Joe Lhota at a mayoral forum held last year (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Sabina Mollot
It doesn’t quite have the ring to it that “Mayor Lhota” would have, but the former Republican mayoral contender now has a new job with multiple impressive titles. As of January 6, the former head of the MTA will become chief of staff, senior vice president and vice dean at NYU Langone Medical Center.
In his new role, Joe Lhota will be responsible for “helping to further align and integrate our hospitals and the School of Medicine,” the hospital said in an internal memo. The news was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Lhota’s replacing Tony Shorris, who left NYU Langone on December 31 to serve as first deputy mayor under Mayor de Blasio.
He’ll be reporting directly to Robert I. Grossman, the hospital’s CEO, and will serve as an advisor on management and policy issues as well as an ambassador to government and other officials.
“I am excited to join the talented leadership team at NYU Langone,” Lhota said in a statement through the hospital. “A true visionary, Dr. Grossman has bold plans for the organization, and I am look forward to taking part in what lies ahead for this great organization.”
In the memo, Grossman noted Lhota’s 35 years of managerial experience from the MTA to his working for the Giuliani administration as deputy mayor for operations. Then there’s the corporate resume: Lhota also served as executive vice president of administration for the Madison Square Garden Company and held several executive positions with Cablevision.
“Joe’s unique blend of corporate management and public sector leadership, in addition to his accomplishments as an executive in complex organizations, will make him a great asset to our team and important to our ongoing success,” said Grossman.
In September, Town & Village endorsed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for mayor, because we believed out of all the candidates in that cluttered ballot, he was the best hope for the middle class in this city, in particular the city’s tenant population, because he would be the most effective fighter. At this time, with de Blasio set to face off against Joe Lhota, we still believe that to be true.
We do not however believe the fear mongering arguments by Lhota that if de Blasio is elected, New York City will return to the bad old days of muggers and squeegee men ruling the streets. This is simply the kind of mud slinging that reads as desperate as Lhota’s numbers in the polls continue to show that the residents of this city are in deed ready for change after 12 years of the same Republican mayor. We also don’t buy Lhota’s blasting of de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” shtick as being divisive, because that kind of division doesn’t need to be manufactured; it’s long been felt by people who have for some time been living in fear of being priced out of this city as the mayor has taken a mostly hands-off approach to matters like disappearing rent regulated housing and salaries that just haven’t kept pace with rising housing costs, including the yearly increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board.
While Lhota has said he was committed to building new housing by offering tax incentives, de Blasio has been a lot more specific in his promises to build more of the affordable kind of housing and in protecting the existing stock of it by having City Hall work with (or put pressure on) the governor to get results in Albany on local housing laws. In an op-ed in this newspaper, he discussed the community of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in particular, noting that, “It’s the responsibility of the city to ensure that these homes and other affordability housing are never beyond the reach of middle class New Yorkers.”
Lhota believes de Blasio to be an all-talk-and-no-action kind of candidate, but as with any election, all voters can do, whether they support de Blasio or Lhota, is decide whether their campaigns seem credible. In Lhota’s case, his platform is built around admittedly worthy goals of job creation in fields like bio-tech and science and also helping the economy by encouraging more tourism. However, when it comes to affordable housing, his only real plan is to review how taxes are charged to property owners. This won’t necessarily lead to lower costs for owners or tenants.
Interestingly, although de Blasio’s accepted plenty of real estate campaign cash (as Lhota’s been quick to correctly point out) the Democratic candidate still won the primary. This was in all likelihood based on the big promises he has made to the middle class and voters will be watching to see if and how he intends to make good on those promises if he can pull it off again and win the general election on November 5. That said, we hope he does. De Blasio has our endorsement for mayor.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced legislation last year that would protect rent-regulated tenants filing for bankruptcy protection and would prevent a landlord from buying a rent-regulated tenant’s lease at a discounted price to satisfy a portion of the tenant’s debt in bankruptcy. In a recent trend, bankruptcy courts have been allowing bankruptcy trustees to count the value of a rent-regulated lease as an asset when the tenant files for bankruptcy.
The state provides an exemption for homeowners filing for bankruptcy so that they will not lose their homes and the intent of bankruptcy is not to destabilize families by making them homeless and the same should be true for rent-regulated tenants, Rosenthal argued, because their apartments are just as much of a home as a house or other owned property.
“Filing for bankruptcy won’t land you in debtor’s prison anymore, but if you’re a rent-regulated tenant, it could make you homeless, and that’s simply unfair,” Rosenthal said. “That’s why I introduced legislation to ensure that rent-regulated tenants are afforded the same protections as homeowners when filing for bankruptcy.”
A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)
There will soon be a temporary flood wall around the VA’s Manhattan Campus on East 23rd Street, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System announced on Tuesday. The temporary wall will extend from Asser Levy Place, partially up East 23rd Street and to East 25th Street. The eight-foot flood wall, made of cellular structures filled with sand, is expected to take about six weeks to complete construction. Construction of a higher, more permanent wall to protect from future storms potentially stronger than Hurricane Sandy will be built over an 18-month period. The VA was closed for many months following Hurricane Sandy, opening partially in March and then fully over the summer.
Asser Levy Place will also be closed to traffic beginning October 28 in anticipation of a new park that will be in its place. The expansion of the park is due to funding from City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and the United Nations Development Corporation. Work is expected to be completed on the project within a year.
“Open space is sorely needed on the East Side of Manhattan, and this expansion will ultimately mean more open space not only at Asser Levy, but also for the whole East Side waterfront,” Garodnick said. “This is the first step in a plan that will increase the amount of active space East Siders get, and at no cost to the City.”
With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up next week, Con Edison has made numerous improvements to its energy-delivery systems as part of its plan to strengthen critical infrastructure and protect residents from major storms. The overhead equipment is now more resilient, substations have new walls and raised equipment and gas and steam infrastructure is protected with water-proofing measures. The next steps for post-Hurricane Sandy plans throughout the next few years include burying 30 miles of overhead lines, installing stronger aerial cable, redesigning lower Manhattan networks to de-energize customers in flood zones and replacing cast iron and steel gas pipes in flood-prone areas.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a number of New York chefs and restaurants have taken the “Pride of New York Pledge” to support New York State’s agricultural products and local foods, increasing their usage by 10 percent or more. The program is designed to encourage the local culinary industry to take advantage of the food and beverage products that the state has to offer. A number of local restaurants will be participating, including Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Maialino and Blue Smoke.
The New York Daily News reported last Saturday that Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is a supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas. “I’m not ever afraid to disagree with Mayor Bloomberg when I think he’s wrong. But I believe the mayor is right on this issue,” de Blasio said. “We are losing the war on obesity. It’s unacceptable. This is a case where we have to get aggressive.”
The Downtown Manhattan exit ramp will be closed for the weekend beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route into Manhattan and to expect delays. There will also be one tube closed for the weekend at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, beginning this Saturday at 1 a.m., through 5 a.m. next Monday, due to necessary construction.
Bill de Blasio failed to report the tens of thousands of dollars in income from renting out his second Brooklyn home in his Conflict of Interest Board filing, Crain’s New York Business reported on Monday. A campaign spokesperson told Crain’s that the rental proceeds didn’t need to be reported to the conflicts board because there was no net income, but the city’s administrative code says that lawmakers need to report any income of $1,000 or more from each source during the previous calendar year.
Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Commission on Government Administration, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on cloud computing in government last Tuesday. Cloud computing technology creates opportunities to improve coordination and efficiency of government resources, as well as reshape the state government’s interactions with the general public, such as how the public can access important information. Kavanagh will also be hosting a roundtable discussion on open data next Tuesday.
The following is an open letter addressed to ST/PCV management regarding the renovation of the bike rooms.
I’m sorry but the bike storage changes in 250/240/405 are really unacceptable if you consider them finished, and now my three year old daughter has gotten hurt because we have two adult bikes standing in our living room, as we have had for more than a month longer than your posted notice suggested we should expect to.
You’ve replaced rails that allowed dozens and dozens of bicycles to be locked easily at the frame with one floor rack that has room for about seven bikes to be locked near the floor. These floor racks make it more difficult to lock any part of the bike, even just the wheel, to anything, and as you probably know, bikes locked at points other than on the frame are far easier to steal. This non-replacement of the decent, old, and capacious railings has carried on for more than two months since CW representative Brian Moriarty said that tenants “would be able to store them under the same conditions that they were previously stored.”
If you believe that the old rails allowed for problems to arise in how passable the open spaces of the bike rooms are, I would point out several things:
1. I didn’t ask, but I never saw any building staff having any problems passing through the open areas of the bike room even while carting large items.
2. It’s very obvious that replacement rails could be installed in such a way that even full of bikes they take up about half the space the old rails did.
3. Any difficulty at all in passing through the open areas of the bike room was created by two things: First, the landlord’s own elimination of about 80 percent of floor capacity and about 50 percent of bike storage capacity several years ago when the private storage units were introduced, and second, the landlord’s indifference to how many bikes were stored. And of course now, that last problem is even less of an excuse, since you now require all bikes to be registered. I’ll note that trekking bikes to the Oval (during only certain limited hours) to be registered so that they’re allowed to be stored in the bike rooms is no small ordeal for anyone, much less for my family of four who owns four bicycles.
Please immediately re-install in our bike room rails that allow dozens more bikes to be easily locked by the frame.
The following letter was originally published as a comment on the Town & Village Blog in response to the story, “Residents choose de Blasio,” T&V, Sept. 12.
The lesson from this primary election is that our politicians need to take care of their constituents, because if they take their base for granted they will pay the price. Also, any narcissism will be severely punished on Election Day.
Chris Quinn lost Greenwich Village and Chelsea by 15 points to de Blasio because she assumed her own district would vote for her, in spite of St. Vincent’s closing, her crush on Bloomberg and many other quality of life issues she neglected to address. In the end even the gay vote wasn’t there for her because she wasn’t there for them. She narcissistically assumed she could do whatever she pleased and her base would follow. They followed de Blasio instead.
Bill Thompson lost Harlem by 10 points and the total black vote citywide to de Blasio because he spent the last four years between elections actually acting a lot like Bloomberg; becoming an investment banker, summering in the Hamptons and eating at his favorite sushi restaurant on Irving Place. Even though his daughter lives in Stuy Town he could no longer connect with middle class people, and he just assumed his base would be there for him. It is telling that his biggest support was in the white portions of Staten Island, so maybe it’s time for him to change parties.
John Liu won the Asian vote in Elmhurst and Chinatown and everywhere else, because he paid attention to his base and was always there for them. Hopefully he will use his skills to broaden his appeal in the future, if so he will be the one to watch next time around.
Anthony Weiner proved that narcissism is not an endearing quality, and being a lying, perverted, unhinged narcissist is even less attractive. He was the biggest loser as he went from the early frontrunner to the punchline of a joke no one is laughing about anymore. He didn’t need an election as much as he needed a marriage counselor. Like many, I was willing to forgive and support him at first, but his atrocious handling of his personal affairs and his arrogant treatment of the press reminded me more of a Tea Party candidate than the progressive he used to be.
In the end Bill de Blasio was the only one who got it, on stop and frisk, on affordable housing, on our Bloomberg fatigue and on taxing the rich to fund our schools. Bloomberg thinks the solution to all our problems is more Russian billionaires, and that higher taxes will just scare them away. As if the rich have ever been scared away by the high price of living that they themselves helped create.
Are the rich really going to leave NYC and the multi-million dollar condo they just bought over a few thousand dollars in extra taxes? Where are they going to go, back to Russia? Or New Jersey? How’s the view of Central Park from over there?
Bill de Blasio won because he gives us hope for a fairer city, with his smart interracial family, and with his progressive agenda, which is why he won big on his opponent’s turf.
But he also won because of his stark contrast with another narcissist named Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s last gasp insult of accusing de Blasio of racism for using his son Dante in the best campaign ad in decades reminded us all why we are tired of the billionaire who thinks he knows better than everyone just because he has more money. Democracy isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about honest representation of the people, listening and caring about them and imposing their will on society and not your own. That’s why de Blasio won this round and will be the next Mayor of NYC.
Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
After a long and contentious primary season and a race with more Democrats than can be counted on one hand, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio climbed to the top of the pack in the election on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, it was still unclear whether or not de Blasio, who at times during the campaign lagged in fourth place behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, would avoid a runoff with Thompson.
According to election results from the New York Times, de Blasio won all of the districts in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as well as most of the surrounding districts except for some in the Flatiron area and Gramercy, which went to Quinn. The Republican primary was only slightly more split, with former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota winning all of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village districts except two.
The race was too close to call between de Blasio and Thompson on Tuesday night. While various news sources put de Blasio slightly over the requisite 40 percent at around midnight, Thompson said that he would continue his campaign until all of the ballots were counted, which could take days. As of Wednesday morning, the Board of Elections said that de Blasio had 40.13 percent of the vote with Thompson at 26.16 percent.
Quinn, the longtime frontrunner, conceded on Tuesday night with only 15 percent of the vote and disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner ducked out early in the vote-tallying with less than five percent.
With the primary just days away, the residents of Peter Cooper Village (always a strong voter base) have remained unsure about who it is they want to make their next mayor. And based on the very cluttered ballot, we can’t say we blame them.
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota
In the last issue of Town & Village, we made an endorsement for the candidate on the Democrat side, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, because we believe he is genuinely interested in fighting for the preservation of the middle class and the rights of renters in this city. However, finding a Republican candidate with similar interests has proven to be a wee bit tougher. Last week, Town & Village reached out to the three Republican mayoral hopefuls to ask for their thoughts on how they would help middle class New Yorkers, including tenants, which we hoped to share with readers here. But unfortunately, none of the candidates responded to the question. Not one.
So what we did here was pick a candidate that we believe wouldn’t have a hands-off approach to matters like tenant rights and housing costs. It is after all that way of thinking that allowed a culture of predatory equity to go unchecked and result in real estate disasters like the Stuy Town sale to Tishman Speyer and the frivolous primary residence challenges of tenants and eventually, the default that followed.
Of the three Republican candidates, we think former MTA head Joe Lhota has the most potential to tackle the housing crisis New Yorkers now face. Though he isn’t committed to building or preserving a particular number of units of affordable housing as a few of the Democratic candidates are, he has acknowledged the need for more housing and for the government to step in to make it a reality. In June, at a candidate forum held by CUNY covered by Town & Village, Lhota said, “The city government should give tax incentives for housing. We have a million more people; where are we going to house them? Where is the property? We need to renovate existing housing and bring more onto the system. We need to evaluate property that’s not being used. Post offices aren’t as needed as they used to be. The government should grab them and use them through a building incentive program.”
Lhota is also an old hand at the workings of city government, having been the city’s budget director in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s first term and deputy mayor for operations during the second term. Education is another important issue to him; he’s said he’s not in favor of a system that punishes teachers (as educators believe Bloomberg does in failing schools) and he has promised not to be “anti-teacher.”
Though we were somewhat tempted to go with Lhota’s Republican rival George McDonald, here’s why we didn’t. McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, believes that everyone who “wants a job should have one.” This sounds great, but in order to make this a real positive for New York, there needs to be a clear plan that provides for the creation of jobs at all income levels, not just low income jobs that would be an improvement for the people the Doe Fund helps, who were at one point homeless or incarcerated. The idea is for those who work in the city to be able to pay rent or a mortgage there, too. To be fair, no one else has come up with a way to create jobs at all levels, but… we’re still not even sure what else McDonald’s campaign is about. Billionaire Gristedes chain owner John Catsimatidis has also not shown his platform to be a unique one, beyond an admittedly worthy goal of trying to reduce fines and other nuisances for small business owners.
So, though we disagree strongly with his position on kittens, for the Republican side, we endorse Joe Lhota.
Meanwhile, residents less forgiving of Weiner this week
Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and Mike McKee of TenantsPAC at Stuyvesant Town on Monday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Monday morning, mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio stopped by Stuyvesant Town, where the Tenants Political Action Committee (TenantsPAC) announced it was endorsing him.
The event was attended by over a dozen neighborhood residents carrying campaign signs as well as ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh. Though the Tenants Association doesn’t endorse candidates, Marsh is also a board member of TenantsPAC, a group aimed at getting tenant-friendly candidates elected.
At the podium, Marsh mentioned the candidate’s commitment to existing affordable housing as well as to getting new units built and mentioned his desire to see the Rent Guidelines Board reformed.
Mike McKee, treasurer for TenantsPAC as well as its spokesman, said that the group had considered five of the Democratic candidates who seemed the most sympathetic to tenant issues, but ultimately went with de Blasio for his promise to “unravel the Bloomberg years and to have a real progressive city government.”