Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo: As Many As 700 Migrant Children In New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has revised the estimated total of children who have been detained in New York by the federal government to as many as 700, he said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

In the call, Cuomo indicated it has been difficult for New York officials to track the children entering the state and residing at shelters after being separating from their parents at the border with Mexico.

“We could have as many as 700 children in our state. When they are being sent to an agency, they’re being sent with a federal gag order where the agency cannot tell the state how many children they have or any of the particulars about the children they have,” Cuomo said. “The HHS has also been shuffling children from agency to agency. Which makes it even harder to track.”

Cuomo urged the Department of Health and Human Services to allow state officials provide aid and support to the children already in New York.

“And my point is, we should at least—it’s my state legal responsibility—for the health and welfare of those children, and I want to know where they are,” Cuomo said. “They’re not political pawns that you can hide.”

Cuomo this week announced New York would file a lawsuit over the family separation policy. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order ending the practice of separating undocumented families when being detained, but Cuomo insisted the action was not as robust as the federal government has made it appear.

“It was a political pirouette to fool the press. And the political pirouette was partially successful because the headlines say the President reversed himself,” he said. “He did not reverse himself. The Executive Order came full circle.”

Cuomo Opens Door To Special Session For Speed Camera Extension

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call with reporters on Thursday left the door open to calling a special session that would address the extension of a speed camera program in New York City.

But he left the time period for when it might occur wide open — potentially anytime between now and September.

The state Senate left Albany after ending the legislative session in the early hours of Thursday morning without taking up an extension of the speed camera program near schools in New York City. A provision that would have either extended or expanded cameras in the state budget similarly dropped out of the negotiations in March.

“I think it would be an atrocity if the Senate doesn’t make sure the speed cameras are renewed by September,” Cuomo said, referring to the start of the next school year.

Cuomo added he would bring the Legislature back “at a moment’s notice” to address the issue — but did not precisely say when that could occur.

A special session in the summer during an election year would be a tricky gambit given the narrow divide in the state Senate, split between Democrats and Republicans at 31 members each amid the absence of GOP Sen. Tom Croci.

It is also difficult to hold a special session in general without other issues being brought up during the negotiations and ultimately considered by lawmakers.

Lawmakers last held a post-session meeting in Albany to renew mayoral control of New York City schools, but also took up a range of other additional issues to entice upstate lawmakers to return.

Cuomo Treads Carefully Around Buffalo Billion Trial

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on NY1 on Wednesday tread carefully when asked about the corruption trial underway in New York City stemming from a massive economic development program for western New York.

The trial centers around charges of pay-to-play bid rigging surrounding the Buffalo Billion program, with former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros and prominent upstate developers facing federal corruption charges.

In the interview, Cuomo defined the case as “basically a bid rigging case where a developer obtained a contract from the state university system.”

“The charge is they wrongfully obtained the contract,” he said in his first public comments about the trial since it started this week. “That’s what the trial is about. We’ll find out if they are right or wrong. The law’s the law. If they’re wrong, they should pay the full penalty of breaking the law.”

After taking office in 2011, Cuomo lavished attention and state resources on western New York and Buffalo in particular, funding aimed to boost the local economy and generate job growth in the area.

Kaloyeros, the former SUNY official, had been a key component of spreading the success in the Capital Region from the SUNY nanotech facility in Albany.

As for the trial’s particulars, which include revelations that Kaloyeros had sought to keep secret his email exchanges, Cuomo said, “I haven’t been following it all that closely.”

Cuomo Says He Wants To Keep And Expand Speed Cameras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on NY1 Wednesday said he wanted to see the passage of a bill expanding the speed camera program in New York City, calling it important for safety.

“I very much hope they renew the speed cameras,” he said. “I would extend the speed cameras. There is opposition in the state Senate to both extending and expanding the speed cameras and that’s an issue that’s being hotly contested right now.”

Efforts to simply renew the program, however, remain mired in legislative gridlock as the session is scheduled to end today. Sen. Simcha Felder, a key Democrat who conferences with Republicans, has called for any renewal to be coupled with the placement of police officers in New York City schools.

As for the session itself, Cuomo insisted the last six months in Albany have been productive, noting he got most of what he could get done in the state budget agreement, but he remains at odds with GOP lawmakers on issues like reproductive rights and gun control.

“The items we couldn’t get resolved we still can’t resolved because there are philosophical differences primarily me and the Assembly and the Republicans in the state Senate,” he said.

The speed camera issue itself remains one of the unresolved matters that did not get included in the final budget agreement.

With Buffalo Billion Trial Underway, Transparency Bills Sputter

A bid rigging trial began this week in New York City, a trial that includes prominent upstate developers and former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, taking on pay-to-play charges from a major economic development program for upstate New York.

Kaloyeros

Two hundred miles north, the legislative session in Albany is ending without final passage of any transparency or anti-corruption measures.

“One would think that as a result of the trial now having started in Manhattan that there would be greater interest,” said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Democrat from western New York who is backing the measures in his chamber. “I think there is many quarters, but there are also those who do not wish to poke the bear.”

The bills would create new transparency and oversight requirements for economic development and contract spending in New York. In an interview, Schimminger said it’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo who doesn’t want to see the measures approved.

“There is a reluctance to displease the governor,” Schimminger said. “The governor does not want these bills moved. It’s as simple as that.”

Cuomo has called for oversight changes, but the measures never gained any traction in Assembly. On Tuesday, the governor virtually threw in the towel on the remainder of the session.

“The issues that are left on the table, which have been left on the table since April when we couldn’t resolved them, are fundamental philosophical differences,” Cuomo said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

Meanwhile, former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner launched her independent bid for governor. A Democrat and former state committee co-chair, Miner says she is basing her campaign in large part around the corruption issues that have plagued state government in recent years.

“My path to winning is to say to voters who are dissatisfied with the status quo and people who think that corruption, the culture of corruption, is a formidable problem in Albany,” Miner said.

Ethics legislation hasn’t always died on the legislative vine in Albany. Lawmakers have approved a reform package virtually every year Cuomo has been governor.

New York To Sue Federal Government Over Child Separation Policy

New York will file a lawsuit against the federal government’s policy of separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday in a news conference call.

At the same time, Cuomo revealed at least 70 children separated from their families have been residing in 10 facilities contracted by the federal government in New York, including Dobbs Ferry, Lincondale, Kingston, Yonkers, the Bronx, Irvington and Syosett.

Cuomo called the policy of separating migrant families, some of whom are seeking asylum status in the United States “inhumane.”

“I am used to all kinds of political negotiations,” Cuomo said. “I’ve never seen children being used as a bargaining chip.”

It has not been determined where the lawsuit will be filed. But Cuomo said the challenge will rest on constitutionality claims, as well as a violation of existing law and that the federal government is engaging in “outrageous conduct.”

Cuomo also deeply criticized the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s actions in New York, including incidents in Rome and New York City that saw the detentions of undocumented residents.

But Cuomo stopped short of calling for ICE to be completely abolished. Instead, the agency should be not be used as it has under President Donald Trump’s administration, which Cuomo said it has “transformed into a political police apparatus.”

The Trump administration has defended the practice of separating families, insisting at times the policy is based on an existing law that was approved a Democratic-controlled Congress and that the measure is an attempt to have lawmakers agree to funding a border wall.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo fired by Cuomo against the Trump administration’s policies in recent months that have had him sharply criticizing immigration enforcement efforts.

Cuomo Challenges Pence On Immigration During NY Trip

Gov. Andrew Cuomo chided Vice President Mike Pence over the Trump administration’s immigration policies as he fundraises in central New York on Tuesday for Rep. John Katko.

In a letter to Pence, Cuomo referenced the vice president’s own heritage and immigrant grandfather.

“Today this nation’s commitment to openness and tolerance is under siege by your administration,” Cuomo said. “Your policy of ripping children from their parents is a moral outrage and an assault on the values that built this state and this nation. This policy makes it very clear you have forgotten what made America great.”

Cuomo has blasted the Trump administration’s immigration policies over the last year and a half as the issue comes to a crisis level stemming from border enforcement agents separating families. The Trump administration has falsely blamed Democrats for the policy while insisting it is following a pre-existing law.

“If the parents’ anguish does not compel you to end this policy, then the children’s plight must,” Cuomo said. “I have heard the terrifying sobs of the children separated from their parents. And I know that your administration’s actions will have devastating long-term consequences for these children. Research and common-sense point to the developmental effects of depriving children of their parents. Such a traumatic experience can in fact trigger irreversible physical and psychological harm.”

At the same time, Cuomo continued to knock immigration enforcement efforts in New York, including the detention of an undocumented man in New York after delivering a pizza to a military base.

“I have already expressed my grave concerns with this administration’s anti-immigrant tactics, including when I requested the Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General to investigate their discriminatory tactics in our state and called on him to tell us what his office is doing about the assault on immigrant families along the border,” Cuomo said. “And I will continue to fight to defend our American values and protect the rights of all New Yorkers.”

Cuomo Praises Assembly Passage Of Bill Blocking Offshore Drilling

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Assembly passage of a bill Monday evening that blocks offshore drilling in New York waters.

The measure, known as the Save Our Waters bill, would prohibit the leasing of New York lands, including those underwater, from offshore drilling and exploration, as well as drilling infrastructure.

In a statement to be released widely on Tuesday, Cuomo called the bill’s passage in the Assembly a “clear message to the federal government that there is no way we will ever allow offshore drilling in our state.”

“Offshore drilling is a dangerous threat to our environment and antithetical to our efforts in New York State to attract the jobs of tomorrow,” Cuomo said. “In New York, we are proud to be leading the way in the clean energy economy, including with our ambitious goal to source 50 percent of our energy from renewable energy like wind and solar by 2030. We’re not going backward, we’re going forward.”

Cuomo urged the Republican-controlled Senate to take up the bill “without delay” in the final two days of the legislative session. That’s easier said than done, however, given the 31-31 deadlock in the Senate hamstringing action on controversial bills over the last several weeks.

The bill, however, is especially of interest for communities on Long Island, both on the South Shore as well as the Long Island Sound.

“The federal government has launched an attack on our environment and it has New York’s coastal waters in its sights,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican—do your job to protect the people of New York.”

Cuomo Won’t Deploy Guards Troops To Border

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement Monday said New York will not deploy National Guard units to the southern border amid the heightened controversy surrounding migrant families being separated upon entry.

“In the face of this ongoing human tragedy, let me be very clear: New York will not be party to this inhumane treatment of immigrant families,” Cuomo said. “We will not deploy National Guard to the border, and we will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division.”

It was not clear how many units were to be deployed to the border. The statement comes as Cuomo has been increasingly vocal in his push back against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including the detention of an undocumented immigrant residing in New York who was detained after delivering a pizza to an Army base in New York City.

“Day after day, I am increasingly disturbed by the reports of disgraceful tactics used by ICE both in our own state and along our nation’s border,” Cuomo said. “I have called on the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to investigate illegal and discriminatory ICE tactics in New York and to tell us what his office is doing about the assault on immigrant families along our border.”

DOH Report To Recommend Legalized Marijuana

The state Department of Health in a report to be finalized and released in the coming days will recommend a commercial and recreational marijuana program for New York, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Monday in Brooklyn.

“The pros outweigh the cons, and the report recommends a regulated legal marijuana program be available to adults in the state of New York,” Zucker said.

The details are yet unclear on what age marijuana would be made available to New Yorkers and how a tax plan would be devised to generate revenue from it.

The report was first announced in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address as a way to assess the impact of legalized marijuana programs in neighboring states. After launching her campaign for governor in March, Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, called for a legal recreational marijuana program in New York.

Still, Cuomo has in the past been skeptical of full marijuana legalization, and was even slow to come around on the use of the drug for medical purposes. He pushed hard for a strict medical marijuana program, though the number of ailments for which the drug can be prescribed has been broadened over the years, as has the number of people capable of prescribing it.

Cuomo has previously called marijuana a “gateway drug,” but in January said the “facts have changed” on the issue.

On Monday, Zucker said medical evidence does not show marijuana to be a gateway drug.

“When those facts change, we need to do a better analysis of that,” Zucker said.

“This is no different than medicine,” Zucker added. “When new facts come in, you have new data.”

At the same time, the DOH will add prescription opioid usage to the list of illnesses that qualify patients for the medical marijuana, Zucker said.

The hope is that a medical marijuana prescription would potentially help a patient avoid an addiction to a prescription opioid, expanding the program to a broader universe of patients who qualify for prescription painkillers.

“The goal here is to make sure the program is inclusive and individuals who would benefit would,” Zucker said, adding the regulations would be “tailored to individual patients.”

The state over the years has sought to expand the medical marijuana program through regulatory action since it has come on line in the last four years, adding illnesses like PTSD.

“This is a program we have grown responsibly,” Zucker said. “We feel this is another way to add the program forward.”