Sunday, September 4, 2011
Walder announced last month — after only 21 months on the job — that he was resigning from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in October to take a job with the MTR Corp., which owns and runs Hong Kong’s mass transit system.
“I’m very disappointed that Walder’s leaving and I hold him responsible,” Liu said during an interview last Thursday at TimesLedger Newspapers’ Bayside offices. “He basically just threw his hands up and waved the white flag. I think it was a cop-out.”
Faced with a ballooning deficit, Walder had to raise fares, eliminate the V and W subway lines, cut many bus routes around the city and consolidate a number of agencies operating within the MTA.
Liu, who chaired the City Council Transportation Committee before being elected comptroller, said he believes the long-term solution to getting the MTA to be more financially sound involves the federal government.
The comptroller said there needs to be a change in the federal transportation formula, which is tilted toward highway construction, because there is not enough emphasis on mass transit.
The MTA, known for its fiscal woes, is $31.6 million in debt, according to its latest financial statement.
As the sole trustee of the city’s pension funds, Liu said the rising costs of pensions are “through the roof” but his office recently completed a study that found costs will decline in 2016 instead of continuing a steep increase that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has maintained.
Liu said the reason for the decrease is lower benefit amounts for new city employees.
“That increase is starting to level off now,” he said. Pension reform “should not be based on rhetoric or unfound characterizations of an ever-increasing pension cost. It should be based on informed discussion based on facts and research.”
The comptroller said the biggest factor in the rising costs of pensions is that the city’s investments have had their worst market performance in the last 10 years — going from consistent double-digit returns before then to single-digit returns during the last 10 years.
On pension reform, Liu said cutting back on pensions for city employees hired before the newcomers was out of the question.
Liu said the costs of the city hiring outside consultants is another budget problem, including contracts that are paid based on the time a contractor spends on a project, which he said gives them an incentive not to complete the project on time and falsify timesheets.
By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge Eagle
The torrential rainstorm that hit New York on Sunday caused the ceiling to collapse at the Weight Watchers Bay Ridge Center on Fifth Avenue, according to local officials and business leaders, who said the cave-in will likely put the facility out of commission temporarily.
No one was injured in the collapse at the Weight Watchers site at 7516 Fifth Ave. Sunday night, officials said.
“No one was there at the time. It happened at night,” said Jim Clark, president of the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.
The Bay Ridge Center hosts Weight Watchers meetings and houses a shop where members can purchase food items.
Hundreds of Weight Watchers members visit the Fifth Avenue center each week.
Melanie Cohen, a Weight Watchers leader at the Bay Ridge Center, said the center would likely be closed for four to six weeks while extensive repairs are made.
The building owner at 7516 Fifth Ave. will repair and remodel the space, Cohen said.
“We will get a state-of-the-art remodeling. In a way, something good is coming out of this situation,” she said.
A sign in the window informed members that the center is closed, but announced that all Monday through Saturday meetings would take place at a temporary location beginning Wednesday evening, Aug. 17. The temporary location, Gateway City Church, is located nearby at 267 Bay Ridge Ave.
Members can also visit www.weightwatchers.com to locate other Brooklyn-area meetings.
The storm, which dumped seven inches of rain on the city on a single day, also led to a major problem in Sunset Park, officials said.
Renee Giordano, executive director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District, said a sewer and water main break on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets caused a great deal of damage to the avenue’s businesses.
“There was flooding in most of the basements and food establishments had to close until they were cleaned,” Giordano said.
The Department of Environmental Protection “is pumping the hole in the street and will repair the pipes,” she said.
“Many businesses lost a lot of inventory,” said Giordano, who added that representatives from City Comptroller John Liu’s office and the Department of Small Business Services are assisting merchants with filing claims with their insurance companies.
Fred Xuereb, chairman of Community Board Seven in Sunset Park, experienced the storm’s wrath firsthand.
“I had a little flooding in my house,” he said.
Back in Bay Ridge, Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office received reports of damage to some homes and businesses, as well as reports of delays on the subways, according to an aide.
The subway station at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue, where the R, N and D lines all operate, was flooded on Sunday morning, according to officials.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ran shuttle buses until the water was pumped out of the station. Many homes in the area were flooded.
“My own house got some water,” said Clark, who lives in Bay Ridge. “But it only got on my rug. A couple of people I know had two or three inches of water in their basements.”
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said the intersection of Ovington and Seventh Avenues had flooding, but that the situation cleared up quickly.
“It’s much better today,” said Beckmann, who was contacted by the Bay Ridge Eagle on Monday. Overall, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights fared pretty well in the rainstorm, Beckmann said.
“I’d say we were very fortunate,” she added.
Bensonhurst was also spared from major problems, said Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11.
“Considering the amount of rainfall we had, I’d say we really did well. We only received one call from a resident regarding street flooding,” she said.
NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't put much stock in City Comptroller John Liu's reports. The mayor was pretty explicit about his doubts in an interview with the New York Daily News on Wednesday.
“You know, I have to work with John and I'll try to help,” said Bloomberg, “and hopefully he'll eventually get staff and himself together where they can provide a real function and do a real analysis.”
Liu released a report in June forecasting that the city's pension cost would peak in 2016 and then grow at a slower rate than the city's economy, thereby using up a smaller portion of the budget. This would be good news for unions, which don’t want their pensions to be cut while the city tightens its belt.
The mayor wondered where Liu got his numbers from. Mark LaVorgna of the mayor's office noted that pension costs will likely continue to rise.
Comptroller John Liu said Wednesday he is standing by his recent report on pension costs, a day after Mayor Bloomberg said Liu "doesn't know what he is talking about."
“The mayor is entitled to his opinion, but the facts still are the facts,” Liu told NBC New York.
Bloomberg told the Daily News editorial board Tuesday he would try to help Liu “get his staff and himself together so they can provide a real function and a real analysis.” The mayor was balking at Liu’s June report, which painted a rosy picture of future city pension costs.
The report estimated the percentage of city dollars spent on pensions would decline in five years because of cheaper benefits for new uniformed employees. Bloomberg has campaigned against what he calls unsustainable long-term pension expenses.
Liu said his research is thorough and supported by independent pension experts. He challenged Bloomberg to do his own research.
“The mayor is welcome to conduct his own thorough research and publish it as my office has," he said. "The Mayor has a tough job, but the people of New York City elected me. I do their bidding."
Liu suggested Bloomberg is responsible for the rising pension costs and said “rhetoric is not going to get us anywhere.”
Among the likely candidates for mayor in 2013, Tom Allon is a decided long shot, given that in a field likely to be crowded with familiar names, most New York voters probably have no idea who Mr. Allon is.
But he is hoping to gain some traction by hiring one of the city’s biggest Democratic fund-raisers.
Ms. Darrison, the chief executive of Darrison Barrett & Associates, which has offices in Manhattan and, soon, Nashville, Tenn., has raised more than $100 million for Democratic candidates and committees since 1989. In 2009, she helped Cyrus R. Vance Jr. become the Manhattan district attorney and helped Bill de Blasio become the public advocate. That year she was also part of William C. Thompson Jr.’s failed bid to unseat Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Ms. Darrison said in an interview that she had not planned to participate in the 2013 mayoral election. But one of her recent corporate clients has been Mr. Allon’s Manhattan Media company, which owns community newspapers including The New York Press and City Hall. And when Mr. Allon began talking about running for mayor as a pragmatic non-ideologue, emphasizing education reform, job creation and economic development, she found his pitch so appealing that she dropped him as a corporate client and took him on as a political one.
“I found in our discussions that I like his ideas for New York City,” she said. “Education is crucial in terms of the future of this city and Tom understands, from both his education and business experience, how it all fits in.”
Ms. Darrison said that the Allon campaign had already set up about 50 house parties and fund-rais-ers for the fall, in hopes of raising the $500,000 to $1 million by January that the campaign believes would demonstrate to the political establishment that Mr. Allon is a viable candidate, and not an also-ran. People in the business, real estate and education community have been especially interested, she said.
Of course, Mr. Allon has a difficult challenge trying to join a group of possible mayoral rivals who have been on the public stage for years: Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Mr. de Blasio; Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; and John C. Liu, the city comptroller. Mr. Allon must also overcome a deep-rooted sense of Bloomberg fatigue, or even anger, among rabid Democratic primary voters. After all, he has long been an avid supporter of the mayor, and the Bloomberg campaign placed $2 million worth of ads in Mr. Allon’s newspapers in 2009.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
by Ben Johnson
Excerpted from FreeRepublic.com, April 24th, 2009
"John Choe lived through 9/11 in New York City and shortly thereafter became legislative director for a city councilman – but led protests against toppling the Taliban and still boasts of volunteering for an organization whose keynote speaker proclaimed two weeks after 9/11 “many of those who died [in the Twin Towers] were already targets of the daily violence of global capitalism.” He made two pilgrimages to Stalinist North Korea and a trip to Castro’s Cuba “to create new ways of building solidarity with the struggles of workers and people of color.” He denounced “American imperialism,” the U.S. “war” against the poor, and the torture and politically motivated murders of South Korea (but not the North). George Soros rewarded his Communist zeal with a grant to create a left-wing pressure group within New York’s Korean community – a group which Choe ran in lockstep with Ramsey Clark’s radical Workers World Party and its affiliates before joining an organization that includes "representatives" from North Korea. And now, he’d like your vote."
It’s clear why Choe would want his vitae shielded from prying eyes. The first clue to Choe’s radical views is his self-description as “a byproduct of U.S. imperialism.” Examining the organizations his CV boasts he served yields yet more. Among them:
* The Venceremos Brigades, a joint venture of Cuban intelligence and the KGB. A secret FBI report written in 1977 found its purpose was “the recruitment of individuals who are politically oriented and who someday may obtain a position, elective or appointive, somewhere in the U.S. Government, which would provide the Cuban Government with access to political, economic and military intelligence.” (Emphasis added.) Choe fits the bill today, as he did when the Brigades quoted him in a press release pledging his “solidarity” with los Cubanos. Choe said, “I am very much interested in learning about the Cuban Revolution and the way it can both inform my activism as a community organizer in New York City and also inspire me to create new ways of building solidarity with the struggles of workers and people of color here and abroad.” (The group’s itinerary that year included a “stop at the Che Guevara Memorial site in Santa Clara” en route to Havana.)
* Korea Exposure & Education Program (KEEP), which according to an older, unsanitized version of its history, organizes trips to North Korea to “counter negative and biased portrayals of the country in mainstream U.S. media.” Choe’s own organization, Nodutdol, founded with George Soros grant money, would soon do the same. Choe still serves on KEEP’s planning team.
* Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), a radical group which brands the NYPD “perpetrator number-one” of “physical attacks on Asian immigrants.” The keynote speaker for CAAV’s 15th anniversary, on September 28, 2001, was Angela Yvonne Davis, a former Black Panther and current university lecturer. Davis told her audience, “The attack on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon does not annul the history of U.S. militarism…And it should not camouflage the fact that the U.S. significantly helped to create the conditions that led to the violence of September 11…The attack on September 11 has been represented as an attack against global capitalism (with the U.S. flag as its symbol). But we must consider that many of those who died were already targets of the daily violence of global capitalism.” (Emphasis added.) A year later, its publication the CAAV Voice would declaim, “the war on Iraq is a racist war.” Continuing Davis’ radical fervor, CAAV’s Youth Leadership Project offers Asian youth an “intensive 8 week summer program that engages the youth in basic organizing skills training; workshops of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, colonialism, and other systems of oppression (as well as the freedom movements to fight these oppressions).” Choe was still listed as a member of CAAAV as as of February.
Most of these activities have been scrubbed from Choe’s campaign bio. Yet Choe proudly lists himself the founder of Nodutdol (which translates, roughly, “stepping stone”), a far-Left Korean organization the South Korean consulate told the New York Times is controlled by Pyongyang.
So too is another group Choe belongs to: the Korea Truth Commission. The Workers World newspaper acknowledges, “The KTC includes representatives from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (socialist north Korea).” And the WWP should know; as DiscoverTheNetworks points out, KTC is a member of the International ANSWER steering committee, and was founded by Ramsey Clark's International Action Center, which is itself a front for the Workers World Party (WWP), a tiny Marxist splinter party that lionizes Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosovic, and Saddam Hussein.
Choe’s ties to North Korea run long. He first visited the North in 2000 – on his honeymoon! Eight years later, he made a return trip. He tried to minimize the importance of the trip, telling The Queens Tribune he and his new bride “spent a few days in North Korea to learn about the society.” He has emerged sounding very much like a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spokesman, insisting Pyongyang had the right to test “civilian” rockets. (He claimed he was unaware if the rockets North Korea kept firing over Japanese airspace were for civilian or military purposes.) Choe thundered that South Korea “restricted free speech and freedom of conscience, [and] allowed the authorities to detain, torture and sometimes kill their political opponents whether they were professors, poetry, [sic.] labor activists.” He generously offered, “If a similar system is in place in North Korea, I would also oppose it.” But thus far, his ire has been directed toward Seoul – and Washington. In 2005, Choe chaired a speech given by two South Koreans who claim they were injured in a “massacre” orchestrated by the South Korean government. One of them said their purpose was to insist the U.S. government “pay reparations to the victims.”
It was hardly Choe’s first less-than-sympathetic gesture toward the land of his emigration. On Febraruy 28, 2002 – just months after his new hometown fell victim to the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history – Choe staged a rally opposing toppling the Taliban. He told the WWP’s newspaper, Workers World, his new organization Noduldol had two goals: “to showcase the fact that many members of the Korean community in New York have been opposed to the use of military forces in Afghan,” [sic.] and to make “comparisons with the way the U.S. has acted with its allies in Korea and Palestine, dividing and occupying these two countries.” Not content to merely demean his own country on two fronts, Choe insisted: “Bush saying ‘Axis of Evil’ is not just something recent. It’s been U.S. strategy to demonize and delegitimize popular struggles around the world.” In one sentence he lambasted the United States and elevated Kim Jong-il’s gulag to a “popular struggle.” A year later, Choe would insist, “the U.S. is about to launch a war” against North Korea.
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