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Progressive Critics Largely Convinced by Cuomo's Wage Push

Gotham Gazette - 1 hour 28 min ago

Gov. Cuomo (photo via The Governor's Office via flickr)

Many of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's staunchest progressive critics appear to be convinced by his new push for a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage. Cuomo has repeatedly angered the left wing of his Democratic Party by supporting Republican candidates, backing charter schools, and routinely making middle-of-the-road compromises on various issues. Only a few months ago Cuomo scoffed at the idea of a $13 minimum wage, but now advocates and legislators who have repeatedly felt betrayed by Cuomo say they believe firmly that he plans to see through the $15 hourly wage.

"I have been a harsh critic of the governor sometimes," said Michael Kink, executive director of Strong Economy For All, "But this is going to be a big deal in the lives of so many New Yorkers and it is worthy of straightforward applause."

Democratic state Senator Liz Krueger, who has has repeatedly clashed with the administration on policy issues, told Gotham Gazette: "The governor has gone through an evolution and he is now at a wage that is greater than my conference put forward. I think it is a good thing."

Two elements of Cuomo's approach appear to have convinced progressive critics of the sincerity of his push.

The first is that Cuomo has made himself the first major elected New York state official to advocate the $15 minimum wage and the plan he supports is comparable to those passed into law in Seattle and Los Angeles and proposed in ballot initiatives in Washington, D.C. and California.

Secondly, Cuomo has made the fight personal by naming his plan the "Mario Cuomo Campaign For Economic Justice," after his father, the late governor.

Kink, a frequent, vocal critic of the Cuomo administration, has nothing but praise for Cuomo's wage push. "This will absolutely make a difference in people's lives. The phase-in schedule he is talking about is comparable to what other places are talking about. If we could wave a wand and get it today it would be wonderful," said Kink, acknowledging there's no chance of immediately shifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As recommended by his fast food wage board, Cuomo is calling for a phased-in $15 hourly minimum wage by 2019 in New York City and in 2021 all across the state.

Noting that the governor has had "varying levels" of commitment on progressive issues in the past, Kink sees new life from Cuomo on the wage. Cuomo has "supported" efforts on the DREAM Act, campaign finance reform, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), but has not made powerful public or behind-the-scenes-efforts to enact them.

"He has made this so personal in naming it the 'Mario Cuomo Campaign,' I believe it puts this up there with marriage equality and guns," said Kink, referring to what are perhaps Cuomo's two crowning legislative achievements, marriage equality and the SAFE Act. "This is a different level of support than we've seen from the governor on other legislative initiatives."

The path to Cuomo's support for a statewide $15 wage took form earlier this year when he called on the state labor department to convene a wage board to examine compensation for fast-food workers. The board held hearings across the state, hearing from many workers, who also staged large rallies outside those hearings and elsewhere. James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute said he believes the hearing testimony was extremely impactful for Cuomo.

"I can't help but think that incredibly compelling testimony of hundreds of fast-food workers from across the state moved the governor," said Parrott. "The testimony really got across how much worse the reality (of surviving on minimum wage) is to how many close observers like myself thought it to be."

In July, the wage board recommended that large fast-food chains pay their workers $15 an hour by 2019 in New York City and mid-way through 2021 in the rest of the state. Cuomo seized on the wage board's efforts, holding a celebratory rally just after its recommendations were made public. A $15 wage polls very well with Democrats in the state.

On September 10, Cuomo announced that he was advocating an eventual $15 minimum wage for all industries, to be implemented along the wage board's recommended timeline.

Krueger said that by using the wage board in the fight for an increased minimum wage, Cuomo spotlighted a power that past governors did not utilize.

"For decades we've know you could use a wage board in this manner, but the governor showed leadership in doing so," said Krueger. "I'd prefer legislative action, but we have been shown there are other ways to address wage issues."

In order to make the path to $15 an hour a reality in all industries, Cuomo will indeed need legislation.

Republicans have balked at the measure and criticized the wage board's recommendations as a fait accompli. They insist it will hurt businesses across the state.

"I don't agree with the wage board. I know it's a statute in the State of New York. I think that it's executive overreach," Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said during a September event hosted by Crain's New York Business. "A lot of my colleagues feel very strongly about that, and as we come into next year. I think we have to be mindful of the fact that we actually have raised the minimum wage — we're one of the ten highest states in the country already."

The state's minimum wage is due to rise from $8.75 to $9 an hour at the end of this year, per the legislation Flanagan was referring to. The Senate leader insists that the governor must go through the legislature to take this kind of action, but he did not rule out another wage increase.

Many Democrats greeted Cuomo's plan with open arms, but skeptics still exist. A number of Democrats told Gotham Gazette they fear Cuomo has only championed the issue as a means to boost his sinking approval ratings and steal political thunder from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who fought with Albany early in his term to allow the city a say over raising its minimum wage.

Critics also note that Cuomo has begun talking about pairing a wage increase with tax cuts for businesses, indicating a willingness to cut a deal with Republicans. "I think linking the two is a mistake," Bill Lipton, director of the Working Families Party said recently on The Capitol Pressroom. "I think we should have a smart, progressive tax code policy. I think it should be discussed separately from the minimum wage. The minimum wage really stands on its own."

The governor, of course, is often one to lecture on how things get done in Albany, citing the necessity of compromise and touting his successes in making progress despite a split legislature.

Cuomo has also looked to boost his fundraising with the wage effort; his campaign sent out email solicitations earlier this month asking for a $15 donation "to help us fund the fight [for $15]."

Another point of contention for some is that they believe by putting himself at the head of the $15 per hour movement Cuomo now has an increased ability to set the timeline for phase-in. Given Cuomo's predilection for compromising with Senate Republicans, these critics fear the Governor may simply increase the deadlines for implementation of the wage hike. Cuomo himself described a $13 increase as a "nonstarter" with the legislature this past spring.

An economist analyst, Parrot said that concerns about the length of the phase-in at this point are unfounded. "It's hard to know exactly what the inflation is going to be like but it is pretty nominal," he said. "It will still be worth something that is more than $9 [is now] but it is not going to be $15 in 2015 terms." Parrot said that the state budget predicts two percent inflation per year, so judging by that, "it is not as if $15 in 2021 would be wiped out."

In other words, the move to a $15 minimum hourly wage by 2021 would be significant, even taking into account inflation.

Kink said that he isn't concerned by Cuomo's comments about a business tax cut, or that the governor might cave to pressure from Republicans. "The governor showed just how high of a priority he thinks this is for the state when he put his dad's name on it," Kink told Gotham Gazette. "He has decided that this is important to his legacy."

by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

Categories: State/Local

A Better Way to Fund the MTA

Gotham Gazette - 1 hour 28 min ago

Assembly Member Quart, the author (photo via Facebook)

No New Yorker has been able to miss the recent back-and-forth over MTA funding. Once again, we are trapped in an unwinnable argument. Whose responsibility is the MTA capital plan? Should New York City contribute more funding? Or is it the state's responsibility, since the MTA is a subsidiary of state government?

The conversation has devolved into threats against the New York City transit system and, as of yet, yielded no real solutions. In fact, this debate is exactly the problem. It completely misses the point.

We're funding the MTA Capital Program all wrong.

Nationally, New York City's transit system is unique. It is what allows us to be a city that functions with aberrantly low levels of car ownership. We are 'the city that never sleeps' because of our round-the-clock transit system. Without it, the gears of our city simply won't turn. And without the economic activity that is driven by transit in New York City, the rest of the state suffers as well. The entire state is dependent on a strong city transit system.

Framing the capital funding process as a question of city dollars versus state dollars is just obfuscation. The critical truth about all of these dollars is that they're not guaranteed. The MTA Capital Program, which pays for upkeep and expansion of our transit system cannot count on a single dollar of funding from dedicated budgetary revenue streams.

This means that every five years, we go through through the same argument we are having this year - quibbling over who will pay for the capital plan while our transit infrastructure deteriorates. Our subways and buses are more crowded, less punctual, and far more likely to break down than they were just a few years ago.

Without significantly more funding, these problems will only get worse.

There's an alternative, though, and it's one that we've already seen work. Across the ledger, the MTA operating budget benefits from a number of dedicated revenue streams, including the mortgage recording tax and the commuter tax. These funds are statutorily required to be used for their stated purposes.

We must expanding this idea to the capital side. In order for New York City to continue being a city that drives the state's economy, we need to ensure the upkeep of our transit system, but we also need to continue expanding it, to make sure that every part of the city that never sleeps is equally able to access transit.

It's time to put a stop to the budget dance. It's time to stop enabling unproductive arguments that distract from the real issues. It's long past time for the MTA capital program to be supported with statutory, dedicated, un-sweepable revenue streams that will allow maintenance and improvement of our subways and buses, the critical infrastructure that keeps New York City moving and drives the New York State economy.

Dan Quart is a New York State Assembly member representing the East Side of Manhattan. He is on Twitter @DanQuartNY.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max:

Categories: State/Local

12 die in South Carolina flooding

Albany Times/Union - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 7:07am

Columbia, S.C.

People across South Carolina got an object lesson Monday in how you can dodge a hurricane and still get hammered.

Authorities struggled to get water to communities swamped by it, and with waterlogged dams overflowing, bridges collapsing, hundreds of roads inundated and floodwaters rolling down to the coast, the state was anything but done with this disaster.

"This is a Hugo-level event," said Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, head of the South Carolina National Guard, referring to the September 1989 hurricane that devastated Charleston.

Much-feared Hurricane Joaquin missed the East Coast, but fueled what experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called a "fire hose" of tropical moisture that aimed directly at the state. A week of rain killed 12 people, sent about 1,000 to shelters and left about 40,000 without drinkable water.

By Monday, rains had moved into the mid-Atlantic states. Along the Jersey Shore, some beaches devastated by Superstorm Sandy three years ago lost most of their sand to the wind, rain and high surf.

Categories: State/Local

NY Now

Albany Times/Union - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 1:07am

Don't miss this week's episode of "New York Now," the award-winning co-production of WMHT and the Times Union. Highlights include:

WMHT's Matt Ryan surveys the week's headlines, including the rollout of a new Common Core reform panel and the sentencing of the woman who aided two Dannemora convicts in their June escape.

TU state editor Casey Seiler convenes the Reporters Roundtable with Scott Waldman of Politico New York, Glenn Blain of the Daily News and Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio to discuss the debate over GE's decision to suspend its dredging operations on the Hudson, the ongoing battle for control of the Women's Equality Party, and the state's preparation for a possible landfall by Hurricane Joaquin.

"New York Now" airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11:30 p.m. Sunday on WMHT Ch. 17.

Categories: State/Local

Capital Region development plan chases $500M prize

Albany Times/Union - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 1:07am


The Capital Region's Economic Development Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve its plan for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Upstate Revitalization Initiative, though top council members are expected to spend the next few days putting the finishing touches on a voluminous pitch for $500 million.

Council Co-Chair James Barba said that when the full plan is unveiled, it will be transformative — regardless of whether it's a winner in the short term.

"You will see in the initiatives ... programs that are so sound that they suggest that they be implemented," said Barba, Albany Medical Center's CEO. "The only difference will be if we win, we will have almost instant capital to do quick implementation. Were we not to win, then the capital will be slower in coming. But the ideas suggest themselves, and they are important enough to be developed."

The money would be nice, though.

The Upstate Revitalization Initiative, approved in this year's state budget, offers three pots of $500 million apiece in grants and other fiscal benefits to three upstate regions. While some have criticized the competition as being an upstate economic version of "The Hunger Games," Cuomo's administration has billed it as a win-win extension of the regular REDC competition, which is in its fifth year.

The plan is to dole out the money over five years, with winners taking home about $130 million when regular REDC funding is included. The administration has said that even with the extra money going to top performers, the "losers" of the competition will end up with about $90 million — roughly the same amount as top performers in previous iterations of the REDC competition.

At its Thursday meeting, the council did offer the public a look at the plan's broad strokes. Projects will address the next steps for growth of Tech Valley, the region's central location as a potential distribution and logistics hub, next-generation higher education offerings, urban revitalization and building on the region's entrepreneurship initiatives.

"Some other areas focus on agriculture ... and they do much more with the farm-to-table initiatives and food processing, and that lends itself to areas with more farms," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who acts as the governor's lead representative for that Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

"This area is capitalizing on its very strong high-tech base," she said, "and you look at the number of jobs in this area, we don't have anything comparable elsewhere in the state. ... There's a lot more going on here that other regions don't have."

Decisions on the URI plans are not expected to be made until the end of the year, Hochul said. • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Shooting Deaths Recall New York's Long History of Trying to Curb Gun Violence

Gotham Gazette - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 1:00am

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Office of the Governor - Kevin P. Coughlin)

New York has been shocked by gun violence for a long time.

Recently, on September 7, Carey Gabay, former assistant counsel to Governor Cuomo and a deputy counsel at the Empire State Development office in New York City, was shot in the head near the site where the West Indian American Day Carnival parade was scheduled to kick off a few hours later. He died of his wounds on September 16.

"We must act and we must say we're not going to take it anymore," Governor Cuomo said at Gabay's funeral service. "The killing has to stop."

Since the shooting, Cuomo has called attention to the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act that he pushed through the legislature early in 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. Gun rights activists continue to fight that law. Cuomo consistently declares it a national pacesetter and insists that federal action is needed.

Cuomo repeated his appeal after the October 1 killing of nine people by a gunman at a community college in Oregon. Calling gun violence "a sickness that continues to claim innocent lives and threaten our communities" while "our elected officials in Washington continue to sit on their hands." Guns continue to flow into New York from states with laxer gun laws, the governor added.

Today, New Yorkers continue to argue over the SAFE Act and the gun violence that plagues major cities, while state gun-permitting laws are complicated. New York's gun policies began over a century ago.

On August 9, 1910, New York City Mayor William J. Gaynor, who had taken office in January, was waiting to board the ship SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse at the terminal in Hoboken for a trip to Europe when he was approached by James J. Gallagher, who had been discharged from his position as a New York City dock night watchman earlier in the year for dereliction of duty. Repeated letters to the Mayor appealing for reinstatement got no results.

Gallagher walked up to the mayor and shot him in the neck. Sanitation commissioner William Edwards, who had been there to see the mayor off, was also wounded. Gaynor's aides and bystanders wrestled the would-be assassin to the ground. A New York World photographer happened to be on the dock for what he had assumed would be a routine photo of the mayor. Instead, he snapped a picture an instance after the shot, capturing a bloodied Gaynor reeling from the shot. The photo was soon on the front pages of city newspapers and was widely reprinted. It was a graphic representation of the horror of completely unexpected gun violence.

Gaynor survived but the bullet lodged in his neck and could not be removed. He recovered slowly. It caused him pain and discomfort until his death in 1913.
"I shot him because he robbed me of my position," Gallagher told police who arrested him. "He could have put me back to work and he wouldn't."

At his arraignment, the prosecutor asked Gallagher if he had read about the assassination of other public men. He replied he had read about the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. "Do you believe in it?" asked the prosecutor. Gallagher's chilling reply was: "Yes, if you have a grievance and can't right it any other way."

Apparently because of the mayor's slow recovery, Gallagher was not tried for shooting him but was sentenced to 12 years for shooting Commissioner Edwards. He died in prison in 1913.

David Graham Phillips was a prominent novelist living in New York City in the early 20th century. Phillips' novels often commented on social issues of the day and frequently chronicled events based on his real-life experiences as a journalist before he took up writing fiction. He wrote a series of articles entitled "The Treason of the Senate" in Cosmopolitan in 1906 that exposed corruption in the Senate. Phillips was something of a public figure, often seen strolling on New York sidewalks.

On January 23, 1911, Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, an eccentric violinist and music teacher, gunned Phillips down outside the Princeton Club on the north side of Gramercy Park. Club members heard the assailant cry out "I've been waiting for six months to get you" and then "Here you go!" as he shot the novelist six times. He then muttered "Here I go!" before shooting and killing himself. Phillips succumbed to his wounds the next day.

Police searched Goldsborough's apartment; from diaries and papers they learned he had become fascinated with one of Phillips' novels, "The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig." He believed it drew on Goldsborough family history and portrayed it in an unflattering way, and that the novelist had modeled the central character on Goldsborough's sister. He also believed Phillips could read his mind.

The shootings of Mayor Gaynor and David Graham Phillips provoked public outrage. But it was a rising tide of street gun violence that led to legislative action.

Timothy Sullivan, a Democratic state senator from the Bowery area of Manhattan, was appalled at the Gaynor and Phillips shootings. But he was even more alarmed about a rising tide of gang-related shootings in his district.

Sullivan, often known by his nickname "Big Tim," was unlikely to be mistaken for a do-good reformer. He was a Tammany Hall regular who was involved with gambling, prostitution, and corruption. But he was also concerned with the welfare of his constituents and Tammany Hall itself was becoming more reform-minded. In 1911, Robert F. Wagner was Speaker of the Senate and Alfred E. Smith was majority leader in the Assembly. They were both Tammany men but favored progressive policies.

Sullivan introduced a bill in the 1911 legislature to require licenses for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. Possession of such firearms without a license was defined as a misdemeanor, and carrying one was defined as a felony.

Sullivan explained that "gun toters" (as the press often called gunmen) fell into three categories. The first was professional criminals. The second consisted of people who are deranged or commit gun violence in fits of rage. His law would help in those areas, he said.

But, Sullivan was more concerned with a third category, "...young fellows who carry guns around in their pockets all the time not because they are murderers or criminals but because the other fellows do it and they want to be able to protect themselves....those boys aren't all bad but they're in a mighty bad way. Just carrying their guns around makes 'em itch to use 'em."

The bill was opposed by some gun owners and gun manufacturers. One upstate senator told Sullivan that "your bill won't stop murders. You can't force a burglar to get a license to use a gun." Others warned that people would get guns from other states. But the bill found wide support among concerned New Yorkers in both parties who had been shocked by the assassination of a renown novelist and the assault on their city's chief executive.

Republican District Attorney (later Governor) Charles Whitman said that "carrying a weapon is an invitation to a crime. Reduce the weapons carried and you will reduce crimes of violence. There isn't any debating that point."
The Sullivan Act passed easily. It was challenged in court and debated for more than a century, but its basic provisions are still in place.

Gunfire that is completely unexpected is a frightening specter. Shortly before the shooting, a constituent had warned Mayor Gaynor against going around the city unescorted. "I do not think anyone would do me harm unless he was a lunatic," he responded, "and it is hard to guard against lunatics."

"I'm governor of New York and there's nothing I can say and there's nothing I can do," Governor Cuomo said, after visiting Carey Gabay at Kings County Hospital Center before he died. "Sometimes, it just hurts."

Yet the murder of the governor's aide and the killings in Oregon are certain to provoke more debate over gun violence in New York and elsewhere, and what can be done to curb it.

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne is the author of the book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max:

Categories: State/Local

Gov. Andrew Cuomo readies state for Joaquin

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 11:07pm


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top administration officials said the state is doing everything it can to prepare for the possible New York landfall of Hurricane Joaquin, which on Thursday was barreling through the Bahamas.

Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Cuomo noted that it remains unclear if the storm will aim for New York, though a forecast models show it could arrive downstate Monday or Tuesday.

"I have learned the hard way it's better to prepare for the worst," said Cuomo, whose first term saw the damage wrought by tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The state's emergency operations centers were expected to be staffed up by Thursday evening, he said, adding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority — two downstate entities that received criticism in the wake of Sandy — were also taking precautions.

Upstate, where the primary concern is flooding from heavy rainfall, Cuomo said the Department of Environmental Conservation would waive its permitting process for work clearing stream beds and conduits of snags and debris.

Cuomo said 3,000 National Guard members had been informed they could be deployed in the days ahead.

He advised homeowners statewide to take normal precautions, such as securing emergency supplies and making sure homes are ready for strong winds.

At Albany International Airport, workers on Thursday were checking emergency generators to make sure they were fueled and making plans to clear water off any flooded runways.

The airport had some runway flooding and spotty power outages during Irene.

Airport spokesman Doug Myers advised passengers to make sure airlines had their contact information in case there were changes or disruptions to their travel plans.

"Passengers should be aware there is the probability of cancellation of flights to and from other destinations along the East Coast," Myers said Thursday afternoon. From Albany, carriers serve East Coast airports in Newark, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, and in the Carolinas and Florida — all potentially in the path of the hurricane.

Jean Gagnon, office manager at Plaza Travel in Latham, said she'd already rerouted some customers away from the East Coast.

Those planning to make changes in Atlanta on Delta instead were switched to Detroit, while several flying through Baltimore on Southwest were switched to Midway on Chicago's south side.

Typically, as a storm's projected path becomes clearer, airlines will offer passengers the option of changing their travel plans without charge.

On the ground, Amtrak also was keeping a close eye on the forecast, preparing "for any number of different scenarios," said spokesman Craig Schulz.

"Our engineering forces are out clearing storm drains and testing pumps — especially in and around the New York tunnels," Schulz said. "Obviously we're mindful of what happened during Sandy and we'll keep a very close eye on those key assets."

Amtrak's emergency management staff was coordinating efforts with their counterparts in cities up and down the East Coast, he added. The railroad has lined up extra staff and contractors to be ready to clear any trees or other debris.

"We're also planning to pre-position equipment in strategic locations in case it becomes necessary to rescue a disabled train," Schulz said.

The governor said that the decisions of the next few days would be dictated by the path and intensity of the storm. He recalled that the planning for Irene was based on the notion that it would slam Long Island and New York City; instead, it made a minor impact in the metropolis before inundating large swaths of upstate.

"Mother Nature comes up with a different spin every time we deal with it," Cuomo said. " ... You cannot be ready for everything."


Categories: State/Local

Photos: Credico protests public money in private prisons

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:07pm

ALBANY -- Activist and comedian Randy Credico, dressed in prison stripes, staged a protest outside the state comptroller's office on Wednesday in Albany.

Credico called on Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to end the use of New York pension fund money to support the private prison industry.

Credico visited Albany with Chilean guitarist Andres Rieloff. See the video on's Capitol Confidential blog.

Categories: State/Local

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announces bail reforms for New York

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:07am

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wants to overhaul the state's bail system — and he is starting in New York City.

The judge, who will leave his post at the end of the year due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, said 40 percent of the jail population in New York City is being detained before trial only because the defendants lack the money to afford bail. He argued that for many defendants, a pre-trial bail of $2,500 might as well be $25 million.

"These numbers do not lie," Lippman in a speech at the Citizens Crime Commission. "Far too many people are trapped in pre-trial detention simply because they are poor."

Lippman has pushed legislation to create statutory presumption that a defendant will be released without bail if the judge determines there is no risk to public safety or legitimate expectation that the person will not return to court.

While that legislation would need to pass into law to take effect, Lippman took measures Thursday to handle the issue administratively.

The judge directed the criminal courts in all five boroughs of the city to have a judge automatically review bail determinations whenever defendants charged with misdemeanor have been unable to make bail.

"This means the judge will take a fresh look at the case and make an independent determination whether the bail amount should be adjusted — higher or lower — or whether bail should be permitted in a less onerous form," Lippman said.

Lippman ordered regular, periodic judicial review of case viability and bail. When defendants are in custody pending disposition of the charges against them, he said, the new rules will require a status conference at designated milestones in the person's case. Lippman noted the case of a Bronx teen who committed suicide after spending at least 2 1/2 years in Rikers Island because he could not afford bail in a backpack robbery case based on a one witness, which was dismissed.

The judge is additionally ordering a pilot program in Manhattan where electronic supervision will be used to track defendants on pretrial release — and immediately locate them if they do not appear in court when needed. He said other states and the federal government have been using such techniques for 20 years.


Categories: State/Local

Cuomo defers questions on probe

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:07am


As investigators probe the contracting process behind the Buffalo Billion initiative, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he was unaware of the scope of a subpoena sent to SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

When asked if the inquiry extended to any of the nanotechnology facilities in the Syracuse area, the governor stuck to a line he's used in the past: Ask Preet Bharara.

"Not that I know of — but I don't know much about it," Cuomo said when asked at an unrelated event in Syracuse. "Any questions on that should go to the U.S. attorney."

It has been reported by The New York Times that prosecutors, in subpoenaing SUNY Polytechnic Institute, are interested in learning more about a 2013 "request for proposals" associated with the Buffalo Billion. Investigators want to know if the RFP was written in such a way that it may have disqualified bidders and favored a company run by a Cuomo campaign contributor.

Cuomo also passed on a question about whether he has concerns or plans to change the way the state procures contracts. His comments were on the success of the Buffalo project.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters in Manhattan that he wouldn't mind if the Legislature discussed different ways to handle the state contract procurement process. He said much of that is run by the executive branch.

"I have no problems having those types of discussion," Flanagan said. "Look, everybody talks about this: transparency and disclosure. If we're going to have people believing us, they have to feel like the process is actually working."

Flanagan, a Long Islander whose conference is dominated by upstate members, remained supportive of the state's investment in Buffalo's revitalization.

His comments turned toward the larger state budget process, which he described as being very deliberative.

"The focus should not just be on the Buffalo Billion," he added. "There's money for Long Island, there's money for the Hudson Valley, there's money for the Southern Tier. So we have tried to make equitable investments all across the state."

The Buffalo Billion is Cuomo's most sweeping economic development initiative, and one he has repeatedly used as a template in discussing his vision for a broader rebound in upstate's economic fortunes.

"Let's be honest, we still have more to do," the governor said of the region at a Wednesday morning cabinet meeting north of Syracuse. "We're making up for 40 years of decline." • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Children's center faces abuse lawsuit

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:07am


A venerable Schenectady-based institution that started as a 19th-century orphanage and has since expanded its services is among those being sued for alleged abuse of a developmentally disabled youngster who lived in one of its facilities.

The suit claims the boy, then 12, suffered serious injury after workers at Northeast Parent & Child Society choked him with the power cord of his PlayStation device.

Filed on behalf of a boy identified as "R.W.," the lawsuit names Northeast as well as the affiliated Northern Rivers Family Services Inc. and Parsons Child and Family Center as defendants.

One Northeast employee, Tajeer Uln, is identified in the court papers, while 20 individuals are unnamed. Uln couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Among the unnamed "John and Jane Doe" defendants are employees of the state Justice Center, the agency that investigates allegations of abuse committed against the disabled.

"His mom says he liked basketball and swimming. Now he's inside and just stares,'' said plaintiff's attorney Aaron DePass of the youth's condition after the alleged incident.

The suit was filed on behalf of the child by DePass, Robert Santoriella and Brad Gerstman in Albany's Northern District federal court.

It seeks unspecified damages. Also involved in the case is the Disability Rights Project, which includes disability activist Michael Carey as a member.

Court documents allege R.W. was "brutally assaulted on numerous occasions by several of the staff."

In a statement, Northeast Child & Parent officials declined to comment in the allegations.

"As an organization dedicated to preserving the privacy of the children and families we serve, we do not confirm nor deny that anyone is or has been in our care," spokeswoman Darlene Raynsford said in an email. "Our practice is to fully cooperate with all investigations conducted by authorized external oversight bodies."

According to the complaint, R.W. was one of four siblings brought by their mother, identified as A.W., to Parsons in 2012 as she "sought to gain stability in her life and the ability to once again provide a home for her children."

In 2014, R.W. — who has developmental disabilities — was transferred to a Northeast Parent & Child facility in Schenectady.

There he was allegedly struck by Uln, who also mocked and threatened to kill him.

The suit claims R.W. recorded the threat on video with the handheld gaming device. Police were called, but there was no arrest. The video was shown on a local newscast, said the lawyers.

One of the videos posted Monday on YouTube by the Disability Rights Project, an advocacy group critical of the safety net protecting the disabled from caregiver abuse, shows the boy addressing the console's camera in close-up, his right eye swollen.

"Mom, this is what it looks like — you see this? My eye? He slammed me," the boy says in the 37-second video.

The suit claims Uln and others subsequently choked the boy with the cord of the child's PlayStation. He did not receive immediate medical care after the assault, according to the complaint.

Later, though, the youth was hospitalized and transferred to a disability center in the Hudson Valley, where he remains.

The state Justice Center, which oversees facilities caring for the disabled, was notified. The lawsuit states that allegations about R.W. being physically and psychologically abused and choked with the cord were found to be "substantiated."

Because they are named in the suit, officials at the Justice Center declined comment.

It wasn't immediately clear what happened to the employees who were allegedly involved in the abuse.


Categories: State/Local

First things first, Astorino insists

Albany Times/Union - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:07am


With the 2018 rumor mill already revved up, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino maintained Wednesday that he's still open to running for governor again — though for now he just wants to govern.

In making those comments at the state Capitol, Astorino also kept the door open for a run for re-election as Westchester County executive in 2017.

He said such a run would not indicate he has no interest in running for governor for a second time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo soundly defeated Astorino in last year's election.

Among the other politicians discussed as the GOP's possible gubernatorial candidate is Rep. Chris Gibson, who will hang up his congressional spurs at the end of 2016. As he has flirted with a gubernatorial run, Gibson has said his focus currently lies on trying to build the Republican Party in deep-blue New York.

Yet in saying that he is looking forward to just governing for the next several years, Astorino said Gibson should be focused on the same until he leaves Congress.

"The constant three years of outwardly campaigning for something is not what we should be doing," Astorino said.

His comments come days after Gibson questioned in the Daily News how the county executive could run for re-election in Westchester County, then turn around to run for governor in 2018. Gibson argues that proper fundraising and build-up of name recognition needs more than just a year's time.

Of course, there is a statewide election coming up sooner than 2018. Asked about a run in 2016 for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, Astorino was blunt: He made a buzzer noise and gave reporters a thumbs down. 518-454-5449 @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Around NY

Albany Times/Union - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 4:07pm

Candidates kept off WEP ballot in rulings

ALBANY — Amid confusion surrounding the future of the Women's Equality Party, court decisions levied in the past two days are bringing at least some consistency: Candidates are being kept off the party's ballot line.

State Supreme Court justices in Albany, Saratoga, Warren and Broome counties have denied access to the WEP line to at least 15 candidates running for various local offices. At least nine of those candidates are running in the Capital Region or in judicial districts that touch the Capital Region.

In denying the nominations of three judicial candidates Wednesday in Albany, a judge used the same rationale as he did a day earlier, tossing the nominations for not including all of the proper legal paperwork with the petitions. The judge in Broome County cited the Tuesday decision as his rationale for denying the nominations.

In Warren County, a judge's ruling was among the more broad: It stated none of three groups trying to take control of the party have the authority to nominate candidates.

A copy of the decision from Saratoga County was not immediately available.

— Matthew Hamilton

The Legal Project up for attorney general aid

ALBANY — The Capital Region-based nonprofit The Legal Project is set to receive funding from the state attorney general earmarked for continuation of services that help homeowners prevent foreclosure and rebuild communities hit by the 2008 housing market crash.

In total, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman plans to hand out $11.5 million won in settlements following the housing market collapse to 28 legal service providers statewide. It was not immediately clear how much of that money would go to The Legal Project will receive roughly $700,000.

The attorney general's office said the state comptroller is reviewing the one-year grants. An additional year is possible.

The money is going to support the Homeowner Protection Program, which is a network of almost 90 housing counseling and legal services agencies that provide free assistance to at-risk homeowners to help them avoid foreclosure.

— Matthew Hamilton

Categories: State/Local

Planned Parenthood chief, lawmakers spar

Albany Times/Union - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 12:07pm


The head of Planned Parenthood defended the women's health organization Tuesday before a Republican-run Congress bent on slashing its federal funding, telling lawmakers that accusations against her group fed by stealthily recorded videos are "offensive and categorically untrue."

In Planned Parenthood's first appearance before Congress since those videos emerged this summer, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee argued that the group needs no taxpayer financing. They cited Planned Parenthood tax documents showing it spends millions on political activities, travel and exorbitant salaries.

"That's money that's not going to women's health care," said committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "It's a political organization, and that's something that needs to be ferreted out."

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's president, told the lawmakers that her group has fallen victim to a "smear campaign" based on videos in which its officials coolly describe how they sometimes harvest tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research.

Conservatives and many Republicans say the videos, made by abortion foes posing as private purchasers of fetal organs, show Planned Parenthood has broken federal laws including a ban on for-profit fetal tissue sales. The organization says it's acted legally and says the videos were deceitfully edited.

"The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood, based on heavily doctored videos, are offensive and categorically untrue," Richards said.

Richards also said the videos have inspired an increase in threats against the organization's clinics.

The recordings have pumped Planned Parenthood and the abortions many of its nearly 700 clinics provide into an political issue. Conservatives' demands that Congress cut its federal payments — for which Republicans lack the votes to succeed — contributed to the GOP unrest that prompted House Speaker John Boehner to announce his resignation.

Categories: State/Local

Better cell signal for next storm at Gilboa dam complex

Albany Times/Union - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 1:07am


In an attempt to avoid the communications blackouts caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the New York Power Authority board on Tuesday authorized $3.5 million for new cell tower construction and improvements to guarantee a connection between the outside world and the rural Gilboa dam and power plant in Schoharie County.

"The Power Authority recognized that we needed to build in more redundancy to our communications," NYPA President Gil Quiniones said in a prepared statement after the board's decision.

As an added bonus, residents of the rural, sparsely populated area west of the Capital Region should have better cellphone connectivity once the towers, which will be operated by Verizon, are retrofitted with microwave and transceiver equipment.

The two towers slated for improvement are along Route 30 between Middleburgh and Grand Gorge. A third 260-foot tower will be erected by the power plant reservoir.

"They've given us a start toward more robust (cellphone) coverage in the area,'' said Republican Assemblyman Pete Lopez.

Cellphone providers have historically been reluctant to invest in towers to serve regions with low population density.

North Country residents, for instance, pushed nearly a decade ago for Verizon to put up towers along rural stretches of the Northway. That effort was galvanized by the 2007 death of a Brooklyn resident who along with his wife became trapped when their car went off the road in frigid temperatures and they were unable to summon help.

In Schoharie County, the immediate objective is to ensure that workers at the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Plant can stay in communication with authorities in the event of a disaster.

The memory of Irene, which brought destructive flooding to Schoharie County and a scare at the NYPA dam, remains fresh in many people's minds, Lopez said.

During Irene, the power reservoir floodgates had malfunctioned. And at the nearby Schoharie Reservoir — which feeds New York City's drinking water supply — floodwaters were 8 feet over the spillway, Lopez recalled.

Officials feared a catastrophic breach, which would have flooded into the Mohawk River and downstream into Amsterdam and Schenectady. That didn't happen — but the episode prompted repairs and a hard look at the complex's infrastructure, including its cellphone coverage.

Quiniones, who was NYPA's acting CEO when Irene struck, was trapped at the power complex during the storm. He had traveled there to greet Gov. Andrew Cuomo and an inspection team to examine the dam after a 2.5-magnitude earthquake had rattled nearby Altamont.

The quake, which caused no damage, was detected just before Irene swept through the area.

On Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey registered a 3.0-magnitude earthquake at the Gilboa complex. No damage was reported, but as in 2011 the temblor came as a tropical storm was approaching.

On Tuesday, forecasts for Tropical Storm Joaquin called for heavy rains Tuesday night, with showers continuing into the weekend.

There's no indication that Joaquin will approach the size of Irene, which smacked into New York City before wreaking its worst damage upstate. But Lopez couldn't help but note the eerie similarity.

"A number of us are a little skittish," he said. "We had another earthquake under the Power Authority (dam), and now we have a tropical storm bearing down on us."


Categories: State/Local

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5

Gotham Gazette - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 1:00am

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will include a focus on what the city can do to stop gas-related explosions after another such explosion occurred this weekend, this time in Borough Park; education politics and policy, as the pro-charter, anti-de Blasio group Families for Excellent Schools will hold a large rally; a continuation of negotiation and criticism between city and state entities over MTA funding; and more.

Oh, and it's the Major League Baseball playoffs, with both the Mets and Yankees in the post-season for the first time in a long time, with many hoping for a "subway series" World Series between the two, a la 2000, when the Yankees defeated the Mets.

TRACKING DE BLASIO: With the threat from Hurricane Joaquin abated, Mayor de Blasio decided to go through with his trip to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore on Friday and Saturday. The mayor delivered remarks at a reception for the State Innovation Exchange Conference on Friday, then attended the United States Conference of Mayors Fall Leadership Meeting on Saturday. The mayor then headed back to Borough Park, Brooklyn, where he attended to the emergency gas explosion that tore apart a building, killing at least one and injuring several.

The incident is another in a string of gas explosions, including East Harlem and the East Village, that has many worried and talking about a need for new measures to combat the deadly incidents. Gov. Cuomo announced he was deploying representatives to investigate and city officials are calling for action. This explosion appears to have been caused by mistakes made during the removal of an oven.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will be on Staten Island for the groundbreaking of The Staten Island Family Justice Center, at which the mayor will speak around 10 a.m. Read more from the Staten Island Advance, including that Staten Island will join the other boroughs, each of which already has such a center, which "provide comprehensive criminal justice, civil legal and social services free of charge to victims of domestic violence, elderly abuse and sex trafficking in the other boroughs."

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

At 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Bronx County Courthouse, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will announce a major crackdown on distributors of synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs."

On Monday morning, "State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan joins state Sen. Martin Golden on a walking tour and media availability in Gerritsen Beach, starting in front of 3078 Gerritsen Ave., Brooklyn," according to City & State NY.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will announce the "launch of MonumentArt, an International Mural Festival hosted in East Harlem and the South Bronx," from La Marqueta.

On Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James "will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation conference."

Monday evening, First Lady McCray will be among the honorees of a Feminist Power Award from the Feminist Press.

At 8 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer "Receives the Pacesetter Award at The National Association of Investment Companies 45th Annual Meeting & Convention Welcome Reception."

Monday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens) 7 pm

Tuesday, at 10 a.m., a press conference in PACE University's downtown campus will mark the beginning of Poverty Awareness Week, which is co-sponsored by Pace University and The Mayor's Office. The week will include a series of events. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. will be one keynote speaker; Shola Olatoye, Chair and CEO of NYCHA will participate in a discussion on "Local Initiatives to Eradicate Poverty."

On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the ribbon-cutting for the Brooklyn College Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School for Cinema at Steiner Studios."

At 5 p.m., the Mayor will appear on WCBS Newsradio 880.

In the evening, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and many others will attend a birthday celebration for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host "Why New York? Our Broken Bail System." The event will be moderated by New York Times journalist Shaila Dewan, with panelists: Judge George Grasso, public defender Josh Saunders, criminal justice reform advocate Glenn E. Martin, and an individual who couldn't afford bail.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, NY Tech Meetup will be held at NYU, with a number of New York companies presenting demos of technologies that they are developing.

Tuesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 4 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Brad Lander (District 39, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 8 pm

JCOPE is set to meet Wednesday morning in Albany.

Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., City & State NY holds its fifth annual "On Energy" event, inviting leaders in government, advocacy and business to speak on a number of topics related to the future of energy. Among the topics of discussion will be Governor Andrew Cuomo's regulatory overhaul in New York, Mayor de Blasio's 80 by 50 plan, and more. The event includes a panel with Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future; Nilda Mesa, Director at NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, NYC Department of Sanitation. Other notable speakers to appear include: Richard Kauffman, NYS Chair of Energy & Finance; Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, Chairman of New York AREA; Ambassador Ron Kirk, Chairman of CASEnergy; Kevin Parker, a New York state Senator and ranking member of the Energy & Telecommunications Committee.

On Wednesday, The Families for Excellent Schools rally, postponed from last week because of weather and "to demand equal opportunity in our schools," will take place, starting mid-morning at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a 12:30 p.m. press conference at City Hall. The rally is, in essence, to promote more more charter schools and criticize Mayor de Blasio's education agenda, which does not include more charters. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is expected to headline the rally, along with several high-profile performers, including Jennifer Hudson.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., The Committee on Transportation will meet to discuss a bill that would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along bus routes. DOT would then institute new safety measures based on the data. The Committee will also discuss a bill that would require the identification of dangerous intersections based on incidents involving pedestrians, and implement curb extensions in such areas. The Committee will also make a decision on resolutions that would require the MTA to instal rear guards on bus wheels and to study ways to eliminate blind spots for buses.
  • Also 10 a.m., The Committee on Aging will hold an oversight hearing on older adult employment.

At 10 a.m. The East 50s Alliance will hold a community rally to protest the planned construction of a 900-foot tower in the 58th street residential area. The residents are "deeply concerned that the tower will diminish the safety, accessibility and livability of a narrow side street during a lengthy construction process and forever after." City Council Member Ben Kallos will speak.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivertio, along with Council Members Paul Vallone and Vincent Gentile and others, will hold a Celebration of Italian Heritage at the Council Chambers in City Hall. The event will also celebrate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday.

From 6 to 8 p.m. at Fordham Law School, The Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center and the Women's City Club of New York will host "This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color and the Fight for Economic Security", on "how gender intersects with economic and racial inequality in New York City." Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University, will moderate the panel, with Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York; Luna Ranjit, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Adhikaar; Joanne N. Smith Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equality; and Margarita Rosa, Executive Director of National Center for Law and Economic Justice participating in the discussion.

Wednesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm

On Thursday at the City Council:

  • 9:30 a.m., Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet to discuss three land use applications in Manhattan.
  • 10 a.m., Committee on Finance will meet regarding the Department of Finance's Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
  • 11 a.m., Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet to discuss a land use application in Brooklyn
  • 1 p.m., Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss another land use application in Brooklyn

Thursday at the New York State Legislature: the Assembly Standing Committee on Health, Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, and Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities will hold a joint public hearing regarding Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Services. "The Committees are seeking oral and written testimony from patients and their families, clinicians, service providers, and the Department on topics including the incidence, severity and consequences of TBI; treatment and service appropriateness and availability, including the rights of patients sent out-of-state; and issues relating to the transition of the TBI Waiver program to managed care."

At 9 a.m. Thursday New York State Assembly Members Latoya Joyner and Marcos Crespo will kick off "Let's Put Our Cities on the Map," sponsored and hosted by Google at the Bronx Museum of Arts, which will offer free counseling for small businesses on how to reach local customer bases, specifically by using "SmartLogic" online tools.

"The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Thursday, October 8 at 10:00 AM."

At 5 p.m. Thursday, EmblemHealth and LaborPress will honor 12 labor union members, from eight different labor unions, for their remarkable contributions to the labor communities at the fourth annual "Heroes of Labor Awards". EmblemHealth has invited many city elected officials to speak, several are expected.

At 6 p.m. Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Brennan Center for Justice and Vox will hold "The Politics of Participation: Building an Engaged Citizenry for Millennials and Beyond," including City Council Member Eric Ulrich. It is billed as "a candid conversation about what the shifting demographic landscape means for grassroots movements, political action, and civic engagement; how can we shape our democracy into one that is truly representative of the people being governed?"

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will hold "The Changing Face of Activism," which will explore the historical progression of activism from the 1960s desegregation movement to the present day Black Lives Matter movement. Moderated by Alethia Jones, a leader of 1199 SEIU, the panel will feature activist Barbara Smith; Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform; and Jose Lopez, Lead Organizer at Make the Road NY and member of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

At 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Dan Abrams of ABC News will talk with Ray Kelly, the longest-serving NYPD Commissioner, at the 92nd Street Y. Kelly will hold a book signing for his new memoir Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City, after his talk with Mr. Abrams.

Thursday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 5 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 8 pm

Friday and the weekend
Friday at 8:15 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will speak at New York Law School, as part of the CityLaw breakfast series.

Weekend participatory budgeting:

  • Friday, CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 1 pm.
  • Saturday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.
  • Sunday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.

*Note: we'll publish our next 'Week Ahead' on Monday, October 13 given the Columbus Day holiday

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max

Categories: State/Local

Fate of Women's Equality line remains cloudy

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:07am


In the war for control of the fledgling Women's Equality Party, confusion remains the only clear winner.

An acting state Supreme Court justice in Albany County ruled on Tuesday that a state Senate candidate from the Southern Tier and an Albany County legislative candidate can't hold the line, though that ruling turned on a technicality unrelated to an appellate court decision from last week that left more ambiguities about the party's future. Meanwhile, yet another court ruled Tuesday that Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane can retain the third-party line.

Control of the WEP is being contested by a team backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and two rival efforts: one supported by former state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, the other by Western New York Republicans.

In Albany, acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin ruled that neither Barbara Fiala, Cuomo's handpicked candidate for the Senate seat recently vacated by the conviction of Republican incumbent Tom Libous, nor Albany County legislative candidate Wanda Willingham may hold the WEP line because neither candidate's nominating paperwork included a required affidavit.

Observers noted that while Platkin dismissed the nominations, he did so without answering the central question of whether any of three groups vying for control of the WEP can legally nominate candidates to run on its line in November. Instead, Platkin deferred to the appellate court ruling handed down last week that said lower court can rule on specific nominations to the party's line without deciding the larger question of who controls the WEP.

The appellate ruling reversed a lower court's decision that said none of the three groups trying to take control of the party could nominate candidates because none had the support of a majority of the WEP's four statewide candidates from the 2014 election. Cuomo's group claims only two of those candidates: him and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Meanwhile, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Sise of Montgomery County allowed incumbent mayoral candidate Ann Thane, a Democrat, to remain on the third-party line.

Citing the same appellate court ruling, Sise wrote that if one of the competing groups has secured the support of at least one of the statewide candidates while other contenders have none, then it has the ability to nominate candidates for office — even if the larger question of party control remains unresolved.

The Cuomo-backed group says it wants to put some 400 candidates across the state on the WEP line.

As these and similar cases wend their way through the courts, it's unclear if the WEP line will play any sort of decisive role in the Nov. 3 elections.

In last year's gubernatorial race, the WEP earned 53,802 votes for the Cuomo-Hochul ticket — only 3 percent of a tally that also included support on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families Party lines.

Applying the same percentage to, say, a city council race in which a candidate earns 500 votes, the Women's Equality Party would account for only 15. 518-454-5449 @matt_hamilton10

Categories: State/Local

Schneiderman calls for liquid nicotine warnings, childproof packaging

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:07am

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has joined his counterparts in Indiana and Illinois to call on federal officials to take action to prevent poisoning of children from liquid nicotine and other novel tobacco products.

In a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the attorneys general requested that the agency develop standards for child-resistant packaging and to put warning labels on the liquid used in e-cigarettes as well as nicotine-based dissolvables, lotions, gels and drinks.

The FDA itself issued a notice in July requesting information on whether it should propose such rules.

The request comes in the midst of a surge of use in e-cigarettes, which tripled among middle school and high school students from 2013 to 2014, according to a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports a recent uptick in calls resulting from exposure to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine. There were nearly 3,800 such calls last year, up from about 1,500 the year before. Half those calls related to children under 5.

Liquid nicotine is highly toxic and must be diluted before it can be used in e-cigarettes. A single teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be lethal to a child, and smaller amounts can cause severe illness, often requiring trips to the emergency room.

Last year, an 18-month-old Montgomery County boy died after ingesting liquid nicotine left in a bottle within his reach. His death is believed to be the first in the country from liquid nicotine poisoning.


Categories: State/Local

Judge dismisses felony charges for 2 accused in baby's death

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:07am

FORT EDWARD (AP) — A New York judge has dismissed two felony charges against a man and woman charged in the overdose death of a 13-month-old girl.

Twenty-seven-year-old Rachel Ball and 35-year-old Joshua Bennett are charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and other charges in the death of Ball's daughter. A tentative trial date has been set for Dec. 7.

Authorities said Kayleigh Cassell died Feb. 22 in a home in the Washington County town of Kingsbury where Bennett was staying.

A forensic pathologist said Kayleigh died of pneumonia and respiratory failure stemming from acute heroin and cocaine intoxication.

The Post-Star of Glens Falls reports ( ) a Washington County judge found insufficient evidence to support tampering with physical evidence charges against the couple.


Information from: The Post-Star,

Categories: State/Local

Cops: Burned woman's death an apparent suicide

Albany Times/Union - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 12:07am

DEWITT (AP) — Authorities say a woman whose burned body was found on a central New York college campus had bought fuel, a lighter and a gas can before apparently setting herself on fire.

Police in the town of DeWitt say surveillance footage from a gas station shows the woman making the purchases before her body was found late Sunday morning in a wooded area on the Le Moyne College campus.

Officials say they're investigating her death as an apparent suicide.

Police say they've learned the woman in her 50s had a history of depression and mental illness. Her name hasn't been released.

Officials say the woman lived near the college located just outside Syracuse but had no affiliation with the college and no relatives in New York state.

Categories: State/Local
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