Downstate NY

Airbnb Hosts Criticize Stringer’s Airbnb Stance

Airbnb hosts in a letter to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released Thursday criticized his stance on promoting MWBE businesses and raising concerns over the online booking site.

“The truth is that you don’t ‘invest in MWBEs’ by cutting off a key source of startup capital and you don’t deliver ‘real, local wealth creation’ by siding with multi-billion dollar hotel companies against home sharing hosts who plow 97 percent of the list price of their space back into the local economy,” the letter states.

The letter also took Stringer to task for signing onto a letter that linked Airbnb to the legal problems facing Paul Manafort (the former Trump campaign manager was an Airbnb host for a real-estate property he owns).

“Instead of attacking constituents like us, you should be examining how hotel companies — including several that are in the portfolios of funds you manage on behalf of public servants — are bankrolling secret spying by third-party investigators that violates the privacy rights of everyday New Yorkers,” the letter states.

The company has been waging a regulatory battle in New York at the both the state and city level over the last several years, which has spilled over into political campaigns as well and put the firms at odds with hotel chains and the influential labor group Hotel Trades Council.

In a statement, Stringer’s office rebuked the hosts’ letter.

“We want our communities to be affordable and our neighborhoods to thrive,” said Stringer spokesman Tyrone Stevens. “We also believe that laws should be followed and millionaires shouldn’t use real estate to evade tax laws. That would be our message to the lobbyists and high-paid communications staff behind this letter.”

Letter to Comptroller Stringer From Airbnb Hosts 11 9 17 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Hillary Clinton Endorses Latimer

Hillary Clinton on Friday endorsed Democratic Westchester County executive George Latimer, who is locked in a heated race against Republican incumbent Rob Astorino.

“I’m proud to join Senators Schumer and Gillibrand in supporting George Latimer for County Executive, who is facing a difficult race against an opponent being funded by some of Donald Trump’s most powerful allies,” said Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate.

“It’s important that Democrats turn out on Tuesday and vote for Latimer, along with other Democrats running across Westchester, including the wave of New Castle business women, from Kristen Browde for New Castle Town Supervisor to Ivy Pool and Gail Markels for New Castle Town Board.”

A poll published Thursday showed Latimer and Astorino in a statistical dead heat.

Latimer, a state senator, has sought to link Astorino to President Donald Trump. Astorino has distanced himself from the president on key issues, including criticizing a House Republican tax plan on Thursday that would cap deductions on state and local taxes.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of Secretary Clinton. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her directly during her days as our U.S. Senator, and her intellect, energy and dedication were always on display,” Latimer said. “For those of us drawn to public service, Secretary Clinton has proven to be a tremendous role model and consummate public servant. Even in the face of the same Alt-Right hate and lies we now see in this campaign, she has proven to be a tireless fighter and advocate for all. We feel especially blessed to have her as a neighbor here in Westchester, and I look forward to serving as County Executive for her family, and every family in the county.”

Meanwhile, Astorino’s campaign continued to criticize Latimer for a variety of issues, including the taxes owed on a Rye home that is in his wife Robin’s name, his previously unpaid parking tickets that led to his car’s registration being suspended and his subsequently driving of the car despite the registration still being suspended.

“His bizarre and dishonest behavior should alarm anyone who cares about honest, competent government,” said Bill O’Reilly, an Astorino spokesman. “The outright lies he has told about the $48,742 his household owes in property taxes, and the ever-changing stories about his illegal driving and $2,200 in unpaid parking tickets, are the behavior of a delinquent teenager, not a serious man asking to take the helm of a million-person county with a $1.8 billion budget.”

Bellone Considers Forcing Spota Deputy’s Removal

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a radio interview on Thursday said he is considering asking county lawmakers there to forcibly remove a prosecutor who, along with the district attorney, was charged in an obstruction of justice case by federal law enforcement.

Bellone has been pushing for the resignation of District Attorney Tom Spota and his deputy, Chris McPartland, for the last several months, but increased those calls following their indictments on charges they aided in the cover up of the Suffolk police chief’s beating of a suspect in custody.

Bellone said he sent a letter to the county Legislature suggesting proceedings to remove McPartland from office should begin unless he steps down voluntarily.

“We can’t begin the process of restoring integrity to that office and restoring justice to the county while these two continue to hold office,” he told WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “If Chris McPartland does not resign from his office we need to begin proceedings to remove him from that office.”

Bellone added Spota needs to resign as well. Spota said last week he would step down following his federal indictment, but so far has not.

“Every day they remain in that office they are undermining the work that is happening in the courtroom,” Bellone said. “He needs to resign, I called for his resignation a week ago. Eight days later after the indictment he has still holding that office.”

Donovan Defends Trump (Updated w/Collins Comments)

President Donald Trump has ruffled the feathers of some of his fellow Republicans in Congress, who are not at all happy with his recent willingness to cut significant policy deals on contentious issues like the debt ceiling and DACA with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

But one New York Republican, who knows a little something about working across the aisle in the interest of political survival, is stepping up to defend the president’s newfound interest in bipartisanship, specifically when it comes to DACA.

Staten Island Rep. Dan Donovan, the lone GOP House member from Democrat-dominated New York City, issued the following statement this afternoon:

“For decades, previous administrations wouldn’t dare to expend their political capital to try and negotiate an immigration solution. Naysayers of the president will find a way to criticize what he ate for breakfast, but fact is he deserves credit for trying to get it done. This should be a wake-up call to those in Congress who refuse to negotiate in good faith.”

Now granted, Donovan is not your standard sort of Republican, as far as the conservative-leaning House GOP is concerned. He’s a moderate from a blue state that is home to a massive immigrant population who needs to be pragmatic when it comes to certain issues.

Staten Island may be the most GOP-friendly borough, but it’s still in NYC, after all, which makes it a heck of a lot more liberal than say, Texas. Even so, it’s worth noting that not every Republican is hating on the president for cozying up to Schumer and Pelosi.

UPDATE: I just happened to tune into MSNBC, where Rep. Chris Collins, a longtime Trump supporter and surrogate from Buffalo, is defending the president’s dealings with Democrats on DACA, and he’s also willing to give those who were brought here by their parents when they were children citizenship. He was quick to say, however, that most of his colleagues are not on board with that idea.

“They did not break the law,” Collins said of the so-called “dreamers, adding: “Their parents came here, they’re not undocumented workers. That’s a whole different thing. WE’re never going to give citizenship to those adults…I’m actually fine with a path to citizenship.”

Collins said he’s on board with a bill that would give working visas to those covered by DACA for as long as 10 years. He also insisted that the president “will get the wall, whether it’s tied to DACA or another way.”

“I trust our president, the great negotiator that he is,” the congressman said. “He’s going to have to work in a biapartisan way. Not only on this, but on tax reform.”

Transit Union Calls Millionaires Tax A ‘Long-Term Solution’

The Transit Workers Union in a statement said it “likes the idea” of a surcharge for millionaires to bolster the New York City subway system, but called the move a “long-term solution.”

The union, which has been supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pointed to New York City’s $4 billion surplus.

“DeBlasio is delaying efforts to fix the NYC subway,” said TWU President John Samuelson. “The city must finally start reimbursing the MTA for the student MetroCards and paratransit services that the MTA provides. That’s nearly $500 million a year which can be used for vital system maintenance, which will help end the riders’ summer of hell.”

Samuelson added: “Since the city doesn’t reimburse the MTA for those services, the MTA is subsidizing city government to the tune of nearly $500 million a year. It doesn’t make sense. Its flipped upside down. City Hall is supposed to subsidize the MTA, not the other way around.”

The comments come a day after Cuomo in a statement also suggested a new revenue stream for the MTA was an issue that needs to be considered months from now. He has called on New York City to contribute more to the MTA as well. Spending more on transit is not necessarily a black-and-white solution to the issue as the MTA has struggled to spend the money it has on system upgrades.

Transit Union Cheers MTA Plan

The union that represents transit workers on Tuesday in a statement cheered the broad strokes of a plan being adopted by the MTA that seeks to provide faster fixes and expedited maintenance for subway cars.

The union, TWU International and Local 100, pointed to the MTA taking on a number of its recommendations from its Work Boots on the Ground proposal.

“We’re gratified the MTA in many areas has agreed with the men and women who know the subway the best – transit workers,” said John Samuelsen, the president of the TWU Local 100. “We can and will do our part to end this reliability crisis. Our elected officials now have to step up and provide the necessary funding to get the job done. No more political games. No more shirking responsibility.”

The MTA board met Tuesday amid a growing crisis over subway delays and occasional derailments of cars this summer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for his handling of the transit problems, but has also called for the city to take on more of a role in funding transit.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has countered the money has largely been put in place, but says the funding needs to be prioritized.

Partnership For NYC Hopes For Trump Admin Help On Gateway Project

The business-backed Partnership for New York City on Thursday reacted to the release of a report assessing the environmental impact of the Gateway project, which is expected to include a tunnel under the Hudson River.

The project would provide another connection between New York City and New Jersey amid ongoing problems with train service in the metropolitan region.

In its statement, the group signaled hope for help from the Trump administration in helping fund the project.

“The New York business community considers Gateway our top priority infrastructure project,” said Partnership for New York City President Kathryn Wylde.

“It will provide essential connectivity between the global financial and commercial center in New York City with the rest of America west of the Hudson River. We are confident that the Trump Administration understands that this is a project of national significance and intends to partner with us in ensuring its timely completion.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has said he wants to work with the federal administration to fund major building efforts in New York. President Trump’s own stated goals for infrastructure efforts have stalled amid a legislative push for health care legislation in Congress and investigations into alleged Russian involvement in the presidential election last year.

Astorino Sues Over Indian Point Closure

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced on Tuesday a lawsuit that challenges the closure of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.

Astorino’s legal challenge to the Entergy-owned plant’s closure stems from the claim the facility’s closure isn’t complying with the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act.

“Our lawsuit has nothing to do with the debate over nuclear energy,” he said. “It has to do with safety and the rule of law. Ultimately, the issue isn’t whether Indian Point stays open. It’s that any plan to close the plant must fully comply with the law. If our environmental laws are to mean anything, then surely they must apply to the closing of a nuclear power plant that affects the lives and livelihoods of nine million New Yorkers. If ever there was a case for the State Environmental Quality Review Act to be enforced, this is it.”

The closure was announced earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has long sought to have the plant shuttered due to its age and proximity to the densely populated metropolitan region.

The plant is now scheduled to close by April 2021.

Westchester officials have questioned the closure and how the nearby communities will be made whole by the loss of payments in lieu of taxes by the facility’s closure. At the same time, questions remain as well as how the 2,000 megawatts of power will be replaced for New York City and Westchester.

“Even those who applaud the closing of Indian Point should be deeply concerned about how it is being done and the environmental and economic aftershocks to come,” Astorino said.

The lawsuit comes as Astorino is planning a re-election bid and may run again for governor in 2018, facing Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

Democrat George Latimer, a state senator challenging Astorino this year in his re-election bid, criticized the lawsuit in a statement, saying it won’t aid the school districts impacted by the plant’s closure.

“It’s ‘good politics’ if you’re running for the Republican nomination for Governor, but if you intend to be County Executive for the next four years, you should be meeting with New York State officials to hammer out a plan to deal with the real world problems these communities are facing,” Latimer said. “It’s one more example of how Rob has made making headlines more important than making headway on solving this problem.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office also blasted the suit, noting the closure had been negotiated by Entergy.

“Astorino is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law and a hypocrite all at the same time — falsely accusing the state of circumventing a process, and then doing an end run around his own legislature to file a frivolous law suit that puts at risk the long-term safety of residents,” said spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

Somos Dispatch

From the Morning Memo:

Much of New York’s political class – particularly the Democrats – has decamped, as they typically do after Election Day, for Puerto Rico, where the Somos el Futuro fall conference is taking place. Our NY1 colleague Zack Fink is there, and he sent this report:

Usually the Somos conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico is a moment to just take a breather. An election has just past. Presumably everyone worked hard to get out the vote. And with the largely Democratic attendees, there have usually been great successes at the ballot box to celebrate.

But this year is different. 

“Shock.” “Surprise.” “Profound disappointment.” These are some of the words used to describe President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise triumph over Hillary Clinton Tuesday night. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie hosted a welcoming reception last night in Puerto Rico, as is custom for the speaker. But former Speaker Sheldon Silver used to hold a perfunctory event in a nondescript room off the lobby at the hotel Condado Plaza. 

Heastie went big. He held the event at Hacienda Campo Rico, a fancy country club on the outskirts of San Juan ( 45 minutes to reach by car in traffic ). 

The place was beautiful. A colonial building with a sitting area blending nicely into outdoor space. A man sold cigars on one end, and a band played at the other. Toward the corner, chefs took up clevers and chopped up two whole spit-roasted pigs, as a crowd of onlookers watched. 

The speaker himself was dressed in a suit, but most everyone else wore “island chic” clothing. Guayaberas for men, and elegant floral dresses for women. 

Heastie seemed relaxed as he rushed in slightly late to greet arrivals and graciously grant us an on-camera interview. Asked about Trump, Heastie said, 

“I for one am very shocked. But the people have spoken and I think here in New York we must do the best we can and hope that his administration is not going to be one that is harmful to the state of New York.”

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born Puerto Rico, was more blunt. Criticizing not only Trump, but also the electoral college process that got him elected over the popular vote, which went to Clinton.

“Due to the way the electoral system is set up, he is the president-elect,” Mark-Viverito said. “We do not know now what the implications will be for New York City, New York state. There is a lot of trepidation, considering what he has run his campaign on and what he has presented his platform to be.”

Just before the reception began news broke, courtesy of the rom the great Daily News Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett, that there was a deal reached back home in New York to revive the 40-year old tax credit known as 421a, which quietly expired without much fanfare a year and a half ago.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rejected a 421-a plan hatched by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, and instead reached a deal to make any renewal contingent upon a prevailing wage agreement between the construction trades and REBNY.

Well, surprise surprise, they couldn’t reach a deal in six months. But now almost a year later, it appears as though they have; 421a is not only essential for developers, it’s the only way to ensure that affordable housing gets built.

Under the terms of the agreement, developers agree to pay a $60 wage to construction workers on projects in Manhattan below 96th street with 300 units or more, and $45 for workers in buildings expected to rise along New York’s emerging Gold Coast – the Waterfront that stretches from Queens to Brooklyn. In exchange developers get a 35-year property tax abatement. 

Privately, many Democrats said that 35 years is too long. Asked about the deal, Heastie said: “There are some details within that we have to get a chance to look at. So we need to go through that. Myself, the members. We need to talk about because there are some changes.”

Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s chief of staff, said the governor is “open to a special session” to pass this agreement. But Heastie indicated he is in no hurry.

Assembly members are expected back in Albany the week of Dec. 4th for a retreat. One insider quipped that lawmakers don’t want to hold a special session that week because they are afraid of what else might come up. 

Finally, there is a buzz in Puerto Rico about the state Senate composition. Democrats swear it ain’t over yet, resting their hopes on uncounted absentees in two Long Island races, but others aren’t so sure. 

Head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Michael Gianaris, of Queens, acknowledged to me that his candidates performed “much worse” than he expected. But he also pointed out that Clinton barely broke 50 percent in Nassau County, which should be Hillary Country. 

Anyway, we will keep an eye out for all of this through the weekend. More on the Senate later and if there are any deals to be had. My money is on “no.”

Citing Gun Control, Cuomo Backs Throne-Holst in NY-1 (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued what I believe is his first endorsement of this general election campaign, announcing his support for Anna Throne-Holst, who is challenging Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in the 1st Congressional District on Long Island.

In a press release sent by his campaign committee, (Cuomo 2018), the governor called Throne-Holst a “proven leader who will represent the interests of Suffolk County residents in Congress.”

“During her eight year tenure as Southampton Town Supervisor, Anna established herself as a no-nonsense executive who reached across the aisle to cut wasteful spending, audit the budget, and eliminate inefficiencies so taxpayer dollars could be focused where they were needed most,” Cuomo said.

“In fact, it was her initiative and leadership that helped make the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University a reality,” the governor continued.

“Not only does this state-of-the-art research center encourage innovation and job growth in the First District, but it also helps make our communities more resilient in the face of extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy and examines nitrogen loading that has adversely affected ground and surface water across Long Island.”

The governor also said Throne-Holst will work to address “common-sense gun control laws” – one of his pet issues since he pushed the controversial SAFE Act through the Legislature in early 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.

Cuomo noted that Zeldin opposed the SAFE Act when he was a member of the Senate Republican conference, and has voted against gun control measures since arriving in Congress.

“Senseless acts of violence continue to claim the lives of too many citizens across our state and country, and this issue is critical to the people of Suffolk County,” the governor said. “Lee Zeldin has allowed the grip of the NRA to persuade his positions, forgoing the needs of his constituents for the deep pockets of the gun lobby.”

The NY-1 race is one of a handful of contested congressional contests occurring throughout the state this year. It’s a safe bet there will be more endorsement announcements where this one came from, but the main question is: How much will the governor do to assist the candidates he says he supports?

Will he record robocalls – a favored method of his, especially as Election Day nears? Make personal appearances? Contribute campaign cash?

Political observers are also waiting to see just how far the governor is willing to go to assist his fellow Democrats in their quest to re-take the state Senate majority this year. He has said that he supports their effort, but has yet to really make any significant moves to help them.

Cuomo has publicly stated his desire to see the Senate in Democratic hands in the past – most notably in 2014, when doing so was a condition of his endorsement by the Working Families Party over his primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout.

But he subsequently failed to deliver in a significant way, leading to widespread speculation that he actually prefers to see the GOP in control, since that offers him a handy foil if things go wrong, and also provides a check to the more liberal policies pushed by the downstate Democrats.

The governor recently said he believes the question of who will control the chamber will again come down to the IDC, which is poised to grow from five members to six, thanks to expected addition of Marisol Alcantara, who won the four-way primary for Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s Upper Manhattan seat.

UPDATE: Zeldin’s campaign sent the following statement from the congressman:

:”Being that I have long held deep concerns with the Governor’s obsessive push for Common Core in our schools, safe fracking bans, money grabbing red light cameras throughout Suffolk County, awfully written gun laws and drastic increases to the state’s Medicaid budget, which is now well over $1 billion per week and more than Texas, Illinois and Florida combined, I won’t lose any sleep over this one.”

“After his preferred candidate gets crushed in 7 seven weeks at the polls, hopefully the Governor will choose to be a little less partisan and political for the best interest of New Yorkers. We are at a cross roads in our state and country where elected leaders should be working together in an inspired pursuit of common ground. There is no better way to move New York forward than united.”