Page 1

Three of the city's district attorneys, below, are cruising to re-election (Page 6),

Willets Point opponents study case law (Page 12)

Vol. 5, No. 9

March 28, 2011

And Rep. Ed Towns, above, considers re-election (Page 27).

From Kingsbridge to 2013, ruben Diaz, Jr. doubles down on his future

Andrew SchwArtz

The Gambler

Trump Card

Could the Donald run competitively in New York? Not until he kisses the ring. By Andrew J. HAwkins


Jerry Miller

onald Trump is often held up as the quintessential New Yorker: big buildings, big bank account, big ego. But as he pursues a quixotic run for the Republican nomination for president, many of the city’s Republicans say they have yet to feel the love. “He’s obviously incredibly well-known,” said Council Member Dan Halloran, a Queens Republican. “But he hasn’t really approached the leadership in any organized fashion. I would think if he’s serious about running, he would want to sit down with the five county leaders in New York as a starting point.” Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican Party, said that he has reached out to Trump’s organization to invite him to speak at the party’s annual spring dinner. He is still waiting for a response. “We haven’t heard back from him,” Ragusa said. “I think he’s busy wrapping up his show for the year.” Since hinting at his interest in running for president, Trump has been ubiquitous in the media, taping the fourth

“He can raise an enormous amount of money in New York,” Roger Stone said. “He could even conceivably put New York into play in a general election, because I think he has unique appeal to blue collar Democrats in the outer boroughs of New York City.” season of The Celebrity Apprentice, getting roasted on Comedy Central and giving interviews to mostly conservative news outlets. Whenever asked, he works up some slightly tweaked way to say he will make a decision on running before June. He has made little time to schmooze with local Republican officials or shore up support in his hometown. And despite some promising poll numbers and a well-received performance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Trump’s candidacy has barely risen above novelty status. Still, with a net worth of $2.7 billion (according to Forbes) and an instantly recognizable name, his advisors believe that Trump cannot be counted out in 2012. “My sense is he’s seriously considering running for the presidency,” said Michael Cohen, an executive VP in the Trump Organization and creator of the website (Should he? Answer: 67 percent of the site’s visitors say “yes.”) Trumps outsized influence in New York could easily propel him onto the national stage, Cohen said. “Mr. Trump has changed the skyline of New York,” Publisher/Executive Director: Darren Bloch


March 28, 2011

Cohen said. “I think his core base is here in New York.” Trump’s candidacy has gained steamed in recent weeks. In mid-March, the Draft Trump 2012 committee, which has no formal ties to Trump, named Marjory Jaeger, clerk for the Town of Amherst and an employee of the Erie County Board of Elections, as New York organizer. Roger Stone, the mercenary Republican consultant who sometimes has Trump’s ear, agreed that the city provided a perfect launching pad for a Trump candidacy. “He can raise an enormous amount of money in New York,” Stone said. “He could even conceivably put New York into play in a general election, because I think he has unique appeal to blue collar Democrats in the outer boroughs of New York City.” Stone said that Trump could also run competitively in Long Island and upstate New York, where more traditional Republicans voters tend to live. And even though Barack Obama bested John McCain here by over 25 points in 2008, the president’s slipping poll numbers and Trump’s oversized media presence could

EDITORIAL Acting Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins Reporters: Chris Bragg Laura Nahmias Jon Lentz Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Ismail Muhammad, Candace Wheeler

tip the state into the Republican column, Stone said. Trump has flirted with entering politics in the past. He considered running as a Republican in 1988, and made noise about a possible third party candidacy in 2000. In 2006, he denied having an interest in running for governor, but refused to rule out “doing something political in the future,” as he told the New York Post back then. Stone said that Trump’s past flirtations pale in comparison to this year, when he seems more serious than he has ever been. And if he did decide to run, local Republicans could rest assure that he would not neglect his duties as the party’s standard-bearer, Stone said. “Even if he decided to self-fund, he would still have to raise money for the party, presuming he’s the nominee,” he said. Cohen also said that Trump would raise money from average citizens, rather than just funnel his own money into a campaign. “He wants citizens in the country to have skin in the game,” he said. Both New York Democrats and Republicans alike have benefited from Trump’s largesse. Over the last several election cycles, the developer has donated money to Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Reps. Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Maloney and Chris Gibson, and to the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani. In August 2010, he wrote a $30,400 check to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A month later, he donated $10,000 to the New York State Democratic Party. But the leap from political donor to political candidate is still too much for many of the city’s political class to swallow. Some saying they cannot shake the feeling that Trump is acting out some bizarre version of one of his reality shows. “Donald Trump is the biggest self-promoter in the country,” said former Mayor Ed Koch. “You have to admire his arrogance.” Koch added, “He has conned the media into free publicity. It’s amazing. You’ve got to give him credit.” In conversations among city Republicans, Trump’s name is often mentioned in the same breath as that of Jimmy McMillan, the fast-talking Rent Is Too Damn High Party leader who recently announced his intention to run for president as a Republican as well. McMillan said he envisions a different role for Trump in 2012, one that the Donald may be unwilling to accept. “Trump needs to be my vice president,” McMillan said. “Call me, Donald. Sit down with me, man.”

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Some of the MTA’s more visible holdings, like its building on Madison Avenue, have drawn fire from critics who say the agency, deeply in debt, cannot afford the tony address.

Metered Fare

Would putting the MTA’s 8,881 properties on the market help plug the budget gap? BY LAURA NAHMIAS


t a recent meeting of the joint transportation conference committee in Albany, State Sen. Andrew Lanza called for a criminal investigation into the finances of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, claiming the debt-ridden agency might be cooking its books. “We all know the MTA has long been stingy with financial disclosure, they keep every single year the numbers very close to the vest, until at the very last moment they claim catastrophe,” Lanza said. But the MTA’s finances are already under investigation, and state comptroller’s office says the beleaguered authority ($900 million operating deficit, $2.1 billion projected deficit over next three years, $31 billion in capital debts) needs to find ways to generate revenue. Last summer Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office audited the MTA’s real estate department, which is in charge of finding ways to market and sell the agency’s holdings. DiNapoli determined the agency should find a way to unload many of its buildings, offices, easements and air rights to

tial response said several of the recommendations were unfeasible. Those recommendations included creating a single property database listing the agency’s holdings and placing an assessment value on each as a way of discerning the total value of the MTA’s holdings. The MTA has 8,881 properties, according to the comptroller’s office. Of these, the largest share, at over 30 percent, of the properties are the metallic newsstands on train station platforms and street corners. The MTA says these have been hard to fill in recent years. The second largest amount of the properties, at 27 percent, are sites leased to utility companies, such as Cablevision or Verizon. The rest are retail or office buildings, banks or gardens. About 15 percent are currently unoccupied, the comptroller’s office says. Not that any of this information is available through a simple search. The MTA’s property records are spread across five databases. The city keeps tax assessment records of the properties, but in many listings, the information is incomplete and missing value assessments. In 770 properties under ownership of the MTA, Long

According to the comptroller’s office, “the MTA has missed significant opportunities to save money and generate greater revenues.” offset the tremendous debt. “Our audit made very clear that the MTA must make the most of its revenue streams by maximizing the value of its real estate holdings,” said Eric Sumberg, spokesperson for DiNapoli. “The MTA is not in a position to ignore potential cost savings, and our audit found that the MTA has done just that.” The MTA is late replying to the 90-day response requirements in the comptroller’s office audit, but the agency’s ini-


MARCH 28, 2011

Island Rail Road and New York Transit Authority listed in the city’s tax records, only 152 had information on their current assessed value, and that value was $320 million. That number represents just 2 percent of the properties the MTA holds. Both the comptroller’s office and the MTA say it is inaccurate to extrapolate values for the properties from those numbers, given the diversity of holdings listed as property in the database.



But some of the MTA’s more visible holdings, like its headquarters on Madison Avenue, have drawn fire from critics who say the agency, deeply in debt, cannot afford the tony address, despite its proximity to Grand Central Station. The MTA says work is underway to determine what can be sold. “We are in contract to sell the development rights over Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, two of our biggest and certainly most valuable properties,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the MTA. “In addition, we are in the midst of a systematic investigation of our office space needs. We’ve issued a request for proposals to solicit the help of brokers who may be able to help us identify the sales potential of some of our office sites.” The renewed push to identify saleable properties came shortly after Jay Walder was appointed chair of the MTA, according to the audit report. Walder has since pledged to step up the efficiency within the $5.2 million real estate division. The real estate department has had its share in the MTA’s more recent infamies however. According to the comptroller’s office, “the MTA has missed significant opportunities to save money and generate greater revenues.” In 2005, the MTA was caught up in the battle over rights to build the West Side Stadium, and was criticized for what some called a “fire sale” of development rights. Other critics suggested the agency had done little to market spaces such as those in the 42nd Street and 6th Avenue subway station that had been vacant for over six years. There have been other examples of missed opportunities to maximize the value of the MTA’s many properties. The agency was forced to reduce the cost of a lease with an open-air restaurant at Grand Central Terminal after failing to maintain a certain temperature level within the restaurant. And at the former MTA headquarters in Brooklyn, the comptroller’s office was unequivocal. MTA has spent $1.4 million a year since 2007 to temporarily house employees at a different location while the main headquarters were prepared for renovations, and $5.76 million since to operate the vacant structure—all while the MTA board remains gridlocked over how to pay for the upkeep. “We recommend MTA officials act promptly,” the audit reads, “to either make use of, or dispose of, this building.”


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Cruise Control

As Johnson, Brown and Donovan cruise to re-election, not even clear successors emerge By Jon Lentz


n the Bronx, the city’s longest-serving district attorney, Robert Johnson, a 63-year-old Democrat, is reaching out to Republican and Conservative party leaders about running on their ballot lines. In Queens, District Attorney Richard Brown, 78, is hopeful that he too will again get the endorsements of all the major parties in a race in which no challengers have emerged. Even on Staten Island, which was the rare DA race to feature two candidates in the last election, the Democratic Party has yet to find a challenger to run against the incumbent, 54-year-old Dan Donovan. So while the three incumbents are beginning the motions of running for re-election, the political questions are really mostly focused on whether Johnson and Brown are secretly plotting retirement while grooming hand-picked successors, who might be in position to succeed the prosecutors when they step down, and occasionally, on the thin but still swirling rumors about who might take on Donovan, Donovan still owes more than $300,000 from his campaign for attorney general last year, which he lost to Eric Schneiderman. And his push for a special prosecutor to investigate the Working Families Party for possible violations of election law could work against him, if the party decides to aggressively back a challenger.


March 28, 2011

Yet Democrats and Republicans alike said Donovan is a respected, well-liked figure who would be tough to beat. Even though a majority of Staten Island voters are registered as Democrats, the advantage is slimmer than in the other four boroughs, and the island has a strong history of backing Republicans. And though he lost by a wide margin state wide in last year’s race, the 65 percent he carried at home on Staten Island may give pause to potential opponents. “I’m sure that Dan Donovan, having been a statewide candidate for New York State Attorney General, and hav-

Matt Collins

Incumbent district attorneys Robert Johnson, Dan Donovan and Richard Brown are set to coast to wins this year, though possible successors wait in the wings.

of elections who ran against Donovan in the last district attorney race in 2007 and lost with 38 percent of the vote. Another name floated is attorney Michael Pocchia. John Gulino, chair of Democratic Committee of Richmond County, did not respond to requests for comment. In Queens, “Judge” Richard Brown is already setting his sights beyond the upcoming election. He said he plans to match former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau’s feat of serving until age 90. “There’s only about 15 years to go,” said Brown, who has been in office since June 1991. If Brown even comes close to Morgenthau’s longevity, the field of potential successors will have to look elsewhere if they want to run for public office. Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., who has been subject to speculation about a DA run for years, said he is raising campaign funds, but would only consider running if the seat were vacant. “I’m not even thinking of Judge Brown’s office because he’s there and he intends to hold that position for a long time,” Vallone said. “So obviously I’ve got some other options to consider, such as borough president, and I’m looking into it.” Another potential successor, former Council Member Melinda Katz, said she had not thought that far in advance. “Dick Brown is running for re-election, he’s been a great DA, and as far I know he’ll continue to be that,” Katz said. As for Johnson, he “just wants to continue to serve the people of the Bronx,” a spokesperson said. Bronx political insiders said they were unaware of anyone who would be interested in running to succeed him, whenever the time comes. Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz said that Johnson has done a good job and probably can stay around as long as he wants to. “I haven’t really heard of any names of people who are looking to run,” Dinowitz said. “I guess people don’t talk about those things when you have an incumbent

“ There’s only about 15 years to go,” said Queens DA Richard Brown, of his goal to serve as long as Robert Morgenthau. ing done relatively well statewide for a first-time race, and having done quite well on Staten Island where his base is, he should remain a very formidable candidate,” said Dennis Brown, who heads the Staten Island Democratic Association. “Anybody who decides to run against him will have an uphill battle. That’s just the facts of life.” The name most often mentioned as a potential opponent is Michael Ryan, a commissioner on the city board

who’s so popular.” Johnson has a while to go before he tries for Morgenthau’s record, either in terms or age. But his predecessor, Mario Merola, showed just how long incumbents can last in the Bronx. Merola was re-elected to a fifth term in 1987—a week after he died.


We Will Never Forget The Workers of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, March 25, 1911

A hundred years ago, a NYC factory fire trapped and killed 146 workers, mostly women. Their deaths spurred legislation that advanced safety laws and unionism: 

Minimum hourly wage n 40-hour work week n Health care benefits n Anti-discrimination laws n Child labor laws n Paid sick days & vacation n



Save City-Funded Day Care

sTay TunEd For our upcoming issuE spoTLigHTs

Government, once the protector of low-income women and their children, has become their primary assailant. Heath, nutrition, family planning and child care programs are being gutted nationally and right here in New York City. Here in New York, the City is threatening to decimate subsidized day care for low-income working mothers. Working mothers will be forced to turn to unlicensed and potentially dangerous child care situations or quit their jobs.

Since 2002, the City has closed 52 Day Care Centers. The NYC FY 2012 budget will: ■ Eliminate 16,624 subsidized child-care slots. Four thousand of those slots, or 195 classrooms, are located at community Day Care Centers run by certified educators who provide high quality early childhood education in a safe environment. ■ Reduce the capacity of the entire Day Care System by almost one third.

Fight for New York City’s Mothers and Children ✔ Restore all day care

seats immediately. ✔ Identify a stable source of funding for early child care and education. ✔ Keep women working and off public assistance. ✔ Keep our children safe.

TransporTaTion Labor

Sections will feature insight and observations from key state officials, quoting leading voices across the industry, and influential and informative editorial coverage.

Council of School Supervisors & Administrators Great Schools Begin with Great Leaders! AFSA Local 1: AFL-CIO

Housing EnErgy

For advertising opportunities, call 646-422-1623.

11043 RWDSU NYC Living Wage Ad:Layout 1

The Need For Speed Cameras By Jon Lentz


ew York City already uses cameras to nab motorists who run red lights or drive in designated bus lanes. Now the city wants to add cameras to catch people breaking the speed limit, in a bid to reduce accidents and protect pedestrians. “Speed is the number one cause of deadly crashes in the city,” said Lindsey Ganson, safety campaign director at Transportation Alliance, an advocacy group that has pushed for a speed camera law. “We really think it’s an epidemic, and in a city with the traffic of New York, police need help to control traffic effectively.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg is developing legislation that would put as many as 40 speed cameras in New York, said Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who is coordinating with the mayor’s office and plans to sponsor the bill. State approval

about the proposal to add more cameras to police New York’s streets. Motorist advocates say that one problem is that the cameras do not remove reckless drivers from the road. Another downside is that weeks can pass before a driver receives a speeding ticket, which can make it difficult to dispute the ticket. The New York Civil Liberties Union called for the city to ensure that any new cameras would be restricted to tracking reckless drivers, and that the camera surveillance not be shared and be quickly destroyed. Glick’s office said that the program would include protections such as avoiding images that identify the driver and barring the sharing of license plate information Careful execution of a speed camera program would minimize or eliminate many concerns, Glick said. What is more important, she said, is protecting pedes-

“If somebody is driving at 25 or 30 miles per hour, versus driving 50 miles per hour, there is less damage” when a collision occurs, Deborah Glick said. “If a pedestrian or cyclist is hit, there’s certainly less damage.” is required for the city to move forward. The program would continue Bloomberg’s controversial transformation of the city’s transportation system, which has added bike lanes, traffic calming measures and pedestrian plazas under the mayor’s watch. A speed camera program would function much like the city’s current red-light cameras, automatically detecting cars that violate the law and then photographing their license plates. After the photograph is reviewed, the city would mail a ticket to the car’s owner, with fines potentially ranging from $50 to $150. Studies have shown that speed cameras can reduce driver speed and prevent accidents, which in turn can reduce the number of auto-related injuries and deaths. Six months after a similar program launched in Washington, D.C., in 2003, a study found that the proportion of cars travelling 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit fell by more than 80 percent at intersections with speed cameras. Still, some critics remain concerned


trians from speeding cars. “If somebody is driving at 25 or 30 miles per hour, versus driving 50 miles per hour, there is less damage” when a collision occurs, Glick said. “If a pedestrian or cyclist is hit, there’s certainly less damage.” In New York City, 63 traffic deaths in 2009 were attributed to cars travelling at unsafe speeds, according to the State Department of Motor Vehicles, more than any other factor that year. The city has lobbied for speed cameras for several years, and if legislation passes this year it would build on its redlight program, which has 150 cameras. New York City was the first place in the United States to implement red-light cameras in 1993, but it is behind the rest of the country in adopting speed cameras. Thirteen states and more than 80 communities across the United States now use them. “There’s more that’s being done with security cameras,” Glick said. “That’s just the way the world is going.”


10:46 AM

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Our Perspective

Living Wage: NYC at Crossroads By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW


he Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which would require developers who receive taxpayer-funded subsidies to create living wage jobs, was introduced by the New York City Council almost a year ago, and a hearing on the legislation is expected in April. Since the bill was introduced, a grassroots movement has evolved and support for its passage has spread throughout New York City. This growing support was evident at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem in February, where an interfaith city wide coalition of pastors, rabbis, and imams were joined by elected officials, labor and community leaders, and hundreds of New Yorkers to demand passage of this progressive legislation. Upcoming rallies throughout the five boroughs will continue to focus attention on the bill. A majority of New York City Council members have signed on in support of the act. Working people in New York City’s communities are coming to realize that we as a city face a choice: Either we continue traveling the path of spending taxpayer money to create low income jobs that trap workers into a life of poverty, or we break free from this cycle by creating jobs that lift workers higher, boost our city’s economy, and create a better future. A new study released by the Fiscal Policy Institute, Good Jobs New York and the National Employment Law Project sheds light on the kind of jobs being created with the help of over $2 billion spent annually by New York City in the name of economic development and job creation. The report, titled “An Overview of Job Quality and Discretionary Economic Development Subsidies in New York City,” is a case study of three high-profile development projects that received hundreds of millions of dollars in New York City subsidies. According to the report, our communities return on this investment was the creation of jobs that all paid very low wages, including hundreds of jobs starting at just $7.25 an hour. These are not the kinds of jobs that New Yorkers should be funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their tax money. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would mandate pay of $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without. Passing this bill will make New York City’s subsidy policy one that helps build our communities, rather than just padding the profits of a privileged few.

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March 28, 2011


Tunnel Wars

With ARC dead, officials debate alternate plans to ease tunnel congestion By Jon Lentz

Mayor Bloomberg is pushing to extend the No. 7 subway line from midtown to New Jersey


hanks to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Access to the Region’s Core commuter train, or ARC tunnel, is dead. In its place, two proposals have arose: One is Amtrak’s “Gateway Tunnel,” a proposed $13.5 billion rail connection from New Jersey into Manhattan’s Penn Station. The other proposal is an extension of New York’s No. 7 subway line from midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, N.J. Transportation insiders say it is difficult to predict whether either one will be built, given the years of planning still required and the need to secure high-level political backing as well as billions of dollars. But as for which of the two is more viable, the Gateway Tunnel has an early edge. “The Amtrak one is probably the better of the two,” said Robert “Buzz” Paaswell, a civil engineering professor at City College. “It’s more likely to be funded, and it’ll serve more demand on the Northeast Corridor.” “It’s probably got a little more legs right now, although they’re both so expensive the real question is where’s the money going to come from,” Paaswell added. The federal designation of the Northeast Corridor as a high-speed rail corridor in mid-March gave another boost to the Gateway, which already accounts for high-speed rail. It also allows the project’s backers to seek federal dollars as part of any high-speed expansion. “Given that the Northeast Corridor was just designated a high-speed rail corridor earlier this week, that does bode really well for Amtrak and the Gateway project,” said Veronica Vanterpool, the associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. The Gateway tunnel is estimated to be completed as early as 2020. Amtrak earmarked $50 million for the ini-

Will Donald

tial four-year design, engineering and environmental review phase, though the spending will hinge on whether or not Republicans in Congress succeed in scaling back Amtrak funding. “We’re still looking for revenue streams and funding partners for the project, but Amtrak is committed going forward to dedicating future appropriations of unknown quantity toward the project too,” said Cliff Cole, an Amtrak spokesperson. Meanwhile, the city is reaching out to many of the same key players that would likely be involved in the Gateway project, including New York, New Jersey and


March 28, 2011

Andrew Schwartz

Jerry Miller

“It could accomplish Trump’s goldcovered road what the ARC tunnel to the White would have with House run additional benefitsthrough for New York? less money, but there’s a lot of work to do,” said Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson, of the No. 7 extension. the Port Authority, while pushing ahead with an analysis of its No. 7 subway extension. One advantage the city cites is that it is already spending $2.1 billion to extend the No. 7 to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which is closer to the Hudson River. The subway extension, which would be the first outside of the city, would also provide a direct connection to Manhattan’s east side, unlike the Gateway. “It could accomplish what the ARC tunnel would have with additional benefits for less money, but there’s a lot of work to do,” said Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson. Amtrak says that the Gateway plan could accomplish

some of the city’s goals with a connection of the No. 7 line to Penn Station, where commuters could transfer from the trains to the subway. Neysa Pranger, a spokesperson for the Regional Plan Assocation, said she is optimistic that the various players could find a compromise. Whatever the solution, it won’t be built any time soon, she added. “Normally you’d start this conversation a decade ago, and ARC was really two decades in the making,” Pranger said. “The fact that we’re at capacity now, and now we’re just starting to talk about it, we’re way, way, way, way behind.”


Imminent Domain

Willets Point opponents looking to avoid fate of the Atlantic Yards, Columbia University expansion By Jon Lentz


y next summer, the dilapidated jumble of auto shops in Willets Point should be starting to transform into a slick new development featuring mixed-income housing, a hotel and a convention center. But first the city must take on a small band of business owners trying to hold onto their property in the Queens neighborhood, and while recent experience shows that the city has the upper hand in securing the land for the project, the group is eager to learn from recent economic development fights. Two other redevelopment projects in the city, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University’s expansion in Manhattan, recently reaffirmed the right of government to take private property in New York and turn it over to private developers. As the city takes its first step toward using eminent domain in Willets Point, opponents are looking carefully at the legal battles over those two projects, as a guide for which strategies to follow and which to avoid. “Unfortunately you can’t ignore that precedent,” said Norman Siegel, an attorney who argued unsuccessfully against eminent domain in the Columbia expansion and has advised the Willets Point property owners. “The court in both Atlantic Yards and Columbia upheld the use of eminent domain, which confirms that the New


March 28, 2011

York courts are extremely deferential to the government agencies with regard to their finding of eminent domain.” State courts dismissed arguments in each case that seizing land for private development failed to serve a public use, a key standard in eminent domain law. As a result, attorneys for Willets Point United, a group of property owners in the area, are leery of making the same claim. Instead, the legal team will focus on circumstances unique to Willets Point, such as the lack of a developer for the project. Jonathan Houghton, an attorney for Willets Point

Andrew SchwArtz

Opponents to the Willets Point development will also try to show that any blight, or substandard conditions that allow the government to take property, is a direct result of the city’s failure to install sewers and drainage systems and build sidewalks Willets Point is similar to Atlantic Yards, Houghton said, in that the city itself is not carrying out the project and has little control over what happens. “On top of it it’s even worse since the city has not even picked a developer yet,” Houghton said. “But the city is going forward anyway. They’re trying to condemn property with no developer on board and absolutely no guarantees that it’s going to be built whatsoever.” Opponents to the Willets Point development will also try to show that any blight, or substandard conditions that allow the government to take property, is a direct result of the city’s failure to install sewers and drainage systems and build sidewalks. The argument is similar to a claim in the Columbia case, in which opponents accused the university of allowing property it had purchased to fall into disrepair. That argument failed to sway the courts, but Siegel, an attorney in that case, said that Willets Point property owners have a strong argument. “They had over the years requested the city improve that area, including putting in a drainage system and creating sidewalks, and the city never did that,” Siegel said. “If there was blight, it was caused by the city, not by the individual property owners.” Willets Point United also filed an environmental legal challenge in late March, arguing that the city must fulfill its promise to get state approval for ramps to connect the development to the Van Wyck Expressway before using eminent domain. The filing also challenges breaking up the project into separate phases, which it says avoids the issue of the ramps by delaying them until a later phase. A spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing Willets Point, said it was eager to get started on the project. “We feel confident that we are on strong legal footing and look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible so that this project, which will create thousands of jobs in Queens, can move forward without further delays,” said Julie Wood, an EDC spokesperson. In a recent blog post, EDC President Seth Pinsky wrote that he expects the city to “receive all necessary approvals for these planned ramps in the coming months.” Pinsky also emphasized the jobs the project would bring and its broad support. “This is a project that is overwhelmingly supported by the City’s elected officials, arose out of a community

“Unfortunately you can’t ignore that precedent,” said attorney Norman Siegel of the Columbia expansion and Atlantic Yards court cases. United, said he doubted the city’s ability to guarantee its promises that the project will create jobs and spur economic development. In Atlantic Yards, he noted, the economic downturn forced Forest City Ratner to scrap its original plans for affordable housing, as well as develop a plan for prefabricated housing that would create far fewer construction jobs than expected.

planning process, with a first phase that is funded and ready to go, despite today’s challenging fiscal environment,” Pinsky wrote. Yet in the end, what will shape the outcome is not broad support but the courts. And in New York, where the laws are notoriously permissive, the courts broadly support eminent domain.


BLOOMBERG AND HIS ADMINISTRATION DECLARE WAR ON WORKING FAMILIES & YOU! In his State of the City address this year, Mayor Bloomberg declared war on municipal unions and said he would not sign off on any pay raises for municipal employees unless he won pension concessions from the city’s unions. He has also put forth a series of outrageous demands in an attempt to destroy and divide the rights of working class New Yorkers and their families. Below are just some of the city’s latest attacks on blue collar workers: THE CITY DEMANDS:

Eliminating benefits that will ultimately affect your spouse, your domestic partner, your significant other, and YOU!


Zeroes for City heroes, closing our schools and laying off our teachers!




Non-uniformed hires would be forced to work until age 65 to retire. Correction Officers and other uniformed workers could become vested in the pension system after 10 years, but couldn’t start collecting until age 65. Stressed out, heart attacks, and dead by 66. This could be you! Correction Officers and other uniformed workers would have to prove their illness was job connected and the maximum disability pension would be cut from 75% of their final salary to 44%. Have you ever had shots fired at you? Have you ever been brutally attacked? Have you ever been in a building that ultimately collapses? Dividing households by pitting public sector workers against private sector workers. A house divided shall not conquer! We propose stock transfer taxes; we propose entry fee levies on all foreign tourists at all metropolitan airports; and we propose a millionaire’s tax. All of us in both the public sector and in the private sector have contributed to our city’s success. We must stand together. Don’t allow the privileged few to destroy the benefits of the millions of us and our families who make this city run and who keep it safe twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week!

WE DEMAND TO BE TREATED EQUALLY AND FAIRLY IN THIS CITY WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT. WE’RE NOT YOUR BAILOUT PACKAGE! WE’RE NOT YOUR STIMULUS PACKAGE! Paid for By The New York Cit y Correction Of ficers’ Benevolent Association, Inc. Norman Seabrook President w w Tu n e i n t o C O B A R a d i o, R e a l Ta l k , R e a l T i m e , o n W W R L 16 0 0 A M , e v e r y Fr i d a y f r o m 11 : 0 0 A M -12 : 0 0 P M


March 28, 2011


The Gambler From Kingsbridge to 2013, Ruben Diaz, Jr. doubles down on his future

National Read Aloud Day had taken an unexpected turn.

By Chris Bragg CITY HALL

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. had just finished reading “Edward in the Jungle” to a gradeschool class in the Bronx, when he began telling the class about his own education; about how, after three-and-a-half years attending Herbert Lehman High School, he had suddenly left his friends and transferred to the less well-regarded Adlai Stevenson High. “I was chasing after a certain young lady,” he explained, to giggles. “She ended up being my wife, the mother of my children.” The school’s principal, Sheila Durant, shook her head and covered her ears. “Too much information, too much information,” she said. This was not Diaz’s last unconventional move that has paid off. At 22, Diaz ran for Assembly and won, years before he earned a college diploma. When former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion started mulling his next move a few years ago, nearly everyone expected he would be succeeded by Council Member Joel Rivera. By the time Carrion left in 2009 for the Obama administration, Diaz had maneuvered to make what was supposed to be an all-out war for the office into a virtual anointment. The bets only got bigger. Anyone else probably would have cut a deal at the last moment to save the huge Kingsbridge Armory development, to save a projected 2,200 jobs at the proposed retail center in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations. Everyone else had always done so, at least during the first eight years of the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. Not Diaz, who insisted that the developer succumb to a living wage mandate. When talks fell through, Diaz pushed the City Council to kill the project. When reminded that he is the only one to ever beat Bloomberg in a land use battle, Diaz shrugged and smiled. “The vote was like 104 to 1,” Diaz said. “Something crazy like that. 110 to 1.” The vote was actually 48-1. Kingsbridge has earned Diaz as many critics as admirers: the tabloids, the business community, the building trades unions. And, of course, Related, the proposed developer. “He had just become borough president, and I think he showed a lack of experience,” said Jesse Masyr, a land use attorney for Related involved in the deal. “There was an unfortunate box he built himself into. He couldn’t figure out how to get out in the end, and now he has to act like it’s a victory.” Far from admitting defeat, though, Diaz has doubled down. He pushed the Council to kill Kingsbridge largely over the living wage issue—and has since invested every remaining cent of political capital he has in passing a citywide living wage bill. Every major decision, every big meeting, runs through his office. He personally signed off recently when the bill was amended. He rarely puts out a press release about anything else controversial, for fear of diverting attention. Diaz, 37, also has some thoughts about his own political future that defy conventional wisdom. If Public Advocate Bill de Blasio or Comptroller John Liu run for mayor, most people expect Diaz would have a great shot at replacing one of them. He could bide his time and eventually run for the top office. Mayor right now seems unrealistic. Diaz is too young, has too short a record. The attack mailer about Diaz killing 2,200 jobs killed at the Armory practically writes itself. Yet Diaz is doubling down again. Almost everyone close to Diaz says he is dead set on running for the top job, or else will remain borough president. There will be no politically convenient switching of races, like John Liu or Carrion.

March 28, 2011


For all the doubts about Diaz’s judgment this might raise, the borough president insists has always had a plan. “Look man, whoever runs for mayor is going to have a story to tell,” Diaz said. “I’m working on my narrative.”



An Ar Aw wAhwAr t z

An Ar Aw wAhwAr t z

ne of Diaz’s favorite books is “The Power Broker,” “the tome describing how former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses molded a little-known, unelected office into the most powerful in the city. When Diaz was elected borough president, he sat down with top advisor Paul Del Duca and tried to figure out how to maximize the limited powers of the borough president’s office. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro are nearly invisible. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz acts as a sort of mascot promoting the borough. Diaz sees himself as more influential inside political player than Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, though Diaz respects Stringer’s policy chops. In fact, using what political powers do remain in his office following the 1989 charter revision is the key to Diaz’s long-term political strategy. One of them is the power to distribute discretionary dollars for capital development projects. Past Bronx borough presidents always kept the money for their own purposes. Diaz consciously changed course, instead allowing the borough’s elected officials to help him decide how the money was spent. This tactic has given elected officials in the borough power over millions of more dollars. The bully pulpit is part of this, too. He invites every single elected official in a given area of the borough to press events. At Diaz’s recent State of the Borough address, he heaped compliment after compliment upon the borough’s elected officials. Several elected officials said they heard from Diaz more during his first month in office than they did in seven years under Carrion. This has been especially true for lawmakers in the heavily Jewish, northwest section of the Bronx, who felt Carrion ignored them in favor of the heavily Hispanic


I was perplexed, concerned, disturbed, confused, I was flummoxed,” Diaz said. “I said I wouldn’t bring him up, but to see him palling up with Pedro…”

South Bronx. “This is not a knock on his predecessor, but Ruben really does go out of his way to talk to people,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Diaz supporter who controls the party machinery in Riverdale. Diaz is not simply sharing these powers out of his own beneficence. By sharing them, he can also take them away. Assembly Member Nelson Castro knows well that the spigot from Borough Hall can be turned on and off. With Castro under a cloud of potential scandal, Diaz backed Castro’s Assembly primary opponent last year. The money from Borough Hall and the press conferences were shut off. After Castro pulled out a victory despite Diaz’s opposition, Castro, Diaz and county chair Carl Heastie, a close Diaz ally, sat down and broke bread. A deal was offered. Castro, of course, said yes. He would get a share of the money for his district and he would get to share in the credit. But he would have to fall in line with the county leadership that had opposed him. “I didn’t have that before and didn’t know what that was like,” Castro said, “but it’s been really great having that now.” The unity of the borough delegation plays into Diaz’s larger political plans. The unity helped push Council Speaker Christine Quinn, then up for re-election as speaker, to help kill the Kingsbridge plan. Every member of the Bronx delegation except for Council Member Jimmy Vacca has signed onto the living wage bill, and Diaz believes the delegation can push the speaker again. Diaz recently met with Quinn about the bill and believes the meeting was a key to Quinn’s decision to finally hold a hearing in April. Yet for all his efforts, Diaz is leading only one borough and the living wage bill faces uncertain prospects at best. His old nemesis awaits. Bloomberg is already on record in opposition to the bill, which remains five sponsors short of a veto-proof majority. The Economic Development Corporation is expected to come out with a $1 million study soon that most believe will show that a mandated living wage in the city would kill jobs. There is, of course one potential development project that could demonstrate that living wage and private development dollars go hand-in-hand. The problem is that Diaz’s most ardent supporters, including RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, believe the mayor is personally dedicated to killing any new development at the Kingsbridge Armory in order to make an example out of Diaz and his cause. “I believe Mayor Bloomberg is working very hard to make sure nothing happens at the Kingsbridge Armory,” Appelbaum said. “He wants to use the recession as an excuse to let developers build poverty wage centers.”

I’m not having dinner with the owners of these newspapers in my mansion in the Upper East Side. I’m not doing it,” Diaz said. “I think Bloomberg was highly upset that Kingsbridge didn’t go through. And on that one issue, he’s going to pull out all stops to have the world see it his way.” 16

March 28, 2011

Diaz does not dispute this idea. While the EDC has been working with work Diaz on a number of other development projects, he believes there is still some resentment at the very top. The editorial boards at the Post and Daily News have savaged Diaz ever since Kingsbridge. He blames Bloomberg. “I’m not having dinner with the owners of these newspapers in my mansion in the Upper East Side. I’m not doing it,” Diaz said. “I think Bloomberg was highly upset that Kingsbridge didn’t go through. And on that one issue, he’s going to pull out all stops to have the world see it his way.” Others, including some members of the task force Diaz appointed to develop a new proposal for Kingsbridge, say the problem really lies with Diaz and with community activists who want more community benefits than any private developer could possibly agree to provide. There have been some interesting new proposals for the Armory, to say the least. An ice hockey rink, for a minor league hockey team. An antiques museum. A hydroponic gardening facility. One well-favored proposal would bring a movie studio, though this would only create about 60 jobs. A potential mega-church got some positive reviews, and the church would actually finance some of the development. That would only create about 100 jobs. The Kingsbridge Armory task force meetings are now on hold, while it waits for a group of grad students at Wagner, tapped by Diaz to figure out how to develop the Armory, to finalize a set of proposals. Yet there are already more than a few rumblings that nothing will ultimately come of the efforts, according to Jack Kittle, political director for the Painter’s Union, DC 9, who is on the task force. Kittle said that some people on the task force, who had been opposed to the previous Related deal, have asked him privately whether the developer would be willing to get back into the fold. When possible tenants first started coming in to meet with the task force, Diaz would tease Kittle for asking every single one how much private financing they could possibly provide. Now, it’s Diaz asking that question over and over, according to Kittle. Kittle, though, believes Diaz is asking in vain. “We think he’s crippled any development there for generations,” Kittle said. “There’s a reluctance to invest anywhere in the Bronx, if not the whole city.” Diaz says there will be a final proposal made this spring or summer and it is up to Bloomberg to accept or deny it. But Diaz acknowledges that he cannot bring back 2,200 jobs—or any jobs—without Bloomberg’s sign off. Many observers believe this could be an albatross around Diaz’s neck in a 2013 election. Diaz insists he will not be the one to blame. “The decision on whether or not something’s going to be developed there is going to come from City Hall,” Diaz said. “At least, we’re going to offer something for the city to look at.”


iaz was scrolling through his Blackberry as his city-issued Chevy Tahoe sped him home late one afternoon, when he began shaking his head. Kingsbridge is not the only potential albatross. “Did you see what my father said today?” he asked. Earlier in the day, State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. had veered sharply off message at a Capitol press conference, which the Senate Democrats had called to slam Senate


Republicans for not putting the millionaire’s tax in their budget resolution. Diaz, Sr. had instead slammed Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “He’s the one. He’s at fault. He’s the one who took it out,” Diaz, Jr. read aloud from his Blackberry. “He could have put it back. I try to be a team player, but I cannot do this, sacrificing my community, sacrificing my people, I cannot be a team player this way. It is wrong. The governor is the one doing the wrong on this issue.” The borough president was unusually silent for awhile after that. Earlier in the day, Diaz had insisted at the beginning of an interview that he did not want to talk about his father. That lasted about 10 minutes, when he began talking about the Reverend’s endorsement of ex-Sen. Pedro Espada last summer. “I was perplexed, concerned, disturbed, confused, I was flummoxed,” Diaz said. “I said I wouldn’t bring him up, but to see him palling up with Pedro…” Later that day, Diaz, Sr. would put out a statement bashing Cuomo for supporting “homosexual marriage.” As Diaz, Jr. eyes a mayoral run, this may be the biggest liability of all. His father is enemy No. 1 in the LGBT community, his name invoked as a fundraising tool. Sure, there is a difference between the father and son. But how many gay people would really vote to elect Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s son for mayor? Diaz says he understands that his father is from a different, more strident generation of Latino politics, fiery and rough. Diaz Sr. is known for wearing a cowboy hat. Diaz Jr. is cool, his suits finely tailored. Diaz Sr.’s mustache is wild and bushy. His son’s is pencil thin, always closely cut. Diaz, Sr. talks incessantly about the lack of Latino leadership in the State Senate. Diaz, Jr? Ask him about the prospect of him becoming the first Latino elected citywide, and for once, the always-cool demeanor lifts, just for a moment. “Even in the Latino community they think that,” Diaz said, somewhat offended. “Oh, it’s gotta be Ruben. He’s Latino. I would like that to happen because of what they think I’ve accomplished and what they think I could accomplish. Not just because we need some Latino to talk about.” He gets offended at the suggestion that he could follow in the footsteps of John Liu, who united minority communities to win his comptroller job. Diaz says over and over that people need to look instead at his resume, how the Bronx is uniting politically. “Think about former borough presidents,” he said. “Did they ever get the support of the leadership in Riverdale, when they wanted to run for higher office? Did Freddy [Ferrer]? No. Think about how we’ve been able to bring in the folks in Riverdale, the Jewish community, the Italians. Leadership and bringing people together has to be a quality that people are looking for in a mayor. Have folks been examining that?” In the very next breath, though, Diaz


switched courses, revealing that he has thought at least a little about how racial politics could play to his advantage. “Not to contradict myself,” Diaz said, before launching into how he and county chair Carl Heastie have ensured the city’s historical black-brown divide will not flare up in the Bronx or the city at large. Others are most skeptical that he is really connecting outside the Latino community— and that voters in other parts of the Bronx, or in other white neighborhoods around the city, would really back him in a citywide run. His principle and promise are playing well in the Bronx, but in the rest of the city, he is best known for the huge, vacant armory and his hugely controversial father. Diaz and his allies dismiss this. They say his sense of principal also gives him

an authenticity that will be unique in the 2013 mayoral field. They see an energy and youthfulness reminiscent of Anthony Weiner circa 2005. He would be 10 years younger than anyone else. Of course, one big difference is that unlike Weiner, who always had a seat in Congress to fall back on, Diaz would have to give up the Bronx borough presidency to run. Yet he seems unwilling to play the odds. Asked about running for comptroller or public advocate, Diaz shook his head and grimaced. “I would have to look into those,” he said, as if he had never heard of those jobs before. Over the next two years, Diaz hopes to have many more mornings like a recent one in Hunts Point, where he held a press

conference to hail a $50 million private investment that would employ 200 people in decent-paying union jobs. Standing next to Cash and Carry CEO Stanley Fleishman, who funded the development with the help of incentives from the EDC, Diaz touted the new wholesale food facility as his vision for the borough and city come to life. “Certainly, if we can have victories like this, it makes me optimistic for a brighter future, that we have more victories ahead of us,” Diaz said. In the meantime, though, there will be many more fires to put out. To celebrate the arrival of the wholesale food facility, Diaz was not given a shovel, or a hard hat. Instead, Fleishman presented Diaz the honorary gift of a frying pan.

March 28, 2011



Jonathan boWells

on February 24, City Hall kicked off a new speaker series, “the

state of our city,” aimed at facilitating in-depth conversations with panels of key stakeholders on the pressing challenges and opportunities facing new york. this first half-day event featured a rare line-up of ten city commissioners and senior staff addressing housing and economic development, technology and government operations and legislative affairs from albany to washington. the event was the first of many, and in the months ahead we expect to continue to facilitate these engaging panel conversations with the elected officials, government leaders, advocates and others who are managing the state of our city.

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housing & economic development panel Jonathan Bowles (moderator): In early 2011 in his state of the city speech, Mayor Bloomberg said that there was compelling evidence that New York City held up better than most other places during the great recession. Still, unemployment is high. Communities around the five boroughs have still not really felt any recovery. So against that backdrop, what do your agencies consider some of the critical challenges ahead, and what do you all want to focus on in order to make sure this recovery is deeply felt? commissioner roB walsh (small Business services): You mentioned jobs. It’s the number one priority for us.

Mayor Bloomberg announced in his state of the city address that we’re going to take what was done earlier in the administration in terms of economic development and push forward, and push forward hard…before the recession we were placing five hundred people in jobs a year. Last year we placed over 30,000 people in jobs. The mayor has set a high goal of 35,000 to 40,000. The point of all this is that New Yorkers are now turning to us for placement services, and on the other end, businesses are looking at us as a place to save money and save time.

RobeRt Walsh

seth Pinsky

Rafael CesteRo

diversified economy on the planet. There are somewhere between ten to fifteen industries in the city that employ one hundred thousand people. Not only do we employ a lot of people in a lot of industries, but we’re a world leader in many of those industries. The bad news is that there’s a first among those equals, and that’s traditionally been the financial services industry…What we’ve been working on, working closely with SBS, is not to diversify away from Wall Street, but to diversify towards other industries. rw: I look back at nine years ago, this city really did not have an apparatus to do the things that Seth is talking about. In the last few years, we’ve built this program, with the EDC, and we’ve got a thousand people who have come through a program for new entrepreneurs. This is a new game we’re talking about. The first class that came out of the program are starting their businesses. That is fantastic news. The linkages that are made because they are around other entrepreneurs – what the EDC has done is create incubators. What we’ve been pushing, whether it’s CUNY, whether it’s Columbia, whether it’s NYU, is a way of looking outside their gates.

JB: In your opening remarks, all of you mentioned invest-

ment as required, especially during these tough times. There’s a lot that’s needed right now, but how is this fiscal constraint going to effect what City Hall can do in the year ahead? What is it that you’d like to do that you can’t because of cuts?

commissioner raFael cestero (housing preservation and development): You can talk about this

in a couple of ways. On the perspective of what we’ve been able to do is something that no other country has been able to do, which is continue to get private investment into our housing production efforts...So while yes, you see capital has been constrained in the last several years and will be so going forward, we’ve been able to continue to produce and preserve housing because of the partnership with private sector partners. The other component of that is the best kept secret of this administration. The single best innovation out of the Bloomberg administration has been the unleashing of the Housing Development Corporation. It has been the leading issuer around the country of housing bonds. Last year they issued a billion dollars, the year before that they issued over a billion dollars. While the rest of the country has been retrenching, the HDC has been moving forward.

sp: I just want to pick up on that and make a philosophical president seth pinksy(economic development point. I don’t think there’s been anyone screaming louder over corporation): As you mentioned, it’s good news that the the last few years over the need for us to restore fiscal discipline

In partnership with

city has outperformed the rest of the country, but we’re still not where we need to be and where we want to be. So we have to help with that short term gain. But equally important is not to lose sight of the long term challenges, and not allow ourselves to get so overwhelmed by the short term pain that we take our eyes off the ball…We have an incredible infrastructure, but it takes a lot of money to maintain it where it is. But we can’t just maintain it where it is. We have to build for the future, because the cities and nations that we’re competing with are investing in infrastructure that is much more modern than what we have.

at all levels of American society. But what scares me is that the approach that appears to be emerging with respect to restoring discipline is a belief that all spending is bad. If you’re not investing, that worst than spending beyond your means

technology & government operations panel

david Birdsell (moderator): I’d like to start with sharing and simplification. One of this administration’s JB: In previous recessions, Wall Street came to the rescue. Do mandates has been to simplify access. Can you give an examyou expect that to happen at the same rate this time? And if it ple of how you have tried to simplify citizen access and serdoesn’t, I know that the EDC and the SBS are really focused on vice overall in your agencies over the course of the last year? diversifying the economy, but is it enough to make up for some of the problems we’re seeing in the traditional centers? commissioner cas holloway (department oF sp: Well I think that a variety of industries is a good news-bad environmental protection): One thing that we have news scenario. The good news is that we’re maybe the most well done over the past year is that as we’ve continued to install


March 28, 2011



Carole Post

DaviD BirDsell

Cas Holloway

135,000 wireless meter readers throughout the city. We went live with our AMR wireless reading website, which gives our customers revolutionary transparency to their water bills. Just to give you an idea of where we were and where we’re almost at, we’re at a 71-72 percent install in terms of the wireless meters. When people didn’t have those meters they would get their water bill once every quarter...Now they can go on everyday and have access to how much water they’re consuming and for our customers that means that they can manage their water use and understand exactly what their using.

Commissioner Carole Post (information teChnology and teleCommuniCations): 311 is

probably the most obvious way that New Yorkers engage with the government and it’s been a phone channel, coming up now on nine years. It works incredibly well, which I think we can all testify to but using the telephone is no longer the only method and it’s not really the most cost effective method. We introduced 311 online a couple of years ago so you don’t have to use the telephone anymore... In the last six months we’ve now advanced that even further. Last week we introduced the 311 online maps which allow customers to customize and tailor their view. The final thing on the new horizon is to keep that pace going. Next up would be text

eDna wells HanDy


errol louis

HaeDa MiHaltses

messaging. Being able to engage with 311 by texting in your complaint or compliment perhaps, or service request and receive a text message back

dB: We have with the example of 311 perhaps in some

ways the biggest and most widely spread effort to crowd source the identification of problems and input. What is the city doing right now to make data that it holds and has traditionally held very tightly, available to larger pools of analysts from whatever area? And what kind of surprises have you found out?

CP: Well something that we’re really proud of is the idea of

unlocking the city’s data and making it more accessible and more useable to the public. I think the best example of that is the Big Apps competition. It was modeled after what the federal government did in terms of apps for democracy; it was launched last year in connection with EDC and most of the partner agencies who delivered certain data sets…Our mission was to take control of the data and create simplified access and usability and the Big Apps was really the catalyst to move us in that direction.

dB: What you’re describing is fundamentally changing the

MiCaH lasHer

MiCHelle GolDstein

relationship between government services and citizenry. That you have government data, you a have government narratives about the performance of institutions and then you have people who are re-framing that data with your very own data. How has that helped you get better at what you do? Can you monetize that improvement as we’re actually changing the whole character of citizen-government relations?

Commissioner edna Wells handy (dePartment of CityWide administrative serviCes):

The way in which government has been working in this cycle is that information is locked in areas all around the city. What we’re trying to do and you talk about monetizing it is being driven by the need to economize. We’re looking for ways to bring all that information together so that we can use it in our functions as city workers. For example, we have an initiative to reduce the under utilization of city workspace and optimize space but we don’t know where the under utilization is. We’ve developed a blackboard program where we’re looking at what the space utilization is around the city and we’re bringing that information from the different agencies so that we can have that information in one location. We can then look at whether we can close down this area, get out of that

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March 28, 2011


payment relationship.

DB: All three of you have mentioned consultants as a vital part of these relationships and ultimately designing these cost-savings mechanisms. Can we talk a little bit about your level of satisfaction with the management of the consultant process in IT specifically, since that poses unique challenges often given the imbalance of expertise basis on the agency side and the consultant side?

important, like gun control or immigration reform. These are things that have plagued Washington for a long time. Whether Democrats or Republicans have been in control, these have been tough issues to deal with.

senior centers? I hope we don’t, but unless we get what we need from Albany, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case, I think the Council realizes that after nine years of cuts, there’s not much more to cut.

miCHa LasHEr(offiCE of statE LEgisLativE affairs): One task that we share as a City with the Legislature,

EL: For all three of you, in your conversations with legisla-

our strategic plans for DoITT was organizing vendor relations and the notion of having a comprehensive vendor management program…When you have some of the vendors who are spread across many agencies, there wasn’t necessarily any connecting of the dots about how they were performing and how they were delivering on their commitments.

and the New York City delegation to the legislature, is how do you weather the storm and get through it without crippling core services that city residents depend on. That’s a near term objective for us. But what the mayor has made clear is that one of his core goals before he leaves office and our main focus is how do you address some of the structural problems and inefficiencies and layers of laws that may have made sense at the time but in the aggregate amount to extremely expensive state management and exacerbate fiscal problems like the one we have now because they’re driving costs and putting burden on local governments apart from core services.

EWH: What we’re seeing is that in many of the consulting

EL: The usual budget dance between the mayor and City

CP: When I took office in January one of the lead factors in

contracts we’ve had there have been changes in scope, creep and all this because the statement of work has been ill-defined. But it’s ill-defined because I think we’re the brave new world. I call it “corporament.” It’s the merging of government and corporate…So when we bring in consultants they can tell us all about their private sector experience and then they try to put that on to government it’s an ill-exact fit at best. So we have to work with the consultants to show where the differences are.

LEgisLativE affairs PanEL:

ErroL Louis (moDErator): You have a new con-

gress, a closely divided Senate, a presidential campaign season that, frankly, has begun. What does that mean for New York, and what kind of challenges are you facing?

miCHELLE goLDstEin(offiCE of fEDEraL affairs): It’s definitely going to be challenging, but it always is. We’re working on issues that are tough, because they’re

Council goes as follows: the mayor proposes draconian cuts and marches up into the front ranks of the women children and elderly, and says these people are going to take the brunt of the cuts. The Council then rends their garments and gnashes their teeth and screams and yells and joins the protests at the steps of City Hall, and then somewhere in the middle of the night hey arrive at a deal. Is this year any different?

HaEDa miHaLtsEs(offiCE of intErgovErnmEntaL affairs): I think it’ll be a little different this year.

We still have a lot of unknowns. The mayor just released his preliminary budget. We did not include any new cuts, which was a good thing, however you still have to deal with years worth of cuts…The mayor has pointed out that if we don’t get the help we need from Albany, we’re going to have to make more and deeper cuts, and I think that’s going to resonate, not only with the agencies, but with elected officials and the people Are we going to have to close some fire houses, some


tors, does the fact that the mayor isn’t running for reelection make it harder or easier for you to do your job?

Hm: I don’t think it makes a difference. I think legislators

are smart. They realize they have to make big decisions and big choices whether or not the mayor is going to be here four years from now. Some of them may be here, some may not, but they know they have to focus on the decisions that need to be made today, and how they are going to deliver services that their districts expect. He is still the mayor of the largest city in country. He is a person who is respected widely throughout the city state and country as someone who approaches problems with an independent mindset and an incorruptible approach. Folks realize that while he may not be mayor in 2014, he will still be a major figure in the civic life of the city.

EL: Is it your sense as you go about trying to get us through

this budget season, is this the new normal? Is there a sense that we have to patch things up, and sooner or later the economy will come back, and that will mean more revenue, and we can go back to some of our habits good and bad, or is there going to be an endless series of these cuts and concern with closing the deficit?

mL: I think if you look at the issue of pensions, which I come back to because, on a percentage basis, it is the fastest growing item in the city budget, and if you look at that as a structural problem that is going to require the ongoing diversion of funds from services to things that are not services and therefore require cuts to the programs that residents depend on, we haven’t hit anywhere near the worst of that problem.

A Few Facts About Rent Regulation…



Fact: From 1994 to 2007, the deregulation of high-income/high-rent apartments resulted in a $6.9 billion infusion to the New York City economy.1 Fact: This included $2.1 billion in increased real estate tax revenue that funded municipal services and $4.8 billion in housing construction and improvements that generated thousands of jobs.1 Fact: During the same 14-year period, while 75,250 apartments were deregulated, rent-stabilized units increased by 25,811 to 1,077,333.1 Fact: Eighty percent of deregulated apartments are in Manhattan.2 Fact: Wealthy renters in Manhattan saw their rent subsidy increase from $159 in 1987 to $345 in 2005.3




Fact: A majority of multi-family property owners own less than 20 units of housing.4 Nearly half of all owners are at risk because rental income fails to exceed building operating costs.5








You Can’t Argue Against the Facts. Vacancy De-Control Stimulates Investment in Quality Affordable Housing, Fuels the Local Economy, Generates New Tax Revenue Streams, Creates Jobs and Protects Affordability for the People Most in Need.







March 28, 2011

Why Would Anyone Want to Repeal Vacancy De-Control? “The Impact of Deregulation of Rent Stabilized Units by High-Rent/High-Income Decontrol and High-Rent Vacancy Decontrol: An Economic and Fiscal Impact Study” Urbanomics, March 30, 2009 “Changes to the Rent Stabilized Housing Stock in New York City in 2008” The New York City Rent Guidelines Board, June 4, 2009 3 “The Value of Rent Subsidies from Rent Stabilization by Borough & Neighborhood of New York City: An Econometric Study based on the2005 Housing and Vacancy Survey” Urbanomics, May 15, 2009 4 The Rent Stabilization Association Membership Files 5 “Survey of Owners of Rent Stabilized Property” Urbanomics, June 17, 2009 1 2

1 2 3 W i l l i a m S t r e e t N e w Yo r k , N Y 1 0 0 3 8

TEL: 212-214-9200

W W W. R S A N Y C . O R G




By Chris Bragg City Hall: Why run for district leader after three decades in Congress? Ed Towns: That little corner around there, we’ve sort of been the district leader of it for quite some time between me and Darryl, and, of course, Darryl is moving on, so I thought maybe I would just come back and help because that corner is sort of at the end of the borough and sometimes it’s forgotten. That’s basically the reason for it. CH: Council Member Erik Dilan, who wants to run for district leader also, has argued that a younger person should be in the position. What do you make of that? ET: I think what the party needs is an experienced, stable hand. I think that’s very much what it needs,

adopted. She’s been with us since she was six weeks old. So those kinds of arguments should be eliminated. It’s not something that I make a case of, but when people make statements like that, I have to respond. CH: The Dilans say they will be in control of who gets the Democratic nomination for both the district leader and Assembly seat. Do you agree with that? ET: I think that’s logical, but that doesn’t stop us from running. You can go out and create a line and it’s a special election, there have been a lot of situations where people in a special election have won. Charlie Johnson ran up in the Bronx in a special election and won. Bobby Garcia ran for Congress in a special election on the Liberal Party line and won. When there’s nothing there but that race, the Democratic line is one you would always like to have, and I think you make your life a lot easier if you do have it. That does not stop us from going out and running. The name Towns is known in the district.

“ You just tell them I’m prepared to give them a foot race, a contest to see how many hours we can go in a day. whatever. more than ever. I think that’s part of our problem today, not having a stable situation in our political organization. I’m concerned with the fact that people running for national office in the most populated Democratic county in the nation and people will run for national office and never come to Brooklyn. So I think that we need to have folks that need to be able to stop this from occurring. Can you imagine one of the most populated counties in the nation, that people run for national office and never come here? I’ve been around a little longer and have more contacts and ties around the nation than post people. I also think we need to bring the county organization together and I feel I can be helpful in that regard.


CH: The Dilans have also said your son’s Assembly seat should now be filled by a Hispanic and are running Council Member Dilan’s chief of staff Rafael Espinal. Do you buy into that logic? ET: I don’t have a problem with that—my daughter’s Hispanic. She’s from the Dominican Republic. She’s


CH: Have you thought a name for the ballot line? The Towns line? ET: Save Our Children? There’s a lot of things that can be used. Rent’s Too Damn High and the Gas Too? [Laughs.] CH: Are you planning on running for reelection to Congress in 2012? ET: Oh, I’m running. I feel good, I feel good. I know some people have mentioned by age, but I’ll take on whoever’s mentioning my age. If they want to have a track race, I’ll race with them on foot, I’ll take that. And I really mean that, whoever it is. You just tell them I’m prepared to give them a foot race, a contest to see how many hours we can go in a day. Whatever. CH: You’re in training? ET. Oh yeah. I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s hard to beat somebody who enjoys what they’re doing. CH: Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries is looking at running for your seat. Does that worry you? ET: That’s one of the weaknesses of democracy—that people are able to run against me. But no, no, I have no problem with that. If people are eager, that’s it. But would I be worried? Absolutely not. I mean, really. I’ve represented this district 29 years. And I’m prepared to take on whoever or whatever. And I’m the kind of guy who’s had a lot of races throughout the years.

andrew schwartz


ep. ed Towns has been popping up in a lot of Google alerts lately. His son, Assembly Member Darryl Towns, just took a job in the Cuomo administration. His daughter is running to replace her brother. And the congressman wants to run for his son’s old district leader spot. All the while, the Dilans—Sen. Martin Dilan and his son, Council Member Erik Dilan—are angling to get those seats in their corner. Meanwhile, Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries’ advisors have been making noise about Jeffries running for Congress against Towns. In an interview, Towns talked about his daughter’s political prospects, his training regimen for 2012 and one of his top legislative priorities: building more women’s bathrooms. What follows is an edited transcript.

andrew schwartz

Blue Jay Big Towns CH: Jeffries is seen as an up-and-comer though… DT: I think he has a lot of potential. And I personally like him. But I understand how politics go. That doesn’t stop him from being eager or wanting to take my place or thinking I should retire when I don’t want to. CH: Charles Barron is also talking about running, what do you think about that? ET: The more the merrier. If you hear of anybody else, tell them, ‘Come on.’ CH: Was it difficult losing your spot chairing the House Oversight Committee, and then your spot as ranking member? ET: No, no. All my advisors and all my immediate staff felt that I should get back to Energy and Commerce. Because when you’re the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, you really have no say. Being on the Energy and Commerce committee is one of the most prestigious committees in the United States Congress. Fifty-five percent of all legislation in the House goes through that committee. CH: What issues are you working on right now? ET: We’re still looking at the student athletes’ right to know, in terms of the college and universities reporting college graduation rates with athletes. Because what had happened in many instances is that you have young people who sign up with a university and have no chance of graduating. In fact, some schools have gone 10 or 20 without graduation an athlete. So making sure athletes or anyone advising them have the information that anyone advising them knows, that in the letter offering them a scholarship to the university, they have to put that information in. We’re working on a bill called bathroom parity, which is very important. That’s making sure any building funded with government dollars has an a comparable amount of bathrooms for women. You see women standing in long lines to go to the ladies room and we need to correct that. In the old days, women didn’t go to sporting events and things like that, so therefore, they didn’t provide for them. Up until a few months ago they didn’t even have a bathroom for women on the floor of the House of Representatives. So we’re looking at issues like that that are very, very important. March 28, 2011


issue spotlight:

Knee Reconstruction Latest Advances


Dr. Eli Bryk offers the latest advances in reconstructive surgery of the knee including gender specific knee arthroplasty using custom-made, patient specific instruments. Anatomical differences in knee joints between males and females are addressed with implants expressly designed for each gender. Dr. Bryk is also able to customize each joint with patient specific instruments prepared before surgery using MRI technology. The surgery is performed through the smallest possible incision, allowing for faster recovery. The advantages of this procedure are: • Smaller incision • Gender specific design • Surgical instruments customized for each patient using advanced MRI technology Of course, not all degenerative conditions of the knee require joint replacement. Patients with other knee problems that will benefit from surgery may be treated arthroscopically. These operations are performed by Dr. Bryk using advanced digital cameras, monitors and cutting-edge microsurgical tools. Surgery is accomplished through tiny incisions, less than 5 mm in length, and patients can usually walk out of the hospital on the same day. Dr. Bryk is a board certified Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery with 25 years of experience in knee replacement surgery and knee arthroscopy.

For an appointment with Dr. Bryk, Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, call (212) 312-5990

Offering the Full Spectrum of Orthopaedic Services.

Alan Aviles, President and ceO, New York city health and hospitals corporation National healthcare reform, as well as the state’s redesign of New York’s Medicaid program, will drive fundamental change over the next few years that could lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced healthcare disparities and lower overall costs. However, we will need support from all levels of government to guide this complicated transition to avoid further destabilizing already fragile public and voluntary sector safety net hospitals

Tina Gerardi, ceO, New York State Nurses association HHC is particularly vulnerable to cuts in the Medicaid program because it serves a very high proportion of Medicaid patients. New York needs to take a “go slower” approach to Medicaid redesign: Reconsider revenue-generating ideas, including extending the income tax surcharge on high-income earners. Seek innovative, evidence-based healthcare ideas that focus on improving care coordination. Maintain its commitment to a strong healthcare safety net and to quality

• • •

Lois Aronstein, New York State director, aarP Access, affordability, and quality remain the most important issues regarding the city’s healthcare system. At AARP, we are particularly concerned with the city’s 50+ population. How can older New Yorkers who are not yet 65 years old and eligible for Medicare have access to the affordable, quality services and care they need to maintain good health? Building a system of long-term services and supports for people of all ages is also critical. Making sure the city and the state take every opportunity to expand

Daniel Sisto, President, healthcare association of New York State

83 Gold Street, New York, NY 10038 Telephone: (212) 312-5000 22

March 28, 2011


We are entering a very experimental time in healthcare, and we don’t know the full impact numerous changes will have on patient care. It will be very important for the Legislature and the Administration to continue to play an active role in helping us make any modifications that may become necessary as we move forward. We must also be careful to

that serve our poorest and most vulnerable communities. For diverse urban areas, like New York, immigration reform and healthcare reform need to be linked in a practical and humane way. The estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants who live and work in our city will find no comfort from national healthcare reform. and accountability initiatives. A cut of $2.3 billion at once is massive. We are concerned that one of the unintended effects will be hospitals that are unable to survive, reducing access to care in those communities for everyone. The continued focus is on cost and not patient care. Hospital closures, downsizing, centralization, and privatization of services continue to negatively impact access to care. coverage made possible through federal health care reform will be critical for this population as well. Like the rest of New York State, the city is seeing a burgeoning 65+ population. Though eligible for Medicare, many don’t realize that Medicare does not cover long-term care and even more are unprepared to make informed decisions about their long-term care options. protect safety net institutions that are particularly vulnerable, but vital to the communities they serve. On a federal level, it will be necessary to synchronize federal reform implementation with the unique needs associated with our diverse population and our need for capital.


issue spotlight:

Education hEalthcarE

Health Care Provider During the Medicaid Redesign Task Force meetings earlier this year, Richard Gottfried took notes on a small blue notepad, the size of his palm. He waited, patiently, for a chance to speak. Gottfried, who has been in the Assembly since Richard Nixon was in the White House, has maintained an attitude of polite discouragement at the possibility the state can make substantive cuts to Medicaid this fiscal year without damaging the state’s overall healthcare network. He argues that any meaningful cuts would take years to show real results. Gov. Andrew Cuomo should raise taxes to help soften the blow he’s dealing to health care and education, he argues. And most importantly, he wanted to make sure that he and other members of the task force are not left out of the equation. In the end, Gottfried ended up abstaining from the vote to approve the MRT’s report, arguing there should have been more time for discussion. Later, he walked back some of his sharper criticisms, but continues to push back against some of the provisions he finds unmanageable. As the budget season winds down, and the overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program begins to take shape, Gottfried spoke to about his thoughts on what Cuomo got right, what he got wrong and where things go from here.

“The most striking thing is Governor Cuomo’s success in making a deal with the hospital industry, which I would bet took place well before he took office. Given how broad the agreement was, it’s hard to imagine that the basic elements of it were not in place well before January.” The Capitol: What did the Medicaid Redesign Task Force get right? Richard Gottfried: The most important thing is the focus on increasing care coordination and care management for high-cost, high-need patient groups, such as patients receiving long term care and patients with serious mental illness. That notion is built into Medicaid managed care, which applies to about 80 percent of Medicaid recipients and has worked very successfully. We now need to move carefully and thoughtfully to extend that to the more expensive and complex Medicaid services and patients.

areas the task force recommendations and the governor’s legislation implementing them leave out some important protections for patients. We are now trying to correct that in budget negotiations.

TC: Which proposal will be the hardest to implement? RG: I think the movement to care management for people in homecare, and for patients with serious mental illness—which are core proposals—will both require a lot of work and thought. But they’re also probably the most important. TC: Is there more work for the task force to do beyond this budget cycle? On what?

TC: What did it get wrong? RG: Well, I disagree with the notion of the caps on pain and suffering in malpractice cases. In several


RG: Certainly, and that was some of the plan from the start, and the Medicaid Redesign Task Force decided at its most recent meeting, in February,

to form a series of work groups that included representatives from constituencies that are not represented on the MRT. We haven’t made a list of what task forces we will be putting together, but I expect they will address long term care, behavioral health, people with disabilities, development of accountable care organizations, and a variety of other areas.

TC: What will be the impact of this year’s healthcare budget on local governments? RG: The budget will continue the movement toward full state administration of the Medicaid program. The controls on the cost of the Medicaid program will probably not have much effect on local governments because several years ago we capped the local share of Medicaid. The cut in what is called Article VI funding will take some money away from local governments. Article VI is the program in which the state helps subsidize local public health efforts, and chances are the final budget will accept the governor’s proposal to cut that funding. TC: What has surprised you the most about this process?

RG: I don’t know if I would use the word surprising, but the most striking thing is Governor Cuomo’s success in making a deal with the hospital industry, which I would bet took place well before he took office. Given how broad the agreement was, it’s hard to imagine that the basic elements of it were not in place well before January.

March 28, 2011



15 CEnTRal PaRk WEST,


18 GRamERCY PaRk SouTh

Zeckendorf Development is Renowned for the Development of luxury apartments with Every amenity

hoWeVer, there Is one major

dIFFerenCe at 18 GramerCY park south a five-star luxury building should have a five-star contractor. Instead Zeckendorf has hired a builder who fails to meet area standards or provide health benefits but will still charge buyers top dollar for luxury apartments.

theY are LoCkInG out neW York’s mIddLe CLass

City Hall - March 28, 2011  

The March 28, 2011 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and Stat...

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