below, has set his sights on State Supreme
Court (Page 25) and Rep. Nydia Velázquez, left, chooses a favorite spot in Brooklyn for her
Power Lunch (Page 27).
discusses the political advantages of humor and his citywide
ambitions (Page 8), Trial Lawyers lobbyist Vol. 1, No. 11
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS
The Organizer g She calls it open government. Some members call it political maneuvering. Christine Quinn navigates a new take on the job of Council speaker.
INDEX: City Council delegation helps broker Irish peace accords Page 10
Larry Penner, the most prolific letters-to-theeditor writer in New York, steps forward Page 12
Where Are They Now? tracks down Betsy McCaughey Page 22
The April Poll: Which Council Member would make the best dinner party host? Page 22
CONTINUED ON PAGE
eople notice when Christine Quinn walks into a room. She has a strong presence, with her natural Irish politician’s sense of the power of personal contact and a laugh that often rings through whichever room she is in, no matter how large. But even if she did not, she would turn heads. Not only is
she winning praise around the city for her work as Council speaker, but she is the first woman to hold that job, and the highest-ranking openly gay official in New York’s history. The sleek bob of bright red hair helps, too. She has traveled quite a distance since first coming to City Hall as a housing activist in the late 1980s. In those days, she
Gang of One Last one left standing, Rangel guides the old Harlem machine BY CARLA ZANONI ight before Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D) April 4 book signing event at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble began, former Mayor David Dinkins (D) sat alone in a pale green room off stage. Two neat stacks of books waiting to be autographed were piled on a table with the face of his longtime friend, the Harlem congressman, beaming at Dinkins.
Rangel entered through the private set of stairs to the auditorium. His handlers gave him explicit directions to open the rear door and turn directly into the room. “The audience won’t see you,” one bookstore employee explained. Rangel smiled, opened the door and walked straight to the audience, calling out “Hello, hello” to all. The first of the evening’s mulCONTINUED ON PAGE
Paying Forward Putting the price tag on PlaNYC BY ANDREW HAWKINS ith a million more New Yorkers expected by 2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) is planning an overhaul of the city’s aging infrastructure in the hopes
BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE
Rep. Charles Rangel.
CONTINUED ON PAGE
APR I L 2007
IN THE TRENCHES
Social work master’s program, Vietnam War photography and teaching collegiate English are stops along the way for professional political photographers
Karl Crutchfield, Marla Maritzer and William Alatriste may be staff photographers, but they say their goal is transcending the headshot. BY NATALIE PIFER
OB SECURITY CAN BE RARE IN POLITICS,
but Marla Maritzer has been taking pictures for the New York City Comptroller’s office since Alan Hevesi (D) was in charge. Eleven years later, she is still photographing the comptroller— now Bill Thompson (D)—and people still
don’t know her name. Maritzer is fine with the anonymity. She says it makes her job all the easier. “Often I’m in a room and I disappear once people become comfortable, so I can really capture the feeling of the people who are meeting with the comptroller,” she said. Since her days as a freelancer,
Maritzer—who has a master’s in social work—has tried to bring feelings into her pictures. She always tries to focus on interactions and faces. When she decided she wanted a full-time position, the opening in the comptroller’s office allowed Maritzer to keep doing what she loved. While her subjects have changed, Maritzer’s method has remained the same—capturing an event’s reality through spontaneous interactions. “Sometimes at events there are photoop opportunities and that’s unavoidable for me,” she said. “To me, if it’s not a real interaction, it doesn’t tell the story of what’s happening.” Maritzer attends anywhere from six to 15 events weekly, but she says the job never gets old. “Each opportunity is unique and exciting,” Maritzer said. “I feel a part of the fabric of the city even though I am not directly involved.” Karl Crutchfield, who taught photography to fellow military policemen while stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War, has been watching Manhattan borough presidents from the sidelines for even longer than Maritzer. On election night 1989, C. Virginia Fields first won a Council seat. Crutchfield, meanwhile, got his first political client. An independent photographer, Crutchfield has been shooting politicians ever since—his current clients include Manhattan Democrats like Assembly Member Keith Wright, Rep. Charles Rangel and Borough President Scott Stringer. His parents appointed him family photographer at age seven, and Crutchfield says he is still trying to improve on the style he started then. “My technique is the posed-candid,” he said. “I want people to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but I’m still catching a candid moment.” Krutchfield also does other projects, but he says he never feels a conflict of interest between them. Neither does William Alatriste, the New York City Council’s photographer, who believes the relationship between getting the right shot of a politician and his inclinations as an artist is harmonious. Alatriste simply calls himself a photographer. “I take photographs, and if by default some of those photographs are seen as
publicity, or art, that’s fine,” he explained. Rather than sticking in one spot for a whole event or press conference, he prefers to shoot on the fly from a variety of angles. As the Council photographer, Alatriste also photographs a variety of personalities who all interact with the camera differently. That, he said, is what differentiates his work photographing politicians from what he calls “regular folk.” A former collegiate-level English teacher with a master’s of fine arts in poetry, he has a wide variety of side-projects which have him photographing everything from Coney Island workers to his young children’s toys. “For one reason or another, they’re usually in the public eye, and as a result, they understand the necessity and importance of photographs,” he explained. “Makes my work that much easier.” email@example.com
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTO
Still At It
José Adames, photographed April 5 outside 250 Broadway, still trying to convince people he beat Michael Bloomberg in the 2005 mayor’s race.
Trees do more than beautify our world. They help clean the air of carbon dioxide – a major greenhouse gas. As North America’s largest recycler, we’re ensuring that more trees can keep up the good work. And with thousands of commercial and community recycling programs nationwide, the results are truly adding up. From everyday collection to environmental protection, Think Green. Think Waste Management. ®
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APR I L 2007
ENVIRONMENT/GREENING OF NEW YORK Between United Nations reports, Supreme Court decisions and Oscar-winning documentaries, environmental issues are very much in the news these days. Debates over “green” legislation and policy can have a far reach, especially when it
comes to considerations of future development. With that and the 37th Earth Day this month in mind, City Hall invited some of those shaping environmental policy in New York to share their take on the Empire State’s green future.
Protecting the Environment at the State Level BY STATE SEN. JOSÉ M. SERRANO
OR A WHILE THERE IT SEEMED
the only entity in the country not worried about Environmental protection was the Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s hope all of that changed earlier this month when the U.S. Supreme Court reminded the agency of its constitutional power to limit automobile emissions. Community leaders in New York City have long understood the importance of clean air and water. East Harlem and the South Bronx, areas that I represent in the State Senate, register some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the country. They are burdened with a disproportionate number of polluting facilities and roadways. For this reason, I consider protecting the environment on par with protecting affordable health care and affordable housing for my constituents—which is quite a statement when you consider the real estate market right now. But environmental protection is something of a juggling act for legislators at the state level. After all, how do you address the environmental needs of the inner city, and frame your argument in
such a way that it appeals to the suburbanite from Westchester and the farmer in, say, Chenango County? One way is to create legislation and programs that bridge the geographic and socioeconomic divides of such a large state. Senator Kevin Parker, representing Brooklyn, has introduced a great piece of legislation requiring that alternative fuels be made available for public use along the New York State Thruway. His bill would provide yet another incentive for the expansion of environmental industries; the state’s corn growers need only think about increased profits from ethanol. Moreover, the bill would bring the distinct communities along the
500-mile Thruway into a common cause. Senator David Valesky, an upstate Democrat, has been working hard to connect the state’s agricultural industries with our large consumer markets in New York City. Homegrown foods kick start the economy, cut down on the environmental costs of transportation, and improve public health. With the high demand for farmers markets in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, not to mention all of our public school children in need of healthier foods, the upstate goods have a perfect niche to fill. For my part, I am carrying bills that would reduce emissions by diesel-powered vehicles owned by the city, and prohibit the construction of school buildings on or near waste disposal sites. Currently, I am drafting new legislation to reduce school bus diesel exhaust emissions. It would build upon a New York City law passed in 2005, and ensure that changes are implemented across the state. Most of these buses still run on diesel gas, and high levels of toxic exhaust accumulate inside the cabin. In fact, students and drivers are exposed to four times the level of toxic exhaust inside the bus than if they were standing right outside of it. In other words, it doesn’t much matter if you live along the Cross-Bronx
Expressway, or on a quaint block in Saratoga Springs—the danger is real. Health risks increase every day your child rides to and from school. My bill would require the installation of retrofitted tailpipes and indoor air filters. We also need mandatory retirement of the state’s oldest and dirtiest school buses. In this year’s state budget, I have allocated funds to WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a respected Harlem-based organization. The money will supplement a grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to retrofit two school buses right here in the city, providing the most current and localized data on the benefits of retrofit technology. With that said, the next great challenge for lawmakers is to anticipate environmental needs. We can no longer afford to wait for asthma rates to spin out of control. We can no longer afford to remediate brownfields. Instead, let’s make sure we don’t allow them to develop in the first place.
José M. Serrano is a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and the Bronx in the State Senate. He sits on the State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
Expanding New York’s Environmental Agenda BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER ROBERT SWEENEY VER THE PAST DECADE,
NEW York State was able to protect a little over one million acres of land. Unfortunately, the state failed to provide the resources to adequately manage its interests in these lands. During this period, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) suffered the loss of almost 800 staff positions. This had a profound negative effect on many important environmental programs from recycling to land stewardship. While I’m still in my first month as chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, we are already working with Governor Spitzer to turn this trend around. During budget negotiations, I steadfastly defended the governor’s proposal to add 109 new staff to the DEC. We also successfully increased the State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to $250 million. I will continue to push for the expansion of the Bottle Bill, which would infuse an additional $180 million to the EPF.
Aside from being a source of revenue, the Bottle Bill is the state’s most important and most successful recycling initiative. It is a program that works well with our other waste management and recycling programs. As chairman, I will also work to deal with our waste and energy efficiency initiatives. This includes finding responsible, environmentally friendly means of electronic hardware disposal and encouraging the use of so-called green technologies, whether they are high-efficiency light bulbs or alternative energy vehicles. To this end, I will soon introduce legislation which will utilize revenues from the sale of carbon emission allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for these very types of projects. The RGGI initiative is a promising start to addressing climate change in New York, but is something which will need to be evaluated much more closely. While it is unclear whether the reductions and timetables are aggressive enough, it is clear that more needs to be done on a national and international level. We will
look at the potential to address emissions on an economy-wide basis, as well as addressing air contaminants, such as diesel emissions, which are not commonly thought of as greenhouse gases. In this year’s budget, working with Governor Spitzer, we created a new Climate Change Office, to address global warming. We also were able to increase the Environmental Protection Fund to $250,000,000. This new state budget provides almost $1.2 billion for the environment. Other important issues we will address include: • Legislation to protect our Wetlands • Authorizing communities to establish funds to protect open space • Protecting the viability of our marine and freshwater resources • Legislation to address the problems associated with the spread of invasive species • Measures to further reduce human exposure to toxic substances • Enhancing air and water quality Finally, I’m pleased to report on an
important new initiative I funded in the recently enacted budget to assess the state’s wastewater infrastructure needs, including the nature and extent of the problem and ways to address it. The year ahead will be interesting both for the environmental challenges we face, and the opportunity to address them in creative and meaningful ways.
Robert Sweeney is a Democrat representing Suffolk County in the Assembly. He was recently named the new chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Vital Information About
Indian Point Energy Center Environmental Impact Comparison Greenhouse gas emissions from Indian Point — 0 Air pollution emitted by equivalent gas or oil turbine generation — 8.5 million tons per year
Cost Stability Comparison Production Cost of Nuclear Fuel 2004 — 1.77 cents per KWH 2005 — 1.72 cents per KWH Production Cost of Natural Gas 2004 — 6.01 cents per KWH 2005 — 7.51 cents per KWH (an increase of $1.50 per KWH)
Comparative Megawatt Output Average Day Indian Point Energy Center 2064 megawatts Hoover Dam Hydroelectric Plant 2064 megawatts Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Plant 1880 megawatts
Only a few energy sources offer zero greenhouse gas emissions and a reliable source of safe and secure power. Indian Point Energy Center is one of them. Add to that our predictable pricing, and you’ll understand why our baseline power is crucial to meeting our region’s need for affordable, dependable clean power. 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. Without it, there would be an increase in air pollution and an increase in the cost of electricity. The report also concludes that based on currently scheduled plant retirements and demand growth projections by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), 1,200 to 1,600 MW from new projects not yet under construction could be needed by 2010, and a total of 2,300 to 3,300 MW by 2015. Some of the region’s most important infrastructure systems, such as the MTA’s subways and suburban rail, the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Grand Central Station, the Port Authority, SUNY, CUNY, and the city’s public schools, police, fire departments, as well as government facilities in the city and the surrounding region, all count on clean, reliable electricity from Indian Point Energy Center. Indian Point Energy Center provides up to 38% of the electricity used by businesses, residences, and public facilities in New York City and throughout the lower Hudson Valley region.
To learn more visit rightfornewyork.com
Largest gas-fired plant in NY 1064 megawatts Largest coal-fired plant in NY 766 megawatts Largest wind farm in NY 300 megawatts Largest solar plant in US 200 megawatts
Direct Economic Impact
Safe. Secure. Vital.
Annual Payroll and Purchases $400,000,000
Indian Point Energy Center
State and Local Taxes Paid $50,000,000
APR I L 2007
ISSUE FORUM: ENVIRONMENT/GREENING OF NEW YORK
A New Chapter, a New Green Agenda BY COMMISSIONER ALEXANDER “PETE” GRANNIS GOVERNOR Spitzer’s nomination—now my confirmation by the State Senate—to serve as commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and look forward to carrying out the department’s mission to improve environmental quality, safeguard lives and property, and protect the state’s extraordinary natural resources. Given my environmental roots, I am thrilled to be returning to the agency where I began my public service career over 30 years ago. Although I am looking forward to the many challenges my new position presents, this is a bittersweet moment since I am leaving a job I have truly loved. Together with so many committed community leaders and my colleagues in the Legislature, I believe that we were able to make a real difference both on matters of statewide importance and matters large and small in the community.
AM DEEPLY HONORED BY
As I embark on this new chapter in my career, I am eager to continue to make a difference, albeit in another way. With a budget of over $1 billion and 3,500 employees, DEC is a vitally important agency with responsibility for programs and activities that touch the lives of almost all New Yorkers. My efforts to improve New York’s environment will be strongly enhanced by Governor Spitzer’s dedication and support
for environmental concerns. My first priority is to revitalize and reinvigorate the agency after years of devastating staff cuts by the previous administration. Fortunately, this year’s budget includes funding for 109 desperately needed positions in the department and I look to fill these with highly qualified professionals as quickly as possible. Beyond addressing staffing issues, my primary focus will be on what environmental activists have long warned is the greatest challenge facing future generations: global warming. I am delighted that this year’s budget provides funding for a new Office of Climate Change within DEC. We will be immediately called upon to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gases Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, with other initiatives to follow. I also intend to focus quickly on improving the effectiveness of our environmental remediation and enforcement programs, starting with those involving the many contaminated sites known as brownfields. There is a pressing need to
reform this program to ensure that it meets its objective of returning contaminated sites to productive uses that foster smart economic growth as quickly and responsibly as possible. While taking a proactive stance on global warming and streamlining the brownfield programs will take center stage on my watch, I intend to lead the department in addressing a wide range of other issues including sustainable development, environmental justice, and the preservation and enhanced enjoyment of New York’s vast array of natural resources. I fully share Governor Spitzer’s belief that New York has a significant role to play as a national leader on environmental issues, and that there has never been a more important time to seize opportunities for new, innovative approaches, sound policymaking and program implementation in many key areas.
Alexander “Pete” Grannis was recently confirmed as Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Growing Businesses and Jobs through the Greening of New York City BY COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES F. GENNARO “GREENING” OF NEW YORK is well underway. Almost daily, the media reports on another high-performance building going up, another company embracing targets for reducing global warming pollution, or another institution pursuing environmental sustainability through its purchasing practices. And not only is New York City making unprecedented progress in improving our environment, but the city is also increasingly seen as a national environmental leader. Many deserve credit for contributing to the “greening” of the city. However, I believe that the City Council, under the strong leadership of Speakers Peter Vallone Sr., Gifford Miller and, now, Christine Quinn, merits special recognition for its accomplishments. For example, just some of the Council’s many green initiatives—enacted into law over recent years in partnership with the Bloomberg Administration—are: • making city schools and workplaces healthier, energy and water-efficient, and more environmentally friendly through the city’s landmark “green buildings” law, which requires all major public construction and renovation projects to meet green standards; • saving energy, reducing waste, promoting recycling, and reducing toxins in our environment by ensuring that the city is buying the greenest, cleanest, and most
efficient electronics, lighting, paper, pesticides, and cleaning supplies available on the market; and • taking a big bite out of the Big Apple’s air pollution by transforming the city’s huge fleet of cars, school buses, sanitation trucks and other heavy duty vehicles into clean air vehicles, and turning our yellow cabs “green.” But this and other progress in “greening” New York City doesn’t just offer substantial improvements for the quality of our air and water, the health of our communities, and the sustainability of our city. It also offers—by bringing with it a burgeoning new demand for green products and services—an unparalleled opportunity to grow businesses and jobs in the city to supply this market. The recent explosion in the construction of high-performance (“green”) buildings in New York City illustrates this opportunity. The amount spent here on green construction between 2005 and 2007 is estimated to top $4 billion, accounting for 25 percent of all new construction costs in the city. And with the city’s new “green buildings” law, which is expected to result in over $12 billion in green municipal construction over the next 10 years, the sky’s the limit for the green building boom in New York City. Despite these and other tremendous opportunities, the New York City Investment Fund points out in an elegant new report that investment in New Yorkbased green businesses has not kept pace
with the nationwide investment in this sector. Hence, the city is at risk of becoming a place where these businesses come to raise money and sell their products, not where they create most of their jobs and pay most of their taxes. The remedy, according to the Fund, includes a slate of actions the city can take to support the development of local green business. I couldn’t agree more. The city has acted swiftly and boldly to better our environment, and we must act as swiftly and as boldly to provide the assistance that New York City-based companies need to seize the opportunities that the “greening” of the city is creating for them. That is why, last year, I spearheaded with Speaker Quinn’s support a new
Council initiative—the “New York City Green Manufacturing Initiative”—in the city budget. Through this initiative, and in partnership with the New York Industrial Retention Network and NYC Apollo/Urban Agenda, we are working to strengthen the “green” supply chain and create more “green collar” jobs for our city’s workforce. And I believe that New York City should look to do even more—such as marketing the city’s assets and opportunities to attract green businesses, linking developing companies with sources of capital, creating incentives to expand existing local producers of green products and services, and continuing to champion public policies that will grow green businesses in the city. The “greening” of our city is well underway, making our environment cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable. Now is the time to capitalize on this remarkable progress by taking full advantage of the major opportunity that this “greening” provides—dramatic economic development and job creation. For if we are successful, one day soon, New York City will not only be recognized as a national leader on the environment, but also as the national home to green business.
James Gennaro is a Democrat representing parts of Queens in the City Council. He is chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.
IMAMS SUING AMERICAN CITIZENS! A LAWSUIT THAT THREATENS OUR SECURITY On November 30, 2006, passengers aboard a Phoenix-bound USAirways flight reported suspicious activity by a group of Muslim Imams who attracted attention by praying loudly before boarding the plane, talking about Saddam Hussein and moving between seats. The Imams now want to sue the passengers who reported that the clerics were acting suspiciously.
Rep. Peter King has now taken action against this outrage by introducing legislation that has passed the House and now goes to the Senate to protect Americans.
REP. PETER KING
For Protecting New York City’s Security
As a result of this lawsuit, all of New York’s security can be put at risk by holding the threat of legal action over New Yorkers. This would have a chilling effect on any citizen who wanted to report a potentially threatening incident. Combating crime depends on the involvement of all of us. Eyes and ears on the street are important components of effective police work. Combating international terrorism deserves the same vigilance from ordinary folk. Congratulations to Rep. Peter King for having the courage to stand up to this threat.
“I think people should be free to go to law enforcement if they think there’s something wrong. You certainly should not feel that you cannot go and report something.”- 4/4/07 MAYOR MIKE BLOOMBERG “Rep. Peter King understood this threat and immediately went into action. He introduced an amendment which has passed the House that would give passengers immunity if they report suspicious activity in good faith. We urge the U.S. Senate to follow suit and we ask that the New York City Council introduce and pass a Resolution in support of the King amendment.” JOHN A. CATSIMATIDIS, Chairman/CEO, Red Apple Group/Gristedes
GRISTEDES Supports A Safe New York
APR I L 2007
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS
ELECTION FORECAST : 2009
The Calculating Clown Have you heard the one about the councilman from Brooklyn running for comptroller? BY JAMES CALDWELL MEMBER SIMCHA Felder’s (D-Brooklyn) emergence as City Hall’s undisputed comedic heavyweight could seem a dubious honor. His favorite joke, though, is short and sweet: “That I’m a councilman,” he admitted recently, sitting in his legislative office at 250 Broadway. The City Council was the last place this ne’er-do-well kid from Borough Park envisioned himself. By his own admission, Felder was a class clown from the start. “I tried my best to make as much trouble as I could,” he said. He did not take high school seriously and graduated, he said, “by God’s mercy and the mercy of the principal.” After squeaking through, Felder recalled, he “got serious.” He enrolled at Touro College and graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting. He worked as a certified public accountant in New York and Maryland, later going back to school to earn his MBA in Management. Felder worked for the city as a tax auditor for 10 years. He entered the political world as chief of staff to Assembly Member Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) in 1995, where he remained until beginning his own run for office in 2001. Were it not for Hikind, Felder would not be in the Council—and not just because of Hikind’s political mentorship,
Simcha Felder is known for making jokes, but he is “very serious” about his plans for 2009. his endorsement or fundraising support. Hikind traveled to Israel to convince a rabbi who advises Felder to allow his protégé to run. “The person that he respects said no and he was prepared not to run,” Hikind said of Felder. “That tells you a lot about a person’s character.” Felder proudly calls himself “a religious American,” but he has also been pragmatic in representing a district that is both religious and largely conservative. He does not believe in political parties. And he is an ardent supporter of Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and backed her campaign for Council speak-
er, despite the fact she is an open lesbian. Felder’s support for Quinn only went so far however. “For religious reasons, I could not vote for her,” Felder said. “But I did everything I could to help her.” “Maybe that seems contradictory,” he added, “but I don’t think it is.” Felder has also been a strong supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), and in 2005, flirted with the idea of taking a job in the Bloomberg administration. He ultimately declined however, and said the positions offered were not enough to coax him out of leaving his Council seat. Plus, he said, “What am I telling my
constituents? ‘Guess what? I just got a better job!’” Despite passing on a position with Bloomberg, the two remain close. Felder was part of the mayor’s delegation when he traveled to Israel in 2005. And in his State of the City Address in January, the mayor said he wanted to work with Felder on legislation to limit political contributions from those who do business with the city. As chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, Felder would introduce any legislation concerning the issue. While Bloomberg has called for a complete ban on such contributions, Felder has urged a more balanced approach to reform. “In reality, the issue of contributions is like the crook who is trying to get into your house,” Felder said. “At the end of the day, if the guy wants to get in, he’s getting in.” While reform is needed, too many regulations might end up discouraging candidates from running, he added. But they do not seem to be scaring him out of continuing his own political career. He was the first to get into the 2009 race for Brooklyn borough president, and last month, became the first to leave it. “With no insult to the job the current borough president is doing, I don’t find a lot of substance to the job,” Felder said. “Although, he does have a beautiful office.” Though he has yet to officially declare his current plans, he has strongly hinted at his intentions for 2009, when term limits will force him from his Council seat. “I’m interested in citywide office at this time, and with my accounting background I’ll let you guess which position that may be,” he said. “I don’t want to be the mayor—that I can tell you.” As he begins the strategizing for this run and completes his term in the Council, Felder said he will remain the unrepentant CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
Goodman Retools Battle for New U.N. Building
“A thoughtful and meticulously reported biography.” —The New York Times Book Review
SPOILING FOR A FIGHT
BY CHRISTOPHER MOORE
THE RISE OF ELIOT SPITZER
VEN THE SECRETARY GENERAL
by ANDREW SCHWARTZ
of the United Nations is impressed by how Roy Goodman just keeps going. Goodman, a longtime Republican state senator from Manhattan’s East Side who now serves as the president and CEO of the United Nations Development Corporation, held a Feb. 27 luncheon for Ban Ki-Moon at the 21 Club. Audience members were clearly moved to hear the secretary-general speak of how he is personally inspired to see Goodman, who sometimes uses a scooter to get around, will not let health-related challenges slow him down. Goodman, 77, said he was touched by that tribute. “It was very gracious for him to say,” Goodman said. Asked why and how he keeps going, Goodman said he takes his direction from an old saying: “If I rest, I rust.” Goodman is not doing either at the moment. After 33 years in the Senate, where he made a national name for himself as a moderate, pro-choice, pro-arts Republican, Goodman retired from the State Senate in 2002. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) appointed Goodman to serve at the development corporation, serving as a liaison between the city and the U.N. “My main effort is to build goodwill for the United Nations,” he said. “And that involves a variety of things. There’s no uniformity to it.” Sometimes it means throwing a party for the U.N. and its high-profile friends. The luncheon at the 21 Club drew a varied roster of familiar faces, including representatives of foreign governments, religious leaders, media bigwigs and former Gov. George Pataki (R) and former Mayor Ed Koch (D), Goodman’s general election opponent in the 1977 mayor’s race. A rabbi recounted the turmoil of having two of his friends run against each other, asking aloud what he was supposed to do. Koch knew. He shouted from the audience: “Vote for Koch!” The job is not all about lovely luncheons, but Goodman’s ability to bring people together in social settings is renowned. He continues to impress people with his stamina and level of commitment. “He comes to everything,” said Jennifer Saul Yaffa. She was recently appointed the new Manhattan Republican County Committee chair, filling a post Goodman once held himself.
APR I L 2007
u NEW IN PAPERBACK
“[A] detailed and searching account . . . The broad outlines of Spitzer’s battles . . . are well known, but Masters turns each into a short story, packed with moral tension and complexity.”
Roy Goodman wants to see a new, 37-story building for United Nations staffers rise along the East River. Just having Goodman at an event is a motivational tool, added the county committee’s current executive director, Marcus Cederqvist. “He’s a huge morale booster,” he said. Goodman arrived at the U.N. Corporation at a time when such a boost was needed. There was one serious, huge item on the to-do list. The institution was in desperate need of an office upgrade—and still is, according to Goodman. The corporation is campaigning for a bond-financed project to build both a new 37-story office tower and an esplanade and park along a portion of the edge of the East River. The state Legislature voted down the building plan in 2005. But Goodman was not discouraged. “We’re going to try it again this year,” he said. He has won high-profile support from Sen. Charles Schumer (D), who endorsed the plan last May, arguing that “a renovated U.N. and this tower for their campus will reaffirm New York as the world leader in culture, commerce and diplomacy and will allow us to continue capturing the specific benefits the U.N. generates.” As to how much of his time is spent pushing a plan to construct the new stateof-the-art building for United Nations staffers, Goodman said, “virtually all of it.” While some conservatives in his party question the need and effectiveness of the international organization, Goodman stands behind estimates that the U.N. and the global community bring the city up to $2.5 billion a year. Because construction means taking away an existing playground at First Avenue and 42nd Street, the Legislature gets final say. So Goodman will continue trying to convince his old friends in Albany, calling on the skills he used in winning 17 of his own elections. “You have to reeducate them every time you talk to somebody new,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org
BROOKE A. MASTERS
—Los Angeles Times Book Review “Compelling, suspenseful, and deeply reported . . . A dramatic inside account of the fight between Spitzer and the titans of finance.” —Newsday
“Impeccably researched, crisply written . . . [Masters] provides a riveting account of the highest of high-stakes lawyering by the whitest of white-shoe New York law firms . . . as they matched wits and writs with [Spitzer] and his overworked band of lieutenants.” —American Lawyer
“Rich with anecdotes.” —The Wall Street Journal AVA I L A B L E
W H E R E V E R
B O O K S
A R E
S O L D
An imprint of Henry Holt and Company
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APR I L 2007
Council Delegation Inadvertently Helps Broker Peace in Ireland Surprise request to carry message to Sinn Fein makes them a “footnote in history” BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE CATHOLICS AND Protestants signed a historic accord establishing a joint government in Northern Ireland last month, they had a little help from unexpected quarters: the government delegation led by Council Speaker Christine Quinn (DManhattan) and four other members of the City Council. Quinn went to the Emerald Isle to march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The organizers of New York’s parade have barred her from marching as an open lesbian, and so Quinn has refused to march down Fifth Avenue. She was joined by Inez Dickens (DManhattan), Helen Foster (D-Bronx), Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island) and Eric Gioia (D-Queens). Each took home separate lessons: to Dickens, the trip was a reinforcement of the childhood lessons her father, the late Assembly Member Lloyd Dickens (DManhattan), tried to impress upon her
about the parallels between the Irish conflict and the civil rights movement—even down to the anthems: “They used the same song, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ sung with an Irish brogue,” Dickens said. Gioia said he was left with a stronger sense of the influence Irish immigrants had on New York politics, and with a new point of comparison for New York’s growth-related problems after walking the streets of Dublin. “Public housing, poverty—it’s exactly the same, except they were Irish,” he said. But they did more on the trip than anyone had expected: the delegation was scheduled to meet with members of Sinn Fein, but had not set a meeting with Ian Paisley, the Protestant leader. That all changed with a phone call summoning them to the Irish Parliament house, Stormont, hours before they were to meet Sinn Fein. Paisley wanted to see them.
Paisely “told us that he not only thought and hoped that they would reach an accord in the coming days,” Gioia said, but then looked at the group and said, “‘I’d like you to tell them that.’”
Martin McGuinness and his compatriots believed at first that they were carrying a message from Paisley, or that they had gotten it right when they convened in a restaurant miles away that afternoon. “I think at first they thought we were kidding a little bit,” admitted Gioia. This seems to mark the first time in Council junket history that peace negotiations have been on the agenda. But with Council members so fond of making trips to Israel, the Council members may have inadvertently discovered a new talent. Less than a week after the delegation’s busy day, Paisley and Adams inked an agreement which will create a joint administration for Northern Ireland with Paisley as first minister and McGuinness as his deputy. Gioia said he is happy to be a “footnote in history,” adding that the experience of messenger diplomacy is one which will stay with him. “It’s one of those moments,” he said, “where you find yourself in a room and it’s hard to believe that you’re doing this job.” email@example.com
“I think at first they thought we were kidding a little bit,” admitted Council Member Eric Gioia.
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Paisely and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had grown accustomed to using intermediaries: to some extent or another, they had negotiated for four decades, but never face to face. So as the local and international press expressed increasing pessimism about the fate of the accords, reassuring each other of their commitment proved increasingly difficult. Paisley “wanted to get a message to Sinn Fein, and we just happened to be the guys to do it,” Gioia said. No one will ever know what might have happened in the Irish peace process had the New York City Council not put a meeting with Sinn Fein on its public schedule. Not that Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator
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Truman Tributes The Harry S. Truman Award From The American Association of Community Colleges
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Co-Recipient with Gov. Jeb Bush April 14, 2007
Truman Scholar March 27, 2007
“For a major, positive impact on community colleges.”
Macaulay Honors College Hunter College/CUNY 2008
Triple Crown CUNY Students Also Won Truman Scholarships in 2005 & 2006. This Year Five CUNY Students Were Truman Finalists – The Highest Number in the Nation.
Truman Scholar 2006 Macaulay Honors College Brooklyn College/CUNY 2007
Truman Scholar 2005 Macaulay Honors College City College/CUNY 2006 Harvard Law School 2009
Congratulations from Board of Trustees Chair Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. and Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
The City University of New York WWW.CUNY.EDU • 1-800-CUNY YES • CUNY TV CH. 75
APR I L 2007
The Penner Behind the Pen BY ANDREW HAWKINS
LARRY PENNER, LETTER writing is a fine art. And he should know: Penner has had hundreds of letters published, practically in every New York newspaper, as well as many other publications outside the city. The website Gawker calls him “one of the most prolific practitioners of the lost art of the letter to the editor.” He is keeping track of his own success as well. “I put a dollar in the kitty every time I have a letter published,” he said. “If it’s a first time letter, it’s five dollars. The kitty last year had $220 in it.” He spans a variety of topics. Mostly, though, he writes about local politics, with an eye for detail uncommon in the letters to the editor section. Penner, 53, is the consummate armchair commentator, the amateur wonk from Great Neck. But in person he is a private man, hesitant to give out details about his occupaO
tion or background. Penner regularly skewers elected officials in his letters, but shuns the spotlight himself, preferring to let his words speak for themselves. He will not say where he works, or what his profession is, even in general terms. He said he has turned down repeated requests for interviews from several newspapers. But that does not stop him from speaking his mind. “I definitely have opinions, like most people do,” he said, stroking his neat, white beard. “The difference is I’m willing to act on my opinions and share my thoughts.” Like a true New Yorker, he can corner a conversation with a clear hunger for debate. When he uses phrases like “I would also point out to you,” his voice echoes with the sounds of his letters. A native Brooklynite and graduate of Long Island University, he moved to Long Island in the 1980s, where he wryly aligns himself with “poorer residents” who mow their own lawns.
Larry Penner gets more of his thoughts in print than most columnists or elected officials. Penner’s letters have appeared in the Village Voice, the New York Press, the New York Times, BusinessWeek, am New York, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Times, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Queens community papers, most Brooklyn community papers, as well as City Hall and many of its sister publications like Our Town and West Side Spirit.
Penner has three rules for ensuring publication of a letter. First, the piece has to be timely. Second, he must be offering a divergent opinion. (“They’re not interested in regurgitation,” he explained.) And third, the letter must be concise. Penner admits to regularly violating the last rule. One of his top grievances is what he calls “sports pork”: taxpayer dollars used CONTINUED ON PAGE 23
New York’s most prolific letter writer steps forward
APR I L 2007
Spending His Own Dollars, Making Sense Should Washington get a taste of benign, rich guy government? ere it not for term limits, Mike from governor to president. Some of the look like. To win Republican conservaBloomberg could, of course, political people in his orbit have been tive votes, Giuliani is going to have to running this stuff up the flagpole and agree with them on something. We know keep on being mayor. that he is pro-choice and has been pretty counting the saluters. But the city has term We may have a choice between progressive on gay issues. He’s tough on limits and the voters the first female president, the first crime, which is why New Yorkers really like them. After all, Jewish president or the first three like him. The problem is the war: Giuliani when there were times married Catholic president. is going to have to be a hawk on Iraq. In rumors that Rudy Just think about it. It’s positively this next election, that is not a good place Giuliani wanted to to be. mind-boggling. do away with term Hillary’s problem is that many people Bloomberg, as is his cuslimits, there was a BY ALAN tom, could finance his own don’t like her and they think—not comhuge hue and cry CHARTOCK campaign as he did when he pletely incorrectly—that she will do just against the move, despite ran for mayor and he would be beholden about anything to win. She is surrounded the fact that the people like Rudy. In a way, it’s a real shame. Bloomberg to no one. When Ralph “the Ego-Mouth” by so many professional types, like takehas proven himself to be a genius. When Nader runs, there is no question whom no-prisoners Howard Wolfson, that he was elected, no one knew what to make he pulls votes from. But if Mayor Mike though she puts out at least one press release a day, people just don’t know of him. But using the same skills that made runs, there is a question. what she’s really like. him a communication bilBut because he rides the sublionaire, he has acted in a We may have a choice between way, they think they know Mayor largely sensible, down to earth way that defies the way the first female president, the Mike. The people are sick and of the old-style politicians. first Jewish president or the first tired of the inside politics, and is why they elected Mayor He does what he thinks is three times married Catholic that Mike. Before this is all over, right, he rides the subway, he president. Just think about it. It’s Bloomberg will probably find doesn’t act like an old style positively mind-boggling. another ex-business type who political bum and the people has made more money than he think his major concern is can spend in a lifetime to take doing good things for them Giuliani is under a cloud. The his place. and not for the inside political crowd that So there is a new model in politics. Republicans are becoming increasingly has always held the power in Gotham. But now Mayor Mike’s time is coming tired of a vitriolic, right wing president Benign, rich guy government. On paper it to a close. He says philanthropy is going who is spending us out of house and doesn’t really pass the democratic test, to be his major concern in the future, but home. He got us into a war no one likes but it does seem to be working in New there have been persistent rumors that and which we cannot win because we York. The people respect their mayor. have had him running for everything don’t even know what winning would And if he thinks that he can win the
Felder CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8
class clown—if only because the joking helps him get things done. Behind the loud impersonations (including one of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum banging her gavel in an attempt to bring meetings to order) and witty asides is a man very serious about making changes. Currently, he is working on causes as varied as getting caffeine information included with nutritional information on food labels and changing the regulations for ticketing by the Sanitation Department. He is also on a continuing campaign to restructure stated meetings of the City Council. “If the people of New York City knew how a meeting goes on in the City Council they would flip out of their minds,” he said. One of the greatest changes was getting meetings to start with the pledge of allegiance. When he met resistance at first, he just stood up and began reciting. “[Gifford Miller] said, ‘I’m warning you, you’re not pledging allegiance.’ That
was the wrong thing to say,” he recalled. “Right after the invocation, I banged on my desk, got up and pushed the button, and I started. They started screaming. Robert Jackson, who I like, and Barron were yelling, ‘Stop him!’ It was like I had a machine gun. But I stood there, and I finished it.” The Council adopted the practice of reciting the pledge shortly after. “It didn’t happen right away because they had to punish me. But two or three months later, they started pledging. It’s symbolic, but I think it’s the right thing. I think the humor helps me in a situation like that,” Felder said. The Council now recites the pledge, but not all of Felder’s colleagues have accepted the change. “It shouldn’t be forced upon people,” said Council Member Charles Barron (DBrooklyn). “To want some of us who have been victims of the red, white and blue to pledge to it is absurd.” Barron generally sits while the pledge is recited. This disagreement and many others notwithstanding, Barron said he and
Felder have respect for each another. “I couldn’t disagree with him more on certain things, but we have a great relationship in that we’re straight up with each other,” he said. “I don’t have to guess where Simcha’s coming from.” But Felder said his approach some-
Mayor Michael Bloomberg. White House, my bet is that he will take a stab at it.
For more on Albany, it’s WAMC.org. Alan Chartock is the president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and the executive publisher and project director of The Legislative Gazette. done surprise and impress his colleagues, said Council Member Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), who also sits on the Governmental Operations Committee. “Because he jokes around so much, when he actually is serious, people take him seriously because they aren’t used to
“I’m interested in citywide office at this time, and with my accounting background I’ll let you guess which position that may be,” said City Council Member Simcha Felder. “I don’t want to be the mayor—that I can tell you.” times makes his intentions less clear. “They look at me sometimes and say, ‘Is this a joke?’” he said. “And I say, ‘No, no! This is serious stuff!’” He walks the balance very carefully. “I think humor is a very powerful tool,” he said. “But you have to use it in a constructive manner, and that’s not easy.” That can make his ability to get things
seeing him that way,” Dilan said. Despite the added effectiveness, Felder worries about being type-cast. “The humor does have a problem, because if you’re the clown in the class, you’re the clown in the class,” he said. “But if the clown gets serious, it’s very, very serious.” firstname.lastname@example.org
APR I L 2007
The Assembly’s Unlikely Farm Team City-based legislators navigate their way through Agriculture Committee BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK uesday mornings in Albany during the legislative session are likely to find Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal (D) focusing on issues like maple syrup production, the dairy industry and upstate apple crops. That is because Rosenthal, who represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is one of four city legislators who serve on the Agriculture Committee, though her district has not been considered rural in over a century. While on the face of it, New York City and agriculture are two words usually not in the same sentence, committee members say their work impacts the city: food safety, animal safety, kosher food laws, and weights and measures all come before them first. “There is a tradition of New York City members serving on the committee,” Rosenthal said, noting that her predecessor, Scott Stringer (D), once served on the committee. Rosenthal and other New York City legislators on the committee said they did not request the assignment, but were asked to serve by the Assembly’s Democratic leadership. Though committee chair William Magee (DMadison) is a farmer, with the bulk of the caucus hailing from the Big Apple and other urban centers around the state, filling out the committee with some urban legislators becomes a necessity of numbers.
Margaret Markey, Michael Benedetto and Linda Rosenthal are among the Assembly Democrats assigned to the Agriculture Committee, sorting through farm bills that do not much impact their very urban constituents.
On the federal level, assignments like these do not tend to last long: back in 1968, House leaders put newly elected Brooklyn Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D) on the Agriculture Committee. She challenged her assignment on the House floor, successfully winning a change to the Veterans Affairs Committee. But in Albany, Magee said the city legislators have brought a unique impact to the committee through issues such as farmers markets and kosher laws and have different perspectives from rural legislators on
issues like dog chaining, animal control and horse slaughtering. Rosenthal said being on the Agriculture Committee has been a learning experience. She has come up to speed on such issues as dairy farming, milk prices, maple syrup, the rural economy and the decline of the family farm. She said she is trying to bring this new knowledge into her own district to promote organic produce and the state’s maple industry. She said she is trying to educate school children on healthy eating and wants to bring upstate farmers into city schools to speak. Assembly Member Margaret Markey (D-Queens) is on the committee, as is Assembly Member Michael CONTINUED ON PAGE 15
Family Court Continues Struggle with Caseload BY ANDREW HAWKINS NDERSTAFFED AND OVERWHELMED, New York family courts need more judges to handle a recent spike in caseloads, according to the state’s top judge and several city officials. “We are desperately short of judicial resources,” said New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye in her February State of the Judiciary speech. “Aside from the pressures and demands of the stressful cases brought to Family Court, the volume of filings continues to soar.” Though three State Supreme Court justices had been assigned on an emergency basis to the city’s family courts, bringing the total number of judges to 49, those justices have since returned to their benches. After seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown died from abuse in January 2006, the Administration for Children’s Services reported a 30 percent increase in filings in juvenile abuse and neglect cases. At the same time, a new permanency law went into effect that required two annual court hearings, rather than one, for every child in foster care. In one year, caseloads per family court judge rose 80 percent, from about 1,400 cases per judge in 2005 to about 2,500 in 2006.
Farms CONTINUED FROM PAGE 14
Benedetto (D-Bronx). In his three years assigned to work on Agriculture, Benedetto has been taking study trips to farms in upstate’s Southern Tier, to learn more about agricultural issues. During one trip, he said he spent a day with a dairy farmer to learn more about the industry and the work going into milk production. While Benedetto said he has been educating himself on rural issues, he said he and other city-based legislators have been able to educate their upstate colleagues on several Agriculture Committee issues during meetings. “Through the agriculture committee, many issues come through,” Benedetto said, pointing to laws regarding kosher foods and poultry markets. “These bills will come through the committee, and it is the New York City people telling the committee the impact of the law.” State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) briefly served on her chamber’s Agriculture Committee when she was first elected in 2002. She recalled that the committee’s then chair, Nancy Larraine Hoffmann (R-Madison), did not allow Krueger to ask questions on legis-
APR I L 2007
Former Manhattan Borough Presidents Rack Up Awards
Supporters are seeking a 50 percent increase in judges statewide, which would mean at least 15 more judges for the city courts. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum (D) has joined City Council Members Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn) and Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island) in calling on the state Legislature to allow for the hiring of more judges. “We can’t expect the courts to move these cases along without the appropriate resources,” said Karen Freedman, executive director of Lawyers for Children. “Right now, kids are getting lost in the system.” “Judges can spend only about five minutes on each case because of time constraints,” said a McMahon spokeswoman. McMahon introduced legislation in March that would encourage the state Legislature to hire more judges. In response to Brown’s death, ACS hired more caseworkers and started to remove more children from abusive homes. But without enough judges to give each case a fair hearing, most children are left to languish in foster care, Freedman said. “The hearings are critical in determining whether these children can ultimately go home,” she said. email@example.com
uring a Women’s History Month event recognizing her efforts as head of the American Jewish World Service in bringing attention to human rights violations in the Darfur region of Sudan, Ruth Messinger (D) was honored by the man who currently holds the office where she spent two terms, Scott Stringer (D). Meanwhile, in Washington March 29, Percy Sutton (D) received a Congressional Medal of Honor along with 300 fellow Tuskegee Airmen—including a cousin of Council Member Kendall Stewart (DBrooklyn)—during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in recognition of the African-American unit’s service in World War II. —NP firstname.lastname@example.org
With Only Three Farms, City Crafts Albany Agriculture Agenda hree working farms dot the city landscape, along with various community gardens, farmers markets, greenhouses and agriculture advocacy programs. Two are on Staten Island, one operated by the Staten Island Historical Society and the other located in the state park on the island’s South Shore. Another is in eastern Queens. There are also several small scale farm projects in parts of Brooklyn. Despite the low numbers, city legislators are working on advancing a New York City agriculture agenda in Albany. John Bowne High School in Flushing contains an agriculture development program which includes
lation during a meeting, saying committee meetings were primarily to eat various state grown foods which had been delivered. Tastings remain on the agenda for Assembly Agriculture Committee meetings, said Rosenthal, who added that
a greenhouse, barn, nursery and apple orchards. Students are required to work on the school’s farm space during the summer and staff the school’s farmers market. Also, a program administered by the Council on the Environment and Cornell Cooperative Extension has been training city immigrants in farming and helping them establish farm businesses both in the city and outside the city. State Sen. Liz Krueger (DManhattan), who worked in food and nutrition non-profits before becoming a senator, said she has been active in promoting a link to bring New York produce into city schools for breakfast and lunch programs, as well as pushing for greater food safety regulations.
some of the various cakes, jams, wines and syrups which come before the committee are products of Magee’s family farm. But she said those sessions come at evening, rather than morning sessions. “They provide us with a taste of the things we work on,” she said.
She said the city’s agriculture agenda includes several planks in the areas of food and animal safety and green markets, but the biggest project is one to link upstate farmers with city schools. Krueger said the program is designed to bring in produce grown throughout upstate to the city schools for breakfast and lunch programs, which she believes will help the struggling upstate economy by giving farmers a large built-in customer base while providing healthy produce to children. “If the schools are going to buy a million apples,” she said, “let’s figure out how to buy New York State apples.” —John R.D. Celock
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APR I L 2007
The Organizer grew adept at lobbying city officials, whether this meant cornering them in hallways or protesting outside their homes. Then she was on the outside. Now, within her office just off the lobby of City Hall, she is very much on the inside. But, she said, she has always stayed true to her roots. “I have always thought and will always think of myself as a political organizer. And a political organizer’s job is to accomplish whatever the campaign is, to move the agenda forward,” she said. “It’s the perfect experience for this job, because this job is to be an organizer, to organize my colleagues, to organize this institution, to organize New Yorkers.” Quinn has organized and reorganized the Council in the past 15 months, from shuffling the chamber’s seating arrangement to putting an electronic lock on the gate in front of the Council’s inner sanctum in an effort to prevent lobbyists from wandering around unchecked. She has won fans locally and nationwide, perhaps most notably Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R). She has been called a role model for women and a hero of the LGBT community. And she is regularly being called a serious contender for the 2009 mayor’s race, with former Mayor Ed Koch (D) and what can seem like every political consultant in the city singing her praises. She hired a fundraiser in January, and political events, on which she put an effective moratorium during her initial months as speaker, have slowly begun reappearing on her schedule. Like any skilled politician, she says she is focused on her current job. “You’ve got to plan, be ready for opportunities that open up,” she said. “But really, I’m spending the vast majority of my time and more doing this job and trying to do it well, and to hopefully do it better than I did it the first 12 months.” But also like any skilled politician, she seems to have a specific opportunity in mind. And a plan s speaker, Quinn has a different take on her office than either of her predecessors. After the charter revisions which took effect in 1993, Peter Vallone, Sr. (D-Queens) needed to establish the office and the whole Council as an equal branch of government, a task which proved daunting with Rudolph Giuliani (R) as mayor. Gifford Miller (DManhattan) came into office in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and faced a difficult struggle to get the city up on its feet. Plus, Miller was the only Council leader in recent history to run against the mayor he served alongside, and they
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sparred throughout Bloomberg’s first term. Budget negotiations were scathing. Disputes over legislation were common, and intense.
but is term-limited and has to date dismissed any discussion of further political plans. That gives her more freedom to collaborate with the mayor. While the race for speaker was going on, Bloomberg’s preference for Quinn was an open secret. Once she won, he welcomed her with open arms. Together with the mayor, the Council has enacted strict reforms on lobbyists— so strict, say some lobbyists, that they
Housing, health, safety, education. If she does run to succeed Bloomberg, the slogans could almost write themselves. Quinn arrived in economic boom times, paired with a mayor who not only will never be her opponent in an election,
feel now like pariahs, effectively exiled to the steps outside. She has joined with him in an ongoing effort to enhance campaign finance reform provisions. She has scheduled budget meetings throughout the year, both to assess current budgeting and plan for the future, and she has made the process as a whole more public, forcing members to attach their names to requests. That has left good government groups giddy. “She’s done a better job than I thought she might be able to do. It’s not that I didn’t think she could do it, but rather that the various interests at play would keep
CITY HALL her from doing it,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “She clearly presented herself as a consensus builder with a commitment to being a reformer, and established a very strong record on both of those accounts.” As she weighs her future, doing what appeals to a city electorate increasingly accustomed to the emphasis on clean government will help. That it puts her on the right side of a wildly popular mayor likely will, too. The open, reformer image is the one Quinn likes to promote, though it is not the one which some of her members say they see. To become speaker, Quinn had to make deals with individual members and the county leaders, each of whom largely controlled the bloc of votes from his borough. Critics say that because she is still making good on these, Quinn is largely controlled by the various power players. But living up to compromises made en route to positions of power is nothing strange in politics. Nor is strategizing in the service of future ambitions, as critics charge she is doing with the Council, using the whole body as a political force for her own benefit. Quinn will be one of 35 members of the City Council forced out by term limits at the end of 2009. Most are plotting runs for comptroller, public advocate and the various borough presidents and district attorneys, or for spots in the state Legislature or Congress in 2008. They are, not surprisingly, increasingly concerned with their individual interests, and may look to the term-limited mayor, rather than the speaker, to get things done. As for how Quinn is balancing these competing interests, some Council members spoke openly. Some, fearing retribution for saying things which contrast with Quinn’s preferred version of her leadership style, were granted anonymity to be more frank about the inner workings of the Council. But Council Member Tony Avella (DQueens) had no reservations in dis-
APR I L 2007
Bloomberg with a Bob? Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) have worked well together, and speak warmly of each other. She says he will likely be remembered as one of the city’s greatest mayors; he calls her “one of the leaders here in trying to make this city one we can be proud of, and a city that will have a great future,” using the glowing language which has become typical of his comments about her. The secret to a successful event, Bloomberg wrote in his autobiography, is not providing enough space. Quinn seems to have taken that to heart. To present the Council’s budget response, she packed Council members, staffers, reporters and good government group representatives into a little room on the third floor of the Chatham Square public library for a half-hour PowerPoint presentation. Light on her feet and at ease with the data behind the slides, she delivered a rehearsed, though loose speech. Data-driven, digestible and intensely detailed, the presentation could easily be mistaken for one of Bloomberg’s. There are significant differences between the substance of Bloomberg’s executive budget and Quinn’s response. Quinn wants to add several new costly programs Gracie Mansion, his independence would have put him with odds with Quinn. “There’s a clear message that has been sent: if you go along with the leadership and you don’t make waves, you’ll have favorable legislation passed and you’ll do well in the budget process,” he said, referring to members’ ability to win grants of city money for projects in their districts. “The opposite message is also being sent.” Bills of members on the outs with the
and comb through some existing ones for places the budget can be trimmed. Not that she imagines any of this will create many problems for Bloomberg. “I don’t expect there to be conflicts,” she said. “I expect there to be focused negotiations.” members, to give members the same type of access.” Some Council members expressed confusion about the actual purpose of these meetings. But to others, the caucuses are a laudable hallmark of her leadership style. There is increased communication and coordination between the speaker’s office and the committee chairs, who no longer function as independently as they once did. In a departure from the past,
Quinn still voices shock that this is a topic of conversation. “It seems odd that it’s noteworthy, that two people that are charged with making government work, that when they’re doing that, that deserves comment,” she said. —EIRD email@example.com
praising what Quinn’s attention to detail has done to the workings of the Council. Oddo said that when Quinn chaired the Health Committee, she had a reputation for being the most prepared, the most focused on specifics and particulars of every line of every bill. Others say that her staff suffers from this intensity. Stories of her tendency to finish aides’ sentences are just the tip of the iceberg, some Council members say. They suggest Quinn’s determination to get other Council members to follow her lead causes what have sometimes been very tense relations between her staff and those working for other Council members. When the speaker does meet personally with committee chairs, one Council member explained, she tends to do so at a later stage than her predecessors did. Several chairs said political motivations sometimes seem to be at play. By taking such an active role, Quinn can both dictate precisely what the Council does and ensure that she gets at least part of the credit for everything any individual Council member accomplishes. This gets some of his colleagues grumbling. But Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens) said that while Quinn has been forceful about propelling bills through his Public Safety Committee, he has largely been
“She’s done a better job than I thought she might be able to do. It’s not that I didn’t think she could do it, but rather that the various interests at play would keep her from doing it.” — Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. cussing what he sees as a massive spike in politicking since the new session of the Council began last January. “Things are getting worse,” he said. “The way the Council is operating, there is less independence of thought, less freedom of action and more politics.” Avella has already declared his own interest in running for mayor, and knows that his criticisms of a woman expected to be his opponent in that race will be taken with a grain of salt. He insists that even had he not declared his interest in
speaker have been replaced with similar bills sponsored by other members which move forward. No bill goes on the agenda without the approval of the speaker, usually the result of an intense vetting process by members of Quinn’s staff. If problematic passages are not removed, the bills are stalled. Many Council members seem to disagree with Avella, citing Quinn’s emphasis on the twice-monthly Democratic caucus meetings which she says are meant “to equalize the playing field for
more power and control now rests with the central staff. These people, rather than the speaker herself, often deliver ultimatums to the chairs about which items will be added to their agendas, which will be reworked and which stricken entirely. “She is very much a micromanager,” said James Oddo (Staten Island), the Council’s Republican leader and a man who has worked with Quinn since they both first arrived as staffers in the early 1990s. He said this as a compliment,
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The Organizer CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17
able to integrate these into his agenda. Importantly, Vallone added, when resulting legislation has gotten attention, Quinn has “gone out of her way to share credit.” And Quinn has kept the focus narrow: public safety, education and health were the themes of most major legislation the Council passed during her first year as speaker. Already in her second, the former housing activist has set her sights on the real estate market. Her budget response was built around four proposals: allocating capital funds for rehabilitating existing affordable housing, providing funds to help middle-income families pay closing costs on new homes, creating a program to educate New Yorkers about mortgages in the hopes of preventing foreclosures, and a $300 credit to renters. Not surprisingly, there are complaints about Quinn’s determination to keep all 51 of her members—or at least the 48 Democrats—on message. Housing, health, safety, education. If she does run to succeed Bloomberg, the slogans could almost write themselves. People with other agendas are quickly and efficiently squeezed, their budget items threatened, their relationship with the speaker put on the line, said one Council member, and most cave quickly. Those who do not are put out in the wilderness—and Quinn has a reputation for carrying long grudges. When there are disagreements, Quinn said, she deals with people immediately and equally. “I will always call people and tell them what I’m going to do before they get a call from reporters,” she said. “I think that’s an appropriate courtesy for people to demonstrate with each other.” Many Council members rave about her accessibility, saying they can see her whenever and for however long they like. Others, who know they are on the outs with Quinn, say that face-to-face meetings could come only after much pleading and would need to concern something of dire consequence. Others say they do not get in at all. One Council member, who claimed almost a year had passed since speaking to Quinn directly, said, “You don’t cross her in any way, shape or form,” and laughed when read her statement about
APR I L 2007
Still Steering Clear of Term Limits hristine Quinn has made good on most of the public promises she made before becoming speaker. But one item noticeably absent from the agenda is an effort to reform term limits, which she and most members had said they were very eager to do. Quinn commissioned a poll last summer to feel out how New Yorkers might respond to extending term limits, or eliminating them altogether. Though the full results were kept private, the response was apparently strong enough against the idea of
calling people directly. When he was read Quinn’s statement about calling people, Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) smiled and said, “I don’t know that that is necessarily the case.” Monserrate feels this is representative of the greater change.
changing the law to keep Quinn from putting forward any bill on the topic. Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said he hopes the Council restarts the discussion. “The city does really need to have a full-blown discussion, and I think that the Council could lead us in that and should lead us in that,” he said, while stressing that the Council simply voting through an extension without input “invites a response from the public which would be justified.” Were term limits extended, Brooklyn) had trouble for a year after backing fellow Brooklyn Democrat Bill de Blasio in the speaker’s race. All now seems forgiven. Quinn recently named James the new chair of the Contracts Committee, and James was eager to shower Quinn with praise for creating a
“There’s a clear message that has been sent: if you go along with the leadership and you don’t make waves, you’ll have favorable legislation passed and you’ll do well in the budget process.” —City Council Member Tony Avella. “The Council is not as free and open as it was before,” he said. “We should all be working towards an environment where members feel they can have real opportunities to bring diverse opinions.” Though he characterized this as the “general atmosphere” around City Hall, when asked if he felt that this was emanating from Quinn, Monserrate held out his hands, indicating, “Who else?” Quinn acknowledges that there have been problems. Even with all the openness, “does that mean each one of my colleagues is happy all the time with the things that we’ve done? No,” she said. “But we’ve tried I think to make the place more open and more democratic. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect. We’re going to try and make it even better.” She has overcome some past disagreements. Council Member Letitia James (D-
Council which she called “much more responsive, much more empowering.” uinn says she is not comfortable in the spotlight. “I don’t know why one would be,” she said. On the contrary, she says she sometimes forgets her significance to New Yorkers, though the letters which pour into her office remind her. Just a few weeks ago, a lesbian auxiliary police officer wrote to tell Quinn of the pride of seeing another open lesbian standing next to the mayor after the March auxiliary police shootings in the West Village. Speaking of the note, the speaker chokes up, and pauses momentarily before recounting the rest of the story. People remain skeptical of whether voters will see being speaker as adequate
Quinn would be able to get a few more years of seasoning before making a run for citywide office, which some political analysts believe would help her down the line. She is not discussing any preference, though, or what impact the issue might have on her politically. “The reality is term limits are on the books,” she said. “Whether or not we change that is a decision I’m going to make with my colleagues together.” —EIRD firstname.lastname@example.org
preparation for being mayor, but Quinn will likely appeal to New Yorkers like the officer if she runs. Add them into a base of support as a woman and as a member of the LGBT community, and she will have a strong base. In the meantime, she will have to keep whipping the ever-less-willing Council members into shape. Now she has leverage on them, with her budget authority the most effective tool to whip them into line. They, of course, have power over her, too: no matter how many trips she makes beyond her home district, if she runs citywide, they are the ones who would best be able to rally what could prove crucial support from their communities in a crowded primary field. But the clock is ticking. The 2007 budget process is already underway, and there are two more to go. Many Council members already feel forced to focus more on their own political futures than on obtaining small grants for their districts. With each passing month, Quinn and her members will have less and less to hold over each other’s heads. And if term limits remain in place, expect June 30, 2009 to be the last day to find anyone in the chamber, said veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “Once that budget is done, no one will know there’s a City Council,” he said. “They will be on the road in all the boroughs doing politics.” The tension between governing and politics will intensify almost daily as Election Day 2009 draws closer. Soon enough, Sheinkopf said, politics will win. To Sheinkopf, the message will be simple: “Every person for himself.” email@example.com
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Traditional Politics With a Union Twist Strike and stalled contract negotiations motivate Toussaint opposition
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APR I L 2007
Gang of One tiple standing ovations kicked off the event. The congressman was then swiftly pulled into the side room where Dinkins was waiting for him. His eyes widened. A few moments later, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton (D) arrived with Basil Paterson (D), the former state senator, deputy mayor and secretary of state. The little room quickly erupted with backslapping and laughter. The gang was all there. Rangel, the youngest member of the famous Gang of Four, is the only one who has been officially involved in politics for more than a decade now, since Dinkins lost the 1993 mayor’s race. If not for his perseverance in office, these once dominant figures of the city’s political landscape might have completely faded into the residual bravura of their historic achievements. But they remain major movers and shakers. Nonetheless, Rangel still speaks of himself as part of the Gang. He said their reception at Barnes & Noble confirmed that impression to him. “It really showed me that in a way that I was not thinking that we are an institution,” Rangel said of the multiple standing ovations the gang garnered. “They applauded not me, but us.” When asked if one member of the group has served as a cornerstone, Dinkins quickly motions to Rangel. Then, with a reverential look on his face, he pauses, pivots his answer and says, “each of us stands on the shoulders of Percy Sutton.” These days, though, Rangel is the only one of the Gang left standing. Sutton, who had to be helped on and off the stage that night at Barnes & Noble, has not run for office since losing the 1977 mayor’s race. He may be a revered civil rights leader and successful founder of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which was the first to bring cable television to Africa and many inner cities throughout America, but he has not had a political office for 30 years. Paterson has not held office for 24 years, now working as a private practice attorney. (Joseph Suozzi, the former Democratic mayor of Glen Cove and father of Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D), is another partner at the firm.) Until recently, Dinkins seemed to be the Gang member who would go down in
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The Gang of Four made a rare joint appearance at an April 4 book signing for Charles Rangel’s new book, “And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since.” From left to right stand Rangel, Paterson, Sutton and Dinkins. the history books as getting the farthest in politics, with his 1989 election as mayor. But after losing his 1993 rematch with Republican Rudolph Giuliani, he too largely disappeared from the scene, accepting a professorship at Columbia University in 1994 and retiring into private life. Rangel, whose ascent was the slowest, has proven to have the most staying power. And in the House of Representatives, that alone can lead to power. After 26 years in Washington, he
That is the kind of power which got him invited to a closed meeting of the presidents and CEOs of what Rangel called the 10 largest multi-national corporations in the world, eager to appeal to him. The meeting was so exclusive that he was asked to arrive without any handlers, no assistants, nobody. Still, looking for someone he could trust as an adviser, he brought along Dinkins. Rangel is the one who has become the national figure, the fixture of the talking heads shows, the one with the recogniza-
Politically, he has also established the widest reach of any of the Gang. A friend of the Clintons, he is credited with first proposing to Hillary Clinton that she move to New York to run for Senate, and rallied support for the Clintons’ presumed favorite 2004 presidential candidate, Wesley Clark. Despite all eyes on Rangel, political consultant Bill Lynch—a former deputy mayor for Dinkins—said that anyone looking for political support within the local black community still makes the rounds to all four. Many of the choices the Gang has made as a whole recently seem to bear evidence of Rangel’s guiding influence, as with their backing of Inez Dickens for City Council in 2005. She has known all the Gang members for decades. Dickens is the daughter of Lloyd Dickens, the late Assembly member who was Rangel’s first political opponent, in a 1963 race for district leader. (Rangel lost that race, but today holds the post. Dickens is his female counterpart.) Nonetheless, the apex of the group’s power may have been getting Dinkins elected mayor all those years back.
When asked if one member of the group has served as a cornerstone, Dinkins quickly motions to Rangel. Then, with a reverential look on his face, he pauses, pivots his answer and says, “each of us stands on the shoulders of Percy Sutton.” became chair of the House Ways & Means Committee with the new session of Congress, making him the most powerful African-American legislator in American history, and a deciding force when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, foreign trade and taxes—or as he is fond of putting it, “the money.”
ble face on the new book, the one who impacts the lives of people across the country. The rest of the Gang may have overshadowed him for most of his career, but at 76, he is the only one who transcended local politics and achieved the status to which they all seem to have once aspired.
Gang Busters New African-American leaders step forward here may never be another Gang of Four. But political history will, of course, continue. “I think a lot of people feel they want to be anointed by them,” said political consultant Bill Lynch. “But I found now that I’m damn near as old as they are, by being around them,
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“Gang” could come about was if the media slapped the name on a group, satisfying a public appetite. But if that does happen, he thinks, the members will come from far beyond Harlem. Perkins left the door open for a new Gang to form in the future. “There is a lot of uneasiness
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Lt. Gov. David Paterson and Rep. Gregory Meeks. I’m learning from them.” In the wake of the Gang, or perhaps on their shoulders—as nearly everyone likes to say—stands a long list of powerful African-American politicians who have benefited from the Gang’s success: last year, Lt. Gov. David Paterson got the post his father tried for in 1970, and counts among his friends and allies heavy hitters like City Comptroller William Thompson (D), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) and Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), the City Council’s majority whip. Somewhere in that mix stands Rev. Al Sharpton. But, although Sharpton’s political endorsement amounts to a papal blessing in mayoral elections, his political power is more difficult to gauge. The power held by the new guard may be strong, but as much as Meeks and Smith say they talk to each other, Paterson and Thompson on a regular basis, that quartet is not quite the cohesive political unit that Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, David Dinkins and Basil Paterson were and continue to be. “There is no question that we are very close,” Smith said, “but at the same time there are other elected officials in other boroughs that we are close with, too.” Smith said the only way a new Times have changed, Rangel admitted. “You could never have the same situation that we had,” he said, emphasizing that continuing power requires a powerful leader like J. Raymond Jones, the first African-American Tammany Hall
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throughout the communities in ways that I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “Someone will have to come on the scene and reclaim the city.” Meeks said his accomplishments grew under the influence of the Gang. He was born and raised in Harlem, and grew up playing stickball for the “Young Devils,” which the elder Paterson had played for years before. He said that though he was greatly influenced by the Gang, that influence did not mean he inherited their power. “It’s not that we are compelled to sit back and have the baton passed to us,” Meeks explained. “The changing of the guard is something that happens on a gradual basis.” But even if change is in the air, Rangel said he still sees a disconnect between the major African-American political leaders and the communities where they are likely to have the greatest impact. He recalled visiting a high school to teach Harlem kids about the history of their community and seeing a boy who reminded him of his younger self sleeping in the back of the classroom. “I questioned him and said, ‘Young fellow, who is Adam Clayton Powell?’” Rangel said, laughing. “And he said, ‘I thought you were Adam Clayton Powell.’ It just shows you how far we have to go.” —CZ email@example.com
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APR IL 2007
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
From Lieutenant Governor to Germ Sheriff Picking up an old passion, McCaughey combats unnecessary hospital deaths BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK
her term as New York’s most visible lieutenant governor in recent history, Betsy McCaughey is focusing her attention on another campaign. And she says she prefers it to either her race as George Pataki’s (R) 1994 running mate, or as his prospective Democratic opponent in 1998. McCaughey is the founder and chair of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, where she is leading a national campaign to prevent germ related deaths in hospitals. She has been working to educate hospitals and doctors around the county on infection death prevention and to pass state legislation on the issue. “I like campaigning against germs better than campaigning against other politicians,” she explained. McCaughey said her interest in the topic grew out of stories she heard while in office of people who went into the hospital for routine surgery and died from infections which occurred in the hospital. Since founding the committee two years ago, McCaughey has been meeting with hospitals and medical schools to promote how to prevent infection deaths. She believes this will actually save money for hospitals in the long term, noting that infection
IGHT YEARS AFTER THE END OF
Betsy McCaughey in the midst of her unexpected, short-lived political career, and today, in her Upper East Side apartment deaths cost hospitals $30.5 billion a year. McCaughey, still the passionate policy wonk she was while in Albany, has been advocating for state level legislation to require hospitals to supply data on infection deaths each year. The law has been passed by 16 states, including New York. In addition, she has been traveling the country leading public forums on infection death prevention, providing people with ways they can combat infections while they are
hospital patients. The tips include showering with anti-bacterial soap for several days prior to surgery to asking doctors to sterilize such objects as stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs before using them. “There is an irony that it’s first class medical care and third world hygiene,” McCaughey said, noting that germs have become increasingly drug resistant. “My goal is to make hygiene a central part of medical care.”
phere above food. “Who can throw a good party? I want to go to Lew Fidler’s house,” said Yassky, of his fellow Brooklyn Democrat. Helen Foster (D-Bronx) agreed with Yassky’s premise, but not his conclusion. “I can throw a party,” said the second-place finisher in voting for herself. Other Council members viewed the dinner party as primetime to network with the other runner-up, Quinn. “It would probably be the only time I’d get quality time with Kim,” said Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), referring to Quinn’s partner. Some, like Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), voted from experience. She has enjoyed dinner at the home of Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx) in the past, and recalled the “great food and great ambience.”
Council members who received more than one vote
Which Council Member Would Host the Best Dinner Party?
With trans fats banned and rats dinning out on camera, the New York City restaurant scene is not what it used to be. With that in mind, the 50 Council members and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum (D) considered who among them would be the best dinner party host. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) once again won, but narrowly. Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) put him ahead of runners-up Helen Foster (D-Bronx) and Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). “He paid me good money to always say his name,” said Addabbo. The rest voted for Felder not for money, but for pastries and jokes. “I love his jelly donuts and he’s funny,” said Sara Gonzales (DBrooklyn). But jelly donuts were not enough to convince Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) of Felder’s dinner party savvy. “Everything would have to be kosher,” she said before casting her vote for Dennis Gallagher (R-Queens). Like David Yassky (D-Brooklyn), some Council members valued atmos-
McCaughey, an academic known for her criticism of then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan when McCaughey was plucked from Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s (R) Rolodex to run for lieutenant governor, may be most remembered for her very public falling out with Pataki. Never part of the former governor’s inner circle, she feuded with him over policy differences and her work in office. Exhibiting her discontent, she famously stood during Pataki’s second State of the State address in 1996. After being replaced as Pataki’s 1998 running mate, McCaughey sought and lost the Democratic nomination to face him to then-City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens). She continued in the general election as the Liberal Party nominee. That campaign was marked by her second husband, millionaire Wilbur Ross, pulling his funding for the campaign weeks before the primary. McCaughey said she has not considered running for elective office again— all her time, she said, is spent on infection deaths. Currently, she is planning a statewide speaking trip to discuss infection deaths with hospitals, the public and medical students. “It’s not often that you find a problem that is solvable and does not cost money,” she said. “I am excited to see this problem as preventable.”
And while Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) agreed, he only cast a conditional vote for Arroyo. “I want to qualify. I’ll go only if her mother’s cooking,” he said, referring to the elder Arroyo, a member of the Assembly. But for Helen Sears (D-Queens) neither food nor atmosphere mattered— it all came down to what was due. “Hiram Monserrate,” she said. “He owes me dinner.”
—Natalie Pifer email@example.com
Simcha Felder Helen Foster Christine Quinn Domenic Recchia, Jr. Maria del Carmen Arroyo Inez Dickens Dennis Gallagher James Oddo Larry Seabrook Did Not Vote
5 4 4 3 2 2 2 2 2 11
APR I L 2007
Trying to Live Up to His Own Hype “Both a promise and a threat” coming into office, Spitzer’s record as AG continues to hold lessons LECTION DAY WAS ALMOST anticlimactic, as Eliot Spitzer cruised to a landslide victory. He won 69 percent of the vote, besting the state record for a gubernatorial race, set by Mario Cuomo in 1990. Cuomo’s son Andrew, with whom Spitzer had tangled during their joint crusade to stop illegal gun trafficking, handily won the attorney general’s race. Spitzer used his victory speech to reinforce his promises to bring change to Albany. “The New York we seek will require a new brand of politics—a break from the days when progress was measured by the partisan points you scored or the opponents you beat,” he said. “From here on out we need a politics that binds us together, a politics that’s forward-looking, a politics that asks not what’s in it for me, but always what’s in it for us.” The road ahead would not be easy. Spitzer had promised to provide more funding for New York City schools, revamp Medicaid, and revive the upstate economy, all without raising taxes. In the weeks leading up to his inauguration, Spitzer sought to emphasize his selfdescribed role as a progressive reformer. His transition website prominently displayed a quotation from Theodore Roosevelt: “We propose to raise aloft a standard to which all men can repair and under which all can fight, no matter what their political differences.” Spitzer also said repeatedly that he would look outside the usual suspects when staffing the executive departments and the many boards and commissions. Indeed, his first major appointment, for budget director, was his campaign issues director, Paul Francis, a venture capitalist and the former chief financial officer of Priceline.com and Ann Taylor. But cynics noted that another early appointee, Secretary of State Lorraine A. Cortés-Vázquez, was a lobbyist for Cablevision with ties to the Bronx
Penner CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12
to pay for the development of stadiums or arenas. In the January 15, 2002 New York Press, Penner wrote, “Mayor Bloomberg made the correct call to say no in the use of public funding for new Major League Baseball stadiums. In ancient Rome, government attempted to curry favor with the masses by offering free bread and circuses.” The City Council is another favorite punching bag. A self-described libertarian, Penner says he sees too much special interest and favor-currying amongst city lawmakers. He suggests abolishing the Council, which he calls “the Land of Oz,” and elevating the city’s 59 community
Spitzer said he Democratic machine. As “Day One” approached, it remained hoped the legunclear whether Spitzer could shed his islature would prosecutorial style for the kind of coali- soon follow his tion building that many political lead and enact observers believed would be critical for similar restrichis success. As was customary, on the tions across the Monday after the election he met with board. Cynics Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R) pointed out that and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the gesture came (D), the entrenched leaders of the after the election, Legislature. But his staff made sure the when it no longer media knew that the incoming governor had First look at an excerpt of the met earlier with the lead- new afterword from the book ers of several govern- Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise ment watchdog groups. of Eliot Spitzer by Brooke A. Though the Bruno-Silver Masters. R EPRINTED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH TIMES BOOKS, AN IMPRINT OF meeting was cordial—all HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, LLC. COPYRIGHT (C) 2006 BY three men said nice BROOKE A. MASTERS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. things about each other and their plans to work together— mattered, and that Spitzer could afford to Spitzer did not hesitate to show a little be ethical because he still had $5.5 milrhetorical muscle in the press conference lion in the bank. Bruno, for his part, afterward. He told reporters that he pooh-poohed the ban on fund-raisers would break with Albany tradition and during the legislative session, but Spitzer negotiate directly with individual mem- and his supporters argued that it showed bers rather than just the leadership, and the new governor’s willingness to act unihe also made clear he intended to use his laterally where he could. The approaching inauguration also bully pulpit. “A governor, uniquely in a state, speaks for the public....I will use brought new challenges to members of that capacity to stand up and speak for Spitzer’s staff who had played crucial the public on those issues where I roles during his tenure as attorney generbelieve the public good is not being al. Patricia Smith, the labor lawyer who reflected or represented,” Spitzer said. “I had had to generate her own cases, was nominated to head the Labor Department, am ready to rally the public.” A few weeks later, Spitzer offered a where she would have far more staff and concrete example of how he would be greater regulatory authority. Spitzer condifferent from other politicians, vinced Eric Dinallo, who had run the announcing that he would unilaterally research analyst investigation before forswear campaign contributions larger moving to Morgan Stanley and then the than $10,000, even though New York law insurance brokerage Willis Group, to allowed him to accept five times that abandon his lucrative private sector perch much. He also promised that he would to head the Department of Insurance. not accept speaking fees or hold fund- Criminal division head Peter Pope was raisers during the legislative season. named policy director, campaign aide
Rich Baum became secretary to the governor (the equivalent of chief of staff), and Avi Schick, who had toiled for years on the Grasso case, was rewarded with a top job at the Empire State Development Corporation. Environmental bureau chief Peter Lehner decided not to go to Albany, rejoining the Natural Resources Defense Council as executive director, and David Brown took a break but was expecting to return to state government by midyear. Eliot Spitzer began Monday, January 1, 2007, in typical fashion, with a predawn jog with hundreds of supporters around Albany’s Washington Park. By midmorning, he had signed five executive orders that he said would cut down on official corruption. When he mounted the steps of the state capitol at 1:00 p.m. to take the oath of office as the fifty-fourth governor of New York, Spitzer showed that he had lost none of his famous bravado. “Like Rip Van Winkle, the legendary character created by the New York author Washington Irving, New York has slept through much of the past decade while the rest of the world has passed us by,” Spitzer told a crowd of four thousand people that included George Pataki and many of the people who had led the state for the past twelve years. “Today is the day when all of that changes—when we stop standing still and start moving forward once more.” To those who remembered the moribund state of the New York attorney general’s office when Spitzer arrived in 1999, the speech was both a promise and a threat.
hopes of settling their dispute. “He was not comfortable being there by himself,” Penner said. “He had to have his driver or his security guard with him and his press spokesman. So I said, ‘I got to bring my wife as my muscle to back me up.’” Perhaps because of his ability to get under a politician’s skin, Penner is celebrated by his fellow letter-writers. “Larry Penner has already reached literary heights, in all matters that are pertinent to citizens of Queens—indeed for all,” wrote Bayside resident Sylvia Bailen in the January 25, 2007 Queens Ledger, who goes on in the letter to dub herself “the Maureen Dowd of Bayside.” Gerry O’Brien, a political consultant and the 2000 New York State presidential campaign manager for Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), has known Penner for 35
years. He admits he may have created a “Frankenstein” when he helped set up Penner’s computer and showed him how to use e-mail about 10 years ago. “Larry’s always been interested in public policy,” O’Brien said. “It’s an outlet for him.” When Penner picks up his paper in the morning (he subscribes to all the major dailies), he initially skips over all the pages dealing with current events. “News can be depressing on the international scene,” he said. “The first page I go to is the comics page.” He likes to start his day with a smile. “The first one I read is Earl and Mooch,” he said, referring to the main characters of “Mutts.” “If they were real, I think I’d adopt both of them.” firstname.lastname@example.org
board district managers to legislative positions. Penner has particularly targeted Queens Democrat David Weprin, chair of the Council’s Finance Committee and prospective 2009 candidate for city comptroller. Weprin recurs throughout Penner’s oeuvre: an entire folder of Penner’s letters, filed by topic, is devoted to the Council member. Penner says he thinks Weprin grandstands and is emblematic of dishonest politics. Weprin’s office refused to comment for this story. One wintry night several years ago, Penner met his rival face to face in the offices of the Queens Examiner. “It was a nice little debate,” said Walter Sanchez, the Examiner’s publisher. Sanchez convened the meeting in the
APR I L 2007
Red Ken Helps Mayor Mike Go Green
Paying Forward CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
of making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly for years to come. But that could prove a very expensive facelift. The city’s long-term sustainability plan will require major infrastructural and environmental upgrades, ensuring an expensive price tag estimated to be in the billions. “The city will get bigger, our infrastructure will get older and our environment will be more precarious,” Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said last month, speaking to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC). Cleaner air, more efficient public transportation and a park on just about every corner are just three in an ambitious series of goals the Bloomberg administration calls PlaNYC 2030. Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s economic development czar, said that the project’s goals may be lofty and idealistic, but its budget will be grounded in Now that Mayor Michael reality. “We need to recog- Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff announcement of nize that the money is have crafted a sustainability the plan April 22. going to have to come plan for the city, they have to Some city and from somewhere,” figure out how to pay for it. state lawmakers Doctoroff said. “And if we don’t yet know exactly where, it’s a said they were briefed on the 2030 plan, good indication that we may not get what but admitted that questions about its budget still remain. we want.” What is clear is that making the city The administration was purposefully vague, preferring to keep details close to greener, more sustainable and more effiits chest in anticipation of the full cient will require a daunting level of
cooperation between federal, state and local government, as well as support from private businesses. If the city plans on increasing its agency budgets for transportation, parks, sanitation and the environment, it does not appear to have planned ahead. There are no increases included in the mayor’s 10-year financial plan, which was released in January. Bloomberg first
Planning Remains Largely Beyond Public Eye ince first announcing the PlaNYC 2030 sustainability project in late December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) and his top officials have kept the project’s key details under tight wrap. Even some city and state lawmakers admit to being kept out of toplevel discussions. Questions about the plan directed to the mayor’s newly created Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability have gone unanswered or declined. Meanwhile, there were five town hall meetings, one in each borough, throughout February and March. The meetings were open to the public and were billed by the city as a chance “to discuss potential solutions to meet the goals of plaNYC.” While the meetings were relatively well-attended, they received scant local news coverage. Through a glossy PowerPoint/video
hybrid presentation, attendees were told that, in the next 20 years, the city will get older, bigger and more environmentally precarious. They were then given 20 minutes to come up with ideas to meet these challenges. At each meeting, worksheets were filled out and turned in to staff members from the sustainability office. Where those worksheets eventually ended up is unclear. The city’s public consultation process was “scattershot at best,” said Stephen Hammer, an environmental policy analyst and professor at Columbia University. In London, Mayor Ken Livingstone created several brain trusts and a variety of advisory boards to inform the creation of the “London Plan,” the British equivalent to PlaNYC 2030, Hammer said. London also spent almost three years finalizing its plan, he said.
s plaNYC is made ready for public consumption, sustainability experts are looking across the Atlantic to London for guidance. The “London Plan” is a multi-year strategy developed by Mayor Ken Livingstone and a host of experts in 2004 to help that city mitigate the environmental impact of a million more residents. Within the plan, Livingstone— sometimes called “Red Ken” for his liberal policies—provides a clear investment framework for the private sector, and describes how public money will be used to pay for infrastructure improvements. New York could learn a lot about managing the public’s expectations from its British counterpart, said Columbia University professor Stephen Hammer, who has studied the London Plan extensively. Bloomberg needs to convince New Yorkers that PlaNYC will be a “worthy investment of scarce tax dollars,” Hammer said. —AH
Only recently did the Bloomberg administration go public with the date for the announcement: April 22, Earth Day. But even at the April 10 press conference announcing the carbon emissions report, billed as a preliminary step in the plan, Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff kept their distance from details. “You’ll hear more about that in a couple of weeks,” said Doctoroff in the response to one reporter’s request for specifics on how the administration would respond to the report they were announcing. Bloomberg corrected him. “In 12 days,” he said. But as for expanding on Doctoroff’s deliberately vague assurances, Bloomberg went not further than “you can rest assured it’s in there.” —AH email@example.com
announced PlaNYC 2030 in late December. “Very little of the plan is reflected in the city’s 10-year budget strategy,” said Maria Doulis, a research associate at the Citizens Budget Commission. “This is really visionary, but how do you get there?” “When you learn the facts, our infrastructure is over a hundred years old,” explained Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the non-profit Partnership for New York City and a member of the PlaNYC 2030 advisory board. “It’s leaky, it’s old, it’s falling apart and it’s inadequate to remain competitive in a global market,” she said. Ultimately, the city’s plan to accommodate a million more drivers, renters and straphangers will depend on how it is paid for, and how it is sold to the public, Wylde said. “But we’re talking 25 years out,” she said. “It’s almost hard to imagine who would be against it.” Paying for it, though, may be a different story. In mapping out their strategy, Bloomberg and Doctoroff will have plenty of existing sources of public and private money at their disposal. The prevailing attitude is that all of the city’s efforts will be for nothing without a strong commitment from the federal government. Hundreds of millions of dollars are available through the federal Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Agreement project, for example, which CONTINUED ON PAGE 25
Trial lawyers’ lobbyist Feldman wants governor to give him interim State Supreme Court spot BY ANDREW HAWKINS
FELDMAN HAS A LONG résumé. He was in the Assembly for almost 20 years, worked six years for then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D), labored to mend the tattered image of trial lawyers as executive director and general counsel for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) and climbed a little more than half way up Mount Everest. Now he is looking toward a new challenge: to replace New York State Supreme Court Judge Theodore Jones Jr., who was elevated to the New York Court of Appeals in January. “I always wanted to be a judge,” he said, “eventually.” The State Supreme Court encompasses 324 justices who have general trial jurisdiction in New York. Feldman’s candidacy comes amid calls that the state’s judicial nominating process is unconstitutional. “Overall, people’s perception is that it’s not tremendously attractive,” Feldman said of the nominating process, which allows district leaders only a limited time to learn about the candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court will review New York’s method for selecting candidates this October. By then, Feldman hopes to already have his gavel in hand. He is confident that he will be Spitzer’s choice if the governor appoints AN
PlaNYC CONTINUED FROM PAGE 24
aims to develop strategies to reduce congestion and improve public transportation. To tackle the economic and health problems of traffic congestion, the administration is taking a close look at congestion pricing. Transportation experts are speculating that the practice of charging motorists to use roads, bridges and tunnels during peak business hours may be included in the sustainability project. The momentum behind congestion pricing is “as good as it’s been in the last 20 years,” argued Robert “Buzz” Paaswell, director of the University Transportation Research Center at CUNY. Toll money could finance a portion of PlaNYC 2030 while serving one of the plan’s goals of improving travel times and clearing the city’s streets, he said.
an interim replacement for Jones on the State Supreme Court. And that, he believes, will ensure him election in his own right this fall. “Many leaders said to me that would be enormously influential,” he said. Alternatively, Spitzer could select a replacement from among the many civil court judges in Brooklyn, said Robert J. Miller, an attorney for the Manhattan law firm Reed Smith who filed papers to run for the Democratic judicial nomination. “Nobody knows if the governor will even choose to fill the vacancy,” said Miller. Feldman is gearing up for a race regardless, and beginning to speak about his prospective approach on the bench. Though he has a background as a legislator, he insists he would not legislate from the bench. “I am certainly one who believes in precedent and respecting legislative intent,” he said, sitting in his modest office on Nassau Street, a block and a half from City Hall. “On the other hand, I’m under no illusion that those things will always provide clear answers.” A native New Yorker and a graduate of Harvard Law School, Feldman served as counsel for two Assembly subcommittees before being elected himself in 1980 as a Democrat representing south Brooklyn. Between 1981 and 1998, Feldman authored over 140 laws, including the first version of “Megan’s Law” passed in the country. This controversial statute Opponents charge that congestion pricing discriminates against outer borough residents and New Yorkers who may not be able to afford the new tolls. “Outer borough residents shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege for coming into Manhattan,” said City Council Member Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), who recently introduced a resolution opposing congestion pricing. “All that does is create two classes of citizens—those who can afford it, and those who can’t.” Other innovative strategies may be put to use as well. Three years ago, the city rezoned 310 acres on the far West Side of Manhattan for what would become the Hudson Yards development project.
Waiting for Spitzer’s Verdict
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“It was traumatic in the sense that I lost my identity,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m not really a politician.’” He said salvation came in the form of Spitzer, first elected that same year, who brought Feldman on as assistant deputy attorney general for program development. From legislator to legal adviser, Feldman spent six years alongside Spitzer. In the process, he said, he developed enormous respect and admiration for the future governor. He left Spitzer’s office for the NYSTLA in 2005. With trial lawyers one of the most beguiled American interest groups, Feldman said that Dan Feldman is looking to leave the Trial much of his energy in this job is focused on Lawyers Association for the bench. public relations. “There’s this notion that trial lawyers requires sex offenders to register with the state. The law, which has since been are there to fool juries, and therefore you adopted in all 50 states, was thought by can’t trust juries,” he said. “If we don’t some legislators to be unconstitutional, trust average citizens on juries, maybe because it denied offenders due process. we shouldn’t trust them to vote either.” After two years lobbying, Feldman is In 1998, Feldman set his sights on the House seat Charles Schumer (D) left ready to return to public life. Currently 57, he would get almost an entire 14-year behind to run for Senate. Feldman admitted that on the cam- term as judge in before being forced into paign trail he lacked the finesse to give retirement, as all New York judges are, at what he called “that simple, obvious and age 70. He believes that is the right way to cap wrong answer,” which can sometimes be his career. the most politically expedient. “This is what I want to spend the rest He finished fourth in a four-way primary won by Anthony Weiner (D- of my life doing,” he said. He quickly caught himself: “But I hope I don’t die at Brooklyn/Queens). Feldman said the race left him “devas- the end of the term.” tated.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Developers building commercial and residential towers over the western rail yards make payments in lieu of taxes that are funneled into the $2.15 billion extension of the No. 7 subway line.
state level. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a public development corporation created by the Legislature in 1975, offers tax incentives for the development of alternative fuel sources. The city government provides tax breaks to developers who design more environmentally safe buildings. However, New York offers little else in the way of environmental incentives, said Stephen Hammer, an environmental policy analyst and professor at Columbia University. “Most green tax breaks are at the state level,” he said, though adding, “maybe that’ll change now under this 2030 plan.” email@example.com
“We need to recognize that the money is going to have to come from somewhere,” said Dan Doctoroff. “And if we don’t yet know exactly where, it’s a good indication that we may not get what we want.” If the city wants to attract a similar number of eager developers and private partners for its 2030 plan, it will probably use the same funding incentives that it does for the Hudson Yards, Doulis said. Other incentives are available at the
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Shoring Up the Immigrant Vote the bill soon. “There are 1.3 million legal residents in New York City, and they pay over $18.2 billion in taxes. And anybody who pays that many taxes ought to be allowed to make decisions on what happens in that city,” he explained. Ron Hayduk, author of Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Rights in the
BY NATALIE PIFER YORK CITY POLITICIANS could soon have a new voting bloc to court—the legal, non-citizen immigrant. Following through on an idea that has floated around the City Council since 2005, the Voting Rights Restoration Act would enable non-citizen residents who are 18 and older to vote in city elections if they have legally resided here for six months. And with more than 1 million adult people who would get the right to vote, and countless more naturalized citizens who still empathize with the immigrant community, winning these affections would be in the interest of any enterprising politician—as lead sponsor Council Member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) seems well aware. Already, Barron has declared his desire to move beyond the City Council. He ran for Congress last year against Rep. Edolphus Towns (D), and seems intent to do so again in 2008. According to the 2000 Census, there are nearly 22,500 non-citizens who would be eligible to vote under the Voting Rights Restoration Act living in Barron’s Council district, which is fully within
Council Member Charles Barron. Towns’ Congressional district. But there are no guarantees the noncitizen vote will go to their champion, said Chung Seto, a Democratic consultant and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party. Barron is campaigning hard to pass
munities, the communities where most of these hard working people live, you’d have to deal with that on Election Day,” said Barron. Mustering enough support to pass the bill, however, will prove tricky. Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (DManhattan) oppose it, so Barron is look-
“There are 1.3 million legal residents in New York City, and they pay over $18.2 billion in taxes. And anybody who pays that many taxes ought to be allowed to make decisions on what happens in that city.” —Council Member Charles Barron United States, says the bill constitutes a restoration of rights, not the introduction of a new set. From 1776 to 1926, immigrants could vote across the country and from 1969 to 2003, New York City non-citizens could vote in school board elections. Barron expects the bill to usher in a new era of New York City politics. “If you haven’t been serving our com-
ing for 34 co-sponsors—enough to override a possible veto. Currently in the Government Operations Committee, the bill has just 14 sponsors. Six Maryland towns allow immigrants to vote in local elections. Similar resolutions in three Massachusetts towns await approval by the state government. firstname.lastname@example.org
ed 26 it il im pr sl ya ei pb ac sv sp t r
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adolfo carrión discussing development issues, affordable housing & yankee stadium moderated by edward-isaac dovere, editor of city hall
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commerce bank 317 madison avenue, at 42nd street please rsvp to stephanie musso: 212.894.5441 or email email@example.com please rsvp by april 26.
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POWER Chicharrones, Salad and Fresh
LUNCH Juice with Nydia Velázquez EP.
NYDIA VELÁZQUEZ, A NATIVE OF PUERTO Rico and current Carroll Gardens resident, this year became the first Latina to chair a full House committee, the Small Business Committee. She is also the only member of the New York City Congressional delegation to represent three boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. City Hall recently met with Velázquez at the Sunset Park eatery International Restaurant, which specializes in Spanish-American cuisine. Following is an edited transcript.
City Hall: You’ve been a trailblazer for the Latino community. How have your experiences as a Latina informed your work in government? Nydia Velázquez: First of all, it’s always good when we say that we have a Congress today that truly represents America by the composition and the makeup. And in that sense, legislation that we craft, legislation that we pass, is more representative. I bring with me the contributions of knowing what works and what doesn’t work. Now when we talk about businesses in America, the reality is that Latina women
your district and I guess that based on the evidence that she thought that she had in front of her, that that was the best decision for her to make. I disagreed with her on that. CH: And that’s not enough to have you think about supporting another candidate? NV: She said that if she gets elected, the troops will come home and that she will put an end to the Iraq war. Look, there is a primary going on and I think it’s the best thing that could happen for the Democratic Party. These are special times for our country that require a lot of profound, meaningful discussions and debates on certain issues that are important for generations to come. So she will have an opportunity to debate those issues, especially her position on Iraq. CH: What do you cook? NV: Everything. Italian food, French, Latin. If I go to a restaurant and I love the dish, I just come back home and I try to do it. And I have that ability. And then I love to have people come over the house to have that food, to eat with us. My husband also enjoys food and loves to cook. [Food arrives: chicharrones de pollo, or fried chicken chunks; and tostones, or fried green plantains.] CH: What is this called again? NV: Chicharrones de pollo. CH: Is this a typical Caribbean dish? Or Puerto Rican? NV: Caribbean. It’s Puerto Rican, it’s Dominican, Cuban. CH: Do you find good food in D.C.? Carolyn Maloney said food there was not as good as food in New York. NV: Not so. There’s good fusion cuisine and modern cuisine. Tell Carolyn to talk to me.
CH: You introduced a bill that would encourage bodeThe Congresswoman has been a big proponent of micro-loans for gas to carry healthier foods in low-income neighborsmall businesses. hoods. Why is that the role of are the fastest-growing economic sector of our economy. the government and not the individual to go out and CH: What is a distinctive need of a Latina business- make healthy choices? NV: It’s either that or for the government to have to woman? NV: One of the main obstacles for Latina woman is access spend more money when people get sick. [The bill is] to capital. So I, as a Latina, know that one of the charac- not just about food. There is an education component to teristics of Latinas is this entrepreneurial spirit, and I it. We provide grants for community-based organizaknow that for low-income women it’s difficult because tions to do what Woodhull Hospital right now is doing. they don’t have the credit history to access capital. So Dr. Fishkin—he has this group of kids from the neighwhat can I do as a member of Congress to facilitate that? borhood. They go to Woodhull, they exercise, they ride To have a micro-loan program. We start building the cred- their bicycles in the summer. But then the other compoit history for that woman by providing small amounts of nent is for them to learn that food is good. And it’s good capital for her to have a record of paying back her loans if you eat the right food. The problem that we have in the bodegas, when you so that she can come back and ask for a bigger amount. have parents who are working two and three jobs and CH: You, along with nearly all of the New York they are coming home to cook late, they don’t have time Congressional delegation, have supported Hillary to go to the supermarket. They get off the train and stop Clinton for president. Her refusal to recant her vote by the bodega to buy whatever is there. The problem is for the war in Iraq doesn’t bother you, a person who that there’s not much variety in terms of the food that they can offer because a bodega is so tiny. You need to voted against the war from the start? NV: Well, I always say that you vote your conscience and invest so that the bodegas can carry more.
ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS
BY CHARLOTTE EICHNA
Nydia Velázquez, an accomplished cook, says she can re-create at home dishes she eats in restaurants. CH: Do you shop at Costco, Target and other big box stores? Or do you try to focus on small businesses? NV: My husband does most of the shopping. CH: Do you think it’s appropriate to use luxury housing to fund Brooklyn Bridge Park? NV: I want for the governor and the Empire State Development Corporation to look at how the previous administration came to the conclusion that luxury housing was needed and the amount of money that is needed to sustain the park. Until there is an answer to those questions, people will be cynical about the process. CH: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to food? Do you love sweets, for example? NV: No, I suffer from low blood pressure, so I love salt. CH: You’ve also worked to bridge the digital divide. How digital a person are you? Do you have an iPod? NV: I have a BlackBerry. I have a Nano. CH: What’s on it? NV: Like 2,000 songs. I love music and I’m a great dancer. My holiday party is very big in Greenpoint. We’ve got like 300 people with a lot of music and good food and the entire community from the Lower East Side, Ridgewood, Maspeth to Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope. firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about Rep. Velázquez’s thoughts on Puerto Rican statehood, Katrina recovery efforts and her occasional television habits, visit www.cityhallnews.com.
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ew Yorkers still do not know exactly what they will be paying for, or how much they will be paying, in next year's budget. But if the members of the Assembly and State Senate had really wanted things to go differently this year, they had their chance. Many rank-and-file legislators complained about being shut out from the negotiations, then being handed bills still warm from the copy machine to vote into law. But they have only themselves to blame: Bruno and Silver, men who have proven their commitment to closed negotiations, were the men they reelected as leaders just a few months ago. Yes, there was a new governor in the room, and he brought along his lieutenant governor. State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith got to come, help-
Editor’s note: We welcome letters to the editor. All letters must be identified with the author’s full name and, for verification, phone number. Anonymous letters will not be published. Substantive letters addressing politics and policy will receive top priority. Submit your letters by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact our staff writers directly with the email addresses at the ends of their articles.
ing fan the fire at Joseph Bruno’s feet, and so they were compelled to invite the Assembly’s Republican leader as well. Instead of three men in a room, there were six. Two of them—Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—were the ones who mattered. Eliot Spitzer helped change the atmosphere somewhat, taking a more forceful and involved approach to governing than his predecessor, George Pataki. “It’s sort of like the teacher was gone, and Joe and Shelly were like the big kids in the class who were running the show,” said State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, reflecting on the difference between last year’s governor and this year’s. “Suddenly there’s a teacher back in the room.” Though as anyone who has made it through grade school knows, having the teacher back does not mean that the big kids suddenly become model students. Sometimes even the teacher has to give up, as Spitzer was apparently forced to, abandoning his emphasis on open government for the sake of preserving the particulars of his policy agenda. Bruno and Silver are masters of negotiating and deal-making, and they are at their best when working behind closed doors. Imagining that they would abandon an approach which has served them so well was naïve, if not downright delusional. Only with different people, ones
New York Press Association:
City Hall Has State’s Best Coverage of Local Government City Hall has been recognized for best coverage of local government in the highest circulation category for 2006 by the New York Press Association. The award, which comes from the largest statewide press association in the United States, pitted City Hall again weekly and monthly publications from across New York. The award was announced at the association’s annual conference, held March 30-31. Other longstanding publications had a year’s worth of issues to enter for consideration. Nonetheless, with only seven eligible issues to enter since its June 2006 launch, City Hall took top prize. Judges called the award, which went to City Hall “a well deserved first-place. You certainly ‘get’ the government beat.”
without so much vested in preserving the secretive status quo, could there truly have been a hope of things changing. No one stepped forward to challenge them. No one cast a vote against them. These are the people legislators apparently wanted leading them, and the closed-door process these leaders value is the one they effectively endorsed. Granted, overthrowing Bruno and Silver would have been difficult. There are a lot of potential complications, and the consequences of failure can be enormous. Just ask Michael Bragman. But if the legislators really lament that things are not changing—or not changing quickly enough—then the time has come for them to step up to the plate, choose leaders who want to reform Albany instead of keeping it the same and really make progress. The good news is that with the budget behind them, legislators can actually attend to some of the other very pressing needs of the state. As for the budget and the civil confinement bill, though, tough compromises are not likely to start or end on the floor of either chamber. Those will be up to the six men in a room. Unless or until legislators are prepared to start the process of knocking out the legislative leadership, they could save everyone some time and stop whining about it for the sake of hollow headlines.
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Construction Safety: A Tale of Two Cities BY LOUIS J. COLETTI osé Luis Melendez, Klever Ramiro Jara, Anthony Duncan, Jiango Shen. These are just a few of the 29 people who died on construction sites in New York City last year. Construction fatalities and accidents do not discriminate between union and non-union jobs. But when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that 86 percent of the construction deaths in New York City occur on non-union job sites, industry and public officials need to know why. On one hand, there are the unionized contractors who follow the rules and invest more than $50 million of their own money in public and worker safety programs. But on the other hand, there are non-union contractors who blatantly disregard city laws, hire unskilled day-laborers, abuse immigrant workers and ignore
Third, the need for safety training and laws and rules including issuing stop public and worker safety. Recently, the mayor’s Scaffold Worker work orders which will shut jobs down establishing accountability standards. While these recommendations are an Task Force reported its findings and rec- immediately. The best way to get a conommendations for reducing fatalities on tractor’s attention is to hit them in their excellent start, it is now time to address safety across the entire industry. pocketbook and hit them hard. scaffolding. Why now? In many ways New York Second, the establishment of a Special Some of the commission’s findings were shocking. In 67 percent of the scaf- Enforcement Unit which will aggressive- City is a victim of its own success. folding accidents and fatalities, a profes- ly check work sites without waiting for Construction activity is booming, the city is creating new jobs and sionally licensed and a bright future. But legally required superIn many ways New York City is a victim of has how safe do you feel visor was not on site. In its own success. Construction activity is walking around your addition, 50 percent of How the workers did not booming, the city is creating new jobs and neighborhood? many buildings are possess the training has a bright future. But how safe do you being built without city certificate required by feel walking around your neighborhood? permits? How do you law to work on a scafknow those workers fold. This borders on have received the training they need to criminal. Among the recommendations of the citizen complaints. Being proactive with protect you as well as themselves? It is unrealistic to believe that the task force were several innovative and strong enforcement sanctions will put contractors on the defensive and city’s Buildings Department and OSHA necessary initiatives. First, increasing financial penalties to increase their risk for failing to comply will have the resources necessary to inspect every job site. In fact, under the contractors who fail to comply with city with the law. Bloomberg administration, more financial resources and inspection personnel have been added for public safety purposes than collectively in the last 25 offices, such as waiting rooms and hall- bility determinations, and reduce the bur- years. There are, however, cost-effective ways. Because of this policy, advocates dens on both the city’s workers and on ways to make the industry safer. can’t easily clarify program requirements the people seeking benefits. Fortunately, last spring, Public Uniform standards should be estabfor individuals struggling to get the beneAdvocate Betsy Gotbaum and City Council lished that all contractors (unionized and fits they need. So many more people could be Members Bill de Blasio and Eric Gioia non-unionized) should be required to hooked up with the benefits the city introduced the Ready Access to Assistance meet before they are issued building peralready provides if the city made just one Act, known as REAACT. This bill would mits. The Site Safety Law, which is designed small policy change: allow applicants to require the city to allow non-profit organimeet with volunteers from experienced zations into the public areas of the offices to protect public safety, is limited to projwelfare advocacy organizations within at which the city accepts applications for ects 14 stories or higher, despite the fact and distributes Food Stamps, Medicaid, that most accidents and fatalities occur the city’s public benefits offices. on projects below that threshold. This Barring advocates from city benefits and other public benefits. And in other good news: Robert Doar, should be updated to reflect that reality. offices only makes the already difficult Construction safety in New York is in task of administering public benefits more former Commissioner of the New York strained. Employees in benefits offices State Office of Temporary and Disability fact a tale of two cities. Enacting all of must provide eligibility information about Assistance (OTDA), is the new head of these measures will not make the industry many different complicated benefits pro- New York City’s Human Resources 100 percent safe. After all, construction is an inherently dangerous industry. But they grams, to hundreds of people each day, in Administration. Commissioner Doar has a critically will undoubtedly help to close the growing more than one hundred different languages. This is nearly impossible to do important opportunity to make the city’s gap between our two cities. with one hundred percent accuracy, as bureaucracy more people friendly and to Verna Eggleston, the former ensure that low-income people have Louis Coletti is president of the Commissioner of New York City’s Human access to the benefits for which they Building Trades Employers’ Association, Resources Administration, admitted at a qualify by pressing the City Council to the city’s largest contractor association, recent City Council hearing. She described pass REAACT. representing 25 contractor associations REAACT is a no-cost, common sense and 1,200 construction company mema welfare worker ignoring an agency policy even though a copy of it “was literally way to enlist private partners in the gov- bers. He was also a member of the ernment’s mission to ensure that low- mayor’s Scaffold Worker Task Force. dangling above a worker’s head.” The result is that some families go income families get the help they need to hungry, even though they are eligible to obtain the benefits they are due. It’s time welcomes submissions to receive food stamps. In fact, more than 1 to pass REAACT. the op-ed in 10 New Yorkers are not sure where page. A piece their next meal will come from. Others Andrew Friedman is a Fellow at the should be go without medical treatment, even Drum Major Institute for Public Policy maximum 650 words long, though they are eligible for Medicaid. and the founding Co-Director of Make accompanied by the name and And some are homeless, even though the Road by Walking, a not-for-profit, address of the author, and they are eligible for housing subsidies. membership-led organization in submitted via email to Allowing advocates inside benefit cen- Bushwick, Brooklyn. David Pedulla is a email@example.com ters is a no-cost policy solution that will Research Associate at the Brennan to be considered. increase the accuracy of the city’s eligi- Center Strategic Fund.
Ensure Eligible People Access to Benefits They Need BY ANDREW FRIEDMAN AND DAVID PEDULLA hen Irania Sanchez’s marriage broke up, she was given sole custody of her two daughters, both of whom had a variety of bronchial problems and asthma. One of her daughters, Gabriela, had to be hooked up to a machine every six hours to clean her lungs. Irania, a hard-working immigrant, was simply overwhelmed by her daughters’ health care costs. Fortunately, our state and local governments have programs in place to ensure that our city’s children can stay healthy no matter how much money their parents make. Unfortunately, those programs are needlessly difficult to access. Irania’s two daughters—both citizens— went without the emergency Medicaid they needed simply because there were no Spanish speaking social workers at the New York City Welfare Center. This in a city where one in four New Yorkers are in the process of learning English. Irania was only able to navigate the system when she met an advocate whose job is to understand the benefits system in New York City. This advocate helped her to resolve her communication problems with the city, better understand the services that the city provides, and ensure her children’s access to these services. Her daughters now have the health insurance and medical treatment they need. Irania overcame the odds to do so, because the city currently excludes advocates, who usually work for non-profit organizations that serve poor communities, from the public areas of welfare
In what may be the most bizarre event line-up of the year, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D), World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein and his wife Klara, Icelandic musician Björk and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” director Michel Gondry will be honored at The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s annual spring benefit, “The Downtown Dinner.” The “artistic visionaries,” “governmental leaders” and “developers” will be hon-
ored May 3 atop Silverstein’s World Trade Center 7 with cocktails and a silent auction preceding the dinner and program. To see the event’s funkadelic, “Wiz”-inspired trailer go to lmcc.net/us/benefits/2007.5downtowndinner/dinnerinvite.html.
As Green Becomes President, Clinton Moves into His Old Offices The collective gulp was almost audible on the morning of March 19, when many around the New York political world opened their email inboxes to find a message: “News from President Mark Green.” But far from some odd White House coup, the email was just the first official word from New York’s most-run candidate about his new job at Air America, the lefty talk radio station Stephen Green rescued from bankruptcy before installing his brother as the president. (Subsequent emails are just “from the desk of Mark Green.) Green cleared out his personal office in the Graybar building—owned by Stephen’s real estate company, SL Green—to move to Air America’s headquarters at Sixth Avenue between 19th and 20th streets. That building is beyond the borders of the SL Green real estate empire. Meanwhile, the offices on the Graybar’s 30th floor, most recently the headquarters of Green’s failed bid for attorney general, have a new tenant: the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D). As is its fashion, Clinton’s campaign is keeping quiet on details, but her staff unpacked boxes in their new digs in March. They did not have far to move— the campaign office was formerly on the third floor.
Wal-Mart Rolls Back from Manhattan While discount superpower Wal-Mart discarded plans for opening a Manhattan store, that unflappable yellow smiley is not shedding any tears. Phillip Serghini, a senior manager in Wal-Mart’s New York Public Affairs division, said the discount super-
power still has designs on the four outer boroughs in hopes of winning more city money. A Wal-Mart study reported New Yorkers already spend $125 million at WalMart locations outside the city limits.
Buffalo Council: We’re Not Qualified Every time something goes wrong in New York City, City Hall aides need to almost literally dodge Council members racing to the podium to announce an investigation. That is a sharp contrast to Buffalo these days. Deputy Mayor Steven Casey is said to have interfered in the permit process and a plan by city inspectors to stop work on a building being developed by a major contributor to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D). Casey has been accused of blocking a city inspector’s plan to stop construction of a city building where a worker fell to his death last month, though Brown and Casey both deny wrongdoing. The FBI, Erie County District Attorney and U.S. Labor Department have all announced investigations into the case. Add to that Buffalo City Council Member Michael Kearns’ call for a City Council investigation into the issue. But he is having trouble gathering support: the rest of the allDemocratic Council has shot down the idea. Their reason? They insist they are not qualified to launch such an investigation. Casey’s fate remains in question.
Spitzer, Silverstein, Björk Plan Cocktail Summit
APR I L 2007
Joining the Team Vincent Ignizio (left) is congratulated by James Oddo moments after being sworn in as the City Council's newest memebr March 14. Ignizio won the special election to replace Andrew Lanza.
Pay Raise for Parsons Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons may have gotten a little help from his board as he considers a self-financed mayoral run in 2009. Parsons’ compensation package was upped to $22.5 million as a reward for helping raise the company’s stock price 28 percent in the last year.
Over the River, Even More Petition Problems than in New York While New York candidates routinely get tossed off the ballot for petition irregularities, a New Jersey State Senate candidate this year did not even get that far. Democrat Sandra Bolden Cunningham filed general election petitions as an Independent and not petitions to run in June’s Democratic primary for a Senate seat representing Jersey City and Bayonne. Cunningham, the widow of former Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, said she downloaded the wrong form off of the Internet. She plans to try fighting her way onto the primary ballot in court.
Toussaint’s Rain Delay
Olde Good Things, an architectural antique dealer in Chelsea, has three doorknob sets with the Board of Education’s seal among their stock. According to manager Harodlyne Rannels, the store bought them from sanitation workers charged with cleaning up the board’s building years ago. Priced at $150 for a set, the octagonal doorknobs have been in stock for 10 years. More popular oval doorknobs emblazoned simply with “New York City” are also for sale.
The stage was crowded at the Second Avenue Subway groundbreaking April 12. Absent, though, was Roger Toussaint, the president of a certain union which will likely have a lot to do with the new line. “I came late,” Toussaint said, insisting that heavy rain had kept him from making it to his rightful place. However, though his own members present seemed happy to see him, there was not a spare chair on the platform, and in all the speeches made, his name was never mentioned. Nonetheless, Toussaint said that he believes he and government officials are enjoying “a new day,” with any lingering animosity resulting from the 2005 strike fully faded.
Fishing for Candidates Robert Hornak, who is heading the Queens GOP’s search for candidates in 2008 and 2009, sent an email to local reporters and political bloggers last month seeking “a good potential candidate in Queens.”
Hornak said asking the local press to find community leaders who could run on the Queens GOP ticket is not unethical because it was “part serious” and “half tongue-in-cheek.” “I wouldn’t say my inbox has been flooded with emails,” Hornak said, laughing about the response. He has yet to receive one.
Dilan Ties Knot with District Leader Council Member Erik Martin Dilan (DBrooklyn) tied the knot on March 3 after a year-long engagement to Jannitza Luna, a district leader in Brooklyn’s 54th. The nuptials took place in Dilan’s district at St. Martin of Tours Catholic church, followed by a West Caribbean cruise for the newlyweds. The ceremony was attended by fellow Council Members Albert Van (D-Brooklyn), Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), Eric Gioia (D-Queens), Thomas White (D-Queens), Domenic Recchia (DBrooklyn), Speaker Christine Quinn, Assembly Member Vito Lopez (DBrooklyn) and, of course, Dilan’s father, State Senator Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn).
New Wardally Political operatives get ready for some competition: there is a new Wardally in town. Emerson Wardally, at 8 lbs. 4 oz., was born April 9. His parents are Adaku Wardally, most recently communications and finance director for City Council Member Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), and Kevin Wardally, the director of political & governmental operations for Bill Lynch Associates. Emerson is the couple’s second child. —By John R.D. Celock, EdwardIsaac Dovere, Andrew Hawkins, Natalie Pifer and Carla Zanoni
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APR I L 2007
Matthew Goldstein Chancellor, City University of New York
ince he arrived in the fall of 1999 as the chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), Matthew Goldstein has overseen dramatic changes. Enrollment is at its highest level in more than three decades, and the university has worked to attract some of the city’s smartest high school graduates by starting a special honors program. There is also a new Graduate School of Journalism, led by former Business Week Editor Stephen Shepard, which opened in fall 2006. Goldstein sat down in his office on the Upper East Side recently to talk about the university he oversees—and what he characterized as its bright future. What follows is an edited conversation with Goldstein, who, as a former student, said he has CUNY “in my DNA.”
CH: Our favorite. MG: I recruited Steve Shepard to lead the school. We purchased the building that houses the school of journalism. And I must say—and I will say this very directly: we are competing with the top journalism schools for students. And when I think about the best, I’m thinking about Columbia, Northwestern, Missouri, Berkeley and NYU. And the students we’re getting are applying to all of these as well. So that’s exciting. And the last—so far it’s the last—is a new Graduate School of Public Health. CH: You have called the public honors college “the hallmark of my administration.” How do you measure the success of that initiative? MG: Well, in two ways. One, it was set up to attract some of the most promising scholars to this university, who used to come many years ago. Right now, we are getting about 10 students for each one that we accept. And they all have the credentials to get in. I’m told this year that the average SAT are about 1400 [out of 1600]. So these are students that probably had academic profiles that will allow them to get into some of the most elite institutions
in the United States. So that’s the good news. CH: If you could wave your magic wand, in three to five years, what are some of the things you would like to see? MG: Fundamentally, I would like for the marketplace, and I’ll use marketplace in the broadest context—government, business—to acknowledge the importance of this university and make the kinds of investment that we have not seen at the level that I think are needed to take this university to the next plane. If there is one fundamental thing that we need at this university, it is investment. It is investment to allow us to hire more faculty, the best faculty, to compete for the best faculty, to provide for the most modern equipment to attract the best graduate students that are very costly today, to help our scientists to equip their laboratories. ANDREW SCHWARTZ
Matthew Goldstein Chancellor, City University of New York City Hall: You’ve launched a number of new initiatives since you came here as chancellor in September 1999? Which are the most important? Matthew Goldstein: I came in at a time when there was a major debate about whether senior colleges should be doing remediation at all. And we convinced the Board of Regents that we ought to get an amendment to our master plan to rid the remediation from the senior colleges. There were four new operating units that I was interested in. One was the honors college, which is now called the Macaulay Honors College pursuant to a $30 million gift that we received about nine or ten months ago. The second was a School of Professional Studies, which is a nimble organization that deals with market conditions in ways that regular programs don’t. And that has been very successful and that new school is taking the lead in online education for the university. We just started a program in culture and communications and we’ll be starting a new program in business administration. So we’re very excited about that. The other one that I wanted to start was a Graduate School of Journalism.
CH: Who were your role models growing up? MG: Music and science have always been very important to me in my life. I was a musician at one point—not very good. I played alto sax. Not like Paul Desmond, but I tried. So music was important and the people who had a great influence on me from a distance were people like Leonard Bernstein, Mozart…and I also liked rock and roll and jazz. CH: What is your favorite rock and roll group? MG: Look, I’m an old guy. So the Rolling Stones, that’s about the cusp. I do love the Rolling Stones. My younger son was coming in from Denver and I wanted to surprise him with tickets to the Rolling Stones. I really wanted to go. And I asked my secretary to find out if there were tickets available and she said, “Yes, if you want to spend about $1,000.” I said forget it. CH: You arrived during the Giuliani Administration. Do you think that Mayor Bloomberg shares your vision of this university? MG: I think Mayor Bloomberg had been very respon-
sive. And I think highly of him. I think he’s been an extraordinary mayor. When I talk to him about the need for capital investment in this university and I sat with him and I said this is important for the following reasons, he acted very, very quickly and created a multiyear funding stream of several hundreds of millions of dollars for our community colleges. When I spoke with him recently over breakfast over a need to try some innovative strategies for community colleges to get those students to graduate in a timely manner, he made an investment of $20 million in a pilot program. So Mike Bloomberg listens. CH: What is your assessment of our new governor? MG: I’m a big admirer of Eliot Spitzer. I’ve known him for a long time in lots of different capacities. The thing that I like most about him is that he is very direct. He does his homework. He looks at problems in a deep way and tells you what he’s going to do and why he’s going to do it and then does it. He is the only governor in the history of this state where both his parents went to city colleges. One went to City and one went to Hunter. And don’t underestimate the power of that. —Christopher Moore email@example.com
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The April 1, 2007 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State....
Published on Apr 1, 2007
The April 1, 2007 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State....