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.
Melinda Katz Wins Boro Presidency
Bill de Blasio Becomes Mayor Elect
November 6, 2013 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Queens Politics / Queens Buzz. Democrat Melinda Katz handily won the Queens Borough Presidency with about 80% of the vote, defeating Republican Tony Arcabascio with less than 18% of the vote and Independent Everly Brown who won about 2% of the vote.
Katz's victory was expected given that the borough is comprised of about 80% Democrats and less than 20% Republicans.
In Queens City Council races Democrat Costa Constantinides won 66% of the vote defeating Green Party candidate Lynn Serpe (15%) and Republican Daniel Paterson (11%). He will replace Peter Vallone as Astoria's City Councilmember. Paul Vallone won in a very tight race. Mark S. Weprin, Daneek Miller, Rory Lancman and Elizabeth Crowley won handily. And the race between Republican incumbent Eric Ulrich and Democrat Lew Simon was very close and possibly contestable.
Bill de Blasio's victory was also expected, as the polls had shown him leading Republican Lhota by a wide margin. It's worth noting that there hasn't been a Democratic NYC Mayor since Guiliani won the position in 1994, some 20 years ago.
Some pundits believe that this election was a referendum on the Bloomberg Administration. Bill de Blasio's campaign theme of the 'Tale of Two Cities' - meaning the wealthy and everyone else - appears to have struck a resonant chord with NYC voters.
We wish both de Blasio and Katz the best in the coming years and hope they will govern wisely.
Click here for prior Queens Buzz election coverage and politics in Queens.
NYC Municipal Elections 2013
NYC Mayor, Queens Borough President & Six Ballot Proposals
November 5, 2013 / Flushing Neighborhood / Queens Government / Queens Buzz. On Tuesday voters get to decide who will run the city for the next four years. You get to weigh in on who will be the next NYC Mayor, Queens Borough President, City Comptroller, Public Advocate and City Councilmembers.
There are also six NY State Ballot proposals some of which are changes to the Constitution: 1) whether to authorize casino gambling in NYS, 2) a credit for qualified veterans with disabilities in the civil service, 3) exclusion of sewage treatment facility investments from county and municipal constitutional debt limits, 4) proposal to have NYS give up land rights in the Adirondacks to private enterprise in an exchange deal, 5) proposal to allow a private company to conduct mining operations on forest preserve land in a trade deal and 6) extending the length of time judges may serve past the age of 70.
Click here for our coverage of the NYC Municipal Elecitons, including details of the controversial Queens Borough President debate between Melinda Katz and Tony Arcabascio at QPTV in Flushing in October. Story & photos by Michael Wood.
Queens Primary Election Results
Katz Wins Boro Prez / de Blasio Doesn't Face Runoff
Election Night / September 11, 2013 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Politics / Queens Buzz. Melinda Katz received nearly 45% of the vote in the race for Queens Borough President. Peter Vallone was the runner up with nearly 34%. Everly Brown captured nearly 13% and Tony Avella whose name was on the ballot, but had dropped out of the race, won 9% of the vote. Katz will go onto face Republican Tony Arcabascio in November.
In the photo to your right, Republican candidate Tony Arcabascio speaks as Peter Vallone, Melinda Katz and Everly Brown listen at the Queens Borough President Forum held at Flushing Town Hall on August 26th.
Bill de Blasio was the winner of the Mayoral primary, but at press time it initially remained unclear whether he won over 40% of the vote which would preclude any runoff against Thompson who was the runner up with 26% of the vote. Some paper ballots remained to be counted which could have swayed the tally. Christine Quinn, once the front runner, won only 16% of the vote and Queens' John Liu came in fourth place with 7% and Anthony Weiner netted 5%. On the Republican side Joe Lhota won 53% of the vote, beating out billionaire John Catsimatidis who netted 43%.
As for Queens City Council races, many incumbent candidates went uncontested in the primaries. Paul Vallone appears to have won with 31% of the vote in the 19th District but there could be a runoff. Costa Constatinides handily won the 22nd District [currently Peter Vallone's District] with 56% of the vote. Rory Lancman won the 24th District with 62% of the vote. Ruben Willis won the 28th District with 49% of the vote. Donovan Richards won the 31st District with 52% of the vote. Lew Simon won the 32nd District with 65% of the vote. And Antonio Reynoso won the 34th District with 49% of the vote beating out Vito Lopez. And Daneek Miller is ahead with 24% of the vote in the 27th District.
The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 5th.
The 'Machine' is Back
Party Controlled Board of Elections Opts For Old Voting Machines To Process The Votes 'More Quickly & Accurately In The Primaries Only'
September 10, 2013 / Queens News & Opinion / Queens Buzz. You can imagine my surprise this morning when I arrived to do my civic duty and vote for the candidates of my choice.
I saw the old voting machines and asked what had happened to the newer scanner voting machines we'd used in the general election only a year ago. The people facilitating the voting process didn't seem to know the answer to that question.
So I went online and found that the New York Times had posted a story on Sunday, explaining that the Board of Elections had decided to use the older machines for the primaries, while promising the newer machines would be ready for the general election.
The NYT had been told by the Board of Elections that the older machines would enable them to report the results more quickly and accurately than the new machines, so that if there were any runoff, they could turn things around in time.
Pardon me, while I try to process the logic of this turn of events. A year ago the City of New York spent $95 million dollars to install a new voting technology / process, that was good enough to be used for the general election last year and that is good enough to be used for the general election this year.
But - help me make sense of this - then the Board of Elections goes on to tell us that the newer voting technology isn't good enough to be used in the primaries - where at least 80% of the races are decided.
I think it's also worth noting that the Board of Elections is controlled by the two major parties [Democrats & Republicans]. Mayor Bloomberg blasted the Board in his radio talk show. Hmm, wonder why. Story & photo by Michael Wood.
Queens Borough President Election
Democratic Party Hierarchy & NYC Developers Back Katz & Quinn
September 9, 2013 / Queens Politics / Queens News Analysis & Issues / Opinion / Queens Buzz. So after answering countless annoying and largely uninformative robocalls from those seeking to govern us [what happened to our ability to 'Opt Out' of telemarketing?], and receiving voluminous junk mailers, tomorrow we get to decide who's going to govern us.
Tomorrow matters, because about 80% of the elections in NYC are decided in the primaries.
In the photo above right, Peter Vallone takes Melinda Katz to task for sending out mailers that attempt to demonize him with distorted visuals and labels.
NYC Mayoral Candidates - Final Polls & Agendas & You Decide
There are five major candidates running for Mayor on the Democratic side [de Blasio, Quinn, Weiner, Thompson & Liu] and two on the Republican side [Lhota & Catsimatidis]. The most recent polls show DeBlasio well ahead of the pack, but he needs 40% of the vote to avoid having a runoff election later in the month. Thompson is the runner up and Quinn, once the leading candidate, is running a distant third.
Quinn has sometimes been referred to as Mayor Bloomberg's lapdog because of her 'dogged' support of his agenda. In spite of that moniker, the Mayor did not endorse her even though she had helped Bloomberg reverse a plebiscite on municipal office term limits and passed the majority of his agenda. Both Quinn and Katz did win the endorsement of the Democratic Party hierachy and the monied support of NYC real estate developers.
Runoffs Weaken Mayoral Candidates
The last time we had an open NYC Mayoral election [meaning no incumbents] it resulted in a Democratic primary runoff. Fernando Ferrer won the primary with 279,000 votes [35.5%]. Mark Green won enough votes [243,000 votes] to compete in a runoff. In the runoff Mark Green prevailed, and then went on to lose against Michael Bloomberg by 35,000 votes. A hotly contested Democratic primary runoff weakens the Democratic candidate shortly before the final election.
Queens Borough President Candidates 2013
There are three Democrats running for Queens Borough President [Vallone, Katz & Brown] and one on the Republican side [Arcabascio]. Tony Avella is on the ballot, but he has dropped out of the race.
There are also a number of City Councilmember races, which we don't have the time to discuss today.
Click For More About Queens Borough President Candidates 2013
Click here to read more about the NYC Primary Elections, with more about the backgrounds of the Queens Borough President candidates, and including a link to find your Queens polling place.
NYC Mayoral Candidates Forum
Record Homeless In NYC Shelters & NYC Developers
April 15, 2013 / Queens Government / Queens Buzz / by Michael Wood. I attended a Mayoral Forum last week at NYU in Manhattan where the six Mayoral candidates answered questions posed by Brian Lehrer of WNYC. The event was hosted by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and the topic for discussion was real estate development, housing and urban policy.
One of the things I learned was that NYC has record numbers living in its homeless shelters and that over 20,000 school age children are now living in homeless shelters. This topic came up time and again and all of the candidates said that the current administration was clearly not doing enough to address the problem.
The candidates also talked about all of the new development projects going on in NYC. Many of the candidates said the Administration was not negotiating hard enough to obtain more concessions / better deals from NYC developers who have profited greatly by virtue of help and incentives given by the city.
We'll have more on these issues at a later date. Story & photo by Michael Wood.
CB Votes Split On USTA Expansion Plan
March 14, 2013 / Flushing Corona / Issues Facing Queens / Queens Buzz. The USTA has asked the city of New York to give it .68 of an acre of Flushing Meadows Corona Park so that it can proceed with an expansion plan. The expansion plan is estimated to increase the sports complex capacity for the U.S. Open by about a third, while increasing the USTA footprint in the park by .68 of an acre. The USTA informed the audience attending the Community Board 3 meeting that this will result in more jobs in Queens. They also talked about the positive estimated annual $784 million economic impact that the USTA has had on NYC - according to a study done by a private consulting firm named AKRF, Inc.
The detractors informed the audience that this is the first step in a much larger effort toward a massive privatization of Flushing Meadows Corona Park by several large, well-funded corporate interests. The opponents talked about three other proposals which were not a part of the USTA plan. These other proposals to develop private interests on public parkland include the development of a shopping mall by a private investment group in tandem with the owners of CitiField; 2) a condominium / hotel complex done by another group of private investors; and 3) a 13 acre soccer stadium by Major League Soccer, which is also a privately held corporation.
Community Board Tally & Boro Prez Candidates Positions
In the end Community Board 3 voted against the expansion plan, citing among other things, promises not kept when the USTA asked to expand its footpint in 1993. All six Community Boards have now voted on the USTA Expansion proposal, with three voting for it and three voting against it. We'll post a far more complete report on this Community Board Meeting at a later date.
While I was attending the Community Board 3 Meeting in Corona, all six Queens Borough Presidential candidates were attending a forum about the issues facing Queens at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Astoria. The issue of turning over public parkland to private interests came up during the forum. To date only City Councilmember Tony Avella has come out against giving up public parkland to private interests. NY Senator Jose Peralta is the only other candidate to take a stance on the issue, but only on one of the proposed developments, namely the erection of the MLS Soccer Stadium on 13 acres of FMC Parkland [which he conditionally supports if MLS fulfills all of their promises]. All four other candidates have taken a wait-and-see stance on the issue.
Click here to read our past reports related to the proposed development plans for Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The first report provides an early history of Flushing Meadows Corona Park I and the second report provided an intermediate history of Flushing Meadows Corona Park II which included a number of relevant historic lessons related to sports complex developments in FMCP as well as NYC.
Legislative Agendas For Western Queens
March 9, 2013 / Long Island City / Queens Business / Queens Buzz. I attended a Legislative breakfast hosted by the Long Island City Partnership on Friday. NYS Senator Michael Gianaris and NYC Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer were on hand to talk about what is going on legislatively in Albany and downtown at city hall.
EDUCATION & QUEENS SCHOOLS. Education and school closings were discussed with both government officials opposing the approach being taken by the Mayor to close Queens high schools. It was noted that Senator Gianaris graduated from LIC H.S. and then went onto graduate from Harvard, that Assemblywoman Nolan graduated from Ridgewood H.S. and went onto graduate from NYU and that NYC Councilmember Van Bramer graduated from Bryant H.S. and went onto graduate from St. John's College. All three of these high schools were on the chopping block in Spring of 2012 [click here for our Spring 2012 report on Queens high school closings].
School construction was also discussed. Currently the facilities at many Queens schools are at, near or even over capacity. Hence school construction is something these government officials believe is important going forward, given the growth of the borough.
HIGH TECH JOBS / TAX BREAKS. They talked about the pending development of a high tech college campus on Roosevelt Island in the coming decade. They saw this as a potential source of good jobs in the area, given Queens proximity to the campus and talked about the possibility of using tax breaks to incent start ups to stay in NYC. They cited the TV Film Industry Tax breaks given several years ago as being good for the TV film industry in Queens.
POWER INDUSTRY IN QUEENS. They also talked about the power industry in Queens. Queens is the source of 60% of all of NYC's power generation. The old Poletti Power Plant is in the process of being de-constructed, and the newer power plants have been able to continue to provide power without disruption.
PARKING IN LIC. Lastly, but not least, Michele Beaudoin of BRG Realty in LIC inquired about future plans for managing the parking situation in LIC. Unbeknownst to most folks, LIC remain the only neighborhood that does not have alternative side parking regulations, which are used to eliminate 'car storage' on city streets, while simultaneously enabling street cleaning. LIC is also the only neighborhood in NYC that does not receive street cleaning services.
We were told that the Department of Transporation is not interested in building any new city parking lots. And that the LIC community is deeply divided on this issue, but that something must be done, as the parking congestion in LIC continues to grow.
Click here to read other brief reports containing LIC News.
Astoria Park Performance Space
Draft Plans Shown – Public Comment Sought
February 21, 2013 / Astoria News / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. I attended the Community Board 1 meeting on Wednesday night where the Parks Department unveiled their draft plans for the new performance space in Astoria Park. The presentation included a brief history of the Astoria Pool Diving area where the new performance space will be installed, as well as draft details of what is planned.
City Councilmember Peter Vallone was credited with securing $4.5 million in NYC funds for the project, which he described as a beginning. There were a number of Astoria and Queens arts groups present at the meeting and they made comments following the presentation. We’ll post more about the Astoria Park Performance space later.
Queens County Employment Bests NYC
Queens is one of NYC’s Top Employment Performers
December 19, 2012 / Queens Neighborhoods / Employment in Queens / Queens Buzz. Tis the season to be jolly and reflect on what’s happened economically over the past year while contemplating and planning for what lies ahead. To that end we did a bit of research into Queens current economic trends, specifically in the employment area.
Queens Employment & Economy is Diversified
Queens has a relatively diversified employment base. Queens County industries include: 1) transportation facilities such as JFK and LaGuardia Airports, Long Island Railroad stations, a network of MTA subways and buses, and a network of federal, state and local roadways,
Click here to read our report on employment, unemployment & industry in Queens.
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.
Employment & Unemployment - Queens
Queens Unemployment Versus NYC, NYS & U.S.
March 11, 2011 / Queens Business / Queens Buzz. I recently attended a conference where I was able to obtain some information about the employment composition of Queens. I also obtained recent NYC, NYS, U.S. and Queens unemployment statistics, all of which are included in this report.
It's worth noting at the outset that Queens has a very diversified economic base. This explains why Queens is outperforming the city, the state and the nation in creating jobs for its people.
Click here to read more about unemployment / employment in Queens 2011.
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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