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Posts by Liz Benjamin
Feb 1st - 6:08 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.
Cuomo cabinet members delivering versions of his State of the State and budget addresses today include:
- Civil Service Commissioner Jerry Boone, Centro Civico of Amsterdam, 143 E Main St., Amsterdam, noon.
- Environmental Facilities Corp. President/CEO Matthew Driscoll, Skaneateles Public Library, 49 East Genesee St., Skaneateles, also noon.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley (8:30 a.m.) and state Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky (11:30 a.m.) speak during the New York Bankers Association’s annual economic forum; Jade Salon, third floor, The Waldorf-Astoria hotel, 301 Park Ave.
At 10:30 a.m., NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea is scheduled to testify at an Assembly hearing proposed legislation to increase oversight of the authority, including management of construction and renovation projects and disposal of assets; Assembly Hearing Room, room 1923, 250 Broadway.
Happy 100th Birthday Grand Central Terminal!
Citing anonymous sources, the NY Post reported that former NYC Mayor Ed Koch died at 2 p.m. this morning.
…But George Arzt,a spokesman for Koch, who was moved to intensive care in a NYC hospital yesterday, insisted to NY1 around 5:30 a.m. that this is NOT the case.
UPDATE: The Associated Press is now reporting (shortly after 6 a.m.) – and Arzt now confirms – that Koch has indeed died. The funeral will be Monday at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.
In case you can’t get enough Koch, click here.
Hillary Clinton’s last day on the job as secretary of state is today.
She’s either leaving the political stage for good, or simply recharging her batteries for 2016.
Veteran reporter Ron Fournier on what he learned while covering Clinton: “(I)f you don’t think she wants to be president, you don’t know her.”
Common Sense Principles, a shadowy Virginia-based group that attacked Democratic candidates for the state Senate in last year’s elections, spent over $950,000 on mailers, a new disclosure filing shows.
Jan 31st - 5:50 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
A.O. Scott: “Post-(Ed) Koch New York is duller than it used to be, which is probably both a disappointment and a relief.”
Mayor Bloomberg denied ever saying : “Look at the a#@ on her,” as reported by New York magazine. He also deemed questions about his history of making sexist remarks “an outrage.”
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn defended Bloomberg’s reported criticism of her clothes and hair, saying she and the mayor enjoy “a healthy banter in the way only two tough outspoken New Yorkers can have.”
Andrew Rosenthal says Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserves praise for pushing gun control and weathering a hit to his approval rating as a result, suggesting Red State Democrats look to him for inspiration.
EJ McMahon: “Cuomo’s budget would, in fact, raise $325 million more next year, and $2.2 billion over the next four years, by extending a pair of almost new taxes - temporary measures, first enacted in 2009, that were supposed to expire by the end of the next fiscal year.”
The state Teacher’s Retirement System voted to hire an outside firm to review Cuomo’s proposal to let the pension system smooth out its costs over the next 25 years.
The New York State Association of County Clerks is raising concerns about the SAFE Act.
Rep. Michael Grimm and 2012 state Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes will participate in a “bachelor acution” to benefit a Bay Ridge-based charity.
A DailyKos blogger calls Cuomo “Republican-lite,” and “pure poison – with a smiling face.”
AG Eric Schneiderman will give up $12,500 in contributions from a Florida doctor who is the subject of an FBI investigation, donating the money to a charities helping superstorm Sandy victims.
Cuomo has been fighting the NRA for a long time – since his days as HUD secretary (when, by the way, he tangled with the gun rights group and lost).
Tina Fey has “nooooo” interest in a political career.
Some transportation advocates are talking up, if not explicitly endorsing, interim MTA Executive Director Tom Prendergast to keep the post Joe Lhota left last month.
A new group has formed to fight a possible casino in Willets Point.
NJ Gov. Chris Christie will have a chance to respond to all those fat jokes when he makes his first “Late Show With David Letterman” appearance Monday.
Queens Borough President hopeful Melinda Katz and NYC Council candidates Yetta Kurland and Mercedes Narcisse have been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic, pro-choice women candidates.
NYC Comptroller/mayoral hopeful John Liu issued a report on education reform, calling for an
Jan 31st - 4:07 pm
Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, 88, is in the intensive care unit at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital, his spokesman confirmed this afternoon.
George Arzt said Koch’s cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, wanted to “monitor the mayor more closely.” He did not provide any additional details.
Koch has been in and out of the hospital over the past several weeks. He was readmitted on Monday after being released two days earlier following treatment for water in his lungs and legs. The former mayor also was showing an iron deficiency.
Koch initially went to the hospital on Jan. 19. He also was hospitalized in December with a respiratory infection and in September with anemia.
The former mayor has remained active in NYC and state politics in recent years, mounting an aggressive statewide refom campaign during the 2010 election cycle. But he has also not shied away from the inevitable. Back in 2008, he purchased a burial plot in Trinity Church Cemetery, saying: “The idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me.”
Koch’s ill health kept him from campaigning as planned on behalf of President Obama in Florida late last year. The September hospitalization, during which he received several blood transfusions, also caused Koch to miss the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
But he nevertheless monitored the proceedings, and managed to make his displeasure known when the DNC removed from the party platform three sentences mentioning support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Also removed were the words “God-given” and a reference to Hamas and a pledge to isolate the organization until it “renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.”
Jan 31st - 1:32 pm
Republican Rep. Michael Grimm may have easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Mark Murphy, this past November, but he may be facing troubled times ahead.
The Staten Island congressman’s latest filing with the FEC indicates his camapign committee spent another $100,000 on legal fees with the Washington, D.C. firm Patton Boggs. This filing covers the period from Nov. 27 through Dec. 31, 2012, so that’s a pretty hefty bill.
Taking into account the latest filing, Grimm’s legal bill now tops $1 million.
Patton Boggs is representing Grimm in the ongoing FBI probe into his fundraising.
An Israeli national, Ofer Biton, is at the center of the inquiry by the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn into whether Biton and Grimm collected contributions for Grimm’s 2010 campaign that exceeded contribution limits, were given in cash or came from foreigners without green cards.
Biton was charged last August with immigration fraud.
A House ethics panel has said it voted to investigate Grimm in November, but decided to defer to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of the fundraising activities. Grimm has denied being engaged in any illegal activities.
Also today, the House Majority PAC announced Grimm is one of ten “extreme” Republican members of Congress on its target list for 2014. He’s the only New Yorker on the list. The others are: Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Mike Coffman (CO-06), Gary Miller (CA-31), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Joe Heck (NV-03), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-02) and Steve Southerland (FL-02).
“In 2012, House Majority PAC built a strong record of success and in 2013 we are ready to hit the ground running to hold these Republicans accountable and communicate with swing voters about their extreme records and backwards priorities,” said the committee’s Executive Director Alixandria Lapp.
“Whether it’s supporting the end of Medicare as we know it, backing tax cuts for the wealthy, working to roll back the clock on women’s rights or opposing stem cell research, these Republicans are simply out of step with the districts they represent. House Majority PAC will work to ensure voters know the truth.”
During the 2012 cycle, House Majority PAC spent approximately $36 million. Democratic candidates won in eight of the 10 races in which the committee spent the monst cash.
So far, two Democrats have expressed an interest in potentially challenging Grimm in 2014 – former Rep. Mike McMahon, who was ousted by Grimm in 2010; and Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia, who was pushed out of the NYC comptroller’s race by Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and the Brooklyn BP race by frontrunner/Sen. Eric Adams.
Jan 31st - 7:03 am
The weather is making headlines this morning. High winds, black ice, flooding and power outages have been reported. Be careful out there.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.
Today’s joint legislative budget hearing will focus on transportation. LOB, Hearing Room B, Albany, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Note: These have been running very long).
Members of the governor’s cabinet continue to spread his budget and State of the State gospel.
NYPA President Gil Quiniones is at the Long Island Yacht Club, 95 E Shore Rd.,
Huntington, Long Island at 8 a.m.
Deputy Secretary for Human Rights Alphonso David is at the Queens Chamber of Commerce, 75-20 Astoria Blvd., Jackson Heights at 10 a.m.
Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dede Scozzafava is at Essex County College (Ticonderoga Campus), 11 Hawkeye Trail, Ticonderoga at 1 p.m.
At 10 a.m., 10 a.m. – Sen. Greg Ball, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell call for comprehensive unfunded mandate relief, Yorktown Town Hall, 363 Underhill Ave., Yorktown Heights.
At 11:30 a.m., Sens. Daniel Squadron and Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblyman Ron Kim, Rep. Grace Meng urge the creation of an Asian Lunar New Year school holiday. Outside P.S. 20, 143-20 Barclay Avenue, Flushing, Queens.
The Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Recovery will meet with government leaders and business and nonprofit representatives to discuss storm damage and recovery efforts in Staten Island and Brooklyn. 250 Broadway, Manhattan, 2 p.m.
Today’s Q poll finds New Yorkers continue to overwhelmingly support raising the state’s hourly minimum wage, but remain sharply divided on fracking.
Nearly 1,500 state employees last year made more money than the governor’s $179,000. The top state earner was Antonio Alfonso, a SUNY Downstate Medical Center professor and Department of Surgery chairman who pulled in $1.06 million.
The governor warned the Bloomberg administration and the UFT that if they do not create a new teacher evaluation system quickly, he will move to impose one upon them. (The union welcomed the news; the city had no comment).
Cuomo vowed to sign a new law empowering the state Education Department to act as a binding arbitrator in the negotiations unless an agreement was reached “shortly.”
Jan 30th - 5:14 pm
Five states have contacted the parent company of Remington Arms to encourage the gun maker to relocate in response to New York’s efforts to tighten gun control laws.
Rep. Chris Gibson expects the U.S. Supreme Court will deem New York’s new gun control law unconstitutional.
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s “heart went pitter-patter” when he first heard Sen. John McCain was interested in taking up immigration reform.
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s well-timed memoir has a cover.
Former state Sen. Steve Saland says a rumor that he might soon join the Cuomo administration is “news to me.”
Governing Magazine’s Jonathan Walters calls Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pension smoothing proposal “puzzling, to be most generous about it.”
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli remains undecided about the plan.
The Archdiocese of New York continues to battle with the Cuomo administration over what, exactly, the Reproductive Health Act would do.
“Skelinos” will face the public at an extended Crain’s Business Breakfast Forum Feb. 6.
A spokesman for Ed Koch says the former New York City mayor is improving but doesn’t know when he’ll be leaving the hospital.
Former Gov. George Pataki still isn’t willing to rule out a potential future return to politics.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named his longtime friend and former aide, William Cowan, to fill Secretary of State John Kerry’s US Senate seat until a June 25 special election.
Kerry choked up while delivering a 50-minute farewell address during which he called on his colleagues to end partisan gridlock and ensure the Senate remains “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
ATU Local 1181 officials insist it’s in Bloomberg’s hands to end the school bus strike.
State Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah will be putting out a “review” of the health aspects of hydraulic fracturing in the next “few” weeks.
Envisioned: Bloomberg, the musical.
Former Cuomo administration aide-turned-Queens City Council candidate Austin Shafran’s campaign against GOP NYC Councilman Dan Halloran was endorsed by Teamsters Joint Council 16.
Curtis Sliwa’s support of GOP NYC mayoral candidate John Catsimatdis could put him in the doghouse with his live-in Democratic girlfriend, Queens BP candidate Melinda Katz.
Anti-frackers have a new TV spot.
Jan 30th - 3:44 pm
As expected, former Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley has pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge stemming from her embezzlement over a three-year period of $87,700 from Parents Information Network, Inc. – a nonprofit that received public funds to (ostensibly) help educate parents about the New York City public school system.
According to US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch, Huntley stole the money between October 2005 and October 2008, and falsely certified to the state that the cash would be used, and had been used, to support PIN’s charitable mission.
Instead, Huntley used the money for her own personal benefit and for the benefit of her family members and associates.
“Huntley’s experience and influence were supposed to be used for the benefit of her constituents,” Lynch said. “Instead, Huntley used her knowledge of the system to steal funds intended to help some of her neediest constituents, lining her own pockets at the expense of parents in need, and ultimately their children.”
“She will now be held to account for her crime. This guilty plea underscores our unwavering commitment to hold responsible those who abuse their authority and pursue their own financial interests instead of the public interest.”
Lynch said Huntley ran the nonprofit and controlled its finances. She stole from the organization by writing over $21,000 in checks from the PIN account to herself and a family member.
The former senator used $500 of PIN funds to pay her personal credit card bill and embezzled more than $34,000 from PIN through ATM withdrawals, Lynch said.
Huntley also embezzled funds from PIN by using straw recipients, who posed as legitimate recipients of payments from PIN. She wrote checks for $24,500 to the straw recipients, who cashed the checks and returned substantially all of the funds to Huntley in cash.
In her plea agreement with the government, Huntley agreed to make restitution of $87,700 to the state Department of Education for the funds she embezzled. In addition, Huntley also agreed to make restitution of $1,000 in connection with an unrelated bribery scheme involving a cargo-handling business at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The guilty plea took place before U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein. When sentenced, Huntley faces up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, in addition to restitution.
A criminal case that was brought against Huntley last summer by AG Eric Schneiderman is still pending in Nassau County Supreme Court.
Huntley, 74, was defeated in last September’s primary by former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen. James Sanders.
Jan 30th - 2:33 pm
UFT President Mike Mulgrew was in Albany yesterday to testify at the joint legislative hearing on education, and got an earful from state lawmakers – particularly Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, who was furious about the union’s failure to reach a teacher evaluation deal with Mayor Bloomberg by the Jan. 17 deadline, costing the district hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid.
Nolan lectured Mulgrew about the need to get back to the negotiating table ASAP and stop short-charging NYC school kids, who, at the end of the day, are going to pay the price of funding lost because adults who are supposed to be more responsible and mature weren’t able to put their differences aside.
At the hearing, Mulgrew managed to keep his cool in the face of Nolan’s wrath, but also reiterated his oft-repeated claim that the mayor is lying about the circumstances surrounding the failed pre-Jan. 17 talks. (Basically, the union insists there was a deal and the mayor walked away, and the mayor rejects that claim, saying it the union didn’t really want a deal and made unrealistic demands).
But during a CapTon interview on his way out of town, Mulgrew upped the ante in his war of words against Bloomberg, suggesting that if the mayor isn’t able to work with the UFT to meet new terms laid out by state Education Commissioner John King, then he will ask state lawmakers to end mayoral control of the NYC school system early. (It is scheduled to sunset in 2015, long after Bloomberg is gone from City Hall).
“I don’t want to see any district lose money,” Mulgrew told me. “I’m in Albany every year advocating for school funding. This is something I take very seriously. I asked at the hearing today, I said: Direct New York City to take it out of central bureaucracy. You know, there’s other ways to do this right now.”
“We don’t want to lose any more money, which is like a major issue for us, because now February 15th, Commissioner King has put this issue in play where we have to have a training plan put together and submit it into SED.”
“…If the mayor refuses to even do that, then I’m going to have to go to the Legislature and say: We need to get rid of the current governance of the New York City School system. We can’t wait two more years for that to sunset. Because if he won’t even put together a plan with us to train people, and risks losing more money, then it’s just reckless.”
Mulgrew would likely find a sympathetic ear among the Senate Democrats from NYC, many of whom are not big Bloomberg fans and have made clear in the past that they’re not happy with the way mayoral control has worked out. (They did, however, vote to reauthorize it back in 2009.
Other than that, however, it’s highly unlikely that ending mayoral control early would be a proposal that receives serious consideration in Albany – a lot of consternation for not very much payoff, since it’s already scheduled to sunset anyway.
This whole discussion might be moot anyway, since Mulgrew confirmed the UFT and the administration have agreed to start teacher evaluation talks again, although there was no set schedule as of late yesterday afternoon.
“In the middle of this, we have figured out a way to try to get our talks moving again, because it’s got to be about the kids…I’m hoping the politics can be set aside. I’m not sure,” Mulgrew said.
Jan 30th - 1:24 pm
ICYMI: For the moment, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is declining to choose sides in the fight over pension smoothing, which has divided his former Democratic conference member, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But he’s also making clear that he believes DiNapoli – not the governor – gets the final word on this subject as the sole trustee of the state pension fund.
“The comptroller has indicated that he is studying the proposal and analyzing it,” Silver told me during a CapTon interview yesterday. “I’d like to wait and see what his analysis shows.”
“I am very sympathetic to smoothing out and reducing the contributions of municipal governments to the pension system if they are actuarially sound, if they make sense. So, this is the governor’s attempt to do that. To alleviate the pain. To alleviate the property tax burden, in effect, on local governments. And, you know, he has come forth with a good faith effort.”
“If in fact the comptroller, who is the fiduciary of the pension system, can see a way clear to do something on those costs – I know that is his intent is to reduce those contributions – and if he can come up with something good, I can support it. But I recognize in the end that the comptroller is the fiduciary and has to make sound investments. I don’t want people who are paying into the system to come up 20, 30 years from now be told: Sorry we don’t have the money to give you the pension you are entitled to.”
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, as you’ll recall, said (in a statement to the New York Times) that he had “serious concerns” about Cuomo’s budget proposal to allow cash-strapped local governments to borrow against future projected Tier 6 savings to provide more predictability in short-term pension payments.
The comptroller, who has already established a pension amortization program in which a growing number of municipalities are participating, did not reject Cuomo’s proposal out of hand, and yesterday he seemed to be backtracking a bit after Cuomo took a shot at him on the radio.
However, others who have publicly expressed opposition to the plan – most notably Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – are standing firm. (Miner, who is also Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, is going out of her way to stress that the disagreement is not a signal of personal animosity between herself and the governor).
Silver said much the same thing during an interview with public radio’s Karen DeWitt, adding: “If (DiNapoli) said no, I think the courts have ruled that he’s the final arbiter on that issue.”
Jan 30th - 7:07 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.
The governor said yesterday that he’ll be holding the first leaders meeting sometime today to discuss one of the few points of contention in his budget proposal: Casinos.
Today’s joint legislative budget hearing focuses on health care and Medicaid. Hearing Room B, LOB, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At 10 a.m., LG Bob Duffy and Roswell Park Cancer Institute officials make an announcement. Zebro Family Conference Room, Roswell Park Center for Genetics and Pharmacology, Buffalo.
Members of Cuomo’s cabinet continue to deliver his State of the State and budget messages across New York.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald does the honors at the Chemung County Legislature, Hazlet Building, 203 Lake St., Elmira, at 11 a.m.
OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke is at the UJA-Federation NY, 130 East 59th St., Manhattan, at 2 p.m.
Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky is also in Manhattan at Marymount Manhattan College, 221 East 71st St., at 6:30 p.m.
At 9:30 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli holds an informal breakfast with reporters; 31st floor, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.
At 10:30 a.m., ATU Local 1181 and other union officials will make an announcement regarding the ongoing school bus strike. SEIU Local 32BJ, 25 W. 18th Street, 5th Floor, Manhattan.
At 11 a.m., the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee holds hearing on environmental causes and effects of extreme weather events, Babylon Town Hall Board Room, 200 East Sunrise Highway, Lindenhurst.
From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will host the first in a series of regional discussions highlighting successful shared services initiatives at work across the system’s 64 campuses. SUNY Cortland, Corey Union Function Room, 21 Graham Ave.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., NYC mayoral candidates discuss public education at an event organized by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. Mason Hall, Performing Arts Center, Baruch College, 17 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.
In D.C., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on gun-related violence in 14 months this morning, setting the tone for the debate to come. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are expected to testify, as is NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
Sen. Lee Zeldin celebrates his birthday by throwing himself a fund-raiser that will be attended by Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos. Oheka Castle, 135 West Gate Drive, Huntington.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and other groups filed notice with the state Court of Claims of their intention to challenge the SAFE Act, arguing the new gun control law violates the rights guaranteed by the U.S. and state constitutions.
Gun rights advocates are pushing hard to overturn the SAFE Act. But Skelos said: “The reality is that the Assembly would never pass it. The governor would never pass it. So I think we move on now to other issues.”
The 105-member Saratoga County sheriffs’ deputies union says new state gun control legislation makes criminals of ordinary citizens.
Mental health advocates and professionals are pushing back against Cuomo’s assault weapon ban by questioning whether a new reporting requirement conforms to federal privacy rules.
Connecticut is considering sweeping changes to its mental health system in the wake of the Newtown massacre.