Cuomo Budget Director Criticizes RWDSU’s Amazon Opposition

An “open letter” released under the name of the top budget official in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Friday blasted the labor union that represents retail and department store workers on the decision by Amazon to drop its project for Long Island City in Queens.

The letter released by the governor’s office pointed to RWDSU seeking to unionize Whole Foods workers, and used the opposition to the Amazon deal as leverage in the negotiations. The letter accused the union of funding opposition groups to demonstrate against the project.

“It backfired,” the letter stated. “Initially, Whole Foods grocery stores had nothing to do with this transaction. It is a separate company. While Amazon is not a unionized workforce, Amazon had agreed to union construction and service worker jobs that would have provided 11,000 thousand union positions.”

It continued, “New York State also has the most pro-worker legal protections of any state in the country. Organizing Amazon, or Whole Foods workers, or any company for that matter, is better pursued by allowing them to locate here and then making an effort to unionize the workers, rather than making unionization a bar to entrance. If New York only allows unionized companies to enter, our economy is unsustainable, and if one union becomes the enemy of other unions, the entire union movement – already in decline – is undermined and damaged.”

The letter, which runs more than 1,400 words, is a lengthy rebuke to Amazon opponents. Cuomo in a radio interview earlier in the day once again blamed Senate Democrats for appointing a critic to an oversight board.

The letter released Friday afternoon blasted both Sen. Mike Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer for having “flip-flopped” on the issue. It called the accusations of a backroom deal on the negotiations of the project “false.” And it declared the loss of the project not just a problem for Queens, but the state as a whole.

“The seventy percent of New Yorkers who supported Amazon and now vent their anger also bear responsibility and must learn that the silent majority should not be silent because they can lose to the vocal minority and self-interested politicians,” the letter stated.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a statement called the letter “deceitful” and “dishonest.”

“We did not employ community groups to protest. These groups have always stood for our shared principles; not everything is transactional,” said spokeswoman Chelsea Connor.

“For years when the Governor does good things, as he has often done, we have been proud to support him and will continue to do so in the future. We were the first union to endorse him for Attorney General when he made his comeback. We were the first union to call on then Attorney General Cuomo to run for Governor, even before he announced. And it was the president of our union who nominated Governor Cuomo for a third term at the Democratic convention. We thank the State elected officials and City Councilmembers, community groups, and the Teamsters Joint Council 16 who stood with us to ensure that every worker has a voice.”

Extras

Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager to President Trump, is expected to face charges in New York, part of an effort that could still give him prison time even if he receives a pardon.

A months-long sex trafficking investigation has ensnared the billionaire owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

As state lawmakers debate whether to allow undocumented immigrants to have access to driver’s licenses, state Sen. Jim Tedisco wants new legal protections for county clerks who refuse to comply.

Sen. Fred Akshar has started a private investigator and security consulting business as a new cap on outside income for state lawmakers is due to take effect.

President Trump weighed in on the Amazon deal falling through: “It’s the kind of thinking that our country is going to on the left, the radical left, but ultimately it’s not good for jobs and it’s not good for the economy.”

A federal monitor for the city’s ailing housing authority has been chosen. CEO of a security and investigations consulting firm Bart Schwartz will be the new monitor to oversee NYCHA.

Members of the FDNY and elected officials are pushing back against cuts to compensation meant to support victims of the September 11th attacks, their families and those who worked at the site.

Less than 72 hours after being involved in a horrible crash that took the life of a Syracuse man, basketball coach Jim Boeheim will be at the Dome as the Syracuse Orange take on Duke.

Bill Hammond of the Empire Center analyzes the cuts Cuomo has proposed to the Medicaid program and the impact.

Court documents charging R&B star R. Kelly with sexual abuse say the assaults occurred over a more than two-decade timeframe. Friday’s charges come following the allegations made by two women Thursday, saying Kelly had sex with an underage teenager without her consent.

New York schools do not want to host voting Election Day as parents have raised concerns with strangers coming into the building while students are there.

The revenue forecast is due next week for the state, and if lawmakers and the governor can’t reach an agreement, the issue is kicked over to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Mayor de Blasio says the city is expanding a crackdown on the use of phony placards and the misuse use of government issued parking placards outside of official business and he’s issuing a warning to anyone who thinks a placard is a free parking pass.

Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden has been charged following a federal investigation into a scheme where McFadden allegedly received funds from the Rochester Housing Authority.

Former Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio will stand trial April 1 and if she’s found guilty, her law license would be revoked.

A Buffalo City Court judge has approved Erie County District Attorney John Flynn’s motion to have 35 bench warrants for low-level marijuana cases thrown out.

Enrollment In Health Exchange Increases In All Counties

County-by-county data released Friday by the state Department of Health show enrollment in the state’s 62 counties increased in the health marketplace exchange.

Livingston County had the highest increase, a 256-person spike, or a 15 percent rise. Enrollment in Montgomery increased by 204 people, a 14 percent increase. And in Hamilton County, there was a 30-person increase, a 13 percent rise.

In New York City, each of the five boroughs saw increases as well.

Total insurance enrollment through the marketplace is now at more than 4.7 million people statewide.

“It’s evident that the demand for quality, affordable health coverage is high in every corner of the state,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “With a robust choice of health plans and affordable premiums, NY State of Health is the place consumers come to get covered.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the codification of the Affordable Care Act into state law, including the health exchange, which exists through an executive order.

Stirpe Files To Run For County Executive

stirpeDemocratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe has formed a campaign committee to run for Onondaga County executive, a filing with the state Board of Elections shows.

Stirpe was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and represents a district around the city of Syracuse.

The county executive post is currently held by Republican Ryan McMahon, who took over the post from Joanie Mahoney last year when she departed for a job with the state.

Petitions for the race are due out on Tuesday.

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.