- The Village Voice reports on ICE agents lurking in so-called “diversionary” courts set up for sex workers, exposing the limitations on de Blasio’s claims to protect undocumented immigrants, as well the “non-punitive” nature of such courts. A number of New York politicians on both the cityand federal level have spoken out against the practice.
- Some encouraging tenants rights events occurred this week. The Manhattan Supreme Court ruled in favor of tenants fighting rent overcharging in a lower Manhattan building that received 421g tax breaks. Harassment charges were brought against a Ridgewood area landlord who reported tenants who had filed complaints against him to ICE. And the City Council passed a bill guaranteeing free legal services to low income tenants facing eviction.
- The Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbying group, has almost $2 million in its two PACs to spend on upcoming state campaigns. The managing principal of BFC Partners, the developer of the Bedford-Union Armory, has personally donated $10,000 to the group.
- The Citizens Budget Commission warned that the New York City Housing Authority is ill prepared for the likely fallout from upcoming Federal budget cuts.
- Against a backdrop of falling approval numbers, Governor Cuomo again attempted to distance himself from responsibility for the MTA. MTA chair Joe Lhota called a bizarre press conference where he shockingly propped up Cuomo’s bogus claim that De Blasio runs the subway.
- A New Republic piece takes a close look at Andrew Cuomo’s stranglehold on the New York State Democratic party and the ways in which his actions thwart the left.
- District 24 (Briarwood, Flushing, Corona Park) City Councilmember Rory Lancman introduced a bill designed to embarrass the de Blasio administration out of arresting turnstile jumpers.
- In a surprise move, Brooklyn Council Member (District 44, Borough Park/Bensonhurst) and Land Use Committee chair David Greenfield announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2017. It is widely believed that the move was timed as a political ploy to handpick his successor for the seat without a competitive Democratic primary. While Greenfield crony Kalman Yeger is expected to be selected in the Democratic primary, rumors about other competitors, including turncoat State Senator Simcha Felder attempting to re-take the seat by running on the Republican line, have been widespread.
- Five of the six remaining candidates for Brooklyn District Attorney attended a candidate forum in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday night. Broken Windows policing was one of the most contentious topics discussed.
- DSA endorsee Khader El-Yateem and top competitor Justin Brannan have both submitted a similar number of signatures and raised a similar amount of money in the campaign for the 43rd Council District seat. Kevin Carroll, Vincent Chirico, and Nancy Tong aren’t far behind in what is shaping be a tight race. In other Khader El-Yateem news, the alliance between Rev. El-Yateem and the DSA received additional local media coverage.
- DSA endorsee Jabari Brisport published a piece in Crain’s suggesting the Bedford Armory be made a Community Land Trust.
- Political insiders feel that convicted felon and former Council Member Hiram Monserrate has a legitimate opportunity to take the District 21(Elmhurst, Corona) seat left open after Julissa Ferreras-Copeland chose not to seek re-election. Information about candidates for the seat can be found here.
- Council Member Ruben Wills (District 28, was convicted of corruption and expelled from office. This leaves the seat open ahead of the Democratic Primary on Sept 12th in which Wills was pitted against two lesser known candidates.
- Council Member Fernando Cabrera (District 14, western Bronx) told a crowd of supporters that “it’s harder being rich than being poor.”
- PROVIDENCE, R.I. - DSA member Nirva Lafortune won a Democratic City Council Primary in Providence, RI. She ran against another DSA member. Together, DSA members won over 90% of the district’s votes.
Cuomo’s “Free College” Plan
When the State budget was passed back in April, one of the major stories was the inclusion of Governor Cuomo’s plan for free tuition to in-state students. While the shortcomings of the plan were immediately obvious to those familiar with the details, it was still seen as a political victory for the Governor. With the deadline for the initial round of applications approaching this Friday, the specifics of the plan are still unclear to many students statewide. Nevertheless, the program received 21,000 applications in its first five days.
Plan Details: The most prominent part of the program, the Excelsior Scholarship, covers full tuition at SUNY (State University of New York) and CUNY (City University of New York) schools for State residents with incomes below $100,000 (the cutoff will rise to $125,000 when the plan is fully phased in). However, two particularly onerous requirements require that students take 30 credits in each academic year, and that students live in New York State for at least as many years following graduation that they received the Scholarship. Failure to meet these requirements converts the grants to no-interest student loans, saddling students with unanticipated debt.
The Enhanced Tuition Awards (ETA), another component of the program, recieved less publicity. These grants of up to $6,000 would be offered to students at local private colleges, and carry the same income and residency requirements attached to the Excelsior Scholarship. They were added out of concern that the Excelsior Scholarship would put private colleges at a disadvantage, but due to concerns about the program and funding requirements, only about one out of three eligible schools opted into the program.
Plan Shortcomings: Aside from the strict requirements accompanying these scholarships, the plan suffers from another major flaw: its benefits will not go to the neediest students. Most CUNY students already pay no tuition—that expense is covered by Pell grants and the State’s Tuition Assistance Program—yet college remains unaffordable due to associated costs and the City’s high cost of living. Even at SUNY schools, tuition makes up less than half of the cost of attending college for an in-state student. The Excelsior Scholarship does not address the cost of room and board, books, or other expenses. Yet students who have seen headlines and ads for “free college” may not recognize that limitation.
Indeed, these limitations are likely to disproportionately harm low-income students, as those who need to work during the school year to keep up with these costs will run afoul of the full courseload requirement, and be saddled with unexpected debt loads. Meanwhile, the CUNY and SUNY systems continue to be underfunded, with tuition rising for students who are ineligible for these programs.
The quick rollout of the program has also led to confusion about the details. While Cuomo allocated enough money for 22,000 scholarships in its first year, nearly that many people applied in the first five days of the application window. If more than 22,000 students are eligible, it is not clear how the shortfall will be filled. Overall, the shortcomings of the plan are yet another reminder not to trust Andrew Cuomo.