Sen Jose M. Serrano's blog
The 421a tax exemption looms somewhere on the Albany horizon, and it’s not yet getting the attention it deserves.
Created in the 1970s to fuel development in a depressed city, the exemption program has been periodically reformed to help protect affordable housing in a now booming market.
Most recently, Mayor Bloomberg convened a task force to study the program, and Speaker Quinn later fashioned a compromise in the City Council.
But all of it was just a non-binding recommendation for us legislators in Albany. We hold the purse strings on this program, which sunsets at the end of the year.
A funny thing happened in the Senate last night. Democrats took the offensive.
It didn’t last more than an hour or two. It didn’t even work out. But our efforts to change the Senate rules, and bring some openness back to Albany, made a ripple that might just become a wave.
My colleagues leading the floor debate did a great job stating our case. We need complete disclosure of member items. We need an equal allocation of staff and resources. And no more “off-the-floor” committee meetings that subvert the legislative process.
Most Republicans didn’t have the decency to show up. But they all flooded back into the chamber to oppose a “slow roll call,” which would have obligated them to go on the record against reform.
I never liked the idea of so-called "halls of power." But it sure beats the "backrooms of power." The extraordinary legislative session held earlier this month was an indictment of the current system. We passed nothing.
What followed was the capitol blame game – a boon to the pundit community I’m sure, but a real waste for New York residents. The leaders of the Senate and Assembly must work better together, and they can do so by including the rest of us in the process.
As for the rest of us, if we’re going to call for a more open decision-making process, then we need to promote a more transparent budget. In the future, let's not wait for a judge to order the disclosure of our member items. We can do it ourselves.
I like endorsements just as much as the next guy. So it bothered me when I was recently denied an endorsement from an organization dedicated to environmental protection – this being an issue close to my heart, and one for which my voting record is quite strong.
According to the letter I received, the board of directors “has decided not to endorse any incumbent members of the state legislature this year” because of the “failure to forge solutions to four of the five top environmental priorities” identified by the organization.
Point taken. Many important environmental bills did not even garner a floor vote in the Senate. Rather they died in the Rules, Finance, or – oddly enough – Environmental Conservation committee.
Last week saw the release of plans to renovate and re-open the Highbridge, New York City’s oldest surviving bridge. I believe the next step is focusing on the Harlem River down below.
Environmental infrastructure, like the Roberto Clemente State Park, already exists on the river. But there’s evidence of dumping elsewhere along the banks. Not to mention open-air solid waste sites that contributes to the poor air quality of the Bronx and northern Manhattan.
Environmental bills are notoriously hard to pass in the Senate. It’s a struggle to even get them out of committee for a floor vote. But thanks to the enlarged Environmental Protection Fund, we can and should direct more resources to clean up the Harlem River.
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has agreed to make public the member items pushed by each of us in the State Senate. This is great news for all New Yorkers.
I've always been out front in releasing my member item lists, both in the City Council and now in the State Senate. To be perfectly honest, the Senate list didn't take so long to compile. As a member of the minority party, I have $150,000 to help fund organizations that I deem worthy. Compare that with the $2 to $3 million that Republican leaders had offered former Senator Seymour Lachman if he switched parties. (He refused.)