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8/15/08 Affairs and Appointments

8/15/08 Affairs and Appointments

Issues of the Week

New York City

New York State

Memory of the Week
Appointments and Reorganization

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promoted Robert LiMandri to commissioner of the Department of Buildings, where since April Mr. LiMandri has been serving as acting commissioner.  Mr. LiMandri’s promotion to commissioner comes one day after the City Council changed the requirements for the job, so that the commissioner no longer needs to be licensed as an engineer or architect.

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement here and coverage from the Times’ City Room blog here.

Mayor Bloomberg this week also signed legislation consolidating the Environmental Control Board with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

Read the Mayor’s press release here.

City and State Subsidies to the MTA – How Sizeable are they?

This week the city’s Independent Budget Commission released a brief report examining the exact size of the subsidies that New York City and New York State provide to the MTA.  The report observes that media coverage of the Authority’s troubled finances have largely overlooked the issue of Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson’s responses to the MTA’s request for more funds.

IBO describes this as curious, since according to its estimates that “the overall level of state and local payments to the MTA has remained essentially flat in inflation-adjusted dollars for more than a decade.”  In making this assessment, the report takes issue with public pronouncements from Mayor Bloomberg.  Whereas the Mayor has said that the city provides the MTA with an operating subsidy of $1.2 billion in 2008, IBO calculates that in 2008 subsidies to the MTA from all local sources (including Connecticut, which has pledged $87 million for the MTA’s New Haven line) totaled only $858 million.

Below is the key graph from the IBO report, depicting city and state subsidies to the MTA as basically unchanged in real terms over the last 18 years.

As the report discusses (and the graph caption hints at), there are evidently competing definitions of what constitutes city aid to the Authority.  For example, the Bloomberg administration’s higher estimate includes funds the city spends to repay the MTA for money it advanced to the city in the mid-1990s when New York City was seeking to fill budget gaps and $360 million to help police the subways.

Lastly, IBO’s analysis also includes a nuanced explanation of why the city’s debt service on bonds it has sold in the past to finance its capital subsidy to the MTA should not necessarily be included in calculation of the city’s annual operating subsidy:

In his response to the MTA’s plan for additional aid, the Mayor stated that the city provided $344 million in 2008 for debt service related to the transportation authority.  But the Mayor’s figure represents interest costs accumulated over many years since the city borrows money for its annual capital subsidy bond sales each year and then repays bondholders over time.  While the decision to borrow funds for the capital subsidy may result in an additional cost for the city, the higher cost does not result in additional benefit for the MTA.

Something to mull over as we await the MTA’s seemingly inevitable next round of fare and toll hikes, and the ensuing news stories’ that privilege official and lay outrage at the price increases over thoughtful analysis of the fiscal troubles necessitating them.

Read the August 14, 2008 IBO Inside the Budget, Number 158 – MTA Wants More Public Subsidies, But How Much Does it Get Now?

Read coverage of the IBO report, and of reactions from the Bloomberg and Paterson administrations, in the New York Times metro section and at the Times’ City Room blog.

Water for Gas?

Councilman Seeks to Ensure that State’s Enthusiasm for Natural Gas Doesn’t Endanger City’s Water Supply

Read New York Times coverage of Councilman James F. Gennaro’s outspoken efforts to protect New York City’s 2,000 mile2 watershed amid plans by New York State to allow energy companies to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation, a large portion of which is within the watershed.

Water from this area currently comes unfiltered through aqueducts and reservoirs to the city’s nine million people.  Among other things, Mr. Gennaro is seeking a moratorium on any drilling near the watershed until such time as the Environmental Protection Agency can conduct a formal assessment of whether drilling would jeopardize the exemption from the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act that has enabled New York City to avoid building a water filtration plant that could cost upwards of $12 billion.

City Compiling List to Enforce 2007 Law That Limits Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists and those who have “Business Dealings” with the City

At issue is broad definition of “business dealings,” which as of now refers not just to firms that count the city as a customer, but also to any nonprofit or cultural institution that receives city assistance for operating costs

Read Joseph Goldstein’s article in the New York Sun here.

Rising Food Prices Help Push New York Region’s Annual Inflation Rate to Second-Highest Level in 17 Years

Local consumer prices rose 0.7 percent in July, and 5.1 percent during the year that ended July 30

Read here Patrick McGeehan’s NYT City Room blog post on New York metropolitan area price inflation.

City Council Revises the Requirements for Buildings Department Leadership

Also Prepares Legislation to Penalize Commercial Establishments for Profligate Use of Air-Conditioning – Proponents Say Penalties Will Reduce Energy Use and Stress to the Power Grid during Times of Peak Demand

Read the Council press release on the DOB and air-conditioning legislation here.

Mayor Bloomberg Convenes Task Force on City Adaptation to Impacts of Climate Change

Representatives from Government and Industry, Including Climate Scientists, Gather at City Hall to Survey City Infrastructure and Plan for Potential Disruptions

Prediction that More Frequent and Powerful Storms Will Affect Coast Areas, While Rising Temperatures Will Strain Electric Grid

Read here Mayor Bloomberg’s press release on the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and the New York City Panel on Climate Change, and their mandate (taken from PlaNYC) to develop adaptation strategies to secure the City’s infrastructure from the effects of climate change.

Below are key excerpts from the press release:

While much of the world’s efforts have focused on mitigating the impact of climate change, some impacts are certain to occur, regardless of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force will:

  • create an inventory of existing infrastructure that may be at-risk from the effects of climate change;

  • develop coordinated adaptation plans to secure these assets based on New York City-specific climate change projections;

  • draft design guidelines for new infrastructure that take into account anticipated climate change impacts; and

  • identify adaptation strategies for further study that are beyond the scope of individual stakeholders.

The task force will be assisted by a technical advisory committee, the New York City Panel on Climate Change, made up of leading experts from regional academic institutions and the legal, engineering, and insurance industries. The Rockefeller Foundation’s generous grant will fund the creation of New York City Panel on Climate Change, modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The committee will be chaired by Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research/NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Dr. William Solecki of Hunter College’s Institute for Sustainable Cities.

The New York City Panel on Climate Change will:

  • develop a unified set of climate change projections for New York City;

  • create a set of tools to help task force members identify at-risk infrastructure and develop adaptation strategies;

  • write draft protection levels to guide the design of new infrastructure; and

  • issue a technical report on the localized effects of climate change on New York City-similar to the IPCC’s landmark 2007 report on global climate change.

The City Department of Environmental Protection first issued an adaptation plan for its assets in May 2008, and this task force will build on their efforts.

Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Members

City Agencies

State Agencies/Authorities

Other Stakeholders

Dept of Buildings

Dept of Environmental Conservation

Astoria Energy LLC

Dept of City Planning

Dept of Transportation

Con Edison

Dept of Design and Construction

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

NationalGrid

Dept of Environmental Protection

NY Power Authority

NRG Energy

Dept of Parks & Recreation

NYS Public Service Commission

US PowerGen

Dept of Sanitation

NJ Transit

Verizon

Dept of Transportation

Port Authority of NY/NJ

Cablevision

Economic Development Corporation

State Emergency Management Office

Time Warner

Office of Emergency Management

 

AT&T

Office of Management and Budget

 

Sprint Nextel

 

 

T-Mobile

 

 

Amtrak

 

 

CSX

 

 

NY Independent Systems Operators

New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) Members

Cynthia Rosenzweig (co-chair)

Columbia University

Director, Center for Climate Systems Research

William Solecki
(co-chair)

City University of New York

Director, CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities

Reginald Blake

New York City College of Technology

Professor of Physics

Malcolm Bowman

SUNY-Stony Brook

Professor of Physical Oceanography,
Distinguished Service Professor at the Marine Sciences Research Center

Andrew Castaldi

Swiss Reinsurance America Corporation

Senior VP and Head of Catastrophe Perils in the Americas

Arthur DeGaetano

Cornell University

Director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center

Craig Faris

Oliver Wyman

Director

Vivien Gornitz

Columbia University

Center for Climate Systems Research

Klaus Jacob

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University

Special Research Scientist

Alice LeBlanc

American International Group (AIG)

Director, Office of Environment & Climate Change, Corporate Affairs

Valentine Lehr, P.E.

Lehr Consulting International

Principal

Robin Leichenko

Rutgers University

Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Department of Geography

Edna Sussman

Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney, LLP

Of Counsel

Gary Yohe

Wesleyan/UCS

Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics

Rae Zimmerman

New York University

Professor of Planning and Public Administration/Director, Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems

Mayor Bloomberg And Nation’s Mayors Hold Second Action Forum: Call For Renewed Investment In The Nation’s Infrastructure

Read the Mayor’s press release here; key excerpts are presented below.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Conference of Mayors President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Conference Vice President Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and other mayors from around the country today held their second Mayors ’08 Action Forum.

The forum, held in New York City, focused on infrastructure, and the mayors called for a new local/federal partnership to bring critical investment to our nation’s cities in transportation, water and other critical public infrastructure.  Further, the mayors want to ensure that infrastructure investments are climate and energy centered and that existing resources are used more efficiently….

Other key findings of the report reveal:

  • Recent estimates are that one dollar of water and sewer infrastructure investment increases private long-term output (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) by $6.35.

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) estimates that for annual general revenue and spending on operating and maintaining water and sewer systems, each additional dollar of public revenue from providing water and sewer services increases revenue in all industries by $2.62.

  • DOC estimates that adding one new job in local water and sewer creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy to support it

  • An indirect benefit of local government investment in “green water and sewer infrastructure” such as protecting one hectare (2.5 acres) of wetlands for source water protection yields $4,177 annually in avoided water treatment costs, and another $10,000 in other ecoservices categories (e.g., water supply, climate regulation, recreation, etc.)

The Mayors Action Forum on Infrastructure is the second in a series of mayoral forums in key cities around the country intended to challenge the next Presidential Administration to invest in America’s cities and metropolitan areas – the economic engines of the nation. These areas account for 86 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and house over 85% of Americans.  Recommendations from this forum and four others will be presented to the next President of the United States during the first 100 days of the new administration.

As 30 Councilmembers Assail Administration’s Plan for Willets Point, Councilman Monserrate Introduces Bill to Require “Financial Impact Statements” as Pre-Condition for City Seizure of Land under Eminent Domain

Under Councilman Monserrate’s proposed law, local development corporations would have to provide an analysis of the estimated costs and benefits of a proposed project; the estimated amount of retained or additional tax revenue to be derived from the project over the next three years; and the amount of assistance expected in the form of loans, grants or tax benefits.

Read Crain’s New York Business coverage of the Willets Point rezoning battle here and here.

Read here an account from the Times’ City Room blog of a spirited and emotional confrontation between supporters and opponents of Willets Point rezoning at a hearing of the City Planning Commission this past Wednesday.

NYS Education Department Releases Data Showing City’s 2007 Four-Year Graduation at 55.8% – a New High

More Students Earning Regents Diplomas; Black and Hispanic Students Narrowing “Achievement Gap” with White and Asian Peers

See a slideshow summary (pdf) of 2007 graduation rates here; read Mayor Bloomberg’s press release here.

New York Senate Places Mandatory 4% Limit on Annual Property Tax Increases

Governor Paterson Embraces Bill, Incurs Harsh Criticism from Education Groups and Unions

Speaker Silver Unlikely to Move Tax-Cap Bill through Assembly

Read New York Times coverage of the property tax-cap legislation here, and of the bill’s potential political impact on Governor Paterson here.

Read here Governor Paterson’s statement on passage of the Senate bill.

Governor Paterson Proposes $2.6 Billion Savings Plan to Legislature

Proposals Aim to Shrink Next Year’s $6.4 Billion Budget Deficit by Over 40 Percent

Read the Governor’s press release on his savings proposals here.

New York City Blackout of 2003

See New York Times retrospective on the blackout of 2003 – its causes, impacts, lessons, aftermath.

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