Here and Now

As Albany holds its collective breath, waiting for the reported imminent arrest on corruption charges of yet another legislative leader (this time, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) – perhaps as early as today – Senate GOP conference members are scheduled to meet behind closed doors at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.

President Obama is in NYC today to attend a variety of DNC fundraisers and a public event in the afternoon. He’ll also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. His visit will likely cause traffic problems in the already-congested city.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is holding its annual lobby day in Albany, with 150 students from NYC boarding buses early in the morning to travel up the Thruway to participate.

At 7:30 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will greet morning commuters starting at Tottenville Train Station. He’ll then ride the train and greet commuters at the ferry terminal.

At 9:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at Bridgeview Diner, 9011 3rd Ave., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters at La Bella Marketplace, 7907 13th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 937 76th St., Brooklyn.

At 1:00 p.m., Donovan will be a guest on Davidzon Radio 620AM.

At 2 p.m. in the Assembly and 3 p.m. in the Senate, UAlbany’s basketball teams are scheduled to be honored.

At 2:30 p.m., Donovan will greet voters outside PS 36, 255 Ionia Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., NYC elected officials and transit advocates from throughout New York to rally for advocated for an extensive and expansive federal transportation funding bill, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the Capital District Working Families Party announces its support for a slate of candidates for Troy city government, Top of the Approach at RPI, near 110 8th Street, between Sage and Congress streets, Troy.

Also at 11 a.m., Family Planning Advocates members will hold a second day of action, rallying in favor of “comprehensive” reproductive health care, joined by a variety of elected officials – including Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – Meeting Room 6, Empire State Concourse, Albany.

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where he will deliver remarks and participate in a conversation with technology journalist Kim-Mai Cutler, Manhattan Center, 10th Floor, 311 W 34th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., elected officials and advocates will gather to urge the Senate to pass a resolution that condemns actions of the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court, which stripped hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Michelle Schimel, and Brian Kavanagh will join approximately 150 students from New York City who will travel to Albany to express their desire for enhanced gun legislation, LOB, Hearing Room B, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 1:30 p.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina visits the Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to make an announcement, 800 Home St., the Bronx.

At 2:30 p.m., President Obama will speak at Lehman College for the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization, 250 Bedford Park Blvd,, the Bronx.

At 6 p.m., Donovan will greet voters going door-to-door, starting at 82 Westcott Blvd., Staten Island.


A full-blown battle to succeed soon-to-be-arrested Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got under way this weekend, Fred Dicker reports, as Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, who had planned to retire next year, signaled he wanted the job.

As of yesterday, it was unclear if Skelos would attempt to retain his leadership post if charged, but some of his colleagues said they would support him if he wanted to remain at the chamber’s helm.

Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, a Queens Democrat, skirts on the edge of scandal while her fellow pols have been hauled off to prison. She also racked up thousands in per-diem expenses, including one 12-day stretch in 2010 when she said she was in Albany but didn’t attend any legislative sessions.

Struggling and underfunded NYC schools will get an additional $33.6 million under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget for 2016. The budget will be formally unveiled Thursday.

The NYT re-reports our past reporting that the hold-up in the Assembly on the pension forfeiture piece of the ethics reform package negotiated as part of the budget is being caused by labor unions.

De Blasio called the shooting in the head of a plainclothes NYPD officer “an unconscionable act of violence” and an attack “against the values we hold dear.”

The man accused of shooting the officer, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, is a repeat felon.

After a series of unfortunate events for the Democratic organization, the party’s line in tomorrow’s special election to fill former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat is vacant. Three Democrats are jockeying for votes in the special election Tuesday on party lines that include the Working Families Party, the Independent Party and the newly formed Love Yourself Party.

The Assembly Republicans received four Chevy Impalas paid for by the state. Assembly GOP spokesman Michael Fraser said the $24,000 cars will replace older, high-mileage vehicles.

The governor’s sister, cancer doctor Margaret Cuomo, previews the first ever NYS Cancer Prevention Summit, being sponsored by the state Health Department in NYC on May 20.

Manhattan Democratic District Leader Paul Newell said he is “very seriously considering” taking a second shot at the seat of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces federal charges of extortion and mail and wire fraud. Newell ran an unsuccessful primary challenge to Silver in 2008.

A fund-raiser for President Obama happening blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the annual Costume Institute Gala kicks off tonight could wreak havoc on drivers shuttling fashion insiders uptown.

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The Weekend That Was

Following a report that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, will be arrested on corruption charges sometime this coming week, talk has turned to whether someone in the GOP conference will try to replace the Long Island lawmaker as leader, or is he’ll step aside.

Pros and cons of some of the frontrunners to replace Skelos as leader.

A New York City police officer in plain clothes, Brian Moore, 25, was shot in the face and critically wounded on Saturday in Queens after driving up in an unmarked car to question a man on the street.

The man who shot Moore, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, was charged with one count of attempted murder, one of assault and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The Republican candidate in a special election to fill New York’s 11th congressional district pledged today — just two days before the race — to “untax” constituents.

The Staten Island Advance endorsed Donovan over his Democratic opponent, Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile.

The Clinton campaign is advertising a Mother’s Day call from the candidate for the winner of an online contest.

As First Lady Chirlane McCray pushes to improve NYC mental health services, Mayor Bill de Blasio has quietly cut funding for the internationally known Samaritans suicide hotline.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she’s working with her staff, not Cuomo, on Buffalo mayoral control legislation that she plans to introduce tomorrow.

In the current year, 112 local governments borrowed $346 million to cover retirees’ pension costs – a drop of 27 percent from 2014, records from the state Comptroller’s Office said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week dined with the executive director of JCOPE, the state ethics commission that oversees his administration, at a restaurant in upstate Saugerties owned by her extended family.

Now that the budget’s done, the governor and legislative leaders must address property tax relief, which didn’t end up in the final spending plan, the Poughkeepsie Journal says.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langowrthy says the party’s challenger to Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Assemblyman Ray Walter, will have “the necessary resources” to run a competitive campaign. Walter’s first test will be the July 15 campaign finance filing is due at the state Board of Elections.

By blaming teachers for some students’ poor academic performance, Cuomo has ignored the troubling racial segregation and socioeconomic inequity in New York’s public schools, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

Weingarten also said she regrets supporting Cuomo’s LG running mate, Kathy Hochul, in the 2014 elections. The former UFT president recorded a last-minute robocall for the former congresswoman that irked some union members.

Darius G. Pridgen, a pastor and Buffalo Common Council president, headed to Baltimore today with plans to join a peaceful rally and make a statement on the importance of government listening when residents feel aggrieved.

Fred LeBrun says the state has been dragging its heels on criminal justice reform.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recently flipped the switch on a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at Fort Niagara State Park. The solar energy system is expected to save $9,100 annually and bring a clean, modern source of energy to the park.

Bernie Sanders’ nascent presidential campaign announced that it raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted in their first day.

New York Times Co. shares leaped 10.7 percent in after-hours trading after Fox Business Network reported billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg had expressed renewed interest in buying the paper.

AG Eric Schneiderman really isn’t running for governor in 2018.

Puerto Rico’s governor signed an executive order authorizing the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory in an unexpected move following a lengthy public debate.

Senate GOP Returns To Albany, With Skelos Under Scrutiny

An effort to oust Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, for the time being, does not appear to be underway.

Republican lawmakers interviewed over the weekend following the news that Skelos and his adult son Adam were soon to be arrested in connection to a federal corruption inquiry gave no indication they planned to topple their leader.

“I think he’s got a lot of support in the conference,” Sen. Hugh Farley, one of the longest serving incumbent lawmakers, said this weekend. “He’s an honest and decent guy.”

Farley added that Skelos is a “very unselfish leader” and hopes he continues at the top of the conference.Both men have spoken about the looming legal troubles, Farley confirmed.

Another lawmaker, Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury, said in a separate interview on Sunday that she was still absorbing the news.

“I really don’t know,” she said. “I only know what I’ve read in the paper. Whatever happens this week will have to be discussed.”

Nevertheless, Little added that she did not expect Skelos’s arrest to be a hindrance to the remainder of the legislative session, which is due to conclude June 17.

“We’re close to the end of the session and we’re not in a budget,” she said.

Little said she had not spoken to Skelos outside of conference about the matter in which he told lawmakers that he was cooperating with the investigation.

At least three other Republicans — Sens. Terrence Murphy, Marty Golden and Cathy Young — have expressed varying degrees of support for Skelos to other reporters over the weekend.

The caveat, of course, is a lot could change once the details of the charges facing Skelos become clear — as does the reaction from voters.

Republicans are lucky this is not happening in an election year, when the arrest of Skelos remains fresh on the minds’ of voters.

One operative this weekend pointed out that Skelos is not an ally of grassroots conservatives, who remain at odds with him over the perception he works too closely with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his support for the gun control law known as the SAFE Act.

Senate Republicans are returning to Albany this week as their top leader is the latest to fall under U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s anti-corruption ax.

The arrest will make him the second legislative conference this year alone to be charged with corruption — an unprecedented situation for a state Capitol that has already been beset and seemingly accustom to the arrests of elected officials.

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, arrested in January, was ousted by his fellow Democrats in relatively rapid fashion as the speaker, a post he held since 1994.

Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly at the time expressed confidence in Silver’s leadership despite his arrest earlier in the day. But discontent with Silver grew over the weekend following his arrest on charges that he masked bribes and kickbacks as legal referrals.

Within days, Silver was out of the speaker’s chair and replaced with Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie.

Other lawmakers who have been officially accused of corruption in recent years have been quickly ostracized by their colleagues: Sen. John Sampson was kicked out of the mainline Democratic conference; Sen. Malcolm Smith was stripped of his leadership posts and conference position by IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Other lawmakers have been stripped of committee chairmanships following accusations of bad behavior, including former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who held power as the chair of the Housing Committee, gone following a critical report of sexual harassment and abuse.

And while it would be unusual to have a sitting majority leader under indictment, Senate Republicans have not been so willing to see kick their leaders over board

Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno had confirmed he was under investigation by the FBI in 2006 and stayed on in the top spot until 2008, just before he was charged with corruption. Bruno was later acquitted of the charges.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous remains in the number two post after he was indicted on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Two other Senate Republicans charged with corruption in recent years — Vincent Leibell and Nick Spano — were either on their way out or retired by that point.  Both served time in prison.

Potential Skelos replacements at the moment include Young, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco.

The political operative added that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, already under scrutiny for his handling of the Moreland Commission, may likely not want to appear negotiating the remaining session issues with an under-indictment Skelos.

Reports: Skelos And Son Face Arrest Next Week

The arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his adult son on federal corruption charges could come as early as Monday, according to reports posted online Friday evening.

Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are reporting that Skelos, the highest elected Republican official in the state, could be the latest Albany figure to be arrested by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

The pending arrest of Skelos adds even more uncertainty to the remainder of the legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude June 17.

It is unknown if Skelos would continue on as the leader of the Senate Republicans, a post he has held since 2008, following the retirement of Sen. Joseph Bruno.

A successor to the GOP lawmaker remains unclear.

Replacements for Skelos that have been floated include Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, Sen. Cathy Young of Olean and Sen. John Flanagan of Suffolk County.

Complicating matters further for Senate Republicans is the condition of their deputy majority leader, Tom Libous: The Binghamton Republican, already undergoing treatments for terminal cancer, faces a charge of lying to the FBI in case revolving around his son’s employment at a politically connected law firm.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans interviewed in last several weeks publicly backed Skelos, noting that charges were yet to materialize despite the reported investigation.

The arrest of Skelos would make him the second of the state’s trio of high-ranking officials to be charged with corruption this year — an unprecedented situation for a Capitol already reeling from a spate of high-proifle corruption cases.

Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver was arrested in January and later charged with fraud and extortion stemming from what investigators say were bribes that had been masked as legal referrals.

Silver was ousted as the speaker of the Assembly, a position he had held since 1994.

Federal prosecutors have reportedly been investigating Skelos and his 32-year-old son for their ties to an Arizona-based company, AbTech, and its sewer project contract with Nassau County.

Skelos confirmed in a statement that he was cooperating with the federal government’s inquiry.

Eight of the nine Republican senators who represent Long Island have received subpoenas in the case, with prosecutors seeking a range of information, including documentation on the state budget.

If arrested, Skelos would be the latest in a line of Senate majority leaders ranging from Bruno, to Sens. Pedro Espada, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith to face corruption charges.


Baltimore’s chief prosecutor charged six police officers on Friday with crimes including murder and manslaughter in the arrest and fatal injury of Freddie Gray.

Former Port Authority official and high school pal of NJ Gov. Chris Christie David Wildstein pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy against civil rights in connection with the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.

Wildstein admitted in federal court that he conspired with two other allies of Christie to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. His plea sets up a much larger case that threatens to undermine Christie’s presidential aspirations in 2016.

No, Kirstie Alley is not involved with politically motivated lane closures in New Jersey.

Federal investigators reportedly have begun wiretapping a new set of potential targets as a result of the probe that led to the indictment off former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rep. Louise Slaughter unveiled her portrait as former House Rules Committee chair. She was the first woman to hold the post back in 2007.

“There is no need for a summit since we already preserve emails and the Governor is free to modify his retention policy,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s spokesman Mike Whyland said.

…the Senate Republicans won’t be attending the May 22 summit, either.

Rep. John Katko broke ranks with House Republicans on two votes Thursday night, rejecting his party’s 2016 federal budget and a GOP effort to strike down a reproductive rights law in the District of Coumbia.

Transit advocates are asking Cuomo to “hop out of his muscle car and ride the subway with them to experience the MTA’s needs first-hand.”

The Schoharie County GOP Lincoln Day dinner will feature 2014 AG candidate John Cahill as a guest speaker on May 14.

President Obama will be in New York City Monday. He speak at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization, and will also attend DNC events.

New York City is expected to spend parts of a $447 million settlement it is set to receive from French bank BNP Paribas on initiatives for its criminal justice system.

A new art exhibition in Albany will feature the work of a long-time watercolor artist who specializes in paintings inspired by countrysides and depicted with “rich browns, yellows and golds.” This artist’s day job: SUNY chancellor.

Hillary Clinton is stepping up her race for campaign money, holding three invitation-only events in the nation’s capital Thursday ahead of a fundraising swing next week through California.

Clinton will not be providing a rebuttal at this year’s LCA show.

A Colorado-based energy company is asking New York’s top court to re-hear a case that freed Tioga County landowners from their oil-and-gas leases.

A new report from the NYC Voter Assistance Advisory Committee shows an inverse relationship between advances in technology and the proportion of citizens who get involved in elections.

Six agencies, including four police departments and a probation department, are getting new body armor paid for by funds from the Oneida Nation tax settlement.

At a Brooklyn Democratic Party dinner last night, Cuomo praised Hillary Clinton’s choice to locate her campaign headquarters in the borough, calling Brooklyn “the heart and soul of the Democratic party.”

Senate GOP, Assembly Dems To Skip Email Conference

The majority conferences in the Senate and Assembly are not planning to attend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed summit on transparency and open government.

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif confirmed in an email the conference won’t send an emissary to the meeting, scheduled for May 22.

“We will not be attending,” Reif wrote in the email.

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, meanwhile, noted to The Times Union there was no need to attend the meeting given the conference already has an email retention policy.

Updated: Whyland sent this statement over.

“There is no need for a summit since we already preserve emails and the Governor is free to modify his retention policy,” he said.

Cuomo also invited Senate Democrats and the Assembly GOP conference, as well as Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the meeting, whose location is yet to be determined.

The meeting was initially announced in March as Cuomo came under criticism for an email retention policy that deletes messages after 90 days unless they are saved.

At the time the meeting was announced, the state Democratic Committee Chairman David Paterson, a Cuomo ally, criticized lawmakers for knocking Cuomo over the email policy and called on them to no longer be exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Cuomo And Lopez Meet, Briefly

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one-time power broker Vito Lopez briefly interacted at a Brooklyn Democratic event on Thursday night.

Cuomo, glad handing the crowd, was spotted by NY1’s camera shaking hands and meeting with Democratic officials.

Off to the side stood Lopez, a former assemblyman who resigned in 2013 following a scathing report that he sexually harassed and abused legislative aides.

Cuomo, doing a double take, steered clear of the toxic former pol and moved on, seemingly without shaking his hand.

The interaction left Lopez staring straight ahead.

Open Government Summit Proposed For May 22

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is scheduling a summit on open government laws for May 22, according to a letter sent today to legislative conference leaders and statewide elected officials.

The meeting was initially to be scheduled within 90 days after March 16, when the Cuomo administration announced it would review its email retention policy, which had come under criticism from open government advocates as well as state lawmakers.

Cuomo reversed course on the email policy just hours after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced it was suspending the automatic deletion of emails that are not saved.

The letter was first reported this morning by Capital New York.

The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., with a location to be sorted out.

“The location is to be determined and will be at a place that is most convenient for the attendees,” Cuomo counsel Alphonso David wrote in the letter.

In addition to reviewing open government laws, the meeting could result in having the state Legislature be subjected to the state’s Freedom of Information laws.

The deletion policy is one that Cuomo has insisted he inherited from Eliot Spitzer’s administration, though former aides from that era have maintained the documents were saved in some form.

The policy itself was expanded in 2013 to include all state employees and was implemented in February.

20150501103803457 by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: Gentile Will Be ‘A Great Asset’ In Congress

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday night told reporters at a reception for Brooklyn Democrats that 11th congressional district candidate Vinnie Gentile will be “a great asset” if elected to the House of Representatives.

“I think he would be a great asset to Congress. I think he represents the values that are important to this state,” Cuomo said, adding, “I hope succeeds.:

Cuomo endorsed Gentile in a news release from the state Democratic Committee on Thursday, after initially saying last month he would steer clear of the race.

As to what changed, the governor framed the initial question about whether he would endorse Gentile as being what level of involvement he would have in the race.

Even still, Cuomo suggested he won’t be heavily invested in the effort to elect Gentile, who faces Republican Dan Donovan in Tuesday’s special election replace Republican Michael Grimm.

“The question was more how active do you get? We’re in the middle of a legislative session, I’m doing my job as governor as the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “It’s a little hard to campaign on Staten Island when you’re governor of New York, but I support Mr. Gentile.”

Cuomo, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t “second guess” the New York City Police Department for its handling of protesters in the past week.

Demonstrations in the city have led to more than 100 arrests as protesters held solidarity events following the death of Freddie Gray in Balitmore, who died in police custody.

“I have no reason to second guess the police on the job they did. These are very difficult situations here in New York, they’re difficult situations nationwide,” Cuomo said. “I believe our police department is one of the best in the country in dealing with it, so I have no reason to second guess it.”

Cuomo at the event also briefly came into contact with disgraced former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who resigned his seat in the Legislature following a sexual harassment scandal.

Video of the event shows Lopez seemingly attempting to talk to the governor, and Cuomo avoiding him.

Assembly Dems Introduce Minimum Wage Hike Measure

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats this week introduced a bill that would incrementally hike the minimum wage in New York City and the surrounding counties to $15 by the end of 2018.

Elsewhere in the state, the minimum wage would increase $12.60 within the next three years. The bill would set future increases to the rate of inflation and provide for a minimum wage increase for tipped workers as well, reaching $12.50 in the metropolitan area by 2018.

The impacted counties outside of the five boroughs include Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island and Westchester County.

The measure comes after Assembly Democrats included the minimum wage increase for New York City and the surrounding counties in their one-house budget resolution.

“This bill ensures that the state’s minimum wage will keep pace with inflation and also recognizes that the state is diverse, with the cost of living varying by region,” the bill memo states. “Providing for a higher minimum wage in areas of the state with a higher cost of living will enable residents in all regions of the State to make a livable wage that is commensurate with their needs.”

The bill is broader than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought earlier this year: A $11.50 wage for New York City and a $10.50 wage elsewhere in the state. Cuomo’s proposal did not impact suburban counties, where wage advocates say the cost of living is just as high as New York City, and set aside indexing future hikes to inflation.

Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $9.

Senate Republicans have been reluctant to approve another minimum wage increase this year after approving the last one in 2013.

Meanwhile, there is still a push from some lawmakers to back a local control component to the minimum wage as initially sought by Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City.