Article Archive

Reformers Frustrated
By Legislative Inaction
But They Keep Trying
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Friday, April 30th, 2010

The recurring theme in many of these columns in recent months has been the weakness of state government, particularly in the legislature.  Without revisiting the muck of corruption, favoritism and self-dealing (and the mire of fiscal irresponsibility), we turn our attention to what can be done about the situation.

The decent and honorable organizations devoted to good government--Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Women's City Club--have been struggling for years to reform state government.  In recent years, they have traveled to Albany each spring to meet with legislators.  On several occasions, New York Civic has taken the bus trip.  Other reformers came from different parts of the state.  We would hear speakers in the Egg, hold a small rally on the lawn, and split up to go to appointments with legislators who would see us.

Legislature Paralyzed
As State Slides Down
Road to Fiscal Ruin
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Most New Yorkers know by now that their state government is rolling downhill, and there does not appear to be a back-up plan for its rescue.

The situation is eloquently described this morning in Bill Hammond's column on p21 of the Daily News: IN ALBANY, COWARDS ON PARADE.  It is well worth reading in full. (The link may not be up yet, but we are told it will be soon.)   Here are Hammond's lede six sentences:

"One of the bleakest statements ever uttered about Albany came from former State Controller Carl McCall, who said: 'We have found a way to bring about change in New York, and it’s called utter failure.'

Espada Is Bedeviled
Sampson Undisturbed
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The roof is falling in on the State Senate's most conspicuous scoundrel.

Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., elected leader of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, was sued Tuesday by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who alleged multiple crimes involved with Espada's management of the Soundview Health Center.

All three dailies covered the suit.  A front page story in the Times, written by Nicholas Confessore, was titled CUOMO ACCUSES ESPADA OF DIVERTING MILLIONS FROM CLINICS.  Frederic Dicker and Brendan Scott, writing in the Post on pages 8 and 9 under the headline ESPADA HIT WITH 'LOOT' SUIT, reported that Espada had charged "$20,000 sushi bills and $9,400 trips to Puerto Rico" to his health clinic (which, never forget, was partially funded by federal tax dollars).  The Daily News article was titled PEDRO ESPADA JR. LOOTED $14M FROM NON-PROFIT, INCLUDING $20K SPENT ON SUSHI: SUIT.  Greg Smith and Kenneth Lovett, the article's authors, quote Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who accused Espada of using the health center as a "personal piggy bank."

Four Candidates Promise
Impartial Redistricting
Of Legislature in 2011
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

A significant step towards political reform took place yesterday when New York Uprising, a citizens group led by former Mayor Edward I. Koch, displayed the signatures of all four candidates for governor of New York State, attached to pledges committing themselves to supporting independent nonpartisan redistricting of the state and vetoing any apportionment bill that did not include or was not a product such a commission.

By law, the state must redraw its congressional and legislative district lines in 2011, when the results of the 2010 Decennial census are compiled and released.

Queens Mortgage Fraud
Called Worst in the U.S.;
State Still $3 Billion Short
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The impasse between the governor and the legislature continues, with New York State's budget now two weeks overdue.  There is no prospect of a swift resolution of the dispute.  The legislature has proposed roughly six billion dollars in reductions; the deficit is 9.2 billion. That leaves a balance of 3.2 billion.  Normally that gap would be closed by one-shots, by sweeping accounts holding agency revenues into the general fund, and by borrowing, either directly or through the back channel of authorities and other public bodies.

Goldstein Commission
To Study City Charter,
Propose Amendments
To Go To Referendum
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Last night the newly-appointed Charter Revision Commission held its first public hearing of the year, in the CUNY graduate center located in the old B. Altman department store, which closed in 1989.  The building, which occupies the full block from 34th to 35th Street and from Fifth to Madison Avenue, is also home to the New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1985, twenty-five years ago.

The hearing was held in the Proshansky Auditorium, a large public space which is located one to two floors below street level.  It was named not for a donor but for Dr. Harold M. Proshansky, president of the Graduate Center for eighteen years, who died in 1990.  The sloping meeting hall and performance space has 389 seats.  The building itself is catty-corner from the Empire State Building, opened in 1931 on the site of the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which was demolished before the city's Landmarks Law was adopted in 1965, after the unfortunate demolition of the classical Pennsylvania Station.

April Fools' Day
Still No Budget,
It's No Surprise
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The March 31st Constitutional deadline for the adoption of the New York State budget has come and gone.  To no one's surprise, the Legislature and the Governor have not decided on a budget, and there is no prospect of early agreement between the two houses and the governor on how to deal with a $9 billion state deficit.

BTW, The executive chamber is known informally in Albany as 'the second floor', because the governor's offices and staff are located on the second floor of the State Capitol, which is an enormous five-story building, 400 feet long and 300 feet wide, 220 feet tall at its highest point, and designed in a mixture of architectural styles.