Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Abinanti Drafts AG-Only Police Misconduct Investigation Bill

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti is taking state AG Eric Schneiderman’s call for temporary power to investigate unarmed civilian deaths at the hands of police officers one step further.

The Westchester County Democrat said he’s drafting legislation that would give the AG’s office exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute all alleged crimes by police officers whether or not in connection with the performance of their regular duties.

“There is an appearance of a conflict of interest – if not an inherent actual conflict of interest – every time a local district attorney is called on to handle a matter against a local police officer with whom the DA must work in the normal course of their duties,” Abinanti said in a press release. “The present law giving the governor discretion to take matters from a local DA and give it to the attorney general is not enough.”

Abinanti’s announcement comes one day after Schneiderman sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeking an executive order that would give the automtically make the AG a special prosecutor in instances like the death of Eric Garner following a chokehold administered by an NYPD officer until such time that the governor and legislative leaders agree on permanent statutory reforms.

Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat and former co-chair of the state Democratic Party, been pushing the Legislature to afford the AG jurisdiction over cases of police misconduct since 1999. The measure has been passed multiple times by the Assembly, but has never been taken up by the Senate.

Wright’s bill is sponsored in the Senate by Bronx Democratic Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

In his letter to the governor, Schneiderman references a similar measure, applicable only to offenses allegedly committed by New York City police officers, that was recently introduced by Brooklyn Sen. Kevin Parker. And there’s also another bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Nick Perry, also of Brooklyn, which would allow a judge to appoint another DA or AG to act as a “special district attorney” in criminal matters where the judge finds that the county prosecutor is “disqualified.”

Cuomo’s press office said yesterday that Schneiderman’s request is under review.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 7:30 a.m., Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. appears on Morning Joe, MSNBC.

At 8:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Letitia James speaks at Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Newsmaker’s series, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, 6 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.

Also at 8:30 a.m., State Education Commissioner John King delivers remarks at Network Team Institute training, Clark Auditorium, New York State Museum, 222 Madison Ave., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., Cornell University and the Fiscal Policy Institute hold a daylong conference on the impact of Cuomo’s property tax policies on school districts and municipalities, Gideon Putnam Hotel, 24 Gideon Putnam Rd., Saratoga Springs.

Also at 9:30 a.m., the New York Gaming Facility Location Board meets, New York State Gaming Commission, 317 Lenox Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., the Assembly holds a hearing on civil forfeiture and deferred prosecution agreements, Assembly Hearing Room 1923, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and the Rebuild NY Now coalition hold a press conference on infrastructure, Syracuse City Hall, 233 East Washington St., Syracuse.

At 10:30 a.m., United University Professions President Frederick Kowal introduces new initiatives, The Well, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and members of the state Senate announce reforms to the criminal justice system, Room 315, State Capitol, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., the Assembly holds a hearing on homeless services, Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew holds a press conference to recommend new real estate tax proposals to pay for reduction in public school class size, 52 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Manhattan.

At 11:15 a.m., advocates for elimination of sub-minimum wage hold a press conference before a public hearing of the Wage Board, State Capitol, 2nd Floor, Albany.

At noon, the Wage Board of New York State holds its final hearing on tipped worker wages, Harriman State Office, Campus Building 12, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., tenants march to combat gentrification and call for stronger rent laws, 92-10 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, Queens.

At 3 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio visits and delivers remarks at Shutterstock headquarters with the Duke of Cambridge, 20th and 21st Floor, Empire State Building, 350 5th Ave., Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., New York and New Jersey elected officials hold a press conference encouraging Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to sign Port Authority reform bills, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer delivers keynote address at Responsible Investor Americas 2014, Bloomberg LP, 731 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Stephen Steinlight from the Center for Immigration Studies speaks to Gertrude and Morrison Parker West Side Republican Club, West Side YMCA, 5 W. 63rd St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Perhaps the special session is still a possibility? The NYT reports Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing legislative leaders to accept campaign finance and ethics reforms in exchange for a pay raise.

A review of campaign finance filings shows Cuomo has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from regional economic development council members or entities they control.

In a letter to Cuomo, AG Eric Schneiderman requested the governor issue an immediate executive action that would grant Schneiderman’s office the power to investigate and prosecute cases in which police kill unarmed civilians.

The request set off a potential struggle between the state’s top two elected officials and with local district attorneys, some of whom strongly oppose the move. Officially speaking, Cuomo’s office is “reviewing” the AG’s request.

Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann called Schneiderman’s request “arrogant” and an “unnecessary knee-jerk reaction to the decision of the impartial 23-member Richmond County grand jury.”

A nor’easter is hitting the mid-Hudson Valley this morning with some force. Several school districts are opening late or not opening at all, and icy roads are being reported.

Hundreds of Syracuse University students led a rally to protest police brutality and the failure to prosecute police officers in Ferguson and Staten Island for the deaths of African-American suspects. They marched into downtown at rush hour, stalling and diverting traffic.

Several hundred protesters massed outside Barclays Center, blocking traffic and clogging entrances to the Brooklyn arena as ticket holders attempted to get to their seats for a basketball game attended by Britain’s Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

There was also a news conference on the steps of Buffalo City Hall where clergy members urged the public to protest – but peacefully – and join the dialogue about reforms to the system.

Columbia Law School is allowing students to postpone their final exams this month if they feel unnerved by the recent grand jury decisions.

Since he lost his job as executive director of the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying in 2007, David Grandeau as become perhaps the state’s most prominent lobbying-compliance lawyer, helping high-priced clients finesse the lobbying laws that he once enforced. He wants to be referred to as “the dark prince of disclosure.”

A series of state and national dignitaries celebrated the 10 Mountain Division during a ceremony as it marked the return of its headquarters company and sustainment brigade after about 10 months in Afghanistan, along with the shift from 13 years of Operation Enduring Freedom into mission Resolute Support, which starts Jan. 1.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner was one of 18 mayors at a summit on immigration hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, who organized the meeting in hopes of mobilizing grass-roots support for immigration reform and for President Obama’s recent executive actions.

More >

Extras

The Obama administration issued guidelines that ban federal law enforcement from profiling on the basis of religion, national origin and other characteristics.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is “adamantly opposed” to AG Eric Schneiderman’s request that he be granted new powers to investigate and prosecute cases in which law enforcement kills unarmed civilians.

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, head of the NYS DAs Association: “When you start to talk about special prosecutors – do we really want another Ken Starr?”

The video of Eric Garner’s death “sure as heck looks like” second-degree manslaughter, Sedita said, but he saw nothing to suggest Staten Island DA Dan Donovan unfairly presented the case.

Jim Malatras, Cuomo’s director of state operations, penned a letter to the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton to make the case for the soon-to-be-implemented (and much maligned) state weather system.

Following reports of drones hovering dangerously close to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, US Sen. Chuck Schumer said he is asking the federal government to expedite new regulations to prevent the possibility of catastrophic collisions.

A new poll indicates Hillary Clinton holds an advantage over five potential Republican opponents in hypothetical match-ups for the 2016 presidential election, but fails to break the 50 percent mark.

The grand jury decisions not to indict police officers who killed unarmed men in Ferguson and Staten Island have revealed a huge racial divide in how Americans perceive law enforcement in the US, a new Marist poll found.

The Jonesboro, Ark., City Council rejected a resolution to partner with a voluntarism and community-service nonprofit because of political stands taken by its founder: Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Princess Katherine (AKA Kate Middleton) toured an East Harlem school with NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray while her husband, Price William, paid a visit to the White House.

“It’s good that she’s in Harlem. I would expect her to be at a private school downtown but she came here instead.”

Former Rep. James Walsh, a Republican who represented the Syracuse area in Congress for 20 years and is now a lobbyist, has been named one of the world’s top 100 Irish business leaders.

The widow of the late former Bronx Rep. Herman Badillo slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio on the radio for failing to appear or to even offer condolences for the history-making official’s funeral on Sunday.

The Senate Democrats will reconvene in Albany tomorrow to discuss priorities for the upcoming legislative session and new legislation in the wake of the Garner decision.

Demonstrations against the decision are still going strong in New York City, where protesters managed to shut down part of the Staten Island Expressway at 9:30 a.m. this morning.

Demonstrators, including at least 20 NYC Council members, briefly blocked traffic on Broadway outside City Hall as they protested Garner’s death this afternoon with songs, a “die-in” and chants of “black lives matter.”

Randy Douglas, head of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, was elected to take over as leader of the New York State Association of Counties next year.

Bruce Gyory is surprised politicians aren’t paying more attention to climate change.

White House reporters who went on Obama’s trip to China, Myanmar and Australia last month were in for a surprise when they saw the bill.

The official results are in, and Congressman-elect John Katko’s margin of victory over outgoing Rep. Dan Maffei in Cayuga County is a little larger than it was on election night.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 10 a.m., Assemblyman Dick Gottfried holds the second of six statewide hearings on the “New York Health” bill to create state single payer health coverage, City Council Chambers, Rochester City Hall, 30 Church St., Rochester.

At 10:45 a.m., President Obama hosts Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.

At 11 a.m., Rep. Michael Grimm is in federal court regarding his corruption case, Brooklyn.

Also at 11 a.m., supporters of the proposal to prohibit horse-drawn carriage rides, including animal rights advocates from NYCLASS and other groups, are scheduled to participate a rally, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 11:20 a.m., Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

At 11:30 a.m., Rep. Louise Slaughter will host a press availability to make a major economic development announcement, discuss the prospect of another government shutdown and outline a number of her legislative priorities that will see House action this week, KBK Federal Building, 100 State St., 3rd floor, Room 3120, Rochester.

At noon, “Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing” advocates and City Council members call for city and state officials to reach an agreement concerning housing for residents with disabilities and residents diagnosed with mental illness; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at noon, hospitality industry trade associations preview their testimony before the state Department of Labor Wage Board’s public hearing, Legislative Office Building, the Well, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito holds a press conference before the Council’s stated meeting, Red Room, City Hall, Manhattan. She presides over the meeting at 1 p.m. in the Council chambers.

Also at 1 p.m., Central Park’s carriage drivers and their fellow Teamsters and other unions will rally against the introduction of legislation to ban the industry, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh will join state legislators from across the nation to announce the formation of a new nonpartisan national coalition, American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

At approximately 3:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold a press conference to discuss the immigration summit he’s hosting for 20 fellow Democratic mayors from around the country and White House officials, Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 3:45 p.m., Obama tapes an interview for The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert, Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

At 5 p.m., Assemblyman Keith Wright, chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, hears testimony about the creation, operation and oversight of housing development fund companies during a public hearing; conference room, eighth floor, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher receives the Rockefeller Award for Public Service, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

At 6 p.m., the New York League of Conservation Voters holds a news conference on Toxic-Free Toys Act before a meeting of the Albany County Legislature, Albany County Courthouse, 16 Lodge St., Albany.

At 6:30 p.m., New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin hold a community forum, Gerald Lynch Auditorium, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th St., Manhattan.

At 7:15 p.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer appears on Real Money with Ali Velshi, Al Jazeera America.

At 7:30 p.m., the No LNG Coalition holds a community meeting on the proposal for a Port Ambrose liquified natural gas facility, Long Beach Public Library, 111 West Park Ave., Long Beach.

Headlines…

Any effort by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to crack down on New York City cops in the wake of the Eric Garner case will be blocked by the GOP-controlled Senate come January, according to Brooklyn GOP Sen. Marty Golden, a former NYPD officer. But changes to the grand jury process are possible.

A Cuomo aide said that “no serious conversations have occurred yet and any reform package will require a comprehensive review and public discussion. At this point in the calendar, we do not anticipate that happening before” the legislative session begins in January.

Garner’s chokehold death in NYPD custody wasn’t “a black-and-white thing,” his widow said Sunday on “Meet the Press” – an opinion that breaks sharply from lawmakers and protesters who have seized on the racial aspect of the case.

A Daily News investigation found that at least 179 people were killed by on-duty NYPD officers over the past 15 years. Just three of the deaths have led to an indictment in state court. In another case, a judge threw out the indictment on technical grounds and it was not reinstated.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has struck deals with most of the city’s union employees this year but now faces a daunting challenge: an escalating fight with police unions that say officers are being underpaid by the city and undermined by the mayor.

Rep. Charlie Rangel of Harlem, who worked as a lawyer before his election to Congress 40 years ago, said he wants state prosecutors, not local district attorneys, to investigate allegations of police wrongdoing.

Five days in, the demonstrations against a grand jury’s decision in the Garner case are affecting daily life in New York City.

The de Blasio adminstration helped pay the costs of a funeral service in Brooklyn this weekend for Akai Gurley, who was shot by a police officer in East New York last month.

The extraordinary steps taken in a North Carolina case — along with the recent grand jury decisions to bring no charges against white police officers who killed unarmed black men in New York and Missouri — illustrate how the justice system can favor the police, often shielding them from murder or serious manslaughter charges.

Daniel Alter, general counsel at New York’s Department of Financial Services, is “the 49-year-old legal mastermind” behind the lucrative financial sector settlements that have netted New York billions of dollars. He’s being discussed as a possible replacement for Ben Lawsky as DFS superintendent.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned 57 this weekend. His daughter, Michaela Kennedy Cuomo, wrote a tribute to her dad to The Journal News, calling him “the most supportive, attentive, and reliable friend and father any child has ever had.”

In response to Rudy Giuliani’s recent criticism of his handling of the Eric Garner case fallout, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said his predecessor “fundamentally misunderstands the reality” of the rift between the police and the community.

“We have to have an honest conversation in this country about a history of racism,” de Blasio said. “We have to have an honest conversation about the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police, when in fact police are there to protect them.”

De Blasio said he has instructed his biracial teenage son, Dante, not to make any sudden movements or reach for his phone if he’s stopped by cops. Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called those comments “really hypocritical and moronic” and suggesting the mayor get out of his own city.

De Blasio’s remarks came during an appearance on ABC’s “The Week,” during which he refused to say either way if he respected the grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death.

Garner’s mother urged the public to keep protesting her son’s death, during an emotional appearance on Saturday in Harlem with civil-rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

About 400 Long Islanders demonstrated today against what they called police brutality in a rally and die-in, in which some lay down on the pavement of busy Sunrise Highway in Amityville, stopping traffic in both directions on the major artery.

Two former Islip Town parks department officials, a prominent local businessman and his son, along with two contractors, will be criminally charged tomorrow in a Suffolk County courtroom as part of the district attorney’s investigation into dumping in Islip, Newsday reports.

Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, touched down at JFK Airport this afternoon, kicking off their first official visit together to New York City.

Federal prosecutors may be targeting Rep. Michael Grimm’s defense team, by asking for a hearing typically called to address when a lawyer may have a conflict of interest.

Twenty Democratic mayors from around the country, as well as top officials from several other cities, will gather tomorrow in New York City for a one-day summit meeting that will be part campaign planning session, part pep rally.

The state will award more than $700 million in grants and tax breaks on Wednesday to projects submitted by 10 regional development councils.

With just weeks remaining in 2014, the state Department of Health reiterated Friday that it anticipates finishing up a report that has been in the works since 2012 and will determine the fate of large-scale fracking in New York by month’s end.

Even if Cuomo approves shale gas development, natural-gas drilling probably won’t begin until towns update zoning laws to allow hydraulic fracturing, according to lawyers and planners.

New York City has reached a tentative contract deal with the union representing school principals that would raise their salaries substantially and give them retroactive pay, de Blasio announced on Saturday.

Cuomo announced the launch of Community Solar NY, a new effort under the NY-Sun initiative to make implementing solar easier and more affordable for communities across the state.

Two people returning to the state from West Africa where they were exposed to Ebola have agreed to a 21-day home quarantine but show no symptoms of the virus.

Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden who was brought in to the administration in October to coordinate the federal response to the Ebola outbreak, will reportedly return to the private sector by March 1.

The family of police-shooting victim Akai Gurley had a message on Friday for Sharpton: Keep your “circus” away from his funeral.

The funeral for Gurley, 28, drew about 100 people, including activists and elected officials, to Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Attendees included NYC Public Advocate Letitia James; Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat; and Councilwoman Inez Barron.

In the wake of yet another subway murder in November allegedly committed by a violent felon recently released from prison, Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell are asking Cuomo to sign their bipartisan bill that would ensure mentally ill inmates are not freed without proper evaluation and treatment.

Newsday has an infrastructure project wish list for the state’s “windfall” of settlement cash, which could reach $6 billion.

George W. Bush says that he badly wants his brother Jeb to run for president – and that if he were to face off against Hillary Clinton, he would “absolutely” beat her in a 2016 matchup.

The executive board for the state’s second-largest public labor union, PEF, voted Friday to overturn an ethics hearing panel’s controversial decision to clear a downstate council leader of wrongdoing for spending union money at stores and restaurants.

Michael Goodwin remembers the late former Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo.

Dr. Herbert Pardes retired as the head of New York-Presbyterian Hospital in 2011, but raked in $2.8 million in compensation last year as “executive vice chairman,” new tax filings show.

The number of tenured New York City teachers and other staff on the payroll without permanent jobs dropped to 1,420 this week, down from 2,012 on the first day of school and 1,678 a year ago, officials said.

The head of Suffolk County’s largest public union is firing back against board members who ordered his suspension, calling it a “politically motivated” attempt to derail his re-election.

The title of Janette Sadik-Khan’s forthcoming book pretty well sums up her six and a half years as transportation commissioner for former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: “Streetfight: Rewriting the Operating Code for Cities.”

Indicted Queens Councilman Ruben Wills missed 27 percent of the meetings he was supposed to attend in the year that ended June 30, the worst attendance record on the Council.

Extras

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan only asked grand jurors to consider manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, WNBC reported.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, has been sued three times for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of other blacks he and fellow cops arrested.

WNYC: “Records also show that a relatively small number of cops generate the most civilian complaints - and the (NYPD) routinely ignores recommendations on how to discipline the worst of them.”

The morning after 10,000 people descended on Manhattan, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he expects the demonstrations to “peter out” because “people get tired of marching around aimlessly.”

Queens Councilman Rory Lancman says there’s increasing interest in his bill that would outlaw the use of chokeholds by law enforcement officers.

After two days of protests to the Garner decision, the de Blasio administration touted numbers showing what officials say is a “significant drop in misconduct complaints” against NYPD officers over the last five months.

The Cook Political Report ranked Congressman-elect John Katko and Congresswoman-elect Elise Stefanik as the top “over-performers” in the House among Republicans who were not incumbents in the 2014 mid-term election.

A bill that would set up a commission, similar to that which now sets salaries for judges, for the state’s management/confidential employees has been sent to the governor.

Prince William will meet President Obama at the Oval Office on Monday, the White House has announced.

The casino siting board will meet Tuesday, then again on Dec. 17 with its decisions announced then on up to four casino licenses from among 16 competitors in three regions of the state.

Clyde Williams, a 2012 Democratic primary rival to Rep. Charlie Rangel, will meet with the Harlem lawmaker tonight, hoping to secure his backing in 2016.

The former head of a prominent South Bronx charity is facing up to 4 1/2 years in prison after admitting Thursday that she pilfered nearly $900,000 from the organization, state AG Eric Schneiderman’s office announced.

In the national race among cities for the highest seasonal snowfall total so far, the scorers list Buffalo in third place with just 20 inches. What gives?

Rolling Stone magazine said that it found discrepancies in its controversial story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia and had lost faith in the piece.

Columbia’s football coach resigned one day after the university’s student newspaper published an article that said he had verbally and physically abused players and ordered them to return to the field after sustaining concussions.

The Brooklyn DA will impanel a grand jury to decide whether to bring criminal charges against Peter Liang, the NYPD officer who shot and killed Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, in a darkened stairwell of a housing development last month.

CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is leaving the network, according an email to staff from CNN president Jeff Zucker.

Cuomo defeated Republican Rob Astorino by nearly 6,000 votes in Ramapo, contributing mightily to his 4,027-vote victory in Rockland in the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election, a detailed look at the election returns by town and by election district shows.

Next week, an Assembly Committee will hold a hearing on improving access to financial aid for college students.

A $700 million pipeline to bring Marcellus Shale natural gas from Pennsylvania into in New England and New York was approved yesterday by federal regulators. It could be operational by next winter.

“Southside With You,” a film that will depict the first date between the future President and First Lady, is in the works.

The Winters family and the Spitzer family are selling a slice of the Big Apple’s most expensive crossroads: The Crown Building at 730 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City.

At approximately 7 a.m., Cuomo will be a guest on the Today show on NBC.

At 8 a.m., NYC EDC President Kyle Kimball participates on panel “Economic Forecast 2015: Uncertainties & Opportunities” with IBO’s Ronnie Lowenstein, CUNY School of Journalism’s Greg David and Massey Knakal’s Bob Knakal at Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Breakfast, Manhattan.

At 8:45 a.m., the Third Annual Local Progress National Convening conference takes place with keynote address from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School hosts the first ever national conference on the right to counsel featuring speakers including New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and HRA Commissioner Steven Banks, 185 W. Broadway, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Rep. Paul Tonko attends the grand opening of Fidelis Care Albany Regional Office, 31 British American Blvd., Latham.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will participate in Martin Van Buren’s birthday ceremony, organized by the Friends of Lindenwald, Reformed Church Cemetery, Albany Avenue, Kinderhook.

Also at 10 a.m., the mother and stepfather of NYPD shooting victim Akai Gurley make their first public statements, Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11:30 a.m., New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will be joined by Dr. Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, to break ground on an expansion of the college’s library on Long Island City, 31-10 Thomson Ave., Queens.

At 4:15 p.m., the Rev. Al Sharpton delivers a eulogy during a public funeral service and viewing for Akai Gurley, an unarmed 28-year-old man shot by a city police officer Nov. 20, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project; Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Ave., Brooklyn.

At 5 p.m., Gibson will join local officials marching in the Kingston Snowflake Festival Parade, lineup at Dietz Stadium, Kingston.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a “comprehensive review” of the state justice system after a grand jury’s refusal to indict an NYPD officer in the Eric Garner chokehold case.

“This is about race relations,” Cuomo said. “This is about police training, certainly. And better training. This is about transparency. This is about accountability. This is about diversity in the police force. It’s all of the above.”

Advocates are calling on Cuomo to veto a bill passed in both houses of the Legislature that would allow the rules for police disciplinary action to be decided in collective bargaining with unions rather than by elected officials.

The federal civil rights investigation into Garner’s case could present a new complication for Loretta Lynch’s nomination as US attorney general, because she will be heading the inquiry as the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York as she undergoes scrutiny in the new GOP-controlled Senate.

As protests over the Garner case course through New York City and beyond, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to bridge the police-community divide has become, with escalating urgency, perhaps the foremost challenge of his mayoralty.

De Blasio called for the retraining of the city’s police force one day after the announcement that a grand jury declined to indict a NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s chokehold death.

Roughly 22,000 officers will receive a three-day tutorial on “smart policing,” including de-escalating situations that seem headed for violence.

De Blasio called Garner a “decent man” whose unnecessary death followed “centuries” of racism, but he stopped short of criticizing the grand jury’s decision not to charge Officer Pantaleo.

“We need a mayor to stand up with and for us,” police union head Pat Lynch said. He said his members feel as if de Blasio is “throwing them under the bus.”

Lynch called Pantaleo a “model” police officer about whom the public does not know enough. “He literally, literally, is an Eagle Scout,” said Lynch, adding that the maneuver Pantaleo used on Garner was a “textbook” takedown.

The Garner grand jury heard testimony from 50 witnesses and considered 60 exhibits over the course of nine weeks of deliberations, a state judge said.

Elected officials, legal experts and police officers differed on Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan’s handling of the grand jury. Some experts said the grand jury’s decision probably had less to do with how Donovan presented the case and more to do with the impact of the officer’s testimony.

Brooklyn BP Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer, writes in the NYT: “Open, preliminary hearings in court can and should determine if a case should be stepped up to a trial. Additionally, the handling of police shootings should be wholly separated from local grand juries. These bodies cannot handle cases involving local police officers on whom they rely every day.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said the outdated “broken windows” method of policing is partly to blame for Garner’s death. “That philosophy may have made sense 20 years ago when crime was extremely high, but the windows in New York City are largely together, and have been repaired,” he said.

Hillary Clinton addressed head-on the killings of two unarmed black men — one in Ferguson, Mo., and another in Staten Island, N.Y. — saying yesterday justice is “out of balance.”

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he froze the Rev. Al Sharpton out when he was mayor because he didn’t want to elevate an activist (and a man he believes incited the Crown Heights riots) to the level of the mayoralty.

More >

Extras

Ramsey Orta, who filmed Eric Garner being put into a chokehold that led to his death, says members of the grand jury that decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo didn’t pay attention to his testimony and didn’t ask many questions.

A more than yearlong investigation revealed that Cleveland Police engaged in “a pattern or practice of using excessive force — in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani lashed out at NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio over his response to the Garner decision, accusing the current mayor of undermining respect for the justice system and characterizing his response as “racist.”

Generally speaking, de Blasio’s response has earned both sharp criticism and high praise.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was blunt in her assessment of the Garner decision, saying the grand jury “got it wrong.”

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton defended the grand jury and also said body cameras for police officers can be “very, very useful,” though not without complications.

Sergeants Benevolent Association President Edward Mullins called for independent prosecutors to investigate cases of police killings of civilians in reaction to outrage over the non-indictment of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner’s death.

Hillary Clinton said she’s “very pleased that the Department of Justice will be investigating what happened in Ferguson or Staten Island.”

Two members of the state Assembly – Karim Camara, of Brooklyn, and Marcus Crespo, of the Bronx – said the state needs to create a special, independent office to investigate killings by police officers.

Bill O’Reilly: “You don’t get Edgar Allan Poe endings in Albany. But a guy can fantasize.”

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she will pursue state measures including the assigning of special prosecutors in wake of tragedies like the Garner case.

Rep. Chris Collins’ brief congressional career will take a big step forward next year when he joins the House committee that churns out more legislation than any other: Energy and Commerce.

A pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC produced “Stand with Hillary,” a new country song and music video in support of Clinton’s possible 2016 presidential run.

…The Fix is not impressed.

The Oracle of Omaha (Warren Buffett) gave the maximum donation allowed to Ready for Hillary last quarter, his first-ever check to the sort of independent political groups that he’s scorned in the past

Much of New York’s canal system has been added to the state and national Registers of Historic Places.

A Fulton County man’s efforts to gain legal rights for chimpanzees fell short when the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Albany upheld a lower court’s decision that found such animals aren’t entitled to them.

Assemblyman Michael Kearns believes state driver’s licenses need to include designations that would allow licensed professionals, such as key medical personnel, to travel during a state of emergency – like last month’s snowstorm in WNY.

The Elmira Star-Gazette: “The recent Buffalo blizzard was a calamity. But, creating another state office that largely duplicates the federal government’s National Weather Service contradicts Cuomo’s criticism of local governments.”

Rep. Dan Maffei and all other departing House members had to vacate their offices early to give the Capitol’s moving staff time to refurbish offices and furniture in time for the arrival of new members in January. They were banished to temporary offices in the basement.

Brooklyn is currently the least affordable housing market in the country.

Chicago’s city council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $13 an hour by 2019, and close the nanny loophole.

Albany Law Prof Doubts Garner Grand Jury Info Will Be Released (Updated)

Albany Law School Professor and Court of Appeals expert Vin Bonventre said he doubts Staten Island DA Dan Donovan’s request that “specific information” related to the grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against an NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in connection with Eric Garner’s death be released to the public will be granted.

During a CapTon interview last night, Bonventre noted that grand juries are “purely a child of individual state law; the federal constitution doesn’t even require them.” Grand juries merely need to determine that there is probable cause – not proof beyond a reasonable doubt or clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of evidence – to bring a case to trial.

A significant amount of information was made public in the wake of last week’s announcement that a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided not to bring charges against a former white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown.

But New York is not Missouri.

“I think the secrecy of the grand jury is almost inviolate,” Bonventre said. “People get in trouble for leaking matters coming out of the grand jury. And we don’t necessarily want lots of information coming out because we want people to be able to serve and to be absolutely honest. Remember, all we’re talking about is there enough evidence (to bring a case to trial) – they just didn’t think so.”

“I do find that shocking, but I wasn’t there to listen to all the evidence.”

Donovan said in a statement released after yesterday’s announcement of the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case that he had asked a court to release some information (he did not specify exactly what) related to the case.

The DA’s application was sealed and it was unclear if the information he asked to have released might shed any light on the decision that ignited protests around New York City as well as in some upstate cities – including Albany.

A Staten Island judge is expected to rule by the end of the day on Donovan’s request. Pantaleo’s attorney told the Daily News he might file an opposition to the release of any grand jury data, saying he doesn’t see any reason why it should not remain secret – as is the norm in New York.

UPDATE: According to DNAinfo, Donovan’s application does not include releasing testimony of witnesses — including NYPD officers, paramedics, doctors or police tacticians, which is sealed under state law. And it does not include disclosing important details of the medical evidence and forensics that likely played critical roles in the jurors’ decision not to indict.

A source also told DNAinfo that the fact Supreme Court Judge Stephen Rooney did not immediately brush aside Donovan’s request may indicate that he is interested in finding some way to accommodate it.

Capitol Comings And Goings (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

‘Tis the season for announcement of departures and new hires in New York politics and government.

This is a fairly standard end-of-the-year occurrence that has drawn more attention than usual, thanks to the fact that Cuomo is staffing up for Term II and apparently having some trouble attracting talent.

Others, meanwhile, are staffing up and slimming down, depending on their success (or failure) in the recent elections.

Yesterday, Peter Ajemian, who served as spokesman for AG Eric Schneiderman’s successful re-election campaign, announced that he has accepted a new post as chief of staff to Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat.

Ajemian also worked on NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s successful 2013 campaign.

Ajemian is replacing Julia Alschuler as Hoylman’s chief of staff. Alschuler sent out a “goodbye” email yesterday, saying her “next chapter” will be in Washington, D.C., but offering no additional details (yet).

UPDATE: Ajemian is actually replacing Laura Morrison, who was former Sen. Tom Duane’s chief of staff for many years before taking the same job working for Hoylman, Duane’s replacement in the Senate. Alschuler was Hoylman’s communication direction, and there is not direct replacement for her (yet), so media inquiries will be directed to Ajemian for the time being.

Also yesterday, Cuomo announced he has made a new hire: Maggie Miller, who will serve as chief information officer at the state Office of Information Technology Services.

Miller, according to Cuomo’s office, is the former chief information officer of Girl Scouts USA and an expert in IT strategy, innovation, business transformation, multi-channel strategies, M&A evaluation and integration, business intelligence and analytics, and outsourcing.

And another departure from Team Cuomo was made official yesterday, as NYRA Chairman David Skorton, the outgoing president of Cornell University, announced he’s stepping down as he prepares to head the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.