June 24, 2014

Your morning reading from PLA – A sampling of today’s New York news

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When Rangel held a demographic revolution at bay Capital New York (Steve Kornacki)

The parallels between what Charlie Rangel insists will be his final campaign for Congress and his first one are obvious: an entrenched, aging incumbent revered for his civil rights record but diminished by ethical misconduct scrambling to beat back a primary challenge from an ambitious state legislator who promises to bring new vitality to the position. 


The twist, of course, is that Rangel’s present-day challenger, Adriano Espaillat, is now cast in the role that Rangel himself played when he stunned Adam Clayton Powell in a 1970 Democratic primary. But 44 years of incumbency, the loss of a powerful committee chairmanship to scandal, and a humiliating rebuke from his own House colleagues have created for the 84-year-old Rangel many of the same vulnerabilities that he exploited when he knocked off Powell all those decades ago.

Cuomo signs anti-heroin bills into law Journal News (Megan Brockett)

VESTAL –  Following a bill signing at Binghamton University on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the recent surge of heroin abuse in New York a problem that will require action by community members to slow.

Cuomo, a Democrat, praised the state Legislature for approving a package of 11 heroin-related bills last week focused on increasing access to treatment, strengthening efforts by law enforcement officials and improving public awareness of the drug and its risk.

Cuomo reassessing pension bills Times Union (Jordan Carleo-Evangelist)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is once again vetting three bills that would bump nine one-time Green Island employees into more generous state pension tiers.

For the second time, the state Legislature passed measures that village officials say will right administrative errors that held the workers out of their deserved tier.

Cuomo vetoed the initial bills last September, saying “closer examination and explanation” was needed.

State lawmakers approve child protective service reforms Buffalo News (Harold McNeil)

State lawmakers, prior to recessing for the summer last week, approved child protection legislation requiring the state to track repeated reports of abuse and neglect through the statewide child abuse hotline.

Sponsored by State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, the new legislation – which was unanimously passed by the State Senate late Friday – requires the state Office of Children and Family Services to examine the call history of children named in suspected abuse reports. Further, the complete record of those calls must then be shared with any local child protective services agency that winds up investigating subsequent allegations of abuse.

Groups slam proposal for redistricting reform Times Union (Rick Karlin)

A trio of good-government groups is urging voters to vote against a constitutional amendment that would create what the advocates see as a self-serving sham reform of the legislative redistricting process.

“We’re calling for voters to reject the proposed amendment in November,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who, along with Common Cause’s Susan Lerner and Effective NY’s Jesse Laymon, held a Monday news conference excoriating the redistricting plan. The blueprint was part of a larger budget-season deal cut by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in March 2012.

New York State Challenge Planned on Teacher Tenure Law Wall Street Journal (Leslie Brody)

A new advocacy group is helping parents prepare a challenge to New York’s teacher tenure and seniority laws, contending that they violate children’s constitutional right to a sound basic education by keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms.

Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who has been a critic of job protections for teachers, launched the group, Partnership for Educational Justice, in December. She said six students have agreed to serve as plaintiffs, arguing they suffered from laws making it too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to fire bad teachers.

Oil transportation firms pay little into state spill fund Capital New York (Scott Waldman)

ALBANY—Two Fortune 500 companies that transport most of the crude oil through New York are contributing to the state’s oil spill fund at a much lower rate than other energy companies, state records show.

The fund is the first line of defense against the tremendous costs associated with an oil train derailment. However, it’s so underfunded that it would do little to mitigate the actual cost of a major accident like those that have occurred in Canada, North Dakota and Virginia in the last year, some legislators say.



Rent Guidelines Board enacts NYC’s lowest-ever rent hike New York Post (Tara Palmeri)

The city’s Rent Guidelines Board made history Monday night — enacting the lowest rent hikes since it was formed nearly half a century ago, even as it rejected a freeze recommended by Mayor de Blasio.

In a surprising act of independence, the board voted 5-4 to raise rents on nearly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments by 1 percent for new one-year leases and 2.75percent for two-year leases.

A special-needs challenge in pre-K expansion Capital New York (Eliza Shapiro)

As the de Blasio administration rolls out its ambitious expansion of pre-kindergarten, it will be hard-pressed to accommodate children with special needs, special education advocates say.

The Department of Education must find space for about 5,000 children who will likely be identified as needing special services, coordinate those services through approved agencies, and arrange for travel and communicate with parents, pre-K directors and teachers about each child’s individual needs.

Mayor Defends Expected Central Park Five Settlement Wall Street Journal (Sean Gardiner and Michael Howard Saul)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday defended his administration’s decision to settle the “Central Park Five’s” federal lawsuit against the city for an expected $40 million.

“An injustice was done and we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice,” Mr. de Blasio said after a news conference on traffic safety in Queens.

Added $10 Million Set For City’s Libraries Wall Street Journal (Michael Howard Saul)

New York City’s public libraries are slated to receive $10 million more in funding above what Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council agreed to last week as part of a last-minute deal negotiated on Monday, a high-ranking member of the council said.

Jimmy Van Bramer, the council’s majority leader and chairman of the council committee that oversees libraries, said Mr. de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito signed off on the added $10 million, bringing the total to $311 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Mayor de Blasio signs 11 bills into law as part of Vision Zero initiative Newsday (Emily Ngo)

Mayor Bill de Blasio bolstered his pledge to reduce traffic fatalities with legislation Monday, signing into law 11 bills relating to his Vision Zero initiative, near the Queens site where an 8-year-old boy was killed by a tractor-trailer.

Noshat Nahian’s parents attended the news conference in the schoolyard of PS 152, which their son was walking toward in December when he was fatally struck. The school was also the location de Blasio chose in January to announce the Vision Zero push to end pedestrian and bicyclist deaths.

2nd Bridge Inquiry Said to Be Linked to Christie New York Times (Matt Flegenheimer, William K. Rashbaum and Kate Zernike)

Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011, according to people briefed on the matter.

While the inquiries were prompted by the apparently politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last year, these investigations center on another crossing: the Pulaski Skyway, the crumbling elevated roadway connecting Newark and Jersey City. They are being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission.



Moderate gains among suburban schools prompt push to improve Buffalo News (Denise Jewell Gee)

Even as area suburban districts posted moderate gains in their graduation rates, state and local education officials challenged schools across New York to push students to perform at higher levels.

Statewide, the percentage of students graduating increased from 76.7 percent to 77.8 percent between 2012 and 2013. Those figures include students who finished in August after completing summer school.

Federal agency cites Buffalo VA’s violation of sterilization procedure standards Buffalo News (Jerry Zremski)

WASHINGTON – Employees at the Buffalo VA Medical Center have violated safety standards for sterilizing medical equipment, the federal agency charged with investigating whistle-blower complaints said Monday.

The Office of Special Counsel cited the problems at the Buffalo facility in a letter to President Obama in which it said that at health facilities nationwide, the VA often admits to deficiencies in its patient care while implausibly denying that those problems affect veterans’ health.

West Seneca megaproject raises issues of financing Buffalo News (Robert J. McCarthy)

West Seneca officials say they now hope to decide by summer’s end whether to proceed with a $700 million megaproject proposed for the former Seneca Mall by developer Scott R. Congel.

But a host of questions remains unanswered, even apart from a companion proposal involving a new Buffalo Bills stadium adjacent to the site – all part of what sources describe as preliminary conversations between Congel and billionaire B. Thomas Golisano to buy the team.



LIRR commuters warned to prepare for possible July strike Newsday (Maria Alvarez)

LIRR commuter advocates Monday warned riders at Penn Station to prepare for a possible strike next month and urged them to have backup plans for getting to work, including carpools, and consider staying in the city.

About a dozen representatives of the LIRR Commuter Council handed out leaflets to riders suggesting they organize carpools with co-workers and friends, find out if their employers will provide transportation and share housing with family and friends in the city if railroad workers walk off the job July 20. The council also urged LIRR riders to ask their employers about working off hours and being reimbursed for hotels.

“If a LIRR strike occurs, traffic will be severe and parking will be limited in Manhattan and surrounding areas,” reads the leaflet written in red letters.

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Posted by Charles and Randy Fisher (Twitter @HHSYC).