Tony Avella, right, remakes himself to run for the Senate (page 6), Boro Park girds for battle over Simcha Felderâ€™s seat (page 10),
Vol. 4, No. 11
January 25, 2010
and new TWU president John Samuelson, left, takes the fight to the MTA (page18).
to h r is
JANUARY 25, 2010
A New Team For A New Term “
f we were to replace 15 out of 40, you know, that’s not an unreasonable amount of turnover after eight years.” “The reason that people always say you can’t have a good third term is they try to do the same thing with the same people, and it’s very difficult to walk in, look a commissioner in the eye and say, ‘You know you have done great things, you’ve worked hard, you’ve done everything we’ve asked you, but it’s time to go.’ But that is what you have to do.” Remember those words of wisdom from candidate Michael Bloomberg? It was the home stretch of the campaign, two weeks before the end. The win seemed inevitable, but the mayor did not want to look like he was coasting. So standing there in a packed room of business executives that morning at Crain’s, he said the kind of thing that appeals to business executives, and also to weary, bored political reporters looking for a juicy story. Sure, there were four more years of Bloomberg coming. But it was going to be different. It was going to be better. Out would go burned-out commissioners whose life of endless ribbon-cuttings and agency reports had turned into a blur. In would come fresh blood, closer to the life on the ground in the city. Write that story, Bloomberg said. Instead, there is reality: a month into Bloomberg term three, and the grand total of fired commissioners is zero. The grand total of new commissioners is five. There has been one high-profile change, with Nicholas Cassano taking over for Nicholas Scoppetta at FDNY. One commissioner—juvenile justice—left because his agency was merged into another. There has been one longstanding hole filled, with Cas Holloway taking over at DEP. Corrections has a new woman in charge. So does DoIT and the Department of Probation. But 15 out of 40? Not even close. Changes in the leadership at City Hall, a realignment of deputy mayors, like he did after winning his second term? No dice. Bloomberg was right: there is a reason third terms are historically disasters, and it has a lot to do with stagnation and exhaustion among top aides. Without new energy and new ideas, administrations tend to coast. And for an administration that now has the unenviable task of keeping up its pace of trying to reinvent government with already fewer dollars to spend—and more cuts from Albany coming—Bloomberg will be in desperate need of new energy and new ideas. Presumably, this is what the mayor had in mind when he said that morning, “You have to constantly reinvigorate and have people that come up with new ideas and different approaches, and that doesn’t reflect
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poorly on those who served for the last eight years.” The deputy commissioner rotation plan the mayor laid out at his inauguration had promise. Informed outside evaluation could undoubtedly help improve the performance and efficiency of city government. This is precisely the kind of experiences that could serve as the basis for true reviews: the kind that leads to changes at the top. Unfortunately, though, it is increasingly beginning to seem that the rotation will be in place of following through on the bloodletting pledge. That would be bad for the future of the city, but it would be bad as well for a man who likes so much to brag about his adherence to campaign promises that he issues an annual report card and then routinely scolds the media for not giving it enough attention. Should Ray Kelly go? Should Joel Klein? Should John Doherty? Thomas Farley? David Frankel? Rafael Cestero? Janette Sadik-Khan? Martha Hirst? Robert LiMandri? Nazli Parvizi? Maybe none of them. Maybe all of them. Change is hard, and not necessarily always for the better. But years in government have a way of cosseting even good people from the realities of living in this city, and this city—and country even—is full of people with good ideas who could invigorate the next fours years. To get to 15 out
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of 40 commissioners anytime soon, things are going to have to get moving, and some people whom no one was expecting to leave are going to have to be put out on the street. “Let me make this commitment to you, as we begin this new team: We will continue demanding and achieving progress in every area—every day. We will continue going full-tilt—full-time,” Bloomberg said at his State of the City address delivered earlier this month at the Frank Sinatra High School in Astoria. For a brief moment, he seemed to be on the verge of announcing something major, a new leadership structure around him to keep his administration’s trademark energy and dynamism going. But nothing followed and, in fact, “new team” was, according to the prepared text, just a flub. He was supposed to say “new term.” But without a new team in place, the only thing that will make this term new is chronology, which is far less than New York deserves. The mayor should be commended for fostering an administration that remains attractive to high-ranking members even eight years later. They have done some good work over the years. They have done some bad work. But if they are going to do anything other than the same work over the years to come, they need to be shaken up, and quickly.
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JANUARY 25, 2010
For Castro, No Fidelity From Heastie And New Bronx County Organization
ANDREW J. HAWKINS
As with Baez, an effort to take out an old Rivera ally
BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS elson Castro is in trouble. The Bronx Assemblyman has a negative balance in his campaign account, prosecutors investigating him on allegations he committed election fraud and a newly galvanized county Democratic organization gunning for his seat. His situation is in many ways similar to that of Maria Baez, who lost her City Council seat after a bruising primary with a party-backed candidate last year. Both Castro and Baez are close allies of José Rivera, who was usurped as county leader by his Assembly colleague Carl Heastie in 2008. Both Castro and Baez have recently come under scrutiny for alleged unethical behavior. But for Castro, the similarities end
there. Whereas Baez suffered from health problems throughout her re-election campaign and was unable to mount a vigorous run, Castro says he is healthy and ready to fight. “Of course I’m running for re-election,” he said while standing in front of the Paradise Theater, before kicking-off the annual Martin Luther King Day parade down Grand Concourse in the Bronx. “There’s nothing I can do. I can’t quit.” The county party has taken a different tactic in finding a candidate. Rather than back a politically inexperienced candidate like Fernando Cabrera, who throughout the campaign was forced to answer questions about his residency and party affiliation, the party has chosen Hector Ramirez, a four-term district leader and stalwart Democrat who is well known in the district.
Still, many of the faces behind Ramirez’s campaign will be familiar to anyone who followed Cabrera’s race last year. “This is definitely part of the same movement,” said Fernando Aquino, a political strategist who worked for Cabrera’s campaign and is now handling communications for Ramirez. “This is part of the change that is going on in the Bronx.” That message of change reflects a broader understanding that Heastie, in an effort to consolidate his base of support, is targeting elected officials who are seen as incompatible with the new regime. Ramirez nearly won the seat several years ago. In 2008, former Assembly Member Luis Diaz stepped down to take a job in the Paterson administration and wanted Ramirez to replace him. But then-
county chair Rivera tapped Castro to run in the special election, saying he wanted to expand diversity in the borough’s delegation by electing Castro, the first Dominican official from the Bronx. Ramirez, however, is a Dominican as well, and many in the Bronx say that kind of inconsistent behavior from Rivera was a main factor in his downfall. But Rivera remains influential in Bronx politics, and said he sees no reason for the county organization to target Castro. “I don’t see where [Castro] has disappointed me in any way,” Rivera said. “It’s a matter of style. I have my own style. Carl Heastie has his own style.” Party insiders say that challenging Castro has nothing to do with old allegiances or fallout from the county’s leadership changing hands. “Castro hasn’t worked with the organization that much. He doesn’t have the support of his district leaders,” said one party source. “So that’s a problem.” Ramirez is already running full-tilt. He boasted to reporters back in November that he would have the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., even though Diaz had not officially endorsed him. A spokesperson for the borough president said in January that there has still yet to be an official endorsement. Ramirez said that voters care less for the political soap opera that has been playing out in the Bronx than larger issues like jobs and public safety. Nonetheless, Ramirez is already building a case against Castro, portraying him as a scandal-scarred quasi-Republican from Washington Heights who is unfamiliar with the problems in the district. “The person that is now the incumbent is going from one scandal to another,” Ramirez said. “We can’t continue with this type of representative in Albany.” Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson reportedly convened a grand jury last August to look into charges that Castro perjured himself in connection to a voter fraud case from his freshman Assembly campaign in 2008. A spokesperson for the Bronx district attorney would not confirm if an investigation was still ongoing. But according to Castro, the investigation is over, having produced no evidence of wrongdoing. “You hear the other team saying I was going to go to jail in two weeks. Then you heard a couple months,” Castro said. “None of it has any weight to it. It’s not going to be a problem.” email@example.com
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Eva Moskowitz, right, mulls a 2013 comeback (Page 8), new Council Member Liz Crowley braves the harsh weather for her first day on the job (Page 18)
and Richard Ravitch, left, explains
Vol. 3, No. 8
why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).
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JANUARY 25, 2010
The Recalibration Of Tony Avella: State Senate Candidate, Conciliator Preparing for run against Padavan, the reliable firebrand bites his tongue BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE oters in Queens are used to Tony Avella the rebel, the rabblerouser, the gleeful, swiping, sniping firebrand. But are they ready for the new Tony Avella, the conciliatory and circumspect, the cautious and calculating politician? That appears to be what they are getting as Avella, the former mayoral candidate and enfant terrible of the New York City Council works his was back into the good graces of the Queens Democratic Party he once scorned and is reaching out to the very same elected officials he publicly lambasted over the past eight years. “Tony is trying to delicately get his way back into the good graces of people he’s been pissing all over for the past few years,” said one Queens Democrat. In between glad-handing at the Senate Democrats’ reception following Gov. David Paterson’s State of the State address in early January, Avella explained that he was in a deliberate effort to shore up every pocket of support, “talking to the players that would be involved in a race as important as this, and just making sure that we can have a united front—which we can.” Gone are the angry dismissals of political deal making, as is the distance Avella had put between himself and the Queens County Democrats, whose support he expects despite their endorsement of Bill Thompson in the Democratic mayoral primary. “This will be a united effort, where a lot of people will be on board who couldn’t be in the mayoral race, because Thompson had the bulk of the Democratic support,” Avella said. “But this race will be totally different.” Take, for example, his position on the gubernatorial nominee. Asked at the first mayoral debate whether he would support Paterson for the Democratic nomination this fall, Avella said no, and later compared the governor to a “deer in the headlights.” Asked after the State of the State whom he wants to see as the nominee, he would only say, “I think whoever serves the city and the state best.” In a race against incumbent State Sen. Frank Padavan, a race Democrats tried to recruit Avella for in both ’06 and ’08, not only would the former city councilman have the benefit of running in a district where he outperformed Thompson in the primary, but he comes with an antitax, anti-government record in a year that seems sure to be defined at least in part by voters’ exhaustion with both. Plus, Democratic voters in the district have put Democrats in every seat that overlaps with Padavan’s except for the one Avella himself held until last month. That has Democrats predicting that Avella will have
“Most people said, ‘Gee, what is he doing?’” he said of Avella’s mayoral campaign. “They didn’t think that it was a serious run. And I think he spent a lot of his time in Manhattan.” Ragusa said he believed the neighborhood has soured on Avella. “I think a lot of people who were behind him in the past will not support him in this next election,” he said. Meanwhile, Queens Democrats seem ready to forgive Avella’s harsh words against them if it means another pickup in the Senate.
“This race will be totally different.” – Tony Avella, the former mayoral candidate who is laying the groundwork for a State Senate run.
“Tony’s had good relationships with some of his colleagues before that, and Tony will have good relationships with some of his colleagues after that,” said one person familiar with Avella’s plans. And as for those that Avella has had bad relationships with, said the source, that will ultimately play to his advantage, explaining, “he has certainly rubbed some people the wrong way— but that’s also what led him to be the only Democrat ever elected in that district.” And though neither Avella’s candidacy nor the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee’s support of it have yet become official, Democrats are preparing to prioritize the effort against Padavan. “The DSCC is going to fully invest in the race to replace Senator Padavan, and we look forward to working with and fully supporting whoever that candidate ends up being,” said DSCC executive director Josh Cherwin. But those who have known Avella for the past decade say the prospect of him in the Senate still makes them nervous. This is the person, after all, who frequently found himself one of the lone dissenting votes on the City Council, and who seemed to revel in not playing along. “The Senate Democrats are not sure they want Tony,” said the Queens Democrat. “They’re a little afraid he could become Hiram Monserrate, without the girlfriend beating.”
a significantly stronger showing than Jim Gennaro, a lower-profile Council member who represented a much smaller overlapping piece of the Senate district, but still forced Padavan into a protracted court battle in 2008. Queens County Republican chair Phil Ragusa, however, dismissed the 2008 margin as nothing more than a result of Barack Obama’s coattails. “This is going to be more of a traditional race,” Ragusa said, shrugging off a pattern in the past few years of aging urban Republican senators—Roy Goodman, Nick Spano, Serph Maltese—narrowly eking out wins in one election only to see their districts go heavily Democratic in the next. Ragusa lives in both Padavan’s Senate district and Avella’s former Council district, and he ran against Avella for Council in 2003, but he said that people in the district have come to think of Padavan as the person to go to for constituent problems.
More News More www.cityhallnews.com
Eva Moskowitz, right, mulls a 2013 comeback (Page 8), new Council Member
Liz Crowley braves the harsh weather for her first day on the job
and Richard Ravitch, left, explains
Vol. 3, No. 8
why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).
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JANUARY 25, 2010
Campaign Resource Directory
Pollsters And Politicos Adjust To New Era In Polling BY SELENA ROSS wo-Thousand-ten voters take note: answering poll questions is not like it used to be. You may not even know you have done so. But candidates take note as well: the new methods get results. As public polls proved to be miles off in the wake of New York City’s mayoral election, the race’s private pollsters—who had the race pegged—showed that new hurdles like cell phones and low voter turnout are not insurmountable. Bernard Whitman, who polled for the Bloomberg campaign, gathers data by hiring the services of an online consumer survey company. Respondents have agreed to answer several surveys about their shopping habits in exchange for frequent-flyer miles, coupons for cash, or other rewards. Voters, meanwhile, who live in a certain district, or fit a certain socio-economic pattern, or are prime voters, are slipped a political poll that asks decidedly
non-political questions. “We ask them a whole range of questions about their interests, their activities, their associations, their attitudes, as well as demographics,” explained Whitman (who spoke generally, declining to explain his polling for Bloomberg). “What we’ve been finding is that the differences that are surfaced via behavior are oftentimes much more significant than those differences that simply show up demographically.” The online services company monitors the surveys against traditional telephone polling to make sure sample sizes are accurate. Whitman said that new methods such as online polling are necessary since fewer people have landlines than ever before, and few reached on cell phones are likely to acquiesce to a poll. “What we find is that with telephone interviews, cooperation rates are going down. This is due to both caller ID and mobile-only households,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to ask people.”
the help of consumer information has become cheaper and more common in lower-profile races, according to campaign veterans. “Even at the local levels—municipal, local, state—it’s getting more and more sophisticated,” said Kyle Kotary, a Democratic political consultant. “Literally, I know how much coffee you drink, how much you use a credit card.” Cash-strapped candidates who cannot afford online polls need not completely fret, however, if they know how to read the public polls that research institutions put out regularly. Steven Greenberg of the Siena Research Institute said that public polls can be used more effectively by paying closer attention to questions on voters’ ideologies and pet issues, rather than which name they expect to check at the ballot box. He notices that each month when the Siena polls are released, the more substantive questions are largely ignored in the media. “I think to many in the public, the analysis of the issues, where their neighbors and fellow citizens are on a particular issue, can be even more meaningful and more important than the horse-race three or six years in advance,” said Greenberg. firstname.lastname@example.org
The rise of the Internet has created new communities based around common interests and values that supersede some of the old polling data like race and income level. “We’ve thrown out traditional demographic indicators,” said Whitman. “What I think is the really exciting new trend is using micro-targeting to identify new groups of voters that behave in similar ways.” Still, the new methods are not without their disadvantages. They are expensive, for one thing, and for another, pollsters are unable to target voters in quite the same way as telephone polls can. “The challenge is the fact that we typically, in politics, rely on voter lists and look at prime voters,” said Whitman. “The difficulty of taking a voter list and matching it to online sampling, I think, is something that’s the Holy Grail.” As cutting-edge pollsters have learned to navigate masses of online data, their methods are trickling down to smaller campaigns. Micro-targeting voters with
HIGHER EDUCATION IN NEW YORK
For NYU And Columbia, A Continuing Balance With Neighborhood BY ANDREW COTLOV olumbia and New York University, two of the three biggest schools in the city, both have plans to expand significantly over the next 25 years into their surrounding neighborhoods. NYU’s tentative plan requires the school, already the largest private university in the country, to acquire roughly 6 million more square feet of space in the city—on top of the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, which NYU purchased in 2008. But NYU’s expansion plans continue to be fought by local preservationists. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has voiced numerous concerns about NYU’s unchecked growth in the Village. “There’s a real danger that more and more of the Village will become a company town,” Berman said. “If it becomes just NYU, this really isn’t the Village anymore, for all intents and purposes we’d become the campus of the university rather than a vital urban neighborhood.” Berman speaks highly of the value NYU brings to New York, but believes the university would be better integrated
into the city through utilizing satellite campuses in other parts of the city. The university has had a satellite campus in the Bronx in the past, and the medical schools, located in East Midtown, already comprise what is essentially their own satellite campus. “The beneficial effects of having more NYU in the Village are totally overkill, they’re totally wasted,” Berman said. “There are other parts of the city where
adding that to the mix would be an incredible boon to those areas.” Meanwhile, Columbia is moving forward with its own expansion plans. Its Morningside Heights campus will soon be extending into neighboring Manhattanville, an industrial section of West Harlem. But like NYU, Columbia continues to take heat from local activists who claim the university is displacing tenants, hurting small businesses and not showing enough concern for cultural preservation of the neighborhood it intends to take over. Nellie Hester-Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, has made clear that she believes Columbia’s recent
actions are an example of the university not cooperating with the community. “They have never demonstrated good faith and good will towards the Harlem community,” Hester-Baily said. She cited resentment over the school’s use of eminent domain laws and a lingering mistrust from clashes between Columbia and the Harlem community in the late 1960s when the university wanted to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park. Elliot Sclar, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University, agreed that the history of friction between Columbia and its neighbors dates back to the campus riots in 1968. “The community rightly blew up, and in those years Columbia University saw itself as at war with the community,” Sclar said, adding that this sentiment no longer rings true for Columbia’s administration. Eric Allison, founder of the graduate historic preservation program at the Pratt Institute, urged that a balance be struck between the schools and the neighborhoods that sustain them. “The question is how much can you change the character of the neighborhood without losing what makes the neighborhood special,” Allison said. “You have to negotiate a balance between what’s good for the neighborhood and what’s good for the university, and the city as a whole.” Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
JANUARY 25, 2010
Queens Young Democrats Hope To Lead Revival From The Inside Collaborative activists push for more activism, diversity in candidate recruitment BY CHRIS BRAGG osta Constantinides surveyed the crowded second floor of Queens Democratic Party headquarters in Forest Hills and marveled at what he saw. It was the 2010 kickoff meeting of the Queens County Young Democrats, and the after-work meeting had drawn more than 50 people—a head count several degrees of magnitude greater than what Constantinides was used to from just a few years before. “In 2007, or 2006, we had four to five of us in this room,” Constantinides said. “Now, as the saying goes, ‘I think we need a bigger boat.’ Hopefully, the building won’t cave in.” Youthfulness is not the first attribute that jumps to mind when thinking of the Queens Democratic Party. In fact, in the wake of an election season where the party-backed candidates lost nearly every competitive race they were in, many blamed the poor results on an increasingly old group of core volunteers who could not keep pace with the more youthful volunteers on other campaigns. Now, the Queens Democratic Party realizes that they have to make a choice: get younger or risk irrelevance, according to Matthew Silverstein, the Queens Young Democrats’ former president and current New York State Young Democrats president. Silverstein credits Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Matthew Silverstein wants to bring youth to an aging Queens Democratic party. Democratic Party chair who took over when Tom Lynn Nunes, the 24-year-old who last year came withManton died in 2006, for a change in emphasis, despite a rally in Astoria calling out State Sen. George Onorato for his vote against the same-sex marriage bill. One in four votes of knocking off incumbent Council Memthe lack of evidence in the most recent elections. “If not for Joe Crowley, you wouldn’t see any of this,” person who spoke at the rally, a 31-year-old civil rights ber Tom White, said the party would only see a true reviSilverstein said while standing beneath a poster for one lawyer named Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, subsequently met talization when it starts to have a better representation of Manton’s old campaigns for the City Council. “He with Onorato and told the 27-year incumbent he would of the ethnic communities in the increasingly diverse borough, selecting candidates based on their appeal to understood the county organization could not continue run a primary against him over the vote. these communities, not on loyalty to the party. A month later, Onorato retired. unless it built a farm system.” “They need to make sure they’re reaching to different Frei-Pearson said he hopes this kind of action would The key moment in the still-ongoing resurgence came demographics and not limiting themselves to those two years ago, Silverstein said, when Crowley groups that are already within the party,” Nunes agreed to sign off on allowing the Queens Young “They need to make sure said. “I was not waiting for people to come to me. Democrats to become an official Democratic club. they’re reaching to different I was going to them, and making sure they heard Earlier in the decade, the club had been me.” disbanded when a number of its members decided demographics and not limiting As the ranks of young Queens Democrats grow, to run together as a slate against county-supported themselves to those groups that they also face several upcoming tests to their incumbents. are already within the party,” influence. Silverstein wants to run for the Assembly, Silverstein had to promise Crowley that such should embattled incumbent Ann-Margaret Carrozza an uprising would not happen again, and that he Lynn Nunes said. “I was not choose not to run for re-election, while Steve would shepherd the Young Democrats into the waiting for people to come to Behar, another core member of the Queens Young much older Democratic clubs across the county me. I was going to them, and Democrats, is threatening a primary. when they outgrew the organization. And Constantinides announced at the recent This is a very different approach than was taken making sure they heard me.” meeting that he would be running in the race to rein Brooklyn around the same time in 2008, when a group of young activists asked party leader Vito Lopez if be the new paradigm in a more democratic Queens place Assembly Member Mike Gianaris, despite far from certain support for his candidacy from the county party. they could form a county committee to register voters Democratic Party. Some believe that if district leaders do not make “I certainly hope that doing something like that is for Barack Obama. “He closed the door in our faces. He said, in so many okay—I certainly hope the party is changing,” said Frei- an effort to reward the new blood by supporting them in elections, the youth movement could slow. But words, that he wanted nothing to do with us,” said Lincoln Pearson. But others outside the party structure wonder how Constantinides, for one, said he would continue to work Restler, vice president of the New Kings Democrats, which has since emerged from that incident as the most much is really changing. They note, for instance, that on behalf of the party regardless of the party’s support many of the younger people attracted now to the Queens for his candidacy. vocal anti-Lopez faction in Brooklyn politics. “I don’t feel entitled to anything,” he said. “I never Not that the younger, more progressive element in Democratic Party also happen to be employed by Queens has always toed the party line. This December, for Queens politicians, and that they also happen to mostly saw it as a quid pro quo.” instance, a number of the Queens Young Democrats held be white. firstname.lastname@example.org ANDREW SCHWARTZ
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The WFP imagines its new New York (Page 6), Lynn Nunes, right, ponders his next step (Page 16)
OW HISTORY, ABOR AND UCK MADE A OMPTROLLER— ND HOW HE OLDS THEM OGETHER OR 2013
October 12, 2009
and Freddy Ferrer, left, commiserates (Page 19).
As Families Come Off Subsidy Program, Many May Head Back Into Shelters Signature Bloomberg homelessness plan faces its first test as deadline from 2007 approaches BY SAL GENTILE n 2007, the Bloomberg administration established one of its signature anti-homelessness programs: the Work Advantage plan, which awards rental subsidies to homeless families transitioning out of city shelters. The subsidy, controversially, was limited to two years. And for the thousands of families who enrolled in the program when it was first created, those two years are just about done. Advocates and elected officials say they are bracing for a new wave of formerly homeless families flooding back into the shelter system, as they come off the subsidy program and run head-first into a persistent economic downturn. “The Work Advantage program is fundamentally flawed, by being a poorly crafted, one-size-fits-all program that cuts off poor families’ housing assistance, no matter what their circumstances are,” said Patrick Markee, policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless. “In this economic downturn, many of those families don’t have the jobs or incomes to keep their apartments after their subsidy expires.”
As the first families to enroll in the Advantage program finish their two years in the system, housing advocates and agency officials expect many of them to encounter a stiff headwind in the sour economy, forcing many back into shelters. The administration implemented the Work Advantage program in 2007, replacing a predecessor program that lasted only two years and was widely considered a failure. Both programs were designed after the administration controversially scrapped a decades-old policy of giving homeless families priority for federal housing
vouchers, arguing that too many people were entering shelters just to qualify for the subsidies. The Work Advantage program was heralded by the Bloomberg administration as a vast improvement over its predecessor. But advocates say the Department of Homeless Services failed to anticipate the sour economy and predict that many of the enrollees now finishing their two years in the system— as many as 2,000 families in the current fiscal year and 3,000 in the next—will be forced back into city shelters. As evidence, advocates point to data released by the administration last year tracking the number of families cycling in and out of the shelter system. In 2009, 13 percent of single adults who were transitioned into permanent housing ended up back in city shelters within a year—up from 9.9 percent in 2005, when the Section 8 voucher was revoked. For families with children, the recidivism rate was up to 3.4 percent, from just 0.8 percent in 2005. DHS officials say they have so far seen only anecdotal evidence of “a couple isolated incidents” of Advantage program participants cycling back into the shelter system after their two years are up. But Markee said he finds that “absolutely unrealistic.” In a statement, DHS Commissioner Robert Hess said the agency would not repeat its past mistakes, and has redoubled its focus on daytime drop-in centers, prevention services and speedy transitions from emergency shelters to permanent housing. “Today we continue the transformation of our system,” he said. “The Department of Homeless Services will not re-adopt failed policies of the past.” Officials estimate that the number of families flooding back into the alreadyovercrowded shelter system this year could mount into the several thousands. The prospect of sending the few thousand families that have managed, with the help of subsidies, to carve out a niche of their own back into the shelter system has some elected officials aghast. “The idea of them going back to the shelter is unconscionable,” said Council Member Gale Brewer, who has long been involved in this issue. “You can’t even fathom it.” email@example.com
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JANUARY 25, 2010
Our Perspective Strong Unions for a Strong Economy By Stuart Appelbaum President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW ast year, 115 hard-working employees at a major retailer decided they needed a voice in determining their wages, hours, and working conditions. To win that voice they opted to exercise their legal right to form a union. Under the laws of their country that should have led to the bargaining table and contract negotiations. But their employer had a different agenda: it fired every single worker.
If you guessed that took place in Mexico or China guess again: it happened in December at Saks Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. The assault on the right of workers to form unions is a national scandal. Ask those who try to organize and you’ll routinely hear shocking stories of employees being harassed and threatened. In fact, one quarter of employers facing union organizing drives now illegally fire workers. And what about workers who succeed in winning a union Strong unions voice? An MIT study found that 44 percent of them never reach a first contract. aren’t an But when businesses refuse to respect the right to organize, it isn’t only their employees who suffer; all of us do.
impediment to an economic recovery; they are a precondition for it.
Because union members earn almost 28 percent a year more than those who don’t have one — and are also 52 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance — they have the wherewithal to make the purchases non-union workers cannot. Those purchases help businesses succeed so they can create more jobs. Boosting corporate profits may help those at the top, but it doesn’t create prosperity unless workers get their fair share of the pie. That’s why strong unions aren’t an impediment to an economic recovery; they are a precondition for it.
There’s no question that it’s high time to remove obstacles to organizing and beef up penalties against businesses that break labor laws. That’s why New Yorkers can be proud that Senators Schumer, Gillibrand and 26 members of the New York delegation to the House of Representatives have stood up to reform and modernize labor laws. They not only understand that you can’t grow our economy by making the rich richer, but that a real recovery always has a union label.
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JANUARY 25, 2010
In Boro Park, A Battle Between Old- and New-Style Politics Greenfield’s aggressive tactics created fractures with former boss Hikind BY CHRIS BRAGG o all outside appearances, Assembly Member Dov Hikind had been something of a mench for his former chief of staff, David Greenfield. When Greenfield had gone to Albany to lobby elected officials, he had lunched in Hikind’s office. A couple years ago, Hikind’s political club, the United New York Democrats, held an event honoring Greenfield for his community service. And only a few months ago, when the bris of Greenfield’s second son fell on a Jewish holiday, the conservative Orthodox Hikind walked miles to Greenfield’s synagogue for the ceremony. Yet when Council Member Simcha Felder announced his resignation in early January to take a job in Comptroller John Liu’s office, Hikind, a longtime powerbroker in Boro Park’s Orthodox Jewish community, made clear he was adamantly opposed to Greenfield winning the special election to replace Felder. “That’s the goal of everybody, to be united [against Greenfield],” Hikind said at the time. Hikind maneuvered behind the scenes to ensure only a single candidate from Boro Park would run against Greenfield,
In the end, Hikind succeeded, with Judge Noach Dear taking a pass on the race, leaving Hikind’s longtime friend Joe Lazar running as the sole Boro Park candidate. In an interview, Hikind refused to discuss why he and others in Boro Park’s political establishment are so entrenched in their opposition to Greenfield. Greenfield, meanwhile, chalks up their issues to generational and stylistic differences, and bashed Hikind’s efforts to consolidate the opposition against him. “This is the exact type of backroom, smoke-filled-room politics that I’m running against,” Greenfield said. Those close to Hikind and Greenfield believe the tension is more political than personal. Each camp cites the same basic facts, each running it through their own Assembly Member Dov Hikind is working interpretations of what is good and to make sure David Greenfield loses the what is bad. In 2004, two years after the special Council election, setting up a end of his brief tenure working Boro Park power struggle. for Hikind, Greenfield was tapped since Greenfield is seen as the strongest to run the newly formed Sephardic candidate in the district’s other neighbor- Community Federation, and helped turn the south Brooklyn Jewish community hoods, Bensonhurt and Midwood.
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into a political force. These connections also helped Greenfield develop a base of support separate from Hikind that helped him raise $177,000. Lazar, meanwhile, has relied on Hikind to line up fundraising and endorsements. One political insider in the Jewish community who has spoken with Greenfield about the relationship believes the main source of the tension is that Hikind was not asked to play kingmaker by Greenfield. “David didn’t go and ask for Dov’s blessing,” said the insider, noting that Hikind himself was once considering running for the Council seat. Another factor in the split with Hikind appears to be the new—and by many accounts effective—style of lobbying that Greenfield has brought to local Jewish politics. Greenfield’s aggressive tactics and novel style of coalition-building, however, have rubbed some in the Boro Park political establishment the wrong way. “When you’re Eliot Spitzer trying to steamroll everyone, that’s one thing—and even that didn’t work for Eliot Spitzer,” said one political insider in Boro Park. “When you’re just some young guy, that’s a totally different thing.” In 2006, Greenfield formed a coalition of leaders across the religious spectrum
called Teach NYS and launched an whether he will be able to pull much of aggressive lobbying and mail campaign the vote in that neighborhood remains on behalf of a proposal put forth by unclear. Felder, who remains popular in Gov. George Pataki to give private- the district, is backing Greenfield in the school parents a $500 yearly tuition tax race and may win him some support in credit. For many parents who send their the neighborhood. The race is also seen by many as children to religious schools, the rising cost of tuition in recent years has proven a referendum on Hikind’s influence. Traditionally, Boro Park has voted in crippling. But the coalition faced strong a bloc, turned out in droves and relied opposition from Assembly Speaker heavily on guidance from Hikind, as well Sheldon Silver and his close ally, the as religious and yeshiva leaders. But in New York State United Teachers, which the Council race to replace Bill de Blasio balked at sending public money to private last year, Hikind’s chosen candidate, Brad school parents. During the budget battle, Lander, took only 14 percent of the Boro Greenfield shook the Jewish political Park vote, as the Hasidic community establishment when Teach NYS targeted rebelled against the pro-same sex the powerful speaker himself, sending marriage, pro-choice candidate. In recent years, political observers in mailers to Silver’s Lower Manhattan Assembly district questioning his stance the area say, much of the conservative Orthodox community has been moving on the tax credit issue. Greenfield’s aggressive tactics, which to the city’s suburbs while the ultramirrored those used by unions, were a Orthodox Hasidic population has rapidly departure from the methods used by powerful Jewish social organizations “When you’re Eliot such as Agudath Israel, which Spitzer trying to instead has relied on building a close steamroll everyone, relationship with Silver, who is Jewish that’s one thing—and Orthodox, to get funding. Greenfield’s methods appear to have irked some even that didn’t work within the organization. for Eliot Spitzer,” said As a non-profit, Agudath Israel one political insider itself cannot endorse in the race, but in Boro Park. “When several key members of its leadership are on board with Lazar’s campaign. you’re just some young Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudah guy, that’s a totally Israel’s chief Albany lobbyist and a different thing.” competitor of Greenfield’s, has been assisting Lazar. And George Weinberger, grown, leading to speculation that Hikind, chairman of the board of trustees of who is conservative Orthodox, has lost Agudath Israel, held a major fundraiser at some clout. A further complication, meanwhile, his house for him. Lefkowitz declined to comment on could come if Seymour Lachman decides the organization’s relationship with to run for the seat. The former state senator has the potential to siphon off Greenfield. But although he has made some votes from both Greenfield and Lazar’s enemies, Greenfield’s approach also bases. In the end, Greenfield’s supporters are brought results. Although Teach NYS did not achieve all of its aims, it did win an hoping voters will look at what he has unprecedented $330-per-child yearly tax achieved for religious communities in the credit at an annual cost to the state of district, noting that just last year, Teach NYS helped win $30 million of extra $600 million. And Greenfield’s efforts also won a funding for special-needs schools in New number of supporters for his Council York City, with much of that going to the race, including the endorsements of Hasidic community. Greenfield’s supporters believe his Kings County Democratic Party leader Vito Lopez and State Sens. Marty Golden stylistic differences with much of the Boro Park political establishment will not and Carl Kruger. “David is a young, aggressive guy determine the outcome of the race. “Up until now, people in the religious who has brought a fresh perspective to lobbying members—and has obviously community would ask for things very been successful,” said Kruger. “I think nicely, and, if they didn’t get them, walk some of the negative reactions to him away,” said Howard Beigelman, director have been because he was so aggressive. of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for But if he wasn’t, I don’t think he would Public Affairs, and a member of the Teach NYS coalition. “David has ruffled some have prevailed.” So far, most of Greenfield’s major feathers. But in this process, he made endorsements in the Council district more friends than enemies.” have come from outside Boro Park, and email@example.com
JANUARY 25, 2010
A Story of Broken Promises By Michael Mulgrew President of the United Federation of Teachers
Tens of thousands of children across the city are crammed into overcrowded classrooms. Yet the city has received from the state more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the past three years to lower class size. Despite this influx of funds – and the city’s promise in writing to use it to lower class size – class sizes have actually increased in New York City. That is why the United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation and a coalition of other groups and individuals sued the city Department of Education earlier this month. Our lawsuit charges that despite a decline in overall student enrollment and the injection of more than $760 million in state funds from school years 2007-08 through 2009-10, class sizes have gone up by the largest amount in 11 years. This $760 million was part of the state’s solution to an earlier case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which challenged how state education funding had shortchanged urban districts, including New York City. The new funds, under the guidelines known as Contracts for Excellence, came with the proviso that the city deliberately target funds to smaller classes. New York City took that money, and then ignored its promise, permitting principals to spend the money on other things, including replacing funds lost to city budget cuts, a clear violation
of the agreement with the state. The effects of that refusal can be seen in classrooms throughout the city. Just consider what is happening in 8th-grade classes. In the Bronx, 39 percent of such classes have 30 or more students. In Brooklyn the figure is 41 percent; Manhattan has 49 percent; Queens has 57 percent; and Staten Island has a whopping 70 percent of its 8th grade classes with more than 30 students. Anyone who has ever spent even a day in an urban classroom can clearly understand that it’s easier for teachers to provide individual attention and focused instruction to students in smaller classes. That is why lowering class size is such an important priority for parents. But the DOE chooses to continue to ignore the long-standing wishes of parents and abdicate its duty to use the state class size reduction funds as intended. That’s mismanagement, plain and simple. For years DOE officials have called for holding teachers and other educators more accountable for what happens in our schools. Where’s the accountability for the children in overcrowded classes?
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onsider, for a moment, the end days of 2009: After spending a sum that would make the Prince of Dubai blush, Mike Bloomberg won re-election by 10 points under the predictions of the day-of polls. The New York City Council then spent an afternoon overriding three mayoral vetoes, a legislative trick they had turned to just 10 times in the previous four years. The week before, the Council voted to kill Bloomberg’s plans to redevelop Kingsbridge Armory after the administration refused a guarantee of living wage for all future employees there. It was the ﬁrst time the Council had derailed a major Bloomberg administration land-use initiative. “What happened here today is huge,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. at a boisterous rally following the vote. “The administration needs to realize that local government, local elected officials are partners with the administration.” For eight years, the primary criticism of Bloomberg, among local elected officials at least, was that he and his administration have been anything but partners—to school parents, to community groups, and to them especially.
The cumulative effect of those votes, however, combined with the election of two new citywide officials a measure more aggressive than their predecessors, and a baker’s dozen of new energetic Council members, led many to wonder if there had been a distinct paradigm shift in New York City politics. For at least four years, if not eight, the way to succeed politically in this town has been to, in one way or another, align with the mayor. That is what Bill Thompson did for most of the seven years he served as comptroller; Council
Speaker Christine Quinn’s alliance with the administration was a point of pride. Even Anthony Weiner took to comparing himself to Bloomberg at what looked like the end, saying they were both outsiders and both independent, even though 10 years of government service and $16 billion separate them. After all, Bloomberg was the one with the envious approval ratings, and his vacation homes and private planes and fancy friends were almost enough to make the grubby world of politics seem glamorous.
And sure, he won a third term despite all the people that opposed the termlimits change, and never seemed to break a sweat. But that did not matter. Suddenly the game had supposedly changed. Voters seemed hungry for change, and angry at Wall Street and the political establishment—both of which the mayor symbolizes. Instead of cozying up to the mayor, elected officials have been tripping over one another to scurry away. “What changed?” said Corrections
JANUARY 25, 2010
Officers union head Norman Seabrook, a Bloomberg supporter turned fierce critic. “People woke up.” Talking about an election four years away can be uncouth, if not a little ridiculous. Ask any elected official about their political plans, and they stick to their just-concentrating-on-doing-the-jobthe-people-elected-me-for lines. But then came Bill Thompson. Just as the Bloomberg battering began, Thompson, who famously gave the mayor a D- in one of their televised debates, announced that he planned to run again. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer got caught hiring for a future citywide run. News accounts of Bill de Blasio’s inauguration were mostly about his mayoral prospects. And you thought the last presidential race went on too long. But just being another body on the Bloomberg pile-on will not be enough. They will need to stake out their roles
and personae for the next four years— already, even in these early days of 2010. “The fundamental question for these guys is, how do they differentiate themselves,” said veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf. His advice: “Find one issue and drive it. Do something that gets your face in front of people and makes them want to pay attention to you. That’s how you find relevancy.” he person we have to thank or blame for what may be the longest campaign in history is the man whose last campaign barely registered a blip on most New Yorkers’ radar—Bill Thompson. He warmly introduced John Liu at his inaugural party, ending with a bear hug and seeming ready to pass the torch. Five days later, he kicked off the Thompson for Mayor II campaign. No winking-and-nodding. No hobnobbing while holding down an empty think tank or corporate job. Surprise would be an
understatement to describe the reaction. “It’s just bizarre,” said Democratic consultant George Arzt. “Everything he does now is tainted. Every move he will make in the next four years, people will say, ‘Well, it’s political.’” Thompson said the reasoning was simple: there was no way to finally put to rest the rumors of the comptroller and Senate campaigns he wanted to run, and still do candidate things like raise money or file a committee. “Being coy I’m sure has its advantage,” he said. “But I made up my mind, and I didn’t see any sense in denying that.” There are other advantages as well. Thompson can keep the AfricanAmerican vote from drifting elsewhere, and he is the person reporters will turn to when they need a quick quote to counter Bloomberg. But presenting a convincing alternative vision was not a strength of Thompson’s campaign, which, according to critics, had a lot to do with a final vote count that was roughly the same as Freddy Ferrer’s in 2005.
Thompson says he will speak out about the issues he talked about in the ’09 campaign—affordable housing, the squeeze on the middle class, jobs and the economy. But unlike the others, he lacks a platform, and can be caught flatfooted as actual officeholders make their rounds. The best scenario for Thompson could be if some of the other mayoral aspirants decide to stay in safe seats and he finds himself alone on a stage with Rep. Anthony Weiner. Assuming voters continue to tire of Bloomberg, and Bloomberg tires of being mayor, Thompson could be remembered as the one who challenged him when others took a pass. These days, Weiner has been busy being a wide-ranging media antagonist on health care. He has kept an eye on city politics, but left the commenting to others. He may be a politician who seems ready with six sound bites rolling out of bed in the morning, but he declined to be interviewed for this story. Weiner seems poised to take the position of someone who fights down
JANUARY 25, 2010
in Washington on the big issues that get liberal New Yorkers’ hearts pounding— besides health care, immigration, climate change and the like—while arguing that he has delivered the most goodies to the city, courtesy of the federal treasury. No one can needle Bloomberg quite like Weiner can, which could win him friends if the mayor does not regain his footing in the wake of the election. But in 2013, Weiner will be eight years older than the hotshot who nearly upended the 2005 mayor’s race. His task will be to transition from smart aleck to elder statesman, all the while explaining where he was in the could-have-been 2009 race. Also complicating things: the 2013 electorate is looking to be much different from the one he faced in 2005. “Demographics are only going to get worse for a candidate like Weiner,” said one political operative. “His natural constituency is just shrinking, and John Liu and Bill de Blasio are not going to be quiet while Anthony Weiner figures out how to be the smartest guy in the class.” Most politicos cannot help but mention Liu and de Blasio in the same breath. Both came into office on the same day after eight years in the City Council. Both won on the strength of big Democratic constituencies—minorities for Liu, unions for de Blasio. Most Democratic consultants say Liu has an advantage, since he holds an office with clearly defined charter responsibilities that will affect voter’s pocketbooks. When asked what he plans to do as comptroller, Liu’s first answer references that coalition that backed him in the primary and run-off, and which he feels has been largely ignored by the administration up till now. “I still see a very closed process when it comes to the way the city puts out contracts,” he said over pizza at an Italian restaurant around the corner from where the risers had been installed in front of City Hall for the inauguration ceremony. He was sporting a purple tie emblazoned with the logo of the powerful building workers union, 32BJ. (“My staff said I should wear more purple,” he said with a shrug.) “The same players get all the contracts. I think it makes sense for us to develop more competency out in the marketplace, and one way of doing that is to make sure that more of the up-and-coming businesses get opportunities.” Liu will need to expand his demographic coalition going forward, however, especially if Thompson or Diaz are in the race. One of his first acts as comptroller was to nab Council Member Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew, as his deputy, a move that was seen as an effort by Liu to reach out beyond his base. Liu was a vociferous administration critic while on the Council, and has a knack for finding reporters. Bloomberg officials are steeling themselves for a Liu armed with subpoena power. Liu said they had nothing to worry about.
www.cityhallnews.com “They should be more nervous about Bill de Blasio,” he said. “I didn’t run for this office to be a thorn in anybody’s side... I think I am a pretty amicable person to work with. I simply ask people to be straightforward, to follow through and to not blow smoke up my ass. I don’t think it’s a whole lot.” So far, however, Liu’s Municipal Building neighbor has held his fire. De Blasio too took the administration as chair of the council’s General Welfare Committee, but he used his final hearing to actually heap praise on a Bloomberg program that dealt with juvenile offenders. De Blasio’s victory speech after his win in the September run-off included a shout-out to seemingly every trade union in the five boroughs—“The musicians! PSC CUNY! The Freelancers Union! The Fire Marshalls! The Theatrical Stage Employees!”—but he now appears to be attempting to make inroads to more typical Bloomberg voters. When Liu pointedly avoided meeting with the mayor right after the election, de Blasio had a public cup of coffee with Bloomberg by the window of a downtown diner. In his second week on the job, he tried to rally support for lifting the cap on charter schools, a Bloomberg pet project. In his first press conference from his new digs on the 15th floor of the Municipal Building, he marveled at the view of the Manhattan skyline. “Sure beats the City Hall steps in the cold, huh guys?” he said, before launching into an outline of his approach to the office. In many people’s minds, the public advocate’s office boils down to an official government press release factory, a government perch to support a mayoral run. They expect him to be in the news, firing hard at the mayor, as he prepares for a 2013 campaign. Yet he also declined to be interviewed for this story. Liu actually has more responsibilities in the day-to-day running of government, yet de Blasio can set up an office that acts as a mayoral administration in exile, advocating for alternative policies and programs that call for the same thing the administration does, only doing them a little bit better. But de Blasio is treading a difficult line. A former political operative, he has generated positive media coverage since his election by giving wellplaced leaks to the New York Times and receiving plenty of television coverage. Political consultants scoffed at one of his
first initiatives, however, a communityorganizing plan that looked to some like a bald ploy to lay the groundwork for a future campaign. “Organizing communities and saying, ‘We’ll pick the winners’—that’s almost like you are running spring training and looking for the good players to keep an eye on,” said former Bloomberg campaign consultant Bill Cunningham. “If Bill looks like he is setting up a field operation for a political campaign, John could be the guy the public thinks is doing a good job,
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS
and John could rush right past him.” ust like it is hard to talk about Liu without talking about de Blasio, it is hard to talk about either without Stringer, their neighbor in the Municipal Building, and, through him, Council Speaker
CITY HALL Christine Quinn. The two both came from the politically active West Side, and most assume there is not room for both in the same election. Their policy goals coincide as well: when asked what they want to focus on over the next four years, both cited increasing affordable housing, adding new jobs in biotech, and getting the city a real food policy as top priorities.
Quinn sees her role in the next four years as that of a pragmatist, of someone who will be able to point to firehouses saved and affordable apartments opened due to her negotiations with the mayor while others are forced to hold sideline press conferences about their “recommendations.” Like Weiner, Quinn will be able to point to a long list of items that she actually has delivered to New Yorkers over the past eight years. And she has 50 other Council members who she can appear alongside with at the far-flung corners of the city, and will have her hand in every decision that gets made in city government over the next few years.
www.cityhallnews.com “You see a problem, find a solution, vet the solution, commit to the solution, and you go out and organize around it,” she says of her approach to the new term. Quinn rejected the notion that the Kingsbridge vote heralded a more defiant four years, and stressed that results would be what mattered. “I take great offense at people who think or state that this institution would manipulate the needs of the neighborhood, borough and city to make some political point at the mayor,” she said. “These are important land-use items. I am never going to manipulate the end game of them to make a point in some fictitious political chess game for which other people have laid out who the king and queen are.” But she still gets jabbed for her perceived closeness with they mayor. When Stringer was asked who would take the lead in taking on Bloomberg after the election, he joked, “I think that’s pretty easy—it’s Christine Quinn.” Stringer has made no secret of his desire to be thought of as a citywide contender. He is trying to set up his office as an incubator of ideas that then get implemented far beyond the Hudson and East rivers. “A lot of ideas to come out of this office have been adopted by the city,” Stringer says, pointing to his food policy program, his work on sexual harassment on the subways, and land use initiatives. “We put out a proposal and [the mayor and the City Council] adopt them. It’s amazing in a borough president’s office. I’ve introduced state and city legislation as borough president. Who’s done that?” Stringer is now turning his attention to the city charter, which Bloomberg promised to take up early in his third term. The reason may be self-serving— the mayor has talked before about eliminating the borough president’s office—but Stringer is using it to talk about the idea of full-scale government reform and to establish further his goodgovernment credentials. His approach differs from that of his fellow borough president, Ruben Diaz. He has been whacking the mayor on Kingsbridge since long before the election, and now that Nov. 3 has come and gone, it is Diaz, more than the others, who has found that one issue and driven it. “The Bloomberg economic plan of the
last eight years needs to change,” he says. “And we will not be bullied, we will not be hoodwinked, we will not be railroaded, we will continue to do what we believe is right. And thousands of Bronxites agree with me.” While Diaz has succeeded so far in changing the debate, political professionals wonder how well the Kingsbridge victory will play out in the future. In that dispute, Diaz held the line that it was not worth having jobs if they did not guarantee a living wage, and with jobs likely scarce for the foreseeable future, Diaz may not look so prescient. But he sees an administration that has spent a lot of money on the Bronx over the last eight years—at Yankee Stadium, at Gateway Mall, at the Croton Filtration Plant—but without much benefit redounding to residents of the borough. “I’m the borough president,” he says. “I’m not here with pom-poms and a miniskirt. I’m not here to do some kind of
JANUARY 25, 2010
injecting him into the vote-rich Upper West Side. De Blasio called on Stringer’s political mentor, Rep. Jerry Nadler, to administer his oath of office. Weiner will be looking for many of the same white, progressive and Jewish votes that would form the base of a Stringer campaign, and fighting de Blasio for Brooklyn support. In both of her elections as speaker, Quinn has formed a coalition of progressive support and got the backing of the county leaders, and has had more time to ingratiate herself with the centrist business community that the rest of them will now be trying to hit. And the biggest variable may be Bloomberg himself. Yes, everyone is throwing bricks at him now. But he still is the prime mover in New York City politics, he still is friends with all the opinion leaders in the city, and he still has billions at his disposal to drive the debate. He faced aggressive opponents before and taken his hits in the polls a couple of years after he was elected when his popularity sank to numbers that would make David Paterson blush. Bloomberg easily could co-op the opposition, signing onto their initiatives. He could invite them inside the tent, put them on the upcoming Charter Review Commission, agree with their complaints when they rail against something the administration did or did not do. They will all need a record to run on, and no one could provide them with victories quite like Mike Bloomberg can. He has said he will reach out. Perhaps he will. Or, perhaps he will not. Perhaps the mayor will grow tired of an opposition whose answer only seems to be “No.” If that is the case, the outstretched hand could easily become a clinched fist. He always talks about his disdain for political deal making, his independence. But insiders note how he always seems to be cutting political deals—with the unions, with the Council. He may, as he did with Kingsbridge, as he did when he first got elected and he pushed through a smoking ban that seemed downright fascist at the time, draw lines in the sand and say “No.” This term is the mayor’s legacy project. It is his chance to get the city on the firm footing Gotham needs to remain globally competitive. The political players may howl, but Bloomberg will be praised to the high heavens by the editorial boards and the history books. The would-bemayor, the anti-Bloombergs will then really have something to run on. Whoever yells the loudest, wins. “Voices in this city are calling for change,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the head of RWDSU and a vociferous Bloomberg critic. “They are becoming louder all the time. Elected officials are going to have to listen to it. The mayor is going to have to listen to it.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Hank Sheinkopf ’s advice: “Find one issue and drive it. Do something that gets your face in front of people and makes them want to pay attention to you. That’s how you find relevancy.” flipping act and entertain anybody. I’m here to be the voice of the people who elected me. I’m here to be the voice of the borough of the Bronx. People are starting to notice that.” Four years is still a long way away. Other candidates could emerge—Adolfo Carrión or Eva Moskowitz, or someone coming out of the Legislature or corporate finance. Four years out of the 2001 election, the idea of Mike Bloomberg even launching a campaign for mayor was enough to cause snickers, so while all signs point to the next resident of Gracie Mansion being a Democrat, there is still more than enough time for a Republican to emerge and keep up the GOP streak. They will be warring for the same constituencies. Liu spent the last few weeks of the general election campaign appearing all over town with Thompson. Thompson embraced Liu in return, helping connect his successor with crucial black voters. De Blasio and Liu were both propelled by the same labor/Working Families coalition. Stringer became one of de Blasio’s most prominent promoters,
JANUARY 25, 2010
In Lawsuit And Negotiations, Mulgrew Sets New Tone For UFT BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS n Jan. 5, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew stood before a small crowd of reporters to announce that his union would be suing the city Department of Education (DOE) for allegedly misusing state funds that were intended for class size reduction. “It is an example of gross mismanagement,” Mulgrew said. “And that is the easiest and nicest way to put it.” Ten days later, the union’s contract negotiations with the city ground to a screeching halt, requiring the intervention of a state panel to revive the stalled talks. The experience of those two weeks at the start of 2010 signal the difficulty of Mulgrew’s path as he tries to stake out an identity distinct from his high-profile predecessor, Randi Weingarten, and wades deep into debates over education that are roiling the city. “It certainly does make it more exciting,” Mulgrew said, reflecting on his first six months as UFT head in an interview a few days after the lawsuit announcement. Mulgrew insists that there is no connection between the lawsuit and the contract negotiations. But the heightened tensions between the union and the city, both with regard to the lawsuit and the vicious debate over charter schools, have complicated Mulgrew’s position. Mulgrew said that he was hoping to avoid a breakdown in talks with the city,
but added that he had no choice, given the administration’s insistence over tying teacher evaluations to test data and eliminating the charter school cap. “We’re at the end of a round of bargaining,” Mulgrew said. “We were hoping we could do this in a very professional way, but, quite honestly, the more they went out into the media about issues, asking the State Legislature to change collectively bargained issues, we just got to the point where we said, ‘Okay, this is not going to work.’” The UFT’s most recent contract expired in October, but a statute allows teachers to continue working under the expired contract until a new one can be finalized. Whatever the outcome of contract negotiations, Mulgrew said he wanted to see a timely completion of the lawsuit against the DOE. “Money for the classroom is for the classroom,” Mulgrew said. At issue is an estimated $760 million in state funds sent to the DOE over the last three years for the purposes of lowering class size. The union charges in its lawsuit that the city “sought to evade its statutory responsibilities” by distributing the money to the city’s principals—and the principals, they say, spent the money on administrative costs or as a way to defray budget cuts, instead of using it to hire more teachers and decrease the number of students assigned to each class. “The charges are without merit,” said DOE spokesperson Ann Forte of the lawsuit. The city declined comment on the
ongoing contract negotiations. Some education experts have questioned the timing of Mulgrew’s lawsuit, given the economic recession and successive waves of budget cuts, both at the city and state levels. “For me, it’s a bit of a sideshow,” said Michael Rebell, a professor at Columbia Teachers College who was one of the original plaintiffs in the 15-year Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. One of the provisions of the CFE agreement required the city use the increased flow of state education aid to lower class sizes. But Rebell said he thinks the union is being too rigid in its expectations. “Until we can get a sufficient number of truly qualified teachers into high-needs schools, I don’t think the concentration should be on lowering class size by 0.5 [percent], or some statistical measure, which is what the UFT seems to be pushing here,” he said. “I think we have larger fish to fry under our current situation.” Others disagreed, saying Mulgrew was correct to bring the lawsuit now, especially if the UFT’s allegations that the money had been improperly spent proves true. Geri Palast, the executive director of the not-for-profit that arose out of the CFE lawsuit, said the DOE’s lack of transparency has forced Mulgrew and the union to take action. “Let’s call a buck what a buck is,” Palast said. “Let’s document. Let’s say ‘Okay, we don’t have enough money.’ Let’s say, if we’re using it for another purpose, let’s really say that we are. And let’s get an IOU here.” Either way, Mulgrew is earning rave reviews for his aggressive tactics from
some corners of the education advocacy world, especially as he has distinguished his style from that of Weingarten, who left New York last summer to become president of the national teachers union. Weingarten’s position on many of the reforms being pushed by Bloomberg and others has shifted over the last year. Projecting more accommodation, Weingarten has called for new methods in teacher evaluation, saying she would be receptive to using standardized test score data in the process as well. Mulgrew has consistently warned against using test data in teacher evaluations, saying such methods would require a “climate of collaboration” with the DOE that currently does not exist. Some advocates say privately that where Weingarten was eager to burnish her national credentials by cozying up to Bloomberg and Klein, seen especially in her late-stage support for the renewal of mayoral control, Mulgrew has brought a different, more no-nonsense style to the union. “Let’s put it this way,” said one education advocate. “I don’t think [Mulgrew] wants to hang out in the Hamptons and fly in the mayor’s plane.” But in suing the DOE over class size, Mulgrew said he believes that he is keeping up in his predecessor’s spirit. As recently as last March, Weingarten sued the DOE over three schools that were closed and replaced by charter schools. Asked if he thought Weingarten would approve of his decisions as UFT president thus far, Mulgrew said simply, “I’m sure she does.” email@example.com
Called In The From the Bullpen, Holloway Looks To Shake Up DEP BY CHRIS BRAGG n 1996, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern recruited a 23-yearold Harvard graduate named Cas Holloway to come work for him, as part of an initiative by Stern to recruit the best and brightest recent college graduates from across the country. But Stern came under fire from critics who contended that more than qualified candidates for the jobs were in New York City. Thirteen years later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg weathered the exact opposite criticism in November, when he appointed Holloway as the new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. This time, critics wondered how after conducting a 13-month, nationwide search, Bloomberg could select a 36-yearold who sat a few desks away from him in the bullpen. Holloway is taking leadership of one of the city’s largest and most difficult to manage agencies, a department with a massive capital budget, a diverse set of missions and a staff of 6,000 spread from
watersheds upstate to the department’s headquarters in Flushing. Over its history, the department has also had its fair share of mismanagement, corruption and nepotistic hiring practices. Holloway’s background in the Bloomberg administration was as a special advisor to mayor, and as chief of staff to fellow former Stern alum Ed Skyler. In his time at DEP so far, Holloway has reportedly implanted several Bloomberg-esque features to the office, including a bullpen-style set-up. Holloway was not available to comment about his plans for DEP, but others say that in his first weeks as commissioner, he spent much of his time meeting with a wide array of stakeholders, including with State Sen. John Bonacic, concerning issues with the city’s upstate water supply, and Eric Goldstein, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who is frequently involved in litigation with DEP. Goldstein, for one, said he came away impressed from the meeting. “For this job, you need strong
management skills, a close working relationship with the mayor and a real sense of environmental stewardship,” said Goldstein. “Cas Holloway certainly seems to qualify in those areas.” Holloway’s biggest challenge will likely be controlling the cost of DEC’s spiraling deficit, which has caused the New York City Water Board to implement large rate hikes on city residents in recent years. Currently, approximately $1 billion of the agency’s $2 billion budget goes to pay for debt service. At the same time, with the economy down, water consumption has dropped in the city by 12 percent over the past two years, necessitating that the Water Board charge consumers higher rates for its product in order to pay for the debt. Environmental advocates are also so far taking a positive view of Holloway. Dan Hendrick, spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said he was heartened recently when Holloway indicated the city would not stand in the
way of an EPA Superfund designation for Newtown Creek. Holloway recently hired Carter Strickland, a former senior advisor for the mayor’s PlanNYC initiative, in the newly created position of deputy commissioner for sustainability. Meanwhile, federal mandates continually demand cleaner drinking water, forcing the city to build more and more treatment plants in order to comply. The Clean Water Act, for instance, has forced the city to build a number of $500 million water storage tanks to prevent the overflow of raw sewage from treatment plants during rainstorms. Holloway appears to be looking for ways to cut these capital costs. He was already working on a new technique to allow the city to remove nitrogen from the water supply cheaply, according to Council Member Jim Gennaro, head of the Environmental Protection Committee. “This is a cutting edge, innovative technique, and even before Cas became commissioner, he was already doing this,” Gennaro said. firstname.lastname@example.org
JANUARY 25, 2010
Experts See Prescription For New Oversight Panel In Health Care Bill State prepares to translate Washington legislation in local implementation BY SELENA ROSS resident Barack Obama’s health care reform battle may be in limbo in Washington, but state officials are still preparing for dealing with what would be a massive change to health care delivery in New York. Albany’s first hurdle is deciding who will oversee the process of putting the reforms in place—a tricky decision that shows how laborious and politicized the reform process could become. Assuming a bill of some kind passes, and most think it will even with the results of the Massachusetts Senate special election, lobbyists are asking New York legislators to create a special commission to help guide the implementations, which are expected to take thousands of staff hours and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But many legislators are lukewarm on that idea, hoping to use existing structures and staff to maintain efficiency and tight control as they do the overhaul. “There have been suggestions about setting up some sort of entity to work on federal implementation,” said Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, chair of the Health Committee, in December. “Whether that might make sense for New York or whether it could turn into just another panel that doesn’t accomplish much, I don’t know.” Gottfried said that with the debate in Washington still up in the air, there are too many moving parts to predict what is needed. The huge task of implementation could be a long-term drain on the Health Department as well as the state budget. So far, the federal government has not offered much funding to ease the transition. Appointing some third-party experts to guide the state through a rough period could help ease public anger, as with the 2005 Berger Commission on closing hospitals. So with the passage of a bill potentially weeks away, industry and consumer advocates are poised to start a marathon scrutiny of Albany’s reaction. They say that a committee with well-planned ground rules would be the fairest forum for their ideas. Some envision a panel of experts that meets monthly or bimonthly while others have suggested more casual meetings. “The state should be setting up some kind of task force or planning strategy groups of diverse interests to plan for implementation, as soon as possible,” said Judy Wessler of the Commission on the Public’s Health System. “And when I say
diverse institutions, I mean consumers and advocates and labor representatives, as well as institutions. You need voices to say what can work and what can’t work, and to say who gets hurt or helped by particular provisions.” Politicians and insiders said there would be no lack of input even without such a group, since health policymakers keep their doors open to lobbyists. And some health policy experts say that health reforms are simply too big a job for lawmakers to risk delegating. “I think the state would not give that responsibility up,” said one top health official. “Assistance, yes, but I cannot imagine the state investing authority in another body.” However, it is the scale of the reforms that others say calls for a wider, coordinated collaboration between people in and outside government. “We all know that it’s going to be tremendously tricky and difficult,” said Bill Van Slyke of the Healthcare Association of New York State, although his group has not asked for a formal committee. “We’ve been talking to them and sharing our concerns about the legislation generally, and our wish to share in the process.” The legislation, whatever its final shape, could require more electronic record keeping, new insurance laws and new types of Medicaid reimbursements, transforming the state’s health care system. Some legislators remain skeptical of ceding control of the implementation of the bill to a third party. Tom Duane, chair of the Senate Health Committee, is not one of them, and he has been pushing the idea of collaboration between government, industry leaders and advocates. “We absolutely have to have a stakeholder group to provide direction on implementation of federal health care reform in New York State,” Duane said in a statement. “All voices must be heard.” Claudia Hutton, the director of communications for the state Department of Health, said the state has other options. Right now, she said, Albany’s priority should be to pressure the federal government to fund the transition and set a reasonable timetable. “You can also put money in for dedicated staff; you could arrange for a joint task force of the governor’s office and the Assembly and Senate committees,” she said. “Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we can’t do it.” Direct letters to the editor to email@example.com.
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JANUARY 25, 2010
On A Roll After TWU Head Victory, Samuelsen Refuses To Roll Over On MTA BY CHRIS BRAGG TA chairman Jay Walder and Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelsen, both new to their jobs, got together for their first meeting in midJanuary. On the agenda: the broad disagreements about the MTA’s budget policies over the next year and what that will mean for the union’s workforce. The day after the meeting Walder said he felt he would be able to work with the new leader of the city’s subway and bus workers, given all his stridently anti-MTA public rhetoric. “He has pledged to do so, and I have pledged to do so,” said Walder, projecting optimism. “But we’re both new to our jobs, so we’re finding our way.” Samuelsen offered a darker assessment. “We have diametrically opposite positions on a whole array of issues,” Samuelsen said. “It’s not going to be personally hostile. But we’re not going to just roll over, either.” The new head of the 37,000-member union, who got his start as a track inspector, won election after a heated campaign that accused the previous administration of being too close to the MTA management— an assertion that might come as a surprise to New Yorkers who lived through the 2005 transit strike led by his predecessor, Roger Toussaint. At the same time, Samuelsen comes into the job at a time when the MTA is reeling from a $400 million budget gap and is threatening layoffs. Samuelsen said that in recent years the union’s anti-democratic leadership structure made it so the union actually was often fighting itself rather than fighting the MTA. “Once we started doing that, we had no strength to compel management,” Samuelsen said, in an interview at the office he recently took over from Toussaint. “So the only alternative was to try and develop a relationship with the company and curry favor.” That line of argument helped Samuelsen handily defeat Toussaint’s hand-picked successor, Curtis Tate, in early December. He has since appointed Tate to the union’s political action committee, in a gesture toward this newly democratic spirit. Samuelson also enters office on the heels of an arbitrator’s ruling that Local 100 members should receive 11-percent raises over the next three years, despite the MTA’s financial woes. In the MTA budget released in December, 700 layoffs of unionized workers were proposed. But instead of
laying off union members, Samuelsen believes money should instead be diverted from the MTA’s capital budget in order to cover an operational deficit. Walder, however, is adamantly opposed to the idea and has spent much of his time looking for inefficiencies in the workforce. Samuelsen was readying for a fight against management and he said that his experience so far with Walder has only reinforced a reputation that preceded him. “Walder’s reputation from his experience in London is that he will come into town and try to balance his budget on the backs of organized labor,” Samuelsen said. As the relationship between Walder and Samuelsen develops, others note that Toussaint also came into office with a strongly anti-MTA message, only to develop a relationship with MTA leadership in later years. Bill Henderson, executive director at the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, suggested the same dynamic could occur eventually between Samuelsen and Walder. “Roger Toussaint came into office with a reputation as a firebrand kind of guy too,” Henderson said. “Eventually, the relationship changed.” As the MTA goes through a period of fiscal crisis, Samuelsen said, his main task is now to empower the union rank and file politically in order to fight expected layoffs. Samuelsen says he has personal experience with the anti-democratic nature of the union under Toussaint. During the early years of Toussaint’s tenure, Samuelsen worked his way into the president’s inner circle. But they had a falling out just weeks before the disastrous 2005 strike over Toussaint’s decision to try selling TWU Local 100’s longtime headquarters on West End Avenue, even as negotiations with the city were growing intense.
Samuelsen lays tracks for more democratic Local 100, though doubts persist
“Walder’s reputation from his experience in London is that he will come into town and try to balance his budget on the backs of organized labor,” Samuelsen said. At a meeting of the union’s leadership, Samuelsen said the sale was a distraction from the real work at hand, and should be tabled until after the contract situation
John Samuelsen, the new president of TWU Local 100, says he will be unrelenting in fighting the cuts proposed by MTA chairman Jay Walder. was resolved. For his disloyalty, Toussaint stripped Samuelsen of his well-paying administrative position and sent Samuelsen back to his old job as a track inspector. “And that’s how we got here today,” said Samuelsen. During the campaign for Toussaint’s replacement, the two were openly hostile towards one another. Toussaint at one point referred to Samuelsen as “mentally ill.” Samuelsen filed a defamation lawsuit. With the campaign over, Toussaint, who has taken a position with the national Transit Workers Union, declined to comment about his old nemesis. “I have no need to speak over Mr. Samuelsen, and I wish them all well,”
Toussaint said. Since taking office, Samuelsen has taken steps he believes will make the union more democratic and encourage a healthy level of dissent. He also said that going forward, the union also would spend less money on expensive lobbyists and instead encourage the rank and file to meet with lawmakers and to run for office themselves. All of this, he said, would help the union more aggressively confront Walder and the MTA. “I’m a hardened trade union democrat, and I believe in it wholeheartedly,” Samuelsen said. “There’s no pure power in a system where members are kept in the dark and only a few officials are entitled to make decisions for a 40,000member union.” firstname.lastname@example.org
JANUARY 25, 2010
Fines For Filing Lobbying Incorrectly, But Not For Skipping Filing Altogether Non-profits say flaws in city lobbying law create unfair burden, disincentive to comply BY CHRIS BRAGG or the first two years that New York City’s new lobbying restrictions were in existence, William Rapfogel had no idea he was violating them. Figuring that the landmark 2006 law applied to big, professional lobbying firms, Rapfogel did not register anyone from the non-profit he heads, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, as a lobbyist. After all, Rapfogel reasoned, his employees spent just a few hours lobbying lawmakers each year. But after conversations with several attorney friends convinced him that he was wrong—any entity with over $2,000 in annual spending on lobbying must register their activities with the city clerk’s office—Rapfogel contacted the office for more information. He was immediately told to pay fines for the 73 days during 2008 that the organization had not been in compliance with the law. At $25 a day, the fine totaled $1,825. And since then, the organization has spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to stay in compliance with the highly prescriptive law. Rapfogel’s advice to other non-profits is to learn from his mistakes “What I say to them is, ‘Talk with your lawyers and see what they tell you to do.
But if you don’t file, nobody is going to bother you,’” Rapfogel said. “If you do file, be prepared for some harassment.” A number of non-profit groups who deal with the current system say it creates disincentive to follow the law: small nonprofit organizations are almost never fined for failing to register as lobbyists, but when they do register, they are often fined heavily for everything from late filings to arcane paperwork mistakes. According to a March 2009 report released by the clerk’s office, during the first two years under the new lobbying law, not a single fine was levied for a failure to register as a lobbyist. At the same time, in 2007, lobbyists and their clients were fined $330,075 for filing late reports, and in 2008 they were fined $232,025. The report also shows that even as awareness of the city’s lobbying laws has become more widely disseminated, the number of lobbyists who have registered with the clerk’s office has actually decreased. In 2007, 378 lobbyists were registered, according to their report. In 2008, only 364 were registered. Allison Sesso, a lawyer who is the
deputy executive director of the Human Services Council of New York City, works with non-profits to help them comply with the city’s lobbying laws. Though Sesso encourages these non-profits and their employees to register, she says the current law does the opposite. “It’s basically encouraging people to break the law,” Sesso said. The 2009 report does mention six cases of unreported lobbying that were disclosed to the clerk’s office by the public, and the report states that these
profit organizations are meeting the $2,000 lobbying threshold. Sesso said she believes the solution would be to raise the minimum threshold at which entities are required to register lobbying activities—the state’s lobbying laws have a $5,000 threshold, for instance—in order to relieve the burden on the clerk’s office and allow their limited staff to focus on the bigger, professional lobbying firms. Rapfogel, meanwhile, suggested that to alleviate the amount of work for the city clerk’s office, smaller non-profits could simply register with the state only, rather than with both the city and the state. Non-profit organizations concerned about this issue have been in talks with Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office. A revision of the city’s lobbying law could potentially be on the agenda this year, they say. Rapfogel, for one, is hopeful that a change in the city’s lobbying laws will be forthcoming. “The purpose of this law was really to focus on the big lobbyists that are powerful enough to defend themselves,” Rapfogel said. “Instead, they ended up beating up on the non-profits.” email@example.com
“It’s basically encouraging people to break the law,” said Allison Sesso of the Human Services Council, of the current city lobbying regulations. cases are under investigation. The results of these investigations may become public when the clerk’s 2010 report is submitted March 1. The city clerk’s office declined comment for this article. Sesso said one problem is that the lobbying division of the office does not have the resources to monitor whether the city’s thousands of non-
Green Building Plan Takes Steps To Help City Become More Energy-Efficient BY ROHIT AGGARWALA orking with the New York City Council, Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Jim Gennaro, we developed a “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan,” a comprehensive package of legislation that was signed into law in December 2009. The Plan, the most far-reaching municipal effort to cut carbon emissions in the nation, will ensure that existing buildings take costeffective steps to become more efficient. The Plan has four legislative components: (1) creating a local New York City energy code to allow us to tailor energy standards to our larger buildings and ensure that as buildings perform renovations they will get more efficient; (2) requiring large commercial buildings to upgrade their lighting over the next 15 years and install sub-meters to measure energy use in individual large commercial tenant spaces, which will help reduce electrical use that takes place in tenantcontrolled spaces (a change to the bill which was added during the legislative process and will align incentives so that retrofits take place); (3) requiring building owners to benchmark their energy usage
online to allow owners and potential purchasers to compare buildings’ energy consumption, which will reward the most efficient buildings; and (4) requiring each building to conduct energy audits once every decade and implement energyefficient maintenance practices, which will realize major savings and identify opportunities for investments that will pay for themselves. And because we believe that government should lead by example, the Plan requires all large city-owned buildings to conduct audits and complete energy upgrades that pay for themselves within seven years. The city is currently investing 10 percent of its annual energy budget—$80 million to $100 million a year—as part of the Mayor’s goal reducing municipal government’s output of greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2017. To date, 62 energy efficiency projects in city-owned facilities have been completed, including upgrades in schools, sanitation garages, police precincts and cultural and recreational facilities. These projects cost $16 million and will pay for themselves within seven years by saving New York City $2.3 million a year in reduced electricity, natural gas and oil bills. An additional 118 projects,
currently in the pipeline, will save the city an additional $20 million a year and reduce emissions by an estimated 85,000 metric tons of CO2. All told, this comprehensive approach will have the equivalent impact of making all of Oakland, Calif., carbon-neutral while saving New Yorkers $700 million a year in energy costs and creating 17,800 jobs. Increasing energy efficiency is only part of the solution. We are also working to get more of our energy from renewable sources. Last year, the city joined Con Edison, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York Power Authority and others in a collaborative effort to create an offshore wind farm. The project would likely be designed for 350 megawatts (MW) of generation, with the ability to expand it to 700 MW, making it the largest offshore wind project in the country. Through the Solar American Cities program we are also launching Solar Zones to facilitate the installation of solar PV on private buildings, and the Department of Buildings is developing a permitting process to enable the installation of building-sited wind projects. By reducing our energy consumption
and increasing the use of renewables in the city, we can save New Yorkers money, create thousands of jobs, improve our air quality and combat global warming— leading to a greener, greater New York.
Rohit Aggarwala is the director of the mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
JANUARY 25, 2010
Energy Efforts Continue To Fuel State Economy BY FRANCIS MURRAY his year, despite a fiscal crisis of historic proportions that has caused significant declines in nearly every sector of our economy, New York’s clean-energy economy has grown. And despite the projections of greater challenges ahead, I believe the efforts of our state, local and national leaders will help our clean-energy economy continue to flourish. Last January, Gov. David Paterson called on us to create a “Green Revolution”. He followed up his words with actions, providing not just investments but promoting initiatives that will help strengthen every aspect of the clean-energy economy, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and education. How has he done this? He has helped build a strong foundation for a New Economy for the future, based on education, technology and innovation. He has strategically targeted federal stimulus dollars to increase investments in renewable energy. And he has established public-private partnerships that will help create a strong network of committed partners in industry and academia. Most importantly, he understands
that it takes more than money to create change. It also requires the ability to use government as a catalyst for action. To that end, the governor has articulated a dramatic and ambitious goal of meeting 45 percent of New York’s energy needs in the year 2015 with clean energy, through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. His vision of “45 by 15” has set in motion new economic activity that will cause thousands of energyefficiency measures and renewable energy systems to be installed across the state. As demand for these improvements grows, so will the businesses needed to support them. New York is taking a comprehensive approach to building our clean-energy economy. We are helping clean-energy entrepreneurs undertake new ventures, grow existing businesses, commercialize cutting-edge technologies and expand into new markets. This year Gov. Paterson worked with the business and academic communities to open four new cleanenergy incubator programs that will help grow the businesses of the future, including one at NYU-Poly. Two more will be announced in the coming weeks. The new products and services created by these efforts, as well as the support given to hundreds of other clean-energy
companies for innovative projects, will lead to sustained job growth, a highly skilled workforce and a cleaner environment. Our New Economy will also need a trained and educated workforce. New York is well-situated to meet this demand. Looking to the future, working especially with our community colleges and labor unions, New York has developed a network of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy training facilities across the state. We will be working to expand the capabilities of this network, adding additional learning centers and developing new and existing partnerships with training organizations.
We will also need the knowledge base that will solidify and sustain New York’s standing as a national knowledge leader in energy. To achieve this goal, Gov. Paterson called for a New York Energy Policy Institute, a consortium of energy experts at our state’s colleges and universities, who will serve the critical need of providing the latest research in a field that is changing at lightning speed. In addition, the Paterson administration is advancing two major technology programs, the New York State Smart Grid Consortium and the New York Battery and Energy Storage Consortium, that will improve the efficiency of the state’s electric grid, help build the growing energy-storage industry in our state and fortify New York’s standing as an energy leader. And these are only some of the exciting initiatives underway in New York. Gov. Paterson believes New York’s future is bright and that energy will pave the way. Through his continued commitment and the growing collaboration among business, academia and government, his vision will become a reality.
Francis Murray is president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Time For A New Energy Economy In New York State BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER KEVIN CAHILL or too long, New York has been without an energy policy in place to develop, guide and coordinate the resources we need to meet our energy demands. New Yorkers deserve an energy plan that fosters job creation, entrepreneurship, technological advancement, environmental sustainability, and benefits consumers. With the 2002 expiration of our energy planning law, New York has been left without context for decision making. Since then we have been moving forward haphazardly on an economic development issue that has the potential to be at the very heart of much-needed recovery. Economic volatility, spikes in energy costs, dwindling supply and the challenges presented by greenhouse gas pollution make it clear we can no longer function without an understanding of the big picture. We need the permanent, comprehensive measure passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor to form the foundation for a new energy economy in New York State. Infrastructure, energy affordability for consumers and businesses, family wage job creation, technological advancement, public health, environmental protection and the reduction in greenhouse gas pollution
are key considerations we must weigh. The race to develop and deploy cleanenergy solutions is going to define the 21stcentury global economy. A commitment to energy independence has the potential to propel us forward in the same way the Erie Canal cemented our status as the Empire State 200 years ago. At the top of the list is energy efficiency. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences said that costeffective, energy-efficient technologies in buildings alone could actually eliminate the need for new generating capacity for the next twenty years. That same report identified New York as a national leader in developing effective energy-efficiency programs. New green construction and the
retrofitting of existing buildings represent an unprecedented economic opportunity for communities across New York. Last year we passed legislation creating the Green Jobs Green New York Program and authorizing Municipal Sustainable Energy Loan Programs. This year we are moving forward by updating the State’s Energy Building Code to bring it in line with some of the best standards in the nation, as called for in the State Energy Plan. Moreover, New York’s commitment to sustainable building practices will open the door to new federal funding opportunities. The state must finally address the longstanding issues of energy infrastructure and the New York Power Authority’s job creation and retention programs. The enactment of a new power plant-siting law is an essential tool in efforts to bring more wind energy online and upgrade old power plants with cleaner, more efficient technologies. The time has also come to replace the outdated Power for Jobs program with a new long-term economic development power initiative designed to keep key manufacturing jobs and attract new industries to New York. Taken together, these measures will help provide a strong foundation for our economic recovery. Finally, we must do more to develop
our indigenous energy resources. This includes the environmentally responsible tapping of the enormous potential of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. Legislation expanding the state’s net metering laws, involving our utilities in the production of clean, renewable power and the spurring of innovation in energy storage technology are essential to our push for independence. Gov. Paterson and I are in agreement that we must continue our efforts to foster the development of cleanenergy manufacturing clusters through university and industry partnerships. Further, through reclamation of long-dormant manufacturing facilities, such as the Tech City complex in my own backyard, we can maximize the usefulness of these sites by transforming them into centers of production to create the tools needed to drive the new energy economy. With comprehensive energy planning as the law of the land, we will have a framework for responsible decision making that will harness the potential of New York’s abundant resources and the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of its people.
Kevin Cahill, a Democrat representing parts of Ulster and Dutchess counties, is chair of the Assembly Energy Committee.
Vital Information About
Indian Point Energy Center Only a few energy sources offer virtually no greenhouse gas emissions and a reliable source of American power. Indian Point Energy Center is one of them. Add to that our predictable pricing, and you’ll understand why our base-load power is crucial to meeting our region’s need for affordable, dependable and clean power. Environmental Impact Comparison Greenhouse gas emissions from Indian Point — 0 Air pollution emitted by equivalent gas or oil generation — 8.5 million tons per year
Cost Stability Comparison U.S. Electricity Production Costs 2008 Cents Per Kilowatt-Hour Coal — $2.75 Gas — $8.09 Petroleum — $17.26
Nuclear — $1.87 Comparative Megawatt Output Average Day Indian Point Energy Center 2064 megawatts Hoover Dam Hydroelectric Plant 2064 megawatts Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Plant 1880 megawatts
And numerous independent energy experts agree. An independent safety evaluation panel concluded in the summer of 2008 that “Indian Point is a safe plant that meets all U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements, and plant safety systems are well maintained and reliable. Indian Point’s performance compares favorably to high-performing plants in most aspects of nuclear safety.” In a 2006 report by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, a panel of independent experts came to the objective conclusion that Indian Point is critical to the region’s energy needs. Without it, there would be an increase in air pollution, an increase in the cost of electricity and a decrease in power reliability. The New York Independent Systems Operator said, “Indian Point’s capacity of over 2,000 megawatts represents approximately ve percent of New York State’s total generating capacity and approximately 30 percent of the energy generated within one of the most densely populated areas in the nation (i.e., Long Island, New York City and Westchester County).” A report by the Business Council of Westchester concluded, “Unlike nuclear energy (Indian Point Energy Center), natural gas would also increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it nearly impossible for reaching carbon emissions elimination targets as agreed to by New York State as a partner in the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Natural gas is also subject to severe price uctuations.” The MTA subways and suburban rail, Grand Central Station, the Port Authority, NYC airports, SUNY, CUNY, and the city’s public schools, police, re departments, as well as government facilities in the city and Westchester County, all count on the clean, reliable electricity from Indian Point Energy Center. That’s why the NYS Building Congress, the NYC Partnership, the Independent Power Producers of NY, the Hudson Valley Chamber of Commerce and the NYS AFL-CIO to name a few, recently testied in support of the license renewal of the Indian Point Energy Center.
Largest gas-ﬁred plant in NY 1064 megawatts Safe. Secure. Vital.
Largest coal-ﬁred plant in NY 766 megawatts
Direct Economic Impact
Largest wind farm in NY 300 megawatts
Annual Payroll and Purchases $400,000,000
Largest solar plant in US 200 megawatts
State and Local Taxes Paid $50,000,000
Indian Point Energy Center www.safesecurevital.com
JANUARY 25, 2010
Empire State Feed-In Tariff:
A Policy to Make New York a Clean Energy Capital. What it means for investors and how you can help make it happen. Thursday, February 4, 2010, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm. The Cooper Union Great Hall, 41 Cooper Square, NYC • Opening remarks by Feed-In Tariff legislation sponsors, State Senator Antoine Thompson and Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi (6:30) • Expert panel discussion (7:15 - 8:30) • Networking reception (8:30-9:30)
Admission: $30 for New York Solar Energy Society members; $40 for non-members.
For more information and to reserve your seat, visit nyses.org (click “featured event”) or RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org and pay at the door. Produced by the New York Solar Energy Society and Solar One.
Gas Drilling In Marcellus Shale Is Shortsighted And Unacceptable BY COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES GENNARO or more than a decade, state and city lawmakers have worked together to protect the city’s extraordinary water supply. We have implemented a comprehensive Watershed Protection Program and taken careful measures to provide dependable drinking water, which is among the highest-quality in the nation. As a result of these concerted efforts, New York is one of only five large cities in the country to be granted federal exemption from water filtration requirements. This has allowed New York to avoid constructing a $10 billion water filtration plant, which would cost $100 million to operate every year, and which would, if constructed, increase city water rates by 30 percent. This special filtration exemption is delicate. It can quickly be nullified if federal regulators find that our water is no longer adequately protected. That is why the risks of industrial gas drilling in the watershed are so worrisome. This is especially true because companies intend to use unconventional “hydrofracking” methods to extract the gas. These methods have been linked to contaminated groundwater across the country. Hydrofracking in Pennsylvania, for example, resulted in three chemical spills within a span of days, after which drilling activities were suspended by the State environmental agency. Last month public hearings were held by the Paterson administration on its ill-advised proposal to advance unconventional and environmentally risky drilling methods in New York City’s drinking-water supply watershed and other environmentally sensitive areas throughout the state. One of the nation’s largest gas drilling companies, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, responding to growing expressions of concern, has already issued a statement that it will not drill for gas in the city’s watershed. Aubrey K. McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake, stated: “[H]ow could any one well be so profitable that it would be worth damaging the New York City water system?”
Exactly. This statement is exhibit A on why the Paterson administration should prohibit hydrofracking in the New York City water supply. What does it say when gas companies show more sensitivity toward protecting the water supply for nine million New Yorkers than the Paterson Administration and the state’s environmental regulators? Hopefully, this announcement, and volumes of irrefutable science on the risks of hydrofracking that will be presented at public hearings throughout the state, will compel the Paterson administration to finally come to terms with the obvious and ban hydrofracking in the New York City drinking-water supply watershed. Let’s not let the allure of short-term economic gain of drilling blind us to the fact that if this is allowed in our water supply, the economic benefits will pale in comparison to degraded reservoirs and a $10-billion-plus filtration plant we wouldn’t otherwise need. The damage, in the long-run, would be irreparable at any cost.
James Gennaro, a Democrat representing parts of Queens, is the chair of the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection.
More City Hall www.cityhallnews.com
JANUARY 25, 2010
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS
The Middle Man hen Rep. Gregory Meeks reached out to Gov. David Paterson last September to convey concerns the White House was having about the governor’s re-election, many saw the move as the Obama administration’s most overt attempt to muscle Paterson out of the race, in favor of a much safer candidate in Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. But Meeks said it was merely his role as a concerned New Yorker, and as a concerned Democrat. And any private conversations he has had with Paterson, or President Obama for that matter, will remain private. Having just returned from Massachusetts, where he stumped for failed Senate candidate Martha Coakley, Meeks discussed the 2010 races, the media’s love for political gossip and what his gut is telling him about the governor’s race.
City Hall: How did you get involved in the conversations between the White House and Governor Paterson about his re-election? Greg Meeks: Well, I’m a concerned New Yorker, but I happen to be a friend of the governor, and I support and work very closely with the administration and the president. I’ve had several conversations with the governor on a number of occasions. This was again a private and off-the-record kind of conversation that should not have been public, so I’m not going to talk about the substance of it at all. However, you know, I’m in Washington, D.C. I support and want to be helpful to the President of the United States. I’m in New York. The governor is my friend and we got to make sure that we move forward in that regard, to the degree that we could do the best things for the country and the best things for our city and state. However I can be helpful there, I will always be helpful. CH: Is the White House too involved in New York politics? GM: You know what…without getting into the substance of my conversation with the governor, the White House is not telling the governor to run or not to run. At least that’s not what my conversation with the governor was about. And the White House has, I believe, gotten involved in several other races all over the country. I can recall when President Clinton was here, and I can recall President Bush and Republican states, they’re all concerned.
There’s a lot at stake. It affects the White House, how many senators [we have], as the race in Massachusetts indicates. It affects the White House’s agenda, how many Democratic governors that we have. We have a reapportionment coming up, and that affects the White House agenda. So the White House has concerns in that regard, so they’re doing what they have to do. That’s what a president should do. CH: Do you still have personal concerns about the governor’s re-election this year? GM: I mean you have to look at the total picture here because you got to make sure that we are successful, as I was just talking about, in November. And I think the governor would say the same thing. Anytime you look at a candidate, you got to look at the candidate, you got to look at the situation. … I would be the first to say that the governor may have been given a bad hand, just as the president has been given a bad hand to a larger degree. However, we’ve got to figure out how we win in November. What’s the best way? And so, I think that we’ll talk to the governor, going to talk to a number of other folks and try and figure this out. We all got to get together. There’s just so much on the line. I don’t want to go back in the minority. I’ve got to make sure that we maintain all the seats that we have in the House. I want to make sure that we win the Senate seat, retain the Senate seat. I want to make sure that we keep the gubernatorial [seat]. … I want to
make sure that we keep the majority for the first time in the State Senate. CH: Governor Paterson was criticized recently for defending Wall Street bonuses. Do you think he has struck the right tone about the financial industry? GM: Well, I think that if the governor is saying that we don’t want Wall Street to go away, if the governor says that Wall Street helps Main Street and needs to explain how Wall Street helps Main Street because of the tax revenue, it means that we have more people, more jobs created for the Sanitation Department, more fire fighters, more health care workers, etc. That goes into that, but also, I think, that it has to be clearly understood that Wall Street can’t absolve itself from all of the wrong. And that we’ve got to make sure that we fix that and correct that. And that the practice of what Wall Street or how Wall Street was acting cannot continue to go on. So there’s got to be significant changes. But Wall Street has to remain competitive. It has to remain profit-making because of the jobs they do create, not only in the financial services area, but the ancillary jobs that are created as a result of Wall Street being in New York. And I might add that when you look at the services industry, that’s where most of New York’s jobs really are. And the jobs of the future will be in the service industry. We’ve got to protect those kinds of jobs and create those kinds of jobs, and that’s what keeps us competitive globally, because when you look globally, even in trade, we have a trade surplus in service industry jobs as opposed to anything else. So looking towards the future, that’s the way we have to go. CH: What’s your take on the Queens County Party right now? Do you see any room for improvement? GM: I think that, again, the Queens County organization and my good friend and colleague Joe Crowley did a fair and good job last year. … I think that what we have to do is to make sure that we’re reaching out to the broader base of candidates and individuals when there are open seats, because that’s what you’re looking at in
the Queens County, the elections that you’re talking about, and be able to get individuals at an earlier stage involved in politics. I mean, I’m focused, for example, on making sure that we have more young people involved and engaged in politics. What we’re doing is we’re trying to put on mixers and different forums that would attract young people to come in, to get them involved in politics the way I got involved in politics at a young age. And I think that is what helps strengthen the county organizations and politics in general in Queens County.
We’ll talk to the governor, going to talk to a number of other folks and try and figure this out. We all got to get together. CH: How do you make your endorsement decisions? GM: Well, number one, I try to get to know the individuals, and try to get to know something about his or her views, if I don’t know already. What they stand for, who they are as a person. That’s important. Number two, I look at, overall, the politics of the situation. When I say politics, I want to make sure we have the right person at the right time to win so that we can move on with a progressive policy that I think my constituents would want to move. … You try to get that general feel of the person. And once you do that, and you look at the overall scenario, then it’s the gut a lot of the times. What’s in your gut? What’s your instinct? I have found in this business that I cannot ignore my instinct. Every time I’ve done that I’ve regretted it. CH: So what’s your gut telling you about the governor’s race this year? GM: My gut tells me I haven’t decided yet. Still digesting. —Andrew J. Hawkins email@example.com
REINFORCING STEEL MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
STRONG SAFE SUSTAINABLE â€˘
46 THE METALLIC LATHERS UNION & REINFORCING IRON WORKERS
A SAFER NEW YORK FOR ALL OF US
Local 46â€™s skilled craftsmen perform a major role in protecting the safety of its members andâ€Śyour job site. â€œOn my projects, I need a workforce that is well trained, safety-oriented, and productive. I am proud to have the Local 46 Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Iron Workers as my partners on the World Trade Center and many other projects. Together, we are building the future of New York City.â€? Larry Silverstein President & CEO, Silverstein Properties, Inc.
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Published on Jan 27, 2010
The January 27, 2010 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and Sta...