Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin


State and federal law enforcement officials are executing search warrants to gather evidence in a probe involving former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon and former Buffalo first deputy mayor Steve Casey.

In a new radio ad campaign, the House Democrats’ campaign arm is accusing CNY Republican Rep. John Katko and the Republican-led Congress of failing to develop a long-term highway funding plan.

In a TU OpEd, Albany’s Bishop Ed Scharfenberger defended the education investment tax credit, saying the criticism that it’s a giveaway for “elite” and wealthy New Yorkers is unfair and unfounded.

If longshot 2016 candidate George Pataki makes it to the White House, he’ll be the fifth former New York governor to do so.

The hard question for Pataki: What does he have to say that’s interesting, since he’s been out of office since 2006, and wasn’t known as the most electrifying innovator during his three terms in the governor’s mansion.

As Pataki, who is just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday, prepared in recent weeks to announce his candidacy, he conceded to friends and allies that he was an extreme long shot for the Republican nomination.

CEO members of the Partnership for New York City today urged legislative action to maintain mayoral control of the city school system for at least three years.

Weeks after turning down a plea to raise money for Hillary Clinton, Lloyd Harbor businessman and Democratic donor Jon Cooper is co-hosting a fundraiser on June 4 for her-soon-to-be rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Martin O’Malley.

Clinton’s pantsuit t-shirt will set you back $30. Her actual pantsuits cost quite a bit more than that.

Some lucky “everyday American” will win a chat with Clinton via a contest her campaign is running.

The TU opines: “The Assembly has done the right thing in holding out against MMA all these years. It should stand firm. Revenue or not, the state has no business sanctioning this blood sport.”

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will march in Manhattan on Saturday to demand the liberation of Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist currently held in federal prison for conspiracy.

Anthony S. Senft Jr., an Islip Town councilman who dropped out of a state Senate race last year after fallout surrounding the illegal dumping scandal in the town, was nominated by local Republicans to run for a District Court seat in Suffolk County.

A bill to criminalize tampering with an electronic monitoring device – like the one David Renz dismantled before he murdered a school librarian – likely will not become state law this year.

Whether you can use sparklers at your July 4th celebration this year depends on your local government – the state already said “yes.”

In an unusual last-minute twist, state Sen. Andrew Lanza told Republican officials earlier this week that he won’t run for district attorney, leading them to postpone a nominating vote at their committee convention and rescheduling it for Sunday.

Two Long Island lawmakers – Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Sen. Ken LaValle – are making a late push for a bill that would make violent criminals wait longer to apply for parole.

The Empire Center for Public Policy has filed a lawsuit against the M.T.A., in an attempt to compel the agency to honor its Freedom of Information Law requests for payroll data.

Happy Birthday former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany, Greene County and New York City. Including today, 11 days remain in the 2015 legislative session.

At 7:15 a.m., AARP members from Rockland County and the Hudson Valley board a bus to Albany to lobby the Assembly to pass the CARE Act, which deals with family caregivers giving instructions in caring for loved ones sent home from the hospital, JCC Rockland, 450 West Nyack Rd., West Nyack.

At 8 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at Hofstra University’s distinguished lecture series about current economic development initiatives on Long Island, Hofstra University Club, 225 Hofstra University, Hempstead.

At 9 a.m., Rep. Joseph Crowley, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and Queens College alumnus, delivers the commencement address to the graduates of Queens College, Campus Quadrangle, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, Queens.

At 9:45 a.m., before a 10 a.m. public hearing where members of the city Taxi and Limousine Commission are scheduled to discuss proposed rules for issuing licenses for “For-Hire-Vehicle” software applications for mobile devices, local drivers and representatives of Uber Technologies Inc. and other advocates protest during a rally, 33 Beaver St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Campaign Finance Board members hold a public meeting; boardroom, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Cuomo will take a short tour of the Greene Correctional Facility as part of his push to enact legislation to Raise the Age in this legislative session and strengthen New York’s correctional system. He’ll also meet with juvenile inmates and corrections officers, 165 Plank Rd., Coxsackie. (A press conference will follow at approximately 11 a.m.)

Also at 10:30 a.m., former Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, a 1958 graduate of The City University of New York’s The City College of New York, delivers a keynote speech during a commencement ceremony for graduates of the college’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership; south campus, near Convent Avenue and 133rd Street, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Daniel Squadron, Common Cause/NY, Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh and Jo Anne Simon, Citizen Action of New York, Citizens Union, League of Women Voters, MoveOn Albany, NYPIRG, elected officials and advocates urge the Senate to vote on Squadron’s bill to close the LLC loophole, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Senate side, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., state Department of Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky delivers the keynote address at the New York Insurance Association Annual Conference, Saratoga Hilton, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.

Also at 11 a.m., former NY Gov. George Pataki is expected to announce his long-shot bid for the GOP White House nomination in 2016, Exeter Town Hall, 10 Front St., Exeter, New Hampshire.

At 11:15 a.m., Hudson River fishers, boaters and municipal officials will urge GE to address its outstanding obligations to do more to clean up the Hudson River, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:20 a.m., Hochul tours the Tours Cerro Wire site development for residential units and commercial space, Town of Oyster Bay Department of Public Works, Conference Room, 150 Miller Pl., Syosset.

At 11:30 a.m., members of The Port Authority’s board of commissioners are scheduled to discuss the selection of a contractor for a $4 billion project to renovate LaGuardia Airport; Four World Trade Center, 150 Greenwich St., Manhattan.

At noon, Hochul tours the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and discusses the latest research initiatives, 1 Bungtown Rd., Cold Spring Harbor.

Also at noon, US Sen. Charles Schumer attends the Google New York free Geek Street Fair, Gansevoort Plaza, 9th Avenue and Gansevoort Street, Manhattan.

Also at noon, during a really outside the Port Authority meeting, 32BJ President Hector Figueroa, New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, Rep. Charlie Rangel, NYC Council members, religious officials, union members and workers from regional airports call for authority officials to increase benefits and pay for airport workers; Church Street between Cortland and Liberty streets, Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., the Hedge Clippers campaign will release a new report exposing Cuomo’s plan for $70 million in tax breaks for private school billionaires who spend big in Albany politics, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, outside the Senate lobby, Albany.

At 2 p.m., Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will take his 4-point plan to improve Cuomo’s campus sexual assault bill currently before the Legislature on the road, Onondaga Courthouse Steps, 401 Montgomery St., Syracuse.

At 2:30 p.m., Hochul tours the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, Building 3, 3 Bioscience Park Dr., Farmingdale.

At 3 p.m., Sen. Adriano Espaillat and NYC Councilman Mark Levine call on the city Administration of Children’s Services to reconsider a decision not to award a new Early Learn daycare contract to Nasry Michelen Day Care, 510 W. 145th St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Asian Pacific Heritage Month Reception, New York County Surrogate’s Courthouse, 31 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assembly members Felix Ortiz and Jo Anne Simon, city and federal government officials and representatives of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City discuss proposed revisions to federal flood insurance rate maps during a community meeting hosted by Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez; community room, Mary Star of the Sea senior citizen apartment complex, 41 First St., Brooklyn.

Also at 7 p.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina participates in a forum about city schools moderated by NY1 host Errol Louis and presented by the Daily News and a coalition of 118 neighborhood and religious organizations and schools in the city, the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation or Metro IAF; Immaculate Conception Church, 389 E. 150th St., the Bronx.

At 7:30 p.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will meet with members of the Scouting community and deliver remarks, Rip Van Winkle Council Eagle Scout Reunion & Recognition Dinner, Diamond Mills, Saugerties.

At 7:50 p.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence Gala, Carnegie Hall, Weill Terrace and Terrace Roomm 881 7th Ave., Manhattan.


After meeting with legislative leaders and the governor in Albany, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said it would be “irresponsible” for state lawmakers to simply extend a controversial tax break known as 421a that he considers a “giveaway” to developers.

De Blasio took a swipe at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying his friend of 20 years needs to step up and lead to ensure rent regulations are extended for 2 million New York City residents.

“Don’t get me wrong,” a Cuomo administration official responded to the mayor’s comments. “It was nice he showed up. But to appear in the Capitol a few days before the end of session with controversial and untested ideas that are opposed by significant groups such as the AFL-CIO is not how leaders get things done.”

Though it’s not looking good for him on the issue, de Blasio is still pushing for Albany to make mayoral control of the NYC school system permanent, launching an online petition in hopes of pressuring lawmakers into seeing things his way.

Renewal of the rent laws is tied to the 2 percent property tax cap, though it doesn’t sunset until next year. Senate Republicans want to make the cap permanent. Progressive advocates want to know what happened to the circuit breaker Cuomo unsuccessfully pushed in his executive budget.

In a policy win for de Blasio, the NYC Council approved a rezoning for a five-block stretch of east Midtown, allowing SL Green Realty Corp. to build an enormous skyscraper near Grand Central Terminal and setting the stage for much bigger changes. More here.

Charter-school advocates are fuming that de Blasio has denied a request for $14.2 million to cover special-education services — after he criticized charter schools for not doing enough to help ­students with disabilities.

In a largely symbolic step, the state Assembly voted 89-47 for a single-payer health bill – the first time in more than two decades the chamber has taken up the measure. The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is not expected to pass.

A growing class of New York political consultants who enjoy close ties to elected officials but don’t register as lobbyists may well have to start doing so, in light of a proposed guidance issued by JCOPE.

Cuomo thanked Mount Sinai Hospital – and the members of the politically powerful healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU – for their care of his longtime girlfriend Sandra Lee, who underwent a double mastectomy last week. “Sandy has a long road ahead, but the care and support she’s been given help make it that much easier,” he said in a statement.

NYCHA planned to repair leaking public housing roofs by using $100 million from the state, but then Cuomo pulled the rug out from under those plans and redirected the money, leaving thousands of residents suffering until the Housing Authority finds another way to get the job done.

More >


Assemblyman Steve Katz may face a Republican primary next year. Carmel Town Board member Suzi McDonough today launched an exploratory campaign for the 94th Assembly District.

The Staten Island Democratic Party will nominate former Rep. Michael McMahon to run for the district attorney post vacated by now-GOP Rep. Dan Donovan.

During a visit to a school in Albany, the state’s new Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, talked with teachers about new education standards and affirmed that she will work with teachers to make the best education policies possible.

Elia, along with Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, talked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff, legislative leaders and education committee chairs in a series of closed-door meetings today.

Few doubt that Chuck Schumer has the right resume to lead Senate Democrats. But some critics question whether he is the man for the job—given his reflexive cautiousness, incessant Wall Street boosterism and a lack of sweep in his political vision.”

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced new legislation to change how the state imposes sentences for felony convictions.

The New York State AFL-CIO blasted typically pro-union New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his plan to extend the 421a tax abatement — without a prevailing wage mandate for construction workers.

A coalition of peace groups began airing TV ads in Syracuse this week urging pilots from the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field in Mattydale to stop flying their remotely-piloted drones over Afghanistan.

A state Supreme Court judge heard arguments today in the case of Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees that – despite their relative well-being – have become poster animals in a highly public fight over animal rights.

Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania who lost the GOP nomination to Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, says he’s “ready” to run for president in 2016

American Idol winner-turned-country pop icon Kelly Clarkson thinks Hillary Clinton is a “badass.”

A federal judge issued an order requiring the State Department to make public batches of the former secretary of state’s emails every 30 days starting next month.

Democrats are already banking on a “Hillary effect,” an anticipated wave that will lift the party’s fortunes up and down the ticket.

Karen Finney, Hillary Clinton’s strategic communications adviser and senior spokesperson, is the candidate’s media maven.

The co-chairs of the Senate’s Science, Technology, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Committee held a forum today regarding privacy, data breaches and appropriate criminal penalties for such crimes.

The state Public Service Commission intends to conduct a detailed evaluation of a proposed $78.7 billion merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications in New York.

Sen. Tom O’Mara is sponsoring a bill that would make it legal for auto racetracks to sell alcoholic beverages in the morning on Sundays.

Hempstead has approved a plan to re-develop the 43-year-old Nassau Coliseum, renovating the coliseum and building approximately 3 million square feet worth of hotels, offices, a convention center and other uses on the parking lots around it.

This year will be the last for concerts at the New York State Fair’s grandstand. And, even with a few shows in the works, it is shaping up to be the quietest in the venue’s 38-year history.

Cuomo today announced completion of another round of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections, which uncovered 85 defects – including four critical safety defects that required immediate corrective action.

Tax Credit Mailers Target Assembly Dems

A SoP reader in Binghamton forwarded a copy of a mailer attacking Democratic Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo for approving a “sweet deal” to automatically raise the pay of state lawmakers but refusing to support the education investment tax credit that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently repackaged as part of the Parental Choice in Education Act.

The mailer says Albany Assembly members make $80,000 (actually, the base pay is $79,500, plus extra for committee chairmanships and leadership positions – a stipend known at the Capitol as a “lulu”) for “part-time work,” and also make extra (per diems to cover travel and living expenses) just for showing up.

“Albany politicians need to get their priorities straight and focus on our families by passing the Education Tax Credit,” the mailer reads. “…Tell Assembly Member Lupardo, politicians don’t need our help, our schools do.”

There’s also another version of the mailer that urges recipients to join the governor in supporting the tax credit, which has been sent to constituents in Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan’s Queens district.

The mailers are being paid for by the Coalition for Opportunity in Education. The coalition – in partnership with Students First and Families for Excellent Schools – is also paying for a pair of pro-tax credit TV ads, one of which features Cuomo.

“There are a number of members who are not supporting this bill from areas where we know there is strong support within the district,” said coalition spokesman Bob Bellafiore, when asked who else is being targeted by this mail campaign. “…We’re not saying if it’s Senate, Assembly, but we are constantly evaluating whether and where more or less voter education is needed.”

State lawmakers didn’t actually vote to raise their own pay. Technically speaking, that would be illegal. There was, however, a legislative pay raise commission included in the budget deal struck by legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo this past spring.

The commission will be made up of seven members – three appointed by Cuomo, two by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, and one each by the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader. It will be charged with setting the salaries of judges, statewide elected officials and some top executive branch staffers. It will make its first recommendations just after the November 2016 elections, and unless the Legislature specifically votes to reject its proposal, the salary increases will take effect in January 2017.

This cycle will be repeated every four years, which means the “what should we trade for it” pre-election pay raise trade dance between the Legislature and the governor will come to an end.

Cuomo has made his Parental Choice in Education Act an end-of-session priority. He tried unsuccessfully to link the tax credit with the DREAM Act in his executive budget, but neither issue made it into the final spending deal.

The Senate Republicans are conceptually supportive of the tax credit, and have already passed a version – though it differs from what the governor is pushing.

The trouble is in the Assembly Democratic conference (hence, the mailers), where Speaker Carl Heastie – who used to be a co-sponsor of tax credit legislation until he ascended to his leadership post and took his name off all bills – has said there isn’t sufficient support among his members to pass it.

NYSUT is vehemently opposed to the tax credit, and recently launched a 10-day radio ad campaign against it.


a href=”″ title=”COE MAILER Front by CapTon2, on Flickr”>COE MAILER Front

Flanagan Makes Upstate Foray

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is scheduled to attend an Onondaga County GOP event tomorrow in Syracuse – his first upstate trip since he ascended to replace his fellow Long Islander, Dean Skelos, as head of the GOP conference earlier this month.

It’s a safe bet that it’s no accident Flanagan’s inaugural visit north of Albany will be to the home turf of the man he defeated in the leadership battle: Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco. (NOTE: A reader correctly points out that Syracuse is west of Albany, not north. Sorry for my geographical goof. – L)

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey, who was a big DeFrancisco boosted during the fight to succeed Skelos after he was arrested on federal corruption charges, issued an invite to Flanagan during a CapTon interview to attend the party’s annual clambake fundraiser.

The $150-per-person event is being held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Hinerwadel’s Grove, which, according to its website, has been hosting Central New York clambakes since 1914.

Dadey said it was DeFrancisco himself who followed up with Flanagan on the chairman’s invite.

“My guess is he realizes upstate is important, and out of respect for (DeFrancisco), decided to make Syracuse his first stop upstate as leader,” Dadey said of the majority leader’s impending visit.

DeFrancisco said during a CapTon interview following his loss that there are no hard feelings between himself and Flanagan, who work out regularly together at the Senate gym.

But some of DeFrancisco’s grassroots backers – particularly gun rights advocates who were not at all pleased by Flanagan’s “yes” vote on the SAFE Act – are still upset over the Syracuse senator’s loss.

They were eager to see the leadership post in the Senate go to a conservative upstater, and are now vowing to get their revenge by backing primary challengers against some of the more pragmatic GOP members in 2016.

Flanagan tried to smooth things over by including “common sense” reforms to the SAFE Act among his top end-of-sesison priorities this year, even though he would be the first to admit that’s more or less a non-starter with the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the governor.

Currying favor with Dadey, who also happens to hold the No. 2 post in the state GOP, might the first step for Flanagan on the road to making peace with upstate GOPers – both local party leaders and grassroots activists.

Unity in the party is going to be of the utmost importance if the GOP conference is to have any shot at retaining control in 2016 – an effort that’s already shaping up to be an uphill battle, thanks to the presidential contest that year that promises to boost Democratic turnout in this increasingly Democrat-dominated state.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Legislature is back to work this afternoon, with 12 days – including today – remaining in the 2015 session.

At 8:30 a.m., NYCLASS and animal rights activists protest the horse carriage industry, outside of 55 Broad St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer welcomes participants at Samaritans of New York Suicide Prevention Workshop, P.S. 40 / Salk School of Science, E. 19th St. between First and Second avenues, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman will announce his proposal to reform New York’s sentencing laws, Ninth Floor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, Manhattan.

9:30 a.m. – NYC Councilmembers Costa Constantinides and Ben Kallos announce legislation intended to encourage organ donation, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., newly appointed state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will visit Pine Hills Elementary School, 41 N. Allen St., Albany.

At 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement, steps of Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Councilman Mark Levine, representatives of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Citizens Committee for New York City, El Puente, New Yorkers for Parks, the NYLCV and other advocates and government officials attend a rally on budget proposals for city funding of green spaces and parks, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., budget watchdogs, good government and property tax reform groups are joining forces to urge state leaders to refocus their attention on providing “real” property tax relief, in the form of a circuit breaker, to struggling homeowners, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Binghamton University Junior Thomas Mastro, who was recently elected president of the SUNY Student Assembly by his peers, will be sworn in as a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, Gallery – First Floor, SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany. (SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will participate).

At 11:45 a.m., a broad and diverse coalition will urge de Blasio to include universal free lunch for all public school children in the final city budget for 2016, Tweed Courthouse steps, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At noon, Rep. Charles Rangel and his wife, Alma, attend the 92nd Street Y’s weekly Ballet for Older Dancers class to take part in the 22nd annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day, 92nd Street Y at 1395 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at noon, Sen. Marty Golden, chair of the State Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation, and Entrepreneurship, will conduct a roundtable on online privacy and data breaches with members of the internet online industry, Room 711A, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

From noon to 3 p.m., volunteers with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will gather at the Capitol for a Stroke Awareness Day.

From 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., 1199 SEIU workers hold an “informational picket,” MidHudson Regional Hospital, Front Entrance, 241 North Rd, Poughkeepsie.

At 2 p.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams will be joined by local entrepreneurs to launch the Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition, a group whose mission will be to improve relations and dialogue between industry stakeholders, community members, and NYC agencies, Brooklyn Borough Hall rotunda, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano will host a second New York Wine Industry Association (NYWIA) “Sip and Sample” event featuring wines, cheeses and other foods from the Finger Lakes along with Central and Western New York, The Well, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID) hosts its annual awards dinner honoring NYC Council Melissa Speaker Mark-Viverito and others, Churrascaria Plataforma, 316 W. 49th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Klein will be the special guest at a $500-a-head fundraiser for IDC member Tony Avella, TASTE, 45 Beaver St., Albany.


AG Eric Schneiderman will introduce a bill containing his proposals to clean up Albany’s endemic public corruption woes — including a ban on all outside income and a counterbalancing pay raise for what would become a full-time Legislature.

The AG debuted his End New York Corruption Now Act in a Times Union OpEd. He’ll make today’s announcement at the Tweed Courthouse in NYC – the same place Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his 2010 run for governor, promising to clean up Albany.

Schneiderman’s proposals echo a speech he gave in March, as lawmakers were finalizing a suite of reforms pushed by Cuomo in response to the arrest of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, a Democrat who was ousted as speaker of the state’s lower chamber.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein will introduce a bill to bring back a New York City property tax rebate program that disappeared five years ago. The measure would allow for a maximum $500 tax rebate a year for Big Apple home, co-op and condo owners, and would cover homeowners with incomes up to $500,000.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is playing it both ways on whether developers who get huge tax breaks through the 421a program to build affordable apartments in the city must pay workers prevailing wages. More here.

A coalition of activists pushing for stronger tenant protections will call on Cuomo today to return $1 million in donations – and refuse new ones – from Glenwood Management, an influential real estate company tied to recent Capitol corruption scandals.

With less than a month remaining on the legislative calendar and Cuomo faced with two untested newcomers at the negotiating table, the focus in Albany is on a range of prosaic, time-sensitive issues which nonetheless could affect millions of New Yorkers.

Cuomo’s approval rating has dropped to an all-time low, according to a new Siena poll.

The New York Times laid out an end-of-session to-do list for the governor and state lawmakers – it includes campaign finance reform, but not ethics reform.

Westchester County Executive and 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is proposing four changes to a campus sexual assault bill introduced by Cuomo that is expected to be debated by the state Legislature before its session ends next month.

MaryEllen Elia, a former school superintendent in Florida with Western New York roots who led efforts to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement and was fired after clashing with her board, was unanimously appointed state education commissioner by the Board of Regents.

More >


Already, new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia faces tumultuous times, as foreshadowed by her appointment, which came after a hastily-called Board of Regents meeting Tuesday where she was introduced for the first time to half of its members.

A federal appeals court dealt President Obama a defeat today as it declined to lift a judge’s order blocking his sweeping executive action on immigration.

AG Eric Schneiderman has hired Jonathan Werberg, former research director 1199 SEIU, as his office’s first data scientist – the first attorney general in the country to fill such a position.

A trio of art activists has filed a federal lawsuit against New York City claiming their First-Amendment rights were violated during a protest last year outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Lancaster School District postponed tomorrow’s student vote on a recommendation for a new mascot until June 2, school officials said.

The Independence Day fireworks show will return to Jones Beach this year after a five-year absence.

The Assembly is close to an agreement with Cuomo over his proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility, but its prospects in the Senate remain uncertain.

Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge said he was “confident” on getting regulatory approval for the company’s two big planned deals for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Hillary Clinton’s online campaign merch includes a pantsuit t-shirt, a “woman’s place is in the White House” cross-stich pillow and a “shattered glass” pint glass.

Only women are invited to attend the fundraiser ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s ex-wife, Silda Wall, is co-hosting for Clinton next month.

The Fix’s Philip Bump explains why the latest effort to draft former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg into the 2016 field is doomed.

Three Republican US senators – Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Florida’s Marco Rubio, and Mark Kirk, of Illinois – have introduced legislation that would limit a former president’s annual pension and allowance each to $200,000.

Three New Yorkers – Rep. Elise Stefanik, charter school official Eva Moskowitz and NYC Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito – made The Fix’s list of the 40 most Interesting Women in Politics.

Rep. Daniel Donovan, recently elected to represent Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, is looking to staff up. The Republican is asking the “best and brightest” in NY-11 to apply to be staffers in his district offices.

A reactor that was shut down during a transformer fire two weeks ago at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County has returned to service.

Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, the first Russian born-American to be elected to state office, is rumored to be stepping down for a position in the private sector. But that appears contingent on whether the Assembly’s Ethics Committee will allow him to take a second part-time job.

Members of the Buffalo teachers union picketed outside School Board member Carl Paladino’s house.

Rep. Peter King has been flirting with a run for president for nearly two years now, and he says he’ll decide in a month or so whether he’ll actually take the plunge in 2016.

Next Monday, the ballots for the PEF leadership vote will be sent out by the American Arbitration Association, the firm that administers the union’s elections.

Amtrak says it will install inward-facing cameras in the engines of all Northeast Regional trains running between Washington D.C. and Boston.

More and more over the last few months, Cuomo has used the word inarguable to argue for his side on debatable issues.

New York’s economic development office has followed through on its threat to revoke tax breaks for the Medley Centre, a dead mall owned by developer Scott Congel near Rochester.

The Wahlbergs are coming to New York and they’re looking for 75 employees to join them.

Bernie Sanders says he won’t condemn Hillary and Bill Clinton for earning millions of dollars from giving speeches, but believes “that type of wealth” can isolate people from the reality of the world.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s reaction to the Syracuse Zoo’s new baby elephant: “Awwww.”

Real Estate Industry Joins 421a Air War

From today’s Morning Memo:

With the clock ticking in Albany and the rent laws set to expire next month, a new coalition led by downstate real estate interests is launching a multimillion dollar campaign in favor of a “revised” version of the controversial 421a tax abatement program it insists will result in more affordable housing in New York City.

The Affordable Hosing and Local Jobs Now Coalition’s campaign features a TV ad, which will start airing on broadcast and cable stations in NYC and Albany today, as well as radio and paid digital ads.

The ad, which was made by Global Strategy Group and can be viewed below, slams “special interests” pushing for a “deceptive wage proposal” to be included in 421a that would “stop builders from hiring local workers, severely restricting new affordable housing construction and denying thousands of families a place to call home.”

That’s a reference to the coalition group UP4NYC, formed by labor unions and contractors, which earlier this month launched its own multimillion dollar campaign calling for 421a to be modified to guarantee higher wages for construction workers.

The AFL-CIO recently signed on in support of the prevailing wage push, which is not part of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 421a/affordable housing plan – a fact that puts him at odds with some of his transitional allies in the organized labor movement.

In fact, the Real Estate Board of New York – or REBNY, which is the driving force behind the Affordable Housing and Local Jobs Now Coalition – supports de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, and is calling on Albany lawmakers to approve it before the session’s scheduled end next month.

Members of the new coalition also include the NYS Association for Affordable Housing, the Community Preservation Corporation and the NAACP.

The coalition maintains that the prevailing wage proposal being pushed by UP4NYC would force a 30 percent increase in construction costs, making housing projects in the city too expensive, and resulting in either a reduction of new affordable units by half or a monthly rent increase on units of $400.

“With sky-high land and construction costs, along with the disproportionate tax burden on rental properties, building multi-family rental housing in New York City has become very challenging,” said incoming REBNY President John Banks.

“A revised 421-a program will help address that challenge, leading to the creation of more multi-family affordable rental housing throughout New York City. A prevailing wage requirement for construction will send the City in the opposite direction – leading to less affordable housing and less local employment.”

UP4NYC spokesman Tom Meara responded:

“UP4NYC is committed to improving the lives of working class families. We will not retreat because wealthy special interests are going to advocate to protect their profit model. 421a must be fixed.”

“Public subsidies require public responsibilities. Increase the wage and increase the true number of affordable units anything less is Albany being run by wealthy special interests.”

The ad makes no mention of de Blasio or his plan to reform 421a.

That’s probably smart, given the fact that the mayor is no friend to the Senate GOP, which is closely allied with the real estate industry, thanks to the more than $1.3 million a REBNY-backed PAC spent to help the conference win back the majority last year.

Before leaving Albany for the Memorial Day weekend, the Assembly Democrats passed legislation to extend and strengthen the rent laws. But so far, neither house has taken up the 421a issue.

The program is a bit of a political hot potato these days, thanks to the role it played in the federal corruption scandals that cost both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos their respective leadership posts.

The Daily News’ Ken Lovett reported yesterday that some Senate Republicans are leery of the usual horse-trading required to create the end-of-session “Big Ugly” – the yard ball of unrelated deals that traditionally closes out the season in Albany.

According to Lovett, the lawmakers don’t want to do anything that further sparks the interest of corruption-busting US Attorney Preet Bharara – and that includes cutting deals on anything to do with rent control and 421a.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in the New York City area, New York City and Albany with no public schedule. State lawmakers are not scheduled to return to the Capitol until tomorrow, with 12 scheduled days remaining in the 2015 session.

At 10:30 a.m., the Audit Committee of the State University of New York Board of Trustees will meet, SUNY Global Center, 116 East 55th Street, Room 202, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will visit a classroom in Staten Island with Mayor Bill de Blasio. The two will make an announcement at a press conference to follow the visit, Library, 1st Floor, Building B, The Michael J. Petrides School, 715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will participate in a live Facebook Q-and-A on the topic of mental health. This event will be livestreamed at

Also at 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul joins Broome County Executive Debbie Preston and local officials to tour small businesses in downtown Binghamton, Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, 1 Stuart St., Binghamton.

At noon, Hochul convenes a Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council meeting, Binghamton University, Innovative Technologies Complex, Room 2008 (directly off Murray Hill Road), Vestal.

At 1 p.m., Hochul hosts an “Enough is Enough” roundtable on combatting sexual assault on college campuses, Binghamton University, Innovative Technologies Complex, Boyer Conference Room​, Binghamton.

At 1:30 p.m., UFT President Michael Mulgrew, joined by elected officials and parent representatives, holds news conference to urge the Legislature to retain the current cap on charter schools, outside DOE Headquarters, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At 3:15 p.m., Hochul tours the Cornell Cooperative Extension and discusses local agriculture issues, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 840 Front St., Binghamton.

At 7 p.m., Brooklyn holds its first “Hillary for America” organizational meeting, where volunteers and supporters will be joining to share in their expression of support for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House bid and to discuss methods for best getting involved with the campaign, 650 Washington Ave., Brooklyn.


Trying to succeed where Comcast failed, Charter Communications has struck a deal to buy (our parent company) Time Warner Cable, an acquisition that would create a powerhouse in the consolidating American cable and broadband industry. In 2013, Charter made a play to acquire Time Warner Cable when the stock price was between $110 and $130.

Charter plans to announce today a $55 billion deal for its larger rival and an approximately $10 billion takeover of a smaller competitor, Bright House Networks.

Food Network television star Sandra Lee was released from the hospital yesterday following breast cancer surgery. She returned to the Mount Kisco home she shares with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On her Facebook page, Lee said she’s “so happy” to be home at “Lily Pond” with the governor and her two pet birds.

Lee is still “slow on her feet” and has not regained her appetite, a spokeswoman said. “Her sister and Andrew are encouraging her to eat more…that will make her feel better,” she said.

Lee still has to undergo a series of post-surgery tests this week, and is also facing a four-month process to have her breasts reconstructed.

“I sort of thrive on this — there’s something wrong with me,” LG Kathy Hochul said of her jam-packed schedule. “I’m energized by it. I’m energized by the stimulation of meeting new people and the adventure of each day.”

Cuomo is reportedly pushing for the Buffalo mayoral control bill to be included in the end-of-session “Big Ugly,” but time is running out for the measure, which got a late start in Albany this year.

Some state Senate Republicans are so afraid of crusading U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that they don’t want to engage in the traditional end-of-legislative session political deal making for fear of sparking more investigations.

The governor recently sent a scouting team to Manhattan to pick a location for the new barracks, a move that sources say is clearly designed to get in NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s face and under his skin.

Big Apple kids exposed to high levels of airborne filth and economic hardship have lower IQs that will haunt them into adulthood, according to an exhaustive, first-of-its-kind study by Columbia University.

More >

The Holliday Weekend That Has Been (So Far)

Celebrity TV chef Sandra Lee is improving after undergoing a double mastectomy last week, but “still has a ways to go,” her team said today.

Lee said the surgery has thrown her for a loop, and she has lost 15 pounds in just five days.

In the latest plot twist in the continuing drama about proposed mayoral control of the Buffalo Public Schools, Carl Paladino said he will file a legal challenge if the bill passes in the state Legislature.

Denise Jewell Gee, a self-professed “email hoarder,” says Cuomo’s 90-day purge policy was “just plain nonsensical – not to mention bad for open government.”

Shaheed “Roger” Khan and Victor Bourne are just a few in a rogues gallery of possible witnesses whose stories or testimony will figure into the upcoming trial of Brooklyn state Sen. John Sampson.

State funding for a pet project of Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel mysteriously was cut by 87 percent last year. The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone received just $156,455 from the state, down from $1,289,657 a year earlier, according to tax filings.

US Sen. Charles Schumer is proposing a measure to fight what he calls the growing trend of child ID theft.

Julian Castro, the up-and-coming Obama cabinet secretary who is frequently mentioned as a likely running mate for Hillary Clinton, called Republican efforts to pin blame on his prospective future boss for the 2012 Benghazi attacks a “witch hunt.”

Clinton will hold a string of fund-raisers on June 1 – including one hosted by the ex-wife of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York who resigned amid scandal in 2008.

Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, is expected to announce his candidacy for president on May 30 in Baltimore. Eliot Spitzer has been in a long-term, committed relationship with O’Malley’s spokeswoman, Lis Smith, for close to two years, but he’s not expected to donate to any presidential candidate.

Living in New York has been lucrative for Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton — and for their foundation. From their Westchester County home in Chappaqua, the Clintons have easy access to dinners and forums in Manhattan, where they’ve reported collecting fees exceeding $200,000 almost every time they give a speech.

Clinton is going to Columbia, S.C. on Wednesday for her first trip back to the Palmetto State since her 2008 presidential campaign.

The New York Times: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo can talk passionately about improving New York’s “failing public schools,” but when he made that point at churches and a yeshiva last Sunday it was, at best, disingenuous.”

Former Erie County Democratic Chairman-turned-lobbyist Steve Pigeon has left his “of counsel” post at the Buffalo office of Rochester-based Underberg and Kessler after a 13-year stint. He and longtime associate Gary Parenti now plan to expand their PAPI Consulting lobbying firm into a full-time effort.

Nassau County has reduced spending on contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses over the past three years, despite increased spending overall on contracts for public projects, according to a report by the legislative budget office.

State Senate Democrats increasingly are distancing themselves from and criticizing the man who leads their party: Cuomo.

An ex-lawyer disbarred for stealing $64,000 from his clients did not disclose his shady history when hired as a teacher a decade ago — and a NYC Department of Education background check failed to find it.

In a scathing open letter to de Blasio, charter school maven Eva Moskowitz said he hasn’t proved he’s the boss of city schools — and suggested he shouldn’t be granted continued mayoral control.

This was a record year for the Buffalo Marathon.