Posts tagged with "Budgets":

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MoMA PS1 Expanding Thanks to $3 Million in Funding

In an effort to secure financial backing for the city's cultural institutions, New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is the chair of the city council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, has locked in $3 million of city budget funds to expand MoMA PS1. The funds will be used for the museum to specifically acquire the small apartment building at the rear of its current Romanesque Revival school building at 22-25 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens. Van Bramer has revealed that the purchase will allow the museum to expand its exhibition space. The museum is deciding if it will shift its offices from the main building to the apartment structure. The funding has been apportioned to the museum in capital funds as part of the city’s 2014 budget, which was confirmed last month. Councilman Van Bramer also allotted budget funds for some other arts organizations in his Queens district including The Noguchi Museum, which will receive $600,000 in capital funds for a new generator to replace one damaged by Hurricane Sandy flooding, and SculptureCenter, which will receive $300,000 in funding. According to DNA Info, the councilman said “It’s a real imperative to expand our cultural institutions, expand their foot prints, increase funding for them and allow them to do more of what they already do well—produce art that brings lots of people to the neighborhood, who then spend money in the neighborhood.”
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The Difference a Year Makes

For better and worse, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that the California legislature had not violated the state constitution in seizing some $2 billion from hundreds of local redevelopment authorities across the state, money that will continue to be used to cover educational shortfalls within the state's sagging budget. This is good news in that it does not further imperil already tenuous state finances that have pretty much been trimmed well into the marrow. At the same time, as we detailed last year, this is an unprecedented taking of local funds—covered through special property taxes having nothing to do with the Legislature—that could also imperil the state's economy by limiting the work the redevelopment authorities can do, work that often times goes to architects. The group representing the 397 authorities has already decided to appeal the ruling and is requesting a stay on the taking of the money pending that appeal. In a statement, John Shirey, executive director of the group, the California Redevelopment Association, argued this gives the Legislature undue power:
We strongly disagree with Judge Connelly’s ruling which effectively says the Legislature has unlimited discretion to redirect local redevelopment funds to any purpose it wishes. Under that logic any state program could be called redevelopment. The Legislature needs to deal with its budget problems by making hard decisions using its own limited resources—not by taking away local government funds.
Meanwhile, a Schwarzenegger spokesperson tells the Times that being overruled on the case would have compounded the state's budget problems. As for the association's continued legal challenges, it's a battle the group has won before, and quite possibly could do again. It's worth noting, though, that the judge who supported the association's efforts last year was the same one who denied them this go round. Whatever the outcome, its impacts will likely be felt for years to come.
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Blood on the Tracks

The MTA finally passed its so-called Doomsday Budget today. If this comes as a surprise, well, you're not the only one taken aback. Last year, the transit authority was in a similar predicament—in part because the Legislature refused to implement congestion pricing but mostly because of the recession. But, as with most things in (at least New York) politics, an eleventh hour deal was brokered and the funds were found to stave off the draconian cuts. We figured that would be the case this time around, especially since the MTA's new and particularly shrewd boss Jay Walder made all the right cuts that would be politically unpalatable for Albany to keep in place, like, say, Student MetroCards. So then why did they pass? Granted the cuts will not go into effect until June, so there is still time to avert some, if not all, of them, though that is seemingly increasingly impossible. The reason is there simply isn't enough money to go around anymore to fill these gaping holes. The city is on the verge of axing thousands of teachers because the Paterson administration has raided those funds as well—the MTA lost $143 million to the state budget, coupled with a poor return on those eleventh hour bailouts, like a new payroll tax. We asked transit sage Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, how it came to this, and he basically agreed that we've reached bone. "Tight money is part of the problem. Competition with education and health care for scarce money is not to transit's advantage," Russianoff wrote in an email. "There's also MTA's lack of credibility with public. Elected officials believe people will blame MTA and not them for service cuts. Jay Walder believes he needs to downsize agency to make every dollar count to buid up lost credibility." There is still hope, should the agency decide to trim its capital funds, as the Straphangers and City Council have been advocating, but the MTA continues to oppose such cuts, arguing they're worse than reduced service. We can keep our fingers crossed for more stimulus funds, or perhaps complain to Bruce Ratner. But it's starting to look like our last best hope might be good old-fashioned prayer.

Break On Through

The good news continues for mass transit, as the MTA announced today that the first phase of construction on the extension of the 7 Train has been completed, stretching from 26th to 34th steets, where trains will be housed as they shuttle back-and-forth between the West Side and Flushing, Queens. The Bloomberg administration, which is paying for the $2.1 billion project, put together this nice video to help demonstrate the subterranean, and thus often invisible, work. It's the kind of stuff New York mag is calling in its annual roundup a reason to love the city: our perseverance on such mighty projects, past falterings be damned. And yet, these are exactly the kinds of capital expenditures some transit advocates are hoping to cut into to stave off the MTA's budget crunch. Will the next stop be to stop?
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MTA: To Dig or Not to Dig?

Not since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year has a major bastion in the city seemed to fall apart so quickly and readily as the MTA over the past few weeks. As the Times succinctly puts it, "state legislators cut $143 million out of the authority’s budget; state accountants then determined that a payroll tax dedicated to mass transit financing would produce $100 million less revenue than initially thought. Finally, late last week, a court ruled that the authority must pay significant raises to transit workers, adding tens of millions of dollars in expenses." The MTA is required to fill the $400 million budget hole this created because it must end the year with a balanced budget. And so a range of service cuts were ratified today by the agency's board, including the elimination of subway and bus lines, reduced off-peak service and para-transit, and no more free rides for half-a-million students. While all these cuts—which do not take affect until July 1—are a disgrace to riders, the latter two may seem particularly onerous for good reason: they are so politically charged (think Helen Lovejoy) they will almost certainly be reversed, and indeed Governor Patterson has already called for the reinstatement of student MetroCards. But that only restores about $170 million, so what about the rest? We've been here before with these proposed service cuts, and the consensus among transit advocates is it will never come to that or super fare hikes. But with the MTA bailed out once already this year, a return to bridge tolls or other new revenue streams seems equally unlikely. Another proposal that has been gaining steam is dipping into the authority's capital funds, temporarily syphoning funds off, say, the Second Avenue Subway, to temporarily cover the gap. The Straphanger's Campaign has been pushing this approach, as its long-held belief is general service over flashy megaprojects, and it has been taken up by the City Council as well, a number of whose members rallied at today's board meeting. But the mayor has long opposed such a move because these projects are considered a boon to economic development, an argument echoed by the venerable RPA and upheld by the MTA. "Diverting money from the capital program as a one-shot stop-gap fix for the operating budget is what led the system into the decline that characterized the system in the 1970s and early 1980s," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in an email. "It took decades to recover from that." Fortunately, this is only the beginning of the end, as we live to see another doomsday.
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Gov's Island: I'm Not Dead Yet

While it is well known that the recession has hobbled both the city and state's budgets for the coming fiscal year, one project has already been left for dead by certain press outlets. Which seems strange because one of the designers behind the recreational magnet that will one day become Governor's Island works in the same building as us, and they seem as busy as hell. So is it really sink or swim time? That depends. It all started back in January, when the Observer reported that there was no money in the state budget for Governor's Island. Then, on Friday, Curbed, cribbing from a story in Downtown Express, warned that Governor's Island might not even open this year. The Observer's take was a bleak one:
The island serves as an emblem of the cyclical nature of government planning, when grand amenities and far-reaching developments are drawn up during good times and canceled or scaled back in bad.
The confusion in the press, it seems, stems from the usual fiscal shell games Albany so enjoys. As Leslie Koch, president of the Governor's Island Preservation and Education Corporation, explained in a phone interview Friday, there's no money in GIPEC's operating budget for FY09, though the capital budget remains intact. Thus the hive of activity two floors down. Furthermore, the GIPEC budget line the Observer points to as missing was in the proposed, and not the final, budget. Put another way, the future is actually more secure than the present remains in doubt. Meanwhile, Koch is keeping her fingers crossed. "There's still time and we're still hoping there will be funds," she said. Should the state re-instate its 50-percent share of GIPEC's budget come April 1, when the state's is due, the city is expected to follow suit. (Last year's budget was $22 million, up from $16 million the previous year.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems happy to oblige, according to the aforementioned Express article, even proposing the state temporarily shunt capital money from Hudson River Park to fund the island's operating costs this year. Another determined, if far more skeptical advocate, is Ken Fisher, chair of the Governors Island Alliance, who said in a recent interview that there has been little movement on the issue at the state level. "My assement is this is one of those situations where everyone thinks it will get worked out because it ought to get worked out," Fisher said. "But it won't." "It's one of those things that could wind up without a chair when the music stops." Undeterred, the alliance has launched a public outreach campaign, Keep the Island Afloat, which implores New Yorkers to write and call Governor David Paterson, telling him to, as Fisher put it, "Put the governor back in Governor's Island." Koch may have an even better weapon at her disposal: the uber-design team--West 8/Rogers Marvel/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM--behind the project. One of their number recently told us that they were rushing to complete the project for a big public unveiling before the state budget is due, thereby helping GIPEC's lobbying efforts with some flashy new renderings. "We're busting our butts to get it out there," the designer said. Koch insists that the official unveiling is still scheduled for May, as it has always been, but she did admit that the design team would be previewing ideas to the alliance and other stakeholder groups in March, the first time new plans will be publicly unveiled.  Asked if this was meant to entice lawmakers, Koch replied, "I don't really think of it as P.R. It's really public outreach." Still, Fisher thinks any such efforts could be a big help, especially as his efforts continue to be stonewalled. "The more real the project is, the easier it is to sell," he said. GIPEC has already had one setback this year--it was forced to sell a prized but derelict ferry it bought last year for $500,000, which fetched only $23,600 on eBay when the auction closed Monday, a 95-percent markdown. Should GIPEC go broke this year, it could truly be sour one. Not only will all that fancy design work be for naught, but GIPEC has also spent this off-season preparing the once off-limits southern portion of the island for public access. There just has to be more to Governor's Island than another Water Taxi Beach.