Department of Investigation, Independent Budget Office and Community Boards Should Report to Public Advocate
Some clever wag once defined election day as, “the day promises end and excuses begin”.
That’s clearly what some of the candidates in the current public advocate race intend. Promises to fix everything from the MTA to NYCHA to the city’s crumbling infrastructure abound, along with nebulous claims to “hold the mayor accountable”.
But the City Charter offers few means to do any of those things. The public advocate’s powers are quite limited, particularly given that it is the second-highest office in the city and one of only three independently elected city-wide.
The public advocate can introduce legislation in the city council, but cannot vote. If there’s a shortcoming in a city agency, he or she can report it, but to the offending agency (or the council and the mayor.) And the PA can name people to sit on some city boards and commissions.
That’s basically the totality of the powers of the office. The charter doesn’t even specifically empower the public advocate to sue, as Tish James, the former public advocate, discovered when her lawsuits were dismissed for lack of standing. The public advocate is exactly as the title implies: an advocate for city residents; the public’s ombudsman.
But the office should be better and more than the platform for higher office it has mostly been. It should act as a watchdog of the mayor, a champion of community boards, a “second set of eyes” on the comptroller, and an “inspector general”, of sorts, of city agencies.
That’s why I will pursue these four important changes to the city charter and state law when I am elected public advocate.
First, as was first suggested by election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, of the Strook law firm, I will propose to empower the public advocate with subpoena power to obtain evidence necessary to ensure the proper, efficient, and faithful functioning of city government. Then, I will propose to amend the city charter so that the Department of Investigation reports to the public advocate, not the mayor. Mayor de Blasio’s firing of Mark Peters, the former head of the DOI, highlighted the inherent and unconscionable conflict that can arise when the investigator reports to the investigated. Coincident to both those initiatives, I will work to codify the public advocate’s standing to sue on New Yorkers’ behalf in the courts where government has let them down.
Second, I will work to amend the charter so that the Independent Budget Office reports to the Office of the Public Advocate so that I can critique the mayor’s and the council’s budgets and spending, as well as the pronouncements of the city comptroller, particularly those about the city’s pension funds. The director of the IBO is appointed by the comptroller, the public advocate, and by one borough president and one council member named by their peers. Thus, half the people naming the IBO director could have a say in muting the IBO’s critique of their performance. The IBO needs to be truly “independent”.
Third, I will work to represent the city’s 59 community boards in matters affecting ULURP the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure; CEQRA, the City Environmental Quality Review Act; and community boards’ budget priorities. Community boards are run by volunteer community leaders and a small, city-paid, staff of district managers and assistants. Few of the paid staff are lawyers or urban planners. The boards have nearly no resources to support their decisions if they are challenged by developers and city agencies. The public advocate should have the power to bolster the boards’ case before City Planning Commission, the city council, and, if necessary, the courts.
Finally, I will pursue a legislative change to the New York State Urban Development Corporation Act to provide a 30 day public comment period before state agencies are allowed to sidestep ULURP and CEQRA. The powers conferred by the legislature for General Project Plans to do slum clearance and to build public facilities without input from local officials, community boards, and other stakeholders was one of the contributing factors to the failure of the Amazon deal.
These are clearly defined, obtainable, “first steps” necessary to pursue more ambitious objectives. And I will work relentlessly to achieve each of them to improve the government for the people of the City of New York, starting on Day One.
Yes, that’s a campaign promise. And no, there will be no excuse.
That “clever wag” who defined election day will be disappointed.
 Clark, Dan M. “Court of Appeals Rejects James’ Appeal Over Authority to Sue as NYC Public Advocate” News. New York Law Journal. October 11, 2018
 Goldfeder, Jerry. “An Agenda for New York City’s Public Advocate”. Opinion (Letters). The New York Times. September 30, 2018.
 New York City Charter, §259(a)
 Urban Development Corporation Act, §16(3)
Anthony “Tony” Herbert is the founder of Advocates without Borders, and a candidate for public advocate in the February 26th special election.
New York, NY: Tony Herbert, candidate for Public Advocate in the February 26, 2019 Special Election wants the Governor and Mayor to transfer the management of NYCHA to the Battery Park City Authority. He says BPCA’s stellar record of creating a 92 acre mixed use community which has been studied by designers around the world, makes it the perfect entity to manage, repair and upgrade NYCHA’s 2,602 buildings scattered around New York City.
Herbert says the legislation creating the Battery Park City Authority mandates that excess revenue generated from ground leases be used for affordable housing outside the BPCA footprint. BPCA also has the ability to issue bonds which may be the best way to ensure that the 178,895 NYCHA apartments housing approximately 600,000 residents, are repaired quickly and efficiently.
Said Herbert, “It is clear that the need to repair NYCHA buildings has reached crisis levels. It is also clear that the Mayor’s plan to sell off NYCHA property and transfer more than 60,000 NYCHA apartments to private developers under the RAD program is a risky proposition that could have a detrimental outcome as was the case in Virginia. Rather than put residents at risk and transfer our city’s most valuable assets to private developers, I want legislators to transfer all of NYCHA to the Battery Park City Authority. The BPCA has proven to be an effective and efficient development authority. Throughout it’s fifty years of existence, it has transferred more than a billion dollars in excess revenue to the city, in addition to building and operating roads, ballfields, community centers and parks. I don’t know of any other development authority that has achieved that level of excellence, so it only makes sense to allow it to manage and operate our city’s largest and most valuable asset – NYCHA.
“By transferring NYCHA to the BPCA, the asset will remain with the city.That is a stark contrast to Mayor de Blasio’s NYCHA 2.0 which sells off the asset to private developers. The people of NYCHA deserve a clean, safe place to live without fear of being displaced. And New York taxpayers deserve to know that the asset their tax dollars has been supporting will appreciate in value and be preserved for future generations rather than be traded to a private developer to fatten his/her portfolio.”
Herbert says that language in the legislation that transfers NYCHA to the BPCA should include a mandate that no more than 5% of apartments remain vacant at any given time; that BPCA create a timeline to construct additional affordable housing on unused NYCHA land; and that the Public Advocate have an appointee on the Battery Park City Authority Board.
“The City should have a seat on the Battery Park City Authority board because the excess revenue generated by the BPCA goes to the city. The Public Advocate is the absolute right person to make that appointment because decisions made by the board affects the lives of thousands of individuals.”Read More
HERBERT WANTS SANITATION DEPARTMENT TO AVOID TRASH PICK-UPS ON BLOCKS SURROUNDING SCHOOLS DURING MORNING STUDENT DROP OFFS
Brooklyn, NY: Tony Herbert, candidate for Public Advocate wants the New York City Department of Sanitation to avoid picking up trash on blocks surrounding schools during morning student drop offs. Herbert says that the agency should be establishing trash pickup schedules after coordinating with other agencies such as NYC DOT and Community Boards during District Service Cabinet meetings.
Said Herbert, “We need to make New York City a kinder, gentler place for the people who live here and that can begin by ensuring that the delivery of City services does not interfere with our daily lives. Sanitation trucks picking up trash in the morning can cause traffic jams on New York City streets where alternate side of the street parking doesn’t begin until after school starts. With cars parked on both sides of the street, sanitation trucks have no choice but to stop in the middle of the street to pick up trash. One truck can cause a traffic jam that extends for many blocks.
“Traffic is one of the most annoying quality of life issues for most New Yorkers. The City Charter provides us with a mechanism to deliver City services with the least amount of negative impact on the community. All we have to do is use it.”
The City Charter mandates monthly District Service Cabinet meetings at which Community Boards, City Council members and all agency officials with line authority for the district:
· Coordinate service functions and programs of the agencies that deliver services in the community district;
· Consider interagency problems and impediments to the effective and economic delivery of services in the district;
· Plan and recommend joint programs to meet the needs and priorities of the district and its residents;
· Consult with community district residents and their representatives about local service problems and activities; and
· Keep a public record of its activities and transactions, including minutes of its meetings.
Community Board Chairs and District Manager throughout the city complain that District Service Cabinet Meetings are few and far between. Herbert wants agencies to post minutes from District Service Cabinet meetings on their website so the public know what decisions are being made in their districts.
“Our City Charter mandates the coordination between agencies for service delivery. As Public Advocate I want this information to be easy to find. If City agencies perceive taxpayers as customers who deserve quality service people will be more likely to remain in New York.”Read More
Brooklyn, NY: Advocates without Borders founder and candidate for NYC Public Advocate, Tony Herbert is calling on District Attorneys in all five counties to “get tough” on suspects charged with robbing and assaulting senior citizens.
Said Herbert, “Our seniors built this city and it is up to us to ensure they are protected in their golden years. I am challenging all five District Attorney’s to step up to the plate and send a clear message to would be criminals that crimes against senior citizens will not be tolerated.”
Herbert wants the District Attorney to refuse to accept plea bargains when it comes to robbery and assault on senior citizens. He also wants criminals who repeatedly prey on senior citizens to be charged under NYS “hate crimes” law which carry stricter penalties.
Herbert continued, “According to the NYPD website for Hate Crime Statistics, there were a total of 32 felony assault hate crime complaints in New York City during 2018 – that number represents all the complaints deemed to be a hate crime including crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. NYS says that hate crimes based on age make up less than one percent in the state, but all we have to do is watch the news to figure out that number is way too low. This past December, 87 year old Gladys Marti died after she was assaulted in a Bronx McDonalds, yet statistics are showing that there were zero murders reported under the “hate crime” report.
“We also know that on Christmas Day, 88 year old Lyubov Faynshteyn was brutally attacked in the bedroom of her Coney Island apartment. Several days ago a 68 year old man was robbed by three men in front of his home at Tinton Avenue and E. 169th Street in the Bronx.
“Today we stand here in Red Hook because an 82 year old woman was assaulted.”
“People who prey on senior citizens should be made an example of. I urge our District Attorney’s to ban together and send a clear message that assault on seniors will not be tolerated. They came together to refuse to prosecute quality of life crimes. It’s their obligation to now stand up for our seniors.”Read More
Herbert Calls NYCHA Deal an “Unholy Alliance” Between the Mayor and the Trump Administration that Benefits Real Estate Developers More than Residents – Asks AG James to Bring Criminal Neglect Charges Against Both Administrations
Brooklyn, NY: Just days after HUD Secretary, Ben Carson and Mayor de Blasio mugged it up for the cameras announcing they came to a “deal” on how to fix NYCHA, Founder of Advocates without Borders and Candidate for Public Advocate, Tony Herbert called the agreement an “unholy alliance” between the Mayor and the Trump Administration to make real estate developers richer at the expense of low income New Yorkers.
Said Herbert, “Ben Carson and Bill de Blasio should be ashamed of themselves. Their deal – or should I say, unholy alliance – is nothing more than a sham to make real estate developers rich while pretending to help the good people living in public housing.
“NYCHA 2.0 sells off NYCHA playgrounds and air rights to wealthy real estate developers so they can build luxury housing. It also converts approximately 60,000 NYCHA units to Section 8 under the controversial federal Rent Demonstration Assistance (RAD) program that has caused some tenants to lose their homes due to lack of oversight. A federal judge rejected this plan but the Trump Administration is embracing it. Maybe that’s because the plan is just the type of deal that private citizen Donald Trump and his real estate buddies have capitalized on in the past.
“NYCHA residents need to fight back against this unholy alliance between President Trump and Mayor de Blasio. de Blasio should not be trusted to fix NYCHA because since he has been mayor, New York City’s budget has gone up by almost $20 Billion, yet the conditions inside NYCHA have deteriorated to the point that former Public Advocate, Tish James named NYCHA the worst slum lord in New York City.
“I am calling on Attorney General James to file charges of “criminal neglect” against Mayor de Blasio and President Trump for allowing the people of NYCHA to live without heat, hot water and in peril of lead poisoning due to the falsification of records. As Public Advocate she already collected the evidence, now it is time for her to take action.”
Herbert, who had been a longtime advocate for residents of public housing and who is running on the “Residents First” line, has been knocking on doors of NYCHA apartments asking residents to fill out complaint forms which can be downloaded from the Attorney General’s website https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ceb001_complaint_form.pdfRead More