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Posts by Liz Benjamin
Mar 3rd - 4:55 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo came close to approving fracking last month, laying out a limited drilling plan for as many as 40 gas wells before changing course to await the findings of a new study after discussions with environmentalist and former brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
A timeline of Cuomo’s evolving thinking and comments on fracking.
Mayor Bloomberg was booed as he walked in the annual St. Patrick’s Parade in the hurricane-ravaged Rockaways.
Cheryl Chumley: Bloomberg “is to the Second Amendment what billionaire investor George Soros is to the free market: A resounding death knell.”
State lawyers will have to appear on March 11 to explain why the court shouldn’t issue an injunction to halt the SAFE Act as the result of several lawsuits filed against it.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple is the latest local elected official to speak out against the SAFE Act.
Republican officials are coalescing around former Community Board 3 chairman John Antoniello as the next leader of the Staten Island Republican Party.
The SI GOP has had six chairs since the end of 2002.
AG Eric Schneiderman plans to file federal and state charges against a key Native American cigarette supplier based in Canada, and against a Seneca Indian Nation-based wholesaler for distribution of millions of cartons of tobacco products that have escaped state taxation.
The state’s top lawyer wants the tax-free sales into New York halted, and tens of millions of dollars in penalties may be at stake.
New York’s wealthiest school districts spend $8,600 more per student than the poorest ones – a spending gap that school advocates said is a concerning illustration of educational inequity in the state.
Carl Paladino and Rep. Brian Higgins once called each other friends. They’re related by marriage; their wives are first cousins. But as a billboard targeting the congressman and paid for by the businessman demonstrates – not anymore.
Two of Cayuga County’s state senators – John DeFrancisco and Jim Seward – are opposed to Cuomo’s proposal to establish an early voting system in New York.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick doesn’t think “the snake oil” of residential development is the key to the future of Hudson River Park, and she’s single-handedly blocking any proposals to build housing on Pier 40.
The future of the Canadian casinos that are struggling to survive could alter the tourism landscape in Niagara Falls – and pose a cautionary tale as New York State considers adding even more casinos to upstate New York.
Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz is backing the frontrunner in the race to replace him: Sen. Eric Adams.
The Democratic Party has spent $195,940 for 666 ads featuring Cuomo on Rochester’s four major networks since Jan. 22.
“Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon is taking a lead role in NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. She has hosted and appeared at five different rallies, fundraisers and meet-and-greets in the last three months alone.
Former State Sen. Nick Spano is in a Brooklyn detention facility, just five days after his early release from federal prison and into a Bronx halfway house.
Former Gov. Mario Cuomo thought the award of best movie Oscar to ‘Argo’ w”as way off” and “just inside Hollywood politics.” He liked ‘Lincoln’, though.
A growing number of Hudson Valley communities are considering plastic bag bans.
Mar 1st - 5:48 pm
According to Mayor Bloomberg, the sequester isn’t a problem for NYC in the long term and talk of painful cuts is just “posturing.”
Obama’s response: “I guess it depends on where you sit…It’s not going to be an apocalypse as some people have said. It’s just dumb.”
The president also signaled that he wants to avoid a clash with Congress that could shut down the government at the end of March – even if it means allowing across-the-board cuts to remain in place for months.
Photographic proof that Gov. Andrew Cuomo once held a shotgun.
Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers backed Barry Grodenchik, a former assemblyman and deputy Queens borough president, in the crowded Queens BP battle.
Diet advice from the Nanny Mayor: Eat less, weigh less.
Apparently, lobster rolls are an acceptable menu option.
Newly-elected Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is “preparing legislation to circumscribe the domestic usage of drones.”
A man named Joel Rivera is running in the NYC Council race to replace term-limited Bronx Councilman and Majority Leader Joel Rivera.
GOP NYC mayoral candidate George McDonald has a new campaign website.
Two hundred twelve members of Congress filed an amicus brief in the DOMA case currently before the US Supreme Court.
Just over half of US voters think the country needs more gun control, but most feel safer living in a neighborhood where someone can own a gun for their own protection, a new Rasmussen poll found.
Carl Paladino got his Buffalo School Board campaign off to a roaring start.
More than 550 people have signaled their intent to join a state court lawsuit alleging that toxic contamination from the Love Canal landfill has created a “public health catastrophe” for neighbors of the site in Niagara Falls.
Mar 1st - 6:33 am
Sequestration day has arrived. Still no deal in sight down in D.C., thanks largely to House Speaker John Boehner.
President Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders at the White House this morning, so it’s possible a last-minute agreement to avert the automatic across-the-board spending cuts will be reached. (Congress has left for the weekend, however, so no votes will be taken).
Obama must sign an order to set the cuts in motion, and plans to do so as close to midnight as possible.
The US Senate rejected two last-ditch proposals to avoid the cuts – one proposed by Democrats, the other from Republicans.
The $85 billion worth of cuts – if they take place – will be long, slow and painful.
The White House has been highlighting all the pain these cuts will cause, but New York elected officials don’t seem terribly concerned.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.
At 10:30 a.m., the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, led by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, will hold a field hearing on post-Sandy rebuilding. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will testify. 212 Coast Guard Dr., Staten Island.
At 11:15 a.m., Latino state lawmakers and executives from Latino and mental health organizations and government officials will call for increased federal and state funding of mental health programs in NYC, 7th floor, 145 W. 15th St., Manhattan.
Sen. Tony Avella promotes his proposal to require that NYC officials change the sales and compensating use tax for diesel fuels and gasoline to a flat rate per gallon, rather than a percentage of the cost per gallon; 11:30 a.m., Kramer’s Service Station, 157-30 Willets Point Blvd., Queens.
Yesterday’s pro-gun rally attracted between 5,000 and 10,000 demonstrators – depending on whether you believe the number supplied by the Cuomo administration, which pushed through the NY SAFE Act, or organizers of the protest.
Feb 28th - 5:26 pm
NRA President David Keene on Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “(He’s) willing to sacrifice your rights as citizens and the prerogatives of this legislature on the altar of his own ambition and on the ego of Michael Bloomberg.”
Pro-gun control organizations released a video in support of the SAFE Act as a response to today’s pro-gun rights rally.
Sen. Dave Valesky appears to be having second thoughts about his “yes” vote on the SAFE Act. At the very least, he’s open to amendments.
Lots of creative signs on display outside the Capitol today.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is threatening to sue municipalities in his state that ban fracking.
“If Republicans had any brains they’d stay away from CPAC,” said Rep. Pete King, who also believes voting against Sandy aid should “disqualify anybody for president.”
King can’t believe Sen. Marco Rubio has the “balls” to raise campaign cash on Wall Street after voting “no” on Sandy aid.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns formally endorsed a ban on high-capacity magazines under consideration in Washington.
More than one in six households in New York – 17.7 percent - reported not having enough money to buy food that they or their family needed at some point during the prior twelve months.
Despite looming sequester cuts set to take effect at the end of the week, House Speaker John Boehner found time to scold lawmakers on their questionable work attire.
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Sen. Jose Serrano want an “overhaul” of the currently defunct member item system.
The Obama administration will urge the US Supreme Court to rule that voters in California were not entitled to ban same-sex marriage there, according to an administration official.
There’s going to be a medical marijuana business seminar in NYC on March 14.
Bill Samuels wants the governor to release his campaign finance reform plan “immediately.”
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was buried at West Point.
Jon Huntsman was a big hit in Chinatown.
Twenty-five years ago, on February 29, 1988, Mayor Ed Koch signed the New York City Campaign Finance Act into law.
Carl Paladino is formally announcing his campaign for a seat on the Buffalo School Board.
Feb 28th - 2:24 pm
In what has been characterized as a victory for President Obama and congressional Democrats, the House voted today to pass the US Senate’s bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, an outspoken champion of women’s rights, has been pushing hard (along with her colleagues) for this. And she wasted no time in seeking to capitalize on today’s development, sending out an announcement/fund-raising appeal for her Off the Sidelines PAC, which raising campaign cash for women candidates across the country.
“I have great news,” the junior senator wrote. “Because you refused to give up, minutes ago, the House of Representatives finally joined the Senate in passing a meaningful Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This took way too long but is proof that your advocacy and your voice matters.”
“VAWA provides shelter and justice to abused women and protects families. It is the foundation of our efforts to combat domestic violence. Thank you for helping make it happen.”
“This has been another illustration for why we need to elect more women to office. It is no coincidence that after electing a new generation of women leaders to Congress we finally were able to pass this commonsense and critical bill. I often say Congress would be debating a whole different set of issues if it were made up of 51% women. One thing’s for certain: We would have never let VAWA lapse.”
“My Off the Sidelines PAC is working every day to recruit and help elect more women. Will you donate today so that we can help more women candidates across the country?”
Gillibrand, a prodigious fund-raiser who far out-raised – and also easily defeated – her 2012 GOP challenger, Wendy Long has been picking up political chits by putting her cash-gathering skills to work for women candidates.
During the last cycle, she help raise more than $1 million for other congressional hopefuls and then touted the role she had played in an “historic election for women” that saw a record number of female candidates running – and winning – seats in Washington.
Feb 28th - 1:10 pm
A Bronx man has pleaded guilty to charges that he embezzled more than half a million dollars from two taxpayer-funded Bronx charities founded by state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. over an eight-year period, AG Eric Schneiderman announced today.
Clement I. Gardner pleaded guilty to the felony charge of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree. That count alleged he stole approximately $560,000 in public and charitable assets while serving as fiscal officer for two related Bronx not-for-profit corporations: Christian Community Benevolent Association, Inc. and Christian Community in Action.
“The defendant used two publicly funded Bronx organizations like his personal piggy bank, diverting more than a half million dollars earmarked for services for needy New Yorkers in little over eight years,” the AG said. “My office has zero tolerance for those who abuse the public trust for personal gain, and will continue to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Between December 31, 2003 and February 12, 2012, Gardner wrote numerous checks to himself from CCBA and CCIA bank accounts and then falsified business records to conceal his crimes, Schneiderman said.
Part of the money was taxpayer-funded member item grants directed to the charities by Diaz Sr., who has not been implicated in this case. He’s not mentioned in Schneiderman’s press release.
Diaz Sr. directed close to $495,000 to CCBA between 2006 and 2007. The Bronx Democrat founded the organization in 1977 in the basement of the Church of God on Seward Avenue, according to his official Senate biography, and served as its executive director until shortly before his election to his current post in 2002.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Gardner will be sentenced on March 20 to two to six years in state prison. At sentencing, acting state Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett will enter an order of restitution for $560,000.
Gardner was arrested last March. Until then, he served as fiscal officer for both CCBA, which provides recreational and educational opportunities to Bronx children and seniors, and CCIA, which provided home health services to the disabled and elderly.
Gardner managed the finances of both organizations, maintained their expense records, and administered their bank accounts, according to the AG.
Following Gardner’s arrest, Schneiderman’s office said the investigation was ongoing, and Diaz Sr. expressed “shock” that his onetime “close ally“ could have done such a thing. As for any question about whether the senator himself was somehow involved, Diaz Sr. said:
“If I ever lost my salvation, which I doubt it, it would not be for money, because I am in the business of giving, not in the business of taking.”
Feb 28th - 6:47 am
There’s another big pro-gun rights rally at the state Capitol today, which NRA President David Keene is expected to attend along with thousands of 2nd Amendment advocates.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t be around to see/hear any of that.
Instead, he’ll be in Brooklyn and on Long Island, delivering versions of his State of the State and budget addresses.
- 11:30 a.m., Kingsborough Community College, Leon M. Goldstein Performing Arts Center, 2001 Oriental Blvd., Brooklyn.
- 1:45 p.m., Stony Brook University, Wang Theater, Shirley Kenny Dr.
At 8:30 a.m., “City & State” will host a State of the City forum. NYU, 238 Thompson St., Grand Hall, 5th Fl, Manhattan.
Also at 8:30 p.m., panelists discuss the state of lower Manhattan four months after Superstorm Sandy during a forum hosted by the Downtown Alliance and The Real Estate Board of New York; 18th floor, 100 Wall St., Manhattan.
The IDC calls for creation of an independent risk management office to help the state save $150 million over five years. Noon, fourth floor Senate lobby, state Capitol, Albany.
At 1 p.m., Sen. Joe Griffo, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on
Banks, holds a public hearing on the disbursement of Sandy-related insurance funds. LOB, Hearing Room A, Albany.
At 1:30 p.m., there will be a “revenue forecasting conference” as part of the ongoing budget process, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.
Sen. Daniel Squadron, representatives of the City Bar Justice Center, Manhattan Community Board 1 and the law firm Proskauer Rose host a pro bono legal clinic for small businesses near the South Street Seaport that were hurt by Sandy; South Street Seaport Museum, 12 Fulton St., Manhattan.
At 6 p.m., Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton delivers versions of Cuomo’s speeches at the Rogers Island Visitors Center, 11 Rogers Island Dr., Fort Edward.
at 7 p.m., Staten Island BP James Molinaro presents the final State of the Borough address of his 12 years in office; St. George Theatre, 35 Hyatt St., Staten Island.
With half the state’s counties passing resolutions denouncing the SAFE Act, officials are considering “technical corrections” to the measure to ensure newly banned weapons can still be used in movies and TV shows filmed in the state.
Other than that, the state is not expected to make major changes to the gun-control law adopted Jan. 15.
Cuomo rejected Mayor Bloomberg’s call for the state to to extend the NYC’s big soda ban to grocery stores, including 7-Elevens, which are outside the mayor’s control.
Bloomberg’s ban on large-size sugary drinks remains unpopular with NYC residents. A new Q poll found 51 percent opposed.
The Daily Freeman: “(I)n Universe Cuomo, tragedies primarily aren’t about people at all, but, rather, about limitless political opportunity for Star Andrew.”
Bloomberg has pledged $100 million to help the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others to fight polio around the world.
Feb 27th - 5:47 pm
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, is a leading candidate to become President Obama’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Chris Hughes recently purchased a “sleek and sexy” modern home in NY-19, where his husband, investor and activist Sean Eldridge, plans to challenge Rep. Chris Gibson in 2014.
…Not surprisingly, the NRCC has something to say about that.
Publishing insiders predict an “historic bidding war” for Hillary Clinton’s next memoir, which she has yet to even start writing.
Mayor Bloomberg: “Coal is a dead man walking.”
“Bloomberged” is now a verb.
After meeting with Bloomberg in D.C., Sen John McCain said the mayor appears more focused on enhancing background checks on guns than on an assault weapons ban.
Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control PAC founded by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, is using the Bloomberg’s PAC special election in in Illinois as a fund-raising tool.
Gun owners are not alone in their opposition to the SAFE Act.
A gun-control measure under consideration in Suffolk County would require police to confiscate pistols from some patients committed to psychiatric facilities.
“You can turn around Albany, you can turn around anything.”
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York is moving forward with a lawsuit against the DEC, issuing a call for willing plaintiffs after the agency missed the latest fracking deadline.
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, whose platform focused on campaign finance reform, is drawing GOP fire for holding a $250 to $1,000-a-head fund-raiser.
The best part about being governor of New Jersey for Chris Christie? Going to NYC.
Roslyn School Board member Adam Haber has challenged his Nassau County executive Democratic pimrary opponent, Tom Suozzi, to a marathon 18 debates.
Donovan Richards declared victory in the Queens special election to replace his mentor, former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen James Sanders.
A federal audit charges former County Executive Joel Giambra’s administration with grossly violating the rules governing the awarding of clean-up contracts and says Erie County owes $48.5 million from a 2006 snowstorm.
Another Central New York family came forward to say they have been harassed by college loan providers after their child died in an auto accident.
Feb 27th - 5:33 pm
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union today announced the arrival of its new political director, Leah Gonzalez, who has more than a decade of experience in the NYC labor world – much of that spent at the powerful health care workers union 1199 SEIU.
“As the RWDSU continues to grow and increase its visibility especially in political communities, we are excited to have Leah Gonzalez on our national team,” union President Stuart Appelbaum said. “We are very familiar with her work and talent with 1199 SEIU, so there is no doubt that her knowledge and professionalism will represent us well.”
This is actually Gonzalez’s second week at her new job. Her imminent departure from 1199 was originally reported earlier this month in Crain’s Chris Bragg.
During a brief phone interview this afternoon, Gonzalez, 37, told me her main goal is to build an “aggressive political operation” to match RWDSU’s impressive PR and policy operation, which exists largely thanks to Appelbaum’s savvy and aggressive outspokenness.
“I think I bring a lot to the table from my experience and work at 1199 to help build RWDSU through collaboration, increase their political capital and standing and the value of union support,” she said. “It’s about developing internal member strength and increasing member activism. Obviously going to take time, but it can be done.”
Because of Appelbaum, RWDSU has considerably more weight than a union of its size is entitled to, (it has just 45,000 members in New York and some 100,000 throughout the US and Canada), particularly considering the fact that it does not have a political machine to speak of, which is something Gonzalez aims to change.
Case in point: The coverage given to the union’s decision to give an early nod to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s mayoral bid.
Not only was RWDSU’s nod considered a catalyst that could – and subsequently has – clear the way for other labor endorsements, but it also was significant due to Appelbaum’s strong opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s successful campaign for a third term in 2009.
Appelbaum was among the most prominent, and certainly the loudest, surrogates for Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger, former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, but now he has turned his back on Thompson, who is making another attempt at City Hall, to throw in his lot with the very woman critics have deemed Bloomberg “lite.”
(Worth noting: Gonzalez’s predecessor at RWDSU, Ademola Oyefeso, recently left his post to join Team Quinn).
There actually aren’t that many unions in New York that have a really robust political operation that not only includes the usual phone banking and member-to-member initiatives, but also visibility (mobilizing members to show up as rallies and other campaign events) and door knocking, which is a key element of the kind of GOTV/field work that can make the difference between a win and a loss on Election Day.
Arguably, 1199 has the best-oiled and largest political operation of the New York unions. That’s due in part to its size – 200,000 members in the five boroughs of NYC and on Long Island.
But size isn’t everything when it comes to building a political machine. The scrappy New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council has built itself into a significant player over the past several years by beefing up its GOTV efforts, and it only has 30,000 members.
Gonzalez is making this switch at a time when New York labor is in flux. (Although, to be fair, I can’t recall a year when that statement wasn’t true). Soon, there will be a new mayor in City Hall, and certain segments of the labor community plan to do all they can to assure a more union-friendly successor to Mayor Bloomberg.
In the press release announcing Gonzalez’s hire, Appelbaum made sure to note she worked with three big names in the New York labor world: 1199′s current political director, Kevin Finnegan; Patrick Gaspard, who went on to become President Obama’s political director; and his predecessor, Jennifer Cunningham, long seen as one of the most prominent women in the state’s labor and political circles, who is now in the private sector, but serves as an unofficial advisor to a number of elected officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Feb 27th - 7:00 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.
The Legislature is back to work after its mid-winter break, and the budget “battle” (to the extent there will be one) is officially joined.
Expect a craaaaaazy busy day down at the state Capitol, with lots of lobbying taking place on all sorts of issues – from the DREAM Act (immigrants rights groups are in town) to the rights of psychiatric patients (activists for the mentally ill will hold a “silent protest” to express their concern over the SAFE Act).
There are two joint legislative budget hearings today. The first is on mental hygiene from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., LOB, Hearing Room B.
The second is on workforce development at the same location from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Senate Republicans are also holding a hearing on the future of LIPA, which the governor is pushing to privatize. LOB, Hearing Room A, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Senate Democrats will continue their push for a minimum wage increase, arguing there are sufficient votes to pass it – if only the IDC and GOP let a measure onto the floor. 1:30 p.m., Room 315, state Capitol, Albany.
Also at 1:30 p.m., the IDC will call for creation of an “independent risk management office” to help New York save $150 million over three years. Room 125, state Capitol, Albany. THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED.
Mayor Bloomberg is in Washington, D.C. today, where he’ll meet with the Obama administration’s point man on gun control – VP Joe Biden – at 1 p.m. at the White House.
At 6 p.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers versions of Cuomo’s State of the State and budget addresses at the Cairo Public Library, 15 Railroad Ave., Greene County.
Also at 6 p.m., former presidential contender/Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks during a fundraiser for the New York GOP, Asian-American Coalition; 88 Palace Diner, 88 E. Broadway, Manhattan.
At 5:30 p.m., GOP Leader Dean Skelos and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee hold a fund-raiser, The State Room, 142 State St., Albany.
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee holds a fund-raiser, 6 p.m., Taste Penthouse, 45 Beaver St., Albany.
At 6:30 p.m., the NYC Bar Association hosts a free public panel discussion on the future of marijuana laws in the US, 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan.
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn is closing in on the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff election as she leads the Democratic primary for mayor with 37 percent – more than three other candidates combined, a new Q poll finds.
The special prosecutor in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case, Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, has asked the legislative ethics commission to withhold releasing its report on the assemblyman while he continues his criminal probe.
As complaints against Lopez began to pile up, the assemblyman reportedly forced his reluctant female staffers to write fawning and admiring notes about him to create a paper trail that would “cover his tracks.”
Bloomberg issued the following statement on Kelly’s win:
“This is an important victory for common sense leadership on gun violence, a problem that plagues the whole nation.”
“And it’s the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change from their representatives in Washington – not business as usual.”
“As Congress considers the President’s gun package, voters in Illinois have sent a clear message: we need common sense gun legislation now. Now it’s up to Washington to act.”