Groups Ask State Financial Services Agency To Release Zombie Property Data: Decry New Exception to FOIL

Reinvent Albany Sharply Criticizes NYC Council Bills Weakening Campaign Finance Board

NYPD Takes Major Open Data Step: Publishes 10 Years of Crime Data

Yesterday, the NYPD published a massive data set of historic crime data in the City’s open data portal. The data includes 5.5 million criminal complaints that were filed from January 2006 to December 2015, and covers “all valid felony, misdemeanor, and violation crimes reported to the New York City Police Department.” This data release is one of the largest of any kind in recent years, and provides a huge increase in the amount of publicly-available crime data. Previously, the NYPD only published historical information for the “seven major” felonies on the portal. (The 2016 Year-to-Date crimes are in a separate data set.)

Previous to this data release, the NYPD aggregated this data by years and category, or displayed it on the CompStat 2.0 portal, which mapped some crime data, but did not provide open data that the public could analyze or map themselves.  Reinvent Albany has been pushing for the release of this data for sometime, and had requested it via a Freedom of Information request in June 2016. We and the NYC Transparency Working Group had previously criticized the NYPD for not publishing the data underlying the Compstat 2.0 website.

The new NYPD data is a bonanza for social scientists and public policy analysts. The newly released data is already geocoded—which allows for easy mapping—and it features a data dictionary to explain the contents of each column and explains the assumptions made in the collection of the data.

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The data powering this map is now open and bulk-downloadable.

With this release of data, NYC catches up to other major cities like ChicagoBoston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia in publishing incident-level crime information for bulk download. Historically, incident-level crime data was available to select researchers, but now anyone can use this data to better understand public safety in NYC.

Pointed Questions for Governor Cuomo About His New Ethics and Contracting Reform Proposal

At 3pm today, Governor Cuomo unexpectedly released a Statement On Proposed Ethics Reforms. We are still mulling over what he wrote, but we are struck by how cynical it was for the governor to begin his statement with a long attack on CUNY and an attempt to create a false equivalence between CUNY’s problems and the $800m bid rigging scandal centered around SUNY Polytechnic, SUNY Research Foundation, and state controlled non-profits controlled by his administration. As measured by public dollars at risk, the SUNY Poly / Cuomo administration scandal is hundreds of  times larger than anything CUNY was doing.

We have serious questions about what the governor is proposing. In particular, two of his proposals relate to Clean Contracting goals that we have been advocating for.

Re: His pledge to not accept campaign contributions from companies involved in an RFP or for six months after winning an award:

  1. Why use such a weak and narrow definition of “doing business”? NYC defines “doing business” as —  include engaging in, applying for, or holding any of the following: contracts, franchises, concessions, lobbying, grants, pension fund investment contracts, economic development agreements, real property agreements, and land use actions.
  2. How does this stop the practice of “tithing,” in which a business makes a contribution after winning a state contract? What is the difference between waiting a month or 7 months to tithe?
  3. Why not restrict/ban contributions from any business with a live contract or MOU or seeking to do business by responding to RFI, RFQ, or RFP?
  4. What about people seeking to do business via MOU — which is common with Empire State Development Corporation deals? Does this apply?
  5. What about people seeking / doing business with SUNY RF, SUNY Polytechnic, or a state controlled non-profit
  6. What about people seeking /doing business with a State Authority?
  7. What about people seeking /doing business with a State-funded Public Private Partnership?

Re: Chief Procurement Officer:

  1. Why create a Chief Procurement Officer within the executive branch — which is not independent of the executive — instead of empowering an independent oversight body, which we already have under the state constitution and is called the Comptroller? It is very hard for people and agencies to investigate and oversee themselves.
  2. The Governor has repeatedly cited delays as a major reason for taking away the Comptroller’s power to review SUNY contracts. Why will the new Chief Procurement Officer not delay things for agencies?
  3. Will the CPO have to approve Authority contracts? SUNY? SUNY Polytechnic? SUNY Research Foundation? Why and why not? The contracts at the center of the SUNY Polytechnic bid-rigging scandal were between state controlled non-profits “Fort Schuyler Management Corporation and real estate developers. Would such contracts be reviewed by the new CPO? What about contracts between AIM Photonics Institute and vendors? AIM Photonics is a P3 that is 2/3rds funded by NYS to the tune of $200m.

Leading Transparency and Budget Watchdogs Call Again on Governor to Take Lead on Clean Contracting and Pay to Play Reforms

Watchdogs say Governor Cuomo must work to restore public trust after scandal involving $780 million in rigged economic development contracts.

Today in Albany, leading watchdog groups released a letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to include Clean Contracting reforms in any special session to renew 421-a real estate tax abatements. The groups also discussed the lack of of urgency or progress in fixing the structural problems that led to the State’s historic bid rigging scandal.