Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

Happy Earth Day!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Assembly is in session at 2 p.m., the Senate at 3 p.m.

At 9 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul holds a Westchester roundtable with students and administrators on combatting sexual violence on college campuses, the College of New Rochelle, Castle Administration Building, Parlor Room, 29 Castle Place, New Rochelle.

At 9:30 a.m., the Bay Ridge Council on Aging will sponsor a NY-11 congressional debate, but GOP candidate/Staten Island DA Dan Donovan will not participate, Fort Hamilton Senior Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn.

From 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., New Yorkers concerned about animal welfare will meet with state lawmakers at the ASPCA’s New York ‘Voices for Animals Day’ to enhance protections for animals throughout the state, LOB, 3rd Floor terrace, 198 State St., Albany.

At 10 a.m., elected officials and advocates will call on Cuomo and the Legislature to end the 421-a tax abatement program for real estate projects in NYC, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Hochul and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano unveil an open space rendering of Daylighted Saw Mill River in downtown Yonkers to celebrate Earth Day, 137 New Main St., Yonkers.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the Correctional Association of New York and legislators hold a discussion on solitary confinement, Hearing Room C, LOB, Albany.

At 11 a.m., de Blasio makes an announcement, The Point, 940 Garrison Ave., the Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, legislators and advocates will look back at New York’s environmental history, and outline action needed in 2015 to return the state to its place as the nation’s environmental leader, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Tony Avella will be joined by 11-year-old Eliot Seol to introduce a bill that would require the state to establish a recycling program for batteries; Seol, a Queens fifth grader, brought the idea to the senator’s attention, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., families call for state lawmakers and officials to remove limits on the number of charter schools during a City Hall news conference sponsored by the group Families for Excellent Schools; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., Sen. Carl Marcellino and the Council of State Governments release a report on workforce development, LOB, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., environmental advocate Christopher Swain, wearing protective gear, plans to swim the length of the 1.8-mile Gowanus Canal to mark Earth Day; event begins at the edge of the parking lot of the Whole Foods Market Inc. store, 214 Third St., Brooklyn.

At 1 p.m., advocates mark Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month by lobbying for the Child Victims Act of New York, The Well, LOB, Albany.

At 2 p.m., Amalgamated Transit Union President Lawrence Hanley criticizes the design of MTA buses, the prosecution of city bus drivers involved in collisions with pedestrians and the city’s “Vision Zero” traffic safety laws, during a news briefing coinciding with his meetings with NYC Council members and transportation safety advocates; Woolworth Tower Kitchen restaurant, Woolworth Building, 9 Barclay St., Manhattan.

Also at 2 p.m., US Sen. Kristen Gillibrand will hold a satellite media availability to discuss the introduction of legislation that would establish grants for schools to train staff to identify and respond to students’ asthma attacks, and purchase medication and equipment to improve classroom air quality.

At 3 p.m., NYRA meet for a reorganization of its Board of Directors, ESDC, 633 Third Ave., 37th Floor Board Room, Mannattan.

At 7 p.m., controversial blogger Pamela Geller, whose organization is seeking to place public transit ads in several cities, delivers a lecture titled “The First Amendment and Social Criticism” at CUNY’s Brooklyn College; Woody Tanger Auditorium or WTA, room 150, Brooklyn College Library, 2900 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn.

At 6 p.m., the NRDC will present the Public Official of the Year award to Cuomo at its 2015 Earth Day party, citing his decision to ban fracking in New York, Manhattan.

Headlines…

After seeing thousands of students sit out New York’s statewide English assessments last week, school districts are set to begin three days of math testing today.

Tens of thousands of kids of the 200,000 eligible to take the tests on Long Island are expected to opt out – more than did so for last week’s English exams.

The Assembly’s Education Committee passed a bill sponsored by its chairwoman, Cathy Nolan, that would codify parents’ right to “opt out” their children from standardized testing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrapped up his taxpayer-funded mission to Cuba saying he’s more convinced than ever that the Communist nation is ready to do business. He spent less than 27 hours on the island – long enough, the governor said, to see that Cuba is fully committed to developing a free market that can provide opportunities for New York.

Before he departed Cuba, Cuomo met with First Vice President Miguel Dìaz-Canel – the highest ranked official the governor saw on his trip – where the topics of discussion included lifting the United States’ trade embargo, and Cuba’s record on human rights.

“Human rights are an issue that is very important to the people of the United States and New York in particular, and those issues have to be worked through,” Cuomo said. “What we have learned is the best way to do that is through engagement as opposed to through a policy of isolation.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos kept a low profile during his first trip to Albany since it became public that he and his son are under federal investigation. He met with his conference behind closed doors, reiterating his statement from last week that he is cooperating with any investigations before focusing on issues facing the Senate.

In a show of political discipline, Senate Republicans united behind Skelos, with one lawmaker saying they spent only a “nanosecond” in a closed-door conference discussing the majority leader’s legal situation.

Addressing a group of reporters stationed outside Skelos’ office on lawmakers’ first day back after a three-week spring break, Long Island Sen. Ken LaValle said, in response to a question about the investigation: “Don’t you think we’re being a little presumptuous?”

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe has granted a hearing to decide whether a pair of chimps living at Long Island’s Stony Brook University are “persons” who deserve to be released.

A law firm that represented one of the failed casino license applicants has written to state Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan urging him to reopen the bidding process for four upstate casinos.

More >

Extras

John Ciampoli, a former Nassau County official responsible for signing off on the deal at the center of a reported federal investigation into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, is a former and current top aide to Skelos.

Food Network star Sandra Lee gushed about her “so handsome” live-in boyfriend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and joked with TV host Wendy Williams about being too busy to plan a wedding.

Cuomo announced at the conclusion of his 26-hour trade mission that two New York companies had inked partnerships in Cuba.

Former Gov. George Pataki on Cuomo’s Cuba trip: “I’m not going to criticize the governor, I don’t believe that I would have been as interested in pursuing trade with a Marxist, Stalinist state without them reforming significantly.”

WCBS-TV’s Marcia Kramer gave Cuomo a toy replica of a ’56 Chevy he admired while in Cuba.

The Assembly goes paperless tomorrow.

State education officials will soon release a plan for how they’ll develop regulations to finalize a new teacher-evaluation system, Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch said.

Congratulations to Jack O’Donnell (a CapTon Insider) and his wife, Marina, on the birth of their first baby, Thomas John.

A scheduled Brooklyn College speech by controversial blogger/activist Pamela Geller has the school’s progressive Democratic club up in arms.

Cuomo will discuss the recently passed state budget and his priorities for the rest of the year at the ABNY breakfast in Manhattan this Friday.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced two bipartisan bills to better prepare businesses and protect consumers against cyber security attacks and dangerous data breaches.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is glad Senate “Republicans have seen the light” and are moving forward on President Obama’s nomination of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general.

Fred Kowal has been re-elected as president at UUP, the union that represents approximately 35,000 professors and other academic faculty and professionals in the State University’s 29 campuses.

Likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina kicked off a five-day swing through Iowa – two days longer than Hillary Clinton’s first official presidential trip there last week.

Two of this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners have left journalism for PR.

New York will invest $72 million for 88 projects at state parks, part of a long-term plan to invest nearly $1 billion into the oldest park system in the nation.

New York City’s three public library systems are seeking $1.4 billion in city funds over the next decade – the largest request in recent memory – to bring all 217 public library branches up to modern building standards.

People who lost children and partners to meningitis were at the Capitol today to urge passage of a bill that would mandate a vaccine against the bacterial disease for New York schoolchildren in 6th and 11th grades.

Despite repeated denials by his aides, “de Blasio 2016″ rumors continue to persist.

The New York State Fair is having a difficult time booking grandstand acts this year.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, whose travel plans have fueled speculation over a potential presidential run, will attend Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner as a guest of former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Goya Foods Inc. will close its Bethpage distribution operation in July after 17 years on Long Island and move the jobs to New Jersey.

Gannett Co., Inc. has chosen TEGNA as the name for its new broadcasting and digital company.

A state appeals court has granted a request by NYC Public Advocate Tish James and others to reconsider whether the grand jury proceedings in the case of Eric Garner should be made public.

UFT Hits Airwaves With Anti-Cuomo Ad

From the Morning Memo:

The United Federation of Teachers, the NYC-based teachers union, has launched a new ad this morning that accuses Cuomo of playing politics with public schools and criticizes the education reform agenda he pushed during the budget battle.

The 30-second ad is part of a multimillion-dollar statewide campaign that kicks off in the NYC metro area today, and will hit the rest of the state tomorrow, according to a UFT press release.

It will run on major broadcast and cable news programs, the union said, as well as on some of television’s most popular shows including: “Scandal,” the finale of “The Americans,” “American Crime,” “The Blacklist,” “Mad Men,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and Major League Baseball – both the Yankees and the Mets.

The ad appears to be in response to a pro-Cuomo spot that has been running for several weeks, thanking the governor for his education reforms. That ad was paid for by the pro-charter organization Students First.

It’s interesting that the UFT made this move, especially since the union was blamed for perhaps declaring victory in the budget battle a little too soon, angering Cuomo and spurring him to push harder in the eleventh hour for reform measures the unions – and many Democratic lawmakers – really didn’t like.

The UFT was noticeably quiet when the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, launched its push to get parents to opt their kids out of standardized tests in an effort to undermine the teacher evaluation system.

And some upstate Assembly Democrats who are under fire from NYSUT have quietly complained that the UFT let downstate members off the hook when it came to voting “yes” on the education portion of the budget.

Here’s the script for the UFT’s ad, which was produced by Shorr Johnson Magnus Strategic Media:

“For months Andrew Cuomo attacked teachers and public schools. Now, with his support at record lows, so-called education reformers and their billionaire backers are running TV ads trying to rewrite history. But we know the truth.

“Cuomo wants to pile on high stakes testing, privatize classrooms, and divert money away from public schools by giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”

“Governor, New Yorkers agree: Put politics aside and put our kids first.”

Clinton’s Gain Is Maloney’s Loss

From the Morning Memo:

As Hillary Clinton continues to staff up her 2016 campaign operation across the country, she has poached a top aide of a New York congressman who once worked for her husband in the White House.

Clinton has tapped Stephanie Formas to serve as her communications director in South Carolina. Formas, a Texas native, is currently the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who was former President Clinton’s senior West Wing adviser and White House staff secretary.

Maloney, a Democrat, recently won re-election to a second two-year term, defeating the Republican he ousted from the House in 2012, former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

The congressman routinely played up his Clinton ties during his campaigns, and received an in-person boost from the former secretary of state/US senator/first lady shortly before the general election last year.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due back from Cuba today. He’s scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Food Bank for NYC’s 13th Annual Can Do Awards Dinner, where the publishing company of his girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee, is among the honorees.

The Legislature returns to work after a nearly three-week spring break, kicking off the post-budget session.

It was expected to be a busy time, given how many policy issues were pushed out of the budget to be dealt with later. But the US attorney’s investigation into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, could put a damper on things in a big way, giving lawmakers the incentive (on that side of the Capitol, anyway) to mark time without getting much done until the session ends in June.

There are some big ticket items that need to be dealt with. Both the NYC rent laws and mayoral control of the NYC schools “sunset” in June. But the Senate Republicans didn’t have much interest in the first place in doing anything to assist NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who tried unsuccessfully to help the Democrats re-take the majority last fall.

And there’s very little the GOP conference wants or needs in terms of horse trading possibilities, with the exception of the Education Investment Tax Credit and raising the charter cap.

The Democrats, on the other hand, want and need quite a bit, including the aforementioned NYC issues, another increase in the minimum wage, the DREAM Act, and criminal justice reform – just to name a few.

Also happening today…

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend an event hosted by the Campaign for One New York. This event will be closed press.

At 8:15 a.m., Department of Financial Services superintendent Ben Lawsky participates in Q&A at Wall Street Journal’s newsmaker’s forum, Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St., Manhattan.

From 9 a.m. to noon, the state’s Human Rights Commissioner Helen Diane Foster, and state Department of Homes and Community Renewal’s Tenant Protection Unit Deputy Commissioner Richard White, speak during the introduction of a public education campaign about housing discrimination regulations; art gallery, second floor, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, joined by community and government officials and senior citizens, introduces his pedestrian safety initiative titled “Connecting Residents on Safer Streets Brooklyn” or “CROSS Brooklyn”; Amico Senior Citizens Center, 5901 13th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., to publicize the completion of a $25 million project intended to reduce Grand Central Terminal’s energy costs and usage, NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones and MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast hold a news conference and tour, coinciding with the Wednesday, April 22, observance of Earth Day; near the clock, main concourse, Park Avenue and 42nd Street, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the New York State Nurses Association holds a rally, West Capitol Park, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., FASNY President Robert McConville and local firefighters announce the fifth annual RecruitNY statewide firefighter recruitment initiative, Baldswinsville Volunteer Fire Department Station One, 7911 Crego Rd., Baldswinsville.

At 11:45 a.m., Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, representatives from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and other patient advocates hold a news conference on meningitis vaccinations, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 1 p.m., NYC Council members Jumaane Williams and Helen Rosenthal hold a joint oversight hearing on de Blasio’s housing plan, City Hall chambers, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., the Assembly is in session, Assembly chamber, Capitol, Albany.

At 3 p.m., the Senate is in session, Senate chamber, Capitol, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Cuomo speaks at the Food Bank for New York City’s annual Can Do awards dinner, Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan and Safe Horizon officials sponsor a 21st annual “Staten Island Crime Victims’ Candlelight Vigil,” marking the observance of “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” from Sunday through Saturday, April 19 to 25; SIPP Auditorium, Richmond University Medical Center, 355 Bard Ave., Staten Island.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo remained optimistic about the opportunities for doing business with Cuba, despite the many obvious barriers that were on display during his whirlwind trade mission there.

Cuomo reiterated his goal was to generate “momentum” to help federal officials roll back legal impediments and grant some licenses – including one that would let JetBlue begin regular service – as soon as possible.

While in Cuba, Cuomo indulged his gearhead side, marveling at a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that had a Toyota engine inside. He was also presented by the country’s trade minister with what he said was his first Cuban cigar.

“Isolation has not worked,” Cuomo said of the US strategy for dealing with Cuba. “We have had 50 years of isolation and it has not worked. Engagement and full relationships is the best way on the issues that we agree with and the issues that we disagree with.”

After several years in which teachers’ unions have been hammered on the issue of tenure, have lost collective bargaining rights in some states and have seen their evaluations increasingly tied to student scores, they have begun, with some success, to reassert themselves using a bread-and-butter issue: the annual tests given to elementary and middle school students in every state.

The UFT released a new TV ad today to “set the record straight” on Cuomo’s education agenda, accusing him of playing politics with public schools.

More >

Extras

A NYT investigation found Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie benefitted from his mother’s embezzling, failing to sell an apartment purchased with ill-gotten gains when directed by a judge, and then profitting when he finally did so.

The schedule for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 25-hour trade mission to Cuba includes a “working lunch” with Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Cuba’s Minister of Trade and Foreign Investments, and a meeting with the country’s first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The governor’s Flickr page has some photos of his trip.

Onondaga County Republican Committee Chairman Tom Dadey was among Republicans blasting Cuomo’s trip to Cuba, calling it shortsighted and ill-advised.

Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Islander whose mother is a Cuban exile, said any efforts to normalize relations must be accompanied by significant concessions from the Castro regime.

Former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin was found guilty of selling her vote for a 50-percent ownership in a community center-catering hall offered by a Monsey developer working as an undercover FBI operative.

Was former Gov. David Paterson’s criticism of US Attorney Preet Bharara planted, encouraged or otherwise influenced by Cuomo?

New York City’s subway system carried 1.75 billion customers last year, as ridership grew by the highest annual amount in more than 65 years, according to new figures released by the MTA.

Supporting District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s bid for Congress and his handling of the explosive Eric Garner case, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will host a fundraiser for the Republican candidate next weekend.

At least 14 former state lawmakers are currently collecting a state pension despite being convicted of a crime.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is soliciting information regarding the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of contributions from foreign governments in his latest move to cast doubt on the former secretary of state’s candidacy.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Clinton – a move that has confounded members of her campaign and some reporters.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey wants Pope Francis to meet with survivors of sexual abuse when he visits New York in September.

Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo has told county Republican leaders he is taking a “hard look” at challenging Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone this fall and will make a final decision by next week.

The Shooters Committee on Political Education wrote an open letter to Senate Republicans, accusing senators of reneging on their pledge to not support a budget that includes SAFE Act funding.

Declaring traffic tie-ups of up to three hours “unacceptable,” Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to wield his “clout” to help fund a $64 million proposal for widening the U.S. plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Two LLCs connected to Leonard Litwin’s Glenwood Management donated a total of $5,000 to state Assembly candidate Shirley Paterson, who is running for former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s seat and is backed by the powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party.

The fight against mixed martial arts has escalated, with a group of prominent New York Jewish leaders saying that legalizing the controversial sport could benefit a major anti-Israel force.

Here are this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners, which include Buffalo News cartoonist Adam Zyglis, who won for editorial cartooning.

POLITICO publisher Robert Allbritton has set a goal of tripling the size of the company in four years, POLITICO co-founders Jim VandeHei and John Harris said in a staff memo today.

A Saranac Lake teacher finished a 150-mile protest march to the state Capitol today.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo departs this morning for a two-day trade mission to Cuba, and will be in NYC and Havana. LG Kathy Hochul is in charge during his absence. She’ll be in Genesee, Monroe and Onondaga counties today, and will return to Albany this evening.

Hillary Clinton takes her 2016 campaign to New Hampshire today, after being the target there for potential GOP candidates over the weekend.

At 9:15 a.m., Hochul speaks at Genesee County Criminal Justice Day 2015, Genesee Community College, Conable Technology Building, 1 College Rd., Batavia.

At 9:45 a.m., Hochul tours PW Minor Company, which has plans to “re-shore” 100 jobs from China to Batavia, 3 Treadeasy Ave., Batavia.

At 11 a.m., SAGE chief of staff Patrick Aitcheson, AARP members and officials, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the public policy vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association’s city chapter, Hillary Stuchin, and residents who care for the elderly promote a proposal that would fund training of residents who care for the elderly at home; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

At noon, Sen. Leroy Comrie, Assemblyman William Scarborough, NYC Council members and other community and government officials, promotes a legislative proposal that would prohibit advertising on state-owned property that includes “provocative content” that might promote risky behavior, underage drinking or unprotected sexual activity by minors; Hollis Avenue and 190th Street, Queens.

Also at noon, the NYS GOP hosts a lunch with Wisconsin Governor and potential 2016 candidate Scott Walker, Union League Club, 38 East 37th St., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Hochul and NYS DCJS officials make an announcement to protect vulnerable New Yorkers during Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Monroe County Public Safety Building, 6th Floor, 130 South Plymouth Ave., Rochester.

At 3 p.m., the 2015 Pulitzer prizewinners for 2015 will be announced, Columbia University, Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds public hearings on, and then signs, Intros 421-A, 689-A, 690-A, 656, and 497-B, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 4:30 p.m., Hochul tours the Willis Carrier Recreation Center project, corner of Grover and Roby Avenue, East Syracuse.

At 6:30 p.m., Lawrence Lessig, Van Jones, Zephyr Teachout and MoveOn.org will host a talk on political corruption and why Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren should run for president, Civic Hall, 156 5th Ave., 2nd Floor, Manhattan.

At 7:30 p.m., local and state emergency officials and state National Guard troops lead a session of the governor’s “Citizen Preparedness Training Program”; On Your Mark Inc., 475 Victory Blvd., Staten Island.

Headlines…

Critics of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s whirlwind Cuba trade mission say its timing – he’s the first US governor to visit the Communist country since the start of a thaw between the two nations – may diminish its economic value. Supporters say being first in line is key for New York, as is planting the seeds of a relationship that will blossom over time.

On the even of his departure, Cuomo issued a lengthy statement defending his trip, saying: “I agree with the President that engagement is the best way to promote democracy and bring about positive change, rather than continuing a failed policy of isolation.”

Though the Obama administration has started to normalize relations with the Communist country, it will take an act of Congress to repeal the trade embargo with Cuba, and most likely years for Cuba and the US to decide what shape their relationship will take. “This is going to be a process and not a fast process at that,” said Stefan M. Selig, the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for international trade.

Samples of treated wastewater, including those taken from six Western New York plants, show that plastic “microbeads” washed down sink and shower drains are passing straight through the facilities and into area waterways. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind study being released today by AG Eric Schneiderman.

A potential showdown is looming over a pair of NYC Council proposals that would decriminalize a host of offenses — including fare-beating, drinking on the street and public urination — in an overhaul that could dramatically impact the NYPD’s “broken windows” approach to policing.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. called on law-enforcement agencies to battle Apple and Google over software that makes it impossible for authorities to “decrypt” cellphones seized in criminal investigations.

It has not gone unnoticed in Albany that US Attorney Preet Bharara has been going after the children of his legislative targets in corruption cases – perhaps in hopes of getting some leverage over them. “The only time I’ve seen it this prevalent is when they’re going after organized crime families, and they’re trying to squeeze the bosses,” a former federal prosecutor said.

Despite repeated claims to the contrary, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is positioning himself to be the leftist “progressive” alternative to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president, a national party operative told The NY Post’s Fred Dicker.

In his first public remarks since his wife announced her second White House run, former President Bill Clinton said: “I’m proud of her.”

An audit by the state comptroller’s office acknowledged that the state Education Department’s failure to pay state aid in a timely fashion was the leading cause of the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District’s recent fiscal crisis. But the Board of Education and past district administrations bear some blame because of their own financial decisions, too.

As Buffalo is mulling mayoral control of its troubled public school system, NYC provides a blueprint for how that might be successful. but other cities – like Detroit and Cleveland – have had disappointing results.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Cuba tomorrow. He’ll be the first American governor to visit Cuba since the recent thaw in relations with the communist nation. Whether his trade mission generates anything more than headlines, however, remains to be seen.

While in Cuba, Cuomo will find himself in far more delicate diplomatic territory than he has ever encountered.

Hillary Clinton won’t be in New Hampshire for two more days, but she was the star of the show on Saturday as Republican presidential aspirants capped the state GOP’s two-day summit that attracted nearly the entire field to Nashua.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said his “executive experience” would make him a better president than Clinton.

Clinton is maintaining her years of silence on the Keystone XL pipeline — and environmental groups are increasingly divided on how hard they should push her to take a stand.

Clinton’s campaign has staffed up in South Carolina.

The former secretary of state’s recruitment of Gary Gensler, a former top federal Wall Street regulator, as her campaign’s chief financial officer was meant to show donors she is serious about avoiding the overspending that plagued her 2008 presidential campaign

Former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who formed an exploratory committee in November, jabbed at Clinton’s fundraising power, carefully constructed image, and lengthy public career during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said the country is suffering from “incumbent fatigue.”

Long Island Rep. Pete King, who is mulling a potential bid for the 2016 GOP nod, made yet another appearance in New Hampshire.

John Podhoretz thinks NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to endorse his former boss, Clinton, and his early criticism of her will backfire in the long run.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer says his “intention is to run for re-election” in 2017, and not to challenge de Blasio is a primary.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is continuing to “withhold judgement” on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran until he learns both sides “carefully.”

The state test controversy has turned into the latest and bloodiest scrum between Cuomo and the state’s teachers’ unions. This time, experts say it could cost the governor some political clout in the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island – the suburban birthplaces of a rapidly expanding movement that has mobilized thousands of parents and teachers.

The city of Yonkers and Cuomo are heading for a higher-stakes confrontation more than state-aid and the future of the Yonkers public schools.

NYC-funded animal shelters are overcrowded and administering medicine that’s more than a decade old to suffering creatures, according to a scathing new report unveiled by Stringer.

Charles Wait of Saratoga Springs has resigned from the New York Racing Association board effective immediately. No reason was given for his departure.

Building maintenance by the Hrynenko family, which owns several properties in the East Village, is at the center of the investigation into the gas explosion at 121 Second Avenue that killed two men and leveled three buildings.

An advocacy group released their assessment of de Blasio’s performance on education issues, giving him a “mixed” report card with letter grades ranging from A to F reflecting, how it views his effort on make good on campaign promises.

Nearly half the students in some Onondaga County public school districts are too fat, according to the state Health Department.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is making a strong push for a bill that would designate 25 schools as “manufacturing universities” and provide them with incentives to align their curriculum with the needs of modern manufacturers.

Only 17.7 percent of New York cabbies bothered to get an influenza vaccination, endangering themselves and their passengers, according to a new study.

An increase in the use of synthetic marijuana has sent more than 160 people to the hospital in New York since early April, Cuomo announced.

Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter will challenge Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz this fall.

The state Department of Labor has notified more than 40 full-time and 2,500 part-time employees of Nassau Coliseum that they will be laid off this summer when the arena closes for renovations led by Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner.

The number of breakfasts served in the nation’s schools has doubled in the last two decades, a surge driven largely by a change in how districts deliver the food.

The hotel-workers union is trying to steer a bill through the NYC Council to force hotels to get city permission before converting rooms into apartments. Critics have called it a misguided bid to protect union jobs at the expense of the rights of property owners.

Extras

AbTech Industries, the company at the center of the reported federal investigation of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, has strong connections to an environmental group headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the governor’s former brother-in-law.


AbTech says
it’s not a target in the Skelos probe, and is cooperating with federal investigators.

Former Gov. David Paterson criticized U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for publicly promoting his case against former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, saying: “(T)he line of respect, I think he went over that line.”

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox slammed NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his “magical mystery tour” to the Midwest.

Bloomberg LP terminals, widely used by traders to access real-time financial data, went down globally for a few hours this morning, disrupting a bond sale in the UK.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a $565 million five-year contract to Xerox to redesign and operate the information system for the state’s vast $50 billion-plus Medicaid program.

Former Florida Governor and potential 2016 contender Jeb Bush called on his fellow Republicans to stop stalling and confirm New York US Attorney Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to be the next US AG.

Less than a week into her presidential campaign, Clinton has the largest New Hampshire operation of any candidate – 19 staffers.

Romulus town board members have backed Citiva Medical’s proposal to install a medical marijuana growing facility at the former Seneca Army Depot, which was a U.S. Army installation from 1941 to 2000.

The requirements to become a NYS teacher vs. the requirements to become a NYS governor – in song.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, the Republican NY-11 candidate, may be breaking Federal Election Commission law with his campaign signs, which lack a required disclaimer.

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver did not want his photo taken today.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney raised $609,942 in the first quarter of 2015 – the most of any incumbent Democratic representative in the country.

US Sen. Charles Schumer accused House Republicans of passing an estate tax loophole that would benefit only a few thousand of America’s wealthiest families.

Cuomo today proclaimed April 19-25 Earth Week, emphasizing the administration’s environmental commitments to New York’s natural resources, as well as promoting cleaner and healthier communities that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

State Police are targeting speeding and aggressive driving in a campaign that runs through Wednesday.

Cuomo’s office declined comment on the WikiLeaks emails’ revelations that the governor’s close friend and former boss, Andrew Farkas, tried to arrange private jet travel for Cuomo after movie industry moguls threw him a $25,000-per-person fundraiser last year in Hollywood.

The South Street Seaport Museum has picked a captain – literally – to lead it through some very challenging waters.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is leaving Des Moines, Iowa to return to NYC. He has no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC EDC head Kyle Kimball, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura and other business, community and government officials discuss efforts to support businesses and employment in Brooklyn, during the business organization’s “Economic Development Exchange Forum”; courtroom, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 8:45 a.m., the NYC Bar Association holds its 25th annual program on “Current Issues in Insurance Regulation,” New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation holds its monthly meeting, 10th-floor conference room, Edward A. Rath county office building, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Also at 9 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson speaks at the Institute for Disaster Mental Health Conference: “Preparing for the Health and Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change”, SUNY New Paltz.

At 9:30 a.m., the mother of Eric Garner, who lost consciousness and died during an attempted arrest on Thursday, July 17, Gwen Carr, and a co-director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, discuss human rights in the U.S. during a forum presented by the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at CUNY’s Hunter College and the US Human Rights Network in anticipation of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s in-person “Universal Periodic Review” of U.S. human rights scheduled in Geneva on Monday, May 11; 47-49 E. 65th St., Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras delivers an opening keynote speech during CUNY’s 27th annual “Big Apple Job & Internship Fair”; Galleria and River Pavilion, The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan.

At 10:10 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci hosts LG Kathy Hochul on his monthly edition of the “Albany Report,” WRCR1300 AM.

At 1 p.m., former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean delivers keynote address during a “Tackling Economic Inequality” symposium presented by NY Law School’s Center for New York City Law and the law school’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, featuring panel discussions with city officials, family, housing and legal advocates, legal professionals and scholars; auditorium and event center, second floor, 185 W. Broadway.

At 2 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes remarks in Syracuse, 707 First North St. (Rain location: Syracuse City Hall, 233 East Washington St.)

Also at 2 p.m., Assemblyman David Weprin, NYC Councilman Rory Lancman and city transportation officials and community leaders unveil the fully converted 168th Street, which now only runs one-way, Jamaica Muslim Center, 8537 168th St., Queens.

At 2:45 p.m., Hochul tours NYSERNET construction and expansion of the data center, 300 South Salina St., Syracuse.

At 8:30 p.m., Schneiderman attends the Democratic Rural Caucus dinner, Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Parkway, Liverpool.

Headlines…

A corruption unit of the Nassau County district attorney’s office will open a review of county contracting practices, in response to revelations that a federal investigation into Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, is focused in part on a county storm water contract.

Nassau County legislators who approved the contract in question with an Arizona company that employed Adam Skelos, AbTech Industries, said that they did not know the senator’s son worked there.

Skelos confirmed the existence of the federal inquiry and said he is cooperating – a switch from months ago, when he attacked a report about the existence of the probe as “a thinly sourced” story that did “not meet the standards of journalism.”

A source who recently met with investigators for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicated that about half the questions focused on the lobbying arm of the law firm where Skelos is of counsel, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, and if there was any direct or indirect interaction with the senator.

County Executive Ed Mangano and nearly all of Long Island’s senators have been subpoenaed in connection with the Skelos federal grand jury probe.

Adam Skelos, the 32-year-old son of Sen. Skelos, appears to have benefited from his dad’s position with a series of jobs at GOP-wired entities, according to campaign finance and payroll documents and public information provided by firms that employed him.

Should Skelos be indicted and forced to step down, as happened to Silver, no seamless replacement strategy is in place. That is because his second-in-command, Sen. Tom Libous, of Binghamton, faces a federal trial this summer on charges of lying to FBI agents who were investigating the financial activities of him and his son.

Barbara Bartoletti, of the NY League of Women Voters, sees no reason for Skelos to give up his leadership post right now. “There is a presumption of innocence, and we should at least wait until federal authorities have finished with their investigation,” she said. “We should all just be aware that the culture of corruption in Albany has very long tentacles.”

Bharara, one of the most acclaimed prosecutors of his generation, is locked in what seems to be an escalating war of words with the federal judiciary — one that some judges fear could influence important rulings.

The state Board of Elections declined to change a longstanding ruling that critics say has allowed millions of dollars to flow, virtually unchecked, into campaign coffers across New York. The board’s four commissioners deadlocked 2-to-2 on the issue of whether to rescind its own 1996 opinion that found limited-liability companies should be treated like individuals when it comes to contributions.

Emails between Sony executives and Cuomo’s campaign staff leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack and published in full by WikiLeaks Thursday appear to show Sony executives believed donating to the governor was a good idea because he is a “strong protector” of New York’s film tax credit.

Though his focus was national during his brief Midwest trip, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio could not entirely escape local issues, as a Nebraska rancher and radio host showed up to question the mayor’s proposal to take horse carriages out of Central Park. Also, de Blasio brushed off questions about whether he wants to run for president.

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