Heastie: No ‘Overnight Fix’ For Transit

A quick fix to help the ailing New York City transit system isn’t available, but state and local officials should work together to solve the problem, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Sunday in a radio interview.

“The train system here in New York City, the beginning of it I believe was built in the late 1800s,” he said. “I think a lot of money has to be invested in it.”

Speaking on businessman John Catsimatidis’s radio show, Heastie warned “an overnight fix” won’t solve the delays and derailments over the last several weeks along the subway system.

“There’s not an overnight fix that will get us out of this problem,” Heastie said. “I think it’s been decades and decades and decades that was I’d say less than suitable maintenance on the MTA.”

Heastie, however, said the Democratic-led Assembly was committed to finding more resources to solve the MTA’s woes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed back against assertions he’s to blame for the mess on the subway, noting the state has vowed to spend billions on capital upgrades.

“I can understand why it’s so frustrating,” Heastie said of the delays.

“I do believe that there is absolutely a commitment on our part by the Assembly to try to help come up with the resources to get this done. I do believe the governor is there as well. I think this is something collectively that the state, the city and even our regional partners will have to work together to try to accomplish.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday took a trip on the subway to discuss ongoing problems with the trains.

NY1 reported this weekend there were 67,000 delays on the subway system in May alone, an increase of 17,000 from that time last year.

Caucus Meeting With Ex-AG Holder Postponed

A meeting between members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and former Attorney General Eric Holder has been postponed after the influential labor union Hotel Trades Council raised concerns.

Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general, was due to meet with the caucus on Friday to discuss his work with the online booking site Airbnb, which had hired him last year to conduct a review of discrimination among hosts.

Caucus Chairman Nick Perry informed members in an email obtained by Capital Tonight Thursday evening.

“Please be advised due to logistical concerns, the Caucus meeting scheduled for Friday, July 21st has is being postponed,” Perry wrote in the email. “Updates will be shared when available.”

Holder was also expected to discuss redistricting reform efforts, part of a project with former President Obama.

The meeting with Holder, however, had drawn scrutiny from HTC, a politically key labor union that has supported efforts to curb Airbnb’s expansion in New York.

The union had indicated it would picket the meeting with Holder were to discuss Airbnb-related policy. State lawmakers have recently backed a provision that banned short-term advertising of rentals.

Perry in an email sent earlier this week to caucus members said the meeting with Holder was meant to be informational.

“As legislators, it is our responsibility to make informed decisions on policy,” he wrote in the earlier email. “And as a Caucus of fifty-six Members from all across the State of New York, we must allow for information-sharing so that we can work to achieve a consensus among our membership that runs the spectrum.”

Caucus Meeting With Holder Draws HTC Ire Over Airbnb

Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s meeting scheduled for Friday with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus has drawn the ire of the politically key labor union Hotel Trades Council.

Holder is expected to address the caucus to discuss his work with online booking giant Airbnb. He was hired by the company last year to craft an anti-discrimination policy after racism issues were alleged against Airbnb hosts.

But sources on Thursday said a number of caucus members raised concerns with the meeting after the influential HTC signaled their opposition to it and threatened to not attend.

Caucus Chairman Nick Perry, a Brooklyn assemblyman, defended the meeting in an email to caucus members sent this week, saying Holder would address issues surrounding the company and discrimination as well as legislative redistricting.

“You may have heard that activists from the Hotel Trades Council have raised objections over our willingness to accept this meeting, and have threatened to picket the meeting,” he wrote in the email obtained by Capital Tonight.

“Please understand that I take a firm position that the Caucus maintain and enforce its right to learn about different sides of various issues that we must eventually take a position on. As legislators, it is our responsibility to make informed decisions on policy. And as a Caucus of fifty-six Members from all across the State of New York, we must allow for information-sharing so that we can work to achieve a consensus among our membership that runs the spectrum.”

Perry added the caucus “should never allow any group or person to strong-arm us into accepting or declining any meetings with any groups we schedule for informational purposes. Nor does any one meeting indicate an endorsement of any particular policy. Members are encouraged to attend the meeting on Friday and express their individual opinions.”

In a phone interview on Thursday, Perry reiterated the caucus needs to hear information from varying sources, even from those on issues they may disagree with. As for HTC, Perry said he hopes the situation can be defused through an understanding with the union.

“I am in the process of developing an understanding between us and what the goal is,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for the former attorney general as an African-American leader — that influenced those decisions about the meeting.”

Holder, the first black attorney general, is also working with former President Obama on redistricting issues — the next round will come after the 2020 census — and is expected to discuss that issue as well with caucus members.

Redistricting is especially important to caucus members, Perry said in the phone interview.

“We may have to fight for additional redistricting that provides for additional opportunities for potential caucus members to run for office,” he said.

Airbnb has faced hostile territory in the Legislature over the years after lawmakers backed a provision that banned short-term advertising of rentals.

32BJ Endorses Moya For Council Seat

The labor union 32BJ on Thursday endorsed Queens Democratic Assemblyman Francisco Moya for the New York City Council.

“Our members endorsed Francisco because of his history of standing up for his community in Queens, for immigrants and for all working New Yorkers during his tenure in the Assembly,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa.

“We know that he will be a voice for working people on the City Council and help keep our city a safe and welcoming home for working people and immigrants. Now more than ever, we need local government to stand up for those who are vulnerable and stand against the divisive rhetoric and anti-worker policies coming out of Washington.”

Moya is running in a contested primary against disgraced former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was removed from the Senate following a domestic violence charge in 2009.

Both are seeking the seat being vacated by incumbent Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Heastie Open To More Flood Relief Proposals

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated Wednesday he was open to doing more to help communities impacted by flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Heastie was in the North Country region with Assemblywoman Addie Jenne to tour businesses and flood damage as well as attractions like Boldt Castle in the region as part of a statewide tour this summer.

“I was trying to see if there are structural things we can do to help with equipment purchases, particularly for businesses that operate on the water,” Heastie told reporters.

The Legislature approved a $55 million flood relief package earlier this month, part of an omnibus bill in an extraordinary session.

Heastie on Wednesday referenced damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in the New York City region as an example of flood damage recovery efforts that have remained an ongoing concern.

“For those of us downstate we saw the damages of Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “It just makes me want to ask a lot of questions. We can’t do anything to prevent Mother Nature from doing whatever it is she wants to do, but if there are things we can do to protect the residents and businesses we should continue to look into it.”

Heastie Tours Lake Ontario Flooding

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday toured flood damage in the Lake Ontario area as part of another leg on his summer regional tour of the state.

The trip, with Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Assemblyman Harry Bronson in tow, included stops in Irondequoit and a visit to the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters’ Training Facility in Rochester.

“Visiting communities across the state offers us the opportunity to see the strengths of each community, but also the tough challenges,” said Heastie. “Today’s visit underscores that our $55 million investment in flood recovery for these communities was undoubtedly necessary and will help mitigate the damage and loss this region has faced. Similarly, at NRCC, we were able to see the tremendous potential for carpenters in the state and navigate our legislative agenda for the future.”

The Legislature approved a $55 million flood relief package earlier this month as part of an omnibus bill during an extraordinary session.

“In the wake of unprecedented flooding along the Lake Ontario waterfront, the State Legislature came together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation to provide critical relief for the many lakeside homeowners and businesses struggling to contend with the devastation brought on by the rising waters,” Morelle said.

Silver’s Successor Fundraises After Conviction Reversed

From the Morning Memo:

Yuh-Line Niou, the Democratic lawmaker who holds Sheldon Silver’s lower Manhattan Assembly seat, released a fundraising appeal after the former speaker’s corruption conviction on Thursday was reversed.

“Our community is moving forward united—but I still need your help,” the fundraising email states. “We need to be ready to fight against the wealthy special interests and party bosses who are desperate to gain power again. We need to be prepared to protect our communities and fight for the changes we wish to see in our government.”

Niou had initially run for the seat after Silver was removed from office following his conviction on fraud charges, losing to Alice Cancel, who was seen as part of the former speaker’s political operation in the district.

Niou ran on the Working Families Party line in the April special election.

Later that year, Niou defeated Cancel in a Democratic primary and later won the seat in the general election.

In her fundraising note, Niou wrote a donation — suggested at $100 — would “send a message” New York is ready to pass ethics reform.

“As you know with today’s news, Sheldon Silver’s conviction was vacated, but the facts of his case remain unchanged. We know the importance of the rule of law in the age of Trump,” the email states. “No one should be above justice, and those in public service should be fighting for our community–not their own enrichment.”

Heastie, Kolb Offer Contrasting Reactions

Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Brian Kolb, offered differing assessments of Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction being overturned on Thursday.

In his statement, Heastie offered a cautious and neutral reaction.

“As I have said we must respect the judicial process,” he said. “It is a pillar of our democracy. Today’s decision is a part of that process.”​

Heastie succeeded Silver as speaker in 2015.

Kolb’s comments, however, were more expansive and critical of both Silver and the Albany culture.

“Today’s Second Circuit decision shows that the golden age of Albany corruption is still very much alive,” Kolb said. “This is a disappointing and embarrassing day in New York. Sheldon Silver was tried and convicted of fraud, extortion and money laundering. If his actions weren’t illegal, it’s hard to imagine what is.”

Kolb assailed Silver’s time as speaker, accusing him of “putting his office up for sale.”

“A jury of his peers found him guilty of abusing his position,” Kolb said. “This is exactly why the public has absolutely no trust in elected officials or state government. He should be retried; justice must prevail.”

Silver’s Attorneys: ‘Grateful’ Conviction Overturned

The attorneys for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a statement Thursday said they were “grateful” a federal appeals court overturned his corruption conviction.

“We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts,” said the attorneys, Steven Molo and Carrie Cohen.

Silver was ousted from Assembly seat in 2015 after he was convicted of fraud and bribery charges.

He had previously stepped down from his post as speaker of the Assembly following his arrest.

Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in the Southern District, indicated Wednesday the case will continue to move forward with a retrial.

“Although this decision puts on hold the justice that New Yorkers got upon Silver’s conviction, we look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York State history,” he said. “Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied.”

Heastie: NYC Could Act Administratively On Charter Schools

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in the Syracuse area on Wednesday reiterated his opposition from last month to do anything that would expand or bolster charter schools in New York City as a precondition to re-approving mayoral control of New York City schools.

Nevertheless, a side deal not involving Heastie was cut on the issue between Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and de Blasio, a Democrat who has been at odds wit the GOP conference in the state Senate.

Speaking with reporters, Heastie said the deal that would address so-called “zombie” charter schools that have closed, but still count toward a cap, was the mayor’s prerogative.

“We didn’t want to do anything legislatively regarding charters,” Heastie said. “The mayor of the city of New York has the right to administratively do things that doesn’t have the effect of the Legislature to take action.”

Lawmakers initially concluded the regularly scheduled legislative session in June without extending mayoral control as Heastie stayed pat on the charter schools linkage, pushed by Senate Republicans and with public support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In the end, Heastie got what he sought: The omnibus legislation didn’t include a charter school provision.

“As that developed, that was really up to the mayor of the city of New York and people in the charter community and those who support it,” he said.

Heastie on Wednesday was kicking off the first day of his upstate summer tour, with plans to visit all regions of the state in the coming weeks.