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Four Decades of Dedication: City Limits’ Story

Gotham Gazette - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 12:00am

Tom Robbins and Annette Fuentes, City Limits' editing team in the early 1980s, in the magazine's offices. (photo courtesy of City Limits/Brian Patrick O'Donohue)

Since its start 40 years ago this month, City Limits has published millions of words about hundreds of topics and survived thanks to the smarts and sacrifice of dozens of journalists. The history below, combining an essay my predecessor Alyssa Katz wrote on the occasion of our 30th anniversary with my own update on the past 10 years, doesn't pretend to capture all the people and projects that made City Limits what it is. Hopefully, however, it does give a sense of where City Limits came from, the changes it has seen and the values that continue to drive our journalism four decades in. –Jarrett Murphy.

1976-1979: A Mission Begins The Saving of 414 West 48th Street What is Redlining? (Answer: Redlining is a white collar crime.) South Bronx Snubbed on Redevelopment Plan

The headlines were forceful, printed in capital letters. They came from a publication that spoke to its times.

In 1976, New York City's neighborhoods were facing crushing challenges unlike any they had seen before. The city's fiscal crisis had left New York with few resources and a growing sense of doom. In many neighborhoods, arson and abandonment of apartment buildings were becoming everyday occurrences, as some property owners determined that their real estate was worth more in insurance proceeds than it was for its rental income. By the summer of 1977, more than 20,000 buildings in New York would be abandoned. At the end of that year the city owned 6,000 buildings and was poised to foreclose on 25,000 more.

Read more about this era and several others leading to present day and the future, at City Limits

Categories: State/Local

After Iowa: Debates & Voting Dates Until New York

Gotham Gazette - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 12:00am

Gov. Cuomo votes (photo via The Governor's Office on flickr)

"There's a lot of states ahead," Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC late Monday night from Iowa, where he spent the weekend campaigning for Hillary Clinton in her bid to become the Democratic nominee and next President of the United States.

And de Blasio is right - there are 49 more states and the District of Columbia to vote before the primary season is over. New York will be the 37th state to hold a vote when April 19 comes around.

As de Blasio spoke, it was still unclear if Clinton or Bernie Sanders had prevailed in the first vote of the primary - Iowa caucus goers split down the middle between the two - with Martin O'Malley garnering a few votes and deciding to suspend his campaign. Clinton was officially declared the winner, though Clinton and Sanders will more or less split the Iowa delegates.

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz won, with Donald Trump coming in second and Marco Rubio third.

It is unclear whether there will still be a race on either side of the aisle when voting comes to New York. The Republican field has a lot of winnowing to do and the two remaining Democrats could be in for a long slog - but, April 19 is a long way away.

Next up, New Hampshire. Primary voting there will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Before the New Hampshire primary, though, each party will hold another debate - the Democrats on Thursday, Feb. 4 and the Republicans on Saturday, Feb. 6. The details of the Democratic debate are still being negotiated as it was a late addition to the schedule - the Democrats have been criticized for a limited number of debates and for holding several on weekend nights.

The Clinton and Sanders campaigns, along with the Democratic National Committee, have agreed to four additional debates, in addition to the two that still remain on the original schedule (those are still set for Feb. 11 and March 9). Other than this week's in New Hampshire, the others will be March 6 in Flint, Michigan, and one each in April and May, with dates and locations to be determined.

On the Republican side, there are debates set for Feb. 6, 13, and 26; as well as for March 10. There could always be others added, of course.

As for the votes to take place leading up to New York, 34 states will have held either caucus or primary votes for both major parties, while two states - North Dakota and Kentucky - will have only held their Republican vote, with their Democratic vote coming later in the spring. The calendar is below.

Keep in mind that there are actually four election days in New York this year: presidential primary on April 19, followed by congressional primaries in June, state-level primaries in September, and the November Election Day.

The presidential primary calendar (if no party is noted, both major party votes will occur the same day):

Feb. 9
New Hampshire

Feb. 20
Nevada caucus (D)
South Carolina (R)
Washington caucus (R)

Feb. 23
Nevada caucus (R)

Feb. 27
South Carolina (D)

March 1
Alaska caucus (R)
Colorado caucus
Minnesota caucus
North Dakota caucus (R)
Wyoming caucus (R)

March 5
Kansas caucus
Kentucky caucus (R)
Maine caucus (R)
Nebraska caucus (D)

March 6
Maine caucus (D)

March 8
Hawaii caucus (R)
Idaho (R)

March 15
North Carolina

March 22
Idaho caucus (D)

March 26
Alaska caucus (D)
Hawaii caucus (D)
Washington caucus (D)

April 5

April 9
Wyoming caucus (D)

April 19
New York

April 26
Rhode Island

May 3

May 10
Nebraska (R)
West Virginia

May 17
Kentucky (D)

May 24
Washington (R)

June 7
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota caucus (D)
South Dakota

June 14
District of Columbia

{module Author Ben Max}

Note: this article has been updated

Categories: State/Local

As Council Begins Oversight, McCray Reports Progress in Mental Health Roadmap Implementation

Gotham Gazette - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 12:00am

Chirlane McCray & Richard Buery testify (photo: William Alatriste)

At a Jan. 28 oversight hearing held by the Committee on Mental Health, First Lady Chirlane McCray testified before the City Council for the first time, updating the Council on the city’s progress implementing its new “mental health roadmap.”

ThriveNYC, as the roadmap is called, is spearheaded by McCray and entails a comprehensive effort involving over 20 city agencies, 54 initiatives, and $850 million allocated over the next four years to improve access to quality mental health care.

McCray, joined by Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, emphasized the ThriveNYC focus on creating more points of entry into the mental health care system for New Yorkers, the importance of early intervention, and eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness. Buery has been named by Mayor Bill de Blasio and McCray as the City Hall point person for the implementation of ThriveNYC.

During the hearing, Council members praised McCray, who is the Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, for her role in making mental health a priority for the city, and were generally impressed by the progress that has been made so far.

“The roadmap was only released at the end of November, and the fact that the ball is rolling on some of them bodes well for how this is going to go,” Council Member Andrew Cohen, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, told Gotham Gazette in a post-hearing interview. Cohen added that he was “very pleased” with the hearing and thought it went “very, very well.”

Cohen conceded that the McCray, Buery, and Belkin were not “100 percent certain” about what benchmarks or metrics would be best to measure the success of each of ThriveNYC’s initiatives, as one metric may be appropriate for one initiative, but different standards may be needed for another initiative.

“But, I think as they start rolling them out and as they start providing these services, we’re going to be very interested in seeing that there’s some way to quantify that the programs are successful, that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” Cohen added.

Though Council Member Joe Borelli, who represents the South Shore of Staten Island, told Gotham Gazette he was “happy to hear that the First Lady has made [mental health] a priority and that it’s actually resulted in the city administration looking at mental health as a priority,” Borelli did take issue with ThriveNYC’s lack of resources and plans to address the opioid epidemic on Staten Island.

“Deputy Mayor, in your testimony you made a point to highlight a number of different ethnic and community groups that have specific needs, and what is potentially going to be done to address it...the number one county in the entire state [for heroin and opioid addiction] is Richmond County,” Borelli said during the hearing.

And in Richmond County, the problem is primarily concentrated on the South Shore of Staten Island, Borelli continued, “and yet, I look on the map and I see only three blobs that have any substance abuse counseling in this area - one of which is about to be closed.”

Ideally, Borelli said in an interview after the hearing, he’d like to see more SAPIS (Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialist) counselors in Staten Island schools. Tottenville High School, for example, has “almost 4,000 students, and it only has one counselor. There’s a real need,” said Borelli.

Some community-based organizations also expressed frustration during the hearing. Alan Ross, executive director of Samaritans of NYC, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, took issue with the fact that several ThriveNYC initiatives are being touted as “new,” yet organizations that already carried out such work in New York City had seen their funding cut and programs terminated.

“There are apparent contradictions in the plan that warrant further examination,” Ross said. “You’ve got these goals, but four years ago they terminated several programs and they said LifeNet was going to pick up all the service and then last year LifeNet couldn’t handle the weight,” Ross continued, looking to the de Blasio administration to address changes made under its predecessor.

“We need to acknowledge the tremendous efforts currently undertaken every day by community agencies,” added John Kastan, chief program officer of Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. “For ThriveNYC to work, it on the existing infrastructure of services, rather than create a parallel system.”

Cohen expressed agreement on that point, saying in an interview after the hearing, “ultimately the strength of that community is going to drive how successful the roadmap is going to be.”

“The RFPs have to meet the service-provider network that we have,” Cohen added,” I think these service providers need to be a part of developing the specifics of these RFPs so we get a lot of responses and so there’s a successful, not-for-profit program implementing these measures.”

City funding of $62 million has been allocated to ThriveNYC in the fiscal year 2017 preliminary budget unveiled by Mayor de Blasio on Jan. 21. According to McCray and Buery, some of the recent progress that has been made in implementing ThriveNYC and upcoming benchmarks for this year include:

  • NYC Health + Hospitals and Maimonides Hospital have committed to reach universal screening for maternal depression in women both during pregnancy and after giving birth within two years. -NYC Health + Hospitals will expand and standardize their current screening process for maternal depression in three facilities beginning this February, and Maimonides will begin training for maternal depression screening in February as well.
  • Hiring has begun for a network of 100 school mental health consultants, who will provide advice and referrals to schools currently without onsite mental health services. The first cohort of about 40 consultants is expected to be on staff in DOE support centers beginning in April.
  • Since the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene first began mental health first aid training a few years ago, 6,000 New Yorkers have been trained in mental health first aid. According to Buery, the city is on track to have 10,000 trained in mental health first aid by the end of ThriveNYC’s first year, with a total of 50,000 by the second year. Training spots are currently open three times a week to the general public. About 30 mental health first aid instructors have been trained since ThriveNYC launched, and 500 more are expected to be trained in the next five years. Mental health first aid classes in Spanish will begin to be offered in mid-to-late February, and classes in Mandarin will be offered later this year.
  • The RFP for NYC Support, an initiative which will give New Yorkers 24/7 access crisis counseling and schedule appointments with mental health providers via phone, text, or website, was released in January, and a contract will be in place by spring in order for service to begin later this year.

On February 23, a Mental Health Council comprised of the leaders of more than 20 city agencies will meet for the first time, in an effort to ensure effective planning and coordination across all agencies.

In March, the city will announce the community-based organizations that will participate in the Connection to Care program, a public-private partnership that aims to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health services by integrating mental wellness supports into existing social services agencies.

By this summer, the city, in partnership with schools and social workers, will have its first cohort of 130 new clinicians in the mental health workforce seeing patients. Starting in fiscal year 2017 (which begins July 1), the city will contract a community-based organization to train 200 peer support specialists per year.

To McCray, the mental health roadmap may just be the “tip of the iceberg...ThriveNYC is not intended to be a cure all - it wasn’t intended to fix the problem, it’s intended as a first step, as a conversation starter, and it’s intended to deal with those things that are in front of us right now that we can actually treat and address.”

{module Author Meg O'Connor}

Categories: State/Local

To Eradicate Sex Trafficking, Prosecute the Pimps and Buyers

Gotham Gazette - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 12:00am

Lauren Hersh, the author (at podium), and other activists 

Sarah was 13 years old when she was lured into prostitution by two men from her New York City neighborhood. For the next two years, she was sold to buyers who were eager to purchase her adolescent body. Her pimp required her to meet a quota and when she didn't, she was brutalized.

There were many moments when Sarah tried to leave the life of prostitution. Each time, her exploiter would threaten to harm her or worse, her little sister. Sarah felt helpless and trapped. So, she stayed.

Sarah was bought by men who wore business suits and went home to their wives and children. The money they paid would pass through Sarah's hands and land in her pimp's pocket. While her pimp and the buyers operated with impunity, Sarah was harassed and arrested by police more times than she could count.

For years, New York court dockets were filled with women and girls who were pulled off the street, brought before judges, sent to jail, and then returned back into the hands of their exploiters. This vicious cycle was fueled by laws that failed to adequately protect victims and a public perception that people in prostitution were there of their own free will and should be punished in an effort to "clean up the streets."

In 2013, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman created Human Trafficking Intervention Courts after recognizing that the vast majority of women arrested for prostitution were, in fact, victims of trafficking or other forms of exploitation. These courts sought to provide people in prostitution with exit strategies and comprehensive services, instead of jail time and criminal records.

Simultaneously, a widespread movement to change the New York State Human Trafficking Laws was gaining momentum. Survivors and advocates were frustrated that in New York, sex trafficking was still a non-violent felony and people who purchased children for sex were receiving lower penalties than those who committed a purse snatch.

District Attorneys needed better tools to prosecute exploiters. Victims needed better protections. Change was necessary to reflect the growing understanding that in order to eliminate trafficking, it was necessary to hold traffickers and buyers accountable, not people in prostitution.

Albany responded to pleas for progress. In October 2015, Governor Cuomo signed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act into law, a comprehensive bill that increases accountability for those who exploit, while providing protections for some of society's most marginalized. Last week, survivors around the state cheered as this law went into effect.

The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act can absolutely be a game changer. But, like any law, it makes no difference if it is not enforced. And this is a significant task.

Sarah's experience with our criminal justice system signals a need for change.

Specifically, we need widespread police training not only about the new law, but the complexity of exploitation and best practices for prevention. Police departments must continue to shift perspectives on prostitution.

Government resources must be used to prosecute traffickers and to eliminate the demand for prostitution by going after buyers. It's a simple case of supply and demand: without buyers, there's no profit for the sellers. Successful trafficking prevention must include sex-buyer accountability.

Law enforcement cannot eliminate trafficking alone. Resources must be allocated to heighten community awareness and provide in-depth training for those on the front lines. School teachers, medical professionals, and those working with children in foster care, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations often meet young victims, but without adequate trafficking training, they may miss critical signs of exploitation.

Today, Sarah* is a lawyer and one of the fiercest anti-trafficking advocates you will ever meet. But she can't do it alone. The notion that prostitution is a victimless crime must be banished from our vernacular. People in prostitution must be seen for what they are: victims of modern-day slavery and sexual violence.

It's incumbent on all of us – including our elected officials at the federal, state and local levels, the judiciary, law enforcement, and everyday citizens – to do what we can to prevent even one young girl from living the hell that Sarah endured.

*Note: Sarah (a pseudonym), is now in her late twenties and still receives threats against her life from her former pimp. Her safety requires full anonymity.

Lauren Hersh is Director of Anti-Trafficking Policy and Advocacy at the NYC-based Sanctuary for Families, a leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.

{module Author Opinion}

Categories: State/Local

2 die in separate snowmobile crashes

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 9:07pm

WEST TURIN (AP) — Authorities say two central New York men have died in separate snowmobiling accidents in upstate New York's Tug Hill region.

The Lewis County Sheriff's Office says 42-year-old Jonathan Allen of Utica was traveling on a trail in the town of West Turin at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday when he crashed while turning onto another trail.

Deputies say his snowmobile left the trail and hit a tree.

Allen was taken to Lewis County General Hospital in nearby Lowville (LOW'-vihl), where he was pronounced dead.

State police say Monday that a snowmobile crash in the neighboring town of Martinsburg killed a 35-year-old man from the Binghamton area.

Troopers say Scott Schneider of Vestal died after he crashed late Friday night while riding with other snowmobilers. Details of the accident are still under investigation.

Categories: State/Local

Teachout announces run for Gibson's 19th Congressional District seat

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 9:07pm


Former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout had stayed away from political forays of late. Instead, she was writing a book about small businesses.

"I'm meeting with my editor (Tuesday) to tell him, sadly, that it may be a little while," she said on Monday.

The reason: She's running for Congress.

After flirting with a run for the past few weeks, Teachout officially announced her bid to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson in the 19th Congressional District, making her the premier Democratic name to be in the running for the soon-to-be-open seat.

Teachout enters the race after Democrats' first choice, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, passed on a run despite overtures from the district's 11 county Democratic Committee chairs. The same party leaders gathered behind Teachout last week as it became publicly clear the bench of Democrats ready to run was rather short.

With Teachout, a Fordham Law professor, comes a candidate of significant renown in Democratic circles across the state. She challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, and though she lost, primary voters signaled their displeasure with the governor by giving Teachout 34 percent of the vote. She swept the race in the Capital Region and, more pertinent to her congressional bid, won 10 of the congressional district's 11 counties, which include Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene and Schoharie. The 11th was Broome County, only a small slice of which is part of the district.

"I think I've shown with the performance in the gubernatorial race I have a natural affinity, not just for Dutchess (County), but for people in all parts of the district," she said.

It's the relationship between candidate and community that Gibson's 2014 Democratic opponent, Sean Eldridge, struggled with. Eldridge, who moved to Shokan, Ulster County, in 2013, was painted by the GOP as an outsider. The race was among the most-watched in the state, but ended with a resounding 59,000-vote victory for Gibson despite a Republican enrollment advantage of just 6,400.

As Teachout entered the race on Monday, not only did Republicans challenge her "radical de Blasio-Sanders ideology" — as Republican Andrew Heaney's campaign put it — they immediately struck up the same carpetbagger refrain used against Eldridge. A Vermonter by birth, Teachout has recently moved full-time into the district (she owns a home in Dover Plains, Dutchess County, which she points out she purchased before Hein made his decision) after a stint in New York City.

"Regardless of which New York City-based candidate parachutes into the district for their own self-serving reasons, none can change Washington's status quo or correct the failed policies of the Obama and Cuomo administrations that have reduced our standard of living, jeopardized our national security and threatened our Constitutional rights," Republican John Faso said in a statement.

The National Republican Campaign Committee bashed her as a "Brooklyn liberal."

The Democrat countered that her Vermont roots provide the base for her understanding of the largely rural district.

"Our neighbors were dairy farmers — it's a very rural area," Teachout said of her childhood home. "It was dealing with the dairy crisis of '85 and the farm crisis of the '80s, and (I) grew up watching a rural community struggle. ... I spent a few years in the city, but most of my life I've been in small towns and rural areas. I think connecting on that is important."

The Teachout brand carries significant weight, though she is not the only Democrat in the race: John Patrick Kehoe of Dutchess County also has formed a committee.

The Republican side of the race has swelled in recent months. Dutchess County businessman Heaney and former Assembly minority leader and gubernatorial candidate Faso have focused their campaign rhetoric on each other as Robert Bishop of Delaware County has remained relatively quiet.

Congressional primaries will be held in June. Teachout said she plans to spend the next several months ahead of those elections listening to the people of the district.

"Maybe the biggest thing I've seen when I've spent time so far ... people see that Washington is broken, but they really aren't giving up about it," she said. "That's inspiring to me." • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

What To Do When The L Train Closes

Gotham Gazette - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 12:00am

Out of service (photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)

The denizens of Williamsburg and Bushwick have responded to news of potential multiyear L train closures with a mix of shock, despair, and irritation. People are talking through the alternatives: taking the G, J, and M trains; boarding the East River Ferry; or even (gasp!) riding the bus. Quite likely Williamsburgers will also summon a swarm of UberPools and Lyft Lines unlike any seen in our time.

Hysterics aside, it’s unlikely that the MTA would do a full, year-long double-tube shutdown. The most plausible plan is a long series of “nights and weekends” shutdowns for tube repairs, with the possibility of a brief total closure of both tubes to finish them “Fastrak”-style while rehabs of the 1st Avenue and Bedford stations and additional electrical substations are built. The latter service upgrades, which would permanently boost the line’s peak-hour capacity by 10 percent (a big deal for a subway line often at “crush” capacity during rush hour), depend on the timely success of Senator Chuck Schumer’s request to expedite federal funding. Nothing is certain until the upgrade funding comes through, but some Sandy-related stretch of nights-and-weekends closures is sure to come, as the MTA’s initial bid requests describe a contract lasting about 40 months.

If the MTA does indeed briefly close both tunnels—or even just one at a time—what should be done to limit the carnage? First, carpool restrictions (HOV-2, or even HOV-3) on the Williamsburg Bridge during train closures—just like during transit strikes and natural disasters. Previous nights-and-weekends closures of the L have brought “Carmageddon” to the bridge, especially during UberPool and Lyft Line promotions. Ensuring that solo drivers don’t hog every lane is a surefire way to keep everyone moving.

I personally remember the bridge congestion during the UberPool $2.75-a-ride L train closure special, as it was both the first time I shared an UberPool and the first time I rode with a carsick middle-aged woman being ill out the back window into the East River.

So to minimize the stop-and-go, nausea-inducing congestion—and maximize the potential efficiency of ridesharing services—the city should cooperate with the MTA in implementing HOV restrictions on the bridge, and even dedicating a lane to shuttle buses and the B39. It’s not at all radical to take away a car lane for more efficient transportation modes: The Williamsburg Bridge was built for streetcars.

This potential L train crisis is a reminder that better transit redundancy plans are needed for high-volume chokepoints, even if they inconvenience a comparatively small number of drivers. A truly radical long-term proposal would involve permanently replacing some car lanes with transit-only lanes and re-opening the abandoned streetcar terminal under Essex Street on the Manhattan side of the bridge. Current proposals include replacing the terminal with an odd subterranean mushroom park.

But if the real estate industry ever gets serious about funding a public-private waterfront streetcar through Williamsburg, perhaps restoring the rail lanes to the old streetcar terminal could be added to the plan. No matter what the MTA decides, the coming L train closures are an opportunity to start getting creative with our transportation systems and our waterfront. Let’s hope at least some of these mitigation proposals get a serious hearing.

Alex Armlovich is a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute. On Twitter @aarmlovi.

{module Author Opinion}

Categories: State/Local

As Federal Aid System Advances, Our Outdated Way Leaves New York Students Behind

Gotham Gazette - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 12:00am

Gov. Cuomo and SUNY 2020 (photo via The Governor's Office)

If New York wants to put students first, it must align financial aid statute
with the updated federal FAFSA.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the form that has been used to determine how much federal financial aid, and in some cases institutional financial aid, students receive since the early 1990s. Over the course of the last several years, the Obama Administration has worked to streamline the process, including an Executive Order announcing that beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year, FAFSA completion will utilize tax data from the year prior to the previous tax year (also known as "prior-prior") to make it easier for students and families to complete this critical form.

This is a change that advocates like NYSFAAA and Young Invincibles have been pushing for years. And, New York must act this year to bring its processes to meet the same type of standards.

So why are these changes such a big deal for students? In short, it can be incredibly difficult for students to find and use their previous year's tax information. Let's not forget that in many cases we are asking high school students to understand, process and use complicated tax information. Many students who complete the FAFSA before April of any given year end up using estimated tax information if they or their parents have not yet completed the most recent tax return.

This causes complications for both students and colleges, as families end up having the difficult task of trying to estimate their income information, and in turn schools end up having to award aid based on these estimates. Corrections to the data after taxes are actually filed can throw students who are already enrolled in a college for a serious and detrimental loop. What's worse, the aid pool can dry up while these institutions wait for accurate information. Either way, in some cases the aid they thought they could have suddenly seems to just disappear and with it, potentially the dream of going to school.

Most states are equipped to accommodate this transition to prior-prior year income data without a change in state law. New York, however, is one of the states that cannot seamlessly make this transition, and right now because of this students are going to bear the burden.

Completion of the New York State financial aid application for TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) requires by law that only prior year income be used in the determination of awards. This creates a disconnect between the federal aid application and the state aid application, making the system incredibly confusing and difficult for students to navigate. Fixing this disconnect and eliminating this burdensome requirement, as the federal system has done, could be the difference between a student going to college and a student being left behind by our state.

To remedy this problem and ensure that the application itself doesn't become an unnecessary barrier to aid, a statutory change in New York is needed that would require TAP to use prior-prior year income data. While there are a number of necessary reforms needed to bring the Tuition Assistance Program into the 21st century, this statutory change to align with federal regulation is common sense and an easy lift, and it must be done before the end of the legislative session in Albany.

The rising cost of getting a college degree is already a barrier to many New Yorkers, the financial aid application process should be the least of their concerns.

by Sue Mead, Government Relations Chair for the New York State Financial Aid Administrators Association, and Kevin Stump, Northeast Director for Young Invincibles NY.

{module Author Opinion}

Categories: State/Local

Abortion bill gains GOP backer

Albany Times/Union - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 9:07pm


With Assembly Democrats breaking up the 10-point Women's Equality Act in 2015, it seemed the 10th plank, a provision codifying Roe v. Wade into state law, was off the table in a split Legislature.

But on Monday, a Republican senator emerged to voice support for the Reproductive Health Act, becoming the first member of the GOP majority to publicly line up behind the controversial abortion provision.

"It's always been a battle when it comes to reproductive health care in the Senate," GOP state Sen. John Bonacic, who said he personally does not support abortion, told reporters at a Family Planning Advocates of New York lobby day. "I think there's a lot of support there — quiet support."

Bonacic's support of the measure, though notable, does not by any means guarantee passage. There currently are 32 Republicans, the bare majority needed to pass legislation, and 30 Democrats in the Senate. Bonacic's would not be the vote that deadlocks the Senate at 31-31, though. He makes up for the likely loss of the Democratic vote of State Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, who has opposed abortion in the past.

The provision has failed to pass in recent years as the Assembly refused to take up the WEA piecemeal and the Senate approved nine of the 10 provisions on their own without addressing the abortion bill. Following the ascension of Carl Heastie to the Assembly Speaker post, the majority Democrats decided to pass the WEA, absent the abortion provision.

Seven new laws — part of the package — took effect earlier this month.

Bonacic said the Reproductive Health Act would be part of the Senate majority's discussions, though he did not commit to pressing leadership to bring the legislation to the floor.

"I have certain allies in there," he said. "I will ask them also to speak up in the conference."

Who Bonacic's allies on this issue are remains to be seen. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, indicated there is general GOP support (she demurred when asked if tangible "aye" votes are there).

"We need people to recognize the fact that each vote matters this year," she told reporters at the FPA event. "So having this be an election year may create the pressure necessary for people in our state Legislature to step up and represent the rights of all women who are entitled to have affordable health care, affordable contraceptions and to be able to have power over their own bodies."

For her part, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins indicated the political action on the issue will continue during the 2016 election season.

"Apparently not," she said of whether the legislation can actually pass without Democrats controlling the Senate.

"We will continue to make the case because women every day expect our Legislature to stand up for their rights," she added. "So we will continue to make the case and maybe, who knows, someone will understand how important it is."

Also on Monday, the Assembly passed legislation, carried by Bonacic in the Senate, that would require health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved categories of contraceptive drugs, devices and products. 518-454-5449 @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

40 Stories, 40 Years: City Limits and the History of Today's New York City

Gotham Gazette - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 12:00am

History is always a summary. It weaves together disparate threads of individual experiences, and some threads color the pattern more than others. The conventional narrative of New York City after the 1970s fiscal crisis emphasizes what mayors, police commissioners, developers and other powerful people did.

But that's not the story. It's just one.

Since its founding 40 years ago this month, City Limits has told a different tale—one that has sometimes complemented, and other times contradicted the official version. That's because we talked about the New York seen by people like tenants, single mothers, strikers, prisoners, advocates, social workers, the homeless, the young and others who, when they strolled the traditional corridors of power, did so with a visitor's pass.

As the excerpted stories below indicate, those New Yorkers had their own kind of power, and the city has been shaped by it. The stories are just snippets from our work over the past four decades. They reflect the history that City Limits saw and the New York it was founded to cover.

For a look at those stories as City Limits hits its 40th anniversary, click here.

Categories: State/Local

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, February 1

Gotham Gazette - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 12:00am

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is in Iowa, where he has been since Friday and remains until Tuesday, campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

In New York, the big weekend news was that Democratic Assembly Member Todd Kaminsky, of Long Island, officially declared his bid for state Senate. Kaminsky, who was immediately endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is running for the seat vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was forced from office after he was convicted on federal corruption charges.

As the week begins, joint legislative budget hearings continue in Albany. In New York City, we're anticipating several key developments this week:

There will be a hearing Wednesday of the City Planning Commission, at which it is expected to pass Mayor de Blasio's two citywide zoning changes, with tweaks, and send them to the City Council. The Council will hold hearings on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) next week, on Feb. 9 and 10.

Also Wednesday, the Council will hold a hearing on its plan to raise pay for the city's elected officials and reform some Council rules, like making the position full-time and eliminating bonuses for chairing issue committees. There is some controversy involved, though, because the Council did not have a public hearing before drafting its plan, and its plan includes bigger raises than those recommended by an independent compensation commission.

On Thursday, Mayor de Blasio will deliver his State of the City address - in the evening this year, he recently announced, so that more members of the public are able to tune in.

And on Friday, the City Council is expected to vote through those pay raises for themselves and other elected officials, while also voting on the mayor's plan to limit the carriage horse industry.

It's going to be a busy week! As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

The New York State Legislature is in session on Monday, each house will hold session, and there will be a joint legislative budget hearing about housing at 10 a.m.

On Monday, members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will present his "Built to Lead" agenda at a variety of events around the state.

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet “on the appointment of Shin-pei Tsay to the New York City Art Commission.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Finance will meet for an oversight hearing about “The City’s Efforts to Combat Real Property Deed Fraud.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Technology will meet on two bills related to information security and another related to city agencies disposal of electronics.

The New York Association of Counties will kick off its three-day 2016 Legislative Conference at Albany’s Desmond Hotel and Conference Center on Monday. At the conference, “matters ranging from the State budget and its impact on local government, renewable energy, the heroin epidemic, Uber and Airbnb” and other issues will be discussed. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and other officials are featured speakers.

At 9:30 a.m. Monday in Long Island City, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, NYC DOT, and NYC DDC will announce the Long Island City/Hunters Point $30 Million Reconstruction Project as part of the City’s Vision Zero Initiative.

At 11 a.m. Monday at her Manhattan office, “Public Advocate Letitia James will announce a lawsuit against the NYC Department of Education (DOE) for failing to provide children with disabilities a free and appropriate public education. This is the second lawsuit Public Advocate James has filed against the DOE regarding students with disabilities.”

Also at 11 a.m. Monday, there will be a World Hijab Day press conference at City Hall, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will participate.

At noon Monday at City Hall, "Communities United for Police Reform, advocacy and community organizations, and community members and New Yorkers" will hold a press conference to announce a request for an official investigaiton into the NYPD.

At 6 p.m., the New York City Bar Association will host a program called “How to Get on the Ballot in NYC” with former state Senate Minority Leader and private election law practitioner Martin E. Connor; Sarah K. Steiner, Chair of City Bar Election Law Committee and private election law practitioner; Jerry Goldfeder, private election law practitioner and chair of City Bar NYC Affairs Committee; and Steven Richman, general counsel at the NYC Board of Elections.

At 6 p.m., the School of Visual Arts will host a symposium about “health inequalities in East Harlem” with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Arnhold Global health Institute Director Dr. Prabhjot Singh, East Harlem tenants’ activist Carmen Quinones, Strive co-founder Rob Carmona and community leader Clyde Williams. It will be moderated by Cheryl Heller, Chair of Design for Social Innovation at SVA.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Lunar New Year Celebration.

On Monday evening, several elected officials and many others will attend the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 50th Anniversary Gala.

The New York State Legislature is in session on Tuesday and will also have two joint legislative budget hearings: a 9:30 a.m. joint legislative budget hearing on taxes and a 1 p.m. joint legislative budget hearing on economic development.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, the Staten Island Zoo Groundhog Day celebration will occur, including Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, among other elected officials, including those from Staten Island.

At 8 a.m., de Blasio administration officials will give an information session about the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability zoning amendments at the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Albany, city schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will address the State Senate Education Committee.

At 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol in Albany, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will hold "a news conference on paid family leave. He will be joined by members of the Assembly Majority and advocates."

On Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at City Hall, family members, activists, and City Council members will hold a "press conference to call for Mayor de Blasio to hold officers who killed Ramarley Graham accountable."

At noon, City Council Member Dan Garodnick will discuss “Midtown East Rezoning: What’s Next?” at the Cornell Club for the B’nai B’rith Real Estate luncheon.

New York City charter school staff and parents will head to Albany on Tuesday for “Advocacy Day 2016.”

On Tuesday evening, Comptroller Stringer will will accept an award and deliver remarks at the "New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce 2016 Latino M/WBE Awards."

At the City Council on Wednesday: At 10 a.m., the Committees on Governmental Operations and Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet on four bills and two resolutions. The first bill will give pay raises to Council members, the mayor and other city elected officials. The other three bills and the resolutions are also related to compensation. [Read: City Council Announces Bill to Raise Pay, Reform Position]

The New York State Legislature will have joint legislative budget hearings on Wednesday: a 9:30 a.m. hearing on mental hygiene and a 1 p.m. hearing on workforce development.

At 8 a.m., a policy forum about “Green Preservation of Multi-Family Affordable Housing” will be hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, NYU Wagner and Enterprise Community Partners at 295 Lafayette Street.

The City Planning Commission will have a public meeting at 10 a.m. at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan, at which it is expected to pass the mayor’s zoning amendments, called Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, with their tweaks, and send them to the City Council.

The New York State Legislature will have a joint legislative budget hearing on “Public Protection” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will have an oversight hearing: “Update Concerning Local Law 77 of 2013, Which Created a Curbside Organics Collection Pilot Program.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committees on General Welfare and Education will have a joint oversight hearing on “DOE’s Support for Students who are Homeless or in Temporary Housing.”

At 6 p.m., the Center for New York City law is hosting “Police Use Of Force: A Discussion of NYPD’s New Policy”, which it is co-sponsoring with the Impact Center for Public Interest Law and the Criminal Justice Project. Representatives from the NYPD, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Civilian Complaint Review board will speak.

At 7 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will deliver his State of the City address at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. The address was “moved to the evening to ensure that more New Yorkers will be able to watch and engage.”

Friday and the weekend
At the City Council on Friday: The Council will have a full-bodied Stated Meeting at noon.

At a gala on Saturday, the Human Rights Campaign will be honoring Gov. Cuomo and actress Sigourney Weaver at the Waldorf Astoria. Cuomo is receiving the organization’s National Equality Award.

[Read: Concerns of 'Voter Fatigue' as New York Schedules Four Election Days]

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ryan Brady and Ben Max

Categories: State/Local
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