Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – both of whom are at odds with Cuomo at the moment for different issues – are meeting privately today at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Fordham Law School kicks off a conference called “Fighting Corruption in America and Abroad.” Professor and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout speaks at 9:30 a.m., US Attorney Preet Bharara delivers the keynote address at 12:15 p.m., Fordham University School of Law, Skadden Conference Center, 150 West 62nd St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., a community breakfast precedes a 9:50 a.m. rally at which elected leaders and community groups called for immediate passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit, St. Athanasius School, 830 Southern Blvd., the Bronx. (Assemblyman Marcus Crespo, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., and IDC Leader Jeff Klein are scheduled to attend).

At 9:30 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray speaks to the Staten Island Mental Health Council on the Mental Health Roadmap Initiative, Li Greci’s Staaten, 697 Forest Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and United Way CEO Peter Carpino will kick-off Monroe County’s 2015 United Way Campaign, Watts Conference Center, 47 S. Fitzhugh St., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., the Charter Schools Committee of the SUNY Board of Trustees meets, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Boardroom, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m. (and running until 4 p.m.), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilman Andy King and Food Bank for New York City will host a free tax preparation service for low-income families and individuals, 2049 Bartow Ave., Community Room 28, in Co-op City, the Bronx.

At 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul unveils a new battery prototyping lab, Rochester Institute of Technology Institute Hall – Fourth Floor, 1 Lomb Memorial Dr., Rochester.

At 10:45 a.m., de Blasio and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown make an announcement, FDNY Special Ops Command Center, 750 Main St., Roosevelt Island.

At 11 a.m., Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Cynthia Lopez, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and Ghetto Film School representatives outline plans for a worldwide casting call for online video service Netflix Inc.’s planned original series “The Get Down”; suite 41A, fourth floor, South Bronx Post House, 79 Alexander Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:30 p.m., Hochul speaks at the Finger Lakes Community College Viticulture & Wine Center ribbon-cutting ceremony, 100 Empire Dr., Geneva.

At 2:30 p.m., Hochul tours the National Women’s Hall of Fame in celebration of Women’s History Month, 76 Fall St., Seneca Falls.

At 3 p.m., Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will join the New York State Afterschool Network and The After-School Corporation for a tour of the new state-funded afterschool program at Cross Hill Academy, a K-8 Public school in Yonkers, 160 Bolmer Ave.

At 6 p.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will deliver remarks and meet with veterans and their families at the Renssealer County-based STRIDE Wounded Warrior Snowfest welcome ceremony, Hilton Garden Inn, Hoosick Street, Troy.


The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked a federal judge to deny a motion by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver to dismiss his indictment on grounds that Bharara orchestrated a “media firestorm” around the arrest of the former speaker.

Bharara maintains he actually went out of his way to spare Silver undue embarrassment by having him surrender in the basement of the Javits Federal Building before being driven to the courthouse rather than subjecting him to a typical “perp walk.”

Prof. Bennett Gershman, the Pace Law School professor who has been critical of Bharara’s speech-making and TV appearances in the wake of Silver’s arrest, has ties to the assemblyman’s lawyer, Joel Cohen. The two are longtime friends.

Albany Law School Prof. Vin Bonventre has also been critical of Bharara, writing on his blog: “The United States Attorney owes it to his office, and to the justice system he is entrusted to serve, to conduct himself less like a crusading politician and more like an ethically restrained prosecutor.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don’t feel qualified to implement it and that it isn’t good for their productivity.

Cuomo said he won’t rush for the completion of a stalled database for background checks on ammunition sales that was part of New York’s controversial gun-control law in 2013.”The State Police are working on it, but it also has to be right,” the governor said. “I’d rather they do it right than they rush it and waste money and come up with bad information.”​

Facing resistance in Albany over his calls for a minimum wage exceeding $13 an hour in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio took his case directly to business leaders, urging them to raise workers’ pay to that level voluntarily. “I need you — we all need you — to take responsibility,” the mayor said.

Obtaining an account from Hillary Clinton’s private email domain became a symbol of status within the family’s inner circle, conferring prestige and closeness to the secretary. Chelsea Clinton was given one, but under a pseudonym, Diane Reynolds, which she frequently used when she checked into hotels. Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide and surrogate daughter, was also given a coveted address.

The government will examine thousands of Clinton’s emails for public release — and for possible security lapses — after revelations she used her private account to conduct official business as secretary of state, a senior State Department official said.

A lawyer with the state attorney general’s office said in court papers that neither top officials at the state Office of General Services nor a former adviser to Cuomo should be sanctioned for the automatic deletion of emails concerning the ouster of the Wandering Dago food truck from Saratoga Race Course.

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Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York who oversaw a broad and sometimes unpopular financial overhaul of the archdiocese and played a prominent role in the city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, died at the age of 82.

A Delta Air Lines flight landing at La Guardia Airport skidded off the runway, crashed over a berm and through a fence during a snowstorm this morning, forcing passengers to evacuate by climbing out onto a broken wing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out 42 city mayors from around the state who support his plan to crack down on college sexual assault, but failed to win over the woman who leads the state’s fifth largest city: Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Sen. John DeFrancisco is “very confident” there will be changes to Cuomo’s budget to ensure Centro will not have to cut bus services or routes in Central New York.

In a speech to some of NYC’s most powerful business leaders, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the private sector to voluntarily hike the minimum wage to $13 an hour.

Unlike many of his more wary real estate brethren, Rob Speyer moved quickly to build a strong relationship with de Blasio, but the two aren’t on the same page on affordable housing.

Owners of the struggling FitzPatrick nuclear plant are suing New York utility regulators over a deal announced last year by Cuomo that requires National Grid customers to subsidize a Western New York power plant.

Former Sen. Seymour Lachman praised Cuomo in a NYT letter to the editor for using the budget to push for ethics reform.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton: “Race is something that’s always haunted American policing. It’s our intention to have a lot of the issue resolved here….It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be damn hard.”

The Bronx Democrats are scheduled to elect Assemblyman Marcus Crespo as their new chairman, replacing Carl Heastie, who gave up the post when he became speaker.

A marketing company known for its Snuggie infomercials settled state and federal claims that it stuck consumers with hidden charges that almost doubled the cost of the product, AG Eric Schneiderman announced.

A deaf Syracuse alum has developed a following on Twitter for posting quotes from Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim that he lipreads off the TV set during games.

Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile has hired former Assemblyman Carim Karma’s spokesman to manage his campaign for the NY-11 seat vacated by ex-Rep. Michael Grimm.

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout has agreed to sit on the advisory board of the embryonic Albany Museum of Political Corruption.

Rep. Chris Gibson will be honored at the Queens Village GOP Lincoln Dinner on March 22.

Rep. Pete King is hopeful Dan Donovan will join him in the “common-sense wing” of the Republican Party if the Staten Island DA is elected to replace Grimm.

Adding pressure to the state Legislature, the AQE released a report that shows how much they believe the state owes each of the 700 school districts in aid—and links it to each lawmaker’s district.

Cuomo today announced the return of the Craft New York Brewers Festival to the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany this Saturday.

The former clerk of the town of Rosendale justice court will make full restitution after admitting to stealing nearly $6,000 in cash from bail collections as a result of an audit and investigation by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Judge Nixes Grimm’s Euoprean Travel Request

A federal judge has rejected frormer Rep. Michael Grimm’s request to modify the terms of his bail so he could travel to Europe this spring for a job opportunity while awaiting sentencing on his tax fraud conviction.

Judge Pamela Chen determined that the ex-Staten Island lawmaker is too much of a flight risk to be allowed to leave the country for a week, which would open the possibility that he would travel still further to a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the US.

“Even though Grimm has posted his home as security for his pre-sentence release bond, the Court does not find that the loss of that property provides sufficient suasion if Grimm decides to leave the United States to avoid a possible prison term,” Chen wrote.

“Obviously, if Grimm chose to flee, he would not need a house in the United States. Furthermore, the Court does not find the reason for Grimm’s motion, i.e., to qualify for a potential job opportunity, sufficient to justify lifting the travel restriction. While Grimm is certainly entitled to seek future employment, his desire to obtain a particular job does not trump the need to ensure his appearance for sentencing.”

Grim faces a maximum prison sentence of up to three years as a result of the guilty plea he entered last December. That plea came after he successfully stood for re-election, defeating former Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia despite the mutli-count federal indctment hanging over his head.

Ex-Rep. Michael Grimm denied required to modify bail to travel to Europe. by liz_benjamin6490

Bharara’s Office Knocks Silver’s Efforts To Dismiss Case

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s efforts to have his corruption case tossed should be denied, federal prosecutors argued in a filing Thursday, saying the Manhattan Democrat’s claims that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sought to prejudice jurors was a “calculated effort to malign him” and mislead the public.

Silver was indicted last month on charges of fraud and extortion stemming from accusations that he masked nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks as legal referrals.

Silver’s attorneys moved to have the case tossed, citing Bharara’s comments about public corruption in Albany and his criticism of state government as a sign that he was seeking to unduly influence potential jurors in the upcoming corruption trial.

But Bharara’s office contends Silver’s attorneys sought to take quotations out of context and “distorts the facts surrounding his arrest.”

“In truth, the U.S. Attorney’s public statements related to this case and to public corruption matters more broadly have been entirely proper and in accordance with the rules of this Court, the guidelines of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), and the New York Rules of Professional Conduct,” federal prosecutors wrote in court filings. “The defendant has suffered no unfair prejudice warranting relief of any kind.”

Silver resigned as Assembly speaker, a post he’s held since 1994, following his arrest in January. He retains his seat in the chamber.

Silver Motion Response.pdf by Nick Reisman

AFL-CIO Wants Education Reform Stripped From Budget

The AFL-CIO’s executive council on Thursday unanimously backed a resolution opposing Gov. Andrew Cumoo’s education policy changes inserted in his $142 billion budget proposal.

The labor umbrella group blasted the proposals, saying Cuomo is attempting to circumvent the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers.

“Today’s vote by our Executive Council sends a powerful message,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO in a statement. “The labor movement is speaking with one very clear voice in denouncing this misguided policy and calling it what it is – an attempt to ultimately allow for circumvention of the collective bargaining process.”

Only hours earlier today, Cilento was included on a list of prominent labor leaders backing the governor’s push to increase the state’s minimum wage. Cuomo’s name is not mentioned in the news release.

But the AFL-CIO, nevertheless, did not endorse Cuomo for re-election last year.

Cuomo is battling with the state’s teachers unions over his education policy proposals, which included a new, more stringent teacher evaluation law and making it easier for schools to fire teachers deemed to be poor performers.

“In addition, the proposal would roll back due process rights, which would have a chilling effect on the ability of teachers to advocate for their students,” Cilento said. “As the resolution points out, the proposed reforms would not address real issues in and outside the classroom that hinder student performance.”

Cuomo last year spoke of ending the “monopoly” of public education in the state and is backing a strengthening of charter schools in the budget as well.

Cuomo’s budget proposal would increase education spending by as much as $1.1 billion, but much of that spending is tied to lawmakers approving his reform measures.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan has called that spending figure “the floor” of what should be considered as an increase for education.

Report: State Still Owes Schools a Lot of Money

The state still owes schools $4.9 Billion in foundation aid as part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity agreement.

That’s what a report out, Thursday, from the Alliance for Quality Education says. More than half of that – $2.5 Billion – is owed to New York City schools alone, dividing out to $2,667 per student.

The report details how much money (down to the dollar) is owed to schools in each Assembly and Senate district. AQE says it’s the first report of its kind to do this.

At the top of the list for the lower chamber is Assemblyman Philip Ramos from Long Island. Schools in his districts are reportedly owed $142,696,012. No, I did not misplace a comma. That is 142 million dollars.

The lowest number on that list is in Assemblyman David Buchwald’s district. Schools there are owed $11,942,233 according to the report. Buchwald’s district encompasses parts of Westchester County, which, admittedly does have higher property taxes than the rest of the state.

In the Senate, it’s much the same. Senator Phil Boyle’s district tops the list of dollars owed at $160,841,528. Boyle’s district is from the same area of Long Island, surrounding the Town of Islip.

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson has the lowest number at $18,368,235. Her district lies in the Bronx.

The group is asking for the state to uphold its part of the bargain in the CFE case. Republicans in the State Senate have suggested cutting the Gap Elimination Adjustment to compensate for some of the lost aid, but advocates say that wouldn’t go far enough.

“For the vast majority of school districts and particularly for high-need school districts … the foundation aid is much more beneficial,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “A much higher proportion of what is due to those districts is foundation aid. In fact, of the GEA, only 34 percent is due to high-need districts. Of the foundation aid, 76 percent is due to high-need districts.”

Governor Cuomo’s proposing a $1.1 Billion increase in funding for the state’s education system as part of his budget. The Board of Regents (along with the Alliance for Quality Education) has said, however, that at least double of what the Governor’s proposing would be more appropriate.

Gubernatorial Delinquency Report

DiNapoli Files For 2018

Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has filed with the state board of elections to run for another term in 2018.

The incumbent comptroller’s re-election campaign account was rechristened DiNapoli 2018 this week, according to Board of Elections records.

DiNapoli was first elevated to the comptroller’s post in 2007 by his colleagues in the Democratic-led Assembly, following the resignation of Alan Hevesi.

DiNapoli was elected to the office outright in 2010, defeating Republican Harry Wilson. He won a second full term in 2014, defeating GOP Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci — a race that marked the first-ever public financing system for the comptroller’s office, which DiNapoli did not participate in (Antonacci did, with little success).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not given an indication whether he will run for a third term, while Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would be seeking a third term for his post as well (the AG is considered a potential candidate for governor one day, especially if Cuomo steps aside).

Schneiderman earlier this year re-filed for 2018 as well.

Union Leaders Back Cuomo’s Minimum Wage Push

A coalition of labor groups and their leaders on Thursday backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to increase the state’s minimum wage.

The push includes the release of a video featuring prominent union leaders Mario Cilento of the state AFL-CIO, Peter Ward of the New York Hotel Trades Council and George Gresham of 1199/SEIU.

“New Yorkers who work full-time should be able to afford food on the table and a path out of poverty,” Governor Cuomo said. “As our economy strengthens and more jobs are created in our communities, we must do more to ensure opportunity for all New Yorkers. I thank our labor leaders from across the state for joining the Fight for Fair Pay campaign and urging the State Legislature to increase the minimum wage this session.”

The unions signing on to the raise the wage campaign launched by Cuomo this week include a disparate collection of labor groups from both private trades and the public sector.

The coalition doesn’t include labor groups who had a truculent relationship with Cuomo, including public-sector groups like the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation.

Cuomo this year is tangling with the state’s teachers union over his education reform measures.

Still, Cuomo was not endorsed by the AFL-CIO last year in his bid for re-election.

Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal this year would increase the wage in New York City to $11.50 and $10.50 elsewhere. The wage is due to increase at the end of the year to $9, up from the current $8.75, part of a final phase-in from an agreement reached in 2013.

The governor has built support for his plan with the support from the state’s labor community as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has deemed Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal insufficient and called for a $13 wage in the city, indexed to inflation.

The union support for Cuomo’s plan deprives de Blasio of potentially potent allies for his competing proposal.

Cuomo’s office has called such a proposal a non-starter with the Legislature, primarily majority Republicans in the state Senate.

Strength In Numbers

ICYMI from the Morning Memo today:

Upstate Democrats’ numbers have been steadily increasing in the Assembly majority conference, but they remain outnumbered by the downstate members, who continue to control much of the agenda in the Legislature’s lower house.

Case in point: The downstaters and Democratic party leaders in the five boroughs recently used their clout to select a new speaker, Carl Heastie, who hails from the Bronx, over Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester Democrat.

A handful of upstate members have realized they’re likely to have better luck at seeing results on their priorities, which often differ from those of their more liberal downstate counterparts, if they band together – much like the black and Latino members have done by creating their own caucus.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Utica Democrat, says a small group of upstaters – maybe five or six who hail mostly from urban areas – started meeting last year to strategize about education funding.

This year, Brindisi said, the number has grown to about 15 or so members from several regions – including the Upper Hudson Valley, Capital District and Buffalo – who have met several times so far to discuss a wide range of topics. They’re currently holding their meetings in the office of Central NY Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli.

Brindisi was reluctant to call this loose coalition a formal “delegation,” noting the formation of such a group was frowned upon under the former speaker.

“Any time you had large groups of member meeting, it certainly was cause for concern,” Brindisi recalled. “We lost out on certain things because of that.”

But the new speaker, Carl Heastie, doesn’t seem to have a problem with the idea of Democratic conference members forming special interest groups.

In fact, several of these coalitions formed during the brief but intense fight for the speakership after Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s corruption scandal cost him the post, and Heastie even met with some of them. (The newer members, the so-called “reform” caucus, etc.)

Brindisi said the upstaters have broadened their focus to include transit – “something we all agree could use more funding” – and addressing the needs of immigrant/refugee populations that have popped up in certain urban centers.

“We don’t want this to look like a downstate versus upstate effort; it’s not,” the assemblyman said. “It’s just that we have common issues – particularly in our urban areas – and we realized that when we work on the budget, it’s helpful for members to work together and advocate as one voice.”

Senate Republicans Introduce Common Core Refusal Bill (Updated)

Two freshman Republican lawmakers this week introduced a bill that’s aimed at strengthening parents ability to have their children opt out from Common Core testing.

The measure, known as the Common Core Refusal Act, would require the state Department of Education to notify parents of their right to not have children in grades 3 through 8 participate in Common Core-based testing.

The bill was introduced by GOP Sens. Terrence Murphy and Rich Funke.

Updated: The bill is being carried by Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in the Democratic-led chamber.

“This bill codifies that parents receive proper notification of their rights as it relates to refusing to have their children participate in these field tests,” the bill’s memorandum states. “More importantly, it protects school districts, individual schools, teachers, and students alike from facing any withholding of funds, state takeovers, sanctions, negative impact on a teacher’s evaluation or any other punitive measures associated with the outcomes related to test refusal.”

Specifically, the bill is taking aim at tests provided by Pearson, an education company that has provided Common Core-based testing and has come under scrutiny for its $32 million contract to administer the tests for the state.

The bill would require a “universal notification” posted on school district websites as well as a mailed notification to parents.

The measure would block punishment for not participating in the tests, including withholding state aid and include protections for both teachers and students.

The bill comes after a pitched election year debate over the controversial education standards in schools across the state.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino ran on a newly formed Stop Common Core ballot line last year, which has now morphed into the Reform Party ballot line with a broadened agenda (to the consternation of anti-Common Core advocates).

Lawmakers estimate that 60,000 students last year declined to participate in Common Core-based testing.

Common Core has made for unlikely allies in New York and nationally for both conservatives who are skeptically of a nationally imposed education standard as well as teachers unions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year negotiated a bill with the statewide teachers union that would delay the impact of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations.

But Cuomo ultimately vetoed that measure as he pursues this year a more stringent teacher evaluation law.