Archive for the tag 'michael bloomberg'

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

BETWEEN THE LINES: For more than a decade, Michael R. Bloomberg governed the Big Apple. Entering politics after years as a business entrepreneur, he adapted to the process and departs with conspicuous accomplishments. To paraphrase an iconic line from a Grateful Dead song: It’s been a long, sometimes contentious, yet triumphant trip.

Some Election Day exit polls indicated that more than half of those surveyed approved of Bloomberg as mayor, but they also felt it was time the city had a new direction. And while no one can predict the future, a change is gonna come.

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Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

A federal judge has come down hard on the outgoing Bloomberg administration, ruling that the city has inadequate plans for helping the disabled evacuate should a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy strike the city again. WNYC is reporting that Judge Jesse Furman’s ruling came from a lawsuit waged by the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled who argued that the city violated the Americans with Disability Act.

According to Furman, the city’s plans for the disabled in case of a major emergency were insufficient.

“Most significantly, the city’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services,” Furman wrote in his ruling.

WNYC listed three crucial foundations of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled’s lawsuit that Furman agreed with:

  • Many of the evacuation shelters were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs;
  • There was inadequate transportation to help disabled people evacuate, especially from high-rises;
  • Emergency officials had no plan to find and rescue those trapped after an emergency.

While Furman came down hard on the Bloomberg administration as far as the disabled go, he did praise them for doing an otherwise “outstanding” job when it came to preparing for future catastrophes.

The Bloomberg administration tried to hold the ruling in a positive light in a statement:

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s conclusions, we are gratified it recognized that the City’s extensive planning is impressive, and the efforts and valor of those responding to emergencies have been ‘extraordinary.’ Planning for the needs of people with disabilities has always been and remains a priority for the City. We are continuing to review this decision and assess our next steps.”

Here’s hoping that city administrators take this ruling seriously and find a way to adequately accommodate the city’s disabled should another disaster strike.

Are you disabled or have disabled family or friends that were in the evacuation zone during Superstorm Sandy? What was your experience like?

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Senator Charles Schumer sent a message to anxious New Yorkers, still waiting to receive repairs and funds for their Superstorm Sandy devastated homes: the money is coming. Newsday is reporting that Schumer promised that the city will receive $6.3 billion in aid in 2014, a figure that will hopefully address the cash shortages for the Sandy-related projects of 2013.

Last week, we reported that city officials with the Bloomberg administration were worried that the “Build it Back” program was short about $1.9 billion. Schumer is now declaring that in 2014, of the $6.3 billion heading the city’s way, $1.4 billion will be used directly for homeowners affected by Sandy, nearly covering the shortage. Newsday reported on comments made by Schumer at a press conference promising the flow of federal dollars and acknowledged the hiccups in the process:

“The spigot is now open,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan. “A year from now, people will feel a whole lot better about the Sandy process than they do today.”

He acknowledged frustration with the pace of spending this year, blaming red tape and the need to establish new programs to disburse the funds. “It should’ve been quicker,” he said.

NBC News reported more fully on the money breakdown:

He said $2.5 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to New York communities in 2014 to pay for permanent projects as well as reimbursement for repairs already done.

Additionally, Schumer expects at least $1.5 billion in storm-related transportation projects in New York to receive funding.

Smaller pots of money will go to fund coastal protection projects, green infrastructure and health-related projects.

Schumer said another $207 million will be allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan.

If Schumer’s words prove true, it looks like Sheepshead Bay could expect a good year come 2014. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

The city announced that it might not have enough money to cover all the 24,000 applicants of the “Build it Back” program, leaving officials scrambling for solutions to address the needs of thousands of homeowners devastated by Superstorm Sandy. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the city is approximately $1.9 billion short on funds.

Currently, the city has $648 million to spend on housing repairs while it is estimated that $2.6 billion will be needed to cover all the homeowners that have applied for assistance. The Journal described the breakdown of the federal money allocated to the city and addressed the fears of officials in coming up with the extra cash:

So far, the city has been given about $1.8 billion in federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which pays for the program. It decided to spend the $648 million on housing, about $700 million on resiliency measures and about $300 million on grants to stricken businesses.

With $648 million, the “Build it Back” program can rebuild about 4,000 homes for lower-income people and wouldn’t be able to reimburse for repairs already made, according to the city’s rebuilding office.

“We don’t know how much money we are going to get. We got $1.8 billion. We know that’s not going to cover everybody or even going to be close,” said Cas Holloway, a deputy mayor.

Mr. Holloway and state officials said they expected further allocations from the federal government but weren’t certain of the timing or the amount. A spokeswoman for Housing and Urban Development didn’t respond to a request for comment.

City officials expressed increased frustration with the slow pace of Washington when it comes to distributing the necessary funds. Officials blamed the red tape of Washington for the turtle-like pace of aid distribution and already noted its consequences:

New York officials said federal rules, some implemented after Katrina, have required them to perform lengthy tasks, such as conducting environmental reviews on every home that must be repaired and determining whether rebuilding work is happening on Native American burial grounds…

The slow pace of distributing the portion of the money meant for housing has had widespread effects, New York officials said. Many who lost their homes during the storm have lived for months in hotels at government expense, stayed in cramped quarters with family and friends, paid rent on apartments while falling behind on mortgage payments or lived in homes without kitchens or other amenities.

Some said they had all but given up on getting help.

“Do I have any faith in it? Not really,” Nicole Chati, a resident of New Dorp Beach on Staten Island, said of city programs to help her rebuilding her home. “I’ve gone through so much of, ‘We’re going to help, we’re going to help,’ and it’s just not there.”

Brad Gair, the city’s housing recovery director, blamed the system for holdups.

“It’s very, very difficult to get this money. It’s very hard to explain to people. It’s very hard to keep their trust in a process like this,” Gair told the Journal. “We’ve got to fix this system.”

To date, only one homeowner, a Staten Island resident, has received funds through Build it Back’s acquisition program.

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)

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