Nick Reisman

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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says his corruption investigations will help to improve a “broken down” political system.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch says deadline extensions for school district to adopt new teacher evaluations will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Gov. Cuomo declined to endorse Vinnie Gentile in the NY-11 on Staten Island.

Binghamton Sen. Tom Libous posted on Twitter that he’s looking forward to returning to Albany following another round of surgeries.

Remington Arms will return about 200 jobs to its upstate facility in Herkimer County following job cuts last year.

A $1 billion federal loan is expected to pay for MTA safety upgrades, including a positive safety control system.

Cuomo is expected to renominate Tom Prendergast to lead the MTA for the next six years.

MMA has not been legalized by the state Legislature, but already some New York arenas are lining up matches.

The final stages of the PCB dredging in the Hudson River present challenges for the cleanup.

The “I Lift NY” supercrane made its first lift at the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.

Former lieutenant governor-turned-Rochester Business Alliance chief Bob Duffy is urging companies to hire the poor.

Albany remembers the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whose body lay in state at the Capital city.

A herd of escaped buffalo were shot and killed after making there way over the state Thruway outside of Albany.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple was angered by what became something of a free-for-all in shooting the animals.

“America is once again the land where no buffalo roam.

Comcast’s decision to walk away from its purchase of Time Warner Cable came amid looming federal action.

The Statue of Liberty was evacuated due to a bomb threat.

Way too many cats in Sullivan County.

No. No. No. No.

Ken Adams To Depart Cuomo Administration

Ken Adams, the former CEO of the Empire State Development Corp., will be departing the Cuomo administration for an unspecified job in the private sector.

Adams was initially slated to become the next commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance.

Instead, the job will go to Jerry Boone, the president and commissioner of the Civil Service Commission, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday announced.

Adams had initially been announced as the replacement from Taxation and Finance Commissioner Tom Mattox. Adams had been with the Cuomo administration since the beginning, after serving as the president and CEO of The state Business Council (which issued its first endorsement in 2010 for governor, backing Cuomo over Republican Carl Paladino).

Boone has ties to the gaming industry: He has held a variety of positions at Caesars Entertainment, Inc./Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., including legal counsel and head of gaming operations at a major subsidiary. He eventually became the corporate Senior Vice President and HR, Integration & Internal Communication Leader.

Boone has worked as the commissioner of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and was solicitor general in the New York state Attorney General’s Office.

The Boone nomination, pending Senate confirmation, was announced as part of several appointments and nominations within the administration.

Cuomo Huddled With Jay Z, Harry Belafonte And Police Labor Leaders

Schedules released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday show he huddled with Jay Z and singer-activist Harry Belafonte as criminal justice reforms were being considered.

Cuomo spoke on the phone with Shawn “Jay Z” Carter on Jan. 13. The following day, he met in person with Belafonte, records show.

Meanwhile, also on Jan. 13, Cuomo met in person with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch as well Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association.

The meetings came as the governor was considering proposals to reform the state’s criminal justice system in response to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was killed in a police choke hold last year.

Ultimately, Cuomo proposed a seven-point package of reform measures which included a special monitor to review cases involving police-related deaths.

The Democratic-led Assembly is expected to hold a hearing next month on the reform proposals, as well as introduce some of their own post-arrest reform measures.

Meanwhile, the schedules show Cuomo spoke on the phone with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 16. Cuomo is planning a trade mission to Israel in the coming months, but the details of the phone call were not released.

Netanyahu has a truculent relationship with the Obama administration, but Cuomo met last year with the prime minister to affirm his support for Israel.

January2015 (1) by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: Merger Scuttle A ‘Market Decision’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the decision by Comcast Corp. to abandon a $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, Inc. a “market decision.”

“That’s their decision,” Cuomo said. “That’s a market decision they made and I’ll leave it to them.”

Time Warner Cable is the parent company of Time Warner Cable News and NY1.

The merger would have created the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider.

Federal regulators had raised concerns with the merger’s impact on the broadband market and innovation in Internet service. If approved, Comcast would have controlled 40 percent of broadband subscribers nationwide.

New York officials at the Public Service Commission had power to regulate the merger as well, but regulators declined to step in until the federal government had made a decision.

In contrast to Cuomo’s remarks, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the decision by Comcast to pull out of the agreement, calling it “good for the American consumer”

“I applaud both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice for their attention to the needs of the American people,” de Blasio said in a statement. “My administration was an early and vocal critic of the $45 billion deal because we need more Americans online – not fewer – to support opportunity and help eradicate income inequality. We need more competition to bring down prices and ensure a democratic internet for all. The merger would have further concentrated market power in the cable and broadband sectors and created even greater barriers to the City’s goals of universal, affordable high-speed Internet access. We value our relationship with Comcast and NBC Universal and we want more valuable partners on the long march to broadband for all.”

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James went further, calling for universal broadband access in the city as well broader authority to approve franchise deals on the local level.

“In addition, as we look towards the future, New York City must regain its power with regard to franchise agreements,” James said. “Currently, when a franchisee – such as Time Warner Cable – seeks to merge with another company, New York City is forced to rely on State or Federal authorities to approve or deny changes. Our City must restore its ability to protect its own interests where a franchisee seeks to merge through an exchange of shares between publicly traded companies.”

Cuomo Stresses Evaluation Deadline Extended For ‘Hardships’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo stressed to reporters on Friday that a deadline extension for teacher evaluations being adopted on the local level should be for hardship cases.

The Board of Regents is moving to adopt regulations for the evaluation criteria, with an eye toward having those ready by June 30.

School districts are required to adopt those regulations by Nov. 15 or lose out on a boost in school aid.

But Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch this week signaled she supported moving up that deadline to September 2016 in order to accommodate districts that are having trouble adopt the changes.

Cuomo to reporters after speaking at a breakfast reception of the Association For A Better New York said districts can apply for a waiver to extend the deadline, but the definition of “hardship” is up to SED.

“That is a waiver for hardship,” Cuomo said. “So in their regulations, they’re going to have to define what a hardship. It’s a waiver and a hardship and the exception and not the rule.”

The governor also shrugged off the high numbers of students opting out of the most recent round of state tests, saying there is no impact of the examinations on students’ grades, anyway.

“We passed a law that stops the use of the grades on the test for the student,” Cuomo said. “So, the grades are meaningless to the student.”

The opt-out effort, encouraged by the state’s teachers union, is believed to have included more than 100,000 students around the state.

Cuomo said the exemptions for students were done in reaction to what he said was a poor roll out of Common Core by the Department of Education.

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand, if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count anyway,” Cuomo said.

To ABNY, Cuomo Touts Education Reforms, Looks Ahead

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday morning before a consortium of real-estate and business interests called for an extension of rent control in New York City and for the Legislature to enact a plan to combat rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

At the same time, he praised state lawmakers for taking a “gutsy vote” on education policies in the state budget that are staunchly opposed by the state teachers’ unions.

“Change is hard,” Cuomo said of the education measures in the budget, which include a new teacher evaluation system and make it harder for teachers to obtain tenure. “Things are the way the way because that’s the way people want them.”

The remarks on Friday at the Association For A Better New York’s breakfast reception were the most extensive on the passage of the 2015-16 state spending plan since it was approved three weeks ago.

But the fallout from the budget’s education measures which Cuomo pushed for continues in Albany: Lawmakers are considering a variety of means to reduce standardized testing in schools and the Board of Regents is pushing back a deadline for school districts to adopt the new teacher performance criteria for those demonstrating hardships.

Cuomo called the education measures “a very, very difficult challenge.”

“At the end of the day, we won,” he said.

He praised the Legislature for taking up the changes and reiterated his theory on how government should work.

“I believe government is a service bureau,” Cuomo said. “It is not a debating society.”

The budget linked a boost in school aid to the measures, which lawmakers reluctantly agreed to accept it in order to provide the $1.3 billion increase.

Nevertheless, the New York State United Teachers union and the United Federation of Teachers has taken out a $1 million advertising campaign opposing the changes, which include making it harder for teachers to obtain tenure.

Tenure is linked to teacher performance on the evaluations and low-scoring teachers could be fired regardless of tenure.

“You tell me one other profession where you get to have three bad years before anything happens,” Cuomo said. “If a teacher has three bad years, it’s in the teacher’s best interest and the students’ interest, to find that teacher something else to do.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo called for an extension of rent control regulations for New York City as well as the 421a real-estate tax abatement, which he called crucial to affordable housing.

Allowing rent control regulations to lapse “would be immediate mass mayhem,” he said.

“If we don’t extend rent, you would have chaos in the real estate market.”

Cuomo was skeptical, however, of whether 421a could be expanded, citing uncertainty at the Capitol.

The governor reiterated his support for extending mayoral control of city schools for up to three years, but framed Senate Republicans as opposing the measure, while Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a permanent extension.

It’s likely that a lifting of the cap on charter schools will be tied to mayoral control.

“The Senate is basically zero,” Cuomo said of mayoral control. “There’s a big gap between zero and permanent.”

He added: “Charter cap is controversial. Mayoral control is going to be controversial.”

The governor’s top priority heading into the final two months of the legislative session will be to enact a package of measures aimed at combating sexual assault on private-college campuses.

The plan would place investigations of rape and assault into the hands of law enforcement and include the creation of an “affirmative consent” measure for sexual encounters. A similar plan was adopted last year by the state’s public university system.

“We have eight weeks left: Top priority for me is to combat sexual assault on college campuses,” Cuomo said, calling the number of assaults “staggering.” “Rape is rape and we have to protect our students on campuses.”

Lawmakers: Skelos Won’t Be A Distraction

From the Morning Memo:

We’ve seen this movie before.

A legislative leader is indicted or arrested, and their colleagues express a measure of support, only to eventually have them removed or pressured to step down.

It happened just a few weeks ago with Sheldon Silver, who resigned as speaker following his arrest on fraud and bribery charges.

For Senate Democrats, their former leader John Sampson’s indictment on embezzlement charges led to his being booted from the mainline conference.

Sampson himself lost his leadership post to Andrea Stewart-Cousins prior to the charges, but was removed from the conference (not dissimilar to when the IDC booted one of their own, Malcolm Smith, following his arrest).

Both Sampson and Silver were cited by Democratic lawmakers this week when asked if the investigation hanging over Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ head will be a distraction for the remainder of the legislative session, which runs through June.

“Obviously we’ve gone through our challenge this year and we’ve transitioned our leadership incredibly well,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. “It’s been seamless. We’re continuing our work. We did a great job in the budget in my view.”

Added Queens Sen. Mike Gianaris: “Certainly the Senate Democrats have dealt swiftly and decisively when this has happened on our side.”

Both Sampson and Silver retained their seats in their respective chamber as they fight the charges.

Of course, Skelos has not been indicted or charged with anything in the investigation, which stems from his son’s job at an Arizona-based firm that received a water treatment contract in Nassau County.

Senate Republicans, too, have proven to be a cohesive bunch and an heir to Skelos’s post is not apparent (some have pointed to either Sen. Cathy Young or Sen. John Flanagan as the next majority leader).

“The real answer now is it depends,” Gianaris added. “We don’t know a lot of the facts, but if charges come down, it will be a distraction.”

Skelos himself emerged this week in public, but added little to the statement he gave last week, saying only that he’s cooperating with the investigation.

“We’ll continue to work and obviously the Senate will address their leadership issues, if there are any,” Morelle said.

Gibson: TPP Opposition Isn’t About 2018

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Chris Gibson in an interview this week expressed his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, and insisted his position isn’t about staking out a broader campaign plank in 2018.

“When you look at this from a statewide perspective, it’s an important that we include Congress,” Gibson told TWC News’ Washington bureau in an interview. “Congress should play a role in this.”

But at the same time, Gibson also insisted he wasn’t posturing for a potential statewide run in 2018 on the free trade issue.

Gibson said he continues to focus on his district in the Hudson Valley which he retires from at the end of the current congressional session.

“My first responsibility is my service and that is my calling here — is to do what’s right for the people in my district — the 19th congressional district and the people of my state and my country,” Gibson said. “I feel very confident that I’m fighting for the people of my district and everything else takes a back seat to that.”

Gibson’s free trade stance could play well upstate, especially in cities that have been hit hard in the last decades by jobs sent overseas.

The GOP lawmaker has been staking out more moderate positions on social issues in recent months as he considers running statewide, while also criticizing Albany for the spate of corruption arrests.

For now, Gibson is believed to be most interested in running for governor. Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo has not said whether he will seek a third term, though a former top aide expects he will run again.

State Purchases 6,800 Acres Of ADK Land

New York state on Thursday finalized a $4.2 million purchase of 6,800 acres of the former Finch Pruyn lands in the southern Adirondacks High Peaks region.

The agreement, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, is aimed at strengthening public access to the region and is aimed at creating additional recreation and tourism possibilities in the area.

“This is another milestone in our commitment to protect and provide public access to 69,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn lands,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The MacIntyre East property will allow New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy additional fishing, paddling, hiking, hunting and other recreation activities in the unparalleled beauty of the Adirondacks. By working closely with local officials in the region on these acquisitions, we have been able to maximize the recreation and economic benefits of these lands, while retaining the natural character and beauty of Adirondack forest lands and waters.”

The purchase, long in the works, is part of the MacIntyre East property from The Nature Conservancy. The money is coming out of Environmental Protection Fund cash.

The land is located in Essex County, primarily in the town of Necomb, with some portions of Keene and North Hudson included in the parcel.

The purchase allows for hunting, hiking as well as sight seeing. New paddling and fishing areas will also be made available on more than five miles of the Hudson River.

Adirondack land purchases can be complicated and controversial within the Blue Line of the park, but this agreement appears to have won the support of local officials.

“The MacIntyre East Tract will be an unforgettable draw for outdoor recreationalists eager to explore the southern High Peaks region,” Sen. Betty Little, a Queensbury Republican, said in a statement. “Working together, our local communities and the Department of Environmental Conservation are doing a very good job of finding a balance of ecological conservation and recreational access important to the environment and supportive of our tourism-dependent Adirondack economy.”

ASC: Delaying Evaluation Implementation A Minimal Step

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday called the effort to delay the implementation of teacher evaluations on the school district level a “minimum step” to alter the education policies included in the budget.

“Rushing to implement a new teacher evaluation system would be misguided,” Stewart-Cosuins said in a statement. “We’ve been down this road before and we’ve seen where faulty and fast implementation of poorly conceived education changes leads. Demonizing teachers, over-testing students and rushing major reforms will not improve our education system, it will only cause more problems. Delaying the implementation of this new teacher evaluation system is the minimum step that should be taken.”

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch on Wednesday announced she was asking Department of Education officials to extend the deadline for the implementation of the new evaluation criteria to September 2016.

The state budget tied the implementation of the evaluation criteria to a boost in school aid for districts that adopt the new measures by November.

The move to extend the deadline doesn’t go against the law approved in the budget. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top counsel, Alphonso David, said in a statement that such extensions should be for true hardship cases on the district level and be the “exception, not the rule.”

More broadly, state lawmakers have more or less embraced the decision by Tisch to extend the deadline as many had reluctantly voted to approve the education measures in the budget.