Thursday, January 6, 2011


    The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not fixing fire hydrants fast enough putting the public and firefighters at risk, according to an audit released today by New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.
    Comptroller Liu said the problem is even bigger for hydrants designated as “High Priority,” meaning they are either located near a school, hospital, or senior citizens’ residence, or are the only fire hydrant on the block. The audit reviewed 149 high priority hydrant work orders and found that some of the fire hydrants were out of service anywhere from three months to more than one year.
    For example, a fire hydrant at 116th Street and Liberty Avenue in Queens took 368 days to fix and a fire hydrant at 15 Little Clove Road in Staten Island waited 102 days to be repaired.
    “New York City’s firefighters already have a dangerous job, and a malfunctioning fire hydrant represents one less tool that our firefighters have to carry out their duty of protecting lives and property,” Comptroller Liu said. “Repairs to fire hydrants – especially the ones deemed ‘High Priority’ by the City’s Bravest – must be better prioritized and further accelerated.”
     The DEP has a goal of 10 days to repair high priority fire hydrants. But 38 percent of the fire hydrants surveyed did not meet the 10-day goal.
    DEP maintains and repairs the City’s 109,217 fire hydrants. In Fiscal Year 2009, the agency received complaints regarding 15 percent of fire hydrants.  According to the audit, it took an average of 18 days to
make repairs.  The audit also found a wide discrepancy in repair time among the five boroughs. The DEP could not explain the discrepancy.
    Average Time by Borough to Fix  Broken Fire Hydrants, FY 2009 (Borough
- # of Work Orders; Avg. # of Days to Resolve)
Staten Island - 1,310; 33.4, Brooklyn - 4,675; 26.6, Bronx - 2,726; 19.5, Manhattan - 4,514; 10.3,
Queens - 3,208; 10.1.
    The audit was initiated by former New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson. It was initiated to determine if the DEP made repairs to the City’s fire hydrants in a timely manner.
    Chief among the findings:
       Citywide, the DEP took an average 18.3 days to repair fire hydrants in FY 2009
       2,314 fire hydrants were not fixed for more than one month
       43 fire hydrants were not fixed for more than one year
       81 fire hydrants for which work order were issued in FY 2009 were still not fixed as of April 21, 2010
       The DEP had no written standard of what an appropriate response time should be
       The DEP did not properly track repairs to fire hydrants
    The recommendations made by Comptroller Liu to the DEP include:
       The DEP needs to improve its response to fixing broken fire hydrants, especially high priority hydrants
       The DEP needs to improve its tracking of repairing fire hydrants to better assess and resolve complaints that remain open for extended periods
    The DEP agreed with six of the audit’s eight findings. Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit H. Tina Kim and the Bureau of Audit for presenting the findings.  The full report is available at

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

State Senators Klein, Savino, Valesky, Carlucci  Announce Formation of Independent Democratic Conference 
    State Senators Jeffrey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), David J. Valesky,  (D-Oneida) and David Carlucci, (D-Rockland), today announced their departure from the Senate  Democratic Conference and the formation of a third legislative conference.   
    The four senators will caucus together as the Independent Democratic Conference. As a group, they will push for commonsense solutions to the problems facing this state, break the hyper-partisan gridlock that has gripped this chamber, and work to restore the public's trust in its public officials. 
   “This is a new beginning,” Senator Klein said. “The squandered opportunities, ethical lapses, and mismanagement of the last two years have left the residents of this state distrustful and disappointed in the State Senate as an institution and their government as a whole. As members of the Independent Democratic Conference, we will work to bring integrity back to this house and once again make government a tool to improve people's lives.” 
    The IDC has pledged to work with Governor Cuomo, the incoming Senate Majority and Minority, and its other partners in government to get New York's fiscal house in order, foster job creation, and cap property taxes. They will also be pursuing a legislative agenda that includes enacting tough new ethics reforms, establishing non-partisan redistricting, and protecting a woman's right to choose.   
    “We are, and remain, Democrats who are committed to Democratic principles,” Senator Savino said. “The Independent Democratic Conference will allow us to make a clean break from the dysfunction that has defined Albany for far too long and allow us to govern in a manner that our constituents expect and deserve.” 
    The IDC creates a new paradigm in the State Senate, which for the first time will have more than two legislative conferences. There will be no concentration of power in the Independent Democratic Conference. Each member will have an equal say and an equal vote when it caucuses.   
     “This conference represents a new way of conducting the people’s business— with civility, a commitment to sound policy, and a willingness to work together,” Senator Valesky said. “In time, this may become a new model for legislative governance; but for now, it is the only choice that makes sense.” 
     “The late Senator Morahan understood the importance of setting aside partisan politics to get work done for the residents of New York State,” Senator Carlucci said. “As a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, I will uphold that tradition. It is time to stop thinking about the next election and start thinking about the next generation.” 
    The Independent Democratic Conference 2011 Agenda
    Job Creation This past October, New York State was given the dubious distinction of having the least hospitable tax climate in the nation. The key to job creation in New York is removing obstacles to business investment and business creation through broad-based reforms that benefit all sizes and types of employers all across the state.   
    Streamlining Upstate NY Economic Development Efforts to Attract and Retain Businesses
We will continue to strongly encourage development of programs like the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit that foster economic development in Upstate urban cores and villages. Support for core industries, including medical and pharmaceutical research, healthcare and renewable energy, and agricultural priorities, including providing relief for farmers and promoting local foods, is also critical.
    Property Tax Cap Our new legislation to impose a 2% annual tax cap on property tax levies will require school districts and other local governments to live within their taxpayers’ means and will help create a more sustainable funding stream than the current one that drives seniors from their longtime homes and makes it unaffordable for young people to start families in the communities where they were raised.   
    Real and Immediate Mandate Relief for Local School Districts and Municipalities
State government must also do all that it can to help school districts and local governments control their costs by eliminating non-essential state mandates and encouraging a more streamlined government through regionalization, shared services and functional consolidations.  
     Identifying Government Waste and Creating Government Efficiency Last year we committed ourselves to investigating costs on a State agency-by-agency basis. In the coming session, we will switch our focus to State government wide issues that would allow us to highlight larger possible savings such as an examination into simplifying business regulations and their costs, controlling costs in the Legislature and modernizing State government functions
    Women’s Reproductive Rights New York’s reproductive health laws are outdated and inadequate. The Woman’s Reproductive Health Act of 2011 is needed to ensure that New York gives women an affirmative right to their reproductive health and would enact the critically important reforms in New York’s laws governing women’s reproductive health such as protecting the right to privacy in reproductive decision-making, safeguarding not only the right to end a pregnancy but also the right to bear a child and the right to use or refuse birth control.  
    Ethics Reform in Albany The Ethics in Government Now Act ( S.573) has been introduced to comprehensively reform the operation of the Legislative Ethics Commission and to establish new prohibitions against nepotism for hiring relatives in the same legislative chamber
    Independent Redistricting Concerned New Yorkers have indicated that the current reapportionment process exposes the legislature to claims that the deck is stacked to favor the re-election of incumbents and to discourage potential challengers. Senate Bill S. 660 will create an independent commission which would enable the reapportionment process to unfold in a manner that debunks any claims that legislators are primarily concerned with apportioning districts in order to facilitate their own re-elections.  
    MTA Tax Reform Gross mismanagement is blamed for 1/3 of the MTA’s current fiscal debt.  Our goal is to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit of the MTA to find areas of waste and corruption and determine the need and the efficacy of the current MTA tax.  
    Medicaid Reform An examination of Medicaid and is needed because of the centrality of the issue to the State’s long-term fiscal health. Our focus will be to start to target individual areas of Medicaid for examination with the goal of cost savings to all New Yorkers.  Possible targets are Long-Term Care, Transportation Services, or care for patients with disabilities. Furthermore New York is one of a few states that disburse Medicaid funds through its counties.  This system has caused New York to lose control of spending.  It is imperative that we we consider disbursing Medicaid funds from the State level, eliminating the need for counties to pay and wait for reimbursement.   

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Engel Cleared In Ethics Investigation into Per Diems

    Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel has been cleared of ethics charges over per diem travel payments after the House ethics committee ended its investigation into the matter. 

     The investigation dealt with the way that Engel and five other lawmakers spent federal travel funds while visiting foreign countries. A Wall Street Journal report last year uncovered how some members of Congress used daily cash stipends even though many of their costs were picked up by foreign governments and U.S. embassies, leaving lawmakers with leftover funds.  Leftover per-diem money was often used for shopping or to cover spouses' travel expenses and there are no rules about members of Congress returning leftover travel funds.

    According to a report on the matter, "the Committee concludes that there is insufficient evidence to determine with any degree of certainty that any one of the Members were provided an amount of per diem that was not necessary for their respective trips."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Requests City Hall Review of Technology Project to Prevent “CityTime 2”
    New York City Comptroller John C. Liu today called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to immediately review the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP) as part of the comprehensive evaluation of technology projects as charged to Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith by the Mayor, in the wake of the CityTime scandal.
    Comptroller Liu’s office rejected a $286 million contract request from the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) for the ECTP project. The cost of the project has mushroomed from the $380 million initial budget to now $666 million, without discernable changes in the scope of ECTP. 
    In a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Comptroller Liu cited the rejection as an “opportunity to gain synergy from Deputy Mayor Goldsmith’s efforts to make sure that additional measures or safety nets are installed to prevent waste and fraud.” Of particular concern is that the bulk of the contract is allotted to unspecified ‘time and expense’ costs.  This type of vague budgeting formula allows outside consultants to bill on an hourly basis and collect exorbitant fees, as in the case of the CityTime project.
    Comptroller Liu continued, “The ECTP is an important project that has been initiated for the purpose of improving public safety for New Yorkers.  It’s all the more important that it gets done on a timely basis and within our means.”
    In May, Comptroller Liu released a report outlining the problems associated with large IT projects undertaken by the City.  Comptroller Liu’s report provided a number of recommendations to ensure better oversight of IT projects.  The report is available at:
    In April of 2005, the City projected the cost of establishing two unified (FDNY, NYPD, FDNY-EMS) 911 emergency call center systems, one in Brooklyn and a second redundant backup system in the Bronx at $380 million. The contract was awarded to Hewlett-Packard. Six years later, the Brooklyn Center is still not fully operational and one year behind schedule. 
    The Emergency Communications Transformation Program was troubled by findings of poor management and less than satisfactory oversight by the original vendor, which necessitated a second Request for Proposals to be released for the Bronx facility. 
    In late November, DoITT submitted a $286 million contract to the Comptroller’s Office to hire Northrop Grumman to begin work on establishing the Bronx call center system.  As part of Comptroller Liu’s due diligence in reviewing DoITT’s submission, serious red flags emerged, and a request for a full analysis of the cost estimate was issued.  DoITT provided the Comptroller’s Office with additional documentation, but it was not sufficient to answer significant outstanding questions. Last week, Comptroller Liu rejected the contract.