Page 1

Q&A with New York Knicks’ Point Guard Raymond Felton

Preview: 2014 State Legislative Session

January 20, 2014


One year after its passage, has the SAFE Act reduced gun violence?


Mark-Viverito Elected New Speaker: Can the Council Forgive and Forget?


City & State




That is how many New Yorkers, based on the figures used in the most recent round of redistricting, are currently without a representative in either the state Assembly or the Senate. With the recent felony bribery conviction of Eric Stevenson and resignation of alleged serial sexual harasser Dennis Gabryszak, the number of open seats in the Legislature rose to 11—nine in the Assembly, two in the Senate. By Morgan Pehme One would think that with roughly one out of every 11 New Yorkers currently disenfranchised in Albany, calling special elections to fill those seats would be a priority—and an urgent one at that. Instead, nobody in our government’s leadership seems in much of a hurry to make sure that these nearly 1.8 million people have the representation to which they are constitutionally entitled and deserve. Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not comment on the subject this week, back on Nov. 18, when there were a mere eight vacancies, he made it clear that he had no intention of calling special elections. “It’s a balance of the cost and hardship of the election versus the community’s right to representation, but we don’t have any plans as of now,” Cuomo weighed in, while holding down one side of the scale. Really? 2015? The governor is going to let 1.8 million people languish until January 2015 without representation in both houses of the Legislature? And, keep in mind, 1.8 million is optimistic. As hard as it is believe, indicted Senators Malcolm Smith and John Sampson are still in office. If they alone were to lose their seats before the completion of their terms, that would mean another 700,000 or so New Yorkers would join the ranks of their unfortunate neighbors. And Sampson and Smith are far from the only members of the Legislature who are imperiled. I am certain, purely based upon the law of averages in Albany, that at least a few of their colleagues are teetering on the brink of expulsion at this moment, though the charges may not have yet come to light. After Gabryszak finally oozed off, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that while he favored Cuomo calling special elections, doing so was no big deal, because, “Once the budget is enacted, there isn’t a lot that would be considered between now and the end of the year.” Wha-what??? Silver’s slip of the tongue has to rank as one of the most revealing statements ever uttered by a legislative leader. It completely demeans the importance of individual members, reduces constituent services to an afterthought, and telegraphs that the upcoming session post-budget will essentially consist of legislators counting the days until they can campaign full-time. On the bright side, lobbyists and activists, if your bills don’t get passed by April 1, you don’t have to write any more checks or bother organizing those bus trips up to the Capitol. Summer is going to start early this year!

Contents Page 4 ........... LETTERS

Readers react to our December 2 issue.

Page 5 .......... UPFRONT

Highlights from C&S’s State of the State cocktail reception in Albany.

Page 7 .......... CITY

The Council Speaker vote: healing moment or political theater? By Nick Powell

Page 8 .......... STATE

Two mayors’ take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s address. By Jon Lentz


The lawsuit that could become the judiciary’s equivalent of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision. By Susan Arbetter


Page 12 .......... ARE WE SAFER?

One year after its passage, has the SAFE Act actually reduced gun violence in New York? By Matthew Hamilton


What to expect from Albany’s 2014 session in key policy areas.

Page 31 ........ COUNCIL 101

A recap of C&S’s weekend retreat for freshmen members of the New York City Council.

Page 36 ........ PERSPECTIVES

PUBLISHING Publisher Andrew A. Holt Vice President of Advertising Jim Katocin Events Manager Dawn Rubino Government Relations Sales Director Allison Sadoian Business Manager Jasmin Freeman EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Morgan Pehme Albany Bureau Chief Jon Lentz City Hall Bureau Chief Nick Powell Reporter Matthew Hamilton Associate Editor Helen Eisenbach Multimedia Director Michael Johnson Art Director Guillaume Federighi Graphic Designer Michelle Yang Illustrator Danilo Agutoli

Page 38 ....... BACK & FORTH

A Q&A with Knicks point guard Raymond Felton.

Cover: Guillaume Federighi Inside photo: Judy Sanders, Executive Chamber 61 Broadway, Suite 2825 New York, NY 10006 Editorial (212) 894-5417 General (646) 517-2740 Advertising (212) 284-9712 City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright ©2014, City and State NY, LLC

city & state — January 20, 2014

CITY AND STATE, LLC Chairman Steve Farbman President/CEO Tom Allon

Nicole Gelinas on the MTA’s budget crises, Bruce Gyory on the DREAM Act, and Assemblyman Steve Katz on legalizing marijuana.


Vol. 2, No. 23 - DECEMBER 2, 2013

The Push For A State Constitutional Convention

Beginning with this issue, City & State will now print letters to the editor. To have your letter considered for publication in the magazine, leave a comment at, tweet us @CityAndStateNY, email editor@ or write to 61 Broadway, Suite 2825, New York, NY 10006. Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

Q&A With Folk Music Great Arlo Guthrie Spotlight On MWBES




city & state — January 20, 2014


In “The Con-Con Conundrum,” Susan Arbetter wrote about an early push for a New York State Constitutional Convention in 2017. ••• Those who do not learn from history will repeat it. The Constitutional Convention held in 1967 was a total failure, and the people’s votes in the 1967 election confirmed it. As the columnist Murray Kempton put it in 1967, everybody had a reason to vote “no.” For example, those who favored a repeal of the Blaine Amendment voted “no” because of the product of that Convention’s provision making welfare a State obligation. Those who wanted a left-liberal welfare state voted “no” because of the repeal of the Blaine Amendment. The state spent millions on that convention and had nothing to show for it at the end. As far as delegate selection is concerned, just who does any reasonable person think will become delegates? Politically interested individuals, whether from the political clubs or “goo-goo” groups, who claim to be “high-minded” but in the end have to deal with the powerful forces of society. A Con-Con would be a waste and its product would be rejected by the voters. The state of New York should save its money and not have a payday for the politicians! —davlevine (via

City & State columnist Nicole Gelinas questioned whether New York will remain a global city after the departure of Mayor Bloomberg from office. ••• With vague references to several of Mayor Bloomberg’s favored transportation policies, including those that have not been adopted or are not yet fully implemented (congestion pricing, the number 7 subway extension), Gelinas argues that such ideas would not have been possible without the inspirations of a wealthy jet-setter who has spent a substantial portion of his administration visiting vacation homes around the world. Gelinas recalls the “advantage of having a billionaire mayor with a private jet,” and warns that because de Blasio “came up through local politics, not through global business,” the city may be in store for years of insipid policymaking. This argument defies logic as much as it insults those government officials whose work has supposedly been hampered by their lack of access to overseas weekend homes. Are we really to believe that only a mayor of Bloomberg’s pedigree could appreciate and emulate the bike-share programs made popular in London and Paris? And is the high cost of international travel now an acceptable argument in favor of

patrician leadership? The notion that effective transportation policies require the insight of a mayor who casually ventures abroad—primarily for recreation, not for city business— is preposterous. It is also empirically belied by the fact that former Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty (a nonglobal businessman who came up through local politics) oversaw the development of what was previously the largest bicyclesharing program in the United States, five years before Citi Bike’s debut in New York. So much for the plebian provincialism. Aside from transportation policies, Gelinas refers only to Bloomberg’s public health initiatives as evidence of his irreplaceable “global” spirit. Without much in the way of explanation, we are left to rely on little more than Bloomberg’s own wooly, TED-talkish language about global interconnectivity. Did New York’s public health campaigns inspire European cities to adopt similar measures because of their effectiveness, or was it simply because our mayor was personally wealthy enough to reinforce his own global stature through frequent travel? Apparently we are meant to believe the latter. Our new mayor may indeed spend more of his time in the city that he is charged with governing—rather than, say, golfing in Bermuda—whether by choice or by his limited access to private jets. However, there is simply no compelling reason to believe that New York City’s influence on the world will somehow wane, or that de Blasio’s administration will suffer

from a lack of ingenuity, as a result. Gelinas concludes with a passing but clear reference to the real fears held by those in the anti-de Blasio camp—a phenomenon to which she assigns the sneering label “redistributive politics.” De Blasio’s campaign cries for policies to ease the devastating inequalities that impede overall economic growth allegedly “shows he’s more interesting in moving around the money New York already has than competing globally.” (At some unseen point the entire base of this yarn has switched from global policy insights to global economic competition.) This makes little more sense than the preceding generalities about Bloomberg’s travel habits, but it better illustrates what the Manhattan Institute crowd actually preferred about Bloomberg’s three-term reign, and why the rest of us should celebrate the impending changes. —Lucas Anderson (via email) City & State Editor Morgan Pehme’s cover story for the Dec. 2 issue focused on Long Island Rep. Peter King’s flirtation with running for President of the United States. In general, readers were skeptical about his potential bid. ••• King is a RINO. He’ll never come close to a nomination. If there is one thing I have learned about New York State Republicans [it] is they are incredibly out of touch with Republicans in the rest of the country. Here in Ohio we are still laughing at Chris Crisco, RINO Governor of the Communist Province of New Jersey and his “presidential” chances. —theotherRJH (via

C&S STATE OF THE STATE COCKTAIL RECEPTION Lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates flocked to City & State’s event at Taste Albany, co-sponsored by Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin and Google, which included the launch of City & State TV and a livestream of interviews conducted by Morgan Pehme and Jon Lentz at

Assemblywoman DEBORAH GLICK

“We need to do all that we can to put New York on the path to long-term structural balance. I give credit to the Legislature and the governor for doing a better job of managing the budget [and] controlling spending than we have had in some previous years, but we are not out of the woods completely.” —New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

“While we saw one of the largest increases in education funding last year, we are still not back to where we were five years ago. I represent four school districts that have really seen hundreds of cuts and reductions in education staff. … I know the governor has talked about an increase, and I am looking forward to hearing more about that when the budget comes out.” —Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy

5 Assemblywoman GABRIELA ROSA

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President CARLO SCISSURA

“I am very certain there will be bidders [for a casino license] about whom you have heard nothing who will appear once a request for application is on the street. I am equally certain that many of the people you have heard talking about projects will not actually bid.” —James Featherstonhaugh, New York Gaming Association president

“I have a lot of people [in my district] who are unemployed. Others who have jobs but aren’t making enough to make ends meet. We have to do what we can to reduce the cost of living and make it easier to get by on Long Island. … People are leaving. They have reached their breaking point. They are leaving New York, and it is sad.” —State Sen. Lee Zeldin


city & state — January 20, 2014



Pride of New York

Borough of Manhattan Community College, Queens College Vice Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees President, Philip Berry Associates LLC.

Lowell Hawthorne

Jasmine Hatcher

Bronx Community College President and CEO, Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill

CUNY Graduate Center NSF Scholar 2013

Philip Berry

Robert T. Johnson

City College of New York District Attorney, Bronx County; Former Acting Justice of New York, State Supreme Court

Ayodele Oti

Walter Mosley

Macaulay Honors College at City College of New York Truman Scholar 2011

The City University of New York Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr,’s birthday.


Bert Mitchell

Baruch College Founder, Chairman & CEO Mitchell & Titus LLP

Iyanla Vanzant

Colin Powell

City College of New York Former U.S. Secretary of State, Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

City College of New York Award-Winning Author Founder, City College Publishing Certificate Program

Hunter College Award-Winning Stage, Film Actress and Screenwriter

Eric Adams

John Jay College of Criminal Justice NYC College of Technology Brooklyn Borough President Former NY State Senator

Ruby Dee

Brooklyn College Former Congresswoman and Candidate for Democratic Presidential Nomination In Memoriam

Shirley Chisholm

Medgar Evers College, CUNY Law School Best-selling Author, Inspirational Speaker




he scene on the floor of the New York City Council at the first stated meeting of 2014 was an exercise in political theatrics. After weeks of vote wrangling, dealmaking and one-sided muckraking

Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras, and kissed her mother. Garodnick stood off to the side of the floor, gracious in defeat, accepting handshakes and hugs from members on both sides of the fight. It was the “Kumbaya moment” that had proved elusive ever since the Democratic county leaders from the

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito embraces Councilman Daniel Garodnick after he officially conceded in the Speaker race. surrounding the Council Speaker’s race, supporters of the two ultimate candidates, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Daniel Garodnick, converged on the Council floor, exchanging pleasantries and warm embraces. It was an anticlimactic denouement to a drawn-out, occasionally nasty battle. There was some initial suspense before the meeting as Mark-Viverito’s supporters patiently waited for the Garodnick contingent to arrive. Visions of a dramatic floor vote danced through the heads of some attendees, and sources in Garodnick’s camp were confident as recently as a few days earlier that they could steal away some Council members from Mark-Viverito’s side. Yet the moment Garodnick and company entered the chambers to a raucous ovation, all of the acrimony from the past few weeks dissipated. Mark-Viverito beamed and embraced her partners in progressivism, Jimmy

Bronx and Queens aligned behind Garodnick, while the Progressive Caucus and the Brooklyn delegation united behind Mark-Viverito. When the floor activity subsided, there was a roll call vote, and despite some earlier bluster about sticking with Garodnick from some members, in the end Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected as the City Council’s first Latina Speaker. Adding to the spectacle of the moment, a number of members, including several Garodnick supporters, explained their vote before casting it, heaping praise on Mark-Viverito for her big win. From his perch in the front row of the balcony, Rep. Joe Crowley, chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, surveyed the lovefest and did his best to go through the motions of applauding Mark-Viverito despite the fact that her election as Speaker reflects a marked change in the influence of the county organizations.

With reporting by Jon Lentz


talked about rules reform, we talked about everything with just about everybody; and in that regard I believe [Mark-Viverito] is right.” And what of de Blasio, whose fingerprints are all over the outcome of this race? The mayor has played down his behind-the-scenes involvement in advocating for Mark-Viverito, insisting that the Council operates as an independent body and that the members would choose the best candidate for the position. Yet de Blasio, speaking to the media after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech in Albany the same day as the Speaker vote, was singing two wildly different tunes, emphasizing his “partnership” with the new Speaker, all the while touting her independence. “I think she’s going to be a great partner in government,” de Blasio said. “Now if you know Melissa, you also know she’s a very independent person, and I think we’re going to agree on a lot of things because we have a very similar philosophy, but there will be times when we disagree. And I know she will fight energetically for what she believes is right.” It is a risky two-step the mayor is dancing. De Blasio was a vocal and relentless critic of former Speaker Christine Quinn’s political alliance with Michael Bloomberg, though it is worth noting that Quinn broke with the former mayor on several major pieces of legislation, most notably the Community Safety Act, and overturned his veto a few dozen times. Both the mayor and Mark-Viverito will likely face regular questions about the nature of their political partnership, and you can bet de Blasio’s criticisms of Quinn will come back to haunt him. Mark-Viverito has proven herself a more than capable legislator as a councilwoman, and her prior advocacy work has been admirable. She will have every opportunity to prove she can be the consensus builder Quinn rarely was, and that she can preside over a Council that will likely have a new set of rules, notably those governing member items. For now, Mark-Viverito will be tasked with healing wounds from the Speaker battle, and placating key members of the Garodnick team. Her election was historic, a moment to celebrate for the millions of Latinos in New York City, but only time will tell if Melissa Mark-Viverito lives up to the elevated expectations and intense scrutiny that lie ahead.


city & state — January 20, 2014


For that ground shift Crowley has his former ally to thank: Frank Seddio, the Brooklyn Democratic boss who betrayed him and swung the race to Mark-Viverito by cutting a deal for his borough’s Council members to support her—presumably in exchange for the appreciation of the mayor and City Hall. The fractured relationship between Seddio and the other county bosses will likely take a long time to heal. Notably, Crowley vigorously applauded for all of the dignitaries Mark-Viverito thanked during her acceptance speech, but ceased clapping when she called Seddio’s name. Still, after it was all over there was Crowley, standing in the City Hall lobby, saying he was “proud” that “history was made today.” Mere weeks earlier Crowley had been in attack mode, comparing Mark-Viverito’s early declaration of victory to former President George W. Bush standing under a “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely marking the end of the Iraq war. Crowley had also denounced Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supported Mark-Viverito and was reportedly instrumental in swaying certain Council members to her side, as “very comfortable in the back room.” Ah, yes, the back room: the playing field for the shadow games of city government—and specifically the Speaker’s race. Despite the best efforts of a small group of Council members to bring some level of transparency to the selection process, including public forums with the various candidates, the true dealmaking happened behind closed doors—first when Seddio delivered his Brooklyn membership for Mark-Viverito, and then in the final agreement between the warring factions. Nonetheless Mark-Viverito, in her acceptance speech on the Council floor, hailed the race for Speaker as the “most transparent” in the Council’s history. While this Speaker’s race had only the semblance of openness—the forums, while of little consequence, at least sparked a more public discourse on the role of the Speaker—it was only transparent in comparison with previous races, which were utterly opaque. Garodnick acknowledged the delicate balance of running a largely private race for a very public position when asked after the meeting about Mark-Viverito’s claim of transparency. “These Speaker’s races are notoriously odd beasts,” Garodnick said. “There’s no question that for the first time in history we participated in a lot of public discussions, a lot of debates; we went to every borough, we



In upstate New York the focus on taxes is on lowering them. Cuomo’s package of proposed tax cuts, based on recommendations from a commission headed by former state comptroller Carl McCall and former Gov. George Pataki, includes lower corporate taxes and a zero percent property tax rate for upstate manufacturers, measures a number of lawmakers said they would support. Another element of the tax cut

share services would reduce costs. Although past efforts have had little success, Cuomo said tying the push to financial incentives would prod more local governments into action, much the way he tied funding to the implementation of teacher evaluations across the state. “There is a ray of hope, because there are local leaders who are stepping up to the plate,” Cuomo said. “I’d like to take a moment



Gov. Andrew Cuomo on stage at his 2014 State of the State address. day pre-K,” Cuomo said, avoiding any mention of funding. “The Assembly has long championed the same. It’s time for New York State to have universal, full-day pre-K statewide.” Yet de Blasio has not given up on his push for higher taxes, which would require permission from the state. On that issue, like others, the mayor sought to highlight his agreement with Cuomo before insisting the city would “get it done with our own resources.” “I think the state has a vision for the state, and I respect that vision,” de Blasio said. “We have a vision for our own city, and we simply want an acknowledgement of that so we can move forward.”

package is a two-year freeze on property taxes. In the first year, municipalities that have abided by the state’s optional 2 percent limit on property tax growth would be rewarded with a 2 percent tax credit for residents. In the second year, a municipality would have to abide by the 2 percent cap and demonstrate concrete steps taken toward consolidating or sharing services with other local governments. According to the governor, the proliferation of governmental entities with taxing authority is a key factor behind the state’s record-high property taxes, and reducing their ranks or forcing them to

to recognize the great Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and the mayor of Syracuse, Stephanie Miner, who are working together to see if they can achieve consolidation and shared services between Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse. We wish them well, and we hope other leaders follow their example, because we think that’s exactly the right course.” Syracuse and Onondaga County officials have commissioned a study to explore opportunities for shared services countywide and regionwide in a “data-driven” way, Miner said. One goal is to put every government in the county on


city & state — January 20, 2014


n his first trip to Albany as mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio played up what he has in common with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and emphasized the fact that he shares many of the goals the governor laid out in the State of the State address. In his speech Cuomo singled out another mayor, Syracuse’s Stephanie Miner, his handpicked co-chair of the state Democratic Party, as a role model for her efforts to cut costs by sharing services with county government. Yet both mayors, while taking pains to praise Cuomo and his 2014 agenda, insisted the governor must alter his course on key parts of that agenda. De Blasio kicked off his postaddress press conference by saying that he was “very, very appreciative” of many of the governor’s proposals, from improving mass transit to protecting women’s rights to fighting discrimination. “There was a thread running through this entire speech connecting it to the historic progressive values of our state, and certainly of New York City,” de Blasio said. “There were so many important items in the governor’s speech, and I just am excited to get to work supporting this initiative and helping him to get it done.” Where the two differ, and what has drawn the attention of political observers, is how to expand prekindergarten programs in New York City. De Blasio campaigned on a tax hike for the wealthy to fund universal prekindergarten in New York City, and the governor has gotten behind the expansion plan, but he has indicated he will be able to fund it in the city and statewide without any of the tax increases the mayor has called for. “In 2013 in the State of the State, we called for expanded full-

said. “Now, the state has been very aggressive in trying to alleviate the burden from local governments. We assumed more local costs than the state government has ever done in modern political history.” Miner and other local officials around the state say those are steps in the right direction, but do not go far enough. “You can’t say, ‘We’ve done all we can, we can’t do anything more,’ ” she said. “If you are pushing economic development

and job creation in upstate New York in particular, which I’m most familiar with, you’ve got to look at the nanotech providers or the genome people and say, ‘You’re going to get clean water, the snow’s going to be plowed, you’re going to drive on good streets, you’re going to have good schools.’ All of those are important services that form the bedrock of a quality of life that allows us to build an economic development model that works.”


The governor’s defense is that the state has already done all it can to help struggling municipalities. The Cuomo administration has set up a financial restructuring board. The state took over $1.2 billion in the growth of Medicaid. And it is funding $700 million in aid to localities and the Tier VI pension reform will reduce costs in coming years. “We have a proliferation of gov-ernment that is exceedingly expensive and costly,” Cuomo

The state of working New York is not good

By Danny Donohue


o see the slick TV ads touting a “new” New York, you might believe that good public policy decisions are wisely revitalizing our state’s economy, creating good-paying jobs and leaving no one behind. But it’s just not true. The most recent edition of the respected Fiscal Policy Institute’s State of Working New York offers a reality check: “In the last four years of recovery, the 52-county upstate area (all of the state north of Rockland and Putnam counties) had total job growth of 1.2%. That’s only one-third the pace of national job growth in the recovery.” tax cap Cuomo championed in 2011. Local governments are exceeding the cap because of pensions and healthcare, over which they have no control, she explained. “You can’t simply say, ‘You’ve got to live within the tax cap or else,’ because I have to pay my pension bills. I have to pay the healthcare bills. I have to provide police. I have to provide fire. I have to provide water pipes. I have to provide infrastructure,” Miner said. “We have shrunk and shrunk and shrunk and cut services back to the point now that you’re talking about real harm that is going to be visited upon the people of my city and the people of cities across New York State and across governments.”

But here’s another important point: “Most of the net job growth, in New York as well as for the nation overall, has occurred among industries like restaurants and retail that pay lower wages. The pre-recession decline in middle-wage jobs continues.” The facts don’t lie: “The past 10 years have essentially been a ‘lost decade’ for typical New York workers since median wages have dropped by almost 7% for men and about 1% for women” according to FPI. There’s more to what this means for struggling New York families. New York’s wage gap, between the wealthiest and everyone else, is among the widest in the nation and it’s getting worse. Information from the US Census bureau shows that over 3 million New Yorkers live below the federal poverty level. Nearly one million children – almost one in four – live in poverty. That is just not acceptable in the Empire state or anywhere else.



NEW YORKERS LIVE BELOW THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL. Nearly one million children – almost one in four – live in poverty. That is just not acceptable in the Empire state or anywhere else.”

Keep these facts in mind when you hear talk of millions more in tax cuts for those who don’t need it and TV ads you paid for telling you how great more corporate welfare is for business.

city & state — January 20, 2014


the same information technology system, and another possibility is combining all payroll services. “And so what we can do to make sure that we all share that overhead, or we automate and use information technology to do that, we should,” she said. “We independently are moving forward to do that.” But Miner said the governor would be going too far in essentially penalizing counties for exceeding the 2 percent property


Danny Donohue is president of the nearly 300,000 member CSEA – New York’s Leading Union – representing workers doing every kind of job, in every part of New York. 9031_Advertorial 7.458x10 CS Color.indd 1

1/16/14 11:16 AM

UNTYING THE GIDEON KNOT the state’s failure to ensure that poor defendants have competent representation. The case is similar to Campaign for Fiscal Equity in that if the state loses after it has exhausted its appeals, advocates would have a legal basis to demand increased state funding. SUSAN ARBETTER


city & state — January 20, 2014


class action lawsuit that has the potential to affect the judiciary the way the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York case affected education goes to trial in State Supreme Court in Albany on March 17. Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 20 plaintiffs facing felony, misdemeanor and other charges pending in state courts in five counties. “The case is really trying to enforce the provisions of Gideon v. Wainwright,” said Jonathan Gradess, executive director of the New York State Defenders Association. Gideon is the landmark 1963 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel applies to state courts. Gradess and veteran Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol have worked on funding for indigent defense for years. Lentol, chair of the powerful Codes Committee, put it like this: “You don’t have a constitutional right to be rich, but you do have a constitutional right to effective representation.” The case is named after Kimberly Hurrell-Harring, a Rochester nurse charged with one count of “promoting prison contraband in the first degree,” a felony, for bringing an ounce of marijuana to her incarcerated husband. Because she had no attorney during the pretrial release, she could not make bail and ended up serving six months behind bars. She had no prior criminal record. The NYCLU asserts that HurrellHarring’s case is emblematic of



hile New York State is the lead defendant in Hurrell-Harring, it is not the only one. A long-standing statute, Article 18-B, requires counties to maintain offices of indigent defense and deliver services. Five counties are named in Hurrell: Suffolk, Washington, Onondaga, Schuyler and Ontario. The NYCLU’s Corey Stoughton, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, explained the logic behind the selection of these particular counties. “Counties have different systems,” she said. “Some have public defenders, some have assigned counsel programs, some have legal aid societies. We picked counties that have all different kinds of systems.” According to Stoughton, problems stemming from inadequate defense can be found in every New York county, but these five are representative of the state as a whole. “Some of the counties we selected are rural, some are heavily populated and some are in between,” she explained. “Indigent defense in this state is a disaster, but it’s like that in other states, too. It’s not exclusive to New York,” said Vin Bonventre, a professor of law at Albany Law School. “The problem is New York is worse than other states because many other states fund indigent defense at the state level, instead of at the local level like we do.” Constitutionally, indigent defense is not an obligation of the

localities. “The obligation is New York’s,” explained Gradess. “The judge in the case [State Supreme Court judge Eugene Devine] added the counties [as defendants]. The Civil Liberties Union and the plaintiffs would have been perfectly happy to leave the defendant the state of New York.” The way the NYCLU’s Stoughton sees it, the statute creating county indigent services allows for “an abdication of responsibility” by the state. That was never the law’s intent. According to Michael Whiteman, a partner at Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna who also chairs the Committee for an Independent Public Defense Commission, the legislation’s original purpose was to give counties some flexibility in choosing among the different systems of indigent defense so that there could be local innovation. “Back in ’64, ’65, in that period, that was prior to the explosion of drugs as an issue in our society and the consequent explosion of criminal cases,” said Whiteman, who as assistant counsel to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in the early ’60s was privy to the thinking behind the law, and witnessed its evolution under the stewardship of Warren M. Anderson and Richard Bartlett, the two lawmakers instrumental in enacting it. “But the times have overrun that approach. I don’t think anyone anticipated the expansion of the need for services we have seen since then, or the cost.”



he road to funding indigent legal services in the state has been long, marked by half measures and bad timing. The most recent chapter began in 2006 when former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Judith Kaye released a report called “Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services.” The report was clear in its critique of the system: “The indigent

defense system in New York State is both severely dysfunctional and structurally incapable of providing each poor defendant with the effective legal representation that he or she is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of New York.” It was after the release of the commission report that the NYCLU and Stoughton became involved in the case. “We thought it would have a really big impact,” she said of the report. “[We] thought that … it would be the final wake-up call. So we waited to see what the response would be. We waited a year, and nothing is happening. So in 2007 we filed … Hurrell-Harring.” By 2009 there was also a substantive movement to change the system on the legislative front. That spring, Gradess recalled, 400 people came to Albany from all over the state to rally behind the Public Defense Act of 2009, a bill sponsored by Lentol and then State Sen. Eric Schneiderman. “The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, Eric Schneiderman and Ruth Hassell-Thompson all stood up at a press conference with Helene Weinstein and Joe Lentol … and announced, ‘We’re going to do it this year!’ ” The Public Defense Act of 2009 would have created a public benefit corporation to convene a commission to oversee a new state defender system. Had it been enacted, the state would have had full responsibility for public defense by 2012. Instead, the circumstances surrounding its failure are historic. Gradess remembers the June day when advocates and lobbyists for the act met in the Senate lobby. “You know how you put your card in and ask people to come out to meet with you? So a member of the [lobbying] firm put in a couple of cards. I put in a card. And we were just sitting there. And we were thinking, ‘This is odd. I’d never had the experience of sitting out here this long. It’s unusual.’ “About a half hour passed by,

Lentol presents the pragmatic view. “We don’t have the money to pay for it,” he said. “I would certainly like to see the full funding of indigent defense now, but I’m a realist.” Gradess argues that HurrellHarring offers an opportunity for the governor to solve a problem that plagues dozens of states, as well as New York. “If he partnered with the localities, if he partnered with us, if he partnered with the Indigent Legal Services office and owns

“The problem is New York is worse than other states because many other states fund indigent defense at the state level, instead of at the local level like we do.” The following year advocates won a partial victory with the creation of the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services. Its budget is $1.8 million, a fraction of what its own research estimates the cost would be to fix the problem of heavy caseloads in upstate counties: an additional $111,214,533. New York City is currently phasing in new caseload standards for indigent defense providers.



n a recent Buffalo News column, Whiteman argued that the governor should “lead the way” by settling Hurrell-Harring before it comes to trial in March. “The governor is a progressive social leader capable of harnessing public and private capital markets, redirecting resources, building partnerships and redesigning government,” Whiteman wrote. “He can be a voice for the imperative need to treat governmental adversaries fairly.” Bonventre counters that contention by making the point that there is no upside for the governor. “What you’re really asking is for the governor to money-up for poor defendants. Everyone says they want to ensure the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, right? But when it comes right down to it, no one really wants to spend their own money on it.”

his responsibility, he would have a period in which he could create a model system because he’d have everyone on his side. It would appeal dramatically to the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and to constituencies that he values politically and to all of us who have been waiting for somebody to fix this.” In a letter he sent to the governor in August Gradess wrote, “Your record as a progressive on social issues positions you as the one American leader who can demonstrate for the nation that the Gordian knot of Gideon can be untied.” While the governor has yet to weigh in on the issue, advocates continue to fight for their cause. “I feel frustration,” said Whiteman. “[But] the stakes are too high, and I don’t feel that those of us who care deeply about criminal justice can give up the fight. It’s taking longer than I wish, but I don’t think there’s any Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York is presently scheduled to begin on March 17. Stoughton estimates the trial will last about six weeks. Any appeal would go first to the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, then to the New York Court of Appeals.

••• Susan Arbetter (@sarbetter on Twitter) is the Emmy award-winning news director for WCNY Syracuse PBS/NPR, and producer/host of the Capitol Pressroom syndicated public radio program.

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city & state — January 20, 2014

and the next thing we knew, all the Democrats that we had wanted to see to sign up on this bill started walking out in single file toward the room where they caucus.” Gradess and his fellow advocates were witnessing the Senate coup. “There is no doubt in my mind that had the Senate signed on, they had the votes to pass it,” Gradess said. “The Assembly would have passed it, and the governor was David Paterson, who had previously expressed himself on the radio supporting the idea.”


One Year After Its Passage, Has The SAFE Act Reduced Gun Violence In New York? By Matthew Hamilton


n the cloudy morning of March 13 in the sleepy village of Mohawk, Kurt Myers walked into John’s Barber Shop on Main Street, had a brief exchange with the patrons inside, and opened fire with his Mossberg 590 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. The gunman killed two customers and wounded a third, as well as the shop owner. Then he crossed the Mohawk River to neighboring Herkimer, where within five minutes he murdered two more people at Gaffey’s Fast Lube. By the afternoon Myers was holed up in an abandoned tavern on North


city & state — January 20, 2014



Police officers cornered gunman Kurt Myers in an abandoned bar in the village of Herkimer after a shooting spree that left four dead in March 2013.

Main Street, locked in a standoff with police that would end up lasting 19 hours. Early on in the stalemate Gov. Andrew Cuomo would arrive in Herkimer, where he surveyed the scene and met with State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico. The next morning, federal and state law enforcement officers stormed the building. Myers killed an FBI dog in the ensuing melee, before he was overtaken and shot to death. The 64-year-old Myers had been a loner in the tiny town of Mohawk, where he lived. State police would say that he had little contact with

his family and that few people in the area knew him. But by the end of the ordeal Myers would be known as the perpetrator of the first major shooting spree in the state since the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was passed almost exactly two months before. “In the darkest of times, the bravery, kindness, and the spirit of community of New Yorkers shines the brightest, and that is what we saw yesterday in Herkimer and Mohawk as the community came together during this difficult time,” Cuomo said in a statement on the day Myers was

hree key elements make up the SAFE Act, which was signed into law by the governor on January 15, 2013, and each one can be traced back to the massacre in Newtown a month earlier. First, the act strengthens the state’s regulation of assault weapons by more strictly defining what constitutes one, banning the purchase of rifles with assault-weapon characteristics and requiring the registration of all existing assault weapons. Second, the legislation prohibits high-capacity magazines, and, in a controversial provision that has spurred intense legal debate, limits gun users to seven rounds in a magazine. Third, it includes provisions to take guns out of the hands of people deemed by mental health professionals to be unfit to own a weapon. Other key parts of the bill include the Webster Provision—a name derived from the slaying of two firefighters who showed up to fight a Christmas Eve fire in the small town of Webster outside of Rochester—which makes killing a first responder punishable by life in prison without parole. The SAFE Act also increases the penalty for having an unregistered handgun, raising it from a misdemeanor to a felony. And similar to the mental-health portion, it contains a provision to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Additionally, the law increases the scrutiny of gun sales, requiring background checks for all weapon and ammunition purchases. A year later, figures indicate that the stricter rules are being enforced, leading

to a number of arrests for new crimes and for crimes made more serious by the act. In December the Division of Criminal Justice Services announced that 1,155 people had been charged with a felony for illegal gun possession, which would have previously been a misdemeanor. Twenty-six people were arrested for felony criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, a charge newly created by the law. Fiftynine people were charged for either having a high-capacity magazine or for the controversial seven-round provision, although that part of the law was thrown out by a federal judge in late December. There were 105 violent gun crimes reported by the state police between January and October of 2013, DCJS statistics show—a slight uptick from the 100 violent gun crimes during the same period in 2012. In general, over the past 10 years the annual number of violent gun crimes has remained relatively flat, fluctuating between a low of 113 in 2004 and a high of 171 in 2009. Since then, the number has steadily declined, dropping to 126 in 2012. But do the figures mean that New Yorkers are any safer? For his part Cuomo seems pleased with the statistics. He said in early January that he did not believe people had actually looked at the SAFE Act’s impact and the number of arrests—especially for illegal gun possession in New York City, which accounted for 1,041 of the 1,155 felony charges statewide. “I do think the effect of the law is a story that hasn’t been told and is just shocking on the numbers,” he said during a Q&A in the Red Room at the Capitol earlier this month. Cuomo’s office declined to directly answer specific questions for this article, but did provide past statements he has given regarding the act. Not everyone seems ready to declare the law a demonstrable success. Robert Spitzer, a gun policy expert and chair of the SUNY Cortland political science department, said that the statistics over the past year tell an incomplete story. “The correct answer is it’s too soon to tell exactly what effect it has had and will have,” he said. Spitzer pointed to provisions that could lead to someone with a disease like Alzheimer’s or a debilitating physical condition losing the right to own a handgun license, which he deemed a positive development. In terms of safety, taking guns out of the hands of people who should not handle them makes sense, he said; the effect is just not statistically perceptible. “Those are safety measures,” he said. “But you are not going to see any


city & state — January 20, 2014


killed. “The thoughts and prayers of my family and of all New Yorkers are with the friends and loved ones of the victims.” The governor made no mention of the legislation he had successfully championed, nor did he point to Myers’ rampage as evidence as to why it was needed, or use it to push for further strengthening of the law. Still, the connection was unavoidable. The SAFE Act had been drafted to reduce the likelihood of just such a tragedy from occurring. The Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., roughly three months earlier, had prompted Cuomo and the state’s legislators to leap into action and capitalize on public sentiment to pass the toughest gun control legislation in the nation. In the wake of the shootings in Mohawk and Herkimer, one question naturally arose—a question that on the one-year anniversary of the SAFE Act’s passage is worth revisiting—has the SAFE Act actually made New York safer?

city & state — January 20, 2014


out for a comment he made about declining to enforce the SAFE Act. Howard said the law is ambiguous and that some gun owners cannot figure out if the guns they own are legal. He said elected officials squandered an opportunity to take meaningful steps to stop gun violence. Instead, he said, lines were drawn in the sand, and few people on either side of the debate have objectively examined the law’s strengths and weaknesses. “I have stayed open-minded, and I do recognize there are some good things with the law,” Howard said. “But the amount of resources that have been expended have done little, if anything, to make it safer.” Specifically, the provisions aimed at keeping guns, especially illegal guns, out of the hands of criminals may not be having an effect. The state’s borders are open, and those who want to make the trek could easily travel to a state with more lenient laws and bring an assault weapon back. There is also the so-called “iron pipeline,” a route along which guns are funneled from southeastern states into New York City. Cuomo has acknowledged that a majority of the state’s illegal guns come from outside the state, yet enforcement can be tough. “You can’t seal off the borders to New York,” said Dan Feldman, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a result, laws like the SAFE Act can ultimately only have a limited impact, Feldman said. Stopping the illegal gun trade is a problem for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to handle by hitting gun manufacturers with steep fines if they sell to the gun distributors who break the law, he said. When Eliot Spitzer was attorney general he went after gun manufacturers, claiming negligence. But efforts to sue manufacturers for negligence in violent gun crimes were stymied by Congress’s passage in 2005 of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Even Leah Barrett, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and one of the most vocal supporters of the SAFE Act, agreed that a federal law would be the most effective way to improve public safety. “With the federal government not acting, it’s fallen to the states to take action,” Barrett said. “That’s why Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature passed the New York SAFE Act nearly a year ago. Because they felt that as New Yorkers we have to do something. … But to really have an impact, we need to close these loopholes in our federal laws. When is Congress going to step up to the plate and protect all Americans

from unnecessary levels of violence? I don’t know. Hopefully it will happen soon.”


ndrew Cuomo’s stance on guns dates back to long before he became governor. At the turn of the century, when Cuomo was secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, he spearheaded several gun control efforts, including a safety agreement he and then Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers signed with Smith & Wesson to adjust the design, distribution and marketing of guns. The agreement required the company to install mandatory gunlocks and other child-safety devices on its firearms, to ban gun sales without background checks and to limit multiple handgun sales. It also required the company to introduce “smart gun” technology on all new handguns, allowing only authorized users to fire the weapons. Cuomo also put together the Communities for Safer Guns Coalition to encourage gun manufacturers to adopt policies like the ones to which Smith & Wesson had agreed. The coalition, which included local governments throughout the country, pledged to give preference when purchasing firearms for law enforcement to gunmakers who adopted similar policies, according to HUD’s website. However, those efforts, which came at the end of President Bill Clinton’s tenure, were not enforced by the next administration. Some sources close to Cuomo say that guns have been on his mind ever since.


n a sunny day in December 2012, Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. with a Bushmaster assault rifle and killed 20 children and six adults inside. The massacre, which lasted just 10 minutes, immediately put gun control at the top of Cuomo’s agenda. “While we don’t have all the facts and our focus must be on the victims, this is yet another senseless and horrific act of violence involving guns,” Cuomo said in a statement on the day of the Sandy Hook shootings. “We as a society must unify and once and for all crack down on the guns that have cost the lives of far too many innocent Americans. Let this terrible tragedy finally be the wake-up call for aggressive action, and I pledge my full support in that effort.” Politically, it was a powerful

moment to act. One source close to the Cuomo administration said the governor was not about to let go to waste the heightened reaction to gun violence brought about by Sandy Hook and the shooting in Webster a little more than a week later. “There are certain moments that allow you to galvanize the public,” said the source, who declined to speak on the record because of the sensitive nature of the topic. In the wake of Sandy Hook, talks among legislators struck up immediately, said Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein, who was a chief sponsor of the legislation. Looking back nearly a year later, Cuomo said in a January press conference that the law was a compromise, and that not everyone got all the pieces they wanted. Some lawmakers say they knew nothing about the bill’s contents until it hit the floor of both houses under a message of necessity from the governor, a tactic that put pressure on legislators to move quickly—and they did. Just three days into the 2013 legislative session, the bill had passed and was signed into law. That swiftness brought criticism, especially from opponents of the SAFE Act. “Every single Republican said this legislation is poorly conceived, poorly drafted, unworkable and unenforceable,” Nojay said. Opponents accused the governor and other state officials of simply wanting to be first to stamp the state’s name on new legislation after Sandy Hook. Meanwhile, some supporters defended the speed of the legislation as a positive factor because it helped ensure its passage. Klein argued that New York has always been a leader in implementing important pieces of legislation, and said he was proud that state lawmakers passed what he called “the toughest, most comprehensive” gun legislation in the country. Cuomo has labeled the state a leader on progressive legislation, saying at an appearance in June that the state has led the way every time the country needed to move forward. “I was pleased to play a small part of that on the issue of gun safety,” he said.


efore Oct. 12, Paul Wojdan was just another legal handgun permit holder living in New

York. After that day, he was a rallying point, with opponents of the SAFE Act citing his story as proof that aspects of the law are nonsensical.


immediate effect of them any time soon. But are they sensible to do? I would say so.” “It’s very long-term, and not something that will show up in crime statistics,” he added. “But it is something that benefits public safety.” Some ratings and surveys also support the law’s effectiveness. In December New York received a B+ from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign in the groups’ state report cards for gun safety, up from a B in 2012 before the SAFE Act was passed. Days later the grade was bumped to an A- after lobbying from gun control groups, putting New York at the top of the list along with California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland. The same month the New York State School Boards Association released data showing that roughly six in 10 superintendents felt their schools were safer than they had been the previous year. Gun control advocates say such evidence demonstrates that the SAFE Act’s “common sense” reforms are working. “You have a Second Amendment right. And at the same time, society also has the right to protect itself,” Cuomo said at a Police Athletic League of New York City dinner in June. “And that’s what our New York SAFE Act says.” Staunch opponents of the act, who view it as an infringement on Constitutional rights, charge that the law fails to live up to its name, however. “The SAFE Act was not meant to reduce crime or prevent tragedy,” said Bill Nojay, a Rochester area assemblyman who has been one of the law’s most vocal opponents. “It was meant to gut the Second Amendment. There is nothing in the SAFE Act that would have prevented another Sandy Hook.” New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King said that statistics show that legal and lawful gun owners are not committing gun crimes, and that the majority of offenders are criminals. He added that the only thing that could stop illegal gun-related crimes are penalties so severe that criminals think twice about using a gun. Even some officials whose job it is to enforce the laws are unconvinced that the state is any safer. While State Police Superintendent D’Amico, a Cuomo appointee, said in April that as a police officer it is not up to him to interpret laws, others in law enforcement, like Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, have been vocal critics. Howard was re-elected in November after a campaign that stood

Firearm Licensees], you now have them being sold out of guys’ cars and garages, or people go into other states and buy them and bring them in.” It is unclear how effective mandatory registration has been. Cuomo and the state police have refused to release the number of assault weapons already registered. King estimated there are between 1 million and 2 million assault rifles throughout the state. Of those he could not say how many may already be registered, though he has heard from people who say they do not plan to comply with the requirement. “If there were a large number that were already registered, I think that number would already be out there for everybody to see that the law was being complied with,” King said.

After the passage of the SAFE Act, gun rights activists rallied outside the State Capitol. Wojdan was arrested for allegedly having more than seven rounds of ammunition in his clip after police searched his gun, which he legally owned, during a traffic stop of the car in which he was riding. Wojdan became the first person whom the Lockport Police Department arrested under the SAFE Act. Wojdan’s lawyer, Jim Tresmond, has claimed that police should not have checked the magazine in a legally owned gun, and instead simply have returned the weapon to Wojdan. The arrest was neither the first nor the last example of the legislation’s gray area. Uncertainty as to how certain provisions of the act would actually be enforced has persisted since its passage. Even Superintendent D’Amico acknowledged in April that the new law was a little confusing. In September the state police released a 20-page field guide for troopers to help them understand each part of the law and how to enforce it. Still, not all of the act’s ambiguities have been clarified. Take the mental health provision of the law. Its aim is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill by tasking mental health professionals with evaluating if a gun owner should continue to possess any firearms. If a mental health professional makes the determination that a patient should not be allowed to do so, the recommendation is submitted to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, which makes the final decision as to

whether to revoke a permit. But not all guns require permits. While an April 15 deadline is fast approaching for owners to register assault weapons, and handguns have long been on a permit-only basis, some shotguns and rifles—so-called “sport guns”—are still legal to own without a permit. Moreover, even though background checks are now required for the purchase of all guns, illegal sales persist. Additionally, in an emergency situation, mental health records, which are protected under federal health regulations, are not immediately available to law enforcement. One retired law enforcement official from the North Country, who asked not to be named because the source still works part-time in law enforcement, laid out a scenario in which a driver is pulled over and has a legal shotgun in the back seat. Officials can check for a criminal history and for any gun permits or permit revocations— something that would lead to the revocation of all other firearms—and even to make sure the gun is legal. But access to mental health records to determine if it is safe for the driver to have the shotgun is blocked by red tape that cannot be cut through on the scene. “Say [the driver] goes down the road and peppers my house because I just pulled him over. Or he walks into the police station and shoots the place up. Or he went home and shot his mother. Because that [mental health]

information is not available to police, they can’t stop them,” the official said. Last month the seven-bullet limit that got Wojdan arrested was thrown out in a court ruling. A federal judge in Buffalo upheld most of the SAFE Act, but rejected the provision limiting how many bullets could be loaded into a 10-round magazine. Initially some in the law enforcement and legal communities wondered if the limit were nonetheless enforceable outside of Western New York, where judge William Skretny issued his ruling, but Cuomo subsequently announced that until another court hears an appeal and makes a ruling on Skretny’s decision, 10 bullets is again the law of the land all across the state. Finally, there is the matter of voluntary enforcement. After April 15 it will be a crime to own an unregistered assault weapon, but this prohibition seems to have provided little incentive for people to stop buying these weapons, let alone register them. Nojay said he believes there are more assault-style weapons in New York than there were a year ago. Not because people are trying to stick it to the government, he said: It is simply a matter of supply and demand. Even within the state, sales are ongoing, including of AR-15 assault rifles. “The governor has not decreased AR-15 sales. What he’s done is to push AR sales underground,” Nojay claimed. “So rather than 1,000 guns a month being sold through [Federal


city & state — January 20, 2014



olitical observers viewed Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State address as the tone setter for a year in which he is seeking re-election. If that is the case, don’t expect the SAFE Act, or gun control in general, to figure heavily into his re-election rhetoric. In a 67-minute, 8,700-word speech, Cuomo used the word “gun” in only two sentences. The first was at the start of the speech, when he looked back at the state’s accomplishments under his stewardship. A brief mention of “common sense gun reform with the New York SAFE Act” made the list. The other place the governor used the word gun? In the turn of phrase “going great guns” to refer to a North Country manufacturer. Another instance of the governor apparently downplaying the act was a mailer sent from his office in December to New Yorkers across the state summing up his work in 2013. The front page touts reducing gun violence as one of Cuomo’s top accomplishments of the year, but only one paragraph of the eight-page yearin-review is devoted to the SAFE Act. At least one state lawmaker was not surprised the governor is not focusing more on the SAFE Act or gun control. “This was a big issue for him last year, so maybe he figures he’s done what he’s done on it,” said state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, whose district includes parts of the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region. Some insiders have noticed that Cuomo has been mum on the SAFE Act unless prompted to speak about gun control in response to shootings or questions from the press. Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, whose district includes Mohawk, said it has seemed like the governor has avoided the issue for the past year and


With Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins looking on, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the NY SAFE Act in January 2013.

city & state — January 20, 2014


will likely skirt it again in 2014. “If no one is asking the questions, he’s not going to volunteer the answers,” she said. Politically, steering clear of the issue may be a smart move. Focusing on the SAFE Act has been a boon for some elected officials, but mainly those who are its critics. Sheriff Howard’s re-election bid was bolstered by his statement that he wouldn’t enforce the SAFE Act, and he is now serving a third term in Erie County. In last year’s Westchester County executive race, Democrat Noam Bramson went after the incumbent Rob Astorino in a TV spot that said the Republican was against the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and that Astorino helped bring gun shows back to the county, “making it easier for criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns.” At the time, a spokesperson for Astorino dismissed the ad as a “Hail Mary” that tried to inject a national issue into a race that had little to do with gun laws. Astorino went on to win with a commanding 56 percent of the vote, and is now a potential candidate for governor. Despite the governor’s reluctance these days to call attention to the SAFE Act, legal issues could move it back into the political spotlight over the course of the coming year. Skretny’s ruling will not be the last. King has called the judgment the first step on the way to the Supreme Court, and an appeal has already been filed. The state has also filed an appeal to the bullet limit Skretny shot down. Still, Robert Spitzer said the SAFE Act is popular across the state,

politically speaking, with 60 percent of residents continuing to support it. Its sizeable backing bodes well not only for Cuomo’s re-election chances, but also the lifespan of the law. “What you’ve seen in the last year is at least 11 states enacting tougher gun laws, and then 15 or 20 states enacting weaker gun laws around the country. So the liberal states have tended to favor stronger gun laws and the more conservative states have gone in the opposite direction,” Spitzer said. “[The SAFE Act is] under challenge in the courts, and it may go to the Supreme Court, but barring court decisions striking down part or all of it, I think [it] will be on the books 10 years from now in New York.” Ten years from now, however, the governor may no longer be living most of the year in New York. Speculation has long swirled that Cuomo could be the Democratic pick for President in either 2016 or 2020. Despite the talk, does Cuomo’s appetite to take strong stands on contentious issues like gun control and gay marriage actually telegraph that his focus, at least for now, is not on the White House, since some of the bills passed during his tenure as governor could wind up being recast to his disadvantage once he is in the national spotlight, especially in states where they would be unpopular? Spitzer, for one, is not convinced that Cuomo’s moves mean that he is discounting a pursuit of the Oval Office. “I believe that Cuomo has made a deliberate decision that his political persona would consist of social liberalism and economic conservatism—at least in moderation,”

he said, “because on issues like gay marriage and gun control, for example, his public positions are squarely in line with most Americans—and certainly most New Yorkers.” The political science scholar added that he thinks the governor believes that in the long-term the public will continue moving toward supporting socially liberal causes. “On gay marriage, at least, this is already happening, and at a rapid speed,” he said. “So I think he sees himself as with the tide of future political trends, not against it.” The immediate future, of course, includes the fewer than 11 months until Election Day. That date will fall around hunting season, when guns will be close by for voters passionate about the sport both upstate and downstate. For single-issue voters, that proximity could make a difference at the polls. “Those who feel that the worst thing that has ever happened is the passage of that bill will never vote for Gov. Cuomo, and wouldn’t vote for anybody who voted for the bill,” North Country Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said. “There’s going to be that pocket of people.” But Duprey said she talks with legislators who still believe the SAFE Act is the best bill for which they have voted, and their constituents looked for “yes” votes perhaps as much as her constituents looked for a “no” vote. Then she offered a question likely to be repeated for months to come, as focus on the SAFE Act comes and goes. “Who’s going to balance out in November?” she said.



ne argument posed by opponents of the SAFE Act is based on economic development. Since the SAFE Act was signed, multiple gun manufacturers have left the state. The first was Rockland County’s Kahr Arms in July. Next was Rochester-based American Tactical Imports, which relocated to South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley touted the move as a testament to South Carolina as a destination for job-creating investment (similar to Cuomo’s effort to spur an economic rebound in upstate New York). Most recently announced that the law drove it from Farmington, a small town southeast of Rochester. The company’s owner, Edward Avila, said the decision was based not on economics, but rather on opposition to the SAFE Act. “We’re going to lose a lot of money, we’re financially going to take a loss, and we did it 100 percent on principle, versus business sense,” he said of the company’s move to Texas. Cuomo is now pushing an agenda that includes adding jobs upstate and rebuilding an economy that has continued to struggle in some areas. But with gunmakers leaving, he has only Remington in Ilion—a small town next to Mohawk—to hang his hat on in terms of the gun industry’s manufacturing presence upstate. Some have charged that Cuomo’s upstate focus is an effort to atone for signing strict gun control legislation—or at least to win back a few lost votes. Coincidental or not, Cuomo has repeatedly visited the upstate region to announce initiatives, economic development plans and state grants throughout the past year. But Cuomo is also a governor who has simply made more trips upstate than some of his predecessors. “I think he’s always been up here quite a bit,” Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said of Cuomo’s visits to the North Country, where her district lies. “I think he truly likes the North Country, certainly the Tri-lakes.”

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ver the past three years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York lawmakers have completed three on-time budgets. They have passed landmark legislation such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, the SAFE Act and the expansion of casino gambling. They have taken concrete steps to try to revive the state’s battered economy. But this year, like every other year, it’s back to square one. “Every year is hard,” Cuomo, who is up for re-election this fall, said earlier this month. “These are very difficult issues; they’re very complicated issues. The Assembly and the Senate are different bodies with different people with different sets of interests. Every issue comes down to, can you come up with meaningful progress that everyone can agree on—and that is always easier said than done.” Some key issues in 2014 have been in the works or on hold for months, if not years. State officials have failed to move forward on hydrofracking since the Cuomo administration took office. The governor’s efforts to pass comprehensive ethics reform and a package of bills promoting women’s rights have been stymied. Minority lawmakers are again pushing to pass the DREAM Act, a measure benefiting young immigrants, but the governor has avoided the issue. Other proposals are new this session. Featured prominently in the governor’s State of the State address was a package of tax cuts, which many lawmakers applauded. To boost funding for education, the governor this month laid out a proposal for a $2 billion education bond act. Several other new initiatives are aimed at bolstering the state’s defenses against the next major storm. In this special legislative preview, City & State presents an inside look at some of the key issues that will be up for debate in Albany this year, from energy and infrastructure to education and organized labor.




ver the past three years Gov. Andrew Cuomo has revitalized state energy policy, with such landmark developments as the renewal of a power plant siting law, the launch of an “energy highway” initiative and the creation of a $1 billion “green bank” to spur investment in clean energy. This year Cuomo announced what appears to be a less ambitious agenda, with several smaller-scale energy proposals laid out in his 2014 State of the State address and policy book but no marquee project. Among the governor’s proposals are a pilot project for self-contained “community grids,” or microgrids, which can improve grid resiliency; and an effort to develop a market for biomass fuel, such as wood, as an alternative to heating oil. Other energy proposals Cuomo is calling for in 2014 build on ongoing initiatives, including an expansion of his NY-SUN solar power program and a plan to expedite certain transmission projects, which complement his ongoing “energy highway,” an effort to reduce congestion along the grid statewide. “We are going to expedite the building of our energy superhighway,” Cuomo announced during his State of the State address. “We still have a problem getting low-cost clean


LEG ISL ATIVE PRE VIEW 2014 city & state — January 20, 2014



in the state, since windmills often face local opposition. “Wind is very difficult to site. You put one windmill up, it’s very difficult to actually site it,” he said. “I think solar is a lot of different. It’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s on top of a building, it’s off to the side.” On the environmental front, the governor offered a similarly limited renewable power up from downstate agenda. to upstate, which is costing rate payers Unsurprisingly, Cuomo made $600 million a year. It can take up to no mention at all of hydrofracking two years, believe it or not, to get a in his State of the State address. new transmission project approved, Hydrofracking supporters and and some of the proposed projects are opponents alike have blasted the causing concerns by expanding into administration for its inaction, and the local communities.” controversial method of drilling for The latest transmission proposal natural gas has been on hold for years would allow projects along existing while administration officials continue rights-of-way or on state land, such a long-delayed review. as rivers or highways, to be processed Apart from hydrofracking, some in just 10 months instead of two years. environmentalists called on the Transmission projects often face governor to put forth a more ambitious opposition from local residents. set of goals. “Developers, whether they’re “For years New York’s utilities or private transmission environmental sights have been set developers, if they build within the too low. Important progress has been three dimensional envelope of an made, but it has been incremental. existing right-of-way or underground That must change this year,” New or use state assets entirely so there York League of Conservation Voters will be minimal impact to adjacent President Marcia Bystryn said in a landowners or communities, they statement. “We applaud Governor will be processed much faster than Cuomo for prioritizing investments in a normal application to get sited for climate adaptation and resiliency. But transmission,” Gil Quiniones, the with a state budget surplus and the president of the New York Power worst of the Great Recession behind Authority, told City & State. “We’re us, now is the time to think bigger.” excited with that proposal by the Asked about his own top governor.” environmental goals for 2014, state State Sen. George Maziarz, Sen. Mark Grisanti, the chair of the who chairs the Senate Energy and Senate Environmental Conservation Telecommunications Committee, said Committee, started out with a list of he is thrilled by the new transmission consumer and product safety measures, plan. Immediately after the governor including banning chemicals in finished his speech, children’s products Maziarz went and flammable LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES to the office of a materials in •Expedite transmission projects top state energy couches. •Expand solar power official and offered Over the •Hydrofracking to do whatever past year some •Funding for Environmental was necessary lawmakers have Protection Fund legislatively to help raised the possibility move it forward. of an environmental “He’s going bond act, but to get flak for that from some Grisanti said that the governor’s plan special interest groups,” the senator for an education bond act would make predicted. “Now it’s an election year, it a tough sell. Instead, he said, he will and I think it’s the right thing to do. I push for more money in the budget for look forward to working with him on the state’s Environmental Protection it. This is a great idea.” Fund, which pays for a number of Maziarz said he expects solar power, conservation and green-friendly the focus of the governor’s NY-SUN initiatives. initiative, to again be a major focus in “The concern now—with a $2 bilthe Legislature this year. Not only are lion bond act you’re talking about for costs for solar panels coming down, education, you’re not going to have two they are also relatively unobtrusive, bond acts on a ticket,” Grisanti said. unlike the infrastructure for many “What I’m going to do, because it’s other forms of energy. By contrast, the not on there, is to push for additional senator offered a pessimistic take on money into the Environmental increased investment in wind energy Protection Fund.”

Richard Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup, headed up the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission, which issued its final report this month. By JON LENTZ


ducation promises to be a pivotal issue in the state Legislature this year. The implementation of new Common Core standards has been at the center of debate in recent months, and legislation aiming to improve it is already moving through the state Senate. Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City, has pledged to raise taxes to expand prekindergarten programs in the city, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has latched onto the idea—but without the tax hike. The governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission just released its final set of recommendations, including bonuses for top teachers. In his State of the State address the governor called for a $2 billion education bond act to bring high-tech classroom supplies to schools that lack them. But perhaps the biggest education issue is the state budget, which resolves how much funding is set aside for schools and how it is spent. “Certainly every year the most important one by far is the budget,” said state Sen. John Flanagan, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “You get to the essentials: How much money are we going to spend, and how are we going to distribute it?”

One budget question centers on home rule and Albany’s relationship with New York City. A key campaign promise during de Blasio’s successful mayoral run was an expansion of prekindergarten and after-school programs, to be funded by a tax hike on the wealthy. The governor then indicated that there would be money in the state budget to pay for universal pre-K without having to resort to higher taxes. In his State of the State, the governor reiterated his call for “expanded full-day pre-K,” but conspicuously avoided any mention of funding. Later that day de Blasio again called on state lawmakers to allow him to raise taxes in the city, a move that requires permission from Albany. The fate of the governor’s proposed bond act will also play a major role in education funding. The $2 billion “Smart Schools” bond referendum would target children who do not have access to Internet or laptops, tablets and interactive whiteboards. The Cuomo administration said the extra money would provide students with valuable technological skills and access to advanced and interactive courses. “At some schools, there are children who are on the Internet. At some schools, they don’t even have a basketball net,” the governor quipped



city & state — January 20, 2014



in his State of the State address. “There particularly contentious. The Senate are some schools where they have legislation would add some civil and sophisticated new computer systems in criminal penalties for breaches or the first grade. There are some schools misuse of student data, as well as create where the most sophisticated piece a chief privacy officer and a parent bill of electronic equipment is a metal of rights. detector that you walk through on the “People care desperately about way into the classroom, and that is just their privacy, things like identity wrong in the state of New York.” theft,” Flanagan said. “As adults, Flanagan said it was extremely we’re like, ‘Hey man, nobody messes important that the details about with my stuff.’ The way we love the bond act be explained and our children makes it magnified 10 communicated to the public. People times over when we think about your would likely support it, the senator children’s information being misused said, if the rewards of the act were or improperly used.” distributed equitably and in a timely John King Jr., the state education fashion. commissioner, applauded Cuomo's “I had a school group in, and I said, education agenda. ‘Listen, if I told you there was $2 billion “The governor framed the key issue, more but none of it is going to your which is that our state’s economic schools, then you’re going to think it’s future depends on the college- and the worst plan in the world,’ ” he said. career-readiness of our students,” he “If they think that this is going to go said. “We are, as he described, in the to extravagant expenditures, the public process of, really, the transformation won’t support it. But if you say, ‘There of our education system to reflect those are going to be iPads and tablets, that higher expectations of the 21st-century kind of stuff, in every school,’ that’s a economy. I was pleased to hear the big difference.” governor talk about the evaluation The governor’s Education Reform system and the way in which that is Commission announced several new supporting better teaching and better initiatives that were included in the leadership in school districts across the budget last year, and elements of the state, and I look forward to continuing group’s final report are likely to be to work with him on these initiatives.” on the table again this year. Among Others offered a more lukewarm the recommendations included in the response to Cuomo’s proposals. final report is a Teacher Excellence Richard Iannuzzi, the president of New Fund to provide $20,000 bonuses to York State United Teachers, offered top-ranked teachers. The commission support for the governor’s emphasis also called for new on early childhood efforts to help college education and access students transition LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES to technology. into a career after •School funding “I think graduating, including •Education bond act the governor the governor’s •Common Core acknowledged the proposal to provide •Universal prekindergarten issue of the wealth full scholarships at gap in New York SUNY or CUNY State and how the schools for the top 10 percent of high wealth gap creates and really advances, school graduates, provided they pursue sad to say, the achievement gap,” he a science- or math-related career and said. “How we’re going to address agree to work in the state for five years. that can’t be with grants; it can’t be Common Core, the set of rigorous with dabbling around the edges. We education standards being adopted need to really look at how we finance around the country, is still supported education, and we need to find an by many in the education world, but aggressive approach to that financing in New York the controversy has so that we really address equity in the centered on its implementation. way that we all want it to happen.” Flanagan and other state senators Iannuzzi was also struck by the held a series of hearings on Common governor’s silence on Common Core Core last year, and submitted a during the State of the State. package of recommendations and bills “That’s what concerns parents, aimed at improving the standards. The teachers, students,” he said. “The legislation bans standardized testing for governor is the political leader of the students from preschool to the second state. He has an opportunity to take grade, scales back other assessments, charge of that. I would have liked to bolsters protections ensuring the have seen it today. I’ll keep my fingers privacy of student data and requires an crossed that we’ll see it soon.” audit of the effectiveness of Common Core tests. The privacy issue has been With reporting by Matthew Hamilton


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The Renaissance Charter School in Queens works with local community organizations, inspiring students to take on leadership roles themselves and strengthen their communities.

city & state — January 20, 2014

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Join us for Charter School Advocacy Day in Albany on February 4 as we celebrate 10 years of showing support for public charter schools! For more information, visit

In December state Sen. John Flanagan, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, issued a report on the implementation of new Common Core standards in New York.

RECOMMENDED ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS: •Expedite federal government waivers to relax testing restrictions for students with disabilities and English Language Learners •Provide missing or incomplete curriculum modules immediately Align assessments to actual curricula •Delay operation of the Education Data Portal (EDP) for a year •Add funding for teacher development

RECOMMENDED LEGISLATION: •A ban on standardized testing from prekindergarten through second grade •Require the state education commissioner to expedite a review to eliminate unnecessary student tests •Strengthen protections of students’ personal information •Require the state education commissioner to report on the effectiveness of Common Core tests, including an independent audit

PUTTING STUDENTS FIRST Earlier this month the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission, headed by Richard Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup, issued its final report, “Putting Students First,” setting forth recommendations to reduce gaps in student achievement and improve the quality of education.

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ast year was the big year for “Our challenge now is to make casino gambling in New York. casinos a reality, make it happen, make State lawmakers passed it happen fast, and make it happen legislation laying out the process correctly,” Cuomo said. “Our current for bringing full-fledged gambling plan is March 2014 for RFP to go out, to the state, the governor signed it bids come back in June, and we hope to into law and voters approved the make the selections in early fall.” constitutional amendment needed to The governor also made his fifth and allow such an expansion. final appointment to the state’s Gaming “After 30 years of talking, we Commission, naming as chairman passed casino gaming, which will Mark Gearan, the president of Hobart bring a new economic future to parts and William Smith Colleges. The state of this state that have Senate and Assembly been suffering for too each have a single long,” Gov. Andrew appointee as well, LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES Cuomo said during which would bring • Minor tweaks to the casino his State of the State the total number enacting legislation address, touting of commission • Fill the Gaming Commission casinos as one of the members to seven, • Launch the siting selection successes of his first but neither house process three years in office. has installed anyone. This year the state Assuming that Legislature is largely Gearan is approved on the sidelines, as Cuomo appointees by the state Senate, however, the prepare to issue a request for casino commission will have enough bids and form a siting committee to members to move forward with the review the submissions. process, including the creation of a

$4.6 BILLION city & state — January 20, 2014


siting committee that will review bids. State Sen. John Bonacic, chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said that he expected Gearan to be approved without any trouble, and that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos would each name someone to the committee as well. “That’s the Gaming Commission, and then there’s a siting committee,” Bonacic said. “As soon as they have their chairman, I would hope they would name five people in a hurry to the siting commission. Whatever their recommendations are, it’s got to be confirmed by the Gaming Commission. I would assume it’s rubber-stamped if the siting commission makes the recommendations.” Bonacic said he did not expect any other major legislation to come before his committee this year. But his counterpart in the state Assembly, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, said he would like to go back and make some adjustments to the casino enacting legislation. “One of the things I have an issue with is the 2012 date for racinos that become casinos, what their contribution is to the racing industry,” Pretlow said. “The way the legislation is written now, it reverts back to 2012.” Pretlow’s district includes the


Yonkers Raceway and an adjoining racino, the Empire City Casino. Since the first round of casinos are limited to upstate New York for at least seven years, the Yonkers racino is not eligible to compete for a license. But as the second-most lucrative racino in the state, it is seen as a likely contender for a full-fledged casino license in the years ahead. “Yonkers is out of the mix for at least seven years,” Pretlow said. “In seven years their contribution will be whatever it is. Under the current legislation, if they become a casino they revert back to 2012, which I don’t think is right. I think it should be the better of the current or 2012. That makes it fairer.” Bonacic, a longtime proponent of bringing casinos to the Catskills, an area he represents, said his only role at this point is spreading the message that the selections should be made based on merit, not politics. “What I mean by merit is that those resort destinations that produce the longterm maximum revenues for education and property tax, they’re the ones to be picked,” he said. “If you’re close to 10 million people in a metropolitan area, it should be the Catskills where the two should go. I’m focused on getting two in the Catskills. That’s going to be my primary objective.”






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City & State TV LIVE: City & State Multimedia Director Michael Johnson brings back City & State TV LIVE from 6:30 – 7:30pm with a selection of New York City officials and leaders in business, advocacy and the media. Video interviews will be live streamed via, with each interview edited and pushed out through City & State First Read and Last Read daily emails. For further information please contact Dawn Rubino at or 646.517.2741.


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A Message From Héctor J. Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU This year’s legislative session in Albany is filled with opportunities to improve the lives of working families. Like so many unions and community groups, we are invigorated by the citywide sweep of progressive elected officials into city government this fall and are planning to take that energy to the State House. Our efforts are no longer simply devoted to protecting working people’s pocketbooks or stemming the decline in public services. The growing tide to shrink inequality and provide more opportunity for working people is not only located in the five boroughs.


There has been national outrage at the plight of the millions of American working full time and still unable to make ends meet. These underpaid workers are found in every city and town in this state. They serve food, wash cars, guard buildings and care for the elderly. One remedy we hope to win from Albany is the right for local governments to decide what their area minimum wage should be. In New York City, where rents are sky high and the cost of childcare can eat up an entire pay check, this change would benefit hundreds of thousands of workers who put in a full day’s work but don’t get a paycheck that reflects that.


Another step that Albany could take that would give New Yorkers a shot at the middle class would be passing the New York State DREAM Act. Allowing young people who are undocumented access to the same scholarship assistance as everyone else would open the doors of higher education to them.

city & state — January 20, 2014

And there are few policies that bring more people from the political spectrum together than universal pre-kindergarten. The benefits to children are unchallenged, and for working families where both parents hold one or sometimes two jobs, there are few things more important than knowing that your child is not only safe but also learning. The same applies to quality after-school programs for middle schoolers, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to choosing school over less productive activities. The controversy over UPK is not whether it’s important but how to fund it. In the case of New York City, we support Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to allow New York City to tax its own residents who make more than $500,000 a mere 0.5% is a reasonable one. Not only is it supported by many of the city’s wealthy, but it allows more stability for the program than placing it in the overall state budget. These measures, along with meaningful campaign finance reform and passing women’s equality legislation would improve the quality of life for working families and families who would like to be working. Our members will be involved in fighting for all of these legislative priorities, and at the same time will be mobilizing to maintain a decent standard of living: this spring we will be in high gear to get a new contract for our New York City residential members – the beloved doormen, porters, handymen and supers in the city who make New York home. Alongside so many community, faith and labor allies, we look forward to this year’s legislative session with hope and renewed energy to increase opportunity and reduce inequality in our state. With 145,000 members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country



uch of the discussion of jobs created since the recession, and regarding the across-the- today, as we sit here, we have more board tax cuts Gov. private sector jobs in the state of New Andrew Cuomo outlined in his State York than ever before.” But parsing Cuomo’s words of the State address has focused on alongside those of AFL-CIO President how the governor’s election year Mario Cilento, it is agenda might clash clear the picture the with New York LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES governor painted City Mayor Bill de •Job creation of a surging state Blasio’s proposed tax •Safe Patient Handling Act economy is not in increase on wealthy •IDA reform sync with what city residents. •School funding Cilento views as the However, with economic reality the state AFL-CIO for his 2.5 milpushing its own lion members—one of low-wage job economic development agenda, which creation with substandard benefits. calls for an end to corporate giveaways “Creating jobs just for the sake of and tax breaks, the stage is set for a creating jobs doesn’t get you to where potential policy dogfight between the you need to be,” Cilento said in an governor and organized labor. At the interview several weeks prior to the very least the governor has a uniquely governor’s address. “The problem different perspective on the state’s is what we’ve been doing is—we economic recovery from some in the talk about an economic recovery; labor movement. In his speech he this is a soft recovery, meaning that highlighted facts and statistics such as we’re replacing good-paying jobs a $2 billion surplus and the thousands of private sector jobs created during with benefits with low-paying jobs with minimal or no benefits. That’s his administration. “The proof is in the pudding, and not a recovery.” Cilento pointed to the arrows are pointing up,” Cuomo his organization’s work with the said in his State of the State. “We governor in passing the casino gaming added 380,000 new private sector jobs amendment as an an example of the type of strategy needed to create good since 2010. New York is now ranked number two in the nation in number long-term jobs.

jurisdictions by providing financial incentives to private entities. IDAs are also legally empowered to buy, sell or lease property and to provide tax-exempt financing for approved projects. Purchases related to IDA projects can be exempt from state and local taxes as well. Cilento proposed having the amount of money IDAs receive in tax breaks tied directly to the number of jobs an agency creates, an idea Savino supports and about which she hopes to have substantive discussions this legislative session. “We found ways to provide tax credits for businesses [during last year’s legislative session], but what the governor is proposing goes beyond that,” Savino said. “What we’re saying is that while we want to see businesses thrive in New York State, we’ve spent a lot of money, particularly since 2005, in trying to entice businesses in this state to create jobs—without any accountability. It’s time that we built into any of our economic development programs transparency and accountability. I think that’s consistent. We all want to see our money, our economic development dollars, going to employers who really are creating jobs, and good-paying jobs.” Job creation is not the only priority

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Fair Play Act: A Victory for New York’s Commercial Drivers George Miranda, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16, New York City, N.Y.


Cuomo’s economic strategy calls for a “top-down” plan for reducing “burdensome business taxes” such as the state’s 7.1 percent corporate tax rate, passing a manufacturers’ tax credit and modifying the state’s estate tax. The plan drew a favorable reaction from legislators, especially those from upstate where the economy is flagging, but some union officials pointedly denounced the idea of giving big businesses any more handouts. “Quite frankly, we have very serious concerns about this approach of more corporate welfare and giveaways to big business that history has demonstrated is not only ineffective, it’s actually counterproductive,” said Stephen Madarasz, communications director for the Civil Service Employees Association. “More corporate welfare and tax giveaways are not going to help localities that are being undermined by a lack of state support. It clearly is not going to be putting people to work.” To that end, some officials like Cilento and state Sen. Diane Savino, who chairs the Senate Labor Committee, want to look at revamping certain vehicles the state already has in place for job creation, such as industrial development agencies (IDAs), to incentivize new businesses to open. IDAs attempt to attract, retain and expand businesses within their

This past week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the New York State Commercial Goods Industry Fair Play Act (A5237B/S5867) into law, enacting the strongest, most comprehensive worker misclassification legislation in the country. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Gov. Cuomo, Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Keith Wright, thousands of workers in the commercial trucking industry are now protected from misclassification. More than 120,000 New Yorkers are employed by the commercial trucking industry, and many have suffered loss of wages and financial difficulties due to misclassification. While any worker can be misclassified, immigrant workers who have little to no voice on the job are frequent victims in this scheme. The Fair Play Act redefines the definition of an employee in the commercial trucking industry, protecting commercial goods transportation employees from being misclassified.


Every year, states across the U.S. lose billions of dollars because of loss of revenue from income tax, unemployment insurance taxes and workers’ compensation premiums due to worker misclassification. Workers and contractors in the industry suffer because of lost wages and unfair competition from bad actors.

Teamsters Joint Council 16 worked with the New York State Motor Truck Association to ensure that the Fair Play Act provides coverage for both employees of the commercial trucking industry and legitimate independent contractors. This will level the playing field for good employers who play by the rules.

NYSCOPBA NYS Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, Inc. 102 Hackett Blvd., Albany NY 12209 | 518-427-1551

I am proud of our members who made their voices heard in the halls of the statehouse. Their energy and commitment were invaluable in this fight. Joint Council 16, with the support of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, played a significant role in getting this legislation passed and we are proud that it will not only improve the standards and protections of our members – but all workers in our state.

city & state — January 20, 2014

Under the new regulations, 28,000 truck drivers who are misclassified each year will be properly classified. No trucking company in New York State – including larger companies like FedEx Ground and UPS – are exempt from the legislation. The bill also includes historic levels of civil and criminal penalties against employers in the industry who purposely misclassify drivers.

implementation of the controversial Common Core standard, which has resulted in low test scores throughout the state. “Funding has to be addressed, and we really want to get at what needs to happen to improve schools that are struggling. And in order to do that, we have to get back to doing the Common Core and assessment and informing instruction correctly,” Iannuzzi said. “We have to get back to looking at how we approach the classroom. The classroom and assessment should

always be about informing instruction the next day; that’s what’s missing right now.” Other labor priorities that could make their way onto the negotiating table include revisiting the Safe Patient Handling Act, a bill that would create a statewide safe patient handling task force to develop recommendations for policies in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. Each facility would then create a committee to develop and implement a facilityappropriate policy.

I love my job because it’s such an awesome way to give back to the community. My co-workers share the same passion that I do. They really care about the families that they’re helping every day. In my neighborhood, we started a Block Club, and it’s all voluntary. We get to know our neighbors better, and we grow garden beds...peas, potatoes, garlic. We donate the food and that’s going go help somebody out. That’s pretty cool, too!

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People working together to make a better New York for all. DA N N Y D O N O H U E , P R E S I D E N T

SECTORS WITH JOB GAINS: Nov. 2012-Nov.2013


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On the line every day. LOCAL 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO

But for many unions, job creation and job security are paramount. Public sector unions are quick to point out the state’s shrinking public workforce— according to the state Department of Labor, state government lost 13,100 jobs between November 2012 and November 2013—and some labor leaders have used that to prod Cuomo on creating both public and private sector jobs. In a statement issued after the State of the State, Susan Kent, the president of the Public Employees Federation, said public sector workers “should have the same expectation of job growth and stability as those workers in the private sector,” with regard to the governor’s economic development plan. It will be up to Cuomo to thread the needle between satisfying business leaders in the state by cutting taxes and placating the labor unions, who can either be a valuable ally or a vocal nuisance during his re-election campaign.









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LEG ISL ATIVE PRE VIEW 2014 city & state — January 20, 2014


that some in organized labor want to see Cuomo and the Legislature address. On the education side New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi, whose union did not endorse Cuomo when he ran for governor in 2010, said he wanted to see an increase in school funding so that school districts would not have to continue cutting jobs. Iannuzzi noted that more than 70 percent of school districts have less state aid than in 2008–09, before Cuomo took office. Iannuzzi also wants the governor to take a hard look at the


In a recent editorial published in the New York Post, Empire Center for Public Policy President E.J. McMahon and Nicole Gelinas, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow, made the case that the Cuomo administration should start increasing tolls on the existing bridge right away in order to offset debt costs down the road. Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, who sits on the chamber's Transportation Committee, said that building the bridge as quickly as possible would be the best approach, because predicting prices in the future is impossible and can lead to cost overruns that force lawmakers to scramble to find additional revenue. “As costs increase, and you haven’t budgeted for the increase in the costs,” DenDekker said, “you have to either

coalition in the state Senate of Republicans and the Independent

Cuomo administration has steadily increased its five-year capital spending


Designs for a replacement Tappan Zee Bridge, the governor’s top infrastructure project. come up with a new dedicated funding stream or somehow creatively fund it—whether that means bonding or borrowing in some fashion to do that, or to rededicate capital project money for other projects to make this project move faster. It will be a difficult thing to see.” The allocation of transportation funds is an often contentious part of the budget battle. The Assembly Democratic Conference, with its majority of New York City lawmakers, is calling for more funding for mass transit. Meanwhile, the majority

Democratic Conference is pushing to make sure transportation funds are evenly distributed to all parts of the state. “It’s important that we continue to invest in roads and bridges, and that we have a safe, reliable and first-rate mass transit system for commuters,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans. “Senate Republicans are committed to ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of transportation resources for every region of the state.” The construction industry should be optimistic heading into the 2014–15 fiscal year. Since taking office the

plans, with actual spending often exceeding projections. In line with the 2013–14 capital plan, the state is set to invest $9.76 billion in infrastructure spending this year, a slight increase from the 2013–14 fiscal year. Out of that amount $4.62 billion will be invested by the Department of Transportation on roads and bridges, an amount that is $38 million less than last year. Another $1.89 billion is set aside for construction tied to higher education. With reporting by Matthew Hamilton

city & state — January 20, 2014



ne of the bolder initiatives laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address was a plan to take away control of construction at New York City’s two major airports, LaGuardia and JFK, from the Port Authority and give it instead to the state. “Our nation is doing a good job overall and updating its airports,” Cuomo said. “Unfortunately the state of New York has fallen behind. LaGuardia airport is ranked as the worst airport in America, believe it or not. That is a disgrace, my friends, and it is unacceptable, and it is going to change.” The governor’s plan was met with applause from Democratic Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who is a co-chair of the Legislative Aviation Caucus along with Republican state Sen. William Larkin. “We are very excited about any proposal that helps to develop our aviation industry. Refurbishing those two airports is certainly a great step toward that goal,” Lupardo said, speaking on behalf of the caucus. She added: “I don’t find that aviation has been a top priority. We’ve focused on other transportation matters. … One of our challenges has been to get aviation on the legislative page. So that’s why I was very happy to see the governor talk about refurbishing these two airports.” Improving New York City’s airports would be a feather in Cuomo’s cap and strengthen his legacy as governor. In his State of the State address he tied the initiative to the other major construction effort he has pushed through since taking office— the rebuilding of the aging Tappan Zee Bridge. “We will do what we did with the Tappan Zee Bridge; we are going to step in and stop talking about it,” Cuomo said. “Get the government to work and we are going to redevelop those airports the way they should have been redeveloped many, many years ago and make us proud of that gateway once again.” The Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project has been moving forward since the state secured a federal loan of $1.6 billion in late October. Still, questions about funding the project remain. The state has not released future toll schedules, which could rise to help pay for the construction of the new bridge.





Build a Better Build Build a a Better Better

PROJECTIONS GETTING BRIGHTER Robert Megna, the governor’s budget director, oversees capital spending projections. Photo: Judy Sanders/Office of the Governor

Business Climate Business Climate Climate Business


city & state — January 20, 2014


An Agenda for New York’s Future An Agenda for New York’s Future An Agenda for New York’s Future n Protect New York’s assets by adequately funding n Protect New York’s assets byMake adequately funding critical infrastructure needs: capital investments n Protect New York’s assets by adequately funding

critical infrastructure needs: Make capital investments exempt from the property tax cap; allow use of pension critical infrastructure needs: Make capital investments exempt from the property tax cap; allow use of funds to support infrastructure improvements pension exempt the property tax cap; allow use of pension funds tofrom support infrastructure improvements funds to support infrastructure improvements n Support NY Works and job creation: Pass mandate n Support NY Works and job relief measures that will free upcreation: funds for Pass publicmandate works and n Support NY Works and job creation: Pass mandate relief measures willtofree up funds for public works and put New Yorkersthat back work relief measures willtofree up funds for public works and put New Yorkersthat back work put New Yorkers back to work n Implement Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and n Implement Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) leverage and Design-build: Accelerate infrastructure projects, n Implement Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and Design-build: Accelerate infrastructure projects, leverage public dollars and reduce costs Design-build: Accelerate infrastructure projects, leverage public dollars and reduce costs public dollars and reduce costs Selection (QBS): n Extend Qualifications-Based n Extend Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS): Allow public authorities and public benefit corporations to n Extend Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS): Allow public authorities and public benefit corporations to use QBS to achieve higher quality design and lower project Allow public authorities and public benefit corporations to use QBS costs to achieve higher quality design and lower project life-cycle use QBS to achieve higher quality design and lower project life-cycle costs costs n life-cycle Deliver infrastructure projects cost effectively: n Deliver projects cost effectively: Increaseinfrastructure use of private design firms n Deliver infrastructure projects cost effectively: Increase use of private design firms Increase use of private design firms n Indemnify design professionals: Ensure that design n Indemnify design professionals: thatthey design professionals are responsible only forEnsure the work perform n Indemnify design professionals: Ensure that design professionals are responsible only for the work they perform professionals are responsible only for the work they perform

Leaders in the business of engineering Leaders in the business of engineering Leaders in the business of engineering

ince being sworn in as governor in 2011, Andrew Cuomo’s budget projections for capital spending have consistently increased. In his 2011–12 budget, for example, the governor projected only $8.139 billion in capital spending for 2014–15. In last year’s budget he projected $9.761 billion, a difference of $1.622 billion.

Meanwhile, his projections for overall state-related debt have generally stayed the same or | decreased. In his 2011–12 budget Cuomo projected debt to be $58.751 billion for this upcoming year. In last year’s budget he projected debt for fiscal year 2014–15 at $57.61 billion, more than a billion dollars lower.











































New Councilman Corey Johnson poses a question to some of his veteran colleagues.


any of the newest members of the New York City Council got a twoday crash course last month on how to be an effective city legislator. The weekend retreat, hosted by City & State in collaboration with the Partnership for New York City and the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, consisted of a series of panel discussions featuring distinguished experts in areas ranging from the city budget to ethics to dealing with the media. The candid and informative policy- and process-oriented boot camp kicked off with a one-on-one discussion between Richard Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup and ex-chairman and CEO of Time Warner, and City & State Editorin-Chief Morgan Pehme. Among the freshmen members who showed up for some or all of the sessions to learn the ins and outs of their new job were Andrew Cohen, Robert Cornegy, Vanessa Gibson, Corey Johnson, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Steven Matteo and Mark Treyger. A number of veteran members attended as well, including Julissa Ferreras, Daniel Garodnick, James Vacca, Mark Weprin and Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has since been voted Speaker. The other co-sponsors of the retreat were Con Edison, Time Warner Cable, Google, the Rent Stabilization Association, Local 46, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Real Estate Board of New York, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, The City University of New York, the Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City, the New York City Charter School Center and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York City’s Fiscal Position And Upcoming Budgetary Issues By MICHAEL JOHNSON


udgeting is like an exotic exercise.” That is how Marc Shaw, City University of New York’s senior vice chancellor for budget, finance and fiscal policy, explained the complicated process that is arguably the most important task for New York City Council members. In a panel moderated by City & State Editor Morgan Pehme, financing challenges were the topic of the day. Participants included CUNY’s Marc Shaw, James Parrott from the Fiscal Policy Institute, Ronnie Lowenstein from the New York City Independent Budget Office, Carol Kellermann from the Citizens Budget Commission and Michael Dardia from the New York City Office of Management and Budget. The panelists agreed that the best thing new Council members can do is seek out qualified staff members who understand not only the city budget process but also the state budget, because tax policy and funding decisions for some programs that impact a Council member’s district happen in Albany. Much of the discussion focused on the internal politics of the budget process, specifically the revenue forecasts that come from the New York City Office of Management and Budget. Several panelists stressed the importance of understanding how the mayor’s office and OMB determine the size of the pot, because that number sets the agenda for the budget process. Michael Dardia, OMB’s deputy director, defended his office, claiming that Mayor Michael Bloomberg never asked him to alter an economic forecast for political purposes. “If you are not in my shoes and you make forecasts, if you are wrong— oops, then you do another forecast. If I make a forecast and it is too high, everyone says I am hiding money,” Dardia said. “If I am wrong on the downside, programs get shut down.” Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the New York City Independent Budget Office, agreed that the Bloomberg administration had done a good job of estimating revenues without a political agenda. But she said past

administrations have not. “Rudy [Giuliani] said every year we had OMB lowball the forecast, and that was how we were able to control spending and lower taxes. I think it was a perversion of the process,” Lowenstein said. The panelists also discussed the perception of wasteful spending in the budget. Politicians on the campaign trail often pledge that they will find money for a new program by cutting wasteful spending, but the panelists agreed that it is not so simple. “The budget is about $76 billion a year. There are 300,000 employees. Of course there is wrongdoing,” said Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission. “There are things that you can do to be more efficient— and you can call that waste, but you are not going to be able to find waste in the budget to run new programs. You are not going to find billions of dollars that


New York City Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Michael Dardia way.” Nonetheless, the panelists advised the Council members to remain vigilant. Dardia suggested that lawmakers look at what the Bloomberg administration has done in previous years with its Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) initiatives to get an idea of how to identify potential spending cuts. Another tool available to lawmakers is the IBO’s annual budget options publication, which identifies potential spending cuts and tax increases available to increase revenue. Lowenstein stressed that the IBO takes no position on the options and goes to great lengths to present the pros and cons of all options they provide.

city & state — January 20, 2014



Strengths And Vulnerabilities Of New York City’s Economy By KATHRYN WYLDE xperts from business, government, labor and tech came together last month to discuss a vital topic: “The Strengths and Vulnerabilities of the New York City Economy,” including how the City Council could partner with business and labor to maintain a strong rate of economic growth and creation/retention of good jobs. Among the members of the panel, which included Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, Andrew Kimball of Jamestown Properties, Kyle Kimball of NYCEDC, Stuart Appelbaum of RWDSU, Ellen West of Google, Cliff Chenfeld of Razor & Tie/Kidz Bop and Maria Gotsch of the Partnership Fund for New York City, there was agreement that the foundation of the economy is an ecosystem that attracts and retains talent, as well as an environment that enables people to create and grow businesses. For example, Google created a substantial presence in New York City because one of its top engineers insisted he wanted to be here. Increasingly in the 21st century, jobs follow talent.   New York City has built a powerful global brand as an exciting place to live and work. Its great universities and cultural institutions are magnets for global talent. With technology presently the fastestgrowing sector of the economy, it is essential that city government continues to champion innovation and encourage entrepreneurs with big ideas to start their companies in the city. The tech community is looking for skilled workers and a robust broadband and wireless infrastructure. At the same time, the priority for  all job creators  is a city that remains safe and secure, and one that has a reasonable tax and regulatory environment.  Looking ahead, the city’s vulnerabilities include an ability gap that makes it difficult for some companies to find enough adequately skilled workers, a severe shortage of affordable housing and the relatively high costs of doing business. It is critical that the city’s economic


city & state — January 20, 2014


Ellen West of Google

development policies be integrated with policies that support relevant housing and workforce development. The panelists highlighted the Partnership for New York City’s NYC Jobs Blueprint as a workable plan for how the city could address these vulnerabilities and promote economic growth. Recommendations include the creation of tech campuses in all five boroughs and a structure of industry partnerships where business and labor could take the lead in developing a pipeline of skilled workers for available jobs. Through public-private partnerships, stakeholders in the local economy hope to work closely with the city to develop and implement economic and workforce development initiatives that will positively impact communities across New York City.

Kyle Kimball of NYCEDC and Stuart Appelbaum of RWDSU

Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City and Andrew Kimball of Jamestown Properties


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[Miller] should have said—and that what my advice to you is— Don’t worry about taking a strong position on an issue based on your core beliefs because you fear that it will cost you a reelection, ” he said. “Take the position; be true to yourself. The thing that will cost you a reelection is if you are not responsive to your constituents, if you are not dealing with them respectfully, if you are not there for them when they call.” Weprin said that being an elected official in the fishbowl that is New York City politics has its pitfalls. Reflecting on his experience as a former assemblyman, Weprin said that in Albany, “You couldn’t get in the paper if you tried,” but added that the additional attention from the City Hall press corps is a double-edged sword—for instance when he “makes a stupid quip or something, and I’m gonna end up in the newspaper.” Ferreras, who served as chief of staff to former state senator Hiram Monserrate, emphasized the need for new Council members to hire a communications staff. Hiring a communications director helped differentiate her from Monserrate when she succeeded him in the Council, Ferreras said. “I had to show people and prove that I was not [Monserrate], even though sometimes the press wanted to make me him,” Ferreras said. “So I needed to have somebody tell my story through my eyes, with my voice.” Asked how long it took to feel comfortable dealing with the media, Garodnick delivered an anecdote about his initial nervousness. He recalled a brief phone interview as a new councilman about the High School of Art and Design in his district. “The High School of Art and Design is important because of its emphasis on art and design,” he recalled saying during the call. “When I was first elected, I was so nervous about talking to the press and so nervous about being misquoted that I would talk so slowly I would forget what I was talking about by the end of the sentence, where it had started,” Garodnick said.

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city & state — January 20, 2014


ow should a new member of the New York City Council deal with pressure from the mayor? From the Council Speaker? From the press? According to several veteran Council members, the best approach is to be true to yourself. At Baruch College last month several New York City Council members, including former Speaker rivals Melissa MarkViverito and Daniel Garodnick, participated in a forum hosted by City & State and the Partnership for New York City, giving advice to some of their freshmen colleagues. Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Mark Weprin and James Vacca joined Garodnick and MarkViverito on the panel—which, despite having the appearance of yet another Speaker’s race forum, focused primarily on how the incoming Council members should handle talking to the press. MarkViverito has since been elected Council Speaker. Mark-Viverito stressed the importance of staying true to one’s core principles and values in the face of outside pressure. Without getting into specifics, she noted that there were times she was proactive in taking positions opposing the Speaker or the mayor on high-profile legislation, which gave her an opportunity to stand her ground when they tried to change her mind. “I don’t wait for [the mayor and Speaker] to come and start pressuring me to try to go one direction or another,” she said. “I’m very clear about what is important to me, and in some cases you can be proactive and say, ‘You know what, on this issue you’re not going to get my support,’ and that goes a long way in gaining respect.” Garodnick remembered finding himself in a similar situation to his freshmen colleagues as an incoming member in 2005. Then Council Speaker Gifford Miller assured the group that, no matter what, “Don’t worry, you will be re-elected.” Garodnick said he would tweak Miller’s advice, which he did not find to be 100 percent accurate. “I actually think that what

Pathways to the Middle Class



34 CUNY’s Suri Duitch said that college degrees are the most meaningful credential in today’s workplace.

city & state — January 20, 2014


utting more New Yorkers on the pathway to the middle class will require not only a jobs development strategy but also a new focus on strengthening workforce development and education in New York. Crafting the right policies in these areas will be especially important, given that an alarming number of New Yorkers lack the skills or educational attainment to get decent paying jobs in today’s economy. In a panel titled “Where New York City Stands in Education and Workforce Development,” several of the city’s leading experts weighed in on the human capital challenges and opportunities facing New York, and what policies could be pursued by the City Council. The panelists included Jemina Bernard, chief executive officer of Reinventing Options for Adolescents Deserving Success’ (ROADS) Charter High Schools; Héctor R. CorderoGuzmán, professor at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs; Suri Duitch, university dean for continuing education at CUNY; and Rashid Ferrod Davis, founding principal at

the innovative P-Tech High School in Brooklyn. According to Duitch, college degrees are the most meaningful credential in today’s workplace, and as a result CUNY’s already significant role in educating the workforce of today and tomorrow has only increased. One important way for the City Council to support workforce development given this fact, she said, would be to fund CUNY’s ongoing efforts to ensure that more of those who enroll in the city’s community colleges actually graduate. With more resources, for example, CUNY could significantly expand its successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative, which provides students with a highly structured college experience, financial support and academic counseling designed to address common barriers to graduation. Davis spoke of the success of the P-Tech model, which connects high school, college and the world of work through college and industry partnerships. It would be wise to expand this model throughout the

Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, moderated a panel entitled “Where New York City Stands in Education and Workforce Development.” city, he said, with a focus on providing direct connections to employers as a way of better ensuring that students graduate with the specific skill-sets businesses are looking for. Bernard argued for more support for innovative new approaches to reengage the most disadvantaged high school-age students. “Think about innovative approaches to disrupt the dropout pipeline,” she said. “All too often it’s a forgone conclusion to people that if you are 16 years old and reading at fifth grade level, then you should just be focusing on getting your GED or a job at McDonald’s, as opposed to creating alternative pathways, inviting them, exciting them to get back to school.” The panel agreed that what is needed is a greater emphasis on ongoing learning for adults. The panelists spoke of working with unions and employers to make sure that professional development opportunities were available all along the career ladder. “The labor market is not an easily connected escalator,” CorderoGuzmán lamented. “The system is

Rashid Ferrod Davis is the founding principal of P-Tech High School, which has been hailed by President Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

like a cobweb, and people can get stuck almost anywhere.” Because of these challenges, he emphasized the importance of having a communitybased infrastructure to help workers progress in their careers.




David Birdsell, the dean of Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, moderated a panel on nonprofit organizations. (Photo by Aaron Adler)


ew York could not function without its nonprofit organizations. They don’t get the headlines that Wall Street or Broadway do, but few New Yorkers go a week without direct contact with a nonprofit organization. Nonprofits deliver the lion’s share of social services in the five boroughs. They house and promote many of the city’s best known cultural attractions, educate hundreds of thousands of students, and generate almost 600,000 full-time jobs. The panel on “Contributing to Social Welfare and Cultural Affairs” explored the Council’s role in supporting nonprofit organizations devoted to the well-being of New Yorkers and to the vitality of the city’s cultural sector. These may seem like very different portfolios—and they are. But they are knit together by the nature of the organizations doing the work: nonprofits with deep connections to

and support from city government. The speakers were Richard R. Buery Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Aid Society; José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation; Rosa Gil, president and chief executive officer of Communilife; Harold Holzer, senior vice president for external affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Michael Stoller, executive director of the Human Services Council; and Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children. Though their organizations operate in divergent arenas, these leaders do many of the same things. All of them negotiate contracts from state and/or city government, raise philanthropic revenue, navigate constraints on lobbying that come with 501(c)(3) status while making their organizations and programs visible to funders and members of the general public,

n the social service side of the ledger, nonprofits take on responsibilities that governments across the country began to “devolve” onto private sector institutions in the 1970s. These involve most forms of direct social service delivery, such as support for seniors; placement and oversight of foster children; many medical services; management of housing for the homeless; workforce education; and a host of other programs that provide for the needs of New Yorkers least able to provide for themselves. Most of the funding for these services still comes from government in the form of contracts let by the city (or state) and awarded on a competitive bid basis to nonprofit organizations that specialize in the relevant services. Though the Bloomberg administration took steps to improve data systems that contractors use and that manage contracts themselves, the panelists agreed that much remains to be done to improve both the bidding process and the management of contracts once they are awarded. A particular concern is timely compensation for services rendered. Nonprofits often have to “float” programs for months at a time while waiting for the payments they are owed under contract. Nonprofits typically operate on very thin margins, so this can create challenges in meeting payroll, which in turn creates challenges in fulfilling the basic responsibilities that government has asked them to perform. Panelists pointed out that this is not a matter of changing contracts; it is instead a matter of making sure the government consistently holds up its end of the agreement when the bills come due. Panelists also felt that nonprofits had too little say in shaping the nature of contracts and in making sure that those agreements are adequate to the service demands imposed. Nonprofits need to be able to invest in their own infrastructure, and particularly in their employees delivering services. Nonprofits are not typically unionized, so training either comes from the

organization or it does not come at all, and city contracts rarely cover training costs. Even the most well-intentioned incremental regulation imposes costs that are not always accounted for in contract modifications. This too is a source of frustration, and can cause service interruptions. For some organizations, multiyear budgeting is the Holy Grail. Contracts are now typically re-let on an annual basis, and in tight economic times, often with year over year reductions. Multiyear budgets would provide organizations with a longer planning horizon and more opportunity to identify and achieve service efficiencies and improve outcomes. HOW THE COUNCIL CAN HELP AND NOT HURT


anelists offered several suggestions for improving the Council’s relationship to nonprofit organizations. End the “budget dance.” Typically, mayoral budgets project funding reductions for nonprofits, which are then restored by the Council. This is great political theater—mayors get to look like sharp-eyed minders of the purse, and legislators get to rescue beloved public institutions—but for heads of libraries or senior centers or schools, it creates a period of several weeks or even months when planning is impossible and private sector donations freeze up while the presidents and executive directors have to devote all of their time working with members and staff to restore their programs. Improve oversight hearings. Oversight is a powerful tool at the Council’s disposal. Panelists recommended members use their oversight power to learn more about how mayoral agencies are dealing with the nonprofits they work with, and to identify—in order to eliminate—as many service and funding roadblocks as possible. Sever formal ties with nonprofits. Many Council members came from the nonprofit community themselves, and some maintain close relations with their former organizations, often to the detriment of both. Because Council members are involved in distributing discretionary funding, and can easily find themselves facing a conflict of interest, the panelists recommended they sever ties to avoid even the appearance of impropriety on either side of the relationship. These are only a few of the insights offered by some of the city’s most accomplished nonprofit leaders in “Contributing to Social Welfare and Cultural Affairs.”


city & state — January 20, 2014


manage complicated staffs or networks and interact routinely with legislators. Their perspectives on the sector and its relationship to government are remarkably similar, as are their recommendations for improving the Council’s stewardship of the vitality of cultural and social service nonprofits in New York.




his year’s state budget could hold a pleasant surprise for the DREAM Act and the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. I can hear the skeptics scoffing. Immigrant advocates, especially Hispanic legislators, were crestfallen when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State message did not even mention the DREAM Act, which would provide funding for the college education of undocumented immigrant students who came to this country as minors. Nor was there any mention of the



city & state — January 20, 2014



t a hearing on the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital-investment program, state representatives seemed to care about getting better transit service for their constituents. But what happens next? In the coming year Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers must figure out how to pay. The Assembly’s committee on public authorities held a forum Jan. 10 to consider a problem: The MTA has a multibillion dollar shortfall in its next $30–32 billion five-year capital program. The five-year plan starts next year, 2015, as the current $26 billion program expires. Though people think of new projects, such as the $4.5 billion Second Avenue Subway, as dominating the capital plan,

Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, which is supposed to be funded by a surcharge on moving traffic violations enacted in 1998. Back in 2010 that annual pool of $8.5 million was swept away as a deficit reduction measure. Will the program’s capacity for restorative research finally be restored in this year’s budget? My optimism is grounded in a brass tacks analysis. The governor and both houses of the Legislature should conclude that by doing the right thing in terms of public policy on the DREAM Act and spinal cord program, they will also be helping themselves politically. The DREAM Act has become the highest priority of not only Hispanic legislators but also the Democratic majority in the Assembly. At the same time, the dramatic shifts in political demography argue for its enactment. The 2010 U.S. Census revealed that the Hispanic share of the state’s population grew by 19 percent, to 18 percent of the overall population. Hispanics in New York City grew to become 29 percent of the city’s population, and growth in Latino communities on Long Island propelled minorities to become 31 percent of that region’s total population. In New York’s 2010 gubernatorial

election, the Hispanic share of the statewide vote went up to 9 percent, increasing the aggregate minority share of the statewide electorate to 29 percent. In New York City’s 2013 mayoral race, despite there being no Latino nominee from a major party for citywide office, the Hispanic share of the total vote grew to 19 percent in the general election, helping elevate New York City’s minority majority to 55 percent of the overall electorate, its highest share in history. These facts have created a new math in New York politics. As the aggregate minority share of the vote heads toward a full third of the statewide electorate, no Republican can seriously compete for statewide office unless he or she can net at least one-third of that minority third. Alternatively, no Democrat wants to leave the door open for a Republican to reach the more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote won by Bloomberg in 2001 and Pataki in 2002. Nor is the Hispanic vote a factor only in gubernatorial elections. In five state Senate districts held by the GOP on Long Island, the Hispanic vote is approaching or exceeding 10 percent of registered voters. Furthermore, in two of the districts held by IDC members—Senators Jeff Klein and David Carlucci—Latino voters are a

rapidly growing political factor. Thus it is in the self-interest of all three factions of the Legislature—Democratic, Republican and independent—to pass the DREAM Act. Obviously, demography is not the political motivation for why the funding for spinal research could very well be restored. Recent budgets have contained no small degree of pain for the public to stomach. Passing feelgood provisions offsets some of the sting of other parts of the budget. Spinal research could be just such a remedy. Last year the Legislature put back $2 million of the $8.5 million, but those funds run out this year. Full restoration could yield far more political return than again diverting that money to plug a faceless hole in the budget. If my optimism is warranted, some may quote Shakespeare that “all’s well that ends well.” However, it would perhaps be more accurate to remember Gladstone’s admonition that nations don’t have “likes or dislikes”—they have “interests.” And it is in everyone’s interest that both programs are funded in this year’s budget.

70 percent of capital spending goes to replacing or upgrading old subway cars, signals, tracks and other infrastructure, and buying new buses. The plan may be long-term, but the shortfall starts…now. As Bob Foran, the MTA’s chief financial officer, explained, the MTA borrowed money ($11 billion) for the current capital program. By 2017, three years away, the MTA’s annual debt costs for past capital spending will reach $2.8 billion: 16 percent of its budget. That’s half a billion dollars more than the MTA spends now. But the MTA faces a $200 million deficit by 2017. And this deficit doesn’t take into account new borrowing for the next capital plan. But wait! Isn’t the MTA raising fares and tolls next year, by 4 percent? Yes, but that money is accounted for in the budget. There is no way around it: The MTA cannot borrow more unless it finds new income to pay the new debt, and cuts costs. Lawmakers at the January hearing offered few clues about what they would do. On cost cutting, Foran warned that giving retroactive wages to its union workers—on a contract that has now been expired for two years—would cost the MTA $538 million this year. Despite Foran sounding the

alarm that costs once considered “uncontrollable,” such as healthcare, pensions and handicapped-access transit, now make up half of the budget and are growing five times faster than the other half, lawmakers did not seem perturbed. At the same time they remained inscrutable about possibilities for generating additional revenues, even when a promising potential source of cash was floated by “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, a Koch-era traffic commissioner. The director of Schwartz’s Move NY plan, Alex Matthiessen, told lawmakers how it would work. Albany would vote to levy car and truck tolls on entry points into Manhattan where auto drivers have the alternate choice of taking mass transit. Manhattan cab riders and car owners too would pay a new fee for the congestion they cause. Some of the money would lower bridge tolls where residents don’t have good transit, including the Verrazano and Cross Bay bridges. $400 million would go to keeping up the city’s roads, and $1.1 billion would be spent on transit. Rather than weigh in on the plan, however, lawmakers preferred to talk about the need for better transit in their districts. Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, of the Rockaways, joked that the MTA

was able to repair the A train so quickly after Superstorm Sandy because “it is the only thing we’ve got.” Nily Rozic, who represents eastern Queens, noted that her district has no subway stops. “Tak[ing] a bus to a train station … or [to] the LIRR [is] the only way to get to work in the morning or anywhere else.” Nor did Goldfeder want particularly cheap infrastructure. He opined that he doesn’t trust buses, because “if we put [them] in place … tomorrow, it could be gone. You’re not gonna bulldoze rail.” Rozic likes buses—but she wants a lot of them. So New York has lawmakers with expensive tastes who are closemouthed about how to pay for them. At least silence is better than the alternative: grandstanding against tolling free bridges, something we heard last time around in 2008, when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to get a less comprehensive plan passed. (Neither Rozic nor Goldfeder held office then.) This time? “I don’t necessarily have a position on that yet,” said Goldfeder of the plan. Rozic kept her thoughts to herself. Nothing in Albany is, well, something.

Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant with Corning Place Communications and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.

Nicole Gelinas (@nicolegelinas) is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.



he times they are a-changin,” wrote Bob Dylan. This observation has never been more true in regard to the United States’s approach to marijuana than it has been over the past month. This year we might see a majority of the states in our union approve some form of medicinal marijuana, and more states following Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational use.

“Hearing from parents of children who have to leave New York or treat their sick children with medicines that include addictive narcotics and opiates has been heartbreaking and enlightening.”

It is no surprise then that Gov. Cuomo has decided to streamline the process of bringing medical marijuana to New York—a recent Siena poll showed that over 80 percent of New Yorkers support doing so. While I believe that the governor’s move is a step in the right direction, the vague details of his plan merely opens the door. The Legislature can then carry this torch to expand the plan more constructively and responsibly to alleviate far more New Yorkers’ suffering. I insist that the Legislature carry the torch because the governor’s plan hinges on a law that was passed in 1980. That means the proposal we are getting is already 30 years old. By modern standards, it is too narrow in scope, allowing only 20 hospitals the ability to treat too limited a number of diseases. Under the governor’s proposal the most positive medical marijuana story in the country would not be possible: that of Charlotte Figi, a 6-year-old girl, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare, catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy that caused her to have over 100 seizures daily. I cannot imagine being the parent of a child with such an overwhelming condition. At a hearing in Mineola last month I heard testimony from parents of children 2 to 10 years old, who suffer from similar conditions. Four of these families moved to Colorado within 48 hours after testifying, so their children could receive the same miracle treatment as Charlotte, a special consumable oil, named Charlotte’s Web, which contains a minimal level of THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis and a high level of CBD, which treats the epilepsy. I sat at this hearing with tears in my eyes, and promised these families that I would do everything I could to ensure that we could bring them home and treat their children here in New York. My colleague, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, has authored a bill that would expand the governor’s proposal. I co-sponsored this legislation because it takes a bold, responsible step in the treatment of not only cancers and glaucoma, which are the only ailments the governor’s plan includes,

missing out on a tremendous amount of revenue. Right now criminals have a 100 percent share of an industry that allows them to sell anything they can to anyone who will buy it. It follows logically that the state should regulate and tax marijuana from seed to sale. If the state regulates marijuana, it will be safer, and if the state sells it, it will eradicate a vast criminal enterprise. Many opponents of legalization are waiting for Colorado to experience an enormous crisis, but to date the state has only positive news to report, earning just over $5 million in the first week it has been on sale. Right now, public opinion on marijuana is changing by the day. How fast New York will expand to include new proposals on cannabis remains to be seen, but in a perfect world, we would see Gottfried’s bill signed into law by the governor this year, while we continue to watch the recreational world evolve in Colorado and Washington and learn from those states’ experience.

Assemblyman Steve Katz represents the 94th AD, which includes part of Westchester and Putnam counties. He is also a veterinarian.


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city & state — January 20, 2014


but also diseases such as Dravet Syndrome, other forms of epilepsy and intractable pain, chemotherapy, wasting syndromes, multiple sclerosis and PTSD. While I am optimistic that the governor’s plan will bring the positives of medical marijuana to the fore, I hope he also insists that Assemblyman Gottfried’s bill get to the floor in both houses. Only then will we truly take a bold step forward for New York. Hearing from parents of children who have to leave New York or treat their sick children with medicines that include addictive narcotics and opiates has been heartbreaking and enlightening. It is the main reason I have championed this cause. As The New England Journal of Medicine editorialized, for doctors to prescribe highly addictive opiate narcotics, such as oxycodone, but not marijuana, is total hypocrisy. As for full-fledged legalization of marijuana, State Sen. Liz Krueger has put forth a plan for New York to legalize marijuana modeled on Colorado’s approach. While the bill is still in an initial draft, I appreciate the senator’s effort. We simply cannot continue to ignore the reality that there is a black market for marijuana. Because it is not taxed by the state, New York is



as “Ambassador Big,” and of course, the state of the Knicks. City & State: What inspired you to get involved with this organization? Raymond Felton: I did it my first five years in the league down in Charlotte, was very into it and did a lot with it. I loved it. I had my own “Little,” and I just really enjoyed it. I love working with kids, I love being that positive role model in a kid’s life. I have my own son now, so I try to fulfill that role. That’s what a lot of kids are missing in this world. If I can help in any kind of way with one, two, three, 20, a hundred kids, I try to do my part. C&S: Is that something you wish you had as a young kid? A positive older role model? RF: I had it. My dad was very into my life. He taught me a lot, he was there for me; he was kind of my dad, my brother, my best friend all in one. Just to have that—and I do understand there’s a lot of kids who don’t, so if I can be that person for a kid or for a group of kids, then so be it, that’s what I want. C&S: January is National Mentor Awareness Month. Can you tell me a little bit about the campaign you’re involved with? RF: The biggest thing is me just trying to get more Bigs, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters trying to get more mentors, more guys, more athletes, more whoever. These kids need someone they can call, they can talk to, they can spend some time with. A lot of kids don’t have that at home, a lot of kids just don’t have that parent in their life. Whether it’s females, whether it’s males, whether it’s blacks, whites, whoever, it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to call nobody out. I’m just trying to get some guys to come out … and be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s a great thing; it’s a wonderful organization.

city & state — January 20, 2014



ew York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton may be best known for his day job, but off the basketball court his role as ambassador for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City is one he takes seriously. Throughout January he will be one of many athletes and celebrities—as well as elected officials including several borough presidents and City Council members—who will participate in recruiting events, workshops and fundraisers hosted by the organization. Starting this season Felton and the Knicks have sputtered out of the gate,

with key players facing numerous injuries after a largely successful 2012–13 regular season that ended with a second-round loss in the playoffs. Felton himself, after trying to play through a strained hamstring and pinched nerve in his hip, decided to take a few games off to concentrate on his physical restoration. City & State’s Nick Powell, a die-hard Knicks fan, spoke with the athlete last month at Manhattan’s Basketball City, where Felton was hosting a holiday event for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Felton touched on the organization’s mentor awareness campaign, his role

C&S: Have you reached out to any of your own teammates? RF: I’ve mentioned it. Everybody has their own thing, they have their own foundation where they do a lot of stuff in the community, so I can’t knock that. It’s just me trying to bother them a little bit. Right now it’s not the time because we’re kind of going through a little something on the court, but I’ve been messing with them here and there, so I’ll make something happen, trust me. C&S: I’m a lifelong Knicks fan, so I obviously feel the pain of the team’s tough start. You are dealing with

some injuries right now. How are you feeling? RF: I feel great. One thing I just want to do is make sure when I come back this time is that I’m healthy and that I don’t miss any more games, so that I’m just sitting out even longer than I did the first time. I came back a little too early and it kind of caught up to me. I want to … just make sure I’m one hundred percent, and that when I come out the injury don’t come back. Anything can happen, but I just don’t want this hamstring to come back. C&S: What do you think the team needs to do to get back to playing basketball the way you did last season? RF: One is to get healthy. We just got Tyson [Chandler] back last night. I’ll be back after one more game. Kenyon [Martin] is out, Pablo [Prigioni] is out. I think we have a good enough team, and just getting guys healthy, getting everybody back at one time, and just stay on course, stay positive. We understand that we’re in a slump and we didn’t get off to the [start] that we wanted. But it’s a long season—it’s about how you finish, not necessarily how you start. C&S: I’m part of the New York media, so I know how we can be: overbearing. It’s the fishbowl. But is it difficult, with the tough start and the heightened expectations, to deal with the extra scrutiny? RF: When you come to New York, it’s one of the things you have to understand, that’s gonna happen. If you do good, they love you; if you do bad, they hate you. That’s one thing that I do understand. I have a strong mental—a strong mind, don’t bother me what people say, what people put rumors out there. It is what it is. All the true fans, they’re with us … they understand it’s a long season; they’re riding with us. They rode with us last year when we were great, so ride with us when times are tough. We fight through this thing, we try to get better each and every day, and we’re gonna figure this thing out. C&S: Have you been following your old college team at the University of North Carolina this year? RF: For sure. Those guys are doing great, considering they’re missing one key guy, being out and being suspended. [P.J. Hairston, UNC’s leading scorer, was suspended for violating NCAA rules.] But those young guys are doing a great job, Coach [Roy] Williams is doing a great job with those guys down there, really leading them and motivating those guys to go out and play. I’m proud of them.

1. Google, “Economic Impact,” 2012 *Note: The total value that U.S. Google advertisers and website publishers received in 2012 is the sum of the economic impact of Google Search, AdWords and AdSense. The value of Google Search and AdWords for businesses is the profit they receive from clicks on search results and ads minus their cost of advertising, estimated as $8 profit for every $1 spent. This formulation is derived from two studies about the dynamics of online search and advertising, Hal Varian’s “Online Ad Auctions,” (American Economic Review, May 2009) and Bernard Jansen and Amanda Spink, “Investigating customer click through behavior with integrated sponsored and non sponsored results,” (International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, 2009). The economic impact of AdSense is the estimated amount Google paid to website publishers in 2012 for placing our ads next to their content. Please note that these estimates do not allow for perfect reconciliation with Google’s GAAP–reported revenue. For more information about methodology, visit: © Copyright 2013. Google and the Google logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

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City & State - January 20, 2014  

Cover Story: SAFER? One year after its passage, has the SAFE Act reduced gun violence? Issue Spotlight: Legislative Preview Back and Forth:...

City & State - January 20, 2014  

Cover Story: SAFER? One year after its passage, has the SAFE Act reduced gun violence? Issue Spotlight: Legislative Preview Back and Forth:...