Two City Council Members file court papers to stop Council Term Limit vote Thurs. 10/23. Update: Vote will proceed as scheduled at 10 a.m. at City Hall

NY City Council Members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James (Go Brooklyn!) filed papers in court this morning to stop the scheduled City Council vote tomorrow morning on Mayor Bloomberg’s bill to extend term limits from two terms to three. Voters in NYC have voted for term limits twice over the last 15 years and those votes, via referendum, call for a two term limit. Mayor Bloomberg, who believes he is indispensable to our city during this financial crisis — but had been floating this idea long before it even happened — would like to stay on for another 4 years stating that he has not “finished” everything he wanted to achieve. Frankly, I think he may not realize it but he is finished.

The case – which calls for a restraining order – is being heard now, beginning at 2 p.m., in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Read more here from the New York Times. (As always, check out the reader comments, always insightful and illuminating.)

If their petition for a restraining order fails, the vote will take place Thursday, October 23rd at 10 a.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers, 2nd floor. The public is invited to attend.

Update: No big surprise (although I think it is a wrong decision). State Supreme Court justice Jacqueline Winter Silbermann did not agree to stop the City Council term limit vote scheduled for tomorrow. (Read more at the Times site.) Another new development has City Council member Alan Gerson (Washington Square Park falls within his district) in the mix who (of course…?) is publicly undecided. Council Member Gerson and two other City Council Members, David Yassky (Brooklyn) and Gale Brewer (Manhattan), called for a referendum amendment to be added to the existing bill. According to the Times, unless the amendment gains support, it is “expected” that Alan Gerson will vote for the Mayor’s extension of term limits to three terms.

Celebrate Union Square, Then and Now: 10 Years as a Designated Historic Landmark; Save our Public Spaces

CELEBRATE UNION SQUARE, THEN AND NOW: 10 YEARS AS A DESIGNATED HISTORIC LANDMARK

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR PRESERVING THIS PUBLIC SPACE AND PREVENTING THE UNION SQUARE PARTNERSHIP (THE LOCAL BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT) AND THE NYC PARKS DEPARTMENT FROM TAKING OVER THE PAVILION FOR A PRIVATE RESTAURANT

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23RD 4 – 7 p.m.
Formal Program with Speakers and Performances, 6 p.m.

UNION SQUARE PARK, SOUTH END (14th Street) Near George Washington Statue On the Plaza, Manhattan

Some Background:

September 12, 2008 marked the 10th anniversary of the commemoration of Union Square Park as a National Historic Landmark. It is a designation that includes its historical role as the site of the first Labor Day Parade on September 5, 1882, and the subsequent legislation for a national Labor Day holiday. Since Then and Now, Union Square’s Pavilion and North Plaza have been primary sites for large public parades and rallies where the principles of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are alive for us as they were on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the stirring speeches of Norman Thomas, Cesar Chavez, Emma Goldman, Paul Robeson, and many others.

For over 130 years, the park’s pavilions have served as a play space for children, bandstand, a reviewing stand, a speakers’ rostrum, and as a focal point for labor rallies and social protests. It is a place rich with the history of public assembly, free speech, and social activism in New York City. Please help us protect the pavilion and the North end of the park for future uses.

Program: 4-7 p.m.:

Exhibit by the Tamiment Library/Wagner Archives-NYU from the original National Historic Landmark dedication in 1998.

4-6 p.m. PARKS-FOR-PEOPLE DRAW-A-THON

Drawings produced at the temporary Drawing Station in Union Square’s south end from 4-6 pm will be made into hand held signs to be carried at the rally at 6 pm. There will also be drawings evaluated and selected by a jury of artists.

5-6 pm: WALKING TOURS OF UNION SQUARE

6-7 pm: SPEAKERS & PERFORMERS
Introductions – Simeon Bankoff – Historic Districts Council, Joshua J. Freeman, Historian, CUNY Grad Center, Ed Ott, Executive Director, NYC Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, Denis Hughes, President, NY State AFL-CIO, Deborah Glick, NYS Assembly Member, Richard N. Gottfried, NYS Assembly Member, Donna Schaper, Senior Pastor, Judson Memorial Church, Geoffrey Croft, President, NYC Park Advocates, Rev. Billy & The Church of Stop Shopping • The Approaching Storm Stepper Club & Marching Band • Others TBA

Endorsements:

NYC Central Labor Council AFL-CIO; NY State AFL-CIO; DC-37; United Federation of Teachers/AFL-CIO; NY Labor History Association; Historic Districts Council; Tamiment Library/Wagner Archives-NYU; Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly Member Deborah Glick; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYC Park Advocates; Union Square Community Coalition; Workers Defense League; Rev. Billy & The Church of Stop Shopping; Chelsea Midtown Democrats; A.R.T.I.S.T.; Billionaires for Bush; Citizens for Union Square; Judson Memorial Church; LaborArts.org; Not an Alternative; The “Our” Labyrinth Project; Pond: art, activism, and ideas; Radical Homosexual Agenda; Restaurant Opportunity Center, Time’s UP; 250+ Friends of New York City Parks; Union Square Not For Sale; National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter. and more.

Wall Street Journal Article Disputes Mayor Bloomberg’s Financial Wizardry; Declares “New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg”

Jason Riley wrote a compelling piece – the first I’ve seen of its kind – analyzing Mayor Bloomberg’s “financial acumen” in the Wall Street Journal: “New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg.” He states, “The mayor never bothered to prepare the city for any lean years” and outlines how our CEO Mayor might actually have handled the city’s finances correctly and wisely.

With the editorial boards of the New York dailies, heads of NYU and Time Warner, other billionaires, and every politician who it serves to have Mr. Bloomberg in office insisting that we might not survive changing the captain at the helm because the captain is that financially astute, I was curious to read what Mr. Riley had to say, coming from the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Riley does not mince words and pops a gigantic pin into the illusion of Mayor Bloomberg’s economic brilliance. He writes: “Obviously the mayor believes that he’s indispensable to Gotham’s well-being, which will come as no surprise to any journalist who’s met with him. What’s passing strange is that so much of the local press seems to share the mayor’s inflated view of himself.”

It’s probable that the composition of the Times/Post/Daily News editorial boards are not economists but those who are emboldened by the gains they’ve made with our Mayor, which are economic. The New York Times after all took over a building that was functioning quite fine in Times Square via eminent domain and didn’t hear a negative word from the Bloomberg Administration. In fact, I would surmise that they supported the move.

Mr. Riley continues:

But the argument for extending the two-term limit for Mr. Bloomberg — a self-made billionaire who got his start on Wall Street — is that the city needs someone with his financial acumen to help weather the fallout from the banking crisis. The biggest problem with that argument is that Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t been very adept at managing the city’s finances, even though he’s had record revenues to work with.

Between 2000 and 2007, New York’s tax receipts grew by 41% after inflation. … This windfall had everything to do with the Wall Street bull market, and everyone knew that the rate of growth was unsustainable. Instead of using the flush-year surpluses to put New York’s fiscal house in order, however, Mr. Bloomberg mostly squandered them.

Instead of cutting other parts of the budget and using the city’s swollen coffers to service debt and pay for capital projects out of operating spending, Mr. Bloomberg chose to increase borrowing. … By increasing the city’s debt obligations while doing nothing to decrease the city’s overdependence on income tax revenue from Wall Street wages and bonuses, Mr. Bloomberg has exacerbated a bad situation.

In addition, Mayor Bloomberg’s 2008 City budget is “50% larger than the one he inherited from Mr. Giuliani in 2001. That far outpaces inflation, which rose 21% over the same period.”

In conclusion, Mr. Riley writes: “There is something deeply undemocratic about legislatively overturning the will of the people without giving voters a say in the matter. And there’s something deeply disturbing about a local press corps that lets the political class get away with it.”

A Tale of Two Fences and No One Minding the Store at Washington Sq Park

What is wrong with this Picture? The fence on the bottom right is the 4 foot high fence that the New York City Parks Department has begun installing in the NorthWest Quadrant of Washington Square Park (currently being redesigned) with, I would say, decorative spears on top – in direct defiance of the “Gerson-Quinn Agreement.” And much too high overall.

Washington Sq Park Fence Now

Washington Sq Park Fence Now

Washington Sq Park Fence The City hopes to Install

Washington Sq Park Fence The City hopes to Install

This, as you see, changes the welcoming intimate nature of this Park as demonstrated in the photo on the left which depicts Washington Square Park‘s current 3 foot high fence which has worked beautifully for many years.

The existing height is one which everyone likes – except for designer George Vellonakis and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe because it doesn’t work with their vision of pacifying this magnificent public space into a pass-through garden.

Unfortunately, thus far, I have found no one really minding the store (Community Board 2? Washington Square Park Task Force? NY City Council Member Alan Gerson? Community Groups? Is anyone out there?) to make sure the Parks Department is in compliance with the tepid “Gerson-Quinn Agreement” brokered by City Council Member Alan Gerson and Speaker Christine Quinn. (Yes, it’s tepid in what it ‘won’ on behalf of the Community for the Park’s redesign but at least it’s something. However, apparently the City can’t even adhere to that).

Have you seen the lamps they’ve begun installing? Tragic.

Photo at top: Louis Seigal

Photo bottom: Cathryn / WSP Blog

Great quote about Mayor Bloomberg from Mike Lupica in the Daily News

Why do we always find the best, right-on-target analogies about our Mayor from the sports writers at the New York dailies? Is it something about covering sports that leads to having a clue? Nothing against political journalists but I have not seen this written anywhere else – and it really needs to be said. Often.

NY Daily News
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mike Lupica, in the Sports pages:

“If Mike Bloomberg is such a beloved, indispensable figure in our city, how come he has to keep spending so much of his own money to be mayor?”

Exactly.

New York Times is live blogging from the term limits hearing… Also NY1 is carrying hearing live.

New York Times is live blogging from the term limits hearing today at City Hall. It’s well done and somewhat entertaining. Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg got 50 of his supporters in there early and it’s unclear if they were paid to attend.

Council Member Charles Barron took on the Mayor’s reputation (at last someone did):

“It was under Mayor Bloomberg — under his watch, that Wall Street collapsed,” Mr. Barron continued, adding, “If he’s so sharp, a big-time businessman, why didn’t he foresee this?” he asked of the crisis. “Not only did he not foresee it, what he did was come in and cut this budget. He’s closed down seniors’ centers and youth centers. He robbed the poor and gave to the rich. And you’re going to push Bloomberg on us.”

You can read up-to-the-minute information here.

They will be signing people up to speak until 8 p.m. tonite (but will go later than that if necessary) and it starts again at 10 a.m. tomorrow. (Getting there earlier before the Bloomberg “supporters” arrive is probably a good idea.) If you’ve never testified before the City Council, it can be a little daunting but it’s such a magnificent building and sort of fun to do.

Updated: NY1 is carrying the hearings live til 7 p.m. !  I just discovered this.

Conflicts of Interest Board has Conflicts of Interest?

The New York Times reported today that the Conflicts of Interest Board ruled last night “that members of the City Council may vote to modify, extend or abolish term limits even if they will directly benefit from such a change, dealing a blow to three officials who had argued that it would violate ethics laws for Council members to alter term limits without a public referendum.”

The argument was brought before the Conflicts of Interest Board by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and City Council Members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James.

The Board also “concluded that if the voters find the Council’s actions ‘unseemly or even outrageous,’ they can and should make their views known in the voting booth.”

Oh Please. After Mayor Bloomberg has spent $100 million to install himself back into office? They’re kidding, right?

However, the greater question is what happened to a very interesting complaint brought before them by New York Public Interest Group and Common Cause. As I wrote on October 10th, the two advocacy groups “filed a complaint with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board stating that the Mayor’s behind-the-scenes deal-making with fellow billionaire Ronald Lauder, Estee Lauder heir, amounts to a violation of city ethics laws. Bloomberg promised Lauder – whose issue since at least 1993 has been term limits – a position on a Charter Revision Commission in return for not challenging (with his money) Bloomberg on overturning voted-in term limits.”

As I noted – and the Board’s decision yesterday just makes it that much more apparent:

“Ethics not being Michael Bloomberg’s strong point, I’m not so certain this will mean much to him. The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board members are all appointed by the Mayor. (See Decision: Daniel L. Doctoroff.)”

Mayor Bloomberg: Arm-twisting? Who Me?; Term Limits Public Hearings Begin Thursday at City Hall

Interesting that stories elaborating on Mayor Bloomberg and Christine Quinn’s “arm twisting” tactics appear in both The New York Daily News and The New York Post today. The story was first broken by the New York Times Monday but it was somewhat obscured within the story of Christine Quinn rallying expectedly to our CEO Mayor’s side.

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s denial in “Testy Bloomberg denies twisting arms on term limits” in the Daily News and the Post’s piece “Quinn targeting term foe’s plum.”

Don’t forget the public hearings begin tomorrow, Thursday!  They are prepared to go all night.  You can also submit written testimony.  Details follow:

The first hearing will be held on Thursday, October 16th at 1:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (2nd Floor).

The second hearing will be held on Friday, October 17th at 10:00 a.m. in the Committee Room at City Hall (2nd Floor).

Individuals who wish to give testimony may do so by registering at either hearing. Written testimony is strongly encouraged and can be submitted at the hearings or mailed to Matt Gewolb at New York City Council, 250 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10007. Testimony can also be submitted electronically to testimony -at- council.nyc.gov.

To view the legislation being considered and to receive updated information, please visit the New York City Council’s website or call (212) 788-7210.

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Washington Square Park

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Washington Square Park

Stop Mayor Bloomberg from Destroying Our Park

This flyer counters the NYC Parks Department’s spin on what is actually happening behind the fencing to Washington Square Park at the hands of the Bloomberg Administration. It’s been pretty effective since people read it quite thoroughly. The question everyone asks is “Why?” The flyer attempts to answer the question while putting into context the politics and involvement of everyone from Mayor Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to private interests like New York University and the Tisch Family in the unwelcome redesign of this very successful public space.

However! there are still things that can be doneMore on that to come. Write in with any and all ideas, of course.

Updated 10/15: Read an expanded version of the flyer’s information here.

NYC Arborcidal Waterfalls “Public Art” Ended Yesterday

Public Art "arborcidal" Waterfalls Brooklyn Bridge

Arborcidal Waterfalls as Public Art

I received a bulletin from outside.in which led me to Gothamist which announced that the “arborcidal” NYC Waterfalls ended their much-publicized killing spree of Brooklyn Heights‘ trees yesterday.

Despite our Mayor’s much hyped “love OF trees,”* the artist, Olafur Eliasson “received an award for the exhibit’s contribution ‘to the public environment‘” from Mayor Bloomberg, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

I suspect the only tangible thing the NYC Waterfalls truly contributed to the public environment was dying trees in Brooklyn Heights.

Mayor Bloomberg stated initially that Eliasson’s Waterfalls would bring $55 million to the City’s economy. Not that I think that’s what public art is about but since Mayor Bloomberg does… how’d they do? When asked, our CEO Mayor’s spokesperson pointed to an increase in sold-out boat tours. $55 million = a lot of boat tours. We can expect an accounting from the city’s Economic Development Corporation but since they most likely report to the Mayor … I’m sure we can anticipate a positive outcome.

For WSP Blog previous coverage when the arborcide first occurred, click here.

* Related post: “How do you define hypocrisy, Mayor Bloomberg? 14 Union Square Trees Scheduled to be cut down.”

Photo: Wally G