we are introducing them to all the various vendors of the league and our host committee, so when we go to buy anything we look at that database first to see if we can find the service or product we need from that database. And the NFL suppliers and vendors are doing the very same thing.”
Kelly praised Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses, a program aimed at providing entrepreneurs with capital and other support, noting that the host committee has been working closely with them to help many MWBEs. The enormous undertaking of hosting the Super Bowl has highlighted some of the region’s limitations. One area that Tisch identified was the lack of large venues. “Land is expensive here, and to try and find a space that holds 10,000 to 15,000 people is not easy,” he said. “But the sponsors that are doing some of the entertaining, they have found their events. The city has been very cooperative in terms of the permitting, understanding the issues— and so there will be a lot of excitement. But, yeah, we could uses a few more venues in town to host some big events.” Despite these challenges, Tisch said the tristate area is still perfectly capable of pulling off large events like the Super Bowl because of the huge number of available hotel rooms, restaurants and other services.
With the game just weeks away, most of the host committee’s focus now is on last-minute preparations for the event and the week leading up to it. The committee is also hoping to leave an enduring legacy by raising money to build new parks and playing fields across the region. “We have already green-lighted 30 different projects on both sides of the Hudson,” Kelly said. “Playgrounds. Playing fields. Renovating and restoring parts of community houses and community centers for school-aged kids that are truly oases for them—and they add support to the support that these young people get at home and that they get in school.” Asked what teams he thought would be playing in the Super Bowl, Kelly said he actually hasn’t been able to follow the season as closely as in previous years because he has been too busy with the preparations. His Fantasy Football team has suffered as a result, he joked: It was 1–6 on the year.
To watch these, and many other, Last Look interviews in their entirety, go to cityandstateny.com/video. To receive every Last Look in your inbox, sign up for Last Read on City & State’s website.
cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
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Andrew Cuomo announced plans to apply for federal funding for a new Tappan Zee Bridge in 2012. The governor has taken steps to better coordinate infrastructure spending.
he Cuomo administration unveiled its first-ever 10-year capital plan this summer, a statewide strategy to increase coordination among state agencies, cut costs and bring a more longterm outlook to New York’s infrastructure. But while the plan has drawn praise from many quarters, some experts and officials contend that it lacks a basic element needed to decide which projects to prioritize: a comprehensive list of infrastructure assets, from roads and bridges to wastewater facilities and university buildings. “We don’t have a good inventory of our capital assets,” said Robert Ward, a state deputy comptroller. “We don’t have good information on the condition of those assets, certainly not in all cases. And partly as a result of that, we don’t have a plan that says, next year we will address these gaps in our capital asset group, the following year we will do something else, and over the next five, ten years, whatever, we will take these steps and make these investments.” The state’s capital plan should also lay out the level of spending needed to repair each and every bridge, highway and university building, said Elizabeth Lynam, the director of state studies with the Citizens Budget Commission. “How much will this billion dollars that we plan to spend make a dent in our asset deterioration? When we
pave our roads and we’re going to take it from a poor condition to a better condition, can we do all the roads? Can we do some of them? We don’t have any idea of how far the money will go, because although they’ve inventoried the condition, they haven’t gone the next step in planning out the state of good repair,” Lynam said. By all accounts, the governor’s capital plan, released by his New York Works Task Force in June, does break ground in coordinating spending among the dozens of agencies and authorities in the state. The plan, which groups spending into categories like transportation and education, also specifically calls for a statewide infrastructure assessment, including the cost to repair various assets. Of course, large state agencies and authorities like the Department of Transportation, the Office of General Services and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority already have detailed inventories of their infrastructure. In fact, nearly 84 percent of state agencies surveyed by the New York Works Task Force reported that they maintain an infrastructure and capital asset inventory. Margaret Tobin, the task force’s executive director, defended the way the group put together the state’s new capital plan. She said that agencies and authorities spend capital dollars in very different ways, often on different fiscal calendars, and that there would be little to gain from comparing, say, state highways to state parks. Such a list would be outdated by the time it was compiled, include speculative cost estimates and do little more than create another bureaucracy, she added. “I’m much more interested in the quality of the information,” Tobin said. “I’m much less interested in just reams and reams and reams of project lists. I don’t think it helps anybody think about where you put your focus. I will tell you that we could generate it. I could put a call to the 47 agencies and authorities that have capital budgets and say please send us your capital assessment, and we’ll get 47 different ways of doing it. I don’t find that useful.” Nonetheless, the state comptroller has proposed putting together a capital asset and infrastructure council to develop a statewide capital needs assessment, which would be the basis for a 20-year strategic plan. “The starting point from the comptroller’s perspective ought to be, ‘Here is a list of what the state owns or substantially supports, financially, and here is the condition of each of those assets,’ ” Ward said. “That’s really one of the critical gaps—a clear understanding of the condition of each asset. That should be the starting point for determining where we need to make investments and what priority [they should be]. That’s generally what we mean when we say the state doesn’t adequately engage in capital planning.”
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DON’T BET ON IT
DID THE CASINO AMENDMENT LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING IN NEW YORK? By JON LENTZ
hen New York voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos this month, they also paved the way for sports betting in the state—but only if a federal ban is overturned. The ballot language simply asked voters if they support up to seven casinos and the promised benefits they would bring, but the accompanying enacting legislation specifically describes how sports betting could go forward. “New York has essentially said, ‘We know it’s illegal but we’re writing it into our law on a contingent basis, so sports betting can occur at the casinos that we’re setting up,” said Gerald Benjamin, a constitutional expert at SUNY New Paltz. The enacting legislation, passed by both houses and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this summer, includes a long list of details on “sports wagering,” which would be authorized “provided that there has been a change in federal law authorizing such activity or upon ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction that such activity is lawful.” If the federal ban is lifted, any sports betting operations would then have to be approved by New York’s gaming commission. Betting would be limited to the state’s new casinos, and to people 21 years old or over and actually on site at the casino. In-state games would also be off-limits. The legislative language on sports betting could conceivably establish the intent of the Legislature, so that betting might be allowed without voters having to approve another state constitutional amendment, Benjamin said. “Hypothetically, if sports betting becomes legal, then the argument might be made by anti-sports betting groups that we have to have another amendment, because authorizing casinos doesn’t necessarily authorize sports betting,” he said. “But if you put sports betting into the statute on a contingent basis, the people who want to have it adopted could simply say, ‘Hey, this was contemplated by the Legislature. When we did this, the people of New York knew about it when they voted on it.’ ” Efforts to overturn the federal law against sports betting have so far been unsuccessful. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has challenged the prohibition, which covers most of the
country. New Jersey voters passed a sports betting referendum in 2011 to boost struggling casinos in Atlantic City, but in September of this year a judge upheld the federal ban. Earlier this month the state asked for a re-hearing in a federal appeals court. But experts doubt whether the challenge will be successful, given well-funded opposition from professional and college sports leagues, which fear that sports betting could have a corrupting influence on competitions. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who represents Nevada, which allows sports betting, is also seen as a bulwark against any changes, as are the moneyed interests in Las Vegas that benefit from the status quo. Still, drafters of the legislation in New York clearly prepared for future opportunities to expand gambling, however unlikely that scenario may be. “The gaming act as drafted absolutely contemplates New York entering the sports betting world at some point in time, and proactively addresses that,” said Karl Sleight, a casino expert with Harris Beach. “It’s certainly a developing issue throughout the country. You’ll see other states are looking at sports betting, tying that into Internet betting, how that would work, but I think when they drafted this, if you look at a lot of the pieces of the statute that aren’t being talked about, this legislation was put out there with the expectation that this sector is going to grow and that New York needs to have the legal pieces in place before they are fully into the market.” James Featherstonhaugh, the president of the New York Gaming Association, does not expect sports betting to arrive in the state any time soon. His association represents existing racetrack casinos, some of which are likely candidates for licenses to become full-fledged casinos. Featherstonhaugh is also a part owner of the racetrack casino in Saratoga Springs, which is located in one of the upstate zones designated for the first round of expansion. “I think the people that are waiting for that federal legislation to change had better pack a big lunch,” Featherstonhaugh said. “The professional sports leagues are formidable impediments to allowing sports betting. I wish we could have a sports book at our casino, but they aren’t entirely without a rationale as to why it’s a problem. I think it could be a while.”
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ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / COMMON CORE
NO COMMON GROUND NEW YORK’S IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMON CORE STANDARDS UNDER FIRE BY ADAM JANOS
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (foreground), who appeared at a City & State education panel in August, has said that the Common Core curriculum was rushed.
he 2012–13 academic year represented a sea change in New York’s educational testing standards, as public school students for the first time took exams that meet the new Common Core learning standards. The results of those tests, implemented as part of a federal education initiative, were abysmal. In New York City, only 33 percent of students received a passing score in math, and even fewer—28 percent—passed the language arts section of the test. In upstate cities like Rochester and Syracuse, the percentage of students that passed tumbled into the single digits. In part policymakers stress that these low scores were the result of cart-beforethe-horse testing—that is, that the test was introduced to students before the new required curricula. Now the New York State Education Department clearly has its work cut out for it, as do students, teachers, and school administrators looking to make sense of changing expectations. The purpose of the Common Core is to create state standards that are consistent with one another, as well as on par with international academic standards, while bringing more focus to critical thinking and language skills to prepare New York’s youth for college and jobs. A key feature of the Common Core is that clear academic goals were identified first, and then road maps were developed to meet those aspirations. It places a greater emphasis on informational texts, citing evidence and student-centered learning, which means that students not only learn subject material but also strategies for understanding 24 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
new information. According to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, that is a change that is desperately needed. Tisch told City & State that 75 percent of New York State high schoolers need remediation in two-year colleges, and that sixyear graduation rates at two-year colleges currently are 24 percent, demonstrating how woefully underprepared the New York public school system leaves its graduates. According to the New York State Department of Labor, unemployment statewide is 7.6 percent, compared with the national rate of 7.3 percent. “I’m tired of employers coming to New York State and saying they can’t find people who can fill these jobs,” Tisch said. “We’re just sowing the seeds here. It has to be a conversation between teachers and principals and parents and students. It’s just a different way of thinking about what kids need in a 21st century environment.” The rollout of Common Core, including the state’s relatively early adoption of new tests, has many detractors, who point to the dismal results as evidence of poor planning. Richard Iannuzzi, the president of New York State United Teachers, said that the higher standards have the potential to improve educational outcomes, but only if they are done right. State officials note that the Common Core standards were agreed to in 2010 and that efforts have been made to train teachers. But Iannuzzi is pushing for a moratorium on the new tests until the 2015–16 school year, time he said is needed to allow teachers and students to
adjust to the new curricula. “The major issue for us right now is a very poor plan for implementation, and when you combine that very poor implementation and a rush to test, and in many ways an obsession with standardized testing, what the state education has effectively created through a poor implementation and an overreliance on standardized testing is a growing lack of confidence in the Common Core itself,” Iannuzzi said. “That’s a shame, because we believe the Common Core has great potential.” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, echoed Iannuzzi’s overall support for Common Core while criticizing how it has been introduced. “It is a good idea, and it needs to happen for us, as a country,” Mulgrew said at a City & State education panel this past summer. “Implementation-wise, as a teacher you have your standards; you should then have a curriculum that is flexible for teachers to use with different students based on their needs, and then you design the testing around it. [The rollout of curricula and testing] should’ve been done much differently, but the problem was with the politics around it—people want to rush out and act like they’re getting things done.” In New York City the Department of Education’s curricula was planned in February and purportedly delivered to schools over the summer and into the autumn. According to an internal survey of curriculum materials conducted by the UFT, 78 percent of respondents said their school had not received all the ELA mate-
rials they had requested. In regard to statewide curricula planning, Mulgrew asserts that “it was up to the local school districts, who have not done a good job at all on this issue.” Shael Polakow-Suransky, New York City’s chief academic officer, conceded there had been problems with textbook delivery. “At the beginning of the year there were some issues,” Polakow-Suransky said. “This was the largest textbook delivery and trade book delivery that’s ever happened in New York City. When you do a rollout with over 1,700 schools, over 75,000 teachers, over 1.1 million kids, you know, hundreds of thousands of books, there are going to be glitches that come about as part of that process.” Still, Polakow-Suransky believes that adequate preparation is not just a matter of curricula, but also professional development. He noted that over 15,000 teachers went through training in the summer. Additional professional development, the delivery of materials to schools, and in-school teacher training coaches have the department confident that test scores will rise in the coming year. PolakowSuransky also noted that the department has doubled its resources to $100 million for professional development. Changing the skills of 75,000 educators is critical and takes time, he noted. “People have to try this out; they have to take risks,” he said. “Sometimes they have to fail in order to learn what they need to learn in order to succeed.”
IT’S TIME TO GET IT RIGHT Parents and educators agree: The State Education Department’s rushed implementation of the Common Core state standards has undercut the credibility of those standards and jeopardized their potential. Now is the time for a three-year moratorium on the use of assessments for high-stakes consequences for students and teachers, giving the state the time it needs to “get it right.”
n engage and listen to parents; n act now to provide teachers the tools and support they need; n develop grade-level appropriate curriculum aligned with classroom practice; n respect teachers’ professional judgment; n provide transparency in the state’s assessment program by releasing all the test questions; n postpone using Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement; and n advocate for the state funding needed to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve the new standards.
Failure to help students, teachers and schools is not an option. Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President Maria Neira, Vice President Kathleen M. Donahue, Vice President Lee Cutler, Secretary-Treasurer
Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455 n 518-213-6000 / 800-342-9810 www.nysut.org n Affiliated with AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / COMMON CORE
LEFT BEHIND HIGH-NEED LEARNERS AND THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS By ADAM JANOS
n New York City, four in 10 public school students come from families that speak a language other than English at home. “Typically we think of minority students in terms of race and English-language learners and poverty and all that … but the ELL [English-language learner] population, it’s growing tremendously in New York,” said Okhee Lee, a professor of childhood education at New York University. Now, with the rollout of Common Core—a nationwide education initiative aimed at standardizing and raising the
bar to international benchmarks through languageintensive learning in all subject matter—ELLs and other high-need students face the daunting task of keeping pace with more linguistically rigorous testing at a time when many students without such obstacles are already struggling to stay up to speed. Unlike some previous educational models, the Common Core standards aim to deepen critical thinking through more direct student engagement with reading and writing. Students will “learn to be precise, to argue from evidence, to reason abstractly,” said Lee, who is involved in a similar effort developing new science standards. “There is such emphasis on practices, not just learning about the core ideas. And here is the kicker—the means for doing those practices is language.” Whether that raised bar will cause ELLs to thrive or falter in city schools is a matter
His Future Is at Stake Governor Andrew Cuomo and Education Commissioner John King took bold action in adopting the Common Core Learning Standards. Now New York State is leading the nation in raising expectations for our kids and teachers. We can’t turn back. Our kids’ futures depend on it. Visit StudentsFirstNY.org and join us in fighting to give our kids the education they deserve. Working to give kids the education they deserve
26 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
of debate. Complaints of inadequate professional development and a sink-orswim approach to implementation has some advocates concerned about the future for children whose academic prospects—including where they can attend school—will depend in part on these highstakes tests. “We want to make sure that parents are sufficiently informed about any changes to curriculum,” said Jose Davila, the Hispanic Federation’s vice president for policy and government relations. “Equally important is to make sure that, from the curriculum side and on the assessment side, ELLs are centered to any changes and reforms, and that there’s a unique look at how to craft appropriate curricula. That’s always been a challenge for New York schools.” Davila argues that the difficulties have grown more severe in the past 12 years, as a result of a fundamental shift in New York City to a small-school model. Whereas in the past larger schools had more flexibility and demand for full-time bilingual educational programs, Davila argues that smaller schools have rendered that model impractical, and that bilingual staffing has been slashed citywide. “So many ELLs fall through the cracks as far as school closures, school reforms and school reconfigurations go,” he said. In a recent report the Hispanic Federation called for more bilingual schools, as well as community schools, which would combine a schoolhouse with social work services under one roof to provide a more holistic approach to low-income, firstgeneration students. Shael Polakow-Suransky, New York City’s chief academic officer, acknowledged the obstacles facing students who don’t speak English as their first language, and said that more rigorous standards would increase those challenges. “We have to work with the state and the federal government to make sure that the testing requirements are realistic. The Feds have a rule that ELL kids have to be tested after they’ve been in the country for one year,” he said. “Because of the rigor of the readings on these exams, if you’re a brand-new English-language learner and you just started to talk, and now you’re expected to read really sophisticated stuff and answer questions in English, it’s not going to go well.” Polakow-Suransky said that the spirit of that federal requirement, which was introduced in 2009, was that more rigorous ELL testing would ensure that secondlanguage learners did not get left behind by way of lowered expectations. However, he supports state action to introduce a waiver on exams for recent immigrants
“because it would allow teachers to really focus on what kids need at the beginning, which is language development.” At the same time, special-education students have seen the reduction of isolated, specialized instruction paired with more stringent demands. Much as the small-school model ended bilingual education, New York City’s “Shared Path to Success” program has moved more highneed special-education students into general education classes at the same time that Common Core standards have put greater academic demand on the student body as a whole. That shift has been a big mistake, said Carmen Alvarez, vice president in charge of special-education issues at the United Federation of Teachers. “One of the misconceptions that’s in the system is that kids with disabilities will fare better in general education, so people actually believe if you’re placed in general education, you’ll get it,” Alvarez said. “They’ve forgotten what special education is about.” Problems with standardized curriculum pacing—and a lack of flexibility in teaching methodology to accommodate individualized programs for specialeducation learners—has Alvarez worried that Common Core could leave specialeducation students in the dust. According to the UFT, the numbers back up this dismal assessment. In 2013 only 5.7 percent of special-education students passed state testing modeled on Common Core Standards, down from 15.8 percent on the old test in 2012. Even compared with the dip in general education numbers between the tests (54.1 percent to 31.3 percent), those numbers are grim. “They want to work with the kids who can,” Alvarez said. “And the ones who can’t? Goodbye.” Still, Lee believes there is a chance Common Core can eventually close the gap between learners, not increase it. “This is what we’re really trying to stress: If the English-language learners and special-education students have the access to quality instruction, when it’s done well, according to the spirit of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards that involve student-oriented practices, and kids are doing things and making meaning and constructing meaning, then it certainly has—absolutely has—opportunities.” “These practices involve doing things,” Lee continued. “Students are solving a problem, engaging the material. That’s the whole point. The kids will develop the understanding, and then learn language at the same time.”
We stand ready to work with you to ensure that every child in NYC has access to a high-quality public education. On behalf of public charter schools students and their families, the New York City Charter School Center congratulates every incoming elected official and wishes them a successful and productive year.
Learn more at what.arecharterschools.org
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / COMMON CORE
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT: COMMON CORE THE PLAYERS THE STATE As commissioner of the New York State Education Department, Dr. John King Jr. oversees public and independent schools that serve over 3 million students across the state. King, a former teacher and principal, spearheaded the state’s federal Race to the Top application. King works closely with Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, which supervises all educational activities in the state. Amid controversy over the implementation of new testing tied to the Common Core standards, King and Tisch have defended the rollout. State Sen. John Flanagan, the chair of the Education Committee, has held a series of hearings evaluating Common Core. His counterpart in the Assembly is Cathy Nolan, who keeps a lower profile. Richard Iannuzzi, president of the powerful New York State United Teachers, has called for a moratorium on Common Core tests.
THE CITY New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is now a lame duck, with the Bloomberg administration leaving office in a little over a month. Shael PolakowSuransky, Walcott’s senior deputy and the chief academic officer, has been mentioned as a possible successor in the administration of Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. Others floated as potential candidates include Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University; Robert Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools; Andrés Alonso, the former head of the Baltimore school system; Joshua Starr, superintendent of a Maryland public school system; and Kathleen Cashin, a member of the state Board of Regents. De Blasio has pledged to reverse several Bloomberg policies, including the use of student test scores to judge schools and teachers. Michael Mulgrew’s United Federation of Teachers backed the failed candidate Bill Thompson in the mayoral race, but is still likely to experience improved relations with City Hall under the new administration.
BY THE NUMBERS NEW YORK VS. THE NATION How do New York’s students compare with the rest of the country as a whole? It depends on the test, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics.
PERCENTAGE AT OR ABOVE PROFICIENT COMPARED WITH THE NATION
Mathematics, 4th grade
Mathematics, 8th grade
Reading, 4th grade
Reading, 8th grade
NEW YORK THE NATION (SOURCE: THE NATION’S REPORT CARD: A FIRST LOOK: 2013 MATHEMATICS AND READING; NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS AT GRADES 4 AND 8.)
28 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
ELSEWHERE Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core standards. The five that have declined are Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. In addition to New York, Kentucky has also implemented tests tied to Common Core standards.
New York State United Teachers Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care.
Working with parents Working for students www.nysut.org
Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President Maria Neira, Vice President Kathleen M. Donahue, Vice President Lee Cutler, Secretary-Treasurer
Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455 n 518-213-6000 / 800-342-9810 n Affiliated with AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / COMMON CORE
CSA celebrates Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer Public Advocate-elect Letitia James
and all victorious candidates
“For the growth and stability of our economy, New York City must have a strong public education system, in which every student has a real chance…” —Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor-elect
Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Ernest Logan PRESIDENT
40 RECTOR STREET NEW YORK, NY 10006 212 823-2020 WWW.CSA-NYC.ORG
30 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
THE ROUNDTABLE SHAEL POLAKOWSURANSKY Chief Academic Officer, New York City Department of Education
Q: The Common Core implementation has proven controversial. Is there need for improvement? SPS: In 1993 Massachusetts passed the Education Reform Act that, in part, called for new, more rigorous learning standards. When their state tests changed in 1998, the majority of students in 4th, 8th and 10th grades did not pass the math or science exams, and only 8th graders did well on the English exam. Yet the state stuck by its higher standards, and today Massachusetts is the only state in the country that competes on international assessments with Korea, Finland and Singapore. Adjusting instruction, assessment and curricula to new, more rigorous standards takes years, but with time, support and persistence, the effort pays off. Informally, at colleges and in workplaces, New York City students are already being held accountable for the skills and knowledge the Common Core demands. That’s why city schools began transitioning to the Common Core in 2010, when the Department of Education adopted a multiyear strategic implementation plan. Each year since, teachers have been moving toward full alignment with the Common Core. The DoE spent $133 million on professional development and resources over the past three years. In addition to launching a 100-school Common Core pilot, the DoE offered thousands of centrally and school-led training opportunities to educators citywide. Lessons from the pilot helped inform the Common Core Library—an online resource filled with curricular materials and key supporting resources that has millions of page views. And this year the DoE is investing an additional $100 million into the continued transition, which includes full-day trainings attended this summer by over 10,000 educators. For the Common Core to be meaningful, instruction, assessment and curricula all need to shift. State Common Core exams are one piece of the transition, and a small piece at that— required testing time for grades 3–8 is less than 1 percent of the school year.
When students are required to take tests, the assessments should be developmentally appropriate and instructionally valuable. But the Common Core lives in the lessons that teachers deliver each and every day. The Common Core is about the social studies teacher who pushes her students’ thinking by not accepting a simple answer—he goes back to the student and asks, “But how do you know? Where is the evidence in the text?” The Common Core is about a middle school math teacher delivering a lesson about standard notation and scientific notation by giving a real-world problem involving the debt of the United State government. And the Common Core is about the dance teacher who incorporates informational text into her lessons— students learn relevant vocabulary words and engage in a group project that brings that vocabulary to life and culminates in a dance performance.
JOHN FLANAGAN Chair, New York State Senate Education Committee
Q: The implementation of Common Core standards has proven controversial. Why? JF: There’s a major distinction between the standards and the curriculum, and the curriculum as it relates to implementation. These standards were developed by educational professionals all across the country. There’s a broad umbrella group called the Educational Conference Board that’s comprised of school administrators, principals, PTAs, school superintendents, school board members, and they are supportive of Common Core. But what they are frustrated by, and what everyone is frustrated by, is the implementation, and that is completely justifiable. The implementation has not gone well—and, frankly, it’s not going well right now. We’ve had a series of five hearings, in Long Island, Syracuse, Buffalo, New York City and Albany, and we announced these in early summer before anyone was doing anything. These are formal hearings of the Senate Education Committee, and it’s a great opportunity to hear from a very broad cross section of people. The testimony
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / COMMON CORE
THE ROUNDTABLE is all online. We’ve got a good cross section of opinion: parents, administrators, school board members, notfor-profit experts on issues like privacy, people who have a very broad range of experience in academics, and there’s been no preconception other than to listen to what people have to say. Q: What stands out as the key problem? JF: There’s a very high level of frustration. A plan that was fundamentally well-intentioned has been very poorly executed, and it’s provided a major source of consternation for parents and students. This is not without its challenges. The academic rigor that’s attached to this is real. The phrase I’ve heard more of than not is that the style of teaching used to be more about doing things “a mile wide and an inch deep.” And now the emphasis is on how to do it an inch wide and a mile deep. And I believe that there is nothing— nothing—more important than having an effective teacher in front of a classroom. But if they don’t have the proper tools, that’s not fair to them, and that’s not fair to the student. That’s where the major shortcoming has been repeated time and time and time again. Q: New York is one of the first states to implement the actual Common Core tests. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage? JF: It’s both, because you have to learn from your own experience, and in this case, from your own mistakes. If there were 10 other states that were ahead of us, we could look at some of the things and see where it went well and where it didn’t. But there is a sense that this has been rushed. It’s got some valuable underpinnings to it, but they’ve been lost in the sauce.
DR. EDWIN QUEZADA Assistant Superintendent, Yonkers Public Schools
Q: The new Common Core standards, or at least their implementation in New York, has drawn strong criticism. What do they do well? EQ: They bring about consistency. They bring about rigor. I firmly believe that they bring about a great deal of inno-
vation and creativity. I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing as it relates to technology alignment. When you look at all the programs and software being used to address the Common Core learning standards, everything is aligned with the Common Core. I’m seeing that the Common Core learning standards are providing a solid foundation in all of the mathematical concepts, and as a result I think we will have better prepared students when they enter the algebra curriculum. I see real scaffolding because of the depth in instruction, and I also see a lot of opportunities for our students. We as educators have the opportunities to provide them with more resources and more materials, so access has increased, in my opinion. Q: What don’t they don’t well, if anything? EQ: I have difficulties coming up with an answer at this point. I’m seeing true alignment between what the teachers are teaching and what we’re expecting the students to learn. Q: There has been some controversy over the implementation, with some saying that the actual testing should be delayed. EQ: When you work in an urban center, to delay the standards probably means that we will leave quite a few students behind, the way we have been doing it before. So I’m not sure that I would delay the process. I actually wouldn’t. I am more interested in the state understanding that things do not just happen over the course of one year. The standards were very well thought out by incredible professionals who understand learning and understand teaching, and for us to make a transition effectively, we need meaningful time. At the same time, we cannot use the result of the assessment as an opportunity to punish teachers, districts, the principals. The assessments should be tools for instruction, rather than a way of giving a teacher or principal a number. Let us give the assessments, but let us incorporate them into the teaching and learning to inform the instructional practices, so that we are all aware of how we are performing—and more important, so that we are all aware of how the students are performing in relation to the Common Core learning standards. So delaying will not be something that I would support. I would rather see time, money, resources provided to all districts, all schools, so that implementation can become a reality in every classroom for every child.
The Role of Technology in Today’s Classroom An assessment of the current educational landscape, and the changes it still needs By: Ben Lowinger In today’s political climate, it’s difficult to find areas of commonality between the parties. Yet, despite their political affiliation, a clear majority of Americans agree that the state of our nation’s classrooms requires serious remedy. The Common Core Learning Standards have been devised as an effort to address many of the most serious maladies of the current system. And, while there have certainly been hiccups in its rollout, the basic premise and principals still hold. Testing and organized instruction around learning standards, regardless of which ones they may be, are difficult to object to. Giving educators the tools to guide their students to greater achievement is a necessary and laudable step forward for this country. Yet, as classrooms begin to make the transition to the standards based learning of the Common Core, it has become painstakingly obvious that there is a critical piece of this puzzle that is being overlooked. While the appropriate content is finally being published, how can educators supplement these materials with additional learning objects to help differentiate instruction? And how can we expect teachers to make these decisions without the proper assessment and data-reporting tools in place? The Common Core discussion is failing to address the proper technology classrooms need to effectively bring together the requirements of a 21st century education. In today’s classroom, we cannot simply provide updated content aligned to brand new standards, while expecting the shortcomings of our educational system thus far to simply dissipate. Teachers need technology that will enable them to design curricula around standards. Students must be able to access this content on any device they have access to, regardless of its operating system or current state of internet connectivity. If education is to capture a child’s mind and energy, we must provide it in a format that doesn’t divide their world between 2013 outside the classroom and the 1970’s inside the classroom. For this transition to be effective, our classrooms must also ensure we are tying assessments to actual learning objectives. This doesn’t have to result in “over-testing,” but simply produces a classroom where student progress can be instantly tracked and instruction can be adjusted accordingly. To bring this idea to fruition, schools should no longer be hamstrung by a limited offering of exclusive contracts that schools may have with individual content creators. A platform that can provide educators with the richest, most diversified, content is the one schools would ultimately choose in overwhelming droves. Other countries are already ahead of the US in this area. In Australia for instance, this vision is becoming a reality. There, Copia, a New York Citybased education technology company, has championed a digital platform and partners with content creators and publishers to bring a full compliment of classroom content onto one learning platform. This allows each school, administrator and teacher to make curriculum selections based on the specific needs of their students. Harnessing the data culled from assessment questions embedded in the platform, educators are able to make data-driven decisions and choose the best materials to suit the learners, at their own levels, in their classroom. At their fingertips, teachers have the ability to track the progress of all their students, ensuring that they are on track to reaching standards. Modern technology provides our schools with the power to marry the rich and diverse content educators need with the proper digital platform that can effectively bring all of this together. Done thoughtfully, we can begin to actualize the great changes that our educational system so desperately needs. Ben Lowinger is the Executive Vice President of Copia, A New York Citybased education technology company. cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
Council Watch By SETH BARRON
POST-MORTEM FOR A PREDICTABLE ELECTION
New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who will be one of only three Republicans in the Council next year, was re-elected with 53.1 percent of the vote.
lection Day in New York City delivered no major surprises, but there are intriguing stories to be winkled out of the details. Bill de Blasio scored an astounding victory, crushing his opponent by nearly 50 points and winning three out of every four votes cast. Yet we can easily overstate the mayor-elect’s mandate if we overlook the fact that voter turnout was down substantially from elections past. In fact, preliminary results indicate that barely 1 million people voted, by far the lowest total in the history of mayoral elections since women got the vote in 1917, which doubled the electorate. Voter turnout in 2013 was less than one in four, easily setting a new record for voter apathy in New York City. So while the de Blasio machine was able to pull out its hard-core voters, his approximately 750,000 votes match what Michael Bloomberg got in both 2001 and 2005. Not to gainsay the de Blasio accom32 NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
plishment of winning so lopsidedly, but heavily skewed, low-turnout elections are hardly what we envision when we think of vibrantly democratic societies. Given the unbalanced nature of the city’s political makeup, it seems that it would make sense to introduce nonpartisan voting in New York’s municipal elections. Certainly the unions and Democratic Party regulars would lose out, but the candidates would be forced to differentiate themselves on issues rather than the degree of their fealty to the machine. Of course, it is a sad paradox of power that just when things get so bad that we need nonpartisan elections, the entrenched party is powerful enough to make sure that we never get them. In the city’s Council races, all the incumbents won, though there were some close shaves. Councilman Eric Ulrich of Ozone Park, who will be the only non– Staten Island Republican in the Council, had unexpectedly tough opposition from
Lew Simon, who had been considered a weak candidate and whose campaign was disrupted a month out by his having to undergo bypass surgery. Ulrich won by a narrow 6 point margin, whereas in 2009 he prevailed by a much more comfortable 58 percent of the vote. Simon received substantial financial support from supermarket behemoth and failed Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis, who was angry that Ulrich had insulted his candidacy. More significantly, Simon is a longtime district leader for Assembly District 23 and comes from the Republican-leaning Rockaways, where he appears to have eaten into some of Ulrich’s base of support. Whatever the reason, Ulrich’s thin margin of victory highlights a key problem with his political future: Where does a talented Republican go in city politics? Young, bright and popular, Ulrich may already have hit his ceiling. Slightly to the northwest of Ozone Park, in Maspeth, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley also saw her 2009 margin of victory shrink somewhat this year. Crowley, who faced a vigorous campaigner in Craig Caruana, represents a conservative enclave in central Queens that came out substantially for Lhota. It seems likely that the pro-Lhota Middle Village vote bled off some of her 2009 margin, though she did win nevertheless by a comfortable 18 points. Clearly the Crowley name continues to carry weight in Queens County. Further east in Council District 19, Paul Vallone’s famous surname helped him close out a rough electoral season. The Vallone family’s power base is Astoria, but it still appears to have translated into votes in Bayside, where the newest-elected Vallone, with substantial assistance from REBNY’s war chest, beat a tough primary field and a competitive opponent in the general as well. REBNY’s Jobs for New York PAC poured more than $360,000 into independent expenditures to elect Vallone, who styled himself as the conservative, pro-business Democrat among the crowd jostling to replace Councilman Dan Halloran. The 19th CD tends to vote eccentrically: Tony Avella, a maverick in the state Senate, who previously engendered consternation in his colleagues when he served in the Council, preceded Halloran. The primary battle turned into a
Vallone pile-on, as each candidate outdid the others to condemn the front-runner as a hack, a real estate lackey, a carpetbagger and so on. The general election saw a number of crossovers in this strangely antipartisan district: Paul Graziano, an Avella protégé, endorsed the Republican nominee, Dennis Saffran, while Halloran came out for Vallone. Vallone’s victory is a small counterweight to the supposedly progressive tilt of the Council, and he will surely be part of the Queens-based non– Progressive Caucus cohort that appears to be taking shape. In Bay Ridge Councilman Vincent Gentile trounced his opponent, John Quaglione, in the latest proxy battle between Gentile and state Sen. Martin Golden. Golden, it may be remembered, challenged Gentile for his Senate seat in 2002 and defeated the incumbent; Gentile then won the race to take over Golden’s vacated Council seat. Quaglione, a Golden aide, ran against Gentile on the not inaccurate grounds that Gentile, because he was hated by Speaker Quinn, had failed the district by not bringing home sufficient discretionary dollars. Gentile, to his credit, countered that his independence from Quinn’s spoils system indicated his sturdiness of character and spirit. In the end, Gentile took 63 percent of the vote to win decisively. Elsewhere in the city we saw oncefavored front-runners reduced to running on secondary ballot lines. Kirsten Foy, Al Sharpton’s man in Brooklyn, was elevated in the city’s consciousness when he was manhandled by the NYPD with Councilman Jumaane Williams at the 2011 West Indian Parade. His run for Council to replace Al Vann, the onetime “Mwalimu” of Bed-Stuy, was foiled by Vann’s chosen replacement, Robert Cornegy. Foy, still on the ballot as the Working Families nominee, came in with 10 percent without mounting a general election campaign. Similarly, on the Upper West Side Assemblyman Micah Kellner, who had one been the smart money’s choice to take over Jessica Lappin’s Council seat in CD 5, continued to run on the WFP line in the general, after losing in the Democratic Primary amid the ignominy of multiple sexual harassment accusations. Kellner— whose effort to win as a third party candidate was repudiated by the WFP, which would have rescinded its line had it not been too late to do so as far as the Board of Elections was concerned—also wound up with 10 percent of the vote. Could it be that 10 percent of the electorate will vote for anyone on Line E? It will be interesting to look at the data, once the BoE has it parsed down to that level, to see how the voters broke on candidates with multiple ballot lines.
Seth Barron (@NYCCouncilWatch on Twitter) runs City Council Watch, an investigative website focusing on local New York City politics.
ERIC ULRICH FACEBOOK PAGE
PERSPECTIVES ZONING IN: DE BLASIO’S VISION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
BY ALEXIS GRENELL
ince he became mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio’s oft-criticized progressivism has met with increased cries of caution from editorial boards, industry and others concerned about fiscal policy in the post-Bloomberg era. While the Bloomberg administration sometimes seemed to emphasize progress for the private sector, de Blasio’s progressivism dares to challenge the primacy of supply side economics to suggest people before profits. To that end, de Blasio’s plan to create 50,000 units of affordable housing through mandatory or guaranteed inclusionary zoning nearly silenced a room of real estate executives at an ABNY breakfast in October. There’s a natural tension between improving people’s lives and the laws of supply and demand, but de Blasio’s choice reflects a clear indication of which should matter more. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean guaranteed inclusionary zoning will work. But while the private sector simply
shuts down a business when it’s no longer profitable, the mayor of New York has a far more difficult task. Affordable housing is a concept that straddles the competing interests of industry and government. In New York City the struggle to develop a sufficient stock of affordable housing is in constant conflict with market forces. Whereas industry treats housing as a commodity to be produced at minimum cost and sold at maximum profit, government is forced to reconcile the ugly by-products of free market capitalism such as homelessness, poverty and a shrinking middle class. Over the last decade the city has attracted a density of high-income individuals, driving up the equilibrium price and quantity of housing. Consumers are willing to pay large sums to live here, and producers (i.e., developers) are eager to meet demand. Currently the average market price of rental housing (excluding Staten Island) is over $3,000/month, while the average income for a family of four is only $50,000. Costs are rising faster than incomes. Combined with a vacancy rate of under 5 percent, New York City is in the midst of a full blown housing crisis: an unintended consequence of being a desirable place to live—a credit to Mayor
Bloomberg. In 2005 Bloomberg introduced the Inclusionary Housing Program (IHP) to encourage developers to build affordable housing through tax incentives and other public subsidies. The program defines affordable housing as a certain percentage of the Area Median Income (AMI) for a given neighborhood, and offers developers a variety of options for participation. The program is also voluntary; developers looking to build in New York City are not required to produce or preserve housing at below market rates. Although IHP has produced 2,769 units of affordable housing, more than the previous R-10 Inclusionary Zoning program, 87 percent of all development over the last eight years has been built at market rate, a fair amount of it taxpayer-subsidized. De Blasio and critics of voluntary inclusionary zoning propose to increase New York City’s affordable housing stock through mandatory inclusionary zoning, versions of which exist in San Francisco and Boston. Economists and housing policy experts counter that the San Francisco housing market has actually suffered under the program, driving down supply and putting upward pressure on price: the equivalent of a tax. But
the mayor-elect is betting that New York’s housing market is sufficiently inelastic to withstand increased regulation—and he may be right, but it’s hard to be sure. Although the San Francisco program has indeed increased the supply of affordable housing, it has not produced the anticipated stock, let alone de Blasio’s aspirational 50,000 units. On the flip side, nor has it increased market rents as much as developers predicted. So what’s the solution? It’s complicated. Mandatory inclusionary zoning will unlikely be enough to solve the housing crisis, but de Blasio should not be graded against private sector standards. There were compromises in Bloomberg’s calculus, and there will be different ones in de Blasio’s. Profit will be the last thing a successful plan for affordable housing produces; the first will, hopefully, be more homes for people who need them. The challenge will be to figure out exactly how. Unlike business, though, government does not have the option of giving up.
Alexis Grenell (@agrenell on Twitter) is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.
ELECTION DAY SHOULD HONOR OUR VETS
BY MICHAEL BENJAMIN
urnout on Election Day was particularly dismal, with only 22 percent of registered voters deigning to cast votes in New York City as America’s premier one-party town became even more of a monopoly. While the election might have been anticlimactic for city Democrats (and yet another disappointment for city Republicans), there was some drama to be had on the micro level. Last month the usual monotony of the weekly New York City Board of Elections (BoE) commissioners’ meeting was broken when Manhattanite Judy Taber was recognized for the purpose of challenging the registration of a man she claimed had been falsely voting from her address for years. After hearing Taber’s claim, BoE president Frederic Umane dutifully intoned, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the…”
Who is this man that the Board of Elections was compelled to investigate? I wondered. Well, it turns out that man was Arthur A. Faiella, a 70-year-old twice-wounded Vietnam veteran. A simple Google search turned up Faiella’s address, cell phone number, email contact and military service. (Who needs the NSA’s information gathering technology when you have Google?) Faiella still resides in Taber’s Upper West Side building, but in an upper floor apartment. Since 1995 Taber has resided in his former apartment. Like many New Yorkers, Faiella simply continued voting from his residential address without reregistering from his “new” apartment. Thus elections materials, jury notices, etc., continued to be sent to Taber. For nearly two decades Taber has unsuccessfully fought with government bureaucracies, trying to end the yearly election fliers and notices mistakenly delivered to her mailbox. Her nearly comical frustration with her building’s concierge, USPS letter carriers, local post office personnel, and Washington, D.C., bureaucrats finally led Taber to call the city Campaign Finance Board (CFB). It was a CFB employee who told her
how and where to file a voter challenge. A week before the hearing I had participated in poll watcher training and learned about the voter challenge process. The trainer spoke of the challenge oath and how it is administered. For decades in New York City we have abided by an honor system. It is assumed that all persons appearing to vote were the duly registered voter they claimed. Signing and filing a fraudulent voter registration is perjury. National Republicans have been making a fuss about voter fraud and the need for voter ID. To New Yorkers, it seems much ado about nothing, because poll workers have always been empowered to challenge persons known or suspected of not being entitled to vote. Surely, given New York’s arcane and snafu-prone system, who would bother to show up to vote fraudulently? I understand the frustration that prompted Taber to take the extraordinary action of challenging Faiella’s voter registration. But Mr. Faiella is no fraud. He courageously fought in Vietnam during one of the most intense periods of that war—1967 to 1968—while men who ducked the conflict taught me and my peers. Faiella lamented that he resides in a
city where his service is not appreciated. I assured him that I certainly do recognize his patriotism, in part because my uncles are also Vietnam veterans. Unlike nearly 80 percent of New York voters, Faiella votes conscientiously in every election, because he believes doing so is essential to our nation, and a duty of citizenship. Arthur Faiella didn’t opt out of Vietnam, and he certainly hasn’t opted out of casting his vote at every opportunity. It should be noted that Faiella’s name was supposed to appear on a challenge list at his poll site, and that he was supposed to take the “qualification oath,” but in typical BoE fashion, nothing happened as it was supposed to. Lastly, it is especially shameful that 8 out of 10 registered city voters sat out the recent election. Every eligible New Yorker should follow Faiella’s example and vote in every election. Blowout or not. It’s the least we can do to protect our right to vote. It’s the least we can do to honor those men and women who safeguard our freedom and liberty.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@ SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years. cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
WINNERS & LOSERS
Ah, Election Day! A time teeming with Winners and Losers. So many, indeed, that it would be unjust merely to settle on five of each. Thus, we bring you this special double-length version of W+L. Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote.
Week of Nov. 4, 2013
LOSERS Bill de Blasio 43% Rob Astorino 20% Nick Langworthy 13% Ed Mangano 6%
Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod 4% Preet Bharara 3% Ed Cox 3% NYCO Minerals 3% NY Jobs Now 3%
Charles Hynes 19%
YOUR CHOICE Bill de Blasio: New York hasn’t seen a landslide this decisive since midtown was buried in a snowbank in The Day After Tomorrow. De Blasio won the New York City mayoral race by 50 points, trouncing Joe Lhota all across the city and among nearly every major demographic. The hard part of the job won’t start until next month, so let’s hope Bill soaked up some well-deserved rays in San Juan.
Tom Suozzi 16%
YOUR CHOICE Charles Hynes: It’s the
Micah Kellner 15% Joe Lhota 14% Rudy Giuliani 11% Maggie Brooks 8% Jonathan Lippman 8% Adolfo Carrion 6% David Smith 2%
John Bonacic 2%
Tom RIchards 1%
end of an era in the Brooklyn DA’s office, and it couldn’t have ended in an uglier way. After Hynes was defeated in a brutal primary filled with allegations of misconduct by his office, it briefly looked like he might make a dignified exit when he announced he was stepping aside. But that didn’t last. He relaunched his campaign on the GOP and Conservative party lines and voters rebuked him soundly on Election Day, giving him only 25 percent of the vote.
Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod:
Maggie Brooks: Husband arrested on corruption charges
Leading de Blasio’s transition
Adolfo Carrión: The (less than) one percent
Preet Bharara: $1.8 billion fine for SAC Capital Advisors
Rudy Giuliani: No help to protégé
John Bonacic: Casinos made legal
Jonathan Lippman: Higher judicial age limits shot down
Ed Cox: GOP strong outside of NYC
Tom Richards: A graceless exit
NYCO Minerals: Adirondacks expansion
David Smith: Resigns amid allegations of improper payments
NY Jobs Now: Successful casino push
BEST IN WESTCHESTER Rob Astorino: This race was supposed to be close? Astorino knocked out Noam Bramson by eight points in the contest for Westchester County Executive. That success has vaulted him to the upper echelon of Republican gubernatorial challengers in 2014, a status guaranteed to keep tongues wagging about Astorino until he decides one way or the other about his future plans. Stay tuned. ON THE MOVE Nick Langworthy: Notice how the Republican Party keeps rising in Erie County? It’s all according to plan—Nick Langworthy’s plan. Since he became county GOP chair in 2010, the party has been on the move, winning seats never previously won and taking back several it had lost. On Election Day the Republicans defended the comptrollership and the sheriff’s office while gaining outright control of the county legislature for the first time since 1977. What’s the next triumph on the horizon for the GOP in Erie County? Ask Nick. THE ED SHOW Ed Mangano: Mangano survived a bruising negative campaign to crush his Democratic opponent Tom Suozzi by 20 points. He can thank his “no tax” pledge for that. We’re not sure exactly how he will turn the county’s finances around, especially with its broken assessment system, but if he keeps his promise not to increase property taxes, residents may not worry too much.
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COMEBACK FIZZLED Tom Suozzi: The former Nassau County Executive was much humbler in his bid to regain the office he lost in stunning fashion in 2009. Gone was the hard-charging leader who brashly challenged the invincible Eliot Spitzer in 2006 and was always eyeing higher office—even saying in a debate that year that he wanted to be president. It looks like Long Island voters couldn’t get the old image of Suozzi out of their minds. BACK TO ALBANY Micah Kellner: After sexual harassment allegations sunk him in the Democratic Primary for City Council on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Kellner opted to go all-in on the self-destruction of his political career, staying on the Working Families Party line in the general election despite the WFP’s vehement objection. The end result? Kellner pulled a measly 10 percent of the vote—more than 20 points less than the GOP candidate, and more than 45 points fewer than the winner, Ben Kallos. Now Kellner gets to return to frosty Albany to wallow in isolation while he awaits an inevitable primary challenge to his Assembly seat in 2014. AVERAGE JOE Joe Lhota: He’s an effective manager. He was the No. 2 guy in City Hall. He even made the MTA come across as a functional agency. So how did he get walloped so badly by Bill de Blasio? One key problem is that his tough-on-crime message came a couple of decades too late. He was in the right place, but clearly it was the wrong time.
CLASS ACT A Q&A WITH CHARLES GRODIN
harles Grodin first achieved fame as an actor, appearing in such films as Catch-22, Midnight Run and Beethoven, which led to regular appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and a career as a TV host and political commentator. Out of the spotlight Grodin has spearheaded efforts to defend the poor and to reform the criminal justice system, among them playing a key role in the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws in New York State. City & State Managing Editor Jon Lentz spoke with Grodin about homelessness in New York City, the legalization of casino gambling in New York and his opinion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The following is an edited transcript. CITY & STATE: In a recent commentary for WCBS, you stated your opposition to gambling, which is set to expand in New York after the passage of a state constitutional amendment. What are your concerns? CHARLES GRODIN: My personal experience is that it can be—I’m not saying just because it happened to me, it would happen to everyone—but when I went away to college at the University of Miami, I discovered dog racing. And I spent a lot of time at the dog track, and when I came home I owed—at that time it seemed like a lot of money—$140, and I promised my mother if she’d give me the money I’d pay back whoever I owed it to, and I’d never do it again. And I didn’t, until 1987, many years later. I was making Midnight Run in Las Vegas, and I promised my wife that I would lose $1,000 and then I would stop. First thing I did is I won $5,000, and I remember having $5,000 in my hand, walking around showing it to [Robert] De Niro and everyone. Most people have never had $5,000 in their hand. And then I lost it all, plus $1,000, and then as promised, I quit. I think there’s enough people like me—I don’t gamble at all—but I think it’s a dangerous way to raise money. If you can quit while you’re ahead, God bless you, but most people can’t. I would like to see the state raise money other ways, even to raise taxes on people of a certain income. That would be fine with me. C&S: That’s something that Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect of New York City, has called for with his proposal to tax the wealthy to fund universal prekindergarten. CG: The other thing—because of the tax situation, we ship so many jobs overseas, and we lose a lot of tax money because the wages are obviously a lot less overseas. I think there should be taxes on that. I’m not saying that the companies should have to pay whatever it costs to have the services performed here, but we shouldn’t lose that much money when wealthy corporations can just ship their jobs to the countries where the wage level is very modest compared to what it is in America. C&S: What do you think about de Blasio? CG: I was very struck. I’ve lived in New York over 55 years, and the idea of having a mayor who’s married to a black woman with a young black son with a big Afro, and they do, like, some kind of dance at his first press conference, it’s just amazing to me how times have changed. I knew them all, going back to Mayor Lindsay, and then I was friends with Mayor Koch, and I am friends now with Mayor Dinkins. I never met Mayor Bloomberg. Parenthetically, I’d like to see Mayor Bloomberg use some of his money to— instead of creating more bike lanes in Manhattan, if you drive the side streets in the 40s and 50s, particularly in Manhattan, the
potholes are unbelievable. I’d like to see him rectify that. And also, I really do have a problem with setting up tables in Times Square. You can’t turn left, you can’t turn right. It’s a beautiful setting, but to inhale all those fumes—I don’t think it’s the best idea. C&S: Do you think de Blasio will be a good mayor? CG: You always wait to see. People have always identified me as this leftwing liberal, and I always say, “Well, what is it that you think I’m for, if you’re a conservative, that you would be against? What is so left-wing about me?” I don’t think we should allow, which we do in New York, for people to sleep in doorways on Fifth Avenue, and other places, under bridges—not in sleeping bags, and some have frozen to death. Anybody who’s doing that clearly has mental issues, and should just be taken to an indoor shelter. Of course, a lot of people don’t want to be taken to indoor shelters because [then] they’re sleeping in dormitories and they don’t know who’s sleeping next to them, so the shelters should be patrolled so people are not frightened to go indoors to sleep, rather than a doorway in the middle of wintertime. I’m also aware that we waste billions of dollars in government spending, which is a conservative position. C&S: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has positioned himself as something of a centrist. What do you think of him? CG: I’ve known him since he was 20 years old, and I’m very friendly with the family. Way back in ’94, before I became a commentator—I don’t do this any more—I campaigned for [Mario Cuomo’s] re-election. In fact, I say to him sometimes I think that’s the reason he lost. Ironically, he was defeated by George Pataki, who reformed the Rockefeller drug laws in 2004, and I think my biggest accomplishment in life, they reformed the laws based on a case of a woman for whom I gained clemency. There were other people involved in this, but he cited the case of Elaine Bartlett at the press conference when he reformed the Rockefeller drug laws. You no longer can go to prison for 15 to 20 years for delivering a packet of cocaine. Those penalties have been greatly reduced. The case was a welfare mother of four small children in Harlem—the youngest was months old and the oldest was 6. She was set up by a white drug dealer—this was a black woman—hoping to get a break on his drug charges, which he did. And she delivered a packet of cocaine, was arrested and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. One of her sons, when he was a teenager, immediately took to the streets and sold drugs, and he went to prison. Another son ... was a young man named Apache, and he became a nationally known [Amateur Athletic Association] girls’ coach. He would go into the inner cities and recruit young black girls who had a talent for basketball—some of them are actually in the WNBA—and he passed away while in his 30s from cancer and a heart attack. He was the most touching young man in my entire life. I interviewed him when he was 23, and sent that [tape] to Joe Bruno [who passed it] on to Gov. Pataki, I assume. Ironically, I’ve been in touch with the then Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to help him, because he’s indicted on charges. ... Joe Bruno, who I went to in the mid-90s for help with these women, has now been bankrupted by the government, as they’re pursuing him on charges which I’m unable to even grasp what they are. Funny how life takes strange turns. Joe Bruno can’t believe that I’m trying to help him, because he too saw me as left-wing. Anybody who tries to help anybody, you’re identified as a left-wing nut. To read an extended version of this interview, including Grodin’s thoughts on David Paterson and Johnny Carson, go to cityandstateny.com.
cityandstateny.com | NOVEMBER 18, 2013
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NOVEMBER 18, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
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Published on Nov 16, 2013
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