Grace Meng, below, explains her unprecedented two-term streak in Flushing (Page 11), the Board of Elections roils through more problems (Page 15)
Vol. 5, No. 1
July 28, 2010
and Fred Newman, above, speaks up for the city Independence Party (Page 23).
Do New York Democrats Have A Wall Street Problem?
Most Powerful Council Members
JULY 28, 2010
With Paid Sick Leave Back In The Waiting Room, Both Sides Take Stock
Proponents hold off bashing Quinn as business-led study adds months to process
Proponents of the paid sick leave bill argue that the Council voted to give the horses five weeks of paid time off yearly in April even though that bill had far fewer co-sponsors than the paid sick leave bill. BY CHRIS BRAGG
n mid-July, a few weeks after she announced that she would table the controversial paid sick leave bill for several months while the business community further studied its impact, Council Speaker Christine Quinn arrived for an early morning speech before the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. The room was packed with small business owners, the very people who have lobbied intensely against bringing the bill to the Council floor. Officials from the Partnership for New York City, which is studying the long-term effects of the legislation, sat in the front row. During a half-hour speech on the state of small business in New York City, Quinn did not once mention the high-profile legislation that has become a flashpoint in the Council. Even among friendly audiences, Quinn is treading lightly and offering only scant details about her thinking on what has emerged as among the contentious issues of her speakership. One business leader involved in the discussions with the speaker said they believe Quinn is trying to show the business community
that they are being heard, while offering no firm commitments about what kind of a bill would ultimately be allowed to the floor. It was Quinn who had requested more data from the business community about the impact of the bill, the source said, rather than the business community initially suggesting the study be conducted. “She’s using this as a delaying tactic,” the source said. “She’s calculating her prospects for the mayoralty against keeping the folks back home [in the City Council] happy.” A spokesperson for the speaker defended her decision to table the bill. “The speaker is still listening to both sides of this issue and is giving both the opportunity to present their positions,” the spokesperson said in a statement. Following her announcement that she would table the bill, Quinn also placed a round of calls to union leaders who are supporting paid sick leave, promising them that the bill would eventually be taken up once the study is completed, according to a person briefed on the conversations. Once the survey is completed, another hearing is expected for the bill in the Civil Service and Labor
Committee sometime in November. This has mostly placated union leaders who support the bill, such as 32BJ, RWDSU and UFCW Local 1500, who fear upsetting their relatively good relationship with Quinn and their other legislative efforts in the Council by openly challenging her. Members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, who depend on Quinn for member items and for the passage of other legislation, also have refrained from challenging the speaker so far, though they do question the delay. “I think the study is a distraction,” said Council Member Tish James, a sponsor of the legislation and a member of the Progressive Caucus. “It’s analysis to the point of paralysis, and workers are suffering as a result.” Proponents of the bill have made no secret of questioning the neutrality of the business-backed study. But they also acknowledge that the extra data could give the business community leverage as they seek to scale back a bill that already has 36 cosponsors, a veto-proof majority. The Partnership study, which is actually being carried out by Ernst & Young, will seek information from different industry
CITY HALL groups about the impact that paid sick day legislation will have on their members, with the hope of carving out industries from the bill that they believe would be adversely affected. According to Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership, previous studies on paid sick leave were flawed because they took into account only data reported by workers, rather than also surveying business owners. “Employer voices are all in opposition to this bill,” Wylde said. “I don’t think things could get any worse by examining whether certain employees should be exempted.” The data from the study could fuel arguments that the definition of a small business in the current paid sick leave bill—defined as 19 people or fewer—is arbitrary and should be raised, according to business leaders opposed to the bill. The definition of a small business is key: under the current bill, businesses with 19 employees or fewer only have to offer five sick days a year, while larger businesses must offer nine. The study may also add fuel to the argument that sectors such as nonprofits, those with part-time employees, or those with tipped workers should be exempted. In particular, Wylde said the claim by proponents of the bill that paid sick leave for restaurant workers costs 8 cents an hour needs further examination. But the staunchest proponents of the bill say they would not accept any final deal that leaves certain classes of employees without paid sick days. “That’s impossible. We won’t agree to carve out any industry,” said Sherry Leiwant, executive director of a Better Balance, at a mid-July protest in front of the Central Park horse carriages, where advocates pointed out that the Council voted to give the horses five weeks of paid time off yearly in April even though that bill had only 10 cosponsors. Leiwant said Better Balance, which is leading the charge for passage of the bill, is currently in the process of organizing women’s groups—a key constituency for Quinn—around the city. Pat Purcell, of the UFCW Local 100, said unions would also likely oppose any final bill exempting broad sectors of workers—though he did leave the door open to exempting very narrow groups from the bill such as seasonal workers. He said the number of days off certain classes of employees could get also could be open for discussion. Purcell said that he expects the unions will ultimately be a moderating force in the debate, which has the WFP, Better Balance and Make the Road New York arguing against amending the current bill at all and business interests still dead set against any government interference. “One side is the ceiling and one side is the floor,” he said, “and my experience tells me at the end of the day that pragmatism will win out.” email@example.com
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July 28, 2010
City’s Bold Transportation Agenda Needs Public Buy-In By council MeMBeR JaMes Vacca
e are living in exciting times when it comes to transportation policy in New York City. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t read or hear about a plan to remake some aspect of our road network, whether it’s creating dedicated bus lanes to speed up ground transit, staggering parking meter rates to encourage turnover, or closing off streets to traffic to create more space for pedestrians. Fundamentally, this is a good thing. But there is one sense in which our transportation planners must be cautious: New York is—and has always been—a city of neighborhoods, each with unique identities and priorities, and each averse to the notion of one-size-fits-all. In order for New York’s bold transportation agenda to succeed in the long term, we need New Yorkers to buy in from the beginning. That takes more than notification—it takes real outreach and discussion—and it means our policymakers must be open to modifications when necessary. Six months after taking over the New York City Council Transportation Committee, I have already seen some of the problems that can arise when communities do not feel they are part of the process:
• In early June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) replaced a driving lane on Prospect Park West with a spacious, two-way bike lane. Built over the objection of local residents and elected officials, the bike lane has given rise to a civic group dedicated to removing the lane. Among the members: two former DOT commissioners. • Last December, after months of protest from the local Hasidic community, DOT was forced to remove a 14-block bike lane on Bedford Avenue in South Williamsburg. Religious figures had raised concerns about the revealing clothing worn by young cyclists traveling to and from Williamsburg. • In February 2009, DOT increased parking meter rates from 25 cents every 30 minutes to 25 cents every 20 minutes. The change affected three out of four meters citywide, most of them in the outer boroughs, yet aside from a blurb in budget documents, there was no public outreach. As a result, many motorists received tickets after their meters expired earlier than they expected. These examples are not meant to suggest DOT never gets consultation right. In my own district in the Bronx, a
street-calming initiative that narrowed one major avenue to one lane in each direction—potentially explosive in a neighborhood as car-dependent as mine—was embraced after the DOT heeded the concerns of local businesses and the local Community Board and came up with a plan that satisfied critics. I also know, after more than 30 years in public service, that you can never please
everyone; sometimes you need to charge forward and hope your opponents come around. But given the scope of DOT’s agenda—dozens of pedestrian malls in all five boroughs; the removal of 34th Street as a thru-street; the construction of hundreds of additional miles of bike lanes—any act-first, consult-later approach has the potential to create a level of division and bitterness that could sour New Yorkers to an otherwise innovative, even necessary, reimagining of how we use our streets. Prompted by these concerns, the City Council passed two bills late fall requiring notice to Community Boards and Council Members before DOT undertakes major projects or changes meter rates. Those bills establish the bare minimum of what is expected of DOT when it comes to community consultation, and there’s no reason the Council couldn’t impose tougher standards if need be. In the end, we don’t just want a New York that has more bike lanes, larger plazas and faster buses. We want neighborhoods to want more bike lanes, larger plazas and faster buses.
James Vacca, a Democrat representing parts of the Bronx, is the chair of the City Council Transportation Committee.
Local, National Transit Agencies In Desperate Need Of An Infusion By Rep. Michael McMahon
n an attempt to close a $750 million budget deficit in 2010, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority has imposed draconian cuts to bus and subway service throughout the five boroughs. Approximately 38 bus routes have been discontinued and some 76 more routes have been shortened. Entire subway lines have been eliminated. Nearly 1,000 MTA workers have lost their jobs. And this was just the first round of cuts. If the MTA’s budget woes do not diminish, there will be more to follow. The economic downturn has forced many state and local governments to rework their budgets, and cutting mass transit options is often first on the chopping block. In 2010, New York State reduced its contribution to the MTA by $143 million, leaving a major hole in the MTA’s budget. All around the country, local transit agencies are being forced to tighten their belts—which means increased fares and decreased services for commuters and layoffs across the board. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that since January 1, 2009, 84 percent of public transit systems have raised
fares, cut service or are currently considering one of those options, even as the number of daily commuters grows. My district of Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn is one of the hardest-hit areas by the recently-enacted MTA cuts. Staten Islanders, already underserved by mass transit and burdened with the longest average commutes in the country, will lose five express bus routes into Manhattan and several local routes, as well as face service reductions across the board. My Brooklyn constituents will be burdened with fewer subways and more crowded trains.
As a lifelong New Yorker, I am acutely aware of how these service cuts disrupt the daily lives and commutes of my constituents and all other residents of the New York metropolitan region. In Congress, I sit on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and have been working with my colleagues across the country to help our transit systems from cutting services and jobs. This is why I have introduced HR 5418, the Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010, which would provides $2 billion in emergency federal funding to help cover local transit agencies’ operating expenses. To ensure that these funds go where they are needed, the bill requires that funds only be used to either restore already instituted cuts and fare hikes or stave off ones that are currently being considered. Public transportation is critical for all of us. We need to be able to provide safe, efficient ways for workers not only in our city but throughout the country to commute to work without having it break the bank. HR 5418 is common-sense legislation; by providing a one-time infusion to our transit agencies’ operating budgets, we will prevent service cuts and fare hikes and avoid layoffs at a time when we can least afford them.
If passed, funding from my bill would be distributed through existing federal formulas, which means that the MTA could expect approximately $250 million in funds. HR5418 would have a similar effect on transit agencies around the country, saving them from enacting further cuts and layoffs or restoring ones already enacted. The budget shortfalls for operating expenses currently being experienced by transit agencies across the nation are both a testament to how critically important it is for the federal government to provide additional support. On top of helping commuters in New York and other cities, this bill, like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will help save or create jobs by investing in mass transit. Senator Chris Dodd has introduced HR 5418’s Senate counterpart, which both of New York’s Senators cosponsored. We must move this legislation through Congress quickly to ensure reliable public transportation for all New Yorkers and Americans.
Michael McMahon, a Democrat representing parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
JULY 28, 2010
As Mass Transit Suffers, Tax Credits And Federal Action Provide Solutions BY SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER
oday’s economy is fundamentally based on interconnectivity: allowing ideas, and the people who devise them, to move freely from place to place. That is why safe and reliable mass transit matters, why faster rail travel matters, and why affordable air travel that does not compromise passenger comfort matters. While New York has a sophisticated transportation infrastructure, there are additional investments that we need to make. New York has the greatest mass transit system in the nation, but our state’s bus, subway and commuter rail systems are reeling from an economic crisis that has starved them of revenue and subjected them to massive state budget cuts. This, coupled with the aging of the heaviest-traveled systems, has set our transportation systems back instead of propelling them forward. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority alone provides 2.6 billion trips each year, and these riders make up one in every three users of mass transit in the entire country. To further incentivize mass transit, I successfully helped increase the mass transit benefit to $230 for two years for commuters who use mass transit to get to work. As Congress approaches the next transportation reauthorization bill,
it will be important to balance highway funding and mass transit funding. I believe we need to grow the funding pots for both. Rail travel literally shaped our nation, and passenger rail is poised to once again be the preferred mode of moving our masses, especially in New York State. I secured $83 million to begin construction on the long-awaited Moynihan Station in Manhattan, which will perhaps be the greatest indicator of a return to passenger rail’s glory days. The transformation of the Farley Post Office Building will take thousands of passengers out of the cramped Pennsylvania Station structure and into a spacious and iconic train hall, just as Sen. Moynihan wanted, all
the while creating thousands of jobs. Besides facilitating connectivity, rail also encourages economic development, which is why I have been a major proponent of an additional station stop on the No. 7 subway extension on the West Side. I strongly believe it will encourage additional private investment and provide a significant economic boost to the city that helps grow jobs. Rail travel makes good economic sense for upstate New York too, where a relatively dense population is separated by moderate distances between the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany. These distances are too close for economic air travel, but far enough to benefit from rapid rail travel. I helped to bring $150 million to begin high-speed rail construction in upstate New York, and I’ll continue to fight for more funding in upcoming transportation bills. Aviation has evolved more dramatically than perhaps any mode of transportation over the last decade. The good old days of flying meant uncrowded airplanes and free in-flight meals. Unfortunately, they also meant cost-prohibitive ticket prices; flying was a luxury that only the wealthiest Americans enjoyed. I’ve worked hard to bring low-cost air carriers to airports across New York State, and we’ve seen a real decrease in the cost of flying. I have also been an
aggressive advocate for Stewart Airport in Orange County to develop into a firstclass regional airport with greater service options for customers. With the airline industry evolving, and in efforts to cut costs, we’re seeing a disturbing trend of nickel-and-diming passengers. Planes are stuffed to overlyfull capacity and in-flight meals can cost as much as dining at a restaurant. Americans have accepted the sacrifices while airlines play catch-up from a soured economy, but too much is too much. I fought to require airlines to be up front about disclosing extra fees, I led an effort to combat carry-on bag fees altogether, and I asked the Food and Drug Administration for better oversight of the food served on airlines. Most significantly, I’ve worked on legislation to bring regional airlines up to the same safety standards of larger commercial carriers. I look forward to the day when all New Yorkers, and all Americans, are given multiple options for transportation, and the transformative impact these options will have on our economy. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat representing New York, is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development.
Eva Moskowitz, right, mulls a 2013 comeback (Page 8), new Council Member Liz Crowley braves the harsh weather for her first day on the job (Page 18)
and Richard Ravitch, left, explains why everyone should get on board his plan to save the MTA (Page 23).
Vol. 3, No. 8
The Brooklyn BP on being overlooked, and what he plans to do about it
Working With: • NY City Department of Transportation • NY City Metropolitan Transit Authority • Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority
• NY State Department of Transportation • The Port Authority of NY/NJ • NY State Bridge Authority
Kieran Ahern • President • Dan O’Connell • General Counsel
Briefs DSCC Kicks In For Huntley And Perkins, Spending Money In Safe Districts With its two-seat majority in the balance, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is pouring its already stretched money into safe Democratic districts. The money went to State Sens. Shirley Huntley and Bill Perkins, who are facing primaries. Both represent districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic. Huntley, who is up against Lynn Nunes, got a $9,500 cash transfer from the DSCC. That is an inappropriate use of party money, Nunes said. “After 44 years in the minority trying to defend their majority for the first time, Senate Democrats should be using every tool allocated to them for the general election as opposed to the primary,” Nunes said. Perkins, who is running against Basil Smikle, got a $7,811 boost in Schedule R spending by the DSCC. Like Huntley, Perkins is part of the Senate’s so-called caucus of black state senators that supported electing conference leader John Sampson following the Senate coup. But Smikle said he believed that personal loyalties were no reason for the DSCC to wade into primaries. “I don’t understand the rationale,” said Smikle. “Should they lose the majority, that would really hurt the agenda of the Democratic nominee for governor.”
Bloomberg To Back Bing In First ’10 State Legislative Endorsement Though he is a constituent, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a registered independent and so will not be able to vote for Jonathan Bing in September’s primary. But he is doing everything he can to make sure others do, endorsing the East Side Assemblyman in what will be the beginning of a full-throated effort to help beat back a challenge from a United Federation of Teachers-backed primary challenger, high school government teacher Gregg Lundahl. Bloomberg appeared at the campaign kick-off of attorney general candidate Dan Donovan and has hosted a fundraiser for him—as well as for State Sen. Frank
Padavan, a Republican and long time ally, and State Sen. Craig Johnson, a Democrat and compatriot on the fight to raise the charter school cap—but the Bing support marks the mayor’s first official endorsement in a race for State Legislature this year. That will just be the beginning of Bloomberg’s efforts on behalf of Bing. He will be hosting a cocktail party fundraiser for the Assemblyman at his East 79th Street townhouse on August 9, has already agreed to appear in mailers and may go so far as street campaigning with him on the East Side. “The mayor has a great deal of support in his home Assembly district, and his endorsement will carry significant weight in both my primary and my general election campaign,” Bing said.
Largely Unknown DSCC Consultant Cleared $300k In Last Year The Democratic State Senate Committee and Conference Leader John Sampson have spent over $300,000 with two companies run and solely operated by the same consultant, a shadowy operative named Melvin Lowe who had worked on only a few campaigns prior to being brought on in the wake of the Senate coup last year. Several people familiar with the DSCC and Lowe have expressed mystification at what his position entails to justify being paid this sum, and the DSCC itself declined to provide details. Before the massive influx of money to the campaigns in the last 12 months, Lowe had retained only a handful of clients through the companies. Immediately before starting with Sampson and the DSCC, Lowe was a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner Companies, helping lobby on behalf of the Atlantic Yards. While at that job, Lowe got involved in the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers and is among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project. Lowe’s past also includes a stint as the chair of the CUNY Student Senate in the 1980s, in which he was involved in some questionable financial dealings at the time.
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July 28, 2010
Our Perspective Striking Mott’s Workers Are Standing Up for All of Us By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
n Monday, July 19, 37 New York City Council members sent a letter to the CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the company which owns Mott’s. For nine long weeks the workers at Mott’s, members of RWDSU Local 220, have been on strike. The City Council members urged Mott’s to negotiate in good faith with the workers, and scolded the company for attempting to extract “extraordinary concessions” from its workers at a time when the company is enjoying record profits. On behalf of the members of Local 220 we thank the council for their support. But those council members are not alone. This type of support for the Mott’s workers has become a political touchstone in the state, with similar letters being sent to Dr Pepper Snapple and Mott’s by New York Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Dan Maffei and countless other elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans. And the Mott’s workers deserve their support because despite the sputtering economy, it’s good times for management and shareholders over at Dr Pepper Snapple. The company has seen record profits of $555 million last year and increased their CEO Larry Young’s compensation by 113 percent to over $6.5 million. But for today’s corporate America, simply getting rich is never enough. Dr Pepper Snapple executives want to eliminate workers’ pensions, force a 20 percent reduction to their 401ks, slash wages by $1.50 an hour and make workers pay thousands of dollars more for health benefits. When asked for reasons why, DPS said they needed to “adjust” the workers to community and industry standards. We knew that meant they were trying to profiteer off a recession that has driven up unemployment and driven down family incomes in towns throughout New York But the members of Local 220 made the tough decision to fight back. They are fighting against corporate greed, and standing up for good jobs everywhere. The fight at Mott’s is not only about some 300 jobs in Williamson, New York. This is about all of us, and the fight against the destruction of good middle class jobs in America. You can learn more about what’s happening at Mott’s and provide support by visiting www.mottsworkers.org.
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JULY 28, 2010
Birth Pangs As Hospital Closings Prompt New Model For Health Care Delivery
Harlem’s North General repurposed into federal health center, sparking union ire
rare moment to engineer opportunity from crisis has come to the health care system in New York. Between health care spending that exceeds any other state’s, a lagging economy and successive hospital closings, community health care groups and advocates are seizing what they see as an opportunity to reform health care delivery. Key labor groups, though, are not so sure. When North General Hospital (NGH), a 31-year-old Harlem community anchor, announced in June that it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy—two months after the Saint Vincent announcement—Gov. David Paterson’s office issued a joint statement with the hospital’s board, saying it had found a way to immediately restore the hospital’s primary care services. Their solution was a “super urban” one, which NGH Board Chairman Calvin O. Butts calls “a model for health care in the 21st century” and a necessary response to the shuttering of several key hospitals. “We, the hospital, the city and the mayor, and the state and the governor and our congressman, had to do this to demonstrate that we can provide a model, as New York often does, for health care,” said Butts, who is also the reverend at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and a prominent player in city politics. Four days after NGH shut its doors, the hospital’s former primary care facility reopened as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), operated by the Institute for Family Health, an umbrella FQHC with 24 other facilities throughout New York. The institute’s CEO, Dr. Neil Calman, said the former NGH clinic is an important addition to a growing network. FQHCs are funded in part by federal grants. They offer primary and preventive care to communities in “medically underserved areas” and, in return for serving every patient who walks through the doors, including the uninsured, FQHCs receive better reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid patients than other primary care facilities. New York currently has more than 70 FQHCs serving 1.3 million people. NGH is not the only one to have taken notice of this. The Health and Hospitals Corporation of New York, under the
mayor’s 2011 executive budget, is planning to convert six of its primary care facilities to FQHCs, to save the corporation $25 million annually. Calman said a big problem with health care in New York is that there are too many beds, forcing the state to operate at “a very, very high cost maintaining hospitals that are not completely full.” While Calman’s reasoning runs counter to concerns over the loss of emergency rooms from high-profile hospital closings, he said a shift in focus to preventive care would actually decrease the need for them. The opportunities for FQHC proponents to prove the viability of their preventive model are only increasing, fueled in part by the Obama health care legislation, which will double the number of FQHCs nationally by 2015. New York is gearing up to keep pace with those mandates, according to CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York Elizabeth Swain. “The whole system is moving away from driving people into highcost care,” she said. “Patients aren’t asking for it and insurers aren’t covering it.” Not everyone is happy. Calman is already facing an unfair labor complaint filed by the SEIU 1199, which represents 900 of the former hospital’s employees. Sixty union members were employed at the NGH clinic, now repurposed as the IFH-run facility, but only seven of them were rehired by Calman, despite promises in earlier negotiations that he would rehire all of the clinic’s employees, The health care workers union has protested a shift to a new model at North according to Kevin Finnegan, the General in East Harlem. said Melissa Mark-Viverito, a former relationship with the community,” Markunion’s political director. In total, the new FQHC facility will employ 90 to 1199 organizer who now represents the Viverito said. “North General has an incredible history in this neighborhood, neighborhood on the Council. 100 people. On July 9, Mark-Viverito and several and the 1199 members have a history “What they did was illegal,” Finnegan said. “We were in negotiations for several other local politicians rallied outside providing quality health care there.” Butts said he is in a unique position months… We were led to believe they the hospital alongside several recently unemployed 1199 workers. They to mediate the situation, as he has many would all be rehired.” Calman said the new center did its protested IFH’s conduct in demanding members of 1199 in his congregation. “There is pain,” he said. “I understand best to hire back NGH clinic employees, that 1199 members switch unions in that. But when your back is up against but that certain training was needed to order to be rehired. Mark-Viverito and Finnegan said there the wall, the state was applying more operate within the FQHC health care model, which employees from other sites has been no outreach from Calman to pressure; because pressure was on it, as their respective offices on this issue since debt mounted, I think we did the best we already had. could.” Many in the community felt that the the facility reopened. “It was not a good way to begin a rug was pulled out from underneath them, firstname.lastname@example.org ANDREW SCHWARTZ
BY LAUREN KELLEHER
July 28, 2010
With No Challengers, Meng Will Achieve Flushing Milestone: Re-election By ColBy Hamilton
n 2002 Barry Grodenchik became the first to represent the new Assembly seat in Flushing. Then, in 2004 Jimmy Meng knocked Grodenchik out in the primary. Two years later, Meng retired and Ellen Young took over. After a bitter primary battle in 2008, Grace Meng—Jimmy’s daughter—snagged the Democratic line and the district. Now, for the first time since it was drawn after the last census, the Assembly district will have some continuity, with the younger Meng not even facing an opponent—in the primary, or in the general. Not that her neck of Queens politics has suddenly gotten calm: last year, as Council member and local political king John Liu pursued his successful run for comptroller, five Democrats vied to succeed him on the Council. The winner was then defeated by Peter Koo, the first Republican ever elected from the area. Likewise, at least four Democrats are competing in the primary for the State Senate seat that overlaps Meng’s Assembly district this year. The Assembly district itself continues to be a battleground
between district leaders who support Meng and the county organization’s slate, all of whom are currently challenging each others’ petitions to appear on the ballot. According to local Democratic supporters, civic and business leaders, as well as elected officials, Meng’s position in the community as the daughter of an immigrant who can be a bridge to the broader social and political world has contributed significantly to her success. She is the first native-born AsianAmerican to hold the seat. “Sometimes it takes awhile for someone to settle in comfortably,” said Michael Reich, executive secretary of the Queens County Democratic Party, which has sometimes disagreed with Meng. “Grace has done a good job in representing a district over the past two years.” Reich said no one had approached the county organization with any interest in challenging Meng. This came as no surprise to Grodenchik, the man who first held the seat and now serves as the Queens deputy borough president. “I will say that’s she’s done a very, very good job and am not surprised she’s
Continous turnover for Assembly seat makes Meng first re-elected in a decade
Grace Meng’s Assembly seat has changed hands every election since 2002. But this year, she has neither a Democratic or Republican challenger. running unopposed,” said Grodenchik. Meng has built up a beachhead by
focusing on constituent services, with her district office staff of two full-time and one part-time people assisting dozens of residents a day on things like translating documents to immigrant legal services. Meng’s ability to effectively negotiate the immigrant and native-born worlds has been another major difference with past representatives. It was also a major point of difference between Meng and Ellen Young, whom she beat in their 2008 rematch. Meng, who is New York’s only AsianAmerican state legislator, said she learned a lot about how to approach her district from her experience dating. “It’s like when a girl hasn’t heard from her boyfriend, waiting for him to call. She gets frustrated,” Meng said. “I just want them to feel that the next time it’s time for them to vote, that I didn’t just come around to get re-elected.” Meanwhile, Meng has built a small political organization under her, running as part of a slate built around ethnic diversity that includes former Council Member Julia Harrison and district leader Martha Flores-Vazquez, who have helped form the connections between the nativeborn, immigrant Asian and other local communities that have immunized Meng against challenges. “You have to have a real strong leader to run against Grace Meng,” noted FloresVazquez. “The community doesn’t have that right now. She’s it.” email@example.com
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BUILD BETTER • BUILD SAFER • BUILD UNION
JULY 28, 2010
Do New York Democrats Have A Wall Street Problem? Balancing pitchfork populism, deep-pocketed donors and keeping capital in the financial capital By Andrew J. Hawkins sk anyone on Wall Street to host a fundraiser for a Democrat in New York these days, expect a blank stare. Ask any Democrat to accept a donation from someone working for a bank, investment firm or hedge fund, and expect the same reaction. Cancelled fundraisers, unreturned phone calls, dire predictions of the end of New York as the national campaign finance ATM. Do the New York Democrats have a Wall Street problem? Wall Street seems to think so—or, at least, a few who claim to speak for the whole financial industry and its interests. They say that President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies have turned their backs on the financial industry. Then they watch incredulously as state leaders debate whether to tax hedge fund managers who work in New York but live in other states. They view the rise in anti-Wall Street populism as undeserved, misguided and, attributing friendly prophet status to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, dangerous for the long-term financial health of the state. They wonder if some Democrats really understand how easy it would be for them to move their firms to friendlier shores, knowing they (or at least the disproportionate 30 percent of the state’s tax revenues they produce) would be missed. They scratch their heads, wondering why the Democrats fail to see that pulling down Wall Street profits may make good headlines across the country, but eats away at the tax base that provides for the social welfare programs they then have to fight to preserve. “One way I put it, using a highly scientific, economic fiscal term, is bad karma,” said E.J. McMahon, director of the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy. “The smart young kid who wants to make money in this business can be part of the reverse commute out to Greenwich or Princeton, if that’s where the partners live.” olitics is always about populism in an election year. Rhetoric never has nuance. This year, though, with the recession and the sub-primeprompted TARP payments, the focus is more than ever on Wall Street, even
MATT COLLINS /WWW.MATTCOLLINS.COM
when those associations have little to nothing to do with the candidates being attacked. Take, for example, Democratic Party executive director Charlie King, who seems to spend all day issuing press releases that blast gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio for accepting “an
undeserved bonus paid out at taxpayer expense” while working for JP Morgan. The Republican comptroller candidate is labeled “Hedge Fund Harry Wilson” because he used to work at Silver Point Capital before retiring a self-made millionaire at 36. Throughout the state that depends on Wall Street for so many
of its jobs and tax dollars, the story is the same: virtuous Democrats vs. Wall Street toadies. The response has been just as loud, and almost as clear, as some have closed their checkbooks and others have opened theirs, flexing cash and society ties to make life hell for several local Democrats. Carolyn Maloney has Reshma Saujani, a former hedge fund lawyer and Democratic fundraiser, to face in this year’s primary. And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand briefly had Harold Ford, Jr., a Tennessee congressman-turned-Merryl Lynch executive, and then Mort Zuckerman, billionaire publishing magnate. Even Diana Taylor, a director at Citigroup and girlfriend to the city’s billionaire mayor, considered tossing her hat into the ring against Gillibrand, before deciding against it. For now. Ford and Zuckerman faded from the scene almost as soon as they appeared. And outside of her campaign itself, no one really expects Saujani to win, or even get more than, on a good day, 30 percent. That, though, has done nothing to stop New York’s rich and powerful from bankrolling her campaign. Maloney is not alone. The anger toward many New York Democrats lingers. How it affects this year’s midterm elections is being closely watched for signs of future distress. Some think that if Saujani can win at least 40 percent of the vote against Maloney, then it will unleash a flurry of interest in her kind of insurgent candidate: young, tech-friendly and no enemy of Wall Street. Gillibrand, though a prodigious fundraiser in her own right, is still seen as vulnerable to a challenge. Some of the thinking surrounding Taylor’s future assumes that as the end of Bloomberg’s term nears, the two will get married, providing a lavish, if unofficial, launch to Taylor’s hardly secret political ambitions ahead of 2012. Or smaller scale: the Maloney paranoia has Taylor, or perhaps her compatriot Maureen White— who have both been twisting arms furiously to kick up opposition to Maloney—using Saujani as a stalking horse for their own Congressional ambitions next time around. For now, analysts are pouring over campaign filings, trying to predict how the noticeable drop in donations from the financial sector to some Democratic candidates will affect the vote this year, both in Washington and Albany. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the financial industry has so far this cycle contributed $84.5 million to Democratic candidates, down from $241.7 million the last time around—a 65-percent drop-off largely from disenchanted New York donors. Because no matter how Democrats try to spin the financial regulation reform as historic and universally beneficial, and no matter how desperate the state gets for revenue, there will always be people like Dave Cielusniak, a 37-year-old Fordham Law grad who owns and operates a small hedge fund in Midtown called Conquest Capital. Cielusniak thinks New York is a great place to work. But he wonders if the government realizes how transportable his business is, or how overly reliant the state is on Wall Street revenues. Because the financial services industry votes too, he says, and many tend to vote with their balance sheets foremost in their minds. “I don’t know where the breaking point is,” Cielusniak said. “Wherever it is, they’re getting closer. And they should appreciate the fact that we’ve been very tolerant.” ew York’s congressional delegation left a big footprint on the reform bill, negotiating key elements and then standing alongside the president as he signed it into law at the end of July. They went back and forth over certain provisions, meeting late into the night and sometimes shouting over one another as they tried to push the whole House to their position. Noticeably absent was Chuck Schumer. Schumer became the country’s top political fundraiser mainly via the wallets of
his friends on Wall Street, many of whom were left frustrated by his near silence on finances over the past few months. In return for their generosity, they wanted him to stand up, push back. Instead, he skipped making an outsized issue of his approach to financial reform as he campaigned, despite the lack of formidable opposition, for a third term. And beyond that, of course, majority leader. “Schumer … was oddly muted,” said one industry insider. “I’m still not clear why.” Schumer, goes the thinking, saw what happened to Chris Dodd, who so thoroughly fumbled his response to the financial crisis that a woman who had made her millions making Jake the Snake a household name was starting to look more credible to the people of Connecticut—Connecticut!—forcing him to bow out of his re-election. There but for the grace of Dodd went Chuck—right out of the spotlight. That left the House members carrying the ball for New York. While only Maloney and Gregory Meeks were on the
JULY 28, 2010
because, according to sources close to the congressman, he believed it would help prevent another collapse. “He’s not out to screw Wall Street,” said one person close to Nadler. “He just thinks if there’s a certain type of regulation, if things are open and more transparent, the whole system will function better, you’ll be able to determine prices better.” Maloney, who also declined to sign the letter, defended her decision as a procedural one. “As a member of the conference committee, it would have been essentially writing to myself, and the general practice around here is to not do that,” Maloney explained via e-mail. Maloney, whose Upper East Side district is teeming with those “masters of the universe” that populate Wall Street, has angered many in the industry, not necessarily with her position on the Frank-Dodd bill, but with the Credit Card Holder’s bill of rights, another piece of legislation designed to take a little wind out of the bloated financial sector. That anger has manifested as Saujani’s campaign, but has also provided a peek at the expectations of those people from the world of finance who have the money and the guts to upend the electoral process. “Sometimes it feels they’re going out there just to score political points, not doing what’s best for the country,” said Cathy Lasry, wife of billionaire hedge funder Marc Lasry and finance chair of Saujani’s campaign, of many politicians in office today. “I think maybe it’s gone too far, the demonizing.” Maloney refutes this, arguing that she has successfully straddled the line between being friend and foe to the financial sector. “Well, I believe all my constituents— those who work for the industry and those that don’t—appreciate that I’ve fought for reforms when I have seen practices that I felt were wrong, such as reigning in the abusive practices of some credit card companies,” she wrote. “And I’ve defended the industry when I think it’s been unfairly targeted, such as when I opposed and fought against a stock transfer tax.” The problem people on Wall Street have with Maloney, her allies insist, is that they expect her and Washington to coddle their every need. Her policy decisions are intended to benefit the Iowa farmer as well as the Goldman Sachs trader, they say. Ackerman spins his position similarly. He cannot legislate just for the banks and the investment firms, but says he remains mindful of the outsize role the industry plays in the state’s fiscal health. He does not expect a quid-pro-quo for fighting to allow banks to continue trading derivatives, but at the same time, he knows it won’t hurt. “I’m certainly not one, and I don’t
Throughout the state that depends on Wall Street for so many of its jobs and tax dollars, the story is the same: virtuous Democrats vs. Wall Street toadies. conference committee, several members lobbied furiously for certain changes, including Nita Lowey, newly elected Rep. Scott Murphy, Staten Island Democrat Mike McMahon, Anthony Weiner and fellow Queens Reps. Joseph Crowley and Gary Ackerman. Most of the delegation agreed on the core elements of the bill: more oversight for financial institutions, the creation of a consumer protection regulator. But there was some dissent from the left. At issue was Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s amendment to ban the trading of derivatives, a measure that the financial industry argued would have hit at the heart of New York’s hometown industry, Wall Street. McMahon, a member of the centrist New Democrats Coalition, convinced Ackerman, a progressive, to sign onto a letter asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lift the language. “I think people from Wall Street are justified at being upset by the rhetoric,” McMahon said. “I chafe at the rhetoric as well. I see it as much anti-New York as anti-Wall Street.” Jerrold Nadler, who represents the liberal Upper West Side as well as the Financial District, wanted Lincoln’s derivatives language to stay in the bill,
JULY 28, 2010
know too many others who are going to call Wall Street firms and say, ‘Hey, I helped you out, I did this, you owe me now,’” Ackerman said. “I think that’s inappropriate. Having said that, I’d be surprised if they didn’t take note of who was helpful.” At home, they are beginning to see this play out in the sparsely attended events in the living rooms of Manhattan’s wealthy elite and the less-than-eyepopping checks coming from those who did attend. Cindy Darrison, a Democratic fundraiser, said she works with candidates who regularly align themselves with Wall Street, but still have trouble raising money in the industry, simply because they are Democrats. “There are a lot of cranky people in Wall Street for good reasons, but they need to be more strategic in their approach to what’s going on,” she said. “It’s one thing to say you’re going to punish people. But if you’re not cultivating relationships with other people, where does that leave you? You just come off as cranky.” Darrison predicted the drought would be short lived. “All of these people complaining today will have something else to talk to Washington about tomorrow,” she said. “They’ll be back.”
or some candidates, though, Wall Street never left. Andrew Cuomo managed to raise an impressive $23.6 million with the help of some very generous people on Wall Street, like Louis Bacon, a hedge fund wiz who gave $25,000, or Gerald Crotty, founder of a private equity firm who donated $10,000, or Mark Fisher, author of The Logical Trader: Applying a Method to the Madness who gave $25,000. That Cuomo can still effortlessly raise money from the same kind of people he once shamed by listing how many multimillion dollar bonuses they received speaks to the complex relationship that exists between Wall Street and the Democrats. Or it validates the suspicions of those in the progressive movement that Cuomo is too cozy with Wall Street, unwilling to prosecute financial crimes with the same vigor as his predecessor. Eliot Spitzer said as much to the New York Times, when he criticized Cuomo for not engaging in “more intervention and deeper intervention, by which I mean, more granular, harder work, that would have taken a bit more time, and would have been, frankly, a bit more disruptive to Wall Street.” Cuomo, like practically every elected official in New York, believes he has been successful in balancing his approach to Wall Street, and put some distance between his campaign and the anti-Wall Street mood of many of his fellow New York Democrats.
“Ninety-nine percent of the businessmen are good, honest people of integrity,” Cuomo said at a recent upstate rally, sidestepping a question about the charges leveled at Lazio by the state Democratic Party. “It’s the engine that drives the entire train. But because you’re pro-business doesn’t mean you should tolerate or accept fraud or illegality.” Maloney is also still raising money from Wall Street—over $594,000 from the financial sector in 2009-2010 alone, or over 36 percent of her total haul, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. All of which suggests that despite Reshma Saujani and Cuomo’s war against the bonuses and Bloomberg’s predictions of a mass exodus of hedge funds, Wall Street does not act with a hive mind mentality. Washington regulates the industry. Albany passes the taxes that can make or break the business. Bankers like to back winners, and in New York, the winners tend to be Democrats. “Wall Street will not fight anybody that can regulate them and put them out of business or injure them,” said Hank Sheinkopf, veteran Democratic strategist, who recently signed on with the state party to handle message control. “First rule of the financial industry: Don’t make trouble. And they’re not going to make trouble because it could hurt them, and that’s why they’re not going to hurt Democrats.” When the CEOs of the nation’s banking giants were paraded in front of Barney Frank’s Financial Services Committee in February of last year, many were expecting the mea culpa they thought the country deserved. Instead, they got a slow burn, calmly worded admonishment from the congressional panel, but no real fireworks. Jim Kessler, vice president of the centrist D.C.-based Democratic think
tank the Third Way, and a former policy advisor to Schumer, says that while Wall Street rarely speaks in a unified voice, the industry could use some better public relations. “I think Wall Street needs to make clear to people and more members of
“I think Wall Street needs to make clear to people and more members of Congress that their success is America’s success,” the Third Way’s Jim Kessler said. “I think that’s been lost. That case hasn’t been made. It’s slipped away.” Congress that their success is America’s success,” Kessler said. “I think that’s been lost. That case hasn’t been made. It’s slipped away.”
all Street, of course, can sometimes expect too much. Money can do that to a person, or in this case, an entire industry of people. Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, and newly appointed to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said Washington and Wall Street both should temper their expectations of each other. “There’s a reason for frustration on both sides,” Wylde said. “There hasn’t been as much rational dialogue, conversation. There’s tended to be more demonizing on both sides. A lot of the business community feels poorly served by Washington. On the other hand, Washington is suffering under the anger of the whole country that they allowed Wall Street to go too far.” But Democrats have elections to win, and in New York that means cozying up with the Working Families Party, a prolabor group with ideas that would cause
most bankers to spit-take their martinis. “It’s like Steven Spielberg’s famous line, ‘How much better can lunch get?’” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the WFP. “If you’re making $100,000 a week, do you really need to make $150,000 a week?” Schumer, the once and future financial darling, is perhaps best positioned to bring civility back to the conversation. He will continue to raise money from the sector, continue to be a staunch defender of keeping New York the financial capital of the world, and continue to, on occasion, push for the policies that get the thumbsup from people like Cantor and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. But he rarely talks about financial reform unprompted anymore. Mass transit tax credits is the reigning issue of the day, or Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted terrorist Schumer has desperately tried to link to BP and the Gulf oil spill. Both issue made few headlines. Standing in the center of Grand Central on a Sunday morning at the end of July for a press conference to call for tax breaks for city straphangers, Schumer looked a little worse for wear. He was suffering from a cold that added another layer of gravel to his Brooklyn accent as he offered a carefully worded answer to how the financial regulation bill would effect relations between his party and his political patrons. “I think the Frank-Dodd bill threaded the needle,” he croaked. “We needed to make changes. Lots of problems occurred, like AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns. There was no supervision. And when they went over the edge—not only did it hurt them, it hurt all of America.” So what about New York, and the Democrats, and Wall Street, and Bloomberg’s warning of a mass exodus that would destroy the city and state? Schumer interrupted the question. “You don’t,” he said, “want to snuff out the entrepreneurial vigor on Wall Street, which creates jobs here.” email@example.com
July 28, 2010
Another Year, Another Crisis At The Board Of Elections
No director, no budget, no clear plan for rollout of new machines in September By Edward-Isaac dovErE
he New York City Board of Elections is in crisis. Again. But this year, the agency— which has never been known as a bastion of efficiency and strong management— appears to be headed toward a whole new set of problems. It’s preparing to roll out the first new machines local voters have seen in decades without an executive director, short around $19 million, and lacking any clear plan about how to make it through the fall. The executive director vacancy, created when Marcus Cederqvist departed in February, is now the longest ever in the history of the Board, which has been unable to reach a majority of votes of the 10 commissioners (one Republican and one Democrat from each borough, appointed by their local party bosses). Not that the split is strictly partisan: currently, the deputy director, George Gonzalez, has the support of the Bronx Democratic organization and every Democratic commissioner except Michael Ryan of Staten Island, plus the Republican commissioner from Staten Island, J.P. Sipp. The remaining Republicans, meanwhile, have formed a tenuous bloc of their own, originally to back former Council Member Anthony Como—who abandoned his quest for the job to make a State Senate run against Joe Addabbo—and now behind J.C. Polanco, the Republican commissioner from the Bronx who serves as the Board’s secretary. Ryan, meanwhile, says he is completely undecided. Though several people in key positions privately express their doubts about Gonzalez’s capacity to do the top job, his perseverance through the stalemate may ultimately get him through to the job, with the expectation that, since the executive director and deputy director have traditionally been of different parties, Staten Island Board of Elections clerk Anthony Andrulli would be moved into the number-two position. But for now, Polanco and the Republican bloc have kept this at bay. That has left Gonzalez, along with several of the more active commissioners, in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Board, which through July was claiming that the budget it received from the city did not provide enough funding to hold both a primary and a general election. The budget shortfall—pegged at approximately $19 million—means a $9 million gap for “personnel services,” or payroll budget, and an additional $10 million for OTPS, or “other than personnel services” budget, used to pay for the new voting machines at long last being introduced this year to bring New York into compliance with the Help America Vote
A recent meeting of commissioners at the City Board of Elections, when the next budget plan was unveiled Act (HAVA), as well as to bring those voting machines to the polling places. The Board of Elections has complained of shortfalls before, claiming through last fall that it lacked the money to pay for poll workers under the argument that the city did not provide money in the budget to pay for run-off elections in addition to the regularly scheduled primary and general elections. Extra election-day operations are never funded in the budget, and as is standard practice, the city eventually funded the money, but did so several months after, forcing the Board to temporarily shift money allocated for rent and other operating expenses for the spring in its annual budget before being made whole with an additional $8 million provided to cover costs. Though the situation this year differs sharply—aside from a Brooklyn special Council election in March, there have not been any unexpected operations that would require extra funds, and the Board has had access to HAVA money for years to switch to the new machines—Gonzalez has made clear that he expects the money to come. His plan does not account for how the Board would pay for anything past February or March of next year. Steve Richman, the general counsel of the Board, told the commissioners he believed the problems resulted from a budgeting trick the city had used to meet the legal requirement for a June 30 budget. “They know we’re going to spend this additional money, but they couldn’t put it on paper, to allow them to balance their books,” Richman said at the meeting. The new plan pulls money from federal HAVA funding meant to help fund the rollout of the new voting machines, giving the Board enough cash to pay for both the primary and general elections,
two mailings to inform voters of the new machines and meet things like their pest control requirements. “A lot of people were saying they had overestimated the HAVA money to begin with,” said Douglas Kellner, a former commissioner of the city Board who now serves as the Democratic co-chair of the State Board of Elections, by way of explanation. And while there are rampant complaints about overspending on things like poll workers or the taxis Board employees get to take home whenever they work overtime, according to Kellner, there is a deeper problem that needs to be addressed. “The city has forced the Board in bad budgetary habits, because there’s no real budget made at the beginning of the year,” Kellner said. “A devil-may-care attitude starts to build up when there’s nothing that you can do that will bring in proper budget procedures.” The plan, which requires administration approval, is under review by the mayor and his corporation counsel, according to Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna. But any structural change to the Board’s funding would require a change to the City Charter. The mayor, like many others, has expressed dissatisfaction with the Board of Elections and the partisan control that defines so much of how it operates. Though he has not spoken about the topic lately, several at the Board harbor suspicions that the funding cuts might have been part of a philosophically driven effort to starve an entity he clearly does not like. But Council Member Gale Brewer, the new chair of the Government Operations Committee, said there was not much room for sympathy in this year’s negotia-
tions. “Obviously when you’re closing day care centers and other programs, you don’t fund the Board of Elections,” Brewer explained. But the arrival of the new machines, Brewer said, is the real problem. In late July, she prepared a letter to Julie Dent, the president of the Board, complaining about the lack of voter education given the “radical change” coming and the “skepticism and uncertainty surrounding these machines.” “Specifically, have you contacted Council Members, Community Boards or educational institutions to assist with the education of the public?” Brewer wrote. “So far as I am aware, you have showcased the new machines at 30 locations, reaching approximately 1,200 people (out of 4 million registered voters).” A lawsuit attempting to delay the new optical scanner machines until next year has been filed by the Brennan Center. Brewer said she would be spending part of August meeting with Council colleagues and staff to try to formulate some approach to the situation, and is hoping for a hearing in September to examine the problems with publicizing the new machines. This, however, will almost certainly not be done in enough time to make changes ahead of the primary, and perhaps not in time for the general election either. “They definitely need an executive director and they need to figure out creative ways of educating the public in what they’re doing,” Brewer said. “The communication needs to be vastly improved. How much is funding and how much is creativity is the question.” firstname.lastname@example.org
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
42 50 102 122 71 41 162 73 29 155
26 11 11 4 15 11 6 9 6 5
HEARINGS CHAIRED, 1/1/10-7/29/10
3 3 3 3 3 3 1 2 1 1
50 40 42 49 48 41 27 36 39 16
2010 MEMBER ITEM RANK
163.5 141.16 127.5 119.16 114.91 105.41 102.5 96.08 95.41 93.91
THOMAS WHITE, JR.
8 16 11 12 4 7 14 9 12 15
EDITORIAL RATING OF SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE CHAIRS, SCALE OF 1, 2 AND 3
July JULY 28, 28, 2010 2010
COUNCILMEMBER COUNTDOWN COUNCIL BILLS BILLS COMMITTEE
here are many factors that make for a powerful politician. Winning hard-fought campaigns is one. Seeming so strong that no one of note even bothers with a hard-fought campaign is another. And, of course, there are the incalcuables, like managing a swift and responsive constituent services operation, or how quickly calls to an agency or other government authority result in action. But as for how effective members of the City Council are at City Hall—or, for the next few months, at the Emigrant Savings Bank across the street—there are a few numbers that matter: moving legislation, flexing committee power, and, of course, securing money
for interests out of the city budget. Of course, as speaker, Christine Quinn has the most power in the City Council. That does not mean, though, that the other 50 can or should be lumped in together. And as this (admittedly unscientific) assessment shows, they do not. Using the information of how everyone other than Quinn has performed in the first six months of the new session and building it into a formula to weight them properly, City Hall presents its first annual accounting of where, sometimes surprisingly, the power in the Council lays. To see how we weighted the different aspects of government work on the Council, turn to the bottom of the next page.
16 16 CITY CITYHALL HALL
#11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24 #25 67 77 27 24 144 0 128 36 42 38 65 46 104 96 125
12 11 5 10 13 0 13 9 5 7 9 7 11 6 9
7 7 10 8 3 19 5 6 5 11 11 6 1 1
1 1 2 1 1 3 1 1 2 1 1 1 31 11
30 32 45 37 15 24 13 33 44 35 21 34 71 70.41
90.58 89.41 87.25 87 82 81 80.66 78 77.5 77.16 73.41 71.83 www.cityhallnews.com www.cityhallnews.com
YDANIS RODRIGUEZ MELISSA MARKVIVERITO
G. OLIVER KOPPELL
PETER VALLONE, JR. MARIA DEL CARMEN ARROYO
JAMES SANDERS, JR. CITY CITYHALL HALL July JULY 28, 2010
BILLS BILLS PASSED INTRODUCED
ERIK MARTIN DILAN
#26COUNCILMEMBER 4 17 #27 SARA 8 56 GONZALEZ JIMMY #28 VAN 9 59 BRAMER #29 GALE 8 130 BREWER 8 29 #30 ERIC ULRICH 2 13 #31 JOEL RIVERA 6 87 #32 DANIEL DROMM 6 45 #33 JAMES GENNARO 9 32 #34 DANIEL GARODNICK 10 97 #35 VINCENT GENTILE 10 86 #36 HELEN FOSTER
6 4 8 0 6 6 5 8 2 4
1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1
EDITORIAL RATING OF SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE CHAIRS, SCALE OF 1, 2 AND 3
9 1 COUNTDOWN
COMMITTEE HEARINGS CHAIRED, 1/1/10-7/29/10
43 25 20 5 29 46 23 26 12 6 3
2010 MEMBER ITEM RANK
69.41 67.66 64.91 63.83 63.41 61.08 60.25 58.75 58.66 56.08 54.16
18 18 July JULY 28, 28, 2010 2010
CITY CITYHALL HALL
DAVID * GREENFIELD
53 20 19 12 56 23 94 47 41 52 19 43 40 5
5 0 3 1 7 4 6 4 6 5 2 5 3 1
6 0 4 0 0 0
0 5 5 10
6 0 5 0
1 0 1 0 1 1
1 1 1 1
1 3 1 1
1 8 17 2 10 19
9 18 4 7
22 47 28 38
34.41 32.33 30.58 25.58 25.33 23.41
41.66 40.91 40.83 36.91
52.41 48.66 46.58 43
July JULY 28, 2010
*First elected to the Council in late March.
(BILLS PASSED x 6) + (BILLS INTRODUCED รท 12) + (COMMITTEE HEARINGS HELD x SIGNIFICANCE OF COMMITTEE) + RANK OF 2010 MEMBER ITEMS RECEIVED = raw score
#37 #38 #39 #40 #41 #42 #43 #44 #45 #46 #47 #48 #49 #50 CITY CITYHALL HALL 19
JULY 28, 2010
Snags Ahead For Rush To Approve New Charter Schools Under Raised Cap
Shortened timeline and staffing shortfalls create anxiety among education reformers BY JOHANNA BARR
ecent legislation threatens to further convolute the already complicated process used to authorize the opening of new charter schools in New York. In an attempt to make New York’s application for the federal education grant program Race to the Top more competitive, the Legislature voted in May to raise the statewide charter school cap from 200 to 460 by 2014. Experts say that the higher cap will likely lead to an influx in applications— an influx that the two statewide charter authorizers, the State Board of Regents and the State University of New York’s Charter Schools Institute, may have difficulty handling. “Right now, everybody and their brother is thinking of opening a charter school,” said Dirk Tillotson, director of the New York Charter Schools Association’s New School Incubator Program. “Colleges and universities, like Fordham, are applying to open charters. There are more groups applying to open multiple schools, and there are more conversion schools,” or existing public schools that are transformed into charter schools. James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Schools Center, also anticipates an increase in applications, though he questioned whether the new cap would cause that increase.
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“There was a lot of demand before the law was passed, and that demand will continue to build. We are seeing an increase that has been happening over the years.” As if the influx of new applications were not daunting enough, the two main authorizers are currently contending with major personnel shortages. Jennifer Sneed has recently left her post as the senior vice president of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, while the State Education Department Charter School Office, which makes charter recommendations to the Board of Regents, currently lacks a director. Sally Bachofer has had to take on duties at the Charter School Office, which is under her purview as the Executive Director of the SED Office of Innovative School Models. In addition, Michael Duffy and Christina Grant have both recently left the City Department of Education’s Office of Charter Schools, where they served as executive director and deputy executive director, respectively. Merriman noted that the combination of the increase in applicants and the authorizer vacancies could spell trouble for those hoping to open a charter school. “Obviously when the number of charters increases, ideally you’ll have more personnel to handle them,” he said. “I think it will be challenging at each of the authorizers.” Tillotson agreed that increased strain
on the system was inevitable. “There’s going to be an increasing lack of quality oversight, because the authorizers just won’t have the ability to see what’s going on as the number of schools increases,” he said. Further complicating matters is the fact that the timeline that the new legislation mandates will necessitate a shorter application review process, which will potentially lead to the rejection of charters that would have otherwise been approved. The law requires both statewide authorizers to craft and submit a Request for Proposals by Aug. 1. The RFP will provide a rubric for charter applications to follow—for example, new charter schools must maintain a certain threshold of special-education students and English-language learners, while also proving a certain level of community support. These criteria have been criticized for varying reasons. Community support, for example, is nebulous and hard to grasp, some charter operators say. The required percentage of needier students, meanwhile, could also cause other problems. “There’s a charter school in Staten Island that serves mainly special-education students, but only 3 percent of its students are English-language learners,” said Tillotson. “This is the sort of strict bean counting that could get that school nailed down the road.” Applications must be submitted to one of the authorizers soon after the Aug. 1 deadline. The SUNY Charter Schools In-
CITY HALL stitute has announced that they are due Aug. 16, a mere two weeks after the RFP is made available. Though the Board of Regents has yet to announce a specific date, Jane Briggs, a spokesperson for the State Education Department, implied that a similar timeframe will be in place. “We anticipate a fall 2010 submission deadline,” she said in a statement. Both authorizers are currently rushing to finalize their RFPs, after opening them up for comments from the public. At the same time, SUNY is in the process of reviewing the 22 applications it received for the 12 charters it had left to award under the previous cap of 200. (The Board of Regents finished awarding its half of those charters in March.) Experts disagreed over which group of applicants was more likely to get shortchanged—those who applied for the 12 remaining SUNY charters, or those who will apply for the new group of charters in response to the RFP. “The compressed timeline, to me, raises questions about whether or not worthy applicants are unduly being denied,”said Peter Murphy, policy director for the NYCSA, referring to the 22 SUNY applicants. Murphy explained that SUNY usually goes back and forth with applicants, raising questions and asking for clarifications, before the final application is submitted for approval. But because of the rush to draft its RFP and prepare for the next round of applications, he believes the Charter Schools Association may not do many of these this year. “They have a whole new cycle to do in August, and if they approve something now, that’s more work for them,” he said. “They have rejected applications over trivial reasons that could have easily been addressed.” The draft RFP that the SUNY Charter Schools Institute published earlier this month highlights the anxiety felt by some charter school advocates. “Given the short window of time the Institute will have to review any proposals submitted in response to this RFP, the rate of proposals approved will no doubt be impacted,” an excerpt reads. “There simply will not be time to work with a proposal team that is deemed to be close to meeting the standard for approval through the back and forth Request for Amendment process that has historically been part of SUNY’s review process.” Some believe that the truncated timeline will not adversely affect the review process. Steve Sanders, former chair of the Assembly Education Committee, thinks the new deadlines are reasonable. Yet while Sanders thinks that the reforms will have positive long-term effects, he agreed that the upcoming round of applications might lead to some problems, as both authorizers and applicants work to adjust to the new system. “If there is some difficulty or confusion, it might be in this original year,” he said. “There’s bound to be compression.” email@example.com
suburban stores. And the New York City market is one of the top-performing markets for our Web site.” But Wal-Mart faces a bigger fight in New York than it did in Chicago. The company first tried building stores in Queens in 2002, and on Staten Island in 2006, and both plans were shut down. Now, as in the past, the plans face resistance from labor unions and their allies in the City Council. Their talks with Chicago show they are willing to negotiate with labor-friendly towns, but New York union officials remain unimpressed with the strides made by Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the country. “Wal-Mart is not welcome here,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. “They’d have a lot further to go in terms of the way they operate before they would be welcome in New York.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he is in favor of Wal-Mart coming into the city and noted politicians were not legally allowed to block any business from building in the five boroughs as long as they abide by the city’s laws. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whom Alderman Moore called a Wal-Mart “apologist,” shares similar views with Bloomberg. In June, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined labor activists and other Wal-Mart opponents to protest the company’s plan to build a store in Brooklyn. The new store is planned for the Gateway Two Shopping Center, between the Belt Parkway and the Spring Creek Towers, formerly called Starrett City, which is the largest federally-subsidized housing project in the country. Like Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, the surrounding areas are lower- and working-class. Unlike Pullman, other retail stores and supermarkets already have a foothold in the neighborhood, including big-box retailers like Target, BJ’s Wholesale, and the Home Depot. Council Member Charles Barron, who represents the area, said he is not willing to negotiate with the company. “Wal-Mart has bigger problems than the slave-like, insultingly oppressive wages that they pay their workers,” he said, citing class-action lawsuits against the company brought on by former workers. Barron said that the store would be an unwelcome addition to what is already there and represents the worst example of large retail. And while the allure of low prices may be stronger in the lowerincome area, he doesn’t think that is reason enough to let them in. “They’re not the only stores that offer low prices,” he said. “We can look at different stores that can come in and agree to our criteria.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Wal-Mart’s Chicago Labor Deal Could Provide Model For New York Expansion By Katie honan
n June, after months of discussion, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved Wal-Mart’s plan to build a store on the South Side of the city. This will be the company’s second store in Chicago, but the first time they negotiated with the city’s Federation of Labor on issues including wages and union construction. Wal-Mart disagrees that the agreement reached with the union can be called a negotiation, but many viewed the discussions as a positive change for the company that could serve as a model for other urban centers, New York included. “This victory should not be minimized or disregarded,” said Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, who represents the 49th Ward and was apprehensive about Wal-Mart’s impact on the city. “It’s clearly a sign that they felt they needed to do that and they wanted to enter the Chicago market.” While many in Chicago were resistant to the recent Wal-Mart, one of the biggest factors that helped the store move forward was location. The company chose the mostly lower- to working-class Pullman neighborhood, on the South Side, where residents have limited food and shopping options. This made Wal-Mart an easier sell even for those opposed to the company, said Jorge Ramirez, who is now president of the Chicago Federation of Labor and served as its treasurer during discussions. “They picked the path of least resistance,” Ramirez said. Near the first Wal-Mart, which was built in 2006, more retail stores have opened and provided a retail boost to the area. That store, too, was met with resistance, but Steve Restivo, a director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, said that Wal-Mart has been a success. “We’ve served as a magnet of growth and development,” said Restivo. “And we’ve delivered value to the West Side of Chicago.” Wal-Mart’s stores are a fixture of the suburban landscape, but are noticeably absent from many urban areas. There are four in Philadelphia and four in Los Angeles. The company has said that they view the Chicago stores as the blueprint for their continued expansion, especially in New York City. “It’s clear that New Yorkers today are shopping our stores,” Restivo said. “Tens of millions of dollars are leaving New York City by residents shopping in our
July 28, 2010
New York Downtown Hospital Welcomes Dr. Daniel Hunt Colorectal Surgeon New York Downtown Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. Daniel Hunt, to the Department of Surgery. Dr. Hunt is a board-certied surgeon who specializes in the treatment of colorectal cancer, cancer prevention, laparoscopic colon microsurgery, transanal microscopic surgery, colorectal disorders, bowel dysfunction, and sphincter preservation for Crohn’s Disease. Dr. Hunt uses advanced procedures and treatment plans combined with new technologies and microsurgery to offer our patients improved safety, greater comfort and the preservation of normal bowel function. Together with the Hospital’s already strong Colorectal Service, Dr. Hunt and Dr. Donald Summers, a New York Downtown Hospital colorectal surgeon with special expertise in the eld of laparoscopic colon surgery, will maintain our Hospital at the front line in the battle against rectal and colon cancer. Both physicians deliver high quality care using minimally-invasive techniques to speed recovery. They would welcome the opportunity to meet with you. You may call Dr. Hunt at (646) 898-4718 and Dr. Summers at (212) 312-5329.
Outstanding Physicians. Exceptional Care.
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JULY 28, 2010
Reality Throws Water On Burning Debate Over Firefighter—Not Firehouse—Cuts Little-noticed budget item may not deliver on firefighter cuts or cost savings
BY COLBY HAMILTON
hile the annual fight over preserving engine companies in the city budget occupied the headlines, a lesser-noticed budget item that would reduce the crew on 60 engine companies from five firefighters to four was passed as part of the final deal. The move, according to the department, will save nearly $8 million from a $1.6 billion budget, mostly through the loss of 300 firefighters to attrition, along with the associated pension and fringe costs, like overtime. That is, if any of the cuts or projected savings off of them ever come to be. Even if the administration can make a deal with the union—a process that could take considerable time and require arbitration—the savings will only be realized when the approximately 300 firefighters retire. “It’s sort of a risky PEG [program to eliminate the gap], in the sense that they don’t know if they’ll get the attrition they
need,” said Bernard O’Brien, a policy analyst at the city’s Independent Budget Office. Even so, there is major controversy brewing as several Council members and union officials contend the measure— which the mayor’s office acknowledges is subject to a collective bargaining agreement—should never have been part of the budget discussion. If enacted, they say, the reductions will place firefighters and the public at unnecessary risk, even as the possibility of the cuts actually going through is being questioned. “This was injected into the budget-adoption process,” said Jimmy Oddo, the Council’s minority leader and a consistent advocate on behalf of firehouses. “I guess it’s a budget ploy or budget mechanism to tell us how bad things are.” Oddo said he took exception with the process, voicing similar concerns during hearings on the executive budget in June. One legislative source with knowledge of the Council’s approach to this
issue described the settlement as a budget tactic for collective bargaining. Another pointed to attrition rates in the department over the last few years that, due to a suffering economy and a force that has become younger since the
“This was injected into the budgetadoption process,” said Staten Island Council Member James Oddo. “I guess it’s a budget ploy or budget mechanism to tell us how bad things are.” Sept. 11 attacks, have been unsuccessful as a budget-reduction tool. The person questioned the department’s ability to see projected savings this year. “They were trying to get the Council
to say, ‘Fine, cut this,’” said the source, referring to the mayor’s office and the FDNY. “The Council didn’t want to take a position on it because they didn’t want to have their words used during negotiations.” The history of issues with engine company staffing goes back to the 1980s, when more than 120 companies were staffed with five firefighters. A staffing reduction was put in place under the Koch administration, but today’s levels were solidified under a 1996 arbitration agreement, which saw all but 64 companies reduced to four people. That agreement has remained in place ever since. The current firefighter labor contract is set to expire Jan. 1. All sides agree the administration will likely go toe-to-toe with UFA over company reductions. “Given difficult choices, we would rather eliminate the fifth firefighter than eliminate companies,” said FDNY spokesperson Frank Gribbon. “This is going to be a serious attempt to make this stick.” Gribbon said no one disagrees that five firefighters would be safer than four. But with the fifth position on these 60 companies filled primarily with firefighters working overtime shifts, the city could no longer afford the added cost. Gribbon noted that the other 134 fire companies in the city are able to operate safely and effectively with four firefighters. In fact, the city had a recordlow number of civilian fire deaths last year. The firefighters’ union, meanwhile, argues that not only is the department to blame for excessive overtime costs, given an overall headcount more than 220 below necessary staffing levels, but that, in fact, five-person engines effectively save more lives. “Five-man engine companies get water on the fire twice as quickly as four men. Getting water on the fire is the single most important event in quickly saving lives,” said Steve Cassidy, the union’s president. “They want to reduce our staffing and pretend like it won’t have an impact on firefighters and the public.” The union notes that a 1987 comparison done by then-Chief Vincent Dunn put the time taken to reach the fifth floor of a building with a five-person engine company at four minutes and thirty-three seconds faster than a fourperson company. The FDNY refutes the claims, saying the test was unscientific and that protocols put in place since have two engine companies respond to every fire, doubling the number of firefighters on scene. For all the fighting, though, the debate seems likely to remain academic until at least next year’s budget season, according to Gribbon. “The likelihood is,” he said, “that we’re not going to be dropping the head count by 300 by February of next year.” email@example.com
JULY 28, 2010
red Newman, the controversial psychotherapist, philosopher, playwright and political activist, has not been in the news as much as his onetime nemesis, Frank MacKay, the chair of the State Independence Party who once tried to boot Newman from the party over his beliefs. Nonetheless, the city-based faction of the Independence Party has been working hard to make one last push for non-partisan elections, while watching MacKay’s travails from afar. Newman discussed his desire to see Mayor Michael Bloomberg push harder for non-partisan elections, how the state Independence Party has strayed from its roots, and why reporters do not call him very much anymore. What follows is an edited transcript. City Hall: The charter revision commission’s staff report recommended that non-partisan elections not go on the ballot this year. What can the Independence Party of New York City do to try and change that? Fred Newman: Well, the Citizens Union, I understand, did a very, very good report and I was hoping that that would perhaps change the opinion of the commissioners. It certainly would have changed mine. I thought their report was quite good and quite convincing, but it doesn’t seem that the commissioners have been convinced, but I cannot understand why they wouldn’t be. CH: Is there any formal campaign by the party to push for non-partisan elections? FN: Well, we’ve been in that campaign mode for a very, very long time, so we have no new tricks that we can do. We were hoping that the commission would respond to that and they don’t seem to have. The answer is that there’s not much we can do. CH: You brought several hundred people to a hearing in the Bronx who were very vocal in their support of non-partisan elections. How did the party drum up so much interest in the issue? FN: We received 150,000 votes in the last mayoral race. We have a lot of support in the communities and we can bring our people, but apparently bringing our people doesn’t mean that much to the commission. So I’m not going to be in any way calling out our people from the communities anymore. I don’t think at this point it would make a difference. I am not trying to do it. I don’t know of anything else we can do. I am sure there are some people on the commission who are more sympathetic than others, but I have no way of knowing who they are.
CH: If non-partisan elections were on the ballot, why would it pass this year after getting 30 percent of the vote in 2003? FN: Things have changed dramatically. Virtually every condition has changed. I think that since 2003 or whatever it was, what’s happened in the country is a major change. There is much more of a mood of being concerned that government is not being responsive, so that’s a very, very big difference. The Citizens Union report, for example, which indicates the citizen’s party has changed, I think
also indicates why so many other people have changed. [Citizens Union did not support non-partisan elections in 2003.] The growth of the New York Independence Party is substantial, and the temperament of the country— including New York City, since New York City is, after all, much as we might sometimes deny it, part of the country—is that people are dissatisfied with the way candidates are selected. CH: Non-partisan elections recently passed California. Does that translate to more support in New York City? FN: Well, we had many people out in California working on this and they were using the same audience that we are here, so I guess in that sense, yes. CH: Do you wish the mayor would weigh in a little more in support of non-partisan elections? FN: His promise, his statement was to assure that he would do what he could do to make sure that it was considered. He created the commission, so he fulfilled that commitment. He didn’t make a commitment to work for it or be outspoken for it, although he has been before on the record. If you asked me subjectively today, would I have wanted him to do more, I suppose it would have been helpful. But I don’t think he has violated any promises.
party in terms of its way of operating and functioning, and [Frank] MacKay made his decisions, I think, heavily under the influence of the Democratic Party. CH: Do you see the State Independence Party as leaving its ideological roots as some suggest? FN: When I was involved with the party, the local organizations used to make those decisions, essentially, the state chair and the state organization didn’t do it all. The local organizations made those decisions and those were the rules of the party, and MacKay has changed all that, that’s no longer true. The key to the party is internal democracy, but he’s turned it into a regular third party in New York State. I don’t think he is doing anything worse than any other third parties in the history of the state. It was very important to me that at the beginning we made an effort to change that, and that was completely abandoned by MacKay. CH: There have also been some issues that have arisen regarding MacKay’s outside interests and his wife’s computer company. Does that surprise you? FN: It doesn’t surprise me because that’s what happens, it seems to me, in all parties, major or minor, when they have no real concern with internal democracy—that is the kind of thing that happens. Why would it surprise me? I’m 75 years old.
CH: What do you think the future of the Independence Party of New York City is going to look like once Mayor Bloomberg is not in office anymore? FN: The New York Independence Party existed before and grew substantially before our connection to Mayor Bloomberg and it will do so after he is off the political scene. There will be new people coming in and there will be new issues coming up and we’ll continue to participate. I think it will surely continue to be a political reform party.
CH: Pedro Espada is an old ally of yours. Will you help him in his primary? FN: Not that I know of, I don’t think so. He hasn’t asked us, and it’s a Democratic primary.
CH: What’s your take on what’s going on with the State Independence Party? Some of the local chairs are upset that their endorsement decisions were overruled. FN: It’s hard for me to say since I was involved with the state committee a long time ago and it was mostly people from New York City. It’s a democracy disaster, but no one has bothered looking into it. I have no real opinions on what’s going on there, but I know that it’s a very important development that the party seems to be a radical
CH: Anything else you’d like to add? FN: That’s a hard question for me to answer. I like to discuss many, many things, but I’ve received fewer and fewer requests for my opinions on these things over the years. People see me as too radical, I guess. I’ve been kind of checked out on the public debate on these kinds of questions. So, I appreciate that you’re asking me for my opinion. —Chris Bragg firstname.lastname@example.org
CH: What else are you up to these days? FN: I do everything I did when I was 35, 45, except I do it much more slowly. I do some teaching, some writing. I listen to a lot of music, I read the papers and I participate in New York City political life.
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