First Read 04/17/2019

April 17, 2019
Latest News
Nearly one year after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the formation of the Automated Decision Systems Task Force, little progress has been made, casting doubt that it will fulfill its mandate: issuing a report of policy recommendations by fall 2019.
De Blasio raised the rent on his two Park Slope homes by $4,450 last year, even as his expenses went down by more than $7,000, according to a copy of his tax returns.
The $19 toll on the Verrazano Bridge, the highest in the nation, has prompted state Sen. Andrew Gounardes to call for a discount for Brooklynites who regularly travel to Staten Island like the one offered to Staten Islanders who use the bridge.
The US Department of Education has awarded charter school operator Success Academy nearly $10 million to establish six new schools in New York City and expand four existing middle schools as well as pre-K programs at six elementary schools.
Merryl Tisch, the State University of New York vice chancellor who also licenses charter schools, said the state Legislature should lift the cap blocking more of the privately run, publicly financed institutions from opening in New York City.
In the lull between the state’s March budget talks and the flurry of deal-making at the end of session in June, eight former legislative staffers are pressing the Legislature to hold more public hearings on workplace sexual misconduct.
Golf-industry advocates have sounded the alarm about a bill that could result in raising property taxes for golf-course owners in New York by giving local governments the option to assess and tax golf courses based on “highest and best use.”
Uber and Lyft are notching record levels of robust ridership across the five boroughs – for-hire vehicles made a record-high average of 720,000 daily trips in February, when a new surcharge and driver minimum wage rules went into effect.
A tunnel built in the 1970s by urban planners who tried and failed to construct a Second Avenue subway line will now be repurposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the exact same project some 40 years later and may save the MTA $500 million.
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The cost of starting up a ferry service that links all five boroughs has almost doubled from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s original commitment, which has drawn criticism from transit advocates, elected officials and government watchdogs.
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AFSCME Local 1095, a key municipal union in Erie County, said it is unhappy with County Executive Mark Poloncarz, will disregard its past support for him and turn instead to Republican-endorsed Lynne Dixon in this year’s election.
New York City Councilman Justin Brannan said the city Department of Transportation must examine the safety of Citi Bike’s pedal-assisted bicycles – and the City Council may hold special hearings to do just that.
A coalition of state and local elected officials are calling on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to hasten the implementation of long-sought criminal justice reforms set to go into effect next year.
New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres is drafting a bill that would require food delivery apps like DoorDash to notify customers if gratuity is paid to delivery workers in addition to their regular wage – or if tips are put toward their base pay.
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Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office will now consent to parole at the initial hearing for all those who entered into plea agreements – as people do in 90 percent of cases – once they have completed their minimum sentence.
Rockland County officials trying to contain a measles outbreak ordered all unvaccinated people exposed to the disease barred from public gathering places, including houses of worship, for up to three weeks.
The New York City Board of Health said that a public health emergency mandating that nearly every person in the heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, get vaccinated for measles will remain in place for the time being.
Cuomo took veiled and direct swipes at state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and James Skoufis, who have been critical of his administration, in regard to allegations Biaggi dropped an ethics investigation as a favor and on Skoufis’ support for an Airbnb-friendly bill.
New York Republican lawmakers have started an online petition seeking support for a bill that would provide free college tuition for family members of military personnel killed in the line of duty.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York will immediately offer full college scholarships to the families of more military members killed in the line of duty despite a controversial Assembly committee vote blocked the measure last week.
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Editorial Pages
This week marks a promising start to two ambitious attempts to better mix student populations in New York City public middle schools that over many years have been far too Balkanized by race, class and academic achievement.
Most children at urban public schools aren’t learning what they should, so it’s encouraging to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo ask fellow Democrats who run Albany to lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in New York.
It would be hard to build a more damning case against the cash-for-visas program EB-5 than Hudson Yards, which was financed in part through the preferential immigration program, CityLab staff writer Kriston Capps writes.
De Blasio made a tough but necessary call Monday in shutting down the Williamsburg-based United Talmudical Academy preschool after officials there failed to turn over student vaccination records.
From City & State
National Politics
Trump’s attorneys and the White House are moving to resist a growing number of congressional requests for information, increasing the likelihood of a protracted legal fight that could test the power of congressional subpoenas.
President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution that would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s civil war in Yemen, rejecting an appeal by lawmakers to his own instincts to withdraw the U.S. from bloody foreign conflicts.
A federal judge said that U.S. Attorney General William Barr has created public distrust about whether the Justice Department is committed to sharing as much as possible about the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
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U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is preparing legislation to tighten asylum standards as the Trump administration greenlights longer detention for migrants and Congress scrambles for a legislative response to the swelling number of people arriving at the southern border.
In Depth
Many state Democratic lawmakers continue to support New York’s film tax credit despite railing against subsidies offered to Amazon, but the numbers show the program has cost state taxpayers $6.5 billion for negligible to negative economic benefit.
President Donald Trump has a history of using the 9/11 attacks to make political points, either by trying to burnish his own reputation or by damaging others’, most recently using them against Rep. Ilhan Omar following comments she made about the attacks.
As climate experts warn with increasing stridency, coastal cities like New York are running out of time to prepare for threats from the ocean – and seawater is an implacable adversary.