Publications & Projects

The following publications and projects were written and undertaken by Lookout Hill principals and associates.
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Consumer Protection

We expose unfair and dishonest business practices and help New Yorkers become smarter consumers through consumer guides, surveys and alerts.

Highway Robbery Office of the NYC Comptroller Documented how New York's auto insurers earned the highest auto insurer profits in the nation and called for a $1.5 billion reduction in insurance premiums. Premiums were subsequently reduced.
The Consumer Bible - 1001 Ways to Shop Smart Workman Press Ralph Nader called this book, "a giant peace-of-mind reference." Co-authored with Mark Green and Nancy Youman.
Ranking Banking scorecards State Sen. Franz Leichter, Office of the NYC Public Advocate Scorecard annually ranked New York's banks based on account fees and deposit interest rates. Helped New Yorkers get the best banking deal.
More consumer protection publications
The Consumer Guide to New York City Hospitals Office of the NYC Public Advocate Published key indicators such as percentage of attending or staff doctors who are Board-certified, patient complaint rates, nurse-to-patient ratios and mortality rates.
Comparison Shop for Less Expensive Prescription Drugs NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, NYC Public Advocate Results of surveys of prices at 100 NYC drugstores of the 20 most commonly prescribed medications. To help New Yorkers comparison shop it also showed average prices.
Consumer Guide to Credit Cards NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Showed that interest rates for major bank and retailer-issued credit cards and explained hidden fees and complex interest rate calculation methods.
Don't Bank on Our Ads: A Review of New York City Bank Advertising and Promotional Literature NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Investigation found that major banks were engaged in deceptive advertising and rarely disclosed account fees in promotional materials.
Consumer Alert: The Cost of Electronic Money Office of the NYC Public Advocate Report and guide explained and compared ATM and debit card fees charged by New York City banks.
Home Equity Loans: You Can't Tell a Loan by Its Advertisements NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Compared home equity loans offered at 43 different banks and explained pitfalls and complexities in selecting loan. Led to consumer law enforcement action against banks for misleading ads.
Dirty Shopping: A Review of Food Store Sanitary Code Enforcement in New York City State Senator Franz Leichter Ranked food store chains by State sanitary inspections findings and showed results by ZIP code. Also showed that sanitary regulation enforcement was weak and recommended changes in the enforcement program.

Economic & Workforce Development

Our research identifies challenges to New York's growth and advances public policies promoting economic expansion and employment opportunities for all New Yorkers.

Unleashing the Economic Power of the 35 Percent JobsFirstNYC JobsfirstNYC’s new research and advocacy report found that 305,000 young adults in New York City with limited education are either not working, or work at low-wage jobs. The report presents policy recommendations to help them achieve financial independence.
The National Work Readiness Credential: Who Pays the Price? JobsFirstNYC JobsFirstNYC's research and advocacy report found that the National Work Readiness Credential is not a valid measurement of work readiness for young adults in New York City.
New York in the World: The Impact of the Global Economy on New York City and New York State Center for an Urban Future and SUNY Levin Institute Found that New York gained and lost more from globalization than all other states.
More Economic & Workforce Development
Now Hiring Center for an Urban Future Identified more than 26,000 annual NYC job openings in two dozen occupations that could be filled by young people who currently are not in school and not working.
Turning the Workforce Development Model of the Last Century Into a Skills Model for Today Office of the NYC Comptroller Identified 35 NYC-administered programs spending a total of nearly $1 billion on workforce development and training.  Discussed New York City’s failure to coordinate these programs and proposed reforms to restructure and rationalize the administration of these programs and better align them with the skills needed by employers.
Building in Good Jobs: Linking Workforce Development with Economic Development Pratt Center for Community and Economic Development By Laura-Wolf Powers, with Jeremy Reiss and Margaret Stix. Analyzes strategies to create quality jobs and training opportunities for lower-income residents by leveraging urban redevelopment projects.
The Impact of Mounting Flight Delays on New York City's Economy Office of the New York City Comptroller Reported that airline on-time performance in the New York area had plummeted and was, by far, the worst in the nation. Showed how, if not addressed, this would hurt the New York City’s economic competitiveness and contribute significantly to airport vicinity air pollution.
Recommendations of the Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements Office of the New York City Comptroller Devised a process to provide transparent and enforceable benefits that offset the impact of major real estate development projects on communities in which they are located.
Community Entrepreneurial Development Office of the NYC Public Advocate Blueprint for small business development proposed borough business assistance centers, later launched as Business Solutions Centers.
The Future is Now: Addressing the Skills Gap Through Career and Technical Education in New York City High Schools Office of the NYC Comptroller Showed how the City’s Department of Education underfunded and shortchanged its Career and Technical Education high schools. Shortly after the report was release the City appointed a CTE Task Force.

Land Use

We seek to promote land uses that promote the economic health and well-being of New Yorkers

Recommendations of the Task Force on Public Benefit Agreements Office of the NYC Comptroller Devised a process to provide transparent and enforceable benefits that offset the impact of major real estate development projects on communities in which they are located.
Out-of-Scale Development in Flood Zone City Island Civic Association Advocacy before the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals resulted in a 75 percent reduction in the size of a proposed development and increased protection against flood hazards.
Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center Developed operating plan and program for East Harlem arts center.

Healthcare

We focus on improving the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of healthcare services, eliminating health disparities, and helping New Yorkers navigate the healthcare system.

The High Costs of Weak Compliance with the New York State Hospital Adverse Event Reporting and Tracking System Office of the New York City Comptroller Documented widespread failure of hospitals to report adverse events, as required by law, to the New York State Health Department and led the New York State Assembly and Senate Health Committees to convene a joint public hearing on hospital adverse reporting.
NYS National Abortion Rights Action League (NYS-NARAL) To preserve laws protecting abortion rights, organized 13 local chapters statewide and deployed more than 100 campaign volunteers for pro-choice NYS Senate and Assembly candidates.
Health and Wealth: Assessing and Addressing Income Disparities in the Health of New Yorkers Office of the New York City Comptroller Quantified and explored the reasons for an expanding gap in illness rates between wealthy and lower-income New Yorkers in diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.   (Glenn von Nostitz and Susan Scheer co-authors.)
The Consumer Guide to New York City Hospitals Office of the New York City Public Advocate Ranked the city’s hospitals on key indicators such as percentage of attending or staff doctors who are Board-certified, patient complaint rates, nurse-to-patient ratios and mortality rates.
More Healthcare
Vital Signs: What HMOs Don’t Tell You That You Need to Know NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Study revealed how some HMOs provided misleading information or entirely omitted important information for consumers from their marketing materials.
HMO Complaints to the New York Department of Health: Up, Up and Away Office of the New York City Public Advocate A report showing a sharp increase in consumer complaint ratios and the complaint ratios for each HMO. The report showed that the Health Department had issued few violations and virtually no fines against HMOs despite large numbers of complaints about failure to pay claims.
What Ails HMOs - A Consumer Diagnosis and Rx Office of the NYC Public Advocate The New York Times called this 150-page report an “an encyclopedic look at the services offered by 12 H.M.O.’s in the state.”  It was released in conjunction with a 16-page Consumer Guide to New York City HMOs.  More than 3,000 requests for the Guide were filled.
How Hospitals Violate the “Bell” Regulations on Resident Working Conditions Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigative report documented patient harm that resulted because New York State was not enforcing State regulations that limit resident maximum weekly working hours and require residents to be closely supervised.  Press Coverage of the report led to State enforcement crackdown.
Press Coverage Reports available upon request
Aftershock: Rape Survivors in Health and Hospitals Corporation Emergency Rooms Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigation found serious deficiencies in treatment of sexual assault survivors in all but one of the City’s 11 municipal hospitals. Two years later, Treating Rape Survivors: Progress in the Treatment of Sexual Assault Survivors in HHC Emergency Rooms, reported major improvements had been made, including dedicated rooms in ERs for sexual assault survivors and new  treatment protocols.
Press Coverage Reports available upon request
Compromising Your Drug of Choice: How HMOs are Dictating Your Next Prescription and Pharmaceutical Payola: How Secret Commercial Deals Are Dictating Your Next Prescription and Harming Your Health Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigative reports exposed how managed care companies improved their bottom lines by pressuring pharmacists to change to lower-cost prescriptions. Follow-up study provided evidence of patient harm when commercial, rather than medical, considerations influenced the choice of drugs. Reports were the topic of two columns by Bob Herbert in the New York Times.
False Fronts: The Failure of Privatized Hospital Accreditation Inspections in New York Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigative report exposed how hospitals were easily gaming the accreditation inspections conducted by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which had replaced the periodic inspections conducted by the NYS Department of Health.

Economic Justice

We investigate and challenge practices that disadvantage low-income New Yorkers and people of color in the marketplace and workplace.

Don't Bank on Us: ATM Availability and Bank Branch Hours in Low-Income Communities Office of the NYC Public Advocate Documented the virtual absence of ATMs in low-income communities. Found shorter bank branch hours in branches in branches in low-income versus higher-income communities.
More Economic Justice
The Poor Pay More... for Less NYC Department of Consumer Affairs One of the reports in this series documented the victimization of thousands of homeowners, primarily in low-income communities, by home improvement contractors collaborating with predatory lenders. The report, one of the first studies on predatory lending, led to license revocation of 41 home improvement contractors.  The other three reports in this widely-cited series showed how New Yorkers in low-income communities paid more for groceries, auto insurance and for retail banking services than New Yorkers who live elsewhere.

Education

We investigate public education issues such as parental involvement in schools governance, school building utilization and capital construction planning, standardized testing, graduation rates, and preparing students for occupations in demand by employers.

Growing Pains: Reforming Department of Education Capital Planning to Keep Pace with New York City's Residential Construction Office of the NYC Comptroller Growing Pains and a follow-up report one year later showed that poor planning and inadequate funding resulted in New York City school construction failing to keep pace with expanding need for additional seats in growing neighborhoods in all five boroughs.  
Powerless Parents: How the New York City Department of Education Blocks Parent Influence in Local Schools Governance Office of the NYC Comptroller Found that State law requirements for public schools to have school leadership teams were widely circumvented and Community Education Councils, also required by State law, were effectively prevented by the Department of Education from fulfilling their statutory roles, including approving proposed changes in school attendance zones and being consulted before schools are opened, expanded or closed.
More Education
The Future is Now: Assessing the Skills Gap Through Career and Technical Education in New York City High Schools Office of the NYC Comptroller Career and Technical education (CTE) programs help prevent students from dropping out and provide employers with skilled workers, but  this report showed that the City Department of Education was underfunding the 21 CTE high schools  compared to traditional high schools and provided little support to  CTE school principals.

Government Administration & Tax Policy

We evaluate government programs, services and revenue-raising measures and develop recommendations to improve their effectiveness and fairness.

The No Child Penalty Center for an Urban Future Documented that hundreds of thousands of childless low-income New Yorkers are effectively being denied the Earned Income Tax Credit.  
Follow the Money: How the Port Authority of NY and NJ Has Favored New Jersey; Follow the Money: How the Port Authority of NY and NJ Continues to Favor New Jersey Over New York Office of the NYC Public Advocate Reports issued in the late 1990s showed how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had for two decades systematically favored New Jersey over New York in capital spending and mass transit subsidies.  Reports were cited by the City in airport lease negotiations with the Port Authority.
Hurry Up and Wait: An Evaluation of How NYC Agencies Respond to Calls for Information and Assistance Office of the NYC Public Advocate Test calls to the general information and complaint lines of 15 agencies found the standard for hold periods was largely unmet. Three years later, a follow-up report found that most City agencies failed to meet their standards for how long it takes to answer phone and e-mail information and assistance requests.
More Government Administration & Tax Policy
Seniors on Hold - Waiting for SCRIE Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigative report on deficiencies in the administration of the New York City’s Senior Rent Increase Exemption program.
The NYC Transit Authority Is Dragging Its Feet on Subway Draggings: A Seven-Year Case Study in Delay and Injury Office of the NYC Public Advocate Investigative report on failure of the NYC Transit Authority  to address rising numbers of subway car side-door passenger draggings prompted the TA to accelerate a door closing mechanism upgrade.
Closing Deficits, What’s the Right Kind of Tax Increase New Democracy Project Study made the case for progressive New York State and City income tax increases and corporate tax loophole closures and explained why they would not harm New York’s economic competitiveness.
An Examination of Corporate Income Tax Credits Granted by the New York State Job Incentive Board State Senator Franz Leichter This investigative report and follow-ups reported that New York State was granting major corporations multi-million dollar business investment tax credits without adequate justification. The reports were the basis for a taxpayer lawsuit brought by the Senator that, together with media coverage of reports, ultimately led to the program’s termination. New York Times columnist Sydney Schanberg wrote that the tax credit law was “so loosely applied in the big-money cases as to approach scandal.

Labor

Our work focuses on curtailing economic exploitation of vulnerable workers, particularly immigrants, and on making workplaces safer.

It’s No Accident: Examining New York’s Workplace Deaths New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health This report reviewed all occupational fatalities in New York State in 2012 and found that many deaths could have been prevented had OSHA more effectively enforced worker safety regulations.
The Return of the Sweatshop State Senator Franz Leichter Series of reports documented that tens of thousands of immigrant workers were being victimized by wage and safety violations in hundreds of garment sweatshops. The reports received national media coverage, including figuring prominently in a PBS documentary and an ABC 20/20 segment, and led to labor law enforcement crackdowns by the U.S. and New York State Departments of Labor.
Low Pay, Hard Work: The Exploitation of Blind Workers in New York's Sheltered Workshops State Senator Franz Leichter Report, prepared with extensive input from the National Federation of the Blind , worksite visits and worker interviews, found that legally-blind workers in sheltered workshops were paid subminimum wages for work on private and government contracts even though they were as productive as sighted workers.
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