Nick Reisman

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Queens Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz Dies At 45

Michael Simanowitz, a Queens Democrat elected to the Assembly in 2011, died on Saturday.

He was 45.

Before his election to the Assembly, Simanowitz was a top aide to Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and had served as an auxiliary police officer.

Tributes from elected officials in Queens and across the state poured in immediately, recalling Simanowitz as a caring lawmaker and community representative.

“We shared a love for our home borough of Queens and a belief in public service as a vehicle for positive change,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who noted Simanowitz’s religious faith as a guiding principle.

“As an Assembly member and prior to that a staffer, he was widely respected by his peers and his partners in government.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement said he was shocked by Simanowitz’s death, which came after an illness.

“Words are not adequate to express how heartbroken I am that he is no longer with us, a thought I am sure my colleagues in the Assembly and throughout government share,” Heastie said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jennifer and their four children.”

Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Queens Democratic Committee, said he, too, was heartbroken by Simanowitz’s death.

“He was a person beyond reproach and someone who carried out the duties of the office with dignity and honor,” Crowley said. “He fought tirelessly for his community and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Katko: Keep Tubman For $20

Republican Rep. John Katko in a statement urged the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to continue forward with a plan to replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Katko, a second term lawmaker from central New York, a district that includes Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Tubman lived in Auburn for part of her life.

In a letter, Katko urged Mnuchin to press forward with the plan to honor Tubman.

“I have long stated the need for U.S. currency to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of American women, and applauded last year’s decision to feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill,” Katko said.

“Auburn is a place that Harriet Tubman once called home, and Central New York is proud to showcase and celebrate her amazing legacy. Today, I reiterated to the current Administration the importance of memorializing Harriet Tubman’s legacy, courage, and commitment to others on the $20 bill and urged Treasury to move forward with this designation.”

The plan to put Tubman on the $20 was initially announced by the Obama administration, but Mnuchin on Thursday suggested he wasn’t committed to the change.

President Donald Trump criticized the decision to replace Jackson from the front of the bill to the back. Trump considers Jackson, a populist with a controversial legacy, as a model.

SED Leadership: Keep DACA

The top officials at the State Education Department on Friday in a statement urged the federal government to keep in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump may potentially scrap.

The program allows for two years of deferred action for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, known as Dreamers.

“Dreamers, brought to America as children, want nothing more than to continue giving back and contributing as productive, hard-working, tax-paying members of our communities,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Chancellor Betty Rosa in the join statement.

“Many of these young Dreamers now live in daily fear that they may lose their jobs, be forced to drop out of college or even be deported. This is the only country many of them have ever known; this is their America.”

Rosa and Elia pointed to the Board of Regents approving a program that allows eligible undocumented immigrants with Dreamer status to obtain teaching certifications and professional licenses.

“It was the right thing to do morally and will benefit our state economically as well,” they said. “New York is facing a teacher shortage and Dreamers are every bit as qualified to become effective educators as anyone. But now, because of political gamesmanship, the DACA program is in peril. And the ability of our Dreamers to continue contributing to American society is in jeopardy as well.”

Curtailing DACA would be “shortsighted, cruel and bad public policy,” they said.

“We will continue to fight for our Dreamers because it is the right thing to do.”

Heastie Goes Back To School

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is going back to school this fall to teach a class on personal finance at the Bronx campus of Monroe College.

He will be paid $5,200, according to a spokesman.

“Higher education has always been a priority to me as I recognize the countless doors it has opened for me, and I want to ensure others have that same opportunity,” Heastie said.

“It is a privilege to advocate for students in the New York State Assembly and a mission I am still fully dedicated to. Interacting with students in the classroom has always been a passion of mine and I look forward to connecting with students on a more personal level this fall.”

Heastie has an MBA in finance and has done accounting work. He previously worked as an adjunct professor from 2007 through the fall of 2014 prior to being elected speaker in 2015.

For Some Races, The Primary Is What Matters

From the Morning Memo:

Voters head to polls Sept. 12 in the state’s largest cities to vote in mayoral primaries, but the drama in some of those contests could be limited to that vote.

“Generally speaking, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the election,” said Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg.

That’s because Democrats dominate voter rolls in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and New York City. And in Albany, the GOP doesn’t have a declared candidate. It’s a heavy lift for Republicans in a city historically dominated by Democrats.

“You’d have to have all the right things going for you,” said former Albany County Republican chairman Don Cleary. “You’d have to have an incumbent under indictment; you’d have to have the city just literally in flames.”

And with closed primaries potentially deciding who wins weeks before the general election, that can lead to voter apathy.

“Turnout in New York has been in a slow downward spiral now for decades,” said Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group. “There’s no reason to expect that’s going to change.”

One way of changing that is reforming how elections are held and how voters are registered.

“Make it easier for people to be automatically registered,” Horner said. “You can allow people to register on Election Day. So there are things you can do to enhance the registration opportunities for people who are new to the system.”

But the general election does matter in New York. In addition to several constitutional amendments, voters will consider a referendum for a constitutional convention. It’s unclear what potentially low turnout could mean for that vote.

“It’s hard to say, because the polling has been a little bit across the board in terms of who these ‘con con’ supporters are,” said Greenberg. “It’s not straight upstaters support, downstaters oppose or Democrats oppose and Republicans support.”

A convention vote is held every 20 years and was last approved in 1967.

Cuomo Seeks Disaster Declaration For 15 Counties

More than a dozen counties impacted by flooding and tornadoes in June and July should be made eligible for federal disaster relief, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced.

The disaster declaration would cover 15 counties impacted by the storms: Broome, Cayuga, Cortland, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Tioga, Warren, Washington, and Wyoming.

“Whether it’s severe flooding, devastating wind storms, or intense blizzards, extreme weather is becoming the new normal in New York and — as we’ve seen — across the nation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I urge the federal government to recognize the severity of damage and take action to provide New Yorkers the funding and assistance they need now.”

State and federal experts have estimated the total damage to be more than $30 million for infrastructure repair and debris removal.

State officials estimate at least 115 homes were damaged and 230 homes and businesses sustained storm-related damage as well as cause power outages.

Court Of Appeals Dismisses Challenge To De Blasio For WFP Support

A legal challenge to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s designation as the candidate of the Working Families Party was tossed on Thursday by the state’s highest court.

The state Supreme Court and Appellate Division Court had previously rejected the challenge brought by the Reform Party on the grounds the suit “had failed to name a necessary party” — in this case the executive board of the Working Families Party.

In an unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision.

De Blasio, seeking a second term, faces former New York City Councilman Sal Albanese in a primary next month. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is the Republican nominee.

131opn17 Decision by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Endorses Moya For Council

Assemblyman Francisco Moya on Thursday added to the institutional support he’s received from elected officials for his New York City Council bid with an endorsement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Francisco Moya is a proven leader for Central Queens, while his opponent’s actions have disqualified him from public service, ” Cuomo said in a statement.

“From partnering with me to pass a $15 minimum wage, stronger rent laws and immigrant protections, as well as the Women’s Equality Act and critically important criminal justice reforms, Assemblyman Moya has worked to move New York forward. Contrasted with Hiram Monserrate’s shameful record of domestic violence and abusing the public trust, the choice could not be more clear. I’m proud to endorse Francisco Moya for City Council in the 21st District and I know he will continue to be a true champion of Democratic values.”

Moya faces former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate in a primary next month for the seat being vacated by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Moya has been backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as 1199/SEIU, a politically key labor union. He’s also been endorsed by Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“Our state has led the nation by passing progressive legislation under Governor Cuomo,” Moya said.

“On issues facing everyday New Yorkers, New York has upped the ante. With Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New Yorkers will have one of the highest minimum wages, the most expansive paid family leave act, and a criminal justice system that will no longer treat teenagers like adults. Because of his leadership, we have seen capital projects like the one at LaGuardia Airport flourish. I am honored to receive Governor Cuomo’s endorsement, and look forward to expanding opportunity and fighting for the future of my neighbors.”

Enviros Cheer DEC’s Permit Denial For Millennium Pipeline (Updated)

Environmental groups and advocates are cheering the decision by state environmental officials to deny permits for the Millennium Pipeline to connect to a Hudson Valley power plant that is playing a supporting role in the corruption case against former gubernatorial aide Joe Percoco.

“I wholeheartedly applaud the DEC for denying a key permit needed to connect the Millennium Pipeline to the CPV power plant,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Democrat who represents the area. “With a pending criminal case alleging corruption at CPV, the DEC made the right decision to put the safety of the community before politics.”

Percoco, who’s case goes to trial early next year, is accused of soliciting bribes from Competitive Power Ventures that also paid his wife $90,000.

Opponents of the pipeline had seized on the connection, protesting Percoco’s court appearances.

The permit decision was cheered by Mark Ruffalo, the actor and environmental advocate, who specifically thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation for carefully reviewing the impacts of the Millennium Pipeline and rightfully denying it,” Ruffalo said. “This dangerous pipeline would have harmed the environment, local residents, and exacerbated climate change.”

Updated: Gary Lambert, the CEO and president of Competitive Power Ventures, called the DEC decision “confusing” knocked it as not having merit. The company, he said, plans to press forward with the project.

“We will continue to move forward with our scheduled opening in early 2018,” Lambert said. “We will commission and operate on our backup fuel as we have every confidence the pipeline will ultimately be approved. Once the pipeline is complete, the Valley Energy Center will begin to reduce the region’s overall emissions, protect and enhance the reliability of the region’s electric grid, and start saving New York’s energy consumers more than an estimated $600 million in electricity costs annually.”

Heastie Would Want Any Tax Hike To Have Broad Benefit

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in an interview on NY1’s Inside City Hall on Thursday did not embrace a targeted tax increase on the rich that would boost revenue at the MTA.

Instead, Heastie said his conference would want to see any new tax have a broader benefit.

“For those of us in the Assembly we’ve always supported asking those who have a little more to do a little more,” he said. “But we’d like that to be able to do across the board for things that we need — education, health care. We have no idea what the feds are going to us. The roof can collapse on us at any moment if they finally adopt the budget. I don’t think it’s going to be one that’s friendly to the state of New York.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed a tax increase to bolster the MTA amid slowdowns and delays along the New York City subway system. Heastie confirmed in the interview the de Blasio proposal was discussed at a meeting this month of Assembly Democrats from the MTA service area to discuss transit issues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reignited a debate over congestion pricing as a means of alleviating traffic and increasing revenue.

Cuomo has said the tax proposal from de Blasio is dead on arrival with Senate Republicans, who have been publicly skeptical of the plan themselves.

“Traditionally the Senate Republicans don’t really want to do income tax increases,” Heastie said in the interview, “and that’s probably why the governor said that and the governor right now wants to pursue the idea of congesting pricing.”