Astorino Decries Upstate Business Closures, $15 Minimum Wage

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in a video released on Thursday decried the closure of major upstate businesses like Alcoa and criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 in the coming years.

Astorino, the 2014 gubernatorial nominee, is considering a second run for governor in 2018.

“It’s the Alcoa employees in the North Country who have to bear the brunt,” Astorino said in the video. “But another big company packing up and heading to a friendlier state isn’t a rare occurrence. GE just announced that it’s leaving Schenectady, and Entergy is closing it’s FitzPatrick plant. That on top of the news that Kraft-Heinz may be closing its three New York factories.”

The Alcoa plant’s closure in Massena has been pegged in part to the broader aluminum market worldwide.

Entergy Co.’s push to close FitzPatrick in Oswego County, which is being fought by state officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is a result of natural gas exploration, the company has said.

Meanwhile, an agreement was reached to keep two of the three Kraft-Heinz facilities open with a statement investment, while state officials are looking for a buyer to purchase the third.

Astorino in the video criticized Cuomo for playing “small ball, business as usual and pandering.”

“Like his $15 minimum wage proposal. Sounds great,” Astorino said. “Polls well. Who doesn’t want people making more? But experts agree it’s going to make things worse, much worse. According to one estimate, it’ll cost New Yorkers almost 600,000 jobs. It’s totally irresponsible.”

Astorino has indicated in recent weeks he plans to seek re-election as county executive in 2017. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Chris Gibson is considering a run for governor in 2018 as well.

Cuomo has said he plans to run for a third term.

State Unemployment Dips Below National Average

New York’s unemployment fell below the national average in October to 4.8 percent, according to statistics released on Thursday by the Department of Labor.

The unemployment rate in New York in September was 5.1 percent.

The state’s 4.8 percent rate recorded in October is the lowest level it has been since November 2007. It’s also rare for the state unemployment rate to fall below the national average of 5 percent.

Overall, New York added 30,300 to its private-sector job count, a 0.4 percent increase.

The New York City unemployment rate fell from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent last month. In the state outside of the city, the improvement was more modest, decreasing from 5 percent to 3.9 percent.

And despite the seemingly good news, swaths of upstate New York continue to struggle. The Department of Labor found five metro areas in the state — Watertown, Dutchess and Putnam counties, Ithaca, Binghamton and Elmira — lost private sector jobs in the last 12 months.

DeFrancisco: Feds Should Coordinate With State On Immigrant Screening

defranDeputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco in a radio interview on Thursday called for greater cooperation between the state and federal governments when it comes to screening Syrian refugees.

“You’ve got to have cooperation from the federal government as well,” he said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “There’s got to be very, very careful screening that New York state is allowed to learn about and is allowed to participate in before you just say that we’re going to take Syrian refugees in in the numbers that the president is taking about.”

Republican lawmakers in the Senate, including Majority Leader John Flanagan, have called on the federal government to suspend its Syrian refugee immigration program for the time being in order to assess potential security threats following the Paris attacks last week.

As governors around the country have signaled they oppose the settlement of Syrian immigrants in their states, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he has no power to block the refugees. At the same time, Cuomo told reporters in Rochester on Wednesday he has “no reason to believe” the federal government isn’t up to the task of rigorously screening immigrants from Syria. More >

Stewart-Cousins Calls For Greater Say In Budget Process

ascFrom the Morning Memo:

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was honored on Wednesday night by the Brennan Center at an event that focused on women in politics and, specifically, made the case that women should have greater influence in crafting the state budget.

At the event, Stewart-Cousins touched on key issues the mainline Democratic conference is expected to push in the coming legislative session, including ethics legislation, paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage — efforts she said are being blocked by a Legislature that under represents women.

At the same time, all of those measures are ones that are backed by voters and overwhelmingly supported by women in New York, she said.

Meanwhile, Stewart-Cousins pointed to an outdated budget-making process that remains known as “three men in a room” — the Assembly speaker, the Senate majority leader and governor, all of whom have been men. More >

Heaney Camp Fires Back In PAC Dispute

fasoannounceFrom the Morning Memo:

The ongoing dispute over a political action committee that’s aligned with Republican Andrew Heaney and rival GOP candidate John Faso continues amid an increasingly pitched battle for the 19th congressional district.

To recap, the PAC called the New York Jobs Council, which is backing Heaney’s campaign, released a video this week knocking Faso’s work as a lobbyist and including audio in which the candidate says he is “proud” to have done the work.

Faso’s campaign has noted the audio came from an interview in which Faso was discussing his work as a registered lobbyist for Autism Speaks.

Columbia County Republican Chairman Greg Fingar subsequently blasted Heaney’s campaign over the video in a letter to fellow chairs in the 19th congressional district. More >

Cuomo: No Specific Threat Against New York

cuomogunsFrom the Morning Memo:

After a video released from ISIS that purported to suggest New York could be a target for an attack, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday night said no specific threat had been made, even as security measures are being enhanced.

“I want every New Yorker to know that their security is our absolute highest priority,” Cuomo said in the statement. “The video released by ISIS today contains old footage of New York, and there is no specific terrorist threat to New York at this time. After the Paris attacks, I directed state agencies to enhance their preparedness out of an abundance of caution and remain in close contact with local and federal authorities, including the FBI and NYPD through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that vigilance continues today.”

Those security measures include heightened alert at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, increased surveillance by the State Police and National Guard as well as increased patrols by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“I encourage all New Yorkers to remain alert and report any suspicious activity, while at the same time not letting this disrupt their daily lives,” Cuomo said. “Remember that the terrorists’ goal is to let fear win – New Yorkers never have, and we never will.”

Cuomo in a gaggle with reporters in Rochester insisted the state was prepared to deal with the added security following the attacks in Paris.

“We increased security measures,” Cuomo said. “It costs us money, but I think it’s money well spent.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City.

The federal corruption trials of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continue in Manhattan.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is in Yonkers. NYC Mayor Bil de Blasio holds events in the city.

A full listing of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.


NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed a new ISIS propaganda video in which images of Times Square were shown, and underscored the assessment that there is no “specific, credible threat” against New York City. They urged New Yorkers to keep going about their business as usual.

“The people of New York City will not be intimidated,” de Blasio said, standing in the middle of Times Square, one of the locations featured in the ISIS video.

Nearly 500 of the City of Buffalo’s lowest-paid workers would be getting a series of raises starting next year and ultimately earn $15 per hour by 2021 under a plan revealed by Mayor Byron Brown, who made this announcement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, also joined by Cuomo, announced a similar minimum wage increase in her city.

De Blasio’s announcement that his administration will make an unprecedented investment in housing for the homeless puts more pressure on Cuomo to follow the mayor’s lead. De Blasio and Cuomo had been in talks about supportive-housing, but hadn’t reached an agreement.

“Talk to me like that again and I’m going to smash you’re f—ing head in,” Adam Skelos’s supervisor, Christopher Curcio, quoted the state Senate Majority Leader’s son as telling him when he demanded he occasionally show up at work.

Skelos was so furious at Cuomo’s adoption of anti-fracking rules last Dec. 17 that kept Adam from cashing in that the two discussed a possible run for governor by the senator to “kick” Cuomo’s behind, according to a wiretap played at their federal corruption trial.

The conversations were played during the first full day of testimony at the Skeloses’ bribery and extortion trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan while prosecutors questioned Sen. Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat, about the procedures and legislation.

The government wrapped up nearly three weeks of testimony and evidence in its corruption case against former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, resting its case after calling two witnesses who testified in support of the money-laundering charges against the assemblyman.

Silver will not be taking the stand in his own defense. In fact, his attorneys don’t plan to call any witnesses at all, but instead will present only documents to back up their arguments.

Silver invested $700,000 in his wife’s name as a way to dodge disclosure of his money, Jordan Levy, a Buffalo-based investor, testified. Prosecutors say that move was intended to conceal the money.

The owners of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County say talks with state officials to keep the facility open have been “unsuccessful,” and they have filed a notice with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicating they would close the money-losing plant.

Embroiled in a long-term, internecine conflict with Cuomo, de Blasio has embraced a second high-level feud, exchanging harsh words with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey over the refugee crisis in Syria.

More >


US Sen. Chuck Schumer has recommended Kathleen Sweet, a former president of the Bar Association of Erie County, to President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by District Court Judge William Skretny’s move to senior status. She would be the Buffalo area’s first-ever female federal judge.

Barclays will pay an additional $150 million to the state Financial Services Department to resolve allegations that it rigged foreign exchange trading by putting the bank’s interests ahead of those of its clients.

The MTA is losing some $10 million a year thanks to the growth of Uber, authority officials said, and that number is expected to grow.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments on refugees while brandishing the iconic picture of the drowned 3 year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi.

Rep. John Katko asked a committee of House and Senate members Wednesday to restore $12 million in funding for Centro and billions for other public transit systems that were cut in a highway bill the House passed earlier this month.

A Suffolk County Democrat has filed a complaint with the FEC against Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, alleging he illegally used funds from his state Senate campaign to aid his successful 2014 congressional campaign.

The state’s top court upheld the conviction of the final defendant in a mortgage-fraud scam that involved dozens of homes in Nassau County.

In a breakthrough for advocates of renewing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have agreed to support a permanent extension of the act’s expired health program.

The state will seek to add another $5 million to its tourism budget and fund more television ads through the “I Love NY” program.

A closely watched town supervisor race on Long Island that may have implications in the battle for control of the Senate next year might be decided in court.

Two years after leaving City Hall, former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is still playing a huge role in politics as the nation’s largest bipartisan individual donor in the nation.

Melania Trump, alongside her billionaire, presidential candidate spouse, will sit down with ABC’s Barbara Walters for a special episode of “20/20” airing Frida

Former state education commissioner John King must recuse himself from decisions directly related to New York, even when he takes over as acting US secretary of education after Arne Duncan steps down, according to a federal official.

The ingredients are in place for a short but intense lake effect storm late this weekend in Upstate New York.

At the corruption trial of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, an ex-supervisor of the senator’s son, Adam, testified that he had been threatened by the younger Skelos after questioning his work attendance.

Comcast Corp. dropped the YES Network, home of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, after the two sides couldn’t come to terms over a new carriage agreement.

Radio host and political activist Frank Morano explains his love of all things Staten Island.

A video surfaced from the hacktivist group Anonymous warning that the Watervliet Arsenal and several other military locations across the country of ISIS attacks.

Former SUNY-ESF trustee Tom Buckel Jr. said that the addition of last-minute items to the college’s board led to his resignation.

More tales of disarray in New York’s yet-to-go-online medical marijuana program.

Now we know where Ben “BuzzFeedBen” Smith eats. (Happy Birthday, Ben!)

Griffo Blasts AG’s ‘Ridiculous’ Lawsuit

Republican Sen. Joe Griffo on Wednesday knocked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit filed against the Utica City School District over its treatment of refugee students.

Schneiderman’s lawsuit claims the district has over the last several years created a system into which immigrant students are prevented from enrolling in Proctor High School and divert them to alternative education services that are apart from the general student program. The program funnels away not just newly arrived immigrants but students who had been living in the U.S. and recently transferred to the district.

The alternative programs, Schneiderman alleges, are in essence “roads to nowhere” with many of the students aging out or dropping out rather than completing academic credits for a high school equivalency.

“Every New Yorker under the age of twenty-one has a right to attend public school in the District in which they reside, regardless of immigration status or national origin,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Access to a quality education is the foundation of the American Dream. School districts cannot place arbitrary impediments and barriers in the way of immigrants and refugees who have struggled to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.”

Utica over the last several decades has drawn thousands of refugee immigrants, many of whom are Bosnian.

Griffo, who represents the Mohawk Valley city in the Senate, sees the situation much differently than Schneideramn.

“Instead of attacking a struggling school district that is already trying to do the best it can with the limited resources it has, the Attorney General should be focusing on issues that really matter, like cracking down on criminals, cyber-security threats and terrorism,” Griffo said. “This latest legal action smacks of retribution by the Attorney General because the Utica School District was wise enough to join other small cities in suing the state for not providing its students with fair and equitable funding. I am involved in efforts through the Legislature to fix this problem so schools like Utica get the full funding they deserve to best serve all students, but the Attorney General’s egregious and outrageous attack now on our admirable educators does nothing to help accomplish that goal.”

Entergy Files to Close FitzPatrick

FitzPatrick 1Entergy has filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to close the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County, Entergy Spokesperson Tammy Holden said Wednesday.

Holden says the filing is merely procedural. They’re required to file a letter with the NRC within 30 days of their decision to close the plant.  The plant will shut its doors in late 2016 or early 2017 after the end of the current fuel cycle.

Holden says Entergy has tried “to reach a constructive and mutually beneficial agreement to avoid a shutdown” with state officials over the past two months, but talks did not merit results. “Discussions have concluded,” Holden said.

More than 600 people will lose their jobs at the plant when it closes over the next year. The decision is a major economic blow to the area, which collects a generous amount of income tax from the large payroll at FitzPatrick.

Governor Cuomo and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer both said they would work with Entergy to keep the plant open, but this latest development indicates that effort was not enough. A spokesperson for Entergy said earlier this month that regardless of help from the state, the plant was no longer economically viable in the region.

The plant has been operating in the Scriba area for four decades this year.