Upstate NY

Uber Adds Upstate Mayors To Campaign

rideshareThe ride-share company Uber on Monday announced it had expanded its roster of upstate mayors supportive of allowing the app and similar services to operate outside of New York City

Now backing the ride-sharing expansion upstate are Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Binghamton Mayor Rich David and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. Previously on the pro-Uber campaign has been Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

“We are a coalition of New Yorkers who want to see Albany leaders embrace new technology that will build on the Empire State’s economic revitalization,” the coalition said in a statement. “We support ridesharing services like Uber which has the potential to create 13,000 jobs in one year and make our communities safer by reducing drunk driving incidents.”

The company is making its statewide expansion push as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been supportive of a regulatory framework that could supersede the measures in place governing ride-share companies in New York City.

Uber pushed back against a bill in the New York City Council it believed would constrain its service in the five boroughs. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who backed that legislation, has been publicly feuding with Cuomo.

“Currently, Uber operates in NYC where it is regulated by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission,” Uber said in a news release. “Uber would like regulations to pass on the State level so that riders and drivers can use the Uber app in all areas of New York State.”

Cuomo, Schumer Say Agreement Will Preserve 1,000 Jobs At Kraft-Heinz

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer in a joint statement on Wednesday announced an agreement with the company Kraft-Heinz that would prevent the closure of three facilities and delay the close of another.

“The prospect of these across the board closures was very real and not only would have been devastated these communities, but caused ripple effects in New York’s dairy industry and beyond,” Cuomo said in a statement “This agreement reverses course and, saves hundreds of local jobs and commits Kraft-Heinz to invest millions of dollars in the Upstate economy, with the potential for job increases in the years to come. I thank Senator Schumer and Kraft-Heinz for working with us to protect jobs in these communities and help ensure the future of each of these plants.”

The agreement with Kraft-Heinz will keep its facilities in Avon, Walton and Lowville open, while the planned closure of its plant in the Steuben County town of Campbell will be deferred for 12 to 24 months. During that deferment, government officials on the local, state and federal levels will work with the company to find a new operator to retain the plant’s current workers.

New York, along with Kraft-Heinz, will commit to investing “at least” $20 million to upgrade the company’s existing operations in upstate New York.

Under the agreement, the state will spend $20 million over the next five years, with the company matching that amount in order to upgrade its existing facilities at Avon, Walton and Lowville. If the company hasn’t decreased its total employment in the state and has spent at least $25 million in its own operations, the Empire State Development Corp. will spend an additional $5 million, ultimately injecting $50 million into the operations for Heinz-Kraft. More >

Broad Coalition Pushes Parity For Infrastructure Spending

tappanA broad coalition of dozens of individual organizations on Wednesday released a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling for parity in funding between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which primarily serves downstate residents — and the state projects at the Department of Transportation.

“Infrastructure is literally the lifeblood of our communities,” the groups wrote in a letter. “We rely upon it for our farmers to get their goods to market and for customers to get to our businesses. We count on it to get our kids safely to and from school or our loved ones to a hospital in the event of an emergency. Modern infrastructure in a state of good repair is safer and decreases costs on motorists.”

Similar letters to were sent to the state’s legislative leaders in the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate.

The letter comes after Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to a new funding plan for capital projects at the MTA, which boosted spending to build new stations, improve existing infrastructure and purchase new buses and subways.

All together, over five years, New York state will contribute $8.3 billion to the capital program and New York City will contribute $2.5 billion (There is still the nagging question of how this will be paid for, and the Cuomo administration did not rule out borrowing to cover some of the costs). More >

Rebuild NY Calls For Parity In Upstate Highway Funding

Rebuild New York Now — a coalition of organizations pushing for enhanced investment in infrastructure — is praising the agreement reached on funding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s four-year capital plan.

But now the group wants the state to turn its attention from the New York City area to the crumbling upstate infrastructure.

In a statement from Rebuild New York Now President Mike Elmendorf, the group calls for equity in how upstate taxpayers are benefiting from state investment — namely in the form of spending on improving highways and bridges in the state.

“Like the Governor, who noted last year that 6,000 of our bridges and 60 percent of our roads are in need of repair, we know upstaters and their fragile economy,” Elmendorf said in a statement. “They are even more dependent on their highway system then downstaters are on the MTA. We hope that as next year’s budget discussions begin, the Governor and Legislature will show the same leadership for millions of upstate New York drivers who are paying to support the MTA’s capital program through their gas taxes. We need to return to parity between highway and transit funding, part of an historic agreement that has been repeatedly broken since 2010.”

The comment echoes the sentiment from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called for a renewed focus on upstate infrastructure needs following the agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mitchell Given 7 Years For Role In Prison Break

Former Dannemora prison worker Joyce Mitchell was sentenced on Monday to seven years behind bars for her role in the escape of David Sweat and Richard Matt.

Mitchell had pleaded guilty in this summer to assisting Matt and Sweat in the breakout, which led to one of the largest manhunts in upstate New York history.

Matt was shot and killed by law enforcement, while Sweat was later apprehended by State Police.

Mitchell has acknowledged her role in the breakout scheme, but her attorney has pointed out that she did not provide the convicted killers with the power tools used to tunnel out of Clinton Correctional Facility.

She briefly addressed the court and asked for leniency.

“If I could take it all back I would, I can’t begin to explain how sorry I am for all this — to my community, co-workers, my family, the all the families of the officers who were taken away from their families in this search, while these two men were on the loose. I never intended for any of this to happen. As hard as it was to come forward, I knew I had to,” Mitchell said.

The breakout and the aftermath is being reviewed by both the state inspector general and the federal investigators.

Miner, Contractors Push For Increased Infrastructure Spending

minerSyracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and a coalition of construction advocacy organizations on Thursday called for the state to boost spending for infrastructure projects, especially in upstate cities that have struggled to keep up with needed repairs.

“Every driver in the City of Syracuse has seen a record number of orange barrels and sawhorses filling our streets this year,” Miner said in a statement. “Sewer and water leaks have caused cave-ins of streets all over this City. These are challenging and expensive to repair and inconvenience our residents. We need the State of New York to step up and support our communities—as they have historically done—to help us meet our infrastructure needs. Syracusans are New Yorkers too and our State must help us to have a long-term, comprehensive, and sustainable way to repair our roads, water systems, and sewers.”

Miner pointed to the crumbling infrastructure in her city: 60 street cave-ins have occurred so far this year in the city, with 28 incidents occurring on Oak Street alone.

Only a year ago, 158 street cave-ins were repaired by the city’s public works crews. The cave-ins take at least a day to repair, but the more severe incidents require outside contractors and sometimes need up to a week to repair, Miner said. More >

Pro-Fracking And Gun-Rights Groups Push Secession

upstatenyA coalition of groups that support high-volume hydrofracking and gun rights are pushing a renewed effort to have the upstate region of the state break away from New York.

The groups — led by the Second Amendment advocates at S.C.O.P.E. — are planning a rally on Sunday at the General Clinton park on Route 7 in the town of Bainbridge.

“Why secession? Secession is about reclaiming the economic opportunities Upstate has lost and restoring the liberties Upstate residents once enjoyed,” the groups said in a news release announcing their rally. “Downstate has dominated Upstate for decades and Upstate has no future in a state controlled by New York City’s needs and desires.”

The advocates are clearly upset with two major issues that have popped in Albany in recent years: The fights over a ban on hydrofracking, a controversial natural-gas extraction process, and gun control, which has been championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. More >

Seward And Flanagan Tout ‘Common-Sense’ Changes To SAFE Act

safeactsignThe memorandum of understanding reached by Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not enact an ammunition purchasing database was a common-sense reform to the controversial SAFE Act gun control law.

That’s according to Sen. James Seward and Majority Leader John Flanagan, who met earlier this morning at the Otesaga Resort and Hotel, part of the downstate leader’s re-introduction to upstate New York.

“Until anything changes in the future, that section of the law under agreement is suspended,” Seward said of the two-way agreement.

The MOU has done little to assuage the concerns of some gun-rights advocates, who have pushed for a full repeal of the law — a prospect that is unlikely given the Democratic control of the Assembly as well as the governorship.

But given the political realities, Seward said the MOU was at the moment the best the GOP conference could achieve. More >

New York Lawmakers: Fort Drum ‘Spared’

While the U.S. Army is moving toward a 40,000 reduction in its numbers, only 28 positions will be eliminated from Fort Drum in northern New York — a move that’s being cheered by New York’s senators and area House Rep. Elise Stefanik.

“Fort Drum is a critical installation for our community, our state and the security of our nation, and I am grateful that the Army has spared this pivotal installation and the 10th Mountain Division from significant reductions in force structure like those seen at other bases across the country,” Stefanik said in a statement.

It’s not clear how many civilian jobs will be cut from the Jefferson County installation, which is home to the 10th Mountain Division.

Still, the lack of deep cuts in the military force compared with reductions elsewhere

“Given what we were up against, this is a victory for Fort Drum and the whole North Country, and we can all breath a huge sigh of relief,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “This wise decision by the DOD brass duly recognizes that the United State Army of the future nimble, highly-trained, and rapidly deployable – is living, training and working right here, right now in the form of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division.”

Fort Drum and the communities surrounding it had been bracing for larger cuts similar the 1,500 reduction in 2012.

Meanwhile, deeper cuts could be in the making should sequestration figures not be adjusted next year as the Arm moves toward reducing its numbers from 450,000 to 420,000.

“Fort Drum’s troops are not only among the best prepared but they are also among the most heavily deployed,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said. “The fact that Fort Drum is seeing minimal cuts at a time when the Army is downsizing significantly across the country underscores that Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division play a unique and critical role in US national security.”

Stefanik will be a guest on Capital Tonight this evening.

DOCCS Names New Superintendent At Clinton

State corrections officials on Wednesday announced a new superintendent would assume control at Clinton Correctional Facility following the escape of two convicted killers from the Dannemora prison.

Michael Kirkpatrick, most recently the first deputy superintendent of the Elmira Correctional Facility, will take charge after the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision placed 12 prison employees on administrative leave after the resolution of the three-week manhunt for David Sweat and Richard Matt.

The FBI, along with the state inspector general, are investigating both the circumstances of the escape, security protocols at the prison and potentially broader corruption at the facility.

Along with his appointment, Kirkpatrick will be charged with helping implement interim security protocols that have been in place since June 6 at the prison, which includes eliminating the so-called “honor block” where Sweat and Matt lived.

New rules are being put in place that would require securing job boxes of contractors in a locked trailer that inmates cannot receive access to.

Security gates are also being installed in the facility’s tunnels, which Matt and Sweat used to escape after gaining access to power tools.

Matt was shot dead on Friday, while Sweat was taken into custody by State Police on Sunday after he was wounded by Sgt. Jay Cook.

Former prison employee Joyce Mitchell is being charged with providing help to the men, while Corrections Officer Gene Palmer is being investigated for also providing support to Matt and Sweat.