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7/11/08 Affairs and Appointments

7/11/08 Affairs and Appointments

New York City

New York State

Public Hearings

New Policy of the Week: Higher Parking Rates at Peak Times (Congestion Parking)

If Albany won’t let us raise the cost of driving, at least we can raise the cost of parking.

Such was the attitude of the Bloomberg administration this week in introducing a forward-thinking pilot program that, in two neighborhoods, will raise the cost of parking during periods when traffic is heaviest (e.g. midday).  As reported by William Neuman in the New York Times, beginning this fall a City pilot program will double parking meter rates during heavy traffic periods in portions of Manhattan and Brooklyn – a policy Neuman terms “congestion parking”.  The Manhattan area encompasses a swath of Greenwich Village (from Houston Street to Charles Street, with portions of Seventh Avenue South and Avenue of the Americas), while the Brooklyn area is a stretch of Kings Highway. 

An hour of parking in these two areas now costs either 75 cents or $1.00 – an egregiously low fee for the privilege of using a scarce public resource during times of peak demand.  The City’s low parking fees invite the practice of “space cruising,” whereby cars drive around – burning fuel that releases harmful emissions (such as ozone, which raises incidence of asthma), aggravating traffic congestion, endangering pedestrians and cyclists – simply for the purpose of finding a low-cost parking space.  Our current meter rates subsidize those drivers lucky or determined enough to find parking while imposing harms on many others – longer commutes for bus riders and drivers, delayed pickups for businesses, as well as fouler air and more hazardous streets for everyone.

The pilot program’s higher rates – hourly parking at $1.50 to $2.50 an hour – are intended to increase turnover in curbside parking spaces so that drivers spend less time cruising for an open space.  It will be interesting to see whether the pilot program rates are high enough to significantly reduce the incidence of space cruising.  If the new rates prove ineffective, we hope Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan will move quickly to raise them further.  In the long-term, we hope the administration will expand peak-rate parking to crowded neighborhoods citywide.  The price of using street space should not be set so low as to promote what amounts to wasteful scavenging. 

If City residents perceive the benefits of “congestion parking” – reduced travel times, safer streets, cleaner air – perhaps the City can move to address the biggest flaw in its parking regime: the huge number of unregulated spaces in which parking costs nothing at all.  Correcting this misallocation could do wonders to improve the quality of life in NYC streets. 

The announcement of this week’s pilot program, however, was a major step in the right direction.  While beneficial to some individual drivers, in many neighborhoods and for much of the week current meter rates encourage behavior that in the aggregate degrades quality of life for NYC residents.  Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Sadik-Khan deserve credit for beginning to remove the incentive for such nettlesome habits.

(For prior A&A discussion of misguided City choices on transportation/parking, please see here). 

Fun Event of the Week: Tap-Water Tasting, NY-Style

At the New York Times City Room blog, Jennifer 8.

Lee describes a scene at the American Museum of Natural History where the public was invited to taste and vote for water from Nassau, Orange, Suffolk and Westchester counties as well as New York City.  New York City water came in second to water from Bethpage. 

Read here Ms. Lee’s post, “Appreciating the Bouquet of Tap Water.” 

(Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

Mayor Bloomberg Presents Long-Term Plan to Reduce Municipal Energy Consumption

Steering Committee Submits Plan to Achieve PlaNYC Goal of 30 Percent Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Municipal Buildings and Operations by 2017

(For earlier A&A coverage of Mayor Bloomberg’s short-term action plan to reduce municipal energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, please see here)

(Read the Mayor’s full press release here)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week followed through on another PlaNYC goal: releasing a long-term action plan to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the City’s municipal buildings and operations by 30 percent by 2017.  The long-term plan is a comprehensive guide to reducing the City’s carbon footprint, through making City buildings more efficient, improving preventative maintenance, capturing energy potential at wastewater treatment plants, and other measures.

The plan was developed by the Energy Conservation Steering Committee created by an Executive Order signed by Mayor Bloomberg in October, 2007 and chaired by Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler.  In announcing the plan, the Mayor was joined by Deputy Mayor Skyler; Ashok Gupta, Air & Energy Program Director of the Natural Resource Defense Council; and Gil Quiniones, Acting Chief Operating Officer of the New York Power Authority.

Mayor Bloomberg predicted that implementation of the plan will cut City government’s annual output of greenhouse gases by roughly 1.7 million metric tons while also slicing 220-megawats out of New York City’s peak demand for electricity (one megawatt is equal to one thousand watts).  City government accounts for approximately 6.5 percent of New York City’s total energy usage and 10 percent of its peak electricity demand.

To meet its 30 percent reduction goal by 2017, the City must produce 1.68 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually versus 2006 levels. The long-term plan proposes to achieve these reductions through a capital improvement program for the City’s facilities, and enhancements to its current maintenance practices.  The projects in the long-term plan will be partially funded by an annual commitment of 10 percent of the City’s energy budget, which in fiscal year 2009 will be $100 million. In total, the plan will require an estimated $2.3 billion investment over the next nine years, of which roughly $900 million has been committed by the City, and another $80 million was already spent in fiscal year 2008. The City is expected to break even on its investment in 2013 on an annual cash flow basis, and by fiscal year 2015 it is projected that the City will have saved more on its energy bills than it has spent on all the planned investments to that point.

The largest single opportunity for reductions, 57 percent of the total, is through upgrades to existing buildings, like firehouses, police precincts, sanitation garages, offices, and courthouses. Planned improvements include upgrading facility lighting, refrigeration units, boiler upgrades office equipment, and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. There are other savings to be found in the way buildings are operated, for example systematically identifying and repairing leaking pipes, clogged steam traps, and inefficient air distribution, pumps, or fan systems.
Energy-saving projects at wastewater treatment plants account for the second largest opportunity for greenhouse gas reductions, 17 percent of the total.

Wastewater treatment plants decontaminate sewage and storm water runoff through a series of physical, chemical, and biological processes, and release the water back into the environment once it has been cleaned.  These processes generate significant amounts of methane gas, a gas whose heat-trapping capability far exceeds that of carbon dioxide. Projects in this group include fixing methane gas leaks, using recaptured methane to power electric generation equipment, and making general efficiency improvements to other specialized equipment.

Further reductions will be achieved through accelerating the purchase of more energy efficient vehicles, adopting best practices to economize vehicle miles traveled, and improving vehicular management programs. Also, 250- and 150-watt street lighting fixtures will be replaced with models that maintain equal lighting levels, but use one-third less wattage. The City will also expand on-site electricity generation at City facilities.  Leading examples of this technology include solar panels and combined heat and power systems known as cogeneration.

The Steering Committee includes the Office of Operations/Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Department of Design and Construction (DDC), and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).  In December, the Steering Committee released a short-term action plan that included 132 projects throughout all five boroughs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 34,000 tons annually. The City committed $80 million in fiscal year 2008 to implement the short-term action plan issued last December.

To read the Mayor’s long-term plan for reducing City energy use and emissions, please see here

New York City Council Releases Council Stat Data, Gleaning Richer Picture of Constituent Issues

 (Read the full press release, including graphics and examples of representative constituent issues, please see here)

The New York City Council today released the first set of CouncilStat data, collected through the new citywide database launched by the Council last fall. Among the most commonly logged constituent issues were inquiries and problems relating to construction, library service, and affordable housing. In June, 29% of cases logged in CouncilStat related to housing and buildings, followed by 13% concerning transportation issues.

To date, CouncilStat has logged over 24,000 constituent inquiries, spanning some 280 distinct issues across the five boroughs.  The data provided by CouncilStat offers a cross section of the issues that New Yorkers are speaking to their Council Members about; until now, there has been no uniform method to determine whether problems are limited to a specific borough or are part of a larger, citywide issue.  Since March, Council legislative staff have been meeting regularly to review CouncilStat data and to consider possible legislative solutions to the issues about which constituents are contacting the Council most often.

The following graphs represent the relative frequency with which constituents in each borough contacted their Council Members’ offices about specific issues.  It should be noted that issues that did not fall into one of the predetermined categories are not represented in the graphs, nor are issues that received less than 0.5% of the number of calls logged into the CouncilStat database.

Governor Paterson Signs 137 Bills into Law

Enacted Laws Include Strengthening ID Theft Protection, Anti-Traffic Congestion Measures, Increased Government Openness, and Redevelopment in the Catskills

Governor Also Vetoes Sixteen Pieces of Legislation

(To read Governor Paterson’s full press release on the legislative session, please see here).

Governor David A. Paterson this week signed into law more than one hundred and thirty bills, including two Governor’s Program Bills, the first of which aims to provide better protections against identity theft and the second to spur a redevelopment project in Catskill Region.

New York State’s identity theft laws will now restrict the ability of employers to use an employee’s personal information and provide victims of identity theft with state assistance to help fix the damage caused by identity theft. The bill also enables victims to obtain restitution equal to the value of the time they spend addressing the consequences of the identity theft.

A new Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) gaming facility will be built at the current site of the Concord Hotel. The law lowers the tax rate on VLT revenue at the resort in return for a one billion dollar investment, which the Governor claims will create 2,000 new jobs while providing money to increase education funding. This new Monticello project must be completed by January 31, 2011, and will provide a minimum of $38 million annually, twice the amount currently expected to be generated at the VLT’s current location at Monticello Gaming and Raceway.

Other bills that were signed into law by Governor Paterson include:

Prohibition of Smoking in College Dormitories– Adds college and university residence halls to the existing state ban on smoking in certain locations.

New York City “Block the Box” Enforcement– Creates a new parking violation for drivers who block cross-traffic at intersections in New York City, which will allow this violation to be enforced by both traffic agents and police officers.

FOIL Improvements– Modernizes the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) through provisions that reflect advances in information technology, judicial determinations and advisory opinions prepared by the Committee on Open Government. The law also provides guidance to agencies and the public about the costs related to providing access to electronically maintained information.

Real Property Tax Exemption Impact Reports– Requires local governments to prepare and publicly post reports on the impact of property tax exemptions when adopting their annual budgets.

ID Theft – Armed Forces– Enhances criminal penalties for identity theft when the perpetrator knows that the victim is serving in the armed forces overseas.

Extension of Acceptance of Military Ballots– Extends the time allowed for receipt of military absentee ballots for a general election from seven to 13 days. This law expires on December 31, 2009.

Public Servant Soldier Salary Act– Extends the Military Benefits Program (EMBP) offered by New York City or other municipalities to its employees who are called into active military service. In situations where the service time is longer than 60 days, the municipalities are free to devise their own programs to make up the difference for those whose salaries earned while in service are less than their municipal salary.

Make-up Civil Service Examinations for Returning Veterans– Allows members of the armed forces who miss the application deadline – due to active military duty – for a scheduled State civil service examination to compete in an upcoming examination or in a special military make-up exam.

Extended Certification for Emergency Medical Technicians after Military Duty– Extends an individual’s certification as an emergency medical technician, advanced emergency medical technician, or certified first responder if the certification would expire within six months after the individual’s separation from active military duty.
Governor Paterson also intends to veto the following 16 bills.  Read about Governor Paterson’s proposed vetoes here.

Schedule of Public Hearings in the New York City Council Week of July 13, 2008

Housing & Buildings * Addition Erik Martin Dilan, Chair
Tuesday, July 15, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers – City Hall
Details: Proposed Int 687-A – By Council Members Mark-Viverito, Brewer, Fidler, James, Koppell, Martinez, Sanders Jr., Weprin, Mendez, Gerson, Liu, and Sears – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to requiring any building or structure that has been vacant for five years or longer to be inspected prior to the issuance of any permit to alter, repair, remove or enlarge that building or structure. Int 783 – By Council Members Dilan (in conjunction with the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, Koppell, Recchia Jr., Seabrook and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to site safety personnel, including concrete site safety managers. Proposed Int 790-A – By Council Members Dilan (by request of the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, James, Koppell, Seabrook, Stewart and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to enhanced site-specific safety plans. Proposed Int 793-A – By Council Members Jackson (in conjunction with the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, James, Koppell, Nelson, Palma, Seabrook, Stewart and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the inspection, maintenance and repair of retaining walls. Proposed Int 794-A – By Council Members Lappin (in conjunction with the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, James, Koppell, Monserrate, Nelson, Palma, Recchia Jr., Seabrook, Stewart and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to training for tower and climber crane workers and riggers. Proposed Int 795-A – By Council Members Lappin (in conjunction with the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, Jackson, James, Koppell, Monserrate, Nelson, Palma, Recchia Jr., Seabrook, Stewart and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to slings for tower and climber cranes. Proposed Int 796-A – By Council Members Lappin (in conjunction with the Mayor), Comrie, Gentile, Jackson, James, Koppell, Monserrate, Nelson, Palma, Recchia Jr., Seabrook, Stewart and Weprin – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to tower and climber cranes.