Friday Night and What’s Ahead

Governor Cuomo is touring areas of Western New York affected by extreme weather. Meanwhile, President Obama’s executive order on immigration is being met with criticism from opponents, including some in New York. Billy Easton from the Alliance for Quality Education talks about more funding for schools across the state while Michael Burgess from the American Cancer Society talks about the state’s role in discouraging tobacco use. Here’s highlights from Friday night and what’s ahead tonight.

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Immigrants Upstate: Farm Bureau’s Kelly Young Interview

Cutting Education Cuts: AQE’s Billy Easton Interview

Targeting Tobacco: American Cancer Society’s Michael Burgess Interview

Reporter Roundtable

Casino Decisions May Come Dec. 17

A decision on which projects will receive the green light to build a resort-style casino is expected to be made on Dec. 17, state gaming officials on Monday said.

The state Gaming Commission’s Gaming Facility Location Board huddled last week, indicating it will make its decision as to which licenses will be issued at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.

“The Gaming Facility Location Board has met on three occasions to discuss the financial and employment histories of those applicants responsive to the Request For Application to Develop and Operate a Gaming Facility in New York state,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said at the meeting. “Their most recent meeting occurred this past Friday when they met at Hofstra University. While information relative to the board’s review and deliberation has been scarce, I understand that they have tentatively scheduled Dec. 17 in Albany for their final meeting.”

There are a total of 16 proposals for casinos in the first phase of casino construction in three regions of the state: The Hudson Valley/Catskills region, the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier and the Capital District.

Up to four licenses will be issue in the first round of construction, and members of the casino location board have suggested they may not issue all of them immediately.

Six of the proposals are in Orange County, which is closest geographically to New York City. Some of the upstate developers have insisted that licenses should be issued closer to the Catskills region, given the economic troubles of the area.

The casino selection process is taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty for the table-top gambling industry, especially in Atlantic City. More broadly, industry analysts have raised concerns about market saturation of casinos in the northeast.

Brooklyn Among 3 Finalists For DNC

Brooklyn is among the finalists for holding the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced today in an email to supporters.

Also among the finalists is Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia.

Elected officials in New York — especially those from Brooklyn — have lobbied heavily in favor of holding the convention there, where former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to emerge as the nominee of the party.

“We’re thrilled to move to the next step of the selection process to determine where Democrats will come together to nominate the 45th President of the United States,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant group of cities interested in hosting this special event and we thank Phoenix and Birmingham for showcasing their special communities. We look forward to working with Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, potential weeks for the convention include July 18, July 25, and August 22.

The last time New York City hosted a national convention was with the Republicans in 2004, held at Madison Square Garden.

Second Round Of Kellner Harassment Charges Dismissed

A second set of sexual harassment charges that had been leveled against Assemblyman Micah Kellner were dismissed by a hearing officer, with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver being asked to review sanctions that stripped the Manhattan Democrat of his Albany and district offices.

Kellner was accused last year of making inappropriate advances directed toward legislative staff, and a second round of charges were leveled at him when he was accused of employing an intern, a violation of the December penalties Silver had issued.

Hearing officer Howard Levine wrote in a letter that Kellner wasn’t given enough notice earlier this spring following the new charge.

Levine did said that while Kellner’s employment of an intern did violate the December order, it wasn’t determinative that Kellner’s offices should be taken away from him.

“No evidence has been offered indicating what the Speaker would have done in the absence of additional sexual harassment findings,” Levine wrote. “Moreover, whether or not it would shock my sense of fairness if the Speaker had determined to close Member Kellner’s offices absent the sexual harassment findings, that is simply not the record before me.”

Kellner in an emailed statement to reporters blasted Silver, saying the ruling by Levine proved the Assembly Ethics Committee’s review of the harassment case shwed it was “nothing more then a kangaroo court doing Speaker Silver’s bidding.”

“Speaker Silver put my appeal in the hands of a lobbying firm, assuming they would also do his bidding because it was in their financial interest, but when they showed a shred of fairness Speaker Silver, making this up as he goes along, decided to ignore his hand picked appeals officer and ham handily invoke double jeopardy,” he said.

In October, Levine denied an appeal by Kellner on the initial set of harassment charges.

Kellner has argued in his appeal that he didn’t receive the constitutional right to due process or enough time to respond to the harassment charges.

But Levine wrote in the report that Kellner had “sufficient opportunity to refute and clear his name with respect to allegations of misconduct.”

Cuomo Says He Didn’t Mean To Criticize NWS

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday defended comments he made over the weekend that suggested the National Weather Service did not accurately predict the lake effect snowstorm that crippled western New York last week.

Cuomo, on Sunday, said preparations were hampered in part by an incorrect forecast from the regional weather service.

“We didn’t have notice of the snow coming down the way it did, and the information we had was wrong,” Cuomo said.

The National Weather Service in the area predicted at least three feet of snow in advance of the storm.

NWS on Saturday predicted there would be 1-to-2 feet of snow or more, and by Sunday, the service was predicting a blizzard, with at least two feet of snow predicted. And by 3:45 p.m. on Monday, the NWS forecast was 2 to 3 feet, with snowfall rates of at least five inches an hour being predicted.

Meteorologists around the state blasted Cuomo’s remarks, as did the Today Show’s Al Roker.

Today, Cuomo said he didn’t mean to criticize NWS, but added he wanted the state’s own weather forecasting service to provide even more information in order to prepare for extreme events going forward.

“To the extent any weather forecaster felt they were criticized was not the intention,” Cuomo said at a press briefing while flanked by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

He added the state-based weather service will be able to anticipate rising flood levels as well as storms that threaten New York.

“We will have more sensors than what the National Weather Service has in this state,” Cuomo said, adding it would be more “sophisticated” than what NWS has to offer.

Meanwhile, flooding in the area after unseasonably warm temperatures has not been as widespread as anticipated.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said there has been “virtually no flooding” in his city.

Attention will now turn toward damage assessment in western New York and whether the state will qualify for federal aid. The threshold for aid is $27 million in damage, but Cuomo said he expects to reach that number.

“We need the response from FEMA,” Cuomo said. “We need it fast and we need to get our fair share.”

Gillibrand Bids Hagel Goodbye

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she’s looking forward to working with whoever succeeds US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose resignation was announced by President Obama earlier today.

New York’s junior senator clashed with Hagel over her push to have sexual assault cases in the military removed from the chain of command and turned over to independent military prosecutors. (Hagel, not surprisingly, preferred the status quo, saying the problem of sexual assaults could not be fixed without keeping the command staff involved in order to provide “accountability”).

In a statement issued after Obama’s announcement, Gillibrand acknowledged – without offering any specifics – that she had not agreed with Hagel “on a number of issues. However, she thanked him for his public service, and “his dedication to our men and women in uniform.”

“I look forward to working with his successor on issues where we must do better such as ending the scourge of sexual assaults in our military, integrating women into combat roles and finally getting our troops home from Afghanistan,” the senator concluded.

Cuomo Cabinet Members In Western NY For Recovery

Top-level members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration have been transferred to western New York to help deal with the ongoing recovery and potential flooding following multiple feet of snow hitting the region.

Cuomo on Saturday said he has “transferred the bulk of the state government from Albany to western New York.”

Directly overseeing the state’s response appear to be most of the governor’s cabinet and commissioners.

Officials now on recovery duty include OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball, and acting Health Commissioner Richard Zucker.

The officials have been out in the area for the last several days and more are heading there today.

Cuomo himself as been in Erie County continuously since the middle of last week to oversee the snow response, recovery and flood preparations.

Another briefing from the governor is due shortly.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet released a public schedule. He has spent the past five days in Erie County, monitoring storm response and clean-up efforts.

All WNY state offices in areas forced to close due to the storm will be open today.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a meeting with local elected officials and community members at City Hall as part of ongoing efforts to build more support for his administration’s bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. The meeting is closed to the press.

At 8 a.m., Food Bank For New York City officials, the president of CUNY’s Hunter College, Jennifer J. Raab, and city officials discuss a report about local hunger during the food bank’s “Legislative Breakfast”; Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, 47-49 E. 65th St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., One day before the NYC Council is scheduled to give its final approval of the controversial Astoria Cove development, dozens of tenants and allies of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital Complex will stage a rally and sit-in at Alma Realty’s corporate headquarters, 28-18 31st St., Suite 201, Astoria, Queens.

At 10 a.m., Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and US Rep. Gregory Meeks outline legislative proposals intended to reverse the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s requests for the return of some Hurricane Sandy financial assistance; Belle Harbor Manor, 209 Beach 125th St., Queens.

Also at 10 a.m., former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. and executives and employees from residential real estate developer Stagg Group. distribute free Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income Bronx families, veterans and others; next to the MTA’s Nereid Avenue subway station, 4453 White Plains Rd., the Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Campaign Finance Board members hold a public hearing about proposed minimum requirements for text message campaign contributions to be eligible for public matching funds; boardroom, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., members of the NYC Council’s Committee on Transportation are scheduled to vote on whether to advance legislation that would double a requirement that the city Department of Transportation install 25 “Accessible Pedestrian Signals” annually to 50 per year beginning in 2015; Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., health care advocates announce the formation of the New York State Palliative Care Collaborative, LCA Press Room 120, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., members of the NYC Council’s Committee on General Welfare hold an oversight hearing on “Hunger in the City,” where witnesses will testify about the city’s Emergency Food Assistance Program and related issues; committee room, 14th floor, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Rep. Paul Tonko, faith groups, low-income residents and anti-hunger groups gather for the annual Thanksgiving Action Against Hunger to call for food to be treated as a human right, Emmanuel Baptist Church, 275 State St., Albany.

At 1 p.m., the state Gaming Commission meets, (the winners of the upstate casino license hunt will not be announced), ESDC, 37th Floor conference room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan. The meeting will be webcast at http://www.gaming.ny.gov.

At 2 p.m., US Rep. Michael Grimm and the Rev. Erick Salgado distribute Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income residents near a fire-damaged church; near Iglesia Jovenes Cristianos, 144 Bennett St., Staten Island.

At 4 p.m., the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, alongside the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls and counties of Erie and Niagara, will unveil the 2015 Regional Agenda items, Pettibones Grille at Coca-Cola Field, 272 Washington St., Buffalo.

Updated: This event has been postponed.

Headlines…

Officials at the National Weather Service’s Buffalo office declined to comment on the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s criticism of the WNY snow storm forecast, but agency officials at the national level disputed his suggestion that its predictions were in any way faulty.

In a statement, the NWS said: “The National Weather Service issued time and accurate forecasts for not just one, but two heavy lake-effect snow events for the Buffalo area.”

Forecasters predicted Monday that Erie County could receive 3 feet of snow, then doubled the amount in their forecast by Tuesday morning. They estimated 3-to-5 inches would fall per hour, for a total of 5-to-6 feet Tuesday — plus an additional fall of up-to-2 feet Wednesday night through Thursday. But state officials only planned for 3 feet of snow from a briefing they received Monday and got a late start plowing out the region.

Cuomo, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called on residents in flood-prone areas, in particular, to pack an emergency bag, collect important papers related to their homes and their lives, and be ready to leave if necessary.

“It sounds relatively harmless. It comes up, and it goes down,” Cuomo said. “But it’s not water. It’s a toxic brew. It has sewage in it. It has all sorts of runoff in it and it does tremendous damage with whatever it hits. So flooding is nothing to take lightly, and I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.”

More >

The Weekend That Was

As snowplows and trucks continue to clear streets around the greater Buffalo area after a historic snowstorm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced preparations are being made for the area’s next big challenge: flooding.

Interstate 90 exits 46 through 61 from the Rochester area to the Pennsylvania state line have reopened, Thruway officials said.

Cuomo said the National Weather Service got the Buffalo storm forecast wrong, and as a result, the state will be getting its own weather predicting equipment.

According to the governor, the Weather Service did not indicate that the heavy snow bands would remain stationary and blast South Buffalo and the Southtowns with the incredible rate of snowfall.

Needless to say, National Weather Service meteorologists did not take kindly to Cuomo’s comments.

During a morning news conference, Mayor Byron Brown said “significant progress” has been made on city streets and 80,000 tons of snow has been removed so far from Buffalo streets.

Brown announced an end to the driving ban there today, leaving Lackawanna as the only community still with a ban.

Mark Monmonier, who wrote a book on lake effect snow in 2012, said it’s unlikely that any 24-hour period in Buffalo exceeded 49 inches, which is the New York state record held by Watertown.

AG Eric Schneiderman has begun legal action against businesses accused of price gouging to take advantage of people’s desperation during this past week’s debilitating snowstorm.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Chris Collins both toured the snow-struck area on Saturday, promising to marshal all their forces in an effort to obtain Federal Emergency Management Agency money.

Marion Barry Jr., a fiery civil rights activist who rose to prominence as a mayor of Washington, D.C., only to fall in disgrace when he was arrested for smoking crack cocaine, died early this morning at the age of 78.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has been misdirected.

President Obama shot down Republican criticism of the controversial executive actions he announced last week that will suspend millions of deportations.

Obama, acknowledging he’s been battered by political “dings,” said he doesn’t expect Hillary Clinton will tap him for campaign appearances in a potential 2016 run.

Ken Tingley: “If Gov. Andrew Cuomo pursued corruption in Albany with the same zeal he has Dave Wick, the state would be a better place.”

The Lake George Park Commission voted unanimously Friday to keep Wick, its executive director, on paid administrative leave while it investigates claims brought against him by the Cuomo administration.

Early support is building for state oversight of the East Ramapo school district, but pressure is on Rockland County’s legislative delegation to craft a plan that New York’s most inscrutable politicians will get behind.

The GOP-led House investigation that cleared the White House of wrong-doing in its response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was “full of crap,” a top Senator said.

PEF’s endorsement of failed gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout is emerging as an issue for a group organized to challenge Susan Kent for the presidency of the union, which has elections scheduled for June.

A fight for the future of charter schools is brewing in Albany involving New York’s top political leaders and well-financed lobbyists.

After a two month delay, Cuomo will announce the distribution of the state’s annual economic development funding on Dec. 10 in Albany.

The NYC Department of Education has told principals it plans this year to enroll 2,350 migrant children from Central America who crossed into the United States unaccompanied — with many more to come.

Most Long Island Rail Road retirees who had their disability benefits terminated because they were examined by doctors later convicted of fraud have gotten their benefits back.

The Syracuse Post-Standard finds proof that one of former Rep. Dan Maffei’s negative ads attacking Congressman-elect John Katko was false.

Assemblyman John McDonald of Cohoes and state Sen. Neil Breslin of Bethlehem sent a letter to Cuomo pressing for the Rensselaer casino proposal to be one of the possible four to receive licenses from the state.

Schumer says recent near misses between aerial drones and aircraft at New York City’s Kennedy Airport show the need for federal regulations on the small, remote controlled aircraft.

NYC paid a record $530.2 million in fees to pension investment firms last fiscal year, despite Comptroller Scott Stringer’s vow to rein in the escalating costs.

Dozens rallied in Garden City today for the second week in a row to oppose Nassau County’s school zone speed cameras, once again calling for an end to the controversial program.

NYC’s 5,000 school cleaners and handy ​men reached a nine-year $211.1 million contract last week, which includes a $1,000 bonus and 18 percent raises.

Cuomo: State’s Weather Service Will Be “More Accurate” (Updated)

The state is taking weather forecasting into its own hands.

Governor Cuomo over the weekend was critical of the National Weather Service and its prediction of the Buffalo snow storm. Cuomo said during a press conference Saturday that the NWS did not indicate that the heavy snow bands would remain stationary and drop so much snow on to the area.

“The weather service, which by the way does the best job they can do with the information they have, they make a forecast. They say ‘we think the snow will start at 6 a.m. and we think it will start at one to two inches per hour.’ And you prepare for that. Turns out the storm starts eight hours earlier at double the rate they said it was going to start.”

Sunday, Cuomo followed up his statements regarding the NWS and the state’s new system.

“It’s not that the National Weather Service failed us, it’s that the National Weather Service has a certain number of weather stations and they get that information from those weather stations. And they perform the best they can with the information that they have. If you want to have a more accurate prediction of weather, you need more weather stations. You need more centers that are detecting changes in weather and communicating it.”

The governor first announced the state weather stations back in January when Vice President Joe Biden was in Albany.

Cuomo says New York will have the “most sophisticated weather detection system” that will be able to give more information and be more reliable. The stations will be headquartered in Albany.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service issued a statement regarding the governor’s comments early Monday:

The National Weather Service issued timely and accurate forecasts for not just one but two heavy lake-effect snow events for the Buffalo area last week and for the rain and potential flooding this week. This information was communicated through our routine forecast products that were enhanced by descriptive impacts that were also communicated via social media, and through direct briefings to decision makers such as state and county emergency managers and partners.
-Chris Vaccaro
NWS Spokesman