Monthly Archives: March 2010

Charter Revision Commission Executive Director to be Named (Updated 4/7/10)

Francis Barry, Charter Commission Executive Director Candidate. Photo courtesy Staten Island Advance

Once again, the Staten Island Advance provides early coverage of events at the NYC Charter Revision Commission. This time, it’s who is likely to be appointed to direct the commission’s staff: Francis S. Barry, a close mayoral aide.

As we’ve commented before, the commission’s executive director is the key person in shaping the commission’s agenda, triaging what information gets in to the 15 part-time commission members, and, perhaps most crucially, determining what information gets out from the commission to the press and the public. Continue reading

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When Schools Battle for Parents’ Hearts and Minds

P.S. 217 Odyssey photo courtesy Matthew Septimus

Rick Hess, education guru at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says that the whole point of giving parents a choice between charters and traditional public schools is to create competition, which forces both to improve. One form this competition takes is in how they recruit new students. Charters don’t seem to have to jump through the same hoops as TPSs do. We witnessed this recently in Flatbush. Continue reading

Parks Department Regulates “Expressive Matter”: The Lederman Law?

High Line image by http://www.trainjotting.com

Carol Rinzler, our contact at 250+ Friends of NYC Parks, brings to our attention new Parks & Recreation Department rules that would impose time and place restrictions on artists who wish to display their work — “expressive matter” —  “in or on any property under the jurisdiction of the Department.”

The rules support the 30-year-old private-public partnership deal the City made with the Central Park Conservancy, and subsequently with similar groups, to give them substantial control over revenue production (vending) in major parks. Such control enables them to raise funds to maintain those parks. Artists have skirted any restrictions by asserting their First Amendment rights. The proposed rules would impose limits on this.

Some of the language in the rules suggests that they are aimed specifically at Robert Lederman, an artist whose repeated attempts to display his work on the High Line Esplanade in Chelsea were met with arrest.

More on this and the message we received from 250+ Friends of NYC Parks can be found after the break. The proposed new rules and a notice of the  required April 23rd public hearing can be found here.

Update: NY1 covered this story on March 27. Here‘s the link. Continue reading

Community Boards Threatened

Image: Madison Area Technical College

Less than a year ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that “civic service may be the most important thing we ever do” as he launched his “NYC Service” initiative to promote volunteerism and “channel New Yorkers’ good intentions to tackle our greatest challenges, particularly those caused by the economic downturn.”

Today, he violated that commitment by authorizing a devastating budget cut to NYC’s community boards, whose almost 3,000 members constitute the city’s largest cadre of civic volunteers.

In an email to the city’s 59 boards, mayoral budget official Randolph R. Panetta announced that budget director Mark Page had ordered each community board’s budget cut by $15,542 — a droplet in the huge bucket that is the city’s $4.9 billion Fiscal Year 2011 budget shortfall, but a cut so severe at the local level that many boards will have to reduce staffs that already number only two or three employees. Continue reading

NYC’s Forgotten Borough

To most Manhattanites, Staten Island may as well be New Jersey (geographers and Staten Islanders feel the same way). Once you step off the ferry at St. George Terminal, you’re in a different world: a revolutionary war fort, mile after mile of low-rise garden apartments, Victorian frame houses on winding streets, and wooded hillsides studded with stone and brick mansions.

New Yorkers who view Staten Island only from the S.I. Expressway and the West Shore Expressway don’t see the island’s vast industrial tracts on one shore, its beautiful public beach on another, the endless strip mall that is Hylan Boulevard, and the island’s golf courses, forests, and pre-Verrazano enclaves, which still hint at their rural origins. It just ain’t the same city as high-rise Manhattan.

That’s the message that Tom Wrobleski, political editor for the Staten Island Advance, sends to the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission. With just one Islander on the 15-member commission, Wrobelski doubts that Staten Island’s small-town distinctiveness can be adequately considered when the commission revises NYC’s government this year. To Wrobleski, the city’s rules in Manhattan and Staten Island need to be different. And many community leaders from Brooklyn and Queens feel the same way about their own boroughs. Continue reading

Charter Commission Kick-off: Cheesecake and Undercurrents

First came the cheesecake: Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz greeted the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission members at their first public meeting, at the NYC College of Technology in downtown Brooklyn, and gifted each one with Junior’s cheesecake.

Then commission chair Matthew Goldstein explained the purpose of the meeting to an audience of about 75, and invited his colleagues to introduce themselves. When the intros progressed across the crowded stage to commission member Carlo Scissura, Scissura leaned back and deferred to colleague Hope Cohen, who had been forced to sit behind him when the dais got too crowded for all 15 commission members. Goldstein, a mathematician by training, joked about this as being an example of “a packing problem.” It was not his last mathematical allusion. Our take: The commission’s March 3rd appointment date didn’t leave enough time to hire the staff members who could prepare for a public meeting scheduled only two weeks later. Continue reading

Power to the Beeps?

Stephen Fiala. Photo from the SI Advance

On the morning of the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission’s first public meeting, Tom Wrobleski’s  coverage is ahead of the game. Wrobleski, writing for the Staten Island Advance, says that commission member Stephen Fiala, Richmond County Clerk, intends to explore the possibility of giving more power to the borough presidents.

Although Fiala is skeptical of his prospects for success, we think an opportunity for greater BP power exists. As we commented to Wrobleski, power comes when one elected official needs the support of another to get his initiatives through. Continue reading