New York To Investigate Facebook’s Data Collection

The latest story of Facebook accessing personal data of users on Friday sparked an investigation by New York state officials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement said the New York Department of State and the Department of Financial Services would review the social media site’s collection of data by users who provide information to third party apps on smartphones, even if the initial user does not have any connection to Facebook.

“The recent report that Facebook is accessing far more personal information of smartphone users than previously reported, including health and other sensitive data, represents an invasion of privacy and breach of consumer trust,” Cuomo said in the statement. “According to the report, a wide range of apps are sending highly personal data to the social media giant apparently without users’ consent and even when users are not logged in through Facebook. This practice, which in some cases clearly violates Facebook’s own business terms, is an outrageous abuse of privacy.”

It’s not the first time state officials have pursued Facebook. Last year, Cuomo backed legislation that would require new transparency and disclosure rules for digital political ads on sites like Facebook.

“New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information is safe, and we must hold internet companies – no matter how big – responsible for upholding the law and protecting the information of smartphone users,” Cuomo said.

County Governments Want Changes To Proposed Bottle Bill Expansion

The state’s county governments are calling for changes to the proposed expansion of the state’s bottle return law that would add sports and energy drinks, as well as fruit, vegetable and ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages.

The New York Association of Counties in a statement Friday pointed to the expansion placing “an undue burden” on municipal recycling programs by removing as much as 50 percent of plastic and aluminum containers — leading to a loss of revenue for solid waste programs.

“Solid waste entities have put forth a lot of time, effort, and money to carry out state and local recycling initiatives,” said Stephen McElwain, the president of the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management. “We oppose the Governor’s proposal to take value out of the curbside bin at a time when global market changes have made it difficult for local entities to continue providing these environmentally-beneficial programs.”

At the same time, the association called for a deposit to be added on glass containers, such as wine and liquor bottles, as well bottles for hard cider and non-alcoholic beverage containers.

“It is estimated that extending the Bottle Bill to include wine and liquor bottles would divert over 150,000 tons of glass to the deposit system,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “This revenue could be used to bring recycling infrastructure up to modern standards and capabilities, as well as support local recycling education and environmental initiatives.”

Cuomo Battles Senate Dems, Again, Over Amazon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday called Amazon’s decision to abandon a project in Queens “the greatest tragedy” since he’s been in public office.

“What happened is the greatest tragedy that I have seen since I have been in government,” Cuomo told WAMC in Albany.

Cuomo’s office clarified after the interview the governor’s comment was in the context of government shortcomings on other projects that fell through.

At the same time, Cuomo’s interview with the station once again cast blame on Democrats in the state Senate for sinking the deal, which would have brought as many as 25,000 jobs to Long Island City tied to $3 billion in tax incentives.

Cuomo pointed to the appointment of Sen. Mike Gianaris, a critic of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, which could have had oversight of the project.

“What happened here is a number of factors, but primary the state Senate made the misguided decision in my opinion, which I think is now clear to all, to treat Amazon as a local political issue and defer the decision making to the local political senator who they also appointed to the governmental board who had to approve the project,” Cuomo said.

Amazon’s decision in part was also fueled by a sustained push from labor unions to organize the company’s workforce in New York, a move the online retail giant opposed.

But Cuomo on Friday continued to point to Gianaris’s opposition to the project as the primary reason for its demise. The governor demurred when asked if he would aid a primary challenge to Gianaris in his Queens Senate district.

Democratic incumbents in suburban and upstate districts, however, may have political consequences, he said.

“No, it doesn’t spell trouble between me and them,” Cuomo said. “It spells trouble between them and the state of New York. This was 70 percent popular. This was a mistake for them to think this was a New York-Long Island political issue.”

He added, “Either they have not read a newspaper or talked to a person or taken economics 101 or civics 101 or they get it. The Buffalo News said it was terrible for the state Senate. Albany Times Union, Long Island Newsday. It was never a Queens issue.”

Senate Democrats fired back, noting Gianaris was never even approved by Cuomo to sit on the board.

“It’s unfortunate that Governor Cuomo is once again failing to accept any responsibility for this failed deal,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.

“We have no member on the PACB. We made a recommendation and if the Governor was so upset he could have rejected it. In fact, the full Board met this week without our recommended member further proving the Governor’s argument has no merit. As we told the Governor numerous times we would be happy to make a new recommendation if he rejected this one. New Yorkers deserve facts from their elected leaders. The Governor should spend less time with baseless attacks and attempts to divide Democrats and more time fixing his flawed economic development process so we can move forward and help business and the community thrive.”

It’s not yet clear what consequences the Amazon deal falling through will have not just politically, but also on the government side. Lawmakers have been out of Albany this week for a mid-February break in the session. When they return, the budget negotiations will likely heat up.

The governor, however, is not considered someone who forgives and forgets.

Florida Governor Says He’d Welcome More New Yorkers

From the Morning Memo:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week poked New York officials over taxes and jobs, saying he’d welcome more residents of the state who want to move south.

“I was looking, you may have seen, the governor of New York complaining that Florida was stealing its residents,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference this week.

It’s not clear what remarks Gov. Andrew Cuomo made that DeSantis is referring to; it is likely a reference to Cuomo’s push against the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, which Cuomo has blamed on a $2.3 billion revenue shortfall.

Cuomo has said the cap has targeted high tax states like New York, enabling wealthier people to move to states like Florida, negatively affecting New York’s bottomline in the process.

But DeSantis said the departures shouldn’t be blame don Florida.

“You are driving them away and we are simply opening our arms,” he said. “I’ve been able to be very clear that Florida will always remain a low tax state. We will never see an income tax here in Florida. You’re not going hear me or any of the people in Florida push away people who want to bring jobs to our state. I’m not going to demonize people or companies. If AOC (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) doesn’t want Amazon, they can come to Florida.”

Cuomo has backed efforts to lower tax rates in New York, which have declined during his time in office. But the state’s main revenue generator continues to be the personal income tax. Forty-six percent of the state’s PIT revenue comes from its richest residents.

Supporters Step Up Driver’s Licenses Push

From the Morning Memo:

The effort to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants pushed forward this week as the New York City Council backed a resolution in support of the measure.

Sen. Luis Sepúlveda in an email to supporters on Thursday called the issue “human right” to be able to drive a car without the fear of being stopped over identification.

“It is exposure that immigrants do not want to have and with reasonable protest, this is why this bill is so important to me,” said Sepúlveda, a lawmaker from the Bronx. “The community needs to feel safe in their everyday activities, being an immigrant does not hinder that common goal that we all have.”

The driver’s license issue resurfaced last year during the gubernatorial election, with advocates pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to backed the bill.

The measure was controversial a decade ago when proposed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who ultimately backed off amid opposition from Democrats, including then-Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul. Now the lieutenant governor, Hochul has since shifted her position on the issue in support of it.

Nevertheless, local government officials like the county clerks who run motor vehicle offices around the state, remain opposed to the bill.

Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region, introduced legislation this week that would add legal protections for county clerks who refuse to grant the licenses to undocumented immigrants. The bill would bar the governor from removing county clerks and have the state pay their legal fees if taken to court.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is headed to Washington, D.C., where he will make an announcement at 4:30 p.m. with a coalition of fellow governors at the Marriott Marquis, 901 Massachusetts Ave.

The state Legislature and Congress are on their respective mid-winter breaks.

At 9 a.m., the New York State Minority Health Council hosts its first quarterly meeting for the calendar year, 90 Church St., Room 4C, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., in support of increased pay for direct support professionals who work with people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in our community, Arc of Onondaga and The Arc of Madison Cortland will hold a news conference, Memorial Hall, Onondaga County War Memorial, 515 Montgomery St., Syracuse.

Also at 10 a.m., “The Brian Lehrer Show” features NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Attorney General Letitia James, WNYC.

Also at 10 a.m., the Educational Conference Board (ECB) will hold a briefing for legislators, legislative staff and media, Room 711-A, LOB, State Street, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., state Sen. Jessica Ramos holds a press conference to discuss a new bill she introduced that would eliminate the tipped wage for food service workers and service employees in New York state, 32-37 Junction Blvd., Queens.

At 11 a.m., Rep. Paul Tonko will tour the Mill Artisan District redevelopment project, 108 State St., Schenectady.

Also at 11 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will make an announcement about the expansion of Plug Power. Eastman Business Park, Building 308, 2301 Mt. Read Blvd, Rochester.

At noon, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer goes on a Permanent Affordability Commitment Together walkthrough of Wise Towers, Sondra Thomas Senior Building, Community Room, 102 W. 91st St., Manhattan.

At 12:15 p.m., Citizens Union announces its NYC public advocate race endorsement, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., Hochul will make an announcement on the effort to combat heroin and opioid addiction, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence – Rochester Area, 1931 Buffalo Road, Rochester.

At 2:30 p.m., Westchester County Executive George Latimer will make an important announcement regarding the future of the County’s popular North County Trailway, Trail Access on Route 117, West of Route 9A, Town of Mount Pleasant.

At 5 p.m., NYC Ydanis Rodriguez will be joined by Dominican dignitaries, community leaders and organizations in Little Dominican Republic/ Pequeña Dominican Republic within Washington Heights to denounce the travel warning issued on Feb. 12 by the U.S. State Department, St. Nicholas Avenue & West 181st Street, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner will attend the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner, a fundraiser that traditionally serves as an unofficial kick-off for Democratic presidential campaigns, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the keynote speaker, Doubletree by Hilton, 700 Elm St., Manchester, New Hampshire.

Also at 6 p.m., state Sen. Jose Serrano, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner and NYC Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson hold a celebration of African-American history and culture, Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx.

Also at 6 p.m., HUD Regional Administrator Lynne Patton participates in a NYCHA tenant public forum, Grace Methodist Church, 125 W. 104th St., Manhattan.

At 6:15 p.m., Brewer speaks at a turn-out-the-vote rally, Convent Avenue Baptist Church, 420 W. 145th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Brewer attends Pa’lante benefit gala, Grand Slam Banquet Hall, 3534 Broadway, Manhattan.

Headlines…

President Trump is changing course and will keep 200 troops in Syria after an earlier decision to remove U.S. forces from the country.

Mark Harris, the GOP candidate for the 9th Congressional District in North Carolina, took the stand to give his testimony Thursday at the ongoing District 9 hearing. At the end of his testimony, Harris said a new election should be called.

The new attorney general, William Barr, is preparing for the special counsel to deliver a report in coming weeks on the results of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, two officials briefed on the Justice Department’s preparations said.

Pope Francis convened a meeting of Roman Catholic leaders worldwide to grapple directly with clerical child sexual abuse, a scourge that has for decades devastated some corners of his vast church while being utterly ignored and denied in others.

GOP consultant Roger Stone was spared from jail and allowed to remain free on bond after he confessed to the “stupidity” of his posting a photo on social media featuring a federal judge’s face next to an apparent rifle scope crosshair.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sought to specifically link the Times Square ad criticizing her opposition to the Amazon deal to the family of Robert Mercer, the financier who had given away millions to Republican and conservative causes and whose daughter, Rebekah, was a key player in the 2016 campaign of Trump.

Bob McManus in The New York Post: “No one expects the mayor to solve those messes by himself, but de Blasio doesn’t even try. The ­unraveling of HQ2 is a textbook example of his aloof, not-my-problem style of governance.”

A SUNY Alfred professor writes: “The Empire State has stymied the construction of the necessary transmission infrastructure, so Con Ed is unable to keep up with demand. In addition to his decision to ban hydraulic fracturing in 2014 — aborting any hope that New York could profit from some of its most valuable natural resources — Cuomo and his regulators have denied necessary permits for three separate natural-gas pipeline projects.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer entered the fray involving an investment firm known as the “Destroyer of Newspapers” and its hostile attempt to buy upstate media giant Gannett Co.

Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council and one of the most prominent HIV-positive politicians in the U.S., called for the National Institutes of Health to exercise its “march-in” rights and break the patent held by Gilead Sciences to exclusively manufacture and market HIV prevention drug Truvada, or PrEP.

A Manhattan Federal judge rejected an effort to force Mark Peters, the fired NYC Commissioner of the Department of Investigation, to testify about kids poisoned by lead paint in NYCHA housing.

President Trump is targeting New York City immigrants for deportation, according to a new report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

During an unrelated press conference in Lower Manhattan, Stringer said de Blasio should take a lesson from former Mayor John Lindsay, whose brief bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 failed miserably, and focus on his current job.

Keith Raniere, the accused leader of the sex cult Nxivm, insisted to a Brooklyn judge that he has no issue with his heiress co-defendant paying for his lawyers, too.

Single parents who attend community colleges could benefit from a pilot child care program proposed by the governor.

A Rensselaer County grand jury indicted a city code enforcement officer and an unidentified co-defendant after the state attorney general’s Public Integrity Unit investigated the city’s sale of a wooded lot to a former city engineer.

About 70 teachers gathered outside the entrance to Newburgh Free Academy’s main campus before the morning bell to make a statement about safety at the school.

The developer of a construction site on West 66th Street wants to build a 775-foot residential tower with views of Central Park. But last month, the city put a halt to that plan because 160 feet of the height, roughly 16 floors, was reserved for air conditioning and other mechanical equipment, a massive amount aimed at pushing upper-floor apartments higher.

It’s not uncommon to spy a seal basking in the sun along Staten Island’s South Shore. That’s partially because Raritan Bay now attracts a greater diversity of marine life, which is a result of the Clean Water Act and tougher enforcement of pollution laws. But residents on Staten Island’s South Shore fear the hard-won improvements will be at risk if a proposed 23.5 mile underground natural gas pipeline is approved.

As head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, James Patchett was at the center of the negotiations to bring Amazon to the city. And he was one the first people to learn last week that Amazon was pulling out of the deal.

An increasing number of people in the city who are in the country illegally, are being arrested and even deported.

Sources say a former prosecutor and longtime ally of former mayor Rudy Giuliani will likely be named the federal monitor for New York City’s public housing next week, tasked with addressing the failures in public housing and improving conditions for hundreds of thousands of tenants.

Mayor de Blasio is no stranger to Iowa, campaigning there for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and returning in December 2017. This weekend he will head there again, with his own ambitions in mind, as he mulls a run for President in 2020.

Kamala Harris, the California Senator running for president, told the Reverend Al Sharpton she wanted to visit Sylvias in Harlem. So the reverend delivered.

The Albany County Department of Health says two people have tested positive for legionella. The health department says both cases are linked to the Promenade assisted living facility on Western Avenue in Albany. Water samples from Promenade have tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease.

In an effort to understand and learn from the history of capital punishment in this country, UAlbany has collected thousands of documents tracing hundreds of years.

Amsterdam-based ambulance service the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps, is now responsible for responding to 911 calls coming from the area — once covered by the now closed Ambulance Service of Fulton County.

Fair funding according to the Albany Common Council is $12.5 million from the state. It is the amount that has been requested year after year.

In the town of East Greenbush, Supervisor Jack Conway says taxpayers will likely see their bills increase by one percent if Governor Cuomo does not reverse his decision to reduce AIM funding, which many local governments rely on each year.

In New York, 50,000 cars go past a stopped school bus every single day. Officials with the New York Association for Pupil Transportation say it doesn’t have to be this way, and it all starts with education. They’re highlighting Operation Safe Stop at their annual Winter Workshop.

ESPN’s College Gameday show will no longer be in Syracuse– instead hosted at ESPN headquarters in Connecticut after the death of a Syracuse man who was struck by a car driven by coach Jim Boeheim.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announced Thursday she had sent a letter to the International Joint Commission requesting the governing body reduce the water inflow into Lake Ontario. The letter was also sent to local representatives and Gov. Cuomo.

Some of Erie County’s top positions are set to see a raise for the first time in more than 20 years. County legislators approved pay bumps for the county executive, comptroller and sheriff Thursday.

As part of a county-wide initiative, the Erie County Department of Social Services is hosting several meetings to hear the thoughts and concerns of the communities they serve.

The baseball players’ union is going to bat for workers at New Era’s Derby plant. It’s urging the company to keep its plant in Derby open.

Extras

Syracuse police identified the man who was outside his vehicle when he was struck and killed by Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim late last night as Jorge Jimenez, 51.

Jimenez was a passenger in a vehicle that lost control on the highway striking a guard rail. People in the car got out and proceeded to walk on the highway near the vehicle, police said.

Boeheim, 74, is cooperating with investigators and passed field sobriety tests, officials said.

“I am heartbroken that a members of our community died as the result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a statement. “Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”

Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican consultant who spent five months as Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 election, will be sentenced for multiple federal crimes at a U.S. district court in Virginia on March 8, according to a court filing.

In a startling statement, Republican candidate Mark Harris called for a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District “to restore the confidence of voters.”

Jussie Smollett, upset by his salary and seeking publicity, staged a fake assault on himself a week after writing himself a threatening letter, the Chicago police said after the “Empire” actor surrendered to face a charge of filing a false police report.

A federal judge banned Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case after hauling him back to court to answer for an Instagram post attacking her.

The House is set to vote on legislation next week to enhance background checks for gun purchases, as Democrats seek to move quickly on a top priority since taking the majority.

Patagonia announced it has an additional $10 million in profits on its books for 2018 as a result of Trump’s “irresponsible tax cut” last year, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Instead of investing the additional dollars back into its business, the company said it would give $10 million to grassroot groups fighting climate change.

New York State hasn’t given up on winning a future Amazon expansion project, according to Cuomo’s economic development czar, Howard Zemsky. “We should never burn bridges,” he said. “The governor is not burning any bridges — certainly with Amazon. They are a huge employer here in the state.”

Onondaga County lawmaker Casey Jordan wants Amazon, now that the online retailing giant has been jilted by New York City, to know it’s welcome to bring 25,000 jobs to the suburban Syracuse town he represents.

The Erie County Legislature voted to approve pay raises for the county executive and three other countywide elected positions, and also adopted a new pay structure that provides automatic annual raises tied to the consumer price index for the positions of county executive, county comptroller, sheriff and county clerk. The pay for these positions has not been raised in nearly 23 years.

Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scolded media outlets for reporting that she lives in a luxury high-rise building in Washington, DC, around the time she and other high-profile Democrats appeared on a hit list compiled by a Maryland man arrested for allegedly planning a mass terror attack.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo said he fears for his family’s safety after his name was found on a list of Democratic politicians and journalists targeted by a US Coast Guard officer who allegedly wanted to carry out a mass attack.

Ocasio-Cortez blasted the “wack billboard” in Times Square that was paid for by a conservative group to criticize her part in Amazon’s decision to ditch a plan to build a second headquarters in Queens.

James Patchett, president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, said the Amazon deal was botched from the get-go.

Federal officials have picked their monitor to oversee the embattled New York City Housing Authority: Bart Schwartz, a former prosecutor with ties to Cuomo, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and controversial activist Lenora Fulani.

Three weeks after New York’s ethics watchdog panel, JCOPE, voted behind closed doors whether to investigate the activities of a former top aide to Cuomo, there has been no indication that the commission moved forward with any inquiry.

Forty-three TV shows and movies took $1.2 billion in New York state tax breaks from 2015 to mid-2018, state records show. New York sets aside a generous $420 million a year for tax breaks for film studios that make movies and TV shows in the state – that’s more than any other tax break program.

Privileged parkers will lose their NYC-issued placards if they get caught abusing them three times, officials said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants higher penalties for assaulting transportation workers while they’re on the job.

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who announced his resignation back in November, has changed his mind and officially decided to stay on the job.

An official with the Upstate New York Poison Center is warning the public not to use the herbal supplement kratom because it can cause rapid heartbeat, other serious health problems and even death.

Miley Cyrus said her inspiration to marry husband Liam Hemsworth came not just from her love for the Australian actor, but also her love for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton held meetings in early February with former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to talk about the 2020 presidential election, a source close to the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee tells CNN.

The Divide New York Debate Returns

Imagine a map, if you will, that shows a prosperous and powerful city that runs everything and largely rural northern region that is, well, kind of resentful of that.

A world-shaking split occurs, leading to a civil war with dragons and — I’m sorry, that’s the plot of Game of Thrones.

But you don’t have to be familiar with Westeros to know that New York’s fault lines are split in deeply similar ways.

A push to divide the state is brewing once again, a month and a half after Democrats gained full control of the state Senate for the first time in 10 years. In today’s political parlance, we’d probably call it #upexit if such a push were serious enough.

Republican lawmakers in recent days have introduced legislation that would either study ways of separating north from south, or at the very least restoring some political clout to upstate New York.

Sen. Daphne Jordan, a Republican who represents a district encircling the Albany area, introduced a bill to review how feasible a divide would be through the creation of a working group.

Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican from western New York, called for a constitutional amendment that would create something akin to an electoral college for electing the governor and lieutenant governor, giving each county three representational votes of a statewide total. The amendment is a nod to Republicans who noted that GOP nominee Marc Molinaro won more upstate counties than Gov. Andrew Cuomo did (the governor won upstate counties with large cities in them, like Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse).

Splitting the state in two is unlikely and, ultimately, a financially disastrous thing to do, those who have studied the issue say. This is a rebuke of claims that upstate taxpayers’ money is going to aid the poor in New York City. It’s actually the opposite.

The Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, noted the state resulting from #upexit would be smaller and less wealthy as a result. After all, upstate New York would be losing its cash cows: Wealthy people who live in New York City.

“… taxes would not necessarily be lower than they are now; in fact, they would have to be higher unless upstate politicians make the spending cuts necessary to make up for the loss of current revenue subsidies from the wealthier downstate region,” the organization wrote in a 2015 post.

In the alternate world that this did come to pass, an upstate state could presumably pass laws allowing hydrofracking, maybe, and perhaps leverage its agriculture economy to greater effect. It just wouldn’t have the engine of the nation’s economy: Wall Street.

“The bottom line is that the economics underlying this proposal would be dreadful for upstate’s taxpayers and the politics would probably be self-defeating over the long haul,” University at Albany adjunct professor Bruce Gyory told me via email. “A better approach in my mind would be for upstate to advance assiduously an bi-partisan upstate agenda leveraging its great strength: its electoral power in gubernatorial elections.”

More archly, senior Cuomo advisor Rich Azzopardi has called the legislation “pandering” by Republicans to placate constituents upset with the string of Democratic policy goals finally breaking through in Albany.

But while it’s hard imaging something like this working, divide New York sympathizers certainly do see two different states: One that supports gun rights, one that doesn’t; one that wants to rebuke President Donald Trump; one that voted for him; one that has sustained economic success after the recession; one that has had a largely flat recovering and a declining population with grayer hair.

The push to divide the state in large part stems not just from the political differences, but the disparity in wealth and power that’s transferred almost entirely to the metropolitan area in the last half century.

Polarization is nothing new, of course, but it’s become far more intense  with each election. And New York is certainly no exception.

The country has organized itself into a collection of blue and red states and New York is now one of the bluest of them. Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, and the GOP voters who are left tend to be more conservative than their Rockefeller Republican predecessors.

“Whether it’s the issue of gun control, the DREAM Act, taxes and spending, parity in school or infrastructure funding, or even the choice for governor, the deepening divide – cultural, economic and political – between upstate and downstate has grown more pronounced every year,” Jordan said this week. “Many are asking whether both regions would be better off as separate entities.”

The last upstate resident in state government with any meaningful clout was Jordan’s predecessor in the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who leveraged that influence to get major state investments to his area. That’s led to the Northway corridor between Albany and Saratoga Springs to be a virtual outlier compared to many upstate regions with GlobalFoundries and its spin off businesses.

After Bruno left office, Republicans elected a series of Long Islanders to the leadership post, Dean Skelos and then John Flanagan.

Upstate cities over several generations have faltered. Kodak isn’t what it once was. The dairy industry is struggling. And Albany is led by politicians from the suburbs and New York City — two different regions that are often (incorrectly) lumped together.

It’s trending Democratic not just because of New York City, but also because of once powerful Republican machines in Nassau County and, to lesser extent, Westchester County, have faltered.

But the state is a lot more politically and culturally diverse than simply “upstate” and “downstate.” After all, Suffolk County on Long Island voted for Trump in the last election. Staten Island remains a conservative outlier in New York City. Ithaca is an island of liberalism in an otherwise Republican area.

Lake Placid is different from Endicott. Utica is different from Jamestown.

The state is a complicated one, not unlike California or Texas, and New York somehow has evolved so that One World Trade, Mount Marcy and Niagara Falls (the uh, American side) are contained within the same borders.

Cuomo Wants Stronger Penalties For Assaulting Transit Workers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget includes a provision that would add a felony charge for assaulting a transportation worker.

Cuomo touted the proposal on Thursday as he is also pushing for a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan, with the proceeds to be used for shoring up the New York City subway system.

“New York has zero tolerance for anyone who flagrantly puts the lives and safety of transportation workers in jeopardy,” Cuomo said.

“By strengthening existing penalties and expanding the categories of workers included in these protections, we will prevent future assaults, ensure the safety of New York’s transportation workers and provide law enforcement the tools they need to hold offenders accountable.”

Under Cuomo’s proposal, an assault on a transit worker would lead to a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.

The measure would also include DOT and Thruway Authority workers as well as airport workers.

The measure is also included in a budget that would add new penalties for those who assault working journalists.

This Time, They Want it in the Budget

The New York City School Bus Coalition continues its push to ensure protections for school bus matrons, drivers and mechanics, this time as part of the state budget. In 2016, both houses passed a bill codifying what is known as Employee Protection Provisions. However, the provisions were vetoed by Governor Cuomo who said at the time that there was no funding in the budget for the additional protections. This time around, “Driving Our Future,” a group that includes labor groups, contractors and parents, wants to bypass the legislative process and make it a budgetary item.

Driving our future has released a new ad which focuses on driver’s and matrons who take children with special needs to and from school. The ad, which will begin on digital but could expand to cable, was produced by the very talented Jimmy Siegel of Siegel strategies, who has done work for Governor Cuomo and others.

Ad is below: