Bill de Blasio

De Blasio: ‘Crucially Important’ Assembly Leadership ‘Fair’ To NYC

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio refused today to pick a favorite in the ongoing speakership tussle taking place in the Assembly Democratic conference, though he stressed that whoever is ultimately selected to lead the chamber must be “fair” to the five boroughs and keep his city’s best interests in mind.

“It’s crucially important New York City have leadership in the Assembly that wants to be fair to New York City,” the mayor told reporters. “And let’s be clear, we often don’t get our fair share from state government.”

“Looking at the education funding dynamic. Look at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, and the court settlement there and the fact that to this day we still are owed billions and billions of dollars in education funding. That’s not the only area where there’s that kind of disparity. I think historically, the Assembly leadership has tried to defend the valid interests of New York City, and it’s very important that that continue.”

An upstate-downstate divide is just one of several rifts within the conference that have emerged since Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges last week touched off a furious round of discussions – both public and private – about whether the Manhattan Democrat is too damaged to continue in his leadership role.

Last night, after a marathon closed-door session, the Assembly Democrats emerged to announce that they agreed Silver must go – though whether he will voluntarily heed a growing call for himto resign or they will be forced to actively seek his removal remains an open question. They remain far from an agreement, however, on who should replace Silver once he’s out of the picture.

The possibility that Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, might succeed Silver – even on a temporary basis – is believed to make the de Blasio administration nervous. Not only is Morelle an upstater, but he is a more moderate Democrat than the very liberal NYC mayor, who has become an outspoken champion of the left since his election in the fall of 2013.

Observers and insiders believe that the mayor’s preferred speaker candidate is Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie. But de Blasio insisted – just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly has – that this decision rests with the Assembly Democrats, and them alone. He did not deny that members of his administrastion are making calls up to Albany about the speaker situation, but said those calls aren’t intended to try to influence the outcome.

“I’m not talking to Assembly members at all,” the mayor said. “We’re trying to keep abrest of what’s happening because we have a lot of things that matter to us…We’re trying to stay close to what’s happening so we are able to act on the substance of the situation. We’re just trying to gather information.”

The perception that de Blasio might be trying to ivolve himself in this battle is not sitting well with Assembly Republicans, who, no doubt, recall the Democratic mayor’s heavy – and ultimately unsuccessful – involvement in last year’s fight for control of the state Senate, in which he raised campaign cash for the Democrats to aid their effort to re-take full control of the upper house.

Yesterday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a former assemblyman himself, issued a statement demanding that the next speaker be from NYC, noting there will be no legislative leader from the five boroughs if that does not occur.

(Also note that a NYC speaker has long been the tradition. The last upstate speaker was Binghamton’s James Tallon, who only held the position for a few days after the conviction on federal fraud charges of former Speaker Mel Miller, who was later exonerated. Tallon, as majority leader, automatically rose to the position of interim speaker when Miller was convicted, but he was quickly deposed by Assemblyman Saul Weprin, of Queens).

De Blasio was taken some heat for defending Silver in the wake of the speaker’s arrest. The mayor reiterated today that his comments praising Silver were “about my own experience” and were made based on the “consistency” the speaker has displayed over the 20 years de Blasio has known him.

“He has done everything he said he was going to do,” explained de Blasio, who said he has not read the US attorney’s complaint outlining the charges against Silver. “Obviously, I’ve made very clear that we would not have achieved pre-K for all qwithout him. and that’s very important to me. So, I’m talking about my own experience and the consistency I’ve seen in him in that experience.”

De Blasio, With Business Before Albany, Defends Silver

From the Morning Memo:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio needed a friend in Albany and this year he drew Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

At odds with Senate Republicans after he sought to oust them from power in the Senate, de Blasio’s natural ally in the Legislature is Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan.

Unfortunately for de Blasio, Silver is embroiled in a bribery and kickback scandal as he now faces five counts of corruption and fraud.

De Blasio on Thursday defended Silver as a man of integrity who has helped to do a lot for the city.

“I think there’s two separate concepts there,” de Blaso told reporters. “I think he has a right to due process. I really think that’s something we always need to affirm. Allegations are allegations. Charges are charges. And there has to be a process to determine the outcome. I think, separately, it’s a true statement – he’s done a lot for New York City, and I value that certainly.”

And he differentiated between the charges former Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican, faces and Silver’s legal troubles.

“I think in Michael Grimm’s case, we saw a pattern of questionable practices over a long period of time, and it played out. I think, in my experience with Shelly Silver, I’ve seen integrity and public service,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio still has to get his agenda through the Legislature, of course. A number of major issues impacting New York City are before Albany state lawmakers this year, including an extension of rent control protections and mayoral control of New York City schools.

De Blasio’s New Albany Calculus

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein proved to be a key ally for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Albany last year.

The mayor, though, faces a different calculus in Albany this year after pushing Democratic candidates in unsuccessful races.

Now, de Blasio faces a Republican-led Senate in year that mayoral control of city schools is up for renewal as well as rent-control regulations. At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will no doubt push to strengthen charter schools statewide.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos didn’t hesitate to criticize de Blasio’s statements on the New York City Police Department with reporters today.

“I think that Mayor de Blasio has to be more sensitive, in terms of the words or statements he makes concerning the police,” Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said in a post-session gaggle.

The comments come as lawmakers will be mulling potential changes to the state’s criminal justice system in the wake of the Eric Garner decision as well as the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers.

Deputy Senate GOP Leader Tom Libous indicated last night those changes may be arriving later in the session.

“There’s always been differences between the Senate and the Assembly when it comes to these issues,” Libous said, making something of an understatement when it comes to the divide between Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans when it comes to the details of criminal justice issues.

Klein, who does not have the same degree of power he had over the last two years, said he remains a staunch supporter of mayoral control, adding that is “hopefuL” it is maintained.

“I think it’s going to be a balance, like we’ve always done. I’m a firm believer in the continuation of mayoral control,” Klein said. “An issue as important as education should be directly in the hands of an executive, like a mayor.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver remains the most natural ally for de Blasio in Albany. The speaker today echoed Klein’s words.

“It’s obviously up for renewal,” he said. “It has worked well in the city of New York and hopefully it will continue.”

Astorino Piles On de Blasio

From the Morning Memo:

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino last night accused NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio of making an already bad situation “worse” with his “rhetoric” in an ongoing war of words with the NYC police unions following the Eric Garner grand jury decision.

“What is not helpful is to have certain people in the community – including, by the way, Mayor de Blasio, who I think is making it worse in New York City right now with his rhetoric and turning his back in many ways on law enforcement – to inflame the situation rather than bringing some common sense,” Astorino said during a CapTon interview last night.

“I think adults need to be in the room right now,” the county executive continued. “…Everyone needs a little time out here.”

The county executive also said he did not agree with PBA President Pat Lynch’s call for NYPD officers to fill out a form asking de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty.

“I think that was a little over the top,” Astorino said. “But, you know, I understand why they feel that way, you look at what they’re going through as well.”

The county executive predicted more attacks on law enforcement and even “race riots” with New York City officials can’t get a handle on the situation.

It’s not surprising that Astorino, a conservative Republican who failed in his attempt to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month, would criticize de Blasio. The mayor is not only a Democrat, but also a liberal poster boy leading a national push for progressive policies.

De Blasio played a key role in the Senate Republicans’ successful campaign to re-take the majority this fall, raising campaign cash for the Democrats and providing fodder for the GOP’s exploitation of the upstate-downstate divide.

And this isn’t the first time Astorino had something negative to say about the mayor. Back in October, just as the governor’s race was heating up, Astorino told The New York Observer that he believed de Blasio only measures success by “how many people on welfare.”

For the record, Cuomo tried to play peacemaker between de Blasio and Lynch yesterday.

He insisted the mayor’s comments about warning his son, Dante, about how to deal with the police were not “racist”, and also called Lynch a “friend” and fellow “Queens boy” who is just “standing up for the police, which is his job.”

“I believe at the next funeral – and I hope there is not a next funeral – I am sure at the next funeral…you’ll see the mayor of New York, you’ll see me and you’ll see Pat Lynch because we need to work together,” Cuomo said during an interview with Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom”.

As for Astorino, don’t expect him to go quietly into the night following his loss to Cuomo.

The county executive, who gave a broad hint during his election night concession speech that he’s thinking of running for governor again in 2018, reiterated yesterday that he’s indeed “leaving the door open” to another run.

Astorino, who was re-elected to a second term to his county executive post in 2013, said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll seek a third term in 2017.

The county executive referred to himself several times during the 10-minute+ interview as a candidate, and then promptly corrected himself.

He also insisted that Republicans can “make inroads” in New York City, enabling them to win statewide, if they have sufficient time and resources to do so.

Cuomo Plays Peacemaker For Lynch And de Blasio

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday adopted a peacekeeper role between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and police union head Pat Lynch amid the increasingly fraught dynamics in the wake of the Eric Garner case.

Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, has suggested that de Blasio and other elected officials stay away from police funderals.

But Cuomo today on The Capitol Pressroom downplayed the growing rift between de Blasio and the NYPD as protests continue following a Staten Island grand jury not indicting a police officer who held Garner in a chokehold that ultimately led to his death.

“I’m sure at the next funeral, God forbid that there is one, you’ll see the mayor of New York, you’ll see me and you’ll see Pat Lynch,” Cuomo said. “I know the mayor very well and I know Pat very well and I know we will be working together.”

Cuomo added that he understands why Lynch has in recent days has made critical statements in recent days, adding that police officers overall are doing an “extraordinary job.”

The comments from the governor come after a police lieutenant over the weekend was injured during one of the demonstrations.

“I also know that Pat has tremendous respect for the office of the mayor and understands the police need a good relationship with the mayor. And he also understands the mayor has a job to do,” Cuomo said.

He also disagreed with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said it was “racist” for de Blasio to have instructed his son Dante, who is black, how to handle interactions with the police.

“The mayor was speaking sincerely about concern for his son and his son’s safety,” Cuomo said. “I think Pat is defending the police point of view and the police perspective.”

Cuomo has spoken in recent days both to Lynch as well as activists including Russell Simmons and Jay Z regarding potential reforms to the state’s criminal justice system following the Garner case.

Cuomo has raised the possibility of forming a special prosecutor’s office to handle brutality cases as well as more transparency for grand juries in certain cases.

The governor reiterated that he’s planning to introduce a “comprehensive package” of criminal justice reforms that “will restore and improve confidence” in the criminal justice system.

Cuomo said he plans to unveil these proposals around the time of his State of the State address next month.

De Blasio: ‘Black Lives Matter’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is undertaking one of the biggest challenges of his year-old mayoralty after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.

De Blasio this morning released a lengthy statement to supporters following a night of protests and demonstrations throughout the city.

The mayor adopted what has become a rallying cry for demonstrators in protests and on social media following the deaths of unarmed black teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown — “black lives matter.”

“When invoking this refrain, we must be mindful that issues surrounding policing and civil rights are not just an issue for people of color, they’re not just a problem for young people, and they’re not just a problem for people who get stopped by police,” de Blasio said. “They’re a problem for all Americans who care about justice.”

He added that “frustration is understandable” as he urged peaceful protests.

“Centuries of racism precede us. But working together, we can turn from that history and make a profound and lasting change in the culture of law enforcement and bring police and community closer together,” he said.

And, as he did yesterday in public and in statements, touted his own administration’s work on policing matters.

“We’ve dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk, initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community, reduced arrests for minor marijuana possession, and given officers body cameras to improve transparency and accountability,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio: City ‘Ready To Cooperate’ With Federal Investigation

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday afternoon reacted to a Staten Island grand jury not indicting a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, saying in a statement his administration is “ready to cooperate” with a possible federal investigation.

De Blasio, in his statement, said the grand jury is “but one part of the process.”

“There will still be an NYPD internal investigation. And we know the US Attorney is continuing her investigation,” he said. “Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate.”

De Blasio also defended his own efforts on reforming policing in the city, touting his appointment of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton as a “proven change agent” and plans to introduce body cameras for police officers.

“We have dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community,” de Blasio said. “We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrests, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability.”

Skelos Knocks De Blasio’s ‘Inappropriate’ Efforts For Senate Dems

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday for attempting to help Democrats gain full control of the state Senate as “inappropriate.”

De Blasio this election season sought to aid Democrats in key races around the state.

Flipping the Senate is important for de Blasio’s agenda to pass in Albany as the mayor seeks a local minimum wage increase and an upper hand in negotiations over rent control and mayoral control of city schools expiring next year.

But the plan failed: Republicans gained their first outright majority in the Senate since 2010.

As such, de Blasio and Skelos — never close to begin with — are lined up for a policy clash come 2015.

“My position is you govern, the elections are over, but certainly I don’t believe the mayor interjected himself appropriately with his staff and fundraising in so many of our races,” Skelos said. “I think it was inappropriate what he did.”

Skelos also took a swipe at de Blasio’s reputation for tardiness.

“He did call me last week — a little later than I thought he would,” Skelos said with a laugh. “I think he said 1 and he called at 1:15.”

Republicans had a longtime friend in City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed heavily to the state Senate GOP.

De Blasio: Not So Dangerous

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brushed off criticism from Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos that his agenda is “dangerous” and that his support for a Democratic-controlled Senate would be problematic for the rest of the state.

Skelos, on The Capitol Press Room this morning, said de Blasio’s agenda passing a Democratic-controlled Senate would be “the worst thing” for the state.

“If you look at his agenda, I think it’s dangerous for this state,” Skelos said. “You have his candidates running for the Senate or running for re-election around this state.”

Obviously, de Blasio disagrees, saying full control of the Senate by Democrats would help middle-income people.

“I think helping working people reach the middle class is what the state needs,” he said according to a transcript. “So, if somehow, Senator Skelos thinks it’s dangerous that people would get better wages and benefits, I don’t understand that. I think we need to uplift our working people. They’re struggling. And right now, we have an opportunity to act here in this city, so we’re acting with every tool we have to help working families. We need to do that across the state of New York. And that’s why we need a Democratic state senate majority.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio insisted Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains on board with a plan to allow local governments to increase the state’s minimum wage on its own, based on a state formula even after the governor maneuvered to alter an initial proposal for pre-Kindergarten in New York City that took the idea statewide.

“The governor said very clearly this spring that he supports the minimum wage increase, he supports indexing, he supports local opportunity to adjust minimum wage within the context of the state law. He said it repeatedly. And I take him at his word, and I look forward to following through with a new Democratic Senate,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio Endorses Sampson Foe Smitherman

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Dell Smitherman, the primary opponent to Brooklyn Sen. John Sampson — a nod that follows the endorsement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Dell has been a dedicated organizer and activist for years, and he’s been a steadfast ally in my fight to make life better for working families in New York,” de Blasio said in a statement released by Smitherman’s campaign. “From fighting for a higher minimum wage to expanding healthcare access and public transit, Dell’s priorities are the priorities of working New Yorkers. I’m proud to endorse his campaign for Senate, and look forward to doing my part to ensure he wins on Primary Day.”

Over the weekend, Smitherman was endorsed by Cuomo, who praised the labor advocate for “fight for working and middle class New Yorkers.”

“I am proud to endorse Dell Smitherman for State Senate,” Cuomo said. “Dell is a lifelong Brooklyn resident who has dedicated his career to fighting for working and middle class New Yorkers. He helped rally community support for our successful effort to raise the minimum wage and I look forward to working together in Albany next year to build on that progress and pass the Dream Act and the Women’s Equality Act.”

Both Cuomo and de Blasio have pledged to help Democrats regain full control of the Senate, helping broker a new coalition agreement with the mainline conference and the Independent Democratic Conference.

A Sampson defeat next Tuesday would be an important piece of that puzzle falling into place, considering the lawmaker is technically not part of any legislative conference in the chamber.

Sampson is facing charges of embezzling from an escrow account he managed in order to fund his campaign for district attorney in Brooklyn. The one-time Senate leader was indicted again earlier this year for lying to federal law enforcement.

Smitherman has been endorsed by the Working Families Party as well as a host of key labor groups: AFL-CIO, 1199 SEIU, 32 BJ SEIU, Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Communication Workers of America 1180, Communication Workers of America District 1, UAW, Transport Workers Union, Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, United Food and Commercial Workers.

Smitherman is also the preferred candidate of the good-government organization Citizens Union in the primary race.