Cuomo Heads To Washington

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking a rare trip to Washington, DC today amid a growing transit crisis in New York City.

A precise itinerary for Cuomo’s visit was not released.

But he is expected to meet with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and members of the state’s congressional delegation to discuss issues like the Gateway Tunnel project.

“The Gateway Tunnel is critical for rail traffic entering New York and the entire Northeast,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday evening.

“It is essential that this project, which has been delayed for years, goes forward. I will also brief the New York Delegation on the situation.”

Underscoring the gravity of the problems beset by the transit system in the city, the trip is reminiscent of the time the governor jetted down to DC to discuss relief for Superstorm Sandy.

But this time, Cuomo is also facing mounting political pressure from riders and commuters to find a fix to the transit problems in the region amid the self-styled “summer of hell.”

Teachout Expects Cuomo Will Face A Primary Challenge

From the Morning Memo:

Zephyr Teachout isn’t planning another run for governor, but does expect incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo will face a primary challenge once again next year.

“I would be really surprised if there’s no primary,” Teachout said in a Capital Tonight interview on Tuesday. “My entire race three years ago was three months long… and in just three months we got nearly 40 percent of the vote.”

Teachout in 2014 challenged Cuomo from the left, mounting an unlikely bid for the party’s nomination with little name recognition.

She last year unsuccessfully sought a seat in the House of Representatives in the 19th congressional district.

But Teachout remains popular with the liberal advocacy wing of the Democratic Party. She won a post this week on the state Democratic Committee, giving a new role in what has traditionally been a top-down organization controlled by the governor.

In the interview, Teachout pointed to a vulnerability for Cuomo next year: The transit crisis, impacting commuters in what should be a geographic base for the party.

“There’s a sense that Andrew Cuomo has run on I’m the guy who gets things done but things aren’t getting done,” she said.

As for who would challenge Cuomo, Teachout said she has heard from a “handful of people” who are interested, but declined to say who.

Coalition Organized By Airline Industry Advocates In NY For Air Traffic Reform

From the Memo:

The Senate sub-committee that makes decisions on transportation funding rejected a proposal Tuesday to privatize the air traffic control system. Nothing is final yet, but the plan, proposed by President Trump, appears to be struggling to find congressional support.

Meanwhile, a coalition organized by the airline industry is up in running in New York to lobby representatives and the general public. New Yorkers for On Time Flights is an offshoot of the national group that’s advocating for the government to turn over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a not-for-profit entity.

“There should be nothing Democratic or Republican about this. This is economic development for the national economy,” said Chris Ward, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director.

Now an executive for AECOM, Ward is also leading the New Yorkers for On Time Flights advocacy group. He argued it’s the best way to modernize technology and shorten the length of flights.

“The FAA has been struggling with implementing the kind of technology that most Americans take for granted on their cell phones,” Ward said.

He also said the legislation, which is currently in the House’s FAA reauthorization bill but not the Senate version, would help all New York airports. Ward said while large hubs like Kennedy and LaGuardia would benefit from more slots, airlines could also add more routes in smaller places like Buffalo, because they’re running more efficiently.

“The economic pie expands which allows airlines, with that additional revenue, to look at new markets and grow into areas where previously the margins were simply too thin,” he said.

The New York delegation was tentative to comment on the coalition or the proposal Tuesday.  A spokesperson for Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, said it would be premature when it is not yet clear what will be in the reauthorization package. She did openly question if the coalition was prioritizing any interests besides those of the airlines.

“FAA reauthorization is currently being debated in Congress with different versions in the House and Senate.  As you are likely aware, some are pushing for these bills to include components that would roll back some of the progress we’ve made relative to flight safety after the crash of Flight 3407,” Higgins Communications Director Theresa Kennedy said.

Ward argued the FAA’s oversight of safety regulations and ability to review operations would not be eliminated by the bill.

“This is not replacing the FAA in terms of safety and in terms of slots,” he said.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, said its focus is on making infrastructure improvements to “increase passenger safety and satisfaction.” Ward believes infrastructure improvements and air traffic reform go hand-in-hand.

“Unless we also solve the air side, all of that investment and all of that innovation is going to get lost if we don’t solve how the planes take off and land at these large airports.”

The FAA is currently authorized through the end of September.

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Washington, DC to lobby for transit and infrastructure issues. He’ll be meeting with the secretary of transportation and members of the state delegation.

Schedule:

At 9 a.m., Commuters and transit advocates, members of New York Communities for Change, Working Families Party, VOCAL-NY and all those affected by the failing subway system in NYC will hold a demonstration for more MTA funding. 2 Broadway, New York City.

At 10 a.m., Sen. Tony Avella will provide an important update about the Real Estate Solicitation Cease and Desist Zone that Queens residents have been requesting be reinstated.38-50 Bell Blvd, Queens.

At 10:15 a.m., Sen. George Amedore and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy will announce a new law to help New York’s craft beverage industry continue to grow and expand on, Albany Distilling Company’s Tasting Room and Retail Shop, 75 Livingston Avenue, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos will make an announcement regarding the State’s efforts to study and improve air quality in Albany’s South End community. Ezra Prentice Homes, Parking lot by air monitoring trailer, 625 S. Pearl Street, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Mayor de Blasio will hold a media availability, Hunters Point Park South (LIC Landing deck), 52-10 Center Boulevard, Long Island City.

At 11 a.m., State and local elected officials will call on Gov. Cuomo to sign legislation that would give the state broader authority to protect the Hudson River in light of the Coast Guard’s recent anchorage proposal. Quiet Cove Riverfront Park, 1 Clear Water Dr, Poughkeepsie.

At 11:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will discuss career opportunities and public service in STEM fields, East Side Girls Club
101 Avenue D, New York City.

At 1 p.m., Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner will hold a news conference to unveil DataCuse, the new open data portal for the city of Syracuse. Syracuse City Hall, 233 East Washington Street, Syracuse.

At 1 p.m., Assemblywoman Nily Rozic will celebrate the re-opening of the Queensboro Hill Library branch, which was closed for a roof renovation. Queensboro Hill Library, 60-05 Main Street, Queens.

At 3:30 p.m., Hochul will highlight the state’s grown in New York program, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, 900 Broadway, New York City.

At 4:30 p.m., Hochul will tour the “Beyond the Melting Pot” exhibit, The Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street, New York City.

At 6 p.m., Hochul will address Humanities New York’s “Beyond the Ballot: From Suffrage to Women’s March” Event, Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street, New York City.

At 6 p.m., Mayor de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Commissioner Victor Calise will celebrate the Sapolin Awards in honor of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gracie Mansion, New York City.

At 6:35 p.m., Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara will host the first Autism Action Night with the Amsterdam Mohawks, Shuttleworth Park, 65 Crescent Ave, Amsterdam.

Headlines:

The MTA on Tuesday released its new plan to tackle problems with the city subway system.

The relief MTA Chairman Joe Lhota is promising on the subways can’t come soon enough for riders. In an exclusive NY1/Baruch College poll, commuters say things are getting worse.

For the first time, the State Democratic Party is officially criticizing some of its own party members for forming a partnership with Republicans to run the state Senate.

State Democratic Committee Executive Director Basil Smikle hinted there would be electoral consequences for the IDC if they didn’t return to the fold in the Senate.

As the chairman of the MTA releases his master plan to fix the city’s subways, Mayor Bill de Blasio is telling transit officials not to expect any more cash.

Slain police officer Wenjian Liu became a father Tuesday, more than two-and-a-half years after his death.

Cheektowaga Councilmember Jim Rogowski, who helps oversee the town’s economic development, says the town’s newest business tenant — a Chik-fil-A, is one many residents have asked him about.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on Tuesday a $5.5 million deal to buy 148 acres of the Bethlehem Steel site. The county and its residents hold the title to 60 of those acres as well.

There will be a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the potential benefits of red light cameras in the city of Buffalo.

The Buffalo Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday to make city parks smoke-free. The council’s vote also has the support of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Tobacco-Free Erie Niagara and youth advocacy group Reality Check.

People in western New York have banded together to pick up the mess after an EF1 tornado hit the town last Thursday. The sound of chainsaws rings out as neighbors and crews clear downed trees, some of which caused damage to several homes.

With just weeks until the 2017 version of the Great New York State fair, official word comes that there will not be a change in leadership for this go-around.

Excessive rainfall is impacting Central New York farms. The rain is making the growing of produce difficult, because it can saturate the fields.

A year after the deadly boat crash on Lake George during Log Bay Day that killed 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, the Lake George Park Commission unanimously approved a resolution to officially bring an end to the annual Log Bay Day party.

The Justice Department says it won’t give cities some law enforcement grant money unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and alert them when someone facing deportation will be released from local custody.

President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, officials say, and launched a fresh Twitter tirade Tuesday against the man who was the first U.S. senator to endorse his candidacy.

Sessions continued to twist in the wind on Tuesday as Trump declared his AG’s recusal in the Russia investigation was bad for his presidency.

A nominee for a post at the Department of Justice said he helped a Russian bank investigate whether its computer servers contacted the Trump Organization.

The U.S. Senate has blocked the first amendment to the bill to replace and repeal Obamacare. Nine Republicans crossed party lines and voted against it.

The vote — which came hours after the Senate narrowly approved a motion to begin debate on the legislation — is a setback for Republicans hoping to mark passage of a final repeal bill this week.

U.S. Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol to deliver a fiery speech on the health care debate days after it was revealed he has brain cancer — bailing out a president who derided him in the process.

Complicating Republican repeal-and-replace efforts has been a shift in opinion toward the current health care law and its impact.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump indicated he’s turning his attention to a tax code overhaul, with a eye on middle income earners.

Gary Cohn, a top economic advisor to the president, is among the top contenders to replace Janet Yellin as chair of the Federal Reserve.

As British officials muddle through their divorce with the European Union, Trump may pursue a major trade deal with the United Kingdom.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a new bill that would add sanctions to Russia, by an overwhelming majority, amid mixed messages from the White House over a potential veto.

The U.S. also plans to sanction entities related to China over their involvement with North Korea.

Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming director of communications for the White House, has vowed to fire anyone caught leaking information to the media.

The president’s speech to a crowd of Boy Scouts that was tinged with partisanship has upset some at the non-partisan organization.

As he grapples with a transit crisis and the political fallout, Gov. Cuomo is traveling to Washington to discuss transportation concerns with top officials.

Confused as to who is actually running the subway in New York City? The New York Times has an explainer.

New York state officials are asking swimming pool owners to look for a tree-killing invasive beetle when they clean their pool filters.

Farm distilleries can now sell New York state labelled beer, wine and cider for consumption on-site.

An invasive insect that attacks hemlock trees has been found for the first time in the Adirondacks.

Imagine paying a $110 parking ticket. It’s part of a proposal being revived in Suffolk County.

Suffolk County lawmakers on Long Island are studying whether to form an anti-opioid commission to battle addictions problems.

A town on Long Island is filing suit against utilities over a $31 million project to build new poles, saying local government officials were excluded from the environmental permitting process.

The president has blocked model Chrissy Teigen on Twitter after she responded to one of his posts with “lol no one likes you.”

Ben Stiller’s casting call for his Netflix series on the North Country prison escape drew hundreds of would-be extras.

A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit challenging New York’s subsidization of nuclear power plants.

“Extreme” soil saturation in central New York could lead to more flash flooding in the region.

Extras

The Republican-led health care bill cleared a key procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.

President Trump did not rule out firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, telling The Wall Street Journal in an interview he is “very disappointed” with him.

It’s no secret, the subways are in serious trouble and Tuesday the MTA presented its plan to fix the ailing system. Agency chairman Joe Lhota spoke for more than an hour — outlining the MTA’s multi-billion dollar plan.

A judge ruled the state of New Jersey is not liable in a lawsuit stemming from the “bridgegate” scandal.

The main stretch of the old Kosciuszko Bridge is coming down. The 125-foot piece will be brought down with steel cables onto two barges in the Newtown Creek.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses will spend less time tied up at intersections as the city expands the use of technology designed to give mass transit the green light.

Wegmans Food Markets will expand same-day grocery delivery services to Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse starting in August.

This summer couldn’t be more different than last summer, but the result has been the same — tough losses for many farmers. The record-breaking rain in spring meant a lot of farms were flooded, preventing farmers from getting crops in the ground. And now that they’re in, they’re not doing well.

Senate Republicans still don’t know if they have the support to even take up a final vote on proposed health care legislation. Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed (R-23) said inaction would be unacceptable.

Monroe County Republicans are responding to a lawsuit by a Greece town justice, who’s trying to throw out a petition that would replace him on the ballot.

On Tuesday, officials from ACR Health announced the latest statistics on HIV/AIDS. From 2014 to 2015, the number of new HIV infections diagnosed in men who have sex with men has decreased by 10 percent.

Federal safety investigators have presented their findings in the case of a Metro-North crash in Westchester County in 2015.

Who knew this was needed? Gov. Cuomo has signed legislation that allows campers to use bug spray.

Among those minor players caught up in the scrutiny of President Trump’s administration and alleged collusion with Russia include those who are more than familiar with Albany.

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Silwa was arrested on Tuesday while trying to “serve” Mayor Bill de Blasio with court papers.

A scrap metal and electronics recycling yard in Bethlehem has been spilling unsafe levels of toxic mercury into the Hudson River, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

A catch and release advisory is in effect for several bodies of water in Newburgh after a study finds elevated levels of PFOS in certain fish species in the area.

You can’t fire me, I quit!

Cuomo Blasts Latest GOP Advance On Health Care

The U.S. Senate achieved approval of a key procedural vote to move forward with an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care law also known as Obamacare.

The move was blasted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has railed against the Republican effort in Congress to overhaul the health care measure.

“Republicans in Congress are shamefully putting politics before the health of millions of Americans,” Cuomo said.

“The proposals that Congressional Republicans have put forward will devastate our health care system and have a disastrous impact on New York. They will cut billions in funding for Medicaid, cripple our health care providers, and roll back the progress we have made to expand access to quality and affordable health care for millions of New Yorkers. I call on our Congressional delegation to continue to stand up for the people they represent and protect our health care. Lives may very well depend on it.”

For now, a provision that has drawn much of Cuomo’s ire, an amendment that would shift Medicaid spending from county governments to the state, has fallen out of the bill.

Transit Union Cheers MTA Plan

The union that represents transit workers on Tuesday in a statement cheered the broad strokes of a plan being adopted by the MTA that seeks to provide faster fixes and expedited maintenance for subway cars.

The union, TWU International and Local 100, pointed to the MTA taking on a number of its recommendations from its Work Boots on the Ground proposal.

“We’re gratified the MTA in many areas has agreed with the men and women who know the subway the best – transit workers,” said John Samuelsen, the president of the TWU Local 100. “We can and will do our part to end this reliability crisis. Our elected officials now have to step up and provide the necessary funding to get the job done. No more political games. No more shirking responsibility.”

The MTA board met Tuesday amid a growing crisis over subway delays and occasional derailments of cars this summer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for his handling of the transit problems, but has also called for the city to take on more of a role in funding transit.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has countered the money has largely been put in place, but says the funding needs to be prioritized.

NY Dems Adopt Senate Unity Resolution

The state Democratic Committee on Tuesday adopted a resolution that backed the unification of the party in the state Senate — pushing the Independent Democratic Conference to form a new alliance with the mainline conference in the chamber.

The move is the latest pressure point on the IDC, which has grown by three members in less than a year, but has drawn increasing consternation from liberals who have criticized the conference’s working relationship with the Senate Republicans.

Much of the increased ire came after the Republican success on the federal level and the election of Donald Trump to the White House. Democrats have a numerical majority in the Senate, but Republicans retain power with the aid of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who sits with the GOP conference.

Still, the IDC has remained a powerful and key bloc of votes in the closely divided Senate. IDC Leader Jeff Klein is included in the top-level legislative leaders’ meetings with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I think after the election last year, it’s important for Democrats to reinforce what it means to be a Democrat,” said Basil Smikle, the committee’s executive director.

“When we have Democratic members of the state Senate who are working with Republican members who may undermine progressive legislation and values we’d like to get promoted here in New York — and with the leadership of the governor and the chairmen — this is where the rubber meets the road.”

But Smikle stopped short of what role the head of the party — Gov. Andrew Cuomo — should take on reuniting the party in the Senate. Cuomo this move declared he wouldn’t be able to force the lawmakers to work together, comparing it a shotgun marriage.

“This is an issue for the Senate chamber,” Smikle said. “It’s hard for anybody not in that chamber to not have an impact on how that chamber organizes itself.”

In a statement, IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove criticized the committee members who pushed for the resolution.

“The reason why the Democratic Party is losing across the nation and at home is that they are coopted by a small band of misfits who continue to talk to each other in echo chambers and refuse to acknowledge that the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton no longer has the ability to communicate with working-class voters,” she said.

“The Independent Democratic Conference will continue to fight for the working class and espouse the hopes and aspirations of all New Yorkers. Big tent Democratic politics is good government and good politics. We will see you at the polls.”

Updated: Mainline Democratic conference spokesman Mike Murphy responded to Giove’s statement, noting the institutional support for a Senate unification agreement.

“It is disturbing that the IDC thinks the entire state party, the DNC, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the entire NY Democratic Congressional Delegation, Mayor de Blaiso, Public Advocate Tish James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and many more national and local leaders are just a ‘small band of misfits’. It shows how out of touch and corrupted by power they have become in this GOP coalition,” he said.

The grassroots of the party in New York and elsewhere have moved further to the left over the course of the last several years. A significant portion of the party’s delegation to the Democratic National Committee last year were supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the not nominee, adopted New York resident Hillary Clinton.

At the same time, Cuomo has come under criticism from the left for the Senate arrangement, saying he prefers the Senate to be led by Republicans to moderate the influence of the large Democratic majority in the Assembly.

Also Tuesday, Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo from the left in a 2014 primary, was elected to a committee post from Dutchess County.

Nevertheless, other resolutions to encourage Democratic unity in the Senate in previous years have fallen short.

“If you do not fall in line with this,” Smikle said, “there are going to be ramifications.”

Teachout Elected To Democratic Committee Post

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law school professor who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a gubernatorial primary in 2014, has been elected to a post on the state Democratic Committee.

The development is a significant one for the left wing of the party in the state for a new toehold on the committee, considered a top-down entity controlled by the governor.

Cuomo, of course, still holds sway over the committee’s fundraising apparatus and the appointments of its leadership, led by co-chairs Byron Brown and Christine Quinn.

But Teachout, who ran for Congress last year against Rep. John Faso, represents the party’s increasingly leftward tilt in both policy and its organizing politics.

Teachout ran to Cuomo’s left three years ago. Since then, Cuomo has increasingly emphasized liberal policy concerns, pushing successfully for a $15 minimum wage phased in downstate, as well as a plan that provides free tuition to public colleges.

Still, liberal advocates have remained dissatisfied with the governor, which has only intensified after Republican successes on the national level last year.

Teachout is a guest this evening on Capital Tonight to discuss her new committee post.

Cuomo Signs Bill Banning E-Cigs At School

The use of electronic cigarettes in schools has been banned in New York with the approval a bill on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The measure applies to the use of e-cigarettes, vaping pens and other electronic smoking devices at both public and private school grounds.

“Nicotine use in any form has shown to be damaging to teens and this measure will close a dangerous loophole that allows e-cigarettes to be used in New York schools,” Cuomo said. “This measure will further this administration’s efforts to combat teen smoking in all its forms and help create a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

The measure’s approval comes as vaping and other e-cigarette devices are becoming increasingly popular. In the last two years, the number of high schools students using the devices has nearly doubled.

“Keeping our youth safe is a top priority, and by banning e-cigarettes on all school grounds, the Governor is helping in our efforts to establish healthier, stronger communities for our children to learn, grow and excel in,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie. “I am proud to support this new legislation to ban these toxic habits, as we protect the well-being of the next generation of leaders for the Empire State.”