Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Working Families Party set to endorse Bloomberg

The following was sent as an email by John Keefe regarding the upcoming endorsement of Bloomberg by the Working Families Party. I am reprinting it with his permission:


Unfortunately, this is a well orchestrated scam. The Working Families’ Party’s New York City Coordinating Committee is set to endorse Mike Bloomberg for Mayor. The internet vote following the on-line mayoral forum will be packed by Bloomberg voters just as the City Council chamber was packed by paid Bloomberg supporters the day of the term limits vote. Internet votes are not vehicles of democracy -they are frauds.

CBID took a stand against optical scan voting machines that lacked a verifiable paper trail because of their potential to compromise elections. Internet voting is even more prone to manipulation.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg treated parents with an internet based “advisory straw poll” in connection with this year’s elections for the Community Education Councils. The Department of Education paid ($500,000) a consultant to set up a website ( and sent out a mailing to parents of NYC public school children hyping the “historic advisory straw poll” over the internet. Incredibly a credulous City Council candidate, Brad Lander, actually urged parents to participate. The election was extended, probably due to low participation, and the vote tallies never fully disclosed. The advisory straw poll did not empower parents. It only provided an illusion of participation.

WFP’s internet based mayoral forum and vote is designed to provide an illusion of participation. There is no verifiable way of knowing who votes or what the results are. The real endorsement decision will be made by the party’s New York City Coordinating Council. The registered members of the party are excluded since there is no primary.

So why will the Working Families’ Party endorse Mike Bloomberg? The leadership has been corrupted by contracts and the pursuit of political power.

Last year, the Working Families Party targeted Martin Connor in the 25th State Senate district because they cynically concluded Connor was weak and they felt that defeating him would enhance their perceived political power. Both WFP and Bloomberg backed Squadron and Bloomberg’s financial fingerprints can be seen in last year’s contributions.

This year, the Working Families’ Party assiduously avoided plugging the party housekeeping account loophole in their campaign finance reform proposals. What is important about party housekeeping accounts? Under NYS law there are individual contribution limits to candidates, but not to the housekeeping accounts of political parties, including the WFP’s. . Bloomberg bought the Bruno-era Republican State Senate with contributions of over $1.5 million to GOP housekeeping accounts. Having tasted the allure of Bloomberg’s money, the WFP has been corrupted on a policy level.

One of the WFP’s major institutional players is ACORN which played an important role in the party’s formation and in its internal workings. Unfortunately, ACORN has an unfortunate history of being bought by Bruce Ratner. And now by Mike Bloomberg. This year Bloomberg provided ACORN with a hefty contract for foreclosure prevention work. ACORN began singing a new tune. Heretofore, it had opposed Bloomberg on term limits and the schools. Now, it went silent on mayoral control; Bertha Lewis kissed Mike Bloomberg . It is painful to see advocacy groups that have spent decades railing in the political desert, fighting the good fight, being suborned by money and power, and the hope of access.

I participated in the initial meetings in 1997 and 1998 leading to the creation of the Working Families’ Party and initially served as an elected state committeeman of the party from the 48th Assembly District. Creating a progressive alternative to the Liberal Party was the rallying call for the new Working Families Party. New York State permits cross nominations of candidates by multiple parties. The Liberal Party took advantage of this and had traded its endorsements of Rudy Giuliani for patronage and access benefits for its leadership, ie., legal work and lobbying contracts. I returned to the Democratic Party when it became clear the WFP lacked an internal democratic life; the real battles in NYC take place in Democratic Party primaries.

Backing Bloomberg will be the WFP’s fatal betrayal. Already this year, the WFP has endorsed the less progressive, less reform oriented, and less independent candidates in the 33rd CD (Steve Levin over JoAnne Simon, Ken Diamondstone, and Ken Baer), in the 34th CD (Maritza Davilla over Diane Reyna and Gerald Esposito) and the 39th (Brad Lander over Josh Skaller) and Bob Zuckerman. It conspired with Vito Lopez and Bill DeBlasio to deliver WFP and some labor endorsements for Lopez’s council candidates in return for the Kings County Democratic organization to back DeBlasio for Public Advocate. Sitting at the table - cutting covert deals - brokering contracts – these things corrupt the participants. It is sad to see the Working Families Party go the way of the Liberal Party. The WFP has forfeited the allegiance of progressives.

With regret,

John Keefe


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Court makes surprise ruling against third term

This news just came in., the prodigious website covering all issues from Niger reports:

Niger’s Tandja mulls next move in bid to cling to power

NIAMEY (AFP) — Rebuked by the constitutional court and facing an opposition protest Sunday, President Mamadou Tandja’s search for a way to stay in power beyond a second mandate seems to have run out of legal options.

The leader’s hopes of running for a third consecutive term in office — prohibited by Niger’s constitution — were dealt a heavy blow by the court’s ruling on Friday.

It rejected the presidential decree Tandja had used to call a referendum on a new constitution on August 4, which if approved would done away with the two-term limit and let him stand in December’s presidential ballot.

It's nice to see a government ruled by laws, not by powerful individuals.

For more, click here.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

There's a good reason Bloomberg is planting a million trees...

It's not surprising Bloomberg wants to plant a million trees. After all, he's probably chopped down a million trees already to fill every New Yorker's mailbox full of his lovely literature touting his environmental record.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

NYT: Mayor Bloomberg’s Crib Sheet

Last month, the NY Times published an Op-Ed by Diane Ravitch titled "Mayor Bloomberg’s Crib Sheet." Ravitch challenges the mayor's "unimpressive" record on education. Here are some excerpts:

  • New York City showed almost no academic improvement between 2003, when the mayor’s reforms were introduced, and 2007.

  • [S]tate scores have soared in recent years, not only in the city but also across New York state.... Our state tests are, unfortunately, exemplars of grade inflation.

  • To further raise the graduation rate, the city does not include as dropouts any of the students who were “discharged” during their high-school years.
  • Not every school problem can be solved by changes in governance. But to establish accountability, transparency and the legitimacy that comes with public participation, the Legislature should act promptly to restore public oversight of public education. As we all learned in civics class, checks and balances are vital to democracy.

Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, is the author of “The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973.”

Read the complete article here.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Noticing New York posts ANOTHER comprehensive update up about the Bloomberg administration!

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White notes that "We can't keep up with the Bloomberg updates. . . " but NNY gives "it one heck of try!"

We at No Power Grab can hardly keep up with Noticing New York's coverage of Bloomberg but this is a good time for us to try.  Noticing New York frequently covers Bloombergalia and has done a number of comprehensive overview pieces.  The newest one just went up.  The incredible thing is that the latest one tells quite a story even though it is comprised of just one week's worth of updates.

Here, as a good resource, is a comprehensive list of NNY's recent comprehensive Bloomberg overview pieces including the one just up.

The Basic Overview Package:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What you will find: Do you know when Bloomberg made his money?  How much did he make before he started politics and how much did he make afterward?  And when exactly did he start "giving" is his "charitable" gifts away and what polical conditions does he attach to that money?  How much more does Bloomberg spend on charitable campaign spending than on his direct political campaign expenditures?   How much more does he spend than all his opposition?  And what about the extra money Bloomberg is forcing taxpayers to spend on the political camaign?  How does Bloomberg make his money by doing business with businesses that have dealing with the city?  Who are Bloomberg's top deputies and what do they not know about staying away from conflicts of interest?  What conflicts of interest rules did Bloomberg agree to follow and then ignore?  How does Bloomberg's "terminal" business pull in money for Bloomberg What famous Twilight Zone episode does the Bloomberg adminstartion bring to mind?      

A Recent Set of Updates:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What you will find: When Bloomberg gets a bunch of nonprofits together in a room what message does he give them?  Does he even bother to be subtle?  Which burns more, Bloomberg's connection with the FIRE or the ICE sectors of the economy, and what the heck is ICE anyway?  What tools has Bloomberg used to eliminate his opponents and how ruthless is he?  What about the New York Times?  Who are the candidates for mayor who are not taking money from real estate developers and might there be other candidates who would like to do so but have been cut off?  Has the press been keeping track of Bloomberg's wealth?- Do they even know what it is?  Did Bloomberg actually lose $4 billion in a matter of months?  Why would, or wouldn't, it be fair to compare Bloomberg to Corzine, the rich governor across the river?  How is Bloomberg following in the footsteps of llinois ex-Governor Ron  Blagojevich?  What else is new withe the Bloomberg adminstration on the quid-pro-quo front?  What's peculiar and special but out of proportion about a new, recently breaking Bloomberg adminstration ethics scandal?  What makes the Bloomberg administration's governance of New York like Rome's sacking of Carthage?

And the Very Most Recent Update (based on just one week's worth of stories)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What's to learn just from the events of the past week: If you are a Wall Street friend of Michael Bloomberg's how long is the list of things you can't be accused of doing and how many of the deadly sins are on it?  And what about Madoff and friends? How has a recently breaking Bloomberg administration ethics scandal just become immensely more interesting and complicated and who's lawyering up?  Want to know about lawyer Randy Mastro?  What's a major story the New York press is missing?  How do Bloomberg high commissioner's misdeeds mirror Bloomberg's own conduct?  What should you know about nepotism in the Bloomberg administration?  What Giuliani-delivered perk was a certain Bloomberg, LP employee taking advantage of and how is that relevant to the way the Bloomberg administration now runs the city?  What does the Cuomo SEC investigation of Alan Hevesi have to do with investment of Bloomberg's personal billions and the ways Bloomberg was supposed to be ethical?  What political rising star might just have made a bad mistake by endorsing Bloomberg?

And Don't Forget Our Favorite Two Quick Reference Pieces:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Tuesday, February 17, 2009 Bloomberg wants to run both ways, left and right

This comes from

On Friday, Bloomberg aides leaked that the mayor, who was twice elected as a Republican, but recently dropped all party affiliation was courting the support of the city's five Republican county chairs to support him in an effort to seek a third term later this year as a Republican. The Democrat turned Republican turned independent would need the support of at least three of the five county chairs to even run in a GOP Primary. Sources said that he will meet with all five county chairs on February 25 in a final effort to court their support, after which a decision would be announced.

But a report in today's Daily News says that the mayor is also seeking to run on the Working Families Party line, a labor-oriented party that generally leans to the left of Democrats.

The mayor is "welcome to apply" for the labor-backed Working Families Party line, said Dan Cantor, its executive director.

Still, Cantor called it "the longest of long shots."

Read more here.


DePaolo: Hugo and Mike

The following was written by Phil De Paolo:

President Hugo Chavez won a voter referendum to eliminate term limits yesterday. 54 percent had voted for the constitutional amendment, 46 percent had voted against it. The vote was hastily arranged in the last two months. The campaigning was marked by antigovernment protests and attacks by supporters of Mr. Chávez on institutions viewed as critical of the president, including media organizations.

In NYC Mayor Bloomberg scrapped the city's term limit law in a little over two weeks. He's used the city council to pass a bill that would allow him to seek four more years in office. On October 23, 2
008 the City Council voted 29-22 in favor of extending the term limit to three consecutive four year terms, thus allowing both Bloomberg and council members in their second terms to run for office again. New Yorkers were upset by the Mayor's actions and the 29 City Council people who voted for the extension of term limits. Whether they were for term limits or not they strongly believe that the process was wrong. If there was to be a change, it had to be via a public referendum not by legislation. By an overwhelming margin, 89 percent to 7 percent, voter say the issue of term limits should be decided by voters in a referendum, not by an act of the Council.
“Voters to City Council: We voted for term limits twice and, if it’s going to change, it should be us not you who decide it,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures as he leaves the polling station

Chavez opponents claim that the results were skewed by Chavez's broad use of resources to get out the vote, through news media and pressure on 2 million public employees. Mr. Chávez threw the weight of institutions controlled by his supporters, including the National Assembly and the entire federal bureaucracy, behind the proposal. The powerful national oil company, and the national telephone company mobilized employees to campaign for the measure.

Opponents say Chavez already has far too much power, with the courts, the legislature and the election council all under his influence. Removing the presidential term limit, they s
ay, makes him unstoppable.

In NYC Mayor Bloomberg held conversations with Rupert Murdoch, Who owns The New York Post; Mortimer B. Zuckerman, a close friend and the owner of The Daily News; and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher 
of The Times, to help him overturn term limits. Days later the New York Post and the Daily News, both ran editorials under the headline "Run, Mike, Run" that called for changing the rules so that Mr. Bloomberg could stand for re election. And the New York Times complained that the term limits law "is particularly unappealing now because it would deny New Yorkers at a time when the city's economy is under great stress the right to decide for themselves whether an effective and popular mayor should stay in office."

The paper took the opposite view seven years ago, when there was talk of extending the second term of Mr. Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, in the wake of 9/11. "To suggest that the city would be incapable of getting along without Mr. Giuliani undermines New York's sense of self sufficiency," said the Times. "While Mr. Giuliani has been a great leader during this crisis, the truth is that no one is indispensable.

Mayor Bloomberg then showered cash on key City Council members with the power to kill the term limits extension bill. Members of the council's Government Operations Committee received millions from Bloomberg’s slush fund, a secret pot of taxpayer money the mayor doled out to favored lawmakers for their pet causes. Five members of the committee secured $3.1 million from the $5.3 million stash in Bloomberg's 2008 budget.

The New York Times reported days after the Term Limits debate that the Mayor and his top deputies had pressed social service, arts and neighborhood groups that received donations from Mr. Bloomberg to express support for his third term bid by testifying during public hearings and by personally appealing to undecided members of the City Council. A few days later the mayor’s aides organized a press conference in which nearly a dozen union leaders endorsed the legislation to extend term limits. Fifteen minutes before the event began, the union leaders met inside City Hall with Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for operations, to discuss what they would say, according to people briefed on the matter. When they emerged to speak to reporters, the labor officials sounded strikingly similar themes, at times using the same words. So it seems that Hugo and Mike used many of the same methods to get what they wanted although Hugo actually let the people vote on it. Mayor Bloomberg just used the City Council.


Monday, February 16, 2009

New mayoral poll

A person identifying himself as an employee of PPO Research (Political Public Opinion) called me on Thursday 2/12 6:39 pm to get my opinion about the upcoming mayoral race in New York City. 

The survey asked about my support for Bloomberg, and my support for him versus Anthony Weiner and versus Bill Thompson. Given that the poll did NOT ask about term limits and failed to mention Tony Avella, it’s a fair guess to say that the poll was conducted by the Bloomberg campaign.

The poll included several questions that you might expect. I didn’t record the conversation, so I’m not sure of the exact phrasing, but the questions did include things like

“Do you consider yourself very liberal, liberal, conservative or very conservative?”
“What is your religion”

“How often do you attend religious services?”

“When choosing a candidate, do you consider party affiliation or independent judgment?”

“Should government support go to fighting terrorism or fighting economic uncertainty?”

There were also some non-political questions, such as

“When you are at a party, do you like to talk to people you know or do you talk to new people?”

“What worries you more, violent or white collar crime?”

My favorite question, and the only one I made sure to get exactly, was

“For statistical purposes, how would you describe your sexual orientation?”

I thought this was funny because as far as I know, it’s quite difficult to determine what percentage of the population has which sexual orientation, so this question was not asked for statistical purposes.

One pair open-ended questions went 

“What is your top priority in the upcoming election? What is your next priority?”

After asking several questions, the pollster asked a second time about my opinions of the current mayor. I asked the pollster who was paying for the survey, and he said he was not given that information because it might skew the results. I asked him if he was based in New York, and he said no. I also asked what the breakdown of support for Bloomberg had been in his experience, and he said 50-50.

After a quick web search, I have not been able to find PPO Research. My phone’s caller ID appeared as “Unknown Name 000-000-0000.”


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mole333: Defeating Bloomberg and the Bloomberg 29

Mole's Progressive Democrat posted Defeating Bloomberg and the Bloomberg 29 which has a lot of information for those who are opposed to the current mayor and his enablers.  

Here's a taste:

I want to also re-introduce you to the Facebook site dedicated to defeating Tsar Bloomberg and the Bloomberg 29:

Here is their statement of purpose:

On October 23, 2008 the New York City Council passed Mayor Bloomberg's proposal that extended term limits from 2 terms to 3 terms for the Mayor, City Council, and other city officials without a voter referendum even though New Yorkers voted in 1993 and 1996 to keep term limits at 2 terms. The final vote was 29 YES and 22 NO.

According to a Quinnipiac poll, 89% of New Yorkers believe that the issue of term limits should be decided by voters in a referendum, not by an act by the City Council.

To read more (including opinions about some notable City Council races), click here


Friday, February 13, 2009

Rob Caloras on Bloomberg

NYC Public School Parents posted an article called Rob Caloras on Bloomberg's authoritarian arrogance:
At a recent press conference, Mayor Bloomberg stated that people who want to change the school governance law are either irrational or putting their own self interest ahead of students. On his radio show he said that, there would be riots in the streets if his control over the schools is not continued.

For the full article, click here

Room 8 parodied this radio show at a cryptic post, TOP 10 OTHER THINGS MAYOR BLOOMBERG THINKS MIGHT CAUSE RIOTS IN THE STREETS.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Orthodox blogger questions Bloomberg: Miffed by "Ridiculous" Question

What's this? Vos Iz Neias, a self-described voice of the Orthodox Jewish Community, challenges Bloomberg's logic in Bloomberg Miffed by "Ridiculous" Question:

We're facing tough times. The mayor is a great philanthropist. He's supported many charitable causes. The other day, he promised the bishop of Brooklyn to consider a plan to convert four parochial schools threatened with being closed into public charter schools.

But it is hardly ridiculous to ask whether this man should flaunt his wealth in the political arena. he has done good for the city. He has also exhibited great hubris and if he truly believes in a democratic system, he should be willing to accept legal limits on campaign expenditures.

You have fans out there, Mr. Mayor, and critics. Are you afraid to test your achievements on a level playing field?

For more, click here


Conflicts of Interest Board goes after the little fish

Accountable Talk, a school-oriented blog, riffs on the irony of the Conflicts of Interest Board fining a teacher but letting Bloomberg slide. 

Read more here


Monday, February 9, 2009

El Diario: How much for the Big Apple?

El Diario questions Bloomberg's campaign spending in How much for the Big Apple?:

Bloomberg, the self-made billionaire, reportedly became annoyed when a reporter yesterday asked him about limiting his campaign spending.

It’s a reasonable question. But Bloomberg resisted discussing his campaign, which has clearly been in motion since last year. And he would not commit to setting a ceiling for campaign spending.

These were inadequate responses. Last year, Bloomberg reversed his longstanding disdain for the idea of overturning term limits on city elected officials and engineered a vote in the City Council to extend these limits.

Organizations that received Bloomberg foundation money were called on to testify on behalf of extending the limits. The editorial boards of the largest city newspapers were assiduously courted. Chits were called and counted.

Since then, Bloomberg has been recruiting a growing list of campaign advisors.... Unfortunately, by playing coy with the size of his re-election treasure chest, the mayor is also creating the impression that he is willing to buy the public office.

Read more here


Sunday, February 8, 2009

How being mayor is EXTREMELY profitable for Bloomberg

Noticing New York has a series of must-read articles about Bloomberg's charity/profitability. Here is an extended quote from Bloomberg's Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2008:

Here, as a quick reference, are figures on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s increasing estimated annual net worth consolidated from Forbes for our article The Good News IS the Bad News: Thanks A lot for Mayor Bloomberg’s “Charity” (Monday, February 2, 2009). For more on what those numbers mean in context click to read the article.

The most reliably constant gauge of his wealth over the years are the annual figures published by Forbes in September of each year:

1996 - $1 billion
1997 - $1.3 billion
1998 - $2 billion
1999- $2.5 billion
2000- $4 billion
2001- $4 billion
2002- $4.8 billion
2003- $4.9 Billion
2004- $5 Billion
2005- $5.1 Billion
2006- $5.3 Billion
2007- $11.5 billion
2008- $20 billion


"Non-partisans" commingle with the Bloomberg campaign

Elizabeth Benjamin reports about the connection between Bloomberg's re-election campaign and supposedly non-partisan groups. In Frieden's Bloomberg Foundation Work, she writes

Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, who is reportedly up for a job with the Obama administration, met with Mayor Bloomberg’s top pollster and another political consultant last year, according to records obtained by the DN's Kate Lucadamo.

The Health Department says both lunch meetings were part of Frieden's private work for the Bloomberg Family Foundation.

This was brought to my attention on a bloglabeled Truth, Justice and Freedom:

Mayor Bloomberg's closest aide, Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, has been working for his charitable foundation without first getting clearance from city ethics watchdogs.

Harris, who earns $227,219 a year on the city payroll, took on an advisory role for the Bloomberg Family Foundation, which the mayor set up last year to give away his billions.

And she's not the only city employee doing side work with the foundation.

Read more here

Avella: DOB’s New Development Challenge Process is a Farce

City Council Member Tony Avella, a candidate challenging Michael Bloomberg for mayor, released this statement

Avella: DOB’s New Development Challenge Process is a Farce
February 05th, 2009

Today, Tony Avella criticized the Department of Buildings (DOB) new development challenge process, which creates a 30-day formal challenge period for the public to contest new developments.

“While I believe that the posting of online diagrams for proposed new developments on DOB’s website is definitely a step in the right direction and leads to greater transparency, I completely disagree with the new development challenge process. Despite being touted by Mayor Mike Bloomberg as empowering the public with greater oversight over new developments, the truth is that this 30-day comment period is actually diminishing the ability of residents to contest new construction by creating a defacto statute of limitations. This procedure will, in effect, actually benefit unscrupulous developers who will simply wait out the clock to avoid community challenges,” stated Avella.

“Furthermore it is extremely inappropriate for the final appeal in the public review process to be brought before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which, throughout its existence, has essentially been a rubber stamp for developers.

“This is just the latest example of the Bloomberg administration’s failed attempts to reform this agency. In order to have true reform, DOB needs to be held accountable for their actions and must also allow greater community involvement. Avella added, “We cannot let Mike Bloomberg and DOB get away with this blatant attempt to silence the public when it comes to reporting building violations and unsafe construction.”

Avella has been the leading critic of DOB since taking office in 2002 and has made overdevelopment and DOB reform top issues in his Mayoral campaign.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Debating the indepence of non-profits: Checks and Balances - or Just Checks?

The Gotham Gazette opines about the state of non-profits and other independent voices in New York:
In the last six years, public protest in the city has faded and full throated critics of city policies are hard to find. Is it because everything here has become wonderful — that New York is the best of all possible cities?

The article was a response to this article by Errol Louis, and it lead to long debates on the Daily Gotham and at Tom Watson's blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

NYC: City of the Developer's Sweetheart Deal

Mole333 expanded on one of my posts. Here is an excerpt from NYC: City of the Developer's Sweetheart Deal:

So Bloomberg ONCE AGAIN uses our tax money in backroom deals to enrich developer buddies. And ONCE AGAIN a scandal happens right under the nose of Christine Quinn and she is shocked...SHOCKED! find out such things could happen under her watch.

What a load of crap. This city is run in such a corrupt fashion it is astonishing. Transparency is deliberately avoided in favor of an opaqueness required for backroom deals between wealthy buddies. Pataki was in the thick of it. Bloomberg still is in the thick of it and wants a third term to continue his enrichment of his buddies.

The article is full of details that back up this righteous indignation. Read it here.

Mayor's Order Encourages Developers to Violate the Law

The following is by Rob Hollander:

On Feb. 2, Mayor Bloomberg, without any legislative process, ordered a time limit on challenges to developments. Ordinary citizens will now have only and exactly 30 days to challenge the legality of a development once a permit has been issued.

Prior to the mayor's order, there was no time limit on challenges. Since the city allows developers to self-certify their plans (yes, approve their pans themselves), the only oversight lies in citizen challenges.

This time limit sends a clear message to developers:
  • Plan developments without regard for the law.
  • The thirty-day window severely decreases the chance of any challenge being brought at all, and if challenged, the development will be only at most thirty days into construction. At worst, the developer will merely have to alter plans (and borrow less money).
So developers will never have to remove a story — or thirty stories — of construction no matter how egregiously those stories violate the zoning and violate the neighborhood.

It's a call to any unscrupulous developer to submit self-certified illegal plans.
Here's the mayor's press release. Notice the headline, spun as procedural improvement. Scroll down to the last two paragraphs before the bullets to learn the underlying motivation: to streamline illegal development. Think about it: as long as the plans are legal, developers have no worries about challenges at any point in the process of construction. Challenges are only a burden to development if the developer is banking on illegal plans.

This is government administrative sponsorship of activity in violation of government legislation; government sponsoring criminality. It's a deft brushing aside of the laws that protect this city and its neighborhoods, and handing the city itself to developers for their fastest buck, no urban planning, no community voice, no legislative process. Just thirty days. Let's close the city council down and let Boss Bloomberg rule in the great tradition of Mussolini and Tweed. (That's an insult to Tweed. Tweed, for all his corruption, responded to his voting base, the Irish working class.)

If developers generally submitted legal plans, this order would never have been. The mayor's order is a response to a problem of excess illegality. His response: make it easier to commit fraudulent and illegal activity and increase the likely profit. Forgive me, it's just so unbelievably outrageous.

Mayor's Order Encourages Developers to Violate the Law (addendum)

The following is an addendum to this response (both by Monte Schapiro) to Bloomberg's recent DOB announcement:

Making plans available online is the least the DOB could do considering its current tacit policy of obfuscation. These are, after all, public records. But, establishing policy without any legitimate rule-making procedure or better still legislation strikes me as an overstriding act by an overweening Mayor.

There is also the issue of First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Even if this were the result of legislation it might place an untoward burden on citizens seeking redress.

The press release claims that the newly announced procedure would "increase transparency and raise accountability" by establishing a "formal timeframe" and reduce "confusion and unnecessary and unintended costs for development in New York City." That is debatable and a very biased perspective. Anyway, a formal timeframe has never been the problem from the point of view of citizens seeking information on mostly self-certified projects. Instead, it has been the DOB's view that interested parties other than the developers are an annoyance to be stonewalled if at all possible.

Providing diagrams online may add to transparency but does not guarantee it, nor would it increase accountability. These issues might be better served by rules requiring all permits to be issued only 30 days after the plans have been posted on the website with a one year deadline for objections. Citizens would then have an opportunity to evaluate proposed projects and voice opposition before the work actually begins plus it would allow them to obtain other crucial documents from the DOB. After all, the other side of the coin, of equal importance, is challenging work done contrary to approved plans. That requires constant monitoring and research and this is what most often leads to delays in formal objections. The DOB must be instructed to cease withholding all public documents, i.e. the other contents of job folders, as well. Indeed, full stop work orders and comprehensive audits should be compulsory immediately upon any potentially legitimate objection to plans or disparities between these and the actual work. That would prevent illegal work from being done while the DOB looks in to the matter and conducts audits of plans. These audits should then be concomitant with thorough physical inspections of the site in order to expose incongruities.

Actually, the proposals made my Bloomberg and LiMandri do not even touch on the problems plaguing that department and certainly do nothing or very little to tangibly improve transparency or accountability. One of the best measures of the DOB's effectiveness is to be found in the recent Comptroller's audit report on outstanding DOB/ECB fines. That report, available online, concludes that there are over $200 million in unpaid ECB fines originating from DOB violations. It exposes the folly of using a fine structure as a deterrent, especially when there is no enforcement power behind it, or at least, none which the Department of Finance is willing to pursue. Worst of all, it confirms that the outstanding fines are merely a by-product of a greater problem, that is, that DOB violations habitually remain uncorrected.

Mayor's Order Encourages Developers to Violate the Law

The following is the first part of a response by Monte Schapiro to Bloomberg's recent DOB announcement:

For those of you who have not seen this, the Mayor is now issuing edicts by fiat in the form of press releases.

Perhaps in response to too much prying and resistance by tenants and community advocates the Mayor announced on Feb. 2, 2009 that along with the posting of zoning diagrams on the DOB website there will now be a completely arbitrary statute of limitations restricting community interference with what is being called "[T]he current crisis, which has no formal timeframe, produces confusion and unnecessary and unintended costs for development in New York City."

Potentially aggrieved residents and neighbors, community advocates, and elected officials are now being put on notice that once the zoning diagrams appear on the DOB BIS website the clock will start ticking. Those who might disagree with the Mayor's assessment of "development" will have 30 days to object and be funneled into what will surely be an even greater bureaucratic and capricious morass than now exists. That might be hard to believe for those of you familiar with the complacency/hostility now posing as DOB policy toward development-hating citizens.

Even in the worst of times the monarch would have to sign his/her name to an edict of this sort. In fact, without the issuance of a Policy and Procedure Notice from the DOB this "announcement" has questionable legal foundation. No doubt, but the head honchos aren't distracted by such nuisances. They know that a lawsuit challenging such a "policy" would drain any group of much needed resources.

By the way, what about the DOB's responsibility to enforce the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), state law which has something to say about building plans as well?

Concerning the proposed ultimate exhaustion of remedies, in the form of an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), it might be instructive to know that in order to get that far one must satisfy nearly insurmountable requirements. The greatest of these is obtaining a Letter of Final Determination on the issues in question from the Building Commissioner. Without it no appeal may be heard by the BSA. If you are a nobody, a building or neighborhood resident, you might as well forget about getting such a letter. We know from experience that it takes political support to get the DOB to respond having now successfully brought two appeals before the BSA, one zoning related and the other having to do with the MDL.

They are apparently trying to sneak this one by us hoping we would not notice. This is an affront to our basic First Amendment rights to be informed and seek redress and must be vigorously opposed.

I think it’s great that the DOB will finally be uploading diagrams of zoning plans to their feted website. That would surely be an improvement over the current situation, one in which plans and microfiche mysteriously vanish or the Dept. simply refuses to provide copies to interested parties. It should not, however, be part of some insidious quid pro quo in which citizens give up their right to oppose illegal building plans for the privilege of seeing diagrams online. What are we supposed to do? Should we be monitoring building permits 24/7 in order to prevent illegal construction just because the Mayor and his hand-picked crony LiMandri want to throw ad hoc administrative obstacles in our path? That would be ridiculous!

The Mayor and the new Building Commissioner like to talk about "streamlining" as if they are running a company. This term, so overused in this administration, is code talk for rushing things through before any opposition might develop. They must be reminded that we have a polity, dysfunctional as it is, which requires respect for the rule of law.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ross the Boss

The following is a reprint (with permission) on an email by Phil DePaolo.

When the City Council approved the Hudson Yards development project in 2005, it gave the Bloomberg administration permission to condemn and acquire several parcels of land on Manhattan's far West Side.

One of those parcels was a city owned block along 42nd St.'s Theater Row, between Dyer and 10th Aves. The buildings there would be torn down to facilitate construction of the No. 7 line subway extension and eventually a new station on the site.

But the Council was never told the city had no intention of condemning the site.

The city had quietly decided to sell it to one of this town's biggest real estate developers, Stephen Ross, for the price of a song: $100,000.

If it sounds like a sweet deal, Ross must have thought so: He and his partners paid $107 million for the lease rights to the property, and they planed to build a 60 story building there.

Ross, chief executive of the The Related Companies, is a close friend and former business partner of former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff.

He bought the site's lease in early November 2004 in a federal bankruptcy court settlement from the partnership that controlled the block for 25 years.

But the block's real value is its development potential, thanks to the city's decision to build a new subway station for the No. 7 subway extension that will have four escalators and two elevators emptying into it.

It smelled like a back room agreement.

The city issued no press releases on its deal with Ross, and the settlement papers weren't filed with the city Finance Department until Jan. 18 2005, the night before the Council's vote.

Bloomberg said that the lease sale was a private transaction, and that City Hall had no favorites.

But Ross group had won City Hall's support as far back as July 2004.

At the time, several developers were feverishly bidding to win control of the site.

One of the developers who competed with Ross for the lease was Robert Gladstone of Madison Equities LLC. His lawyers had charged in court papers that the negotiating process was unfairly skewed in favor of the Ross group.

Madison Equities showed an unpublicized July 22 2004 agreement among the city, that stated the city agreed to back the Ross partnership.

But at the Council, the speaker claimed to be shocked to learn about the secret sale of a property it had just approved for condemnation.

"It's very surprising," said Councilwoman Christine Quinn was quoted as saying, "When you don't make complete disclosures, for any reason, it raises questions."

Given the close relationship between Doctoroff, the city's economic development czar, and Ross, it's natural to ask if the deputy mayor had anything to do with the transaction.

Doctoroff was once a co owner of the New York Islanders with Ross.

It was also reported a few weeks ago that Stephen Ross and some leading Manhattan developers were lobbying Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to cut them in on the federal bailout bonanza. A few days later Stephen Ross despite the need for a federal hand out seems to have discovered enough cash under the sofa cushions to buy the Miami Dolphins for 1.1 Billion dollars.

Today’s New York Times is reporting that despite the M.T.A preparing massive cuts in service and increasing fares they are allowing Mr. Ross to delay a $43.5 million down payment for a site, which sits on both sides of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets where Mr. Ross had planned a 26 acre complex of office towers and apartment buildings.

As I have pointed out, especially with the Bronx Terminal Market project, where City Hall had put up a money back guarantee. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking yet another bite out of ULURP, a public review process that is mandated by the city charter. Not only did the city offer Related tax incentives, tax free Liberty Bonds, low interest loans, and $14 million in cash, they promised they would reimburse the developer for the cost of the lease if it didn’t get the zoning changes it needed.

This was a bold use of the mayor’s power, and the taxpayer's money, to undermine the ULURP process and everyone who has a role in it community boards, borough presidents, the City Planning Commission and City Council.

Bloomberg and his team of dollar a day administrators are in fact quite partial to billionaires like Steve Ross, awarding them no bid contracts, and generous subsidies for developments. This needs to be fully exposed in order to demonstrate that the mayor's entire economic development strategy is, in fact, beholden to special interests, interests that often conflict with what's best for the New York City taxpayer.