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Chelsea Now : February 26, 2015 : by Zach Williams

Preservationists scored a long-sought legal victory in an ongoing effort to restore Manhattan’s only documented and landmarked stop on the Underground Railroad back to its original height.

The appellate division of New York Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 24 that Tony Mamounas, owner of the Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St.) would need approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in order to finish a fifth story. An attorney for a local group seeking to remove the building addition told Chelsea Now on Feb. 25 that the ruling allows for his clients to request that LPC order Mamounas to remove the alterations affecting the historical integrity of the building — a process that would take about six months.

“By doing so, we will preserve the heritage of what transpired there when it was used as an Underground Railroad station, when the members of the Hopper Gibbons family acted heroically to provide shelter to the slaves,” said Fern Luskin — lecturer of art and architectural history at LaGuardia Community College and a leader of the Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District.

That organization along, with the city, acted as respondents in the case. A spokesperson for the city Law Department praised the ruling as “proper, rational and not arbitrary.”

Abigail Hopper Gibbons, a noted social reformer and outspoken abolitionist, lived there before and during the Civil War. Members of her family fled to safety across the roofs of buildings on what is now W. 29th St. after rioters looted the house and set it on fire during the July 1863 New York City Draft Riots.

In contrast to some controversies surrounding alterations to historic buildings, the roof rather than facade was particularly important in the case of the Hopper-Gibbons House because of the role it played in the riot and abolitionist movement. Escaped slaves from the South would visit the site on their way to freedom in Canada before and during the Civil War.

The case was not about the historical significance of the building, but rather an ambiguous permit regime, according to Marvin B. Mitzner, attorney for Mamounas.

“I think that the court really did not appreciate the nuance of this case,” Mitzner told Chelsea Now on Feb. 25. He added that he and his client have not yet decided on whether to appeal the latest ruling or to seek a permit through LPC in the future.

Mitzner argued in court on Feb. 4 that a 2005 permit from the city Department of Buildings (DOB) preceded the 2009 historical designation of the site. But DOB revoked that permit shortly before the designation following the discovery that only the city Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) could waive provisions of the city Multiple Dwelling Law. Without such an exemption the renovations could not be made due to the building’s age.

That process was unclear when the original permit was secured, Mitzner argued. His client should be able to bypass LPC and apply directly to BSA to have the permit reinstated, he told the court.

But the appellate court instead upheld an Aug. 2013 ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rackower.

“BSA’s (2013) determination that, in order to work at the site, petitioner was required to obtain the approval of the LPC, was rational and was not arbitrary and capricious,” the latest decision states.

The court did not agree with another argument from Mitzner that his client had “vested rights” in the case because his client did not have a valid permit at the time of historic designation.

Attorneys from both sides told Chelsea Now on Feb. 4 that they expected several months would pass before a judgment. The speed of the court in issuing a ruling on the case was a pleasant surprise to Mamounas’ legal opponents.

The ruling “sends a message to developers not to rely on illegally-issued permits and to respect the contours of the historic district,” said Jack L. Lester, attorney for Friends of Hopper-Gibbons, in a Feb. 25 telephone interview.

State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a statement that the ruling will help ensure the future integrity of the building and also “affirms the authority of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and helps preserve an integral piece of American civil rights history.”

Hoylman, Councilmember Corey Johnson and state Assemblymember Richard Gottfried have supported the ongoing legal effort by helping with fundraising and publicity.

“The owner marred the building by illegally building a penthouse on the roof,” Johnson said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s decision will help ensure that this historic building is restored to its original state and is a protected historic site in our community.”

Mamounas had a chance to boost his bottom line through historic tax credits, according to Gottfried. However a purported “vendetta against history” led the building owner to follow a different strategy, Gottfried said in a statement. He urged the LPC to not reinstate the permit and furthermore order Mamounas to restore the uniform roofline.

Recognizing the experience of African-Americans during the riots and slavery is a religious as well as historical cause for Julie Finch, another leader of Friends of Hopper-Gibbons who works closely with Luskin. The Hopper-Gibbons were Quakers like Finch who attends services at Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (15 Rutherford Place).

The Quaker faith emphasizes social justice, fairness and individual initiative. In a time when racism once again features prominently in social discourse, the survival of the building at its original height would ensure a link between now and 150 years ago when one of the largest disruptions of civil order in United States history erupted on the streets of New York City, according to Finch.

“This can serve as a memorial to the eleven to 30 black men who were lynched in New York City by white Draft Rioting mobs,” Finch said in an email. “Thousands of black families fled this city, terrified of the three days of rioting.”

Christian Science Monitor : February 25, 2015 : by Brad Knickerbocker

Many homeless youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are likely to engage in “survival sex” in order to stay alive on the streets or in homeless shelters, according to a new study.

The federally funded study by the Urban Institute, which was conducted over three years, included in-depth interviews with 283 young people in New York City, most of them 15 to 21 years old.

“The information they shared paints a vivid picture of how they survive in the face of adversity, often dealing with issues rooted in poverty, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse, and criminalization,” the report states.

For many, selling sex to survive comes at a time of alienation when questions of sexual orientation and gender identity are still being resolved – questions that much of society finds difficult, if not impossible, to relate to.

Among the key findings:

Such youth are likely to have experienced family rejection, physical or sexual abuse, and other causes of mental and emotional trauma.
Young people might be recruited by an exploiter, but then eventually trade sex independently for money in order to pay such basic needs as food and shelter.
They experience frequent arrest for various misdemeanor crimes, creating further instability and perpetuating a reliance on survival sex.
Many of those interviewed report disappointing or frustrating experiences with social service systems and providers, which often fail to meet their need for safe housing, reliable income, and adequate mental and physical health care.
Some of the young people interviewed by the Urban Institute “experience violence at the hands of staff and clients at social service organizations and other locations that are intended to be safe.”

Still, researchers found, such youth are “extremely resilient” in the face of external challenges as well as sexual and gender identity issues.

“They find ways to survive, often relying on their informal networks, street savvy, and quick learning abilities to share resources and skills and to adapt to difficult and often dangerous situations,” the report states. For some, that means carrying weapons, including knives and Mace.

“These are kids in very desperate situations who will do what they need to do to be able to survive,” Meredith Dank, the report’s lead author, told the Associated Press.

Given that much of this activity is in the shadows of urban life, hard figures can be elusive.

But a study by Boston Children’s Hospital, published online by the American Journal of Public Health, finds that 1 in 4 gay and lesbian high school students are homeless, compared with 3 percent of heterosexual teens. Another study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that 40 percent of homeless youths identify as LGBT.

Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the percentage of young runaways who likely became victims of sex trafficking has been edging up – from one in seven in 2013 to one in six in 2014 – and 68 percent of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social service agencies or foster care when they ran.

The NCMEC cites estimates showing that 30 percent of shelter youth and 70 percent of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

In New York City earlier this month, city officials and youth advocates gathered to protest what they said was a two-thirds cut in youth homeless shelters since 2008.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman noted over 5,000 instances in 2012 where teenagers were turned away from shelters due to a lack of beds, a large increase over the 573 that were turned away in 2008, the Gothamist city blog reported.

“It’s unconscionable that thousands of kids struggle each year to find a safe place to sleep,” Senator Hoylman said.

Founded in 1968, the Urban Institute is a social and economic policy research organization in Washington funded by government contracts, foundations and private donors. The new study on LGBT youth engaging in “survival sex” was funded by the US Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

If you or someone you know have been a victim of sex trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to BeFree (233733).

Staten Island Live : February 20, 2015 : by Tom Wrobleski

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Respondents to a poll on silive.com expressed overwhelming support for state Sen. Diane Savino’s bill to would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a doctor’s prescription.

According to the unscientific poll, 400 respondents, or 85 percent, said they supported the End of Life Options Act put forward by Ms. Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) and state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).

Another 73 respondents, or 15 percent, said they were opposed, saying that “death with dignity” was assisted suicide.

The bill would require that two doctors diagnose a patient as terminal and two witnesses must confirm that the patient’s request for the drugs is voluntary.

Physician participation in prescribing the drugs is voluntary and the law would protect doctors from civil or criminal liability and other disciplinary action for fulfilling a patient’s request.

The procedure would not be called “assisted suicide” or “suicide” under the legislation.

The bill has sparked an intense debate on silive.com.

Lisa Mandragona-Lewandowski posted, “When you see someone you love suffer from a disease and can’t help take away their pain you hope God takes them and if a Doctor can help you would let them. I would want it.”

But xoto commented, “So you kill an elderly person (poison) and leave a typed note that the deceased ‘wrote.’ Who is going to complain? Be careful – there is no dignity in a coward’s way out of a problem – You live with dignity.”

MSNBC : February 18, 2015 : by Michele Richinick

Lawmakers in New York have introduced a “Death with Dignity” bill that would make the state the sixth in the country to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with prescribed lethal medication. Their decision came just four months after California cancer patient Brittany Maynard renewed national debate on the controversial law.

The “New York End-of-Life Options Act” authorizes doctors to prescribe medicine that leads to death for individuals with terminal illnesses, defined as incurable and irreversible diseases that have been medically confirmed and would result in death of the patient within six months. The adults would have the option to choose when they wish to administer the medicine.

New York state Sen. Diane Savino, the main sponsor of the measure, said the process honors patients’ rights to make informed decisions about dying and respects their beliefs following a terminal diagnosis. The bill, modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, calls for two witnesses to verify that the adult’s request is voluntary.

“The option to end one’s suffering when facing the final stages of a terminal illness should be a basic human right, and not dependent upon one’s zip code,” Savino said in a press release. “With solid support for aid in dying across every demographic, I believe there will be strong bipartisan backing for this bill.” A fellow Democrat, state Sen. Brad Hoylman, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The issue was recently brought to the forefront by Maynard, who became a public face of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law this past year. Last April, at the age of 29, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She moved from her home in California to Oregon because the state’s law allows terminally ill patients to choose when and where they want to die. She decided to end her life on Nov. 1 at her home in Portland, Oregon, surrounded by close friends and family.

Savino recently met with Maynard’s husband, Dan Diaz, to learn more about the woman’s experience with her illness and access to medical aid in dying. Diaz promised his late wife that he would help lawmakers pass Death with Dignity laws, he reportedly told the senator.
“Having aid in dying as an end-of-life option provided great relief to Brittany,” Diaz said in a statement. “It enabled my wife to focus on living her last days to the fullest, rather than living in fear of dying in agony from terminal brain cancer.”

A group of doctors and terminally ill patients filed a lawsuit in a New York court earlier this month, urging lawmakers to declare doctor-assisted suicide legal, The New York Times reported. A physician who helps a patient die currently can be prosecuted under the manslaughter statute of state law. They are suing the attorney general and district attorneys for upholding that law in five counties where the plaintiffs live and practice.

Another patient in California, 53-year-old Christie White, filed a lawsuit last week challenging the state’s ban on assisted suicide. She wants doctors to have the right to help terminally ill patients end their lives. It is currently a felony in California for anyone to deliberately aid, advise, or encourage another person in dying.

And in Connecticut, the state’s highest court ruled in January that a 17-year-old girl unwilling to continue receiving care for her cancer must continue chemotherapy. The court’s chief justice decided the teenager, identified in court documents only as “Cassandra C.,” is not mature under any standard to demand she doesn’t want to receive life-saving medical treatment.

Five states — Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — currently allow patients to seek medical help in dying. Lawmakers in at least 13 other states and Washington, D.C., have introduced similar bills since Maynard’s story made headlines in early October.

Critics say allowing doctors to aid in a patient’s death would undermine the physician’s role as a healer.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Supreme Court overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide, signaling a western government’s embrace of changes to the law.

The Huffington Post : February 17, 2015 : by Christopher Mathias

New York state lawmakers have introduced a “death with dignity” bill that would make the state the sixth in the U.S. to allow terminally ill adults to end their own lives with doctor-prescribed medicine.

“The option to end one’s suffering when facing the final stages of a terminal illness should be a basic human right, and not dependent upon one’s zip code,” state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) said in a statement Tuesday.

Savino is the primary co-sponsor of the New York End-of-Life Options Act, which would allow doctors to prescribe “medication that a patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death.”

The bill, introduced last week, is modeled after Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” law, which grabbed headlines in October after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer, moved to the state from California in order to end her life. Maynard was surrounded by her family in Portland when she died on Nov. 1.

Savino said she met last month with Maynard’s family, including her husband, Dan Diaz.

“Meeting Mr. Diaz only strengthened my commitment to helping every New Yorker gain access to the option of aid in dying,” Savino said. “I was honored to meet Brittany’s family and to learn how this option improved her well-being during her illness, as well as how having to move to another state only made her final months that much harder.”

Diaz said in a statement Tuesday that Oregon’s law enabled his wife “to focus on living her last days to the fullest, rather than living in fear of dying in agony from terminal brain cancer.”

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) told The Huffington Post Tuesday that Maynard’s story “moved” him to co-sponsor the bill.

“I’ve had two close friends who had terminal diagnoses and I feel like people deserve a choice when they’re in that situation,” Hoylman said. “It potentially gives them great empowerment over their disease.”

Since Maynard’s story, the group Compassion and Choices — which advocates for end-of-life rights — says lawmakers in 13 states and Washington D.C., have either introduced or are preparing death with dignity legislation.

In addition to Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico have death with dignity laws.

The New York state bill would require two doctors to confirm that the patient’s prognosis is terminal, and two witnesses to attest that the patient’s request for life-ending medicine is voluntary. It would protect physicians from criminal or civil liability if they fulfill an eligible patient’s request to receive the medicine.

Hoylman said that because of the controversial nature of the bill, it will likely take time before it’s brought to a vote. “We’ll have to engage our colleagues and the public and medical profession, among others,” he said.

Plus, he added, many will have “moral and religious considerations.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, for example, told The New York Daily News recently that “the real death with dignity, the real heroes, are those who die naturally, who take each day at a time, savoring everything they’ve got.”

Hoylman said he “deeply respect[s]” those with reservations like Dolan’s, but believes “it is up to individuals to make those choices.”

“This is a bill that will respect differences, but allow people the option — those that have already given terminal diagnoses — who we want to have more control” in their final days, Hoylman said.

Hoylman said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) hasn’t indicated whether he’d support the bill. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a Huffington Post request for comment.

Gothamist : February 13, 2015 : by Jake Dobkin

Photo by Jake Dobkin

Photo by Jake Dobkin

As the city grapples with a homelessness epidemic not seen since the Great Depression, elected officials gathered at City Hall yesterday to protest the fact that funding for youth homeless shelters has been slashed more than 66% since 2008.

State Senator Brad Hoylman noted that were over 5,000 instances in 2012 where teenagers were turned away from shelters due to a lack of beds, a huge increase over the 573 that were turned away in 2008, the most recent data available.

“It’s unconscionable that thousands of kids struggle each year to find a safe place to sleep,” Hoylman said.

New York Comptroller Scott Stringer, who yesterday released a report noting the renewed strength of the New York City economy, said the “peace dividend” of higher tax revenues could easily be used to solve this problem, as the $4.75 million Hoylman’s coalition is asking for during this month’s budget negotiations is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the $77.7 billion city budget and $141 billion State Budget.

According to the Coalition for Homeless Youth, there are 953 beds for homeless youths in their teens and early 20s across the state—the restored budget allocation would add 1,000 more beds to the system.

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James noted that lesbian, gay, and transgender teens make up 40% of the homeless youth population, and many are forced to leave home because of their sexual orientation, and a lack of beds in the shelter system often forces them to engage in “survival sex” to pay for a place to sleep. “Housing is one of the strongest preventatives of HIV,” James said, and added that the current amount allocated is a “badge of dishonor for all of us.”

Torreano Santiago, age 20, said he’d been kicked out of an abusive, homophobic home. “At certain times I would be afraid. When am I going to get my next meal?”

Santiago is currently living at Sylvia’s Place, a shelter for LGBT youth. “They are helping me. But if there’s no funding, where am I going to go?”

Mahayla McElroy is a 23-year-old transgender woman currently living at the Ali Forney Center.

“I know so many people that got killed or murdered and raped just because of a lack of services, because of budget cuts,” McElroy said. “And it is really hard to see someone that you really care about on the street, or on a memorial poster, because last week you’ve just seen them and then you find out that they’re dead because they couldn’t have a stable place to go to, because of a lack of resources.”

Jim Bolas, the Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, pointed out that “available shelter actually saves the state and localities from paying exorbitant costs to the medical, jail, or mental health care systems” caring for teenagers who have been forced into sexual exploitation.

Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer was also at yesterday’s rally, and noted that the $4.75 million the coalition was asking for is still below the “full 2008 level of $6.3 million”, and called for the restoration of the full amount.

According the Coalition for the Homeless, 60,352 people are currently homeless in New York City. Of this total, 48,026 are children and adults in 14,159 families. There were also 3,262 single women, and 9,064 single men in the New York City shelter system, and at least 3000 “unsheltered homeless,” mainly men, living on the streets.

The Associated Press : February 12, 2015 : by Michael Virtanen

ALBANY — Citing thousands of young runaways turned away from New York shelters whose funding has been slashed, a state lawmaker is calling on the Legislature to restore the money.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, said it’s “unconscionable” that in one of the wealthiest parts of the world, they struggle to find a safe place to sleep.

Hoylman, Empire State Pride Agenda, the Coalition for Homeless Youth and other advocates plan to go to City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday to call on the Legislature to restore funding for homeless youth shelters. Last month, he asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to allocate $4.75 million more for them in his budget proposal. It wasn’t included.

The advocates said funding for youth shelters was cut from $6.3 million in 2008 down to $2.35 million annually the past four years.
Office of Children and Family Services data show 5,000 instances when youths were turned away in 2012 from homeless shelters with no available space.

“This is a moral imperative,” Hoylman said. “This investment will help protect the most vulnerable among us from sexual abuse and trafficking, reduce HIV/AIDS transmissions and keep our kids out of the juvenile justice system.”

The Cuomo administration will consider it, spokesman Richard Azzopardi said. Its budget proposal for the year starting April 1 says the state currently spends about $780 million on services for the homeless.

The administration proposes investing $220 million over the next several years for New York City rental assistance and other programs for the city’s “growing” homeless population, while using $183 million from the recent JPMorgan bank settlement to create 5,000 more units of supportive housing, the city’s rental assistance program and to cap the rent contributions of welfare recipients with HIV and AIDS.

“The Governor has spent his entire adult life fighting homelessness,” Azzopardi said. “We’ll continue to work with all stakeholders to find the best way to eradicate homelessness in New York.”

Reuters : February 12, 2015 : by Ellen Wulfhorst

(Reuters) – New York’s biannual Fashion Week opens on Thursday bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the city and outweighing the economic benefits of the U.S. Open, the Super Bowl or the New York City Marathon.

The scores of designer fashion shows, big-spending celebrity clients and lavish parties generate an annual economic impact of $887 million, according to a newly released analysis by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

More than 230,000 people attend the February and September shows that unveil the coming season’s designs, packing into hotels and restaurants and yielding an estimated $532 million in direct visitor spending, it said.

“That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of money,” U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York said in announcing the results at a recent Fashion Week event.

About 180,000 people are employed in the fashion industry in New York, according to the study.

“It creates a climate where other people want to come to New York City,” said state Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district encompasses many fashion industry locations in Manhattan.

“There’s something exciting about being in a city that values creativity,” he said.

The week’s economic benefit tops the annual U.S. Open tennis tournament, which generates about $800 million, the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey that generated about $550 million and the New York City Marathon that generates $340 million, according to the report.

This week’s shows include newcomers Thomas Wylde, a California-based designer popular with Hollywood actresses, and Norwegian designer Nina Skarra, whose environmentally conscious designs are worn by European celebrities.

In the works are two additional Fashion Weeks dedicated solely to menswear, said Steven Kolb, head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The first will be held July 13-16 and the other in January.

This Fashion Week, which concludes on Feb. 19, will be the last in which many main events are held in tents at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.

Under settlement of a 2013 lawsuit over use of the park for commercial purposes, Fashion Week will need a new home after next week.

“They’re working to find a new, cool, authentic space,” Kolb said.

New York Post : February 9, 2015 : by Aaron Short

State Senator Jeff Klein is breaking up with his law firm and backing efforts to limit the outside income that legislators earn, according to reports on Monday.

“I already told my partners I won’t handle anymore cases, see any more clients, not get any income at all from the firm and remove my name from the sign and the website,” said Klein (D-Bronx) in an interview with NY1.

Klein said he would voluntarily cut ties with his firm Klein Calderoni & Santucci, from which he earned between $75,000 and $100,000 last year according to state records.

He said lawmakers must “win back the voters’ trust” after a dozen legislators have been arrested on public corruption charges over the past several years

“I think the way we do this is to not have any potential conflicts at all moving forward,” said Klein to NY1. “I think this is sort of a clarion call for all. If you want to earn outside income, you shouldn’t be in public service.”

Klein’s call, coupled with a salary increase for state lawmakers, goes farther than ethics reforms other legislative leaders have proposed this year.

Klein’s proposal to limit outside income isn’t just limited to salaries – earnings such as Gov. Cuomo’s $700,000 book advance would also be curbed.
Cuomo last week linked to passage of the state budget to a bill that would force legislators to disclosure their outside income, stop using campaign funds as a personal piggybank, and closely monitor daily expenses.

Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Monday to limit lawmakers’ outside incomes to 15 percent of their base salaries – or only $12,000 above the $79,500 they earn for their part-time gigs.

The bill would affect relatively few legislators – only 17 out of 213 legislators earn more than $100,000 per year.

“The only way we can restore the public’s trust in state government is through action not another session of empty promises in the wake of another scandal,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers).

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he was open to putting a cap on outside incomes and has formed a new Office of Ethics and Compliance to clean up the people’s house Ethics reform has stalled for years as Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have long fought disclosures and income limits.

Silver allegedly squirreled away $6 million in payments from two private law firms for a decade before prosecutors charged him with public corruption and froze about $4 million of his assets.

Skelos recorded earning between $150,000 and $250,000 at the firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, which has drawn the attention of federal investigators according to reports.

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said they are working with the governor and assembly to improve ethics and disclosure laws instead of “grandstanding.”

But Silver’s arrest last month on federal corruption charges has energized reformers seeking to overhaul the state’s ethics laws.

“It’s everyone responsibility to disrupt what is a dysfunctional system of governance, where New Yorkers have deservedly lost trust in our ability to do our work,” said state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) who introduced a bill to cap outside income. “This has afflicted both houses.”

Daily News : February 9, 2015 : by Glenn Blain

Five members of the State Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and 10 members of the Assembly are targets of new measures being pushed by Cuomo that would limit or eliminate outside income for lawmakers. Each of the 16 named earned at least 100G from legal work or other outside jobs.

ALBANY — At least 16 lawmakers stand to lose a lot — or would at least have a lot of explaining to do — if Gov. Cuomo gets his way on ethics reform.

The 16 all earned at least $100,000 from legal work or other outside jobs in 2013 and are the prime targets of measures being pushed by Cuomo to limit or eliminate outside income.

They include Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County), five other members of the Senate and 10 members of the Assembly, according to financial statements on file with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Several other lawmakers, including Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx and Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), may have also exceeded $100,000 in outside income depending on how high their actual earnings were, records showed. Lawmakers are required to disclose incomes only within certain ranges, not exact amounts.

Cuomo cited lawmakers who earn more than $100,000 a year in outside income as a reason for beefing up New York’s laws to require “total disclosure” of the income. He also suggested the possibility of making the job of state lawmaker full time, which would place drastic limits on the amount of outside income legislators can earn or even prohibit it, although that seems unlikely.

“The past has shown that this problem will reoccur unless we have total disclosure that leaves no question unanswered and brings sunlight to the ethical shadows,” Cuomo told an audience at New York University last week.

On Monday, Senate Democrats also proposed a package of ethics reforms, including a bill that would cap legislators’ outside income at 15% of their taxpayer-funded salary.

“This should take precedent over anything that we do in Albany at this time,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the income bill.

The governor said he would not approve a state budget this year unless it addressed ethics reform, adding that he wants officials to disclose all the outside income they receive, “from who, for what and whether there is any connection to the state government or the office that they hold.”

Lawmakers’ outside income — while allowed under New York’s notoriously lax ethics law — was put under a new spotlight following last month’s arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Much of the $4 million in bribes and kickbacks Silver was charged with accepting were disguised as legal and referral fees, prosecutors said. Silver (D-Manhattan) resigned as speaker last week.

“It all comes down to what they do to earn it,” said Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey. “We can no longer trust and we need to verify the outside income earned by lawmakers.”

Skelos reported earning between $150,000 and $250,000 from his work at the law firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek. Four other GOP senators — Michael Nozzolio of Seneca County, John Flanagan of Suffolk County, Michael Ranzenhoffer of Erie County and Phil Boyle of Suffolk County — also reported making at least $100,000 from outside legal work.

Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, a former Democratic Conference leader, who is awaiting trial on federal embezzlement charges, reported earning as much as $250,000 from a mix of legal work and rental income.

Aside from Silver, nine members of the Assembly listed outside incomes of $100,000 or more, including Harry Bronson of Rochester, Stephen Hawley of Batavia, Steve Katz of Westchester, Charles Lavine of Nassau County, John McDonald of Albany, Aravella Simotas of Queens, Frank Skartados of Newburgh, Phil Steck of Schenectady and David Weprin of Queens.

Most of the lawmakers who earned more than $100,000 last year did not respond to the Daily News’ requests for comment on whether they supported Cuomo’s call for “total disclosure” of outside income or possible caps on such money.

Of the handful who did respond, the majority offered qualified support for Cuomo’s proposals, stressing the need to see more details from the governor.

“I certainly join him in the call for greater disclosure but I want to see the specifics,” said Boyle, who also added he was open to the idea of having a full-time Legislature.

A spokesman for Skelos referred to a statement he issued immediately after Cuomo’s speech saying the Senate GOP was open to reforms and “will take a close look” at what the governor proposes.

Other lawmakers were annoyed that Cuomo, who stands to earn more than $700,000 from his book, is making an issue of outside income.

“What’s missing in all of this is any discussion about the governor’s ethics,” said a legislative source.

Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), who in previous years has earned more than $100,000 from his legal work but did not cross that threshold in 2013, said New York’s existing laws seem sufficient.

“We’ve got so many disclosure laws right now and we’ve got people under indictment now — one was convicted (Thursday), (former Sen.) Malcolm Smith (of Queens), with the current disclosure law,” DeFrancisco said. “My point is you have to balance between the right of privacy of legislators and clients and the right for the people to know.”