Rockaway Ferry Supporters Rally At City Hall (Updated)



Rockaway ferry service supporters came to City Hall Thursday evening to urge Mayor de Blasio to continue operating the service past it’s scheduled October cessation.  Initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while the A train was out of service for months, the ferry is subsidized by the City at an annual cost of approximately $6 million.  The City calculates that the subsidy is at least $25 per passenger/trip.  The de Blasio administration had continued the Bloomberg administration’s short term ferry funding, but has announced that the subsidy will end in October.

The rally featured two citywide elected officials, Scott Stringer and Tish James, as well as Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, State Senator Joe Addabbo, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Members Eric Ulrich and Vincent Gentile.

The Rockaway peninsula’s physical separation from the rest of the City is matched by a sense of political separation.  It’s particularly so in the neighborhoods which most use the ferry, with many residents believing that City Hall is not looking out for them.  Those western neighborhoods, such as Belle Harbor and Breezy Point, overwhelmingly voted for Joe Lhota in 2013 and have little in the way of a political relationship with Bill de Blasio.

de Blasio Departs:

Mayor de Blasio left City Hall during the rally, passing just behind the rally as he headed toward his car.  Rallygoers took note, loudly chanting and calling out to him, but his only acknowledgment or engagement with them was a small wave as he moved past.  The mayor continued talking with an aide, ignoring the chants of “no ferry, no votes.”  Unfortunately for the ferry supporters, he did okay in his last election without their votes.

Update – Elected Officials Speak:

Here are the remarks of the elected officials:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Return to Red Hook Edition



Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Red Hook Initiative this afternoon, holding a press conference to urge New Yorkers to prepare for future hurricanes and other disasters.  This was de Blasio’s second press conference at the Red Hook Initiative.

Disaster Response Responsibilities:

I asked the mayor whether he plans on any significant changes in the allocation of disaster response responsibilities among City agencies or on the structure of those agencies with respect to disaster response:

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included the post-Sandy status of  NYCHA repairs and whether the mayor is making any changes in the allocation of disaster response duties and responsibilities among City agencies.  Off topic questions focused mostly on the Eric Garner case, and especially the role of the Rev. Al Sharpton generally and in the mayoral round table discussion yesterday.

Sandy Recovery, Continued



Faith In New York and the Alliance For A Just Rebuilding held a Sandy recovery forum Tuesday evening.  Government officials participating included Amy Peterson, Director of the Office of Housing Recovery, Public Advocate Tish James, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal and Council Members Donovan Richards, Mark Treyger and Carlos Menchaca.

While not ignoring individual homeowners and their rebuilding needs, Faith In New York primarily focuses on a different segment of Sandy victims.  It’s constituents tend to be renters, many in NYCHA and many undocumented.  Their needs, and Faith In New York’s resulting focus, differ significantly in many respects from individual homeowners.

Amy Peterson:

Here are Amy Peterson’s remarks and two separate, albeit brief, question & answer segments that she participated in with the forum hosts.  Peterson oversees the Build It Back program, which focuses on assisting individual homeowners on rebuilding.  At this forum, however, the greatest interest was on a separate aspect of her responsibilities, stimulating job creation in Sandy-affected areas and pushing those jobs toward local residents.  Peterson began her remarks by pledging to use Sandy recovery funding “to also rebuild peoples lives through workforce development” and noted her professional background in doing so.

Concerning Build It Back, Peterson expressed confidence in the Mayor’s stated goal of having 500 reimbursement checks issued and 500 construction starts by Labor Day.  In a conversation after the forum, we spoke about the range of issues that differently affect the many Sandy-damaged neighborhoods.  When I asked Peterson which of those issues seems most intractable, she paused and then replied that while so many are “certainly complicated”, “all … are solvable.”

Music:

The forum included some great music.  Here’s one song, beautifully performed by the Christ Church International choir.

Prior coverage of Faith In New York’s Sandy-related work is here and here.

Bob Rob & Bob



Former Congressman Bob Turner hosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci this afternoon for a press conference at Turner’s home in Breezy Point.  Astorino focused on a favored theme:  that Governor Andrew Cuomo has wrongfully used approximately $40 million of Hurricane Sandy relief funding for thinly disguised political ads promoting Cuomo.

Turner, elected to replace Anthony Weiner, was winding down his one term in Congress when Sandy struck.  More than 100 homes, including Turner’s, were destroyed by a fire that raged through Breezy Point as Sandy’s storm surge struck.  The homes behind Astorino, Antonacci and Turner are newly rebuilt, replacing some of the homes destroyed by that fire.

During the Q&A portion of the press conference (which begins at about 4:00) I asked Astorino questions about other Sandy-related topics, including his view of the overall response to Sandy by New York State government and whether he would do anything differently concerning the NYS Department of Financial Services and it’s regulation of insurance companies, which he would control as governor.  Astorino appeared unwilling, or unable, to move on to other Sandy-related topics, staying focused on Governor Cuomo’s use of federal relief money for TV advertising.  The Q&A began with my question of why Astorino’s fellow Republicans, in the state senate, have permitted Cuomo’s use of Sandy money as condemned by Astorino.

Note:  Astorino held a separate press conference this morning, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, available here.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Building It Back Edition



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference promoting his administration’s advances in the Build It Back program.  Created to assist homeowners in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Build It Back was immediately mired in bureaucratic quicksand, producing virtually no assistance to any homeowners by the close of the Bloomberg administration.  Although the program continued to drift in the early months of the de Blasio administration, it has markedly accelerated its efforts since the late March hiring of Amy Peterson as Director of the Office of Housing Recovery.

The mayor has set a Build It Back goal of 500 construction starts and issuing 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day.  While modest compared to the estimated 20,000 or more homeowners who could be helped under the program, that’s a dramatic improvement from the program’s first year in which virtually no homeowners received such assistance.  In today’s press conference, the mayor announced that Build It Back has had 132 construction starts and issued 397 reimbursement checks.

Preparation for the Next Storm:

I asked Mayor de Blasio whether he has examined, and made any significant changes in,  the City’s emergency management system in anticipation of future storms:

Eric Ulrich:

Council Member Eric Ulrich, one of only three Republicans in the City Council and whose Sandy-impacted district includes part of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach, spoke briefly:

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included funding for items in the City’s SIRR report and whether there is an alternative source for such items, whether the mayor is satisfied with the pace of City spending of federal money for Sandy relief, whether the mayor is confident of reaching his 500 construction starts and 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day, Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report on a lack of oversight on spending by the Department of Homeless Services, whether the City has the “right formula” for Build It Back, the total number of homes damaged by Sandy and when all will reached through Build It Back, how many of the 132 construction starts to date are repairs and how many are rebuilds and whether the mayor has closely examined the City’s emergency management system in the context of preparing for a future coastal storm.

Off topic questions the Long Island Railroad and possible strike, the City’s contingency plans and role in the event of a strike, whether the petitions supporting continued operation of horse carriages, with 40,000 signatures recently delivered to City Hall affect his thinking on the topic, what the 66 donors to Campaign for One New York expect from the mayor, whether he plans to take any additional vacations this year, what initiatives Campaign for One New York will next focus on, the status of the review of the 911 system upgrade and, concerning his trip to Italy, whether he is packed, whether he’s packing his own bags and what food he is most looking forward to.

Rebuild By Design (Updated x 2)



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced four winning designs in the “Rebuild by Design” program administered by HUD and the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task force.  Three of the selections are for projects in New York City, with the fourth a project in Nassau County.  The New York City projects are (1) “The Big U”, a series of berms and bridges around lower Manhattan, (2) “Living Breakwaters”, a series of breakwaters off the south shore of Staten Island, and (3) “Lifelines”, to provide flood protection systems for Hunts Point, the site of a major food market that functions as a hub of the region’s food supply chain.

Their press conference included remarks by each of the four government officials as well as an on topic Q&A.

Off-Topic Q&A:

Afterwards, Mayor de Blasio separately answered off topic questions.  He began with a statement concerning the stabbing of two young children in Brooklyn and then answers questions concerning that incident, the proposed state law to allow municipalities to further raise the minimum wage and whether he would pursue a $13 minimum wage for New York City, how that proposed law fits into the political deal that gave Governor Cuomo the Work Families Party ballot line, a young boy hit and killed today by a car and how Vision Zero addresses that location and the large number of shootings in the City this past weekend.  Here is the Mayor’s full off topic Q&A, which began with some press dissatisfaction:

Update – Opening Yucks:

The three elected officials began with a couple of yucks:

Update #2 – On Topic Q&A:

The Mayor, Governor, Senator and Secretary answered several on topic questions, including why the approved projects do not include any in Brooklyn and Queens and whether actions taken by “other jurisdictions” are sufficient, when will the resiliency efforts be complete and when will the majority of Build It Back homes be completed, what complexities Secretary Donovan saw when his Department approved the Build It Back program and why is New York City slower than Nassau and Suffolk Counties to deliver post-Sandy assistance to homeowners.  Here is their full on topic Q&A:

Peterson Discusses Build It Back



We spoke with Amy Peterson, the Director of New York City’s Housing Recovery Office, about the Build It Back program.  Peterson, appointed by Mayor de Blasio in late March, oversees the widely criticized program and is charged with restarting what has been a moribund effort.

We spoke after a Sandy-recovery town hall hosted by Comptroller Scott Stringer in the Arverne section of Rockaway.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Brooklyn Library Edition



This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a Department of Education Universal pre-K enrollment workshop being held at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.  Following his visit, Mayor de Blasio held a press conference in front of the Library, promoting his pre-K/middle school program initiative.

Full Press Q&A:

Following an opening statement, the mayor answered questions from the press.  Topics included his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s statement that he is not planning to approve a specific amount of pre-K funding set forth in the state senate proposed budget, how confident he is of pre-K funding, the status of his administration’s review of the city’s Sandy relief programs, his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s statements on mayoral control of the city school system and charter schools, the current status of site clearing and the investigation into the cause of the East Harlem building explosion, whether New Yorkers should be concerned about gas leaks, his reaction to a tweet yesterday by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito critical of Governor Cuomo’s reaction to the East Harlem building explosion, how the church services he attended this morning for victims affected him personally and the relief efforts being led by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and the Mayor’s Fund for NYC.  Here is his full press Q&A:

Sandy Review:

I asked the mayor about his previously discussed review of the City’s Sandy recovery programs.  Here’s how he responded:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The HeyNow Edition



This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio met with elected officials on Staten Island to discuss Sandy recovery efforts.  Led by Borough President Jimmy Oddo (or @HeyNowJO as he’s known on Twitter), eight elected officials met privately with de Blasio and then joined him for a press conference.

Off Topic – Speeding:

A modest portion of the press conference was devoted to off topic questions, all four of which involved the speeding and stop sign-running imbroglio of late last week. Those questions included whether the mayor thinks recent criticism directed at him, on the driving flap and other actions, is fair, whether he thinks the speeding flap will negatively impact his efforts at implementing the Vision Zero plan, whether the mayor has discretion to direct how the NYPD drives him and whether his NYPD detail thought they were being followed by WCBS-TV news.  Here is the full off topic portion of the Q&A:

Full Q&A:

The Q&A was primarily on topic, with questions on Sandy recovery and the mayor’s plans for changes to existing city efforts.  Among the questions: what is working, and not working, in the Build it Back program, the mayor’s reaction to a report that a family he visited in the Arverne section of Rockaway is “getting close” to losing faith in the mayor, the scope/number of people still directly affected by Sandy, whether his weekend trip to Pennsylvania involved a meeting with the consultants running the Build it Back program, whether he stands by statements he made during a September visit to Far Rockaway’s St. Mary Star of the Sea, whether the Bloomberg administration allocated enough money to housing from the first tranch of federal assistance, whether he agrees with Oddo’s idea of acquiring land for redevelopment, the role of Michael DeLoach in Build it Back, whether New Yorkers should be concerned that they may lose desirable options under Build it Back after de Blasio completes his review and issues on elevation of existing structures v. new construction.

Here is the full press Q&A:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Pothole Edition (Updated)



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Maspeth to highlight the City’s efforts at pothole repair.  The city’s roads have been battered by a high number of winter storms and temperature fluctuations, producing a bumper pothole crop.  The mayor’s press conference, held at 69th Lane and 60th Avenue in Maspeth, featured the mayor and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg joining a Department of Transportation road crew in filling a pothole.

Full Q&A:

On-topic questions for the mayor included the cost of the pothole repair program, the furlough of seasonal DoT workers, the average time between pothole complaints and repair, the outlook for the rest of the winter, the number of potholes repaired, how potholes are identified for repair, the DoT’s road resurfacing plans in the near-future, how many crews are working, why this particular pothole was chosen for the press conference location, whether the mayor is enjoying “this aspect” of his job and an assessment by the road crew of how the mayor performed.  Off-topic questions included the mayor’s proposed budget and the potential cost of open labor contracts, a timeline for settling the open labor contracts, the Build it Back program, the administration’s “comprehensive review” of the city’s Sandy recovery efforts, release of Bishop Findlayter’s arrest report, the mayor’s September promise to visit a carriage horse stable before acting on his pledge to ban carriage horses and the administration’s community development block grant application.   Here is the mayor’s full press Q&A:

Sandy Recovery:

The mayor was asked three separate questions concerning the city’s ongoing efforts at recovery from Hurricane Sandy.  The first focused on the Build it Back program, which is widely criticized for a slow, even glacial, pace of funding repairs.  The second (from yours truly) asked about the “comprehensive review” briefly mentioned by the mayor in his State of the City address on February 10th.  The third asked about the city’s community development block grant application, due to be submitted to the federal government by March 18th.  Here is how the mayor responded:

Update – Pothole Repair:

Mayor de Blasio and DoT Commissioner Trottenberg filled a real live pothole; here’s how it went.