Nick Reisman

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Who Will Cuomo Pick To Lead The APA?

In honor of Earth Day on Friday, we’re taking a look at the possible changing face of the Adirondack Park Agency — a zoning and land use oversight agency that operates within the Blue Line of the country’s largest state park.

Established by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, it is a super planning board charged with preserving the sprawling wilderness.

But the park is also home to an estimated 135,000 year-round residents, some of whom chafe under the strict regulations and rulings issued by the APA. The population is dwindling and aging, while businesses struggle to gain a foothold within the park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be able to appoint five new board members this summer — four of whom must be full-time Adirondack residents.

“We haven’t always seen eye to eye with the in-park members of the board, but I think most of them have been people we can talk to and work with,” said Scott Lorey, the legislative director of the Adirondack Council.

Though the agency has been heavily criticized by property-rights groups and business owners, environmentalists say the APA has been leaning in the opposite direction in recent months.

“From our point of view, the board seems to be making some decisions favoring land owners and seem to be favoring private development, which seems to have us concerned,” Lorey said. “But they haven’t gone to the point of no return at this point. I think they’re still able to make good decisions and protect the environment.”

The full story airs Friday.

Yonkers Mayoral Hopeful: Drug Test Top Officials

Yonkers Republican mayoral candidate John Murtagh would seek random drug screenings for city officials including the mayor, deputy mayor and other city officials.

The drug tests would also be applied to Board of Education employees and workers who operate machinery and drive city vehicles.

“If a Yonkers employee is driving a public vehicle or performing in a ‘high risk’ job, the public reasonably deserves to know that the City is doing what it can to ensure that drugs and alcohol are not an issue,” Murtagh said in a statement. “Yonkers has an excessively large fleet of ‘take-home’ cars, and the City has a responsibility to make sure their drivers are sober and safe. Let’s not wait for some tragic accident to pass this bill; let’s do the smart thing and pass it before a tragedy occurs.”

An employee testing positive would be censured and brought before the Board of Ethics. An employee who refuses would be subject to dismissal, according to the proposed legislation.

Tedisco: In Honor Of Earth Day, Dump Paper

On the eve of Earth Day, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Saratoga,  is renewing his call for the Legislature to go paperless.

“On Earth Day, as Assembly members, we can do our part to reduce the Legislature’s carbon footprint and save taxpayers money by unsubscribing from the Legislative Digest and scores of other paperwork that’s already accessible online,” Tedisco said. “Hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper are needlessly printed each year by the Legislature, much of it going unread and tossed into landfills. This is no way to treat Mother Earth or taxpayers funds.”

Tedisco is trying to eliminate the paper used by the state’s paper-happy Legislature, which often stacks multiple-foot-high bills on lawmakers’ desks.

Tedisco raised the issue during the budget debate, appearing with a huge stack of spending bills on his desk. The lawmaker determined it costs the state $13 million to print the paper bills.

Log Cabin Republicans: Count Us In

The Log Cabin Republicans, the organization for gay GOPers, announced today it would join the coalition of gay-rights groups that have joined forces in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage this year in New York.

“Marriage is not a progressive or conservative issue. It’s an issue of equal rights for taxpaying citizens of this state,” said Gregory T. Angelo, Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York State. “For the first time, we are truly united in our fight to ensure every single New Yorker has the right to marry the person he or she loves.”

New Yorkers United For Marriage now includes The Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, The Human Rights Campaign and Marriage Equality New York.

“We are thrilled to have Log Cabin Republicans join the coalition,” said Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement. “It was a bipartisan coalition that repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and it will be a bipartisan coalition that will win marriage here in New York.”

A bill that would legalize gay marriage failed in the Senate in 2009 38-24 despite Democratic control of the chamber. A bill would need several Republican lawmakers to sign onto the measure. The coalition has already identified Sens. Jim Alesi of Monroe County, Greg Ball of the Hudson Valley and Roy McDonald as possible yes votes.

Diaz ‘Deeply Offended’ By Gay Marriage Timing

Sen. Ruben Diaz, an outspoken opponent of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, released a statement slamming Gov. Andrew Cuomo for what he sees as an effort to mobilize the gay community during Holy Week.

Diaz, a Pentecostal minister and Bronx Democrat, accused Cuomo of “targeting communities of faith” during the week of Passover and the run-up to Good Friday and Easter.

From the statement:

We all know that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Budget, which was done in haste to beat the clock, will cause tremendous suffering to countless New Yorkers – especially Black and Hispanic communities. His cuts will hurt students, senior citizens, the sick, the poor and the needy. Now Governor Cuomo is targeting communities of faith in an effort to redefine marriage. The most basic tenets of New York’s largest faith communities include defining marriage as between one man and one woman. These religions that cherish these values include Catholic, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

The lawmaker was responding to the news that a coalition of gay-rights groups were consolidating their efforts to successfully legalize gay marriage this year. Cuomo himself has said he wants to legalize gay marriage by the end of the current legislative session.

Timing for Diaz, apparently, is everything. The statement issue this afternoon was familiar to what he said this time last year in response to news that then-Gov. David Paterson’s plans to introduce a gay marriage bill. Last year, Diaz said he was ready to call an emergency session of the New York Hispanic Clergy, saying, “I think this is the wrong time to do it,” Diaz Sr. said. “(Paterson) is doing this as a welcoming ceremony for the new Catholic? It’s ridiculous.”

The full Diaz statement is after the jump: More >

Avella: Accident Proves Drilling Ban Needed

The spilling of several thousand gallons of chemicals at a natural gas well in northern Pennsylvania shows a ban on hydraulic fracturing is necessary, Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, said this afternoon.

“This is exactly the kind of situation I’m concerned of,” Avella said in an interview. “All it takes is one bad incident and then you have a disaster on your hands. One incident could harm the water for millions of New Yorkers.”

Avella is the sponsor of a measure that would ban the process known as hydrofracking, which uses a mixture of chemicals and water to access natural gas underneath. Pennsylvania is considered something of a test case for hydrofracking in New York, which is currently under review by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also wants to the federal government to conduct a study into the issue, threatening to file a lawsuit if a study isn’t taken up within 30 days.

But at the same time upstaters argue that allowing hydrofracking and natural gas drilling would be a boon to the depressed upstate economy.

Avella said the real concern, however, should be clean drinking water.

“If we damage our water supply, you won’t have an economy in New York,” he said. “My primary goal is to ban it completely.” More >

Operators Lose Control Of Pennsylvania Gas Well

Operators in Pennsylvania, a state that has become a test case for the use of the controversial natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, have lost control of a natural gas well this afternoon, the AP is reporting.

The well, located in northern Pennsylvania near the New York border, spilled thousands of gallons of tainted water, forcing the evacuation of several homes.

From the AP:

Operators have lost control of a natural gas well in rural northern Pennsylvania, leading to a spill of fluids used in the drilling process. Bradford County emergency officials say thousands of gallons of tainted water have spilled from a Chesapeake Energy Corp. well site near Canton since early Wednesday.

Francis Roupp is deputy director of the county emergency management agency. He tells The Associated Press there were no injuries, explosion or fire.

He says fluids have reached a small stream but “no adverse effects” have been reported. He says a cracked well casing is suspected.

Chesapeake spokesman Rory Sweeney says the company is preparing a statement.

IDC Offers SAGE Suggestions

A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally announced his picks to lead a commission that would reduce the size of state government, the Independent Democratic Conference wrote a letter reminding the panel of its own bureaucracy-busting suggestions.

In the letter sent to commission co-chairman Paul Francis and Antonio Perez, Sens. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Carlucci of Clarkstown, Rockland County and David Valesky of Oneida, remind them of past proposals.

These include cracking down on overtime, reviving an office within the Office of General Services that would assess risk management and consolidating the state’s “patchwork” inspector general system.

The IDC included copies of its reports, which have been released throughout the year.

From the letter:

Overall, our proposals would save more than $1.1 billion in recurring savings over the next decade. Of that, specific recommendations that would result in at least $500 million in savings fall within the SAGE Commission’s parameters.

Idc Sage Letter

IG: OGS Manager Hung Out In Bars On Worktime (Updated)

Inspector General Ellen Biben today announced criminal charges against an Office of General Services construction manager who would leave work early to hang out in a bar, her office charged.

Biben said Albany resident Gregory Ruth, 53, would routinely leave work early to spend most or all of his afternoon in an area bar, costing the state $5,000 in time. He was arraigned in Albany court today on felony charges of filing a false instrument, third-degree grand larceny and scheming to defraud the government.

In one instance, Ruth spent most of his Dec. 8 workday afternoon in a bar, despite filing a time card that claimed he worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In another, he filed a time card on Jan. 24 stating he worked from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., when he had also been in a bar, Biben said.

Biben said Ruth’s annual salary is $89,954.

Update: OGS Acting Commissioner Joseph Rabito issued a statement saying Ruth has been suspended without pay:

Mr. Ruth has been suspended without pay pending the resolution of disciplinary and criminal proceedings.  OGS is immediately undertaking an internal investigation into the matter. OGS is committed to being part of a state government New York can be proud of, so the behavior as described, if accurate, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

New Hevesi Mug Released

The state Department of Correctional Services this afternoon released a compelling and somewhat haunting mugshot of inmate 11-R-1334, also known as disgraced former comptroller Alan Hevesi.

hevesi, alan 11-R-1334-1

He is currently serving 1-4 years in Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanoch. He was sentenced Friday in the massive pay-to-play pension fund scheme that also toppled his political advisor Hank Morris.

The sentencing of the 71-year-old Hevesi was delayed last month after the Democrat had reportedly taken ill and was sent to the hospital. Hevesi resigned in 2006 in the wake of allegations that he used a state employee to act as chauffeur for his wife.