Archive for the tag 'michael bloomberg'

Photo by Yuriy Semenov

New York City officials are claiming they need additional revenue to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure, and they’re looking to collect on yet another water rate hike.

That’s on top of a 5.6 percent hike in water rates this summer, and a seven percent increase the year before. In fact, if I’m reading this chart correctly, water rates have gone up more than 165 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002, with increases every single year, and double digit jumps from 2008 to 2011.

But, hey, at least they’re considering a “smaller” increase for next year.

“We want the rate increase that goes into effect next July to be smaller than before,” Steve Lawitts, the chief financial officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, told the Daily News.

Public Advocate and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio has previously depicted the increases as a “backdoor tax,” a device the city is using to not just cover costs, but to pay bills elsewhere in the budget. That has allowed Mayor Michael Bloomberg to claim he hasn’t raised taxes, when in fact city residents are still paying hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more a year – and your City Council rep doesn’t even get a vote on it.

The New York City Water Board usually holds rate increase meetings in the spring. Stay tuned.

Source: nysenate.gov

Source: nysenate.gov

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is set to scale back a series of unpopular fines that many business owners believed were overly aggressive and unfair. Capital New York is reporting that fine-carrying summonses, many related to improper signage, would be reduced to tickets with no penalties for the first offense.

The battle over the unpopular fines came to an ugly head earlier this month when we reported on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) effort to increase revenue by hiring more inspectors to doll out fines. DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz testified to the City Council that he doubled the DCA’s revenue through this maneuver. While Mintz was honest about the DCA’s practice, he drew fire from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who called for his resignation.

In response to all the negativity over the fines, the Bloomberg administration announced that a new system to be proposed to the Council which would create “cure periods,” where businesses can correct minor errors before receiving fines. Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, elaborated on the new initiative.

“When an individual or business breaks the law, violations are key to ensuring behaviors that could potentially threaten the health and safety of New Yorkers aren’t repeated. While the city cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce, in cases where corrective action can be taken without lasting damage, cure periods can go a long way in helping small businesses and individuals follow the law before being fined for violations,” Erskine said.

Ersinke noted that had these reforms been in place during the 2013 fiscal year, businesses would have saved $3.8 million dollars.

This comes in close succession to yesterday’s news about Councilman Vincent Gentile’s effort to reform the restaurant inspection system, which is also notorious for driving business owners bonkers over inconsistent inspector practices.

Seems things might get a little bit better for our small businesses, yes?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the continuing government shutdown could cause serious delays in distributing Superstorm Sandy relief money. The New York Daily News is reporting that Bloomberg and mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota all expressed the same opinion that the shutdown could harm people and businesses trying to recover from the storm.

With much of the federal workforce furloughed, aid money flowing from Community Development Block Grants is likely to be slowed due to the lack of government workers pushing it through the system.

In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg described dire consequences if the shutdown doesn’t end soon.

“Right now, Washington’s gridlock is doing real harm to our nation’s economy – and if they don’t get their acts together soon, New York City families, especially those who endured the worst from Hurricane Sandy, will feel real pain,” Bloomberg said, “If, for example, you’re a business owner in the Rockaways, this could mean a longer wait time to get grants and loans – prolonging what has been an already difficult and cumbersome process for so many.”

Bloomberg also said that politicians in Washington had lost sight of the fact that their disagreements were affecting the lives of real people, stating that, “Enough is enough.”

The Daily News described how both De Blasio and Lhota agreed that the gridlock in DC must come to an end, yet they both descended into partisan bickering over who was to blame:

“The Republicans in the House if they want to live up to the phrase patriotic should settle this problem now so the people in this country who have suffered from natural disasters don’t suffer more,” [de Blasio] said.

“Mr. Lhota is a Republican. He’s a proud republican. He is someone who’s been a Republican all his life. And his party continues to do things that hurt the interests of New York City. And I think that Republicans like him should have long ago fought back against the negative trends in their party. They should not have accepted it and they should have considered leaving the Republican Party,” he said.

“I don’t understand in this day and age how someone could continue to be a Republican and say that they want to help New York City move forward.”

Lhota condemned the shutdown and insisted trying to tie him to Republicans in Washington is unfair. “I’ve blasted the Congressional Republicans for their actions,” he said.

“While I may be a Republican, I don’t believe in what those Congressional Republicans are doing. They’re serving themselves, they’re not serving the people who elected them.”

Source: Redfishingboat (Mick-O) via Flickr

Source: Redfishingboat (Mick-O) via Flickr

The scourge of prescription painkiller abuse across the country continues to rise, and the mayor’s office and the NYPD are instituting a new pilot program in an effort to prevent fatal overdoses. Politicker is reporting that cops in Staten Island, where prescription painkiller abuse is the worst in the city, will be armed with anti-overdose medication to administer to people who are overdosing.

The statistics surrounding prescription pill abuse are alarming. Politicker reported that between 2000 and 2011, overdose deaths linked to prescription painkillers skyrocketed 267 percent, with 190 dying in 2012 alone. The new pilot program is starting in Staten Island because overdoses from the result of prescription painkillers are three times higher than other boroughs. Bloomberg explained the simple of idea behind the program:

We’re trying to give some police officers an antidote for overdose because the cops show up and somebody’s OD’ed … before a doctor can get there or an EMT,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced the plans on his weekly radio sit-down with WOR’s John Gambling. “Sometimes,” he added, “people can die.”…

“They’ve become a substitute for narcotics and it is an enormous problem,” he said, noting cases where people have held up drug stores or held up people leaving drug stores in search of pills.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly agreed that arming officers with naloxene, a nasal spray that serves as an anti-overdosing agent, might go a long way to save lives.

“Equipping officers to administer naloxene to overdose victims may mean the difference between life or death for individuals addicted to prescription painkillers.”

Politicker also noted that this latest initiative is part of the city’s greater effort to battle prescription painkiller abuse:

The new program is part of a larger effort by the city, which has been awarded the first grant of its kind from the Department of Justice to continue cracking down on the pills. The city also announced today that 35 hospitals have now adopted the voluntary restrictions limiting the number of opioid painkillers their emergency rooms can prescribe.

Bloomberg’s effort to curtail hospitals from offering too many painkillers was met with controversy as critics worried that it would punish poor and uninsured patients who use the emergency room as their primary care center. Bloomberg countered these arguments in an earlier Politicker report:

“The city hospitals we control, so … we’re going to do it and we’re urging all of the other hospitals to do it, voluntary guidelines. Somebody said, oh, somebody wrote, ‘Oh then maybe there won’t be enough painkillers for the poor who use the emergency rooms as their primary care doctor,’” the mayor said on his weekly radio show with John Gambling. “Number one, there’s no evidence of that. Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there’s nothing perfect … There’s nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn’t going to suffer, and it’s always the same group [claiming], ‘Everybody is heartless.’ Come on, this is a very big problem.”…

“We talk about drugs, heroin and crack and marijuana, this is one of the big outbursts–and it’s a lot worse around the country than it is here. It’s kids and adults getting painkillers and using them for entertainment purposes, or whatever field of purposes, as opposed to what they are designed for,” he explained. “If you break a leg, you’re going to be in pain, nothing wrong with getting something that reduces the pain. But if you get 20 days worth of pills and you only need them three days, there’s 17 days sitting there. Invariably some of the kids are going to find them, or you’re going to take them and get you addicted.”

buildback

Build It Back

The City is extending the registration date for its Build it Back initiative to make sure that all eligible Superstorm Sandy storm victims have a chance to partake in the program. According to a press release, the program has been extended until October 31.

Below is information about the program and details with links on how to apply before registration ends on October 31:

“With an influx of new registrants in the past two weeks, we are extending the deadline so that more New Yorkers have the opportunity to sign up for NYC Build it Back,” said Director Gair. “Registering online at www.nyc.gov or by calling 311 is easy and takes only a few minutes. I also want to thank all of the elected officials and organizations, who have joined us throughout this process, for their advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers impacted by this storm.”
NYC Build it Back is currently funded with approximately $648 million in Federal disaster recovery funds passed by Congress earlier this year, which included an initial $1.77 billion Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery allocation through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. NYC Build it Back was created to help New Yorkers still recovering from the storm return to permanent, sustainable housing through various options, including rebuilding and reimbursing for eligible out-of-pocket repair expenses.
After the initial registration, NYC Build it Back registrants meet with a Housing Recovery Specialist to help them complete the application process. Once eligibility is reviewed and confirmed, a visit will be scheduled to the registrant’s home to evaluate the damage and determine what repairs may need to be completed, including elevating homes when necessary. The registrant may then be presented with options that include:
•             Repair: A NYC Build it Back professional contractor can help eligible participants whose homes require minor to moderate repairs. Repairs to homes that have been substantially damaged, as defined by the NYC Build Code, would include elevation to at least two feet higher than the most recent FEMA flood maps. Registrants also have the option of selecting their own contractor within Federal and program guidelines.
•             Rebuild: If a home is substantially damaged and needs to be rebuilt, qualifying participants can choose a home model that is designed specifically for their community, uses the best available resiliency standards and is designed by a NYC Build it Back developer. Alternatively, registrants can choose their own architect and contractor to develop and build their homes within Federal and program guidelines.
•             Reimbursement: The City can also help participants recover eligible out-of-pocket costs for minor repairs already made to their homes that satisfy all Department of Housing and Urban Development and other requirements.
•             Acquisition: Some owners may want to voluntarily sell their homes and in some cases, the City will be able to work with communities to strategically redevelop these properties in a smarter, more resilient way. Housing Recovery Specialists will be able to explain these options.
NYC Build it Back complements the assistance already provided by FEMA, private insurance claims and other sources. Homeowners, landlords and cooperative and condominium owners with primary residences in the five boroughs are encouraged to apply to find out how they may be eligible for the program. Assistance will also be made available to qualifying low income and still displaced renters.
For more information or to register for the program, call 311 or www nyc.gov.
NYC Build it Back Registrations by Borough as of September 30th:
•             Manhattan: 236
•             Bronx: 193
•             Brooklyn: 6,974
•             Queens: 9,409
•             Staten Island: 4,981
About the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations
The Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations is committed to planning and implementing innovative and effective solutions to the housing needs caused by Hurricane Sandy. To this end, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Operations created and will administer NYC Build it Back, a program to assist residents in the five boroughs whose primary homes were damaged by the storm. Homeowners, landlords and tenants affected by Sandy who still have unmet housing needs are urged to register for NYC Build it Back by calling 311 and ask for NYC Build it Back or going to www.nyc.gov/builditback.
Four Sparrow Marsh, Flatbush Avenue near the Belt Parkway (Photo by Adrian Kinloch via Slate).

Four Sparrow Marsh, Flatbush Avenue near the Belt Parkway. (Photo by Adrian Kinloch via Slate)

English photographer Adrian Kinloch submitted a gorgeous photo essay detailing the strange fringe between the end of the city and the edge of nature, which is, apparently, a place called Southern Brooklyn. Kinloch’s dazzling photo essay, submitted to Slate, covers the areas near the Belt Parkway, Coney Island Creek, Mill Basin and Marine Park Beach and includes an interesting rumination on local history, environmental concerns and the unique way nature reabsorbs man-made objects.

One passage I found particularly interesting was Kinloch’s exploration of Coney Island Creek, where he touched on its history and the challenges the city faces in trying to clean it up:

For the barges of Coney Island Creek, it was containerized shipping, not the railways, that spelled the end of their working life. In the 1960s, their owners scuttled or burned the vessels, and they have been there ever since. Industry on the creek dates back as far as the 1660s, when Dirck De Wolfe opened his saltworks. The saltworks were burned to the ground, too, by furious locals after De Wolfe refused to let them pasture their cows nearby.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to clean up Coney Island Creek and its environs, restoring them to their original pristine state. But when I ran into some guys from the Army Corps of Engineers, they said this task is nearly impossible—if you move any of those rotting barges, all the diesel and toxic chemicals encased in the silt will escape up to the surface.

Interesting, yet depressing, stuff. To see all the images and read the entirety of Kinloch’s observations, click here.

Chair and miscellaneous objects, Marine Park Salt Marsh. (Photo by Adiran Kinloch via Slate)

Chair and miscellaneous objects, Marine Park Salt Marsh. (Photo by Adiran Kinloch via Slate)

Source: ebbandflowphotography via flickr.

Source: ebbandflowphotography via flickr.

In 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration raised the fees for residents looking to use City-run recreational facilities, including ball fields and tennis courts, looking for a bump in revenue. According to an exhaustive report by the Independent Budget Office (IBO), the increased fees not only failed to increase revenue but drove down membership across the city.

The numbers laid out by the IBO starkly portray the failure of Bloomberg’s bet that increased membership fees would increase revenues. The City was projecting that increasing fees would lead to $6.3 million in extra revenue but in the end, they only ended up with $1.1 million in extra revenue and decreased athletic facility activity across the city. The IBO laid out the specifics:

• With considerably higher fees at the start of the 2011 tennis season, the number of adult seasonal tennis permits sold by the city fell from 12,774 in 2010 to 7,265 in 2012, a decline of 43 percent. Single-play permits fell 46 percent, from 23,512 to 12,755 over the same period.

• Despite the decline in the number of adult permits sold, there was an increase in revenue because fees doubled for these permits. The city collected a total of $2.1 million from the sale of adult, junior, and senior tennis permits in 2012, but the revenue fell $1.3 million short of the projected increase.

• The number of recreation center memberships sold in 2012 declined by 52 percent to 46,047 with the doubling of membership fees for adults and seniors at the start of the fiscal year.

• With the decline in memberships, recreation center revenue remained flat in 2012 at $4.8 million, about $4.0 million below the Bloomberg Administration’s expectations.

• Although the number of permits sold for ballfields also fell in 2012 in response to the rise in fees, the resulting increase in revenue exceeded expectations by nearly 5 percent.

The full IBO report, which you can read in detail by clicking here, presents the fascinating insight into how the fee increase, in their opinion, ultimately ran counter to Bloomberg’s much publicized health initiatives:

The parks department raised its fees for tennis permits, recreation center memberships, and the use of ballfields as part of a citywide effort to close projected budget shortfalls. While anticipating some fall-off in usage, the city still projected that the new fee schedules would raise $6.3 million in additional revenue in 2012. The decline in sales of tennis permits and recreation center memberships was far steeper than expected, however, and the gain in revenue totaled roughly $1.1 million—a fraction of what had been expected.

Perhaps equally troubling, the sharp drop-off in parks usage runs counter to the Bloomberg Administration’s anti-obesity and other health policy initiatives.

bridge

The borough of Brooklyn has a serious bridge problem, as 240 of them, which is more than half, need serious repairs, according to a new report. The New York Daily News is reporting that some of the worst bridges in the borough include the seven bridges along the Belt Parkway that are in the process of rehabilitation.

Of the 240 Brooklyn bridges cited for serious repair, 15 were designated as “fracture critical” and “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. Bridge expert Barry LePartner told the Daily News that analysis such as this spells bad news.

“Every time you see a bridge classified as structurally deficient and fracture critical it means that bridge could fall at a moment’s notice,” LePartner said, ““It’s extremely dangerous for people going over these bridges.”

The Daily News reported that in the time of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reign as mayor, the federal government has given New York City $6 billion for bridge repair with an estimated $1 billion designated for Brooklyn. A majority of that money has gone to the Brooklyn Bridge ($500 million) and the seven bridges of the Belt Parkway ($365 million) but experts say that more money and effort are needed to repair and restore many of the crossways, many of which were built over 70 years ago:

A large number of the bad bridges date back to the 1930s and 40s, and take years to fix.

For example, it has been four years now since the city undertook a $365 million project to rebuild seven crumbling bridges along the Belt Parkway. Those crossways carry an estimated 150,000 cars a day through Brooklyn and Queens to John F. Kennedy Airport and Nassau County to the east, and to the Gowanus Expressway and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the west.

Those bridges are located at the Paerdegat Basin, Gerritsen Inlet, and by Bay Ridge Ave., as well by the Fresh Creek Basin and Rockaway Parkway in Queens.

Councilman Lew Fidler told the Daily News that the city was working to repair the bridges but that the issue is serious and costly.

“We all know those bridges are the worst of the worst. Those bridges have launched the careers of so many personal injury lawyers,” Fidler told the Daily News.

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a common theme circulating in the social and political atmosphere has been one of defiance. The message has been to rebuild and redevelop, even in the most vulnerable coastal communities. A report in Mother Jones is arguing that the attitude of continually trying to defy nature is costly, risky and could very well backfire despite billions in planned improvements.

In their analysis, Mother Jones target comments made by prominent political leaders and suggest that “retreating” from the coastline might be a more a realistic option:

Retreat needs to be considered not as a defeatist last-resort, but as proactive strategy needed in some places.

Take New York City, for example, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed 257 initiatives to be pursued over the next 10 years at an estimated $20 billion. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city “will not retreat from the waterfront.” But it will be hard to stand by this categorical commitment as sea levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $400 million home-buyout program, of which a meager $170 million has been HUD-approved. Only homes with damage more than 50 percent of their value are eligible. The Oak Beach community in Staten Island has applied as a pilot program for a community-based buyout, but hasn’t yet been approved. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging rapid rebuilding while also proposing a limited buyout program. But with no funding set aside for it, he has made clear he prefers to rebuild rather than retreat.

The report lays out the case that rising flood insurance premiums coupled with expensive new building regulations laid out by FEMA create unfavorable options for homeowners trying to live in coastal communities. Previously, we had reported on the new flood lines drawn by FEMA that will drastically increase costs for homeowners in vulnerable areas. For example, if you have a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, and cannot meet FEMA’s new building regulations, you may have to pay $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year, but the cost of doing so will be expensive.

It is because of these reasons that the Mother Jones report is advocating other options like buyouts, curtailing development and fixing the infrastructure:

These options should include support for buyouts in mid-Atlantic communities, at least for coastal and estuary locations that are either at elevations of ten feet or less above the local mean higher high tide or 5 feet above the latest mapped FEMA 1 percent per year base flood elevations, whichever is higher. Once buyouts at these elevations are secured, they should progress to higher elevations.

Disallow new residential development in those low-lying elevations unless it is flood-adapted (safely moored and floatable or substantially raised with raised or floodable utility connections). With urgency, local building codes need to be re-written to take this into account, since those specifications don’t yet exist.

Know that flood-protective structures—sea gates, levees, or walls—have limits. To start, sea levels will inevitably surpass their finite design heights. But before that ever happens, they introduce their own collateral hazards. A barrier system meant to protect an estuary or river with considerable discharge could flood communities behind the protective systems.

Develop a set of land-use priorities. Infrastructure, including transportation networks, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, energy supply and distribution systems, utilities, and public health facilities demand the highest priorities for adaptation, whether by protectionaccommodation (some utility distribution systems could be made submergible; other system elements could be raised or made floatable); or by retreat to higher ground. In any case, for this essential infrastructure, higher flood standards need to be considered (such as the 0.2%/year flood elevations), and margins for sea level rise must be added that are in a time horizon commensurate with the expected lifetime of the facility itself. New rights of way will need to be relocated from low-lying areas to higher elevations.

The report even goes as far to suggest creating alternatives to subway systems, which they believe are too vulnerable to constant predicted future flooding, calling for an overhaul of the century old rail system.

Interesting stuff. Whether or not you accept the recommendations in this report, the critical point is that the city is at a crossroads with billions of federal dollars to spend on potential solutions. It is up to our political leaders, engineers and city planners to make sure that they are covering every angle of the recovery process and make decisions that mitigate the full impact of future natural disasters.

Source: New York City Council via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Source: New York City Council via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Paul Podhaizer, a beloved local civic and political leader, was honored with a street renaming in Coney Island. According to a report by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Podhaizer’s name will be immortalized at the northeast corner of Seabreeze Avenue and West Fifth Street.

Podhaizer, who passed away in 2010, was the Democratic district leader in the 46th Assembly District, a member of Community Board 13, vice president of Temple Beth Abraham and chairman of the tenants’ council in Brightwater Towers. He was described as a person who worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the residents in his neighborhood.

The recognition was bestowed by Councilman Domenic Recchia, who sponsored the legislation calling for the street renaming. Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the legislation into law earlier in the year. Recchia expressed great admiration for Podhaizer at the street renaming dedication.

“I am privileged to rename a street in honor of Paul Podhaizer. Paul’s love of this community was second to none and the contributions he made to improve the lives of people in Brighton Beach and Coney Island will live on for many years to come,” Recchia said.

Ruth, Pohaizer’s wife, died earlier this year. Ruth and Paul were survived by their sons, Stewart and Alan.

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