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Is Community Board 2 Transparent?

June 15, 2014 - By John O’Reilly

During recent Community Board 2 meetings, the term “transparency” has been used with greater frequency to describe the Board and its various committees’ actions and functions. Is this description accurate?

No. Community Board 2 fails to make important community information easily accessible and does not provide details about who sits on the Board and how its decisions are made.

The Board would be “transparent” if it were good and fast at answering requests for information from the public and published a large amount of information without the need for requests—such as publishing on its website detailed information on community issues pending before the Board.

While the Board does post an upcoming agenda on its website (after three click-throughs under the heading: “Calendar of Events”), a transparent Board would provide the public with the same information and data (or as much as possible) on its website that the Community Board/committee will use to render a decision. Such data should be available well before the Board makes a decision on a host of matters—whether it’s dealing with moving a municipal facility to the area, modifying a local park or allowing a local establishment to expand its facilities.

The Community Board currently publishes it minutes on the website weeks/months after a meeting and provides a numerical count of a Board vote with a brief description of points made.

The Board minutes should be more transparent. They should name the vote made by each member on a particular matter and identify the Board member by name when they make a comment or ask a question. After all, members of the public, guests, public officials and Board officers who speak are identified by name with a brief description of the comment.

The Board does list the names of its members on the Board website. However, would it be more transparent if it included the date of original and subsequent appointment(s) and periods of Board service? (Is it really true that a significant portion of members have served on the Board since the last century?)  Would it be more transparent to include in the identification of the Board’s officers, the time period each has held his/her position, including prior and current terms of office?

Would including the closest cross streets and neighborhood (e.g., 46th Street and 47th Avenue, Sunnyside) of each Board member’s residence and/or the name and address of a member’s business enhance transparency and dispel widely held beliefs that certain neighborhoods are over-represented and other neighborhoods are under-represented on the Board?

Questions about transparency and the Community Board should not be misinterpreted to denigrate the dedication and service of Board members and its officers, who serve as volunteers, nor as criticism of the Community Board’s limited staff, who perform a broad range of valuable work for the benefit of the community.

However, Community Board 2 is not transparent; it does not have a policy on transparency; and Board members/officers seem to use the term “transparency” to deflect good faith questions about how and why decisions are made.  Community Board 2 adheres to a minimalist approach to providing information to the public.

If a member of the community wants to learn more than the basic, required information included on the Community Board’s website and for example wants to learn details about a City agency’s plans to acquire property in the community, like the Fire Department’s proposal for a multifaceted facility on 43rd Street, an appointment must be made during the business day at a mutually convenient time to visit the Board’s office on 50th Street to view relevant documents in the Board’s files but only with a Community Board staff person at your side.

If the community member wants to take a mobile device image of pages of documents, special permission is required and a second appointment is needed, again under the observation of a staff person.  This process is generally described as Soviet style transparency.

If a community member wants to obtain a copy of the Board’s By Laws, and requests to the Community Board are frustrated by non-response, and instead has to utilize back channel, secondary sources to obtain the legal document which provides the framework for the Board and its actions, that’s not transparent.  Community Board 2’s By Laws are available on the internet not on the Board’s website but rather via a link in a May 1, 2014 news story published by the Sunnyside Post.

There are important reasons for the Community Board to take the time to develop and implement a policy on transparency.  The benefits of actual transparency include enhanced accountability and lessened distrust of the Board and its actions. The community has the right to hold Community Board 2 and its committees to account for how they act and for the decisions they take.

Rumor and suspicion about Board members and individual motives would be greatly reduced if more and better information is readily available.  Actual transparency will enhance community participation in the Community Board and committee work, and result in better informed and more readily accepted decisions.  Discussion of community issues often devolve to statements that one side or the other need to become involved in the process, but to be involved it is essential that people can readily access a wide range of information to facilitate participation in a real and effective way in community matters, including speaking at Board meetings and public hearings.

Actual transparency will promote efficiency in the Board’s work and use of staff time.  Making documents and data readily available to the community has the benefit of promoting information management and reliance on facts rather than anecdotes. As a result, the Community Board and committees will have a framework for better, more fact-based decision-making and more effective communication with the public about decisions.  Board staff time will not be consumed with setting up appointments, locating documents, sitting and watching a community member’s review of documents, finding out if an image can be taken of a public document, rinse and repeat the foregoing cycle when the community member has to return to the Board’s office.

Limited staff and staff time is usually cited as the primary reason why a more effective website can’t be developed, why more and better information can’t be provided, and why documents can’t be put into a form readily accessible on the Board’s website.  However, several community Boards around New York City have already acted in varying degrees to provide better and more readily available information on their respective websites than is provided by CB 2.

Improvement in CB 2’s web site can easily commence with finding out how the other Boards have been able to act and incorporating their practices.

Community Board 2 should act as soon as possible to implement the reality of Board transparency increasingly mentioned by its officers and members.


Why we support the Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District

In the coming days and weeks, all business owners, residents, and property owners on Roosevelt Avenue from 81st Street to 104th Street, as well as Junction Boulevard from 40th Road to 35th Avenue, will have the opportunity to vote for the proposal to extend the 82nd Street Partnership boundaries to form the Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District. 
 
Here are three reasons why we, as a small business owner and a property owner, are voting yes to the proposed Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District:
 
(1) Cleaner and Safer Streets: The new Business Improvement District will make Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard a cleaner and safer place for everyone to enjoy. The Business Improvement District will provide a year-round Clean Team of about 10 people who will sweep litter from our sidewalks (reducing the chances of us getting fines from the Sanitation Department), empty litter receptacles (no more overflowing trash cans!), clean graffiti from public and private property, and shovel snow from crosswalks, corners and bus stops. 
 
Each of these services go above and beyond what the City of New York provides; and, by law, City sanitation services in no way will be reduced.  
 
(2) Support for Small and Immigrant-Owned Businesses: The Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District will be an advocate for our business community, helping us thrive and grow in today's economy. From storefront improvement grants (new signs, awnings, lights, and windows), to website and social media assistance, to shopping and holiday promotions, the Business Improvement District will help us retain and expand our customer base so that we can grow our businesses.
 
The Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District can also be our voice to city government. When we have issues that concern us, whether it's inspections from the Departments of Consumer Affairs and Health, or issues with Police and Sanitation, the Business Improvement District will represent our shared interests to ensure we are getting the best service from city government.
 
(3) A Better Living and Working Environment for Everyone: Cleaner, safer, and brighter streets, cultural events and outdoor festivals that celebrate our diverse community, a better working relationship with city government, and an organized business community will improve quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood.
 
We all deserve to live and work in a neighborhood that we can be proud of each and every day; a place where we all can feel comfortable walking, shopping, and exploring day and night. It’s time we work together as a community--property owners, businesses, and residents-- to invest in a better living and working environment for everyone.

A Message from Ernesto Cury and John Rapp

Ernesto Cury is a business owner and chair of the Jackson Heights - Corona Business Improvement District Steering Committee. Mr. Cury is also Vice-President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens. John Rapp, a founding member of the 82nd Street Partnership,  is a property owner and the current chair of the organization. He and his family have managed buildings in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona since 1971

Posted July 22, 2014

Editor's Note - Scroll down for two more related Opinions


BIDs Are Undemocratic And Would Raise Rents On Small Businesses

By Tania Mattos and Marty Kirchner of Queens Neighborhoods United

Like many New Yorkers, we at Queens Neighborhoods United were saddened to recently read that the Union Square Café will close its doors due to rising rents.  If one of the city’s top-rated restaurants can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?

It turns out that one of the factors in the restaurant’s skyrocketing costs was the presence of a Business Improvement District, which significantly contributed to Union Square becoming a high-rent district. BIDs like Union Squares’ claim to represent the interests of small businesses. Yet, the Union Square Partnership didn’t prevent this culinary landmark from being displaced. We looked into the impact that BIDs have had on neighborhoods across the city.

BIDs are partnerships between the city government and the private sector to advance the interests of commercial property owners within a specific geographic area. Although BIDs market themselves as a resource for small business owners and even for the whole community, they are established as a means to raise land values, which means sharp rent increases for commercial and residential tenants. The BIDs’ often-recited message of “safe and clean” tends to obscure more controversial objectives that BIDs seek, including the private management of public space, land-use planning, and tourism promotion.

BIDs are highly undemocratic in their decision-making. Though commercial tenants often pay the higher costs of having a BID, landlords comprise a majority of a BID’s board of directors. And while significant portion of BID budgets come from taxpayers, residents are practically excluded from deciding how the money gets spent.

When we started talking to people about the BID, we found small business owners and residents along Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard were overwhelmingly against the proposed expansion of the 82nd Street Partnership. Many business owners point to the many corporate chain stores on 82nd Street as an example of what would happen to Roosevelt Avenue.

And while the 82nd  Street Partnership claims that a BID will protect small businesses against the Willets West mall in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a Freedom of Information Law request revealed that the mall developers have committed to give $500,000 to the BID  over the next ten years. Business owners and residents ask us, how can we believe this revenue won’t influence BID decisions?

One way to establish a sense of belonging in one’s neighborhood is through the civic activity of planting trees and community gardens. To send a message that our neighborhoods do not want or need a BID, residents and small business owners have begun planting trees, painting storefronts, and sweeping the sidewalks along Roosevelt Avenue every other Saturday. We don’t intend to replace services that the city should be providing. Instead, we want to draw attention to the fact that our elected officials have long neglected us, and that privatizing these basic services in the form of a BID will only further destabilize our neighborhoods.

To help or for more information, contact us at 347-678-6122 or QueensNeighborhoodsUnited@gmail.com.

Click here to view the Queens Neighborhoods United Facebook page.

Posted on July 6, 2014

Editor's Note - scroll down for an opinion posted in November of 2013 by 82nd Street Partnership BID.


Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District: Investing in a Sustainable Future

As readers of Queens Latino know, the proposal to form the new Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District has sparked discussion and debate in the community about the future of the neighborhood’s commercial corridors, in particular Roosevelt Avenue. Ultimately, this dialogue has produced a thoughtful neighborhood-based plan that will work to strengthen and grow the district’s greatest assets—its entrepreneurial, diverse, and immigrant-owned businesses.  
 
With a mission to improve neighborhood quality of life and promote small business growth by creating cleaner, safer, and more inviting commercial corridors, the Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District offers an inclusive bottom-up solution to help kick-start and sustain the regeneration that so many Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard stakeholders want to see happen.

Support is widespread and broad-based, and it is growing by the day. Even individuals who just weeks ago were protesting the plan have now signed on as supporters. By taking a closer look at the proposal—its cost, services, governance and goals—stakeholders see this as a great opportunity to organize and invest in the neighborhood’s future.
 
In recent weeks, support for the proposal to form the new Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District has increased significantly. As of today, hundreds of small business owners, residents, property owners, civic and community members have pledged support for the formation of what will be one of New York City’s most vital and diverse business improvement districts. 
 
Like all 68 business improvement districts in New York City, the new Jackson Heights – Corona one will be funded by property owners and commercial tenants making annual contributions based on a fair formula that factors building foot frontage and property value. In this case, the majority of property owners will be charged on average about $75 per month, which equals roughly $2.50 a day.  The property owners and commercial tenants typically negotiate on their terms how the assessment is split. This is a small investment that will bring tangible returns.
 
With a budget of about $860,000 per year—raised by property owners and commercial tenants, and collected by the Department of Finance—the Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District will fund special services that go above and beyond what the city provides, including daily sidewalk sweeping and graffiti removal, holiday lights, cultural events, shopping guides, landscaping and streetscape beautification. As an organization made up of nearly 1,000 businesses, the Jackson Heights – Corona Business Improvement District will be a strong and effective advocate for the neighborhood.
 
A board of directors composed of property owners, commercial tenants, residents, community board members, street vendors, and representatives from city government, including the Mayor, Comptroller, Borough President and City Council member, will govern the organization.  The board of directors will be a diverse and representative body, voted in by the membership of the business improvement district: every business, resident, and property owner located within the boundaries has a vote.
 
To understand the impact a business improvement district has on a neighborhood, we can look to 82nd Street, where property owners and commercial tenants have been making an annual investment for nearly a quarter century.  With beautiful street trees, ample bicycle parking, outdoor seating, a community garden, clean sidewalks, and attractive storefronts, shoppers come to 82nd Street to enjoy the vibrant retail mix and pleasant atmosphere. 
 
By making 82nd Street inviting to local shoppers, and by providing direct assistance to small business owners, the commercial corridor is given the opportunity to thrive and grow. 
 
That is why nearly 75% of the ground floor businesses located in the 82nd Street business improvement district are still independently owned and operated, many by immigrant families.
 
As one of 82nd Street’s business owners, Araceli Bastida of Sonrisas Sanas, says about the improvement district, “It feels good to know that there’s somebody taking care of the community, freeing us to focus on growing our business.”
 
Now is the time to give the same opportunity to the hundreds of business owners on Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard in Jackson Heights and Corona.  Together we can create a successful and sustainable local economy for generations to come.  

November 6, 2013
 
By Seth Taylor - Executive Director at 82nd Street Partnership

Click here to view the website of the 82nd Street Partnership BID.


Open Memo to New York State Assembly and Senate

The Library Trustee Association (LTA) is chartered by the New York State Regents to represent, assist, educate and honor public library boards of trustees as providers of free and universal library service. LTA advocates for all of New York’s approximately 6700 public library trustees and categorically opposes proposed legislation S.6893-B/A.9217-B.

Libraries and their trustees are a vital link in the expression of and maintenance of the basic freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Interjecting politics and potential political interference into the library world sets a dangerous precedent.

This action potentially affects more than the Queens Library. It endangers the basic freedoms libraries provide for their patrons and the freedoms of association libraries
which constitute nearly 50 percent of all New York State public libraries.

This legislation would place a cloud of fear over library boards as they preside over the strategic mission and direction of their libraries. Library boards are charged with basing decisions on what is in the best interest of their community. The proposed legislation could allow local politicians and state lawmakers to impose political biases on otherwise non-partisan local decisions appropriately made by independent library boards of trustees.

New York State Libraries are recognized for their excellence throughout our nation and the world. New York State library boards of trustees are looked upon as models because of their organizational structure and how they implement their fiduciary responsibilities.

Many of the issues addressed in these bills are already covered by state regulations. LTA’s highest priority is to educate trustees about the requirements, standards and regulations that they are obligated to meet. Arbitrarily reducing the length of terms from five years to three years, as this legislation would require, will greatly diminish the ability of trustees to gain experience and to become well versed in the laws, regulations and standards they are responsible to uphold.

LTA strongly opposes these legislative bills which would set a precedent for Albany
lawmakers to interject political influence upon library trustee boards and their community libraries.

Timothy Gavin
LTA Association Manager
and LTA’s Board of Directors


Legislation Threatens Independence of Local Libraries in New York State

Our community libraries are rooted in the concepts of free inquiry, free expression and the free and fair
pursuit of information. Dating back to our country’s first lending library, founded by Benjamin Franklin in
1731, libraries have served as guardians of free speech and intellectual discourse. However, recently
proposed state legislation threatens these core tenets by injecting politics into the day-to-day
operations of our local libraries.

Legislation proposed by State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (S.6893-
B/A.09217-B), as well as by Senator Tony Avella (S.7015-B) creates a dangerous precedent for our state’s
eleven-hundred libraries – comply with political demands from elected officials or risk having your
community-based organization targeted with reactionary, heavy-handed state legislation. That
colleagues are jockeying for position on this issue demonstrates that there are political points to be
scored.

The library community has always been a strong leader for good governance, oversight and
transparency, particularly where public dollars are involved. That’s why local libraries, including the
Queens Library, have many of these proposed measures already in place, and supported the Nonprofit
Revitalization Act signed by Governor Cuomo last year.

This current legislation, though well-intentioned, is proffered as reform, but actually accomplishes the
opposite.

The Gianaris/Aubry legislation would reduce trustee terms from five years to three, and thereby deprive
the library board of the experience needed to engage in effective oversight, budget analysis and longrange
planning. Coupled with a provision that would allow unilateral removal of trustees with little or no
cause, these bills allow politicians to unjustly compel action from library trustees on any issue, including
what content patrons could access and what community organizations could use the library as a
meeting space. This legislation threatens the independence of every library in the state, and seeks to
bring the Queens Library, a private not-for-profit corporation, directly under political control. It would
open the door to patronage hires, politically-driven programming and censoring of content. In fact, this
legislation sets the truly menacing precedent that any private, not-for-profit corporation receiving public
funding is vulnerable to political persecution unless it complies with the demands of politicians.

The noted American author Norman Cousins once said that a ‘library is the delivery room for the birth of
ideas.’ Independent thought and leadership at our libraries are absolutely necessary for those ideas to
take shape. Our elected officials are supposed to defend our cherished institutions, not threaten them.
This legislation must be shelved.

By Mike Neppl - General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the New York Library
Association

June 10, 2014

Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.


Open Letter To NYS Assembly & Senate Regarding Queens Library Charter Changes

ALA / AmericanLibraryAssociation
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Legislative Office Building, Room 932 Albany, NY 12248
The Honorable Dean G. Skelos
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247

Dear Representative Silver and Senator Skelos,

On behalf of the American Library Association (ALA) and two divisions of ALA, the Public Library Association (PLA) and United for Libraries, we are writing to express our concerns with recently proposed legislation affecting library trustees. As the presidents of national organizations, we have a unique opportunity to observe and learn from the experiences of public libraries across the nation, and we know that Queens Library is an award winning library system that serves as a national model for excellence in library services.

Public libraries are a public good, providing impartial information and services to all, and should be held by the public, beyond the reach of undue political influence. Recently proposed legislation would negatively affect the independence of these public libraries, imposing a process from Albany that is clearly not in the best interests of the library or the community. Public libraries must be as independent as is possible if they are to impartially and effectively support, rather than be at the mercy of, the political process. This concept is central to our democratic system and to public libraries throughout the country.

The vibrant system of trusteeship in public libraries in New York is one that is renowned and respected around the country. Proposed bills S. 7015 and S.6893/A.9217 threaten this standing not only in Queens but throughout the state of New York. By reducing trustee terms from five years to three, combined with a proposed unilateral removal provision, these bills would threaten the ability of libraries to provide unencumbered access to information, values core not only to libraries but to our country as a whole. Freedom of information and freedom of thought cannot exist in a system where undue political influence can be brought to bear arbitrarily.

The proposed bills threaten the ability for Queens Library to operate free of political influence, and will serve as a dangerous precedent for libraries and library boards around the nation. We urge you to reject this legislation.

Respectfully,

Barbara Stripling
2013-2014 President
American Library Association

Carolyn A. Anthony
2013-2014 President
Public Library Association

Rod Wagner
2013-2014 President
United for Libraries

cc: New York State Assembly; New York State Senate


June 6, 2014

Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.


Keep Politics Out Of The Library

As we [the Queens Tribune on June 5th, 2014] detail elsewhere in this issue [Queens Tribune not Queens Buzz], the Queens Library system is the subject of two separate bills in the State Senate, calling for reforms to the way the Library does business. While the Senators behind these bills say they are trying to do what is best for the system, and the Borough President’s office calls for reforms and the City Comptroller’s office investigates the books, the Library’s Board of Trustees has publicly stated that its practices are fine, and no reforms are needed.

But no one seems to be saying these things to one another.

The Queens Library system is one of the best in the world, offering more than just books. Educational and language programs, computer and job training and afterschool events for kids are all offered throughout the Library’s branches. The more political games get played with the proposed reforms, the higher the chances that these programs can be lost.

While the continued barking about the needs for reforms makes for a great story, it is time for a sensible end to these public negotiations. It is time for the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees to stop playing defense, for the elected officials calling for reforms to halt their offensive. Instead of going back and forth behind separate closed doors, the two sides need to come together and negotiate a plan that works for all involved – especially the people that rely so heavily on the library for its services.

As far as anyone knows, there have been no meetings with all the principle players in this drama. We call on those individuals who say they are protecting the library – the members of the Board of Trustees, the Borough President and members of the Queens delegation in the State Legislature – to meet, not to argue over who is right and who needs to go, but to determine how best to go forward to ensure the future of the Queens Library is protected.

The political games need to stop. The time for talking is now.

June 5, 2014 / Queens Tribune Editorial

Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.


QUEENS LIBRARY STATEMENT REGARDING NY STATE LEGISLATION

"The Queens Library values the input of all our stakeholders, including our elected officials. The Library believes in good governance and is constantly committed to being better tomorrow than we are today. Over the last six weeks, the Board of Trustees has adopted a series of reforms aimed at improving upon existing policies, increasing transparency and strengthening the library and its governing practices.

The proposed State Legislation includes several specific measures that are already in place. Measures already in place at the Queens Library include an Audit Committee and a Labor Relations Committee of the Board of Trustees as well as a Conflict of Interest Policy for Senior Officers.

Several other measures are currently under consideration by the Board of Trustees.

We look forward to working with all our stakeholders to continue to enhance and strengthen the Library."

Queens Library Announces Series of Reforms

As part of its continued commitment to ensuring the library’s standing as a premier, nationally recognized library system, the Queens Library is pleased to announce that its Board of Trustees has adopted a series of reforms to its governance and operating policies and procedures.

“Every organization needs to continually monitor and, when needed, to adjust its governing structure, policies and procedures to stay current and to adopt industry best practices. Thanks to the leadership of the Board of Trustees, its management and its entire dedicated staff, Queens Library is a model that other library systems from across the globe seek to emulate. These changes will help ensure that the library remains transparent, accountable and effective. ” said Board of Trustees Chair Gabriel Taussig.

In the last six weeks, the Board of Trustees has moved very swiftly to implement a series of significant changes in policies and governance that strengthen the institution.

The adopted actions include:

· CREATION OF AN AUDIT COMMITTEE: The Audit Committee will assist the Board in improving oversight of the internal and existing external audit function, including the appointment of both internal and external auditors who will report directly to the Board and monitoring the implementation of audit recommendations. Members of the Audit committee have been appointed and their work has already begun. This committee will add an additional level of oversight.

· A PROCESS AND TIMELINE FOR REVIEW OF EXECUTIVE CONTRACT: The Board is undertaking an independent and thorough review of the President & CEO’s employment contract. Evaluation will be made of the compensation and all contract terms of the Chief Executive Officer as compared to those of similar sized not-for-profit institutions . The work of the consultant is underway.

· GOVERNANCE REVIEW: To include the views and expertise of the entire Board of Trustees on critical governance matters, a Special Committee on Governance has been formed; its work is already underway to review several serious matters recommended for consideration, including the current committee structure of the Board.
· NEW CONFLICTS OF INTEREST POLICY: A revised Conflict of Interest Policy for senior officers is in place to limit outside employment; to clearly define conflicts of interests for such employment and require senior officers to disclose any outside employment prior to accepting outside employment. Additional reviews have been authorized by the Board to determine if additional limits exist in comparable positions at similar non-profit organizations.

Additional proposals to further increase transparency, accountability and governance are under review by the Board of Trustee Committees and we expect additional actions to be announced in the coming weeks.

The mission of the Queens Library is to provide quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities through books and a variety of other formats to meet the informational, educational, cultural, and recreational needs and interests of its diverse and changing population.

Posted on April 9, 2014

Click for Queens Buzz coverage of the Queens Library Controversy.


Charter School Owner Closes Her 22 NYC Public Schools To Bus Her Students To Albany To Serve Her Purposes

Capital New York reports that Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz “is closing all 22 of her schools for the day to attempt to rally support in Albany, and has asked teachers to provide instruction to students on buses up to the Capitol.”

eva moskowitz nyt photoI am deeply concerned about the legality of a school leader closing schools for entirely political purposes. As chair of the New York City Council Education Committee, I intend to hold an oversight hearing to investigate whether any laws or Chancellor’s regulations have been violated by Moskowitz unilaterally closing schools to effectively force children to lobby on her behalf.

This is the second time that Moskowitz has closed her schools for what seems to have been political purposes. In October, Moskowitz closed her Success Academy charter schools to lead a political march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest Bill de Blasio. This must stop. No educator should be allowed to use children as pawns for their political agenda. Serious questions arise about closing schools for political gain.

As the recipient of public funding, I am also troubled by reports of the Success Academy paying administrators extraordinary salaries.

I also intend to use my oversight powers to investigate Moskowitz’s extensive marketing campaigns costing millions of dollars.

Field trips can be an important part of the educational experience. Dragging children to Albany to further Moskowitz’s political agenda serves no public or pedagogical purpose.

Statement by Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of New York City Council Education Committee

Published March 1, 2014


Editor's Notes: Moskowitz Actions, Charters & School Performance, & DOE Actions In Astoria

What would you think if the United Federation of Teachers Union [UFT] closed all NYC public schools and used the school children for a union rally [aka their own political purposes], like Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy appears to have done above in Albany on March 4th, 2014? The photo above links to the NYT story.

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In a report we did a couple years ago, a Stanford University Study showed that the inclusion of charters in a school system improves overall performance, although over time the charters in their study underperformed the non-charters.

In researching the story on school closings, the one thing we learned is that there are no easy answers and that there are many factors at play in measuring school performance. However, according to the summary results of a National Education Longitudinal Study published in Education Week, the most critical factors in determining the success of a school are the children and families who enroll in the school. Parental supervision and participation in their children's academic performance is critical to both the child's and school's success.

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The Bloomberg Department of Education [DOE] began an attempt to partition one of Queens most successful schools [PS 122 in Astoria] while Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy was making plans to open a charter in Queens. Many parents of the school did not find this to be coincidence. After a public outrage, the DOE quickly backed down.

It's not a big stretch to surmise that this sort of coincidence may have occurred previously. Some believe that the Bloomberg DOE may have facilitated Moskowitz's success by enabling Success Academy to make targeted enrollments at the expense of the surrounding schools / students.

Eva Moskowitz caught the public's attention during the Bloomberg Administration second and third terms, for opening a record 22 charter schools in the NYC public education system in less than seven years. This represents between 1% and 2% of all NYC public schools [there are approximately 1700 in total] and 12% of all NYC public charter schools [there are 183 as of 2013 / 2014 school year].

March 1, 2014

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Editor's Update - NYC Co-location Approval Criteria / Success Academy Funding / LIC H.S.

In late February Mayor de Blasio approved 35 of 45 school co-locations. He said that he turned down the school co-locations based on the following criteria: 1) not put any elementary schools in with high schools, 2) not open schools with less than 250 students because they wouldn't receive enough resource to provide a proper education, 3) no co-locations requiring heavy construction and 4) no co-locations requiring the dislocation of the neediest kids.

De Blasio approved five of eight co-locations for Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy charter schools. Three of eight of Success Academy's co-locations were not approved because they did not take into account the needs of kids with special needs.

Moskowitz's Success Academy is funded in part by many NYC hedge fund operators. These hedge fund operators are in the tax bracket targeted to fund NYC education. Many of the public advertising campaigns launched by Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy / Charterswork.org are funded by them, pushing their point of view.

Mayor de Blasio drew attention to the fact that some charter school programs, like those funded by private sources [aka high net income / net worth individuals] at Success Academy, cannot be replicated in the remaining public schools, without receipt of the additional funding.

Editor's Suggestion: If these privately funded charter school programs are successful, perhaps the city can ask these wealthy donors to Success Academy, to increase their investments in the NYC school system to enable these programs to be replicated throughout the entire NYC public school system.

LIC High School was one of the schools targeted for a co-location that was nixed. LIC High School is one of the remaining large high schools in the city.

April 6, 2014

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Editor's Update - NYS Court Bars NYS Comptroller From Auditing Charter Schools

Thomas Di Napoli, NYS Comptroller, sent us this link to a story / editorial about how the Supreme Court barred his office from auditing NYS charter schools.

Eva Moskowitz / Success Academy sued the NYS Comptroller when he made an attempt to audit them. According to Mercedes Schneider, a blogger of the Huffington Post, in 2011, just nine schools of Success Academy received about $50 million in public funding. As mentioned above, Success Academy currently operates 22 charter schools in the NYC public school system.

According to the Times Union Editorial [the Times Union is a newspaper in Albany], New York State currently has 233 charter schools, with an enrollment of 87,000 children and costs taxpayers over $1 billion per year.

March 22, 2014

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Thomas Di Napoli, NYS Comptroller, sent us this link to a story about a special education audit showing financial abuse of public funds.

DiNapoli: Special Education Provider Pleads Guilty to Felony Charges. The executive director of special education provider IncludED Educational Services pleaded guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court Friday to grand larceny charges stemming from an audit and investigation by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Morton Kramer agreed to pay $418,000 in restitution as part of his plea agreement and is banned for life from providing special education services for the state.

May 24, 2014

 


Universal Pre-Kindergarten Now

Study after study has shown that children who receive early childhood education perform demonstrably better later in life than those who don't receive it.

To give this benefit to our children, New York City needs a dedicated source of funding for universal prekindergarten.

The state's plan doesn't allocate enough money. Also, in the past, state educational money was promised to the city and now a decade later more than $4 billion of those funds have never made it to our public schools.

It's right to ask 1.5 percent of city taxpayers, those who make $500,000 or more a year, to pay their fair share of tax dollars.

To voice your support email upk@council.nyc.gov or call 212-788-6687.

Submitted by NYC City Councilmember Danny Dromm Chair of Committee on Education & NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

Posted March 1, 2014

Click here to view the Queens Buzz section on Queens Schools.


Safe Streets For Astoria & Queens

February 16, 2014

It is heartening to see the growing media attention to traffic calming efforts in Queens in the wake of Mayor De Blasio's announcement of the Vision Zero initiative to end traffic deaths in New York City. In Astoria, a new coalition of organizations, including churches, schools, resident associations, and our group, the Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee, is calling for common sense safety solutions on 21st Street—a multi-lane highway used by trucks traveling between Queensboro and Triboro bridges that cuts right through a densely populated residential area with many children and senior citizens. Over the past year, I’ve heard so many concerns, from seniors and mothers with small children who don’t have enough time to cross the street, to businesses asking for repaving so their employees don’t slip on ice that forms in deep potholes right outside their door. There are far too many intersections that don’t even have a crosswalk, forcing pedestrians to walk another full block or jaywalk just to get across the street!

The 21st Street community has thrown its full weight behind the growing Coalition for Traffic Calming on 21st Street, which now counts 22 nonprofit organizations, 20 businesses, and over 1,400 individuals among its supporters. Thankfully, our newly elected City Councilmember, Costa Constantinides, has made this project a priority, calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a traffic study. At a recent press conference, he was joined by other elected officials—State Senator Gianaris, Assembly Member Simotas, and Council Member Van Bramer—and Community Board 1 transportation committee chair Bob Piazza to call for urgent DOT action. We trust that these officials will continue to do everything in their power to turn 21st Street into a safe, welcoming street for all.

Steve Scofield, Astoria
Chair, Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee


Questioning Proposed Banking Rules

November 15, 2012 / Flushing / Letters To The Editor

Our community and economy are at risk again, this time due to potential new banking rules that could affect the ability of banks to lend and communities to rebound. These proposed regulations, called “Basel III”, define how banks measure risks and their level of funds, or “capital” levels, that they would need in order to cover those risks. It works like your decision on savings: you can choose to save everything and not have any money to spend on goods and vacations. If all consumers did the same, then you can imagine the impact on the local communities. If all banks must set aside more capital, then they do not have that money available to lend in the community, resulting in reduced economic activity.

There are restrictions and costs related to regulatory requirements. These proposed rules are applied against many kinds of loans, including residential 1-4 Family mortgage loans, development and construction loans, business lines of credit and home equity lending. The rules ultimately have an effect on communities because it will be more difficult for the banks to lend to both consumers and businesses, and still to meet the regulatory capital levels. In addition, banks may need to increase the price for other products and services. In turn, borrowers who relied on those products and services would be deprived of affordable credit for homeownership or business activities.

The rules present key challenges and one such area is mortgage lending. At a time when the government lacks a long-term solution to housing finance, the proposed framework would impede mortgage lending that banks have offered successfully for decades. Basel III puts mortgage loans into two “Categories”, with the more favorable Category I defined very narrowly. In many cases, lenders offer substantially below-market interest rates to borrowers in exchange for the borrowers’ acceptance of future risk in rising interest rates; known as adjustable rate mortgage loans or “ARMS”. The proposal would make it much more difficult for many local banks to meet the new capital levels, causing them to decrease their ARMs lending, which again would reduce economic activity.

Category II is so tough that banks will have a very difficult time extending loans secured by home equity. The proposed rules on home equity lending are a double effect, because your first mortgage must be reassessed by banks using the new rules when you have a home equity loan. Banks must determine if it is possible to continue to offer home equity loans, absorb the related impact from the first mortgages, and still meet all of the regulatory requirements. These are only two examples. The rules run on for hundreds of pages, and so there are more examples that impact lending at current levels. Other government agencies are questioning whether Basel III is a good idea. On July 17, 2012, Peter T. King, U.S. Congressman from the third congressional district, and other members of the House Financial Services Committee raised their concerns in a letter to the regulators. They agreed that “Certain steps are necessary to restore confidence in our capital markets. However, we want to make sure any response to the financial crisis does not needlessly hamper economic recovery in our communities.” I support this level of questioning by the House Financial Services Committee. The Committee had heard from the community bankers, that their ability to lend and provide liquidity in the local markets would be curtailed. That is where our communities could be impacted.

The proposed rules are applied not just on new loans, but all loans, so there would be an immediate impact on the banks and our communities. They are retroactive, so, if banks made a decision to create a loan years ago under old regulations, this stricter set of rules must be applied against that loan as well.

The deadline set by the regulators was October, 22, to accept comments on the proposed rules. In light of the volume of comments received and the wide range of views expressed during the comment period, the regulatory agencies are holding hearings and have announced that they do not expect that any of the proposed rules would become effective on January 1, 2013.

John R. Buran, CEO and President, Flushing Bank



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Member Opinions:
By: CentralAstoriaLDC on 1/7/13
Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Central Astoria LDC is working hard to enhance the retail experience along Steinway Street with the types of stores, restaurants and activities best suited to the people who live in and around our community. As part of our effort, we are conducting a survey of the people who live, work, or shop along Steinway Street.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey by clicking on the following link:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/STEINWAYStreet
The survey is anonymous and you will not be asked to register or provide any personal contact information. Thank you!

Central Astoria Local Development Coalition Inc.


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