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21st Century Policies for Today's New York City

ContractWatch: MTA Deal Alters Landscape of NYC’s Contract Negotiations

Daniel DiSalvo l April 18, 2014

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On Thursday, Governor Cuomo intervened to secure a deal with Local 100 of the Transportation Workers Union. The contract covers 34,000 workers operating NYC’s subway and bus transit system. The agreement provides for 1 percent raises for 2012 and 2013—retroactive pay for the two years that the union was working without a contract—followed by 2 percent raises in 2014, 2015 and 2016. That’s an 8.25 percent raise over five years. And those raises are not fully off-set by other concessions from the union.

Despite Cuomo’s claim that “mayor [de Blasio] will negotiate his contracts separately,” the deal potentially changes the dynamics of the de Blasio administration’s negotiations with the city’s unions. Before, the mayor could point to the tough deals the governor arranged with state workers, who in 2011, under the threat of layoffs, were persuaded by Cuomo to accept a three-year wage freeze. Now, Gotham’s unions can point to this new MTA deal negotiated by the governor as the baseline for their demands. The deal thus partially undermines any effort by the de Blasio administration to take a tougher line. As Harry Nespoli,  head of the city’s sanitation union and the Municipal Labor Committee, said, the MTA deal “definitely helps” the city’s unions—especially the granting of retroactive pay.

The Big Apple’s unions will be asking: why should we accept less than 8.25 percent raises over five years with only a tiny (0.5 percent of salary) healthcare concession?

  

Will the Mayor Stand Up For the NYPD—and Public Housing Residents?

Heather MacDonald I April 15, 2014

New York mayor Bill de Blasio is settling two stop, question, and frisk lawsuits against the New York Police Department, but a third suit is still in play. Davis v. New York challenges the NYPD’s enforcement of trespass laws in the city’s violence-plagued public housing projects, and it’s pending before the same judge so ignominiously removed last year from the two lawsuits that de Blasio is now conceding. If the mayor wants to preserve any credibility for his “social justice” pretensions, he will seek a new venue for Davis and continue fighting the case, rather than capitulating there, too…

Read the full article on City Journal Online

  

What’s Killing New York’s Great Old Stores?

Nicole Gelinas l April 13, 2014

What’s killing New York’s great old stores?

The magnificent Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th Street closed Friday, part of a painful wave of shutdowns. To make sense of it, let’s go back a few years, to a Tower Records store outside Boston — where I got a job at 19. One big lesson from a year at Tower: Things change, and not in the way you expect (or want). As all wage slaves know, there’s a hierarchy of low-wage jobs. It’s not at all cool to work the graveyard shift at the supermarket (where I was before Tower). On the plus side, they paid you $1 extra an hour, and after cleaning the front of the store and some other duties, you had time to read. On the minus side, kids you knew from high school would come in on visits home from college and act like they’re better than you…

Read the full article on New York Post online

  

Grading Mayor de Blasio After 100 Days

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On education

“The mayor has ended up being the best thing that has happened to charter schools in 15 years. His battle with Albany ended up securing $300 million for New York City to expand pre-K. While this victory for school choice certainly wasn’t intentional, he has been a net positive on education so far for the city. Looking forward, the next battle on the teachers’ contracts will be very telling.” Charles SahmDeputy Director of Center for State and Local Leadership … … GRADE: A

On policing and crime

“De Blasio’s selection of William Bratton as police commissioner was the most important decision of his mayoralty to date.  It demonstrated that de Blasio understands that nothing matters more to urban vitality than public safety.  Standing alone, the Bratton choice would earn de Blasio an A+.  Unfortunately the mayor also followed through on campaign promises to saddle the New York Police Department with costly new bureaucracy. 

De Blasio has yet to be tested in an all but inevitable police shooting case.  Will he back his officers, if appropriate, or provide fuel for anti-cop demagoguery?  And he has yet to address the thorny issues of police salary negotiations and how much officer manpower should be diverted to anti-terrorism activities.” –Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow … … GRADE: B  

On labor and contracts

“The de Blasio administration has referred to negotiating the expired contracts for all 151 of the city’s labor unions who represent some 300,000 municipal employees as “a huge fiscal challenge” and possibly the “hardest assignment that anyone in the history of labor relations in this city has taken on.”   The administration may seek some concessions from the unions in the form of greater healthcare contributions to workers healthcare premiums, which will be negotiated in a one-shot deal with the Municipal Labor Committee. In the past, the unions have staunchly opposed such payments, as they reduce workers’ take home pay. Therefore, the city has traditionally sought to increase the co-pays and deductibles or ask the insurers for a break on pricing. Other concessions from the unions to the city might include a variety of work rules, including reducing the teacher reserve, lengthening the school day, and otherwise trying to make government more effective and efficient.  De Blasio has done little in office to dampen the unions’ expectations for better deal from a new mayor not named Bloomberg. It is going to be difficult for the administration to adopt a tough posture.” – Daniel DiSalvo, MI senior fellow … … GRADE: C-

On infrastructure

“The mayor has yet to articulate an infrastructure policy or infrastructure goals, whether on large-scale infrastructure (new subway lines, etc.) or small-scale infrastructure (bike-share expansion and financial sustainability). The budget Mayor de Blasio laid out in February did not significantly change the Bloomberg administration’s plan to cut infrastructure spending over the next half-decade. The mayor should think about what he’d like New York’s physical landscape to look like in a decade’s time and how he might go about paying for desired infrastructure improvements. It’s important to think about infrastructure early and often, as large-scale and even small-scale plans take years to plan and develop.” –Nicole Gelinas, MI senior fellow … … GRADE: “I” (incomplete)

On budget and economic policy

De Blasio has yet to put forward a comprehensive city budget, which is his most important task, and in particular he hasn’t offered much guidance on how he’ll deal with unaffordable city worker demands. He scored a minor victory in winning money from Albany for pre-K, though now comes the task of implementing the classes in an effective way, a difficult task because past studies have shown that pre-K does not add substantially to academic achievement. Meanwhile, his only action for addressing income inequality has been to increase the cost for small firms by signing into law a paid sick leave act that will have little impact on job opportunity in the city. Not much has been accomplished on the crucial budget issues at hand.”—Steven Malanga, City Journal senior editor and MI senior fellow … … GRADE: C-

  

A Greater Good: Citi Bike and Profits

Nicole Gelinas I April 7, 2014

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Citi Bike should be gearing up for a spectacular second summer. Instead, the bike-share program is in trouble. The problem has little to do with bicycles. The problem is confusion over Citi Bike’s public social goals versus its private profit-making goals. Mayor Bill de Blasio should make clear that the former trump the latter. 

The point of the bikes is to encourage New Yorkers to ride to work, to the supermarket or to visit friends without having to worry about having a bike stolen or bringing a bike into a high-rise building. New Yorkers can sign up for $95 a year to rent a bike at any “dock”—below 60th Street and in parts of Brooklyn—and return it to any dock within 45 minutes.

Read the full article on City & State online

  

Silicon Alley Rises Again

James Panero I March 26, 2014

Starting up in 2011 as a cross between a for-profit vocational school and a caffeinated tech clubhouse—with open co-working space mixed with classrooms, break rooms, and broadcasting studios—General Assembly now has campuses spanning nine cities on four continents, all offering a “pragmatic and multidisciplinary education at the intersection of technology, design, and business.” In New York, where it occupies two loft floors along the former Ladies’ Mile at 21st Street on either side of Broadway, GA is a feeder school for the city’s burgeoning tech industry. Much like the 34,000-member New York Tech Meetup, a nonprofit organization that hosts monthly events at New York University, and Techstars NYC, a mentorship and seed accelerator for new tech firms, GA seeks to strengthen network ties within the New York tech community, while providing an environment entirely unlike the sprawling office parks of Silicon Valley.

Read the full article on City Journal online

  

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De Blasio Needs to Extend Olive Branch in Charter School War

Charles Sahm I March 25, 2014

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On Sunday, Mayor de Blasio offered an olive branch to the charter-school movement. If he wants to quickly show he really means it, he should back the effort to let charters offer pre-K.

Nothing could show acceptance better than welcoming these alternative public schools into his signature effort. And nothing would better improve his pre-K initiative.

State law now excludes charters from publicly funded pre-K programs, but the issue is one of many now on the table in budget talks in Albany.

In January, Gov. Cuomo’s education-reform task force called for letting charters offer pre-K. De Blasio said he was open to the idea, but his current pre-K implementation plan excludes charters.

That’s puzzling, when the plan would let hundreds of community-based organizations — churches, yeshivas, YMCAs, community centers — offer pre-K services. (About 60 percent of publicly funded pre-K seats in the city now are in centers run by community groups; 40 percent are in public schools.) Essentially, the only nonprofits in the city not permitted to offer pre-K are charter schools.

The city’s existing pre-K programs are all over the map in terms of quality; many community-group centers have been cited for safety concerns. Charters, on the other hand, typically outperform district schools and are subject to scrupulous oversight…

Read the full article on New York Post online

  

ContractWatch: Will NYC Teachers Set the Table?

Daniel DiSalvo I March 15, 2014 

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Negotiations over the past few days between the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), led by Michael Mulgrew, and New York City, represented by Robert Linn, took place in front of a state appointed arbitration panel. Whatever the state panel recommends could significantly impact the entire labor contract situation for the Big Apple because the city has traditionally abided by the nonbinding recommendations of such panels.

The UFT wants back pay from 2009 and 2010—when it was left as the only municipal union without a contract. Awarding back pay of 4% to teachers for each of those years would cost the city $3.4 billion. The union also wants back pay for 2011-2013, possibly at lower percentage increases, as well as raises going forward. 

The city has said it can’t afford such demands. If it paid the back pay to teachers for 2009-10, it claims there would be little left over for the other years and raises going forward. And because the teachers union represents one-third of the city’s workforce, it would also mean that no raises or very small ones would be all that is left for the other 151 unions. So if the panel grants the full back pay demand of 4%, it could disrupt the city’s practice of pattern bargaining now and in the future.  

 The danger for Mulgrew, at least right now, is that if teachers get the full back pay demand of 2009-2010, they may end up with little or nothing going forward—unless the de Blasio administration is willing to grant very generous contracts to all the unions and weaken the city’s finances.

The city’s strategy is to offer a very long retro- and prospective contract—9 years—that spreads out the back pay and future raises to teachers over a very long period (2009-2018), reducing the short-term impact on the city budget. Such a deal would also presumably lock in the larger salary hikes for after de Blasio’s reelection campaign. It would be even better, from the administration’s point of view, if they could get the other unions to sign onto a similar deal.  They then could avoid further labor negotiations in the mayor’s first term and have greater budget predictability.

  

Too Soon for Answers in Harlem

Nicole Gelinas I March 14, 2014

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Wednesday’s gas explosion in Harlem levelled two buildings, killing at least eight people. Already, observers are saying that the tragedy points up New York’s need to invest billions in its aging public infrastructure. But the incident and the preexisting infrastructure deficit may have nothing to do with one another…

Read the full article on CityJournal Online