BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

Report shows boost in New York State funds for affordable housing improves the economy

February 17th, 2017

By Kenneth Lovett

At a time when New York City is facing a homeless crisis, a new report to be released Friday says that increasing state investment in affordable housing not only will benefit the needy but the entire economy.

The report done by HR&A Advisors for the New York State Association For Affordable Housing found that statewide affordable housing efforts between 2011 and 2015 generated $54.5 billion in total economic impact.

That includes construction-related spending and the local economic activity it generated.

The bulk of the impact — $45.9 billion — was seen in New York City, the report says.

“Affordable housing is not just a lifeline for low- and middle-income families — it is an economic engine that helps drive communities across New York State,” said association President and CEO Jolie Milstein.

Affordable housing projects accounted for 329,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the state.

It also led to an additional $6.5 billion in annual economic spending that included $4 billion on local goods and services and building operations and maintenance, the report found.

The state’s affordable housing industry on average builds or preserves 25,655 affordable housing units per year. Some 83% of the total units created between 2011 and 2015 were located in New York City.

The report notes that the number of New York City households paying over 30% of their income on rent rose from 41% in 2000 to 51% in 2015 while market rate rental units affordable to households at median income fell from 63% to 48% over the same period.

The report is a followup to one done in 2012 that found that between 2003 and 2010, affordable housing development had a $39.6 billion economic impact.

The report is being released on the day the state Legislature will hold a budget hearing on housing issues.

Milstein is urging the state to fully fund Cuomo’s $2 billion in affordable housing initiatives he included in his new budget plan.

Cuomo and the Legislature last year agreed to a $2.6 billion five-year plan to construct 6,000 new supportive housing units in the state. But so far only $500 million for the projects — including $150 million to fund the first 1,200 units in the state budget approved last spring — has been authorized.

The details of how to spend the rest of the money is subject to a signed agreement by Cuomo and the legislative leaders. Cuomo has signed such an agreement, but the Legislature so far has not followed suit.

Housing advocates have accused Cuomo of not doing enough to reach a deal.

Cuomo officials have said the Senate GOP haven’t wanted to sign off until a deal is reached to resurrect an expired tax credit for developers who build affordable housing.

Developers have warned that the construction of affordable housing projects will slow considerably if the tax credit is not renewed.

Cuomo struck a deal with the developers and trade unions that has yet to be approved by the Legislature.

The HR&A Advisors report says that the development of a typical 50-unit affordable housing project “requires investment of approximately $9.4 million, which generates $16.6 million in one-time economic spending and supports 100 one-time direct and spinoff jobs. The ongoing operation of the project would generate $2.0 million in annual economic spending and support 14 direct and spinoff jobs.”

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Posted under Housing, News from BALCONY

Johnson, Cheliotes, Jaffe on BALCONY Common Ground Radio Show, Feb. 19 at 5 pm

February 16th, 2017



Nick Smith, Jeanne Suggs, Lou Gordon, Alison Suggs

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Posted under News from BALCONY

R. Alexander Acosta, Law School Dean, Is Trump’s New Pick for Labor

February 16th, 2017

By Peter Baker

WASHINGTON — President Trump moved quickly on Thursday to replace his first choice for labor secretary, choosing R. Alexander Acosta, a Florida law school dean and former assistant attorney general, to become the only Hispanic in his cabinet.

Mr. Trump announced the nomination at the White House just a day after Andrew F. Puzder, a fast-food executive, dropped his bid to lead the Labor Department amid attacks on his business record and personal conduct that were eroding support among Republican senators and imperiling his confirmation.

The collapse of Mr. Puzder’s nomination was the latest blow for a president who demanded the resignation of his national security adviser earlier in the week. In naming a new labor nominee right away, Mr. Trump and his team hoped to put the sting of Mr. Puzder’s failure behind them and regain momentum with many of the president’s nominations still at stake.

In picking Mr. Acosta, the dean of Florida International University law school in Miami, Mr. Trump also addresses criticism that his cabinet was the first in many years without any Hispanics.

A Miami native, Mr. Acosta earned undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University and was a clerk for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. when he was still an appeals court judge. Mr. Acosta served on the National Labor Relations Board and was an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush.

He went on to become the United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, where his office prosecuted the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the terrorism suspect Jose Padilla, and founders of the Cali cartel. His official biography said his office also prosecuted several bank-related cases and targeted health care fraud.

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Posted under News from BALCONY

Cuomo Blocks New York City Plastic Bag Law

February 15th, 2017

by JESSE McKINLEY

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill on Tuesday effectively killing a law that would have imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags in New York City, disappointing environmentalists as well as city leaders who characterized the move as a classic case of Albany’s overreach.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, acted just a day before the fee was supposed to go into effect, essentially supporting actions by the Republican-led State Senate and the Democrat-dominated Assembly to stifle the new law.

In its place, the governor promised to form “a statewide task force to develop a uniform state plan for addressing the plastic bag problem,” complete with local leaders, other stakeholders and leaders appointed by the Senate and the Assembly.

Mr. Cuomo said the city law was “deeply flawed” because it allowed merchants to keep the 5-cent fee as profit, a giveaway that he said would total $100 million a year.

“I understand the political process to pass a bill can require placating potential opposition, but a $100 million bonus to private companies is beyond the absurd,” he said in a statement.

Still, the uncomfortable bind the governor put himself in was evident in both the breadth of his statement — laying out his rationale in nearly 1,000 words — as well as its timing, late in the day as the Legislature left Albany for a two-week break.

On one side were environmentalists who were eager to see New York City embrace a policy that they believe would help stem the unsightly spread of plastic bags and deal a blow to the petroleum and plastics industry, a major culprit in pollution worldwide.

On the other side was the State Legislature, which had framed the bag tax as a bad solution, most likely to end up as a regressive tax on poor consumers for whom the convenience of plastic was a plus and everyday practicality.

In the end, Mr. Cuomo seemed to side with that argument, noting that the New York City Council had only narrowly passed the bill, and that their state counterparts had overwhelmingly voted to impose a moratorium on it.

Still, the act of an Albany official nullifying an act of city democracy annoyed and disappointed the bill’s sponsors.

“We fought plastic bags, and for now, plastic bags won,” City Council members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin said in a joint statement, adding that plastic bags are slow to biodegrade and are stubborn pollutants.

The rejection — and the expected backlash by environmental advocates — seemed to be sensed in Albany, where lawmakers were offering new plans even before the governor acted. On Tuesday afternoon, Assemblyman Luis R. Sepúlveda, a Bronx Democrat, unveiled a plan to offer a sales-tax refund of 3 cents per bag to encourage consumers to bring reusable totes.

“A 5-cent tax is a burden on many of our poor people and many of our seniors,” Mr. Sepúlveda said. “And so we’re trying to offering sensible legislation that’s not going impact these communities.”

Mr. Sepúlveda also suggested forming a commission to study the problem — a strategy that has been used by the governor with varying degrees of success during his six-plus years in office.

In this case, the governor said the task force “will be different than usual as this matter requires expeditious action,” though details about its exact composition were scant. Mr. Cuomo set an end-of-year deadline for a report and proposed legislation.

“I look forward to New York State leading the way on this issue,” he said.

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Posted under News from BALCONY

Charter Schools owe the public a real explanation

February 14th, 2017

By Michael Mulgrew, President, The United Federation of Teachers


If charter schools are really public schools, why is so much of the information about their operations private – even secret? New York needs to do more now — especially with President Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education — to make sure that charters operate for the benefit of the public, not charter operators and their management organizations.

Charters that are allowed to operate without strong oversight can be a disaster for children and their communities. Michigan, home to Secretary DeVos, has let unregulated charters — many of them for-profit operations — proliferate to the point that charters threaten the financial viability of the entire Michigan public school system. Meanwhile 80 percent of Michigan charters show lower student achievement than the state’s neighborhood public schools.

The need for more oversight in New York is clear. New York parents or taxpayers who want to know where public money is going — for instance, how much a charter school pays its top managers — have to dig through IRS filings. Parents who want to know who is donating millions of dollars to a charter chain — and whether those millions are being spent to help students — have to search the internet for clues. Trying to find out how much charters are paying their management organizations — and for what service — is nearly impossible.

As a group, New York’s charter schools are not transparent, despite receiving public dollars, despite requirements that they accept and educate all children, despite parent calls for greater information and accountability in their admissions, financial and student discipline policies.

Many New York charters remain remarkably resistant to public scrutiny. Charter leader Eva Moskowitz – a dedicated opponent of charter transparency – even went to court to prevent the New York State Comptroller from auditing her chain’s books. She couldn’t stop a city audit, however, that showed sloppy financial practices in her operation.

If the system had real transparency, it would give the public a better sense of how charters are doing at enrolling, educating and keeping all children, includes those with the highest needs, and let the Legislature determine real penalties for any charter’s failure to do so.

In New York City, we have charter and neighborhood public schools sharing the same building, yet the public school will have three times the number of special education student and four times the number of homeless children as the charter school.

Real transparency would also let the public know how much charter operators — and their management organizations — actually take home, including payments from board members and other contributors, along with the identities and fees of their vendors. It would help determine which charters actually need free space and which could be tapping their own bank accounts rather than relying on the taxpayers.

The public can go to the city’s Department of Education website for itemized data on every single public school. Why should charters be exempt from the idea that the spending of public money should happen in public?

Expanding charters while reducing oversight will be only part of the DeVos agenda, which will also include voucher schemes and other privatization efforts. If we had any doubt on their impact, just ask Michigan parents, who saw their neighborhood public schools drained of resources by an unregulated, “Wild West” charter sector, which not only failed to perform but weakened all schools. Students, whether urban, suburban or rural, lost. The only winners were those trying to make a profit off of Michigan school children.

But New York has the opportunity now to lead in the opposite direction and to protect a precious resource. To do that, we need to make sure policies for all schools are transparent and public dollars are being spent fairly and for the benefit of all children.

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Bill de Blasio, in State of City Address, Keeps Focus on Economic Equality

February 14th, 2017

WILLIAM NEUMAN and J. DAVID GOODMAN

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York laid out his priorities for the final year of his first term and beyond, saying in his State of the City address on Monday that he would focus on creating thousands of new jobs to attack the city’s crisis of affordability — but offering few details of how he would deliver on the promise.

In choosing to give his annual speech at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem section of Manhattan, Mr. de Blasio was clearly speaking to his most loyal base, among minorities, whose continued support is paramount to his re-election this year.

Mr. de Blasio cited work he had done to build or preserve affordable housing and said he would now turn to what he called the other half of the equation of making the city more affordable.

“We have to drive up incomes,” he said. “And that means actually helping people get the kind of jobs that allow you to afford to live in New York City. Good-paying jobs,” he added, defining them as those that paid at least $50,000 a year.

He said that job creation “will be the new front line in the battle to keep New York City affordable.”

Toward the end of the speech, the words “This is your city” were projected on a large screen — suggesting a possible theme and slogan for his re-election campaign.

All that echoed his longstanding theme of economic equality — and in that way, he trod familiar ground rather than laying out a bold new vision. In a change from other years, there were no flashy new projects mentioned in the speech.

The mayor also dodged addressing some of the knottiest problems of his administration. He said that later on he would reveal new plans to address homelessness, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for his administration. He also promised to announce plans later to deal with opioid addiction and street congestion. There was virtually no mention of police reform except to repeat an earlier announcement that by 2019, all patrol officers will wear body cameras. And there was no mention of the challenges of the troubled jail at Rikers Island.

Mr. de Blasio mentioned the new president, Donald J. Trump, only once by name, although he alluded to him and to the Republican-controlled Congress several times. In that regard, the speech showed a mayor who sees both the challenges of grappling with a potentially hostile new administration in Washington and the potential political benefits of using Washington as a foil to cast himself as the paladin of New York liberalism and the city’s vast immigrant population.

In years past, Mr. de Blasio used the annual speech to push big-impact campaign promises of universal prekindergarten, the construction of thousands of units of affordable housing, and infrastructure initiatives like a major expansion of ferry service and a light rail line along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront.

In Monday’s speech, Mr. de Blasio appeared content to offer repackaged or slightly expanded versions of programs that have thus far defined his administration, demonstrating the shift in a mayor who once saw himself as a promoter of high-minded ideas and a national progressive leader but has repeatedly encountered limitations in the day-to-day grind of running a big city.

He pledged to add 100,000 “good-paying” jobs over the next decade, including 40,000 in the next four years. But the projects he mentioned seemed to fall well short of those numbers.

He cited plans to create an industrial and manufacturing center in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, called the Made in NY campus, which would seek to attract the fashion and food production industries, among others, and create 1,500 permanent jobs. He also pledged to train a total of 3,000 workers over the next three years to retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient. He mentioned several other previously announced economic development initiatives, but the timing involved was not clear, nor was it clear whether he was referring to new jobs or jobs that had already been created.

In addressing affordable housing, Mr. de Blasio said that he would expand an existing program to provide lawyers to poor New Yorkers facing eviction in Housing Court and that he would dedicate more affordable housing units than he had previously proposed for New Yorkers earning less than $40,000 a year. Both initiatives were announced in the days ahead of the speech.

The mayor repeated a plea for the state to establish a so-called mansion tax on residential sales of more than $2 million in New York City, which he said would generate $336 million a year and could subsidize rent payments for 25,000 older residents. But the tax must pass the Legislature in Albany, where it is sure to face a very high hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Mr. de Blasio’s speech represented an opportunity for him to make his case to voters that he deserves to be given a second term.

Yet caution, characterized by a reluctance to present bold new policy ideas that could be attacked by critics, may be a workable strategy at the moment because no experienced politician has emerged to challenge the mayor.

His likely Democratic challengers are waiting for the outcome of a bevy of overlapping state and federal investigations into Mr. de Blasio’s fund-raising and actions as mayor, including whether he or his aides broke campaign fund-raising rules or did favors for donors. If Mr. de Blasio or one or more of his top aides were to be indicted, several prominent Democrats might jump into what could become a primary free-for-all.

That might include the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer; the public advocate, Letitia A. James; the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr.; and United States Representative Hakeem S. Jeffries of Brooklyn.

The setting of the speech spoke volumes about Mr. de Blasio’s re-election strategy. He chose to speak in Harlem at one of its most iconic venues — a clear gesture to his black supporters. To drive the point home further, a few hours before his speech, he announced the renaming of the 115th Street library in Harlem for Harry Belafonte, an actor, singer and civil rights leader who was born in the neighborhood.

For the second year in a row, Mr. de Blasio chose to hold the speech at night, believing that New Yorkers would tune in to watch him on NY1, which broadcast the event, or online on a stream provided by the mayor’s office. That is part of a broader media strategy to take his message directly to voters, ignoring traditional protocols in which such a speech would be scheduled earlier in the day to allow journalists more time to prepare their coverage or parse his words.

The event started 15 minutes behind schedule, a reminder of criticism that Mr. de Blasio drew early in his term for arriving late to events. The mayor did not take the stage until an hour after the 7 p.m. scheduled start time, after numerous introductory speeches, songs and the blessing of an imam, a pastor and a rabbi.

Although he promised a short speech, Mr. de Blasio spoke for 1 hour 5 minutes. His aides said there were no prepared remarks, which, at times, gave the address a plodding rhythm as he frequently checked his notes. And when it appeared to be over, and many in the audience rose to leave, the mayor implored them to stay seated. Still to come was 10 minutes of introducing city workers: police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers who had acted heroically in the last year.

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Posted under News from BALCONY

NYSUT, PTA, NYSCOSS Launch “Public School Proud” Campaign to Show the Love

February 13th, 2017

The New York State PTA, New York State Council of School Superintendents  and New York State United Teachers today kicked off a statewide campaign to “show the love” to public education, inviting all New Yorkers to demonstrate individually – and through their school districts, communities and organizations – how important public schools are to society.

 

The non-partisan, non-political “Public School Proud” campaign is aimed at building support for public schools in the face of ongoing attacks and will complement efforts to gain more state aid for schools and build support for school budgets in May.  The campaign’s kickoff is timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.  Participants will be invited to show their pride and love for public schools and post on social media using the hashtag #ILovePublicSchools.

 

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the campaign’s components include a special website, www.nypublicschoolproud.org, which will serve as a clearinghouse for ideas, pictures and suggested opportunities for participants to demonstrate their advocacy for public schools.

 

“Our public schools are the foundation of our democracy and the lifeblood of our communities,” Magee said.  “We must support public education; defend it against attacks; and ensure that all students have opportunities to learn and grow in neighborhood public schools.”

 

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the union would be encouraging elected leaders to participate in the campaign.  “We will be encouraging state and local leaders to join us in ‘showing the love’ for public education by wearing buttons and proclaiming their support for public schools.”

 

“Our mission is to make every child’s potential a reality, and each and every day our New York schools and educators make this possible,” the PTA’s Gracemarie Rozea offered.  “We are honored to stand with our great teachers to support our public schools and students. The ‘T’ in PTA matters and we all work together to support our children.”

“New York schools celebrate amazing achievements every day for our students.  From art programs, to career and technical education, to our Intel and Siemens award winners, to support for our English language learners and our students with disabilities, our schools do more with less every day,” said PTA Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky.  “This campaign will importantly highlight the great successes of our students and the great successes in our schools.”

 

NYSCOSS Executive Director Charles Dedrick said, “The Council is proud to join this effort. Our public schools are truly institutions of, by and for the people.  Our mission is to educate all children, whatever their circumstance, wherever they come from, whenever they arrive.”

 

Campaign organizers invited other pro-education groups to join the campaign, and indicated others would be doing so in the coming weeks.

 

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care.  NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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Harvey Lichtenstein, Who Led Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rebirth, Dies at 87

February 12th, 2017


Harvey Lichtenstein, who served 32 years as the president and
executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, at BAM’s
Opera House in 1998. Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

By By ROBERT BERKVIST

Harvey Lichtenstein, who transformed a moribund Brooklyn Academy of Music into a dynamic showcase for cutting-edge performing arts and its Fort Greene neighborhood into a cultural hub during his 32 years there as the executive producer, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

His son John confirmed his death. He said Mr. Lichtenstein had a stroke about seven years ago, and had been in declining health over the past few months.

When Mr. Lichtenstein arrived at the academy in 1967, its stately building on Lafayette Avenue, erected in 1908, needed extensive and costly renovation. Portions of it had been rented out, and there had even been talk of tearing down the building and using the site for tennis courts. Many members of Mr. Lichtenstein’s target audience, especially Manhattanites, viewed the neighborhood — the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn — as undesirable.

“It was a risky business, and we often landed in the soup,” Mr. Lichtenstein wrote in a reminiscence in The New York Times in 1998, after he had announced his retirement as the president and executive director. “For all the excitement, audiences and money were hard to come by.”

Even so, Mr. Lichtenstein was determined to open the Brooklyn Academy, also known as BAM, to all that was new and exciting, and he wasted no time getting to work.

The 1967-68 season, Mr. Lichtenstein’s first, included Alban Berg’s atonal opera “Lulu”; performances by a number of modern-dance troupes — Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and Alwin Nikolais, among others; and the Living Theater’s evening of political protest, “Paradise Now.” Attendance was sparse at first, but Mr. Lichtenstein’s efforts began to draw attention.

“Recognition came first,” he acknowledged ruefully; “attendance only later.”

The academy, which was founded in 1861 and calls itself America’s oldest continuously operating performing arts center, gained a reputation as the place to find new and provocative work, be it dance, drama or music. And audiences grew.

All the while, Mr. Lichtenstein hardly seemed to pause to draw breath, and those who dealt with him knew he was a man with a mission. His ebullient managerial style could also become blunt and abrasive. John Rockwell, the first director of the Lincoln Center Festival and a longtime critic and editor at The Times, characterized that style in a 1998 Times article as a mixture of “the inspirationally collegial and the petulantly dictatorial.”

Even so, he added, “People complain but, with a few exceptions, they keep working with him.”

There were some missteps, including Mr. Lichtenstein’s unsuccessful attempt to set up a repertory theater company in the early 1980s headed by the British director David Jones. But there were plenty of highlights as well, among them Peter Brook’s imaginative staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha,” an opera about Mahatma Gandhi’s youth in South Africa; “The Gospel at Colonus,” a freewheeling adaptation by Lee Breuer and Bob Telson of a work by the Greek tragedian Sophocles; another Glass opera, “Einstein on the Beach”; and Mr. Brook’s monumental 1987 staging of “The Mahabharata,” a nine-hour dramatic voyage through Hindu theology and mythology.

When they began planning for “The Mahabharata,” Mr. Lichtenstein and Mr. Brook agreed that the Opera House was too large for the production, which had first been staged at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Mr. Brook’s more intimate Parisian theater.

The problem was solved when Mr. Lichtenstein suggested they take a look at the Majestic, an abandoned theater built in 1904 and later used as a movie house, on nearby Fulton Street. There they climbed a ladder, entered through a window and found what they decided was the perfect performance space, surrounded by an ocean of decay.

After a $5 million renovation — with most of the funds supplied by the city — the Majestic was deemed ready and was renamed the BAM Majestic Theater. Seating was reduced to just under 900 from a little more than 1,700, and although there had been some patching and painting, there was no effort to fully modernize. Both Mr. Lichtenstein and Mr. Brook wanted the theater to remain in an unfinished, distressed state — an archaeological link to the past.

After “The Mahabharata” was staged there, the Majestic became a thriving academy annex, and when Mr. Lichtenstein stepped down in 1999, the house was renamed in his honor. It is now the BAM Harvey Lichtenstein Theater — the Harvey, for short.

The main building also underwent changes during Mr. Lichtenstein’s tenure. The upstairs Carey Playhouse was converted into a four-screen movie theater, now known as BAM Rose Cinemas, and the Lepercq Space ballroom became the popular BAMcafé, a combination restaurant and performance space.

In addition, Mr. Lichtenstein was instrumental in helping the choreographer Mark Morris acquire a derelict state-owned building a block away from the academy in 1998. The sparkling Mark Morris Dance Center opened in 2001.

One of the most important milestones of Mr. Lichtenstein’s tenure was the Next Wave Festival, which he formally established in 1983 and quickly became a prime showcase for the avant-garde, with an accent on dance and drama.

Mr. Lichtenstein brought in Joseph V. Melillo as director of the festival — he would ultimately succeed Mr. Lichtenstein as the academy’s executive producer — and their combined efforts brought in a diverse group of artists, including Mr. Brook, Robert Wilson, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Glass, Pina Bausch and Steve Reich.

Harvey Lichtenstein was born on April 9, 1929, in Brooklyn, the son of Samuel Lichtenstein, an immigrant from Poland, and Jennie Waldarsky, an immigrant from Ukraine. After graduating from Brooklyn College, he became a dancer and performed with several modern-dance troupes, including the Pearl Lang company. He also studied and performed with Ms. Graham and Sophie Maslow.

After starting in 1954 as a Ford Foundation administrative intern at New York City Ballet, he went on, during the 1960s, to develop audiences as subscription manager for both the ballet company and the New York City Opera. He became president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1967.

He also served as the American director of the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Italy from 1971 to 1973.

Mr. Lichtenstein married Phyllis Holbrook in 1971. Besides his son John, he is survived by Saul, a son from his first marriage, to Eve Johnson.

Mr. Lichtenstein was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1999. In 2013, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented him with the Handel Medallion, New York City’s highest award for achievement in the arts.

After his retirement, Mr. Lichtenstein became the chairman of the BAM Local Development Corporation, a multimillion-dollar project designed to create an entirely new cultural district in the surrounding area including new theaters, dance halls, art galleries and libraries.

The project ran into financial difficulties, as well as strong opposition from residents, who feared they would be displaced by the inevitable gentrification of their Fort Greene neighborhood. The project stalled, funds melted away, and, in 2006, the city stepped in and took control of the cultural district, making it part of what it called the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, made up of several organizations devoted to improving the downtown area.

Jeanne Lutfy, the president of the project, said that she and Mr. Lichtenstein would continue to take part in planning for the district. More time passed. Finally, on June 24, 2011, ground was broken for the Theater for a New Audience’s Classical Theater on Ashland Place in Fort Greene.

Among those attending the ceremony were the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, as well as the director Julie Taymor, the actor Mark Rylance and Mr. Lichtenstein, whose presence reaffirmed a vow he had made during a 2004 interview with The Times. “I’ve got this vision,” he said then. “I think that my job is to keep the real heart and soul and core of the plan alive.”

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City Health and Hospitals System Axes 70 Workers Without Warning

February 12th, 2017

by Melissa Klein

The ailing city Health and Hospitals system just axed 70 workers despite a restructuring report issued in April that promised no layoffs.

Some of those cut worked at the flagship Bellevue Hospital Center where staffers said the layoffs came without warning last week.

“They call you up and say come to HR and the next thing you know, you’re being escorted out,” one staffer said of her pink slip.

One insider said 15 Bellevue employees were cut, but administrators for the hospital system would not provide details on where the layoffs took place.

“Our senior managers identified approximately 70 redundant managerial level, non-clinical positions that are no longer essential and have been eliminated. The identified redundancies have been addressed, so no future actions are needed,” said system spokesman Robert de Luna.

De Luna called the cuts “part of routine, good business practices” and said they would not impact patient care.

But last year’s restructuring plan, called “A Bridge to Better Health,” painted a different picture.

“The City and Health + Hospitals is committed to no layoffs,” the report said.

Plans called for reducing the workforce through attrition and “partnering with labor to retrain workers.”

The report said the system, which includes 11 hospitals, more than 70 clinics and employs more than 40,000 workers, “is on the edge of a financial cliff.”

The restructuring plan included $2 billion in annual city subsidies to make up for revenue shortfalls.

Mayor de Blasio’s office did not return a request for comment.

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Posted under News from BALCONY

Setting the record straight on Indian Point

February 12th, 2017

By Arthur “Jerry” Kremer

While anti-Indian Point groups are claiming victory over the closing of the nuclear plant, the truth is that these groups have seldom let the facts get in their way.

For now, the good news is that the plant will continue to operate until 2021. After that, New Yorkers will unfortunately lose many of the environmental and economic benefits on which we had come to rely.

Indian Point has been the backbone of New York’s bulk electric system for over 40 years. It provides a lot of power – 2,000 megawatts of clean, non-emitting, highly reliable 24/7 baseload power – that accounts for 25 percent of the electricity used in New York City and the surrounding region.

The plant is and has always been categorically safe. It often receives the highest annual safety ratings from the independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose staff recommended a 20-year license renewal for the facility. And Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, has invested over $1 billion in plant and equipment to make it a modern, world-class facility.

Indian Point’s safety and reliability are a testament to the talent and dedication of the 1,000 highly-skilled workers at the plant. Indian Point provides good paying, middle-class jobs that support families and communities. In fact, the broader economic impact of Indian Point accounts for 5,300 New York jobs and $1.6 billion in annual state economic activity.

Indian Point has also helped to sustain communities all around the Hudson Valley. The plant contributes $30 million in annual state and local property taxes. Many charities have been buoyed by Entergy’s significant community contributions. And Entergy’s employees contribute thousands of hours of time each year to dozens of charitable organizations.

Contrary to former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s claims in his City & State op-ed, “Powering Down: An end to the long battle against Indian Point,” it was not pressure from anti-nuclear activists that led to the plant’s premature closing. The primary reason for the plant’s early shutdown is the historically low price of natural gas, which sets the price mark for bulk electric power.

Under most realistic replacement scenarios, natural gas will largely be used in place of Indian Point’s carbon-free power. A 2015 study by the Nuclear Energy Institute found that Indian Point prevents the release of 8.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Closing the plant will be like adding 1.6 million cars to New York’s roads.

We look forward to the details of whatever plan New York state is able to cobble together to replace Indian Point and hope it is not a giant step backwards in reducing emissions and spurring economic growth.
Simply put, the challenges are enormous. Given what’s at stake there is no time for self-congratulation or braggadocio. Rather, the hard work of policy, planning and execution must begin in earnest.

Arthur “Jerry” Kremer served in the New York State Assembly from 1966 to 1988, eventually becoming chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. He now serves as chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA), a diverse organization of more than 150 business, labor, and community leaders and organizations. Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is a member of New York AREA.

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