Tag Archives: Borough Presidents

Even Larry Has No Answer

Larry’s Favorite Former Jet, Santana Moss

Larry is one of the smartest guys in Flatbush. So when he started defending Brooklyn’s lack of clout at City Hall, I did a double take.

“The Board of Estimate was a bad idea. Staten Island didn’t deserve to have the same power as Brooklyn.”

But isn’t it worse for Brooklyn to have no power, because the mayor — most responsive to Manhattan media  — controls almost everything?

Larry shrugged and turned back to the TV. It was easier for him to watch his beloved Jets self-destruct than to grapple with one of the thorniest issues facing New Yorkers in 2011: how to ensure that Mike Bloomberg’s successor — whoever he or she is — will balance the needs of the BBQSI boroughs against those of the Manhattan business community. Continue reading

Scissura: Practice What You Preach

2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission

The 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission spent much of its July 12 meeting agonizing over ways to restore the public’s faith in government and increase voter participation. It did not acknowledge that voter apathy may stem from the public’s resignation that billionaires will continue to control the Mayor’s office, and that selection of City Council members may make little difference in shaping City Hall’s major decisions.

The webcast meeting had been convened to discuss the commission staff’s July 9 preliminary report. But as quickly as the staff’s proposal for instant run-off voting — IRV — appeared on the pages of that report, it got jettisoned when chairman Matthew Goldstein’s colleagues complained that they never had discussed it. Continue reading

Community Boards: A Vicious Circle

Ira B. Harkavy

Ira Harkavy, Florence Nathanson, Esther Lopato and Helen Henkin were community board members back in the day when board membership meant more than echoing the mayor’s priorities or being ignored.

The three women are gone; Harkavy, who quit as chairman of Brooklyn Community Board 14 to run for the bench, is retired from a long and respected judicial career during which he inspired a Hollywood film by sentencing a landlord to live in his own tenement.

All of them were “plugged in” (Harkavy, for example, concurrently led CB14, the Madison Jewish Center, the Brooklyn College campus foundation and alumni association, the Brooklyn College Hillel House, and the Midwood Development Corporation); all adhered to the highest ethical standards; all commanded respect and all used their formidable intellectual and moral powers to ensure that City Hall paid attention to the needs of Flatbush and Midwood, the neighborhoods their board comprised. Continue reading

Charter Revision: Speaking Truth to Power

Father Richard Gorman

It took four hours until anyone — expert witnesses, charter commission members, or one of the evening’s 21 informal speakers — finally zeroed in on why voter participation has plummeted in NYC over the last two decades:

“Maybe the reason why people don’t vote is they don’t think it’s worth the trouble of going to vote for a government that increasingly shuts them out.”

The speaker was Father Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12 in The Bronx. Unfortunately, by the time he spoke, at 10:05 PM, the panelists, half the commissioners, and almost all the main-stream press, had deserted the Lehman College auditorium. The few audience members who lingered were mayoral aides or one-issue advocates for non-partisan elections. Continue reading

Charter Revision Alumni Weigh In

F. A. O. Schwarz, Jr. photo courtesy praxagora.com

You wouldn’t expect that a panel discussion by former charter revision commission chairs would be enlightening or amusing, but it was both. Monday’s webcast panel at Baruch College featured former commission chairs Richard Ravitch (1986-88), F.A.O. Schwarz, Jr. (1989), Randy Mastro ( 1999, 2001), Frank Macchiarola (2003), and Ester Fuchs (2005). Current commission chair Matthew Goldstein moderated; several of his colleagues participated in the questioning.

The senior panelists agreed that Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 commission has no choice but to address term limits (although they couldn’t agree on how), that New York’s strong mayoralty must continue, and that the borough presidents’ offices should be strengthened. What they didn’t agree on — term limits, their impact on minority voting, the fate of the public advocate, and non-partisan elections — provided some lively back-and-forth. Continue reading

Community Board Budgets to be Restored

Mayor Bloomberg’s Fiscal Year 2011 Executive Budget calls for the restoration of community board funding to $198,895.

The restoration comes after almost $60,000 in reductions proposed by the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget earlier this year.

Those proposed reductions prompted many community board members to argue for “baseline budgeting” at April’s charter revision commission public hearings. Many boards also reached out for help to their borough presidents and City Council members. Continue reading

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