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Vol. 2, No. 8 | APRIL 22, 2013



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ROGER & ME I bring up my film, in the Filmmakers, like reporters, can’t help but interest of full disclosure, pursue an irresistible story. because for the first time As both, I am particularly since I began working at City & State last May, Stone susceptible. More often than not, has returned to the world of New York poliour endeavors tics—as the putter out for mastermind one reason or behind Kristin another. When Davis’ longI embarked shot campaign upon making for New York my first docuCity compmentary a troller on the year and a half Libertarian ago, I certainly line. had no assurOver the ance that it Morgan Pehme past year, I have would come taken meticuto fruition, EDITOR particularly since it was a lous care to apprise my project I was financing on staff and employer of any my own meager dime and potential conflicts. Ironiproducing on nights and cally, I have so erred on the side of caution that Roger weekends. My film, which I am has complained to me on co-writing and directing several occasions that he with Dylan Bank and Daniel has essentially been blackDiMauro, revolves around listed from coverage by our the life and machinations paper. It is possible that this of the notorious political dirty trickster Roger Stone. movie, like so many others, I became fascinated with may never see the light of Stone because at the time day, though its chances I conceived of this movie have improved of late. I was working as a good- Eugene Jarecki, one of our government advocate, and country’s most esteemed on more than one occa- documentarians, has joined sion I had heard his name our film as its executive uttered in conversation producer, and it has recently with my fellow goo-goos been accepted into the Hot as shorthand for all that Docs Festival in Toronto, a was wrong with politics in well-known showcase for in-progress documentaries. America today. I am deeply appreciaCurious to understand a person who revels in his tive to the publishers of City reputation as evil incar- & State and my reporters nate, I contacted Stone on past and present for their a whim and asked him if he support, and grateful to the would be willing to allow me many journalists and politfull, unconditional access to icos who have taken the make a documentary about time to sit down with me him. It was not a particularly for on-camera interviews. hard sell; among Stone’s To those of you reading this famous rules of politics is who are surprised that we one he borrowed from Gore have not yet contacted you, Vidal: “Never pass up an it’s not from lack of desire. I opportunity to have sex or promise you’re next on our list. appear on television.”

Editorial (212) 894-5417 Advertising (212) 284-9712 General (212) 268-8600 City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright © 2013, City and State NY, LLC 2

APRIL 22, 2013 |

AROUND NEW YORK The best items from City & State’s political blog City & State’s website is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at 1. ALBANY Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (below, top) was hauled away by the Feds for allegedly taking bribes to write legislation for his constituents. His bill, which he drew up in February, would establish a moratorium on the construction of new adult day care centers. But Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who chairs the Assembly Aging Committee, said the bill is “certainly not going anywhere. … We’re never going to bring it up. I took a look at it. He didn’t circulate it. The only name on it is his.” Millman said it was unlikely that Stevenson and outgoing Assemblyman Nelson Castro’s (below, bottom) outstanding bills would be carried by her colleagues. She called Stevenson’s bribery scandal “disheartening and demoralizing. … There are a lot of us who do these jobs seriously, and you have these other people who line their



term-limited Councilwoman Diana Reyna is leaving this year.


pockets.” Castro, who continues to cooperate with federal authorities on several investigations, forfeited his seat shortly after Stevenson was arrested. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called on Stevenson to resign as well, but Stevenson has refused.

2. BROOKLYN Assemblyman Vito Lopez (above) has a new campaign treasurer for his upcoming City Council run—and just in the nick of time. His former treasurer, Christiana Fisher, avoided jail time but received one year of probation during her sentencing hearing after she pleaded guilty to criminal contempt last year. Fisher doubled her salary in 2009 while serving as the head of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a nonprofit that Lopez founded, and then falsified tax documents stating that the charity approved the raise. The U.S. Attorney’s Office subpoenaed the charity in 2010, and Fisher stepped down from her post in early 2012. Calls made to Fisher’s attorney and to Lopez’s office were not returned. Lopez has instead signed up a new treasurer, former aide Andy Marte, and filed paperwork to run for the City Council seat that

The Erie County sheriff’s race could be a tight one this 2 year, but don’t expect to hear much about the state’s controversial Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act. Democrat Bert Dunn (below), who is challenging Sheriff Tim Howard, says that management of personnel will be the most significant issue of the campaign. “The allocation of resources could be better thought out,” he said. “The way we deploy people, the way we schedule people … we need to get overtime under control, get services delivered in a timely fashion.” Dunn said voters have been asking him and other police officers about how they will enforce the state’s new gun laws. The Erie County Legislature has called for the SAFE Act’s repeal. Dunn said that any violations of the act that have occurred so far are already covered in existing legislation. “Whether I like the law or don’t like the law, the sheriff is the enforcer of the law,” he said. “We don’t make legislation; we enforce it.” A spokeswoman for Howard did not return a call requesting comment.

Publisher Tom Allon Editor-in-Chief Morgan Pehme Managing Editor Jon Lentz Associate Editor Helen Eisenbach Reporters Nick Powell, Aaron Short Associate Publisher Jim Katocin jkatocin@ Director of Marketing Andrew A. Holt Business Manager Jasmin Freeman Art Director Blair Stelle Illustrator Lisanne Gagnon CITY AND STATE NY, LLC Chairman Steve Farbman President/CEO Tom Allon


As the ULURP process proceeds, the question is:


Regarding the selection of New York Insulation to do the asbestos abatement at the Domino Sugar site, Two Trees said:

“We are fully confident that they (New York Insulation) will do the job safely and effectively.” – Jeremy Soffin, April 11, 2013

Unfortunately law enforcement and state officials disagree. Here are the facts: • Since 2000 – New York Insulation and affiliated companies have been cited over 100 times by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection for violating asbestos abatement regulations.

• Since 2006 – New York Insulation and affiliated companies have been cited more than 100 times by the NYS Department of Labor for violating asbestos abatement regulations.

• In 2012 – New York Insulation debarred from all public works by NYS Department of Labor for wage-theft and lying to government agencies on official documents.

IF NEW YORK INSULATION IS TWO TREES’ IDEA OF AN “EXPERIENCED AND WELL-REGARDED FIRM,” JUST IMAGINE WHO WILL BE ON THE SITE NEXT. Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust 266 West 37th St. Suite 1100, New York, NY 10018 Phone: (212) 452-9300 | Fax: (212) 452-9318

“A Partnership Committed to the Future” CITY&STATE | APRIL 22, 2013


UPFRONT THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE’S FIRST READ EMAIL “Be careful of those things, man, the recorders and all those things. A lot of guys are working to put a lot of people away, man, believe that.” —Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, in a conversation recorded by a cooperating witness in a federal case against Stevenson involving alleged bribery, via The New York Times

THE RETURN OF WEINER? Anthony Weiner is again mulling a mayoral run despite a sexting scandal that prompted him to leave Congress in 2011. When he resigned, City & State asked several consulting firms to envision a “Weiner 2013” campaign. Now, with a comeback bid looking more likely, we’re bringing back two hypothetical campaign ads.


CORRUPT STATES REPORT CARD New York may be corrupt, but it doesn’t have the highest corruption risk in the country, according to a 2012 report from the Center for Public Integrity. The report gave New York a D in an assessment of state governments’ transparency, accountability and anticorruption efforts. New York got F grades on redistricting, ethics enforcement, the budget process and pension fund management.


“COURAGE” Political consultant Gerry O’Brien described a three-step ad campaign: first, laying out the city’s problems and suggesting that one man has the skills to best turn things around, then showing a logo or photo of Weiner. Next, an unseen Weiner narrates a spot about his experience. Finally, he is shown talking about how he would address the city’s problems.


1. New Jersey


2. Connecticut


3. Washington


4. California


5. Nebraska


… 37. New York



46. Maine


47. Virginia


48. Wyoming


49. South Dakota


50. Georgia


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“WEATHERED” Sherman Jewett, a managing partner at Blue&Read, said Weiner would likely need to address the scandal head-on. “We sought a tone that was humble and avoided a full-on head shot of the overexposed Weiner,” Jewett said in 2011.




Time Warner Cable invites you to join us for our Cable Info Day at the Capitol. Step into a full scale replica of the Oval Office and have your photo taken behind the most famous desk in the world! Plus, learn about C-SPAN’s new series, First Ladies: Influence and Image, and visit our display of New Yorkers who made it to the White House!

Concourse Entrance of the LOB Tuesday, April 30th, 9 am to 2 pm



t h e f i v e b o r o u g h b a l lot

What Brownsville Wants In A Mayor

fair for them to treat us like that,” she says.

Inside the senior center, lunch is fish and French So far, most residents have not fries. As the meal wraps up, a hyperfound what they’re looking for— energetic physical trainer who goes or even done much looking. by the nickname Chico Malo (“Bad Boy”) recruits a dozen seniors to do calisthenics at the front of the room as By Jarrett Murphy dance music pulsates from a far corner. The almost exclusively female crowd As he smokes a cigarette outside the senior center on the edge of the massive pumps their biceps and works their quads. Van Dyke Houses development in Browns- “Are you weak?” Chico Malo shouts. “No!” ville in early April, stealing is on Angelo’s they shout back. “Are you weak?!” “No!!” One diner who was surprised by the mind. A Latino man in his 40s, Angelo wears Smith-Halloran scandal was Lisa Kenner, a Yankees cap; the hand not holding a head of the resident association for the cigarette clutches a rubber ball. Pointing 22-building development. She has met to the garbage-laced metal fence around Smith, and liked him. As a former Demothe patio next to where he is standing, he cratic district leader, Kenner is unusually asks, “Why is there only one garbage can engaged in politics—a couple of months there?” He means this as a critique of the back she took the train into Manhattan to people running the Van Dyke complex for see an Independence Party forum, just to the New York City Housing Authority. Sort stay abreast of what was said there. That proximity to politics has made her less of. “But at the same time, when they put cynical than some of her neighbors, or at out more garbage cans, the guys steal least more selective in her cynicism. “I don’t think most of them are corrupt, them and sell them for scrap metal,” he says. “Yeah. Really. So people complain, no,” she says of the politicians she has met. ‘In the suburbs, they don’t have just one “I believe a lot of them are honest and they garbage can!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but in the have the community at heart when they suburbs, people don’t steal the garbage took the job to serve. They really wanted to serve the people.” cans, either.’ ” Corruption, Kenner believes, is more A couple of days earlier, the papers had carried allegations of a different kind of than simply being about power and theft: State Sen. Malcolm Smith and City money; it is a symptom of a broader Councilman Daniel Halloran had been narcissism. “That’s why you’ve got to pray,” arrested on charges that they conspired she says. “You’ve got to pray when you go to steal Smith entreé into the Republican and take care of business, talking about the people in the community because … mayoral primary. They’re just allegations at this point, when you became an elected official it but the general reaction at Van Dyke is not stopped becoming about you. It’s about one of surprise. People there are used to the people, and that’s what they’ve got to thieves, whether they sit in high office or, realize.” At the lunch table Jessica Locklear, as many elderly residents fear, lay in wait in the elevators on the days people cash who has lived in the area since 1984, sits with a copy of the Daily News in front of their Social Security checks. Still, some take the scandal person- her. Despite being a newspaper reader, ally, like Geraldine Jenkins, who has lived she seems barely aware of the mayoral at Van Dyke for 50 years. “I don’t think it’s campaign. “I’m not really paying attention. Is John Liu running?” she asks. “I think I’ll vote for him.” Jenkins isn’t really paying attention either, but says she’s certain she’ll vote for a Democrat. Why? “Because I’ve always been a Democrat. I don’t like Republicans. They don’t want to give the poor people anything.” What does she want 6

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Van Dyke Houses in a mayor? “Someone who’ll help the seniors,” she answers. “Somebody that’s going to help everybody. I don’t care what color you are, what race you are.” This is a constant refrain in Brownsville. Ask someone which of the candidates they’re for, and they’ll say they want someone who’s for them. It’s a vague notion, but that doesn’t mean it is not meaningful. The fact that Mayor Bloomberg is perceived as not being for them is the key ingredient in the mix of scorn and mockery that the mayor’s name elicits. People may not know the names of people who are running for mayor in 2013, but they are all deeply pleased that Bloomberg is not among them. Kenner is joined at the lunch table by her friend Brenda Martin, who recently retired from the Administration for Children’s Services after 27 years. After a bit of prodding over lunch, Martin talks about one abused child she encountered during her time at ACS, an 11-year-old girl who had been beaten and raped. Martin became an unofficial foster parent to the girl, now in her 20s and living in North Carolina with her family. They still talk on the phone every day, Martin giving advice, the girl trying to convince Martin to move to North Carolina. Martin may not be much engaged in the mayoral race, but not because she’s disengaged from the wider world. As Chico Malo finishes up the workout, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries steps into the room. This is shocking. Jeffries won’t face election for another 19 months, so his arrival is a direct counter to the frequent complaint in Brownsville, and other lowincome neighborhoods, that politicians only come around when they need votes. As far as Kenner recalls, it’s only the second time in recent memory that someone in power has just popped in to the senior center. “The only other one I can remember is Darlene Mealy,” she says. Jeffries says he has come back to thank residents for electing him and to enlist them in fighting the “mean-spirited people” in the Republican Party who control the House. “They want to call Social Security and Medicare ‘giveaway programs,’ ” he says. “They’re not giveaway programs. You’ve paid for them all your life.” As Jeffries works the room, handing out handshakes and business cards, an Asian woman comes up to Kenner. “I think I’ve seen him before,” the woman says, pointing at Jeffries. “Yes,” says Kenner. “He’s your congressman.” In the beaming sunshine of an early spring afternoon, Kenner and Martin walk down Dumont Avenue away from the senior center. Kenner points to a wave of

litter around the green trash compactors across the street and makes a mental note to mention it to NYCHA staff. “It’s a constant fight to have a decent place. That’s why, everybody who’s running for mayor, I want them to remember me,” Kenner says. She’s still working on a plan to get Speaker Christine Quinn out for a women’s history-themed tea party sometime in May. Kenner and Martin walk into the Stone Avenue Library at the end of the block, purported to be the first children’s library in the United States. On its third floor is “Heritage House,” a cultural and educational center for black history founded by Rosetta “Mother” Gaston, the Brownsville woman who, before dying at age 96 in 1981, dedicated her life to introducing young black people to their heritage. Along the walls are art and ephemera from the black experience: a photo of a slave whose back is mottled by whip scars, a T-shirt calling for a ban of the N-word, a copy of the Black Declaration of Independence and a life-size statue of Nelson Mandela sitting at a desk. A crowd is gathering at the library for a luncheon held by the Brownsville Community Justice Center, which aims to prevent violence and incarceration from stealing more of the neighborhood’s young. In the audience is Dan Craig, a retired investment banker who is now the pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church on nearby Ralph Avenue. Of his congregation, he says, “I don’t get the sense that they’ve tuned in yet” to the mayor’s race. “I’m paying attention. I’m waiting to see who’s going to fall out. I’m not convinced that everybody who’s going to run has entered.” (Craig says this four days before Anthony Weiner’s flirtation with a comeback made front-page news.) What’s Craig looking for in a mayor? “One who has shown that they have a love and care for the people” and “the ability and the willingness to put right above the party’s interest.” On reporting trips to Brownsville so far, people have mentioned John Liu, Bill de Blasio and—more than anyone else—Christine Quinn. (This occurs at the library event as well, when a woman says she “want[s] that young woman to win.”) No one has yet mentioned Bill Thompson. I ask Craig if identity politics will be a big factor in how his black congregation will vote. He is instantly dismissive, recalling the 1993 mayoral race, when—he says— blacks “stayed home.” He remembers some friends telling him, “Giuliani might do more for us by accident than David Dinkins did on purpose.” This year, Craig says, “Political analysts will make a huge mistake if they think the black vote can be taken for granted.”


Kirsti Itameri photo

Brownsville, BROOKLYN

THE TRUTH ABOUT NEW YORK’S MED MAL STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS The New York State Trial Lawyers Association says that many states have statutes of limitations for medical malpractice that start running on the date the plaintiff claims to have discovered the malpractice. Here’s what NYSTLA doesn’t tell you: • Most of those states also have reasonable caps on the amount that can be recovered for pain and suffering, and some even cap total damages. • New York’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice is among the longest in the nation, with important exceptions for children and patients undergoing continued treatment. • New York’s hospitals and doctors already spend billions annually on medical malpractice coverage. Extending the statute of limitations will vastly increase those costs and divert resources from patient care at a time when health reform calls for lower costs and better care.




By ErnEst A. LogAn


couple of years ago, I invited a group of STEMsavvy Principals and APs to join me for a brainstorming session at IBM. By then, the concept of creating a public/private partnership with IBM, CUNY and the DOE had become more than a gleam in Stan Litow’s eye. Mr. Litow, IBM’s VP for Corporate Citizenship, had been known to us since he served as Deputy Chancellor. A man of ideas, he joined forces with the city to create a six-year high school to close the job skills gap initially for a handful of students and become a laboratory for learning that would benefit other school districts, corporations and young people.


•• •

hat day, I was exhilarated by the enthusiasm of CSA members who knew some things about how to get this job done that IBM, DOE and CUNY didn’t know but embraced. Interaction between IBM and those school leaders continued and the new Principal of this innovative institution, Rashid Davis, was chosen from among this group. The idea behind the school – Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – was to make high school students college and career-ready and place them first in line for jobs at IBM. As Mr. Litow wrote in a NY Daily News op ed, “Even in the midst of stubbornly high unemployment, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled because applicants lack the proper skills.” Already, P-TECH has inspired cities like Chicago and Boise to try something similar. Last month, as part of NY’s 2013-2014 Executive Budget, Gov. Cuomo joined IBM in announcing the cloning of the PTECH model in the 10 economic development regions. As long as we get enough corporations with IBM’s “do good to do well” mentality, we school leaders can play an active role in growing more schools like P-TECH across this city,


april 22, 2013 |

too. There would be no losers here if institutions like Chase, AT&T and MetLife jumped in bigtime with the school system and CUNY to help grow their companies and the city’s economy. Many companies already have deep experience working on collaborations through the high-powered partnership program PENCIL. This is the opposite of privatizing public education; this is fostering our success. It’s a movement that has more possibility of growing to scale than the charter school movement. This kind of true public/private partnership is what the NYC Partnership should be focusing its energy on and what the public sector should be encouraging industry to do. In the case of the fledgling PTECH, not only IBM but CUNY and the DOE get their props. All three went beyond “Adopt-a School” to the real deal. Every single school will probably start out small and it will take some years to measure the results. You don’t recognize genius when staring it in the eye; it becomes visible on reflection.


Bayside, Queens Politics As Usual Bayside voters cynical about politicians, even before latest scandals By Jon Lentz When it comes to politics in New York City, residents of Bayside, Queens, are disillusioned and disengaged. And while a spate of arrests of elected officials and political operatives recently reinforced those feelings, the latest corruption allegations don’t appear to have done much to alter voters’ already cynical view of politicians. “Nobody’s shocked by that,” said an elderly black man who would only give his name as Bob. “It’s all about money. There’s something wrong with that.” Some locals asserted that politicians are simply driven by money and power, and that they also owe too much to campaign donors and backers once they’re elected to office. “I just don’t understand it,” Mandingo Tshaka, an activist and former community board member who will turn 82 this year, said of the arrests of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, among others. “You see, Halloran is my councilman.” Tshaka said he hadn’t had a very high

opinion of Halloran to begin with. “It was interesting, in fact I called him up a week before, and I left messages, and I called and left messages—there’s not a damn thing he’s done for me or for this community here,” he said, gesturing north of the intersection at 48th Avenue and Bell Boulevard. “I can’t really see anything he’s done the whole time he’s been there.” Tshaka suggested that the kind of corruption reflected in the allegations against Smith and Halloran was not rare. He too had been offered money over the years while working as an activist, he said, but he declined it. “ ‘What do you want?’ Just respect this community here,” he said. Another longtime resident of Bayside, Leo Gorynski, a self-employed 54-yearold, had considered himself a supporter of Halloran before the allegations. Now he’s not so sure. “It’s a sad state of affairs in U.S. politics,” Gorynski said. “Well, it’s innocent until proven guilty. If he’s convicted, I can’t support him. I think it reflects poorly on all politicians—he just got caught.” Perhaps as a result of the widespread cynicism about politicians, Tshaka and Gorynski were unusual in their close attention to local politics. Most residents were less attuned to the mayoral race, and struggled to name even one or two of the

• • •

n his State of the Union address, President Obama summarized the potential and his commitment in a few words: “At schools like P-TECH… students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering… We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.” Ernest Logan is the President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1: AFSA, AFL-CIO.


th Anniversary


SangHeeMa photo

Fostering Public Private Partnerships

t h e f i v e b o r o u g h b a l lot


Our Perspective

48TH AVENUE wealth, his education policies and what candidates running. In fact, when asked who represents they say is a lack of concern for low- and them in the City Council, few Bayside middle-class voters. Asked about the race to replace Bloomresidents could come up with Halloran’s name, though the councilman was entan- berg, they said they don’t expect much to gled in the alleged scheme to get Demo- change. A number of residents declined to cratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith on the even discuss this year’s elections, saying only that they are fed up with politics. ballot for mayor on the Republican line. That may explain why some also Those who did speak focused more on said they’re supportive of New York City negative attributes of the contenders than Comptroller John Liu for mayor without on what they like about their preferred candidates. once bringing up A middle-aged the allegations of “It’s a sad state of man named Enrico wrongdoing in his affairs in U.S. politics. said he liked Public campaign’s fundWell, it’s innocent until Advocate Bill de raising. Blasio for taking on “I’ll vote for John proved guilty. If he’s whom he Liu,” Tshaka said. convicted, I can’t support Quinn, criticized for stalling “John Liu has been him. I think it reflects on the paid sick very helpful in this community. … He’s poorly on all politicians. leave bill on which she recently reached been a very good He just got caught.” a compromise. man.” “She tried to screw the union A middle-aged woman named Desiree said that, among the candidates for mayor, employees, so she’s out for me,” he said. she likes Council Speaker Christine Quinn, “I’m not into politics that much.” Tom Weisenberg was one of few resias well as Liu. “He’s done a lot to bring Flushing up to dents who said he liked Bloomberg, and speed,” she said of Liu. “I think if he’s done that he leans toward supporting Quinn, good things on the local level, he will do a since it seems that she would have similar policies. But Weisenberg has never voted, good job for the city as a whole.” But the positive comments about because he believes that whoever wins any candidate were relatively rare. Some elections is beholden to special interests were also quick to complain about Mayor or big donors. If he did decide to vote, Michael Bloomberg’s third term, his whom would he support? “I wish Bloomberg could get a fourth term,” he said. Blocks away, at the Long Island Rail Road stop in Bayside, a man named John said he was unhappy about the seemingly endless repetition of corruption scandals plaguing New York. He said he liked Bloomberg, but that he was leaning toward supporting the mayor’s opponent from 2009, the former city comptroller, Bill Thompson. “He’s never been in trouble,” he said of Thompson. “That’s something.”




To follow this series as it unfolds, check back regularly at and, and subscribe to City & State’s morning email, First Read.


Repeal the Teen Tax Credit! By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW


fter years of delayed action, Albany has finally acted to increase the minimum wage. Although we are pleased to finally see a long overdue increase in the minimum wage in New York, we should all be outraged at the so-called teen tax credit, a provision that comes at a terrible price for low-wage workers.

Here’s how it works: The state will reimburse the entire increase in the minimum wage for workers between the ages of 16 and 19, and up to 75 percent in the third year, when the wage reaches $9 per hour. That means that if an employer wants this taxpayer-provided free money, At a time when income they must employ people between inequality is on the rise, the ages of 16 and 19. The way to we don’t need to create get the largest subsidy is by replacing incentives for employers all of your employees who are older to pay workers less. than 19 with younger workers. This tax credit creates incentives for employees to replace older workers with teens, and to get rid of the teens when they turn 20. And what’s even worse is that if the employer wants to pay one of these teen workers anything above the minimum wage, they would lose the entire subsidy for that worker. This legislation in effect creates a wage ceiling for teen workers. And, the tax credit makes New York the first state in the country where taxpayers – not businesses – are forced to foot the bill for the costs of a statewide minimum wage increase. It is estimated that over $200 million in taxpayer money will go toward the teen tax credit over the five-year program – and that money will be spent keeping countless workers earning poverty wages. The biggest beneficiaries of this will be huge poverty wage employers like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s. But even worse, it will encourage all employers – large and small – to hire young people, pay them poorly, and replace them when they turn 20. At a time when income inequality is on the rise, we don’t need to create incentives for employers to pay workers less. And we don’t need to encourage employers to fire older workers. The teen tax credit is bad policy, and it is bad for New Yorkers. This provision must be repealed.

Visit us on the web at | APRIL 22, 2013





eing powerful is like being a lady,” mused the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “If you have to tell people you are, you

aren’t.” In Albany, as in every political arena, bluster is often mistaken for true power. Of course, even the perception that one has influence can yield genuine authority, but more often that not, those with true power in government are not the grandstanders but those who work dutifully, quietly and shrewdly behind the scenes to achieve their aims. With this ranking of the 100 most powerful players in Albany, we have aimed to pull back the curtain on who really has the clout to get things done in the Capitol. Through off-the-record discussions with a number of the most respected insiders in state politics, the insights of our readers and a series of online polls, we have tried our utmost to construct a list that credibly reveals the politicians, staffers, advisors, lobbyists, advocates, consultants, business bigwigs, members of the media and labor leaders who really wield power in New York. In making our selections, we have sought to insulate our process from any preconceived notions or considerations beyond this exercise’s only objective: accuracy. We have attempted not to be awed by titles or egos, and instead to make a clearheaded evaluation of a person’s power not on paper but in practice. Some may be surprised by how comparatively few elected officials are on this list. Others may be angered by the glaring lack of diversity among our selectees, and the paucity of women, particularly at the highest rungs of this ranking. These observations cannot be disputed. We have made


APRIL 22, 2013 |

our choices based upon what we believed to be a genuine reflection of Albany—even while being disheartened by the image cast. As our savvy readers can surely appreciate, the challenges in compiling a list such as this one are daunting and many. One particularly noteworthy difficulty is the shifting sands of power amid the current dynamics at play in state government. Several of the insiders we consulted pointed out that more so than ever, victories in Albany are achieved by coalitions, not individuals, and as such it is problematic to determine who deserves credit for what. All we can say in response is that we have done our best to cut through the noise. We fully acknowledge that the following list is subjective; in no way do we assert its infallibility. On the contrary, we hope that it provokes discussion and that, through the collective expertise of its defenders and critics, we all get a clearer understanding of our government and its internal workings. We also grant that these rankings represent only a snapshot of this current moment in state history. Time and again we have learned all too well that those who are riding high in Albany right now could already be in line for a precipitous downfall tomorrow. Our intention has not been to prognosticate but to capture the present. If by the time you are reading this list, one or more of its members are under arrest or shattered by allegations, we will not be surprised. All we can promise is that when we compile it again next year it will be updated to reflect all of the wild twists and turns that are certain to occur between now and then.


P OW E R 100. Robert DuffY Lieutenant Governor The former mayor of Rochester is in a largely symbolic role now, standing in for the governor at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and serving as Cuomo’s personal cheerleader. But he could be the next David Paterson. You never know.

99. David GrandeaU Ethics Compliance Consultant, David Grandeau & Associates; Blogger The ethics gadfly has been a consistent thorn in the side of the governor and the Legislature. But amid the ongoing string of public corruption scandals in Albany, the influential blogger’s tough love has come across as prescient and given him ample opportunity to claim, “I told you so.”

98. Bill Mahoney Legislative Research Coordinator, New York Public Interest Research Group Nobody digs into the numbers like Bill Mahoney. By whipping up stunning statistics faster than anyone, he has found his niche in influencing the way that good-government issues are framed in the media and in policy discussions. Mahoney proves that one can be a wonk and still have a real-world impact.

97. John Cordo Principal, Cordo & Company The influential lobbyist was a key player in Genting’s successful bid to


develop the Resorts World New York casino in Queens and in securing a living wage for home care workers. Cordo cut his teeth as special counsel to the state Senate majority, where he learned how to deliver for a wide range of clients spanning business and labor.

96. Richard Ravitch Former Lieutenant Governor Ravitch is handsdown the expert when it comes to sorting out government fiscal crises. The former lieutenant governor has been a savior of New York before—he brought the MTA back from the brink in the 1970s and imbued the Paterson administration with some credibility. He could play a similar role for cash-strapped municipalities in the near future.

93. Billy Easton Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education of New York Easton has shown himself to be one of the most effective advocates in Albany, pushing successfully for an increase in school aid—the principal goal of his organization— and moving the ball down the field with key initiatives like the expansion of prekindergarten education.

92. Alfonse D’Amato Former U.S. Senator; Founder & Managing Director, Park Strategies

95. Richard Runes Lobbyist Richard Runes is a strategist and consultant for the real estate and publishing interests in New York, but he’s under the radar and likes it that way. His knowledge and roots in Albany are deeper than almost anyone around, and he’s so connected that he can keep his number unlisted and still do quite well.

Those who forget that D’Amato’s voice still matters in New York politics do so at their peril. With a long relationship with virtually every power player in the state, the former senator is still a key figure in New York politics as a consultant, commentator and consigliere.

94. Micah Lasher Attorney General’s Chief of Staff Mayor Bloomberg’s former lobbyist in Albany recently took over as the attorney general’s chief of staff. Joining the progressive AG is a shift for Lasher, whose last job was as one of the leading advocates for the charter school movement in New York, but he is a formidable political strategist with the chops to build Schneiderman’s re-election campaign and to lay the groundwork for his future aspirations.

91. Tonio Burgos Founder and CEO, Tonio Burgos and Associates Burgos has been roaming the halls of the state Capitol as a lobbyist since Mario Cuomo’s administration, and he still knows his way around. Burgos and Associates may not haul in as much money as some of Albany’s other top lobbying firms, but its CEO has been an enthusiastic fundraiser and ally to the governor. | april 22, 2013




the Wilson-Pakula law are enacted.



Along with his partner Brian Meara, Avella is one of the most influential lobbyists in Albany. A former chief counsel to two Senate majority leaders, Joe Bruno and Dean Skelos, Avella also has deep connections on both sides of the aisle.

89. HERMAN “DENNY” FARRELL JR. ASSEMBLYMAN; CHAIR, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE An elder statesman of the Assembly, Farrell has been a powerhouse in Albany since the 1970s. One of the few state legislators with national influence, Farrell will likely never be Speaker because of his age, but he is one of the most respected and important players in the state Democratic Party and the Capitol.

88. BRIAN COYNE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE OPERATIONS, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY Coyne is a staffer whose influence could easily be overlooked by outsiders, but he is one of the most important forces on the floor of the Assembly. As former Assemblyman Paul Tokasz put it, Coyne is “key to the operation” for Shelly and the Democratic supermajority.

87. CASEY SEILER STATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, THE ALBANY TIMES UNION; PRESIDENT, LEGISLATIVE CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION As the Times Union’s state editor, Seiler directs the newspaper’s in-depth political coverage. In addition to overseeing the paper of record for the state capital, where he has worked since 2000, the Buffalo native serves as president of the Legislative Correspondents 12

APRIL 22, 2013 |


86. MICHAEL MCKEON PARTNER, MERCURY PUBLIC AFFAIRS Mercury is one of the Capitol’s most important public strategy firms, and McKeon isn’t just a partner there——he was communications director under Gov. George Pataki and a senior advisor to Rudy Giuliani. He was also the executive director of Republicans for Cuomo, and is one of the GOP operatives closest to the governor.

85. BRIAN SAMPSON EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNSHACKLE UPSTATE Sampson is one of the leading voices in advocating for upstate’s business interests, which has been one of the governor’s key areas of concern since taking office. But it’s more than talk for the executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a media-savvy professional who is backed by a high-powered board.

84. DAN CANTOR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORKING FAMILIES PARTY While his influence is greater in New York City, where the Working Families Party packs a bigger punch, as one of the major political arms of the state’s labor unions, Cantor should not be overlooked as a powerhouse. However, his party’s power could take a downturn if potential reforms to

Good-government groups are often scoffed at in Albany, but the Citizens Budget Commission’s analyses have a real impact on policy in the Capitol. The accessible, well-researched reports from Kellerman and her team cut through the rhetoric with substance that lawmakers find difficult to ignore.

82. BRIAN KOLB ASSEMBLY MINORITY LEADER He may be head of the Assembly’s lowly minority, but Kolb has shown himself to be a reasonable and adept politician who makes the most of his position. And as the leader of the perpetual minority, he’s the unique legislative leader with the latitude to speak candidly.

81. MICHAEL GORMLEY CAPITOL EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Gormley is consistently one of the best reporters in Albany. The trenchant, eyeopening articles from the Associated Press’ man in the Capitol have a resonance across the state in papers big and small.

80.LOU LOUANN ANN 80. CICCONE CICCONE SECRETARY TO THE SPEAKER For those who don’t understand how the Legislature works, Ciccone’s importance could be underestimated. But insiders


P OW E R know that while she might not yet have the same influence as her predecessor, Dean Fuleihan, she is an integral member of the Speaker’s team, with has a real impact in shaping policy.

is on this list. Her comprehensive coverage, which delves into areas that are otherwise ignored, is having an impact on shaping the agenda in Albany.

79. KENNETH LOVETT ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Ken Lovett’s scoops and insights often beat even legislators to the punch. Lovett’s knowledgeable, well-sourced reporting has made him one of the most trusted and dependable figures in the Albany press corps.

78. JERRY JACOBS JR. PRINCIPAL, DELAWARE NORTH COMPANIES With the upstate tourism industry a primary focus of the Cuomo administration, Jacobs’ role as one of the biggest business leaders in Western New York makes him a major force. A global leader in hospitality and food services, he is one of the key business leaders in Buffalo to whom Cuomo turns for advice.

77. KELLY CUMMINGS DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, SENATE REPUBLICANS The head of the Senate Republican Conference’s press shop and the first line of defense for Dean Skelos, Cummings is more than your typical government flack; before rising to her current position, she cut her teeth as director of policy development for Senate Republicans.

76. SUSAN ARBETTER HOST, THE CAPITOL PRESSROOM; WCNY NEWS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR Arbetter’s influence has grown since the governor defected to her show from Fred Dicker’s, but having Cuomo as a regular guest isn’t the only reason she


Meeting the Needs of Silicon Valley East By Jack Friedman The western part of Queens is undergoing an exciting economic transformation.

75. SEAN ELDRIDGE INVESTOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST Regardless of whether he winds up in Congress, Eldridge is already playing a major role in state politics, having helped Cuomo pass marriage equality and now spearheading the push for campaign finance reform. Thanks in part to the shared resources of his husband, Chris Hughes, he’s also got the ear of the governor, and has been an important fundraiser for Democratic candidates.

74. MICHAEL GIANARIS SENATE DEPUTY MINORITY LEADER Though relatively powerless in the minority of the Senate, Gianaris is considered by many political insiders to be the muscle behind Sen. Andrea StewartCousins in the Democratic Conference. If he builds on his successes in 2012 as head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in 2014, his power will only grow in Albany.

In just 20 years, Long Island City and its waterfront has evolved and grown from being dominated by older factories to now hosting a variety of cutting edge residential and technology work spaces. This evolution traces its roots back to the TV and film industry’s decision to locate here several decades ago. The high-tech entrepreneurs and fast growth companies that have been coming here for access to our business marketplace and talent pool is impressive. Queens has become an attractive tech sector destination, luring companies that have left Silicon Valley to grow here instead. Part of the formula for that success is the creation of a welcoming environment for young professionals and their families to live and work in close proximity. The coming Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute on Roosevelt Island, announced by Mayor Bloomberg last year, is expected to open in 2017 and we are preparing for its arrival, further boosting the science and technology center credibility of our corner of New York. All of this has made the Queens Chamber of Commerce very mindful of what attracts technology-intensive firms. Aside from requiring a deep, well-educated talent pool and affordable spaces for staff to live and work, all of these companies are intensive electricity users. In our own backyard we have several power producers meeting New York City’s energy needs. Access to clean, affordable and reliable electricity – generated from natural gas, wind, solar, nuclear and hydro – is critical. Unfortunately New York businesses and consumers already pay among the highest rates in the nation, much in part due to the fact that one-third of the average utility bill is loaded with surcharges and fees – which are nothing more than back-door taxes. While we want the power, it needs to come from New York-based sources. Imposing more costly fees and mandates on customers to handcuff us to a costly underground extension cord from Canada to Queens (for the sole purpose of importing Canadian-made power), takes away jobs from New Yorkers and hurts communities that host power generation facilities. To maintain and build Western Queens as the tech incubator of the East Coast, we need to support and maintain existing domestic electricity production and not export our jobs, tax dollars and our future to Canada. Jack Friedman is the Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce representing over 1,000 members representing almost 500,000 employees. S P E C I A L



73. NIRAV SHAH COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH By being at the helm of the study exploring the health effects of hydraulic fracturing drilling, Shah currently plays an instrumental role in the

The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G | APRIL 22, 2013


P OW E R Cuomo administration; his report will be essential to determining whether the controversial natural gas extraction method goes forward. Shah is also a key player in the setup of the state’s health care exchange and the governor’s critical effort to curb Medicare and Medicaid costs.

The octogenarian publisher of The Buffalo News and Western New York titan still wields tremendous clout in the Capitol region and remains close to Sen. Charles Schumer, as well as to Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway owns the News.

72. Peter Ward President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council Ward is a union veteran, having risen through the ranks over the last 30-plus years to the top post at the Hotel and Motel Trades Council. Ward’s union might only have 30,000 members, but that hasn’t stopped him from making it a significant force in electoral politics, particularly in New York City.

71. Tom Precious Albany Bureau Chief, The Buffalo News Albany’s most respected reporter navigates the shadowy underworld of legislative dealmaking in a way that makes his competitors envious. His deeply sourced copy on all manner of issues astounds his colleagues, and his articles are widely regarded as a must-read for anyone serious about following state politics.

70. Bill Hammond Columnist, New York Daily News Cuomo cares greatly about what Hammond thinks about him, dispatching aides to his third floor desk before and after the longtime Newser writes his columns to get the inside scoop on what’s going to print. Hammond’s voice is that of the upstate Everyman, perpetually fed up with the funny business of politics but never cynical about the importance of government in everyday life.

69. Stanford Lipsey Publisher Emeritus, The Buffalo News 14

april 22, 2013 |

68. Melissa DeRosa Governor’s Director of Communications At 30, Cuomo’s new communications director is one of the youngest members of his administration, but she’s already a mainstay in Albany. A former top aide to Attorney General Schneiderman, with one of the most influential lobbyists in the state for a father, DeRosa also has strong ties to the Obama administration through her work as New York State director of Organizing for America.

67. Heather Briccetti President & CEO, The Business Council of New York State Few know the Legislature better than Briccetti, who served on both sides of the aisle as a staffer. She also happens to be one of the foremost advocates for improving the business climate in the state, representing over 3,000 employers across New York.

66. Joseph Martens Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

state—albeit one which the governor has delayed action on for months.

65. Frank MacKay Chairman, Independence Party of New York Some Independence Party members may not realize they are registered with a party instead of simply being independent voters. Regardless, MacKay’s party remains a key piece of the puzzle for Republicans looking to get elected in New York State. Thanks to MacKay’s alliance with the state Republican Party and the Real Estate Board of New York, MacKay still has some real juice in Albany.

64. Susan Kent President, New York State Public Employees Federation Kent represents 56,000 professional, scientific, and technical employees in one of the two largest public employee unions in the state. She also happens to be the highest ranking female labor leader in New York, and was elected as president last year in part by pledging to “get tough” in negotiations on behalf of her members.

63. Emily Giske Government Affairs Specialist, Bolton–St. Johns Together with Giorgio DeRosa, father of Melissa and No. 68 on this list, Giske leads Bolton– St-Johns’ power team. With long,

In a cabinet dominated by the governor, Martens is perhaps the most influential commissioner. Overseeing the state’s approach to hydraulic fracturing, he is at the center of one of the most important issues in the


P OW E R influential ties to many legislators, her power is only going to increase if longtime ally Christine Quinn is elected mayor of New York City.

62. Fredric Dicker Columnist and State Editor, New York Post; Host, “Live from the State Capitol” The most outsize voice in the LCA, Dicker seems to savor the fear he instills in politicians who get on his bad side. Though he and the governor appear to be on bad terms for the moment, Dicker seems to have a knack for bouncing back and finding a way to make himself an audible part of the discussion.

61. Steven Spinola President, Real Estate Board of New York Spinola has been REBNY’s president since 1986, and for over a generation he has been one of the most influential behind-the-scenes players in the real estate world. From campaign contributions to the shaping of legislation, REBNY and its 12,000 members are a force to be reckoned with.

60. Diane Savino State Senator; Independent Democratic Conference Liaison to the Executive Branch Don’t let her modest title in the Independent Democratic Conference fool you. Savino is one of the legislators closest to labor through her former employment as vice president for political action at AFSCME. One half of the Legislature’s most famous power couple, Savino is the highest-profile member of the IDC after her beau, Jeff Klein.

59. Mario Cuomo Former Governor A former governor who also happens to be the


How to Become a National Energy Powerhouse

father of the current governor, Mario acts as consigliere to his son, a trusted advisor he can count on, and one who understands the dynamics of the job better than anyone in state government.

By Richard Roberts

There is a great deal of commotion about our national renewable energy economy and how the U.S. has become a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. America’s CO2 emissions have fallen some 13 percent since 2007.

58. Stephanie Miner Mayor of Syracuse; Co-Chair, New York State Democratic Party Last year the first female mayor of Syracuse became a statewide figure when Gov. Andrew Cuomo made her co-chair of the Democratic Party. Since then she has maintained her independence, becoming the voice of the state’s struggling municipalities in their pushback against Albany’s policies.

57. Patrick Foye Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey A former top aide to the governor, Foye is the head of one of downstate’s biggest and most important state authorities. His mammoth portfolio includes maintaining much of the state’s critical transportation infrastructure, and rebuilding the World Trade Center site.

It’s not happening because of a great shift to wind and solar power sources, but rather because of the increasing cost of energy, the Great Recession, and technological improvement. Despite the talk about investing taxpayer dollars to go green, only seven percent of our nation’s energy comes from renewable sources. Changes in the past five years have caused CO2 emissions from power generation to drop more than 15 percent nationally. This can be a roadmap to maximizing our state’s Marcellus and Utica Shale resources, potentially establishing every corner of New York as an epicenter for power generation and exportation. Currently, New York is handcuffed with the nation’s fourth highest price of power. Much of this is attributable to excessive state regulations and fees. If not for New York’s current environmental friendly energy mix of: 44% natural gas; 27.1% nuclear; 19.9% hydroelectric; 4.6% coal; 0.4% petroleum and 4.1% other renewable sources, it might be even more costly to live and work here. The U.S. Energy Department says power demand will grow in 2013 and 2014, as the economy improves. New York needs to meet its growth domestically by supporting and retaining all existing sources of in-state power generation. We need to stop talk of closing resources like Indian Point, which supplies 11% of the entire state of New York’s power. We must also turn away from proposals that intend to shut New York power plants and put our union workers in unemployment lines for the benefit of the Canadian economy. Instead of committing ratepayers here to pick up the $811 million to $2.2 billion tab for the Champlain-Hudson, Canada to Long Island City power line, our state leaders should focus on expanding in-state generating capacity for places like Long Island, which currently imports much of its power from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland (PJM) Grid and from Connecticut. Instead of handcuffing taxpayers and ratepayers to even higher power costs, let’s focus on making New York State a leader in clean, efficient power generation, enabling it to be a net exporter of energy and to create a thriving energy economy for our workforce and communities. Richard Roberts is the Business Agent at Large for Steamfitters Local 638, Executive Board Member of New York State AFL-CIO, and Executive Board Member of the New York City and Long Island Building and Construction Trades Council. S P E C I A L



56. David Skorton President, Cornell University; Chair, New York Racing Association Reorganization Board He’s the head of one of the state’s most important universities, but

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P OW E R he’s also trusted by the governor to handle important tasks like getting NYRA organized. Cuomo’s confidence in Skorton was further demonstrated when the governor tapped him to help develop the state’s business community, garnering Skorton a mention in the State of the State address.

55. Michael Long Chairman, Conservative Party of New York State The Conservative Party, which took over Line C of the ballot in 2011, has fewer members than the Independence Party but a lot more influence. A perennial thorn in the side of Republican Chair Ed Cox, Long has often bucked the GOP by backing conservative candidates even when doing so would fatally damage the Republican in the race. However, his authority could be undercut if the Wilson Pakula law is eliminated.

54. Evan Stavisky Partner, The Parkside Group As a partner in one of the more powerful political consulting firms in the state, Stavisky has been a driving force in getting Democrats elected to the state Senate. While Harry Giannoulis works behind the scenes, Stavisky is the public face of his company. He inherited his political acumen from his two state senator parents.

53. Mario Cilento President, New York State AFL-CIO As president of a powerful coalition of unions that includes 2.5 million members, Cilento plays a big role in mobilizing his members behind key issues. Despite being dealt a blow with Tier VI pension reform last year, Cilento made up for it by delivering on a minimum wage increase in this year’s budget, albeit one phased in over three years.

52. Benjamin Lawsky 16

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State Superintendent of Financial Services Lawsky’s power comes less from his position as superintendent of Financial Services and more from his closeness with Cuomo, whom he served as his former chief of staff. That being said, Lawsky has handled the merger of the insurance and banking departments under the DFS umbrella very smoothly, implementing regulations that may affect the financial services industry for years to come.

51. Suri Kasirer President, Kasirer Consulting Perhaps the most successful lobbyist in New York City and one of the most successful in Albany, Kasirer has come a long way from being a special assistant to former Gov. Mario Cuomo. She again made her mark last year as a power broker by helping Cornell University win a tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

be true-blue, but Cox soldiers on in his quest to make the state “purple.” The recent scandal involving some of New York City’s county Republican chairs didn’t reflect well on his leadership, but he’s still political royalty and an influential lawyer in his own right.

48. Harold Iselin Albany Managing Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig As the managing shareholder of one of the top lobbying firms in the state, Iselin has helped make sure that Greenberg Traurig has the ear of many of New York’s influential lawmakers. His tenure as assistant counsel to former Gov. Mario Cuomo undoubtedly gives him solid credibility with the current administration.

47. Keith Wright Assemblyman; Chair, Housing Committee; Co-Chair, New York State Democratic Party The Harlem assemblyman is one of the Legislature’s most formidable political power-brokers, a fact that was reinforced by his appointment as co-chair of the New York State Democratic Party and his ascendancy to chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. Whenever Shelly Silver decides to bow out, Wright will be in the mix as his possible successor.

50. Karim Camara Assemblyman; Chair, Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus Camara has made himself the gateway between minority lawmakers and Cuomo’s office, endearing himself to the governor by defending some of his policies to the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. He is also one of the few Assembly members who has influence outside the Speaker’s inner circle.

49. Edward Cox Chairman, New York State Republican Committee Barring a seismic shift in state politics, New York will always

46. Daniel Donohue President, New York State Civil Service Employees Association Donohue is the voice of state government employees, and he has not hesitated to shout down the governor or any state agency that doesn’t act in the best interests of his membership. No battle is too big or small for Donohue, who has recently taken his bully pulpit to the Thruway Authority after the agency laid off 234 workers.


P OW E R 45. Liz Benjamin Host, Capital Tonight The most highly visible journalist in Albany traded print for television and never looked back. A muckraker and proud of it, she’s every bit as tough as anyone in the upper echelons of state government. Benjamin is one of the few reporters whom the governor fears—and the only reporter who has had a Nixonian dossier compiled about her.

middle of skirmishes on behalf of his members. While butting heads with Bloomberg over teacher evaluations did not reflect well on either of them, Mulgrew has come back swinging on mayoral control over the education system in what will be a true litmus test for his clout in the Capitol.

43. John DeFrancisco State Senator; Chair, Finance Committee The Senate Finance chairman is the point person for all budgetary negotiations in the Senate. As one of Dean Skelos’ closest friends he has the full trust of the majority

44. Mike Mulgrew President, United Federation of Teachers


42. Kenneth Raske

Mulgrew forms a powerful one-two punch with NYSUT’s Richard Iannuzzi, and always seems to find himself in the

President, Greater New York Hospital Association Raske plays a key role in shaping the state’s health care delivery system. Hospitals will need his steady

hand as New York braces for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the enrollment of millions of uninsured individuals. Raske has also been a vocal opponent of for-profit investments in hospitals, despite the financially strained state hospital system.

41. Richard Iannuzzi President, New York State United Teachers As head of the state teachers’ union, Iannuzzi flexed some serious muscle in this past election, spending money all over the state and helping secure several congressional and state Senate seats. He’s now taking up the mantle as one of the leading opponents to the implementation of

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P OW E R the Common Core curriculum, going toe-to-toe with Merryl Tisch and other state education leaders.

40. William Rudin Chairman, Association for a Better New York; President, Rudin Management Company Under Rudin’s leadership, ABNY has become a powerful vehicle for real estate interests statewide. He has also been out front in the rebuilding of lower Manhattan after the area was devastated during Superstorm Sandy. The governor named him as one of five people to oversee the Empire State Relief fund for homeowners displaced by the storm.

39. Stephen Ross Founder and Chairman, The Related Companies Real estate plays an outsize role in city and state politics, and this billionaire builder is one of the most influential people in the arena. Ross announced last year that he was stepping down as Related’s chief executive, but the ally and major donor to the governor is certain not to lose any of his clout.

38. Jonathan Lippman Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals As the state’s chief judge, Lippman has always been a wellrespected voice in Albany, and his influence is augmented by his close friendship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. This year he’s been vocal about overhauling the state’s antiquated bail system, and he might just have the sway to do something about it.

37. Jonathan Soros Billionaire investor Soros didn’t just lend his famous name to campaign finance reform—he put his money where his mouth 18

april 22, 2013 |

is. He continues to play a key role in changing campaign finance laws after backing several reform-minded Senate candidates in the last election cycle. He’s back at work this session, using his resources to force the issue.

Common Core curriculum.

33. Gary LaBarbera President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York

36. James Featherstonhaugh President, New York Gaming Association With gaming as close to full-fledged legalization as it has ever been in the state, the industry’s top player is more important than ever. And while he’s a lobbyist for the state’s racetrack casinos, he has some skin in the game too as part owner of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, a site well positioned to be one of the locations chosen for an upstate casino.

35. Kenneth Langone Billionaire venture capitalist and investment banker

He’s the former president of the Central Labor Council, and his union represents the intersection of business, real estate and labor interests—essentially the lifeblood of the state. LaBarbera’s influence was recognized by the governor with his appointment last year to the NY Works Task Force, which helps strategically allocate the state’s capital investments.

32. Patricia Lynch President and Founder, Patricia Lynch Associates A former Silver aide and one of the most influential lobbyists in the state, Lynch has bounced back from a 2010 campaign finance scandal involving the state comptroller’s office. These days her staff is overseeing a bevy of legislative initiatives including the legalization of medicinal marijuana.

The billionaire venture capitalist and Home Depot founder is one of the Republican-leaning business leaders whose opinion Cuomo respects most. The governor turned to Langone to help convince Congress members to fork over federal funding for Superstorm Sandy relief in the northeast.

34. Merryl Tisch Chancellor, New York State Board of Regents Her voice carries serious weight when it comes to education in the state, and being a part of the Tisch dynasty certainly doesn’t hurt her cause, either. Tisch has also been a driving force behind some highprofile policy initiatives such as making New York the first state to drop the GED test and implementing the

31. Kenneth Shapiro Partner, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker Want to get something done in Albany but don’t know how to navigate the weeds? Your first step should be to call Ken Shapiro, a former chief counsel to three Speakers of the State Assembly, who is now one of the most sought-after lobbyists in the state.



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P OW E R 30. Steven Cohen Former Secretary to the Governor Cohen has two jobs—partner at Zuckerman Spaeder and top executive at one of Ron Perelman’s companies. But some would say he actually has a third: Cohen remains Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted confidant, even though he stepped down as secretary to the governor in 2011.

29. Rex Smith

scores as well as he can defend, deftly spinning the media on every topic of the day.

26. Col Allan Editor in Chief, The New York Post Fred Dicker is the public face of the Post in Albany, but Allan is the one who decides when Dicker’s insider-sourced exposés make it onto the front page. And despite its at times shameless coverage, Allan’s tabloid breaks an impressive amount of news in Albany.

25. Carolyn Ryan

Editor, The Albany Times Union The Capitol region’s most influential editor holds the reins of Albany’s dynamic hometown team of political reporters, including Casey Seiler, James Odato, Rick Karlin and Jimmy Vielkind. He also writes a highly regarded column on Saturdays that legislators read religiously.

28. Mylan Denerstein Counsel to the Governor The governor’s chief legal advisor and the highest ranking woman in the Cuomo administration, Denerstein is also its moral compass. It is not a reach to say that she is involved in every major deal and piece of legislation in the Capitol, while also examining bills and executive orders and assessing their potential effects.

27. Joshua Vlasto Governor’s Chief of Staff Cuomo’s hyperintelligent chief of staff once described his role as blocking the press corps’ desire to “sensationalize” a story in order to get page views on the Internet. Vlasto 20 april 22, 2013 |

Metro Editor, The New York Times

24. Judy Rapfogel Chief of Staff to the Assembly Speaker She is Silver’s chief of staff, but that title fails to encapsulate what she means to him. Rapfogel serves as his right hand and staunchest advocate. Moreoever, her husband, William, is the CEO of one of the most powerful nonprofit groups in the state.

Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker A juggernaut in Albany whose power touches every arena, Cunningham is one of

22. Robert Megna State Budget Director Power lies within the budget, and Megna is its master. A holdover from the Paterson era, Megna has an encyclopedic knowledge as a budget wonk, and his deft use of budget extenders helps get the governor what he wants in negotiations. His expert work may largely explain those three straight on-time budgets.

21. Timothy Dolan

The Times’ stable of reporters provide stellar Albany coverage, from the Pulitzer Prizewinning stories about Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal to a series about the gaps in the state’s safety net for the disabled. Behind it all is Carolyn Ryan, who has the enormously important role of deciding the direction of the Times’ coverage of New York politics.

23. Jennifer Cunningham

the most skilled and successful political strategists in the state. The former labor leader helped bring about marriage equality and remains a close confidant of both the governor and the attorney general.

Cardinal; Archbishop of New York Catholicism continues to be the No. 1 faith for New Yorkers, with 7.3 million followers, including the governor, out of a total population of 19.3 million people. Dolan has a powerful voice not only in Albany— where he was an asset on efforts such as increasing the minimum wage and is now a tough opponent to the governor’s efforts to expand reproductive rights—but also internationally. He was floated as a possibility to be the next pope.

20. Rob Speyer Chair, Real Estate Board of New York; Co–Chief Executive Officer of Tishman Speyer The youngest chair in the Real Estate Board of New York’s history and president of real estate giant Tishman Speyer, the press-shy Speyer is one of New York’s most significant movers and shakers in a city full of them. He’s also a key supporter of the governor, and the founder and co-chair of the Committee to Save New York, which spent more money on lobbying in New York State than any other organization in 2011 and 2012.


P OW E R 19. Kirsten Gillibrand

that Bloomberg isn’t higher up on this list.

12. Joseph Morelle Assembly Majority Leader

U.S. Senator The subject of glowing profiles in several glossy magazines, Gillibrand is earning legitimate presidential buzz for 2016 thanks to her tough stances on same-sex marriage, gun control, federal aid for 9/11 workers and Superstorm Sandy relief. She may have to fend off the governor if Hillary doesn’t run, a thought that Cuomo surely doesn’t relish.

15. Joseph Percoco Executive Deputy Secretary, Governor’s Office

18. Andrea Stewart-Cousins Senate Minority Leader The first woman in a leadership position in the Legislature’s history has been a calming presence in a conference long beset with turmoil. The governor listens to her, particularly on women’s issues—a focal point of his State of the State address this year. She is in the minority right now, but power has a way of changing, like the weather in Albany, and she could soon accomplish another historic first.

17. Kathryn Wylde President and CEO, Partnership for New York City There’s no one who embodies New York City’s business interests more than Wylde, and as a result there are few legislators who won’t take her call. The only smudge on her record this year was when she failed to prevent Cuomo from passing a hightax bracket for top income earners in the budget.

16. Michael Bloomberg Mayor of the City of New York He’s got a testy relationship with the governor and didn’t do himself any favors in Albany by wrangling with the UFT over teacher evaluations this year, but Bloomberg’s clout as a businessman, mayor and media mogul still make him a significant player in the Capitol. It’s only because the mayor is on his way out the door


Cuomo’s former advance man is his most loyal aide and top enforcer, with unparalleled access to his boss. The third peg in Cuomo’s adviser triumvirate with Glaser and Schwartz, Percoco specializes in dealing with gubernatorial obstacles on matters better left behind-the-scenes.

14. James Yates Counsel to the Assembly Speaker A former judge and counsel to former Speaker Mel Miller, Yates never leaves Shelly Silver’s side when a bill or the budget is being hashed out. He not only drafts the Democrats’ legislation but takes to the floor to whip up votes for it.

13. Robert Mujica Chief of Staff and Finance Secretary, Senate Republicans Dean Skelos’ most trusted advisor is the architect of the Senate’s governing majority. The unflappable negotiator wears a lot of hats: secretary of the Senate Finance Committee, Skelos’ chief of staff and Senate Republicans’ sensei all rolled into one.

He doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he’s become a favorite of the governor and Assembly members on both sides of the aisle. If Shelly ever calls it quits, Morelle would be the clear choice to be the next Speaker if he weren’t from upstate New York. Chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party, he is a juggernaut in his area, even recently electing his son Joe Jr. to the county legislature.

11. Eric Schneiderman Attorney General A hero among New York City progressives, Schneiderman has garnered national attention for his crusades against Medicaid fraud and his settlements with the financial industry. While likely a future gubernatorial candidate, he has been oddly passive in taking on political corruption, and deferred to the governor on signature issues including ethics reform in a way that Cuomo and Spitzer never did.

10. Thomas Libous Senate Deputy Majority Leader Upstate New York’s most powerful legislator is also one of the shrewdest, and the governor’s toughest sparring partner. He has sponsored Kendra’s Law, fought for improved services for the disabled, and is pushing Cuomo to legalize hydrofracking.

9. Preet 9. Preet Bharara Bharara U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Bharara, who keeps racking up high profile convictions and is cleaning | april 22, 2013


P OW E R up the culture of corruption like the protagonist in a Scorsese movie, may be the most feared man in New York politics since Rudy Giuliani. Who knows what other details will emerge from thousands of hours of taped conversations between ex-pol Nelson Castro and state legislators?

8. Thomas DiNapoli State Comptroller The comptroller cleaned up his office after his predecessor was hauled off to prison, and earned a steady series of victories on campaign funding disclosures. He may come across as mild-mannered, but he has stood up to Cuomo on pension smoothing and other budgetary issues.

5. Charles Schumer U.S. Senator The sagacious senator has quietly become the White House’s go-to negotiator, working with Republicans to achieve notable bipartisan victories in one of Washington’s most polarizing eras. His office is also New York’s most successful farm team, claiming alumni scattered throughout our power list.

Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Klein, who earned a seat at the negotiating table by sharing power with Skelos, has made the alliance work—so far. Sen. Malcolm Smith’s arrest embarrassed Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference, but Klein cut bait quickly, and remains one of Albany’s most charmed power brokers.

3. Dean Skelos Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Skelos has deftly maintained control of the Senate despite having fewer Republicans in the chamber than Democrats, due to a majority coalition he negotiated with state Sen. Jeff Klein. To date he has been able to win budget concessions for businesses and block some left-leaning legislation from coming to the Senate floor.

7. Howard Glaser Governor’s Director of State Operations As indispensible to Cuomo as anyone, Glaser coordinates dozens of agencies, oversees the response to emergencies, and manages 180,000 state employees while running the state’s day-to-day affairs. And if a state worker speaks out of line, Glaser knows how to get out the knives.

4. Jeffrey Klein

2. Sheldon Silver Assembly Speaker Perhaps the most powerful Assembly Speaker ever, Silver, who has held the job since 1994, has become renowned for his ability to marshal votes and negotiate a budget on behalf of his members. This year he raised the minimum wage and brushed back a rumor that Cuomo was looking to oust him.

6. Lawrence Schwartz Secretary to the Governor

1. Andrew Cuomo Governor

Secretary to two consecutive governors, Schwartz provides crucial institutional memory to an office of young pragmatists, and is Cuomo’s shrewdest negotiator. If you want to pass legislation or get funding for your cause in the budget, sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with Schwartz. 22 april 22, 2013 |

It has been a generation since New York has had a governor this omnipotent. Little legislation of substance gets passed without his approval, many people fear him, and as one of America’s most skilled politicians, he may find himself in the White House someday.





As we researched our list of the most powerful political figures in Albany, we gave our readers a chance to weigh in too. Here’s a recap of how you voted.



Arielle Goren, Senior Speechwriter, 103 votes



Josh Vlasto, Chief of Staff, 76 Votes


Joe Percoco, Executive Deputy Secretary, 66 Votes


Larry Schwartz, Secretary to the Governor, 57 Votes

Melissa DeRosa, Director of Communications, 48 Votes








Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, 59 Votes Secretary of State Cesar Perales, 77 Votes

Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services, 83 Votes Commissioner Gladys Carrion, Office of Children and Family Services, 445 Votes




Commissioner Darryl Towns, Homes and Community Renewal, 499 Votes | APRIL 22, 2013



Andy Get Your Gun By Aaron Short


ike Miller, an aide to Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, laid three .22 caliber rifles, a Glock pistol and a Remington shotgun on the table at a gun club on the outskirts of Albany. He picked up a Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle and grabbed seven bullets the size of triple-A batteries, counting them out loud as he loaded them into a 10-round clip. “You won’t be able to buy a pistol or a rifle with a 10-round magazine unless they change it,” he said. Nine miles away, legislative leaders at the State Capitol were discussing how to alter the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, a package of gun control laws the governor signed two months ago. The law, which will go into effect on April 15, bans assault rifles, creates a database for registering arms and restricts the size of magazines to a maximum of seven rounds. Miller slid the magazine into the rifle and locked into place with a soft click. Then he loaded the first round into its chamber. Chh-chik! “If there’ a problem with guns, it’s predominantly an urban problem that affects illegal handguns,” said Miller, before unloading the round and removing the magazine. “It’s an incredibly violent culture that in no way affects this club.” He walked outside to the shooting range behind the West Albany Rod & Gun Club, a sportsmen’s organization founded two years after the end of World War II. Miller put up a new paper target some 300 feet at the end of the range, loaded the Ruger again and flipped off the safety. He raised the butt of the rifle to his shoulder, steadied his left arm and squeezed the trigger. Miller’s torso remained motionless, absorbing the recoil of the rifle as his shot echoed in the woods beyond the target.


ov. Andrew Cuomo began the year with a bang, passing the nation’s toughest gun control laws after two deadly shootings in the Northeast jarred the nation—but the recoil from Republican voters has surprised him. Cuomo announced seven provisions of the SAFE Act in his State of the State

24 april 22, 2013 |

address on Jan. 9, including a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and direct Internet sales of ammunition; requiring federal background checks on private gun sales; monitoring ammunition purchases; and keeping guns away from the mentally ill. Cuomo ended his speech acknowledging that the issue of gun control is “hard, political and controversial,” but he implored legislators to “make this state safer, save lives and set an example for the rest of the nation.” His message to gun rights advocates was more direct. “It’s simple; no one hunts with an assault rifle,” Cuomo said. “No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. And too many innocent people have died already. End the madness now!” Cuomo invoked a “message of necessity,” compelling the Legislature to vote quickly on the SAFE Act. Six days later it was on his desk, and the governor declared victory. The backlash among Republicans and their constituents was immediate. State Sen. Kathy Marchione drew up an online petition for constituents who disagreed with the SAFE Act and castigated Cuomo for pushing the bill without public hearings. As of March 11, over 125,000 people have signed it. “Law-abiding citizens who own guns are not our problem,” she said, before voting no on the bill. “Law-abiding citizens understand and know how to take care of their guns, not to be a danger to others. All of us care deeply about the tragedies that have occurred in our state and other states.” Other legislators zeroed in on provisions covering magazines, police officers and retirees, the film industry, and a requirement that health professionals report data on mentally ill patients to the government. “The notion that you can only put seven bullets in a 10-round magazine is just silly,” said first-term Assemblyman Bill Nojay, who represents Livingston County and parts of Monroe and Steuben counties. “What was the governor smoking when he came up with that concept? It’s a foolish rule, and it will do nothing to prevent crime.” The gun rights debate, finished for the time being in the State Capitol, smoldered outside of it. The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association hosted two boisterous gun rallies on the Capitol’s South Lawn, headlined by Republican legislators. The second rally, on the last day of February, attracted an estimated 5,000 activists—Republicans contend twice as many people came—who denounced the legislation via attention-

grabbing posters with slogans like “Cuomo is a tyrant,” “Cuomo kiss my ARs,” and “Ted Nugent for president.” NYSRPA President Tom King, who organized both rallies, said attendees made up “one of the most diverse groups you will ever see” and were united in their opposition to the legislation and to the governor. “They’re angry at the governor; everybody knows it was the governor that pushed these through,” he said. “They’re angry at many Republican senators for going along with it. They blame Skelos for capitulating, for not even putting up a fight, not allowing any type of debate to go on about this. This is a democracy. The governor ran on a campaign of openness. That’s not happening. It hasn’t happened, and the people are mad.” Cuomo began to meet with legislative leaders to alter portions of the SAFE Act during state budget negotiations in March. He added an amendment to the proposed budget that reduces the price of hunting and fishing licenses and raised the question in meetings with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Co-Leaders Jeff

Klein and Dean Skelos as to how to tweak the law’s language to permit 10-round magazines in response to gun makers’ complaints about the onerous cost of creating and manufacturing 7-round magazines. After word leaked about a potential change to the law’s provision regarding magazines, Cuomo fended off a fusillade of questions from reporters who asked whether he was walking back the first significant gun control legislation in the country since the shootings in Connecticut. “There’s an issue as to an inconsistency in the bill,” the governor said. “We’ve talked about making technical corrections to the bill, some of which are language corrections, some of which deal with issues that some industries have raised.” State leaders announced a budget deal several days later that included a revision to the SAFE Act that permits 10-round magazines as long as gun owners only keep seven bullets in the clip, with an exception at gun ranges. Cuomo touted the budget agreement

Above, Mike Miller holds a pistol that will be heavily regulated under the new gun control legislation. Right, top: Tom King of the State Rifle & Pistol Association has filed a lawsuit and an injunction in state court seeking to repeal the NY SAFE Act and halt its enforcement. Right, bottom: Miller demonstrates target shooting at a gun club outside Albany.


Shannon DeCelle (3)

The state passed and amended its hallmark gun laws, but advocates see an easy target for a sustained assault.

POLICY while attacking the “conspiratorial theories” of gun rights activists who worry the government will confiscate their weapons. “There is a majority in this nation; they have rights too,” he said in a radio interview on March 25. “People have a right to be safe. People have a right to be protected from random violence. And criminals and the mentally ill don’t have a right to a gun, and you need a system to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.” “This doesn’t interfere with their Second Amendment right,” he added. “These people are spreading fear. The facts don’t work for them. Any hunters can have a gun and enjoy it. That’s why they need the fear; they need to spread misinformation. On the facts it makes total sense.”

But gun rights advocates said the governor was backpedaling. “As time marches forward, you’re going to see more and more holes appearing,” said Miller, Kolb’s aide. “Folks are going to realize this has to be significantly rethought. Gov. Cuomo, after the tragedy of Newtown and Webster, grabbed ahold of popular sentiment to make a name for himself and get it run through before the rest of the country did.”


uomo made it clear there would be no further legislative changes to the SAFE Act—so gun rights proponents are turning to the courts. In a lawsuit King filed in late March, his organization and several gun clubs argue that the gun control bills are unconstitutional and should be repealed. He pointed to magazine size limits, restrictions on sales of guns between family members and at gun shops, ammunition tracking, and government registries of weapons as reasons for the suit. “It will not make anybody safer,” he said. “What’s the definition of a criminal? A lawbreaker. What makes you think a criminal is going to obey that legislation? Any antigun law is a method for the legislators to make their constituents feel good, make them feel like they’re being protected, because they don’t want to take on the tough subjects: actual crime in the streets, the fact that they’re allowing criminals to walk all the time. It’s feel-good legislation— and it’s all hogwash.” Republican legislators and sheriffs across the state are backing King’s efforts to repeal the SAFE Act. More than 40 county legislatures, mainly in Western and upstate New

York, have passed resolutions vowing not to comply with the legislation. Over 50 sheriffs signed a letter saying they would not enforce the law. “The basic thing is people feel they’re losing their Second Amendment rights,” said Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican who represents Clinton and Franklin counties. “We have a pretty law-abiding group of citizens in the North Country. Their guns are for hunting, for recreation, and it’s a very different focus than people who live in other parts of the state. They see this as one more attack on their personal freedoms, particularly if they live in Adirondack Park.” Gun rights advocates face an uphill climb, despite the outpouring of support for their cause. Courts in other states have upheld laws regulating gun sales on constitutional grounds. Congress is moving toward gun control regulation that could reinforce New York’s efforts. And both the governor and the state police have given gun control proponents assurances that the state law will be enforced. “My money is on law enforcement and tracking,” said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, a Democrat from Long Island. “We have to see the results. Let it go for a while and let’s see how it works. I am very proud of this because I think this bill accounts for a lot of crime solving going forward. It’s the right bill. I am proud of New York State for doing this.” Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, does not think the legislation raises constitutional issues with civil liberties. He doubts that any court would overturn it, and says gun rights supporters and gun control advocates have a difference of opinion that is “natural” in a democracy. “Do they believe the constitution prevents the state or federal government from restricting any firearms?” he said. “That would be a radical departure from the interpretation of the constitution for centuries now. If they believe we made decisions about certain characteristics of certain guns, and that the government should stay out of questions about how private citizens should arm themselves, they are in a small minority in this country.”


embers of the West Albany Rod & Gun Club visit several times a week, even in the winter. Rick Swett, a trap


shooter who has won awards for his accuracy, said he buys two to three thousand rounds of ammunition before a sporting event. He’s worried that the state’s law requiring background checks and tracking the sales of ammunition will make him the subject of government inquiries. “Those of us who shoot trap for sport, this makes us feel responsible for Sandy Hook,” he said. But recent events have rejuvenated gun rights activists. King and his allies are seeking an injunction to temporarily halt the SAFE Act from going into effect. And the U.S. Senate stymied efforts to adopt background checks this past week in a defeat for gun control advocates. Assemblyman Nojay predicts a long, hot summer of civil disobedience until the gun laws “collapse.” “If the governor had actually sat down and talked with people who understand firearms and mental health issues, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” he said. “People who own firearms understand they have nothing to do with hunting. Firearms and the Second Amendment have to do with citizenry and their relationship with the government. Government keeping records on what firearms people own is not something that will be supported by people who understand what the Second Amendment is all about.” Cuomo is not deterred. New Yorkers support his gun legislation 63 to 33 percent and approve his grasp of gun policy 52 to 38 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, though upstate voters disapprove of Cuomo on guns 54 to 37 percent. In recent interviews he has taken to criticizing Congress for not “taking on extremists” in the gun control legislation it is currently drafting. “We’re not talking about a significant package of gun control any more. We lost that ... and it’s a shame,” he said in a radio interview on April 10. “We can’t, in the name of political sensitivity, be politically incompetent. If you are in government, I believe you are there to solve problems— and the difficult problems, by definition, are difficult and polarizing. That’s what makes them difficult issues.” | APRIL 22, 2013



Millions In Shadowy Dollars Still Lurk In State Budget Corruption case puts spotlight on shadowy development funds in state budget • By Nathaniel Herz of The New York World had sought to use $720 million in capital funding to create a new “Transformative Projects” fund, to be steered by the councils. A second measure from Cuomo sought to give the councils oversight of sales tax breaks granted to businesses by local industrial development agencies, known as IDAs. But both fell out of the budget after pushback from legislative leaders, who complained that Cuomo’s move was a power grab. The fight over economic development spending was so contentious that it was one of the last sticking points holding up a budget deal in late March. “There’s a concern the governor is attempting to expand the role of Regional Economic Development Councils to the exclusion of the Legislature,’’ Sheldon Silver, the Assembly Speaker, said at the time. At one point Silver even floated the idea of giving the Legislature veto power over the councils’ spending decisions, though that provision didn’t make it into the budget. While legislators have criticized Cuomo’s councils as giving the governor too much authority, good government groups tend to praise them because they use an open, competitive application process—an improvement on Albany’s old ways of pork-barrel spending on programs like member items. “They’ve created a … process that involves more members of the public, and more stakeholders,” Kaehny said. “It’s a heck of a lot better than sticking items, line by line, into the state budget at the very last second, after midnight, and no one understanding who’s getting what.” But currently the spending that goes through the councils “is still just a fraction of the economic development universe,” said Tammy Gamerman, senior research associate at the Citizens Budget Commission. And for several old programs in the state’s new capital budget like RESTORE NY and Gen*NY*Sis, there’s little information about how the funds are distributed, other than a reference to a “memorandum of understanding” between Albany leaders.

“This whole process is opaque,” said E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Referring to the Cuomo administration, he added, “They have not invented this opacity, but they’re not improving it, either.” Cuomo tried to create stronger accountability via the Transformative Projects Program, but budget documents show that the Assembly rejected the governor’s proposal to give the Regional Councils control over a pot of money that topped a half-billion dollars. The Legislature also rejected Cuomo’s proposal for new controls on sales tax exemptions granted by the IDAs, which Gamerman said would have been “a small step towards aligning state and local efforts.” IDA officials in communities around the state strenuously objected, saying they would have lost a crucial tool in their economic development tool kits—and the Legislature intervened on their behalf. “This would, in our opinion, have disrupted a program that has been very effective in meeting local economic development needs,” said Brian McMahon, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council, a nonprofit group that represents IDA leaders and other local development officials. “I think the Legislature recognized that there would have been a significant loss of local control.” The budget does revive old prohibitions against other kinds of locally granted tax breaks for retail projects, and adds some new monitoring requirements, which Gamerman called “good but small improvements.” Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, the chair of the Assembly’s Economic Development Committee, declined to be interviewed about the budget changes, and the Senate press office did not respond to an inquiry. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi would not respond to specific questions about the budget process, and instead gave the World an emailed statement. “Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council program has a proven track record of success, which is why it remained unaltered in this year’s budget,” Azzopardi wrote.

Source: Executive Chamber


he sprawling corruption probe last week that ensnared state Sen. Malcolm Smith had a guest appearance by a little-known pot of cash used to pay for roads and bridges. “Multimodal money is outside the budget, and it’s always around,” the FBI is reported to have recorded Smith saying as he allegedly hatched a plan to funnel $500,000 in state funding to a project on behalf of a real estate developer. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has cracked down on legislators’ abilities to dispense funds at will. Two years ago he eliminated funding for member items—grants members directed to their districts, often to closely allied organizations. He also set up 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, designed to promote coherence and accountability in state spending on job creation. Watchdogs have hailed the new funding process as an improvement. But hundreds of millions of economic development dollars budgeted long ago still escape the same level of scrutiny. Much of that spending is controlled by old agreements between former governors and legislatures that make it difficult for the public to know who’s getting the money, and why. Funds like the one set aside for multimodal transit, and others created during the Pataki administration, are still viewed by good government groups as “murky, opaque, and potentially subject to conflict of interest and pay-to-play,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, which promotes transparency. Based on Smith’s alleged remarks, some legislators would appear to see them the same way. The state’s patchwork of economic development spending programs, exemptions and subsidies cost upwards of $7 billion annually, according to one estimate from the Citizens Budget Commission. Over the last two years, less than 15 percent of that has fallen under the control of the governor’s councils. In the latest state budget, which the governor signed last week, legislative leaders dealt Cuomo two important defeats in his quest to give the councils more financial control and less to the Senate and Assembly. In his January executive budget proposal, Cuomo

“This whole process is opaque.” The Cuomo administration has “not invented this opacity, but they’re not improving on it either.” 26 april 22, 2013 |



DEDICATED TO REFORM New Roosevelt’s Bill Samuels proposes Albany legislators go full-time in exchange for a big pay hike. By MORGAN PEHME


n the wake of the latest public corruption scandals in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference and Assembly Democrats have separately proposed reforms aimed at cleaning up the Capitol, ranging from instituting publicly financed elections and easing voter registration changes to eliminating the Wilson Pakula Act and strengthening law enforcement’s ability to prosecute political corruption. Now New Roosevelt, a goodgovernment group led by progressive entrepreneur Bill Samuels, is launching another reform into the mix: a dedicated Legislature. In a soon to be released white paper provided to City & State, New Roosevelt calls for the state Legislature to adopt a structure similar to the one in place for the U.S. Congress. Legislators would cease to be designated as part-time, and accept strict limitations on outside income and more stringent oversight of their potential conflicts of interest. In exchange, senators and Assembly members would receive a significant salary hike—in excess of 60 percent of their current base pay of $79,500, or even as much as the $174,000 that members of Congress now earn, and that New York State Supreme Court justices will start being paid in April of 2014.

“At some point you have to come to the conclusion that something has to be done that represents a total change in how the Legislature is run,” Samuels said. “If you want to upgrade the Legislature you have to attract people who are excited to be a public servant—and to do so, first you have to pay them a decent wage.” Samuels attributes the idea of a dedicated Legislature in part to the model set by his organization’s namesake: Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a speech delivered by FDR in 1910 upon his election to the state Senate, the future president declared, “I want to represent you, the people of these counties and no one else. … I want to stay on the job representing you 12 months a year.” “Bill’s got a really innovative idea here,” full-time state Sen. Liz Krueger said of the New Roosevelt plan. “I hear more and more frequently from legislators two things: One … to do this job right you have to be committed 12 months a year between your district responsibilities and your Albany responsibilities; and, two, there are clearly potentials for conflicts of interest with certain career paths if you do legislating and a second job. And if we were full-time legislators, by definition, those conflicts of interests that sometimes turn into corruption stories wouldn’t be happening.”

Chief among the problematic areas of outside employment for legislators, according to Krueger, is the practice of law. “People do bad things in all kinds of professions, but I do think changing the structure [is important] so that I don’t have one job to represent the interests of 19½ million New Yorkers in my policymaking role and a second job where my law firm is getting paid—even if I’m not the lawyer directly on it—to do leases for hydrofracking on the land all over my district. That’s such an obvious conflict of interest, and yet that’s the kind of thing that takes place. … You have law firms with legislators of counsel who do all the municipal work for every town and city and county in their district. I can’t even start to detail the conflicts of interest inherent in that.” Added Kruger, “I don’t want to pick on lawyers, but I’m not totally clear where a dentist has the same obvious conflict.” All three of the current majority leaders in the Legislature—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein— are lawyers; Silver and Klein are of counsel to firms specializing in personal injury cases and Skelos belongs to a firm that represents companies that both do business with and lobby the State of New York. By contrast, both of the minority


Annual Salary

Start Year

End Year

$3 a day $300 $1,500 $2,500 $5,000 $7,500 $10,000 $15,000 $23,500 $32,960 $43,000 $57,500 $79,500

1846 1848 1894 1938 1948 1955 1962 1967 1975 1983 1985 1989 1999

1947 1893 1937 1947 1954 1961 1967 1974 1982 1984 1988 1998 Current

Years Without Raise 1 45 43 9 6 6 5 7 7 1 3 9 14

Note Set by Constitution Set by Constitution Set by Constitution Salary Set by Law




leaders, Democrat Andrea StewartCousins in the Senate and Republican Brian Kolb in the Assembly, are full-time legislators. “I think the legislator that’s really doing their job is extremely active and extremely busy and, quite frankly, now that when you talk about the fact I’m a legislative leader, that even makes it more of a full-time endeavor,” said Kolb, who estimates that he works an average of 70 hours a week as an assemblyman— and is on call 24/7 in case of emergency. While several Albany insiders acknowledged that Samuels’ idea could effectively serve as a deterrent to lawmakers succumbing to the temptation to seek illicit or unethical means of augmenting their salaries, there was skepticism that the proposal could actually be implemented because of resistance from legislators and the public. Kolb said that he believed downstate New Yorkers would be receptive to a pay hike, particularly in New York City, where $79,500 is “not a lot of money.” But upstate, where salaries are generally lower, “the average person would say, ‘No, I think they’re getting paid plenty of money.’ ” Asked if his colleagues might agree to eliminate outside income, Kolb laughed. “Here’s, I think, the honest answer,” he said. “For those who have no outside income, they’d have no problem going for it. For those who have outside income, I think they would have a problem going for it. So that’s where you’d have to look at the split.” According to New Roosevelt’s report, in 2010 only 76 of the 212 members of the Legislature at the time reported no outside income. Despite these obstacles, Samuels thinks that the latest rash of scandals in Albany could present a rare window of opportunity to bring about radical change. “We must sell the public that these are important jobs—and for us to be cynical and say, ‘Well, you know, if they get their act together maybe we’ll give them a pay increase,’ ” he said. “It’s just not the way to think about it. This trend is not going to be stopped without just absolute major, major changes. And I think this is an idea whose time has come.” | APRIL 22, 2013



Green Governor

Can Gov. Andrew Cuomo deliver on his ambitious environmental agenda? By Jon Lentz Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done plenty to please environmentalists over the past few months. In his State of the State address Cuomo called for stricter caps on greenhouse gases, unveiled a new “energy czar” and announced plans for a $1 billion “green bank” and a statewide network of charging stations for electric cars. Environmental groups praised the budget he signed this year, which boosts funding for mass transit, increases capital spending for parks and diverts more money to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. And in late March, the governor awarded tens of millions of dollars for solar power investment through his NY-SUN initiative, a program he launched last year. Now environmentalists are waiting to see whether he’ll follow through on the most ambitious elements of the agenda he has laid out, which they say could set him apart not just from his predecessors in Albany but as a national leader on sustainability issues. “Is he going to be a transformative environmental governor?” asked Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Right now he’s doing a fine job, certainly on the budget, and he’s moved things ahead, sort of in 28 april 22, 2013 |

an incremental fashion, which isn’t a bad thing. But we look to see whether there’s going to be more.” Of course, for many environmental groups the most pressing issue is the potential permitting of hydraulic fracturing, a form of natural gas drilling that is under regulatory review by the state. Cuomo has pledged to make a decision on hydrofracking based on the science, though a decision has been delayed for months as industry supporters square off against thousands of antifracking activists. Meanwhile, while hydrofracking is on hold, the governor has moved forward on other fronts. The Environmental Protection Fund, which pays for recycling programs, land conservation and other major environmental initiatives, was increased by $19 million this year to a total of $152 million. The budget also designated $90 million for capital projects in New York State parks. An extra $40 million will go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and suburban bus systems will see an uptick in funding as well. But perhaps the area where the governor has been the most aggressive is clean energy. Aiming to build on his NY-SUN initiative, which will invest $800 million in solar power development through 2015, the governor called on lawmakers this year to pass legislation to extend the program through 2023. Advocates say that long-

term government investment is needed to spur significant growth in the sector. “We’re delighted the governor has put a solar program in place,” Bystryn said. “But still, if something were to happen to Gov. Cuomo, it would be gone. So we think it’s critical there’s legislation. Legislation would ensure that it would be in place for the next 10 years, and that’s critical for the private sector that’s doing any kind of investing in [solar power].” The governor also recruited Richard Kauffman, a former top aide in the federal Energy Department, to join his administration as chairman of a new energy finance subcabinet. One of Kauffman’s tasks as “energy czar” will be to set up the $1 billion green bank, which will offer loans for clean energy projects and look for ways to streamline them. Cuomo’s call earlier this year to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state plan to reduce emissions from power plants, also came at a pivotal point in negotiations over the program’s future. His public commitment to lower the cap in New York, which makes up about 40 percent of the energy market in the region, was a strong signal, and reassured environmentalists that the RGGI would continue to have an impact. “I think this platform—there’s no other way to frame it than national in scope and scale,” said Jackson Morris, director of strategic engagement at the Pace Energy and Climate Center. “The sweep of initiatives, especially including RGGI, the elec-

tric vehicles, the green bank, with Richard Kauffman at point as energy czar, and you add those up—New York has a strong history in this space, but that portfolio that he threw out there, if achieved and delivered on, would really make New York a national leader on climate change policy and clean energy.” On transportation, which has a major impact on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, Cuomo has more of a mixed record, said Veronica Vanterpool, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “On one hand he supported increased funding to the MTA, which is a good thing. He’s also kept his promise to fill the gap created from the restructuring of the payroll mobility tax that happened in 2011,” she said. “That has been really good, obviously. On the other hand he has not advanced concrete plans for transit in the I-287 corridor, nor along the Tappan Zee Bridge—and given transit’s ability to reduce emissions and address traffic congestion, which is a big problem in that particular corridor, that’s a very shortsighted goal for environmental sustainability moving forward.” Bystryn said she was also waiting to see what long-term steps the governor would ultimately take in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The governor’s 2100 Commission sent him a long list of recommendations on how to protect coastal communities, and Bystryn said it would be an opportunity for the governor to put more of an emphasis on green infrastructure and think differently about restoring and maintaining wetlands. “That’s a big issue, and we haven’t seen anything, and I’d love to see something,” she said. Travis Proulx, a spokesman for Environmental Advocates, said that Cuomo already stands out when compared with his immediate predecessors. Even Gov. George Pataki, who had a strong record in land conservation and helped get the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative started, was less effective than the current governor, Proulx said. “George Pataki’s approach was to hold press conferences and make big speeches, but then he left it for his successors to really follow through on all these promises that he made,” Proulx said. “Spitzer wasn’t really there long enough to have a real impact on environmental issues. And Gov. Paterson made a number of really bad environmental decisions.” As for Cuomo, the only question now is whether he will follow through on the bold, forward-thinking promises he has already made, Proulx said. “Fracking is one example, where he’s made the promise that he’s going to let the science bear this process out,” he said. “So now everybody is taking a wait-and-see approach, to make sure that he’s keeping his promises on all these fronts.”



S P OT L I G H T environment

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S P OT L I G H T environment


ov. Andrew Cuomo will have the final say over whether hydraulic fracturing is allowed in New York—but some hydrofracking opponents are shifting their focus to lawmakers to pass a two-year moratorium on the controversial method of drilling for natural gas. Drilling foes see a potential for a breakthrough in the state Senate, which has traditionally been more supportive of hydrofracking but where state Sen. Jeff Klein and his breakaway Independent Democratic Conference could be in a position to play a pivotal role. “I think it’s going to be a critical test of Klein and the IDC coalition and the Independent Democratic Conference’s leadership in the state, of whether they will in fact be able to get this done,” said John Armstrong, the communications director for the antifracking group Frack Action. “New Yorkers are going to see this, perhaps more than any other issue, as a test of their leadership and whether the IDC has the best interests of all New Yorkers in their hearts when it comes to the health and safety of the state.” Supporters say that hydrofracking can bring jobs to the state, especially the Southern Tier, where economic development is needed and which sits on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. Opponents say more study needs to be done into the health risks, and that the state should at least wait until a health review by the Cuomo administration is complete. State Sen. David Carlucci, one of four members of the IDC, has introduced moratorium legislation, which fracking opponents have rallied around. Klein, the IDC leader who shares power with Republican Sen. Dean Skelos, has along with fellow IDC Sen. Diane Savino signed on to the moratorium bill, as well as a bill to ban hydrofracking outright. The heavily Democratic Assembly passed a moratorium bill earlier this year. Hydrofracking opponents targetTheKlein, IDC “We’ve the regular Democrats come out very supportive Brooklyn Alliance, the 501(c)3 nonprofit economic development arm seen of the Brooklyn ChamberSenate of Commerce in push for two-year drilling moratorium presents: of a moratorium and a ban on fracking,” Armstrong said. “The numbers should add up for yes on a moratorium, at least, if not a ban on fracking in the state Senate, so long as it’s allowed to come to a vote.” By Jon Lentz NYC Democratic Mayoral Candidates Forum on Workforce Development A spokesman for the Independent Democratic Conference declined

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30 april 22, 2013 |

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Frack Inaction



“I think New Yorkers are very upset, and will be, the more they learn that two to comment. Persuading the IDC to take action isn’t the only hurdle, of course. State Sen. Dean leaders in the state Senate are trying to stifle a debate about this very important issue,” Skelos, the Senate co-leader along with Klein, has made it clear that he will not bring Armstrong said. “Sen. Skelos and Sen. Libous have both said they want to prevent a bill such legislation to the floor, and the rules under the power-sharing agreement require from coming to the floor; they want to prevent a vote. That’s not in line with democracy; it’s not in line with what we vote our representatives into the state Senate to do.” that both men must agree to allow any legislation to come up for a vote. Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates pointed out that a moratorium made “He’s also said more generally that he supports hydrofracking if it can be done safely, but that at this time, the process, the way it has been set up, it’s up to the governor, his it through the Senate in 2010, and that senators’ public statements made it likely that a similar bill would have enough votes to pass this year. DEC and Health Department to make a decision about whether “I’m hopeful Gov. “This is an opportunity for the IDC to really lead the way on we go forward with fracking in New York State,” Scott Reif, a an issue that they’ve said is important to them, that we know is spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said of Skelos. Cuomo will move important to them, and work within the coalition to bring someState Sen. Tom Libous, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, has forward when the thing to the floor,” she said. “This is an incredibly important issue, also insisted that a moratorium bill not come to the floor and experts decide it’s and one that New Yorkers have spoken out on. We need more echoed Skelos in emphasizing that the decision is the governor’s to make. Libous, who represents a district in the Southern Tier in time to move forward. information.” Other antifracking groups said they were supportive of the push and around Binghamton, has called for the permitting of hydroUntil then, I’ll be for a moratorium in the Legislature, but that they were continuing fracking as a way to bring jobs and investment into the region. working hard to to focus their energies on the Cuomo administration. “I’m hopeful Gov. Cuomo will move forward when the experts “The focus still remains on the governor, because at the end decide it’s time to move forward,” Libous said in a statement. convince my of the day he’s still the one driving the train on fracking,” Nadeau “Until then, I’ll be working hard to convince my colleagues in the colleagues in the said. “However, the Legislature has a really important role to play, Senate that this moratorium proposal is simply a media gimmick Senate that this because they could put this right on his desk. They could say to to placate activists against fracking.” Despite the apparent policy differences on hydrofracking moratorium proposal him, ‘Listen, there’s a consensus out there that we need more information on the public health implications of fracking before between the IDC and the Senate Republicans, Reif disputed the is simply a media any decisions are made.’ They’ve got the power, and being in the idea that the issue might create a rift in the governing coalition. gimmick to placate leadership right now, they can really work to move this, the IDC “I would disagree with the assertion that this is a test of the can, and we’re looking to them for that leadership, to really stand coalition,” Reif said. “Critics of the coalition have been raising activists against up on the issue.” that, saying that issue A, issue B, issue C are going to be tests of fracking.” Jim Smith, a spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Assothe coalition. The coalition has worked very well so far. We’ve been ciation of New York, said that the industry advocacy group was able to find common ground on a host of different issues: a third consecutive early budget, we passed gun safety legislation that incorporated both IDC continuing to focus on “open-minded legislators” as well as the governor’s staff in its push to allow hydrofracking, which has been on hold since before Andrew Cuomo priorities and Republican priorities. The coalition is working.” Asked about the chances of a moratorium given the opposition of Senate Republican became governor. “I don’t know that any pressure on the Senate will result in moratorium bills becoming leaders, hydrofracking opponents described the efforts to keep legislation from coming successful,” Smith said. “There’s no need to delay.” to the floor as “undemocratic.”

Thank you, Governor Cuomo and State Legislators! 2013 is a very special birthday for one of New York’s most important programs. The Environmental Protection Fund has been making our communities healthier and more sustainable for 20 years. Now there is even more reason to celebrate. This year’s budget includes enhanced funding for the EPF, which will conserve our farms and forests; protect clean water; support our parks, zoos and recycling programs; revitalize our waterfronts; and help communities reduce risks from extreme weather and flooding. Studies also show that every $1 invested in land and water protection through the EPF returns $7 in natural goods and services to New Yorkers. Thank you to Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Silver, Assemblyman Sweeney, Senators Skelos, Klein and Grisanti, and all members of the State Legislature for supporting the EPF in this year’s state budget.  

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32 april 22, 2013 |

S P OT L I G H T environment

Expert Roundtable MATTHEW DRISCOLL


President and CEO, New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation

Chair, New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee

Q: What does the Environmental Facilities Corporation do? MD: It is the arm of the Cuomo administration that helps communities finance drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Q: What is your top priority? MD: To help municipalities take advantage of our low interest rates to finance infrastructure critical to ensuring sustainable communities. Creating an efficient wastewater system or a reliable drinking water supply can be an expensive undertaking. But these projects not only protect public health and the environment and immediately create construction jobs; they also provide the basis for a community to support economic development and more jobs in the future. Q: What are you most proud of during your time at EFC? MD: Last year EFC led the nation by issuing more than $1.05 billion in bonds for the financing and refinancing of local drinking water and wastewater projects. It was more than twice the amount issued by any other state, and it will save municipalities in New York more than $260 million. Q: Are you involved with post-Sandy recovery and rebuilding? MD: EFC anticipates offering a robust financing package of zeropercent loans, as well as grants, to mitigation and resiliency projects in the communities hit by Sandy. The Sandy Recovery Act enacted on Jan. 31 appropriated funds to protect wastewater and drinking water systems. EPA has determined that 60 percent will go to New York—roughly $342 million— and 40 percent to New Jersey. Q: Has the slow economic recovery made it a challenge to fund environmental projects? MD: [It has] kept many communities from undertaking capital expenditures. The federal government’s response to the economic downturn—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act— brought a little over $500 million to New York, which allowed EFC to advance 79 wastewater projects and 29 drinking water projects to construction in the state.

Q: Were there any significant environmental measures included in the state budget? Any that you wanted to see that were left out? MG: This year’s budget included significant reform to New York’s bottle bill law to help eradicate fraud and abuse in the system. Directly tied to this reform was an additional $19 million in funds for the EPF for this fiscal year, as well as an additional $4 million for the next fiscal year. Last year I sponsored similar legislation that was vetoed that would have increased the EPF as well, and this legislation helped draw the governor’s attention to the need to do more for the EPF. Increasing funding for the EPF was my top environmental budget priority since I have taken office, and it will continue to be. Q: What will your top environmental priority be this session? MG: Going forward this session, my top priority is to remove the harmful chemical TDCPP from children’s products. This legislation would build upon landmark legislation that I sponsored which was signed into law in 2011. I am also aggressively pushing legislation this year to improve fire standards in upholstered furniture while removing their toxic chemicals, and looking to remove mercury from our waste stream. Q: New York City has made strides developing its waterfront over the years. Are there similar efforts in Buffalo? MG: Developing the waterfront is a top priority for us, and the revitalization of it will bring thousands of jobs to the city. Right now the development is in its infant stages, with the expansion of the Buffalo Naval Park and the retransformation of the Donovan state building, and there are also a few other projects on the horizon. I will be holding a roundtable discussion with state Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and other stakeholders to discuss the future of Buffalo’s Skyway, which is impeding some of the development and transportation issues we currently have in Buffalo. We have a beautiful waterfront, and the next steps are to have access to it and develop it in a way that will attract people to the region.





Chair, New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee

Chair, New York City Council Environmental Protection Committee

Q: Were any significant environmental measures in the state budget? Any you wanted to see that were left out? RS: New York’s Environmental Protection Fund has been increased $19 million to a total of $153 million, a 14 percent increase for the 2013–14 fiscal year. At least $4 million will be added to the EPF in next year’s state budget. This type of funding is crucial to protecting and enhancing the quality of our environment. The EPF protects our parks, beaches and bays, forests, farms, open space and water quality. This program also assists our communities by providing funding for storm resiliency, recycling programs and pollution prevention. The Assembly had proposed extending New York State’s most successful recycling program: the bottle bill. At present, deposits are charged for beer, sodas and bottled water. We wanted to add iced teas, sports drinks, energy drinks and water with sugar added. Q: What are the prospects for the Long Island Water Protection Bill, which the Assembly passed this session? RS: This needs to happen. Long Island’s sole source aquifer is being assaulted by pesticides, pharmaceuticals and the by-products of human waste. If this does not change, the end result will be additional contaminants in greater concentrations in our groundwater, and increased costs—in the form of health impacts and the cost of increased water filtering needs. Children have a greater exposure to contaminants than adults because they drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air relative to their size. Diseases of environmental origin are increasing for children. Environmental links have already been established for many health issues, and research is continuing to provide new evidence each day. The Suffolk County Water Authority has had 28 wells removed from service due to pesticiderelated contamination. All but two of those wells have since been returned to service with treatment added. These costs and others are passed on in the form of higher water bills. The calculation is simple—increasing amounts of contaminants do not belong in drinking water.



Q: The City Council recently passed your geothermal bill. What was in it? JG: As a geologist, I believe geothermal energy is the city’s next big advance in renewable energy, but its potential is not widely understood. My bill will literally “write the book” on geothermal in the city by mapping the areas in the city where geothermal energy is most appropriate. Approximately half of the energy from sunlight is stored just beneath the ground as heat, at a constant year-round temperature of 57 degrees. Through relatively simple heat-exchange technology, the earth just below our feet can provide energy to heat buildings in the winter, and act as a “heat sink” in summer to cool them. This law will transform the renewable energy landscape in our city. Q: You’ve had success passing bills on storm water management, biodiversity and a renewable energy Web portal. JG: Those laws are a result of the new environmental paradigm demonstrated by Superstorm Sandy, which highlighted, in most dramatic fashion, the real dangers our city faces in terms of climate change, rising sea levels and flooding. But even before Sandy hit, we as a city acted to counter the threat posed by those forces. Local Law 42 created the “New York City Panel on Climate Change” and a “Climate Change Adaptation Task Force” to assimilate all relevant climate science, assess all feasible adaptation strategies, and commence planning, financing and implementation of climate adaptations. This panel and task force are already engaging leading climate scientists with city engineers and policymakers to protect the city’s infrastructure, buildings, natural areas, public health, vulnerable populations and economy. Q: What is your top priority now? JG: I’m currently working with the Bloomberg administration to make comprehensive changes to New York City’s air code that will be very significant in terms of air pollution reductions. It will be a fitting capstone to my 12-year tenure as chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, during which I’ve made every effort to put science before politics in facing the clear and present danger of climate change.

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The State Superstorm Sandy As commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, Joe The devastating storm last fall spurred policymakers to scrutinize everything Martens oversees the state’s ongoing review of the controversial natural gas from zoning regulations to transportation infrastructure while heightening the drilling process known as hydrofracking. This year Cuomo created an “energy importance of environmental concerns moving forward. The storm prompted czar” position and named to the post a former top federal energy official, city and state officials to explore wetlands restoration, natural buffers like Richard Kauffman, who will coordinate energy policy and dunes, and a rethinking of waterfront development. Environestablish the state’s first “green bank.” Still, Cuomo, whose new mental groups are now citing Sandy as an illustration of the “The economy of need to pass the Global Warming Pollution and Control Act, tomorrow is the clean budget includes several measures applauded by environmentalists, may ultimately be defined by whether he allows hydrowhich caps greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, not tech economy. We fracking. just power plants. Solar Power Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his NY-SUN initiative last year as lawmakers were debating a similar measure, the Solar Jobs Act. The governor launched his program, which expires in 2015, without legislation, though it is less ambitious than some advocates had hoped. So this year environmentalists are backing a bill to codify the governor’s NY-SUN program into law, which solar industry experts say is needed to encourage more investment. The measure is a legislative priority for both the New York League of Conservation Voters and a broad coalition known as the “Green Panel.”

all know it, it’s a foot race—whatever state, whatever region gets there first wins the prize, and we want it to be New York.” —Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his 2013 State of the State address

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative This year Cuomo announced that the state would institute stricter standards under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, an agreement with neighboring states to cap carbon emissions. Opponents say that RGGI has put upstate power plants on the verge of closing, which could eliminate a key source of property tax revenue for local governments, but supporters say the stricter standards are needed in order to have a significant effect.

The City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a reputation as one of the country’s greenest mayors thanks to his wide-reaching PlaNYC sustainability initiative. One of the areas where New York City has lagged is recycling, and Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway is spearheading an effort to divert more waste from landfills, among other initiatives. City Councilman James Gennaro, who was an adjunct professor of environmental public policy before being elected, has partnered with Bloomberg on multiple green initiatives.

The Advocates The leading supporter of the hydrofracking industry in the state is the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, whose executive director is Brad Gill. New Yorkers Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of more than 200 groups, has been trying to block the natural gas drilling procedure. The New York League of Conservation Voters has stepped up efforts to elect lawmakers who support its goals. Other leading green groups include Environmental Advocates and the Natural Resources Defense Council.



1 billion

New York City’s 2012 recycling rate, as a percent

16 New York City’s reduction of its carbon footprint in five years, as a percent


APRIL 22, 2013 |

Size of proposed New York “green bank,” in dollars

1.1 35.1 billion New York City’s 2002 recycling rate, as a percent

Estimated amount needed to fix state wastewater treatment plants, in dollars


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4/19/13 12:08 PM | APRIL 22, 2013



Crimes and misdemeanors


f politics could be reduced to a mathematical equation, it would be ideas divided by ego. The “art of the possible”—as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is fond of calling it—is more often about individuals than the interests they’re supposed to serve. We repeatedly see policies and proposals put forth with no rational basis aside from personal gain. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara may have exposed some of the more egregious examples of political corruption in the recent round of arrests, but in reality there are other pervasive and subtle forms of self-dealing which are doing long-term damage to the public interest. When the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan essentially showed up the political establishment during Preet Week (a.k.a. early April) and embarrassed Cuomo into proposing new measures to combat corruption, he unwittingly exposed the governor’s ill-concealed dislike for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Instead of issuing a general referral that would give the attorney general criminal jurisdiction to pursue public corruption, Cuomo decided to empower local district attorneys. If history is any indicator, the attorney general is in a far better position to prosecute these cases than small-fish local officials. District attorneys are often conflicted out of investigating the local party organizations they depend on to get elected. As a result, the task usually falls to the U.S. Attorney or the attorney general. As the Rensselaer County DA, Richard

Michael Benjamin

What’s In The Water?


hat’s in the water?” John Gambling asked me recently when I appeared on his radio show to discuss the latest corruption scandal to hit the Bronx. Gambling’s query is this century’s equivalent of Howard Cosell telling America, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning.” On that October night in 1977, those soon-to-be famous words caused my college dorm-mates to inquire if my hometown was afire. Hurt, embarrassment and anger flooded through me all at once. Flash-forward 35 years. “Oh, no! You’re kidding, right?” I groaned when a friend called to ask if I’d heard that my successor in the New York State Assembly, Eric Stevenson, had been arrested on corruption and bribery charges. Those same feelings from 1977 came flooding back. It was personal, again. My four terms in the Assembly will now forever be bookended by corruption cases. I was first elected in a special election in 2003, following the arrest and conviction for bribery of my predecessor, Gloria Davis. During my eight years in office, until my retirement from the Legislature in 2010, I did my utmost to remove the stain Davis had left upon the seat by regaining the people’s trust. Sadly, it is clear now that despite my best efforts, I was ultimately unable to prevent the dark days of the past from returning. Of course, through the politics of my district I had had encounters with Stevenson, Assemblyman Nelson Castro and their confederate Sigfredo Gonzalez. Stevenson had run for public office twice before being elected: once unsuccessfully against me and once as the district leader candidate on my

36 april 22, 2013 |

McNally, explained to the Albany Times Union: “How can you prosecute cases when you’re so close to them, and how are you going to find the resources to investigate and prosecute them thoroughly?” What’s McNally’s solution? Leave public corruption to the attorney general. Indeed, the governor once agreed. As attorney general he eagerly accused Gov. David Paterson of failing to muster the political will to broaden the office’s powers. Why the change of heart? Maybe it’s because in Albany, AG has come to stand for “Aspiring Governor,” with the last two occupants ascending to higher office. And so perhaps for Cuomo, fending off political rivals is more important than implementing meaningful reform that moves society forward. In this instance, Cuomo seems to have forsaken the first two dictates of his motto—“Performance, Integrity, Pride”—for the last. The same week that Cuomo unveiled his misbegotten proposal, The New York Times Magazine broke the news that Anthony Weiner is seriously considering a run for mayor. I reacted the same way the late Margaret Thatcher did to the idea of integrating England into the European Parliament: “No, no, no!” Weiner has no rationale for running: “I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” he told the Times. “… But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or

maybe never for me, in terms of running for something.” Inspiring stuff. At its core Weiner’s motivation is his own rehabilitation, a cause to which he’s willing to blithely devote $1.5 million in public matching funds. Regardless of what you think about Weinergate, the enduring narcissism that allows him to indulge his vanity with tax dollars is an affront to the public interest. Similarly, Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s well-recorded use of discretionary funds to reward and punish her fellow Council members is yet another example of how constituents get caught in the crossfire of political warfare. The vast disparity in member item funding across districts means that the people, not their representatives, pay the price for the Speaker’s personal politics. Although it may not be as brazen as a cash bribe, the process by which politicians shortchange the public for political advantage is also an abuse of office. Malcolm Smith and Dan Halloran’s misdeeds are merely degrees on a scale. For all the headline-busting tales of felony corruption, it’s the more banal betrayals of duty—excused as “politics”—that quietly give government a bad name.

slate (I was advised to try to bring him into the fold). “Siggy” Gonzalez had teamed up with Stevenson to oppose me in 2008. He had long been rumored to be involved in shady activities, but there had been nothing concrete to pursue. As for Castro, he had been opposed by the Rainbow Rebels in 2008 when we coalesced to depose Assemblyman José Rivera as Bronx Democratic county leader. To me, it is only fitting that Castro ended up hauled before a Bronx judge in handcuffs like the (still alleged) criminal I always thought he was before, and since, he entered public office. These guys were birds of a feather, and yet I take little pleasure in their downfall. Instead, the arrest of this motley crew of grifters has left me crestfallen—not for the accused but for my former constituents. It seems that every decade brings a new crop of public officials to disappoint Bronx voters. To get a greater sense of others’ feelings, I reached out to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, knowing that Stevenson’s father, Ed, was a close friend of his and that Eric had once worked in his office. Ferrer admitted to feeling “dumbfounded” by the charges leveled against Stevenson. “We had a gorgeous mosaic of corruption in the ’80s,” Ferrer joked grimly, referring to the array of Jewish, Italian, black and Puerto Rican politicians who used to make up the culture of corruption in the Bronx. Ferrer had ascended to the borough presidency in the aftermath of a massive corruption

scandal that reverberated across the Bronx and Queens. In the wake of the ’87 scandal, Ferrer added Ne cede malis—“Yield not to evil,” in Latin—to the borough’s flag. He also ordered the graffiti that had been defacing the walls of the Mario Merola Bronx County Court House to be removed, and took down the false walls in the building’s rotunda that had covered the magnificent murals commemorating the ideals of America. Ferrer keenly understood the value of symbolism. He wanted Borough Hall to become a clean, shining citadel of honesty and good government. I’m not sure what kind of symbolism would be appropriate today. However, the words of my friend Pat Canale, a local businessman, come to mind. Pat would always ask in his Italian-accented English, “Michael, you staying honest?” I always got the piercing point of his question. Every constituent and voter should, like Pat, pointedly ask his or her representatives if they are remaining upright in performing their duties as public servants. That question will go a long way toward establishing a culture of integrity and zero tolerance for corruption. Honesty—that’s what should be in the water. If not, the only thing left to drink will be shame. [Note: A “Ne Cede Malis” iron-on patch is available online at]

Alexis Grenell is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.

Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin represented the Bronx for eight years.




CAPITOL The Capitol Pressroom’s host, Susan Arbetter, recaps recent highlights of her one-hour public radio show broadcast live from the State Capitol. Arbetter is the news and public affairs director for WCNY in Syracuse.

There wasn’t much about this year’s legislative spring break that could be considered break-like. Even legislators who have done nothing more than wish for better weather in conversation with Assemblyman Nelson Castro are edgier now than they were during budget negotiations. For years rank-and-file lawmakers have wanted more of a voice in Albany. They wanted someone to listen. Someone listened. Sometimes you get what you wish for.

AND THE EMMY GOES TO… What a way to celebrate your 50th. New York City’s venerable PBS station, WNET, was honored for that milestone by the New York regional chapter of the National Association of Television Arts & Sciences on April 14. Neil Shapiro, Thirteen’s president and CEO, accepted the Governor’s Award after a tribute from television icon Dick Cavett, who squeezed in the famous line (attributed “to Gore Vidal or maybe Judy Collins”): “It’s not enough to succeed. One’s friends have to fail.” That was somewhat ironic, considering the historic enmity among the nine New York State PBS stations, and the fact that public broadcasters—including WXXI, WMHT, WNET and WCNY—raked in a cartload of Emmys. A few may have been achieved by actually working together. New York’s public broadcasters—at least their streams—are quite literally interconnected these days, thanks to the recent launch of a centralized master control. For years the nine stations have been working to create a first-in-thenation joint master control facility in which the digital guts of all nine stations operate out of one centralized hub. They succeeded. Centralcast LLC launched such a facility inside WCNY’s new headquarters in downtown Syracuse. Because it will save millions of dollars, it’s already becoming a national model, with states like Florida looking to emulate what we did in New York.


CITIES ARE IN A STATE Richard Ravitch is writing a book tentatively titled Déjà Vu All Over Again. The former MTA chairman and lieutenant governor told The Capitol Pressroom that he’s enormously frustrated by what he sees as “a lesson not learned” from the past. I would sum up his feelings like this: “What the hell?! Didn’t you learn anything from the disaster we averted by the skin of our teeth in the ’70s? You’re not likely going to get another chance. Wake up, people!” My words, not his. While bemoaning a lack of action on the part of the state, Ravitch said that no city or town in New York is close to bankruptcy, at least in the legal sense of the word. That sounded a lot like what State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli told a crowd earlier this month at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Both men were invited there to share their thoughts on the financial crisis facing cities and towns—a timely discussion given the decision by the City of Stockton, Calif., to cut pension fund payments. While Stockton is legally bankrupt, The Capitol Pressroom wanted to see if bankruptcy and the possibility of cutting pension payments was an option in New York State. The answer is maybe. According to the Office of the State Comptroller, municipalities here currently have three options when it comes to pension funds: • The amortization option the comptroller passed last year • The ability to do an early payment in exchange for a discount • The pension smoothing plan in the latest budget “There are no imminent bankruptcies here,” Ravitch said. “But what we do have is a rapidly growing service insolvency. We are deferring infrastructure investment and/or reducing services.”

WCNY Producer Amy Manley and WCNY News and Public Affairs Director Susan Arbetter pose with their statuette.

Pretty much anything goes in legal bankruptcy. But again, no cities in New York are there yet. Ravitch, who has been watching this semi-insolvency from up close as an advisor to Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, says it’s the banks that need to make the next move. Ravitch: One of the interesting things that is happening, and this is a very important point: The banks want to prevent local governments from having the right to file bankruptcy, because the only way that the debt holder can be at the bargaining table and make a concession is in bankruptcy. If you can’t go into bankruptcy, then the only way you can cut costs is by reducing services, reducing compensation or reducing pension benefits.

Neal Shapiro, president of PBS station Thirteen/WNET New York City, accepts NATAS’ Governor’s Award at the 56th Annual New York Emmy Awards.

HOW NOT TO GO BANKRUPT Meanwhile, the 4th annual Local Government Leadership Institute is on the calendar with two scheduled events, one on June 12 in Watertown and one on June 19 in New Paltz. The event is sponsored by the Office of the State Comptroller, which conducts finan-

WCNY’s Bes t Pu Emmy for b Show In lic Aff airs sight.

cial risk assessments for municipalities around the state. This year the focus is on helping munis get a handle on their finances before it’s too late. Strangely, “too late” seems to be a moving target in Albany. One of the early steps prior to implementing a financial control board is to seek deficit financing. There is a provision in state statute that allows cities to come to the state and request deficit financing, which allows them to “bond” to fill that gap. Deficit financing gives the comptroller’s office the power to review a city’s budget. In 2010 the City of Newburgh went into deficit financing. But the last few times cities and counties like Long Beach and Rockland have requested the Legislature’s permission to go into deficit financing, the Legislature has said no. According to Ravitch, you don’t have to look too far to understand why lawmakers aren’t rushing in to solve the problems facing cities. Ravitch: All the solutions are painful. To the public. To the banks. To the unions. To aspirants to public office. To get people to engage in self-inflicted pain requires either extraordinary leaders, or more likely, extraordinary leaders and exigent circumstances. Fasten your seatbelts. | APRIL 22, 2013





Albany was shaken up by a slew of shakedowns, filling up our losers list faster than the time Malcolm Smith takes to deposit a check. We couldn’t include everyone, and more indictments could be coming—though, of course, the real loser is the public. Hey, at least you got to vote for our Winners and Losers. Go to each week to vote.




WINNERS BHARARA 75% ULRICH 13% MALONEY 8% ZUGIBE 3% JOHNSON 1% Robert Johnson: Helps Preet nab an assemblyman Carolyn Maloney: Gun control push despite threats Thomas Zugibe: Rockland investigation led to Malcolm Smith

PARTY TIME Eric Ulrich: In the long-raging feud for control of the Queens Republican Party, the GOP councilman picked the right side. Ulrich, who regularly criticized the party’s leadership—including Vincent Tabone, the Queens GOP’s vice chair—was vindicated when Tabone was arrested in an alleged scheme to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith on the ballot. The Smith scandal is bad news for the Queens Republicans, but the legal troubles could pave the way for new leadership—and more clout for Ulrich.



HALLORAN 9% SMITH 32% CUOMO 20% STEVENSON & CASTRO 4% Andrew Cuomo: Hasn’t cleaned up Albany Dan Halloran: “You can’t do anything without the f---ing money.” Eric Stevenson and Nelson Castro: Assemblymen accused of crimes

WONDER BREAD Malcolm Smith: If only we hadn’t seen it coming. Smith is the headliner in an alleged bribery scheme to get on the ballot for mayor as a Republican. He laid bare his hunger for power—the criminal complaint said he wanted to be called “the best thing since sliced bread”—but did he really have to get involved in a sham real estate project? The lawmaker is now just the latest in a long line of crooked New York politicians.


Preet Bharara: It was a banner week for the U.S. Attorney, who accomplished more than some federal prosecutors do in a year. He nailed Malcolm Smith and Dan Halloran on corruption charges, along with two NYC Republican Party officials, in what some guess is the tip of the iceberg. Before the dust could settle, he announced the arrest of Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and four others, thanks to the inside help of another disgraced legislator, Nelson Castro. Could a higher office be Bharara’s reward?

APRIL 22, 2013 |

The Independent Democratic Conference: Jeff Klein and his colleagues formed the IDC claiming to be fed up with their fellow Senate Dems. But when an IDC member was arrested on public corruption charges, the conference lost some sheen. Now Klein & Co. must maintain a fragile governing coalition with Republicans while Smith hangs around Albany until he resigns or goes to trial. Somewhere in Queens— probably at the Astoria beer garden—Mike Gianaris is enjoying a frosty cold one.


WINNERS WEINER 27% KORMAN 22% SCHUMER 21% SILVER 17% ARBETTER 13% Susan Arbetter: Cuomo’s go-to radio host Edward Korman: Morning-after pill ruling cuts through politics Chuck Schumer: Movement on gun control, immigration

ASSEMBLY LINE Sheldon Silver: Does Cuomo actually want to oust the Speaker? Has he only been pretending to be mad at Fred Dicker so he could leak through him and have plausible deniability? Is Dicker still even writing the governor’s bio? What is clear is the threat of a rebellion caused Shelly’s minions to close ranks and protect their leader, proving that it’s going to take a whole lot more than rumor and innuendo to take out Silver.


Anthony Weiner: The cocksure former congressman laid the groundwork for a mayoral run in the Times, and he and his aggrieved but ultimately forgiving wife, Huma Abedin, came off as likable people who were coping as best they could. He might not win the primary, but he would be competitive, and that notion alarmed his rivals. There’s little downside in a Weiner run—and if nothing else, it means more overthe-top Post covers.




VAN METER 2% DOLAN 36% Eric Schneiderman: No new anticorruption powers Frank MacKay, Dan Cantor and Mike Long: Wilson Pakula at risk Jonathan Van Meter: Quinn and Weiner puff pieces

KING JAMES James Dolan: The National Labor Relations Board filed two complaints against Cablevision, accusing the company of bargaining in bad faith with unionized workers and chastising Dolan for telling Bronx workers they would be excluded from job opportunities if they voted to unionize. City leaders also say Dolan has stymied future economic growth by refusing to move Madison Square Garden from above Penn Station, which desperately needs to be renovated. This Dolan could never get elected pope.

Christine Quinn: Will the Speaker try to shut down Quinnipiac University because its latest poll has her down five points? While she had some bright spots— her opponents remain about 20 points behind her—the most memorable image was Quinn’s disembodied head hovering in a smoke-filled room. We hadn’t even watched the NYC Is Not For Sale PAC ad until the Speaker started howling that Cablevision and Time Warner could lose their licenses for running the 30-second spot.


B AC K & F O R T H



ilmmaker Alexandra Pelosi has one of the most famous last names in American politics. As the daughter of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the granddaughter of a former mayor of Baltimore, Pelosi has been steeped in politics from birth—the perfect pedigree for a documentarian who often gravitates toward political figures as the subjects of her movies. Starting with her Emmy-nominated debut feature, Journeys With George, which chronicled her time on the campaign trail with George W. Bush when he was first running for president, Pelosi has made a string of critically acclaimed films, the most recent of which is the new HBO documentary Fall to Grace,, about former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey’s life following his resignation from office amid a scandal and his declaration that he was a “gay American.” City & State Editor Morgan Pehme spoke with Pelosi about how her upbringing influences her view of politics, and asked if she would ever want to continue her family’s legacy by becoming a candidate herself. The following is an edited transcript.

City & State: How did growing up in a family of politicians inform your perspective on politics and making political documentaries? Alexandra Pelosi: I see the world of politics as two camps: the insiders and the outsiders. The insiders know everything that’s going on, and they have a really good grasp on the political realities in America. The outsiders are all the people who sit at home and blog about it without very much perspective, and the trick is being able to know the difference. I’m an outsider. I’m a nobody. I have no political inside track. I just know when I’m watching cable news, they have little access to what’s really going on in the inside, so I know it’s not an informed perspective. I may not be informed, but at least I have the self-awareness to know that I’m not informed [laughs], ], and if I really wanted to be informed, the things you can read to get informed. … Being informed is a job. … When I was growing up, my mother always told me that the definition of the word “idiot” was someone who didn’t take a part in civic affairs. Like, the Latin root of the word “idiot” means something along the lines of “he who does not participate in civic affairs.” And so you have an obligation as a citizen to actually know what’s going on in your world, and that’s a heavy responsibility—most people don’t take on that responsibility; they take that responsibility very lightly. You can’t consider yourself a well-informed human being by watching a half hour of cable news. C&S: Thinking about Jim McGreevey’s fall, does being an insider also give you tunnel vision and blind you from having a full perspective on politics, just by virtue of being within the bubble? AP: People who are inside the bubble have no concept of how they look, nor do they care, which is good in some ways and really dangerous in others. A lot of times politicians don’t have an honest relationship with the mirror, because people around them don’t tell them the truth, because they’re afraid to. So there’s always that disconnect between what they’re doing and how that looks to the outside world—and how much that matters, how much people’s opinions are formed by little things.


C&S: That’s a surprising observation, because so much of being a politician revolves around being watched and judged by the public. AP: Good politicians don’t care how they look. They do what they think is right. They don’t care about the polls. They don’t care about the whims of the moment or the crisis du jour. They care about trying to affect change, and change is never popular. C&S: Was Jim McGreevey a good politician? AP: Probably not. I didn’t know him as a politician, but everything I’ve heard wasn’t pretty, and I’ve gotten a little bit of an education since the movie came out about what a bad politician he was, which is funny because I didn’t really focus on that. I was interested in Jim McGreevey because I was intrigued by his attempt to redeem himself. … [McGreevey] was the first person to admit that he was a self-centered egomaniac and that made him do a lot of stupid things; [he] literally came out of the closet, not just about being gay but being a bad guy. C&S: Can you not help but like the people that you make movies about after spending so much time with them? AP: The harshest reviews that I got on the Jim McGreevey movie were that I was too nice to him. I am not Bill O’Reilly. I’m not trying to get in people’s faces and set them straight. I am compassionate toward the human condition. I have great sympathy for broken people. It’s not my job to get in somebody’s face and poke a finger and tell them that everything they’re doing is for all the wrong reasons, that they don’t have the right motivations. Who am I to judge Jim McGreevey for going to jail every day to help prison inmates? What do I do in my life that makes me so high and mighty and righteous that I am the moral authority? … These people are the first to admit they’re broken; they’ve failed. They have this great shame. … There’s a lot to learn from people who had it all and lost it and then rebuilt it back again, for whatever reason. I don’t care why Jim McGreevey goes to jail every day; I care that he goes and that he helps people. I don’t care why Ted Haggard rebuilt a church in his backyard and has a couple hundred people show up on a Sunday—if it’s for their own selfish ego, if it’s for their own need to be loved. Who cares? They’re helping in some way. To read Most people don’t help anybody. So I more, think it’s very noble that these men have including tried to rebuild their lives and not just about Pelosi’s tried to help themselves. bizarre honeymoon

and her surprising friendship with George W. Bush, check out www.

C&S: Is it your worst nightmare to ever be a candidate yourself? AP: I have too much self-respect ever to run for office myself. I’m not a masochist. I love my family too much to ever run for office. I would never subject them to the slings and arrows of the blogosphere. Not that I really care, though. It’s funny. I have gotten to a place—I’m 42 years old—and this movie was great because I learned something really profound. I learned that critics don’t criticize what they’re looking at; they criticize what they want to be looking at. So when a reviewer is reviewing a film, they’re not reviewing the film they’re watching. They’re reviewing the film they wanted to watch. | APRIL 22, 2013


N EW Y ORK S TATE T RIAL L AWYERS A SSOCIATION Protecting New Yorkers Since 1953

March 3, 2013

Many New Yorkers’ lives have been destroyed by medical malpractice, and then…they are victimized a second time by an absurd state law that prevents them from getting justice in the courts.

Victims of medical negligence don’t deserve to lose their rights. New York’s statute of limitations governing medical malpractice is one of the most unjust in the country: 2½ years from the date of the negligent act, even if the victim is unaware it has taken place. Under current law, the victims of a misread test—such as a mammogram, PAP smear or prostate test—or a botched surgical procedure often face fatal consequences. Uncaught or misdiagnosed, a curable disease becomes a symptomfree killer. Treatment is foregone. When the symptoms do appear, the disease may be so advanced that treatment is futile.

The law, however, says no one can be held responsible and victims lose their access to justice. Only a handful of states (AR, ID, ME, MN, SD) are like New York—lacking some rule that says that the clock starts running when the wrongful action is discovered, either specifically to medical negligence or generally to all cases. RIGHT THIS WRONG - SUPPORT THE DATE OF DISCOVERY LAW (A.1056 - WEINSTEIN / S.744 - FUSCHILLO).

It’s Time for a Change. A message from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association Michael E. Jaffe, President 132 Nassau Street New York, NY 10038 Tel: 212-349-5890

© 2013 NYSTLA

City & State, April 22, 2013  

A listing of the 100 most powerful people in Albany, New York. Also featuring a special issue spotlight on New York's Environment; A Q&A w/...

City & State, April 22, 2013  

A listing of the 100 most powerful people in Albany, New York. Also featuring a special issue spotlight on New York's Environment; A Q&A w/...