Monthly Archives: April 2010

Charter Revision: What to Expect in May

Kingsbridge Armory

The populist image conveyed by the charter revision commission’s April public hearings will fade in May when invited “consultants, ” commission members, and staff publicly dissect the legalistic, technical, and detailed language of the City Charter at a series of “issue forums.” What are some of the technical issues the experts will examine?

According to commission chair Matthew Goldstein, one prominent goal of this year’s commission will be to find ways to improve “efficiency” in city government. Almost certainly, this will involve identifying procedural and structural changes that can create a more development-friendly environment and help future mayors control key land use decisions. Such changes would seek to prevent recurrence of events such as Mayor Bloomberg’s recent loss to the City Council on the Kingsbridge Armory Mall project in The Bronx, where a dispute over wage rates caused the Council to reject the initiative. Continue reading

April’s Charter Revision Hearings: What Did They Accomplish?

Matthew Goldstein

A couple of days ago we posted a story about how the Daily News tried to convince its readers that mayoral aide Howard Wolfson was wrong when he told NY1 that Mike Bloomberg will dictate the agenda for the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission.

The News was protecting commission chair Matthew Goldstein and his colleagues — who have steadfastly insisted that the commission will act independently — from potential accusations that they are dupes or liars. It also was trying to bolster public confidence that public testimony matters at the commission’s hearings. Does it? The answer is “yes, but maybe not the way you think.” Continue reading

The (old) news behind the news is that the News is behind the Mayor

Howard Wolfson photo:

As we have observed before, the Daily News is playing a crucial public relations role for the mayor during the charter revision process. Today, the News is doing damage control, trying to convince readers that Mike Bloomberg isn’t going to pull the charter revision commission’s strings, despite what his chief political strategist said Tuesday. Read today’s DN story by Adam Lisberg and see if you agree.

The headline, “Charter chairman to commissioners: Ignore City Hall and do what’s right,” says it all: Commission chairman Matthew Goldstein will protect the group from mayoral control. Next comes a memo Goldstein sent yesterday to his colleagues “as a reply to Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy Howard Wolfson,” who undermined the commission’s hope that the public would view it as independent when he “said Tuesday night on NY1 that the commission probably wouldn’t recommend eliminating borough presidents or the public advocate, but ‘certainly we will have the term limits issue on the ballot.'” Continue reading

Too Much Decentralization?

Pedro Espada Jr.

As our “About” entry indicates, in our other life we chair one of Brooklyn’s community boards. We’re believers in the utility of these 50-member local advisory bodies. We’ve seen them protect neighborhoods against City Hall excesses, assist elected officials when they needed to communicate with local residents, help agency people to coordinate local service delivery, and prevent wasteful municipal spending on projects that won’t work.

So our usual reaction when people from outside the community boards want to change the way boards operate is to ask whether they know what they’re talking about. We’re not completely sure that Huffington Post “writer, musician and New Yorker” Will Schwartz has the whole picture. Some of his assumptions about boards having “untrained, un-vetted leaders” and lacking “economists, public health officials, lawyers, hospital administrators, and other trained professionals” are without merit. But he knows enough about city government to understand that a recent charter revision proposal from controversial State Senator Pedro Espada is completely off the mark. Continue reading

A Sign of the Times

Know a young hacker hacking in your neighborhood? Does he or she want to fight cyberterrorism? The New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination wants to know him – or her – too.

In a remarkable program announcement, the mouthful NYSOCSCIC (try pronouncing that!) is reaching out to all “individuals [18 and older] with the interest and skills needed to meet the cyber security challenges facing us today” and offering them a chance to take an on-line test that could “enable competitors to be considered for participation in a week-long cyber security camp in NYC this July to receive free training and be eligible for scholarships.”

Too bad they don’t offer a comparable opportunity for bloggers!

BTW, the announcement includes a “Cyber Alert” indicator. Rest assured, right now the alert is only at the blue bar, the second lowest level.

DOE: A Gap in the City Charter

Adrienne Kivelson

Arguably, the speaker who got the closest attention from the staff of the New York City Charter Revision Commission at Monday night’s public hearing in Queens was Adrienne Kivelson, City Affairs Chair of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.

Ms. Kivelson identified a glaring gap in the City Charter: the document’s failure to recognize the Department of Education as a mayoral agency, despite the control over DOE the state legislature granted to the mayor in 2002, and renewed in 2009. Proposing that the commission “codify the Department of Education in the City Charter,” Ms. Kivelson called for the agency “to be subject to the same oversight and accountability imposed on every other Mayoral agency. Continue reading

NYC’s Economy: Charter Revision Can Help

“Wall Street Must Recover Before City Can Overcome Recession, Economists Say.”

That’s the headline over Patrick McGeehan’s NY Times article Wednesday about an interview with economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He repeated this message in a follow-up story on unemployment rates on Thursday.

What are the prospects for a Wall Street recovery? Not good, according to McGeehan’s sources at the Fed.

Quoting one of them, Fed regional economist Rae D. Rosen, McGeehan reports that “Wall Street still appears to be shrinking. The latest figures from the State Labor Department showed that the number of jobs in the city’s securities industry declined by about 2,000, or 1 percent, in February, while most other sectors were adding jobs.” Continue reading

Farewell, Tupper

Tupper Thomas photo: Windsor Terrace Alliance

Back in the days when Ed Koch was mayor and Gordon Davis headed up NYC Parks & Recreation, we went to work for Betsy Barlow, whom Davis had appointed to the new position of Central Park Administrator.

With unparalleled energy and focus, Barlow transformed a small staff office into the Central Park Conservancy, which today provides a way for the moneyed folks who call Central Park their front lawn to contribute to its restoration and maintenance in return for the City’s commitment that the Conservancy will manage it. Continue reading

Charter Revision: What the Mayor Really Wants

Michael Bloomberg

How does Mayor Michael Bloomberg view the goals of his 2010 charter revision commission? Celeste Katz, the new editor of the DN’s Daily Politics blog, answers this in her April 13th piece on the mayor’s changing stance on the future of the Public Advocate and the borough presidents. Katz quotes Bloomberg about the BPs:

“I for one have come to believe that the Borough Presidents really do provide value added. I don’t agree with everything everyone does but on balance the Borough Presidents provide, at a local level, working with community boards and working with the City Council people, a valuable service and whether you could do it more effectively or not, whether they should be allowed to do A, B or C, those are the details.” Continue reading

Monday’s charter commission hearing: deceptively full

Bronx Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who spoke out against term limits

By Jonathan Berk

At the end of Monday’s Charter Revision Commission public hearing at Hostos Community College in The Bronx, commission chair Matthew Goldstein thanked the public for their “robust” participation over the almost-three-hour session. Indeed, the hearing was full of voices, with 37 speakers from The Bronx’s citizenry, electorate, and civic institutions, saying their part over the course of the evening. But if the chair also was referring to the session’s attendance—which we estimated at no more than 120 people—then “robust” was little more than an optical illusion. Continue reading