BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

Carlo Scissura Named President and CEO of New York Building Congress

November 18th, 2016

Succeeds Richard T. Anderson Who Expertly Guided the Building Congress for More Than Two Decades

Carlo A. Scissura, a lifelong New Yorker and veteran of Brooklyn politics, business, and economic development, has been named President and CEO of the New York Building Congress.

He will succeed Richard T. Anderson, who has served as President of the New York Building Congress for the past 23 years. Mr. Scissura, who has served as President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce since 2012, will take over on January 1, 2017. At that time, Mr. Anderson will assume the title of President Emeritus and continue to serve the Building Congress as a consultant.

“Succeeding Dick Anderson, who has been the face of the New York Building Congress for more than two decades, is certainly going to be a challenge, but we are certain that Carlo Scissura is the ideal person to take on this role,” said New York Building Congress Chairman Richard Cavallaro. “A veteran of both the public and private sectors, Carlo has devoted his career to spurring economic growth and development in New York City, and his home borough of Brooklyn in particular.”

Mr. Scissura said, “It is my great honor and privilege to be named President and CEO of the New York Building Congress, one of the most well-respected and influential organizations in the state. The building community is at the center of many of the successes New York has experienced, and it is a driving force behind job creation and a strong economy. As President and CEO, I will work tirelessly to meet the needs of our membership, both private and public, assist in the continued growth of the construction industry, and ensure that the Building Congress remains at the forefront of economic development, policy and legislation in New York and beyond. This organization and its members build New York – from public infrastructure to universities, hospitals and residential and commercial structures – and we will work together to guarantee that all communities benefit from and are a part of the great work of the Building Congress. I am looking forward to a great listening tour with members and partners in the building community, and putting on my ‘hard hat’ to visit some of the amazing projects that our members are involved in! My deepest thanks to Chairman Richard Cavallaro, Vice Chairman and Search Committee Chair Milo Riverso, Current President Richard Anderson, Jack Lusk and the entire Board of Directors.”

“Since 1994, I have had the distinct privilege of serving the design, construction and real estate community and the Building Congress’ members, who are 100 percent dedicated to enhancing the industry and growing New York City’s economy,” said Mr. Anderson. “It is gratifying to know that the organization is in great hands moving forward with Carlo Scissura.”

Under Mr. Scissura’s leadership, the Brooklyn Chamber’s membership has grown by more than 200 percent and is now one of New York’s largest business advocacy and economic development organizations, with over 2,100 members. During his tenure, he oversaw the launch of a number of highly innovative and successful initiatives, including Explore Brooklyn, Brooklyn-Made, and Chamber on the Go, and has received substantial new funding from government agencies and private foundations to support the Chamber’s work. During this historic period of growth, the Chamber’s efforts have been widely recognized as creating national models for business development, outreach and technical assistance, and regional branding.

Prior to joining the Chamber, Mr. Scissura served both as Chief of Staff and General Counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. During his tenure, he focused on restructuring operations at Borough Hall and driving Brooklyn’s economic development agenda. He also served on the Boards of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and Brooklyn Public Library.

Prior to joining the Borough President’s Office, Mr. Scissura owned a thriving solo practice law firm in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. He previously served on the staffs of State Senator Vincent Gentile and Assemblyman Peter Abbate.

In addition to his professional work, Mr. Scissura has deep roots in community service. During his five years on Community School Board 20 in Brooklyn, he reinvigorated both the Legislative and Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committees and worked closely with parents and teachers.

He was appointed to the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 20 in 2004, where he served as President and Chairman of the Legislative Committee. During his time at the CEC, Mr. Scissura vigorously advocated increased community and parental involvement, strengthened the cooperation among civic leaders and schools, and continued the relationships built during his years on the school board. He was instrumental in having the School Construction Authority approve the largest capital construction plan for District 20. He also served as a member of Community Board 11.

‎Currently, Mr. Scissura is the President of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations, where he has spearheaded the building of the new Italian Cultural and Community Center, and is the Master of Ceremonies for the Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade. Mr. Scissura has received numerous honors and awards for his work in the community.

The selection of Mr. Scissura is the culmination of a 10-month search led by STV Group President and CEO Milo E. Riverso. The search committee also included: Richard T. Anderson, President of the New York Building Congress; Richard Cavallaro, Chairman of the New York Building Congress and President/CEO of Skanska USA Inc.; Ralph J. Esposito, President of Lend Lease (US) Construction LMB, Inc.; Sharon Greenberger, President/CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York; Maureen A. Henegan, Chair/CEO of Henegan Construction Co., Inc.; Gregory A. Kelly, President/CEO -U.S. of WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff; Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; Terrence E. O’Neal, Managing Principal of Terrence O’Neal Architect, LLC; Jonathan D. Resnick, President of Jack Resnick & Sons; Lawrence P. Roman, CEO of WDF, Inc.; Frank J. Sciame, Chairman/CEO of Sciame Construction LLC; Dominick M. Servedio, Executive Chairman of STV Group, Inc.; and Michael S. Zetlin, Senior Partner of Zetlin & DeChiara LLP.

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Posted under News From our Members

President-elect Trump needs a partner in Congress

November 13th, 2016

by Jeffrey Lewis

Given the historic election of Donald Trump, it’s easy to miss the true message sent by the electorate. With Republicans winning control of the presidency and Congress, voters signaled a desire for leaders to work together to solve the nation’s most difficult domestic policy problems. That requires Republican leadership in Congress that is serious, focused on action not rhetoric, and understands this historical moment. The first step: the re-election of Paul Ryan as Speaker.

Unlike in 2008, when voters handed relatively unified Democrats control of the Presidency, Senate, and House, President-elect Trump will head a government controlled by various factions of the Republican party. If Republicans have any ambition to make any progress on domestic policy, Mr. Trump and other Republicans need the support of Democrats in Congress to create bipartisan legislative initiatives.

Unlike ObamaCare, where the Democrats passed it without one Republican vote, the future of domestic and foreign policy cannot and should not be purely Republican. The cross fertilization of ideas, strategies and communication are the hallmarks that this nation was built on. A Trump White House and a Republican Congress stand at an important crossroads in history; they must embrace the bipartisanship practiced by former Republican Senators Bob Dole, John Heinz, Bob Packwood, and others who reached across the aisle to build solutions to issues concerning domestic and foreign policy.

Speaker Paul Ryan is a student of history who understands that the past is our teacher. Most people view Paul Ryan as a principled, conservative Republican who is deeply committed to advancing equitable solutions to America’s challenges. On many issues –budget, trade, immigration, poverty and entitlements — he’s demonstrated a willingness to reach across the aisle and put bipartisan policy ahead of partisan politics. He looks at America as one nation.

At worst, a re-elected Speaker Ryan would check the power of a newly elected president by embodying the system of checks and balances our founders enshrined in the Constitution. At best, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump would find common ground and forge bipartisan solutions to address our unsustainable entitlement programs, our broken immigration system, and other tough national problems.

Particularly in the area of healthcare, the road ahead is full of gaping holes. Unlike ObamaCare, which was passed without a single Republican vote, solutions to our numerous healthcare challenges demand bipartisan resolutions. Medicare and Medicaid are operating at an unsustainable financial pace; the nation is desperate for a long term care policy that recognizes the needs of middle class retirees and the children of aging parents (mostly women) who often leave work to be caregivers, which results in a severe economic loss to themselves and their families; adolescent mental health has become a national public health crisis; and we still have millions of children going to school hungry.

The humanity of healthcare under the leadership of Speaker Ryan would reflect American values and the needs of American families. Ryan understands how to take the politics out of entitlements to create real solutions.

Equally important is how best to fulfill President-elect Trump’s and other Republicans promise of replacing ObamaCare. The tenets of TrumpCare should be founded on the principle that middle class families are protected, and that providers are paid at market-rate for services not the Medi-Cal rate because it simply drives doctors away from treating patients.

Republicans also have a unique opportunity to address the long term care needs of millions of aging and disabled Americans. Part of this discussion should include how to reward, not penalize, children of aging parents who leave the workforce to care for mom, dad or a disabled child.

Paul Ryan has repeatedly shown a willingness to engage in substantive discussions about the future of America’s healthcare system. If President-elect Trump wants to get past the reflexive “repeal and replace” attitude prevalent within the GOP, he must remain open to Republican reform ideas and strategies to tackle everything from primary care to long term care.

New presidents often talk of their first 100-day agenda. And, many fail. A newly re-elected Speaker Ryan could help a Trump White House build a real, achievable agenda. One that embraces the candidate’s promises, America’s hope and a path forward in tackling some tough economic issues. Leadership, real leadership, will be demonstrated by discussions on tax and entitlement reform.

If the past is any guide, such an opportunity won’t remain open long. But it starts with Speaker Ryan sitting behind President Trump at his first State of the Union speech as he delivers a bipartisan message that, for the first time in decades, brings both parties to their feet.

— Jeffrey Lewis is President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment, a Turlock -based philanthropy dedicated to creating innovative healthcare solutions for Stanislaus and Merced counties.

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Posted under News From our Members

At Trader Joe’s, Good Cheer May Hide Complaints

November 4th, 2016

By NOAM SCHEIBER

To explain their infatuation with Trader Joe’s, fans of the offbeat grocery chain typically cite three factors: low prices, an appealing selection of high-end products and, perhaps above all, irrepressibly friendly employees.

The company’s workers are urged to walk customers to any item they couldn’t locate, tear open bags of food for impromptu tastings and accept returns with no questions asked.

That they go the additional step of doing it all with a smile is no accident. John Shields, the longtime chief executive who died two years ago and had personally interviewed prospective managers, once said he eliminated any candidate who didn’t flash a grin within 30 seconds.

Trader Joe’s also backed up its preference for cheerfulness with cash. Workplace experts have praised the company for its “good jobs” strategy of offering generous pay and benefits and recouping the cost through lower turnover and higher sales.

But in recent years, the patina of good cheer has masked growing strife and demoralization in some stores on the East Coast, far from the company’s base in California. A number of workers, known at Trader Joe’s as “crew members,” complain of harsh and arbitrary treatment at the hands of managers, of chronic safety lapses and of an atmosphere of surveillance.

Above all, some employees say they are pressured to appear happy with customers and co-workers, even when that appearance is starkly at odds with what is happening at the store.

“We are committed to maintaining a great and safe environment in which to work,” the company responded. “We promote an open and honest environment that encourages questions, suggestions or concerns to be raised.”

According to an unfair labor practices charge filed on Thursday with a National Labor Relations Board regional office, Thomas Nagle, a longtime employee of the Trader Joe’s store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was repeatedly reprimanded because managers judged his smile and demeanor to be insufficiently “genuine.” He was fired in September for what the managers described as an overly negative attitude.

The morale issues appear concentrated at some of the company’s largest and busiest stores, including one where a union is trying to organize. Tensions have been heightened, according to several employees, by the pressure to remain upbeat and create a “Wow customer experience,” which is defined in the company handbook as “the feelings a customer gets about our delight that they are shopping with us.”

Still, many employees think of the company fondly, some former crew members say. Maggie Dunham Jordahl, who has worked at three Trader Joe’s stores, said managers were nurturing and helpful.

But in interviews, Mr. Nagle, who recorded several performance reviews with his managers and made the recordings available to The New York Times, described stockrooms piled high with products that fell on workers and harsh fumes that sometimes wafted through the store and sickened workers.

He said managers would typically use the public address system to instruct workers to avoid talking to one another while they stocked shelves. He also said managers appeared to harass workers for the sport of it.

As an example, Mr. Nagle said a manager chastised him over the public address system for returning a sweatshirt to his locker after unloading goods in a freezer. “If anyone’s confused, there’s no product to work in the locker room,” the manager announced, he said.

Mr. Nagle’s filing challenges policies that appear in the Trader Joe’s crew handbook and job bulletins, and which were read aloud to him. One of the latter required employees to maintain a “positive attitude.”

Some labor experts say such policies may be illegal because federal labor law gives employees the right to discuss working conditions and the merits of joining a union with one another, and to complain about working conditions to the public, including customers. Any company rule that an employee would reasonably interpret as discouraging these activities is most likely to be illegal, according to Wilma Liebman, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

In a decision involving T-Mobile earlier this year, the labor relations board struck down a rule in that company’s handbook that said: “Employees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.”

For its part, Trader Joe’s said in a statement: “We do not fire crew members for trivial reasons. We pride ourselves on operating our business with integrity and adhering to the law at all times.”

Mr. Nagle said that as conditions deteriorated at his store, workers reached out to organizers at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who helped them begin making the case to co-workers for unionizing. The union is providing Mr. Nagle’s legal representation.

Other employees in stores across the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, echoed Mr. Nagle’s description of stockroom hazards and managers’ behavior. A former worker in Brooklyn said that if two workers spoke to one another for more than a minute or two while on the job, often a manager would appear and ask, “What’s going on?”

Gammy Alvarez, who works at the Manhattan store where Mr. Nagle did, described being reprimanded for sipping water while working at the checkout because, a manager said, she was taking too long between customers.

Workers at two other stores, including one in Brooklyn, said that good employees who committed minor infractions or asked managers legitimate questions disappeared with no explanation. Weeks or months later, their co-workers learned they had been fired.

The treatment, which may not be unusual for the retail sector, is at odds with Trader Joe’s reputation for positivity, and with the image the company takes pains to project.

Managers were determined to have employees remain cheery with colleagues as well their customers. Mr. Nagle’s girlfriend, Vanessa Erbe, also worked in the store and said she once gently complained to a manager about being stranded at a demonstration stand for 20 minutes after her eight-hour shift ended. The next day, a second manager asked her to write the first manager a letter of apology. “It was demoralizing,” she said.

Transcripts of three of Mr. Nagle’s semiannual performance reviews leading to his ouster, after nearly three years of what he said were positive reviews, show managers praising his aptitude for the work but criticizing him for not being friendly enough with co-workers or customers.

After one review in which a manager said he was making “little effort in executing Trader Joe’s processes,” Mr. Nagle asked for an example. A second manager responded: “I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen you like genuinely smile.”

In Mr. Nagle’s final review before he was fired, he was criticized for not greeting a manager with sufficient feeling. “It’s not like, ‘Hey what’s going on,’ it’s like ‘Heh,’” the manager said. Mr. Nagle said that when he asked if the manager if he wanted a longer acknowledgment, he responded, “Yeah, but it’s got to be genuine. You have to want to be here.”

Mr. Nagle said that his work ethic never flagged — which his co-worker Ms. Alvarez affirmed — though he conceded he became more terse with managers as they largely ignored workers’ pleas to address the increasingly difficult work environment.

Mr. Nagle’s managers seemed to view him as one of the keys to his colleagues’ morale. “You have a lot of influence over the mood of the store,” a manager told him during a review. “Work to create a more fun and energetic experience for both our customers and your fellow crew.”

Trader Joe’s began in Pasadena, Calif., in 1967 as a convenience store that sold a variety of provisions, including deeply discounted wine. It later added health and gourmet food.

As the chain expanded to more than 150 stores across the country by the early 2000s, the founder Joseph H. Coulombe and his successor as chief executive, Mr. Shields, were adamant about preserving its quirky neighborhood vibe.

But with more than 400 stores generating over $10 billion in sales, according to estimates, the company culture appears to have evolved from an aspiration that could be nurtured organically to a tool that can be used to enforce discipline and stifle criticism.

“The environment in this job is toxic, but they’re trying to create this whole false idea that everything is cheery and bubbly,” Ms. Alvarez said. “I think they want us to be not real people.”

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Posted under News From our Members

Teachers union says new federal regulations are not a ‘real partnership’

July 20th, 2016

By Keshia Clukey

ALBANY – Federal regulations tied to the new Every Student Succeeds Act are a “top-down, federally driven” approach, not a “real partnership,” as was intended, the state’s largest teachers union says.

On Tuesday, New York State United Teachers submitted comments to the U.S. Education Department on the draft regulations in the hope that the department will make changes. The submission deadline is Aug. 1.

ESSA, passed in December, replaced the broad federal No Child Left Behind Act and was initially seen as providing states more flexibility regarding assessments and accountability.

Regulations which the federal education department have proposed in conjunction with the law have come under fire, with stakeholders questioning whether they hampered the flexibility the law gave to states. NYSUT and U.S. education secretary John King have a particularly acrimonious relationship going back to his days as education commissioner in New York. The union called for his removal in New York and protested his appointment as U.S. education secretary.

The union and advocacy groups in New York are particularly concerned about participation rate requirements. The law still requires 95 percent participation rate on state standardized tests, but under the regulations, schools and the state could essentially be rated lower if they don’t meet the requirements and potentially face penalties.

That would be an issue in New York, because the state in 2015 had one of the highest test refusals in the nation, with 20 percent of students opting out of state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams. Spring 2016 numbers have not yet been released.

The union suggested deleting the section in the regulations.

The union also expressed concern over the implementation timeline, which requires states to begin identifying schools under their new accountability plans by 2017-18. The timeline limits the ability of states to develop “thoughtful” systems, according to the letter.

“The draft rules as highlighted do not reflect ESSA and the promise of the law,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said in the letter. “Unfortunately, in several areas the draft rules embrace a test, rank, and punish system of school accountability.”

Read the full letter here: http://politi.co/2a9Qs2u.

To view online:
http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/07/nysut-calls-on-federal-education-department-to-change-new-regulations-104059

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Posted under News From our Members

New York Public Hospitals Use Emojis to Reach Young People About Sex

July 18th, 2016

By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT

The birds and the bees are no longer confined to uncomfortable living-room conversations. They will start popping up as emojis in teenagers’ Facebook feeds on Monday.

Eggplant and peach emojis will appear with the words: “Need to talk to someone about ‘it’?” A monkey emoji with its hands over its mouth will offer advice on how to get confidential access to emergency contraception.

The social media posts are part of a campaign by NYC Health & Hospitals to reach young people ages 12 to 21 and encourage them to seek confidential care for sexual and reproductive health, like testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, at one of the 20 YouthHealth centers across the five boroughs.

The public hospital system’s messages on Facebook and Instagram will direct readers to a new Health & Hospitals website. The website maps out the locations of all the YouthHealth services sites in New York City and reminds young people that they can get health care services regardless of ability to pay, immigration status, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“We’re taking away all of the excuses for adolescents not to enroll in health care,” said Dr. Warren Seigel, the chairman of the department of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine at Coney Island Hospital.

The campaign was created in part to increase the number of teenagers who take advantage of care offered by Health & Hospitals, particularly confidential walk-in treatment, Richard Zapata, the outreach and education manager for population health, said.

Health & Hospitals saw 152,000 adolescent patients last year. More than 38,000 were tested for sexually transmitted diseases, 30,000 were tested for pregnancy and about 2,400 gave birth, according to a news release from the system.

Under state law, children do not need parental permission for certain sexual, reproductive and mental health care services. But many New York teenagers are unaware of this confidential access, Mr. Zapata said.

“Most of the facilities were saying they could see more young people,” Mr. Zapata added.

And when it came to sex, teenagers in focus groups said they did not turn to their parents for information, Mr. Zapata said.

“It’s hard to talk to someone about pregnancy testing,” Mr. Zapata said. “Those conversations aren’t really happening that much at home.”

Dr. Seigel said his patients came from diverse cultures and places, including Latin America and Southeast and Central Asia.

“Because of their parents’ religious and cultural background, teenagers are not encouraged at home to talk about their sexual health,” Dr. Seigel said.

Many of his patients are going through puberty, Dr. Seigel said, and they ask him questions they might be uncomfortable asking their parents.

“It can be something as simple as, ‘Why is this growing, why isn’t this growing?’” Dr. Seigel said. He also said he heard comments like, “Does this mean I’m gay or lesbian?” or “I’m thinking of having sex but I’m not so sure.”

Elizabeth Schroeder, a sexuality educator, trainer and consultant, said she was thrilled to see a major health system talking about sexual health with young people. She worried, though, that the messages might not be clear to teenagers who are learning English as a second language.

“The question is whether these are the images that will get the most attention,” she said of the emojis.“I wonder whether younger people even get the language of the birds and the bees.”

But Mr. Zapata said teenagers in focus groups insisted the symbolism would grab their attention.

“They were like, ‘This is it,’” Mr. Zapata said. “‘This is the way we’re talking.’”

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Posted under News From our Members

Greater New York Chamber of Commerce Celebrates Women’s History Month

March 22nd, 2016

GNYCC

On Friday March 18th the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce (GNYCC) hosted a celebration of Women’s History Month at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The event was emceed by Greater New York Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Jaffe and GNYCC Chairman Cynthia DiBartolo. The event was attended by 75+ leaders from the New York business and labor community and honored Kathy Hochul, NYS Lieutenant Governor; Beth Goldberg, District Director of the Us Small Business Administration; Major Kimbia Rey, US ARMY; Vicki Saunders, Founder of SheEO; and Waffa Abboud, Founder and CEO of Human First.

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Posted under News From our Members

THE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS’ NEW YORK CHAPTER IS RENAMED THE ROGER REES AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN STUDENT PERFORMANCE

March 10th, 2016

The Broadway Education Alliance, the fiscal sponsor for the Gershwin Awards, announced today that the program has been renamed The Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance—to celebrate the exceptional life and career-long artistic excellence of Broadway’s beloved actor, Roger Rees. Formerly known as The Gershwin Awards, the 2015-2016 Roger Rees Award for Excellence in Student Performance will be held on Sunday, May 22 at the Beacon School in Manhattan.

Read the details here: Roger Rees Awards

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Posted under News From our Members

Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll Discusses Major Projects and Infrastructure Improvements Underway

March 10th, 2016

New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll was the featured speaker on March 3 at a New York Building Congress Construction Industry Breakfast Forum, which also featured remarks from Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

Highlighting major infrastructure projects to the crowd of nearly 350 professionals from the design, construction, and real estate industry, Commissioner Driscoll called it an exciting time for New York City as well as the State as a whole. He provided updates on several key initiatives, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $100 million infrastructure investment program, stating, “This plan will modernize the State’s public transportation systems – freight, rail and ports, airports and roads and bridges – to meet the needs of the new global economy and enhance New York’s position as the Empire State.” These projects include a comprehensive redesign of LaGuardia Airport, expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and transformation of Penn Station and the historic Farley Post Office.

Commissioner Driscoll also detailed the Governor’s budget proposal, which includes multiple projects to improve New York State’s bridges, roads, and infrastructure in the face of extreme weather conditions. On the local level, DOT is currently providing technical assistance, guidance, and oversight for $2.9 billion in locally administered, federally aided projects under construction in New York City.

Stressing the importance of alternative forms of project delivery, Commissioner Driscoll discussed the use of the design-build method and public-private partnerships. He praised the Building Congress for its support of innovative project delivery, telling the audience, “You have always been at the forefront of support for innovative project delivery, and you were instrumental in the passage of the 2011 Infrastructure Investment Act, which provided authorization for the DOT to utilize the design-build method.” Since receiving authorization, he said the State has awarded 23 design-build contracts valued at a little over $1 billion, calling the results overwhelmingly positive.

Commissioner Driscoll provided an update on DOT projects currently underway in the City, which he said total about $1.8 billion. These projects include: the building of the new Kosciuszko Bridge; rehabilitation of stretches of the Major Deegan Expressway; HOV-lane extensions on the Staten Island Expressway; safety improvements to the Gowanus Expressway; operational enhancements to the Kew Gardens Interchange; rehabilitation of bridge structures on the Cross Bronx Expressway; and replacement of concrete decks on the Bruckner Expressway. The Commissioner also talked about plans for Long Island, including bridge replacements and reconstruction of roadways, as well as the Governor’s plan to build a tunnel connecting Long Island to Connecticut.

In closing, Commissioner Driscoll emphasized the DOT’s goal of streamlining processes to deliver projects faster and more efficiently, the Governor’s support of the Department and the use of design-build and public-private partnerships, and his commitment to maintaining a partnership with the building community. He stated, “The support of this Building Congress is essential, and I can’t say that enough, particularly in helping to demonstrate how strategic infrastructure investment really does spur economic growth and creates a true 21st century transportation network.”

During her remarks, Jessica Lappin described the opening of the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub as an impressive feat of engineering and a testament to hard work and human spirit. She stated, “This Hub will ultimately prove that the public sector can and should aspire to design greatness. Daring design and ambitious public works have tangible economic rewards, but they also add to our quality of life.” She discussed how the station, along with Fulton Street Transit Center, will for the first time connect the PATH train and 11 subway lines underground. Ms. Lappin talked about the economic impact of the Hub, telling the crowd that there will be 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants surrounding the Hub, which are expected to generate close to $1 billion in sales every year.

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Mayor Presses Feds to Let City Offer Savings Plan to Private Employees

March 1st, 2016

By DAN ROSENBLUM

Mayor de Blasio Feb. 25 asked the Federal Government to allow New York to become the first American city to sponsor a private-sector retirement-savings plan. His proposal, first announced during his State of the City address last month, would create a savings account for workers who aren’t enrolled in pension plans.
“Working people of New York City should be able to retire in comfort and in the city they love,” the Mayor said. “Our message to working people should not be: work your whole lives and end up with nothing.’”

Who Would Be Covered

Under the administration’s plan, everyone at a work¬place with at least 10 employees would be automatically enrolled. The workers would have contributions deducted from their paychecks, but could opt out or change their pay rates.

Neither an employer nor the city would contribute, though the de Blasio administration proposed to create a board to establish and manage the program. It would also institute safeguards to prevent companies from replacing their own programs with the city-managed plan.

Only 43 percent of working New Yorkers currently have access to a retirement-savings plan, and those who do sometimes pay hefty fees because they lack the leverage of large collectively-funded systems, according to the Mayor’s Office. Additionally, two of every five New Yorkers between 50 and 64 years old have less than $10,000 saved up.

The U.S. Department of Labor in November issued draft regulations to create exemptions in Federal laws to allow state-sponsored IRAs that follow certain rules. Mr. de Blasio said his office sent comments to the Obama Administration asking that cities be permitted to create similar programs without liability or burdensome requirements.

The Mayor said he believed the proposal was consistent with President Obama’s philosophy of economically boosting working-class Americans, but city officials said they would await the Federal Government’s response before developing a specific plan.

Ruling Later This Year?

John Adler, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Pensions and Investments, said he expected the Labor Department to rule by the end of the year. But he warned that the city wouldn’t underwrite any return-on-investment or the initial principal in the event of a financial catastrophe. There are no guarantees,” he said.
The city’s highest-ranking officials—including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito—joined Mr. de Blasio at the press conference at the City Hall rotunda. Though all identify to varying degrees as progressive allies of the Mayor, they rarely appear as a group.

But they have each tackled the issue. Last year, Ms. James issued a policy paper demonstrating the challenges for aging New Yorkers and Mr. Stringer impaneled a “study group” to develop solutions. Ms. Mark-Viverito said the Council has already drafted legislation ready to be introduced over the next several weeks and adapted to fit the Federal Government’s requirements.

Has AARP, Union Backing

The proposal was backed by AARP as well as business, financial-services and labor leaders.
“This is an area where the public and private sector can work together,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “We applaud Mayor de Blasio, the Speaker and the Public Advocate for bringing us together to help private-sector employees achieve retirement security.”

Mr. Stringer, whose office manages the $160-billion pension systems that cover the city’s employees and retirees, said the plan would reduce the strain on city spending for low-income seniors. “While we also want to protect the broader financial health of the city, we recognize that when people retire without enough savings, the city has to pick up the tab and increase spending on social services,” he said.
He added that he “couldn’t imagine” not being included in the final proposal.

Some states have taken steps to establish similar systems, though none have launched them. Mr. de Blasio—who is feuding with Governor Cuomo and has had his legislative priorities blunted by opposition from Albany lawmakers—said the city was large enough to warrant its own fund and discounted reaching out to the state to develop a system.

“There are some states—many states in fact—where their state governments do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of their cities, where you might have a city willing to do something where a state government would not,” the Mayor said.

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NYSUT Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Ways and Means Committee on the Proposed 2016-17 Executive Budget for Elementary and Secondary Education

February 24th, 2016

nysut-logo

Senator Young, Assemblyman Farrell, honorable members of the Legislature and distinguished staff, I am
Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). NYSUT represents
more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher
education, professionals in education, in health care and retirees statewide.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the proposed 2016-17 Executive Budget for Elementary and
Secondary Education. I am joined by Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers.
The state of public education in New York finally seems to be moving in the right direction, however, we have
much more to do.

We must continue to work together to ensure each and every student receives a high quality education that
prepares them for college and career.

We must continue to work towards reducing unnecessary testing in our schools.

We must restore the joy of learning and teaching in our classrooms.

While the Executive’s proposed 2016-17 year-to-year increase of $961 million, or 4.1 percent in traditional
formula school aid is one of the largest school aid starting points we have seen in recent years, significantly
more funding is needed to maintain current levels of academic services and programs and to provide many
needed enhancements in school districts across New York state.

This year in particular, state support of schools is critical. The tax cap is near zero; set at a mere 0.12 percent – NOT two percent. This devastatingly low tax cap will cripple local school districts’ ability to raise revenue.

Under a true two percent tax cap, $700 million would have been generated, which could have been used to
offset the state share of school funding. This places an even greater importance on school aid for 2016-17 as it
will be the sole source of additional revenue for many school districts.

A significant increase in school aid can be supported by the state. The state is no longer running a budget
deficit and instead has a surplus. A recent NYS Comptroller report showed an approximate current year state
surplus in the General Fund of $5.4 billion. While a portion of this surplus is the result of a one-time financial settlement, over half is generated due to better than expected figures in recurring state revenue streams. New York public school students are still owed $4.4 billion in foundation aid and $434 million in Gap
Elimination Adjustment (GEA) funding. The state should have a specific plan to address this underfunding to
ensure that children are not denied the opportunity to a sound basic education that our State Constitution
requires.

Our schools need to not only provide support for education and instruction but also address the social and
emotional needs of our students. Social and emotional development and learning plays an important role in
making schools safe, maintaining a caring school climate and enhancing student motivation. We need to
ensure that trained professionals such as: certified school psychologists, school social workers and school
counselors, are available in our schools to support students and provide appropriate clinical services when
necessary.

SCHOOL AID

The $961 million is allocated for 2016-17 as follows:
 $406 million in expense based aid;
 $266 million in foundation aid;
 $189 million in GEA restoration; and
 $100 million for the creation of community schools.

While a 4.1 percent increase is the highest starting point in recent years, when you factor in a near zero tax
cap, the increase in school aid only translates to an overall increase in school spending of 1.5 percent. This is
far below the estimated $1.7 billion increase needed for districts just to maintain current services and
programs for students. State aid on average only makes up 35 percent of school district revenues and this
year it will be the only revenue source to pay for the natural growth in expenses.

The Board of Regents has called for at least a $2.4 billion increase in school aid, a $2.1 billion increase alone in formula based aid for the 2016-17 school year and another $345 million for targeted programs. The Regents
have also called for funding of the $318 million for prior year aid claims that are still outstanding.

NYSUT is calling for an increase of $2.6 billion in general purpose school aid.

We call for:
 A $2.1 billion increase in formula aid; with significant investment in the foundation aid formula,
elimination of the GEA and full payment of expense based aid.
 An additional $500 million in targeted funds, as detailed in the recent Educational Conference Board
school aid request. We ask these funds be targeted towards:
1. continued support for struggling schools;
2. support for English language learners;
3. continued expansion of pre-kindergarten;
4. a significant investment in high-quality professional development; and
5. expanded access and support for college and career pathways.
 An additional allocation of the $318 million in prior year aid claims that are owed to school districts.

Despite recent school aid increases, currently one-third of school districts are still at, or below, 2009-10 state aid levels. Furthermore, some services and programs for students, as well as educator jobs, have still not been fully restored.

New York’s public schools and are still reeling from the multiple years of school aid cuts imposed upon them.
These cuts have caused class sizes to balloon, decimated course offerings and after-school programs,
particularly music, art and physical education. These cuts have also curtailed academic support for at-risk
children, eliminated counseling services, and rolled back early childhood programs including full-day
kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

The $2.6 billion request would constitute a meaningful down payment towards restoring the nearly $5 billion
still owed to New York’s students.

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

A Community School is a model for organizing the resources of the community around student success. It is
both, a place and a set of partnerships, between the school and other community resources. Its integrated
focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger
families and healthier communities. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone —all
day, evenings and weekends, year round.

The Executive Budget includes $100 million to “transform” all of the state’s struggling schools into community
schools. From the $100 million, $75 million will support both struggling and persistently struggling schools,
and $25 million will support high-needs schools’ efforts to create community schools. These funds are
allocated via a formula to all eligible school districts.

There are over 200 high-need districts which get funding under the Executive Budget’s $100 million formula.
However, many of those districts are only getting $40,000, or less, which is far from the amount required to
create a community school. For example, a school in the Finger Lakes region, a high-needs rural district, could
only receive $22,000, which is not enough funding to transform it into a community school. We urge you to
ensure that all eligible schools receive adequate funding under this formula.

Over half of the state’s students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch and approximately one million
children are living in poverty, which includes over 100,000 homeless students. New York should make a
greater financial commitment to support existing community schools and to the creation of new schools to
ensure we can continue to increase student achievement and remove impediments to students’ learning.

RECEIVERSHIP

The enacted law on receivership attempts to centralize power, privatize public education and strip away local
control from parents and their local, democratically elected school boards.

NYSUT calls for a repeal of the receivership law.

The current law mislabels schools, students and educators based on the failed implementation of the Common
Core and flawed state standardized test scores, without taking into account, the progress made in existing
local turnaround programs. This law blames educators, rather than addressing the real fundamental
problems that are symptomatic of these schools: chronic underfunding and high concentrations of students
living in poverty.

School districts facing receivership are owed, in total, more than $2.6 billion in Foundation Aid and $94
million in GEA funding – more than a combined $2.7 billion. Astoundingly, this amount totals more than half
of the nearly $5 billion owed to public schools statewide in Foundation Aid and GEA funding. It is important
to note, this amount reflects what is currently owed and does not take into account the several years these
school districts were inadequately funded.

Collective bargaining contracts and rights should not be unilaterally changed or usurped. The ability of a
receiver to unilaterally change a collectively bargained contract is highly objectionable.

There is no evidence that suggests firing educators has anything to do with raising student achievement and
there is no rational argument for it. This harmful provision in the law will strongly discourage educators from
working in struggling schools, since these schools serve large high-needs populations. We should be
supporting our teachers in these schools, rather than penalizing them.

We urge the state to enact policies that provide a realistic research-based time to turnaround these schools
properly and research-based solutions and tools that have been proven to close the achievement gap and
accelerate student learning.

TEACHER CENTERS AND OTHER PROFESSIONAL PROGRAMS

Teacher Centers were established by the state Legislature in 1984 to provide comprehensive, ongoing
professional development and support services to our teachers. They are the only state-funded vehicle
guaranteed to support teacher professional development in all school districts, including high-need schools
and districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), non-public and charter schools.

At a time when we are asking educators to comply with higher learning standards to ensure all students are
on track for college and career, we must first provide educators with the resources and tools they need to
meet this demand.

The Executive Budget fails to fund Teacher Centers for the 2016-17 school year. Funding for these critical
centers has not met the demand for continued and increased professional development for the over quarter
million professional staff members who work in our schools. For example, the 2015-16 school year funding
level for Teacher Centers ($14.26 million) is less than it was nearly twenty years ago.

Teacher Centers are also economic engines for the state. They maximize resources and leverage existing
purchasing agreements to provide significant savings to property taxpayers. These centers work with many
colleges, universities, museums, youth bureaus, early childhood agencies and workforce investment boards.
They also collaborate and partner with corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Verizon, Google, and Dell.
We respectfully request that funding for Teacher Centers be restored to at least its 2008-09 levels of $40
million. This funding is needed to help ensure that educators are exposed to emerging techniques, practices,
technologies and to be increasingly effective in the classroom. These centers provide the professional
development teachers need to help close the achievement gap while also offering courses and programs that
enable new educators to satisfy certain professional development requirements.

We also fully support the Mentor/Intern Program that helps ensure new teachers receive the guidance and
mentoring they need to increase student achievement and retain quality educators. We respectfully ask that
the funding to this program be increased to $10 million to provide more opportunities and support services
for new teachers.

Finally, we ask that funding to the National Board Certification Program be increased to $1 million. The
impact of National Board Certification on student learning, school climate and teacher effectiveness continues
to be confirmed by numerous research studies and leading measures of teaching effectiveness. National
Board Certification is a highly respected professional voluntary credential and provides numerous benefits to
teachers, students and schools. It was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to
generate ongoing improvement in schools by supporting improvements in teaching and learning and
enhancing teacher effectiveness.

TAX CAP

The near zero tax levy limit for 2016-17 will have serious negative effects on our students and their schools.
Eliminating or amending the undemocratic tax cap continues to be a priority for NYSUT.

Living under a tax cap has hindered most districts’ ability to restore cuts to classroom services. Without
significant additional aid, and a reasonable adjustment to the tax cap for costs beyond their control, many
school districts will lack sufficient resources to fund current programs. The tax cap hurts our poorest districts
the most, placing severe limits on their ability to raise funds.

NYSUT urges the Legislature to enact the following changes to the current tax cap:
1. change the allowable tax levy limit to two percent or CPI, whichever is greater;
2. eliminate the supermajority requirement;
3. eliminate the possibility of negative levy limits; and
4. allow for exemptions to include items such as increased enrollment, spending on school security
measures, BOCES capital expenses, and including PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) in tax base
growth factor determinations.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

The Executive Budget proposal on charter schools provides that in New York City (NYC), the charter school
tuition formula is unfrozen and the calculation of rental aid for charter schools is made permanent. Outside
NYC, the charter school tuition formula remains frozen and no building aid is provided to charter schools. In
addition, the Executive Budget provides a separate funding increase for all charter schools by $27 million.
NYSUT opposes the proposal that unfreezes the NYC charter school tuition formula. We also oppose the $27
million state increase and the permanency of the calculation of rental aid for charter schools in NYC.
Contrary to media reports, there is nothing in the proposal that strengthens accountability for charter schools
to enroll and educate English language learners. Further, no language was included to examine charter
schools’ enrollment and retention issues including: current law, regulations, and practices.

Seventeen years after New York passed its first laws on charter schools, they continue to underserve the
neediest students and enroll a disproportionately low number of English Language Learners (ELLs) and
students with disabilities throughout the state. From New York City to Buffalo, these schools do not educate a
comparable number of English language learners or students with disabilities as their neighboring traditional
public schools and the state should take action to correct this.

New York schools are struggling with a near zero property tax cap, and are owed billions of dollars, while
charter schools are awash in a sea of cash.

As of last year, charters had hundreds of millions of dollars on hand. In 2014, unrestricted net assets held by
charters grew to $392.1 million, from $298.5 million in 2012.

Further, 82 percent of the state’s charters held, on a percentage basis, cash well in excess of the four percent
that traditional school districts are permitted to keep in reserves. In 2014, 184 charter schools studied had,
on average, 25 percent of their annual budgets in cash reserves – six times what traditional public school
districts are permitted to hold.

Clearly, the charter industry’s push for additional per-pupil and facilities money is undermined by their own
financial accounting which shows the current funding formula is more than adequate to meet their needs.
A recent report by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), estimates that charter school fraud has cost New
York taxpayers $54 million this school year alone. The report notes, “Despite the tremendous investment of
public dollars, New York has failed to implement a system that adequately monitors charters for fraud, waste,
and mismanagement.”

NYSUT calls on the state to enact a series of reforms to ensure charter accountability and transparency. These
reforms include: ensuring charter schools appropriately educate English Language Learners and students
with disabilities, ensure students are treated fairly, provide for more transparency and accountability in the
use of state funds, restricting charters to hold the same percentage of reserves as public schools and the
ability to audit monies being sent to education management organizations and other outside charter entities.
These reforms will help to ensure money is being spent on the students and public money is being spent
appropriately.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN EXPANSION FOR THREE-YEAR OLD CHILDREN

The Executive Budget proposes an increase of $22 million in pre-K funding for three-year olds in high-needs
districts and also includes $2 million to support QUALITYstarsNY, to create a quality rating system for early
childhood programs.

We fully support continued investment in full-day universal pre-kindergarten and support full investment for
full-day kindergarten for every child.

As a former classroom teacher in a high-needs elementary school, I know, from personal experience that one
can readily determine which students come from a high-quality pre-K program. Quality full-day pre-K
opportunities lead to better outcomes in the academic and social development of children. Studies show that
these programs increase graduation rates, reduce retention in grades, increase reading and math proficiency
and increase college participation and completion. The social and economic benefits are also striking. Quality
pre-K experiences for children significantly reduce juvenile arrests, lower criminal activity, reduce teen
pregnancies and result in healthier lifestyles.

It is far more cost-effective and educationally sound to invest in school readiness at the front end rather than
playing catch-up on the backend after a student experiences hardships and frustration.

CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION AND EARLY CAREER HIGH SCHOOL EXPANSION

The state should also continue to support and expand access to critical Career and Technical Education (CTE)
programs. For many students, CTE offers the most promising pathway to career success and we are pleased
that students now have a 4 and 1 pathway to graduation.

Funding and reimbursement structures, particularly BOCES and Special Services Aid, however, need to be
improved to expand programs and student access.

The current aid formula for BOCES CTE programs has not changed since 1990; the state only provides aid for
the first $30,000 of a BOCES instructor’s salary. This has the effect of reducing state support for CTE programs
and shifting the costs to local schools, resulting in the underinvestment of high-quality programs that provide
students with the skills employers demand. According to SED, more than 90 percent of CTE students graduate
with a Regents diploma, some with Advanced Designation.

NYSUT fully supports increasing the aidable salary for all CTE programs, BOCES CTE programs and increasing
Special Services Aid, which will significantly improve CTE services and programs to all students.
We fully support the Early College High School program expansion and increased funding of $4 million, as
proposed in the Executive Budget. These programs target skills students will need for advanced STEM
careers. Students entering these programs receive both a high school diploma and an Associate Degree, at no
cost to the student or their family.

THE PARENTAL CHOICE IN EDUCATION ACT

The Executive Budget contains the Parental Choice in Education Act, which allocates $150 million, and
includes three tax credit proposals: (1) the Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit (ESPTC), (2) the
Family Choice Education Tax Credit, and (3) the Instructional Materials and Supplies Credit.
NYSUT opposes the Parental Choice in Education Act. This is nothing more than a back-door voucher scheme
that will divert money from public schools into the pockets of the wealthy, looking to decrease their tax
liability to the state.

NYSUT urges the Legislature to reject this proposal and fully fund our public schools.
Oppose Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit (ESPTC) – Back Door Voucher
Under the ESPTC, a back-door voucher program, corporations and individual taxpayers could contribute to an
approved Educational Scholarship Organization (ESO). These scholarships would be awarded to eligible
students that attend non-public schools or public schools outside of their districts of residence. In total, $70
million would be reserved for corporations and individual taxpayers that would receive a tax credit equal to
75 percent of their authorized contributions, up to a maximum annual credit of $1 million.

Oppose Family Choice Education Tax Credit

The Family Choice Education Credit would set aside another $70 million to provide a $500 per student
refundable personal income tax credit for families for tuition at non-public schools in the state.

4201, 4410, 853 AND SPECIAL ACT SCHOOLS

NYSUT will continue to support the mission of 4201, 4410, 853 and Special Act schools and work towards
achieving parity with surrounding school districts. We urge the Legislature to provide regular, predictable
increases in their tuition rates. While last year’s increase of $2.3 million for 4201 schools is maintained in the Executive Budget, more funding should be used in each of these special schools for both personal services and
services for students.

Specialized schools do not receive typical school aid increases that public school districts and their students
benefit from and these institutions have no taxing authority. Students attending these schools have
specialized educational needs that could not be served in another setting. We urge the Legislature to ensure
that they receive adequate support so they may better plan and prepare for the future without the worry of
financial insolvency. As you move into budget negotiations, we urge you to provide all these schools with a
funding increase on par with that of our traditional public schools.

SPECIAL EDUCATION MANAGEMENT FLEXIBILITY

The Executive Budget would allow school districts, BOCES and approved special education providers the
ability to petition the State Education Department for flexibility in complying with certain special education
requirements.

The Legislature has already made strides in providing mandate relief for students with special needs. Not that
long ago, the Legislature authorized school districts the option for a teacher to have access to a student’s
individual education program (IEP) electronically and, in NYC, by automatically eliminating a parent member
on the Committee on Special Education (CSE).

NYSUT opposes this proposal which would erode the quality of education to these students and diminish the
protection these necessary mandates provide.

We urge you to reject it.

LABOR AND PENSION
NYSUT fully supports the Executive Budget proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 dollars an
hour. We hope that the proposal will be amended to include all state and municipal employees. Excluding
these important members of our workforce from this wage adjustment would create a two-tiered minimum
wage system in our state and would send the wrong message to workers.

We also fully support the proposal to create twelve weeks of paid family leave. Allowing workers an
opportunity to take leave to care for a sick family member or bond with a new child, without the fear of losing
their job or suffering economic hardship, is something that is long overdue and we applaud the efforts to
make this statutory change a reality.

We look forward to a final resolution to the issue of purchasable public pension credits for public employees
who bravely served in our nation’s military. While we were disappointed that the legislation addressing this
long unsettled issue was once again vetoed this past year, we were heartened to hear that the governor and
Legislature plan to address this iniquity as part of the 2016-17 state budget process. We again call for the
inclusion of all public employee veterans, regardless of when they served, to be allowed to purchase credits
toward their retirement. It is the very least we can do to serve the women and men who chose to serve us,
our state and nation.

CONCLUSION

NYSUT looks forward to partnering with the Legislature to ensure our students receive the necessary
resources and programs for a 21st century high-quality education, in order to prepare them for college and
career.

There is nothing more important than investments in our students and their futures.

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