Liz Benjamin

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CNY Assemblyman Swipes At de Blasio

Following news that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner have teamed up to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fulfill the CFE settlement and make a big boost to education aid, Assemblyman Sam Roberts, a Syracuse Democrat, is accusing the downstate mayor of seeking additional state aid “at the expense of truly poor” urban and rural school districts upstate.

In a letter he sent to de Blasio yesterday (and released publicly today), Roberts notes that New York City has a $1.58 billion surplus and a sizable tax base – two things the majority of upstate communities lack.

According to de Blasio and Miner, the state owes New York City $2.6 billion and Syracuse $87.1 million as a result of never fully funding the settlement that resulted from the 2006 CFE case, which found New York was routinely shortchanging students in needy districts, thereby depriving them of their constitutional right to a sound basic education.

“The irony is that while New York City has a $1.58 billion surplus, it is requesting money based on CFE – the core principle of which is that district need and wealth should be taken into account in State funding allocations – and that poorer districts should receive higher State funding to account for a lower tax base,” the assemblyman wrote.

“…To fully comply with CFE, I would assert that NYC, who has greater resources, should contribute to the funding of its poorer neighbors and school districts within the state. The Assembly has focused its attention and funding on New York City for far too long at the expense of other 676 school districts statewide.”

Syracuse has been struggling to make ends meet for several years, with Miner warning that the city could be forced over the fiscal cliff if the state doesn’t step up and assist. She also is currently locked in a war of words with the governor over whether infrastructure funding trumps economic development funding, or vice versa. (He says the city, which recently experienced its 100th water main break so far this year, should pay for its own pipes and create some jobs before looking to the state for help).

Miner and Cuomo have had a rocky relationship for several years now. She was his hand-picked state Democratic Party co-chair, but stepped down from the post after criticizing him quite publicly on key policy proposals – most notably on the lack of attention to the fiscal woes of upstate communities and the failure to adequately address ballooning pension fund costs.

Roberts, like Miner and de Blasio, is a Democrat. He has been mentioned as a potential contender for Syracuse mayor in 2017 when Miner will be barred from seeking re-election due to term limits.

Assemblyman Sam Roberts' letter to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio by liz_benjamin6490

Spitzer Officials Question Cuomo Email Purge Policy

From the Morning Memo:

The Cuomo administration has defended its now much-maligned 90-day email purge policy in part by saying it’s really noting new, insisting it dates back – at least in the executive chamber – to 2007, which was the first full year of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s short-lived tenure.

Over the past week, several former Spitzer administration officials quietly reached out to refute that claim, saying they don’t recall things operating that way during their time in the governor’s office.

“Yes, emails were deleted out of my inbox each night, but they were not gone forever, just archived on another server that IT could readily access (and they did),” wrote one source, who held a top position on the second floor while so-called “Sheriff of Wall Street” was in charge.

“Deleted out of one’s inbox, but not gone or lost,” the source continued. “…If you ever needed an old message, they could get it for you, and certainly (they) had access to old items).”

(Ironically, this exchange was conducted via email. But since neither this source nor I currently work for the executive branch, the exchange is not subject to the purge policy. It can’t be FOILed, either).

I put this question to the Cuomo administration, which responded by forwarding a copy of a November 2007 memo to executive chamber staffers from Thomas Irvin, chief of computer services.

The memo clearly states:

“Messages older than 90 days are deleted each evening. Included in this deletion are messages stored in your Inbox, Sent and other active folders. The deletion occurs each evening at 11:00 p.m. ”

The memo also stated that the Computer Services department created a backup tape Monday through Friday of email and all documents “stored to the network.” The tapes were “normally retained for one week and then overwritten.”

“In the event you accidentally delete a file, you may contact Computer Services to have it restored,” Irvin wrote. “…You (bold was included in memo, not added by writer for emphasis) are responsible for backing up these files or deleting them, if no longer needed.”

A Cuomo administration source insisted that nothing about the policy as outlined by Irvin has changed, and then took a shot (albeit anonymously) at the Spitzer folks for questioning that.

“Given the bizarre, traumatic and scandal-filled events of the day, I’m not surprised their memories are a little hazy,” the source snarked. “The fact is, the implementation of the email policy was the same then as it is now.”

Another former Spitzer official noted that emails figured prominently in the investigation of Troopergate – the long-running scandal regarding then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s use of state aircraft.

As you might recall, then-AG Andrew Cuomo issued a report in July 2007, admonishing the Spitzer administration, saying the then-governor had misused the State Police to monitor Bruno’s comings and goings and recreated records regarding his travel.

The scandal resulted in multiple probes conducted by the AG, the IG, the Albany County DA and the state ethics board, the Commission on Public Integrity (the precursor to JCOPE). Even the Senate Investigations Committee got involved.

Emails were at the heart of the Troopergate scandal. And another former Spitzer official questioned (again, via email) how that could be if the 90-day email purge policy had existed at the time.

But the Cuomo administration source noted that calls for an investigation into the Troopergate mess came very early on, which would have triggered the litigation hold policy that preserved any relevant emails.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 7:50 a.m., as part of today’s citywide “Protect Our Schools” demonstrations, Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, families and teachers participate in rallies to express opposition to state government proposals concerning standardized testing and teacher evaluations, P.S. 183 Robert L. Stevenson, 419 E. 66th St., Manhattan. (Other demonstrations take place at different schools throughout the morning).

At 9 a.m., state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball discusses Cuomo’s Farm Enhancement proposal, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, 840 Front St., Binghamton.

Also at 9 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a memorial service making the one-year anniversary of the East Harlem explosion and building collapse, hosted by NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, 1644-1646 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., members of the New York City Campaign Finance Board hold their next public meeting; boardroom, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., during the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s annual meeting, the US Transportation Department’s policy undersecretary, Peter Rogoff, delivers a keynote speech to regional government and transportation officials before a roundtable discussion titled “Transportation in Transition: Technology and Innovation”; auditorium, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green, near Battery Place and State Street, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., parents organized by Families for Excellent Schools will counter de Blasio’s claim that the Renewal Schools program has demonstrated progress, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., consumer and patient advocates will urge the Legislature to reject Cuomo’s plan to defund the Department of Health “Physician Profile” program and website, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., the Empire State Pride Agenda and Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan hold a news conference advocating for a transgender rights law (GENDA), City Hall, 24 Eagle St., Albany

At 11:15 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul convenes the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council meeting, Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park.

Also at 11:15 a.m., de Blasio holds a press conference after visiting Rikers Island to thank correction officers for their service, Otis Bantum Correctional Center, 16-00 Hazen St., East Elmhurst, Queens.

At 11:30 a.m., US Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, state Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson and Montefiore Medical Center President and CEO Steven M. Safyer discuss health care quality and spending during a news conference; atrium, first floor, Montefiore Medical Group’s Bronx East practice, 2300 Westchester Ave., the Bronx.

At noon, advocates from AQE, Strong Economy for All, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-NY and Citizen Action New York publicly criticize Paul Tudor Jones, the founder of the poverty-fighting Robin Hood Foundation, who spent millions to bankroll Republicans in the state Senate who oppose raising the minimum wage and criminal justice reforms, Robin Hood Foundation, 826 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky delivers the inaugural Massry lecture, Standish Living Room, Business Building, University at Albany Main Campus, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., NYS Secretary of State Cesar Perales discusses the governor’s minimum wage proposal, Sweetness 7 Café, 220 Grant St., Buffalo.

At 2:30 p.m., acting NYS Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses Cuomo’s property tax relief proposal, home of Christina and Artie Retzlaff, 62 St. Marks Ave., Freeport.

At 3:30 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discuses Cuomo’s new NY Broadband Fund, Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2 North Main St., Gloversville.

At 6 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, Small Business Services Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer, and Citi will announce a new initiative to expand the economic potential of thousands of women entrepreneurs across the five boroughs, NYCHA Ceremonial Room, 90 Church St., 5th Floor, Lower Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Rep. Louise Slaughter will be part of a panel of experts who will discuss antibiotic-resistant superbugs following a screening of a documentary on the topic, RIT, Rochester.

At 6:45 p.m., Hochul accepts an award from the from Women Builders Council at its 11th Annual Champion Awards Dinner, Gotham Hotel, 1356 Broadway, Manhattan. (The event itself is closed to the media, but Hochul will speak to reporters at 6:30 p.m.)

At 7 p.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., opera singer Marie-Claire, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, US Sen. Chuck Schumer, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and members of The Bronx Opera Company and City Council attend City Councilman Andy King’s “State of the 12th District” address; Beulah Church of God, 986 E. Gun Hill Rd., the Bronx.

Also at 7 p.m., Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster announces his re-election intentions, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 237 Union Hall, 8803 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a thumbs-down to an Assembly Democratic plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2018. “God bless them — shoot for the stars,” the governor said sarcastically during a speech in Rochester, suggesting their goal is unrealistic.

Cuomo urged upstate leaders and business owners to lobby Albany lawmakers in favor of his $150 billion spending plan, which he says includes $10 billion to help Upstate communities. He pushed back against criticism of his so-called “Hunger Games” approach to awarding economic development aid, saying more cash will ultimately be available to all regions.

The governor has proposed a property tax credit that his administration says could save Western New York homeowners who qualify for the program an average of $702 per year. Acting Tax Commissioner Ken Adams was in the region to pitch the plan.

Upping the tension with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Senate Republicans want to cap how much the city can collect in property taxes each year. Their one-house budget would limit increases in the city’s property tax levy to no more than 2 percent, similar to a cap on local property tax hikes elsewhere. Republicans say the plan would save property owners $500 million.

The Senate’s budget proposal accepts Cuomo’s call to allow 100 more charter schools to open statewide. It would also increase funding for charter schools by $225 per student next year – even more than the governor’s budget would.

The Senate did not include in its budget extension of NYC mayoral control of the public schools, which runs out at the end of June.

The NYT slaps de Blasio for professing “a devotion to goodness and idealism, and working for “the people” while quietly taking unlimited sums of cash from big donors, supposedly because these benefactors love the values he fights for and not the access and influence that buckets of money can buy.”

New York City Republicans have quietly begun laying the groundwork to recruit a candidate to challenge Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017, with some promoting charter-school executive Eva Moskowitz.

Legislative leaders in both houses in Albany have agreed to put an extra $25 million into the state budget for Upstate transit – a move that would cancel proposed late-night service cuts at Centro.

The average bonus on Wall Street rose 2 percent to $172,860 last year, and that’s the highest since the financial crisis hit in 2007, according to a report released by the state comptroller’s office. In total, Wall Street banks paid out $28.5 billion in bonuses to employees.

Valerie Bell, whose unarmed son was fatally shot by New York City detectives in 2006, is urging Cuomo to establish a special prosecutor’s office under the attorney general to investigate such cases. She testified at a hearing in Albany yesterday.

More >


Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in 1999 infamously told a radio show caller he needed therapy because of his fondness for ferrets, now supports letting city residents keep the animals as pets.

David Guthartz, the outspoken executive president of New York Ferret’s Rights Advocacy, who was on the receiving end of Giuliani’s criticism, is not sad the ban remains in place.

Sen. Liz Krueger: “We have this whole, giant, international homeland-security operation, and the NSA, cross-checking and protecting everything, and someone said it’s OK for the secretary of state to just use her Gmail account? How did that happen?”

The Associated Press has sued the State Department seeking access to Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Clinton’s private email server all but certainly lacked the level of security employed by the government and could have been breached fairly easily by determined foreign intelligence services, intelligence and cybersecurity experts say.

Clinton’s emails, by the numbers.

A campaign announcement from Clinton is still expected at the beginning of April, as it has been for weeks.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer says he only sends a few emails a year. He prefers to talk on the phone – using a flip phone (yes, they still exist) to do so.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie explains why the Moreland Commission’s scrutiny of his unitemized campaign expenditures wasn’t justified. He says the money went toward “small items” like office supplies.

As lawmakers in both houses prepared to go into session today, hundreds of students and parents organized by AQE demonstrated outside the Senate chamber for an increase in school aid, chanting “We can’t wait.”

Julie Wood, a former aide to ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was fined $2,000 by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for interacting improperly with current Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration after she left City Hall.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe engaged in a little trash talking about Cuomo’s Cuba visit.

Federal prosecutors are giving a pass on jail time for ex-Congressman Michael Grimm’s former girlfriend who pleaded guilty to making an illegal contribution to his campaign.

What is the motivation behind the deep pocketed hedge fund types’ massive push for charter schools?

To former Gov. George Pataki, anyone who compares union protesters to ISIS terrorists “is just flat-out wrong.” (That’s a barely veiled dig at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who, like Pataki, is eyeing a 2016 presidential run).

A Westchester County women’s group is backing Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ quest to be included in closed-door negotiations over the state’s budget.

Onetime state comptroller candidate Harry Wilson has a golden leash problem.

Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack has filed a lawsuit challenging the state Gaming Facility Location Board’s recommendation of Lago Resort & Casino, in Tyre, for a commercial casino license. (Here’s a copy of the suit).

Here’s how lawmakers voted on the Board of Regents members yesterday. (Three incumbents were re-elected, and four new members were selected).

Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick, president of the American Irish Legislators Society, hosted the 52nd Annual St. Patrick’s Dinner at the Hibernian Hall in Albany on Monday.

The NYT calls the medical marijuana bill introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rand Paul and Cory Booker “sensible.”

Columbia J-School is downsizing.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and Monroe counties.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at a town hall event with Morgan Stanley employees. This event will be closed press.

At 9 a.m., Cardinal Dolan and elected officials hold rally/press conference in support of the Education Investment Tax Credit, 1230 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Secretary of State Cesar Perales discusses Cuomo’s proposal to raise New York’s hourly minimum wage, Per Scholas, 804 East 138th St., the Bronx.

Also at 9:30 a.m., there’s a court hearing in the Working Families Party case; Staten Island Supreme Court; 18 Richmond Terrace; in front of Judge Rooney.

At 9:30 a.m., AARP members from across the state gather at the state Capitol to lobby for an independent utility consumer advocate and training and services to support caregivers (CARE Act), among other initiatives, LOB, Albany.

At 10 a.m., the Assembly will hold a public hearing to examine the need for reforms to the criminal justice system to ensure fairness, improve, community/police relations and to protect the safety of law enforcement officers, Hearing Room B, LOB, Second floor, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., the Senate will hold its second joint committee hearing examining police safety and public protection, Hearing Room A, LOB, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., a “major rally” will take place to detail key recommendations of the Ending the Epidemic Task Force and call for action by the legislature and governor on taking action to end AIDS in New York by 2020, the Well, LOB, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., Albany city officials, parade representatives, and local business owners will discuss plans for the two St. Patrick’s Day parades scheduled for Saturday, March 14, City Hall Rotunda, 24 Eagle St., Albany.

At 10:15 a.m., instead of holding their regularly scheduled committee meeting SUNY Board of Trustees members will hold a press conference in Albany to call for increased state investment in SUNY, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will attend, LCA Room (130), LOB, Albany. (The Trustees will still hold a full Board meeting at 1 p.m. in the Boardroom at SUNY Plaza, as scheduled).

At 11 a.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams Adams will join Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series officials and the local running community for a landmark announcement of the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half-Marathon, Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

Also at 11 a.m., nearly 2,000 parents, students, teachers and community members will rally and march in Albany to demand full and fair funding for their public schools. The rally and parade starts at the Armory, Washington Avenue, moves down State Street and will end with another rally at the Senate Staircase, fourth floor, state Capitol.

Also at 11 a.m., Senators Velmanette Montgomery, James Seward and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and advocates hold news conference advocating for funding for school-based health centers, meeting rooms 2 and 3, Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli holds a news conference to discuss the release of his office’s annual report estimating bonuses paid to financial and investment industry employees in the city; 31st floor, 59 Maiden Lane, Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., the New York Bridge and Tunnel Officers Association will endorse Staten Island DA Dan Donovan’s NY-11 bid, Richmond County Courthouse, 18 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

At noon, NYC Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Corey Johnson, joined by representatives of the American Lung Association of the Northeast and senior citizens advocacy group LiveOn NY, outline two legislative proposals that would require city officials to conduct annual air-quality surveys, and require the city to open cooling centers for residents on days with high air pollution; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 12:15 p.m., Cuomo speaks at the Rochester Rotary and Rochester Business Alliance Luncheon, Highland Ballroom, Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main St., Rochester.

Also at 12:15 p.m., anti-poverty activists hold a legislative action day, War Room, Second Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., Perales again discusses Cuomo’s minimum wage plan, GSE Dynamics, 110 Oser Ave., Hauppauge.

At 1 p.m., community leaders will call for New York to take lead nationally in police data reporting in wake of recommendations by Obama taskforce on policing, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 1:15 p.m., former NYS Education Commissioner John King delivers remarks on No Child Left Behind reauthorization at National Parent Teacher Association conference, Gateway Crystal Marriott, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Va.

At 2 p.m., Mayor Lovely Warren will join a host of community leaders and educators on to announce the Rochester community’s support for the Education Investment Incentives Tax Credit, YMCA – Carlson MetroCenter UPK Room, 444 East Main St., Rochester.

At 6:30 p.m., members of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board hold a monthly public meeting; dining room, first floor, Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center Inc., 415 E. 93rd St., Manhattan.


Previously undisclosed emails by Howard Glaser, a mortgage industry lobbyist doubling as a consultant for then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, show Glaser played a self-described “critical role” in one of Cuomo’s signature financial crisis investigations – though he previously claimed to only be giving general advice to the office and was “not involved” in any specific cases.

In a surprise move, the state Senate GOP included the creation of a paid family leave program in its budget proposal to be unveiled this week. The plan was included at the urging of the IDC – a breakaway group of five Senate Democrats who serve in a coalition with the GOP.

Hillary Clinton addressed the press for the first time since leaving the State Department. She answered questions about her email usage and mentioned her yoga routine, but mostly reminded America what we’re getting into in 2016 if she decides to run.

Clinton revealed that she deleted more than 30,000 “personal” e-mails from her tenure as secretary of state, and won’t allow access to the private computer server she used to send them.

Clinton’s press conference may have actually fanned the flames when she disclosed that she disposed of nearly 32,000 emails her team decided were purely personal. That revelation quickly fired up Republicans who had been calling for an outside expert to verify her compliance with document requests about Benghazi and other issues.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day email purge policy appears to be “as antiquated as the systems once used to store them,” adding: “The governor needs to understand these documents belong to the citizens of New York, not his staffers, and should act accordingly.”

A funeral Mass was held yesterday for 82-year-old Cardinal Edward Egan, who led the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York for nearly a decade. Thousands turned out to pay their respects.

Egan was remembered for a simple virtue: his great love for the church.

As the area’s newest representative to the New York State Board of Regents, Catherine Fisher Collins wants to be an advocate for poor children in the City of Buffalo and slow down some controversial educational reforms.

Collins success came at the expense of veteran Regent Robert Bennett, who had been championed by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, and raised the profile of Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who nominated Collins and has new Speaker Carl Heastie’s ear.

The Assembly released its own state budget proposal, minus the sweeping ethics reforms demanded by the governor. “We haven’t come to a final position on ethics,” Heastie said at an Albany press conference.

The Assembly’s one-house budget includes a number of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s priorities.

The Assembly budget bills also strip some of the larger, more controversial pieces of Cuomo’s health budget, ignoring several proposals that would increase the administration’s power to remake state health policy.

Any ethics reforms adopted by the state Legislature should also be applied to the governor, Heastie said.

Bill Hammond: “The remarkable thing about the state Assembly under Speaker Carl Heastie is how little things have changed on his watch…already (Heastie) shows troubling signs of slipping into (Sheldon) Silver’s bad old habits — of hoarding secrets, dodging questions from the media and refusing to take clear stands on major public policy questions.”

More >


Ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she used a private email domain for her official work during her time at the State Department out of “convenience,” but admitted in retrospect “it would have been better” to use multiple accounts.

Clinton said she never emailed any classified information to anyone while at the State Department. She also revealed she has deleted some 30,000 personal emails, and says her server will remain private.

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan said he wouldn’t use a private email address for governmental business if he’s elected to Congress, but stopped short of knocking Clinton for corresponding on a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Former Gov. David Paterson recalled – on Twitter – that it was seven years ago today when he was informed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer “would probably be resigning” due to a prostitution scandal.

In the latest salvo in the legal back-and-forth between the state and the Wandering Dago food truck, plaintiffs’ attorney George Carpinello points out an apparent flaw in the state’s explanation of why the emails of a top Cuomo adviser were purged after 90 days instead of being placed on a “litigation hold.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was late again.

The New York City Board of Health rejected a proposal to legalize ferrets in the five boroughs. More here.

When the four new members of the State Board of Regents who are elected today begin serving their terms next month, the powerful education policymaking panel will become more diverse than ever before.

The Syracuse Post-Standard would like to see a marketing study “with some facts” on the $50 million plan to upgrade the State Fair.

Count the Education Department, which oversees the State Archives, among the state entities soon to have a policy of purging employees’ emails after 90 days.

Rep. Steve Israel, a published novelist, is forming a congressional writer’s caucus to unite members of both parties who just want to work on their writing – not debate the Keystone Pipeline.

Cuomo announced an agreement among 53 state agencies, municipal governments, property owners, lake associations, conservation and sporting groups and businesses to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondack region.

Chelsea Clinton said in an interview that she would “absolutely” be open to running for office in the future.

An Oneida County man pleaded guilty to felony fraud after faking pain symptoms at hospitals during the past five years to get high, then pocketing $201,335 in insurance claims, according to state officials.

As the state health department gets ready to announce final regulations for the medical marijuana law, some advocates, patients and lawmakers remain worried the draft regulations are too restrictive.

US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Rand Paul introduced a bill to eliminate federal restrictions on medical marijuana in the 23 states and District of Columbia where it’s already legal.

The continued rift between new Rep. Kathleen Rice and Nassau Chairman Jay Jacobs has as its immediate backdrop one of the county’s two special legislative elections taking place today.

A group of Stony Brook University students traveled to the state Capitol today to ask lawmakers to hike their tuition. (Yes, you read that right).

Aimee Vargas, who previously oversaw regional economic development affairs in the Hudson Valley for Cuomo, has been appointed as director of downstate intergovernmental affairs.

While the homeless population is bigger at the Port Authority bus terminal and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, a growing number are finding shelter at New York’s airports.

Hasidic Voters Sue Sullivan County Board of Elections

A group of Hasidic voters in the small Catskills village of Bloomingburg is suing the Sullivan County Board of Elections, alleging it is “engaging in an unyielding discriminatory campaign” to deprive them of their right to vote because of their religion.

There has been an ongoing dispute between the Hasidic community in Bloomingburg, which has grown considerably in recent years, and local officials. The heart of the standoff is a Hasidic housing project proposed by a controversial developer named Shalom Lamm.

The situation is complicated, but essentially, Bloomingburg agreed to annex land back in 2006 to a local developer who said he envisioned a subdivision called Chestnut Ridge with 125 luxury townhomes as well as an 18-hole golf course, pool and clubhouse that would open to all 400 or so residents. But over the next five years, the local developer dropped his involvement in the project, which has morphed into 396 townhomes and no golf course. Now Lamm is frontman, which opponents of the project believe was all by design. – a claim Lamm has denied.

The Chestnut Ridge opponents tried to block the development in court, but lost that legal challenge in 2013. So, intead, they tried a riskier move, proposing to dissolve the village of Bloombingburg into the town of Mamakating, banking on the possibility that the stricter planning process in Mamakating would prevent the project from going forward.

The dissolution proposal was defeated 107 to 85 in December 2014. Before the referendum, dissolution supporters had challenged 194 voters, most of whom were Orthodox Jews, according to project supporters. The Board of Elections was ordered by a court to certify the results of the vote.

In January, according to the lawsuit, the Board of Elections provided notices to 184 registered voters, including more than 160 Hasidic Jews – that it intended to cancel their voter registration and to deprive them of the right to vote.

“Despite the fact that all of them had previously registered to vote in Bloomingburg, which is in Sullivan County, the Board purported to require those voters to come forward once again and provide new evidence to demonstrate ‘why your registration should not be cancelled,'” the suit states. “While this targeted request was unconstitutional on its face, Plaintiffs and other Hasidic Jews nonetheless came forward and attested to their residency. But this process was a farce.”

“On February 27, 2015, the BOE issued a blanket notice stating that it would cancel 156 of the 184 voters’ registrations. The BOE provided no reasoned or individualized explanation for this decision to deprive those 156 residents of their fundamental constitutional rights. These are extraordinarily irregular and obviously discriminatory actions.”

Sullivan County voting rights case. by liz_benjamin6490

The Anti-Airbnb War Comes To Albany

From the Morning Memo:

Opponents of Airbnb, the controversial online home rental service, will storm the state Capitol today, hoping to convince lawmakers that the website is promoting illegal hotels and contributing to the affordable housing “crisis” in New York City.

Some 200 tenants, elected officials, community groups, and housing advocates – members of the Share Better Coalition, which includes the Met Council on Housing and the small but powerful hotel workers union, HTC – will hold a rally and press conference this afternoon at the Million Dollar Staircase.

They’ll be joined by allies in the Assembly and Senate Democratic conferences, including Sens. Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, among others.

The group members will then fan out for individual meetings with some 40 state lawmakers, hoping to convince them not to weaken existing state laws – such as the one that bans the conversion of permanent housing units into short-term transient properties (AKA “illegal hotels”).

Airbnb has repeatedly expressed its opposition to large-scale illegal hotels, and insists most of its hosts only share the home in which they live and use the money they earn to pay bills.

But Share Better members maintain the bulk of Airbnb hosts are, in fact, commercial operators, not down-on-their-luck residents merely looking to supplement their income.

The anti-Airbnb forces have a powerful ally in AG Eric Schneiderman, who has long been close to HTC, which is really driving this movement.

The AG released a report last year that found nearly three-quarters of all Airbnb rentals in NYC were illegal, violating zoning or other laws, from January 2010 to June 2014. And more than a third of the units were supplied by commercial operators.

(The AG first subpoenaed the information, which Airbnb fought before agreeing to release the data his office analyzed. The company moved to purge some 2,000 listings from its site because, an Airbnb official said at a NYC Council hearing recently, the hosts weren’t providing “a quality local experience” to guests).

And the coalition recently won a significant victory when a Manhattan Housing Court judge for the first time evicted a rent-stabilized apartment dweller who was effectively double-dipping by offering his place to tourists on Airbnb. The decision is expected to galvanize other NYC landlords to take action against “tenants” acting in a similar manner.

According to Share Better, Airbnb currently offers over 28,000 units in NYC for transient use. That’s a 5,800 percent growth since the operation first appeared in the Big Apple in 2009.

Though the Share Better coalition is coming to Albany at the height of the budget battle, this is not a budget issue and will likely be discussed – if it’s revisited at all – during negotiations over the NYC rent laws, which are expiring in June, and their attendant tax abatement programs like 421a.

So, today’s effort amounts to a pre-emptive strike.

Regulating Airbnb is mostly a NYC issue, and the company has said it wants to help craft “smart regulations” to crack down on illegal hotel operators.

In the meantime, lawmakers like Rosenthal are pressuring Airbnb to provide them with data backing up its claims about the benign nature of its listings.

A community activist and self-described “technologist” has used Airbnb data to demonstrate that the majority of its offerings are illegal, but the company has said that information is inaccurate and believes existing laws governing this issue are being misapplied.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City. He’s scheduled to attend funeral services for the late Cardinal Egan at 1:30 this afternoon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 460 Madison Ave., Manhattan. Many other elected officials and political dignitaries – including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio – will also be on hand.

The Assembly in scheduled to vote in new Board of Regents members at noon. At 11:30 this morning, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will hold a press conference (Room 342, state Capitol) to review his conference’s one-house budget, details of which were made public yesterday.

Today is Lobby Day at the Capitol, which means there will be big crowds of various people seeking to influence state lawmakers. As such, today’s calendar appears at the end of this post.


In what advocates describe as an historic first, a trio of senators – Kentucky’s Rand Paul, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and New Jersey’s Cory Booker – plan to unveil a federal medical marijuana bill today. It would end the federal ban on medical marijuana and implement a series of reforms.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking heat from housing groups for directing none of the nearly $500 million from settlements with financial institutions over mortgage misconduct to programs that would help address the lingering effects of the housing crisis.

The Assembly’s one-house budget includes $1.8 billion in additional education aid ($830 million more than the governor’s high number), scraps Cuomo’s education reform policies, and extends NYC mayoral control until 2020.

An Assembly spokeswoman said the plan does not contain Cuomo proposals to raise the number on charter schools allowed in the state or establish a new education tax credit.

The Assembly proposal also includes a $15-an-hour wage in New York City, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, by Jan. 1, 2019.

In the State Senate, Republicans want to up the Assembly’s ante on school aid, sources said, and will propose a $1.9 billion funding increase. About $1 billion of the extra money would do away with the Gap Elimination Adjustment, an annual funding grab by Albany of money marked for public schools.

Saying Cuomo’s educational policies “scapegoat teachers” for the problems of failing schools, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said many failing schools do not get as much state aid as they are entitled to by law. She has joined forces with another Cuomo critic, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The Wall Street Journal profiled Miner, calling her a “defiant” Democratic mayor and “vocal opponent” of Cuomo.

De Blasio is ramping up a political campaign to promote his housing and education priorities, with an eye toward amassing a financial war chest that can compete with well-funded opponents. The mayor and his fund-raising team have quietly solicited large contributions in recent weeks. Donors are being asked to contribute to a nonprofit fund, the Campaign for One New York, that is operated by political consultants close to de Blasio.

Top lawmakers emerged from a private meeting with Cuomo yesterday saying they might consider proposals to change the state laws on ethics and education as standalone bills, despite the governor’s attempt to bake language into his $141.6 billion spending proposal.

Cuomo and the State Legislature are ensnarled in a fight behind closed doors that will shape not only this year’s $149.9 billion budget, but the balance of power in Albany for years to come.

The Kenmore-Tonawanda school district may consider boycotting the state’s standardized tests in April in opposition to Cuomo’s education policies. The proposal is on the agenda for a board meeting tonight.

More than 1,000 teachers, parents and others cheered and applauded leaders of the anti-testing movement at a Long Island rally last night, shouting approval as speakers urged an expanded boycott of state tests in April.

Hillary Clinton will speak publicly for the first time this week about using only a private email account during her stint as secretary of state, hoping to defuse an issue that some Democrats say she needed to address days ago.

Top Democratic donors say they are unfazed by the Clinton email issue, although several said she could fend off Republican criticism by addressing the issue head-on and announcing her candidacy for president.

More >


NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver the keynote speech at a gala of Wisconsin Democrats in Milwaukee next month.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a campaign to push his “Raise the Age” proposal, complete with a new website.

Hillary Clinton will likely address the nagging email controversy surrounding her at some point this week. More here.

President Barack Obama communicated via email with Clinton while she used her personal email, according to the White House.

Clinton told an audience in Manhattan there has “never been a better time in history to be born female” – even as controversy swirls over her foundation accepting tens of millions of dollars in donations from Middle Eastern countries with poor human rights records.

An insurance broker at the center of a scheme to defraud the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is headed to prison for 18 months.

The Club for Growth released its 2014 House and Senate scorecards. New Yorkers – even the Republicans did not score terribly high.

Patient advocacy groups and some state lawmakers are crying foul over Cuomo’s attempt in his 30-day budget amendments to cut back on “prescriber prevails” protections in the Medicaid.

Cuomo has hired a former longtime NYC tabloid reporter – TomTopousis, formerly with the NY Post – as his new director of speech writing

Eighteen Monroe County school superintendents wrote to Cuomo, beseeching him to release hundreds of millions of dollars withheld through the controversial Gap Elimination Adjustment formula.

Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli supports Cuomo’s $1.5 billion econmomic development competition for upstate, rejecting the “Hunger Games” characterization.

Business and energy advocates are calling on state lawmakers to cut from the state budget energy taxes they say are costing New Yorkers at least $1.6 billion.

The governor of Pennsylvania is toughening regulations for the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry, targeting how it stores waste, dampens noise and affects public water resources, schools and playgrounds.

HUD tried last month to give away $6 million from federal taxpayers to eight Native American groups in New York. But at least three of the Indian nations rejected the cash.

Former Rep. Bob Turner will be the next chairman of the Queens GOP.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, who is running in the May 5 NY-11 special election on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence lines, decided not to seek the Reform Party nomination after speaking with Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long.

De Blasio, along with Democratic activist Bill Samuels and Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, will host a fund-raiser for Donovan’s opponent, Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile on March 19.

A proposed public registry of terrorists in New York could include tens of thousands of individuals who have never been convicted of a crime. Sen. Tom Croci, the measure’s sponsor, says he’ll amend it.

Cuomo announced six new administration appointments, five of which are women.

“House of Cards” star and Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey will executive-produce, along with Dana Brunetti, a six-part documentary mini-series for CNN about presidential campaigns.

Attorney Ramón Jiménez, a lifelong activist with roots in the Bronx, is concerned about the current state of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

There will be four new members of the Board of Regents by the end of the day tomorrow, all of them are women with experience as educators or school board members. (Not everyone is thrilled with this development).

Ronald Richter, a family court judge who led the New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services under former Mayor Bloomberg, has been named chief executive of the Jewish Child Care Association.

The snowiest place in America is Bill Hanchek’s back yard, just outside the tiny Upstate New York village of Copenhagen, where more than 21 feet has fallen.

Nineteen inmates at Rikers Island claim in a federal lawsuit that they were sickened by meatloaf spiked with rat poison.

The DEC released a revised mute swan management plan with significant changes after considering the diverse public comments received on a first draft released in January 2014.

…the new plan would limit the eradication of most of the swans after groups pushed back against a state plan that called for their demise as an invasive species.