Bill de Blasio

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.

De Blasio Endorses IDC’s Klein And Avella

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday endorsed two members of the Independent Democratic Conference who face primary challenges this September.

The endorsements from de Blasio to Sens. Jeff Klein of the Bronx and Tony Avella of Queens come the same day as the labor-aligned Working Families Party, close allies for the mayor, has decided to stay neutral in those primaries.

“Throughout this past session, Sen. Jeff Klein and Sen. Tony Avella worked tirelessly on behalf of the residents of New York City and helped make progress on issues that had been stalled for far too long,” de Blasio said in a statement. “With their leadership, we secured a record increase in funding for universal Pre-K, a fair budget for New York City, needed property tax relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and the changes we need to save lives and improve street safety.”

Klein has worked especially closely with de Blasio, who took office this year, and has helped to usher through the rookie mayor’s legislative agenda in Albany, most recently a proposal to lower the speed limit in New York City to 25 mph.

De Blasio, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, helped broker an agreement that led to the IDC ending its coalition agreement in the state Senate with the Republican conference.

Klein faces a primary challenge from former city Councilman Oliver Koppell; Avella faces former city Comptroller John Liu.

De Blasio Hosts GOTV Tele Town Hall for WFP

The Working Families Party just sent out a blast email announcing that its leaders and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a tele town hall this Thursday night focused on the party’s recent endorsement deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and its effort to “get a bigger-than-ever vote” on Row D for the governor this fall.

The news comes just 24 hours after the candidate the WFP recruited to pressure Cuomo into accepting its endorsement conditions, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, formally announced her plan to mount a primary challenge against Cuomo for the Democratic line. Teachout, as you’ll recall, failed to receive sufficient support at the WFP’s May 31 convention to get onto the ballot, but she did get 41.3 percent of the weighted convention vote to Cuomo’s 58.7 percent.

De Blasio, who was instrumental in brokering the endorsement agreement between the WFP and Cuomo, will host the call at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. That also just so happens to be the final scheduled day of the 2014 legislative session, during which none of the WFP’s top policy agenda items – the DREAM Act, creation of a statewide public campaign finance system, the full 10-point Women’s Equality Act, decriminalization of possession of sall amounts of marijuana and a $10.10 minimum wage/local control over hourly wage icnreases – are likely to be passed by the Legislature.

The WFP has blamed the failure of its agenda squarely on the Senate GOP-IDC coalition, and for that reason is pushing for full control of the chamber by the Democrats.

Cuomo and the WFP’s major labor union partners all signed on to that effort, though exactly what Cuomo will be doing to achieve that goal has yet to be worked out. Also, a number of unions continue to support IDC Leader Jeff Klein in his primary battle with former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell, though they are supporting – or at least promising to support – primary challengers to other IDC members, including former NYC Comptroller John Liu, who is running against the IDC’s newest member, Queens Sen. Tony Avella.

In the email announcing Thursday’s tele town hall, WFP State Director Bill Lipton admitted the party’s legislative agenda is “a big vision and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

“This November, we’ll need a bigger than ever vote on our ballot line than ever – voting on the WFP line for Governor Cuomo means voting for that progressive vision,” Lipton continued. “We believe we can do it – with your help. This campaign for a progressive future starts now.”


De Blasio Enlists Hasidic Leaders To Pressure Carlucci (Updated)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently enlisted ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders in Sen. David Carlucci’s district in the effort to get the Hudson Valley lawmaker to abandon the IDC and re-join the regular Democratic conference, a source familiar with the mayor’s actions confirmed.

While de Blasio did not reach out to the leaders himself, he did ask people affiliated with him to do so on his behalf. A second source confirmed that leaders in New Square, the all-Hasidic village in the town of Ramapo, Rockland County, were contacted.

However, Carlucci said today (through a spokeswoman) that he has not been contacted by any Jewish leaders and was not aware of de Blasio’s ask.

“There’s a lot of important work to accomplish during this final week of session, and I’m focused on getting things done for my constituents and the people of New York State,” Carlucci said in a statement. “I look forward to running on my record of accomplishments as a member of the Independent Democratic Conference.”

The source familiar with de Blasio’s effort said the mayor is very committed to trying to bring the IDC back into the Democratic fold – a requirement in order to achieve the goal of a Democrat-controlled Senate, which was part of the endorsement deal de Blasio helped broker between the Working Families Party and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The reunification effort is multifaceted and involves threatening IDC members with primary challenges (some of which are further along than others) if they don’t agree to end their power-sharing deal with the Republicans.

While IDC Leader Jeff Klein and the conference’s newest member, Queens Sen. Tony Avella, already have announced challengers with well-established campaigns and supporters – former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell and former NYC Comptroller John Liu, respectively – primary challengers to the other three members have only just recently started to emerge.

On Staten Island, MTA Board member Allen Cappelli has confirmed he’s mulling a challenge to Sen. Diane Savino. In Syracuse, Common Councilor-a-Large Jean Kessner said today that she’s starting to circulate petitions for a potential run against Sen. David Valesky, and called on the senator to agree to return to the traditional Democratic conference within the next 24 hours. (Valesky rejected this call, saying he would not engage in “extortion politics”).

Earlier this week, Democatic activist and Clarkstown Town Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner said she’s eyeing a primary challenge to Carlucci, and union officials have increased their pressure on the senator to abandon his fellow breakaway Democrats. Carlucci has since said he has no immediate plans to leave the IDC, and will make decisions about his political future after the legislative session ends next Thursday.

Carlucci’s home Democratic organization, the Rockland County party, has declined to endorse him for re-election. The DN’s Ken Lovett reported that Carlucci has urged his fellow IDC members to negotiate some sort of deal with the regular Democrats, but at least one other IDC member – Savino – denied that claim.

UPDATE: Several readers with intimate knowledge of the complexities of Orthodox Jewish politics called in to comment on this post.

One said the community is “beyond pissed” with the governor for calling for more oversight of the troubled East Ramapo School district, leading to the appointment by the state Education Department of a fiscal monitor. So, the idea that New Square leaders would do anything at this moment that might help the governor – like pressure an IDC member to return back to the Democrats and perhaps hasten the Democratic takeover of the Senate – is not realistic.