City to Poor: Get a Job! Just Don't Miss Your (Mandatory) Job Search Seminar

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www.weknowmemes.com

As if being poor in New York City weren't enough of an indignity -- affordable apartments are nearly impossible to find, your kids go to schools with no classroom supplies because the parent associations can't afford to foot the bill, and nobody wants to buy your $7 cupcakes -- add "trapped in a bureaucratic hellhole with no escape" to the list. That's the conclusion of "Guilty Until Proven Innocent," a new study out today from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies that finds that at any given time, nearly one-quarter of New Yorkers receiving welfare benefits are in the process of being "sanctioned" -- having their benefits cut for perceived infractions of city rules -- and that when the city is challenged, most of the time it either backs down or has its decision overruled by a judge.

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Local Pols Say Federal Government is Getting in the Way of NYC's First Outdoor Film Studio *UPDATED*

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Sam Levin
City Councilman Jimmy Van Brammer with Sen. Chuck Schumer, representatives from Kaufman Studios, and other local elected officials.
New York City is oh so very close to being a better city for film and television than Hollywood -- if the federal government would just get out of the damn way!

At least that was the message today on the corner of 36th Street in Astoria, Queens, where Sen. Chuck Schumer, flanked by relevant neighborhood politicians, called on the National Park Service to stop making it difficult for a local film company to build New York City's first-ever outdoor studio.

This project -- which would convert 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues into a movie studio lot -- apparently could make all the difference in attracting filmmakers and production companies to New York City, instead of Los Angeles, or Toronto, or New Orleans. That means, you guessed it, lots of jobs and economic development, all on one block in Queens.

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Mayor Releases New Budget With Childcare Cuts, Gets Very Annoyed at Reporters

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Sam Levin
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, responding to the mayor's budget proposal this afternoon.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg released his $68.7 billion executive budget proposal today and patted himself on the back for leading the city in a speedy recovery that's better than the rest of the country. The new budget for 2013 has no tax increases and relies on $6.2 billion in savings generated through deficit closing actions his city agencies have taken since 2007, the mayor reported today at City Hall.

He began his presentation by telling reporters that the city's job growth has improved faster than the rest of the country, thanks to the diverse economy he has supported and the many successful industries that are attracting folks to New York.

Of note, the mayor's budget increases city funding for education from $13.3 billion in 2012 to $13.6 billion in 2013, which will up the total number of teachers in the school system and maintain overall funding levels -- a part of the budget that the City Council and its speaker are applauding.

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Comptroller's Office Clashes with Mayor in Prevailing Wage Policy Shift

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City Comptroller John Liu.
A move by Mike Bloomberg to give the mayor regulatory control of nearly 10,000 unionized trade workers would take power away from the comptroller, who is, unsurprisingly, not happy about this policy shift.

The mayor said this morning that it's common sense to eliminate a dated and unfair policy that favors a small group of workers, but representatives from Comptroller John Liu's office, in statements sent to the Voice yesterday afternoon, are firing back that it's a fiscally irresponsible idea. The policy as is, with the comptroller setting trade workers' wages, works well, Liu's office said.

The mayor's order, first reported on yesterday, would eliminate a century-old rule that gives the comptroller the power to set "prevailing wages" for carpenters, plumbers, and other trade workers. Unions representing these city workers were contacted earlier this week and told that the city is making this shift, which essentially means that they will be subject to collective bargaining with city negotiators in the future -- the way most unions operate.

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Advocates Criticize Mayor's Cuts to After-School, Child Care

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Sam Levin
City Councilwoman Diana Reyna at City Hall earlier this year. Today, she expressed concerns about child care cuts.
It's the budget dance!

It's that wonderful time of the year when advocacy groups take turns on the steps of City Hall protesting the budget cuts in their areas of interest. Last week, we reported on some advocates angry with the city's proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS services in the mayor's budget unveiled last month. Those guys went all out. Today, we've got for you another campaign of upset folks -- this time targeting potential losses to the city's after-school and child care programs.

Advocates from this newly-formed coalition called Campaign for Children say that this is more than just the typical dance, arguing that this time the proposed cuts threaten to significantly hurt early childhood education in the city.

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Leaked City Document Sparks Fears And Frustrations for New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS

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Sam Levin
Advocacy group VOCAL-NY at a City Hall rally earlier this year.
An HIV/AIDS advocacy group has got its hands on an internal government document that the group says is cause for major concern -- and not just because the city is making policy changes behind closed doors, advocates said today.

Voices Of Community Advocates & Leaders (VOCAL-NY), an organization that advocates for the rights of HIV-positive New Yorkers, released a document last night that organizers say outlines a risky restructuring of the city agency responsible for supporting this population.

The document, a letter from the Human Resources Administration commissioner to "senior staff," with the subject "Agency Reorganization," lays out a plan to alter the oversight system for New Yorkers who rely on the HIV/AIDS Services Administration, or HASA, which is a part of the city's HRA agency.

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MTA Goes After East Village Artist for Painting on Used Metrocards [Updated]

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Some of the artist's work.
The big bad wolf is hungry. Or jealous? EV Grieve today alerted us to the matter of East Village artist VH McKenzie, who has been creating oil paintings on discarded Metrocards that she then sells on Etsy for $48 apiece. The MTA found out about this, and sent her the following letter telling her that she needs a license in order to make art on the back of used, old Metrocards.

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Life Just Got Less Fun at the New York City Health Department

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"Life in a cubicle village."
The New York City Health Department has unleashed a whole new slew of rules for its employees, who apparently need quite a lot of instruction on how not to have any fun, not even one bit, in the office. Among the guidelines in "Life in the Cubicle Village," which was sent to employees prior to the office's move to their new headquarters in Queens, are a ban on French fries at lunches, wearing products with "noticeable odors," and decorating offices with anything that might be deemed offensive.

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East Side/West Side Dividing Line Wars Rage in Upper Manhattan

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via NYT/Marilynn K. Yee
Where does the East Side of Manhattan end, and the West side begin? This is a question we thought we always knew the answer to (you know, where street numbers start all over again, or maybe, more vaguely, where Central Park cleaves Upper Manhattan in two?). And yet, perhaps it is not so. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has brought to our attention the supposedly incorrect bus stop signs marking the sidewalks at Fifth Avenue adjacent to Central Park.

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NYC Cabbie Ticketed After Taxi Blows Up in Snowstorm

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Yesterday we posted video of the New York City cab that caught on fire in Wednesday's snowstorm and suddenly exploded. No one was injured, except, financially, the cabbie himself, who has been ticketed due to his vehicle blocking the road when a tow truck failed to come and get it soon enough. Via the New York Post, "After waiting 2½ hours at the location, the officers issued a summons," a police source said.

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