Thursday, February 22, 2024

Illegal immigrants, sorry, migrants can't vote in New York City

Migrants waiting for lodging in a public realm at Herald Square-photo by JQ LLC


  The Hill

A New York appeals court ruled Wednesday that a law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections in New York City violates the state’s constitution.

The Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department ruled against the bill allowing noncitizens to vote in local New York City elections, including for mayor, in a 3-1 decision released Wednesday. The New York City Council approved the bill in 2021, which quickly faced a lawsuit challenging the law after Mayor Eric Adams (D) enacted it in 2022.

“This case concerns the validity of Local Law No. 11 (2022) of City of New York, which created a new class of voters eligible to vote in municipal elections consisting of individuals who are not United States citizens and who meet certain enumerated criteria,” Associate Justice Paul Wooten wrote in the appeals court decision.

“We determine that this local law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law, and thus, must be declared null and void,” he added.

This delivered a win for those who filed a lawsuit against the bill, including Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who celebrated the news on X, formerly Twitter.

“Great news! We won in the appellate court and @NYCMayor’s attempt to implement the law to register noncitizens to vote in #NYC elections has been struck down. This is a big victory in preserving both the integrity of our elections & the voice of American citizens!” she said.

Others who joined the lawsuit included New York City Council Republican leader Joe Borelli, who told Politico it was “an easy case.” Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella was also listed as a plaintiff in the case.

“All they had to do was read the state constitution and municipal law. The criticism falls on the proponents of the bill,” Borelli told Politico.

A New York Supreme Court justice also ruled in 2022 that the law violated the state’s constitution. The law would have allowed an estimated 800,000 noncitizens to vote in New York City if it was enacted, according to The Associated Press.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Vaccine reparations


The New York City Council’s Common Sense Caucus gathered on the steps of City Hall with unvaccinated city workers last week to introduce a resolution supporting state legislation that would reinstate all city employees who were fired for not complying with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Co-sponsored by NYC Councilwoman Joann Ariola and Minority Leader Joseph Borelli, the resolution, while non-binding and unlikely to be passed by the full Council, advocates for the passage of S7466A, the senate bill sponsored by NYS Senator Andrew J. Lanza.

“We’ve gathered here today because for the past two years, thousands of hard-working New Yorkers have been prevented from working at their jobs, jobs that they love,” Ariola said. “All for refusing to take the vaccine, a vaccine that is no longer mandated.”

Last week’s rally took place on Thursday, Feb. 8, which marked the first anniversary since the city ended the vaccine mandate for public and private sector workers. Yet despite the mandate being lifted, many of the 1,700 fired city workers have still not returned to work due to a waiver requirement that forces them to forfeit their civil service rights and rights to back pay in exchange for their jobs back.

“A piece of paper is all that stands between them and going back to work, going back to work in a city that is seriously under headcount in all of our essential services, as well as our educational services and our first responders,” Ariola added. “These are men and women we must get back to work. They have been wrongfully removed from their positions.”

Throughout the rally, numerous city workers who lost their jobs due to the mandate spoke of their experiences as well as those of their colleagues.

Michael Kane of the Teachers For Choice recalled how unvaccinated city workers felt isolated when the mandate was first rolled out two years ago, adding that they were often called names and ostracized for their decision to not take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“In the beginning, we were alone,” said Kane, a teacher of 15 years. “But history, while it turns at a long and winding road, it bends in the direction of truth. That’s where we’re headed now,” he added. “We’re suing because we were discriminated against because of our sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

Sal Maita of the Bravest For Choice echoed Kane’s remarks, adding that the goal of their movement is to appeal to the “humanity” of Mayor Eric Adams, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Law Department, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle in hopes that it will inspire them to reinstate city workers without barriers like the waiver.

“It is now over two years since the pandemic propagated a scourge and a purge that turned our lives upside down,” said Maita, an FDNY firefighter of 15 years. “We must continue to fight. If we don’t, there’s other things coming down the line.”

Where in the world's borough is Jenifer Rajkumar?


 Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar firmly addressed a member of Community Board 9 last week at their monthly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 15, responding to critical comments regarding her alleged lack of presence in the district and her frequent appearances alongside Mayor Eric Adams.

The community board member Victor Starsky, rebuked by Assemblywoman Rajkumar, initially voiced his concerns to Rajkumar’s chief of staff during the 102nd Precinct Community Council Meeting earlier this month.

While Starsky admitted to having been particularly forthright with the staffer during the community council meeting, he also represented the wider concerns of a few others in raising questions about Rajkumar’s involvement and presence in the community.

Starsky asked a series of questions to the legislator’s staffer that placed the Assemblywoman’s recent actions under question and caused Rajkumar to go on the defensive.

“Is Jenifer still on the Mayor’s payroll?” Starsky first asked Rajkumar’s Chief of Staff.

Rajkumar’s Chief of Staff refuted Starsky’s sentiments, clarifying the Assemblywoman has never been on the Mayor’s payroll and further explaining the Mayor is a political ally to Rajkumar.

Shortly thereafter, Starsky went on to further explain that his upset with the legislator comes from wanting her further involved and seen in the community — a point he brought up again at the community board meeting.

“The point that I’m bringing up is, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” Starsky asked. “She’s in Staten Island. She’s in the Bronx. She’s with the Rats Czar. She’s with the Mayor, she’s with the Mayor, she’s with the Mayor. She should be in our community, here.”

Starsky’s reference to ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?’ is meant to compare Rajkumar to the fictional character of Carmen Sandiego who, in the game, tv show, and book series, is a spy dressed in red that is chased across the world.

Rajkumar had this to say about Starsky’s questioning:

“I love town halls where I can hear from all people. I applaud Mr. Starsky for expressing himself freely. That is what makes us the greatest democracy in the world. Mr. Starsky is right: I am everywhere, just like Carmen Sandiego. There is a reason I won my seat by the largest margin of any challenger in the entire state,” Rajkumar shared in a statement to QNS. “I have used my reach across the city and state to bring the people of my district the resources they need. I serve my constituents 24/7 because it is my passion. I am proud to have brought unprecedented energy to my district. This is just kind of energetic and effective leadership the people of my district deserve.”

During the board meeting, Rajkumar shut down Starsky whenever he tried to speak during her designated time slot, standing up for her staff and citing the ample time he had used with her chief of staff in their last conversation.

Rajkumar reminded Starsky that her victory in nabbing the Assembly seat came at one of the highest voter turnouts in the district and her connection with the Mayor helps brings resources to her district.

“I think that the way you’re spinning this is not correct,” Rajkumar told Starsky. “I think that I love my job. As you know, I work at this 24/7. And that’s the energy that an elected official should have. You want a real leader here.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Thin Blue Dance Line


Babylon Bee 

 An alleged mugger is still believed to be at large in the city today after fleeing the scene of the crime as soon as the New York Police Department Dance Squad arrived.

The incident, which authorities believe to have occurred early this afternoon near Midtown Manhattan, was still in progress when witnesses say the perpetrator saw the NYPD Dance Squad approaching, causing the aggressor to break off his attack and run away in terror.

"He took off once he saw the dancers got here," one eyewitness said. "It was obvious that he wanted no part of them. Honestly, who can blame him? If I saw that group rolling up toward me, I'd want to get as far away from them as I could. I've never seen such a strong crime deterrent."

As word of the NYPD Dance Squad has continued to spread throughout the city's underworld, officials reported a noticeable decrease in criminal activity. "It's had a surprising effect on crime," said an NYPD source. "The mere mention of the dance squad sends criminals scrambling away in horror. We told the inmates at one of our local detention centers that we'd bring the dancers in if they didn't shape up, and we've never seen such model behavior."

Mayor Adams's migrant debit card debacle


 NY Post

It takes money to make money, as the old saying goes, and, apparently, it also takes money — as much as $53 million — to give money away.

Earlier this month, The Post broke the story that Mayor Adams is giving out pre-paid cash cards to migrants.

Unusually for the mayor, Adams didn’t publicize this story himself, and his administration has for nearly a month failed to correct several public misperceptions about it.

One misperception is that the program allows the city to give out just $50 million to migrants.

No wonder the mayor has been reticent.

This debit-card program — if you read the actual contract — has the potential to become an open-ended, multi-billion-dollar Bermuda Triangle of disappearing, untraceable cash, used for any purpose.

It will give migrants up to $10,000 each in taxpayer money with no ID check, no restrictions and no fraud control.

When The Post exposed the mayor’s debit-card program earlier this month, the mayor’s office spun it as a money-saving program, to solve a problem: migrants staying in hotels don’t eat all their food.

DocGo, the city’s no-bid “emergency” contractor to provide migrants with three meals a day, throws away up to 5,000 meals daily, wasting $7.2 million a year.

Some food is inedible — expired or rotten — and other food doesn’t meet migrants’ dietary needs.

Providing mass-scale meals competently and with options for specific needs — halal, kosher, vegan, non-gluten — isn’t that hard: the school system does it, airlines do it, hospitals and jails do it.

It wouldn’t be that difficult for the city to solve this problem: on-site city auditors could refuse to pay for meals that are objectively inedible, with visible mold, for example, or with expired labeling.

Instead of assuring that it’s existing no-bid “emergency” contractor fulfills its duty to provide edible food, however, the Adams administration has solved its problem by retaining a new no-bid “emergency” contractor — to provide a service with far more scope for waste, fraud, and abuse than stale sandwiches: giving out potentially billions of dollars of hard cash, few questions asked.

Which vendors did the city’s Housing Preservation & Development consider for this contract, as qualified to provide this complex financial service?

New York City is home to hundreds of top-tier financial-services and public-benefits providers, a dream of a competitive bidding pool, to ensure that the city gets a good price, as well as strong protections against fraud and abuse.

But HPD considered only one: Newark-based Mobility Capital Finance, which also has an office in Harlem.

MoCaFi was founded by Wole Coaxum, a former managing director at JPMorgan Chase, who said the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 inspired him to serve the “underbanked” and “narrow the racial wealth gap.”

How did HPD choose Mobility Capital? The contract makes it quite clear: MoCaFi was “referred to HPD by City Hall.”

What kind of experience did MoCaFi bring to this complex endeavor?

None. As HPD helpfully notes, on a “listing of prior / related emergency large contracts,” MoCaFi is “a new provider of emergency services for HPD.”

MoCaFi’s only city experience, HPD notes, is small-scale support of the city’s participatory-budget program.

The company’s broader nationwide experience is as a “platform” for pre-paid third-party debit cards and bank accounts, marketed to minorities.

The only clue is from a stray off-the-cuff comment Adams made at a reception earlier this month, calling MoCaFi a minority business “that we met on the campaign trail. . . . Little did we know that God is going to say there’s going to be a crisis, you’re going to have to meet them. . . . And it’s going to cost us money” to “put investment . . . in our community.”

 A year ago, the Adams administration was already eager to find something for MoCaFi to do.

Last year, the director of the mayor’s fund to advance New York City — a slush fund powered by anonymous private donors — raised at one of the fund’s board meetings the concept of “an upcoming partnership with the mayor’s office . . . and MoCaFi . . . on a universal basic income project”: that is, giving poorer New Yorkers (not migrants) cash.

 Coaxum seems to have become part of the mayor’s orbit, and even provided a quote to an official City Hall press release praising Adams’ founding of a new “Office of Engagement.”


Monday, February 19, 2024

Transportation Nihilists and Delinquents


NY Post 

 Two of the Big Apple’s top transportation honchos — known for talking tough at traffic scofflaws — need speed themselves, data reviewed by The Post reveals.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and his baby mama Christina Melendez, a top director at the Department of Education, have racked up a staggering 66 traffic violations totaling at least $5,600 in fines the past decade using the same vehicle – including 14 since 2019 for speeding in school safety zones, according to city records.  

The chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens), has cruised in a family car that racked up 25 tickets over the past 16 months, including 20 for speeding near schools and another for blowing a red light, records show. 

 It’s unclear how many of the summonses were handed out on Melendez’s Nissan Rogue when Rodriguez was behind the wheel. 

As DOT commissioner for the past two years, he’s enjoyed the perk of having a city vehicle that comes with an assigned driver.

“Ydanis Rodriquez, who gets chauffeured in a giant SUV, and Selvena Brooks-Powers are prime examples of ‘do as I say, not as I do,'” fumed Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens).

They’re “hypocrites who act as if laws don’t apply to them,” he added. 

Other lefty pols with a long history of being speed demons who’ve racked up plenty of traffic violations include Comptroller Brad Lander, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

Rodriguez regularly drove Melendez’s Nissan to work at City Hall when he was a Manhattan councilman — even obtaining a parking placard for it — but he and his former domestic partner, who share two daughters, have since split, according to sources. 

The vehicle was slapped with six speeding tickets during the final five months leading up to Rodriguez’s January 2022 appointment by Mayor Adams as DOT commissioner.

Since then, the Nissan has received six parking tickets – including two for misusing a parking permit—and was caught speeding in July and November of last year.  

On March 2, 2023, the vehicle was slapped with two tickets totaling $160 for illegally parking in a spot in lower Manhattan on Warren Street reserved for state senators and assembly members.

The traffic agent noted in the tickets that the car was flashing a Department of Education parking permit. Melendez works nearby as the DOE’s $195,000-a-year executive director of Family and Community Engagement.

A Post photographer on Thursday spotted Melendez getting into the vehicle, which was illegally parked 

Rodriguez, who has cheered congestion pricing and speed cameras and has helped promote City Hall’s anti-car agenda, earns $243,171 and now gets a free ride to work in a city vehicle.

He has not driven his ex’s car since being appointed commissioner two years ago “and is confident he has not received any [traffic] violations in this role,” said DOT spokesman Vincent Barone.

The DOE and Melendez declined to comment.

Brooks-Powers has been a longtime proponent of using speed cameras to help curb traffic accidents and has pushed legislation seeking to reward New Yorkers who report hit-and-run drivers fleeing deadly crashes.

However, a 2019 Nissan the pol has said she shares with her husband Demetrius Powers II racked up 25 tickets totaling $1,395 in fines since September 2022 — including the 20-speed cam violations, records show. 


 NY Post

Some New York City agencies are using the viral image of Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce screaming at head coach Andy Reid during the Super Bowl to push their policy agendas.

“OUTDOOR DINING TAKES UP LESS THAN .5% OF STREET PARKING IN NEW YORK CITY. PUBLIC SPACE IS FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST CARS,” posted the city Department of Transportation Monday on X, along with a photo of Kelce jawing on the sidelines at a stone-faced Reid.

Some critics slammed DOT for using the photo of Taylor Swift’s boyfriend barking at his coach to drive home anti-car policies advocated by Transportation Alternatives and other advocacy groups.

“Instead of focusing on filling potholes and installing speed bumps in a timely manner, the DOT prefers to tweet nonsense that New Yorkers couldn’t care less about,” fumed Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens). “The Department of Transportation Alternatives needs a major change in leadership.”

DOT spokesman Nick Benson quipped that he’s “notoriously bad at lip reading, but I think it’s a safe assumption that Travis Kelce was vociferously expressing his support for outdoor dining in New York City.”

The guy photographed above is Vin Barone, he's in charge of media at the Department Of Transportation Alternatives which includes their obnoxious twitter account (which is also stupidly known as X).


Happy President's Day from Queens

Don't call it a City Of Yes: New Jamaica zoning proposal finally revealed

 City Limits

The city is moving forward on plans to rezone a swath of Jamaica, Queens—what officials say aims to boost both housing and economic opportunities around the area’s many public transit hubs.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) on Monday unveiled the “Draft Zoning Framework” for the Jamaica Neighborhood Plan—crafted after six months of community workshops and a public survey, and a precursor to a more formal rezoning proposal expected later this year.

The 300-block study area encompasses the Jamaica Rail Hub and surrounding downtown, CUNY’s York College campus, the Hollis LIRR station and several branching-off “transit corridors,” including Hillside and Jamaica avenues and Sutphin, Guy R. Brewer and Merrick boulevards. 

The framework proposes to “increase density and allow housing in appropriate, key areas,” according to a DCP presentation, including through the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which requires new housing in rezoned areas include a portion of income-restricted homes. It would retain several hubs for industrial uses, and prioritize others for “mixed use” development.

 The area is represented by City Councilmember Nantasha Williams, whose district has seen 3,400 new units of city-financed affordable housing since 2014, according to DCP (a tracker published by the New York Housing Conference ranks it 13th out of the city’s 51 Council districts when it comes to affordable development). 

Just more than half of homes in Jamaica are occupied by renters, 59 percent of whom are rent burdened, meaning they spend at least a third or more of their income on housing, according to DCP. The district has a higher homeownership rate than both the borough of Queens and the city as whole, though more than half of its homeowners are considered “mortgage burdened.”

In a statement accompanying the release of the draft framework, Williams—who as the local rep will play a key role during public review of the plan, and the Council’s ultimate vote on it—stressed the importance of ensuring “stakeholders feel their voice is being heard in every step of this process.”

“This zoning framework allows DCP to begin the environmental review process into how much our community can grow in the future and what the needs will be,” Williams said.

The proposal is one of several neighborhood rezonings being pursued by the Adams administration, alongside plans to boost development around new Metro-North stations in the Bronx and in Central Brooklyn. 

It comes as the city grapples with an extreme housing shortage: the most recent survey of the city’s inventory released last week found that just 1.41 percent of rental units were vacant last year, the lowest availability since 1968. 

City Planning expects to release a more formal zoning proposal for Jamaica—to include specific zoning districts and projections for how many new units of housing it aims to create—in the next couple of months, according to a spokesperson. 

The months-long public review process, known as ULURP, will likely begin at the end of the year, the spokesperson added.


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Hollywood Boonddoggle


Crain's New York

New York’s newly expanded tax credit for film productions is a “net negative” that fails to give taxpayers a return on their investment, even as state leaders have continued pushing to expand it, according to a new study commissioned by the state itself.

New York’s Film Production Credit was grown in last year’s state budget to cover as much as $700 million in costs annually for film and television productions that opt to locate in the state, forgiving 30% of eligible costs for each movie and show. Lawmakers, at the urging of Gov. Kathy Hochul, also extended the program through 2034 — despite longstanding complaints from watchdogs that the incentive may not achieve its stated goal of spurring economic activity and attracting more well-paying jobs.

Those claims are bolstered by the new study by the financial advisory firm PFM Group, which was commissioned by the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance to look into each of New York’s economic development tax credits. The study was required by a 2022 state budget provision and was put together over the course of 2023.

All told, New York gets back just 31 cents for every $1 it invests in film productions through tax breaks, the study concludes after considering the program’s pros and cons. The program has cost the state some $5 billion in the last decade, making it the largest of New York’s many tax incentives.

“Based on an objective weighing of the costs and benefits, the film production credit is at best a break-even proposition and more likely a net cost to NYS,” the authors wrote.

As critics have long argued, the study found that much of the filming activity funded by the credit would have happened in New York regardless, given its existing workforce and infrastructure. And although the productions do attract high-paying jobs, the tax credit’s unlimited duration means it functions more as an “ongoing subsidy” rather than a one-time incentive that could wind down after establishing a steady film industry in the state.

Indeed, many of the productions that continue receiving annual tax credits are long-running television series filmed in New York for years — undercutting the program’s stated goal of attracting new investments. And even the job-creation claim is “inconclusive at best,” the study found. After New York launched the credit in 2004, film industry employment remained stagnant for years until increasing in 2010, and its share relative to the nationwide market has since dropped.

A spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul said the office is reviewing the report but pushed back on its conclusions, pointing to other studies that found better results. Among them was a study commissioned by the Empire State Development Corp. which found that New York’s state and local governments reaped a combined $1.70 for every dollar spent on the film tax credit in 2021 and 2022 — although the state by itself (omitting local governments like New York City) still lost out overall, the report found.

“New York's tax credits and incentive programs are critical to growing the state's economy, boosting innovation, and creating good jobs, which is why the Legislature approved them in the first place, and Governor Hochul will continue working with members to improve the programs to maximize benefits for New Yorkers,” spokesman Justin Henry said.

Hochul’s office pointed to the high wages available in film and TV jobs, which often employ people without college degrees. New York has also lost productions to other states that boosted their incentives, such as the 2022 film “White Noise,” which filmed in Cleveland after “extensively scouting New York state,” Hochul’s office said.

The PFM study found that other “qualitative” factors cited by boosters of the tax break are similarly murky, like the exposure that New York state and city might enjoy as a result of all the films and shows set here. Many of those productions, like “Law & Order,” hardly portray New York in a fully positive light, the authors note.

The state’s expansions to the program last year also expanded the credit to cover “above-the-line” salaries for actors, directors, producers and writers, in addition to the “below-the-line” jobs, such as hairdressers and set builders, that had been covered before. Hochul, who pushed for the expansions, argued it would lure more productions to the state and boost an industry that serves as a major union employer.

In the end, the study concludes, the strongest argument for the tax credit may be that it works as a “defense mechanism” — deterring productions from choosing rival states like California and Georgia that offer their own incentives.


Harlem catches Mayor Adams with his pants down trying to move migrants into luxury building


NY Post

Mayor Eric Adams stunningly reversed course on plans to turn an abandoned luxury Harlem condominium complex into a migrant shelter when he was met with community outrage Thursday night.

Adams’ change of heart came during a surprise appearance at a St. Nicholas House Resident Association meeting packed with dozens of residents furious over the city’s plan for a building development on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd once marketed as upscale housing.

The 35-story building was quietly slated to become a homeless shelter that could potentially house migrants — a plan that was only revealed to the community this week when some neighborhood residents saw workers bringing bed frames and mattresses inside.

But in the face of pressure, Adams on Thursday night backpedaled. 

“You will not have migrants and asylum seekers in that property,” Adams declared.

The site will instead be used to house long-term New York families experiencing homelessness, a spokesperson for the city Department of Social Services told the outlet in a statement.

The building, originally billed as a lux living space where residents would pay market rates to enjoy an indoor swimming pool and apartments with marble bathrooms, has sat vacant for a decade since developers were forced into foreclosure.

It was then leased to a non-profit that had been working with the city Department of Social Services/Homeless Services to use it as a shelter for either migrants or the Big Apple’s native homeless population.

 Those in attendance at Thursday’s community meeting let Adams know how they felt about the plans to possibly house migrants.

“You are the mayor. We do not want to hear excuses,” one Harlem resident shouted at Adams, CBS New York reported.

Others expressed hope the complex could be turned into affordable housing for neighbors who are struggling to afford their rent.

“We have a dearth of affordable housing we’re being priced out of the community … The lack of respect is absolutely appalling,” Harlem resident Regina Smith said.