Friday, April 8, 2011

Senator Rivera presents Celia Cruz Winning Choir with Senate Resolution Honoring their Hard Work and Excellence

   Senator Gustavo Rivera (D,WF-Bronx) presented the Celia Cruz High School Choir with a Senate Resolution honoring them for being named the Best Choir in New York City as part of the Sing! for Wildlife competition. This was the first Senate Resolution Senator Rivera introduced and passed through the State Senate.

Senator Rivera spoke to the students congratulated the students on being an example of the great accomplishments, both artistic and educational, that can come from a commitment to arts education.

 That's Senator Gustavo Rivera (33rd S.D.) in the middle of the Celia Cruz Choir students who are holding the Senate resolution that honored the choir for their hard work and excellence. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Press Release from Assemblyman Crespo about Cathie Black

   This came in from Assemblyman Marcos Crespo 85th A.D. before the naming Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as new chancellor.

 Today’s announcement of Cathie Black’s departure as chancellor of the New York City public school system is welcomed news for my community and all the school children, parents and educators. While, I commend Cathie Black for her interest in serving the public in this capacity and wish her well in future endeavors I am pleased that Mayor Bloomberg has finally acknowledged what other community leaders and I have stated from the first day she was nominated. We clearly stated that Ms. Black was unqualified and unprepared to serve in the role as chancellor and address the needs of over 1.1million school children.

Now, as we move forward I call on Mayor Bloomberg to seek input from education advocates and elected officials as he continues the search for a new chancellor. Furthermore, I hope this experience will remind Commissioner Steiner and the New York State Department of Education that the voices of elected officials and community advocates must not be ignored next time a waiver is requested of a candidate for the position as chancellor.

 Added from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz

  Statement from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz on the termination of Cathie Black and the appointment of Dennis Walcott as New York City Schools Chancellor

  I am pleased that Mayor Bloomberg realized the terrible error he made in appointing Cathie Black as Schools Chancellor.  It seems her 17% poll rating did what her lack of qualifications couldn’t, expel her from this job.

  I am hopeful that Dennis Walcott will provide the leadership our schools need.  He has the qualifications and background to be a successful Chancellor.  He and his children are all products of New York City public schools, and he has extensive experience as a Deputy Mayor as well as a teacher and a member of the Board of Education.   I look forward to working with him to improve our schools.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Now it's "Your Fired Cathie Black".

  Celeste Katz has the full story here of the mutual agreement between the mayor and now former Chancellor Cathie Black. Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott will become the new Chancellor, but he to will also have to get a waiver from the State Education Department to become chancellor.
  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who had criticized the mayor's choice of Black, praised the decision "to change course in such a big way when things are not working."
  "It's been clear for months now that, like the Titanic, this ship has been sinking with more than one million school children on board," he said in a statement.
  Our own Bronx Borough President had this to say about the change in chancellor ay the DOE. "During her time as chancellor, Cathie Black and I had a good working relationship, and I wish her well. I have known Dennis Walcott for years, and I welcome him as chancellor of the Department of Education. Mr. Walcott has always been attentive and accessible, and he understands the issues facing our public schools. I look forward to working with him to address these issues, which affect the 1.1 million children in our city who depend on our schools," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

  On another note it is rumored that State Education Commissioner David Steiner's days could be numbered in that post, as is believed that he is sizing up his options before before making any decision. 

  State Education Commissioner David Steiner has announced that he will retire from his current job as commissioner at the end of the year. 
Yet Another Deputy Chancellor is Leaving the DOE

  We told you at the beginning of this week about Deputy Chancellor Santiago Tavares leaving the DOE after a 22 year career, and now another Deputy Chancellor John White will be the fourth to depart since new Chancellor Cathie Black took over a few short months ago. Mr. White was the head of the Office of Portfolio and Development, which monitored the closing of failing schools, changes to school structure, and opening of new schools. This is leaving some to wonder what is happening at the DOE, and who will be next to leave. 

  Ms. Cathie Black the former head of Hearst Magazines was granted a waiver to become chancellor due to the strong support of the Deputy Chancellors at the DOE, and now that half of them have left since her appointment by Mayor Bloomberg, this leaves some to wonder if  her waiver should now be reviewed by the State Education Department?  

  In a statement Chancellor Black viewed this as a plus for the DOE that Mr. White was chosen for the innovative work that he did while Deputy Chancellor. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


   Retirement Security NYC, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu’s initiative to provide research on public employee pension issues, today released its second report entitled “The $8 Billion Question: An Analysis of NYC Pension Costs Over the Past Decade.”
   Comptroller Liu requested the study to examine the steep rise in annual employer contributions to the Pension Funds over the past decade. Pension cost rose from $1.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2001 to $7.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2010. The study was validated by independent actuaries.
   “The data challenges widespread notions that overly generous benefits played the leading role in the escalation of City contributions,” Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Accountancy Simcha Felder said. “In
fact, the study found that the major factor in the rise in employer contributions to the City’s Pension Funds has been poor market performance. The lower than expected investment returns accounted for 48% of the cost increase.”
   The study found that escalation in the employer contributions to the City’s Pension Funds was driven by the following major factors:
  - The largest factor was poor market performance which accounted for 48% of the increased cost. It added $3.1 billion to costs in FY 2010, and accounted for $15.2 billion over the decade. The lower investment returns this decade stand in contrast to the consistent higher annual returns experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.
  - The second-largest factor was benefit increases, which accounted for 44% of the additional cost. It added $2.4 billion in FY 2010, and accounted for an estimated $13.7 billion over the course of the decade. It must be noted that almost all of the benefit improvements were enacted in 2000. The benefit improvements enacted after 2000 have been relatively nominal, accounting for about 4% of the increase in pension cost.
  - The next largest factor was actuarial losses and revisions in actuarial assumptions and methods, due to a variety of factors including increased longevity, salaries, overtime, disability, early retirement, and buy-backs of service. It added $790 million in FY 2010, and totaled nearly $1.7 billion, or 5%, over the 10-year period.
  - The last major factor was higher than expected investment and administrative fees, which added $313 million to expenses in FY 2010, and totaled $982 million, or 3%, during the decade.
   The report also provides information about the Pension Fund reset in 2000, which effectively absorbed $17 billion of excess investment returns experienced in the prior decade.  That reset immediately lowered pension costs by $1.1 billion annually. However, the reset eliminated the cushion that would have protected against adverse market conditions, which unfortunately materialized in the following years.
   “New York City has successfully managed its pension funds for more than a century. While pension reform is needed, radical changes to retirement benefits should not be made based solely on one of the worst decades in market performance,” Comptroller Liu said. “Residents of the City should be proud that in spite of tough economic times, the New York City Pension Funds continue to meet their obligations.”
   The current asset value of the New York City Pension Funds is $114.9 billion, which indicates a 17% percent rate of return fiscal year to date (July 1, 2010 – January 31, 2011).
   Download the report here:
   About the Study
The research was conducted by the NYC Comptroller’s Office, using data from the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs), the actuarial valuations of each of the retirement systems, and fiscal
notes issued in relation to benefit enhancement legislation. The study was independently verified by actuaries from the Hay Group.
   About the New York City Pension Funds
The New York City Pension Funds include: the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Retirement System, the New York City Police Pension Fund, the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the Board of Education Retirement System.  As of January 31, 2011 the asset value of the five funds is $114.9 billion.
   About Retirement Security NYC
Retirement Security NYC is a major initiative launched by Comptroller John C. Liu to protect the retirement security of public employees while ensuring the City’s financial health.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

MLK’s Fight for Economic Justice Inspires Citywide Call for Living Wage  
On Anniversary of Dr. King’s Death, New Yorkers Rally for Living Wage

 On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed while fighting for living wage jobs. Hundreds gathered to honor his legacy as part of the growing citywide movement for a living wage. On this historic occasion, elected officials from the Bronx joined faith leaders, labor leaders, community leaders, and local residents in pushing for swift passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, popular legislation that will help create more living wage jobs.

Dr. King’s eldest living son, Martin Luther King III, took the occasion to endorse the campaign, calling for living wage jobs throughout New York City.

“New York City offers a national roadmap for continuing my father’s unfinished work of economic justice… We need the living wage movement to succeed and spread to other parts of the country. Countless stories of the working poor today are about people making impossible choices: food or rent, clothing or electricity. When we pause over those stories, and understand their painful significance, we grasp something fundamental about a country as wealthy as ours: no working person should have to settle for surviving over living. It’s that simple,” he said in a statement.

“In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for equality and economic justice, we come together today to call on the City Council to make the passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act a reality.  It is time for New York City to join the growing list of communities that promote quality development through living wages.  When developers take heavy subsidies from taxpayer wallets, they must do better by those they employ. We can no long accept business as usual,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at a rally in the Bronx Pentecostal Deliverance Center. 

“We must honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not in words, but in deeds: elected officials must ensure that government continues to protect and improve the lives of all working people. That means standing up for a living wage so that countless working New Yorkers no longer feel condemned to poverty, but instead can finally get closer to achieving the kind of economic security they need and deserve,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, 

“We are going to make sure developers of mega projects in New York City who expect to receive mega-subsidies paid for by the taxpayers pay their fair share by paying a living wage.  There will be no more negotiations from project to project and the playing field will be level for all those who want to do business using our subsidies,” said City Council Member Oliver Koppell, chief sponsor of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would require employers that receive major public tax subsidies to pay employees at least $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. The living wage legislation now has 29 City Council co-sponsors.

"I work 40 hours a week for minimum wage and no health benefits. I cannot afford to be self sufficient. I have a message tonight for Council member Vacca: 'Will you stand with the working poor like me to support the Fair Wages for New Yorker's Act?'” said Linda, a middle-aged worker in a fast food chain.

“Just as we teach our people they have a right to spiritual empowerment, they also have a right to be empowered economically.  We as faith-based leaders must be the voice for the voiceless and do everything in our power to make sure this bill is passed for them and the generation that follows,” said Rev. Que English, Senior Pastor of the Bronx Christian Fellowship. 

More than 45 cities have enacted such legislation and have found that these policies create quality jobs for local residents without slowing economic growth or preventing economic development. New York City is behind the times on this issue and, as a result, publicly subsidized developments are keeping people in poverty-wage jobs, rather than providing them with opportunities to get ahead. For more information on the Living Wage NYC campaign, visit 

 Bronx Borough President is at the podium speaking, while Councilman G. Oliver Koppell is in the left background of this photo.

IDC, Assemb. Ortiz, Join Young Heart Transplant Survivor to Push for Life-Saving Legislation

'Lauren's Law' to Increase Organ Donation Passed Important Committee Vote Today
  The Independent Democratic Conference and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (D-Brooklyn) joined 10-year-old heart transplant survivor Lauren Shields and her family today in a push for life saving legislation.
  The measure, “Lauren's Law,” would prohibit a driver's license application from being processed unless the organ donation section is filled out. Applicants would have to check a box stating “yes,” or “not at this time.”   There currently is an organ donation section on the application, but it is not required to be filled out.
This change would increase organ donation in New York, which is ranked last in the country for the number of new donors.
  “It is critical that we increase donor enrollment numbers here in New York State,” said the Senate sponsor of Lauren's Law, Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/Orange), “Everyday people are losing their lives due to lack of organ donations. Lauren’s Law will save lives by significantly increasing the number of New Yorkers who chose to become life saving organ donors simply by increasing the number of people who have to make the choice.”
  The bill (S.3885/A.6148) cleared its first major hurdle today, passing the Senate Committee on Transportation today.
  “On March 18, 2009, just when it seemed that all hope was lost, the doctors came in and told mommy that  my donor was found,” Lauren Shields said.  “I had an angel that was willing to give me the gift of life.  I am so thankful for the gift that I received but I know that there are so many other children and adults that are waiting just like I was. As happy as I am that I am able to get back to my regular routine, I can’t help but think about the others that still wait.  I am so grateful that Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz are taking a step to help increase donor enrollments.”
  "Organ donation is an issue that is close to my heart.  Like Lauren, my mother was in need of a transplant.  She was one of the lucky ones because she received her kidney from my sister.  Often times, however, that is not the case.  On average, eighteen people die each year while waiting for an organ.  There is a tremendous need for organ and tissue donors throughout our country. I am hopeful that Lauren's Law will be enacted in our state and that more people will choose to pass on the precious gift of life", said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Chair of the New York State Assembly Mental Health Committee and Sponsor of the bill in the Assembly.     
   In New York, more than 9,300 people are on the list for organ transplants. However, the state has ranked last in the number of organ donors signed up through their DMV program. In 2009, New York ranked last in the nation, signing up only 11 percent (or 427,562) of the 3.8 million people who received a driver's license or a non-driver's identification. By contrast, Colorado signed up 64 percent of new license holders.
Nationally, there are approximately 110,000 men, women and children waiting for organ transplants. Every 11 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list. However, 18 people die every day because of the lack of donated organs.
  “People's lives are literally on the line here,” Senator Jeff Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), said. “I commend Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz for leading the charge on this effort to expand the network of available organ donors and to help more people like Lauren.”
   April is National Donate Life Month and I can't think of a better way to observe it than to get this critically important legislation passed, and signed into law,” said Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn).
   Lauren’s story is truly inspiring, and I am glad that she, Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz are taking the lead on drawing attention to the benefits of organ donation," said Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida).


Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Deputy Chancellor Leaved The DOE

   Immediately following ex-Chancellor Joel Klein's resignation in November,  Photeine Anagnostopoulos deputy chancellor for finance and technology, took off. Elizabeth Sciabarra, who founded the Office of Student Enrollment in 2003, also left at that time. Former Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern left the department in January, and now Deputy Chancellor Santiago Tavares has left the DOE. 
  Celeste Katz goes in to detail here about the former Deputy Chancellors 22 year career, and where he plans to go. There were only three Deputy Chancellors when when Joel Klein took over as chancellor, and when he left a few short months ago he needed eight Deputy Chancellors. It was only a matter of time when those who felt slighted by the appointment of Cathie Black as new chancellor would leave, and we wonder what other key DOE people will also leave the sinking DOE now. 

Midtown merchants are giving an icy reception to the 34th Street Partnership's $120,000 gift to a proposed skating rink in The Bronx. 

  In an exclusive New York Post article that you can find here this past Sunday veteran reporter Candice Giove asks some 34th Street merchants about their feelings about giving $120,000 dollars to a proposed ice skating rink in the Bronx. 
  Ms. Giove also details the powerful president of the 34th Street Partnership Mr. Dan Biederman, and some of his other ventures.  Mr. Biederman the article reports, says that there is nothing slippery about steering money to the rink, but some merchants want to know why the money is going elsewhere than the 34th Street BID area.