‘We Took One Step’ On Raise The Age

From the Morning Memo:

A key reform for the state’s juvenile justice system won’t go before the state Legislature. An effort to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York faltered, and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to go it alone with an executive order.

“Yes, we took one step, but we’re not going to quit until we reach the ultimate goal, and that’s to raise the age,” said Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx Democrat.

Cuomo’s executive order will move 16 and 17-year-old inmates out of adult prisons and into alternative facilities after a larger agreement could not be reached on moving their cases to family court.

“New York should not have the distinction where we are only one of two states still having our young people in these criminal facilities,” Blake said. “We have to actually give them the chance.”

The agreement in part couldn’t be reached on Republican and Democratic lawmakers parting ways on how to shift cases involving teenagers to a different court system.

“Fundamentally you had some Senate Republicans who made it a conscience decision that sending these kids to family court was not the option, not the route,” Blake said.

For his part, Cuomo says the issue fell victim both to complications and the lack of time left in the legislative session, which has been extended more than week due to disagreements on an array of issues.

“It’s more a question of complication and time and details,” he said. “The raise the age — we made a lot of good progress. We didn’t get there.”

But some Republican lawmakers don’t want to give up on the raise the age issue. Senator Patrick Gallivan says the criminal justice and prison system should be studied for changes for how it impacts young people.

“It’s appropriate we continue the conversation,” said Sen. Pat Gallivan. “I don’t know that anybody can make the argument that we provide sufficient programming and rehabilitation services for 16 and 17-year-olds and ultimately all of the people who are going to return to society.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Legislature is back in session, awaiting bill language for the end-of-session “Big Ugly.” The Assembly is due in at 9:30 a.m., the Senate at 11 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., members of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s board of commissioners hold board and committee meetings in New York; Four World Trade Center, 150 Greenwich St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., former Gov. David Paterson discusses disabilities, discrimination and education while delivering a commencement address to children who attended a public charter school in Queens; Q. 704 Merrick Academy, 136-25 218th St., Queens.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen makes opening remarks at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s inaugural Make It in Brooklyn Innovation Summit; Theatre for a New Audience, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio attends the graduation ceremony at Boys and Girls High School in the school’s auditorium, 1700 Fulton St., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and other community and government officials discuss the release of a report including economic statistics for the Inwood and Washington Heights neighborhoods; La Marina catering facility and restaurant, 48 Dyckman St., Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert Megna, state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald and the New NY Bridge Mass Transit Task Force give a media update on the implementation of short-term transit recommendations, Dominican College, Rosary Hall, 470 Western Highway, Orangeburg.

At 11:30 a.m., Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announces charges against two major narcotics organizations in Washington Heights; Manhattan DA’s Office, 80 Centre St., 8th floor, Manhattan.

At noon, Minister Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Regional Director and other NAN leaders and clergy hold a press conference denouncing Robert E. Lee Street (in Brooklyn) and Confederate flag paintings (in the state Capitol), at the main gate of Fort Hamilton Army Base; Fort Hamilton Pkwy & 101st St.; Brooklyn.

At 2 p.m., the NAACP announces the filing of lawsuit against New York employers for illegal discrimination against job applicants with felony convictions; City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 3:15 p.m., de Blasio hosts a press conference with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, 54 Nagle Ave., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., 2014 Republican candidate for LG and Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss will appear at Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle’s Summer Steak Roast, Water’s Edge Lighthouse Terrace, Glenville, NY.

At 6 p.m., Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. and Sen. Jeff Klein will host the borough’s official kickoff to the year’s Independence Day Celebrations, the annual “New York Salutes America” boardwalk festival and fireworks extravaganza at Orchard Beach.

At 6:30 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at the City Honors School commencement ceremony, Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo.

At 7:15 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray appears on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” with Errol Louis.

Headlines…

Though their leaders had announced a framework end-of-session deal with the governor just over 24 hours earlier, rank-and-file lawmakers left the Capitol yesterday without a final agreement, and without passing any bills. They’re due back at work today.

The talks trying to turn the tentative agreement into a final agreement were reportedly not pretty. Cuomo and Senate Republicans had been convinced that omnibus legislation was to be given final approval Wednesday. But Assembly Democrats were holding out to bolster a law providing rent-control protections for some 2 million New York City apartment dwellers.

Instead of passing the so-called “Big Ugly,” the Assembly and Senate instead took up measures that while not trivial would be considered secondary to items such as New York City’s rent laws and the state’s 2 percent property tax cap – both of which are expected in the final package of bills.

The rocky relationship between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio played a significant role in this session. Rather than collaborate on mutual goals, like higher wages and immigrants’ rights, the state’s two most powerful Democrats spent much of the year at odds with one another, and – at various turns – with the Legislature.

An anonymous Cuomo administration official slammed de Blasio for failing to understand how Albany works, saying: “He is more politically oriented in terms of his approach…and then he makes it almost impossible for him to achieve success.”

De Blasio quietly rejected an offer from state Senate Republicans that would have boosted wages for the city’s lowest-paid workers in exchange for his support to increase cop and firefighter pensions. The deal would have hiked the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City.

A corrections officer recently placed on administrative leave after the escape of two convicted killers from a maximum-security prison in northern New York has been arrested. (Recall that the governor once said he would be “shocked” if a guard was involved in helping the escapees).

A attorney representing Officer Gene Palmer said his client had no knowledge they were trying to break out and didn’t know meat he gave them had contraband hidden inside it, allegedly placed there by Joyce Mitchell, who has also been charged with assisting convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat with their escape.

The governor insisted the $250 million for nonpublic schools in the framework deal is “new money,” but several groups say the cash would simply repay long-standing debts that the state had owed to those schools anyway.

MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast was confirmed by the state Senate for a new term at the helm of the agency he has led for the last two years. During his confirmation hearing, Prendergast made the case for why the authority needs more money from the state for its five-year capital plan – an issue the Legislature doesn’t plan to take up.

Judge Susan Phillips Read, one of two Republicans on the state’s highest court, will resign in August, giving Cuomo another opportunity to shape the court 16 months earlier than expected. Having served 12 years, Read would not have been forced to resign until January 2017, when her 14-year term ends. Her departure leaves Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. the sole Republican on the seven-member panel.

More >

A ‘Progressive’ Property Tax Rebate Program

The $1.3 billion property tax rebate program will be included in the 2016-17 state budget, though the program will be authorized in legislation.

The program is expected to impact families who earn under $70,000. Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents the Albany area, said there will be “two more levels” of the rebate program impact families that earn no more than $200,000.

The rebate program appears to be a hybrid of both the circuit-breaker program, which links relief to a household’s income, and is also tied to the STAR tax rebate program as well.

“It really provides greater assistance to those middle class families that really need the support and are probably feeling the burden a little bit more than other people maybe,” McDonald said, adding, “It’s progressive.”

The rebate was part of a larger package announced in a framework agreement on Tuesday that includes an extension of rent control for New York City and the surrounding area, as well as a four-year extension on the state’s cap on local and school property tax increases.

“It always comes back to ‘What about upstate?’ What about us? This is part of that answer about what about us,” McDonald said.

There are changes to the tax cap, which was first approved in 2011, including allowances for payments-in-lieu of taxes as well as capital expenses for BOCES programs.

For those who wanted larger modifications for the cap, the agreed-to alterations don’t go far enough.

McDonald noted the cap this year is still under 2 percent, given the rate of inflation has stood at around 1.6 percent.

“For taxpayers that’s good. I still worry about local governments,” McDonald said. “These changes — the PILOT will have a minimal impact the BOCES will have a very minimal impact to school districts.”

He added: “I’m very, very concerned that we’re moving toward the brink of bankruptcy with more communities than ever before.”

Extras

The never-ending session is still….never-ending. The catchphrase around the Capitol today is that the framework deal announced yesterday by the governor and legislative leaders was apparently more “frame” than “deal.” So far, nothing is in print, and no “Big Ugly” bills have been passed. We’ll keep you posted. Until then, bring on the headlines!!

Telling reporters that they were “royally screwed,” tenant activists and a Democratic NYC councilman blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo for failing to bolster rent regulations as much as they had hoped.

After yesterday’s “deal that isn’t a deal” press conference, the governor got on the phone to New York magazine’s Chris Smith to sell the “fantastic package” he had just announced.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was reportedly offered a deal by the Senate Republicans to raise the minimum wage for New York City in exchange for supporting a police pension proposal, but rejected the offer.

Gun rights advocates are disappointed that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan didn’t hold out for changes to the SAFE Act.

Cops fear that fugitive prisoners David Sweat and Richard Matt may be armed with weapons stolen from hunting camps in the woods surrounding the Clinton Correctional Facility from which they escaped.

The search for Matt and Sweat is focused on a 75-square-mile area in Franklin County, though authorities can’t be sure the pair has not gotten outside the perimeter they’ve set up.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton called on Cuomo to allow the closure of Lansing’s coal-fired power plant, which is currently operating now with assistance from a state-imposed surcharge that New York State Electric & Gas Corp. customers must pay on their monthly bills.

Former NYC Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota said he stepped down as a member of CUNY’s board of trustees after receiving a phone call from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, but insisted he left on good terms.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle was the only member of the Democratic conference to attend Monday’s DACC fundraiser at Yankee stadium in the Bronx. (He also chairs the political committee).

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is calling for Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn to rename an avenue named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Sen. John Sampson’s attorney insists the government’s case against his client is not a political corruption case.

Susan Brown Bloomberg, ex-wife of billionaire former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, has listed her duplex penthouse at 41 Bond St. in Manhattan for $11.7 million.

The House has passed legislation including an amendment sponsored by Rep. Brian Higgins that requires the Department of Homeland Security to study the risks of shipping highly enriched liquid uranium across the Peace Bridge.

A NYCLU report found transgender and gender nonconforming youth in public schools across New York are facing “serious and pervasive discrimination and harassment,” and the state isn’t doing enough to protect them.

The Onondaga County Civic Center and the Edward Kochian County Office Building were evacuated today due to bomb threats.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick played some kickball today.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco proposed limiting the legislative session to three months.

Ironman apologized to Syracuse 70.3 finishers for putting the Rochester skyline on the race medals, and promised replacements soon.

Hoffman’s rebirth as Huck Finn’s Playground made the New York Times. “Can an old amusement park be an economic engine?” We’ll find out.

DeFran Says Details Are Being Smoothed Over

Syracuse Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco on Wednesday said it’s impossible to know when the bill language on this week’s “framework” agreement will be ready to be voted on by state lawmakers.

But he differed from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who earlier in the day said negotiations continue on a number of key end-of-session issues such as rent control and the 421-a tax abateemtn.

“It’s just a question of all the little details,” DeFrancisco said. “Once you put them in paper and try to read them, sometimes what people think what’s in a bill is different than what’s printed. Now it’s just a matter of reconciling it. When they’re reconciled and when they’re ready they’re going to be voted.”

The agreement reached on Tuesday provides for a four-year extension of rent control for New York City as well as an extension of the state’s cap on property tax increases, albeit with some adjustments to allow for growth in PILOTs and BOCES capital expenses.

Heastie told reporters during the day the final agreement was not reached just yet, despite the announcement of a framework deal.

Bill language could come as early as tonight, even as those details are still be ironed out.

Lawmakers at the Capitol during the afternoon said they expected to vote on the measures Thursday, though Heastie indicated he had not told members whether they will stay in Albany through the rest of the week.

“You know how those damn lawyers are,” DeFrancisco said. “Me being one, I can say it.”

Heastie: De Blasio’s Agenda ‘Comes Out Of This Fine’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday disagreed with the assertion New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not score the necessary wins on a range of issues like mayoral control, an extension of rent control and the alterations of the 421a tax abatement.

“He’ll get mayoral control. There will be 421a,” Heastie said. “We tried to put together the best rent deal that we could. So I think the mayor comes out of this fine.”

De Blasio had pushed Albany to approved a permanent extension of mayoral control of New York City schools, only to have the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agree to a 12-month extension, meaning the mayor will be back at the Capitol once again to call for the program’s renewal.

At the same time, 421a, a tax abatement that de Blasio wanted to have expanded to include new affordable housing requirements, is due to expire in six months unless developers and labor unions can agree to a prevailing wage provision.

De Blasio has lobbied personally on his agenda, though Senate Republicans are especially hostile to the mayor given that he sought to flip the chamber last year to Democratic control.

“The mayor’s not a state legislator. He’s entitled to lay out his vision for the city and it’s up to the state Legislature to respond,” Heastie said. “To say that he has to live up here to get things done for the city  — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Michael Bloomberg laid out a vision for the city and would come up here and let Albany want he needed. I think de Blasio should be given that same respect.”

The bigger question is the continued animosity between Cuomo and de Blasio, who have in recent weeks been at odds with each other on the 421a issue, among others.

“There’s always funniness about the relationship between a mayor and the governor,” Heastie said. “Government always has to have a way to figure things out. We have to have a way to accomplish that.”

De Blasio Holding Out Hope on Rent, 421a

There’s a general consensus around Albany that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio got the short end of the stick in the so-called framework deal announced yesterday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, but the mayor is trying to put a positive spin on things, saying today there’s still time for things to change while the deal remains open.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, de Blasio heaped praise on the Assembly Democrats, (even though his support among conference members has reportedly been eroding steadily over the past several weeks), saying they have been “consistently responsive to the city’s concerns,” and adding: “They’ve been serious, they’ve been resolute, and they’ve gotten a lot done, particularly on issues like rent regulation.”

De Blasio went out of his way to thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who stressed during his own chat with reporters that the framework deal is just that – a framework – and nothing has been nailed done just yet.

The mayor said there are “very promising signs” at the Capitol when it comes to rent regulation, and that 421a is “very much on the table.”

“There’s a real dialogue happening on that right now,” de Blasio continued. “So I think we all need to step back and see where this process is leading us…And, you know, we don’t know if the session is going to end today, tomorrow, or some other day, but, you know, we’re focused right now on what’s going on with both the rent issue and the 421-a issue.”

De Blasio was asked whether it was a mistake for him to campaign on behalf of, and raise money for, the Senate Democrats in their failed effort to re-take the majority, given the fact that it angered the Republicans and made them predisposed against his Albany agenda. His response? “No.”

(It should be noted that the Senate Republicans aren’t the mayor’s only problem – or even his biggest problem – at the Capitol these days. His on-again, off-again relationship with the governor appears to be very much off, and some Democratic lawmakers who are disappointed with the rent deal as it currently stands are accusing Cuomo of siding with the Senate GOP against the Assembly Democrats during negotiations in large part to spite the mayor).

The mayor was also asked about the fate of his affordable housing plan if the 421a tax abatement program for real estate developers lapses. (The framework deal includes a four-year extension, but the whole thing will expire if the labor unions and real estate industry fail to reach a prevailing wage agreement within six months). Again, de Blasio was reluctant to accept that the framework is the final word on this issue, saying:

“There’s a real dialogue going on right now on 421-a. Our focus is on greatly intensifying the affordability that can be achieved through 421-a. I’ve spoken to this issue many times, as to the vision we have for making 421-a a real vehicle for greater affordability for New Yorkers. Some very serious discussions are happening right now and we have to see where that leads us.”

Capital NY’s Laura Nahmias reported earlier this afternoon that some Assembly Democrats are pushing for changes to the rent agreement, including an increase in the threshold for vacancy decontrol, though the governor’s office denied that was the case.

Heastie: Yesterday’s Deal Was Really A Framework

A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s top legislative leaders announced broad compromises on key end-of-session issues, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters no agreement had been officially finalized.

Bills for issues ranging from rent control for New York City and the surrounding area, as well as a $1.3 billion property tax rebate program, a real-estate tax abatement and mayoral control for New York City schools are yet to be printed as language continues to be haggled over.

“We’re still working on language,” Heastie said outside of his office. “See, it wasn’t a deal yesterday, it was a framework, because there are still some outstanding issues. There were some items that weren’t settled. It was really about letting people have an idea about what items will be discussed if at the point we reach a final deal. There’s still a lot of outstanding issues on each of the items.”

Heastie has not told his conference members whether they should prepare to stay in Albany through the rest of the week, he said.

The details of the framework were announced at a Red Room news conference before Heastie or Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had briefed their conferences on the details.

Assembly Democrats met for several hours on Tuesday to sort out the details of the framework.

“There were some things brought up that we’re trying to finish,” Heastie said.

Heastie this afternoon indicated negotiations will continue, despite the framework announcement.

“We tried to be very careful and say the word framework because there was no final deal,” Cuomo said. “As I said, I couldn’t say yes until I spoke to the final conference.”

It is not unusual for outlines of large, packaged compromises in Albany to be announced for the details have been sorted out, even as top aides and lawmakers work out the final language.

But the negotiations have dragged on a week after the legislative session was due to conclude and have been especially nettlesome for two new legislative leaders and Cuomo.

Rent control expired once again at midnight after state lawmakers and Cuomo signed off on a five-day extension after the laws lapsed week for several days.

The framework includes a four-year extension for rent control as well as the state’s cap on property tax increases, which will include changes that fall short of what local governments and school districts had wanted.

Cuomo had initially linked stronger rent control laws to the passage of an education tax credit, which was pushed heavily by Senate Republicans and private-school backers.

In the end, the tax credit was dropped in favor of a $250 million reimbursement program for mandated services at private schools.

Heastie indicated that Cuomo’s stance on rent control — generally closer to the Assembly Democrats — and support for the tax credit made things more difficult.

“I think trying to be on the side with the Senate on their big issue and be with us on our big issue, it caused a conflict for him,” Heastie said. “It was one of the reasons I would say we stumbled a little bit. There were a lot of fruitful discussions, but we’re at a place where there’s a framework. But it’s not done.”

Departure Lounge

This past April, a weary press corps traveling with Gov. Andrew Cuomo arrived by chartered jet in the storied city of Havana, Cuba. No one knew totally what to expect. Havana is a city people had read a lot about over the years, but never really experienced first hand. After landing at Jose Marti airport, we were whisked away by bus to a hotel in downtown Havana, and it was there that we caught our first glimpse of “Havana Gareth.”

A fixture on the Capitol’s second floor, Gareth Rhodes has always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy – a quiet fixer, who takes care of logistics. Someone who is always a pleasure to deal with, but never says more than he needs to. Yes, much to the delight of the Cuomo administration, Gareth is a sphinx.

I didn’t have a thermometer on me that day, but I’m pretty sure it was about 156 degrees fahrenheit in old Havana that day. We walked into the hotel, which, if it had air conditioning was barely detectable, and there he was. Gareth had already been on the ground a few days, and he had the place wired. We were told to see him for access cards to tap into the wi-fi. Gareth also knew where we needed to go to exchange money. And he had all the details about the upcoming arrival press conference – including where we needed to be, at what time, and how to get there.

If the oppressive heat was getting to Gareth, he did not show it. He was calm and in control. Slight in stature, Gareth had the chiseled good looks of a British Naval officer stationed in Rangoon in 1899. A man who does his duty. Does it with honor. And can be seen at the officer’s club nightside in his perfectly pressed whites with a slow gin fizz in his hand. Like a character out of a Graham Greene novel, Gareth was literally “Our Man in Havana.”

I write about Gareth Rhodes because Friday will be his last day (at least for now) in state government. He will be heading to law school this fall at some school I had never heard of until last week. I forget the name, but I think it begins with the letter “H” and ends in “arvard.” Too many people go to law school and business school these days and come out wanting to make as much money as they possibly can while shunning the concept of government service. I’m not a player hater, so I have no issue with people wanting to make money. But we also need smart, capable people who want to work in government, and I have feeling we will see Gareth back here one day in one capacity or another.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even 100 percent sure what Gareth’s job is. He kinda works in the press office, but mostly does advance. (I mean, at this point he is leaving, right? So, who cares?) But the point is that no matter what he does, he manages to stay above the fray. Interacts with the press, but never in a contentious or strained manner – which, to let all of you in on a little secret, sometimes happens between the press and the Cuomo administration.

And it wasn’t just Cuba for Gareth. He does a lot of traveling with Cuomo, and he was by the governor’s side for some of the biggest and strangest of stories. Whether it was 25 feet of snow in Buffalo last year, or snaking through the maintenance tunnels of the Dannemora prison, Gareth had the governor’s back. Not always known as the easiest guy to work for, Cuomo seemed to have an appreciation for Gareth. Saw him as a young go-getter. Someone who he could rely on to take care of things and make those trips successful.

Trips outside New York can be very tricky for a governor = particularly if those trips are overseas. Many gaffes have been made by politicians who ventured outside their comfort zones to broaden their worldly appeal. Having someone like Gareth by the governor’s side always made the press shop rest assured that everything will be taken care of.

So, we take a break from all this end of session madness to wish Gareth Rhodes all the best. He will likely succeed in whatever it is he decides to do. It would be a privilege, however, to the people of New York State if he were to come back and work on their behalf one day.

 

 

Schneiderman Pledges To Handle Police Cases With Independence

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be appointed a special prosecutor in cases involving police-related deaths of unarmed civilians after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to reach a broader agreement on criminal justice reform measures.

Schneiderman first called on Cuomo to issue the executive order in December after a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

Now, Cuomo will be issuing an executive order that will grant Schneiderman that power for 12 months with an eye toward potentially reaching an agreement next year.

“My office will handle these cases with the highest level of care and independence, while we continue to work with lawmakers, District Attorneys, advocates and other experts in criminal justice reform on a long-term legislative solution to this critical matter of law and policy,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “All of us who care about the great State of New York must redouble our efforts to strengthen the ties between communities and the police officers and prosecutors who devote themselves so honorably to public protection.”

The lack of an agreement comes after Assembly Democrats sought a number of measures designed to change criminal justice procedures, including a special prosecutor to handle certain cases as well as new requirements for grand jury transparency when an indictment is not issued.

Senate Republicans had always been hesitant to approve the changes and instead this year held a series of hearings on police safety, spurred in part by the assassinations of two New York City police officers.

Schneiderman, in the statement, said he was disappointed by the lack of action.

“This order was to remain in effect only until the Governor and the Legislature enacted statutory reforms to address this critical issue in a permanent and considered fashion,” he said. “I am disappointed that, six months later, we did not see such statutory action — part of a broader failure to achieve meaningful reform on a range of issues in this legislative session.”