De Blasio Delivers State of the City Address
Mayor Takes Humanist, Social Science Approach to Solving NYC Problems
NYC Crime Down, Stop N’ Frisk Down 97%, NYC Public School Graduation Rate Up, H.S. Drop Out Rate Down, College Bound Graduates Up, 70,000 Children Enrolled in Universal Pre-K, Financing Initiated on 62,000 Units of Affordable Housing, NYC Budget Surplus
See Related Analysis of Reporting by Multi-Billionaire Owned NY Post
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s third State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Monday. The beautiful old theater, built in 1904, didn’t admit African Americans until thirty years later. And it was in 1934 that the historic theater began earning the fame it has today, by becoming the showcase for African American musical and theatrical legends.
In the photo at right is the Apollo Theater as seen from one of the balcony booths prior to the beginning of Mayor de Blasio's 2017 State of the City Address.
Fighting Tyranny & Thomas Paine: These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls
There were a number of performances and speeches leading up to the Mayor’s address, including a performance by the Dorothy Maynor Choir of Harlem and an operatic delivery of the Star Spangled National Anthem by FDNY’s Regina Wilson. Recently deceased Detective Steven McDonald’s son, Conor, gave a speech, as did NYC First Lady Chirlane McRay, the Reverend David Ramos, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Imam Souleimane Konate.
The Pledge of Allegiance was delivered by Jian ‘John’ Yuan Lin, Chyna Huertas and Eva Lin. And the Reverend Michael Walrond, of the First Corinthian Baptist Church, gave a fiery, inspirational speech talking comparing the national state of affairs today to the American colonists fighting to shake off the shackles of tyranny. He cited the words of American Revolutionary Thomas Paine, who in 1776 said,
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Just before the Mayor came on stage was a video highlighting the de Blasio Administration accomplishments.
Mayor de Blasio Standing Big & Tall for All New Yorkers
The Mayor came onto the stage, beginning by thanking the various people and departments that helped make his Administration’s accomplishments possible. His thanks always include his wife, Chirlane McCray, who has been evolving in her role as NYC’s First Lady.
Here’s a sampling of the de Blasio’s efforts to make New York a better place for all New Yorkers. Some of the information came from the video presentation referenced above, which I have augmented with some additional research and information obtained in prior reporting efforts.
In the photo at right stands a weary, but determined, Mayor Bill de Blasio at his 2017 State of the City Address at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
I. De Blasio Administration NYC Public School Achievements
A. Social Science & Humanist Approach to Education
• Universal Pre-K Enrollment 70,000
• Advanced Placement For All
• Drop Out Rates Down
• Graduation Rates Up
• College Bound Graduates Up
The slide at right shows some of the gains made by the de Blasio Administration with the NYC public school system over the past three plus years.
1. Stop the Bleeding – Stop the 'CORPORATE' run Charter Schools from Maximizing Profit at the Expense of Maximizing Human Potential
Editor's Note: There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between the NON-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOLS and FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS. Non profit charters are generally older organizations, designed as an alternative in response to failing public schools decades ago, and whose focus is on improving education - not improving profits.
By contrast the FOR-PROFIT CHARTER SCHOOL CORPORATIONS generally arose in the 21st century, and this group appears to be pillaging the public school system by recruiting and siphoning off the good [low cost / high performing] students so they can maximize profits – not enhance public education.
The despicable consequence of this for-profit charter school strategy is that they are simultaneously robbing the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children of anything resembling an opportunity in life as promised in the founding documents of this nation.
Family background continues to be the highest determinant [have the highest correlation] of a student’s academic achievement.
So the de Blasio Administration has significantly slowed the corporate charter school assault on the public education system.
Corporate Charter School Business Strategy Comparable to Old Health Insurance 'Gaming the System'
Recruit the Academic Achievers, 'the Healthy Ones', Because They're Most Profitable & Shun the Rest
It appears the charter school corporations have employed a strategy designed to recruit and retain the best students to their schools, while leaving the rest behind. They appear to recruit the kids who are already performing well, because the performing children cost the least to educate, thus providing the highest return to the hedge fund profiteers because the funding is allocated on a per capital / per student basis. High performing student enrollments also enable corporate charter schools to claim they are ‘performing well’ because they've recruited the highest scoring students.
The recruitment and retention strategy referenced above resembles the old health insurance strategy of recruiting the healthy people to buy health insurance as they are the most profitable, while denying those who aren’t blessed with good health because they cost the most to keep healthy. This was a systemic inequity Obamacare attempted to eradicate.
In the photo at right stand an Imam [Islam], a Rabbi [Jewish] and a Reverend [Christian] all sharing the same podium with a message of love, peace, respect and understanding.
2. Help the Youngsters & Maximize Human Potential – Not Profits
The De Blasio Administration pushed through universal Pre-K, which has enrolled 70,000 students since its inception in the Fall of 2014.
When this first came out I, and a number of people I know, didn’t really grasp the importance of this effort. As family support is the highest determinant in a child’s success, many youngsters were entering the public school system at a significant disadvantage vis a vis their better parented peers.
By accessing these kids while they are younger, and providing access to the guidance and resources of the public school system earlier, the NYC Public School system now has a greater chance of motivating these kids, which will inevitabley empowering them, raising their self esteem, and give them a chance at a far more engaged and productive life.
I now get it. And this seems like it can only be a good thing for all of society, as it will reduce societal costs of failing these people early on.
MAXIMIZE HUMAN POTENTIAL - Good Public Policy Costs Less in Long Haul & Enormously Benefits Society
This approach to education enables us as a society to maximize our human potential, which will benefit all the community - and in some small way - all mankind. Not only is this a more humanistic approach to engaging these children, but it's more cost effective in the long haul, as those left behind will inevitably cost society more through lost opportunities, lost productivity, and increased spending on health, human services and criminal justice programs.
In the photo at right is the Mayor on stage at the Apollo Theater with all of the people working for the city that he honored that night including policemen, firefighters, sanitation workers and educators. The Mayor appears to be one who is very much in touch with the middle & working class rank and file of New York City.
Click here for our report about Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address 2017 including an update on crime, the affordable housing crisis, the city's finances, sanitation and social activism.
Queens State of the Borough Address
Katz Delivers Her Third State of the Borough Address
Last Friday I headed down to Jamaicatown to watch Queens Borough President Melinda Katz deliver her third State of the Borough Address at the Milton Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College.
I entered the auditorium shortly after she began her address where she was talking about her role in the good progress that the de Blasio Administration Education Department, headed by Carmen Farina, is having in moving the needle in enhancing both infrastructure and performance in the NYC Public School System.
As an example about of third of the trailers have been removed, with plans for another third to be removed this year. This means kids are back in regular classrooms - after possibly decades long neglect by prior Administrations [need to confirm this statment].
I'll have more on the Queens Borough President's State of the Borough Address sometime soon.
Who's Behind NY Post's Media Hazing of Mayor?
Will Billionaire Rupert Murdoch Profit from NY POST's Attack Stories?
The NY Post's incredible barrage of attack stories on NYC Mayor de Blasio this past month led us to believe that something was amiss.
Is the NY Post Disinforming the Public?
After a month of a barrage of negative attack (ads?) stories regarding the Mayor's campaign funding, someone reading the NY Post might come away believing that Mayor de Blasio had already been convicted of numerous counts of breaking the law. As you will see later in this story, this would not be the first time the Murdoch organization's audience was not uninformed - but rather disinformed.
That said, if they read a newspaper that generally conforms to the professional standards of American journalism, like the New York Times, they would know that,
"It is not clear how direct a role, if any, the mayor played in some of these matters." - NYT April 29, 2016
Infomercials Presented as News?
Given that some of what Murdoch's organization [includes NY Post, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and hundred(s) more properties] publishes and broadcasts appears to make significant departures from the American professional standards of journalism - one has to wonder if Murdoch's organization hasn't found a way to skirt campaign finance laws - as some of their 'news reporting' looks more like long-winded political infomercials.
Just Because They Say it's So, Doesn't Mean it's So
The NYS Board of Elections says,
"Independent Expenditures Do Not Include Expenditures in Connection with... A written news story, commentary, or editorial or a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, cable or satellite, unless such publication or facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee or candidate ..."
Has Murdoch's organization found a way to skirt campaign finance laws by making huge, undisclosed, payment-in-kind, independent media expenditures to support or attack political candidates and push an issue agenda by running infomercials as news stories?
Does this practice enable the Murdoch organization to become the STRING PULLER, who makes their candidates POLITICAL PUPPETS?
Rupert's NY Post Goes After Mayor like Rabid Dog
That's more than three stories per day - and not a single one was positive [a few were neutral]. The stories were authored by 20 reporters, some of whom shared the bylines. This is the equivalent of having the entire editorial staff of a medium-sized daily newspaper, working full time on publishing stories about just one government official.
I'm pretty sure that the Washington Post didn't dedicate this kind of resource to covering the Nixon Watergate scandal in the early 1970's. It seems like overkill, which is generally indicative that something is not right.
I say not right because it has been my experience that this kind of overzealous attack oftentimes reflects more upon the prosecutor than the prosecuted.
Abusive, Power-Hungry Media Moguls in Film - 1941 & 1997
What I found while working on this story had some parallels to the 1997 James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies. In the movie, Eliot Carver is the Media Mogul, and he uses his presses and TV stations to hype a war between China and Britain. In 2002 the NYT did a piece which they entitled 'Mr. Murdoch's War' which was about Murdoch's urging the U.S. and Britain to go to war in Iraq, which we'll have more about later in this story.
During my research a character profile of Billionaire Murdoch began to emerge that was something right out of the film Citizen Kane, who was portrayed by Orson Welles in 1941. It's interesting to note that 1941 was the same year that the FCC capped TV media ownership by a single person / entity at 35%. And this FCC ownership limit was overturned, some say because of Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch, and this will also be covered in more detail a bit later in this story.
The image to your right shows a page out of The Guardian, one of Britain's most respected newspapers, about the culture of Billionaire Media Mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch's organization.
Consider The Source
I. Criminal Acts: Murdoch Declared 'Unfit'
In 2012, only four short years ago, Billionaire Media Mogul Keith Rupert Murdoch was declared "Not a Fit Person" to lead his company by a British public official who led a commission that investigated the criminal operations conducted by people working for Billionaire Mogul Murdoch's media empire.
Click Link & Scroll down for rest of story & Video
Clinton Defeats Sanders, Trump Defeats Rivals
Clinton 58% vs Sanders 42%; Trump 60% vs Kasich 24% & Cruz 15%
Bernie Sanders has been campaigning in New York the past week, drawing large crowds ranging from thousands to tens of thousands, as if he were a rock star. But on Tuesday, the voters weighed in and handed Hillary Clinton a convincing victory, helping her widen her delegate lead, and likely put her on the path to the Democratic Party nomination.
Democratic Delegate Count
To win the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate needs 2383 delegates of 4763 total. Within that total there are 712 super delegates, who can align themselves / vote for whomever they want but there's pressure to vote in favor of the direction that the state voted. The remaining 4051 delegates are won via the voting process and are called pledged delegates.
According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win Hillary Clinton now has 1428 pledged delegates and 469 super delegates, while Bernie Sanders has 1151 pledged delegates and 31 super delegates. There are 1472 pledged delegates remaining, so to win a majority of pledged delegates, Hillary has to win 598 or 41% of the remaining pledged delegates, while Bernie has to win 874 or 59% of them. Clinton has already received commitments from more than half of the 'super delegates'.
Given Sanders is generally still behind in the polls in some of the larger remaining states [behind 16% in Pennsylvania and behind 8% in California], that seems a tall order. While the polls were dead wrong in Michigan, they were spot on in New York. The Sanders campaign told a news outlet Tuesday evening that they will see how they do in the contests this coming week and then evaluate their chances going forward. The Democratic Convention has been scheduled from July 25 - 28, 2016 in Philadelphia.
Republican Delegate Count
Meanwhile on the Republican side there wasn't much news. Trump won handily defeating Kasich and Cruz. The Republicans have 2473 total delegates and 1237 are needed to win. According to the Associated Press estimate, following the NY State win, Trump has 845 delegates, while Cruz has 559 and Kasich has 147.
Trump needs 392 more delegates [about 40%] to go uncontested to the Republican Convention. There are 992 delegates remaining, but according to CBS only 674 delegates are available in the remaining voting contests prior to the Convention. So Trump may have to win 60% of the remaining unpledged delegates to go to the Convention uncontested. The Republican Convention is scheduled for July 18 - 21, 2016 in Cleveland.
The voting contests next week include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware.
The fat lady hasn't yet sung, but it is beginning to look like a Clinton / Trump race to the White House.
Election 2016 Today - Please Vote
The polling booths will be open from 6 am to 9 pm Tuesday.
To find your poll location click on the graphic at right, noting that after you input your address you have to click the small icon to get the results of the search.
The primaries to this election were held on Tuesday, September 13th.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and the teachers and students of MS 223.
QBP Katz State of the Borough Address
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Gives Queens Address
I attended Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s second State of the Borough Address. It was held at the Colden Performing Arts Center at Queens College in Flushing on Thursday morning January 21st beginning at 10 am.
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a dance routine taken from Chorus Line performed by the Edge School of Arts. We were then shown a video segment about Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in a documentary produced by Queens Public Access TV, followed by the Queens Borough President’s speech.
The speech spanned about an hour. QBP Katz first talked about Queens as a tourist destination, and then looked back at the year of 2015, while touching upon some of the ongoing issues facing the borough like lack of affordable housing, aging transportation infrastructure including Queens airports, and overcrowded schools. She included mentioning some of the government efforts to address these issues, and concluded by talking about the Mets making it into the Playoffs. The address ended with the Mets mascots and management coming on stage.
The address was well attended, including a sizeable union presence, made noticeable by applauses when union efforts were highlighted. A reception was held after the address.
Click to view our section on - Queens Borough President.
|NYC Congestion Pricing - Move NY Congestion Pricing Plan|
Which Queens 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls?
Several Queens Officials Support $8 Tolls on Queensborough & Other East River Bridges & at 60th Street to Raise Capital for the MTA
Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley & NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past
The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.
Currently NYS Senator Jose Peralta, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin & CCM's Van Bramer, Richards & Reynoso publicly support installing $8 tolls on the Queensborough & other East River bridges to raise capital for the MTA.
Governor Cuomo's Words Are ...
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.
Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,
“It’s not, ‘Can I support it?’ Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a congestion plan passed and we’ve gone through this a couple of times and it was an overwhelming ‘no’ and I haven’t seen anything happen that would change my opinion,”
The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.
Inconsistent with Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions
But while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan.
Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.
It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.
Congressman Crowley's Position Circa 2007
Queens Democratic Party Chairman, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, supported the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan backed by former Mayor Bloomberg, according to a June 11, 2007 report by the New York Times which quoted Crowley as saying,
“the overall  plan — and congestion pricing is just a part of it — will make this a more livable city and make it easier to attract the best and the brightest not only from around the country but from around the world.”
We've not yet seen any comments by Congressman Crowley on the current Move NY Plan which was recently introduced.
Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
We studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money]. Gridlock Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC is one of the primary promoters of the plan, and the consulting company is owned in part by a large, multi-national, transit infrastructure contractor. We also evaluated the assumptions they used to create the estimates provided in the plan, which we found to be inconsistent with fairly recent independent studies by respectable institutions, and we also looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.
In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the East River bridges and 60th Street more quickly and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion with the rest of the community priced out of their way]. How 'democratic' is this?
Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Billionaire Manhattan Developer(s) & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees to Fund a System to Toll Tax Them to Fund MTA Capital Budget
The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from about East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].
The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.
When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.
The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time [I have #7 photos that look the same, but didn't have time to find one]. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.
Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to make a huge investment of the public's money in the creation and operation of an expensive new tolling system which they plan to use to charge taxpayers $8 tolls to cross 60th Street and the East River Bridges.
This plan essentially aids the wealthy by making their lives easier, while economically discriminating against those with less wherewithal, by making their lives harder. This doesn't strike me as a solution that's 'democratic' at all. There must be less costly, more fair ways to raise additional revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.
Click here for the rest of our story about the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as we explore in greater detail a connected web of people, lobbyists and organizations behind Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan and their possible motivations. We critique the plan including a review of the assumptions, and a closer look at independent studies done with regard to motorists response to toll prices and changes.
Grodenchik Wins District 23 Primary
Defeats Friedrich, Lynch, Parhar, Najmi & Dosamantes in Democratic Primary
September 10, 2015 / Queens Politics / Queens Neigbhorhoods / News & Analysis. Queens Buzz. The special election for the Queens District 23 City Council seat was won by the Democratic party backed candidate, Barry Grodenchik.
Grodenchik (26%) edged out Bob Friedrich in a crowded field, with less than 30% of the vote. Friedrich was a close second (22%), followed by Lynch (20%), Parhar (17%), Najmi (10%) and Dosamantes (4%).
The ethnic vote - represented by the tallies of the last three candidates - represented over 30% of the vote. If the ethnic vote had been unified, an ethnic candidate would have been able to win the primary. That said, the non-ethnic vote as represented by the tallies of the first three candidates, was also split among three candidates, and represents two thirds of those who showed up to cast votes. About 6,300 votes were cast in total. This report is based on the vote tallies reported by the Queens Tribune and the New York Observer.
Grodenchik will go on to face Republican Joe Concannon on November 3rd in what many pundits believe is only a formality, given that the Queens Democratic electorate in the last Mayoral election  represented nearly 90% of the Queens vote in the primary, and about 70% of the Queens vote in the general election.
Naturally political affiliation can vary by district, and there are a few pockets of Queens held by Republicans, but based on the general voting history of Queens District 23, it does not appear to be one of them. Click here to read an earlier report on the Queens District 23 NYC City Council candidates which includes a video of one of the forums.
Queens City Council Primary Thursday
Queens District 23
The special election primary is Thursday, September 10, for the seat vacated by Mark Weprin. Queens City Council District 23 includes all or parts of the following neighborhoods: Bayside, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Little Neck, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village. And apparently a small part of New Hyde Park, most of which is located in Nassau County of Long Island, is also a part of the 23rd District and of Queens.
Click here to find a Queens polling place near you. Polls open at 6 am and close promptly at 9 pm. Click here to read a story and watch the Queens District 23 NYC City Council candidates ask each other questions and make their closing statements.
Queens Politics & The Democratic Party Machine
A Closer Look At The NYC City Council Race In Queens District 23
On Thursday, August 27, 2015 I headed down to listen to the candidates vying for the 23rd District election seat recently vacated by Mark Weprin. There are six candidates in the Democratic primary vying for NYC City Council District 23, a seat that has been held by the Weprin family for 14 years. David Weprin first won the office in 2001. He was followed by his brother Mark who won the office in 2009, who recently left the position for a job working for Andrew Cuomo as Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs.
NYC Council Race Venues: District 23 Queens
The candidate forum was held at Hillside Banquet at 206-12 Hillside Avenue [at 206th Street]. The event was organized by 12 non-profit / community organizations that serve various ethnic populations in the NYC City Council 23rd District – many of which are South Asian. Winning a majority of the constituents of these organizations could result in a win for the ethnic population, and a possible upset for the Queens Democratic Party Machine, which has held this seat for four decades and likely longer.
Neighborhood Composition: NYC City Council Queens District 23
NYC City Council District 23 is comprised of all or parts of the following neighborhoods: Bayside, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Little Neck, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village. Contrary to at least one candidate's assertion, New Hyde Park in Nassau County on Long Island, is not a part of the 23rd District nor even a part of Queens.
Sponsors Of NYC Council Candidates Forum
The sponsoring organizations include: Chhaya CDC, Asian Pacific Association Voice, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Citizens Union, Indo-Caribbean Alliance, Korean American League for Civic Action, Minkwon Center for Community Action, New York Immigration Coalition and the South Asian Council for Social Services.
New York City Council Candidates In Queens District 23
The candidates included: Celia Dosamantes, Bob Friedrich, Barry Grodenchik, Rebecca Lynch and Ali Najmi. One of the Democratic candidates, Satnam Parhar, was not present nor was the Republican candidate Joe Concannon.
Queens District 23 City Council Issues & Answers
The following is a summary of the questions posed and the answers given by the candidates. The moderators of the forum were Richard S. David, Co-Founder of the Caribbean Alliance and Linda Lee, Executive Director of Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York.
1. Do the candidates approve of a Creedmor Church development [not sure I have this right]? All candidates answered yes.
2. Are the candidates for participatory budgeting? All candidates answered yes, except Friedrich who said it’s a gimmick.
3. Are the candidates for establishing uniform standards for Community Boards? All answered yes, if they could agree on what those standards would be [they allowed themselves plenty of wiggle room here].
4. Are the candidates for the ranking by voters of candidates on the ballot to avoid costly runoff elections? All answered yes, except Dosamantes who answered no.
5. Are they for giving non-citizen residents an opportunity to vote on local issues / local candidates only? I think Dosamantes, Friedrich and Grodenchik said no, while Lynch and Najmi said yes.
Click here to learn more about the Queens Democratic Party Machine and the NYC City Council race in District 23 in Queens.
New York City Makes 'Budget Handshake'
We received this missive from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side. We've made few edits, but the text is essentially a reprint of her email.
Over 100 hours of budget hearings revealed much information that helped to shape the final agreement. [Helen Rosenthal said that] As a member of the City Council's Finance Committee and the Budget Negotiating Team, I can honestly say that all 51 members of the Council had input to ensure that New Yorkers in every borough will get the services they need. In addition to major investments in neighborhood police, there is additional funding for mental health services, veterans, and Vision Zero education.
Photo Credit: William Alatriste for the New York City Council
Education and Youth
• There will be an increase of 80 school crossing guards citywide, and the Upper West Side will gain more crossing guards. Renewed focus on recruitment and retention will happen in discussions over the summer.
• There are unprecedented amounts of funding for our young adults from summer jobs and year-round jobs to support for City University of New York (CUNY) students to keep them in college and help them graduate.
• The additional $39 million for libraries will yield 6-7 day a week service in every borough.
• The free lunch program in middle schools will continue, and there will be an expansion of the "breakfast after the bell" program, so that all elementary schools will offer it by 2018.
• Teachers will receive up to $125 in reimbursement for school supplies that they bring into the classroom. While this is an improvement, it is not enough. We must give teachers all the tools they need to teach well, and I will continue to work to improve this system in the next fiscal year.
• Over $35 million for lawyers, clinics, and advocacy to support tenants who experience harassment by landlords - the largest the City has ever dedicated to this issue.
• Dedicated legal advice for public housing (NYCHA) residents in housing court at 250 Broadway.
• Dedicated team of inspectors to investigate particularly egregious landlords.
Seniors and Safety Net
• Elimination of the wait list for seniors needing home care services.
• Commitment to build 5,000 new units of senior affordable housing over the next five years with dedicated on-site social services.
• Additional funding for the emergency food program and local food banks.
• The largest investment in addressing elder abuse through outreach and social services.
Small Business Support
• Dedicated funds to local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and civic associations. Council members will be able to designate money to support small business in their area.
• Double the investments in worker cooperative support yielding an additional 30-40 new worker-owned businesses throughout the City.
• Community-based organizations providing EarlyLearn NYC services will receive wage parity with DOE employees providing that service.
• Increase of the minimum wage of "Human Service" contract workers to $11.50/hour with targeted career ladder support.
• Funding to continue providing local services from small, community non-profits that lost contracts through the citywide process.
The City Council will formally "adopt" the City's budget at a Stated meeting later this week. At that time, we will have additional information about my dedicated funding for the Upper West Side.
Again, this a reprint of an email from New York City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of the Upper West Side.
Albany Legislative Session To End Friday
Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law
There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.
I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.
Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?
From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.
As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.
It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.
You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form.
Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws
The Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.
There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.
Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.
Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.
NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.
Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.
Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll
On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.
Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.
Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:
"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."
As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:
"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."
"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."
"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."
As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.
Click to view our section on - New York State Politics & Government NYS.
Queens Library - Report Series
CEO Galante & Trustees Controversy
October 2016 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz. Given the ongoing importance and drama associated with the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy and Reform Bill, we decided to create a section dedicated to it so that readers interested in learning more about it, may find a public record of what is happening to the Queens Public Library system.
Click here to read our reports about the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy & Reform Bill.
Queens Community Boards
CB Application Deadline Is January 31st
January 13, 2014 / Queens Politics / Queens Buzz. The new Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, was sworn in on Thursday, January 9th. During her campaign and since she was elected, Ms. Katz indicated her top priority is going to be economic / real estate development in the borough, including borough infrastructure.
In reviewing Melinda Katz's background, it appears she has spent her entire life preparing to be Queens Borough President, with an eye toward economic / real estate development.
Melinda has worked with Community Boards as a liaison for a previous administration, chaired the Land Use Committe as a member of City Council, and took a position as a development lobbyist for a large international law firm in Manhattan. Melinda stated during her campaign and since taking office that she's very interested in bringing new economic and real estate developments to the borough.
New development will create new construction and service jobs, and increase demand for private goods and services; as well as public services such as private and public transit, parking space, open space / parks and schools. Hence, there are a wide variety of considerations that must be taken into account as new developments move through the governmental process.
Community Boards are the primary mechanism in the governmental process for the provision of community input. For decades they have played, and will continue to play, a key role in community development.
The deadline to apply for a position on a Queens Community Board is January 31st. Click this link to obtain an application from the Office of the Queens Borough President. Community Board members are selected by the Queens Borough President and the City Councilmember of the District. The new Community Board terms begin April 1, 2014.
NYC & NYS Elections 2013
NYC Mayor, Queens Borough President & Six Ballot Proposals
Click here to view reports on NYC Elections & NYS Elections of 2013.
Queens State of the Borough Address
Boro President Helen Marshall Informs Us We’re Holding Our Own
January 24, 2012 / Flushing / Queens Government & Economy / Queens Buzz. Today I attended the Borough President’s State of the Borough Address in the Colden Auditorium at Queens College in Flushing. Queens College President Dr. James Muyskens opened the program, followed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
There were hundreds of people in attendance. The audience included government officials, members of the police, fire and sanitation departments, a number of community board members, educators, healthcare administrators as well as members of the press.
Helen Marshall’s address covered education, healthcare, parks, the economy, business, development, aviation [the airports], culture, historic preservation and awards to a few denizens of the borough for outstanding work. In the photo Queens Borough President Helen Marshall looks a graphic which includes the plans for the new technical center planned for Roosevelt Island by Cornell University and Technion. Click here to our report with photos of the Queens State of the Borough Address 2012.
What About The Debt Ceiling Deal?
Opinion & Perspective - Here's My Two Cents
August 3, 2011 / Queens NY / Queens Buzz. These have been a grueling two weeks for anyone watching the budget battles on Capitol Hill. The Senate, Congress and Executive branches of government got into the ring and slugged it out until they [and we] were exhausted.
Democracy is messy. It's about debate. It's about proposing ideas, listening to the ideas of others, and then rounds of endless repetitive rebuttals. It's not as clean as one dictator, king or self-anointed group of cronies, neatly deciding what to do, with no argument, no transparency, and no say by anyone else.
Click here to read the rest of the opinion on the debt ceiling deficit reduction budget deal of 2011.
Supreme Court Re-writes Constitution
Gives Legal Entities Rights To Meddle In Electoral Process
Queens / January 21, 2010. This is an opinion piece about the Supreme Court campaign finance ruling in favor of giving legal entities the right to spend unlimited sums of money in support of political candidates. Our opinion is that legal entities should not be allowed to spend any resource whatsoever in support of a political candidate.
If the people governing a legal entity [regardless of whether it is a corporation or a labor union] want to donate money or resource to a candidate, let them do so as individuals. But disallow them from reaching into the pockets of their shareholders, employees or membership to further their own special interests. Let these people [shareholders, employees and members] speak for themselves.
We compare this ruling to what happens in the book 'Animal Farm' written by author George Orwell in the middle of the 20th century, whereby some of the pigs in the book are made more equal than others. Our argument is that these people already have too much power vis a vis everyone else, and their unchecked influence will be harmful to the republic. Click here to read our opinion on the Supreme Court Campaign Finance Ruling.
The State Of The Borough Address
Queens President Helen Marshall Talks 2010 - 2011
January 25, 2011 / Queens College / Queens Buzz. I attended Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s state of the borough address which she gave at the Colden Center in the Queens College campus on Tuesday.
She structured the presentation in such a manner that it moved from issue to issue or in some cases from department to department, wherein she talked about what had happened over time periods ranging from last year to time periods which began when she took office in 2002.
Most of Queens prominent city council members and state representatives were in attendance – most of whom you can see in the slide show at the end of the report. There were also some former municipal government officials including Peter Vallone Sr who was once the city council speaker and Claire Schulman who was once borough president. Click here to read a full report on the State Of The Borough Address 2011 by Helen Marshall.
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