Downstate NY

Cuomo Adding Speed Camera Program to Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will reinstate and expand the New York City speed camera program in his 2019 executive budget, which will be unveiled tomorrow.

His plan includes increasing the amount of speed camera zones from 140 to 290 and placing “additional signage” in the designated areas.

The program lapsed last July following inaction in the state Senate – in part due to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who was caucusing with the Republican majority at the time, and wouldn’t support the legislation without language that would add police officers in NYC schools.

Other past key players on this issue were now-former Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden, and former Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt, a Rochester Democrat.

Cuomo finally addressed the legislative inaction by declaring a state of emergency in August, temporarily re-authorizing the program.

In his statement today, Cuomo wasn’t shy about placing the blame for the program’s failure on Republican shoulders – a not terribly difficult thing to do, given the fact that the Republicans are no longer in charge of anything at the state Capitol.

“After Senate Republicans shamefully refused to extend this life-saving program, I declared a State of Emergency before the start of the school year to temporarily keep the cameras operating,” the governor said.

“With this new proposal we will not only reinstate the program the way it should have been done in the first place – we will also expand the number of cameras to protect more children and prevent needless tragedies and heartbreak.”

The program, designed to record and enforce speeding violations near school zones, is operated and controlled by New York City. It was first signed into law in 2013.

NYC Councilman Encourages 2020 Census Participation

From the Morning Memo:

Please participate in the 2020 census — even if you’re an undocumented immigrant, implores New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement Wednesday.

“New Yorkers and especially undocumented residents should not be afraid to participate in the 2020 Census,” Rodriguez said.

The data collected is vital to shaping future undertakings in the Big Apple, including: budget funding, resource allocation, emergency preparations, and gauging population growth and or decline, he said.

Rodriguez, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. in his teens, says those worried about a citizenship question included in the census have no reason to fear.

But anxiety over arrest, separation and even deportation exists for those whose friends and family members have undetermined citizenship statuses, or are undocumented themselves.

It’s also a response to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s appointment of Julie Menin, currently the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, as the City’s new director of the Census.

“Ms. Menin’s staff should reflect the diversity of our great City of New York and the 2020 Census outreach needs to be provided in the appropriate language for a neighborhood and/or resident. The information distribution needs to be disseminated widely so that it is accessible to all residents.”

Anxiety over the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census has tensed.

“It is essential that we ensure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, know their rights when participating in this historic survey that leads to better services for all New Yorkers,” Rodriguez said.

Should the question remain on the population count, speculation over inaccurate results or even an undercount looms.

Big Apple’s Economic Future Looks Strong…ish

From the Morning Memo:

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli gives a big thumbs up to the Big Apple’s economy, albeit, erring on the side of caution.

In a report Wednesday, the comptroller’s office says the city is slated to end 2018 with an additional 72,000 jobs, a positive streak predicted to carry through the new year.

In 2017 alone, the city reached a record employment of 4.4 million, noting between 2009 and 2017, 715,000 jobs were added, an achievement dubbed the “largest and longest job expansion since World War II.”

October’s monthly unemployment rate hit 4 percent, a figure unmet in 42 years.

DiNapoli’s report says it’s all thanks to consumer confidence, steady tourism, rising property values and growing Wall Street profits.

“New York City’s economy is strong and continues to set new records,” DiNapoli said.

Despite growth, there’s worry over instability in the stock market reflected over the past several months.

The city also faces “significant budget gaps and risks in the coming years.”

Fiscal strain from agreements with labor unions made after the budget was adopted in June 2018 are a noted challenge, but not a permanent or unexpected obstacle.

“While the FY 2019 budget surplus is likely to grow, city officials will need to consider additional actions to narrow the budget gaps projected for fiscal years 2020 through 2022,” DiNapoli said.

“In addition, the city faces the prospects of future risks, which could make balancing the budget more difficult. While the economy is still strong, it appears more vulnerable than in recent years.”

The report exposes broad view tender spots, like the slowing global economy and pressure from federal trade agreements that would throw a wrench in the balancing the books. Also laying in wait are New York City-centric caveats, such as low pension fund earnings and an increasingly dependent NYCHA and Health and Hospitals Corp. that could call for a boost in city contributions.

Then there’s the white elephant in the room: the crumbling Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Wednesday morning on WAMC Radio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged the wearisome task, even going so far as to admit a want to wipe hands clean of the transportation infrastructure burden.

It’s a problem that’s getting more expensive by the day.

July 2018 data determines the 2020 budget gap doubled to $510 million, and upped to $991 million by 2022.

“These estimates already assume fare and toll increases of 4 percent in 2019 and 2021.”

To read the full report, click here.

NYGOP Names New NYC Finance Co-Chair

From the Morning Memo:

The New York Republican Committee named Anthony Kammas their New York City Finance Co-Chair.

“It’s my honor to serve the New York Republican Party in this capacity,” Kammas said.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the quality of the Party’s candidates and important issues they are advancing to make New York State a better place to live, work and raise a family. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I’m optimistic and excited for the challenge. Whether it’s in Albany or New York City, the far-left Democratic policing are failing, and we need to ensure we have the resources to get our message out.”

An insurance executive, Kammas is a founding partner of Skyline Risk Management Inc., an insurance company.

“We’re thrilled that Anthony has stepped forward to take on this important role,” said Chairman Ed Cox. “Throughout his distinguished career, Anthony has built a reputation and network that will be a tremendous asset to our operations. The New York Republican Party is working hard to expand our outreach, and creating a strong fundraising operation in New York City is essential to our success.”

The current New York City Finance Chair is John Meserve.

Cuomo Lobbies Trump for Tunnel Repairs

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case I think it’s worth $13 billion dollars,” concludes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s five minute and 23 second digital funding appeal to President Donald Trump.

Cuomo wants the federal government to go halfsies with New York, New Jersey and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the Gateway Tunnel Project–an endeavor that would rebuild parts of Amtrak’s 107 year old ailing passenger train infrastructure that stretches across the Northeast Corridor, and build a new two lane Hudson River tunnel.

It’s something he calls, “probably the critical infrastructure issue facing not just New Jersey and New York, but literally the entire Northeast.”

The estimated cost lies somewhere between 12 and 13 billion dollars, and the project expected is to take seven to eight years.

The video message gives face to every engineers worst nightmare: crumbling concrete walls wet by intrusive salt water, power cables connected to Penn Station becoming increasingly less protected thanks to corrosion and flood damage from Super Storm Sandy.

Cuomo explains he had lobbied a receptive Obama administration to foot 50 percent of the bill, but the Trump Administration has been opposed to the proposal.

Cuomo says the project has no legs without the federal government’s approval, legal assistance or funding.

“Given your background in construction I think once you see the severity of the situation it will speak volumes.”

Cuomo toured the tunnels Wednesday night in effort to capture the appeal on camera.

The Democratic Governor is running for a third term this November and is no fan of President Donald Trump, constantly painting his opponent, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as an antagonistic ‘Trump mini-me.’

Gianaris Calls for Abolishing Ice

From the Morning Memo…

State Sen. Mike Gianaris, of Queens, is the latest Democratic elected official to call for abolishing ICE, taking that stand at a rally welcoming a Guatemalan woman detained at the U.S.-Mexico border to NYC for a brief visit with her three children, from whom she was separated at an Arizona immigration facility six weeks ago.

“ICE is a rogue agency under the direction of a rogue President and both must be stopped before more havoc is wreaked on people seeking a better life in our country,” Gianaris said. “We must abolish ICE and then abolish Donald Trump at the ballot box as soon as possible.”

According to his press release, Gianaris was the first person to welcome Yeni Maricela Gonzalez Garcia to Queens when a convoy in which she had made the cross-country trip to see her children – 6-year-old Deyuin, 9-year-old Jamelin and 11-year-old Lester – stopped by a rally held to offer her support.

Gonzalez Garcia was detained in Arizona for five weeks while her children were taken from her under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, which has since been rescinded by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

Gonzalez Garcia’s children have been in the care of the Cayuga Center in East Harlem, which placed them in a foster home. She is scheduled to see them today, but it could be weeks before the family is permanently reunited.

Gonzalez Garcia was released from detention on a bond raised on a GoFundMe page organized by volunteers, led by Julie Collazo. Volunteers drove her across the country after she was freed.

Gianaris, the former deputy Senate minority leader and head of the Senate Democrats’ political arm, is one of a growing number of Democrats calling for ICE’s abolition in the wake of self-prossed Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez’s upset victory in last week’s NY-14 primary primary over veteran Queens Rep. Joe Crowley.

Ocasio-Cortez traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border at the height of the “zero tolerance” policy controversy, and also call for abolishing ICE, making that a significant plank of her campaign.

Gianaris has long been close with Crowley, who has also served since 2006 as chair of the powerful Queens Democratic Party.

Espaillat, Diaz File Complaint After Attorney’s Racist Rant

A racist rant by a New York attorney that has gone viral is now the subject of a formalized complaint by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

“The statements made by this attorney at a New York restaurant serves as further proof of the wave of intolerance that is running rampant across our country,” Espaillat said.

“This individual has had a troubling history of hateful behavior, while the White House is sending a clear message that you can say anything and get away with it. The Trump Administration’s proposed policies that would tear immigrant children away from their families and most recently calling individuals animals is simply outrageous. We are sending this grievance to say that you cannot engage in xenophobia, bigotry, hate and get away with it. Such behavior should never be tolerated.”

Attorney, Aaron Schlossberg, was caught on video berating Spanish-speaking restaurant employees and threatening to call immigration enforcement.

Diaz and Espaillat sent a former letter of complaint to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee in the state court system.

“Racism and hatred have no place in New York State, and certainly no place in our justice system,” Diaz said. “I stand with Congressman Espaillat in calling for the disciplinary committee of the New York State Unified Court System to examine the attorney identified as Aaron Schlossberg’s reprehensible behavior and review his law license for possible revocation.”

Broadway Dems Back Nixon, Williams

The Broadway Democrats, a party club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, voted last night by a wide margin to endorse insurgent gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon against her primary target, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The club members also backed Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams over incumbent LG Kathy Hochul, and former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson, who is challenging Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a member of the now-debunked IDC, in the September primary.

According to a source who took part in the voting, the final outcome was not close.

Nixon received 23 votes to Cuomo’s nine, while six people opted for “no endorsement.” In the LG race, Williams got 25 votes to Hochul’s 12, while 2 people would have preferred to see the club remain neutral in the primary.

The existence of party “clubs” might sound a little alien to people who live upstate, where they are not the norm – though some do exist, mostly in urban centers like Albany and Buffalo. But they are prevalent in New York City, providing an entry point for grassroots politics and also serving as a key organizing force.

Club endorsements are important because members act as volunteer foot soldiers in campaigns, circulating petitions on behalf of chosen candidates and assisting with literature drops, phone banks, and other GOTV efforts.

As a result of this vote, the names of Nixon and Williams will be on the petitions circulated by the Broadway Democrats when petitioning begins next month. According to my source, it could also potentially assist Nixon is hitting the all important 25 percent mark to get on the ballot in the weighed state committee vote at the state convention.

The convention votes are weighted and the 69th Assembly District, which is where the Broadway Democrats are located, is the most Democrat-dominated in the state, and also generally has the highest turnout, which means its support matters when the weighted vote is calculated.

This is not the first club to back Nixon over Cuomo. A source says that the Three Parks Independent Democrats, which is in the 67th Assembly District, also voted this week to support the governor’s primary rival.

The Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats threw its support to Nixon last month.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been endorsed by The Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club and the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

As mentioned earlier, these clubs, while small, can be a potent force when it comes to working on a candidate’s behalf. Also, people who join these organizations tend to be true believers – the sort who turn out to vote on primary day – and the more of them that are backing Nixon over Cuomo, the more concerned the governor might be.

Then again, the Upper West Side is know as a bastion of liberalism, so I guess it’s not really a surprise that some of these clubs are going to for the left-of-center option, following the lead of the Working Families Party, Citizen Action and others. We’re also talking about a neighborhood that knows Nixon well, as she used to call it home.

I believe Nixon and her wife have since decamped downtown.

Suffolk County Creates Public Matching System For Elections

Lawmakers in Suffolk County on Tuesday approved a public matching system for elections there, making it the largest county to date to do so.

The bill is backed by Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone.

“This bill is an important step in the effort to reform the politics of Suffolk County by empowering grassroots candidates to run for office and challenge the status quo,” he said.

The measure creates a public matching system for donations of no more than $250 and participating candidates must raise at least $5,000 in eligible contributions.

There are also limits on what the candidates can spend the money on, such as clothing, haircuts and car payments.

Money for the public matching fund will come from a portion of the county’s proceeds of video lottery terminals at Off-Track Betting parlors.

The law comes as public financing of elections statewide has largely stalled in Albany. Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014 backed a public financing system for the comptroller’s race that year, intended as a pilot program of sorts. Republican Bob Antonacci failed to qualify for matching funds and incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli, citing the haste in which the bill was approved, declined to participate.

Adams Urges Cuomo To Sign CUNY MOE Bill

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week urged him to back a measure that would fund a maintenance of effort for the City University of New York.

Supporters of the MOE, which was approved by the Legislature unanimously in June, expect the bill would cover what is considered to be the total operating cost increases for both CUNY and the SUNY system.

In his letter, Adams wrote that the bill would help reduce class size and provide “robus” student services.

“By signing the MOE bill into law, you can ensure that our public colleges and universities — and our public teaching hospitals — will have the funding they need,” Adams wrote in the letter. “Reliable state investment will allow CUNY and SUNY to manage the growing number of students.”

MOE Letter Final by Nick Reisman on Scribd