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Bill de Blasio Endorses Pete Sikora for Assembly

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 09:25

Pete Sikora. (Photo: Sikora campaign)

Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Pete Sikora for an open Brooklyn Assembly seat this morning, wading into a heated race that touches his own political base.

In backing Mr. Sikora, Mr. de Blasio aligned himself with the Working Families Party’s chosen candidate over Democratic district leader Jo Anne Simon, a longtime activist and attorney who has worked closely with Mr. de Blasio in the past.

“I’m supporting Pete Sikora because he cares about diverse, inclusive and affordable Brooklyn neighborhoods, and has a record of getting results–from helping pass lead paint legislation to standing up to Wal-Mart,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “This election is personal for me; the neighborhoods of the 52 District are where I started my career in public office. As a father raising a family in Brooklyn, Pete Sikora is committed to the best for his community,”

Mr. de Blasio’s endorsement does not necessarily come as a surprise. Councilmen Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, along with State Senator Daniel Squadron and many labor unions, all endorsed Mr. Sikora. Mr. Sikora, an economist with the Communication Workers of America, also shares a consultant with Mr. de Blasio: Berlin Rosen, a liberal firm that has drawn criticism from the third candidate in the race, Doug Biviano, managed Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign.

Ms. Simon has her own political backers, including the retiring assemblywoman who represents the area, Joan Millman. The race is yet another place for the WFP, so successful last year, to flex their muscles: Ms. Simon has superior name recognition in the area and many more decades of activism under her belt, but labor unions are desperately trying to elect one of their own in Mr. Sikora. If Mr. Sikora prevails, it will also provide proof that the new mayor’s endorsement can help sway local political races.

Mr. de Blasio, though, has faced criticism in the district for his failure to preserve Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital as a full service hospital. During his campaign last year, Mr. de Blasio was arrested protesting the potential closure of LICH and boasted at a press conference earlier this year that he had “saved” the hospital, though LICH was recently sold to a developer that plans to replace the medical center with luxury condos and an emergency room and clinics.

The Assembly district, roping in several affluent northern Brooklyn neighborhoods, overlaps with Mr. de Blasio’s old City Council district, where he remains enormously popular.

The Democratic primary will be held September 9.

Ex-Governor Paterson Blames Heroin Crisis on Childhood Medication

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:58

Former Gov. David Paterson (Photo: Getty Images).

Former Gov. David Paterson told radio listeners today that he believes the recent spike in heroin overdose deaths is a consequence of over-medicating children.

On the heels of a city report showing that unintentional fatal drug poisonings increased by 41 percent between 2010 and 2013, with heroin involved in 54 percent of all deadly overdoses, Mr. Paterson blamed the epidemic on a culture of medicating children for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“There is a lot of misery, a lot of pain, and we are feeding it,” the former governor said on the Geraldo Rivera radio program. “I think there are more eight, nine, 10-year-olds who are on drugs that are legal.”

Mr. Paterson argued that putting children on substances like Ritalin and Adderall leaves them seeking chemical relief later in life.

“I think we’re over diagnosing, and the industry is making tons of money,” said Mr. Paterson. “When they get older, it’s habit to go and find some pharmaceutical solution.”

The city report makes no connection between the surge in heroin use and prescription drug use early in life, but a 2007 study conducted in Hungary did find disproportionate number of heroin users also had ADHD. The reasons for this correlation are unclear.

Many have theorized that the surge in heroin overdoses is influenced by people addicted to prescription painkillers like oxycodone, which have become more difficult and expensive to access amid crackdowns on the drugs, turning to heroin for a similar but cheaper high.

The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that the Bronx has the highest percentage of fatal heroin overdoses of all the boroughs last year, though Queens saw the greatest increase, with the rate of drug poisoning doubling between 2012 and 2013. Staten Island had the second highest percentage of fatal drug consumption, though the number of overdose deaths declined by 23 percent between 2011 and 2013–which the city credited to its effort to combat the heroin and prescription pill epidemic ravaging the southern end of the borough.

“After seeing a troubling increase in opioid overdose deaths in Staten Island, the Department took an aggressive approach to save lives. Over the last two years, the Health Department educated both health care providers and residents on the risks of these highly addictive drugs, and worked with community groups, syringe access programs, and first responders to increase overdose reversals with naloxone,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “Though we have seen progress in Staten Island, there is still much more work to be done.”

A similar initiative is underway in the Bronx.

According to the study, low-income neighborhoods have a higher rate of drug fatalities than the city at large, but wealthy areas saw the greatest increase in opioid-related deaths between 2010 and 2013–with most of the latter coming from abuse of painkillers rather than heroin. The city also found that the epidemic is affecting larger percentage of whites than other demographics.

“New York City residents of low-income neighborhoods and white New Yorkers have the highest heroin-involved mortality rates; however, 2013 data show the highest increases are among residents of the wealthiest neighborhoods and younger New Yorkers,” the study said.

Bill de Blasio Backs Felix Ortiz For Re-election

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 11:07

Felix Ortiz, center, beside Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray (Photo: Facebook).

Mayor Bill de Blasio is endorsing Assemblyman Felix Ortiz over an upstart rival.

Mr. de Blasio announced his endorsement today of the 20-year Brooklyn legislator–whose district consists of Sunset Park and Red Hook–in his re-election battle against local community board member Ceasar Zuniga. He cited Mr. Ortiz’s tenure, investments in infrastructure and support for universal prekindergarten as key reasons for backing him.

“Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz is a friend and ally on some of the most difficult issues we face today. With his experience in Albany, he has been a leader on finding solutions to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “He was a strong leader in our fight for Universal Pre-K. Felix is someone I count on to keep fighting for working families. A truly progressive advocate for working families, Felix will continue to be a key part of achieving progress on my agenda in Albany.”

Mr. Ortiz thanked the mayor for his backing, and praised him for his progressive vision.

“I’m honored to have the support of a mayor I’m proud to call a friend and ally,” said Mr. Ortiz. “Mayor Bill de Blasio has already made a positive and progressive impact on the issues that matter to working families in our city–whether it’s delivering funds for Sandy relief, building affordable housing, making our streets safer or keeping his promise to give every child in our city high-quality Pre-K.”

The assemblyman endorsed Mr. de Blasio when he was seeking the city’s highest office last year. He holds a substantial fund-raising and name recognition advantage over Mr. Zuniga, though the latter did recently secure the support of the New York State United Teachers Union.

Mr. Zuniga is the first serious challenge the two-decade incumbent has had in years, and is Mexican-American–a growing demographic in the district. Mr. Ortiz was born in Puerto Rico. Last year, the Mexican-American Carlos Menchaca was able to upset Puerto Rican incumbent Sara Gonzalez to win a City Council seat that overlaps heavily with Mr. Ortiz’s district.

Mr. de Blasio has been weighing in on local races of late. He recently endorsed State Senators Gustavo Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, along with a couple of Brooklyn Democrats seeking open seats.

John Sampson Denies He Was Expelled From Democratic Conference

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 08:40

State Senator John Sampson. (Screengrab: NY1)

The Democratic conference may have given State Senator John Sampson the boot last year, but the former majority leader apparently didn’t get the memo.

Mr. Sampson indignantly told a rival at a televised debate last night that he was never expelled from the Senate Democratic conference after he was indicted–even though Democrats really did kick him out.

“I said one word to the Dream Act. I said ‘aye’ to passing 1.5 billion dollars, billion dollars for pre-K. I said ‘aye’ to 30 million dollars for additional tuition aid,” Mr. Sampson said on NY1, touting his accomplishments.

“You’ve been expelled from your caucus,” Sean Henry, a Democratic opponent, shot back.

“I have not been expelled from my caucus, you know what–” Mr. Sampson said. Mr. Henry tried again: “You’ve been expelled from the caucus, John.”

“Excuse me, I have not been expelled. Excuse me, do I represent my caucus or do I represent the people,” Mr. Sampson said. “I represent the people.”

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats confirmed to the Observer today what was widely reported last year: that Mr. Sampson, after he was indicted for embezzling money from foreclosure sales he oversaw as a court-appointed referee, was expelled. Mr. Sampson was stripped of his committee assignments, severely diminishing his clout in Albany. (Mr. Sampson was indicted again this year for lying to FBI agents.)

It was a stunning fall for Mr. Sampson, once the most powerful Democrat in the state legislature when he briefly served as majority leader. Another former Democratic majority leader, State Senator Malcolm Smith, also has no caucus after he was indicted on unrelated charges last year.

Mr. Sampson is facing Mr. Henry and Dell Smitherman, a former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, in the Democratic primary for the eastern Brooklyn district. Though he has struggled to raise money and Mr. Smitherman is supported by a wide array of labor unions, Mr. Sampson still has superior name recognition in the area. The Brooklyn Democratic Party, now based in the district, is also supporting Mr. Sampson and hoping to stave off the influence of the labor-backed Working Families Party.

The Democratic primary will be held September 9.

Scott Stringer: ‘I Don’t Work for This Mayor’

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 15:22

Comptroller Scott Stringer. (Photo: Facebook)

Even as other elected officials rallied around Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer continued to criticize the mayor for failing to hand over universal prekindergarten contracts for review–and vowed to go it alone in holding the administration accountable if necessary.

“Sometimes it’s going to be lonely. Sometimes the establishment is going to criticize me. I understand that. I knew that when I ran for this office. And I said the following: I will work with the administration, and believe me I have, but I will also be fiercely independent. I am not going to back down or shrink from my charter-mandated responsibilities,” Mr. Stringer told the Observer during a press conference in his offices Thursday.

Mr. Stringer sounded the alarm yesterday afternoon when he announced just 141 of more than 500 new universal prekindergarten had been sent to his office for review, just a week before school is set to begin. The mayor’s office has dismissed the issue, pointing out contracts are routinely reviewed after school starts and that several agencies have reviewed pre-K sites for safety. This afternoon he rallied Democratic politicians to stand beside him in lauding pre-K and downplaying Mr. Stringer’s concerns.

But in what is the first significant break between the mayor and a prominent Democratic city elected official, Mr. Stringer doubled down on the issue today.

“I am calling on City Hall to tell me when we will be receiving the 500 contracts. I want a due date. I want it now. I want them to stop playing games. I want them to stop trying to tell you what you don’t want to hear,” Mr. Stringer said. “I appreciate the hard work that’s gone on, but now we need the work, we need the work product. We need it now. We need to have the documents and I’m demanding to receive the documents.”

The pre-K centers can legally still open next week even without the contracts being registered by Mr. Stringer. But he vowed his fight wouldn’t end with the first day of class–and repeatedly emphasized his independence and his willingness to push back against City Hall on the issue.

“At the end of the day, I don’t work for this mayor. I think you know that now, and I think you know that I’m independent,” he said.

At Mr. de Blasio’s press conference, just before Mr. Stringer’s, the mayor was joined by the Department of Investigation and other agencies that are tasked with pre-K oversight. But Mr. Stringer said internal investigation isn’t the same.

“Folks, they all work for the mayor. I work for the people of this city being the independent watchdog,” Mr. Stringer said. “That’s how it’s always been, and there’s a reason for it: we cannot allow a situation where we don’t put fresh eyes to these contracts.”

Mr. Stringer–who said not making public the contract issue would be “malpractice”–said though contracts have gone without review by the start of school before, he didn’t think that should have been allowed. He also called comparisons to prior years “apples and oranges,” since many of this year’s agencies are new to UPK.

“I have to tell you, I can’t sign off on it in a serious way unless I see those contracts,” Mr. Stringer, who has been a supporter of the mayor’s pre-K program, said.

While Mr. de Blasio argued that Mr. Stringer’s review had not turned up any serious violations the administration did not catch, Mr. Stringer said to argue that his review is not necessary “does not suggest a full understanding of what checks and balances are about.”

Though he vowed to be independent in his own relationship with the mayor, Mr. Stringer did not opt to criticize by name any other elected officials who might historically serve as a check or a critic to the mayor’s policies, who have rarely been out of step with Mr. de Blasio.

Public Advocate Letitia James stood alongside Mr. de Blasio Thursday, and at one point referred to Mr. Stringer as the “individual who is the author of that report.”

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito did not attend Mr. de Blasio’s press conference, and released a statement separate from the plaudits of other officials, vowing the council would “serve an important oversight role and will be monitoring its implementation closely.”

The comptroller, who has the highest approval rating of any city elected official according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, said he understood why so many of his colleagues were excited to participate in a roll-out of the program today, and to offer their support in a press release in which Mr. Stringer was notably absent. He, too, is excited about the program, he said–but was unwilling to be “asleep at the switch.”

Beyond potential problems with contracts–Mr. Stringer has previously cited an agency whose employee was targeted for child porn charges, though the administration proved that was resolved properly–Mr. Stringer said the delay in providing contracts also suggested “a disorganization that is troubling within the Department of Education.”

“When I don’t get this information, when 70 percent of the contracts have not gotten to my office and nobody has told me when they’re coming–come on folks, come on,” Mr. Stringer said. “Maybe you can get me the timeline, but it certainly wasn’t answered today.”

‘It’s Not News': de Blasio Administration Dismisses Stringer Pre-K Analysis

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 14:04

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

A pack of administration officials and allied pols joined Mayor Bill de Blasio today to aggressively dismiss a scathing analysis of the mayor’s prekindergarten program.

Mr. de Blasio, along with prominent administration and elected officials like Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, took turns rejecting the entire premise of Comptroller Scott Stringer’s analysis, which tarred the mayor’s Department of Education for not submitting for review more than 70 percent of the city’s contracts with pre-K providers.

The analysis, to Mr. de Blasio’s chagrin, also noted yesterday that one former employee of a vendor was charged with conspiracy to commit child pornography, and another vendor had six violations for failing to screen employees through the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Mistreatment.

“Show us where there’s a specific problem,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference in Brooklyn today, pointing out that both issues had been addressed already. “So the fact is we don’t have an example that’s been provided us by the comptroller’s office, something where there’s a specific danger that we have to address.”

“I don’t know what to make of it,” the mayor said of the analysis. “If the question is health and safety, I think it’s quite evident we’re focused and we’ve got a lot of serious professionals on it.”

More curtly, the mayor later added: “I don’t know why any public official would want to leave parents with a misimpression that there’s a danger when there isn’t any.”

Ms. James, a Democrat like Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Stringer, offered a ringing defense of the mayor.

“The person with the child pornography charge immediately terminated that employee. That was basically old news,” Ms. James declared.  “All of this obviously was acknowledged and the individual who is the author of that report obviously was informed of all that and that’s why I stand with this administration because I know they are dedicated to excellence: nothing less, nothing more than pure excellence.”

The press conference, held at a Vinegar Hill public school to announce that the city had registered more than 50,000 children for Mr. de Blasio’s pre-K expansion this September, was remarkable for its deeply personal nature. Many of the comments from the mayor and his administration appeared aimed at Mr. Stringer: even the selection of Ms. Brewer as a speaker seemed to serve as a shot across the bow at the comptroller, a former Manhattan Borough president and Upper West Side assemblyman. Earlier today, Mr. de Blasio singled out an Upper West Side councilwoman, Helen Rosenthal, to send out a statement to affirm that the city’s pre-K roll-out was exemplary.

But Mr. Stringer, in an interview yesterday with the Observer, characterized Mr. de Blasio’s rapid pre-K expansion as an admirable but flawed exercise.

“I am a huge supporter of UPK [universal prekindergarten], and I praise this mayor for taking on the initiative. This has an amazing potential to transform the educations of so many kids,” Mr. Stringer said. “And UPK is that historic opportunity, which is why I think the Department of Education has not lived up to the mayor’s expectations.”

Administration officials argued Mr. Stringer had mischaracterized the extent to which contracts have been submitted, pointing to the almost 100 percent of contracts that had been sent from the Administration for Children’s Services. Mr. de Blasio also said it wasn’t unprecedented for contracts to be registered after a program is underway, leaning on a statement from Peter Madonia, the former chief of staff to Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

“This issue of contracts not being signed by the beginning of school has traditionally always been an issue and as deputy chancellor under the former administration, I can tell you that we certainly started school with a large percentage of contracts that we knew were going to be signed off ultimately, but we not signed off at that time,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This is not new, it’s not news.”

This story originally and incorrectly referred to Mr. Stringer’s analysis as an audit.

Colton and Treyger to MTA: Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Riders

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:14

William Colton and Mark Treyger today. (Courtesy Photo)

Assemblyman William Colton and Councilman Mark Treyger called today for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to let bus and subway riders sleep tight–by letting them know within 24 hours when the agency discovers bedbugs on one of its transit lines.

Outside the Kings Highway N train in Brooklyn–the very line where the tiny, blood-sucking insects were discovered earlier this month–Mr. Colton announced that he would introduce a bill mandating that the MTA issue the same kind of warnings about bedbugs that it does about train delays and track issues. Mr. Treyger, the assemblyman’s protégé, said he would put up a resolution in the council backing Mr. Colton’s state legislation.

“Upon confirmation that a bedbug has been found, they should notify the public. Within a 24-hour period, the public should be aware so they can make a decision for the next day,” said Mr. Treyger.

The freshman councilman argued that many riders cannot afford to treat a bedbug infestation in their home, and that failing to inform riders in a timely manner could potentially open the MTA to lawsuits. Mr. Treyger said that he knew constituents who had to eliminate the insects from their apartments by destroying their beds and clothing.

“The horror stories that came of that was horrific. Not every family has the ability, has the opportunity, has the capability to throw out all their clothes and furniture,” said Mr. Treyger. “If people come home with bedbugs from the train or on the bus, there will be economic consequences and the MTA will have liability.”

Mr. Colton suggested that the failure to apprise commuters of a bedbug presence could cause a panic.

“If they don’t let the public know, there’s going to be rumors that may or may not be founded,” said Mr. Colton.

The legislator continued that commuters needed to know immediately about the discovery of even one bug, so as to adjust their habits.

“They may make a decision to stand rather than sit, they may decide to look closely at the bench they’re thinking about sitting on, they may decide to take another line,” said Mr. Colton. “If they have the information, they’re in a better position to make a choice.”

Police Union Head Trying to Keep DNC Out of Brooklyn Is a Republican

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:34

Edward Mullins. (Screengrab: NY1)

A prominent police union president infuriated Mayor Bill de Blasio this week when he urged Democrats to keep the Democratic National Convention out of Brooklyn.

That president, it turns out, is a registered Republican.

Edward Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, is a Republican who lives in Port Washington, Long Island, a Nassau County Board of Elections spokesman confirmed to the Observer. In a letter published in the New York Times and New York Post on Tuesday, Mr. Mullins blasted Mr. de Blasio’s DNC bid, arguing that the city was now too dangerous to host the 2016 convention and the mayor did not support police enough.

“While the Barclays Center is still new and glistening, the great city in which it stands is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety,” Mr. Mullins wrote. “Mayor de Blasio has not earned the right to play host to such an important event.”

Mr. de Blasio, who has made bringing the DNC to the Barclays Center a top priority, dismissed Mr. Mullins’ letter as a bargaining ploy to secure a better contract for his union. The mayor, a staunch Democrat, said Mr. Mullins’ letter was “irresponsible” and “fear-mongering.”

Mr. Mullins never mentioned in the letter that he is a Republican. Campaign finance records show Mr. Mullins has been an active political donor in the past, funneling $1,000 to a campaign committee for Ed Cox, the chairman of the State Republican Party, and a couple of out-of-state Republican politicians.

Jon Kyl, a former U.S. senator from Arizona, took $1,000 from Mr. Mullins in 2006. Will McBride, an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate in Florida, received $500 that same year. A 2012 story in a Florida newspaper about Mr. McBride said he supported privatizing prisons.

A spokesman for Mr. Mullins said his GOP ideology had nothing to do with his move to block the DNC from the overwhelmingly Democratic Brooklyn. (New York hosted the Republican National Convention in 2004.)

“In the letter Sgt. Mullins wrote in the New York Post and New York Times, he was expressing frustration that the NYPD has not received the support they needed from Mayor de Blasio since inauguration,” said the spokesman, Jordan Bieber, in an email.

But Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat and ex-police captain who ripped Mr. Mullins’ letter on Tuesday, said he would “hate to think” partisanship played a role in Mr. Mullins’ aggressive stance.

“I would hate to think that President Mullins’ closed-minded open letter to the DNC, on top of all of its fallacies and histrionics, was a stunt guised in one’s personal partisan politics,” Mr. Adams told the Observer. “That would truly be unfortunate and irresponsible behavior.”

No Love for Cuomo in Race for Millman Seat

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 08:24

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Photo: Getty Images)

All three candidates vying to replace retiring Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a debate last night–with two saying outright they supported his long-shot Democratic primary challenger Zephyr Teachout, and a third saying she was undecided.

At a candidate forum in the basement of Duryea Presbyterian Church in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, district leader Jo Anne Simon, union lobbyist Pete Sikora and dark horse civil engineer Doug Biviano took turns bashing Mr. Cuomo. The governor controls the board of the State University of New York system, which in turn runs Long Island College Hospital in the district–and many locals blame Mr. Cuomo for the medical facility’s impending closure and conversion to condominiums.

“The governor has been enormously against the community on LICH,” said Ms. Simon, adding she was she was still unsure who to support. “I’m watching Zephyr Teachout’s campaign very closely.”

Mr. Sikora and Mr. Biviano, on the other hand, were completely unambivalent.

“Undecided, really? Teachout, no question,” said Mr. Biviano, noting Mr. Cuomo’s relationship with the family that owns the Fortis Property Group, which won the bidding war to buy and develop the hospital. “Cuomo took tens of thousands of dollars from people associated with Fortis.”

Mr. Sikora had some mild praise for the governor for signing same-sex marriage into law, but attacked him over his center-right fiscal policies and the reports that his aides interfered in the workings of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Mr. Sikora enthusiastically said he would vote for Ms. Teachout.

“He’s failed to reform Albany. The Moreland Commission revelations have been just terrible,” said Mr. Sikora. “I broadly don’t agree at all with his approach on economic issues.”

Mr. Sikora’s endorsement is especially notable because he has the backing of the Working Families Party, which vetted and prepared Ms. Teachout for challenging Mr. Cuomo on its ballot line–but then endorsed Mr. Cuomo at its June convention. Ms. Teachout launched her campaign for the Democratic line immediately after failing to obtain the WFP endorsement.

Mr. Sikora’s campaign office is the WFP’s Brooklyn headquarters.

Update: Mr. Sikora sought to point out Thursday that though he intends to vote for Ms. Teachout, he also praised the governor for pushing gay marriage through the legislature, not just for signing it, in addition to praising his work on green banking, supportive housing, and gun control during the debate.

Stringer: City Hasn’t Submitted 70 Percent of Pre-K Contracts for Review

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 18:21

Comptroller Scott Stringer (Photo via Getty Images)

Comptroller Scott Stringer said today his office has not received more than 70 percent of the city’s contracts with new universal pre-kindergarten service providers — leaving him little time to review them before school starts in eight days.

The Department of Education has provided only 141 out of more than 500 contracts for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature education proposal — which will make use of hundreds of community-based organizations to provide pre-K to children.

“I am a huge supporter of UPK, and I praise this mayor for taking on the initiative. This has an amazing potential to transform the educations of so many kids,” Mr. Stringer said in a telephone interview with the Observer. “And UPK is that historic opportunity, which is why I think the Department of Education has not lived up to the mayor’s expectations.”

Legally, the contracts do not need to be reviewed by Mr. Stringer’s office before the programs can open — but Mr. Stringer argued that his job is to ensure the integrity of the procurement process and the safety of the programs chosen.

“The comptroller’s office provides the only independent review,” he said.

Mr. Stringer said he met with the mayor for a “long time” today and Mr. de Blasio assured him the Fire Department, the Health Department and the Department of Investigation were all conducting oversight — something his administration pointed out to reporters last week. But Mr. Stringer noted those are all mayoral agencies.

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated those same assurances — touting oversight from the FDNY, DOH and DOI.

“Parents can rest assured: these high-quality programs will be ready, they will be safe, and they will meet the very highest standards. We will, of course, make sure the Comptroller has the documents he needs to register contracts in a timely way. But make no mistake, we are pushing forward aggressively to launch our programs this September and will not allow administrative paperwork to stand in the way of educating thousands of children,” Mr. de Blasio said.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio said handing over many of the contracts to the comptroller’s office after the school year had begun is nothing new — and that only 19 of 86 new pre-K contracts, or 22 percent, were registered by the start of school last year.

But Mr. Stringer’s office argued his review can turn up significant problems in pre-K programs that can put kids at risk — and already had done so among the 141 contracts he had reviewed. One vendor had a former employee charged with conspiracy to commit child pornography, and another with a vendor that had six violations for failing to screen employees through the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Mistreatment, his office said. Mr. Stringer’s office noted the administration was able to prove both issues had been addressed.

But the mayoral spokesman said the employee accused of the child porn charge had been promptly fired and the agency employing him had done nothing wrong. The violations for failing to screen employees were corrected in April, the spokesman said.

Still, Mr. Stringer said his review had made a difference thus far.

“We have had cause for concerns. Contracts have been withdrawn, contracts have been changed — much credit to the administration,” he said, for doing so when it was needed.

Review is even more important than usual, Mr. Stringer said, because this is a new program, and some of the vendors have not worked with the city before.

“A lot of these new vendors — it could be hundreds — have never been part of this process. So it’s important that we have fresh eyes,” Mr. Stringer said.

Mr. Stringer’s statements represent a rare criticism of Mr. de Blasio’s administration by a sitting Democratic elected official in the city. But Mr. Stringer has been willing to differ from the mayor before. He previously questioned the accounting practices used to include the settling of a  teacher’s union contract in the city budget, leading to it being changed. And Mr. Stringer was one of the few officials to criticize Mr. de Blasio’s call to police about the arrest of his friend and donor Bishop Orland Findlayter, calling it “troubling.”

Despite Poll, Bill de Blasio Expects Bill Bratton’s Popularity to Grow

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 15:47

Bills de Blasio and Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s poll numbers took a hit after the death of Eric Garner, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expected that to change as people got to know his work better — and put some of the blame for the lackluster numbers on his predecessor.

“I think it’s going to be a process here over the coming months and years to create the kind of relationship between police and community that the community deserves and the police deserve. It has to be a two-way street,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer at a Manhattan press conference. “It’s going to take real work to do that. When that work is done, I’ll be looking forward to what the poll results are then.”

Mr. Bratton’s approval fell nine points in a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday, the first taken since Mr. Garner, 43, a black man from Staten Island, died in police custody. Just 48 percent of voters said they approved of Mr. Bratton’s work as top cop — lower than any approval rating his predecessor Ray Kelly received over a 12-year tenure.

But despite Mr. Kelly’s consistently high approval rating — which reached its zenith in January 2013 at 75 percent — Mr. de Blasio still attributed some of the disapproval for Mr. Bratton to the policies of the administration that preceded him.

“Commissioner Bratton received an unfortunate set of circumstances where the relationship between police and community had become more troubled because of the overuse of stop and frisk — among other factors, but the number one to me was the overuse of stop and frisk — so Commissioner Bratton has and to clean up a problem left to him, and I think he’s been very purposeful in doing that,” Mr. de Blasio.

Mr. Kelly’s record-high poll numbers in 2013 came amid considerable debate over the use of stop-and-frisk, which became a major issue in that year’s mayoral race. Throughout Mr. Kelly’s entire tenure as police commissioner — including in years when the use of stop-and-frisk was considerably higher than it was at the end of his tenure or is today — Mr. Kelly’s approval rating never dropped below 52 percent, according to Quinnipiac.

Mr. de Blasio also reiterated comments made by Rev. Al Sharpton, who appeared with the mayor at a public housing press conference today, about Mr. Bratton’s successful tenure as police commissioner in Los Angeles. Mr. de Blasio said the relationship between police and residents was “at an all-time low when he took over” in California.

“The police approach to the community in Los Angeles was positively wrong and negative. Police Commissioner Bratton went in and in seven years turned that upside down,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Today, police there reach out to the community immediately about any crisis that may occur, Mr. de Blasio said.

“Commissioner Bratton deserves the praise and deserves the credit for what was achieved in L.A., and he’s already dong the same things here,” he said.

Despite reported tension between the two, Mr. Sharpton also had kind words for the police commissioner during the press conference — though he noted they did not speak when Mr. Bratton served during the Giuliani administration. In addition to highlighting his work in Los Angeles, Mr. Sharpton praised the police commissioner for saying the maneuver used in Eric Garner’s death appeared to be a prohibited chokehold.

“This commissioner stepped out there, with all this rhetoric from others, and took a position. I think that that showed a difference. Does that mean we’re getting married?” Mr. Sharpton asked. “No. But on that night, we could’ve gone to dinner.”

Bill de Blasio Heckled While Touting NYCHA Safety Gains

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:35

Mayor Bill de Blasio today at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen)

Mayor Bill de Blasio went to the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem to talk about crime reductions and safety upgrades in the city’s public housing stock — but some residents just didn’t want to hear it.

The mayor was heckled by at least two people who gathered to watch his press conference in a sunny courtyard Wednesday, where he stood strategically in front of construction workers removing scaffolding residents have long complained are a blight and a danger.

As the mayor sought to take the microphone after Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke, a man shouted in Spanish at the mayor about needing more security. Mr. de Blasio at first tried to keep talking, but eventually paused and offered: “Thank you, brother.”

Shortly after, NYPD Chief of Housing Carlos Gomez was also met with a skeptical response from a local resident as he spoke.

“July first, the crime in housing was up. It was up for the fifth year in a row. With the additional officers, and resources, the additional work being conducted by other city agencies, I’m proud to say as we stand here today crime in public housing is down, more than 4 percent — that’s higher than the city averages,” Mr. Gomez said.

“Since when?” a woman called out. “Since when it went down?”

“From July 1 until now crime is down double-digits throughout NYCHA in the city, down 13 percent. Murders are down 18 percent, and our shooting incidents are down in NYCHA,” Mr. Gomez said.

But as he spoke, the woman responded “That’s a lie. That’s a lie.”

When asked by a reporter about that response, the mayor said he understood why it seemed to some residents that crime had not truly fallen.

“Because it takes time, first of all, for everyone to feel it. And I don’t blame anyone who is feeling there isn’t enough yet in the way of improvement. We have a lot to do. The numbers that Chief Gomez gave are the numbers, and that clearly means progress,” Mr. de Blasio said. “That means some people are alive today who wouldn’t have been otherwise, some people are safe today who wouldn’t have been otherwise.”

Though the city has had 29 fewer murders this year and 1,000 fewer robberies, the mayor said, people won’t believe in change until they see it — comparing it to the focus of his press conference, the removal of the scaffolding or “sheds” that residents argued served as hiding places for guns and illegal activity.

“Until people see the sheds down, they aren’t going to feel the benefits,” he said.

After the press conference, Mr. de Blasio enjoyed a brief and seemingly friendly chat with the man who had shouted at him in Spanish.

Earlier this summer at the same housing development, Mr. de Blasio vowed to remove scaffolding and add cameras, lights, and hundreds more police officers to the city’s public housing earlier this summer to combat rising crime there.

According to Mr. Gomez, crime in public housing is now down: Year-to-date, in the Housing Bureau citywide crime is down 4.2 percent, with murders down 5.9 percent, rapes down 3 percent, and robberies down 5.6 percent.

Still, shootings are still up in NYCHA developments over the course of the entire year — and are up citywide, outside of public housing complexes — though they have fallen in the Housing Bureau since July 1.

De Blasio Administration Pushed Pols to Denounce Mullins’ DNC Letter: Sources

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:37

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The mayor took a page out of the governor’s playbook.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, irate after a police union president called on national Democrats to keep the 2016 Democratic National Convention out of Brooklyn, quickly ordered aides to contact elected officials to denounce the union leader’s open letter, sources say.

Once Mr. de Blasio told reporters yesterday afternoon that a letter penned by Edward Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, was “irresponsible” and “fear-mongering,” aides to the mayor harangued local elected officials to prepare statements blasting Mr. Mullins’ letter, which ran in the New York Post and New York Times. The effort was meant to show the public that the city’s political establishment–including elected officials supportive of cops–was firmly in Mr. de Blasio’s corner.

No one familiar with the phone calls was willing to speak on the record with the Observer for fear of reprisal from the mayor’s office. Bringing the DNC to Brooklyn is a top priority for Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat with ties to the national Democratic establishment.

“We got calls from de Blasio’s team begging us to put statements out,” one source said. “There was a sense of urgency.”

The accounts of phone calls from staffers on the mayor’s intergovernmental affairs team, led by top aide Emma Wolfe, were confirmed by two other sources.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilman Vincent Gentile and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police captain, fired off statements condemning Mr. Mullins in the hours following Mr. de Blasio’s rebuke (Councilman Jumaane Williams issued a lengthy statement this morning.) Councilman Brad Lander, Mr. de Blasio’s successor in the council, tweeted a defense of the mayor. State Senator Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and State Senator Liz Krueger also offered well-timed statements.

Mr. Adams called Mr. Mullins’ letter–which warned that the city was too dangerous to host a convention because of rising shootings and the mayor’s alleged lack of support for police–“inaccurate” and a “frankly inane spewing of political vitriol.” A spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito said the speaker “obviously disagrees with this distinctly negative view of New York.” Mr. Gianaris proclaimed that Mr. de Blasio is “right to believe that New York City would be a great host for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.” Mr. Lander tweeted “fear mongering and divisive rhetoric falls flat. City is safest ever and keeps getting safer. Great moment to showcase NYC.”

The mayor’s move to urge elected officials to create the impression of an organic show of support echoes a tactic often employed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, is well-known for pushing legislators behind-the-scenes to bombard reporters’ inboxes with statements of support for his initiatives. Ironically, this tactic was once used against Mr. de Blasio when the two were sparring over how to fund his prekindergarten expansion.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio did not immediately return a request for comment.

Poll: 68 Percent Say ‘No Excuse’ for Eric Garner Death

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:53

People attend a rally against police violence on August 23 in Staten Island (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images).

A new Quinnipiac University poll released today found that 68 percent of New Yorkers believe there is “no excuse” for the tactics police employed that led to the death Eric Garner last month–even though the “broken windows” policy that some have blamed for the homicide remains popular among all ethnic groups.

The survey found that 52 percent of whites, 71 percent of Hispanics and 90 percent of blacks believed that the application of an apparent chokehold to the Staten Islander suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, and the subsequent failure to administer CPR, was inexcusable. Sixty-four percent the 1,021 New Yorkers involved in the study favored filing criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who forcibly subdued Mr. Garner.

“The Eric Garner tragedy dominates the news and city voters think there is no excuse for his death. White and black voters overwhelmingly think there should be criminal charges against the officer involved,” said Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.

Opinion, however, splits considerably along party lines. Sixty-four percent of Republicans called the cops’ actions in the incident “understandable,” compared to just 14 percent of Democrats.

The widespread anger over Mr. Garner’s death in July, however, does not extend to Commissioner Bill Bratton’s strategy of targeting low-level offenses like selling cigarettes. The poll showed that 60 percent of city residents believe the “broken windows” approach improves quality-of-life and discourages more serious crimes, with little difference between whites, blacks and Latinos–and a full 50 percent specifically said they supported police cracking down on the dealing of so-called “loosies.”

Similarly, 58 percent of those polled believed police have a right to employ force against anyone resisting arrest–with African-Americans saying they supported cops using any measures necessary by a margin of 45-23 percent. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mr. Bratton have both insisted that citizens must submit to arrests even when they believe they are unfair.

“Hardly anyone thinks the cops should back off if someone resists arrest. Use whatever force is necessary to make the arrest, voters say, echoing what Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton both have emphasized,” said Mr. Carroll.

Just 50 percent of those who participated in the survey said they approved of the job the NYPD is doing citywide, but 67 percent said they supported the practices of the police in their specific community.

Nonetheless, 74 percent said they considered police brutality a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” concern–the highest the poll has found since 2001.

New Anti-Charter PAC Releases Pro-John Liu Ad

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 08:55

The ad by People for Quality Education (Screengrab: People for Quality Education).

An anti-charter school political action committee has debuted a new digital ad promoting John Liu’s bid against State Senator Tony Avella–and claiming that the former city comptroller is the sole supporter of public schools in the race.

The 30 second spot touts Mr. Liu’s own rise through the public school system, and features a brief voice over of the candidate calling for a less industrial approach to education.

“School is not an assembly line, with kids being produced as widgets. Schools are places of learning and we do need to restore that kind of environment,” Mr. Liu is heard saying.

The group behind the commercial, People for Quality Education, said the ad is part of a $20,000 independent effort to get Mr. Liu elected. The PAC vowed similar promotions for other candidates would soon be on their way.

“With primary day around the corner, People for Quality Education will endorse and promote candidates that can be counted on to be true public school education champions in the legislature, ready to fight for real investments for public school students,” Zakiyah Ansari, a board member of People for Quality Education–and a former member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, told the Observer. “John Liu has a proven track record of being 100 percent for public schools and because of that he has won the support of public school families.”

People for Quality Education is an offshoot of the pro-union Alliance for Quality Education–where Ms. Ansari has long served as advocacy director–an outspoken and aggressive critic of charter schools and their proponents. The group ripped former CNN anchor and charter school supporter Campbell Brown for having been a registered Republican earlier this month, and protested outside a meeting Gov. Andrew Cuomo held with business leaders in January. (Ms. Brown said she is now a registered independent.)

Mr. Avella, an eastern Queens lawmaker, historically opposed charter schools, once going so far as to propose legislation blocking the Bloomberg administration policy of co-locating them inside of public school buildings. He left the main Democratic delegation and joined the splinter Independent Democratic Conference in February, and voted in favor of this year’s state budget, which created extensive new protections for charters–despite an Alliance for Quality Education effort to persuade him against it.

Mr. Avella’s camp defended his record on education, and noted that the same budget included universal prekindergarten.

“As the only candidate in this race who actually delivered on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for universal Pre-K, Senator Tony Avella has a proven track record of fighting for our public schools. Under his leadership, we made record investments in our city classrooms, fought against wrongheaded co-locations, while heeding the calls to fix Common Core,” said spokesman Jason Elan. “And when Senator Avella returns to Albany next January, residents can count on him to do even more.”

The New York State United Teachers union–historically one of the Alliance’s biggest financial backersdeclined to endorse either Mr. Liu or Mr. Avella in the race.

Updated with additional information about Campbell Brown’s party registration. 

Klein Balks at Voting to Repeal Urstadt Law

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 08:47

State Senator Jeffrey Klein. (Screengrab: NY1)

State Senator Jeffrey Klein’s most prominent endorser, Mayor Bill de Blasio, may support the repeal of a rent regulation law that many city Democrats despise, but the powerful Bronx lawmaker does not appear ready to strike the Urstadt Law from the books.

Mr. Klein, the leader of a breakaway faction of Democrats that currently govern the senate with the Republican Party, would not commit to a repeal of the law when pressed by Oliver Koppell, a former councilman running an uphill race against the co-senate majority leader.

“Can I ask a question: are you going to vote to repeal the Urstadt Law?” Mr. Koppell asked at last night’s televised debate on NY1.

“Again, I will weigh every issue as [it comes],” Mr. Klein said. “I support rent stabilization, I support everything that protects tenants. I think we need to take a good hard look at the MCI [Major Capital Improvements] law. There’s a lot of things that are out there.”

Mr. Koppell tried again, but Mr. Klein was finished answering him.

“I answered the question,” he said.

The 1971 Urstadt Law gave the state legislature authority over the city’s rent regulation, altering the balance of power between New York City and Albany for decades to come. Passed at a time when the city was teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster, the law was not necessarily unpopular in the 1970s. But since then, city Democrats have called repeatedly–with no success–to repeal the law because they argue New York City is on firm financial footing today and no longer in need of Albany’s oversight.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg never supported a repeal, unlike Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat. The mayor, with Mr. Klein’s support, has promised to construct 200,000 units of affordable housing and cited an end to the Urstadt Law as a crucial plank of that plan.`

Mr. Klein–like Mr. de Blasio and many influential Democrats–is also close to the real estate industry, which has not always favored a repeal. Tenants PAC, a liberal pro-tenants group that endorsed Mr. Koppell, has attacked Mr. Klein for doing too little to benefit low-income tenants.

But Mr. Klein, sparring often with Mr. Koppell at the debate, offered a robust defense of his record on NY1 last night. “I fight for core Democratic legislative accomplishments. I wrote landmark legislation which protects both tenants and homeowners due to foreclosure. Before my legislation, people, tenants and homeowners, were thrown to the street. I made sure banks sat down and took part in a settlement conference to try and keep people in their homes,” he said.

“We now forced banks to maintain foreclosed properties, forced banks to keep tenants in foreclosed properties,” Mr. Klein continued. “I wrote the legislation that makes it a felony to harass a tenant, to get them out of their building, to flip it. I have done so much and I’m going to continue to do so much.”

Mr. de Blasio endorsed Mr. Klein after his Independent Democratic Conference agreed to govern the senate with the mainline Democrats after the fall elections. Labor groups and much of the political establishment support Mr. Klein–he also holds a significant fund-raising advantage over Mr. Koppell.

The Democratic primary will be held September 9.

Bratton’s Approval Rating Drops After Garner Death, According to Poll

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 16:13

Bill Bratton and Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Christopher Gregory/Getty)

While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval rating has held steady at 50 percent since June, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s has dropped by nine points — to a lower rating than his predecessor Ray Kelly ever received in 12 years as top cop, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll.

Mr. Bratton’s approval rating dropped from 57 percent on June 12 to 48 percent today, with 35 percent now disapproving of his work. That disapproval figure is up considerably from 19 percent in June.

Since then, Mr. Bratton’s police department has been at the center of controversy following the death of Eric Garner, 43, a black man from Staten Island. Mr. Garner died after police used what Mr. Bratton said appeared to be a prohibited chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. His death was caught on camera and ruled a homicide, and the story has dominated news coverage for weeks in the city.

“Bratton, he’s come in for a lot of criticism,” Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll told reporters today. “If the police do something bad, or something that’s perceived as bad, the police commissioner’s numbers always go down. Then, in the past, they always go up again.”

The death — which has renewed debates about the NYPD’s treatment of minorities and has brought Rev. Al Sharpton into the spotlight as he’s attended City Hall round tables and led marches — did not have as big an impact on Mr. de Blasio’s poll numbers.

His approval rating citywide is down just a point from June, with 50 percent of voters approving of him today and 32 percent disapproving. Among black voters, his approval rating is considerably higher — 66 percent approve and 15 percent disapprove — than it is among white voters, of whom only 36 percent approve of the mayor’s performance.

Mr. Carroll said he was unsurprised the poll showed a bigger drop for the commissioner than the mayor.

“He’s the police commissioner. People are not criticizing de Blasio the way they are criticizing Bratton,” Mr. Carroll said.

Polls reflect headlines, Mr. Carroll said, and between Mr. Garner’s death and debates over stop-and-frisk and broken windows, the headlines for Mr. Bratton have not been “uniformly good.”

“The Staten Island killing focused attention on the cops, focused attention on the commissioner — and focused negative attention, so negative attention means some negative numbers,” Mr. Carroll said.

The 48 percent approval for Mr. Bratton is below Mr. Kelly’s lowest approval rating, which was 52 percent in January of 2007, not long after the late November 2006 police shooting of Sean Bell. Mr. Kelly enjoyed a particularly high approval rating toward the end of his tenure, topping out at 75 percent in January 2013, despite growing controversy surrounding the use of stop and frisk at the time.

“It’s not surprising that Bratton’s numbers would be, say, less than Ray Kelly’s numbers were, because there’s been all this negative attention and a killing,” Mr. Carroll said.

Mr. Sharpton’s clout, meanwhile, seems to have improved in the city, with 49 percent of voters saying he is a positive force, and 40 percent saying a negative force — though white voters were much more likely to deem him negative and black voters more likely to deem him positive. And asked whether they had a favorable opinion of him, most voters overall did not — 44 percent saying unfavorable and 40 percent saying favorable.

But when asked the open-ended question of who was the most important black leader in the city, 20 percent named Mr. Sharpton — well above President Obama, who came in second at 5 percent.

“The first time he was at City Hall, he got arrested,” Mr. Carroll, a former reporter, recalled of Mr. Sharpton many years ago. “Well, it’s changed, and I’ll tell you something — he’s changed.”

Of the ethnic, age, and geographic groups polled, the one that ranked Mr. de Blasio’s approval rating lowest was Staten Islanders — who gave him just a 25 percent approval rating, according to the poll. The borough is also among the only demographic groups that voted for Joe Lhota in the general election.

The poll was conducted between August 20 and August 25, with 1,021 New York City voters surveyed. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.

City Settles Pay Equity Litigation With School Safety Agents

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 15:30

Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the agreement with school safety agents. (Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the city has reached a tentative contract agreement with Teamsters Local 237, which represents school safety agents and special officers. The agreement includes a proposed resolution of a discrimination lawsuit.

The agreement, the mayor said, ensures that the roughly 5,000 predominantly female school safety agents, many of whom have been making $7,000 less per year than similarly employed special officers, will achieve equal pay by the end of the contract. The union had been without a contract since 2010.

“This is a major win for our workforce and our city, providing fair pay to school safety agents and special officers and eliminating the risks of an open contract and open litigation, all while securing unprecedented health savings and protecting our fiscal health,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Standing outside the Cobble Hill School of American Studies this afternoon, Mr. de Blasio said 62 percent of the city’s workforce had agreed on new contracts. Like with other labor deals, the mayor and administration officials said the retroactive raises–providing 10 percent in raises over seven years and a $1,000 ratification bonus–will be paid for by health care savings costs that have yet to be specified. The Municipal Labor Committee and the city have agreed to secure $3.4 billion in health care savings through fiscal year 2018 and $1.3 billion in savings every year after.

After health care savings, the net cost of the tentative Local 237 settlement will be $67.9 million, Mr. de Blasio said. The labor agreement must be ratified by union members and the settlement by courts.

School safety agents filed a class action lawsuit in 2013 accusing the city of paying them less than the special officers who perform similar work at homeless shelters and hospitals. The suit claimed the city violated the federal Equal Pay Act because school safety agents are mostly female.

Teachout Rips Quinn, Women’s Equality Party at NOW Endorsement

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 14:55

Christine Quinn (Photo: Getty Images).

Zephyr Teachout, the long-shot primary rival to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, tore into former Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the new Women’s Equality Party today while receiving the endorsement of the National Organization for Women.

Accepting NOW’s support on Women’s Equality Day in front of a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt in Manhattan, Ms. Teachout described herself as a “lifelong feminist”–then blasted Ms. Quinn for backing Mr. Cuomo and his new Women’s Equality Party. The Fordham professor said that Ms. Quinn’s record showed she is in fact no advocate for women’s rights

“Christine Quinn is the one who stood in the way of paid sick days for New York City women,” said Ms. Teachout. “There are several ways Christine Quinn has stood in the way of core Democratic values. She was Mayor Bloomberg’s staunchest ally. She represents the corporate wing of the Democratic Party.”

Ms. Quinn long kept the original version of paid sick legislation from coming to the floor for a vote, and eventually voted in favor of a compromise bill the current City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio promptly expanded on taking office.

Ms. Teachout also attacked the Women’s Equality Party, which Mr. Cuomo–with Ms. Quinn’s help–created this month by gathering 90,000 signatures. The party is intended to focus on women’s issues, but Ms. Teachout argued that Mr. Cuomo’s former tacit support for a Republican-run State Senate prevented the passage of the Women’s Equality Act–which would enshrine the right to an abortion and a slew of anti-sexual harassment and discrimination laws.

“The Women’s Equality Party is a sham party. Christine Quinn can start a fake Women’s Equality Party, and Andrew Cuomo can run on it, but it cannot change the fact that Andrew Cuomo is the reason there is no Women’s Equality Act in New York,” said Ms. Teachout, claiming the new ballot line is a thin and obvious political ploy New York’s women would see through. “They are not going to buy this sham Women’s Equality Party Christine Quinn is selling.”

Ms. Wu’s running mate, Tim Wu, also chimed in to dismiss the need for a new female-focused ballot line.

“The last time I checked, the Democratic Party is a women’s equality party,” said Mr. Wu.

Ms. Quinn fired back at the duo, noting that Ms. Teachout has lived in New York less than a decade, and rattling off a list of her accomplishments on women’s issues.

“With all due respect to recent New York transplants, I don’t remember seeing them standing with us as we passed a clinic defense act, passed a bill outlawing so-called crisis pregnancy centers, or passed laws that banned discrimination against pregnant women in New York,” said Ms. Quinn. “These are all things I accomplished for New York women while leading the City Council and before some had a New York zip code.”

Ms. Teachout’s and Mr. Wu’s tag-teaming of Ms. Quinn and the new party line follows the former council leader’s criticism of Mr. Wu last week. Ms. Quinn accused Mr. Wu of referring to women’s suffrage as a “little issue” while conducting a Reddit forum.

“That’s the same Tim Wu — let’s be clear — that’s the very same Tim Wu who called the women’s suffrage movement a ‘little issue,’” Ms. Quinn said. “So I don’t really have any regard for what Tim Wu has to say about what Kathy Hochul has done for women, when he thinks Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women who literally put their lives on the line, that what they did so I could vote and all these women could vote was a ‘little issue.’”

According to the Daily Beast, Mr. Wu’s said aloud during the “Ask Me Anything” discussion: “Net neutrality is like women’s suffrage in the teens or ’20s. It’s its own little issue. In the ’20s, most people didn’t care about women’s issues, except for women’s groups. That’s what it’s like with net neutrality.” The candidate for lieutenant governor accused Ms. Quinn of dishonestly taking his words out of context.

Seven of the 11 candidates running on the new WEP line are men.

Updated to include Ms. Quinn’s comment.

Bill de Blasio Slams ‘Fear-mongering’ Police Union DNC Letter

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 14:38

Mayor Bill de Blasio with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Fear-mongering,” “irresponsible,” and “opportunistic.” Those were just some of the descriptions Mayor Bill de Blasio used for an open letter the president of a police union wrote in the New York Post and New York Times today.

Edward Mullins, the president of the Seargants Benevolent Association, ripped Mr. de Blasio’s bid to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, claiming in a letter that New York City is “is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety.” Mr. Mullins, in calling for the DNC to not come to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, infuriated the Democratic mayor today, who said his letter was little more than a petty bargaining ploy in labor negotiations between the city and police unions.

“People who care about New York City, who want to see New York City move forward, want to see New York City prosper should be supporting our convention bid,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters in Brooklyn today.

“It’s clearly an effort to advance their position in terms of contract negotiations and I think it’s an irresponsible act on their part. It’s fear-mongering to try to benefit their own position in labor talks and that’s just not responsible,” he added. “If any unions want to try and better their economic position, that’s certainly their right. But do it based on facts: don’t try and stoke fear.”

Relations between Mr. de Blasio and police unions leaders, including Mr. Mullins and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, are badly strained. Mr. Mullins and Mr. Lynch repeatedly attacked Mr. de Blasio for his close relationship with Rev. Al Sharpton following the controversy surrounding a Staten Island man’s death in police custody last month. Both union heads feel Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, is not supporting police to further his own agenda.

Their attempt to keep the DNC out of Brooklyn represents a new salvo in their ongoing battle with the mayor. Privately, the de Blasio administration feels the union leaders are trying to score points with certain segments of their membership and initially brushed off their criticisms. But today’s remarks from Mr. de Blasio–given separately before an announcement on a different deal with a city union–represented the most pointed rebuke the mayor has given the police unions to date.

“It’s interesting to watch how different unions comport themselves,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Some union leaders choose to take opportunistic actions and irresponsible actions … it’s not the right way to do things.”

The mayor also dismissed suggestions that Mr. Mullins could successfully sabotage his goal to bring the DNC to Brooklyn in 2016.

“I think it’s so obviously opportunistic that no one will give it too much regard,” he said.