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Posts by Liz Benjamin
Sep 29th - 7:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Here’s some not-too-surprising, but nevertheless good news for Colleen Deacon, the Democrat challenging freshman Republican Rep. John Katko in NY-24 – one of the country’s most hotly contested congressional races:
The Working Families Party has decided to endorse the first-time candidate, putting her name on its ballot line in November instead of its current contender, labor lawyer Mimi Satter.
“We are thrilled to endorse Colleen Deacon for Congress,” New York WFP Political Director Ari Kamen said in an emailed statement that I received late last night.
“Working families in Central New York deserve a member of Congress who fights for them, not the extreme GOP agenda,” Kamen continued. “And we look forward to supporting Colleen and urging voters to vote for her on the WFP line in November.”
The WFP tapped Satter to hold its line while three Democrats – Deacon, SU professor Eric Kingson and Manlius and Syracuse lawyer and Navy veteran Steve Williams – battled it out in a primary.
Deacon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the DCCC’s preferred candidate in the race, won the June primary easily, receiving about 48 percent of the vote.
Deacon has embraced a number of top policy issues for the WFP – including Paid Family Leave and a higher federal minimum wage. Both the Democrats and their progressive allies see this seat as a prime pick-up target in the general election, since the district is closely divided and has changed hands several times over the past few cycles.
It’s a fairly standard practice for the WFP to tap a placeholder to keep its ballot line warm – and satisfy state Board of Elections deadlines in the process – while waiting to see who the Democrats end up with for the general election.
In order to facilitate easy removal from the line – by means of a judicial nomination – the party, which is by no means alone in using this method, picks an attorney (like Satter) to do the honors.
Kamen didn’t mention which judgeship Satter has been nominated for, but since she didn’t campaign for her congressional bid, it’s a safe bet she won’t be actively running for that office, either.
Sep 29th - 5:13 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and will travel to Tel Aviv, Israel to attend the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
This afternoon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will travel to Oklahoma City to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2016 Fall Leadership Meeting. He will return to the city tomorrow night.
At 8:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at the Tying Communities Together Labor Awards Breakfast, Alhambra Ballroom, 2116 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem. (Also attending: Former Gov. David Paterson and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer).
At 9 a.m., tenants and housing activists demand no public land or removal of deed restrictions should go to for-profit developers, front of City Hall gates, 1-15 Centre St., Manhattan.
At 10 a.m., Hochul highlights the NYS Investment in Workforce Development Program, STRIVE International, 240 East 123rd Street, 3rd Floor, Harlem.
Also at 10 a.m., Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey will hold a press conference with Cicero Town Councilor Mike Becallo and Manlius Town Councilor Vince Giordano to announce a “major development” in the 127th AD race, GOP HQ, 2910 Erie Blvd. East, Syracuse.
Also at 10 a.m., Sen. Jose Peralta, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, Transportation Alternatives and Make Queens Safer will unveil legislation aimed at tackling speeding drivers in school zones, in front of P.S. 41, Greenwich Village School, 116 West 11th St., Manhattan.
Also at 10 a.m., America Works CEO Dr. Lee Bowes releases a study on the impact employment of ex-offenders has on recidivism, America Works office, 44 Court St., 7th floor, Brooklyn.
At 10:30 a.m., NY-19 candidate John Faso will hold a press conference to address “phone accusations” made by his Democratic opponent at his home at 14 Sylvester St., Kinderhook, Columbia County
At 11 a.m., Citizens Union holds a conference call to release the latest edition of its report, “Spending in the Shadows,” on unspecified lump sum spending in New York’s FY 2017 Enacted budget.
Also at 11 a.m., Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus Neuhaus holds the annual county budget address, Graham Skea Lodge at Thomas Bull Memorial Park, 211 Route 416, Montgomery.
Also at 11 a.m., Assemblyman Ron Castorina Jr. announces plans to introduce legislation granting a state tax credit for child care, Small World Preschool, 144 Bloomingdale Rd., Staten Island.
Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Todd Kaminsky will announce legislation to enhance existing penalties for felony animal fighting and eliminate a loophole that prevents animal fighting from qualifying for second felony offender status, Long Beach Animal Shelter, 770 Park Pl., Long Beach, Long Island.
Also at 11 a.m., the Straphangers Campaign launches #FairFares photo tour featuring subway riders and college students, 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, Manhattan.
Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Tom Croci will be announcing plans to construct the Lieutenant Michael Murphy Navy SEAL Museum to be located at the West Sayville County Golf Course at Charles R. Dominy County Park, 200 Main St., West Sayville, Long Island.
Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Michael Gianaris, NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott hosts topping out ceremony for the new Hunters Point Community Library, 47-40 Center Blvd., Queens.
At 5:30 p.m., members of the labor movement and Bronx community groups march to oppose the rezoning of Jerome Avenue, Plaza at West Burnside and University, Bronx.
At 6 p.m., NYC Councilman Ben Kallos, Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito and others host a training on emergency preparedness, Good Shepherd Chapel, 543 Main St., Roosevelt Island.
At 7 p.m., Hochul delivers the keynote address and receives an award at the Professional Women in Construction’s Salute to Women of Achievement, Battery Gardens, 1 Battery Plaza, Manhattan.
Former Sen. George Maziarz’s own campaign committee is suing its former treasurer, Laureen Jacobs, seeking a court order forcing her to explain details of more than $200,000 in unreported expenditures. The proceeding demands that Jacobs explain a $120,000 cash shortfall.
The politicians who received campaign contributions from developer Louis P. Ciminelli and his allies are scrambling to figure out what to do with that money after the Buffalo construction executive was charged last week as part of a sweeping statewide pay-to-play scandal.
Unlike some New York elected officials, Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco’s campaign will hold on to donations from COR Development despite the arrests of two of its executives on bid-rigging charges. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney have no plans to return COR contributions at the moment, either.
ESDC CEO Howard Zemsky, the state official enlisted in the wake of corruption charges to oversee upstate’s revitalization projects, said he will not rule out halting some projects, noting a review has just begun and all options are “on the table.”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said lawmakers are looking at expanding his authority to review contracts like the ones totaling nearly $1 billion that have led to criminal charges against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides.
The arrest of his ex-top lieutenant Joe Percoco (whom he did not name, referring to him instead as a “friend of mine for many, many years”) on corruption charges was “an emotional situation” that was “very, very disappointing” for Cuomo, he said.
In a rare TV sit down interview for a documentary film about his late father, Cuomo reflects on his 2010 comeback win, saying he doesn’t think he could have been successful if New York voters hadn’t gotten over the anger that led them to oust the late ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo from office in 1994.
Cuomo tried not to get too emotional at the book party for “Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man” by family friend William O’Shaughnessy,” saying he cries – sparking a “crescendo of tears” from his mother – when he speaks of the late governor.
SUNY Provost Alexander Cartwright joined state photonics board chairman John Maggiore yesterday for a preemptive address to reassure AIM Photonics partners that all was well with the regional initiative.
A MTA board member recommended by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio raised questions about the costs of Cuomo’s plans to overhaul Pennsylvania Station.
Two men wanted as witnesses in the New York bombing investigation after they removed a bag apparently left by the bomber have been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to officials close to the case.
A sprawling federal initiative to strengthen Long Island against coastal storms is inching closer to becoming a reality even as doubts persist in the South Shore towns and villages that stand most to benefit from it.
Congress yesterday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Obama for the first time, passing into law a bill that would allow the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot.
Asked by a service member to weigh in on some NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, Obama said he hoped the controversy would spark Americans to listen to others’ concerns and not just go into separate corners.
Averting an election-year crisis, Congress late yesterday sent the president a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus.
While Donald Trump talks tough about dealing with China, his old military prep school is building bridges to that country. The New York Military Academy began classes this fall with new Chinese backing and a former New York City high school principal, originally from China, in charge.
Sep 28th - 5:05 pm
The U.S. Senate approved a stop-gap funding bill to avert a looming federal government shutdown, after Republicans and Democrats agreed to help Flint, Michigan, resolve its drinking water crisis.
The Senate also voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill letting the victims of the 9/11 attacks sue Saudi Arabia, striking a blow to the president on foreign policy weeks before he leaves office. It was the first override of his tenure.
A new poll suggests voters are buying in to Donald Trump’s insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s health. They’re ignoring the medical reports that have deemed her fine.
Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” by Trump, appears in a new Clinton campaign ad.
Trump said he calmed his nerves before Monday’s debate by taking a deep breath and pretending he was talking to his family, and not the largest debate-watching audience in history.
Clinton, campaigning today with Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, worked to sway millennial voters by promoting a plan to provide free public-college tuition for working families
Alan Kaloyeros’ alleged involvement in a bid-rigging scandal is only the beginning of problems for SUNY Poly, which faces close to $500 million in debt.
Images of Kaloyeros, the now-suspended founding president and CEO of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, have been removed from the school’s walls after he was hit with state and federal corruption charges.
Speaking of Kaloyeros…he issued a warning of sorts to his detractors on social media today.
A signature Kaloyeros project — renovating and re-branding historic Peter D. Kiernan Plaza at the base of State Street in Albany — has been losing money for the past three years, records show.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has no plan to return donations from Cor Development Co. executives in the wake of federal bribery charges against them.
A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans for the new Penn Station, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member – Veronica Vanterpool, chairwoman of the Tristate Transportation Campaign – is raising concerns about the project’s timeline and its funding.
Cuomo met earlier this week with a group of real estate executives working to hash out a deal to revive the expired 421-a tax abatement program.
Frederick Ippolito, former Town of Oyster Bay commissioner, was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison in a tax evasion case, and the judge admonished local officials for not recognizing that Ippolito’s dealings with a paving contractor were a clear conflict of interest.
Republican Sen. George Amedore does not plan to return donations to his campaign from prominent Albany developer Joe Nicolla, who is mired in a state political scandal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he remains “dubious” about the idea of legalizing recreational pot use – a day after an explosion at a suspected “growhouse” killed a firefighter in the Bronx.
NY-1 Democratic congressional challenger Anna Throne-Holst will have the ballot line of the Working Families Party in her November race against freshman GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is laying off 34 employees, or about 1.5 oercent of its workforce, museum officials said.
Welch Allyn plans to add 100 new jobs to its medical equipment factory in Skaneateles, already one of Central New York’s largest employers.
Sep 28th - 5:24 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Onondaga County and New York City.
At 8:30 a.m., the MTA Safety Committee meets, MTA Board Room, 2 Broadway, 20th Floor, Manhattan. (The full board meets at 10 a.m.)
At 10 a.m., Cuomo makes an announcement, 4341 State Street Rd., Skaneateles Falls.
Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., musician Common and others march to double NYC charter school sector to 200,000 Children by 2020, Prospect Park, Captain Vincent E. Brunton Way and Prospect Park Southwest, Brooklyn.
Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show and take questions from listeners.
Also at 10 a.m., NYC Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, the Women’s Prison Association and others celebrate the anticipated passage of Int. 899-A to establish clear procedures around admittance and record keeping for the Rikers Island nursery, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 11:30 a.m., de Blasio will host a press conference to make an announcement regarding NYC’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise program, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building 92, 4th floor, Brooklyn.
At noon, NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams announces his intention to continue his protest during the Pledge of Allegiance that he began two weeks ago, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 12:45 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul will address the Power of the Latino Voice Conference, Desmond Hotel, 660 Albany Shaker Rd., Colonie.
At 1 p.m., NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres and others address the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule that could increase rents for Section 8 households, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council holds a stated meeting, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.
At 1:15 p.m., Cuomo makes an announcement, P.S. 059 Beekman Hill International, 231-249 East 56th St., Manhattan.
At 3:15 p.m., Hochul visits the West Point Military Academy, West Point.
At 3:30 p.m., de Blasio holds public hearings for and Signs Intros. 923-A, 976-A, 981-B, 1005-A, 1019-A, 1020-A, 405-A, 695-A, 795-A, 997-A, 948-A, 961-A and 968-A, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.
At 7 p.m., de Blasio participates in a town hall, Southern Queens Park Association, 177-01 Baisley Blvd., Queens.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara delivered a keynote address yesterday before some of the city’s top politicians, where he was presented with City & State’s “Newsmaker of the Decade” award and praised the media for putting issues in the spotlight – like the Buffalo Billion corruption case he brought last week involving some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides.
Former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who was one of nine people arrested on corruption charges last week, works for a potential stakeholder in the governor’s latest deal to transform he former Farley Post Office on Manhattan’s West Side to a first-class rail facility.
When a staffer wanted to leave the team before Cuomo wanted him or her to leave, it was Percoco’s task to block, or delay, an exit. He played that role even after he left Cuomo’s payroll last January to join Madison Square Garden Co.
There’s division over how close former lobbyist Todd Howe, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is assisting Bharara in his ongoing investigation, is to Cuomo. Those currently close to the governor insist Howe was not influential, others who have been around Albany a long time beg to differ.
City of Rensselaer officials said they rejected a $4,000 per month contract proposal from Howe as they waited for SUNY Polytechnic Institute to push ahead with a $12.5 million high-tech development plan for the city’s riverfront.
Cuomo’s campaign will set aside the donations from two recently arrested Syracuse-area development executives in case the funds are seized as part of the criminal case.
That announcement followed pledges by the state’s two other top elected officials – state AG Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – to divest themselves of political donations tied to Cuomo’s allegedly graft-riddled “Buffalo Billion” revitalization project.
In the wake of the scandal, JCOPE staffers will be paying “closer attention” to financial disclosures, though officials for the watchdog agency declined to say how it missed crucial information in Bharara’s case against Percoco.
The governor is expected to announce the creation of new jobs at Welch Allyn during a visit to the medical equipment maker in Skaneateles this morning.
The plan calls for Related Companies and Vornado Realty — the same two development companies that tried to turn the old post office into a train hall last time around — to join forces with construction giant Skanska to take another go at it.
NYPD detectives are investigating as a crime scene a Bronx home that exploded yesterday morning, killing a firefighter and injuring more than a dozen others. Chief Michael Fahy was killed when he was struck on the head and elsewhere by part of the building’s roof.
Early this morning, police had a person of interest in the Bronx home explosion case in custody.
New York City has agreed to pay $5.75 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the 2013 death of a mentally ill inmate, Bradley Ballard, who was found naked and covered in urine and feces after being locked in a cell at Rikers Island for six days.
State Senate candidate and Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs’ own money and Albany contributions establish him as the financial favorite in the 60th SD race at this point. But questions still surround what, if any, outside dollars may assist his Democratic opponent, Amber Small.
David Wildstein, the mastermind behind the George Washington Bridge lane closings in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal, testified that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was informed of the lane closings the week they were happening, and recalled how Christie reacted with laughter.
A pair of clips teasing Mary J. Blige’s interview with Hillary Clinton on her upcoming Apple Music show The 411 isn’t winning over social media users.
After refraining from calling Clinton names at the first presidential debate, Donald Trump took the stage at a rally in a Florida
airplane hangar night and declared: “Almost every single poll had us winning the debate against ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton’ big league. Big league. She is as crooked as they come.”
Trump also lashed out in the aftermath of a disappointing first debate with Clinton, scolding the moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt; criticizing a beauty pageant winner for her physique and raising the prospect of an all-out attack on Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities in the final stretch of the campaign.
Sep 25th - 6:14 pm
The total audience for the first general election presidential debate at Hofstra University tomorrow could be as high as 100 million viewers — Super Bowl territory. That would surpass the 80 million who watched Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980, the record for a presidential debate, and rank among TV benchmarks like the finales of “MASH” and “Cheers.”
Gennifer Flowers, the former model who had an extramarital affair with Bill Clinton in the 1980s, says she’ll accept an invitation from Donald Trump to sit in the front row of Monday’s presidential debate, according to an assistant.
The New York Times endorsed Clinton, saying its decision to back her for president “is rooted in respect
for her intellect, experience and courage.” The paper also did acknowledge Clinton “has evinced a lamentable penchant for secrecy and made a poor decision to rely on a private email server while at the State Department.”
The editorial board made a single brief but pointed mention of the GOP candidate as the “worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history” before declaring that “the best case for Hillary Clinton cannot be, and is not, that she isn’t Donald Trump.”
Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton aide who insiders say has made it his mission to know all the Democratic candidate’s weaknesses, is reportedly role-playing Trump in her debate prep.
At the request of the city’s mayor, Clinton postponed her hastily planned visit to Charlotte, NC that was scheduled for Sunday.
In dedicating the National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Obama said the story of black Americans is the story of the nation’s essential greatness.
There is a sense in some quarters that Cuomo, while undeniably damaged and even personally pained by the accusations against friends and associates, has, by comparison, dodged the worst of it. At least for now.
So how could Cuomo not know about the several schemes that Bharara outlined? Two possible answers arise. First, he has a penchant for reliance on a very small circle of trusted advisers. Second, he also has a penchant for getting things done, and as a result sometimes due diligence doesn’t get done.
Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan is sticking by Senior Vice President Joseph Percoco, one of the nine charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, but insiders expect he will be cut loose with a buyout or severance package eventually.
Opponents of a gas-fired power plant near Wawayanda say the recent indictment of the governor’s top aide confirms their concerns about the project.
The Buffalo Billion is now squarely in the hands of Howard Zemsky and Empire State Development. Zemsky said he hopes to build “more of an integrated, collaborative and communicative relationship” with officials at SUNY Polytechnic, which under Kaloyeros played a leading role in state-backed technology developments across the state.
Here’s a look at who received political donations over the last 10 years by COR Development partners and family members, according to New York state records. (The list does not include donations to federal politicians).
LPCiminelli, whose roots trace back to the founding of the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Co. in 1961, is one of the largest general contractors in Western New York, with a long history of work on major public- and private-sector projects.
An unpopular portion of the specialized high school entry exam for some of NYC’s most competitive schools – “scrambled paragraphs” – is being removed and replaced with multiple choice questions intended to evaluate writing skills.
A plan to alter passenger limits at Westchester County Airport has run into a roadblock, with lawmakers questioning the impact on nearby towns and a chief critic accusing County Executive Rob Astorino of playing politics to satisfy airlines eager to expand.
Hattie’s Restaurant in Saratoga Springs was included on Food & Wine’s list of the “Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.” and on MSN.com’s “America’s 50 Best Fried Chicken Spots.”
Sep 23rd - 5:05 pm
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump for the presidency, a stunning turn of events after a contentious primary filled with nasty personal attacks and a dramatic snub at the Republican National Convention.
Top members of the state Senate Republican Majority and Democratic Minority predicted the latest state government scandal won’t affect the battle for the control of the Senate, though the drumbeat of reform won’t die down through Election Day.
The attorney for two Cor Development executives charged in an alleged bribery and bid-rigging scheme said the case is based on lies by Todd Howe, the government’s main witness against them.
As expected, President Obama vetoed legislation that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S courts, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Congress.
Trump Hotel Collection agreed to pay $50,000 in fines and strengthen security measures after data breaches exposed more than 70,000 credit-card numbers and other personal information, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
With just days until the first presidential debate, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine lead Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence by 7 points among likely voters nationally including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, a new Marist poll found.
Clinton will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday in the wake of a fatal police shooting of an African-American man that has sparked protests in the city.
The special commission charged with proposing pay raises for state lawmakers appeared yesterday to be headed toward potential deadlock.
Former Gov. David Paterson agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to the SEC in connection with a failed project to build the largest movie studio in North America at a suburban location outside Savannah, Georgia.
A special election to fill the legislative seat of the late Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs of Woodbury will be held on Election Day, Nov. 8, County Executive Edward Mangano announced.
An organization calling itself ImpeachCuomo.net dropped off a complimentary tray of ziti with red sauce and cheese at the LCA.
The NY GOP is having fun capitalizing on the Cuomo administration scandal.
AG Eric Schneiderman opposes two bills critics say would weaken the landmark I-STOP law that makes it difficult to obtain multiple opioid prescriptions and makes it easier for authorities to investigate the misuse of the highly addictive painkillers.
Officials in Madison County are urging Cuomo to sign a law that would allow the state to share gaming revenue from the Yellow Brick Road Casino with the county.
Airlines are pressing once again to weaken the pilot experience requirements imposed after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3047 in Clarence in 2009, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is once again pressing back against the airlines.
Twenty-two percent of public school teachers and administrators in New York school districts outside New York City – including about half in the city’s suburbs – were paid more than $100,000 during the 2015-16 school year, according to data added today to The Empire Center’s transparency website SeeThroughNY.
David Howard King is leaving the Gotham Gazette to become the first editor of The Alt – the Capital Region’s new weekly publication.
Sep 23rd - 3:45 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, making his first public comments since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s bombshell yesterday charging nine men with ties to the governor with corruption in connection to upstate economic development projects, insisted he had “no idea” about anything untoward taking place in his administration.
“I had no idea about anything that was contained in that complaint,” the governor insisted to reporters. “…These were secondary and tertiary level situations. I was not aware of who some of these people were representing, and who were their business consultants. And to the extent the situations that are laid out in the complaint were breathtaking to me when I read them.”
Cuomo seemed to be of two minds about Alain Kaloyeros, who is facing both state and federal charges alleging that he engaged in bid rigging on contracts worth millions of dollars of taxpayer money and has been suspended without pay from his post as president of SUNY Poly.
Cuomo noted that Kaloyeros had worked for five different governors since starting with SUNY in the 1980s, directing the investment of “billions” of dollars in state money into nanotech, and turning around Albany in the process.
” Mr. Kaloyeros has had a 20 year long career in state government.” the governor said. “He also has done a lot of good for New York State.”
As for Joe Percoco, whom Cuomo called a “a long-time friend of mine, a long-time friend of my family,” the governor reiterated: “I know him about 25 years; my father knows him since he was 19 years old. I said my father would be heartbroken if he read that complaint.”
Cuomo seemed to try to distance himself from this mess by saying that it was SUNY, not his administration, that was responsible for letting the contracts in question using its own procurement process, which is different from the process the rest of state government uses. He announced that the responsibility for letting future contracts would be given to the Empire State Development Corp., run by Buffalo resident Howard Zemsky, which will develop its own procurement process.
The governor also rejected the idea that the RiverBend project – the keystone of the Buffalo Billion – has been “tainted” by this scandal.
“It’s tainted quote unquote; I don’t know what that means in this context,” the governor said, clearly annoyed by the question. “The building is going up. The company is moving in. The jobs are being produced. There’s an allegation that the company may have done something wrong that developed it. Fine. It will go to the courts, there will be a process, there will be a trial and if they did something wrong they will be punished.”
Cuomo also said that these allegedly rigged contracts were “the exception to the rule,” noting the state lets hundreds – if not thousands – of contracts every year without incident or illegal behavior.
“We’re talking about nine charges, which is serious, but they are nine charges; so let’s keep it in focus,” the governor said.
Sep 23rd - 1:34 pm
Former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has been outspoken in his opposition to a gas power plant under construction in Orange County, says the project should be scrapped altogether in the wake of the corruption charges brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, which showed the company behind it, Competitive Power Ventures, allegedly bribed a former top aide to the governor, Joe Percoco, seeking favorable treatment from the administration.
Kucinich has previously called for the $900 million plant in Wawayanda to at least be put on hold while a detailed investigation into the permitting process for the CPV Valley Energy Center that allowed the project to move forward, in light of reports that it was being looked at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as part of a wider probe into the administration’s upstate economic development efforts.
But now that charges have been formally lodged against Percoco (AKA “Herb”) and CPV executive Peter Galbraith (AKA “Braith”), Kucinich said he believes there’s more than enough evidence that the “whole endeavor is corrupt and ought to be stopped.”
“The whole permitting process was corrupted by payoffs, Kucinich said in a brief telephone interview yesterday. (The former congressman reached out via email shortly after Bharara’s press conference). It’s kind of like fruit from the poisoned tree. Why the heck should that thing be allowed to move forward if it was permitted by corrupt means?”
Kucinich said he believes the governor’s “credibility is on the line,” adding: “He can just shut it down, and let (Bharara’s charges) be the mitigating factor.”
“If you build a fence without permission, the city can make you take it down,” Kucinich explained. “If the permit for this was granted through subterfuge, then it should be cancelled. Nobody’s going to fight it in a court of law. This plant wasn’t allowed, it was bought.”
Of course, Bharara’s case has not yet been proven in a court of law, though one of the 10 men charged – former lobbyist Todd Howe, who did work for CPV – has already pleaded guilty for his role in the bribery scheme that involved paying tens of thousands of dollars to Percoco through the former gubernatorial aide’s wife.
The 650-megawatt CPV plant in Orange County has already received a series of approvals from the Cuomo administration over the years, and is viewed by officials as key if the governor is to realize his long-term goal of shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County and replacing the energy it generates with other sources.
CPV has spent more than $140,000 lobbying the Cuomo administration and lawmakers in recent years. Also, the company, along with a host of connected LLCs, also donated at least $80,000 to the governor’s campaign committee.
Though other elected officials have begun to announce that they’ll return campaign cash received from individuals and/or entities involved in this corruption case, Cuomo has yet to do so. A Cuomo spokesman yesterday did not respond to a question as to what the governor plans to do with that money.
UPDATE: The Cuomo administration rightfully notes that it severed communications with CPV this past spring when allegations of potential wrongdoing first arose. AT the time, Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, sent letters to the heads of the PSC, the DEC and NYPA ordering they “immediately suspend or discontinue all communications with CPV or CPV Valley.”
That order ended any activities in support of regulatory approvals, regulatory proceedings and any other discussions with CPV – including lobbying. Most of the approvals the plant needed were already in place, though NYPA had not yet approved a vital interconnection and also refused to grant a long-term contract to buy the power it would be generating.
Kucinich, it should be noted, is asking the Cuomo administration scrap this plant altogether – basically rescind all approvals and tank the whole project. At this point, the plug has not yet officially been pulled, though from the state’s point of view, the project is on life support.
Sep 23rd - 5:11 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Erie County today – in Buffalo, specifically, home to the economic development project that was the focus of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation, which resulted in corruption charges lodged against nine men with connections to the governor, including Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s former top aide.
Cuomo will be making an announcement at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave., at 1 p.m.
However, the big moment will come after the formal part of his event, when the governor faces members of the press for the first time since the dual press conferences yesterday by Bharara and state AG Eric Schneiderman, who announced another set of charges against one of the men accused by the U.S. attorney, former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, along with Capital Region developer Joseph Nicolla.
Both Bharara and Schneiderman said the governor himself does not have any exposure in their respective investigations…yet.
But as the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon writes in the NY Post this morning: “(M)ake no mistake: the cloud of corruption now surrounding billions of dollars in state economic development investments is an outgrowth of Cuomo’s highly secretive and centralized management style.”
To put it less delicately, fish rots from the head.
The governor may not be formally charged with anything – not this week, and perhaps not ever – but he did establish a culture and preside over an administration in which that sort of behavior that the U.S. attorney and AG allege occurred was possible.
Bob McCarthy notes that the Buffalo Billion was not only Cuomo’s signature upstate economic development program, but also a potential vehicle for him to ride to higher office, arguing that he is capable of restoring struggling Rust Belt cities to their former glory.
But, as political operative Michael Caputo, (who worked for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Cuomo’s 2010 GOP opponent Carl Paladino), put it: “They may not bring down the king, but they will bring down his court. And this makes him unelectable.”
Tom Precious writes: “Bharara’s case alleges bribery, extortion and tax evasion. It also muddies a picture of ethical cleanliness that Cuomo has sought to portray of his administration since taking office in 2011.”
The criminal charges against three top executives at construction company LPCiminelli as part of Bharara’s case could dent the prominent company somewhat in the short term while the news is absorbed, but shouldn’t affect it in the future because of the firm’s solid work and charitable reputation, WNY real estate professionals said.
Todd Howe, a Troy native, lobbyist and wheeler-dealer with a shaky past and vast political connections in Albany and Washington, pleaded guilty to eight felony charges, including bribery, extortion, wire fraud and five years of tax evasion. He has been cooperating with the feds since June.
Almost immediately after Howe took his guilty plea in New York City, defense attorneys for Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli began an intense investigation into his background, including his business dealings, a past bankruptcy and a previous criminal case where he also pleaded guilty.
Kaloyeros’ attorney, Michael Miller, says his client “has always sought to make sure the right company was doing the right job on the right project. He committed no crimes along the way.”
Percoco’s wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco, and the governor’s former director of state operations, Howard Glaser, both feature prominently in the feds’ latest corruption case — even though neither has been charged.
Parts of the 80-page federal complaint unsealed yesterday read like a James Bond novel – with code names (“Herb” for Percoco, “Dr. K” for Kaloyeros) and code words (“ziti” – a term allegedly caged from the hit HBO show “The Sporano” for the bribes Percoco took).
The charges mark the second major inquiry of the Cuomo administration by Bharara. Eight months ago, after investigating Cuomo’s handling of an anticorruption panel that he had created and abruptly shut down, the U.S. attorney said there was “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime.”
For Kaloyeros, the rewards he sought beyond money in this bid rigging scheme appeared to be power, prestige and, perhaps most of all, the fulfillment of a long-held dream: reinventing upstate New York as a Rust Belt Silicon Valley.
Adam Cohen, special agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the FBI, said careless email exchanges provided ample evidence for the criminal complaint related to the Buffalo Billion probe.
Also among those charges were two executives with COR Development, a Fayetteville-based development company that has been awarded lucrative state contracts and is among the governor’s top donors.
Assemblyman Al Stirpe became the second elected official to reject campaign donations he received from executives of COR Development Co. after Bharara’s press conference. (The first was Rep. John Katko).
In other news…
Sep 22nd - 6:08 pm
Ken Lovett: “In 2010, as he stood in front of the Tweed Courthouse announcing his run for governor, Andrew Cuomo declared ‘enough is enough’ while promising to clean up Albany once and for all. He has failed.”
Louis P. Ciminelli, wearing a Park City, Utah, Harley Davidson T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops appeared in court to face allegations of bid rigging and bribery. He and two other Ciminelli executives who are charged in the case – Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler all pleaded not guilty.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said she was “surprised” to hear news of indictments against top COR officials, who are accused of bribing former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.
Rep. John Katko’s office says the Republican Congressman will be returning contributions sent to his campaign by one of the COR Development executives currently facing corruption charges.
Albany’s corruption timeline: 12 major scandals over the past three decades.
NYPD Special Victims and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office are reportedly “looking into” the latest allegations against former Rep. Anthony Weiner, though Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance declined comment on the matter.
Prosecutors in the office of US Attorney Preet Bharara have issued a subpoena for Weiner’s cell phone and other records, according to law enforcement officials.
A spokeswoman for the US attorney in North Carolina, Jill Westmoreland Rose, tells NY1 she is “reviewing all materials relevant to the matter,” regarding sexts that Weiner exchanged with a 15-year-old girl who lives in that state.
The wife of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man charged with detonating bombs in New York and New Jersey, has returned to the U.S. days after she voluntarily went to federal agents in the United Arab Emirates and gave them a statement, law-enforcement officials said.
Hillary Clinton chatted with Zach Galifianakis on “Between Two Ferns,” and received at least one rave review.
Progressive groups and labor unions are assembling a list of vetted candidates for top posts in a potential Clinton administration, vowing at the same time to block any they consider too close to industry or Wall Street.
The maker of Suboxone, a blockbuster drug that helps people control their opioid addiction, engaged in anti-competitive business practices, coercing patients to use an oral strip because the tablets were set to face generic competition, according to a federal lawsuit filed by AG Eric Schneiderman and 35 other attorneys general.
Ex-NYC mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said she’s “not closing the door on running for office again,” as she recalled the crushing 2013 defeat that left her feeling she “had so profoundly let everyone down.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to the NY Post as a “propaganda rag,” apparently miffed by its coverage of his Brooklyn YMCA habit.
Yahoo, in the midst of getting acquired by Verizon for $4.8 billion, was hacked and experienced a major data breech that exposed several hundred million user accounts.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer laid out a handful of policy proposals in an ABNY address, criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to expand affordable housing and offering a competing agenda for the city that could serve as a prelude to a mayoral run in 2017.
The Adirondack Park Agency has scheduled tentative dates for hearings on the controversial classification of Boreas Ponds.
The U.S. Navy has selected Saab Defense and Security in DeWitt for a $38 million contract to provide the next generation of air traffic control radars for aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, the company said.