Morning Buzz | Bloomberg’s ‘Good News’

The warmest day of the year so far, with the temperature reaching 63 degrees, but cloudy skies. Don’t pack your coats yet, though; winter weather is on its way back. Clouds and wind to continue through the weekend.

Unveiling his budget proposal on Thursday, a happy Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg summed up New York City’s financial health with a phrase scarcely heard in the halls of government these days: “It’s good news.”

While other cities and states grapple with calamitous balance sheets and mass layoffs, Mr. Bloomberg proposed a $65.6 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year, about the same size as the current budget. This time, however, most of it will come from the city’s own coffers, which have increased tax revenue by $2 billion this year. [NYT]

But while the “good news” made many feared cuts unnecessary, it did not particularly please the 4,666 teachers expected to be laid off as part of the city’s plan to get rid of a total of 6,166 teachers from the classroom, bringing the teacher/student rate from 30 to 37. “New York City has to make choices,” Mr. Bloomberg said. [Daily News]

Schools

Despite the need for cuts, a new Education Department policy is penalizing New York City principals who make spending cuts by taxing leftover money at a rate of 50 percent. In a time of shrinking budgets, principals are loath to spend money they would rather save for next school year, to satisfy more basic needs like retaining enough teachers to keep class sizes down. Instead, they are being pushed to buy new curtains and more paper for their classrooms. If principals do not want to lose the saved money, they must spend it — and fast, by March 4. Let the shopping begin. [NYT]

After reporting on a new set of statewide graduation statistics showing that only 41 percent of students are leaving high school prepared for college and well-paying careers, even though 77 percent of students are graduating, we at City Room asked our readers for their suggestions. Your ideas so far included learning from the Japanese and having our “little brats” clean their own schools to learn some discipline and “zero-tolerance for non-achievers.” Others suggested holding principals — and the mayor — liable for the kids’ success. Keep commenting on our post or let the state know what you think by 11.59 p.m. today, by filling out this online survey. [NYT]

Crime & Public Safety

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Lower Manhattan will be left on its own to investigate armed bank robberies, as the New York Police Department has decided to pull all of its detectives out of a joint task force with the agency. While detectives will still be “lent out” to the F.B.I. on a as-needed basis, the pullout is in tune with the Police
Department’s head count shrinking by 6,000 officers in the last decade and bank robberies reaching low levels, despite a recent holiday surge. The F.B.I. did not seem thrilled. [NYT]

Meanwhile, in the Bronx, an Italian-American merchant became the hero of the neighborhood after he shot one of three people attempting to rob his jewelry store at gunpoint. Local fans seemed energized by the event, which people here saw as a testament to the toughness of one of the last Italian neighborhoods in New York City. And yes, he did have a license for that gun. [NYT]

People & Neighborhoods

In Harlem, a bitter face-off over an ice rink saw local residents complain that their children were being squeezed out of a state park built for the neighborhood to make room for wealthy private-school students from Manhattan and Riverdale. The argument has heated up, raising issues of gender and racial equity in our public parks — with some local residents threatening a civil rights suit. [Daily News]

Narnia

Perry Moore, 39, the executive producer of the blockbuster “Chronicles of Narnia,” was found dead, apparently of a drug overdose, in his Houston Street high-rise. [NY Post]

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