Nick Reisman

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Finishing Touch Put On Mario Cuomo Bridge

The finishing touches were put on the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge on Friday, the same day its namesake would be celebrating his birthday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced the bridges twin span will be fully connected this afternoon, with the final girder being placed on the eastbound side near Rockland County, completing major construction.

The bridge is formally named for Cumoo’s late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died in 2015.

“This steel connection is another example of progress for the new bridge and sets the stage for the opening of the eastbound span later this year,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge will not only serve New Yorkers, visitors and the greater Mid-Hudson Valley region for the next century, it will be an important symbol of our commitment to rebuilding stronger, safer infrastructure across the state.”

The bridge on Interstate 87 crosses the Hudson River, connecting Westchester and Rockland counties.

It’s not year clear what the final toll on the bridge will be for drivers. At the same time, a push is underway by some to have the bridge retain the old Tappan Zee name.

The new bridge is designed to last 100 years.

Molinaro And Killian: Don’t Lower Standards For Specialized High Schools

The Republican ticket for governor on Friday announced opposition to a push that they said would loosen merit-based requirements for New York City’s specialized high schools.

The push to change the requirements for admission to the schools comes amid concerns over the under representation of students of color at the high schools.

A measure that was geared toward phasing out the entrance examination is not expected to be considered by the Legislature before the end of the legislative session next week. Supporters of making the changes, however, say the moves would not undo merit standards at the schools.

The New York City Department of Education points out, too, that under the different criteria for enrollment, similarly performing students will receive offers to the specialized high schools.

“We must never lower our standards in New York schools, indeed, we must raise the bar constantly to ensure that our children are challenged and prepared for the 21st Century work economy,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

“The answer to too few seats in specialized high schools isn’t discrimination against those who have achieved high test scores, it’s creating more seats and schools of the highest quality.

Molinaro, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, rallied with his running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Julie Killian, over the issue at City Hall in Manhattan.

Both insisted standards could be maintained and minority enrollment boosted with the creation of more specialized high schools in New York City.

“We must also create more courses of study to prepare mechanically gifted children for high-paying trade crafts,” Molinaro said.

“I for salute the hundreds and hundreds of students and parents who marched over the Brooklyn Bridge today to stand with Julie and me at this important news conference. I also thank State Senator Marty Golden, who joined us today, for his steadfast leadership in fighting for consistency, fairness, and common sense in the specialized school admissions process.”

NY-22: Brindisi Reports Large Fundraising Advantage

Democratic congressional candidate Anthony Brindisi’s campaign on Friday announced it had raised more than $340,000 between April and June, opening up a large cash-on-hand advantage against Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney.

Tenney, a Republican freshman seeking a second term in the 22nd congressional district, raised $176,977 during the same time period.

“Rep. Tenney’s fancy fundraisers in Washington that cost $30,000 a ticket are no substitute for the grassroots fundraising powering our campaign in Upstate New York ,” said Ellen Foster, Brindisi’s campaign manager. “We pledged not to take a dime of corporate PAC money, and it’s clear that independence is what the voters of the 22nd district want.”

Brindisi, a member of the state Assembly, has an overall cash advantage, with nearly $1.2 million in the bank compared to $774,603 for Tenney.

LGBT Advocate And Cuomo Ally Criticizes Nixon-Williams Tie-Up

A longtime LGBT activist and an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is criticizing Cynthia Nixon’s alignment with lieutenant governor candidate Jumaane Williams, questioning his past statements opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in a Democratic primary, is petitioning for ballot access with Williams.

“To me suggests that there is at least some form of cooperation and collaboration,” said Richard Socarides, a prominent LGBT advocate in New York political circles who is backing Cuomo’s re-election to a third term this year.

“It’s shocking to me that especially after all we’ve been through a year and a half with Donald Trump and with Pride Month, an openly gay candidate would align herself with someone whose personal views are at odds with the state of New York.”

Both Nixon and Williams are the endorsed candidates of the Working Families Party, but they are not running together as a formal ticket in the same way that Cuomo and his preferred running mate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, are doing in the current election cycle.

But Socarides is blasting the arrangement, saying Nixon, who is openly gay and married to Christine Marinoni, should be more selective.

“She certainly has a choice who she is petitioning with,” Socarides said in a phone interview. “If she’s running with this guy, that’s her choice. But I don’t think she can have it both ways. I don’t think she can say we disagree on this, but we can appear on the petition. She has decide where she stands on this. She can’t seriously suggest to New Yorkers that she endorses the idea of having this man on the ballot.”

The Nixon campaign brushed off the criticism.

“To suggest that Cynthia Nixon doesn’t stand with LGBT New Yorkers is laughable, and her wife agrees,” said spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.

A supporter of Williams, meanwhile, made reference to Hochul’s own shifts on the issue. Hochul in a questionnaire did not answer questions about same-sex marriage or the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act as well as her opposition to gay marriage while running for Erie County clerk at the time.

“Jumaane and Cynthia are under attack from Cuomo cronies because their campaigns are picking up steam across the city and state,” said Ana Maria Archila, the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action. “Jumaane wholeheartedly supports marriage equality and abortion and has the track record to prove it, which is more than Kathy Hochul can say.”

In a separate statement, Williams spokesman William Gerlich said it’s “frankly offensive that Cuomo allies are trying to smear Jumaane as anti-LGBTQ when he has always been a strong fighter for our community. He 100% supports same-sex marriage and abortion, period. It’s not surprising that a corporate establishment individual would blindly support a corporate establishment candidate, no matter what the issue is.”

Hochul Hires A Finance Director

The campaign of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has hired a finance director as she faces a Democratic primary challenge this fall.

Hochul’s re-election campaign in an email to supporters Friday morning announced Abby Erwin would lead the LG’s fundraising efforts.

“My name is Abby Erwin, and I’m incredibly excited to work for Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s campaign for re-election,” the email states. She fights for New Yorkers every day, and she has a record of making real progress at all levels of government. In her time as Lieutenant Governor, she helped passed a minimum wage increase, the nation’s strongest paid family leave policy, and life-saving gun safety measures.”

It also notes Hochul is the “only woman in New York State government who is elected statewide.”

“Kathy will be traveling the state this summer, and we hope to see many of you at our events,” the email states. “I will be sending occasional updates about the campaign, seeking your feedback, and letting you know how you can help.”

Hochul is running for a second term as the preferred candidate for lieutenant governor of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Hochul replaced Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy on the Democratic ticket in 2014. That year, she faced Columbia professor Tim Wu in a Democratic primary.

Hochul this year is being challenged in a primary by Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman.

SD-13: Citizen Action Endorses Ramos

Democratic state Senate candidate James Ramos was endorsed Friday by Citizen Action of New York, a progressive group affiliated with the Working Families Party.

Ramos is challenging Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta in his Queens district.

“At Citizen Action, our top priority is electing candidates who show a real commitment to helping working families. Jessica Ramos’ campaign to fix our subways, fully fund our schools, and achieve real rent reform shows she’s the real Democrat in this race. For too long, State Senator Jose Peralta failed to support working families, instead of working with the Republicans in the State Senate to block real rent reform, public school funding, and more,” said Jesse Laymon, Board Member of Citizen Action of New York.

“Jessica embodies the kind of candidate Citizen Action supports: rooted in her community’s needs, armed with a vision for how to turn those needs into a reality, and committed to fighting the legislative battles that will get her there. We are thrilled to support her bid for State Senate.”

Peralta is a former member of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC disbanded in April and its members joined the mainline Democratic conference fold in the Senate.

“Citizen Action of New York has worked tirelessly to push a progressive agenda forward across our state, and I’m thrilled to have their endorsement today,” Ramos said. “Our campaign focuses on harnessing grassroots power to deliver positive change back to our own community—from fixing the MTA, to funding our public schools, to passing real rent reform. I’m honored to receive Citizen Action’s endorsement and look forward to campaigning alongside their team as we work to bring a real Democratic majority to the State Senate this year.”

Maloney Touts War Chest, Petition Drive After AG Launch

Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney’s campaign for attorney general on Friday touted the 8,000 petition signatures it has collected and the $500,000 in campaign cash raised since he launched his candidacy last week.

It was not immediately clear how much of that money came from Maloney’s existing federal account.

“Although the fix is in for other candidates, we’ve been out working hard, talking to thousands of New Yorkers, and earning the support of contributors across the state,” Maloney said.

“New Yorkers are sick of being steamrolled by Trump – they want someone to take him on and to protect the America we all believe in – an America where everyone has a fair shot regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or who they love.”

Maloney is running for the Democratic nomination for AG, but plans to seek re-election to his seat in the House of Representatives if he fails to win the nomination — an unusual step he insists is a legal one.

Maloney is facing three other Democrats for the nomination: New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Leecia Eve and Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned last month after he was accused by multiple women of domestic violence.

DAs Protest Conduct Panel Bill’s Passage

From the Morning Memo:

A bill that would create a conduct review commission for local prosecutors is being opposed by the District Attorneys Association of the State New York, with the group arguing it would undermine prosecutorial discretion and compromise independence.

The bill was approved Thursday in the Republican-controlled state Senate. It’s expected to receive a vote in the Democratic-led Assembly next week before the legislative session ends for the year.

“This bill is flagrantly unconstitutional and violates the separation of powers. DAASNY has already informed the Governor and his staff of the constitutional issues raised by this bill,” said DAASNY President, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara. “The bill is so flawed that virtually every legislator who voted for this bill acknowledged during the floor debate that the bill already requires chapter amendments.”

The organization pointed to the existence of the Attorney Grievance Committee that oversees prosecutors.

But the panel the bill would create, its sponsors argue, would set up an entity similar to the judicial conduct commission, providing a new level of oversight. The governor would retain superseding authority to remove district attorneys from office, a power that rests in the state constitution.

“Prosecutors have substantial discretion over how to prosecute cases,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco said. “This commission would serve as an impartial forum for reviewing allegations made against prosecutors to determine whether they acted properly in certain criminal cases.”

NY-2: Pellegrino Endorses Grechen Shirley

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino on Friday will endorse Liuba Grechen Shirley’s bid for the 2nd congressional district on Long Island.

Grechen Shirley is competing against DuWayne Gregory for the Democratic nomination this month to face Republican Rep. Peter King in the fall.

“As a mother, a teacher, and the NYS Assembly member representing the 9th District, which lies within the 2nd Congressional District, I know what my constituents need and the leadership they deserve,” Pellegrino said.

“I endorse Liuba Gretchen-Shirley for Congress because, like me, she is a native Long Islander and mother of two, a fierce advocate for women rights, and workers all over. She will be an ally for Long Island families in Washington, by helping to protect our environment, and investing in public education, our children’s future. Washington needs a lot of cleaning up, and Liuba is the new leader our communities deserve to represent us in Congress.”

Pellegrino was elected to the Assembly last year, winning a seat that had been long held by Republican lawmakers and won by President Donald Trump in 2016 with 60 percent of the vote. Much of her victory was attributed to the strength of both ground-level progressive groups and the backing of the New York State United Teachers union.

“Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino is an inspiration in Long Island politics,” Grechen Shirley said. “As a long-time union activist, teacher, and committed progressive, Christine embodies the grassroots authenticity and leadership that Long Islanders deserve.”

At Times Raw, Assembly Debates Flag Day

The state Assembly debated the meaning of the flag in American life on Thursday, approving a resolution to recognizing Flag Day that also revealed the fractured, raw and heartfelt views of life in the United States in 2018.

The widely anticipated moment of the debate was in the beginning, when Assemblyman Charles Barron railed against the flag for what he saw as symbolizing slavery and the oppression of people of color. He concluded his remarks by walking to the well of the chamber, bent down on one knee and raised his fist in the air.

Barron’s remarks spurred angry asides from Assembly Republicans, who issue with him using a prop at one point. But not all were offended, pointing to the First Amendment right to demonstrate, to them symbolized by the flag itself.

But the conversation, stretching into the afternoon hours, highlighted the differing views state lawmakers hold over patriotism, the symbolism of the flag itself, military service police brutality, immigration, the policies of the Trump administration and the treatment of minorities and women and divided nature of the country.

The 150-member chamber is dominated by Democrats who have more than 100 seats. But both conferences, despite their differences in size, have a diversity of views and individuals, be it retired police officers, veterans, teachers or advocates who have now gained a seat at the table.

The Assembly is a reflection of New York: rural, urban, suburban, yes, but also gay, black, Latino, conservative and liberal. And, like the rest of the country, has individuals who each see something different when they look at the flag.