Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Anticipated Halal Facility Awaits Federal OK to Get Underway by Clare Trapasso - NY Daily News

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Inside the Madani Halal slaughterhouse in Ozone Park, Queens. After a customer selects the chicken that he wants, an employee takes the chicken from the cage and brings it to be weighed and then slaughtered according to halal rules. Photo: Flickr - Sonjashield

A father-and-son business is on track to become Queens' third federally approved slaughterhouse, once the $5 million Ozone Park facility is completed next month.

Madani Halal is waiting for one last piece of custom-built equipment to arrive to cap a five-year expansion project that transformed a neighboring auto-body shop into a state-of-the-art halal slaughterhouse.

The new facility will allow the business to tap into the growing demand for halal products, owners said.

"It's exciting, yet nerve-wracking," said Imran Uddin, 32. "We're spending a lot more money to open a USDA facility, but it allows me to sell to supermarkets, butcher shops, across state lines and even internationally."

His father, Riaz Uddin, 77, started the family business in 1997, selling a wide assortment of freshly killed poultry, goats and lambs to immigrants.

"Muslim people in our community need a place like that," Riaz Uddin said of expanding the business. "There's a demand for halal products, and the Muslim community is growing very rapidly."

His customers choose from exotic chickens and ducks, along with uncommon birds like guinea hens, partridges and squab raised in Pennsylvania. Imran Uddin said they are free of hormones. The animals are killed humanely on the premises, following Muslim law, and drained of blood.

Halal is "an ancient tradition. However, it's new here - especially in New York City," the younger Uddin said. "Most people associate it with the food carts they see all over the city."

Madani customer Jake Dickson, the owner of Dickson's Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea Market, buys 150 to 200 chickens a week from Imran.

"For me, it's about the freshness and the quality of the bird," Dickson said. "[Imran] can deliver the freshest product available."

The popularity of halal products appears to be on the rise.

"The U.S. is starting to see the potential of the halal market," said Salama Evans, managing editor of HalalFocus, a United Kingdom-based halal news site. "The demand is there, but now what's needed is a reliable supply of halal-certified products."

There are about 200 slaughterhouses in New York City, but only seven are federally inspected. Seven more, not including Madani, have applied for USDA approval this year, federal agriculture officials said.

Additional Info:

Madani Halal - 100-15 94th Avenue, Ozone Park, NY 11416
Phone: 718-323-9732

Police Shut Down Problem Club in Ozone Park, Queens by Stephen Geffon - Leader-Observer

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Clientele of Chemistry Lounge in Ozone Park will have to look elsewhere to party and dance. The club has closed its doors.

After a hearing held on June 24 before Supreme Court Justice Orin Kitzes, the owners of the club and the police department reportedly entered into a stipulation whereby Chemistry agreed to close and turn the lease back over to the landlord. As of press time, the exact details of the stipulation have not been made public.

Reportedly, the landlord is now looking to rent the premises at 98-07 Liberty Avenue to a restaurant or restaurant chain such as Applebee’s.

Chemistry Lounge was originally padlocked on June 8 by officers of the 106th Precinct under the direction of Special Operations Lieutenant Joseph Salvato for violent episodes and allegedly violating state liquor laws, according to a police spokesman.

The authorities, who had taken action under the city’s nuisance abatement laws, alleged that employees of the nightclub sold liquor to minors three times during the past year. In addition, police said that last year there were reports of fights, a shooting, stabbing, assault and a robbery at the location.

On October 30, 2009, a large fight broke out at the bar and two club bouncers were stabbed, police said. Cops issued four summonses to the nightclub for the sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person, disorderly premises, overcrowding and a locked exit door.

Three months later, a wild brawl near the club ended with one man shot, two slashed, and a fourth in custody, police said.

Police said the shooting victim was a bouncer who tried to break up the fight. However, club manager Mike Singh told several newspapers the victim did not work for the club and that the fight, which prompted bystanders to run to the club for safety, started in a nearby CVS pharmacy parking lot.

Police said 19 people were arrested — five for assault, thirteen for disorderly conduct and one individual who had an outstanding warrant.

Chemistry Lounge first opened its doors to the public in December of 2008. According to its website it has a capacity for more than 700 people and has a 5,000-square-foot dance floor.

NYPD Assistant Commissioner Robert Messner, who heads the department’s Civil Enforcement unit, said police have been using the city’s nuisance abatement laws to target problematic clubs since 1991.

“Nuisance abatement is a tremendously successful tool,” Messner said.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Three Groups Pony Up Bids For Aqueduct Racino Project by Celeste Katz - The Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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Three entities submitted bids in the latest attempt to find an operator for the long-delayed and controversial Aqueduct racetrack “racino” project, Bureau Chief Ken Lovett reports here at the State Capitol:

Penn National Gaming, Genting New York, and S.L.Green all delivered their materials to the state Lottery division by the 4 p.m. deadline.

Genting is Asia’s largest casino operator.

Penn National, which offered the state the largest upfront payment the last time around, operates 19 gaming and racing facilities.

S.L. Green has again teamed up with Hard Rock International. But this time they also added Clairvest, which was part of the ill-fated Aqueduct Entertainment Group consortium that was selected and then rejected earlier this year.

Each entity was required to promise the state a minimum upfront payment of $300 million, though Lottery won’t open the sealed bids until after the vetting process. Just to compete, the groups had to make a $1 million non-refundable payment to to the state.

Several interested groups ultimately backed off, including Buffalo-based Delaware North, which was once selected to run the project but then couldn’t come up with the promised upfront money.

“A highly unusual set of financial conditions, including the non-refundability of down payment and unpredictability of state taxation rates, caused us to re-evaluate,” said Delaware North President William Bissett.

The winning bidder will have to pay the New York Racing Association $2 million per month before the racino opens while also assuming payment of a $25 million loan to the group.

The Lottery on Aug. 3 is due to recommend a selection to Gov. Paterson and legislative leaders, who have the final say.

Unlike the last process, which is now under investigation, no lobbying is permitted by the groups. The new process is modeled after standard state procurement rules.

Larry King Leaving His Nightly CNN Show in the Fall – Larry King Live - Blogs

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Before I start the show tonight, I want to share some personal news with you. 25 years ago, I sat across this table from New York Governor Mario Cuomo for the first broadcast of Larry King Live.

Now, decades later, I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this fall and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games.

I’ll still be a part of the CNN family, hosting several Larry King specials on major national and international subjects.

I’m incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot. With this chapter closing I’m looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.

The City Has the Ca$h for Prince's Polo Pony, But Not for Carousel Horses...

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and the Parks & Recreation Department of the City of New York has the money to maintain the Governors Island Polo Field, but doesn't have the funds to open and maintain the Forest Park Carousel which has been closed for three seasons now....

Cat Stevens "Where do the Children Play" w/clips from "The Lorax"

Call & email Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Demand that the Forest Park Carousel be open NOW for our children..!!

Mayor Bloomberg: Call 311 - Email the Mayor
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe: Call 311 - Email Commissioner Benepe

Let your elected officials know about your calls and that you want their assistance in having the Mayor and Parks Dept open the Forest Park Carousel...

Queens Borough President,Helen M. Marshall - 718-286-3000 - Email:
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley: (718) 366-3900 - Email:
Councilmember Eric Ulrich: 718-738-1083 - Email:
State Senator Joe Addabbo: 718-738-1111 - Email form:
Assemblymember Michael Miller: 718-805-0950 - Email form:

New Yorkers Save Life of Baby Hawk by Jennifer Fermino -

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A band of Bronx bird lovers joined forces over the weekend to save a baby red-tailed hawk — rescuing the frightened fledging from traffic then canoeing up the Harlem River in search of a noted naturalist to treat the ailing raptor.

The hawk marooned in the middle of busy Melrose Avenue on Saturday was "young, hungry and weak," said Daniel Chervoni, a member of the Friends of Brook Park environmental group.

The bird took a tumble from its nest atop an air conditioner on 149th Street and Melrose Avenue.

Fortunately, local bird watcher Lee Rivera grabbed the hawk from the dangerous intersection and rushed it to nearby Brook Park in Mott Haven.

Thanks to a band of Bronx bird lovers, a baby red-tailed hawk might get to grow up be like this big guy, who was rescued in an unrelated 2007 incident that also occurred in The Bronx. Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin

Thanks to a band of Bronx bird lovers, a baby red-tailed hawk might get to grow up be like this big guy, who was rescued in an unrelated 2007 incident that also occurred in The Bronx.

"We were trying to feed him chicken and sliced turkey but he wouldn’t touch it," said Chervoni.

They rushed the bird to licensed falconer Ludger Balan, who was coincidentally giving a talk they’d planned to attend about 50 blocks north on the Harlem River.

The urban nature buffs stuck the bird in a cage made out of milk cartons and delivered spirited it to Balan in a canoe.

"It would’ve died if it wasn’t put in the right place," said Harry Bubbins, the Brook Park administrator.

Balan, who had another hawk with him, had raw chicken and mouse meat in his pocket, which the bird happily devoured.

"It sang when it saw the other red tail hawk. It had been quite the whole time before," said Bubbins.

Balan will care for the bird until it is ready to be on its own.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: TODAY One Step Closer To Justice For Our 9/11 Heroes & Survivors (VIDEO)

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On September 11, 2001, when thousands of innocent men and women lost their lives, tens of thousands more came to their assistance. We as a nation saw greater acts of heroism than we could ever have imagined: first responders from all over New York and all over the country came to Ground Zero to save innocent lives, provide proper burial for lives that were lost, and assist in the enormous effort to clean up and recover from that devastating attack on our nation.

While we are all too aware of the damage that was done on September 11th, what is less well known is the long-lasting harm that has been done to the health and well being of the thousands of first responders who were on the scene that day as well as all the men, women, and children who were exposed to the toxic debris that was spread all throughout Lower Manhattan after the towers fell. Shortly after the attacks, Congress passed the Victims Compensation Fund, which compensated victims of the attack; since then, however, thousands of heroes and community survivors have developed deadly illnesses due to the exposure to the toxic debris. It's time we took care of them.

As we approach 9 years since the attack, nearly 20,000 responders and innocent residents of New York have fallen ill due to the harmful toxins released at Ground Zero. These include New York Firefighters, EMTs, Police, construction workers, clean-up workers, and innocent men, women, and children who lived and worked in the area. But while the majority of these people live in the New York/New Jersey area, at least 10,000 of those who are sick or are being monitored for signs of illness today reside in all but four Congressional districts across the country.

People from all over the U.S. responded to the call for help in the aftermath of the attacks and tens of thousands currently face life threatening health ailments. We have an undeniable, moral obligation to provide them the help and treatment they deserve.

That's why, over the past several months, I have reached out to my colleagues in the Senate and the House, to the firefighters, police and others who responded to the tragedy and to family members of workers who have since lost their lives to rally support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. And I am very pleased to report that after years of inaction, today this bill will have its first hearing in the Senate on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

This legislation would:

- establish the World Trade Center Health Program within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to provide medical monitoring and treatment to the thousands of WTC-responders and community members for health conditions caused by the toxins at Ground Zero.

- expand access to an additional 15,000 participants in the responder medical monitoring and treatment program - currently capped at about 40,000 - to make sure no one feeling the health effects of 9/11 is left behind from getting the care they deserve. In addition, it would ensure 55,000 WTC responders get the care they need.

- extend and expand support for the World Trade Center Health Registry and provide grants for the mental health needs of individuals not otherwise eligible for services under this bill.

- establish a community program to provide initial health screenings, treatment, and monitoring to eligible community members, including geographic and exposure criteria to define who may be eligible for the program (i.e. those who lived, worked, or were present in lower Manhattan, South of Houston Street or in Brooklyn within a 1.5 mile radius of the WTC site for certain defined time periods.)

- reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The fund would be reopened until December 22, 2031 to provide compensation for economic damages and loss for individuals who did not file before or became ill after the original December 22, 2003 deadline.

- ensure that we continue critical research into the long lasting health effects that threaten these men, women, and children and provide appropriate financial assistance for the irreparable harm that these innocent people have endured.

America must always taken care of its heroes and this should be no exception. The attack on NYC on September 11, 2001 was an act of war and we have a moral obligation to take care of those who have suffered health effects as a result.

In February, I asked President Obama if he would commit to working with Congress to pass a fully paid for 9/11 health bill and he said he would. With our hearing in the Senate today, we are now closer than we've ever been to passing this important legislation. It is long past time that we passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act and began to repay the enormous debt we owe our 9/11 heroes.

On June 18, I stood at Ground Zero with Reps. Maloney and Weiner as well as some of our brave 9/11 first responders, union workers and community survivors who've been helping fight for this legislation to announce today's hearing. Some video from that press conference is below.

Report: Suffolk's Cesspools Imperiling Waterways by Jennifer Maloney - Newsday,com

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Suffolk County cesspools are imperiling the region's waterways, releasing high levels of nitrogen that moves into rivers and bays, causing algae blooms, fish kills and the explosive growth of invasive weeds, according to a report released Monday by Peconic Baykeeper.

The Quogue-based environmental group is calling for the county to overhaul its septic code to require periodic cesspool inspections, designate nitrogen-sensitive areas and create incentives for homeowners to replace antiquated systems.

Carrie Gallagher, Suffolk's commissioner of environment and energy, said the county this fall will release a water resources management report that is expected to recommend changes to the county's sanitation code, including limiting septic system installation to properties of 1 acre or larger. The code currently allows systems to be installed in some cases on half-acre lots.

PHOTOS: See photos of LI's waterways and septic system

POLL: Should Suffolk overhaul its cesspool policy?

"We all agree that nitrogen pollution is a problem and, yes, our current regulations and septic systems could be doing a better job at pollution reduction," Gallagher said.

Kevin McAllister, who heads the Peconic Baykeeper group, said revamping the county's cesspool policy is "politically sensitive, it's costly, but let's start talking about it. . . . With regard to development in Suffolk County, we have reached that tipping point. It's going to be the demise of our waters if we don't address it."

Four Long Island bays plagued by recurrent blooms of harmful brown tide algae were added to a state list of "impaired" waters in January; the draft list is expected to become final in July. The pollutant identified for the four bays - Great South, Moriches, Quantuck and Shinnecock - is nitrogen, caused by cesspools and storm water runoff tainted with fertilizer, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC officials say more study is needed on the role cesspools and other sources of pollution play in causing algal blooms in the four bays before the state decides on the best approach to prevent future brown tides.

But the Baykeeper, along with local officials and the Long Island Liquid Waste Association, say Suffolk County's cesspool code lags behind codes in other counties and states. They say these codes are meant to protect drinking water but neglect the effects trace nitrogen levels can have on surface water.

Ed Warner Jr., a bayman and Southampton trustee, pointed to a Flanders homeowner cited by the county this month for a cesspool that has become exposed because of beach erosion on Flanders Bay.

"The tide comes up to the cesspool and the effluent is washing into the bay," he said. "We need to address these problems before they get to this point. It's time to get some more modern septic practices on Long Island."

So far, the Baykeeper's report has earned the endorsement of Suffolk Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and the tentative support of Legis. John M. Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who said he favors stricter cesspool regulations, but worries about costs to homeowners. A typical septic system on Long Island costs between $3,000 and $4,000. Rhode Island, for example, has embraced high-tech septic systems that cost between $18,000 and $25,000.

Romaine said: "One of the things we need to look at is the best technologies available to reduce nitrogen escaping from septic systems."

Typical Long Island septic systems release nitrogen at a concentration of 40 mg per liter, according to the report. New alternative septic systems reduce nitrogen levels to 10 to 14 mg per liter, the report said. Sewage treatment plants reduce nitrogen levels to 3 mg per liter.

Top Ranks of Bloomberg Managers Are Largely White By David W. Chen and Jo Craven McGinty-

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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg naming Salvatore Cassano fire commissioner in December. In recent months, the mayor has named nine top officials, all of them white and all but one male.Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Since winning a third term in November, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced a parade of major appointments: bringing aboard three new deputy mayors and six commissioners and trumpeting most of those arrivals in the Blue Room at City Hall.

All nine are white. All but one is a man.

Chart (left): Click on image to enlarge

Those selections are hardly anomalous. Despite a pledge he made when he took office to make diversity a hallmark of his administration, Mr. Bloomberg has consistently surrounded himself with a predominantly white and male coterie of key policy makers, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times.

The city’s non-Hispanic white population is now 35 percent, because of an influx of nonwhite immigrants and other demographic changes in the past two decades.

But Mr. Bloomberg presides over an administration in which more than 70 percent of the senior jobs are held by whites, and he has failed to improve on the oft-criticized diversity record of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“Obviously, it demonstrates no greater commitment under Bloomberg than there was under Giuliani in appointing minorities to high-level positions in government,” said Abraham May Jr., executive director of the city’s Equal Employment Practices Commission, an independent agency that monitors diversity and discrimination in city government.

Moreover, New York lags behind the three cities closest to its population in diversifying its senior ranks.

In Los Angeles, 52 percent of the top advisers to Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa are white; in Chicago, that figure is 61 percent for Mayor Richard M. Daley; and in Houston, it is 55 percent for Mayor Annise D. Parker.

“The numbers — they’re sad,” said Kevin P. Johnson, a former assistant commissioner of the Department of Correction, who was responsible for equal-employment policies, but quit in December because he was frustrated by the administration’s efforts. “It’s terrible in a city with such a large minority population.”

The Times examined diversity in several top management tiers of the Bloomberg administration. Each tier showed a nearly identical pattern:

  • Of the 80 current city officials identified by the Bloomberg administration as “key members” on its Web site, 79 percent are white, and 64 percent are men.
  • Of 321 people who advise the mayor or hold one of three top titles at agencies that report directly to him — commissioners, deputy commissioners and general counsels, and their equivalents — 78 percent are white, and 60 percent male, according to a database created by The Times, based on public records and dozens of interviews with current and former officials.
  • And of the 1,114 employees who must live in the city, under an executive order, because they wield the most influence over policies and day-to-day operations, 74 percent are white, and 58 percent are men, according to the mayor’s office.

In addition to their demographic similarity, many of the recent appointees fall into two broad categories: former Wall Street executives and loyalists from City Hall or the mayor’s re-election campaign.

“Given Bloomberg’s background, we shouldn’t really be surprised,” said Bruce F. Berg, a political scientist at Fordham University who has studied racial diversity in New York City government. “He’s picking from the business world, his key advisers are from the business world, and this is still very much a white male bastion.”

Mr. Bloomberg declined requests for an interview to discuss the findings.

But his press secretary, Stu Loeser, acknowledged in a statement that “there is always more we can do.” Mr. Loeser said, however, that “we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last eight years” in diversifying the city’s management ranks, noting that almost half of the people in citywide programs intended to identify and develop future top managers are people of color.

In addition, he said, managers — the nearly 6,000 employees who rank just below the top level administrators — have become more diverse in recent years under Mr. Bloomberg.

“These talented up-and-coming managers are positioned to be the next generation of assistant and deputy commissioners, then agency heads, of city agencies,” Mr. Loeser said of those in the training programs.

Still, Mr. Bloomberg has conceded that he has fallen short, acknowledging at a news conference last year that “the diversity of our administration has not been as diverse as the city itself.”

The homogenous composition of the administration is especially striking in crucial areas where city personnel deal with issues predominantly affecting minority residents, like education, homelessness and child welfare.

At the Department of Homeless Services, the Department of Education and the Administration for Children’s Services, 80 percent of the top officials are white, according to the Times’s research — including the newly installed commissioner of homeless services, Seth Diamond. And while the Bloomberg administration, early on, featured minority commissioners at the Department of Finance, the Human Resources Administration and the Administration for Children’s Services, all those positions are now held by white men.

“I have chaired and been present at one too many meetings where every senior person happened to be Caucasian, representing the administration,” said Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, and a former City Councilman who was the chairman of the General Welfare Committee. “It’s not really an acceptable situation.”

Since the 1990 census, the city’s non-Hispanic white population has dropped to 35 percent, from 43 percent. And that change is reflected in the overall city government work force, which dropped from 46 percent white in 1994 to 38 percent in 2008.

Still, little change has occurred in the most senior ranks.

Diversity, of course, is one of the most delicate issues and hardest goals to achieve in any workplace. Many employers want a workplace, especially in the public sector, that has highly qualified managers who reflect the broader community and can engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas by people of different backgrounds. So failing to name minority employees to high-level positions, time after time, not only can dampen employee morale, but also send a message that an employer is insensitive or indifferent, according to political analysts and human resources professionals.

“This is the most diverse city in the world, and to be respected and seen as the mayoral administration of that city, you want to be pushing hard to build a much more diverse pool of people from which to draw expertise,” said Andrew White, director of the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. “So if you’re not making that effort, your pool is going to be severely limited, and you’re going to go for the kinds of people that you’ve always worked with.”

Mr. Bloomberg pledged during his first campaign, in 2001, to hire people of different backgrounds. And shortly after taking office, he underscored his commitment to diversity, saying that “if you have that as a goal, and you have a process that gets lots of input from various communities, you will wind up with an administration that is reasonably diverse.”

More than eight years later, many people credit Mr. Bloomberg with achieving real progress on race relations, by discussing racial issues forthrightly, supporting immigration reform and meeting with different groups regularly on issues like public health, economic development and basic quality-of-life services.

“Even though minorities may not be filling out the ranks of his cabinet, in proportion to their ranks in the population at large,” Professor Berg, of Fordham, said, “Bloomberg goes out of his way, on many occasions, to assuage minority leaders, and include them.”

No longer, some say, is race viewed as the lightning rod in the way it was under Mr. Giuliani.

“Together with a City Hall that listens to every community across the five boroughs,” Mr. Loeser said in a statement, “we’ve helped contribute to creating a city where people are almost universally seen as getting along together better than at any time in memory.”

But while his language has been inclusive, that has not translated into concrete changes in the highest ranks at city agencies.

A telling measure involves the commissioners who are frequently the faces and voices of the administration at City Council hearings and town-hall-style forums. And the numbers suggest that Mr. Bloomberg has fewer people of color than some previous administrations.

According to the mayor’s office, 72 percent of his commissioners and agency heads are white. That percentage is higher than the 63 percent figure during Mr. Giuliani’s first year, in 1994, and his 69 percent in 1998. Mr. Giuliani’s predecessor, David N. Dinkins, who is black, meanwhile, had a cabinet that was slightly more than half white, in keeping with his goal of a “gorgeous mosaic” of an administration.

And comparing the “key members” identified by the Bloomberg administration with people in similar posts in the past yields striking results: 79 percent white under Mr. Bloomberg, about 75 percent white under Mr. Giuliani, and 55 percent under Mr. Dinkins, according to a review of earlier city rosters and interviews with former officials.

To be sure, some sectors of the Bloomberg administration are more diverse. The New York City Housing Authority is dominated by minorities at the top tier and led by two black officials whom the mayor tapped last year: John B. Rhea, the chairman, and Michael Kelly, the general manager.

And at the Police Department, where for the first time ever a majority of patrol officers are minority, Raymond W. Kelly, the commissioner, promoted two Hispanics to department chiefs in the last year and Chief Rafael Pineiro as first deputy commissioner — the highest rank achieved by a Hispanic.

Such moves, though, stand out in part because they have been relatively infrequent, current and former city officials said.

Mr. Johnson, formerly with the Department of Correction, recalled that at regular meetings, a top official at the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services would invariably boast about the administration’s diversity record. Afterwards, a few equal employment officers would huddle, and scratch their heads.

“We would say to each other, ‘What are they talking about? This administration is not diverse,’ ” said Mr. Johnson, who is now an investigator for lawyers.

He said that he still had “a lot of respect for the mayor.” But he feels disillusioned, after Mr. Bloomberg’s initial inclusionary talk in 2002.

“The message is: Make me a believer again,” he said.

Hiram Monserrate Leading Movement Of Allies Running For A Variety Of Positions In Queens by Andrew Hawkins - City Hall News

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Hiram Monserrate is back. And this time, he's brought friends.

In addition to Monserrate’s alleged campaign for José Peralta’s old Assembly seat, a slate of aides, confidants and beneficiaries of the former lawmaker’s are running this year for a variety of positions—Assembly, district leader, state committee.

Local operatives see a vengeful effort orchestrated by Monserrate to claw his way back into power. But Monserrate allies say the number of people associated with him who are running this year is pure coincidence, dismissing claims of conspiracy as distracting from the issues.

“They want people to believe in the boogie man, but there’s no boogie man,” said Anthony Miranda, a former staffer of Monserrate’s who is running a primary campaign against Assembly Member Jeff Aubry in a district adjacent to Peralta’s.

Miranda co-founded the Latino Officers Association with Monserrate when both served on the police force in the ’90s. The two successfully sued the NYPD for discrimination, and later, when Monserrate ran for district leader, Miranda was at his side in support. They planned to take Northwest Queens by storm, running Monserrate for City Council and other candidates for district leader and State Senate, several people familiar with their efforts say. They did succeed in getting Monserrate elected to the City Council, making him the first Latino in elected office from Queens.

Calls to Monserrate, along with several e-mail requests seeking comment, went unanswered.

Miranda is not the only former member of Monserrate’s camp seeking office this year. Jim Galloway, president of the Lefrak City Merchants Association, is running for county committeeman. Monserrate has been a supporter of the small community group, and Galloway has in turn been one of Monserrate’s most vocal supporters.

“If he becomes the State Assembly person for that district, those people will have a jewel,” Galloway said. “It’s unfortunate what happened to him, his girlfriend. You know the rest.”

Terry Lewis—a self-ordained minister, former staffer during Monserrate’s Council and Senate days and all-around gadfly—is said to be running for district leader against James Lisa, whom Monserrate himself ran against over a decade ago. Hayden Horshen, who once worked for both Monserrate and his Council-successor Julissa Ferreras (and was fired by both), is said to be running against District Leader George Dickson.

Neither Horshen nor Lewis could be reached for comment.

On the other side of the coin is Peralta and his self-styled “unity team,” which includes Aubry, Assembly Member Michael DenDekker, Francisco Moya (who would be the candidate running against Monserrate for Peralta’s old Assembly seat), and Council Member Daniel Dromm and Ferreras, who are both seeking district leader positions.

A recent addition to Peralta’s unity team is Jessica Ramos, an organizer at District Council 37, who once worked for Monserrate but had a falling-out with the former senator. Ramos was running for district leader against former Council Member Helen Sears (who nearly became the Republican candidate in the special election to succeed Monserrate in the spring). But she has since been persuaded to abandon that effort and run for an open seat in another district.

Monserrate critics who claim to be familiar with his campaign style said that his efforts usually start out as a team effort, but usually end up with the singular mission geared just to elect Monserrate himself.

“Everyone who’s run with him, it always starts with ‘we,’” said one Queens official, “and it always ends up with ‘I’m the only one with a shot at this.’”

Aubry, who faces Miranda in this year’s primary, said he has never known Monserrate to bow down, even when the odds are clearly staked against him.

“He is a very driven individual,” Aubry said. “Even in the face of reality, he’s driven.”

The Accountability Project | The Accountability Project

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For too long, our politics has been poisoned with misinformation, lies and double-speak. The most powerful way to combat these tactics is to drag them into the light of public scrutiny.

The Accountability Project is a volunteer platform to document Republican candidates and their public statements at local events, as well as their campaign tactics. The Accountability Project allows you to submit videos, recordings, and other items for publication online, so that candidates see that there's a cost to their dishonesty.

This election year, the American people deserve an honest debate, free from misleading attacks, false claims and empty rhetoric. We need a debate focused on issues, and candidates who offer solutions, not lies and fear tactics.

Far too often, candidates turn to these tactics because they're confident they'll remain under the radar and out of the public eye. They know that they can make outrageous claims that go unchallenged and change their story for each new audience—saying one thing in Washington and another back home—while their campaigns launch vicious attacks that they themselves never have to answer for.

But it doesn't have to be this way—you can make sure that this year's elections are contested in the light of day.

The Accountability Project is a platform for you to hold candidates accountable for their claims, their public statements, and their campaign tactics. No matter where you live, you can:

  • If you have a video camera of any kind, or even a cell phone that records video, you can document Republican candidate events, including speeches, forums, and public meetings.
  • You can submit copies of candidate mailers, emails, and attack ads.
  • You can also report upcoming public events in your area, so that other volunteers can document them.

You can submit these videos, recordings, and items for posting online through the Accountability Project, so that candidates see that there's a cost for their dishonesty.

For too long, our politics has been poisoned with misinformation and negative attacks. The most powerful way to combat these shadowy tactics is to drag them into the light of public scrutiny.

Through the Accountability Project, you can fight back, and show the American people the real choice they have this November.

No matter where you live, you can participate:

If you have a video camera of any kind, or even a cell phone that records video, you can document Republican candidate public events, including speeches, forums, and public meetings to share.
You can submit copies of candidate mailers, emails, and attack ads.
You can also report upcoming public events in your area, so that other volunteers can document them.

New York’s New Voting Machines Flawed, Suit Says by Jack Healy -

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Electronic voting machines being deployed for the first time this year across New York City and the rest of the state contain a flaw that could lead to thousands of votes being thrown out, according to a lawsuit that advocacy groups will file Monday.

The problem, according to the legal complaint, revolves around voters who accidentally pick too many candidates for a particular race — an error known as “overvoting,” which invalidates the incorrect part of their ballot.

When a voter submits such a ballot, the new machines do not automatically return it to be corrected and recast. Instead, the machines that scan the new SAT-style ballots are programmed to start beeping and to offer a choice on their digital touch-screens: a green button for voters to confirm their choices and cast their ballot, or a red button to scrap their votes and start over.

Lawrence D. Norden, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which is representing the New York State conference of the N.A.A.C.P., the Working Families Party and other groups in the lawsuit, said that the setup was poorly worded and confusing, and that the design of the new machines could prompt thousands of voters to press the green button accidentally, casting parts of their ballots into oblivion.

The lawsuit, filed against the State Board of Elections, says voters who are minorities or non-native English speakers would lose their votes in disproportionate numbers.

“They have to make a fast decision,” Mr. Norden said. “There are people behind them, and they tend to press ‘cast,’ especially because there’s nothing there that says, ‘Your vote will not count.’ ”

The machines tell people they have “overvoted,” but do not explain what, exactly, overvoting is, or its consequences, Mr. Norden said. And many voters are just more likely to hit a button with a green check mark than a red X — even if it has the effect of quashing part of their vote, he added.

In 2000, thousands of voters in Florida made a similar mistake by accidentally choosing two candidates for president, invalidating their selections and helping plunge the razor-thin contest into a chaotic stalemate for weeks.

The new scanning machines offer improvements like the creation of paper records of votes, but Mr. Norden said the way they were programmed to handle mistaken votes put New York at risk of sowing confusion. “This completely ignores what happened in Florida in 2000,” he said.

The old lever-operated machines prevented overvoting by locking themselves up if a voter flipped too many switches for various candidates. But Douglas Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, called the conflict “a very minor issue” and said the new voting machines had taken a trial run in some upstate counties in elections last year with no major problems.

Rather than reprogram thousands of voting machines a few months before the primaries in September, Mr. Kellner said the board had agreed to assess how the system performed after the elections in November, in which New Yorkers will select a governor and vote on both Senate seats, among other races.

“We have a completely new system,” Mr. Kellner said. “That’s why the consensus is, don’t do an emergency fix of this one little minor point right now.”

A spokesman for the elections board called the new machines “compliant and legally sufficient” and said that tweaking how they handle improperly completed ballots would take months of testing and layers of approval to recertify the changes.

The new machines, which replace the lever-operated antiques many election districts in New York had used for decades, sprang from the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which aimed to update voting machines to prevent another election marred by thousands of rejected ballots. Voters in New York will now fill out ovals on a paper ballot, feed the ballot into a scanning machine and drop it into a locked box.

Public-interest groups began raising concerns about the potential for invalidated ballots this winter, citing a study in June 2009 by the Florida Fair Elections Coalition that attributed high numbers of overvoting in Florida’s 2008 elections to flaws in some electronic voting systems.

A letter sent in February to the New York State Board of Elections from several groups, including the Brennan Center, said that as many as 40,000 votes could be lost in a heavy election year.

Mr. Kellner disputed that estimate, saying the number was “made up out of thin air.”

The lawsuit says the current setup violates the Voting Rights Act and asks that New York not use the new machines until more safeguards are put in place.

The complaint, which was given to The New York Times by the Brennan Center, says that Wisconsin developed its system to “return a ballot to the voter immediately” if the scanning machine noted an overvote.

Connecticut does the same thing, said its secretary of state, Susan Bysiewicz, adding that it gives voters a chance to fix the ballot or to send it through, errors and all.

“This can happen a lot,” Ms. Bysiewicz said. “It’s much better if the voter has the opportunity to ask a question of a poll worker and be given the opportunity to vote a fresh ballot.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Gillibrand Interviewed on Good Day NY -

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand weighed in on several hot button issues affecting New York State including the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, the 9/11 health bill hearing and the financial overhaul bill.

Gillibrand who supports bipartisan legislation that would create a searchable database of all federal earmark requests submitted by lawmakers told Good Day NY on Monday that she wants more transparency in government.

"We want to make sure campaign finance has transparency. A senator can hold up a bill anonymously, that should end...and we need to end automatic pay raises for U.S. senators," said Gillibrand.

Only a few hours before her appearance on Good Day NY, word came that the longest serving U.S. senator in history had died.

"It's very sad. Sen. Robert Byrd was one of the best tacticians. He was the longest serving senator. He was in the senate before I was born."

Later in the day, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan begins confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. Insiders say she'll likely be confirmed to the court. Sen. Gillibrand supports Kagan as a Supreme Court justice.

"Kagan is an independent woman. At the end of the day, I do believe she'll have bipartisan support. I believe she is far more moderate than it's lead to believe," said Gillibrand.

Rosanna Scotto also questioned the senator about the 9/11 health bill hearings expected to begin this week on Capitol Hill and why they had taken nine years to get started.

"This is very exciting. This will be the first hearing in the senate on this bill. This is money for the first responders for the surviving families and all the people who suffered from the grave toxins released when the towers collapsed. Congress has appropriated money every year- over $400 million every year- the problem is if you have to go back to the appropriators there every year it might not be there."

Why Jobless Deserve Our Help: Those Opposing More Aid to Unemployed Aren't Cold - They're Ignorant by Errol Lewis - NY Daily News

I agree, they're either ignorant or just plain mean...

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Like most national debacles lately, the decision by Congress to let unemployment relief lapse for more than a million Americans was a bipartisan disaster.

Senate Republicans, joined by Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted "no" on an extension of aid to 1.2 million of their countrymen who have been jobless for six months, a number predicted to increase to 2 million by year's end.

The Democratic majority, falling three votes short of the 60 needed to pass a $40 billion extension measure, caved in to the threat of a filibuster and let the measure fail.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could have played hardball by forcing his opponents to conduct a true filibuster and tie up Senate business with long speeches about why the long-term jobless should be left to struggle on their own.

But Reid didn't force the issue, which is too bad. Our nation is long overdue for a full debate over the obvious need for deficit spending to snap us out of our economic doldrums.

Mainstream economics holds that accelerated government spending at times like this can shorten a downturn and speed recovery.

Government, according to this view, can help by providing enough temporary cash - through contracts with the private sector, unemployment relief, military spending and the like - to tide over the private sector until demand picks up.

In our consumer-driven economy, providing the jobless with a minimal allowance - just over $300 a week, on average - supplies families with cash that immediately gets spent on rent, food, medicine, gasoline and other necessities.

The idea is to contain the misery so that an unemployed person's plight doesn't spread like wildfire to a local hardware shop, grocery store and landlord, causing a prolonged slump.

Deficit hawks who are urging government to shut off the spigot now either don't understand this, or they don't care.

After turning a surplus into a $9 trillion debt during the years of the Bush presidency, GOP legislators have experienced an election-year conversion to fiscal tightness.

In the minds of these hawks, the abstract idea of the government spending too much outweighs stimulating recovery or alleviating the desperation of the long-term unemployed.

Even worse than cutting off benefits after 26 weeks of unemployment is the refusal to even consider extending additional aid to the so-called 99ers, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been jobless for 99 weeks and - after several emergency extensions - are ineligible for any more unemployment checks. New York has over 65,000 of them.

"I am fluent in Spanish, have a national security clearance with the FBI, ICE, DHS & DEA and years of experience in customer service," wrote Connie Kaplan, a 99er who publicized her plight on the Rochester Unemployment Examiner, a Web site by and for the jobless.

"I'm told I'm overqualified or simply never hear back from prospective employers," Kaplan wrote. "I'm now headed onto the road of losing my place of residence for lack of income. Food is gotten from food banks and each day brings me closer to total disaster."

Cries like Kaplan's have fallen on deaf ears in Washington. Beyond the purely fiscal issues lie ugly assumptions about who has lost a job and why.

At the height of the recent debate, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah offered a crackpot proposal to drug test the unemployed and cut off benefits to anybody testing positive.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch told the Huffington Post, citing no studies, hearings or data to support his idea - and dodging a question about what might happen if members of Congress were subjected to the same scrutiny.

It turns out that drug testing benefit recipients was tried in Michigan a decade ago. Officials dropped the idea after an expensive and cumbersome process of screening 238 welfare applicants turned up only 21 who tested positive for drugs (all but three of them for smoking pot).

Reid and the Democrats must stage a high-profile public debate that puts every member of Congress on the record about whether it makes sense to fill the nation's homeless shelters and welfare offices with millions who are ready, willing and able to get back to work, resume paying taxes and get about the business of lifting the nation out of recession.

Quinn Goes Back to the Future on Wal-Mart - The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn went back to the future yesterday when she emerged from office and led an anti-Wal-Mart rally on the steps of city hall. The rally, led by the RWDSU’s Stu Appelbaum and supported by the entire UFCW, was designed to send a clear message to the developer Related that it wouldn’t be a great career move to tenant its Gateway Mall expansion with the Walmonster: “Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined labor union activist and other opponents of Wal-Mart’s supposed efforts to break into the New York City market at a rally today on the steps of City Hall that sent the world’s biggest retailed this unambiguous New York message: “FUHGEDDABOUDIT!”

Yesterday was a real retro day as Quinn, who started off as a community activist who was a valued ally to those of us who were fighting box stores in her Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, channeled her old rabble rousing self. Daily Politics reports: “You know, it isn’t that we don’t want Wal-Mart,” Quinn said at the rally. ”It’s that we don’t want companies that have led the nation in law suits being brought against them by workers. We don’t want companies that have the largest class-action in history brought against them. We don’t want companies where women are, over and over, paid less than men and not promoted. You can be very clear that I don’t want that.”

And make no mistake about it, Brooklyn is in the eye of this storm: “Though Wal-Mart officials have denied that they are negotiating with Related Cos. to locate in it’s the Gateway Center in East New York, leaders of unions representing retail and food workers are keeping up their public and behind-the-scene pressure to prevent the non-union Wal-Mart chain from scoring a breakthrough in a city that still has significant union strength.”

The NY Post underscores the possible scenario: "While unions and New York officials lock arms to keep Wal-Mart from opening up a store in the Big Apple, the giant retailer might still have a golden opportunity to open its first city store. The opportunity rests with a Brooklyn development -- a commercial and residential project called Gateway II being built by real-estate giant Related Cos. near Jamaica Bay -- that has already won key zoning approvals from city officials, sources said. Those opposing Wal-Mart are trying to persuade Related and others to bring a smaller supermarket or other retailer to the site."

And, as we have pointed out before, the Brooklyn scenario is complicated by the fact that a chunk of the land slated for the mall’s expansion is owned, and must be conveyed, by the state. This is the pressure point that, although the expansion has already been approved by the city council (never buy a pig in a poke Charles Barron), gives the labor leaders-and the entire small business community some leverage over the situation. The state senate district where Wal-Mart is seeking to perhaps locate is represented by Senator John Sampson who is mulling over possible hearings on the retail giant.

And, as for Barron, he might be learning a bit about the value of oral contracts: "Councilman Charles Barron, whose Brooklyn district includes the Gateway II development site, said that during the approval process for the shopping center he extracted oral promises from Related executives that Wal-Mart wouldn't anchor the shopping center. "I had to accept Related's verbal commitment," Barron told The Post. "If they want to go against their word, they're going to have to deal with city officials in other projects who will see them as a company that cannot be trusted."

Still, Quinn was forceful yesterday-and underscored her labor-driven objections to the Wal-Mart incursion. As Daily Politics points out: “Wal-Mart’s corporate philosophy, Wal-Mart’s business plan is in fact a plan and a philosophy which runs counter to the core values of New York City, the core values of our workers, the core values of people who spend money to buy goods for their family. Now we in the Council feel very strongly that we need to get more retail establishments, particularly those that sell supermarket food good for people. That is why we are the first city in the country to pass a rezoning encouraging supermarkets to develop in the city of New York. But in that rezoning we were clear about the types of supermarket jobs we wanted and that we wanted them to be assets to the community and help build the community. That’s simply is not Wal-Mart. Now if Wal-Mart wants to usher in a new day we are happy to sit down with them and write a New York philosophy and a New York business plan. But until that happens they can call themselves whatever they want, they can have a new urban store that’s smaller, but until they change their ways they are Wal-Mart and they are not welcome in our five boroughs.”

Of course, the labor objections are the only reasons why the Walmonster is a bad idea for Brooklyn-and we have outlined the traffic, community quality of life, and small business rationale for opposing the mega-store. Still, it was nice to see Quinn channeling her earlier self-we hope she likes the old garb and keeps in on for more frequent anti mega development efforts in the future. Related has a lot to think about.

Hiram Monserrate And Petitioners Harrassed Francisco Moya And Dad Outside Church by Celeste Katz - NY Daily Politics - NY Daily News

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Disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate is petitioning to get on the ballot for Assembly in Queens - and one of the candidates running for the job says the ousted lawmaker got in his face about it.

"I have seen Hiram and his people out petitioning,” Democrat Francisco Moya, who’s trying to get elected in the 39th Assembly District, told me.

On Sunday, June 13, “two of his volunteers showed up at my church while I was petitioning with my father,” Moya said. “They proceeded to accost us by yelling and screaming obscenities in front of a church on Sunday. And then he showed up and jumped right in with them. At a church on Sunday. Some things never change."

Monserrate’s colleagues overwhelmingly voted to eject him from the Senate in February after he was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Karla Giraldo.

He filed a failed lawsuit to get his job back, saying his ouster was unconstitutional, and then got hammered, 65% to 27%, by then-Assemblyman Jose Peralta in a March special election for his Senate seat.

Since, he’s got petitioners on the street and there’s been activity at his Queens campaign office (as you can see in this photo, the lights were on Tuesday), although he has been reluctant to answer questions about his plans.

Moya, who's in government affairs for Cablevision, was handing out campaign literature near his Corona church, St. Leo’s, when he said Monserrate’s volunteers started badgering him, obstructing him as he tried to distribute his lit and talk to voters.

Then he said Monserrate himself showed up and spoke harshly to him before backing off and heading into a nearby store.

“I know nothing about it. I know nothing about what he’s talking about,” Monserrate told me when I reached him to ask about Moya’s allegations.

He wouldn’t comment on his political future either.

Moya campaign advisor Nathan Smith says Monserrate just isn’t getting the message.

“By a margin of well over two to one, thousands of voters from this district overwhelmingly rejected disgraced politician Hiram Monserrate just months ago. These voters told the convicted abuser that they have had enough of his violent behavior and his Albany antics. They want him to go away and they want a fresh start. But Monserrate is again willing to be blindly ignorant of what the people actually want," Smith said.

News that Monserrate is seeking a return to public life didn’t sit well with NARAL Pro-Choice New York, which was the first group to call for Monserrate's ouster.

“We maintain that a man who assaulted his girlfriend has no business seeking to represent the women of Queens,” said President Kelli Conlin. “The voters have already made their view perfectly clear. Monserrate should stop wasting his time - and ours.”

Five Out Of Five Democrats Agree: Everyone Hates Hiram - Gothamist

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The five Democratic hopefuls for Attorney General will have some sparring ahead in their future endeavors to replace current AG Andrew Cuomo, but at least there is one thing right now that unites them all, beyond party lines and policies: a distinct disdain for one Hiram Monserrate.

Richard Brodsky, Sean Coffey, Eric Dinallo, Kathleen Rice and Eric Schneiderman all have heartily endorsed Democrat Francisco Moya for the 39th Assembly District seat over Monserrate, who recently began his political comeback by screaming outside a church. Moya said of the endorsements, "I'm honored that these 5 statewide leaders recognize my commitment to reform. Their endorsement demonstrates that even while Democrats may disagree on some things, we are ready to come together for the cause of reform and restoring honesty to our state government." And don't forget the cause of keeping Monserrate out of government!

The five pols join several other prominent politicians who have endorsed Moya over Monserrate, including Sen. Jose Peralta, who defeated Monserrate in a March special election; Julissa Ferreras, who holds Monserrate's old City Council seat; and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson.

Daily News political reporter Celeste Katz spoke with all five pols, who offered some serious anti-Monserrate fervor: former Federal Prosecutor Sean Coffey said, "Hiram Monserrate is grossly unqualified to be part of our growing reform movement and should instead focus on reforming himself. His many abuses range from the physically violent to the deep abuse of public trust that came as a result of his abhorrent behavior. Hiram Monserrate is a criminal who is part of the problem, not the solution." And Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, "It is also important that the people of this district and the people of New York reject Hiram Monseratte’s campaign. He has been convicted of domestic violence. Crimes like this need to be taken seriously. The people of this district can help be rejecting his candidacy.”

Borough Presidents Can Introduce Laws -- They Just Don't by Kathleen Lucadamo - NY Daily News

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The oil giant's not the only BP playing defense.

The city's five BPs -- borough presidents -- argue what they need is MORE power, not banishment, as many have suggested.

So I looked at the one little-known power they have: The ability to introduce laws.

According to their respective offices, it has been used about a half dozen times in the last decade.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has done it twice in nine years. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has done it twice in five years. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has done it once (the living wage bill) in two years.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro has never done it in nine years. And Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has done "it once in the past year, and on one or two occasions earlier" during his nine-year tenure.

None of their laws have passed so far.

When the Charter Commission stripped the BPs of most authority in 1989, they gave them the ability to introduce laws in the City Council just as the mayor does.

The bill is introduced by a Councilmember "by the request of the borough president."

"We were trying to make players in the legislative process by giving them power to push an agenda," said Eric Lane, who headed that commission.

Now, the borough presidents disagree on its value.

"'By the request of the borough president?' What the hell does that mean?" said Molinaro, noting if the legislation is good, the Council members will want the credit for themselves.

"It's another weakness in the city charter," he said.

It makes more sense, he said, for him to negotiate with the three Staten Island Council members to make changes. Still, he acknowledged the larger boroughs don't have it as easy.

Stringer called it "a good weapon if it's not overused."

"It's a very effective way to weigh in on issues and work with local council members," he said.

Marshall, Diaz and Stringer said they'll be using it more in the future. The five BPs want broader powers including authority over agency bosses in their borough and an independent budget.

The latest charter revision is examining their role as well as a host of other issues but Lane suggests that their ability to introduce laws remain.

"Even if they don't use it, somebody will," he said.

Editorial Notebook - The Cheap Cost of Cheating the Lowest Paid by Francis X. Clines-

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Her baby will soon be due, so Modesta Toribio has to grudgingly admit she may not soon make her current career goal — New York’s supposedly mandatory $7.25 minimum wage — that she has been routinely denied for the past five years. She inched her salary up to $6.60 an hour from the starting $5 at a cut-rate Brooklyn clothing store mainly by pestering her bosses. Ms. Toribio has a brassy knack for that, but she has learned it takes a lot to best scheming employers.

Academic studies estimate that unscrupulous employers in New York City keep an extra billion dollars a year by defying New York State’s weak labor law and cheating timorous and ill-informed immigrant workers.

Ms. Toribio was both when she arrived from the Dominican Republic 10 years ago. But she evolved into a word-of-mouth investigator and organizer for the Make the Road New York community group. The organization has successfully worked with committed state inspectors to wring wage-theft judgments against scores of employers — $28,000 for a gouged fruit-stand peddler, $70,000 for 99-cent store workers, $400,000 from moguls squeezing the payroll at a sneaker chain.

New York needs a strong labor law like Arizona’s. Arizona is rightly notorious for its abusive anti-immigrant law. But its labor law seriously penalizes employers who retaliate against outspoken workers, and it provides confidentiality for whistle-blowers and faster, bigger damages for employers who ignore wage-theft judgments. A bill to toughen New York’s law awaits action by the Legislature, which is in its closing days, when the good and the ugly elbow for attention.

“Albany could stop an awful lot of injustice,” Ms. Toribio says prayerfully. Her voice had a steely lilt on Friday when she talked other wage-cheated workers into going with her to Manhattan to picket a grocery store. She knows a “scared guy” there, a Mexican immigrant who earns $5 an hour with no vacation or overtime allowed in his 70-hour week. “The boss,” she says, “has to understand a worker is not alone.”

New Oversight Board Proposed for OTB by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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Cash-strapped New York City Off Track Betting Corp. may have to answer to a newly created government agency designed to oversee its spending.

Last week, the state Senate passed a bill in committee that would create a new Franchise Oversight Board, which would oversee OTB’s policies, capital and operating plans, simulcasting and budget. OTB operates nearly 70 betting parlors across the five boroughs.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a member of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said the oversight board would have the authority to approve or disapprove many of OTB’s functions.

“This legislation amends the racing, pari-mutuel and breeding law to provide that NYC OTB shall transfer all wagering accounts to the new oversight board,” Addabbo said. “In addition, this proposal would prohibit the appointment of any former or current OTB member to the oversight board.”

NYC OTB was created in 1970 by the state as a quasi-government agency. It is run like a private enterprise, but is legally required to turn over a portion of its earnings to the state, as well as horse racing tracks, which have long complained that OTB cuts into their revenue.

While OTB flourished in the city in the 1970’s and 80’s, its popularity has waned in recent years.

In December, the agency filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, and said it was on pace to run out of money by March.

OTB later asked the state for $300 million in tax-free municipal bonds to finance its turnaround, a request that was denied.

In April, OTB laid off 35 non-union employees in an effort to cut costs. The agency said the layoffs help cut about $2 million.

Addabbo said that the days of “writing them a blank check financially” to continue operating are over.

“I think they’ll be treated similar to the MTA, we’ll try to help them to an extent, but we also want to see how they’re operating financially,” he said, adding that OTB has operated with little oversight in the past.

“We don’t want to be wasting money,” he said. “With this oversight board, the state can look at how they are operating and make recommendations if necessary on how they can operate more efficiently. And we can say that if they don’t comply, then future financial assistance may be in jeopardy.”

A spokesman for OTB said the agency would not be able to comment on the legislation at this time.

Under the provisions of the bill, a public bidding process would be undertaken to award the ability to conduct and manage account wagering to a third party.

Any fee derived from such management would be dedicated to pay off any outstanding obligations or liabilities on the part of OTB.

OTB would also be required to retain a unionized workforce pursuant to collective bargaining agreements.

Addabbo said the oversight board could be created and appointed by the end of this year, once the bill passes both the Senate and Assembly, and that the new agency would add a “much-needed” oversight to the OTB and increase revenues to the state.

“This is a win-win situation for both taxpayers and the racing industry in New York state.”

Extraordinary Session Becomes Political Football by Elizabeth Benjamin - Capital Tonite

Padavan's job is located in Albany, not Bayside...He should have attended the special session...I guess his re-election and campaigning are more to him than doing the people's business for which he was elected to do...How on earth could he have known what would happen during the special session, he must be a clairvoyant...

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One Democratic candidate has seized on last night’s quickie extraordinary session as campaign fodder in his quest to oust incumbent GOP Sen. Frank Padavan, who did not heed Gov. David Paterson’s proclamation calling lawmakers back to Albany last night.

Former NYC Councilman Tony Avella issued a statement earlier today slamming the Queens senator for opting to campaign in his district rather than travel to the Capitol for the gavel in-gavel out session that lasted no more than four minutes.

“Padavan’s Albany absence is a slap in the face to the hardworking taxpayers in our district,” Avella said.

“When he should have been working to resolve the budget crisis and education funding, he was too worried about his own political future.”

A reader e-mailed shortly after 7 p.m. last night (recall that the extraordinary session was called for 7 p.m.) to say he had spotted Padavan handing out campaign literature and posing for photos with constituents at a concert at Ft. Totten Park.

Avella noted that Padavan, who came close to losing his seat last year to NYC Councilman Jim Gennaro, was one of three Republicans who were absent last night.

The others were George Winner (who isn’t seeking re-election) and Sen. John Flanagan. Excused last night were Sens. Tom Morahan (ailing and not seeking re-election) and Sen. Steve Saland.

The journal clerk says all 32 Democrats were marked present last night, although a GOP source insists three majority members weren’t in the chamber for the session.

CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross spoke to Padvan, who is in Albany today. He said he felt justified in staying away last night because he had “learned there weren’t going to be any votes and practically no session.”

“I was with about 600 constituents at a lawn concert with the Bayside Historical Society, which I helped create,” Padavan explained.

“That’s where I was. It was something I had planned for months, but I would have left in a second had we actually been doing anything.”

Padavan said Avella showed up last night, too, but left after the senator was acknowledged by the historical society. Padavan’s closing thought: “We had nice weather for the concert, but it was hot!”

With Mayor as Companion, a Senate Run Was a No-Go by Michael Barbaro - City Room Blog -

Is this woman just naive or ignorant...She wonders why Republican Senate leadership would want her to run for the senate with her non-Republican social views...Well, do you think her boyfriend's BILLIONS have anything to do with it...?? Duh...It's the same reason the NYS Republican senate campaign committee and the Independence Party never objected to Bloomberg's money...And, now she's endorsing former Wall Street hedge fund operator Reshma Saujani against Carolyn Maloney...This after these people nearly imploded our national and the world economy...Have these people ever met a rich person they didn't like..?

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Blame the mayor –- or at least the tricky nature of two-career couples.

Diana L. Taylor, the former New York state banking superintendent and the companion of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, acknowledged Monday for the first time that she “really wanted” to run for the United States Senate as a Republican this year, but decided against it because of her boyfriend’s day job.

“My significant other is the mayor of New York City, so that would be really complicated,” she told the audience at a fund-raiser for David Malpass, a Republican contender for the Senate seat she coveted.

“So I decided not to run,” Ms. Taylor said, adding that by sitting out the race, she would leave Mr. Bloomberg “running New York City without having to worry about this other thing.”

It was Ms. Taylor’s most detailed -– and her only public -– discussion of her Senate ambitions, which were heavily encouraged by state and national Republican leaders, who are seeking a big-name candidate to challenge the Democratic incumbent, Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

And it was a small but telling glimpse into the relationship between two of New York City’s most high-powered people: Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul, and Ms. Taylor, a director at Citigroup, the giant bank, the chairwoman of Accion, a leading microfinance lender, and the chairwoman of the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversees the waterfront park on the West Side of Manhattan.

In her remarks, Ms. Taylor said she was surprised by the enthusiasm of national Republican leaders, like Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, who tried to recruit her to run earlier this year. She recalled warning them that “my social outlook is not particularly Republican,” because she “is totally for gun control” and supports abortion rights.

Even though Ms. Taylor and the mayor disagreed on the wisdom of her candidacy, they clearly share a deep skepticism of career politicians. She said she seriously weighed a Senate run because “I was so angry” at events unfolding in Washington, where, she said, lawmakers charged with reforming the nation’s financial system possessed “no understanding” of the markets and “were doing it for political reasons every step of the way.”

She quoted a friend’s description of elected officials in Washington — although it seemed like she was speaking for herself. “Every politician in office today is concerned about three things,” she said. “Number one: getting elected or re-elected. The second thing is making sure that their party is in control. The third thing is so far behind that it doesn’t really matter.”

Her endorsement of Mr. Malpass, a former Treasury official in the Reagan administration and economist at Bear Stearns, is the latest sign of her interest in the political sphere. She recently endorsed a Democratic Congressional candidate in New York, Reshma Saujani, who is challenging Representative Carolyn B. Maloney.

The fund-raiser took place within the wood-paneled confines of the Women’s National Republican Club on West 51st Street in Midtown, where portraits of Ronald Reagan compete for space with those of Barbara Bush. Ms. Taylor praised Mr. Malpass’s long record in government and the private sector as she introduced him.

“We need people like you in the U.S Senate who understand the economy, think about the issues and have done their homework,” she said before an audience of several dozen women, who donated at least $200 a person.

She added, “The thing that struck me about David was, I was hearing from him all the things I would want to do in the Senate.”

Mr. Malpass is promoting himself as a political outsider and fiscal conservative (not unlike Mr. Bloomberg, or, for that matter, Ms. Taylor). In his remarks, Mr. Malpass railed against what he said was excessive spending, unbridled deficits and unnecessary taxes imposed by lawmakers in Washington.

At times, the fund-raiser seemed like the Taylor-Malpass show. When Mr. Malpass was asked about his stance supporting abortion rights, and how it would play with national Republicans, Ms. Taylor politely interrupted with a brief summary of her own experience with the party’s leaders.

Ms. Taylor said she was “really surprised” at how welcoming they were to her liberal social views. The Republican officials with whom she met, she said, acknowledged that the party’s candidates in New York would hold different views from those in more conservative sections of the country.

At another point, Mr. Malpass asked Ms. Taylor to weigh in when he was asked how Hispanic voters were reacting to President Obama’s health care overhaul.

Ms. Taylor observed that Hispanic voters were more conservative than many political observers realized. “At this point,” she said, “they are leaving the Democratic Party in droves.”