Tag Archives: Bill de Blasio

Jumaane Williams on de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Announcement

Jumaane Williams, the Chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, was generally positive about Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing announcement yesterday. However, Williams would like to see de Blasio make repealing the Urstadt Law a top priority, and more outreach to low-income households. Passed in 1971, Urstadt put New York City rent regulation in the hands of the State, which has generally leaned towards deregulation. Williams lauded de Blasio’s 50/30/20 mixed income program (50% middle income, 30% moderate income, 20% low income), but pushed for more.  “They talked about 80/20 kind of being outdated and we need a new model…I’m hoping he will research some of the other models” said Williams, “…because I think we need to dig a little deeper to get more of the lower income band.”  In this vein, Williams has been a vocal advocate of regional AMIs [Area Median Income] – the current AMI used by HUD includes Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties, which have higher median incomes than New York City. He also noted that some people believe the City actually needs an additional 400,000 units of affordable housing, not the touted 200,000 number. Williams has some lingering questions going forward: “I would like to see how much money the City is going to put in of the $41 billion…they’re going to be talking about [NYCHA] later on, and I’m looking forward to what [Councilman] Richie Torres has to say about that.” 

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Filed under Affordable Housing, City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio

Following Mike’s Lead

Published in City & State

Even the most ardent critics of former mayor Michael Bloomberg would concede that PlaNYC was a landmark moment for municipal environmentalism.

Unveiled in 2007, the initiative pushed for the planting of one million trees, increased bike lanes and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other changes.

But despite his best efforts, Bloomberg did not entirely fulfill his dream of a gleaming green metropolis. His Manhattan congestion pricing plan met a painful death in Albany, where his brook-no-arguments style did not endear him to state legislators. Naysayers labeled it a regressive tax on the working class, though it would have been a valuable new source of revenue for the MTA, and also would have reduced carbon emissions. This stumble notwithstanding, PlaNYC receives praise from unlikely quarters.

“I tell people, ‘If you can’t stand Bloomberg, even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you don’t like anything else he did … you have to give the devil his due,’ ” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and a former Bloomberg official.

Even current Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has certainly never been hesitant to criticize his predecessor, praised Bloomberg’s environmental efforts during his campaign.

“I think Bloomberg’s broad vision of the environment in New York City is something I agree with,” de Blasio said in an interview with The Nation.

Now mayor, De Blasio seems willing to keep the baby and throw out the bathwater when it comes to Bloomberg’s legacy on the environment. He established some ambitious objectives during his campaign with his program “A Framework for a Sustainable City,” including ending the use of Styrofoam by the city’s government and achieving zero waste.

De Blasio is also recycling some of Bloomberg’s staff. Emily Lloyd has returned as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, the same role she served in under Bloomberg from 2005 to 2008. DEP COO Kathryn Garcia was appointed commissioner of the Department of Sanitation, and Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency architect Dan Zarrilli is now the director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

One thing most activists agree on is that environmental justice is about to have its moment in the sun under de Blasio. His rhetoric on inequality and wealth discrepancy folds well into environmental causes such as broader access to green spaces and a waste management plan that alleviates the burden on low-income neighborhoods.

“There are encouraging signs that a focus on environmental and quality of life issues will continue even if the priorities won’t be identical to Mayor Bloomberg’s,” said Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council. “It’s likely that environmental protection and sustainability issues will be reframed with a focus on advancing environmental programs that also address the administration’s equity concerns, and that’s fine. The important point is that the focus on sustainability that was begun by Mayor Bloomberg does not look like it will disappear.”

The environment might be a vague catch-all term, but one area of specific concern to coastal cities like New York is the flooding and unpredictable weather events that have been occurring with increasing frequency in recent years. In New York there is the added complication of the location of heavy industry along the waterfront, making those facilities particularly susceptible to flooding. A major criticism of the Bloomberg administration was its rezoning of waterfront areas for dense development—an approach which remains contentious.

“Williamsburg and Greenpoint are two prime examples: There’s a lot of construction on the waterfront— that’s not a bad thing,” said Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

Lewis added, “There are some neighborhoods in Staten Island and elsewhere where it’s going to be very hard to maintain these neighborhoods in terms of sea level rise over the long term. Places like the Rockaways and Oakwood Beach. Building near the water, not on the water, is still something that’s viable to do, and we’re not against that.”

De Blasio has the opportunity to concentrate on attainable and measurable goals like increasing low recycling rates and improving sanitation. He also faces the near existential crisis, however, of rebuilding in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Earlier this month, de Blasio announced changes to the Build It Back program, setting a clear target of starting construction on at least 500 homes and issuing 500 reimbursement checks by the end of this summer. He also called for better engagement with the community and a desire to cut through red tape between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city.

Also impacting New York City is Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to buy out homeowners living in areas of New York City particularly susceptible to future storms. That plan requires federal approval. Most activists support the idea, but they think all levles of goverment should take a smarter approach.

“It’s really a complicated mix of the desire to build a community back and the New York sprit of resiliency, but then there’s also climate change,” Bautista said. “And then you’ve got people—just because they’re homeowners doesn’t mean they’re rich: lower middle income families that own [houses] along the shoreline in Staten Island that can’t recoup the equity in their homes.”

“We really believe that all communities should be equipped and better able to handle extreme weather events,” says Emily Maxwell, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Urban Conservation Program. “And we would like to see the city pursue adaptation strategies that utilized nature and natural defenses or infrastructure, like natural shorelines and wetland barriers.”

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Filed under Climate Change, Environment, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Green Space, Mayor Bill de Blasio

HOT 97 DJs’ New York City Voter Registration Status Unclear

Published in City & State

Several of the hosts of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s favorite morning radio show on Hot 97 appear to not be registered to vote, at least according to public records.

In an ongoing effort to portray himself as a man of the people, Mayor de Blasio has made several appearances on The Hot 97 Morning Show on hip-hop and R&B radio station Hot 97, engaging a much different demographic than his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, who preferred the more buttoned-down John Gambling on AM radio.

De Blasio has appeared on The Morning Show three times since becoming mayor, and once as a candidate. The Morning Show deejays Ebro Darden, Peter Rosenberg, DJ Cipha Sounds (a,k.a Luis Diaz), and Laura Stylez (a.k.a. Laura Estilo) have discussed a wide range of issues with the mayor from charter schools, to stop-and-frisk, to decriminalizing marijuana, and of course universal preschool. However, after a search through Board of Elections records, City & State found that only Rosenberg is registered to vote in New York City.

When City & State reached out to Hot 97 to confirm these findings, the station’s publicist and digital communications manager Lindsay Salandra claimed that both Darden and Estilo are registered to vote as well.

“You’re not finding voting registration information because you have incorrect government names,” Salandra wrote in response to C&S’ email inquiry.

She added that she was not sure about Diaz’s registration status because “I have not gotten a chance to speak with him.”

When asked to provide the hosts’ correct names, Salandra replied that she was not authorized to release them. Salandra did not respond to a follow-up email requesting documentation to prove that both Darden and Estilo were registered to vote.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Filed under Elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio

Good Feelings, Vague Ideas at the ANHD Annual Community Development Conference

This Thursday, the ANHD’s 4th Annual Community Development Conference was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan.  They keynote speaker was Vicki Been, Mayor de Blasio’s pick to run the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, commonly known as HPD.

Mrs. Been emphasized several times in her remarks that she could not provide many specifics about Mayor de Blasio’s housing plans – yet.  “I’m not withholding details.  But they’re really honestly in progress,” she said, referring to the Mayor’s planned May 1st affordable housing announcement.

She did, however mention broad ideas that echoed throughout the all-day conference, such as allowing higher density building, preserving current affordable housing, and taking a more holistic approach to neighborhoods. This includes aspects of community life like employment, healthcare, and literacy, rather than just aiming for that famous 200,000 number that Mayor de Blasio has touted.

Mandatory inclusionary zoning, a de Blasio idea , merited its own panel.  Mandatory inclusion would require developers to include affordable housing units rather than continue to offer them incentives that currently exist. Josiah Madar of the Furman Center talked about the bureaucratic problems that developers currently face.  “The administrative burden frightens or at least turns off some possible participants.  Developers always complain about the city dragging its feet…we’ve heard that HPD’s approval can delay projects.  Paying more attention to admin is a way to grease the rails.” Another panelist, Seth Ullman, spoke about the trouble measuring the impact of voluntary inclusionary zoning that is already in place.  “Trying to evaluate how the programs work has been a challenge because it’s not administered in a way that ‘s entirely transparent.  We can’t see where every unit that’s been built on either side – affordable or for profit – has gone.”

Frank Lang, the Housing Director at St. Nicks Alliance, spoke about land prices.  “The price of land is going to be a real determinate.  There’s a lot of people who own land, and have owned it for many generations, and they have an expectation of what the price is. During the real estate bubble bursting, we saw those people were willing to wait out the four years until they could get the price of land per square foot that they expected in 2007.” Josiah Madar elaborated on land use problems for affordable housing by taking aim at New York City’s low property taxes. “Things are just strange here, where the city can’t or won’t raise more money through the property tax where it could.  Where people have extremely low effective tax rates. “

Later on, at a Future of Affordable Housing Development in NYC panel, the tone was celebratory, but remained vague.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams emphasized points that had been made throughout the conference.   “We need to go further to preserve even more units… The unions have come to the table and are speaking with the housing advocacy world…Looking at AMI (area median income) is also important to me….inclusionary mandatory zoning is important but only if you put it in context with everything else that is going on. “ He added later “I don’t mind developers making money, I just don’t want them making all the money.”

The new head of the New York City Housing Authority, Shola Olatoye, was clear that she sees a new day for her organization.  “The Mayor has really brought NYCHA into the conversation, and removed us from that island status.“

When asked about the role that intermediaries had to play to ensure that neighborhoods, not deals, were the focus of housing policy, Denise Scott of LISC NYC strongly endorsed third party mediators.  “I call for a third of it (the capital budget) to be set aside for not-for-profit development.”  The audience applauded. “Your work is grounded in a mission that goes beyond the house, it is focused on the whole family.”

Scott, however, also offered a kind of concession to the long-haul fight for affordable housing in New York City. “At the end of the day, we are willing to say that we’re willing to take fewer units for long term affordability.  I think that needs to be part of the reality.”


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Filed under Housing, Mayor Bill de Blasio


Published in City and State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to hammer away on key education issues that have taken center stage lately, affirming his commitment to funding universal pre-K with state budget funds while portraying Mayor Bill de Blasio as his foe in the fight over charter schools.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Association for a Better New York in New York City, Cuomo reiterated his support of the charter school movement, the state’s Common Core standards, teacher evaluations and rewarding high-achieving teachers with bonuses.

On Common Core, the governor responded to the growing backlash against the standards by saying that he would delay any repercussions for low-scoring students. Earlier this week, a panel appointed by Cuomo recommended that tests tied to Common Core not be included on student records, but that they still be used in teacher evaluations.

“[It] was rolled out rather quickly and it caused a lot of anxiety,” Cuomo said. “This year we’re looking to continue the advancement of Common Core, but not count the test scores against the students for a couple of years while they actually adjust to it.”

Cuomo also emphasized his position on the simmering disagreement between himself and de Blasio over how to fund universal prekindergarten in the city, painting the conflict as one between New York City and the rest of the state. De Blasio has called for a tax on the wealthy, which would have to be approved in Albany, while the governor has insisted that a statewide expansion be paid for with state funds.

“I want it not just for the children of Manhattan, I want it for the children of Buffalo, and the children of Rochester and the children of Syracuse,” Cuomo said, as the ABNY crowd applauded rapturously. He added, “Rather than any one city having to come up with a tax to pay for it, the state will pay for it because it’s a fairer way of doing it.”

At a press conference afterwards, Cuomo addressed the issue even more bluntly: “The mayor’s point that a tax is more permanent is not true.”

During a Q&A with the audience, Cuomo elaborated on his support for the charter school movement with a remark about mayoral control over the school system, feeding into the “de Blasio versus charter movement” narrative that has been bandied about over the last two weeks. De Blasio recently rescinded several charter schools co-location in city public schools, although most of the co-locations approved by the previous administration will go forward.

“The way we’ve now written the law, we give tremendous power to the mayor, and it’s possible for a mayor [to say], ‘I don’t like charter schools, I’m not going to…fund any new charter schools,’ and it’s possible that the whole movement would dry up,” Cuomo said. “I think that would be bad for the city and bad for the state.”

In an earlier interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer today, Cuomo explicitly stated that he did not approve of “a system statewide where charter schools can be aborted by any mayor or any city.” He added that he hoped the state would enact a policy preventing that from happening.

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Filed under Budget, Charter Schools, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Benefited From D’Amato Money

Published in City & State

New York City is still in the halcyon days of a Bill de Blasio victory, and news coverage abounds about the sharp left turn the city has taken. It’s ironic, then, that as a candidate de Blasio was quietly collecting contributions from employees, business partners and family members of former U.S. senator and current lobbyist Alfonse D’Amato, the man whom many still view as the most powerful Republican in the state. While D’Amato was supporting Thompson, his associates were funding a de Blasio victory before the primary had even taken place. A total of $117,845 D’Amato-connected money was donated to the de Blasio campaign, $107,520 of which was donated before the primaries.

D’Amato, a founding partner of Park Strategies consulting group, openly supported Bill Thompson during the primaries, bundling $69,800 and even going so far as to stump for him in key Orthodox sections of Crown Heights on the Sunday before the election. At the same time that D’Amato was openly favoring Thompson, however, D’Amato-connected money was being directed towards Thompson’s rival and future mayor-elect.

Park Strategies has produced two big-money de Blasio bundlers: managing directors David Poleto and Joel Giambra. Poleto raised $7,850; Giambra, $28,350. Poleto has donors that include a Park Strategies vice president, John Zagame ($400), as well as Alfonse’s relative Amy D’Amato—who through Poleto donated $2,000 to de Blasio from 2011 to 2012, and another $2,475 after the primaries. Poleto himself gave only a few hundred to de Blasio, but Deborah Poleto gave $3,950. In de Blasio’s previous campaign for public advocate in 2009, D’Amato’s wife, Katuria, maxed out, donating $4,950.

Park Strategy employees with more modest contributions to de Blasio include Kraig Siracuse ($200), Ryan Moses ($1,000), Robert McBride ($2,500, after the primary), Peter Molinaro ($150), Joe Rossi ($100) and former Assembly Speaker Melvin Miller ($400, after the primary).

Another source of D’Amato money comes from Anthony Bonomo, owner of Physicians Reciprocal Insurance, and a client of Park Strategies.  His fundraising includes $2,475 from Greg Serio, a partner and managing director at Park Strategies. Bonomo co-hosted a McCain fundraiser with D’Amato in 2008, and helped direct funds to the Paterson campaign. He bundled a total of $44,550 for de Blasio.

Bonomo is also the link to Howard Fensterman, who bundled $20,400 for de Blasio. Fensterman raised money from Anthony Bonomo, as well as Jaclyn and Julianne Bonomo.

These donors are especially noteworthy, as they have no obvious ties to New York City. Bonomo’s company is based in Roslyn, on Long Island. Giambra is the former Erie County executive, and all the money he raised is from the Buffalo area. This disconnect makes it all the more likely they raised funds for de Blasio on behalf of D’Amato, a lobbyist who depends very heavily on cultivating a good relationship with city government.

Leonard Litwin, a longtime D’Amato associate and lobbyist, also maxed out at $4,950 to de Blasio. Charles Modica, founder and chancellor of St. George’s University, maxed out to de Blasio at $4,950, and previously donated to the Friends of Senator D’Amato committee. More significantly, however, he and D’Amato have a history dating back to at least 1983, when D’Amato brokered a deal to get 350 St. George students temporarily admitted to the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University and St. Barnabas in New Jersey after a coup in Grenada.

When asked about D’Amato’s involvement with contributions to the de Blasio campaign, Park Strategies Managing Director Dave Catalfamo emphasized that D’Amato was a supporter of Thompson.

“One of the partners in our firm, David Poleto, has a long-standing relationship with de Blasio, and did in fact help raise money on his behalf, and has done so before, throughout de Blasio’s public career,” Catalfamo said. “That’s where that tie comes from.” The de Blasio campaign did not return a request for comment.

A three-term senator, D’Amato lost his re-election bid in 1998 to Charles Schumer, but has maintained his status as a major political player. After his Senate career D’Amato started Park Strategies, and went into consulting and lobbying. He also appears on the Fox News Channel and Bloomberg Radio, and is featured as one of the “Wise Guy” commentators on NY1.

As for Park Strategies, its list of clients is impressive, and directors lobby on the national, state and city levels. D’Amato was once famously paid $500,000 in 2003 for making a single phone call to the MTA chairman on behalf of a building owner. In 2013 Park Strategies is on record in New York City as lobbying for eight companies, one of which (CGI Technologies and Solutions) is currently listed as having business before the city. Of 110 clients on the state level for the 2013–14 year, 15 have business before the city, and of the 26 clients on the national level, three have business before the city.

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Filed under Elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Money