Liz Benjamin

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Stewart-Cousins: Free College? Senate Dems Want That

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is using Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s free college tuition plan as yet another example of how much more the governor might be able to accomplish if only his fellow Democrats controlled the upper house.

“Senate Democrats have led the fight to make a quality higher education affordable to all New York students, and our Higher Education Ranking Member Senator Toby Stavisky has carried a bill to accomplish just this goal,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “This is perfect example of why the Democrats that comprise a majority of the Senate should unite. It is clear that initiatives like this would pass in a Democratic Majority.”

Stavisky’s legislation has been kicking around since at least 2013. The Senate Democrats, Stewart-Cousins noted, just this past May authored a white paper on college affordability (or the lack thereof), which was also a big deal in the 2016 presidential race – hence, Cuomo’s appearance today with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made free tuition a cornerstone of his campaign.

The Senate Republicans haven’t said anything about the free tuition plan yet, but the Legislature would need to approve it, and – notably – the administration has yet to say specifically how it plans to pay for it.

As Cuomo increasingly seeks to position himself at the national level, potentially with an eye on a future White House run, by embracing a host of liberal policy proposals, look for the Senate Democrats and their allies to keep up the “we could accomplish so much more together” drumbeat, even though at this point it’s pretty much a done deal that the Republicans and the IDC have renewed their power-sharing relationship.

The college tuition proposal is the first of what will likely be a string of pre-State of the State policy announcements leading up to the governor’s regional speeches next week. Cuomo today provided an on-line registration portal for members of the public who might like to attend those speeches, revealing the dates and general locations where they will be delivered, but not specific times or locales.

Cuomo wasted no time in starting to drum up public support for this proposal, sending out an email touting this “first-in-the-nation” plan and how it is an effort to build on his administration’s efforts over the past six years to “ease the burden on middle class families throughout New York.”

“From cutting property taxes to alleviating student loan debt, we’re continually striving to improve lives and increase economic opportunity for middle class New Yorkers,” Cuomo wrote. “This year, we’re taking another big step toward that goal: Today, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, I unveiled a plan to offer free tuition at SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges. New York is the State of Opportunity and a college education must be accessible to all, not a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.”

There’s a link where email recipients are urged to show their support for the governor’s free tuition proposal – a handy way to collect supporters’ names for future contact (and perhaps fundraising appeals as the 2018 re-election campaign gears up).

New Front In Pay Raise Battle

From the Morning Memo:

Though they lost their latest skirmish with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a potential pay raise late last year, some members of the state Legislature aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Lawmakers – especially downstate Democrats in the Assembly, who face a higher cost of living and have to see their NYC Council counterparts earning considerable more ($148,500) than their comparatively meager $79,500 a year – are still smarting over what they view as Cuomo’s meddling in what was supposed to be an independent compensation commission.

In fact, one member, Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, says the failure of the commission’s gubernatorial appointees to act of their own accord may very well have been illegal – though not terribly surprising, given Cuomo’s track record of seeking to influence supposedly independent bodies. (Exhibit A: The corruption-busting Moreland Commission).

“Seeing he likes to go around saying that government must work, we actually though that he was going to allow government to do his work,” DenDekker said during a CapTon interview last night, seeking to explain why the Legislature agreed to the commission’s creation in the first place.

“…this time the way he interfered, I believe those appointees have violated sections of the Public Officers Law,” the assemblyman continued.

“I can’t speak for my body as a house, but I can tell you I am investigating and reviewing sections of that law that the JCOPE would have jurisdiction over. The way I am interpreting it now, and I’ve talked to three other attorneys about this, I think I will be filing a complaint personally against the appointees that the governor put on the commission.”

When reminded that JCOPE, the state ethics watchdog, is another of those supposedly independent entities that has been widely criticized as too much under the governor’s thumb, the assemblyman replied:

“It’s true, but there still are requirements that take place once an action is started that not even he will be able to stop. There’s also the court of public opinion, and we can let the public decide. That’s exactly what the governor has been doing all along.”

The assemblyman said he hopes to file his complaints with JCOPE by the end of the week.

DenDekker acknowledged that his effort won’t likely do much to improve the broken relationship between the Legislature and the governor, which was strained almost to a breaking point by the pay raise fight. But he also said Cuomo himself must bear some of the blame for the breakdown and any gridlock that follows.

“I don’t know how we negotiate with a member of our own party when we can’t trust him, per se, to keep commitments that he makes,” DenDekker said.

“…I’d like to compliment every rank-and-file member from both parties in both houses that truly decided not to come back for a special session and vote for a commission again, because it was absurd to do it the first time…we should have had the foresight to realize he would interfere with it.”

DenDekker said he hopes the Legislature manages – somehow – to establish a mechanism by which lawmakers’ salaries are linked to automatic cost of living increases, and stressed that he would support any effort put forth during this session to take the politics out of this issue, once and for all – assuming, in fact, that such a thing is even possible.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City.

At 10 a.m., Assembly members Ron Castorina and Nicole Malliotakis, and attorney Jeffrey Alfano, announce attorney Ravi Batra as co-counsel on lawsuit regarding IDNYC document destruction, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Cuomo makes an announcement, LaGuardia Community College, 30-10 Thomson Ave. Staten Island.

Also at 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul celebrates the opening of seven outpatient clinics as part of Phase One of the Children’s Hospital Relocation, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Conventus Building, 1001 Main St., Buffalo.

At noon, there will be a swearing-in ceremony for new Democratic state Assembly members, Assembly chamber, 3rd floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, there will be a swearing-in ceremony for new members of Congress, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Also at noon, the 27th annual People’s State of the State address will take place outside the state Capitol, (State Street entrance side), Albany.

At 1 p.m., there will be a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Harlem Rep. Adriano Espaillat, conducted by the Honorable Rolando T. Acosta, Associate Justice of the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, (reception to follow), Capital Visitor Center, Congressional Auditorium (Room 200), U.S. Capitol, Washington.

At 3 p.m., there will be a swearing-in ceremony for seven new GOP state Assembly members, Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, State Street, Albany.

At 7 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears live on NY1’s “The Road to City Hall,” which has changed its name to reflect the 2017 mayor’s race.

One hundred African American women who say they represent First Lady Michele Obama and their allies who are members of “Oust Paladino” will call on Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove Carl Paladino from the Buffalo School Board, outside City Hall, Buffalo.


House Republicans, with no warning and overriding their top leaders, voted yesterday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

Republicans who will take command of the Senate and House as the 115th Congress convenes today have long been itching for a chance to do it their way, constantly grousing that President Obama and Congressional Democrats held back American progress and economic growth. Now they must show they can deliver. And they know it.

A transformation of the delivery of health care may be an enduring legacy for Obama, even as Republicans plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Obama will give a farewell address next week from Chicago, his hometown, most likely his last chance to defend his legacy directly to the country before Trump is sworn in, the White House announced.

Democratic U.S. senators plan to aggressively target eight of Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March – an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

The wealthiest presidential administration in modern history has Washington’s high-end real estate brokers busy courting prospective clients and readying homes for a new audience of buyers.

Trump celebrated New Year’s Eve with family and friends including Sly Stallone at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Over 800 guests at the $424-per-head dinner arrived on a presidential red carpet that led into the resort, and enjoyed cocktails, plus dinner and dancing.

Actress Rosie O’Donnell, sister of Manhattan Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, reignited her long-running feud with Trump on Twitter over the weekend, posting a series of tweets, many of which were written in all caps, lashing out at him and calling for “resistance” to the president-elect.

The president-elect took to Twitter to fire off some new domestic and international policy. Chicago’s soaring murder rate and North Korea’s claim to have a nuclear weapon that can reach the U.S. were both fodder for Trump tweets — as were his gripes about a cover photo used by CNN on its new book about the 2016 presidential race.

Brooklyn Democratic Councilman Brad Lander, in an unusual job listing for a communications director that he posted on several employment sites, said he’s looking for someone to help “resist the threats of the Trump regime to American democratic values and vulnerable constituencies.”

Adriano Espaillat is about to make history, in more than one way. When the New York Democrat is sworn in today he’ll become the first Dominican-American — and first formerly undocumented immigrant — to become a member of Congress. He’ll also be the first non-African American since World War II to represent Harlem in the House.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be reinforcing New York’s minimum wage increase which went into effect December 31, with a new minimum wage task force announced yesterday.

Cuomo said the state will only seek to sanction employers whose wage violations were willful or egregious, and not merely the product of ignorance or error.

Cuomo rolled with the punches during a tumultuous 2016, but now faces an uncertain year with many obstacles ahead.

Bowing to the state Senate’s unique math and the desire to remain relevant in pushing their agenda, the members of the Independent Democratic Conference will once again partner with Republicans who narrowly control the chamber.

“We know how important it is to engage and get things done,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein in explaining his decision.

The governor defended his decision last week to commute the sentence of 67-year-old Judith Clark, who drove a getaway car in an October 1981 robbery in Rockland County that killed two Nyack police officers and a Brink’s armored car guard.

“There’s a difference between being a 20-year-old accessory and actually being a purposeful murderer. That’s not what we’re talking about here,” Cuomo said of Clark. “I met with her in prison and I spent time speaking with her and she is impressive and…she seemed to me a very sober-minded, community-oriented person, very concerned about not being able to spend time with her child.”

Cuomo warned it could take years for Trump’s plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure to become a reality. “Projects can take years to design, the environmental impact statement and the community approval process,” Cuomo said during an early-morning appearance on CBS’ “This Morning.”

A day after presiding over the opening of a subway line in Manhattan that had been discussed for nearly a century, MTA Chair Thomas F. Prendergast announced that he would retire as head of the New York City region’s sprawling transit system.

More >


More than half of Americans lack confidence in Donald Trump’s ability to “prevent major scandals,” “handle an international crisis,” and “use military force wisely” once he becomes president, according to a Gallup poll released today.

As he prepares to take office, Trump starts out in a much worse position than his predecessors with Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Trump’s top two picks to become the next Veterans Affairs secretary abruptly withdrew their names over the weekend, leaving a shrinking list of candidates for the Cabinet post and a host of uncertainty surrounding the next administration’s ambitious reform plans.

Democratic Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, an avid Hillary Clinton supporter, predicted voters will have “buyers remorse” in the new year over electing Trump.

Trump said he knew he was going to be the next President when Clinton 86’d her fireworks show.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they’re bracing for the worst in Trump, fearing a presidency that could set minorities back decades.

Sonny Perdue III, the former governor of Georgia, is Trump’s leading candidate to be his U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said news of the state’s newly enacted minimum wage — the first in a series of steps toward the end goal of a $15-per-hour rate — will be boosted by a task force of 200 that will be sent out with the mission of both educating businesses and enforcing the law.

Dave Catalfamo, a former top aide to ex-Gov. George Pataki, writes: “Governor Cuomo’s decision to take the State of the State on a road trip out of the Capital should not be a surprise to anyone.”

Former Sen. Michael Nozzolio reflects on his 34-year career in Albany.

Assemblyman Matt Titone had an eventful New Year.

After New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman posted an image of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough at a New Year’s Eve party with Trump, Scarborough went on a Twitter rant accusing her and her colleague Sopen Deb of smearing him.

The chief executives of the region’s two largest hospital systems earned significant boosts in pay between 2014 and 2015, according to recently released IRS filings.

Cuomo formally announced that MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast is stepping down after three years on the job and nearly three decades at the agency.

Mama Ayesha’s is a restaurant in D.C. best known for its giant wall mural that drops the eatery’s founder in the middle of every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower, including the only one who’s ever resigned in utter disgrace. But it won’t be adding Trump’s likeness any time soon.

Frederick Ippolito, Oyster Bay’s then-planning and development commissioner, negotiated with a contractor’s family on behalf of the town at the same time that he was accepting money from the contractor’s family trust, court and town documents show.

Democratic Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran is bringing in political advisers with serious Democratic credentials to help run her campaign for county executive next year.

After announcing its official opening date in November 2016, the new del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County has taken the next step: publicizing its opening performance lineup.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has no public events scheduled.

At 7:40 a.m., Cuomo appears on CBS This Morning to discuss the opening of the Second Avenue Subway.

At 11 a.m., historian Mike Grillo speaks on George Washington’s 1776 Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River and defeat of the Hessians in Trenton, considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War, Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall St., Manhattan.


Donald Trump’s 118-room private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, where he has spent the past two weeks away from his home in New York City, is likely to eclipse all the his predecessors’ homes away from home as the 45th president’s winter White House.

The most powerful and ambitious Republican-led Congress in 20 years will convene tomorrow, with plans to leave its mark on virtually every facet of American life and unraveling some of the most significant policy prescriptions put forward by the Obama administration.

New Yorkers’ long wait to take a subway under Manhattan’s far Upper East Side ended yesterday when three new stations on the Second Avenue line opened to the public.

The long-awaited Second Avenue Subway opening is expected to be the end of the line for MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast. Three sources say Prendergast, who has headed the authority since 2013, is set to retire early this year – perhaps as early as this month.

Despite pressures from the left, the breakaway Democratic conference known as the IDC has decided to continue in a bipartisan coalition with the chamber’s Republican majority.

New York lawmakers will return to Albany on Wednesday to begin their work for 2017, a session expected to include debates over voting laws, corruption, Uber’s proposal to expand upstate and the state’s response to the Trump administration.

As the new legislative session is set to begin amid tensions between the governor and the Legislature, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are talking tough about the need for the Legislature to reassert its independence from the executive branch.

Former state Senate Democratic staffer Mike Kink of Strong Economy for All writes about the need for a “state-based movement” to take on Trump and his policies.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has already planned to frame his 2017 re-election campaign partly as a fight against a Trump White House. But with private eye Bo Dietl throwing his hat in the ring for mayor, de Blasio may get a taste of Trumpism in his own backyard.

Advocates for legislation to make it easier for child sex abuse victims to seek legal recourse as adults will mark the Wednesday start of a new legislative session with a rally near the state Senate chambers.

After Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have required the state to pick up the cost of providing indigent legal services from the counties, Assembly sponsor Patricia Fahy said she is committed to addressing the issue again in the upcoming legislative session.

The Times Union disapproves of Cuomo’s plan to ditch the traditional State of the State address in favor of a series of regional speeches, saying it “disrespects the office he holds, and the institution of government.”

The six regional speeches will benefit one group of people – protestors unhappy with Cuomo – giving them more chances to express their displeasure.

Thousands of day care centers across the city will have to post report cards highlighting their safety records under a new law sponsored by IDC Leader Jeff Klein and signed into effect by Cuomo on the last day of 2016.

The small and shrinking number of women on the NYC Council has sparked alarm for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other female pols who see their ranks thinning.

Nine people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Albany County on New Year’s Eve, though hundreds more took advantage of the county’s Safe Ride program, Sheriff Craig D. Apple announced.

During a recent visit to Buffalo, incoming U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated that he wouldn’t necessarily oppose legislation just because it has Trump’s name on it, and insisted there are some issues on which he is willing to work with the president-elect.

Four shootings, three of them fatal, started 2017 off on a violent note in the City of Buffalo.

Computer hacking is not just the work of foreign governments getting into government or political parties computers. Computers are hacked every day in Erie and Niagara counties, experts say.

A Vermont public electric utility company said it detected on one of its laptops malware that the U.S. government has linked to Russian hackers.

The Long Island Association, the region’s largest business organization, is shuffling the speakers’ roster for its annual “state of the counties” breakfast on Jan. 13 with the Nassau and Suffolk county executives in favor of State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and two town supervisors.

Another round of targeted crude oil rail inspections has been completed in upstate New York. Cuomo says federal and state inspection teams examined approximately 140 miles of track and 87 switches, and have corrected seven critical defects and 32 non-critical defects.

Mastic Beach, Long Island officials have created a team to dissolve the village with the hope of returning to Brookhaven Town’s jurisdiction by the end of the year.

Though the most recent graduating class of new NYPD officers was predominantly white and male, top brass in the department said the last couple of classes had noticeable increases in African-American and Asian members, particularly Asian women.

State Police in Cobleskill are trying to find out who painted swastikas on buildings and signs throughout the Village of Esperance.

Possible debris from a small plane that vanished last week after taking off for Ohio State University has been found washing ashore on Lake Erie near the airport where it took off, authorities said.

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of a New York Chevrolet dealer who fought General Motors’ attempt to terminate his franchise over subpar sales, a ruling that could alter how auto makers hold dealerships accountable for sales performance.

For some New York drinking establishments, January is turning into mocktail month. With a number of their patrons saying they are giving up alcohol for the first month of the year as part of what’s been dubbed Dry January, bar and restaurant owners are expressing concern about potentially sagging sales.

It’s lights out for another New York diner. The Evergreen Diner, a 92-seat fixture on West 47th Street for nearly 25 years, will shut its doors for good on Saturday, marking the latest in a series of recent diner demises throughout the metropolitan area.

The New Year’s Weekend That Was

Welcome to 2017!

Diva Mariah Carey is claiming her disastrous New Year’s Eve performance was an intentional set-up by the gig’s producers to raise ratings.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast hosted elected officials, including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and others for a New Year’s Eve subway soiree at the new 72nd Street station on Second Avenue.

In what NYPD cops saw as a blatant dig at de Blasio, Cuomo put his own teams of MTA and State Police front and center at the big subway party.

The Second Avenue subway took nearly 70 years and $4.5 billion of dollars to complete, but it took just 30 minutes for its first problems to arise — and for annoyed straphangers to start griping.

Democratic U.S. senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March – an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

Marist College’s marching band is scheduled to perform during Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremonies, a college official confirmed.

Trump tweeted out New Year’s wishes to all, including his “many enemies.”

Trump, expressing lingering skepticism about intelligence assessments of Russian interference in the election, said Saturday evening that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking and that the information would be revealed “on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Minimum wages increased in 20 states – including New York – at the start of the year, a shift that will lift pay for millions of individuals and shed light on a long-running debate about whether mandated pay increases at the bottom do more harm or good for workers.

NYC claims the big-money developers who lavished cash on de Blasio’s campaign and nonprofit are not involved in the planning of the multibillion-dollar Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) trolley line.

Cuomo made a merciful decision by commuting the 75-year-to-life sentence of convicted terrorist Judith Clark for her role in the deadly 1981 Brinks heist, supporters said, as critics continued to blast the decision as a mockery of justice.

Kenneth Maxwell, former head of the FBI’s New York Counter-Terrorism Bureau, was one of two agents assigned to investigate the Oct. 20, 1981, Brinks heist in Rockland County. He called the governor’s commutation decision an “outrage.”

Cuomo also pardoned 101 New Yorkers who were convicted when they were 16 or 17 years old, in what state officials said was part of an effort to remove barriers to housing and employment for those who committed crimes in their youth.

Bronx state Sen. Jeffrey Klein’s influential group of breakaway Democrats will push for a major overhaul of New York’s Tuition Assistance Program that includes granting access to undocumented immigrants.

The IDC says New York could benefit if Trump successfully promotes a “buy American” agenda and re-works foreign trade deals. “This is an opportunity to be ready and benefit if, indeed, on a national level we’re forcing companies to make products in America again,” Klein said. “Why not have them made in New York, as well?”

Two days before he formally leaves office, retiring Democratic Long Island Rep. Steve Israel today symbolically turned over his 3rd Congressional District seat to his successor, Thomas Suozzi, in a “passing of the baton” ceremony at Glen Cove City Hall.

Republican lawmakers in Suffolk are unhappy that Republican Legislator Thomas Barraga joined Democrats to pass a new $300 mortgage fee — which allowed a vulnerable Democrat to vote against the hike.

The $450,000 contract between Cuomo’s administration and the private investigator Bart Schwartz has not been approved by the state comptroller’s office — something the administration has never disclosed despite the fact that the contract, which was released to the public in July, is scheduled to expire Saturday.

Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would’ve required the state to pay the full cost of providing lawyers to poor criminal defendants accused of crimes, explaining it was flawed and called for $600 million worth of “unnecessary” spending.

At least seven state lawmakers are eyeing NYC Council seats in 2017.

Onondaga County’s GOP leader Tom Dadey said that he “of course” condemns the recent inflammatory comments made by Buffalo developer Carl Paladino.

Manhattan politicos will get to quiz Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a top contender for Democratic National Committee chairman, on his controversial views at a Jan. 6 reception.

The son of former vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro won a pardon Saturday in his 1998 conviction for dealing coke.

New York City is the latest state or city to consider cutting business ties with the embattled San Francisco banking giant in the wake of a sham-accounts scandal that exploded in September.

Cuomo signed bills that will let some Westchester County towns and villages charge an extra tax on hotel rooms. The new occupancy taxes will be allowed in several communities, including in the villages and towns of North Castle, Greenburgh, Tuckahoe, Harrison, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Mamaroneck and Port Chester.

Here are five things to watch for in the coming legislative session.

Samuel’s Sweet Shop in the Hudson Valley village of Rhinebeck is co-owned by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, of “The Walking Dead” fame, fellow actor Paul Rudd, their wives, and a third couple.

Michael Grimm, the ex-Staten Island congressman who spent seven months behind bars for tax evasion, is asking an appeals court to turn his disbarment from the federal system into a one-year suspension instead.

A day after a 14-acre North Shore estate owned by the Russian government was emptied of its occupants in retaliation for that country’s alleged cyberattacks, a Long Island operator of catering and banquet halls said that he wants to buy the property.

The Executive Chamber has shelled out $950,000 for legal services related to a federal investigation into the Buffalo Billion and SUNY Polytechnic Institute development projects.

The Nassau County DA’s office, which spent more than a year investigating whether state legislators double-dipped on their travel expenses, says she found several instances of wrongdoing, but couldn’t bring criminal charges because she couldn’t prove anyone had broken a “porous” state law.

Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized certain types of pocketknives. The measure was aimed at undoing legislation from the 1950s making any knife illegal that could be opened with a flick of the wrist.

Former Ramapo Councilman Daniel Friedman was believed to have died Friday morning after he reportedly jumped from the Bear Mountain Bridge. He was 30 and worked for the Rockland Legislature.

After nearly 30 years with ICE and its predecessor agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Michael Phillips retired fem his field director post in Buffalo at the end of the year to pursue other opportunities, including a possible career in consulting.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is calling out professional fundraising companies for how much money they keep and how much money goes to the charities themselves, saying only a third of the money raised goes to charity in many cases.

The Clinton family’s grip on the Democratic Party has come to an end and it’s time for a new generation of leadership to lead the party, CNN political commentator Van Jones said.

Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma and her 4-year-old son with former Rep. Anthony Weiner, Jordan, have been hiding out in the Hamptons over the holidays with her mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, and sister, Heba Abedin.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the Big Apple with no public events scheduled.

At approximately 7:15 a.m., Cuomo will appear on the Today show on NBC to discuss the opening of the 2nd Avenue Subway and statewide infrastructure investments.

At 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul attends a swearing in ceremony for Erie County District Attorney-Elect John Flynn, County Hall, 92 Franklin St., Ceremonial Courtroom, Buffalo.

At 11 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci will greet shoppers to promote new, consumer friendly gift card regulations resulting from legislation that was passed and signed earlier this year, Palisades Mall, food court near the ferris wheel, 3rd floor, 1000 Palisades Center Dr., West Nyack.

At noon, the Times Square Alliance does a test run of the New Year’s Eve ball drop, Manhattan.

Also at noon, NYC Councilman Peter Koo and Ccommunity members announce the details of the annual Lunar New Year parade and encourage participation in the event, 4048 Main St., Queens.

At 4 p.m., Cuomo makes an announcement, 86th Street Subway Station, 86th Street and 2nd Avenue, Manhattan.


The Buffalo Board of Education passed a resolution at a special meeting yesterday afternoon giving Carl Paladino until this afternoon to resign from the nine-member panel before calling on the state education commissioner to remove him.

Paladino, who did not attend the meeting, released a statement indicating he does not intend to heed the resolution’s call, accusing his fellow board members of being “racist and incompetent.”

If Paladino does not step down, as expected, the board will appeal to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove him, forcing her to weigh his opponents’ arguments of racism against his First Amendment right to free speech.

Elia, who grew up in Western New York and spent the first part of her career there, could be asked to make a ruling amid the politics of the state education system, including pressure from her bosses on the state Board of Regents.

Sen. John McCain says he is troubled by President-elect Donald Trump secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson’s ties with Russia.

The president’s anti-hacking penalties against Russia include closing two compounds, one of which The Washington Post identified as a 14-acre Glen Cove, Long Island estate the Soviets bought in 1954.

Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile called the Obama administration’s retaliatory measures for hacking Democratic groups “insufficient.”

New York Democrats are turning on the Obama administration for refusing to veto a resolution condemning Israel at the UN and then giving Secretary of State John Kerry free rein to attack the Jewish state.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final press conference of 2016 devolved at one point into a barrage of questions about an awkward, city-funded three-and-a-half minute long video the mayor released online earlier this week featuring Broadway actors breaking out into song in praise of the mayor’s accomplishments.

De Blasio said that the failure to reduce homelessness in New York City is one of his biggest regrets.

Strategically placed garbage trucks filled with sand will be part of the protection deployed by NYC on New Year’s Eve.

Largely in response to recent terrorist attacks in Berlin and Nice, France, New York City officials said security for the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square will be the most extensive ever, with some 7,000 police officers assigned along with those 65 garbage trucks.

Some 500 people are expected to turn out for the governor’s invitation-only New Year’s Eve party to celebrate the opening of the Second Avenue Subway. There will be subway rides, music and libations – New York-produced alcohol only, of course.

The New York Times says the new subway line is welcome, but a “century overdue.”

Riders who usually commute by the 5 and A lines are being ripped off by the MTA, a new report says, according to the State of the Subways report released by the Straphangers Campaign.

LG Kathy Hochul reaffirmed the Cuomo administration’s commitment to the repowering of the Dunkirk NRG plant – a project that, until recently, was held up by a lawsuit.

Thomas Finnerty, a longtime assistant district attorney in the Erie County DA’s office, is leaving his Senior Litigation Counsel today, forced out by incoming District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr., who is assembling his own leadership team.

A number of new laws are set to take effect for 2017, some of which are a little on the weird side.

City officials are hoping Cuomo’s proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year will include $12.5 million in state funds for Albany, which is relying on state support to balance its 2017 budget.

Oak wilt, a fast-moving and potentially fatal tree disease caused by fungus, has been detected in some areas in the towns of Babylon, Islip, Riverhead and Southold, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets said.

Environmental Advocates of New York and “Effective New York” released two 30-second testimonials, urging Cuomo next year to take up a new Environmental Bill of Rights in regards to the Hoosick Falls PFOA contamination.

West Seneca School Superintendent Mark Crawford has agreed to delay his retirement planned for March 3. It’s unknown how much additional time Crawford plans to work in the post he has held for six and a half years, overseeing one of the region’s largest suburban school districts with more than 6,600 students in nine schools.

At least 21 people died of suspected opioid overdoses in the past 10 days, perhaps caused by a powerful drug similar to fentanyl, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “This is a tremendous increase in deaths from previous weeks,” Poloncarz said in a statement on Twitter.

Cheektowaga police are looking to expand the curfew at the Walden Galleria after a series of disturbances Sunday and Monday that resulted in the arrests of 10 teens, with 90 ejected, including a 14-year-old who later returned with a loaded handgun.

After eight years hosting thousands of international visitors from dozens of countries as executive director of the International Center of the Capital Region, Diane Conroy-LaCivita is moving back to her roots in the town to lead the Colonie Senior Services Center.


The Obama administration struck back at Russia for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.

It was the strongest action the Obama administration has taken to date to retaliate for a cyberattack.

The NYPD is planning to surround the Times Square New Year’s celebration with more than 150 trucks to protect the expected 2 million revelers from a Nice- or Berlin-style attack.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a public service campaign announcing the impending minimum wage increase, which takes effect Dec. 31.

The state has been ordered to release $69 million for 19 schools that were abruptly removed from a persistently failing list by the Education Department and deemed no longer eligible to receive the funds.

Cuomo also announced that Fieldbrook Foods Corporation, a leading U.S. producer of private label ice cream and novelty products, has completed a $4 million expansion to increase ice cream production at its headquarters in Dunkirk, allowing the company to add 61 full-time jobs and retain 586 full-time jobs.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are heading for a showdown over Donald Trump’s cabinet.

The Clintons are redoubling their commitment to their family foundation — pledging to donate $200,000 to their family charity after Trump pulled off a stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election.

In the weeks before and after the election of Trump, whose promise to deport millions of immigrants was a central theme of his campaign, the number of couples getting marriage licenses has surged in New York and other cities across the country, though there’s no data to establish a direct correlation between the two.

De Blasio, who has repeatedly cast himself as a fierce defender of Israel, refused today to take a position on the UN resolution condemning the Jewish state for expanding its settlements.

The mayor threw cold water on one of the biggest holiday traditions in New York City — the Times Square ball drop — even though it draws countless cash-spending tourists every year, saying: “I’m not quite sure why a million people want to stand in the freezing cold for long, long periods of time, but they do.”

De Blasio staunchly defended a taxpayer-funded video put out by City Hall this week that used Broadway stars to trumpet his administration’s accomplishments, insisting it wasn’t an ad because no one paid for air time.

Cuomo’s office flew actor Robert De Niro to a Catskills event promoting tourism on a taxpayer-funded helicopter.

The ACT has scheduled a makeup exam on Jan. 14 for 53 students whose answer sheets went missing after taking the test at Roslyn High School in October, which has left them lacking scores to submit on their college applications.

The venerable progressive magazine The Nation won a decision from the Appellate Division, Third Department, which found that it did not have to provide unemployment insurance contributions on payments made to author and journalist Greg Mitchell.

AG Eric Schneiderman joined more than a dozen state attorneys general in sending a letter to Trump calling for him to ignore “misguided advice” and continue federal support for the Clean Power Plan

The MTA is reassessing how it will develop the final 13 stations of the project amid criticism that its construction costs exceeded those of comparable undertakings around the world and that the first phase took decades too long.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel McCullough hasn’t worked in nearly three years after departing the bench due to an unspecified illness, but he still makes a full-time annual salary of $193,000.

The presidential election has reinvigorated NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coalition of big city mayors, giving him the means to rally dissent among them and potentially offering him a leg up on claiming the mantle of a leading Trump antagonist among Democrats.

Sen. Marty Golden, one of the leading Republican voices in the city, doesn’t usually agree with Democrat de Blasio on issues, but Bay Ridge lawmaker is on the same side as the mayor when it comes to gravity knives.

With a week and a half to go before the governor is slated to embark on a six-stop State of the State tour, those wishing to attend are still waiting for information of when and where the speeches will happen, and how tickets might be obtained.

Amid a global spike in hacks of corporate computer systems, New York introduced drastically watered-down cybersecurity measures for banks.

Roads at the Greater Rochester International Airport have reopened after being closed earlier this afternoon for a “suspicious condition” report, according to the airport’s website.

Disgraced jail-guard union boss Norman Seabrook likened himself to Jesus and said he forgives those who abandoned him when he was nailed on bribery charges in June, according to a bizarre new video making the rounds.

New York state will soon have a new law intended to help people struggling with heroin and opioid addiction get the care they need. The rules taking effect Jan. 1 are intended to make it harder for health insurers to deny coverage for inpatient addiction treatment and medications used to fight addiction.

Multiple defects along rail tracks in the Central New York region were found during inspections, according to Cuomo’s office.

Here and Now

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

At 9 a.m., Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich and the American Italian Cancer Foundation host mobile care clinic to provide no-cost digital mammograms and clinical breast exams,

At 11 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill will host a press conference to discuss safety and security preparedness for New Year’s Eve, NASDAQ MarketSite, 4 Times Square, Manhattan.

At noon, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Food Bank For New York City will celebrate the donation of hundreds of diapers in her office’s holiday diaper drive, Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office, 431 W. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., IDC members Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, David Carlucci, Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara, Manhattan DA Cy Vance, advocates, and reformed teen offenders, will announce a new report on the economic impact of New York’s age of criminal responsibility, 250 Broadway, 20th Floor, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul makes an announcement at Fieldbrook Foods, One Ice Cream Dr., Dunkirk.

Also at 2:30 p.m., the Buffalo School Board will hold a special meeting to discuss the possible forced removal of one of its members, Carl Paladino, who does not plan on attending, City Hall, Common Council Chambers, 13th floor, Buffalo.

At 3 p.m., Democratic lawmakers from the Capital Region will be sworn into office, Assembly Chamber, New York state Capitol, Albany. (Rep. Paul Tonko, Sen. Neil Breslin, and Assemblymembers John McDonald, Pat Fahy, Phil Steck, and Angelo Santabarbara will take their ceremonial oaths. Former Rep. Michael McNulty will emcee).

At 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman David Weprin joins the Lubavitch Youth Organization to light the world’s largest menorah for the sixth night of Hanukkah, Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Hochul lights the menorah at the Canalside Festival of Chanukah, corner of Commercial Street and Marine Drive, Buffalo.


After weeks of giving only brief comments to the media, Donald Trump made a series of public statements yesterday, applauding the return of 8,000 jobs to the U.S. and hailing his discussions with President Barack Obama.

Trump dismissed talk of sanctioning Russia as some lawmakers and Obama push for the U.S. to act in light of Russian interference in the election. “I think we ought to get on with our lives,” the president-elect told reporters outside of his Florida resort.

The president-elect also met with leaders of top U.S. nonprofit hospital systems to discuss medical research and patient care, the organizations said.

With 22 days left before Obama leaves the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry sharply escalated criticism of Israeli settlement policy as a primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused Obama and Kerry of being dedicated foes of Israel.

Obama was voted this year’s most admired man in an annual Gallup Poll, receiving 22 percent of the vote while Trump took 15 percent. As for the most admired woman, Clinton took the top spot with 12 percent, followed by Michelle Obama with 8 percent.

A federal appeals court has breathed new life into a pair of cases seeking to force the Justice Department to sue former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to recover more emails from her private server.

Clinton was spotted breakfasting alone (with her phone) in the dining room of the Mohonk Mountain House outside New Paltz.

Nearly half of all Trump voters believe a widely debunked conspiracy theory claiming that Clinton is involved in a child sex ring run out of a popular Washington, D.C. pizzeria, a recent poll suggests.

Trump is breaking new ground with his transition into the White House, according to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who called this “one of the most extraordinary presidential transition periods of all time.”

If Trump makes good on the promise of punishing overseas companies, he will take aim at his own brand, and his daughter’s as well.

Hundreds of suspicious packages in Midtown Manhattan were reported to the NYPD this year, but its response to one discovered at Trump Tower Tuesday underscored the challenges and headaches that come with protecting the home of the president-elect, who was in Florida at the time.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio reopened part of the area around Trump Tower to vehicle traffic amid complaints from local businesses and policy makers that the closure was hurting commerce.

Kellyanne Conway is reportedly worried establishment elites in Washington, DC, are so prejudiced against Trump that she won’t be able to get her kids into private school in the nation’s capital.

Outgoing Republican Rep. Richard Hanna said he will consider running for governor of New York in 2018, responding to the encouragement of at least a dozen top GOP leaders. “I’m not going to do anything that I don’t think I’ll have a chance of being successful at,” he said. “I take no pride in running for something and losing.

De Blasio posted a video on his City Hall Twitter account that featured two Broadway actors singing his praises and promoting his accomplishments, drawing criticism from government watchdog groups.

The NYPD is now allowing Sikh officers to wear turbans in place of the traditional police cap and grow beards up to a half-inch long for religious reasons.

NYC restaurants are not looking forward to the impending 22 percent increase in the hourly minimum wage.

State ethics watchdog JCOPE slapped $270,000 in fines on two firms that figured prominently in the corruption trials of disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

More >

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Essex County with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public events scheduled.

At 11 a.m., Congressman-elect Tom Suozzi holds a press conference to announce the location of his district office, 478A Park Ave., Huntington.

At 5:15 p.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer co-hosts a Hanukkah candlelighting ceremony with New York Board of Rabbis, Bowling Green, Broadway and Morris Street, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Bill Perkins hosts a Hanukkah celebration in Harlem, Old Broadway Synagogue, 15 Old Broadway, Manhattan.


Donald Trump has lashed out at the media, yet again. In an early-morning tweet, he said: “I gave millions of dollars to the DJT Foundation, raised or received millions more, all of which is given to charity, and media won’t report it.”

President Obama claimed during a conversation with his former advisor David Axelrod that he would have handily trounced Trump if only the Constitution had let him seek a third term.

Trump’s response, via Twitter: “President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY! — jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.”

Obama also praised the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, saying that she performed well under difficult circumstances and that there “was a double standard with her,” but also suggested she campaigned too cautiously.

Trump and his top advisers have begun mapping out the themes for his inaugural address next month, as the president-elect has tapped Stephen Miller, his incoming senior White House adviser for policy, to write the historic speech.

The American Medical Association endorsed Trump’s choice of Rep. Tom Price, a physician from Georgia, to be health and human services secretary, but thousands of doctors have opposed it, citing his opinions on health care and other issues.

Hillary Clinton thanked her supporters in an end-of-year message — not once mentioning Trump. In a Facebook post, the former candidate said she was “proud” of her campaign and the people who voted for her.

Future first daughter Ivanka Trump is celebrating Hanukkah in Hawaii with her family.

Trump is nearly finished choosing nominees for his Cabinet and the top tier of his administration, and four posts await appointments as he wraps up the year and begins final preparations for his inauguration.

Trump’s transition team declined to comment on the abrupt resignation of incoming White House Communications Director Jason Miller, who may have had an extramarital relationship with Trump adviser A.J. Delgado.

Jackie Evancho — the virtually unknown 16-year-old singer slated to perform at Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 — is laughing all the way to the bank as her recent album sales have skyrocketed since her performance was announced.

Paperless digital voting machines, used by roughly 1 in 5 U.S. voters last month, present one of the most glaring dangers to the security of the rickety, underfunded U.S. election system.

The reproductive health nonprofit Planned Parenthood has reportedly received more than 300,000 individual donations since anti-pro-choice Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence were elected Nov. 8.

An underground fire last night near a subway station in Midtown Manhattan caused a cascade of delays, detours and station closings well into this morning.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that he will replace his traditional State of the State address with six regional speeches delivered the week of Jan. 9, though specific locations and dates have yet to be announced.

New York state’s legislative session is set to begin next month in Albany with tensions simmering between Cuomo and lawmakers after negotiations to boost legislative salaries fell through. The bad blood may make it harder for the governor to push through his ambitious agenda.

Cuomo’s office in recent days has been trying to resurrect a potential special legislative session that would pave the way for the first lawmaker pay raise since 1999, legislators on both sides of the aisle said. But the deal would be contingent on votes from the Senate minority, which is upset over being frozen out of negotiations.

On Saturday, Cuomo and MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast will mark the completion of the Second Avenue Subway by taking the inaugural ride on the new, state-of-the-art line on New Year’s Eve.

Though Republicans won the White House and scored victories across the country in November, strategists in both parties say the tide is unlikely to translate into wins in New York City, where Democrats hold a 6-to-1 advantage and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking a second term in 2017.

The NY Daily News details on its cover how 2016 wasn’t a great year for de Blasio.

A Civilian Complaint Review Board report on the use of Tasers by the New York Police Department was scrubbed of language highlighting a central finding in an earlier-circulated draft report: that in most Taser encounters reviewed, officers used the stun guns on unarmed people.

In an effort to sweeten the pot in contract talks with the police union, City Hall is offering a 1 percent salary bump for officers forced to use body cameras.

The department has suspended the officer who posted a photo on social media of a handcuffed Brooklyn family with the caption, “Merry Christmas Its NYPD.”

The people of Brooklyn are used to making history — and they did it again this year after voting in the country’s first Hasidic Jewish woman, Rachel Freier, to serve in public office.

Western New Yorkers are used to hearing about Carl Paladino’s inflammatory comments. But the turmoil surrounding his latest remarks about the president and first lady took on a life of its own, raising doubts about his political future.

New programs put aspiring teachers in classrooms from the start in effort to improve training, reduce turnover and help districts overcome shortages in qualified faculty.

The price at the gas pump this holiday season is up to the highest point of 2016, with the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline up five cents from last week, AAA Western and Central New York said.

Republican John J. Mills of Orchard Park will continue to preside as chairman of the 11-member Erie County Legislature next year despite a strong push by fellow Republican Legislator Edward A. Rath III of Amherst for the seat.

Voters rejected efforts to dissolve village governments in 60 percent of the 47 villages in New York where referendums have been held during the past eight years. If that history is indicative, the village of Depew is more likely to survive than not when its 15,000 residents go to the polls to decide its future in less than a month.

A large brawl broke out in a second-level corridor at Destiny USA in Syracuse as the mall was closing last night, authorities said.

A business merger involving Praxair isn’t expected to affect the company’s work force in western New York.

Asharoken, Long Island has scheduled a public hearing Jan. 4 to give residents a final chance to voice their opinions on a beach restoration project that would bring millions in federal funds to the village but require many property owners to allow public access on their private land.

Nassau County Legislator Howard J. Kopel is mulling a campaign for county comptroller — the first potential candidate to publicly express interest in the office. The incumbent, Republican-turned-Democrat George Maragos, is running for county executive next year and not seeking reelection.

Six people suspected of dealing drugs on Seneca Nation land have been banished from all Seneca territory, a spokesman for the Seneca Nation said.