Lorna Goodman, right, manages the staff of the charter commission (Page 2), Hiram Monserrate leads his own political movement in Queens (Page 11) and
Vol. 4, No. 16
JUNE 29, 2010
Howard Wolfson, left, speaks On/Off the Record (Page 23).
An assessment of Bloombergâ€™s third term, so far
MEASURING UP jerry miller
JUNE 29, 2010
Navigating Independence From Bloomberg, Goodman And Staff Shape Charter Revision
Former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. has brought his charter concerns directly to commission executive director Lorna Goodman. BY CHRIS BRAGG hough there have been some raucous ones, not that many people come to most charter commission meetings. Not even all the commission members themselves get there all the time, and, on more than one occasion, chairman Matt Goldstein has been left sitting at the center of the long table, watching the clock as he waits for an eighth, quorum-filling commissioner to arrive. On a body with 15 busy people who have outside, full-time jobs and various levels of involvements with the effort to reshape city government, the task of actually making the commission run is handled from a remote office down the block from City Hall by the executive director, Lorna Goodman, and her small staff of about 10 full- and part-time employees. A handful of interns help too. “The staff takes the lead on things, with the caveat that people duck in and out where they think their strength is,” said Tony Cassino, a charter commissioner from the Bronx. The staff decided which five topics the commission would hold hearings on
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over the past two months, and largely determined who was asked to testify. Details like where the hearings are held and determining which proposals might run afoul of state law are handled by them as well. But perhaps most importantly, the staff is leading the formulation of a highly anticipated draft report expected to come out in mid-July, which will guide the course of the commission heading into November. “The shovel is clearly in the hands of the commission. The depth of digging is in part a function of the staff,” said Steve Fiala, the Staten Island clerk and repeat commission member. When asked during an interview at her office what she felt the role Goldstein, the chancellor of CUNY, played in the whole process, Goodman replied: “He gets to run the meetings.” Goodman quickly tempered the comment, cautioning that she and Goldstein talk on the phone every day, and that he and the other commission members ultimately have veto power over any staff decisions. After Goodman was appointed executive director by Goldstein in early April, the staff had to quickly paint the
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walls of the new office at 2 Lafayette Street and fix the copy machine. A sign hanging on the front door of the office with the words “Charter Revision Commission” was typed on a computer, printed and hung with scotch tape. Two months later, the sign is still held on by tape. From the start, critics have questioned how the first comprehensive review of the 359-page City Charter could take place in a single summer. Already, they are running two weeks behind the timeline Goldstein laid out at the commission’s first meeting, with the date for the initial draft report pushed from late June to midJuly. Goodman, meanwhile, said there is a growing sense that the commission will not get to everything, potentially leaving several of the large issues for a later commission to address. Two of the issues that have been generating the most buzz—and which have already been studied far more extensively than more complicated issues such as land use or the relative powers of city offices—are non-partisan elections and term limits, which Goldstein says will definitely be on the ballot this year. The commission and staff are questioning whether to put an item on the ballot that will allow voters a straight
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up-or-down vote on whether to roll back the term-limits extension, or to ask voters whether citywide elected offices should have two terms and the Council should have three. At the commission’s hearings so far, the issue that has gotten the most public support is non-partisan elections: hundreds of Independence Party members showed up at a hearing in the Bronx to catcall anyone who testified against their cause. (This is in contrast to the 27 percent of the vote non-partisan elections got when up for a referendum in 2003.) Literature on non-partisan elections, meanwhile, is prevalent around the commission’s office, including a study of nonpartisan elections in Milwaukee that sat on top of a set of boxes near Goodman’s office. Goodman also said she is reading through testimony from the 2003 charter revision commission, as well as testimony from other past commissions. Goodman, though, was seen as an independent pick, someone with a record of having depoliticized the Nassau County attorney’s office when she ran it during the tenure of Tom Suozzi. Still, most of the staffers, including Goodman, are either current or former city employees, and several split time between the Bloomberg administration payroll and the commission. Nonetheless, staff and commission members insist that they have had no contact with anyone inside the Bullpen about the mayor’s preferences—though Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson has indicated that Bloomberg will eventually make his feelings known. Wolfson said that while the mayor was still adamantly in favor of nonpartisan elections, whether the political climate to push them forward was more favorable than 2003—and whether the recent passage of non-partisan elections in California offers a precedent for New York City— remains unclear. Goodman, though, gently chided Wolfson for already weighing in on the commission’s work once this spring, when he declared on NY1 that eliminating the borough presidents’ and public advocate’s office would be off the table this year. “I wish I had been able to talk to him,” Goodman said, saying that she had not been in contact with the new deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs, “because I think we should have made it possible for him to know that we are independent.” With reporting by Colby Hamilton firstname.lastname@example.org
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JUNE 29, 2010
Facing Another Rat Sex Summer, City Cuts Back Extermination Layoffs during peak mating season has officials worried about public health BY LAUREN KELLEHER tand anywhere in New York and there are two rats having sex within a few feet. A female rat can birth about 20 rats per litter, and a male rat can impregnate 20 females in a matter of hours. And with summer in full swing, numbers can only keep rising. One number that is not increasing: the city’s pest control workforce, to the chagrin of city labor officials and politicians. In May, the city’s Department of Health and Human Hygiene laid off 57 of its 84 pest control workers, the result of steep cuts in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget. The layoffs, the department said, will save the city $1.5 million. But the remaining workers cannot handle the increased workload, said Fritz Reid, president of the Health Services Employees Local 768, which represents the city’s pest control employees. “It’s a public-health concern,” Reid added, “whenever you have rodents or vermin, you are just asking to violate the health code.”
Last year, the Health Department received more than 22,000 pest control complaints, handled by a fleet of pest control workers whom Reid characterized as among the lowest-paid city workers— $27,000-per-year for some—but still willing to do work that the Sanitation Department refuses. A Health Department spokesperson said the Department of Sanitation will continue to clear vacant lots, a responsibility the two agencies shared before the workforce reductions. State Sen. Bill Perkins, former chair of the Council’s Select Committee on Pest Control, called the cuts another “invitation to see an increase.” Perkins said the complaints about rat visibility at a recent district town hall meeting in Harlem were loud and frequent, prompting him to send staffers out of the office to take pictures of complaint sites. “They’re not just unsightly,” Perkins said of the rats. “They carry diseases too.” Perkins said the Health Department has yet to communicate with him about
plans for offsetting the layoffs, but that he plans to meet with officials soon. Both the Health Department and the mayor’s budget office say the Bronx Rat Indexing Project, launched in December 2007, has been an effective measure in curbing rat infestations, leading in some neighborhoods to an 83-percent decrease in infested properties. Rat indexing has not yet expanded to all five boroughs. Jessica Scaperotti, a spokesperson for the budget office, said the city is focusing on the most efficient means of rat control. “Rather than going out and clearing every single lot,” she said, “we are working with landlords and telling them how to clear their garbage and other things that make for a rat-conducive environment.” Robert Sullivan, author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants, said the problem with the pest control cuts is whom they will affect. “For me, cutting pest control budgets that affect neighborhoods with big rodent problems is in the same category as closing city public pools and libraries:
it affects people who don’t have a lot of alternatives,” Sullivan said. Though certain neighborhoods, many within Perkins’ district, have historically higher rates of infestation, recent blasting for the Second Avenue Subway have pushed many rats aboveground on the Upper East Side. The MTA, which uses its own track workers and contractors as exterminators, said it has baited traps every 15 to 20 feet at the site and closed up rat tunnels. The Pest Control Bureau brings in $6 million annually from fees and fines. The health department acknowledged this amount, but said that the revenue collected from property owners for cleaning lots generates just $1 million, which is not enough to cover the program’s expense. Reid said this could be easily solved by charging more than the current $40-perhour rate for pest workers’ labor. “They’re not doing it as a profit-making enterprise,” he said. “It’s cheaper for people to have the city do it. But I think the city could charge them more and they wouldn’t mind.” email@example.com
Unions Nervously Watch Teacher Contract Negotiations For Signs Of Givebacks UFT vows not to break pattern bargaining, as worries mount about possible precedent BY COLBY HAMILTON ichael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, paused between introductions of other labor leaders during the rally held outside City Hall on June 16. The overcast sky had broken and the sun, for the first time that day, started poking through the clouds. Mulgrew did not forego a chance to embrace the symbolism. “The sun shines on labor,” he said. With thousands of union members in tow, labor leaders and their allies in elected office spent the afternoon railing against the mayor, Albany, Wall Street and the service cuts and layoffs then looming in the city budget negotiations. No union was more visible at the rally, or had more at stake, than the United Federation of Teachers. Unified in their opposition to Bloomberg’s cuts, labor leaders admit a growing concern with the discussion of the UFT accepting the mayor’s most recent offer to take back 4,500 layoffs if the union accepts no pay increases for the next two years. In tough budget years, this could be a discussion that, once opened, is revived each spring. The givebacks to the city would break the pattern bargaining agreement of an annual 4-percent raise. Given the UFT’s trend-setting position, accepting the
mayor’s givebacks could substantially weaken labor’s position with City Hall and lead to deeper concessions moving forward, labor sources fear. Others have put the situation in blunter terms: union busting. “If they can downsize the compensation for UFT, imagine what they’d do to us when they hardly recognize us now,” said George Raglan, Jr., president of DC 1707, which represents approximately 25,000 non-profit daycare and homecare workers and has been waiting over four years for a new contract with the city. The teachers have also been working without a contract since their last one expired in October 2009. UFT officials have been tight-lipped on details of their negotiations for a new deal, but that did not stop Bloomberg from presenting a suggested giveback deal as done—much to the surprise of the union, which immediately released a statement from Mulgrew that denied any such agreement existed. While they worry, fellow union leaders say they still take Mulgrew at his word that givebacks will not be part of any deal, and that the wider bargaining pattern will not be upset. “Michael’s a new president,” said Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association. “The last thing he wants to be known as is the president who cut a
deal with the mayor.” One possible solution could be money pumped into the education system from elsewhere. Though the administration is not counting on potential Race to the Top money to boost education budgets, Mulgrew and Bloomberg have looked to Washington and Albany, traveling together to both capitals in two trips in mid-June. A wide swath of union officials have also called on Bloomberg to tap into the city’s $3.2 billion rainy day fund to avert layoffs and service cuts, while pressing the city to target Wall Street, rather than city workers, as a source for relieving the city’s budget woes. But among labor, UFT’s behavior over the past few years has been a source of tension, with the teacher’s union seen as too often putting its short-term interests ahead of the larger needs of city workers. One Council legislative source familiar with the relationship said the UFT is regarded as a weak link in a unified labor movement, and if any of the city’s unions are going to break ranks it will be UFT. UFT spokesman Dick Riley stuck by the union’s opposition to the givebacks, but struck a defiant pose. “As we noted when the mayor made public his decision to forgo layoffs and to offer no raises, the mayor can propose anything, but he cannot impose his wishes on the collective bargaining process,” Riley said in a statement. The teachers are not alone in contract
limbo. Along with DC 1707, both the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents school principals, and the custodians union IUOE Local 891 are floating on contract extenders, waiting for the city to come back to the table. Custodians president Robert Troeller acknowledged that the UFT agreeing to the givebacks would negatively impact future labor negotiations for both public and private labor unions. But Troeller, like most labor heads, did not see UFT accepting that deal. “My union won’t accept less than fourand-four”—the established pattern for 4-percent raises for each year—“I can’t imagine other unions accepting that,” he said. A number of labor officials remained hopeful that the mayor’s tough negotiating stance will ultimately break the budget gridlock in Albany, rather than unions. Pleading poverty, they say, may be the best way to ensure funds flow downstate. And there is hope that the city’s economy could revive in time to find funds to avoid cuts and layoffs, or reinstate those that are made. James Sanders, chair of the Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee, is not so optimistic. “The mayor’s office,” he said, “won’t have the least interest renegotiating when things get better.” firstname.lastname@example.org
JUNE 29, 2010
The LGBT Movement, Still On The Move A REFLECTION BY KENNETH SHERRILL
Tragically, it took the onset of AIDS to encourage the development of volunteering time and money among n its early days, the movement consisted those who felt otherwise immune from the disabilities mostly of young people, often students or of LGBT. The mobilization against AIDS was catalytic in recent graduates. They came of age in the developing a community that knew that the only way to era of the civil rights and anti-war moveprotect itself was through mobilization, activism, orgaments and their style was activist. Involvenization and vigilance. ment in a cause was a matter of justice, Times are different today. There are LGBT elected and politics was a calling, not a profession. Activofficials (even from Staten Island and Queens) and ism was passionate and intense, incredibly highthere is a significant number of LGBT-rights organizaspirited, but not highly structured. Activists burned tions with multimillion dollar budgets and large profesout or just moved on. People often took their notes, sional staffs. One can now make a career out of working their files and their rolodexes with them when they in LGBT-rights organizations and make a decent living. left. On more than one occasion, they also left with a Of course, people who can afford to donate money may chunk of the movement organizations’ meager treawell have a different set of priorities from those who suries. While this was an inconvenience, the early are only able to donate their time, and this has an immovement organizations depended on the energy of pact on the movement’s style and agenda. volunteers and had few, if any, significant donors. Much progress has been made, but much of the The early agenda was a fairly simple one: freeoriginal agenda remains unfulfilled. The New York dom and equality. Back in 1969, that meant an end to City Council has four LGBT members, about the perpolice harassment, establishing the rights to assemcent that one would expect by chance alone, given the ble and to speak, ending the sodomy statutes and size of the city’s LGBT population, and the Council has ending discrimination. Soon, legislation banning passed several bills designed to guarantee equality for discrimination in employment, public accommoLGBT New Yorkers. The city has lacked, however, a dations, housing and credit was introduced in the mayor committed to being a fierce advocate for LGBT City Council, but it could not get out of committee. rights, and the city’s bureaucracy has been very slow Whether the lesson was learned or not, we began to implement necessary reforms. While we have largely to see evidence that one of the great difficulties of recovered from the Giuliani era, we need more leaderidentity-based politics is that it’s very difficult to find ship from the top. allies and that it’s not at all hard to find virulent opThe state legislature is another matter. ponents. While Deborah Glick chairs the Assembly Movement politics has its limits. It can Higher Education Committee and Tom grab public attention, mobilize like-mindDuane chairs the Senate Health Commited people and highlight injustice. Forging tee, the state government lacks an openly legislative majorities is a more difficult City Council Speaker LGBT person with the stature of Council task. The inability to be taken seriously Christine Quinn has been a major Speaker Christine Quinn, and the handful in the corridors of power can be a signifimayoral contender since January 2, of openly LGBT state legislators is well cant burden. In the first five or six years 2006—about a minute after she secured below the number one might expect by of the movement, progress was slow and the support that threw her over the top chance alone. hard-fought. Simply getting in the door to become City Council speaker. There One need only compare New York to was difficult. has been no shortage of bumps over the California—where the state legislature One answer was to be found in the foryears since—including the slush fund has passed a marriage equality bill (only to mation of a more respectable style of orscandal, a collection of ever-rowdier be vetoed by the governor and then have ganization. Dr. Howard Brown, who was Council members and a perception in the voters amend the state constitution to Health Commissioner under Mayor Lindsome quarters that she often tends to forbid it) and where the state has enacted say, became New York’s first public offitake her marching orders from Michael an elaborate series of laws designed to cial to come out and, by virtue of a family Bloomberg. But the electorate can protect LGBT relationships and families, connection, was able to do it on the front be forgiving and forgetful, and Quinn LGBT students, LGBT senior citizens and page of the New York Times. I sat in his has been demonstrating an uptick in more. Perhaps were the New York State living room as he described his desire to stump skills that will likely serve her Senate not gerrymandered to over-repreform “a gay power elite.” All that had to be well, along with her tack to the city’s sent the most benighted areas of the state done was to get all of the gay people who business and real estate communities and to maximize the power of religious went to Fire Island to give what they spent looking for a Bloomberg heir, in building her list of achievements, zealots, things would be different. on one weekend to the cause. He saw his expanding her connections and fattening her campaign account as she heads into 2013. Civil rights movements and social jusnew organization as a complement to the tice movements often move slowly, bringGay Activists Alliance. Indeed, he knew How would you assess the current state of gay politics in New York City? “We are in ing about imperceptible shifts in public that activist movement organizations the place that many civil rights movements are in. We’ve made progress, but we’re not attitudes and then having bursts of activwere essential to the more traditional podone, and we need to keep moving forward. Marriage equality is a key part of it, but it ity. To be successful, they must operate litical work that he envisioned. “We’ll tell is not the only part of it. And when we win marriage equality—and I mean when—we at all levels of the political system and them that if they don’t deal with us, they’ll need to remember there is other work to do as well.” require both the energy and passion of a have to deal with GAA!” he said. Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT mass movement and the professionalism While Dr. Brown never succeeded community focus on next? “We’re on the cusp of overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the of organized interest groups. Taking pride in raising the kind of money that he endiscriminatory policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. in significant accomplishments does not visioned, he succeeded in creating a naWe’re also redoubling our efforts to combat hate and violence—not just against gays, prevent being angry about continuing intional organization with a suite of offices, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people—but for anyone who is a victim of a justices. an executive director and a board of dihate crime. Earlier this year the Council passed a resolution calling upon the FDA rectors, a small staff and a structured to reverse its longstanding prohibition on blood donation by men who have sex Kenneth Sherrill is a professor of poagenda. with men. But the U.S. Senate HHS Committee voted to uphold the ban, so we must litical science at Hunter College who has His mistake, though, was to think that continue to do all we can to see it struck down.” written extensively on the history of the appeals to justice would generate the habLGBT movement. its of generosity.
POWER PLAYERS Helping Shape The Future Of LGBT Political Involvement In New York
JUNE 29, 2010
Principal, Geto & DeMilly
BTEA UNION CONTRACTORS PUT SAFETY AS A PRIORITY ON CONSTRUCTION SITES
How would you assess the state of gay politics in New York today? “I have a longterm view that leads me to conclude that despite recent setbacks in the State Senate, the LGBT community is more empowered and consequential than at any time in history. We raise millions of dollars annually to support candidates who support our civil rights, there are openly LGBT people at all levels of government in New York City and state, and many of the most effective political consultants and campaign operatives are openly gay and widely sought by candidates for state and local office. Our struggle for first-class citizenship will prevail, including in the State Senate, where this year we will take out a number of our enemies (as we already did in the case of Hiram Monserrate where our community funded a massive campaign to take him down and support José Peralta).” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “In New York State, our top priority is passing antidiscrimination legislation to protect the rights of transgendered people and to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We also need tougher legislation to protect children and adolescents who are LGBT (or perceived to be LGBT) from being bullied and assaulted in school. Overall, our most critical priorities require action by the federal government—ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so that LGBT people can proudly serve their country, passing ENDA (the Employment NonDiscrimination Act) at the national level to protect LGBT people from discrimination in our jobs, housing and in places of public accommodation, reforming the immigration law to afford LGBT couples the same status as heterosexual couples, and achieving adoption rights in all 50 states.”
A Message from Louis J. Coletti, President & CEO, Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) For BTEA Union Contractors, safety is and has always been the most important aspect of a construction project. We have and continue to invest more than $25 million a year into safety training programs. These training programs provide project managers and union trade workers the information to help prevent accidents and fatalities on construction sites in New York City. One of our members has invested $2 million into establishing a Fire Safety Academy that performs research on ﬁre hazards on construction sites and provides training in ﬁre safety for construction managers. Records from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that Union construction sites are safer than Non-Union construction sites when it comes to public and worker safety. As you can see from the chart below, over the past 6 years 68% of construction fatalities in New York City occurred on Non-Union sites below 10 stories.
KEVIN FINNEGAN Political Director, 1199 SEIU
New York City Construction Worker Fatalities October 1, 2003 – September 30, 2009
Stepping into the shoes of a man who had just been hired by the president of the United States might seem daunting, but that is precisely what Kevin Finnegan did when he became the political director of 1199, the state’s largest and arguably most politically effective labor union, taking over for Patrick Gaspard. But Finnegan’s power derives as well from his continuing connections to increasingly powerful politicians throughout the city thanks to his previous political work and the law practice he gave up to take the 1199 job, as well as through his involvement with the Working Families Party. That work has brought the kind of scrutiny to Finnegan that political operatives tend to avoid, but regardless, he remains in charge of the operations of a union which has been the key to success—or failure, for those who do not get it—of more candidates and elected officials than probably any other. As it prepares for more years of increasingly fragmented electorates and tough budgets ahead, 1199’s role will undoubtedly remain large, with Finnegan in charge of flexing its influence.
Building Trades Employers’ Association
Experienced guidance on development projects, full-scale lobbying, political consulting, gay activism—that is the combination Ethan Geto provides. Overseeing a firm that specializes in real estate, Geto’s hand is evident in many of the projects that will shape the landscape and the skyline of the city for years to come. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean came looking for his advice as he ran for president in 2004, and he is far from the only one. Geto has racked up a range of political clients, while at the same time remaining one of the go-to voices on gay politics and activism.
How would you assess the state of gay politics today? “In many ways, gay politics have never been better. We have gone from having a handful of gay elected officials who were known primarily for their sexual orientation to having numerous openly gay individuals in leadership positions not just in politics, but really throughout society.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “The community needs to drill deeper into new segments of society and work towards acceptance where people are still afraid to be out and proud. We need to work with new immigrant communities, communities of faith and in many working-class communities throughout the country.”
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, New York Regional Ofﬁce
BTEA Contractors have the safest construction sites, and have the best skilled and trained workers in New York City. Using BTEA Union Contractors means building under the best safety conditions in the construction industry.
JUNE 29, 2010
Editor, Gay City News
Already by the time she turned 30, Emma Wolfe was an experienced hand at political organizing, whether on behalf of State Senate candidates as far away as Buffalo or for the Working Families Party, where she served as elections and campaigns director, taking an active role in the many campaigns the party backed last year. She signed on as the field director for Bill de Blasio’s publicadvocate campaign last year and, shortly after he won, was hired to be his chief of staff. In that role, she has been helping de Blasio redefine an office through implementing elements of the political organizing she and her new boss share. These efforts may prove especially important as the office’s budget stays continually under the knife and its very existence remains under threat from the charter commission—and all as she helps position de Blasio as a successor to Bloomberg in the 2013 mayor’s race. How would you assess the current state of gay politics in New York? “There’s a lot for us to be tremendously proud of, especially the breadth and depth of leaders and organizations throughout New York, but obviously the struggle for marriage equality continues to be a litmus test.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “I think workplace rights and broad economic justice issues are important focal points for the movement, in addition to LGBT youth issues.”
Partner, Bolton-St. John’s
Chief of Staff, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
Under Schindler’s decade-long tenure as head of the re-launched Gay City News, the paper has quickly risen to be a major player, not just in news that affects the LGBT community in the city, but one that contributes to the cultural conversation in the city as a whole. Schindler has used the bully pulpit of his editorial page to fight for greater civil rights for gays and lesbians across the country, and he has been unafraid to name names when appropriate. The stable of writers for Gay City News remains small, and so in addition to his editing duties, Schnidler must often call on his crack reporting skills, and he has broken a number of stories that affect the LGBT community around the country. Plus, Schindler has become something of a gatekeeper for politicos looking to make inroads into the city’s sizeable gay community. Even as the future of newspapers looks increasingly dim, Gay City News has built beyond its niche in a crowded media market.
How would you assess the current state of gay politics in New York City? “I am afraid that public opinion is way ahead of where we are politically in Albany. This two-year cycle was the first where the majority party in the State Senate has been open to debating our issues, but not only did we lose on marriage equality in December, but we also lost last week on transgender civil rights in a Senate committee. That makes two big losses, with the risk that the Senate next year may not be in the hands of leadership willing to continue debating our issues.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “We need to finish the job of providing transgender New Yorkers with nondiscrimination protection, pass the school anti-bullying bill, work more closely with LGBT youth to provide safety, opportunity and, for the many homeless among that population, a safe and stable place to live, and focus greater urgency on bringing down the persistently troubling rate of new HIV infections.”
DANNY O’DONNELL Assembly Member
There are not many lobbyists who have served on the Democratic Gay marriage legislation had state and national committees, or as vice chair of the state party. Emily been around in Albany for years Giske brings that experience and all the relationships she developed without making much of a stir Helping Shape along the way to her work at Bolton-St. John’s, consistently one of when Danny O’Donnell strongThe Future Of LGBT the top lobbying firms in the city and the state. Harnessing the power armed his way into taking over as Political Involvement lead sponsor. He quickly proved of a past in political In New York activism and political that the difference was more than consulting, Giske in changing the name at the top of regularly adds new big wins for big the bill, whipping votes that allowed the Assembly clients that she has shepherded to pass it three times, helping create the momentum through the complex state and city which forced the reluctant to bring it up for a vote last budgeting process. For campaign year—and though the bill lost, the energy generated contributions, for government has helped create a mass of political involvement that guidance and for access, Giske often could help flip several otherwise sleepy Senate seats holds the keys. in September and November. But O’Donnell has hardy confined himself to being just a gay legislator, instead How would you assess the state becoming a firm, quiet voice in politics and policy who of gay politics in New York today? “I is not simply part of a bloc with progressives, West Side liberals, Working Families Party am getting married next month to my interests or any others, though he often works together with all of them. He already got partner Annie Washburn, and though himself very much into the conversation when Gov. David Paterson was batting around it is bittersweet that we cannot candidates for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, and with what he’s done over just four terms get married in the state that I love, in office in a chamber with aging leadership, there may well be more opportunities to move it will be recognized here in New up through the ranks soon. York. How silly we cannot spend our dollars here. Our economy is missing How would you assess the state of gay politics in New York today? “The state of gay out on all these opportunities. I politics in New York is angry and energized. The community is reevaluating its strategy to feel New York State is very close to accomplish full equality for LGBT individuals. Every option is on the table right now. LGBT passing marriage equality. [The most issues have become a litmus test in a way they never have been in the past. Today, it is important thing] is to elect a pro-marriage Democratic majority in the New York State not enough to simply vote the right way. The LGBT community demands leadership and is Senate and Andrew Cuomo for governor. After the loss in the Senate last December, looking to expand the ranks of openly gay elected officials.” the community has realized we need to focus on elections like never before.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT focus on next? “There is incredible energy in support of anti-bullying and gender-identity community focus on next? “New York State needs to pass Gender and Dignity for All nondiscrimination measures. Two bills that would address those issues have languished in Students, and our community needs to continue to come out, and our friends and the Senate for years, but successful votes are within our grasp. The full force of the LGBT families need to come out as our allies.” community will be needed to move the bills through the Senate and onto the governor’s desk.” PATRICK DODSON
New York State Senator
As difficult as it may be to remember, when Tom Duane was first elected to the New York City Council in 1991, there were no openly gay elected officials in the corridors of City Hall. Now there are several, and in Albany as well, which is where Duane continued the fight for equality since he was first elected to the state Senate in 1998. That fight hit a snag when Duane’s marriage equality bill failed, but his moving speech from the floor of the Senate was a visceral reminder of the stakes of the legislation. How would you assess the state of gay politics today? “We’re making advances, slow but steady. It’s been two steps forward, and one step back. In New York State there was disappointment around marriage not passing, but yesterday’s Dignity for All bill passed [in the Senate], so we’re only making progress. Every civil rights struggle is always about forward movement.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “I want to pass the transgender civil rights law and I am hopeful that the governor will sign Dignity for All Students, which was just passed last night. And laws protecting civil rights are a giant step, and we have to make sure that the protection be used as little as possible as society transforms itself into one where diversity is treasured and protected.”
Our Perspective New York City Must Stay Wal-Mart Free By Stuart Appelbaum President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW ew York City residents need good jobs that provide wages that can help them support their families — not jobs that will leave them mired in poverty and devastate their communities. That’s why unions, community groups, and elected officials have fought Wal-Mart’s efforts to open in New York City.
Wal-Mart has already tried, and failed, to open stores in Rego Park and Staten Island. But the low-wage retail behemoth still hasn’t gotten the message. In April, news leaked that Wal-Mart is scoping out the Gateway shopping center in Brooklyn. The location may have changed, but the question remains: Is Wal-Mart good for New York City? The answer is a resounding “no!”
CEO, Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Low wages and weak benefits are communities and par for the course for Wal-Mart, with drives local stores average pay that keeps their employout of business. ees below the poverty line. As the largest employer in the U.S., their behavior becomes the model for the entire retail industry. And Wal-Mart fights to keep standards low. This is a company that shut down an entire store in Quebec when their employees voted for a union. Wal-Mart decimates communities and drives local stores out of business.
Marjorie Hill has been at the forefront of mental health and lesbian and gay men’s issues for nearly three decades. She spent time as the director of the Office for the Lesbian and Gay Community under former Mayor David Dinkins, served as the commissioner for the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board and, in 2006, she became executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. As executive director, Hill has led outreach to communities that have been overlooked by LGBT social services agencies, including women and black and Latino communities. Recently, she has focused on fundraising—bringing in nearly $6 million in a recent AIDS Walk—and trying to find a new space for a growing organization.
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How would you assess the state of gay politics in New York today? “Today, the visibility of LGBT people is throughout the fiber of New York City. We have ‘out’ elected officials, judges in the appellate court and leadership in diverse industries. Yet homophobia and stigma still prevails. Even with Speaker Quinn, a talented and effective out lesbian—there are LGBT youth who cannot come out in their school, faith communities or at home. We still have many challenges related to gender identity and race. Plus, LGBT people of color still may not fully experience freedom and pride.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “Health in the LGBT community is important, especially access to quality, affordable health care. We must continue to address HIV and AIDS in our community, particularly among gay men, we cannot move forward, until we get a handle on HIV. We also have to address mental health in our community. For example, stress compromises mental health. Homophobia is a stressor. AIDS-phobia is a stressor. Stigma is a stressor. A lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person cannot fully contribute to our society if she or he feels their health is compromised due to these stressors.”
On top of that, a federal court recently ruled that a gender discrimination lawsuit, the largest class action suit in history, can proceed on behalf of 1 million former Wal-Mart employees. The lawsuit alleges Wal-Mart paid women less than men for the same jobs, and that women received fewer promotions than male counterparts. In addition, the company has paid fines to settle federal charges that it broke child labor laws by assigning teenage workers to jobs requiring the use of dangerous equipment. Wal-Mart’s lack of affordable health care benefits creates a huge drain on public resources. Hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees turn to publicly subsidized health care, and the company actively encourages workers to apply for public health assistance at the cost of taxpayers. In New York City, we know the real price of Wal-Mart’s supposed bargains. It’s a cost that New Yorkers and our communities can not afford.
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JUNE 29, 2010
ALAN VAN CAPELLE
Deputy Comptroller for External Affairs, Ofﬁce of Comptroller John Liu
As a general rule, outsiders do not tend to succeed much in local politics. Last year’s elections provided a number of exceptions, but none quite as stark as Danny Dromm, who capped off years of advocacy and protesting on the sidelines to knock out not just a political insider, but an incumbent who did not even have a scandal weighing her down. Dromm did it by merging his own base of support with some of the new Democratic power players that propelled him into being one of Queens’ first two openly gay elected officials, along with Jimmy Van Bramer, who was elected the same night from a neighboring district. Dromm is only a few months into his term and was tossed the not-so-hot assignment chairing the Immigration Committee, but he is well-positioned to channel his activist background into the work as the issue heats up nationally and use it to further strengthen his standing in a growing axis of political power building in Queens and beyond. How would you assess the current state of gay politics in New York City? “I’m somebody that’s been involved in the movement since 1973, and since 1973 I never could have imagined how much progress we would have made at this point. That being said, we still have a lot of things to do. Certainly marriage and the passage of gender equality are two of our top priorities, and I wouldn’t have imagined that we would even be talking about marriage 37 years ago, but yet I really thought we would have already passed gender, to be honest with you. We’ve made tremendous progress, but there remains work to be done.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “We need to make sure that our communitybased organizations are fully funded. There remain 3,500 homeless youth on the streets of New York City, and it’s estimated that perhaps half of them are LGBT. Yet we only have less than 300 beds for them in New York City.”
PAUL DEL DUCA
Chief of Staff, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is becoming an ever-bigger force in New York politics, and helping manage his ascent is Paul Del Duca. That has meant overseeing not just the politics to try taming the wild world of Bronx politics, but also Diaz’s effort to reshape operations at Borough Hall since he took over from Adolfo Carrión in the closest thing a borough-wide race has come to a coronation in years. In doing so, Del Duca has a major advantage in serving as Diaz’s top aide: not only does he know the Bronx, but he knows Diaz, having worked for him for years, since the beginning of the upstart politician’s continuing rise.
For most of last year, Alan Van Capelle was camped out in a hotel a few blocks from the State Capitol, running a constantly churning war room devoted to getting the gay marriage bill to the floor of the State Senate and making sure it passed. While not giving up on the cause, Van Capelle has moved on from the Empire State Pride Agenda, Van Capelle’s portfolio has expanded at the city comptroller’s office, now in charge of spreading John Liu’s involvement to communities across the city. For a politician whose ambition is clear and whose political rise has been the direct result of uniting diverse groups behind his cause, Van Capelle is a crucial player on the Liu team as he prepares for the 2013 election.
How would you assess the state of gay politics in New York today? “I think we’re seeing a transformation in gay politics. In 1988, [Michael] Dukakis didn’t want to accept a check from the gay community for fear of losing votes. In 1992, [Bill] Clinton accepted a check for $1 million and it really played a huge role in his election. In the 2008 state elections, there was a huge amount of gay support. But there’s a change—writing checks doesn’t mean change will happen. People organizing in their communities bring about change. There’s an emerging group of young gay leaders who are not patient with the pace of the progress despite the progress we’ve made. People like me need to get out the way and let people like them lead.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “We are seeing the first generation of older gay and lesbian people who survived the HIV crisis going into assisted-living situations and nursing homes that do no hold cultural competency around gay and lesbian issues, so people who have been out their entire life are now having to go back into the closet in a nursing home because of discrimination. [And,] 20 percent of all homeless teens in the country identify themselves as LGBT, and I believe the amount of homeless LGBT teens, most of who are minority, has reached epic proportions. We’ve done nothing as a community and as a government to address this crisis.”
STUART APPELBAUM President, RWDSU
Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “We have to continue to strive towards promoting individuals of substance and import to positions of influence and policy-making. If we focus on that, we are more likely to achieve all of our goals, whatever they may be.”
facing the hardest economic times are also the ones in greatest need of LGBT justice.” Beyond the ﬁght for marriage equality, what do you want to see the LGBT community focus on next? “We’re long past the point where there should be any social stigma being associated with being a part of the LGBT community, and the fight for marriage equality presents the case that we should be treated like everybody else in every aspect of our life.”
Stuart Appelbaum incensed the Bloomberg campaign last year by providing the votes that swung the Working Families Party’s ballot line to Bill Thompson, and then became the chief anti-Bloomberg bomb-thrower in November. He worked his way into David Paterson’s The Future Of LGBT Political Involvement kitchen cabinet of political advisors, defending the governor until throwing him overboard as this year’s scandals grew unbeatable. In New York And then Appelbaum not only got his union to endorse attorney general hopeful Kathleen Rice on the day she formally launched her campaign, but spoke on her behalf to put her name into nomination at the Democratic State Convention with an impassioned discussion of her plans to sue How would you assess the current state of gay politics in New York City? “I the federal government over marriage equality. Add to that the work he has done for his would have to say that the state of gay politics is strong. Selectively, our community union in leading the assault on the Kingsbridge Armory development, and Appelbaum has has achieved a great deal through diligence of individual components—political become a force to be reckoned with in New York politics—just at the moment when he organizations, social services and advocacy groups—and also through the individual came out last year. accomplishments of those who are working throughout the city to improve the quality of life of the LGBT community. This How would you assess the state of gay politics today? “I think we have to focus on strong group of people is reflected forming stronger alliances with non-LGBT groups in support of a broad social justice in the diversity of their positions agenda that includes LGBT rights. We need to throughout the city. There are LGBT ask others joining us in arguing that justice is people who have risen to some of the indivisible—you cannot be for justice for some, highest positions in government and and not be for justice for all. I would also say policy throughout the city and state. that we need to focus on the diversity of our The individual achievements of LGBT community, which includes people at all parts of people speak for themselves.” the economic spectrum. Many people who are
POWER PLAYERS Helping Shape
JUNE 29, 2010
The Return Of The Return Of Hiram Monserrate (And Friends) Up to five Monserrate allies running for a variety of positions in Queens BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS
“He’s come by to ask me how I’m doing,” Miranda said. “But I’m not supporty now, almost everyone has ing any candidate in that race.” Monserrate, never one to avoid heard the rumors of Hiram Monserrate’s comeback. Volunteers the spotlight in better times, has have allegedly been spotted collecting been hard to track down as of late. signatures for the disgraced former law- Even former aides say they have had maker around his Queens district, as the difficulty contacting him. Calls to Monserrate, along with sevformer Council member and expelled state senator angles for the Assembly eral e-mail requests seeking comment, seat held by José Peralta, the man now in went unanswered. Miranda is not the only former memthe Senate seat he fought hard to win. But there is more than an Assembly ber of Monserrate’s camp seeking office seat race underway. The controversial this year. Jim Galloway, president of the politician is trying to lead what could be Lefrak City Merchants Association, is called a wholesale Monserrate Movement running for county committeeman. Monserrate has been a supporter of the small in Northwest Queens. A slate of aides, confidants and ben- community group, and Galloway has in eficiaries of the former lawmaker’s are turn been one of Monserrate’s most vocal also running this year for a variety of po- supporters. “If he becomes the state assembly sitions—Assembly, district leader, state person for that district, those people will committee. Local operatives see a vengeful effort have a jewel,” Galloway said. “It’s unfortuorchestrated by Monserrate to claw his nate what happened to him, his girlfriend. way back into power. But Monserrate al- You know the rest.” Terry Lewis—a self-ordained minislies say the number of people associated with him who are running this year is pure ter, former staffer during Monserrate’s coincidence, dismissing claims of conspir- Council and Senate days and all-around gadfly—is said to be running for district acy as distracting from the issues. “They want people to believe in the leader against James Lisa, whom Monboogie man, but there’s no boogie man,” serrate himself ran against over a decade said Anthony Miranda, a former staffer ago. Hayden Horshen, who once worked of Monserrate’s who is running a primary for both Monserrate and his Council-succampaign against Assembly Member Jeff cessor Julissa Ferreras (and was fired by both), is said to be running against DisAubry in a district adjacent to Peralta’s. Miranda co-founded the Latino Offi- trict Leader George Dickson. Neither Horshen nor Lewis could be cers Association with Monserrate when both served on the police force in the reached for comment. On the other side of the coin is Peralta ’90s. The two successfully sued the NYPD for discrimination, and later, when Mon- and his self-styled “unity team,” which inserrate ran for district leader, Miranda cludes Aubry, Assembly Member Michael was at his side in support. They planned DenDekker, Francisco Moya (who would to take Northwest Queens by storm, run- be the candidate running against Monning Monserrate for City Council and serrate for Peralta’s old Assembly seat), other candidates for district leader and and Council Members Daniel Dromm and State Senate, several people familiar with Ferreras, who are both seeking district leader positions. their efforts say. They A slate of aides, A recent addition did succeed in getting to Peralta’s unity team Monserrate elected confidants and is Jessica Ramos, a to the City Council, beneficiaries of press aide at District making him the first Latino in elected ofHiram Monserrate Council 37, who once worked for Monserfice from Queens. are running this rate but had a fallingBut since his misdemeanor convic- year for a variety of out with the former tion last year and his positions—Assembly, senator. Ramos was running for district subsequent ouster from the Senate, even district leader, state leader against former Council Member HelMonserrate’s friends committee. en Sears (who nearly are trying their best to became the Republican candidate in the play down their connections with him. Miranda says Monserrate is in no way special election to succeed Monserrate in involved in his campaign for Assembly, the spring). But she has since been perthough they speak frequently by phone. suaded to abandon that effort and run for And Miranda declined to endorse Monser- an open seat in another district. Monserrate and his allies face an uprate’s purported candidacy for Assembly.
Local operative Hiram Monserrate is orchestrating a multi-race effort to claw his way back into power, while his allies say it’s just coincidence that so many former staffers are seeking office. hill challenge in their races, with little money, fractured community support and the shadow of Monserrate’s conviction that follows him wherever he goes. Still, even his critics acknowledge that low voter turnout in the Democratic primary this year could work in the former legislator’s favor. Monserrate received over 4,000 votes in the special election against Peralta, a little over 1,500 votes from the 39th Assembly district alone. If he can win 500 to 1,000 more votes in that same district, he could, theoretically, manage an upset victory over Moya, who has lined up essentially all the establishment support for the seat. Monserrate also seems to be running African-American candidates (Galloway, Horshen and Lewis) in an effort to build beachheads in neighborhoods in the district like East Elmhurst and Lefrak City, where he has proven strong in the past, according to several Democratic insiders.
“This is all about Hiram putting up folks where he performed well,” one insider said. “To increase the votes in the African-American district, he’s running an African-American slate.” Monserrate critics who claim to be familiar with his campaign style said that his efforts usually start out as a team effort, but usually end up with the singular mission geared just to elect Monserrate himself. “Everyone who’s run with him, it always starts with ‘we,’” said one Queens official, “and it always ends up with ‘I’m the only one with a shot at this.’” Aubry, who faces Miranda in this year’s primary, said he has never known Monserrate to bow down, even when the odds are clearly staked against him. “He is a very driven individual,” Aubry said. “Even in the face of reality, he’s driven.” email@example.com
Promises, Promises, Promises
All candidates make them during campaign season, but most of the time they are forgotten after inauguration day, as “new priorities,” in politician-speak, arise. That has never been Michael Bloomberg’s approach—he releases a report card every year compiled by someone on staff whose 12
JUNE 29, 2010
job is to track the administration’s progress. Six months into the ﬁrst term, the Bloomberg team has already moved on some of the initiatives the mayor promised New Yorkers they could expect if he was re-elected, but some remain in process at best. Since the mayor and his team already www.cityhallnews.com
came out with their own report, much of the information contained below comes from sources around City Hall and out in the neighborhoods where evidence of progress—or lack thereof—can be seen, with grades based on how well the mayor has done in keeping on track. CITY HALL
MEASURING UP 1. Create or save 400,000 jobs. “Save,” of course, is a nebulous term. But the city has added 77,000 jobs since May, keeping it on target to hit 400,000 in three and a half years.
Grade: A 2. Open Brooklyn Bridge Park. Two piers opened in April, with the city ofﬁcially taking control in the spring.
Grade A 3. Invest nearly $10 billion in infrastructure programs this year. The word “infrastructure” can be a slippery one, meant to include everything from new sewer and subway lines to new sports stadiums. That said, in the ﬁrst half of the year the mayor had committed close to $9.3 billon in his executive budget, according to the Independent Budget Ofﬁce.
Grade: A 4. Cut taxes for small businesses and freelancers. This one was actually fulﬁlled before the campaign ended, when the Unincorporated Business Tax, which double-taxed entrepreneurs and freelancers, was reduced or eliminated.
Grade: A 5. Create new Business Improvement Districts in Staten Island and Brooklyn. One is in process in the forgotten borough, and the administration is moving ahead with others in Bushwick and Cobble Hill areas. For now, both are in the relatively early stages, far from ﬁnal legislative approval.
Grade: C 6. Make 311 NYC’s voting hotline. The Board of Elections seems unwilling to give up its own Election Day votingirregularity hotline, thank you very much. If the mayor wanted to, he could dissolve the Board, but that has not been mentioned much recently.
Grade: C 7. Eliminate the achievement gap in math. City students, grades 3 through 8, showed impressive gains in math scores last year, with 82 percent passing state tests compared to 74 percent the previous year. But the State Education Department is seeking to raise assessments, which many predict will result in more modest gains in closing the achievement gap than Bloomberg has overseen during his previous terms.
Grade: C 8. Eliminate the charter cap. After heavy lobbying by the Bloomberg administration, the Legislature voted in May to raise (but not eliminate) the cap on charter schools to 460 from 200. But the mayor will have to wait until September to see whether his efforts aid the state in winning the federal Race to the Top money.
Grade B 9. End ban on pre-K students in charter schools. The bill to double the state’s charter cap was a huge win for Bloomberg, but still fell short in ending the ban on admitting pre-K students in to charters. A spokesperson for the city Department of Education said, “We continue to work on the mayor’s campaign promise.”
12. Build a new greenway that connects Randall’s Island ball ﬁelds with the South Bronx. The initial phases of construction of the South Bronx Greenway are set to begin this summer. Construction of the Randall’s Island connector, which will tie the South Bronx Greenway into the Manhattan bike network, is scheduled to begin in fall 2011.
Grade: B 10. Restart the F express. During the campaign, Bloomberg ﬂoated the idea of expanding F train services on unused tracks. But with the V and W now gone and the MTA struggling to ﬁnd money to even keep existing services going, any efforts at expansion are on hold for now.
Grade: D 11. Lower CUNY tuition cost. This one is largely in Albany’s hands, and Gov. David Paterson has been demanding that the Legislature pass a bill as part of the budget that would give CUNY schools the power to determine their own tuition rates, linking them to the Higher Education Price Index. This would likely raise tuition costs, since the measure would cause prices to rise faster than inﬂation.
Grade: F 12. Make it a Class A misdemeanor to carry a ﬁrearm while intoxicated. Bloomberg along with State Sen. Jeff Klein held a press conference introducing the bill in the Bronx in February that would make it illegal to carry a shotgun, handgun or riﬂe while drunk. But the bill’s progress has stalled in the State Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the Council in May that already has the backing of Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Safety Committee chair Peter Vallone.
Grade: B 13. Ease ballot access and halve the number of signatures required to get on the ballot. State Sens. Joe Addabbo, Shirley Huntley and Carl Kruger introduced a bill in 2009 to lower the number of signatures required to get on the ballot from 3,500 to 2,000, but it has yet to pass. The charter-revision commission is also considering issues that would increase voter participation in elections, though whether easing ballot access will be on the agenda remains unclear.
Grade D 14. Increase services like free daycare for CUNY students. Bloomberg wanted to pour $6 million into this in his third term, but budget constraints have gotten in the way. CUNY ofﬁcials are just hoping for a preservation of the status quo in terms of the subsidies they receive for their childcare program in the coming ﬁscal year. Cuts are expected to the services, jeopardizing their currently minimal rates.
Grade: C 15. Eliminate public matching funds for campaign contributions bundled by lobbyists or those doing business before the city. Campaign ﬁnance law season is not yet upon us. While Bloomberg enumerated several proposals in his third-term bid, that kind of legislation often results from the city’s Campaign Finance Board annual report, due in late August/early September. Sources say that the conversation around City Hall hasn’t focused on the bundling-ban measure since the campaign.
Grade: D 10. Give chancellor independent chartering authority. Bloomberg may have been successful in convincing the Legislature to double the cap on charter schools, but he was unable to get them to give his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, the authority to create its own charters. During the campaign, the mayor argued that the current process is full of delays and unnecessary obstacles. Apparently, Albany did not agree.
Grade: D 11. Cut crime in half from 2001 levels. The total number of major crimes decreased dramatically in 2009 from 2001— by 34 percent, according to the NYPD’s CompStat database. With budget cuts and workforce reductions threatening to hinder the mayor’s progress, a 50-percent reduction could be difﬁcult to come by. And recent news reports of police ofﬁcials under pressure to produce crime reductions have cast doubt on the veracity of some of the administration’s tracking methods.
Grade C 16. Create a “footwear recognition database” to aid catching criminals. Big brother does not seem to be much closer on this than when Bloomberg touted it alongside a facial recognition software. At the time, he said it would take months to implement, but sources outside of the political sphere say the process takes much longer.
Grade: C 17. Use GPS technology to locate missing children and solve crimes. John Walls, the Vice President of Communications at CTIA, the International Association for Wireless Communications, said what the mayor proposed would be nearly impossible to carry out. Too much of a liability for wireless providers, and the current system—which requires a subpoena to release GPS information—works “pretty well in a relatively short amount of time.”
Grade: B CITY HALL
JUNE 29, 2010
Mr. Bloomberg Keeps Going To Washington The mayor restructures his approach to Congress in term three BY DAVID FREEDLANDER n mid-June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called New York City’s congressional delegation to his de-facto residence at Gracie Mansion for an emergency meeting. Congress had voted to cut Medicaid funds, and the mayor wanted to impress upon the city’s D.C. crew that the city was, as a result, facing a $600 million hole and the prospect of more devastating cuts. Reporters, snacking on city-provided cookies in an antechamber, were eventually summoned to the dining room to photograph the scene, and then pushed out into the June sun to wait for the requisite press conference. There, Rep. Nydia Velázquez was given a stern look by the mayor after she took a jab at Dick Cheney—much to the delight of the rest of
Impromptu Assessment How would you rate Bloomberg’s third term, so far? Bill Thompson “I still think it’s early in the term, and I think there are a number of commitments the mayor has made, where it’s too early to know whether or not he will fulﬁll them. I’m withholding judgment so far. I think he brought in a number of new people and we’ll see what kind of energy they can bring to move that agenda forward. But as his direct opponent last election, I think I’ll withhold judgment.”
JUNE 29, 2010
the onlookers—but by that point, most of the assembled delegation—Bloomberg’s one-time opponent Rep. Anthony Weiner, Queens Democratic Party head Rep. Joe Crowley and others—had left through the other side of the building. The situation had been prompted by Gov. David Paterson’s decision to short the city on Medicaid funding. And it almost went beyond talking: according to sources, the mayor was incensed, considered suing, but ultimately beseeched Sen. Chuck Schumer to intervene. Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) is just one piece of a huge portfolio of issues that Bloomberg has been advancing in Washington. Besides the restoration of the funding, the mayor has been pushing education reform, financial reform, the environment, gun control and, officially as of late June, immigration reform. “People in Washington didn’t pay attention to most [New York] mayors,” said Norman Orenstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on Congress. “But they do him.” When Bloomberg first ran for mayor, back in 2001, he said during a radio interview, “that I’ve got to be, as mayor, the third senator, if you will.” He was referring to the fact that, at the time, there was a Republican administration in Washington, and as a Republican, doors would open to him that would not for Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Despite his suggestions, and even his transformation of the city for the 2004 Republican National Convention, Bloomberg’s special relationship with the Bush administration never quite
materialized. In the years since, as the mayor’s political affiliation has morphed, D.C. insiders, New York congressmen and Hill staffers say, so has his relationship with his federal allies. He is counted on now, they say, to be the voice of a kind of dispassionate, technocratic centrism that Washington appears to lack. Members of the delegation say that Bloomberg can often be used as envoy to the Republican minority, who still consider him to be more of an ally than the Democrats from the big city. But it cuts the other way as well. Several House staffers said that Bloomberg’s shifting political affiliation has led them to eye him warily. With the exception of Mike McMahon, he has largely stayed out of their campaigns, and, when he meets with the delegation, he is the only one in the room who does not slowly work his way up through the city’s clubhouse political system. Bloomberg used to direct most of his communication towards Charlie Rangel. Now that Rangel is done as head of the Ways and Means Committee, members of the delegation say they have seen more outreach with the rest of the delegation. “They had kind of fallen down for a long while, but I think lately there has been a resurgence,” said one member. “We all want to help our city, but if we don’t hear directly from the mayor, we have do what we hope is right.” The relationship reached a boiling point earlier this year when the mayor began slamming Congress on the financial regulatory reform bill then beginning to churn through the process. Members felt like they were trying to represent the
city’s interest and, until Bloomberg began blaming then publicly, they had never heard anything from him. “Everyone welcomed the mayor’s engagement, but you can’t then say, ‘I don’t know where the hell the delegation has been,’” said one Hill staffer. “They were the ones that didn’t come to us, and I mean not a peep. There were some real pissed-off folks when the mayor did that.” Ultimately, the mayor’s newest political hand, Howard Wolfson, was dispatched to quell the rebellion. The move worked. Bloomberg’s fingerprints are all over the financial reform bill, and members of the delegation say that Wolfson has been a big part of keeping the cohesion. Many members have relationships with Wolfson that date back to his days as an aide to Nita Lowey, back in the time when Bloomberg was still happily running his media empire. That Wolfson is married to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff helps too. Members say that Wolfson is the one they usually go to as Michelle Goldstein, the head of the mayor’s federal affairs office since the start of the year, continues to learn the ropes. For now, though, the focus remains on an overdrive push to get the Medicaid funding restored, with the mayor occasionally taking to berating members and wondering why huge Democratic majorities can not get the bill passed. “They are very aggressive in a positive and polite way,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman. “It’s like a general showing up in a war zone to help inspire the troops.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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As businessman and Republican, Bloomberg moves to change the shape of the immigration debate
BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE fter the year-long trauma of passing health care reform and with likely bruising midterm elections on the horizon, even the rosiest immigration advocates have largely given up hope for getting immigration reform passed any time this year. Still, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is moving forward with his effort to become the leading national voice on immigration, much as he has sought to do on sustainability, gun control, charter schools and financial reform. Of these, the immigration agenda is most closely modeled on the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group he formed, funded and gradually built up since announcing his interest in the issue in his second inaugural address. Like the anti-gun effort, the immigration agenda is being headed by John Feinblatt, Bloomberg’s chief advisor for policy and strategic planning. Working with Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama, Feinblatt not only recruited the mayors and CEOs who formed the Partnership for a New Economy announced at the end of June, but also their six-point agenda, which stresses enforcement, integration and innovation in dealing with illegal immigrants. There may not have been much movement to date on several of the immigration agenda promises the mayor
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made during his re-election campaign last year, such as developing a 10-year plan to expand English-language learning or local initiatives to assist immigrant homeowners and small-business owners, but the administration has been moving on the national agenda. For months, they met with people who ultimately joined the coalition, as well as immigrant advocates and legislators in Washington, forming both the agenda and a beachhead of support for it. Bloomberg himself met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois congressman who has often taken the lead on immigration issues in the House. These meetings stayed largely quiet, until Bloomberg announced the partnership in a joint appearance with co-chair Rupert Murdoch on the Fox & Friends couches early in the morning in late June. Then the praise immediately started flowing. “Our goal of passing immigration reform in Congress this year can benefit greatly from the business leaders and Republicans that Mayor Bloomberg can bring to the table,” Gutierrez said on the day Bloomberg made the plans public. Asked about the impact Bloomberg will have on the debate, Gutierrez was effusive. “It’s important to work with Mayor
Bloomberg because he is a force of reason in a cacophony of angry voices. He gets it,” Gutierrez said. “He fully understands that we absolutely need a functioning legal immigration system.” If the anti-gun coalition is the model, though, it is one the administration is hoping to improve upon in the months ahead. Despite some lawsuits and a massive sting operation targeting illegal sales at gun shows made public last year, Bloomberg has failed to get any legislative action on gun control in Washington, and has even fallen short on getting microstamping of bullets passed in Albany. And the larger climate has been no help, with the Supreme Court making two recent decisions—the latest, McDonald v. Chicago—which peel back restrictions on guns. Asked at a City Hall On/Off the Record breakfast an hour after the partnership was officially announced whether Bloomberg will have more success achieving legislative changes on immigration than he has on gun control, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson cited a line from Kevin Sheekey, who said at his going-away party after turning over the reins to Wolfson that, “Mike Bloomberg has taught me that anything is possible.” When pointed out to him that this is not the most confident or concrete assessment of the mayor’s immigration agenda, Wolfson did not exactly change course and start flowing with optimism.
“Well, I know enough about Washington to know that change can be slow. On the other hand, we’ve seen an enormous amount of change in Washington over the last couple of years, we’re going to put our noses to the grindstone and work hard on this initiative, and my hope is that we will be successful.” Through a spokesman, Feinblatt declined comment on implementation of the immigration agenda and how he planned to make sure the effort fares better in the halls of Congress than the gun-control legislation. But already, even critics of parts of his record on local immigration issues say they believe he will upend the discussion. “He can play a special role in this debate because of his Republican ties,” said Council Member Danny Dromm, chair of the Immigration Committee. “Having someone like the mayor speak out on that is kind of equivalent to the mayor’s stand on gun control.” Dromm was among those protesting the mayor’s proposed wholesale cut of the $5 million in funding for the Immigrant Opportunity Initiative (IOI), which provides English education and legal services to immigrants. Though most of this was restored—IOI ultimately received only a 10-percent cut, coming in at $4.5 million in the final budget—Dromm’s wish list for Bloomberg’s involvement on local immigrant problems includes getting the federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents out of Riker’s Island and severing the link between the city’s corrections database and the federal immigration database. These measures, which the city does on a voluntary basis, have led to unacceptable incidents of harassment, long periods of detainment and threats of deportation, Dromm said. As much as he applauds the mayor for last year’s executive order to prevent discrimination against immigrants, Dromm said, these would be significant moves to show his commitment to the cause. “This is something the mayor could do just by will,” Dromm said. “This would be a clear message to the immigrant community that he really means what his executive order is about.” But while there may be concerns on the local level, lawyer and immigrant advocate Brian O’Dwyer—who was one of those consulted along the way as the plans were crafted—said he expects that the mayor’s movement on the issue will make an enormous difference right at the moment when the issue is ripe to move. “His being both the mayor of the City of New York, which has a very diverse immigration population, and as a leading businessman, is going to bring tremendous visibility to the issue,” O’Dwyer said. “He alone among all the advocates brings a breadth of experience that no one else has had.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Impromptu Assessment How would you rate Bloomberg’s third term, so far? Bill de Blasio:
Bloomberg’s days as a candidate may be over, but his political involvement is evolving BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE an Donovan, the Republican attorney general nominee, clearly has Michael Bloomberg’s support. The mayor endorsed Donovan at his campaign kick-off, speaks warmly of him whenever given the chance and has already hosted a fundraiser for the Staten Island district attorney at his townhouse. Who else will benefit from his financial and popular largess is, for now, unclear. Which is not to say that Bloomberg, comfortable in his (for now) term-limited last round at City Hall and facing a potentially spiraling investigation into his campaign contributions thanks to the indictment of John Haggerty, will be sitting out this election year. Political events have already started appearing on his public schedule, including a short speech at the Republican State Convention dinner in early June to introduce former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a board member of his foundation and a charter-school advocacy ally. And there will be more, on behalf of specific candidates. “You should expect to see forthcoming announcements,” said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson at a City Hall On/Off the Record breakfast June 24, confirming that the mayor’s ability to personally shape the dynamics of a race through his checkbook and endorsements will once again be a part of his larger political strategy. “You could probably expect that the mayor will, as he has in the past, support the candidates that have supported us legislatively and in a governmental context,” Wolfson said. “In what form that support will take, I’m not going to pre-judge, but I think there’s every expectation that he will do as he has done—which is support politically those candidates who have supported us governmentally.” What has changed, though, is Bloomberg’s commitment to supporting Republicans. As those involved in planning the mayor’s political agenda have made increasingly clear, he is done writing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, done being a patron of the party that he ran as the candidate of in his three mayoral
races. This year, Bloomberg’s approach will be supporting candidates who have voted as he likes on priority issues like charter schools or gun control, whether Democrat or Republican. Especially for the State Senate, where the margin is narrow and the targeted races already getting ferocious, that could very quickly scramble the math. Meanwhile, Bloomberg will have to navigate a relationship with a new governor. Like just about everyone else, the mayor is expecting that to be Andrew Cuomo, and whether or not Bloomberg makes an endorsement in the race (which remains unclear), he is ready to make himself available as an ally—provided Cuomo courts him properly and reciprocates by cooperating on things like aid to the city in the budget. “Andrew only succeeds as governor if he takes on the big fights—budget, ethics, pensions. And he’ll only win if he has the consistent support of people like Mike Bloomberg because those are going to be brutal fights,” said one Bloomberg insider, adding, “Andrew clearly understands that he has to galvanize people willing to have his back.” Overall, though, the Bloomberg circle insists that the mayor will be less political in the third term, if only because of the departure of Kevin Sheekey, who spent eight years being bored with most of his government portfolio and spent his days pacing the courtyard of City Hall on his cell phone or at downtown restaurants, stirring up political intrigue to keep the mayor in the headlines and himself interested. Bloomberg himself is no political junkie, and Wolfson, who took over Sheekey’s job as deputy mayor for governmental operations, has surprised many in city government by how focused he has been on budget negotiations and other government business.
Still, Sheekey is only as far away as Bloomberg LP, while Bradley Tusk, Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager, has his own shop to help out with some clients who happen to match up with the mayor’s interests, like Donovan and charter schools. If and when the mayor decides to flex the power of a self-funded operation beyond the bounds of required political-spending disclosures, Tusk’s company could prove very useful. As could Wolfson, who many suspect might be hungry for another stab at national politics. Even, say, a presidential race, as much as the people around Bloomberg insist that this talk is pure media creation— much as they did during the run-up to the 2008 race, all while the mayor was laying significant preliminary groundwork to run. The national pundits are even less convinced of Bloomberg’s viability now than they were last time around. “The belief is that he still has national ambitions, I don’t know that too many people outside of his inner circle take them seriously,” said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and a regular commentator on national campaigns. “I don’t care how much money he has, I just don’t see him as a credible national candidate. It was possible to make a credible argument in 2008. I just don’t think it’s possible anymore.” What Bloomberg certainly has, Sabato said, is the ability to use his status as a respected, cross-partisan figure with the money at his disposal to fund campaign donations and independent activities. And that will make Bloomberg a potent political force even if he never runs for anything again. “He’s the mayor of New York, he’s well known and he has resources,” Sabato
“In the state of the city and in the inaugural speech he didn’t promise a lot. He came up with what I thought were some very good ideas, like merging ACS and DJJ and some of the other proposals around youth, I thought, he had good ideas, but they weren’t big-picture ideas, they weren’t major-change ideas. And even less so in the inaugural speech. In the inaugural speech, I think the best thing he talked about was working on immigration reform, which became even more timely since the Arizona law, but not bigger sweeping changes for the city. Some of that is the tough budget climate. But it is something a lot of us cautioned about any third term—anybody in their third term—sometimes you run out of gas and sometimes the amount of vision is reduced. But I will say, on some of the day-to-day decisions, I think he’s done fairly well. There are areas where I’ve certainly agreed with him and thought he managed things well. I thought, obviously in terms of everything with the police, we can only give high marks to the way they have handled recent threats of terrorism and generally continuing to keep the city safe even though there are a few trouble trends. I disagree with him on ﬁre. He has continued to want to cut ﬁrehouses, and I think that is a shortsighted view. On schools, I think there needs to be a greater awareness of the problem of not working with parents. I see a few steps in that direction but they need to go farther. So it’s a mixed bag. He’s always been a good manager, but I think there’s not a really clear sense of what he is trying to do for the city over these three years or four years. “The message of his election was more of the same. And on one level he is doing that. He did argue that his third term would be about restoring the city economy in the middle of a crisis, and I don’t think there is a lot of evidence of that yet, although he certainly has always been good about managing the budget process. I would say there is not a big sweeping vision for his third term. There are a lot of challenges in the city. I think people would like to hear more. I think they would like to have a sense of how he is going to address, for example, bringing parents into the school system in a more meaningful way or getting more out of the development process, something I’ve talked a lot about, where we are not creating enough affordable housing or jobs through the development process. I don’t hear a bigger vision for that. So I would say, as usual, on day-to-day management, he always gets high grades, and on managing the budget process he gets high grades, but in terms of bigger changes for the city, I don’t think a lot of us have heard enough.
said. “You put all that together, and he can certainly command a national stage for an issue.” But referring to the issue of gun control, in which the mayor has invested considerable political, personal and financial capital, Sabato added, “That doesn’t mean the issue will go anywhere.” email@example.com
JUNE 29, 2010
New Deputy Mayor Bob Steel is expected to bring a shift in the administration’s approach to development
Legacy Building Pressing ahead through the recession while retooling the development agenda BY COLBY HAMILTON n promoting a third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had few bigger boosters than the real estate industry. Major developers like Jerry Speyer and Steven Ross were reportedly early backers of his re-election bid. Bloomberg himself cited the need to see his rezoning efforts across the city through to fruition as justifications for staying in office. Six months in to its third term, the Bloomberg administration’s commitment and ability to continue remaking the city have been snagged in part by a real estate market struggling to rebound. And some see a signal of the mayor’s priorities for a third term in replacing Bob Lieber with Bob Steel, swapping a real estate background for a banking background. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to abandon development commitments to fend for themselves, but it does mean he wasn’t looking for another real estate person,” said Ken
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Fisher, a former Council member and real estate lobbyist at Cozen O’Connor, of Steel’s selection. The administration is forging ahead with projects that will make up the Bloomberg legacy, even as uncertainty about the viability of New York City real estate development haunts public and private projects alike. “I think in Bloomberg’s first two terms his objective was to set into place the opportunities for longer-term projects to happen and, with the third term, they now have the ability to actually implement those projects,” said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. At the end of 2009, the Department of City Planning celebrated its 101st rezoning under the reign of Bloomberg, marking a full quarter of the city that will be reconfigured by the end of 2010. Even in the bust-out years, Bloomberg officials say, progress will continue to be made. “For the most part, things are moving
forward as planned,” David Lombino, spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said. “In a couple instances, timelines have been slowed and adjusted to account for an economy where there’s not as much building going on as a few years ago, but, for the most part, things are going quite well.” Developers like Jeffery Levine of Levine Builders are counting on the city to move development forward during this time of uncertainty. “I think the next three and a half years are a wonderful time for the city,” Levine said. “If anything, this downturn in the economy—because of the lower cost of building and historically low interest rates—is almost better for the creation of affordable housing than it was during the boom years.” Levine pointed to projects like Hunter’s Point South as evidence of the city’s continued commitment to development during the current downturn.
“This administration is not sitting still. It’s got a long-term game plan and they’re doing everything they can to follow through with it,” said Richard Anderson of the New York City Building Congress. “The key to the market for some years to come will be government.” While the administration and some private developers remain optimistic about the mayor’s ability to move development forward over the coming years, there is not a uniformity of opinion. According to one industry source, the prevailing view, if not openly admitted, is that a sustained rebound in the city is unlikely anytime soon. There is even uncertainty about the wisdom behind the massive rezoning over the past few years, which have left some neighborhoods with a glut of empty or unfinished projects. “Given the current economy, it’s unlikely there will be significant change in the skyline over the next three and a half years,” said real estate lobbyist Michele De Milly. Whatever doubts may be circulating in conference rooms and over lunch meetings, Amanda Burden said that they have not yet made their way to her office at the Department of City Planning. The department is moving ahead at full capacity on a number of projects. “We’ve never been more busy,” Burden said. “People want to get their applications in for when the market snaps back.” With reporting by Cat Contiguglia
Impromptu Assessment How would you rate Bloomberg’s third term, so far? Scott Stringer: “I think the jury is still out. He’s just starting the third term. I think you don’t judge someone just in a snapshot, but in fact you take the longer view. So I’m looking forward to working very closely and collaboratively with the administration. We are all going to be evaluated over time for the work that we do. But I think we need to have more time—a lot of critical issues need to be addressed: how we are dealing with the budget deﬁcit, and then we have to deal with issues of affordable housing and our education system. There’s a lot on the mayor’s plate and I want to ensure that he has the best opportunity to make a great contribution to the city in the third term. It’s going to be a very busy three and a half years. “There’s always the sense of bringing new people in with fresh ideas to take a look at what is going well, what needs improvement. And I think he is slowly putting in place people who he thinks will be his partners in that endeavor, and I think it’s totally appropriate. A year from now, we will be able to evaluate how this team is doing compared to previous years.”
Budget Dancing In Unison With toughest budget year yet to come, Bloomberg and Council keep to general spending accords BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS n the run-up to the late-night budget handshake between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, a remarkable thing happened: everyone got along. Wandering the halls of City Hall, Council members groused about making cuts to cherished programs, closing fire houses, padlocking city pools, paring back preventive services. But, however grudgingly, everyone accepted the reality. “I hate cutting,” said Gale Brewer, a veteran of the Council for the last eight years and much longer in various other positions in city government. “I hate, hate, hate cutting.” Ultimately, much like every year, many of the most serious cuts were avoided. The absence of any major conflict spoke volumes, not because of any newfound love affair between the Council and the mayor, but because of the emergence of two common enemies: Albany and Washington. “I’m angriest with David Paterson. For the moment, I’m angriest with the U.S. Senate,” said Council Member Lew Fidler, never one known to be an apologist for the mayor. “I can’t blame Mike Bloomberg.” This year’s negotiating period was notably truncated, defusing some of the inherent conflict between the Council and the administration. “Instead of us spending six weeks going through budget negotiating and delegations back and forth, to pare down our priority list,” Fidler said, “that has happened over a much shorter period of time, which allows the tension not to build to a crescendo so much.” While many of the anticipated cuts were avoided, the possibility of painful decisions in the future looms large. The common concern was the kind of doomsday scenario would eventually come down from Albany, now in its 12th week of a budget stalemate, and Washington, which holds $600 million in Medicaid money hostage via the FMAP bill. Not knowing what to assume, in the
Council members groused about making cuts to cherished programs, closing fire houses, padlocking city pools, paring back preventive services. But, however grudgingly, everyone accepted the reality that cuts would be made. end, everyone assumed the worse. When the deal was done, Bloomberg was long on praise for his staff and the Council for hammering out an agreement that raised no taxes, closed no fire houses, borrowed no money and staved off most of the anticipated damage. At the same time, thousands of city jobs are likely to be cut, a handful of senior centers and daycare facilities will close and 2,000 teacher positions will be lost through attrition. Bloomberg said that they had no choice but to assume the loss of $1.3 billion in tax revenues from the state, a figure that could end up changing depending on Albany “Pain, yes,” Bloomberg added. “Serious damage, no.” The few complaints there were during the negotiations centered mostly on those well-worn criticisms of the mayor’s style: not treating the Council like a relevant branch of government, not listening to Council members’ ideas. “The mayor’s people don’t get it,” said one Council staffer. Others grumbled privately that the administration was being stingy with details during the negotiating process, leaving some Council members scrambling to play catch up. They questioned why the administration made little attempt to stave off future cuts in last year’s budget. On the record, Council members were supportive of Bloomberg’s efforts to take
a balanced approach to this year’s budget. But there was some disappointment that a few revenue-generating ideas were not considered. When he released his executive budget in the beginning of the year, Bloomberg allowed for two taxes: a tax on aviation fuel and extending the mortgage-recording tax to co-ops, which together would have raised approximately $50 million. But those taxes, and the idea of tax increases in general, were quickly taken off the table. “The mayor has essentially dismissed that before he looked at it,” said freshman Council Member Brad Lander, who leads the newly constituted Progressive Caucus, which pushed for taxes on Wall Street bonuses to offset decreased tax revenues from the state. “It’s unfortunate.” Ideas like the bonus tax failed not because of the mayor’s opposition, but mostly because of a lack of consensus within the Council surrounding such proposals. Older members of the body chuckled over the freshman members’ starry-eyed excitement during the negotiations. “It’s very interesting to old-timers like myself to see the freshman members coming in and having the same debates that I had six years ago,” said Peter Vallone, Jr., a Democrat from Queens. “But interesting stuff doesn’t always make for the best use of my time.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Impromptu Assessment How would you rate Bloomberg’s third term, so far? Christine Quinn: “We have obviously been in a very tough ﬁscal time. I think the mayor’s ofﬁce, working with the Council, has done a good job keeping the city’s budget balanced. They have also been working very closely with us on our innovation-economy ideas, particularly at the Economic Development Corporation. I’m very satisﬁed with that. We were able to move forward on important environmental legislation like green buildings, and they are working hand-in-glove with us on Local Law 19 and expanding recycling, so I think it’s a good thing that we’ve been able to keep green initiatives moving forward even though we are in a recession. I am particularly gratiﬁed that work that we did in a prior term on middle schools is continuing the really positive results. In those areas, and in a number of others, I think we’ve made great progress. We’ve also been working very closely with HPD on continuing our work around foreclosures on one- and two-family homes, which I think the administration deserves a lot of credit for. But we’ve also extended that work now to distressed multi-unit properties, to over-leveraged rental buildings, and I think that is something that hasn’t gotten enough attention but is really a credit to the Council and the Bloomberg administration.” JUNE 29, 2010
Back in January, Landmarks deputy Kate Daly went to work for DOB for three weeks. Six months later, there has been no word on the effort.
As Inner Circle Shuffles, No Word On Deputy Swap Impatient for report on management exercise, Council weighs hearings BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS n his inaugural address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to send each of his deputy commissioners to work at a different agency for three weeks with the hope that their experience would yield recommendations to help city government run more efficiently and help the mayor avoid the third-term doldrums. Six months later, there has been hardly a peep from the administration about the experiment. Reporters have been rebuffed in their inquiries on the project. Even some members of the City Council are starting to get peevish about what they see as the administration’s stonewalling. Council Member Gale Brewer, chair of the Government Operations Committee, said that if Bloomberg continues to remain mum on the subject, the Council may be forced to compel him to speak up at a committee hearing. “I have not heard much. I think people are curious about it,” said Brewer, chair of the Council Government Operations Committee. Brewer said she has heard anecdotally that the Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which directly swapped deputies, have been collaborating more effectively since the January experiment, but has seen no hard evidence of improved relations be-
JUNE 29, 2010
tween the agencies. “I assume they’re figuring out how to present it, what people learned,” Brewer said. “Hopefully there’s better management, better understanding of what agencies do.” Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said a report detailing the results of the experiment would be released in “the coming weeks.” “There’s been a lot of interest,” he added. Some have questioned Bloomberg’s timing of mid-January to conduct the effort, right when many Council members were receiving new committee assignments and setting up meetings with city agencies to get up to speed on those issues. Council staffers say that one meeting held that month on the five-year capital plan was confusing because the deputy commissioner in attendance was from the Department of Environmental Preservation rather than the Department of Finance. A few days after the experiment ended, a number of deputy commissioners said in interviews with City Hall that the experience was positive. Unsurprisingly, many praised the mayor for having the ingenuity to propose the plan in the first place. Kate Daly, executive director at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said then that her stint at DOB not only changed
the way she sees other city agencies, but also the way she views the city itself. “It really made me walk around the city looking at things in a different way, looking at sidewalk shelters and scaffolding in a different way,” said Daly, who has worked at the Landmarks Commission for over eight years. “We work with DOB so closely, so I never really thought about the big picture as much, that DOB is this guardian angel, making sure that New Yorkers are safe.” The mayor’s press office allowed the interviews on the condition they would speak broadly about the experience, not about what recommendations they would be including in their reports. Bloomberg, who delights in crossing off campaign pledges and then bragging about it, has made good on his promise to reshuffle his inner circle. In addition to bringing on Howard Wolfson and Stephen Goldsmith, the mayor has hired Bob Steel, a former vice chairman at Goldman Sachs and Bush administration official, to replace Bob Lieber as deputy mayor of economic development. Those changes in the inner circle are generating speculation of their own about how the new administration will function. With two members of his inner circle—Kevin Sheekey and Ed Skyler— gone from City Hall, and Patti Harris also expected to leave in the not-too-distant future, the management dynamics at the
top going forward are unclear. Navigating the relationships when bringing in new leadership in an administration can always prove tricky, but the combination of doing so with a mayor who places such a premium on loyalty and relationships, and the number of new people who have all come in at once could create an additional layer of unpredictability. At the press conference to announce Steel’s hiring, the mayor noted that he has replaced 17 agency heads, eliminated two other agency heads through mergers, brought in two people to lead his service and census outreach efforts and hired three new deputy mayors. “In total that will represent a change in leadership of about a third of our agencies,” Bloomberg said. Replacing a third of his commissioners would be a goal for his third term, the mayor said in a speech shortly before election day last November. Many view the mayor’s efforts to reshape his administration as a bid to push back against the historical notion of third terms as stagnant and lacking in innovation. Bloomberg aides have said that the exchange program, modeled after a similar initiative at the mayor’s technology firm, Bloomberg LP, was not intended to be disruptive, but instead offer deputies a chance to interact face-to-face with other city agencies with similar missions. Meanwhile, the mayor made it clear that he expects his new hires to improve upon their predecessors’ records. Even some Bloomberg critics have praised the selections, especially Goldsmith, the former Republican mayor of Indianapolis who is widely seen as a city government virtuoso. Fred Siegel, professor at St. Francis College and a Manhattan Institute fellow, said the shake-up at City Hall may herald a new direction for the administration, or it could simply allow the mayor to delegate more responsibilities. “He’s ensuring less of a drop-off that we usually associate with a third term,” Siegel said, adding, “but this allows Bloomberg to spend even less time in New York.” email@example.com
Impromptu Assessment How would you rate Bloomberg’s third term, so far? Anthony Weiner: “I think he’s dealing with difﬁcult challenges as best he can. I have had disagreements with him in the past, but given how difﬁcult a hand he has been dealt with the economy, with the budget and with the erratic and unpredictable nature of the State Legislature, which controls so much of his destiny, I think he has done a good job.”
JUNE 29, 2010
Albany Must Prioritize Children’s Safety BY BILL DE BLASIO fter months of advocacy, last week the mayor and the City Council announced a budget that prioritizes children by preserving crucial services that keep them safe from abuse and neglect. This should be a moment to celebrate, but because of Albany we aren’t out of the woods yet. While our city leaders worked to come up with the funding necessary to protect our children, the state unexpectedly approved deep cuts that threaten the city’s ability to keep children safe. In a budget extender passed two weeks ago, the state decreased the rate at which it matches city funding for child welfare services from 63.5 percent to 62 percent. These matching funds support preventive and protective services for children in at-risk families. The city estimates that this change will result in the loss of up to
$12 million, between this and next fiscal years. The reduction likely will impact preventive services and leave vulnerable families without services and support necessary to ensure child safety.
Leaving families without these services is a shortsighted move that will cost us more in the long term. Preventive services cost a fraction of the price of foster care, which is where many children eligible for preventive services are likely to wind up if these services are cut. The average annual cost of foster care is $36,000 per child, while the most common preventive service program costs approximately $10,000 per family annually. After the tragic death of Nixzmary Brown, a seven-year-old who was systematically abused and eventually murdered in her Brooklyn home in 2006, the city appropriately enacted essential reforms and increased funding for services to prevent child abuse and neglect. While we have made important strides, the need for these services unfortunately has not declined. Today, the system operates nearly at full capacity with
approximately 30,611 children receiving preventive services. The number of reports of child abuse to the State Central Register has remained high for the past several years, indicating the necessity of preventive services. The facts speak for themselves: we cannot afford to roll back the city’s safety net to where it was before Nixzmary Brown died. Eliminating thousands of preventive services slots would do just that. The state’s challenging fiscal situation makes cuts in spending inevitable, but our leaders have to make choices that reflect our priorities. The city set an example by prioritizing public safety—the state must follow suit by restoring this cut and providing the funding necessary to preserve child safety services.
Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, is the New York City Public Advocate.
Despite Budget Woes, Fire Deaths At Lowest In Hundred Years BY SALVATORE CASSANO fter 40 years with the FDNY, I had the honor last January of taking over as Commissioner at the most amazing time in our history. With record response times, fewer fire deaths and fewer fires than any other period on record, New York is safer from fires than ever before. I know all of us are watching and waiting to see how the current budget impacts our operations, but I can assure New Yorkers that no matter what happens, you will always receive the very best from our firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. Our obligation to this city is to offer you the best-equipped, the best-trained and the best-prepared members to respond to every possible type of emergency. Our efforts are paying off. Last year we recorded 73 civilian fire deaths—the lowest ever since FDNY began keeping the statistic nearly a century ago. This year we’re on track to do even better. The number of fire deaths for the first five months of 2010 is down 26 percent compared to the same period last year. We accomplished this with your help.
In the past three years, we’ve instructed 1.5 million New Yorkers in fire prevention and safety, giving average citizens the tools they need to stay safe. We also distributed over 8,000 smoke alarms and 100,000 batteries last year alone. As a result of these and other efforts, 2009 had
the fewest fires ever on record. New dispatch methods and the dedication of our members are getting us to emergencies faster than ever. The average response time to structural fires citywide last year was 4:02, lower than the previous record of 4:08 in 1994. Under the new dispatch methods, basic information about an emergency—like the location and nature of the emergency—is immediately sent to our units so they can get on the road and then receive updates along the way. Last year the city also introduced Unified Call Taking, streamlining the 911 system and shaving valuable seconds off response times so that callers speak to just one person. Our EMTs and paramedics are also doing tremendous work, responding 15 percent faster to life-threatening emergencies than a decade ago, despite a 14-percent increase in the number of those calls. We’re continuing to work with other city agencies to improve building inspections. Soon we’ll introduce a new field inspection program that will consolidate all building and inspection information from FDNY and other city agencies into one data warehouse accessible to firefighters and
fire-prevention inspectors. This will allow us to prioritize inspections of buildings that pose the greatest risk to firefighters and the public. Our members receive regular training of all types so we can be certain they’re prepared for anything, including potential terrorist attacks. When firefighters responded to a smoking car in Times Square on May 1, they knew exactly what to do—and what not to do. They saw white smoke—not normal for a fire—and heard popping noises coming from a haphazardly parked car with its engine left running. They immediately notified the NYPD’s bomb squad and helped clear the area. Their quick thinking helped preserve critical evidence that led to an arrest and kept people in the area safe from harm. Despite the current financial crisis that is forcing all of us to do more with less, our successes in recent years are proof of FDNY’s dedication to providing the greatest city in the world with the greatest fire department in the world. New Yorkers deserve nothing less.
Salvatore Cassano is Commissioner of the Fire Department of New York.
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Eva Moskowitz, right, mulls a 2013 comeback (Page 8), new Council Member Liz Crowley braves the harsh weather for her first day on the job (Page 18)
Vol. 3, No. 8
and Richard Ravitch, left, explains why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).
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News That’s Newsworthy “Big Money Slides From WFP To City Campaigns” &
City Hall & The Capitol -- News That’s Newsworthy
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“Big Money Slides From WFP To City Campaigns” & “All In The Family: Money, influence and the obscure world of the WFP” Finalist—Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting, Society of Professional Journalists’ Deadline Club
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“State of Israel: What the almost-candidate’s run-in with the White House means for his future” Winner—Political Coverage, New York Press Club
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CH: Shelly Silver has in the past floated the idea of bringing back the commuter tax. Is that something you would want the city to be considering again? HW: Unless I’m sort of falling into some trap that I’m not aware of, that seems like a very easy question to answer. Yes, we would be very much in support of a commuter tax. It would obviously provide some additional resources to the city, and if that happened it would be great. I’m not holding my breath on it.
CH: You have come into government as someone seen as more of a politics and campaign expert. How have you managed the difference? HW: In terms of my own background, I started in my 20s in government. I worked on Capitol Hill, first as a press secretary and then as a chief of staff for Congresswoman Nita Lowey from Westchester, for six or seven years, before going off and doing campaigns and going into the private sector. My government experience is in the
City Hall: There are now three new deputy mayors in place. What should we expect are going to be the real differences with the new team around the mayor? Howard Wolfson: It’s funny, in December and January a lot of the questions we were getting at City Hall were along the lines of, you know, the mayor promised that there would be change but in fact it looks like the same cast of characters, why haven’t these changes occurred? And now here we are six months later, and obviously the questions are about the change. Obviously, the mayor did make it clear during the last campaign that city government is dynamic and there are great people in city government who leave—and you try to replace them with great people, and that has happened. All of the people you’ve mentioned who were outgoing did an outstanding job. I think I would consider myself fortunate to do as good a job as my predecessor. But if you look at the quality—myself excluded—of the people who are coming in, with Stephen Goldsmith you have a former mayor of a large and significant city, who is nationally and internationally renowned as an expert in innovation in government, who has taught, who has written, who has traveled the country and talked to municipal state leaders about how to make the government run well, and better, who has worked at the very top of government in the federal arena. And then, in Bob Steel, somebody who was one of the very top deputies at the Treasury Department at a very critical time in our country’s history, when the economy was essentially collapsing in 2008, and helped the Bush administration stabilize this situation, and who was of course a significant person in the private sector. You have two people who bring an enormous amount of experience and an enormous amount of expertise to the jobs that they have. I’m not sure that I would say specifically what they are going to do differently, because their predecessors did a tremendous job. But anytime somebody comes in new to any situation, you just bring a different perspective. You have a different experience, you’re coming from a different place and you’re going to look at things a little differently.
in New York City and on some level needed Albany’s help to continue that work, and the charter-cap lift was a big part of that. I don’t think there’s a mayor in this country who is more supportive of charter schools than Mike Bloomberg. I was sort of interested to learn that in a lot of places, the charters come in over the Mayor’s objection, depending on what city you’re in. And that’s not the case here.
New Deputy In Town n June 24, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson joined City Hall for an On/Off the Record breakfast interview at the Woolworth Kitchen. Among the topics on the agenda during the on-therecord portion: the changeover of the Bloomberg administration top aides, how the city may have to deal with coming budget holes, Mike Bloomberg’s flexing of his political contributions and New York’s potential World Cup future. What follows are selections from the edited transcript.
JUNE 29, 2010
legislature, and I have a lot of respect for legislators—my wife is the chief of staff for the speaker, so we have a lot of respect for female speakers in our house. … Campaigns are very much zero-sum. One person wins, one person loses, and the object is to win and beat the other person. Government is not like that. Government, in it’s best form, is a win-win, and you’re working with people over a period of years, the mayor and the speaker have a long history, they’re going to have continued relationship over the next three and a half years, so you want to work collaboratively, you want to have a situation where the product to the legislature, in this case the City Council, have a past, and I think we’re going to see that. CH: The city is hoping for $600 million in Federal Medical Assistance Percentages money. If that does not come through, will the subsequent budget hole throw the city into crisis? HW: I’m not going to use the word “crisis.” It would force us to make significant cuts that I think New Yorkers would find very unwelcome and that the Mayor is not interested in making—but if he has to, he will. Our New York congressional delegation understands this, and they are fighting for this money, and our hope is that they will be successful and we will get it sometime between now and the point where that trigger we put in will take effect. CH: Could that mean reopening the discussion about police layoffs or other things the mayor ruled out? HW: We engage in gimmick-free budgeting. If there are changes in revenue that will force us to make changes to our own budget, we will make the changes. Some of those changes may well be very difficult for people. That is not our preference. CH: Another chunk of money that the city is hoping to see come from Washington is the Race to the Top money. If New York does not get the $700 million that is on the high end of what it could get, what effect will that have? HW: We’re not expecting it in a formal way in the budget. If it does happen, we’re not going to get all $700 million for the city—some goes to the state. It would obviously be very welcome to have additional resources to focus on excellence in education, and I think the Race to the Top process has been a tremendous success for this federal administration because it has encouraged states to make the kinds of reforms that we’ve begun making
CH: Is it something the mayor would push for? HW: I think if we have a sense that this is something that actually has a shot, we would be vigorous in our support in it, but those signals have not been forthcoming. In fact, I think what you’re seeing because of the political dynamics, the Democrats lost county exec seats in Westchester and Nassau in part because there is a lot of unhappiness over property taxes there and taxation in general. The Democrats in the Senate are recognizing that and are pushing for various measures to reduce property-tax burdens for their constituents in the suburbs—which isn’t necessarily a good thing for us because, all things being equal, revenue that gets lost there is revenue that could come to us in other forms. It seems unlikely to me in the near term that those folks who were so concerned about taxation rates are going to agree to a commuter tax but, you know, hope springs eternal. CH: A lot of people have interpreted your joining the administration as a way of keeping the flame alive of a Bloomberg presidential run. Are we going to have to live through this conversation about him running or not running for the next three years? HW: Since I’ve been here, the people who have asked me about this are reporters. My time is spent in Albany, in Washington on the days that we’re lobbying for something or I have meetings, in Staten Island, in Queens, I’ve been out to meet with borough presidents, with members of the City Council. I spent a month in Albany, around-theclock negotiating on the charter cap. I am focused on this city and making this city a better place and helping to make this mayor be the best possible mayor he can be. My hope would be that when he leaves office he will be remembered as the greatest mayor in the city’s history. CH: You are a big World Cup fan, and have even been blogging for The New Republic about the games. Dan Doctoroff was the man behind getting the mayor to focus on the Olympic bid. The mayor has now joined in calls for the World Cup to come to New York—is that your influence? HW: The World Cup process predated me, and Bill Clinton is actually in South Africa attempting to advocate on behalf of our bid. It’s New York and a number of cities across the country; it’s not the same thing as the Olympics in that sense. If the U.S. is lucky enough to get awarded the games in either 2018 or 2022, it will go to a number of different cities and we’ll host a couple of matches, and I don’t know what the other cities are, maybe Boston and Philadelphia or LA and what have you. For me, it would be amazing to have them come here, but it’s far in the future. —Andrew J. Hawkins firstname.lastname@example.org
SAVING NYC’s FIREHOUSES = SAVING NEW YORKERS LIVES New York City Firefighters do more than just respond to fires. Firefighters are the 1st responders for all New Yorkers. Firefighters are the city’s 1st responder to hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and all other medical emergencies each and every year, saving countless lives. Whenever disaster strikes, be it natural or man-made, New York City Firefighters will be there to answer the call. Firefighters are prepared for chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological attacks, plus our normal duties as 1st responders for life saving medical emergencies, fires, building collapses, gas leaks and any event that threatens life and property. New York is the #1 terrorist target with 11 attempted terrorist strikes on our city since September 11, 2001.
BUT WE CAN’T RESPOND FROM CLOSED FIREHOUSES According to the City of New York, firefighters have just completed five consecutive years that were the busiest in the 145-year history of the FDNY. Year 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
NYC Firefighter Emergency Responses On Pace to Be Busiest in NYC History 473,024 473,335 490,767 484,954 485,702
MIKE BLOOMBERG ALREADY CLOSED 7 FIRE COMPANIES IN 2003 AND 2009. HE NOW WANTS TO CLOSE 20 MORE, ENDANGERING ALL NEW YORKERS SAFETY.
STOP FIREHOUSE CLOSINGS For more information visit:
WWW.UFANYC.ORG Uniformed Firefighters Association
Published on Jun 29, 2010
The June 29, 2010 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and State....