Amazon’s Frictionless New York Experience

The push to bring Amazon’s influx of 25,000 jobs to Long Island City in Queens was given a smoother path with two key blessings: the support of a key labor union and avoiding a local-level fight over zoning.

The move by Amazon to Long Island City, of course, isn’t without controversy as some lawmakers and elected officials are decrying the lack of input as well as the price tag, which could reach as high as $3 billion.

But the agreement, while cause some tension in Queens, appears designed to cause little friction for the retail giant itself.

Consider the support the announcement has from Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, who Gov. Andrew Cuomo name-checked alongside Bill Rudin of the Real Estate Board of New York at the top of Tuesday’s news conference.

“It’s exciting that Amazon is making this commitment to our great city and state,” LaBarbera said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with Amazon and the community to ensure that the project includes good middle class construction jobs with benefits and high quality permanent jobs.”

It’s hard imagine any major project that involves construction not getting off the ground without the labor group’s support, and they have been consistent supporters of Cuomo over the last eight years.

At the same time, the land review process was virtually bypassed on the local level — a move New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged would have been a deal-breaker for the company.

And perhaps sensing some opposition to the plan, it was largely kept a secret outside of top officials in New York and at Amazon.

“They insisted, and I think for fair reason, that they needed to believe they could have a confidential process,” de Blasio said. “At a point that we felt it was appropriate which was last week, we started the process of at least some initial briefings to the Council on what was happening to give them a sense of things. I understand entirely if the Council says we would have like to have known some of these things a long time ago but we felt it was the only way to keep the sanctity of the process. Again, these are approaches that have been used effectively before. This is not the first time this is being done and we’re going to listen very carefully to the concerns of the Council going forward to try and make adjustments.”

Gateway Group Finds Support For Tunnel Projects

From the Morning Memo:

A group backing the construction of the Gateway Tunnel Project released a poll Monday that found support for the first two projects in the program, the Port North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel Projects.

The poll, surveying residents in the states most effected by the construction — New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — found more than 85 percent believe its important to have a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

And 80 percent are supportive of the current effort to replace the one-track-in, one-track-out system that is more than a century old.

The survey was conducted by the Gateway Program Development Corp. and comes as state officials like Gov. Andrew Cuomo have made public appeals for the federal government to help fund the project.

“For too long America has failed to invest in its infrastructure but we have an opportunity to change that,” said GDC Vice Chairman Tony Coscia. “The Gateway Program is big and bold but also smart and achievable. It’s time to pay it forward for a new generation and build 21st Century infrastructure of which America can be proud.”

The poll also found 85 percent of New York and New Jersey residents would support an Amtrak-federal government partnership to fund the Gateway effort, while 90 percent believe a new tunnel is important for interstate commerce.

There’s also strong support — 72 percent — for the federal government to pay for a new rail tunnel.

James To Appoint Underwood Solicitor General

Attorney General-elect Letitia James on Thursday announced she would keep her predecessor on in a role she previously held in the office.

James in a statement said she planned to appoint Attorney General Barbara Underwood the state’s solicitor general.

Underwood had served in that role until May, when she was appointed by the state Legislature to fill out the remainder of Eric Schneiderman’s term following his resignation amid allegations of sexual and domestic abuse. Her appointment made her the first woman to serve in the post.

“She is an exceptionally qualified attorney who has the experience and skills we need to continue taking on the greatest challenges facing our state,” James said. “I am honored and proud to make this appointment and to have her serve alongside me.”

Underwood at the time of her appointment had said she would not run for the post, opening up the office for the first time since 2010.

“It’s been an incredible privilege to serve as New York’s 66th Attorney General – and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of New York as I resume my former role of Solicitor General in January,” Underwood said. “I’m so honored to be joining Tish’s team. It’s clear that Tish is committed to building on the critically important work of the past few years and that, under her leadership, we’ll continue and expand our efforts to protect New Yorkers and fight for equal justice for all.”

Seggos To Step Down At DEC

From the Morning Memo:

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos is set to leave Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, he confirmed on Tuesday.

“This has been the best job, at the best agency, with the best colleagues, working for the best governor in the country,” Seggos posted to Twitter. “I’m proud of all we have accomplished and will be working hard into 2019 on the Gov’s vision. No letting up!”

Seggos had previously worked as a top environmental advisor to Cuomo as a deputy secretary in his office. Seggos also serves as a reservist in the U.S. Army.

His tenure was praised by environmental groups.

“All New Yorkers owe a huge debt to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos for his faithful service to the governor and the state as the leader of the state’s environmental and conservation efforts,” said William Janeway, the executive director of the Adirondack Council.

“Seggos faithfully and effectively advances Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s agenda, including preservation of more Adirondack Wilderness and support for more vibrant towns. The Adirondack Council extends its appreciation and gratitude to Commissioner Seggos.”

Green Party Airs TV Ad

From the Morning Memo:

The Green Party this weekend released its first TV ad of the campaign, featuring gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins.

The ad has already appeared on social media, but will play on cable TV the Syracuse and Albany markets.

Hawkins, who ran in 2010 and 2014, pointed to the safe lead incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo has in polling over Republican Marc Molinaro and that voters can “send a message” by backing his candidacy.

“I am the only progressive remaining on the ballot in New York. With Cuomo holding a safe double digit lead over Molinaro, voters need to send Cuomo a message that they demand action on climate, jobs and wages, single payer health care, and progressive education reform,” Hawkins said.

“Voter don’t like being taken for granted by politicians. And there is a lot of displeasure over Cuomo’s performance and the level of corruption he is presiding over and benefiting from.”

Hawkins is one of several independent party candidates running for governor this year, including Libertarian Larry Sharpe and Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse and a Democrat running on the Serve America Movement ballot line.

Molinaro Releases Economic Development Plan

Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro released an economic development plan on Tuesday that would ban cash giveaways to companies and enhance oversight of programs meant to create jobs.

At the same time, the proposals would expand the earned-income tax credit and support “shovel ready” projects.

The proposals come after the convictions of a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic, who had been found guilty of bribery and bid rigging related to upstate economic development efforts.

“Throughout this campaign I have been releasing detailed blueprints of what my administration will do to make it easier to live, work, and raise a family in New York,” Molinaro said in a statement. “Campaigns shouldn’t be about bluster and insults; they are an opportunity to lay out a clear and workable agenda to improve the lives of real people. I hope New Yorkers will go to my website – – before Election Day and review all the plans I have released. The vision and details are there, and I am hopeful voters will take the time to read them.”

Molinaro’s plan would also create an Empire State Sector Partnership Assistance Program, which would aim to retain and attract jobs through recommendations based on the National Skills Coalition.

“I ask New Yorkers to give this latest plan a read – to kick the tires and tell me what they think,” Molinaro said. “I am confident they will see a blueprint for individual success that New York, especially our upstate communities, has been lacking. We don’t have to keep lagging the rest of the nation in economic growth. We’re New Yorkers; we have it in us to excel again.”

From the Ground Up 10-30-18 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Judge Rules Fantasy Sports Unconstitutional In New York

A state Supreme Court justice late lat week ruled daily fantasy sports games in New York violated the state constitution’s ban on gambling, throwing into question the future of apps like FanDuel and DraftKings in New York.

“Based on all of the above, the Court finds and holds that the Constitutional prohibition upon authorization or allowance of pool-selling, bookmaking or any other kind of gambling encompasses (interactive fantasy sports),” Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly wrote in his ruling.

The ruling, first reported by The Buffalo News, comes after state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a measure that allowed daily fantasy sports in New York, determining they were games of skill, not games of chance, which are banned in the constitution.

But Connolly’s decision offered lawmakers something of an exit ramp: The games themselves are unconstitutional, but the Legislature could removed daily fantasy sports from being regulated under the state’s penal law.

The ruling is also a victory for the state’s anti-gambling forces, which had been dealt a series of setbacks in recent years, including the expansion of commercial casinos in upstate New York through a constitutional amendment.

Grechen Shirley Cheers BoE Decision For Child Care

Democratic congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley on Friday cheered the decision by the Board of Elections to allow campaign funds be used for child care.

Grechen Shirley is running for the House district held by Republican Rep. Peter King. Earlier this year, Grechen Shirley successfully won approval from the Federal Elections Commission to use campaign funds to pay for child care, the first candidate on the federal level to do so.

On Thursday, the Board of Elections unanimously adopted an advisory opinion allowing for the same on the state level.

“I’m proud to be the first woman in the nation to spend federal campaign funds on childcare—-and I’m thrilled this decision is inspiring women to push for the same rights on the state level,” she said. “If we want leaders who will stand up for women and working families, then we need to remove the barriers that keep women and working parents from running — and the NY Board of Election’s opinion is a strong step in the right direction.”

Former DN Reporter Heads To DOT

From the Morning Memo:

Former Daily News reporter Glenn Blain has landed as a spokesman at the state Department of Transportation.

Blain, a former reporter at The Journal News, was among those in the wave of layoffs at the tabloid earlier this year, now owned by Tribune Publishing, formerly called Tronc.

He joins several former members of the Legislative Correspondents Association who have in recent years moved to the other side, including Kirstan Conley, formerly of The New York Post, now at the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Freeman Klopott, a former reporter for Bloomberg, is a spokesman for New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

BOE Backs Using Campaign Funds For Child Care

The state Board of Elections on Thursday adopted an advisory opinion that would allow candidates to use campaign funds for child care services.

The move comes after the Federal Elections Commission determined earlier this year that candidates for federal office could use donations to pay for child care, an argument that was successfully backed by Democratic congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is challenging Republican Rep. Peter King this year.

The opinion, approved unanimously, came after the board received questions on the issue.

The opinion itself determines that child care is a legitimate campaign expense when a parent or guardian is engaged directly in campaign-related work.

“The Board concludes campaign funds thus may be used to pay childcare expenses if the expenses are incurred as a direct result of the guardian’s participation in a campaign activity,” the advisory rule states. “Conversely, if the expenses are not a direct result of an activity solely for the campaign, then campaign funds may not be used for childcare expenses.”