Category Archives: News Brew

Bloomberg Era Policies Lead to Layoffs for 250 School Bus Workers

photo by  Zemlinki!/cc/flickr

Staten Islanders, like all New Yorkers, are still feeling the negative effects of former Mayor Bloomberg's union-busting practices. IC Bus Inc. will have to close its doors after 35 years of business this June, a casualty of the bidding process that determines which companies the city uses to bus students in New York.

IC Bus Inc. employed approximately 265 bus drivers, matrons, and maintenance workers, and operated 113 minivan routes that transport students with special needs.

Under Bloomberg the city put out bids on 4,100 school bus routes without Employee Protection Provisions (EPPs), thus ensuring that the most experienced drivers and matrons would not get rehired at their current salaries.

More on this story can be found here: http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/03/ic_bus_got_outbid_250_staten_i.html#incart_river

Community Boards May Get Final Say on New Hotel Construction

A hotel construction site in NYC. Photo: Flickr/cc/HLIT

On March 12, 2014 councilman Jumaane Williams introduced a piece of legislation that would enable local community boards to have a say over the construction of hotels and hotel apartments, according to The Real Deal.

“Communities should have knowledge and input on the location and scope of proposed hotels," said Councilman Jumaane Williams "and community boards represent the voice of residents in government.”

The new bill, which is opposed by the hotel industry, would mean a new level of self-determination for working class communities in New York City.

"As of right" is a term in NYC zoning which applies to a project that "complies with all applicable zoning regulations and does not require any discretionary action of the City Planning Commission or Board of Standards and Appeals".

By definition this means an "a of right" project has a green light, so to speak, from the city and can go on ahead with construction without any further approval needed from New York's planning agencies or boards.

A hotel is constructed in the background as a community copes with it in the foreground. (Photo: Flickr/cc/HLIT)

A hotel is constructed in the background as a community copes with it in the foreground. (Photo: Flickr/cc/HLIT)

The bill specifically requires developers to add a statement to applications for any construction project for new hotels that certifies the local community board "has completed review of the plan". In effect, this may give community boards a way to slow to construction-based speculation throughout the boroughs.

The change in the planning process speaks to not only heightened concerns about the cost of gentrification but another issue often overlooked in the hotel construction craze: the voices of communities that are being changed by new construction.

In the midst of a hotel construction boon, direct input for impacted communities could slow or at least ameliorate the effects of a continuing tide of construction projects that are gentrifying (and corporatizing) New York.

This new hotel boom is slowly spreading to the outer boroughs due to increasing visibility and popularity of some outer borough areas with tourists. Many detractors of this bill have stated that the bill will hurt hotel development and impact the growth of the hotel industry.

But communities around New York may have good reason to want more control over construction projects in their own neighborhoods. According to NYC &Co (New York City’s marketing organization) 2011 saw 40% of all hotels being built outside of Manhattan, to compliment the 48.7 million visitors it saw in 2010. This number has continued to increase, with the industry aiming to grow out to Brooklyn and Queens, regions previously unknown to the tourism crowd outside of the airport neighborhoods.

Hotels do spur gentrification but there are other reasons communities in NYC are increasingly worried about the up-development of their neighborhoods.

With so many hotels, it's quite possible a lot of new hotel construction may be more than the present market demand. If it isn't, hotels are certain to drive up local property values, local rent prices and local costs for low income residents. Quality of Life for families is reduced as the night-entertainment associated around tourist areas attracts random traffic and crime from around the country.

Community Boards, once a point of local conflict in the zoning wars that often define the character of a neighborhood, may be seeing a resurgence of activity. A different bill, introduced by Public Advocate Letitia James would require all community boards to webcast their full board meetings. For many working families this would be the first time they'd get to witness their local boards in action. With a little transparency and power, New York City's community boards may once more become the scene for civic action--and a contentious struggle with New York's Wall Street-powered real estate speculators.

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