U.S. Attorney To Investigate Death At Fishkill Correctional

prisonU.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office will investigate the April death of an inmate at Fishill Correctional Facility, his office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.

In the statement, Bharara said his office will be coordinating with the Dutchess County district attorney, William Grady, to investigate the death of Samuel Harrell.

Harrell’s death was ruled a homicide, allegedly at the hands of guards at the state prison.

“My Office has been in communication with the office of Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady, and we will be coordinating and working with his office to investigate the April 21, 2015 death of Samuel Harrell, an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility,” Bharara said in the statement.

The federal investigation comes after the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on Tuesday named a new superintendent at the facility, Robert Cunningham, after the removal of William Connolly.

Hochul Says Opting Out Of Tests Parental Choice Issue

hochulfairLt. Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier on Thursday wouldn’t condemn parents who had their students not take the recent round of state tests, calling the question a matter of parental choice.

“Each parent can make their own choice,” Hochul said during a visit to the Star Fair in Syracuse before sitting down with a group of protesters demonstrating against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies.

Cuomo this year successfully pushed a new teacher evaluation system that links teacher performance reviews and tenure to standardized test results as well as in-classroom observation. State lawmakers begrudgling went along with the education policy changes in part because of the linkage to a boost in state aid for schools.

But Hochul told reporters in Syracuse the budget also contained provisions aimed at reducing the reliance on standardized testing in classrooms across the state, even as New York seeks to strengthen standards. More >

What Happens When You Call The Moreland Commission’s Tip Line

morelandhotlineIt still works! Well, sort of.

The defunct anti-corruption panel was shut down in April 2014 following an agreement on ethics and campaign finance reform measures in the state budget.

But the commission’s impact lingers like Albany’s very own phantom menace.

“It’s the political equivalent of the Big Bang. We’re constantly seeing its echoes over time. It for the first time underscored what the word independence meant in modern day Albany, which is not so much,” said Blair Horner, NPIRG’s legislative director.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened the panel of district attorneys and law professors to probe legislative wrongdoing. Its work was ended in April 2014 following a package of anti-corruption and ethics measures in the budget. But the circumstances of the commission being closed are part of an ongoing review by the U.S. Attorney’s office. More >

Heastie: Support In Assembly For Privatizing NYRA

heastiehorseFrom the Morning Memo:

There’s “broad support” in the Democratic-led Assembly to return the New York Racing Association back to the private sector, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Wednesday during a stop in Rochester.

State as well as federal lawmakers from upstate New York have been eager to move NYRA out of state control and back into a non-profit entity that supports thoroughbred racing.

“There seems to be broad support within our house for NYRA to go back to being a privately run institution, particularly the member who represent the Saratoga region — Carrie Woerner — has been very outspoken on this,” Heastie said. “It’s a discussion we’re having.”

NYRA has been under state control since 2012, when then-CEO Charlie Hayward was ousted after it was revealed the public-benefit corporation had improperly collected more than $7 million fees from exotic bets. More >

Stewart-Cousins Raises Concerns With Pipeline

ascFrom the Morning Memo:

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins this week sent a letter to federal regulators urging them to halt the construction of a pipeline being constructed near the Indian Point nuclear plant.

In the letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Norman Bay, Stewart-Cousins asks for work to cease on the project before an independent risk analysis can be performed.

“I believe that the myriad of questions raised with respect to the project’s potential risks to the public health and safety, as well as its proximity to Indian Point, underscore the need for such a study and analysis to be completed,” she wrote in the letter.

Stewart-Cousins’s Yonkers-area district sits down river the plant. More >

Heastie: ‘Farce’ To Suggest Downstate Doesn’t Care About Upstate

carlheastie

From the Morning Memo:

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo touts himself as the main booster for upstate New York in the region, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie disagrees that downstate residents like him don’t understand the needs of the region north of the city.

“In my 15 years in the Assembly, there’s never been an upstate-downstate divide,” he said. “There’s been plenty of deferring to members.”

Cuomo last week in Utica touted his economic development efforts across upstate New York, including millions of dollars in state investment to encourage job growth.

The governor, a Queens native and resident of Westchester County, told reporters he has had to “put his thumb on the scale” to help upstate, given the domination of downstate interests in the Legislature. More >

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking some personal time to be with his family and has no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city had holds a closed-press meeting with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin at City Hall. He’ll also hold a closed-press roundtable discussion with elected officials and community leaders on resiliency in Lower Manhattan. This evening, de Blasio will travel to Connecticut, where his son, Dante, is preparing to start his first year at Yale.

At 8 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie attends a UNICON meeting with Majority Leader Joe Morelle, 180 Linden Oaks, Rochester.

At 9:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul cuts the ribbon to kick off the 2015 State Fair, New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Boulevard, The Dairy Barn, Gate 2, Syracuse. (It’s Governor’s Day, but Cuomo won’t be attending the fair until later on in its run).

At 11 a.m., East NY Tenants, Tenant Rights Campaign, New York Communities for Change, Legal Aid Society and Legal Services of New York City launch anti-displacement campaign on behalf of tenants, 650 New Jersey Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:35 a.m., Rep. Dan Donovan presents a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol to the Marlborough Senior Center, 2298 West 8th St., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., Heastie tours Eastman Business Park, 200 West Ridge Rd., Rochester.

At 12:30 p.m., Rep. Tom Reed, state Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Bill Nojay hold press conference to discuss the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple St., Big Flats.

At 1 p.m., Heastie tours Golisano Children’s Hospital, 601 Elmwood Ave., Rochester.

At 2 p.m., de Blasio attends the OEM Preparedness Fair, Alfred E. Smith playground, corner of Catherine Street and Catherine Slip, Manhattan. (A media availability will follow).

Also at 2 p.m., Donovan hosts a Sandy-related press conference, 1145 Olympia Blvd., Staten Island.

At 2:30 p.m., Heastie meets with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, City Hall, 30 Church St., Rochester.

At 3 p.m., Heastie visits the Genesee Street Brownfield Site, 66-92 Genesee St., Rochester.

At 3:45 p.m., Heastie visits Quality Vision International, Inc., 850 Hudson Ave., Rochester.

At 4 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joins representatives from the city Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, The Community Preservation Corporation and El Barrio’s Operation Fightback Inc., and others to host a neighborhood preservation HelpDesk for multifamily building owners, El Barrio’s Artspace, Community Gallery, 215 E 99th St., Manhattan.

At 4:45 p.m., Heastie visits the Public Market, 280 North Union St., Rochester.

At 6 p.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and New York City Department of Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver host ribbon cutting ceremony, Soundview Park Amphitheater, Bronx.

At 6:40 p.m., Heastie throws out the first pitch at a Rochester Red Wings game, Frontier Field, 333 Plymouth Ave. N, Rochester.

At 7 p.m., the Manhattan Young Democrats host their 7th annual “Young Gets It Done” awards, Up & Down, 244 W. 14th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Presidential candidates from both parties as well as the White House expressed sympathy for the death of two journalists in Virginia who were killed live on air, though some Democrats focused their messages on changing gun laws.

The NYPD will double the number of officers who patrol Times Square in the wake of calls from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to curb the proliferation of costumed characters, topless women and other panhandlers who seek tips from tourists there.

De Blasio created a second panel, (more like a “subgroup” of his original task force, a spokesman said), to focus on areas beyond Times Square – from Coney Island to the Battery in lower Manhattan and other parts of the city where the panhandlers have been seen soliciting tips.

Assemblyman Matthew Titone says sugar is dangerous and New Yorkers are likely consuming far more than they realize because foods and drinks aren’t labeled in a way that is easy to understand. He wants to ban the sale of large sugary drinks to children.

Amid a Wild West of consumer-ratings sites, North Shore-LIJ Health System is one of only a few hospitals in the U.S. to take matters into its own hands. The Long Island-based hospital network began posting online ratings of its doctors this week, making it the first such organization in the metropolitan area to do so.

Add Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s name to the list of New York congressional delegation members who will be voting “no” on the Iran nuclear deal. “I’m against it,” she said.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York said they’re in “serious discussions” about having the pope’s motorcade travel through part of Central Park during his visit to the Big Apple next month, enabling more people to catch a glimpse of him.

The new superintendent for Buffalo Public Schools, Kriner Cash, opened his first board meeting by saying nice things about the city. Then he highlighted the district’s low high school graduation rate, saying: “We have got to do better.”

Hillary Clinton says she hasn’t had any back-channel discussions with VP Joe Biden’s camp about whether he will challenge her in the 2016 Democratic primary. She said he’ll leave it to Biden to decide amid “the grief and the heartbreak” of the death of his son, Beau, whether to run.

Biden told members of the Democratic National Committee during a conference call that he may not have the “emotional fuel” to run for president.

More >

Extras

Two Virginia journalists – Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27 – were killed in an attack this morning that was broadcast on live TV. The shooter was a disgruntled former employee of the station, who also shot and killed himself.

The NYPD is forming a new unit to patrol in Times Square and address quality-of-life issues amid growing concern over the chaotic jumble of costumed characters and topless women in its pedestrian plazas.

Hillary Clinton called for stricter gun control in the wake of the shooting.

Businessman Donald Trump reportedly has told several top Republicans that he will swear off the possibility of an independent bid and commit to running his presidential campaign under the party’s banner.

American Pharoah and his companion pony, Smokey, arrived at Albany International Airport today on “Air Horse One,” and then headed for Saratoga, where the Triple Crown winner will race in the Travers this Saturday.

LG Kathy Hochul, not Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will open the 2015 New York State Fair tomorrow. (So is it time to re-name “Governor’s Day”?) He plans to attend the fair some time later in the 12-day run, a spokesman said.

Strong Hearts Cafe, a Syracuse vegan/vegetarian restaurant, revealed its menu today as the first vegan food stand at the fair. (So sad we aren’t going this year).

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a member of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s task force to combat toplessness in Times Square, said that whatever rules the panel comes up with should apply equally to the body-painted female “desnudas” and to the Naked Cowboy, who has performed nearly nude in the area for years.

Empire State Development has yet to reject a company for participation in the state’s Start-Up NY program.

Cuomo is pushing for funds to lure GE’s corporate HQ back to New York, even as critics say the company – a major political donor – hasn’t adequately cleaned up toxic chemicals it dumped in the Hudson River for decades.

Clinton announced a multi-step plan to grow the economy and local services in rural areas, marking the latest effort for the Democratic frontrunner to firm up support for her candidacy in Iowa and broaden her appeal outside major metropolitan areas.

Seneca Falls is set to host a forum next Monday to discuss which great American woman should be featured on the redesigned $10 bill, US Sen. Charles Schumer announced.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner says a constitutional convention “may be the only way to bring order to the broken relationship between the mayor and the governor.”

New York’s tax climate for key business sectors – with the notable exception of manufacturing – ranks at or near the bottom among 50 states, according to a new study by the Tax Foundation and the KPMG accounting firm.

Residents in the South Bronx used to be big fans of de Blasio. Now, not so much.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli penned an OpEd in the Times Union urging the state Legislature to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform in New York, including public funding of elections for all state offices.

A former CEO of two Schenectady nonprofit entities devoted to substance abuse treatment and housing has admitted filing false reports in excess of $600,000 with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Just in time for the start of the school year, Cuomo is warning students off buying fake IDs, saying buyers are in danger of identity theft since many come from overseas on-line sellers.

Every company has its reply-all email meltdown. Today was Thomson Reuters’ turn.

Whether it’s Lyme disease, damage to gardens or motor vehicle collisions, some people in Central New York and other communities are fed up with deer, and some are taking action.

Hochul: ‘Several Hundred’ People Seeking WEP Line

hochulThe Women’s Equality Party ballot line is being sought by “several hundred” candidates running in local elections this year, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters on Wednesday in New York City.

“This year, the very first year it’s been assembled and put together, we’re actually going to have several hundred people running on that line in the state of New York,” she said at a rally for Women’s Equality Day, which was attended by prominent former and current officeholders, including Christine Quinn, now an advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Women’s Equality Party ballot line was formed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a way to promote the 10-point women’s agenda, a package of bills that has largely become law since their introduction, save for a measure designed to enhance abortion rights in the state.

For now, the candidates seeking the WEP line are running in largely local races, but they will have to fill out a questionnaire to qualify for the endorsement. Hochul suggested the current off-year cycle was a chance to gear up before 2016, when all 213 legislative seats are up for re-election in the Senate and Assembly. More >

Assembly Lawmaker Pushes Legionnaires Inspections

legionnairescoolingA Westchester County lawmaker is pushing a measure that would require the inspection and maintenance of heating and cooling systems in New York that have been blamed for the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx and parts of the downstate downstate.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Democrat from Greenburgh, introduced the legislation following the discovery of legionella bacteria at a school in Yonkers and a case emerging in Rockland County.

The disease this month also sickened more than 100 and killed 12 people.

“Unfortunately, the reach of this potentially fatal disease is widespread,” said Abinanti in a statement. “We need a comprehensive, coordinated approach to prevent further outbreaks throughout the state.” More >