Vol. 2, No. 18 - SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
Are SHELLY’S DAYS NUMBERED? BOSTON’S greatest NEW YORKERS
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ORGANIZED LABOR & UNIONS
UPFRONT THE TURNOUT CRISIS
Morgan Pehme EDITOR
hough many articles have already been written deriving themes and conclusions from the primary election, one thing is abundantly clear: The abysmal voter turnout in New York State constitutes a crisis that must be addressed immediately. Just a week before our election The New York Times reported that turnout in the Moscow mayoral race was “extremely low”—a measly 2.5 million ballots cast out of a population of around 12 million. If only New York City were even remotely as democratically engaged as Vladimir Putin’s Russia! The Big Apple could muster barely 700,000 votes from its 8.3 million inhabitants—a mere 22 percent of registered Democrats and a pathetic 12 percent of registered Republicans. Around the rest of the state the situation was just as dire. Over the three elections prior to this one, NewYork already ranked an average of 47th in voter turnout nationwide—50th out of the 50 states in the 2010 midterms. Though it is still too early to determine statewide voter turnout in the primary, based upon the numbers we do know it is safe to assume that we will have sunk even deeper into the morass. In Rochester fewer than 15,000 Democrats came out to vote—“the lowest turnout in the city’s history for a contested race,” according to Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle. In Buffalo, a city of about 261,000 residents, only about 21,000 people voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, “by far the lowest turnout in memory,” as The Buffalo News put it. And in Syracuse a paltry 18 percent of Democrats bothered to show— down from 25 percent in 2009.
These figures are not just academic. They represent a breaking point in our democracy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must take immediate action by forming a blue-ribbon commission, whose recommendations he will pledge in advance to support, to propose remedies to this profound problem. Allowing Election Day registration, early voting, drive-through voting, no-fault absentee voting, the preregistration of 16- and 17-yearolds; accelerating the process whereby voters can change parties; moving to open primaries, nonpartisan elections, even Internet voting—there are myriad ways we can address our voter turnout crisis, and yet we are pursuing none of them. And why? Because of the parties: Democratic and Republican alike. Because every elected official and party boss knows that low turnout historically benefits incumbents and machine candidates. They don’t want more voters to show up; they only want their voters to do so. Of course, our electeds pay a lot of lip service to being committed to improving turnout, but it’s all for show. Now is the time for the governor, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein to step up and actually do something. If calling a commission is too expensive or too timeconsuming—or too whatever other fabricated excuse they fall back on—there is a simple alternative for them to embrace right now. They can all come out and endorse the findings of a study concluded earlier this year by the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Voter Participation, which proposed a host of sensible, easy-toimplement solutions to the turnout emergency. Then Klein, Skelos and Silver can follow through by introducing—and passing—legislation at the start of next session that turns the Bar Association’s recommendations into law. On Primary Day Cuomo issued a statement urging New Yorkers to vote. Talk is cheap. If the governor really wants to see democracy in action, that action needs to start with him.
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SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
AROUND NEW YORK The best items from City & State’s website City & State’s website is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at www.cityandstateny.com.
NEW YORK CITY Pollsters have sometimes struggled to get an accurate read on New York City voters, but their work held up this week. The standout performer was the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which nailed the Democratic mayor’s race: It had Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at 39 percent (he won just over 40 percent), former Comptroller Bill Thompson at 25 percent (he garnered 26.2 percent) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 18 percent (she got 15.5 percent). Douglas Schwartz (below), Quinnipiac’s polling director, said that polling close to
the primary helped. “Our final poll was from Friday through Sunday, so we were able to catch some late breaking movement toward Thompson,” he said. “We also conducted three polls in the final two weeks, so we had a really good sense of this race.” Unlike in 2009, Quinnipiac included cell phones— standard practice today—and reverted to random-digit dialing instead of registered voter lists. Another factor could have been the open race. “Sometimes there’s something to that,” Schwartz said. “In some races where there’s a well-known incumbent going up
against an unknown challenger, a disproportionate number of the ‘undecideds’ could break toward the challenger at the end, so the gap may change.”
NEW YORK CITY Multiple sources confirm that Patrick Gaspard (below), the recently appointed U.S. ambassador to South Africa and former political director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was helpful in brokering the peace between former Democratic mayoral rivals Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson. Gaspard, a former top aide to President Barack Obama, and report-
edly one of de Blasio’s closest friends, was involved in communicating messages between the two candidates before Thompson ultimately decided to forgo pursuing a runoff and back de Blasio for mayor. Both the Thompson and de Blasio campaigns declined to comment on Gaspard’s involvement in any negotiations.
WESTCHESTER Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and his opponent, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, have been bickering over salary increases. Bramson voted to raise his own salary in 2006 for the following year, but he has said the increase was due to inflation. Astorino has said in campaign ads that the vote wasn’t calibrated due to inflation—and then called Bramson a “part-time mayor.” This has Bramson’s camp flabbergasted. “We don’t intend to take lessons in honesty from Republican Rob Astorino as long as he’s still running a TV commercial that contains five separate lies about Mayor Bramson, a commercial his own campaign manager admits isn’t accurate,” Bramson spokesman Barry Caro said. “We can only hope that the next time Rob tosses a wild accusation, he could bother to check his facts first, because this is only the most recent time he’s told a tall tale and then doubled down on a disproven allegation.” Astorino’s camp is unconvinced, noting that Bramson gave himself the raise in his first year in office. “He’s arguing that the raise was overdue the office for many years,” Bill O’Reilly, an Astorino spokesman, said. “He just happened to be the happy recipient of the accumulated raise.”
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Greg Ball @ball4ny: Today is International Buy a Priest a Beer Day. I shared a brew with my priest Father Thomas Lutz @ DutchessHops pic.twitter.com/1DiHpFrn5P
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UPFRONT BY THE NUMBERS
THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE’S FIRST READ EMAIL “Campaign plans often come down to bumper stickers. And I’ll be curious to find out exactly what the real plans are, and once we have a real discussion, then I’ll have an opinion.” —Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dodging a question about presumptive New York City Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents, via the New York Post
THIS IS 40 DEMOCRAT BILL DE BLASIO WON:
OF MALE VOTERS (46% OF THE VOTING POPULATION)
BOS F O
OF FEMALE VOTERS (54% OF THE VOTING POPULATION) OF WHITE VOTERS
OF BLACK VOTERS
OF HISPANIC VOTERS
OF WHITE MALE VOTERS
By MICHAEL JOHNSON and AARON SHORT
OF BLACK FEMALE VOTERS
OF VOTERS AGE 18–29
OF VOTERS AGE 65+
OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADS
OF COLLEGE GRADS 1
OF VOTERS EARNING UNDER $30,000
oth Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio trace their roots to Boston. Indeed for decades Beantown has been sending many of its best and brightest to lead the Big Apple. Below are a few of the city’s more notable exports.
1. Carolyn Ryan – The Massachusetts native started her career as a reporter in Quincy before becoming deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe. She was snatched up by The New York Times in 2007 to become its metropolitan editor before ascending to political editor earlier this year. She remains a Red Sox fan. 2. Amy Poehler – One of Hollywood’s funniest women was born in Newton, raised in Burlington and attended Boston College. She moved to New York City to help found the Upright Citizens Brigade and soon found herself commuting uptown to Rockefeller Center. Can de Blasio or Lhota just vow to make her the next parks commissioner already? 3. Bill Bratton – Born in Boston, Bratton ran the Boston Police Department and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority before he was tapped to run the NYPD in 1994. He should have been a recurring character on Boston Legal, or at least Ally McBeal. 4. Babe Ruth – The greatest baseball player who ever lived played for the Boston Red Sox from 1914 to 1919, during which time they won three World Series titles. In 1919 the Yankees bought Ruth for about the price of a Pontiac Grand Am, and he became the most famous ballplayer of all time, bringing the Yanks four World Series rings. 5. Patrick Ewing – The big man in the middle for the New York Knicks moved from Jamaica to Cambridge, Mass., at the age of 12, gave up playing cricket and soccer and turned to hoops. He won a national title at Georgetown University, became the first pick of the 1985 NBA draft, an 11-time NBA All-Star, a Basketball Hall of Famer, and spawned one of the greatest sports theories of all time. 6. Bobby Kennedy – The second-most-famous Kennedy was born in Brookline, did a stint in the Navy and went to college at Harvard after WWII. He served as attorney general under President Kennedy’s administration and ran for Senate in New York after his brother’s assassination. It can be said that he had the least Kennedy-esque accent of the Kennedys; by contrast, Ted’s verged on parody.
OF VOTERS EARNING BETWEEN $100,000 AND $200,000
OF VOTERS WHO SAY THEY ARE “VERY LIBERAL”
OF VOTERS WHO ARE GAY, LESBIAN OR BISEXUAL
OF BROOKLYN VOTERS
OF MANHATTAN VOTERS
OF VOTERS WHO SAID JOBSUNEMPLOYMENT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE
OF VOTERS WHO SAID STOP-AND-FRISK WAS “EXCESSIVE”
OF VOTERS WITH A UNION MEMBER IN THEIR HOUSEHOLD
OF VOTERS WHO DISAPPROVE OF MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S PERFORMANCE Source: New York City Democratic Primary exit poll conducted by Edison Research of Somerville, N.J.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
Upstate New York’s Proven Economic Powerhouse Ever since construction began on the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in 1970, the Scriba, New York facility has benefitted Upstate New Yorkers. In addition to providing safe, clean and reliable electricity — enough to power more than 800,000 homes — FitzPatrick has been a powerful economic engine. FitzPatrick directly provides more than 650 highpaying, year-round jobs to Central New Yorkers while also providing work for numerous vendors and skilled trade workers who provide specialized services to the plant throughout the year. An additional major economic boost to the community comes from the influx of more than 1,000 outside workers during the plant’s periodic refueling outages. The plant also benefits local communities and schools by generating substantial tax revenues. Throughout its history, the plant has been at the forefront of our state’s efforts to protect and create jobs upstate. For example, FitzPatrick power was
behind New York State’s innovative Power for Jobs program, an initiative that provided economical electricity for upstate businesses and not-for-profit corporations. The program has saved or created thousands of jobs. The plant has annually been a major sponsor of Harborfest, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the four-day celebration. In addition the plant has contributed annually to more than 60 initiatives and activities that help fund education and literacy, arts and culture, and health and social services. And FitzPatrick’s employees are very often at the heart of many of these community organizations and activities. Entergy acquired the plant in 2000 and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade equipment and further enhance plant safety and security. Learn more about this vital Upstate New York economic powerhouse at www.fitzpatrickpower.com.
FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant
AD WATCH: HODGEPODGE EDITION 2014 commercials already? Some candidates for U.S. Congress are already up with ads online, likely presaging the intensity of the battle that will be waged in the midterm elections next year. Of course, the majority of us have only just turned our attention to this year’s general election. While the airwaves are not yet saturated with spots aimed at convincing us how to vote this November, there are still plenty of commercials to consider. And so we present this hodgepodge edition of Ad Watch. To view all the spots in their entirety and read our take on three others, check out cityandstateny.com/ad-watch. By MORGAN PEHME “NOAM BRAMSON 40% PAY RAISE”
“OUR BEST CENTURY YET”
“#ITSTIME: SERGIO FOR MAYOR”
CANDIDATE: Rob Astorino
CANDIDATE: Chris Gibson
CANDIDATE: Sergio Rodriguez
PRODUCED BY: NLO Strategies (New York City) and Digiworks Media (Brookfield, Conn.)
PRODUCED BY: Meath Media Group (Washington, D.C.)
PRODUCED BY: Shot by JD Films (Syracuse, N.Y.), conceived by the candidate and Bob Lingle
LENGTH: 30 seconds
LENGTH: 1 minute, 12 seconds
LENGTH: 1 minute, 38 seconds
DESCRIPTION: This ad is another installment in a series hammering away at Bramson, the challenger to Westchester County Executive Astorino, for giving himself a pay raise as New Rochelle’s mayor. The ad concludes with a refrain from previous spots, delivered in a testimonial from a senior citizen: “Westchester just can’t afford Noam Bramson.”
DESCRIPTION: This Web spot reintroduces viewers to Congressman Gibson, playing up his background in the armed forces and laying out some of his ideas for improving upstate New York. It concludes with a direct fundraising appeal and an invitation to connect with the campaign via social networking.
DESCRIPTION: This dramatically scored ad lists a series of depressing statistics about Buffalo and then moves to a diverse range of residents saying, “It’s time” (also the campaign’s Twitter hashtag) to turn around the city.
PROS: This ad initially caught City & State’s attention because it is the first commercial to draw footage from our fledgling Last Look video series. Bramson’s smile in that clip—which is freeze-framed, discolored and turned off-kilter, of course—is one of several well-selected shots of Bramson that make him look as loathsome and unhinged as possible. The African-American woman who gives the negative testimonial at the end of the ad comes across as stingingly credible. CONS: The stock photos of the firefighter and police officer used in this commercial are just one of the elements that give it a forgettable, by-the-numbers attack ad feel—the kind of spot that easily blurs in the mind of the viewer with a million other commercials in this vein they have seen over the years. That being said, it pounds away at a very simple, one-note concept, so even if the particulars of this ad vanish from the voter’s memory, the accusation could very well stick. EXPERT OPINION: “Though the production of this ad is not first-rate, its message is crystal clear: Bramson took a pay raise his first year in office and raised taxes at the same time. Additionally, the ad claims Bramson cut firefighters and police. It might not be pretty, but in terms of effectiveness, it hits the mark.”—Scott Levenson, President and founder, The Advance Group 6
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
PROS: This “red meat for patriots” ad features no fewer than nine shots containing American flags in 72 seconds. It also repeats the words strong and freedom, and not so subtly works in other vocabulary that evokes Gibson’s military service, like shot, mission and fighting. The very first image of the ad—a camera motion from the blinding light of the heavens to a smiling Gibson and his wife—is another obvious touch, though not one that is necessarily ineffective. For the audience at which this spot is aiming—conservative, proud American upstate voters—this commercial comes across as comforting and hopeful. CONS: This is certainly not an all-audiences spot. To those outside of its target viewership, it could very well leave the impression of being a stream of pandering pabulum. Subtlety is not its strong point. EXPERT OPINION: “Completely generic and forgettable. Who is he? What office is he running for again? Dogcatcher in Alabama? No mention of what he’s accomplished or why he’s at all distinguishable. A shopping list—brain dump, really—of issues with zero connection to local concerns. Why isn’t he speaking to the voters? Voice-over alone isn’t effective. Way too negative, despite swelling music and patriotic theme— all problems, no solutions! Says it’s hopeful but isn’t. Might as well be a stirring but pointless commercial for a local used car lot, though at least that would have more of a connection to the community it’s trying to sell in. And unless he’s running against a Communist and it’s 1956, too much with the ‘We’re great’ theme. New century? We’re 13 years into it already.” —Political and media consultant Michael Tobman
PROS: This nicely shot ad pops with vibrant colors and strong locations. CONS: This Web spot is reminiscent of Rodriguez’s opponent Mayor Byron Brown’s brilliant ad “Progress,” but the contrast in execution between the two is humbling. The script is decidedly weaker, falling back on generalizations instead of the powerful specifics driven home in Brown’s video. The title cards over picture are a bit amateurish, and the acting is overdramatic—which is all the more glaring when viewed against Brown’s ad, where the genuineness of the nonactors’ testimonials shines through. The worst part of this ad, unfortunately, is the candidate himself, who looks depressed or overly serious, when in the context of his appearance he should come across as comforting and optimistic. Also, by having Rodriguez—who is likely unknown by the vast majority of voters—only speak the slogan “It’s time” and not identify or otherwise distinguish himself, he is easily mistaken for just another member of the chorus. Thus the whole point of the spot—selling Rodriguez—is lost. The ad never even tells us Sergio’s last name! EXPERT OPINION: “98 seconds? Really? The only thing to keep you watching is trying to guess what city it is. Good push to social at the end, but by that time they will have lost any undecided voter they convince to watch this.” —Chris Coffey, Tusk Strategies
Do you have an ad you would like to see analyzed by our experts? Contact email@example.com with your suggestions.
All-Star 2013 2teams2_City&State 8/15/13 2:01 PM Page 1
e r o f e B Ever n a h t ers n n i W rd a w A F NS Y N U C More
ore than 20 outstanding CUNY students in 2013 won National Science Foundation awards of $126,000 each for graduate study in the sciences. No other University system in the Northeast won more.
Kittens! Kellner! Klonopin! A PRIMARY DAY IN THE LIFE OF FOUR DISGRACED POLS
his year’s primary featured an unusual cast of characters, even by New York’s standards. A former congressman who may have a sext addiction was seeking redemption at the ballot box. So was a former governor with a weakness for high-priced call girls. And two state legislators accused of sexual harassment were hoping to press a do-over button on their careers by moving over to the New York City Council. City & State’s Aaron Short spent Primary Day dropping in on Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Vito Lopez and Micah Kellner. This is how his day went:
ical club Lopez and Battaglia found a litter of kittens whose mother was trapped by a gate. He freed them. Now they’re a good luck charm for his Council run in what many expect to be a close race against his primary challenger, Antonio Reynoso. “We’re looking for someone to adopt them,” Lopez says. “You can have one if
State Sen. Martin Dilan
Vito Lopez’s good luck kittens 6:16 a.m. – I lurch out of bed and look at my alarm clock. Nope. Back into the sweet goddess of sleep’s heavenly embrace. 7:38 a.m. I lurch out of bed and look at my alarm clock. Might as well. Time for a hearty breakfast of granola with bananas, six aspirins, four Tums and a shot of Imodium AD. It’s going to be a long day. 8:19 a.m. Time to vote! Wait, why isn’t Vito Lopez on my ballot? I live a block from his apartment. Oh, right, the six-block section of Bushwick that was supposed to be redistricted into the 34th Council District was instead cut back out and dumped into the 37th District after Council Speaker Christine Quinn took a sudden renewed interest in its lines earlier this year. Ka-ching! The lever machine works. 8:38 a.m. The first mayoral volunteer at my polling station is working for—Erick Salgado?! That was unexpected. 8:59 a.m. Vito Lopez’s campaign headquarters has been on Wyckoff Ave. in Bushwick for over a decade, whether or not he’s actually running for office. This year he is—for City Council. Vito sits in the back room discussing logistics with his campaign manager, Angela Battaglia, as volunteers trickle in. In the front room sits a small cage with a tabby cat cleaning six adorable black kittens with her tongue. The cage smells of cat urine. Sunday night outside the polit8
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
you want. They smell pretty bad, though.” 9:23 a.m. State Sen. Martin Dilan and Councilwoman Diana Reyna are politicking in front of M.S. 250 in Williamsburg, the most vote-rich polling site in the district. Dilan is there to support Charvey Gonzalez, his candidate for the Assembly seat that Lopez vacated. Dilan says turnout has been “steady,” and that Gonzalez should win a close race because “He has worked the hardest.” Reyna disagrees. She believes both Lopez’s opponent, Antonio Reynoso, and Jason Otaño, another candidate for Lopez’s former Assembly seat, will win tight races by “a couple hundred votes.” She would know. Four years ago she fended off a formidable challenge from Lopez protégé Maritza Davila by fewer than 150 votes. Davila is now also running for the open Assembly seat. This polling site is quiet, but Dilan expects fireworks to occur at the one outside the Bushwick Houses NYCHA projects. That’s where Davila and Rep. Nydia Velázquez will be stationed. They don’t like each other. Dilan promises to call me if they get into a fight. 10:45 a.m. Assemblyman Micah Kellner should have been the heavy favorite on the Upper East Side, but a bizarre allegation of sexual harassment from former staffers cost him the endorsements of his colleagues and The New York Times. Now Upper East Siders will render judgment upon Kellner or give his opponent Ben Kallos a look. Kellner is not perturbed. ”I think it’s been going great,” Kellner says as he greets voters on the corner of 71st Street and First Avenue. “I’ve only gotten a positive reaction. It’s been wonderful.” 11:32 a.m. Kellner’s opponent Ben
Kallos voted for himself at P.S. 158 in the morning, but he will need a lot more votes from East Siders to win. “I’ve been getting an overwhelming positive response,” Kallos says. “A lot of voters are telling me they’re going to vote for me.” Is it because of the scandal? “I think we’ve run a really strong campaign,” he says. “They love the mailer my mother sent. And there’s an overall feeling of keeping the Albany culture of corruption out of City Hall.” 12:01 p.m. Time for a lunch break! The easiest decision of the day was to stop at Artie’s Deli in the middle of the Upper West Side. The second easiest decision was to order the matzo ball soup. Volunteers for Noah Gotbaum, Helen Rosenthal and Christine Quinn stop in for lunch throughout the day. None will talk on the record.
Jason Otaño and Diana Reyna 1:32 p.m. I receive the following text from Antonio Reynoso: “Tough to beat kittens.” 1:48 p.m. Ahh! P.S. 6: polling place to the stars. Mayor Bloomberg votes here. So does actor Anthony Edwards. And here comes former Gov. Eliot Spitzer ready to vote, presumably for himself. “Look, it’s Anthony Weiner!” says a woman entering the polling station. Several reporters point out that it’s Spitzer. “Oh, they all look alike at this point,” the woman says. Spitzer walks into the gym, signs in and smiles for the cameras. “They all want to know who I’m voting for,” he says. Who are you voting for—for mayor? “The winner,” Spitzer says. And for comptroller? “Undecided. You got an argument?” He votes, takes a few questions outside, says, “I feel great,” then runs into former Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, a Scott Stringer supporter, on the corner of Madison and 81st. And then he is gone.
2:03 p.m. Several reporters surround Bing, asking whom he is supporting. Bing points to his Scott Stringer sticker and says Stringer is the only candidate he is supporting. That’s interesting, because both Micah Kellner and Ben Kallos used to work for Bing. “I have professional relationships with many of the candidates, not just for mayor but also for Manhattan borough president and City Council.” Does it pain him that his former staffers are going up against each other for a Council seat? “That’s why I’m staying out of it,” he says. 4:02 p.m. – Christine Quinn has had a rough month. She has been sliding in the polls and is now locked in a battle to get into a runoff with mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson. I ask a Quinn campaign staffer what drugs the Speaker has been taking to keep her awake and sane throughout the day, for instance Klonopin. “Stop it,” the staffer says. Supporters have approached Quinn throughout the day, saying they are concerned about the outcome of the primary. But Quinn is focusing on the positives and greeting voters at new locations nearly every hour. “You want people to be invested,” she says outside a Fairway on Broadway and
ALL PHOTOS BY AARON SHORT
By AARON SHORT
Assemblyman Micah Kellner 75th Street. “Of course they’re concerned, it’s Primary Day.” Quinn would not entertain the possibility of a loss—for herself, for Stringer, whom she has backed against Eliot Spitzer, or for Reynoso, who is running against Vito Lopez. But what if Spitzer and Lopez do win? “Those are hypotheticals,” she says. “I believe Scott Stringer and Antonio Reynoso will win. And that’s the state of the primary.” 7:16 p.m. A dozen or so journalists wait for Eliot Spitzer at MIST Harlem, a swanky
POLITICS lounge on a busy stretch of 116th Street. Team Spitzer has herded the press into the backstage area, while Spitzer allies get drinks at the bar and try to relax in a side room. Reporters are not allowed to mingle with guests and ask how they are doing or why they are rooting for the ex-governor. Some go and mingle anyway. NY1 Albany correspondent Zack Fink is the only journalist I recognize. He’s busy doing sound checks as a mix of Aerosmith, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen plays in the background. Is that what Spitzer listens to pump himself up before an election? That can’t be right, but Fink says the candidate loves Springsteen. 8:15 p.m. So far only a trickle of Spitzer supporters have come into the bar, and the reporters are starting to get restless.
Councilwoman Reyna hugs a supporter and then greets me, saying Reynoso has won by 10 percent, unofficially. (He will ultimately win by 12 points, collecting just shy of 50 percent of the vote by the end of the night.) Inside the bar an even larger crowd is gathered, studying the results of other races as they flash across the screen, when Reynoso enters to a huge applause. Supporters begin hugging him as he makes his way through the mass to a droplevel stage and grabs the microphone. “We’re waiting for a few other important people to get here, but I wanted to let you know that we won,” he says, and the room erupts in cheers. “I couldn’t have done this without your help.” Reynoso drops the mic, heads into the crowd and pandemonium ensues. 10:42 p.m. I pull up to my final stop for the day, Lopez’s Democratic clubhouse in Bushwick, to find a small crowd of about two dozen campaign volunteers mingling on the street corner. One tells me Maritza Davila has won Lopez’s seat. Many Lopez loyalists are upset that he fell short. Reporters for the Times, Daily News and the Post are also waiting for Lopez to make an appearance, but he is nowhere to be found. A few minutes later Battaglia, Lopez’s
Eliot Spitzer With polls yet to close, the mood begins to darken. Win or lose, I am worried that the Spitzer party is going to end up like the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones. Perhaps it is time to check in on the Anthony Weiner Reality Show. 9:08 p.m. A gaggle of reporters are standing on the sidewalk outside Connolly’s Pub on 47th Street waiting for Weiner. They are not waiting inside, because Weiner’s sexting companion Sydney Leathers is standing outside the bar giving free interviews to anyone who asks. Weiner’s loquacious press secretary, Barbara Morgan, paces inside and outside the bar. Twenty minutes later, Weiner hasn’t revealed himself. 10:10 p.m. I leave the Weiner party and
Council Speaker Christine Quinn head to Antonio Reynoso’s primary party at The Woods, a Williamsburg bar, where an excited crowd has gathered outside.
Our Perspective Shared Prosperity Our Moral Obligation By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
orking people continue to feel the effects of 2008’s economic meltdown, even as some talk about recovery. Yet while many New York families continue to struggle just to survive, the very people whose unfettered greed was responsible for our economic woes have flourished.
In fact, 95 percent of the economic gains in the U.S. since 2009 have gone to the richest one percent of us. Millionaires and billionaires are recovering their losses and moving forward, but the great majority of Americans still live in a depressed economy. While it may be just like old times for the rich, many working people are earning less than ever. Working a full-time job was supposed to be a guarantee that someone could provide for their families. But now, despite working harder and generating greater productivity than ever before, many can’t even meet basic needs. In New York City, we have people who work two jobs, yet spend their nights in homeless shelters. It’s a moral outrage. People who work should be able to support themselves and their families. But they are faced with low pay, insufficient benefits, and erratic scheduling. They want to work, but they can’t get enough hours to earn a decent living.
Weiner sextmate Sydney Leathers, far left girlfriend and unofficial campaign manager, leaves the clubhouse with a few friends, thanking the reporters for their coverage. No one comments on the record. Over the next 90 minutes, Lopez campaign staffers head into the club, lean against the side of the building, leave and then return, unsure exactly what to do. Several volunteers tell reporters that Lopez has left for the night: We are waiting for nothing. I ask one volunteer why he’s still here. “I think we’re just venting,” he says. Linda Minucci, a district leader in a neighboring Assembly district, says Davila was crying earlier. I ask whether they were tears of joy for her victory or tears for Lopez’s defeat. “I think they were bittersweet tears,” she says. Someone asks me if I want to adopt one of Vito’s kittens. She takes down my phone number.
In New York City, we have people who work two jobs, yet spend their nights in homeless shelters.
This is a wealthy country, and that wealth continues to grow. But an obscene amount of wealth and power keeps going into too few hands. We need to change that. People shouldn’t be earning so little. When they work, they should not be condemned to lives of poverty. We need to fight to change a broken system where even full-time work is no guarantee of living above the poverty line. When our tax dollars are used to create part-time, minimum wage jobs which only serve to keep people in poverty, that is not real economic development. Real economic development means creating good jobs and building strong communities. The Wal-Mart and McDonald’s model — where corporations make billions by exploiting low-wage workers — hurts all of us. Economic prosperity is the proper goal for America, but it needs to be shared. The widening gap between rich and poor threatens economic security and stability for all of us, and it’s morally wrong. Only when we reverse this trend will we truly put our country back on the right path.
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www.rwdsu.org cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN
MEAT THE CANDIDATES
Two volunteers for City Council candidate Helen Rosenthal in front of Artie’s.
By AARON SHORT
n primary day, Upper West Siders were hungry for change— and their pastrami. Voters stopped by Artie’s Deli to nosh after they hit the polls to pick their favorite candidates. Turns out they preferred the offerings at Artie’s. “The Democratic Party is a disappointment to me all these years,” said Art Faiella, a Manhattan resident who voted for Republican candidate John Catsimatidis. “They’re much too far to the left, and I decided I might even switch parties. The whole ticket for me, they all lean socialist and leftist, and I’m not into that.” Several diners were shy about sharing whom they chose or would be pulling the lever for later. “Isn’t that a private thing?” one customer said. Others worked for campaigns and stopped in on their lunch breaks. Volunteers for Helen Rosenthal and Noah Gotbaum, candidates for the seat being vacated by City Councilwoman Gale 10
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Brewer, stopped in briefly to grab a sandwich to go, and a crew of Hotel Trades Council workers, whose union endorsed Christine Quinn, took up a table in the back. They declined to give their names or disclose whom they were personally supporting. But most diners said they picked one of the top three Democrats or top two Republicans in the race. Manhattan residents Réné and Grace Rivera, a married couple, were both voting for Bill de Blasio for mayor and Eliot Spitzer for city comptroller. “We feel like [de Blasio] is the better candidate for us,” Grace Rivera said. “We were going to go for Weiner until he blew up, and just decided that de Blasio is going to be our candidate.” Is that right, Réné? “Yeah, yeah, whatever she says,” he said. “She’s the boss.” Diane Woo, an Artie’s regular, picked Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Spitzer. “I think [Quinn]’s the most qualified of this whole lot … and I think [Spitzer]’s more qualified [than Scott Stringer]. He did a good job in his former job. He made mistakes in his private life, but that’s not
my business. I think he can do a better job.” Bill Peters, a Manhattan resident, chose Democrat Bill Thompson—to force a runoff. “I think Bill de Blasio would tax me mightily,” he said. “I think New York is the capital of the world. A lot of people who come to New York struggle to make ends meet. He wants to raise my taxes to pay for his agenda. I must say the field of candidates is very blah. I would have liked to see someone stand up for all that New York is and offers, and no true front-runner has come to mind. I don’t want de Blasio to be mayor.” Unlike several patrons, he picked Stringer for comptroller, albeit for personal reasons. “He spoke at my daughter’s fifth grade graduation and it warmed my heart,” Peters said. “It made me feel good. The dalliances of the Spitzers and Weiners are their business, but they are role models. I don’t want my kids to think that they can do what they want in their personal life and go to school and not think the two worlds won’t collide somehow.” Diane Kraus, another Artie’s regular, threw her lot in with Republican Joe Lhota
for more ominous reasons. “Because he will be most able to protect us from future 9/11s, which will be coming our way,” she said. At least they voted. Artie’s wait staff largely did not— despite months of talking through their thoughts on the candidates over the course of this series. Some were not registered. One waiter lived in Pennsylvania and commuted to work. Others simply chose not to. “I can vote, but I don’t do it,” Daniel Hernandez, a floor manager, said. “I don’t want to get involved in that.” The restaurant’s manager, Barry Orenstein, who had been converted from a Thompson to a de Blasio supporter, had the day off, but nonetheless was not planning to go to the polls. “Nah, I’m not going to vote,” he said. “I’m probably going to go home to my apartment and sleep.” Even the restaurant’s owner, Tuvia Feldman, said he wouldn’t vote, though if he did he would pick Spitzer. “I saw him on Fifth Avenue the other day,” he said. “If he wins, tell him I’ll make him a platter of pastrami. It’ll have even more than pastrami on it.”
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
CUNY Students Soar! More Award Winners Than Ever work closely with them to help them win scholarships that support both undergraduate and graduate study. Often this is one-on-one consultation, but help also comes from workshops on the writing of personal statements and in interview-practice sessions. Our scholarship coordinators help applicants put their best foot forward.” “I got an amazing amount of support from John Jay,” said Nicholas Montano, a senior in the CUNY Baccalaureate program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who won a rare Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the United Kingdom – only the sixth in CUNY history. “We discussed my application and how do I fill in the gaps of things I didn’t mention or highlight.” John Jay Director of Honors, Awards and Special Opportunities Litna McNickle started by alerting him to available scholarships. Professors and mentors at New York Needs You, the nonprofit where Montano interned, “helped sculpt my application.” With Marshall requiring two interviews – one just for finalists – Vielka Holness, director of the Pre-law Institute, helped with “multiple rounds of mock interviews and more informal conversations.” By Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary, Board of Trustees, CUNY
hen Ellen Leitman immigrated from the Eastern European country of Belarus six months before starting at Hunter College, she couldn’t have imagined that in a relatively short time she’d win three major scholarships and find herself in an M.D./Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School and Oxford University. She did it with the help of her Hunter mentors and advisers, who are part of the support system that helps outstanding students across the University obtain highly competitive and prestigious scholarships for undergraduate and graduate study year after year. In 2012, 16 CUNY students and alumni won National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships and 12 Fulbright grants for graduate study abroad. In recent years, 16 CUNY students have won Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, which Congress created to educate scientists, mathematicians and engineers; seven won Harry S. Truman Scholarships, a federal graduate-study program in public service fields; four won Rhodes Scholarships, the most celebrated international scholarship for graduate work at Oxford, and many more received other significant awards, with the advice and help of CUNY faculty and staff, This year, in 2013, the number of award recipients is growing: for example, a record 23 CUNY students and alumni won the coveted NSF $126,000 fellowships available for three years of academic study. According to CUNY Director of Student Academic Awards and Honors James Airozo, the University’s “students excel in the full spectrum of academic endeavor. Scholarship coordinators
Earlier in his undergraduate career, he attended the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership after the CUNY BA program nominated him. He also won the CUNY BA’s Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship. When he graduates this spring, Montano will head to England to begin two master’s degree programs over the next two years, one in research methods in social policy and sociology at the University of Liverpool, the other in criminal justice policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “The focus of my undergraduate degree is direct client work,” he said. He chose the twin master’s because “I lacked an understanding of how policy affects the individual before he enters the criminal justice system.” He intends to pursue a doctorate afterward. Many winners of prestigious scholarships graduated from New York City public high schools. For example, Kirk Haltaufderhyde (York College, B.S. in biotechnology, 2011), who attended Bayside High School, in 2012 won a $126,000 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue doctoral studies at Brown University into photoreceptors in the skin. Another NSF winner, Christie Anne Sukhdeo (City College, B.S. in biology, 2011), a graduate of Martin Van Buren High School, is using her grant to look at human-caused fragmentation of natural habitats in Madagascar in her doctoral research at the University of New Orleans. Pakistani immigrant Umussahar Khatri (Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, B.S. in mathematics, 2012) was one of four CUNY students (and 18 from other institutions) who won a highly competitive Math for America Fellowship last year. The privately funded fellowship will give each of them a stipend totaling $100,000 over and above their salaries during the first five years of their careers teaching in New York City’s
public secondary schools. That includes the year spent pursuing a tuition-free master’s degree in math education at City College of New York. She attended Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, where she earned college credit through CUNY’s College Now program. Ellen Leitman scored a trifecta. As a junior, she won a Goldwater Scholarship. The privately funded Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded her a research fellowship to the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA, during the summers following her sophomore and junior years. There, she explored the misregulation of proteins in neurodegenerative diseases. “That was the turning point for me,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘I have to do research. I can’t live without research.’” After she graduated in 2010, Leitman began an M.D./Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School, and in 2012 won a highly competitive Clarendon Fund Scholarship. It covers tuition and college fees, plus a generous allowance for living expenses at Oxford. With two years of medical school under her belt, she is now in the United Kingdom for three years of doctoral work, studying pediatric HIV in association with a research center in South Africa. She plans to return to Harvard to finish the two clinical years of medical school after earning her doctorate. CUNY’s other Clarendon winner, in 2011, was Kunchok Dolma, an immigrant from Nepal whose family came from Tibet. She was the valedictorian of Macaulay Honors College at Lehman College in 2009. As an undergraduate, in 2006 she received a Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, which seeks to increase students’ ability to make a difference in their own and other people’s lives. The Watson enabled her to have 10-week summer internships with the United Nation’s Population Fund in New York (2006), the New York State Supreme Court (2007) and the Tibetan government in exile (2008); the latter was in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives. She also won a prestigious internship as a New York City Urban Fellow in the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education (2010); these city-sponsored fellowships introduce students and graduates to local government and public service. With the Clarendon, she is pursuing a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford’s Balliol College. “I am very humbled and honored to be accepted,” Dolma said when she learned of the Clarendon Scholarship. With a reference to the people at CUNY who helped her win these prestigious awards, Dolma added: “I hope to live up to the expectations of my mother, my teachers, mentor, and my friends without whom this would not have been possible.” The Keys to Fort Knox: Scholarship Coordinators Each CUNY campus has designated a coordinator to help students apply for prestigious scholarships. If there’s a vacancy or the designee is not available, students can ask the dean of students’ office for help. Students also can contact CUNY Director of Student Academic Awards and Honors James Airozo at firstname.lastname@example.org. CUNY posts information on prestigious scholarships at www.cuny.edu/prestigious.
Senior Colleges • Baruch College, Valeria L. Hymas, Assistant Director, Zicklin Undergraduate Honors Program and Post-Graduate Fellowships Specialist, Valeria.Hymas@baruch.cuny.edu • Brooklyn College, Stephen Gracia, scholarship coordinator, email@example.com • City College of New York, Jennifer Lutton, scholarship coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org • College of Staten Island, Michele Galati, Center for Advising and Academic Success, Michele.email@example.com • Hunter College, Myrna Fader, advising services, firstname.lastname@example.org • John Jay College, Vielka Holness, scholarship coordinator, email@example.com • Lehman College, Lynne Van Voorhis, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and study abroad, firstname.lastname@example.org • Medgar Evers College, Evelyn Jacques, director of Scholarship Department, email@example.com • New York City College of Technology, Dr. Olliver Davis, director of scholarships and residency, firstname.lastname@example.org • Queens College, Ross Wheeler, director of honors and scholarships, email@example.com • York College, Brunilda Almodovar, scholarship coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org Community Colleges • Borough of Manhattan Community College, Sussie Gyamfi, scholarship and special services coordinator, email@example.com • Bronx Community College, Yvonne Erazo, scholarship coordinator, Yvonne.firstname.lastname@example.org • Hostos Community College, Irene Garcia Mathes, coordinator, global scholars and honors, email@example.com • Kingsborough Community College, Associate Provost Reza Fakhari, firstname.lastname@example.org • LaGuardia Community College, Karlyn Koh, honors director, email@example.com • Queensborough Community College, Ellen Hartigan, vice president for student affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org • The Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, Rebecca Hoda-Kearse, director of student engagement, email@example.com
cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
SANG HEE MA
WHAT’S A REPUBLICAN TO DO?
By JON LENTZ
n a city where Democrats have a 6-to-1 advantage in voter registration, what’s a Republican supposed to do? Voters in Bayside, Queens, deal with their minority status in many ways. Some register as Democrats to ensure that they have a say in key local primary races, then vote for Republicans in the general election. Other Republicans don’t bother voting at all. Still others hold their noses and cast their ballots for Democrats. This Primary Day, a number of Republican voters pointed out that neither the current mayor nor his predecessor were Democrats—although that remarkable streak may come to an end this year. “The last two mayors have been Republicans,” said Dan Dwyer, a personal money manager who has lived in Bayside for 35 years. “Bloomberg ran his first term as a Republican, and he’s an independent, but he did run as a Republican. And he is a Republican in fiscal matters and a Democrat in social matters, but I voted for him every time.” Dwyer, who consistently votes for 12
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Republicans, has nonetheless stayed registered in the Democratic Party, since Democratic candidates dominate most local races and he wants “to have a voice in that primary.” “I’m not all that uncommon,” he said. “And there are many, many people who are registered Democrats in areas like this who are Reagan Democrats. It’s really the man that you’re voting for, not the party. The party is only a slate. I would have moved out of here if someone like Dinkins got in again, because he was just a disaster.” In the primary election he voted for the Democratic mayoral candidate he thought was the least likely to win—City Comptroller John Liu—and he said that he plans to vote for Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee, in November. “I think de Blasio will increase taxes noticeably on the upper middle class and the higher income,” he said. “If you tax the rich too much, the people who really get burnt are the poor. It’s kind of crass to say this, but suddenly they fire the chauffeur and drive themselves. Or they do without a maid and get a cleaning service in.” “The Democratic Party has as its basic constituency the unions, the municipal unions in the city, and I just think that
fiscally they have to be controlled or contained,” he added. The primary race that Dwyer actually felt most strongly about was for city comptroller, because he considered one candidate, Eliot Spitzer, a figure who would be “ruinous” to the city, not just for his sexual escapades but also for his aggressive attacks on Wall Street. Pat Waters, a retired plumber who also lives in Bayside, said that he has voted in the past but didn’t like any of the candidates this year. He didn’t plan to vote in the primary, though he left open the possibility of voting in the general election. “I know them. I don’t like any one of them,” said Waters, who had nonetheless considered supporting one of the Republican candidates. “None of them inspires me.” An elementary school teacher who only gave her name as “Linda” said she felt strongly that government is getting too big, which is why she changed parties from Democrat to Republican. However, she was too busy to get to the polls on Primary Day. If she had, she would have voted for mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, a Democrat. “I’m a teacher, so I’m supporting—I
know it sounds weird—but I’m supporting Thompson,” she said. “He’s backed by the UFT. Otherwise I’m voting for conservatives.” She went on to say that she was disgusted with the Democratic Party, which she feels is too liberal and has destroyed the country. But she also complained about Bloomberg, a Republicanturned-independent, for his record on education. “At this point, it’s desperation,” she said of her support for Thompson. “And he seems a nice man—that’s not why you vote for someone, but hey, we need someone in our pocket.” One local candidate trying to rustle up some last-minute votes on Primary Day acknowledged that there are a lot of Democrats in the neighborhood who vote Republican. “There are certainly a number of conservative-leaning Democrats that, mostly, their tendencies are Republican tendencies, but they’re registered as Democrats,” said the candidate, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “Some of them vote in the primary, some of them don’t.”
MOTT HAVEN, THE BRONX
CANDIDATES GET MOTT HAVEN’S VOTES, BUT NOT ITS CONFIDENCE
LITTLE FAITH THAT POLITICIANS WILL MAKE GOOD ON CAMPAIGN PROMISES
By KATE PASTOR
n Thursday after the primary, Janet Greenberg—manager of Camaguey restaurant at East 138th Street and Brook Avenue in Mott Haven—took down Anthony Weiner and Adolfo Carrión campaign signs from the storefront window and replaced them with a new banner advertising lunch specials. Primary Day came and went without much fanfare at Camaguey. By Friday, some still hadn’t tuned in to the mayoral race. “Who won?” inquired Angel Vega, 28, when stopped outside the restaurant and asked about the outcome of the Democratic primary, which had not yet been decided. The Weiner sign in Camaguey’s window came courtesy of Awilda Cordero, whose boyfriend owns a barbershop on East 138th Street between Brook and Willis Avenues, and who campaigned enthusiastically for Weiner until the end. “The ones with their clothes on, they don’t do nothin’. Maybe him, he takes his clothes off, maybe he’ll do something for us,” said Noelia Rodriguez, 60, sitting outside the Judge Gilbert Ramirez Apartments polling site—less than a block from Camaguey—on East 138th Street on Primary Tuesday. She said she voted for Weiner and also
for City Council candidate Ralina Cardona, a Mott Haven resident who was among six candidates vying to unseat Melissa MarkViverito to lead District 8, which spans Mott Haven and East Harlem. According to results posted by The New York Times, incumbent Mark-Viverito prevailed with 35.2 percent (3,446 votes), while Cardona got 18 percent (1,765 votes), with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Four other candidates split the remaining votes. Camaguey lies in Assembly District 84, Election District 61, which was among those with no preliminary tally. According to New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez, that was because poll workers left the return of canvass blank. After votes cast by lever machine were counted over the weekend, Vazquez said the results showed 36 people got behind Bill de Blasio for mayor, 31 cast ballots for Bill Thompson, 14 voted for Christine Quinn and 12 supported Weiner. For City Council, Mark-Viverito came out ahead in the 61st District with 26 votes, while 20 people voted for Ed Santos and 13 supported Mott Haven’s own Cardona. The 61st came out strong for Eliot Spitzer in the race for comptroller, casting 54 votes for him, more than double the 18 votes pulled in by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. received 72 votes, trouncing oppo-
nent Mark Escoffery-Bey, who received a mere six votes, Vazquez said. Díaz won a decisive victory for Bronx borough president in the primary. Spitzer won most Bronx election districts, though he lost citywide to Stringer. While she expressed some affection for “Anthony” and de Blasio, Camaguey’s Greenberg stuck to her rule of abstaining from local elections. “I just vote for the president; that’s it,” she said. “They’re all the same. They say so many things, and then they do the same thing.” She shook her head knowingly when regular Vicente Mino, 69, stopped in for something to eat and vented his frustration with politics. “They never ever come around the neighborhood ever. None of them,” he said. “If they want our vote, come to the neighborhood,” he said. “They never ever come—except Jimmy Carter—to the Bronx.” Even among those who did cast ballots, there was deep skepticism. When asked outside the Ramirez Apartments polling place whether he had voted, José Ortega, 55, said, “Unfortunately.” “None of them convince me,” he said. For mayor Ortega said he voted for Quinn, and while he supported Cardona for Council, he said he hoped whoever won would bring more youth services to the
neighborhood. “They have no center to go to. They have no place to go to,” he said. For others, the significance of Election Day was less about the issues and more about their pocketbooks. Along with a short stint of blaring vehicles and electioneering, the primary brought much-needed jobs to the area, even if just for a day. Blocks away from Camaguey, campaigners eagerly waited in line for their pay at Cardona headquarters as polls closed. One man said he was too busy working to cast his ballot in the same district. Joe Green, 37, who was helping his mother serve food at Camaguey on Friday, said he made $100 for a half day’s work electioneering and cast his vote for the man who put money in his pocket. “I did work on the voting for John Catssomething,” he said. “I just did it for the pay; that’s why I voted for him,” he said. He did not vote for any other candidates on the ballot. A few interviewed in and around the restaurant Friday said they voted for Thompson and supported him staying in the race for a runoff. But Charlie Garcia, 71, having voted for “the white guy,” said Thompson should bow out. The former comptroller did just that the following Monday. cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
VAN DYKE HOUSES
LAST-MINUTE CHOICES ON PRIMARY DAY IN BROWNSVILLE
LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FOR CANDIDATES QUIETS VOTERS
By JARRETT MURPHY
n most election days, when the residents of her building and a few surrounding blocks head to the Van Dyke Senior Center on Dumont Street to vote, Lisa Kenner is out in front of the polling site with a bullhorn, urging her neighbors to vote. But last Tuesday Kenner left her amplification at home. None of the candidates had excited her enough to shout. “I liked Weiner because he had good ideas and stuff,” Kenner said as she sat outside the polling place, a slow trickle of voters heading in and out. “He had the nerve to call me, and I had the nerve to stay on the phone,” she added, referring to a so-called telephone town hall in which she participated. But Weiner’s Twitter transgressions couldn’t be forgotten. “When you run for office, you can’t have a blemish like that.” Kenner wouldn’t say whom she voted for in the mayor’s race, but she strongly hinted that she supported the incumbent in the contest for district attorney. “You know what you’ve got,” she said of Charles Hynes, who was defeated after 23 years 14
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in office by Kenneth Thompson. “You don’t know what you’re getting. Hynes has implemented programs that would change people’s lives, if they used them. Who’s Ken Thompson? I’d never heard of him.” While other voters interviewed were less ambivalent than Kenner, most said they hadn’t come to the polls with a strong sense of whom they’d support. “I’ve been seeing those four people on TV for the last few months,” said Ann Simmons, who has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years. “I really decided when I got into the booth.” Asked if she was typically a last-minute decider, Simmons said no. “I really had never heard of Bill de Blasio until this campaign started. I think his family intrigues me a little bit. But at the end of the day that wasn’t as important as I thought it was.” For Simmons, the most important issue is education. “The schools are very important to me,” she said. “My kids made it. But then there are some kids—the ones not making it—that could have been my kids.” Robin Alexander also didn’t make up her mind until she’d closed the voting machine curtain. Why had it taken her so long to choose? “I think it’s just the fact that you’re not sure who you pick is going
to really do what they’re saying.” The important thing to Alexander wasn’t the difference in the candidates’ platforms, but the extent to which she felt she could trust any of them. For her, the most critical task for the next mayor is “making sure people are able to get a job and not just be on welfare forever.” A Department of Education employee, Alexander also wants the mayor to “just make sure the public schools are run correctly. Get books, so teachers don’t have to go out of pocket.” Doris, who sat with one arm leaning on her walker and didn’t provide her last name, had her own method for picking a candidate. “I was looking at who was in front of who, how the percentages were on TV. That helped me a little bit,” she said. “I voted for who was ahead.” She added, “I intended to vote for him anyway.” A woman came bounding out of the building having voted, waving goodbye to friends. Two minutes later she strode back with a younger woman in tow. “Her vote counts, right?” she asked the ladies on the benches outside. “Right, right,” they replied. A few minutes later a beaming Calvin Davis said, “I’m telling y’all, Bill Thompson! He’s gonna go all the way.”
“I’m not a registered voter, but my homegirl did [vote for Thompson],” said Davis, adding that he is planning on registering but hasn’t yet. The question he thinks candidates must answer is “Who’s going to clean up the streets?” “I’d just try to vote for the Democrat, because they stand for something good. Republicans stand for white people— making them richer,” Davis continued. He wants to see programs and centers for young people. “This place is bad,” he said, gesturing to the neighborhood, which he said was home to a lot of crime and many negative people. He used to sell drugs himself. “After a while it makes you want to change because you see so much bad out here,” he said. According to preliminary results, Bill Thompson did not go all the way, even at the Van Dyke Senior Center. The election district covering Kenner’s building went for de Blasio by a 51 to 29 percent margin (followed by Weiner at 9 percent, Liu at 6 percent and Quinn at 5 percent). The total for all three election districts that poll at the senior center was 42 percent de Blasio, 39 percent Thompson, followed by Weiner at 8 percent, Liu at 6 percent and Quinn at 5 percent.
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
TOTTENVILLE, STATEN ISLAND W’S BAR & RESTAURANT
ON PRIMARY NIGHT, TEPID INTEREST IN MAYOR’S RACE; NO LOVE FOR SPITZER
By NICK POWELL
he polls have closed in Tottenville on Primary Day, and this sleepy town is a couple of ticks from being unconscious. The only signs of life come from the dingy strip mall on Amboy Road, where the neon signs in W’s windows are now obstructed by wooden fences marking the pending arrival of a brand new Walgreens and a redevelopment of this commercial corridor. Entering W’s this evening, one would never guess an election is underway. All five of the bar’s television monitors are switched to the Mets or the Yankees game; a group of young men and women sit at the far end of the bar, discussing everything but politics; throbbing club music blares from the sound system; a group of men gather in W’s dining area for their weekly darts tournament. On a day of woefully low voter turnout in New York City, this blissful political ignorance is hardly surprising. An unofficial tally of the W’s patrons who spoke with City & State found that three of the roughly 20 people at the bar had cast a ballot in the primary election. Despite this low count, most of the patrons know enough about the major candidates at this juncture of the election cycle to have fully formed opinions. I first approach Mike, an affable attorney taking a break from the dart game to down a cold one. Mike did not vote in the primary, but for a good reason—he’s a registered independent, meaning he has to wait until the general election in November to cast his
ballot. Initially a supporter of Anthony Weiner before his candidacy went off the rails, Mike said that he would likely go with whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary. “I would probably go for…oh, what’shis-face, the fellow who’s got the son with the Afro…de Blasio, probably go for de Blasio,” Mike said, proving that de Blasio’s popular campaign advertisement featuring his son, Dante, had its intended effect. “I typically vote Democrat, and he’s likely to be the Democratic front-runner. I tend to vote along party lines.” I press Mike on the other citywide races. Despite his initial attraction to Weiner, he’s no fan of Eliot Spitzer, the comptroller candidate—like Weiner, a man with well-documented personal infidelities. When he asks if there is a borough president candidate, I inform him Councilman Jimmy Oddo is running to replace the term-limited James Molinaro. “Oddo’s running for borough president? Molinaro’s retiring? Really? God, I haven’t even followed it. I wouldn’t vote for him.” Mike cited the overdevelopment in the borough as the primary reason he wouldn’t vote for Oddo. He fears that Oddo would be a continuation of Molinaro and his predecessor, Guy Molinari. “It has to do with being a longtime Staten Island resident. I used to live in Westchester County; you can see how much of a better job they did in terms of the way they planned out the zoning. If he’s following the steps of Molinari and Molinaro, we tend to blame those people for that.” Mike summons one of his darts team-
mates, a firefighter named Keith with sleeve tattoos on his arms, to join our conversation. Keith, a member of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, voted on the company line, settling on the union’s preferred candidate, Democrat Bill Thompson, despite being a Republican himself. Keith said the union bundles together ballots for all its members and then mails them in. Keith sounded far from enthused at having to keep in lockstep with union leadership. “That’s what the union’s telling us. They said he’s gonna keep firehouses open, job security, things like that, is what it really came down to—that’s why I voted for him,” he said. “I would vote for Quinn, though. I don’t think Thompson’s gonna win anyway.” Tottenville—and Staten Island as a whole—trends more conservative, and though many of the folks at W’s were Republicans, several had decided against voting, most citing the Democrats’ overwhelming voter registration advantage as the obstacle to getting a Republican mayor elected. “Not voting seems un-American, so I vote,” said Adam, an engineer for the city Department of Design and Construction and a Republican who in fact did not vote in the primary. “But when was the last time a Republican won anything in New York?” Paul, a white-haired, bespectacled “house dad” (“It doesn’t pay very well, but the benefits are good,” he said of his profession) echoed Adam’s sentiment. A Republican who declined to vote in the primary but said he would likely support Joe Lhota if he won the GOP nomination,
Paul acknowledged it would take extraordinary circumstances for either Lhota or John Catsimatidis to become mayor. “The only way [a Republican mayor would be elected] is if it were another [former mayor David] Dinkins-afterGiuliani thing, where he just loses control of the city and the crime rate goes so high,” he said. When it comes to the comptroller’s race, however, Paul was firmly against the idea of Spitzer, though he was not able to vote in that race. Paul called Scott Stringer “as good a candidate as anybody at this point,” and deemed Spitzer untrustworthy and a poor fit for public office given his personal history. “I find it difficult to vote for a candidate that already betrayed the public trust,” Paul said. “He put himself in with some people that could have extorted him, people that could have put him in a compromising position. You’d like to think it’s as simple as dipping your wick, but it could get worse.” Before leaving the bar for the evening, I interrupt the darts game by asking the group of men, ranging from ages 28 to 60, judging by their appearances, for a show of hands as to who had voted. After an uncomfortably long silence and some hard stares in my direction, a burly African-American raised his hand. “I voted for Quinn,” he said. Another man in the group, likely speaking for the majority, said to me with an incredulous tone, “We had things to do today, man.” cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
By NICK POWELL AND JON LENTZ
Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota in front of City Hall, describing the events of September 11, when he was first deputy mayor for operations under Rudy Giuliani.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
COVER oe Lhota was sitting at his desk one September morning when a thunderous noise broke the silence and shook the windows of his office. Lhota, then the top deputy to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, dashed out onto the front steps of City Hall and looked up. Flames had engulfed a gash in the side of the World Trade Center’s north tower. Immediately he pulled out his cell phone and called a police detective traveling with the mayor. “I said to her, before he picked up, ‘How close are you to the mayor?’ ” Lhota recounted. “And she said, ‘About 10 feet away.’ And I said, ‘You better get a little bit closer. We have a major problem.’ ” Without stopping to put on his jacket, Lhota then rushed the few short blocks from City Hall to the World Trade Center. Amid the confusion he started directing traffic, clearing the way for ambulances and fire trucks. When the police commissioner saw him in the street, he asked Lhota what he was doing. “I’m doing what your guy should be doing,” Lhota said. “I’m trying to get traffic out of here.” Minutes later, a second jet slammed into the south tower, raining glass and metal on the street below. It was then that Lhota knew that the crashes had been no accident. When Giuliani arrived at the scene, Lhota quickly briefed him on what was happening. “It’s really, really bad, mayor,” Lhota said. “It’s really bad.” “When I got out of my van and arrived at Ground Zero, the first person I saw was Joe Lhota,” Giuliani said. “The first person who walked up to me was Joe Lhota, and I looked in his eyes, and that morning I spent most of my time evaluating who of my staff could handle it, and who couldn’t. I looked into Joe Lhota’s eyes, I saw eyes of steel, and it remained that way for five months. He’s been tested.” The searing experience fits neatly into Lhota’s case that he is the best-qualified candidate to be New York City’s next mayor. But drawing attention to his résumé as a key player in the Giuliani administration is a careful balancing act for the Republican nominee. Along with the dramatic gains in public safety and robust economic growth, not to mention the accolades for its response to the attacks of September 11, the Giuliani administration was marked by poor race relations, a blatant disregard for the First Amendment and complaints about the city’s budgets. And with another promising candidate, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, recently felled by her ties to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lhota is doing all he can to paint himself as his own man, to show that he is not Giuliani 2.0. The degree to which he is able to thread the needle—to claim the benefits of his experience, without its baggage—will help determine whether he follows in the footsteps of his old boss. “Giuliani is the classic double-edged sword,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor at
Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs. “On one end of the sword, it’s those folks who remember both his mayoralty and 9/11 as favorable, and therefore that would be a help. But a much larger number of people, more active, more committed, more extensive—particularly African-Americans and other nonwhites like Latinos—don’t look on Giuliani very fondly. It’s going to attract some people and it’s going to repel some people, but I would think it would repel more than it attracts.”
he morning before
the final Republican mayoral primary debate earlier this month, a crowd of supporters and reporters gathered at Lhota’s headquarters, a 15th floor office space in midtown Manhattan with light blue walls pasted over with maps of marked up Assembly districts and campaign posters. After huddling in a back room, Lhota and Giuliani emerged and strode to the podium. Giuliani tore into the Democratic contenders, painting them as taxand-spend liberals who were weak on crime and beholden to special interests. Under the last Democratic mayor, David Dinkins, the city lost half a million jobs, and 2,000 people were murdered each year he was in office, Giuliani claimed. “We made New York City, from the most dangerous city in America—‘The Rotting of the Big Apple’ on the head of Time magazine—to the safest large city in America, and it came from intelligent, tough police policies,” Giuliani said. “Every one of these Democratic candidates will destroy policing as we know it, started by me and continued by Mayor Bloomberg, started by [former NYPD Commissioner] Bill Bratton and continued by [current NYPD Commissioner] Ray Kelly.” In his long-shot bid for mayor, Lhota is looking to assume the mantle of public safety passed from Giuliani to Bloomberg by emphatically defending the NYPD and its controversial “stop, question and frisk” policy, which has become a flashpoint in the campaign. This summer a federal judge ruled against the city in a lawsuit over the controversial practice, and the City Council voted to override Bloomberg’s veto of legislation installing a NYPD inspector and making it easier to sue for racial profiling. “With all the great work that’s been done in this city in dropping crime almost 75 percent over the last 20 years, what do they do? They blame the NYPD!” Lhota said at the pre-debate press conference. “It’s completely backwards. The men and women of the NYPD should be applauded, they shouldn’t be handcuffed. That’s what they’ve gotten a federal
judge to do, and that’s exactly what the City Council has done in overriding the mayor’s veto regarding an inspector general and various other bills, the Community Un-Safety Act, as I call it.” Lhota’s argument is based on statistics—90 percent of the stops were found to be constitutional, while only 5 percent were unconstitutional, according to an analysis by NYU’s Brennan Center, a critic of the NYPD—that Lhota says demonstrate that the police are overall doing a good job. The solution, he said, is to engage New Yorkers on the need for stopand-frisk and to better explain why it is legal. Yet when Lhota touts the strong public safety gains made during his time serving in the Giuliani administration, he skips over a string of controversies and reports about Giuliani’s failure to nurture ties with black leaders. When Giuliani took office, he hired only two African-Americans as part of his 30-member executive staff at City Hall. He dumped offices set up as liaisons to minority communities. A program to award city contracts to minority-owned companies was dropped. The most glaring examples of poor race relations were the result of actions taken by the NYPD. Abner Louima, a Haitian, was sodomized in a police station after he was misidentified and wrongfully apprehended. Giuliani assembled a task force to evaluate the 1997 incident, but dismissed the group’s findings after he was re-elected to a second term. Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, was shot 41 times by NYPD officers in the Bronx after reaching into his pocket for his wallet. The 1999 shooting death prompted demonstrations by Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rev. Floyd Flake and others—protests Giuliani dismissed as “silly.” In 2000 another Haitian, Patrick Dorismund, was approached by an undercover officer trying to instigate a drug buy. Dorismund rebuffed the request, got into a fight with him, and was shot in the chest and killed by another officer. Giuliani responded by releasing Dorismund’s juvenile record. Fernando Ferrer, who served as Bronx borough president during the Giuliani years and worked closely with Lhota when he was chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, indicated that Giuliani’s record on race relations could be an albatross for Lhota in the general election. “Very frankly, not only can I not vouch for Rudy Giuliani’s brand of race relations, but I roundly criticized them for a very long time—and that [Lhota] was a part of that administration is going to be a problem for him,” Ferrer said. Lhota, who was a largely behindthe-scenes figure in the administration, declined to comment about Giuliani’s record on race, but there is some evidence that he was an important diplomatic link
between the administration and black and other minority leaders. Ferrer called Lhota “one of the adults” in “Giuliani world” when Lhota was first named by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to head the MTA. As chairman of the MTA’s diversity committee during Lhota’s time at the helm of the authority, Ferrer said he witnessed firsthand that Lhota was “very sensitive and very responsive” to issues of race and diversity. “On hiring goals and inclusion goals for the Authority, operating presidents generally reported these things but buried them very deep in their reports,” Ferrer said. “When I went to [Lhota] on the subject, [I wanted them to] return to making full reports on [diversity hiring goals and inclusion] at their committees and then report back to the diversity committee. He agreed, and that was a very important step. He told the bosses, ‘This is important, the chairman and the board says so.’ ” Rep. Charles Rangel also vouched for Lhota, which is significant given Rangel’s stature as an African-American leader. “He has been a decent person during the contact I’ve had with him, professionally with Giuliani and the MTA, and there’s no question we have a very good relationship,” Rangel said. Former elected officials, such as then Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and then Public Advocate Mark Green, both Democrats, have praised Lhota as a less partisan negotiator who could make deals despite the roadblock of Giuliani’s confrontational style. Lhota has sought to play up his openness by offering to sit down with any individual or interest in the city, including those that have been historically adversarial toward Republican candidates. While he has no shot at garnering an endorsement from Rev. Al Sharpton, a black leader who clashed fiercely and famously with Giuliani, Lhota made a point of meeting with him at Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters in Harlem after he secured the Republican nomination for mayor. Both men were evasive as to what topics they discussed during their meeting, but Sharpton indicated that he did not view Lhota’s candidacy purely as a reflection of the Giuliani administration. “I don’t want to get into a comparison of anybody,” Sharpton said. “Obviously Mr. Lhota worked for Mr. Giuliani, I’m not here to take shots … He’s got to campaign, and I’m not going to make him have to explain anything, and he’s not doing that to me. Everybody knows my views on Mr. Giuliani and his on me.” Sharpton added that while he and Lhota differ on stop-and-frisk, there are areas where he felt they could find common ground, such as education and affordable housing. Sharpton also declared that Lhota had agreed to speak on these particular issues in an open forum with the National Action Network and other organizations prior to the general election. cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
COVER SEPTEMBER 11 ormer Giuliani staffers offer only praise of Lhota— who served in the administration as finance commissioner, budget director and, starting in 1998, as deputy mayor for operations—especially during the September 11 attack and its aftermath. They say that he played an essential role in restoring the city’s services, and was critical to ensuring that its most basic and vital needs were met, such as the importation of food and garbage pickup. A City Hall insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, asserted that Lhota’s work at Ground Zero
was the probable cause of the cancer he contracted in 2005. The disease is now in remission. “[Lhota] was superb, everybody knows it,” the insider said. “He spent a lot of time [at Ground Zero] and he got cancer. Who knows, but one assumes it’s highly likely he got it from that.” While the Giuliani administration’s handling of 9/11 was widely praised, its preparation prior to the attack has drawn some criticisms. The attack exposed glaring deficiencies in the Fire Department’s communications system, even though it had previously been identified as a problem area that needed to be addressed after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Repeaters were installed in the Twin Towers to improve communications after 1993, but they didn’t function when the buildings were hit, leaving some firefighters unable to hear the orders to evacuate one of the towers before it collapsed. Other complaints have been raised about the lack of coordination between police and firefighters on September 11, the haphazard and uncoordinated rush to the scene by emergency personnel and the city’s decision to locate its emergency command center at 7 World Trade Center, even though the site had been a terrorist target in 1993, and despite opposition 18
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
from the NYPD. The command center was demolished in the attacks. “My responsibilities were making sure that the city was up and running,” Lhota said in response to questions about emergency preparedness on September 11 during the final Republican debate. “The communications system that was in place between the Police Department and the Fire Department—and then the Fire Department with the brave men who were in the buildings, did not work—did not work because the repeaters in the buildings were destroyed when the airplanes hit. That has been changed in a lot of tall buildings. We’ve learned a lot from that.” Lhota added that the Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Reserve Bank’s Open Market Committee were all housed at 7 World Trade Center, which he described as the most secure building in the city at the time. “Monday morning quarterbacking is a weird thing,” Lhota said. “No one ever expected terrorists to actually take two airliners and drive them into buildings across the street. Look, I stand by everything I’ve ever done. I stand by the decisions that I have always made. That’s me. I stand by it.” In the debate, Lhota’s opponent John Catsimatidis, whom Lhota would go on to defeat in the primary, seized on accusations that the city was inadequately prepared for the attacks to criticize him. “They had the ability to fix those phones from 1993 to the year 2000, and it took them seven years to change the phone system. Wrong,” Catsimatidis said.
FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES
hen Rudy Giuliani
initially made a name for himself as a hardcharging federal prosecutor, he expressed reverence for the First Amendment. But as mayor he became known for his disregard for free speech. His administration lost more than two dozen lawsuits to the New York Civil Liberties Union, some tied to police practices. The mayor even demanded that a New York Magazine ad, which promoted the publication as “Possibly the only good thing Rudy hasn’t taken credit for,” be removed from city buses. He lost a lawsuit over the ad. Where Lhota comes into the picture is during the Giuliani administration’s highly publicized attempt to shut down the Brooklyn Museum over its exhibition of a controversial piece of artwork depicting the Virgin Mary covered with dung. At the time Lhota famously cited his “8-year-old rule.” “I would not want my daughter to see a naked man, a statue or a caricature or a painting,” he said. “That was the first time I really focused in on Lhota,” said Norman Siegel, who was
head of the NYCLU at the time. “The quote about his 8-year-old daughter—it was unbelievable. You couldn’t believe somebody would be making a comment like that. Not that I would advise anybody, but I would advise de Blasio … ‘Point that stuff out over and over again.’ ” Lhota now says that in hindsight he would have approached the controversial piece of artwork differently and negotiated with the museum rather than publicly blasting the piece. “In this particular case, we thought using city tax dollars to defame someone’s religion was wrong,” Lhota explained. “The federal judge informed us differently. I’ve said this over and over again, I will continue to fund cultural institutions in this city on an unrestricted basis, and that my role as mayor is letting anybody and everybody to express their First Amendment rights.” Siegel conjectured that Giuliani himself had been the driving force behind his administration’s various other First Amendment lawsuits, but maintained nonetheless that Lhota would have to own up to the lapses of an administration he had served so loyally. “I think that when you’re a deputy mayor in an administration, you have to be held accountable for that administration’s decision-making, because ultimately you could have either dissented or resigned,” Siegel said. “There are people who decide, ‘This is not what I want to be a part of.’ The Brooklyn Museum was towards the end, and he showed his colors on that one. He was prepared to censor artwork and close down the museum. There’s no more blatant censorship than that, and Lhota was one of his people out front on that one. I don’t think New Yorkers are going to feel comfortable with someone who was prepared to shut down a museum because they didn’t like the artwork there. What about books? What about films?” Asked to evaluate the Giuliani administration’s record on First Amendment issues, Lhota responded that he was not a lawyer.
running in either party that has the kind of experience Joe has,” Giuliani told the crowd at the pre-debate pep talk. “Joe has been in government, Joe has been in the private sector. In the private sector he specialized in government and municipal finance. Boy, do we need that right now. We’ve got a city that owes a lot more money that it takes in.” It was Lhota’s business experience that initially paved his way into public service. The son of a NYPD lieutenant, Lhota was born in the Bronx and left the city to study business at Georgetown University. After
graduating in 1976 he went to Harvard Business School, where he got his MBA in 1980. He then spent 14 years as an investment banker, originally at Paine Webber and then at First Boston, specializing in the financing of infrastructure and lowand moderate-income housing. He served as an adviser to Giuliani on budgetary issues in his failed campaign for mayor in 1989, and when Giuliani won his rematch with Dinkins four years later, Lhota joined the administration as chief of staff to John Dyson, the incoming deputy mayor for economic development. Sources with knowledge of the Giuliani administration say that Lhota was the ultimate team player—described as loyal but always willing to speak his mind—which helped fuel his swift ascent in City Hall. He became finance commissioner in 1994, budget director a year later, and finally was named deputy mayor of operations in 1998 as Giuliani’s second term in office was getting underway. “His rise from the office of John Dyson all the way to the top position of deputy for operations was not a surprise,” said the City Hall insider. “He’s very high quality, a very good manager and a very good team player. He’s the kind of guy when you work in an organization and everybody is competitive with each other, he’s the one whose promotion everybody feels comfortable about.” Still, Lhota’s time as budget director did incur some criticism, most notably from the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group. In 1998 Lhota touted the city’s ability to withstand a potential collapse on Wall Street, stating vaguely that the city’s “fiscal discipline” and spending cuts, as well as the diversity of the city’s revenues, would help keep the economy strong. Ray Horton, the president of the CBC at the time, countered Lhota’s claim, arguing that the revenues generated from the Wall Street boom were being used to plug multibillion-dollar gaps in the city budget. This view was echoed by then State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who supported Giuliani’s proposal at the time to patch short-term budget gaps with the surplus instead of spending it but cautioned that the city was failing to use the boom to tackle long-term economic problems, including retiring some of its $32 billion in debt. Horton’s proposed remedy of lengthening the workweek of city employees by two hours to 37 to save the city millions of dollars was mocked by Lhota. Displaying some of his trademark bluntness, he quipped: “You would get a better budget analysis by turning on the Psychic Friends Network.” Chuck Brecher, then the CBC’s consulting research director, remembers another testy episode involving Lhota at the time, which he attributes to Lhota’s having taken issue with the organization’s public analysis that savings the administration claimed it had achieved through
settlements with labor unions were being misrepresented, and were in fact only short-term. “Most notorious from our point of view was when the administration was trying to discourage people from supporting CBC and participating in our annual dinner. That was not a position you like to be in, but it wasn’t terribly effective,” Brecher said. “[Lhota] was a point person in reaching out to people to try and say, ‘Don’t participate in the dinner.’ ” Horton, now a professor at Columbia University’s business school, downplayed the tension with Lhota as not atypical given the CBC’s role in city government, however. “We had disagreements in the course of [Lhota’s tenure as budget director], but you know that’s par for the course with the Citizens Budget Commission,” Horton said. “Mayors have thin skins, budget directors have thin skins, so when they get criticized, they get protective.”
PATH TO VICTORY o how does
Lhota win the mayoralty in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1? Most political analysts characterize his chances as slim, given not just the registration disadvantage he faces but also his fundraising difficulties and lack of an organization to build upon. Nonetheless, there are some who remain optimistic, insisting that Lhota’s experience and skill as a manager and ability to navigate city government will resonate with the electorate, and provide a compelling contrast to his Democratic opponent, Bill de Blasio. “The way you connect here is this is a ‘real choice’ election, a choice between two completely different people and two different philosophies,” said Ed Cox, the chairman of the state Republican Party. “The most important thing for a mayor to be able to do is run the city: make sure the garbage gets picked up on time, make sure the NYPD do their policing the way they should, make sure the firemen have the resources they need and are properly managed. Joe has proven he can do that. He has managed the city, from managing the finances of the city, from managing the budget of the city and managing the city as first deputy mayor, particularly when the city was under the terrible crisis of 9/11.” Cox noted that the city has not elected a Democratic mayor since 1989, though that fact belies the circumstances under which Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg were elected. Giuliani, who narrowly lost the mayoralty before he came back four years later to win it—establishing significant name recognition in the process— ultimately prevailed amid an environment when crime was rampant and he had the high profile of an intrepid federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney to convince
the city’s voters he had the fortitude and know-how to restore order. Bloomberg, who was trailing badly in the polls throughout most of his first campaign, was undoubtedly aided in his victory by the mighty endorsement of “America’s mayor”—as Giuliani was heralded at the time—as the city reeled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He also had the tremendous advantage of bottomless pockets, which enabled him to spend an unprecedented amount of money on his campaign. Many observers contend that Lhota would have to be the beneficiary of some other extraordinary occurrence between now and Election Day for him to be able to defeat de Blasio. “The city is much different demographically and politically then it was when Rudy ran in ’93 and ’97, and when Mike Bloomberg ran in 2001. It’s even different than when Mike Bloomberg ran in 2005,” Muzzio said. “That different place is more Bill de Blasio’s turf than it is Joe Lhota’s turf in terms of where the votes will come from. The second thing is money. … Lhota’s got to convince Republican money folks that he’s got a shot to win.” Lhota does not just need a significant cash infusion for his candidacy to be viable—he needs it quickly. With fewer than six weeks remaining in the campaign, he has less than half the cash on hand that de Blasio has, according to estimates. Though some members of the business community are wary of the prospect of a Mayor de Blasio, particularly considering the emphasis throughout his campaign on raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, there are limits to the amount they can contribute directly to Lhota, as a result of recently enacted federal regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank law, which limit what companies and financial firms that do business with the city—a large number on Wall Street—can contribute. Lhota instead will likely have to rely on independent expenditures from outside groups. Already there are reports that billionaire David Koch has poured thousands of dollars into an independent spending group, New Yorkers for Proven Leadership, which has run ads backing Lhota. However, with Koch so inextricably linked to right-wing causes, whatever financial support he provides to Lhota will likely be offset to a degree by a backlash at its source, possibly repelling moderate Democratic and independent voters. Lhota has already begun to distance himself from Koch’s spending, saying he had “no idea” what independent expenditures Koch was making on his behalf and that he had nothing to do with his efforts. While a windfall of independent expenditures could help Lhota narrow the fundraising gap, de Blasio also has a deep well of money from organized labor from which to draw upon to ensure his victory. Fundraising aside, Lhota will have to form a powerful and persuasive connec-
tion with hundreds of thousands of voters before November 5 to overcome the massive 40-some point deficit he is currently suffering in public polls of the race—a task that is likely to prove very difficult for Lhota, a first-time candidate who is not a natural retail politician nor a particularly gifted orator. Lhota’s penchant for off-the-cuff, sometimes controversial remarks garnishes his reputation as lacking the polish typically associated with powerful public officials. In an MTA board meeting last year, he reportedly challenged a fellow board member, 77-year old Charles Moerdler, to “be a man!” after Moerdler took issue with a proposal to decrease the number of board meetings. When Moerdler “respectfully” stood by his plan, Lhota continued to antagonize him, saying the “respect is not mutual.” Lhota also made the mistake of referring to police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as “nothing more than mall cops,” which his primary opponents seized upon, and also sparked an angry response from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority. “It’s not easy to go from all these good jobs he’s had to going out in public and running and being political and having a political persona,” said the City Hall
insider. “De Blasio has been doing this for 15, 20 years … It takes a while to work that through and get that feel.” Then again, a colorful personality can sometimes distract from an elected official’s ability to do his or her job. One day during a protracted budget negotiation at City Hall when he was with the Giuliani administration, Lhota wandered off and went up to the attic, where he found a portrait of the dapper Jimmy Walker, the flamboyant former mayor of New York City who was forced out of office by a corruption scandal. Lhota took the portrait and put it up outside his office, he recalled—“for the sole reason that I wanted everybody to understand that he is exactly what you’re not supposed to do every day. I had him out there as an example.” As for the mayors Lhota does consider exemplary, he started his list with La Guardia, Koch, Giuliani and Bloomberg, but quickly noted that each of them had his own pluses and minuses. “It’s very strange how people want to say what mayor they’re going to be like,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be their own mayor. Every one of the mayors going back to the beginning of New York City has been unique and different, as will I be when I’m mayor.” cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
Grading The Grid
OFFICIALS EXPLORE OPTIONS TO MAKE NEW YORK’S ELECTRIC GRID MORE RELIABLE
From left: City & State’s Jon Lentz; Michael Delaney, NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; State Sen. Kevin Parker; NRG VP Ray Long; NY AREA Chairman Jerry Kremer; and NYC DEP COO Kathryn Garcia
By JON LENTZ
early a year ago Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York City and Long Island, causing billions of dollars in damage, shutting down mass transit systems and leaving over 2 million people without power. The natural disaster also raised increasingly pressing questions about the resiliency of the state’s energy infrastructure— which is already saddled with problems such as bottlenecks along its transmission grid and aging power plants. Michael Delaney, a top energy policy adviser in the Bloomberg administration, said that New York City is now rethinking its assumptions in the wake of the unprecedented storm, which knocked out large portions of Con Edison’s famously reliable grid. “An exogenous event like a Sandy, we saw approximately six or seven networks knocked out just by the fact that the storm surge inundated a transmission station on East 13th Street, and traditional electric engineering planning doesn’t account for that type of external event,” Delaney said at City & State’s annual “On Energy” conference on Tuesday. “You can have an event that sweeps across the city and really upends the entire electrical network.” Delaney was joined by several city and state energy officials and experts during the panel discussion, sponsored by the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity 20 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
Alliance and NRG Energy, which also touched on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Energy Highway, as well as a variety of renewable energy projects and proposals that could improve grid reliability in coming years. State Sen. Kevin Parker, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said that the governor and the Legislature had made progress earlier this year in restructuring and boosting oversight of the Long Island Power Authority, which was widely criticized for its response during Sandy. He also touted increased staffing at the Public Service Commission, a state energy regulator, and the governor’s $1 billion green bank, which will assist in the financing of clean energy projects. “We’re not quite ready, but we’re on our way to being ready,” Parker said. “We need to be prepared, but it’s a process. It’s not yesterday we were prepared and today we are prepared.” Ray Long, a vice president at NRG Energy, said that the increasing frequency of severe storms in New York demonstrates the importance of the governor’s Energy Highway. The initiative, which Cuomo announced in early 2012, is a long-term effort to shore up the aging transmission grid by adding up to 3,200 megawatts of new generation or transmission capacity. Some initial steps are already underway, though projects that are eventually included are not likely to be completed for five to 10 years.
“The Energy Highway process is important given that we’ve had three 100-year storms in the last four years—and if you look at those, some of the lessons that we’ve learned from those storms, in relation to what the Energy Highway seeks to do, is instructive,” Long said. “We learned during those storms that getting power from far away to where it’s needed is difficult when those weather events hit.” Renewable energy could also improve grid reliability, the panelists said, by adding new power sources and reducing the strain on transmission systems. For example, a 2011 submission to the U.S. Department of the Interior requested the lease of federal offshore lands for wind farms that could generate as much as 700 megawatts of power, Delaney said. The process would take years, he noted, but it would have the advantage of being so far out to sea that it would draw less opposition. “You could have scalable renewable resources no more than 15 or 20 miles from the battery, and able to feed into LIPA and able to feed into the city,” he said. “So we’re hopeful about that. It is by nature a long-range plan.” New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which spends $87 million a year on power and is one of the city’s biggest energy consumers, is also taking a lead on a range of energy alternatives, from solar power and co-generation to converting food waste to energy and using the flow of drinking water and even waste-
water to generate hydropower. “We think that when you talk about Sandy and resiliency, if we had been able to have been off the grid, in some cases we would have lasted longer, and we’d like to be off the grid in a way that’s clean, rather than using diesel,” said Kathryn Garcia, DEP’s chief operating officer. “So we obviously are a very large consumer, but we are trying to do our part in terms of ensuring resiliency, and in some ways being a guinea pig in terms of what you’re going to do on big, distributed alternative power possibilities.” Jerry Kremer, the chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said that he was pleased that both Bloomberg and Cuomo had made energy policy a priority in New York, and applauded several initiatives underway. But he said that more needs to be done to ensure that key energy projects get enough support to move forward. “If I’m sitting in Chicago, and I’m sitting on billions of dollars to make an investment in New York on energy projects, the first thing I’m going to say after reading the papers is, ‘You know, in New York, they’re against hydrofracking, they’re against windmills, they’re against nuclear power—what else are they against?’” Kremer said. “We’ve got to get more proactive on supporting energy projects, and that’s where the Legislature and the governor come into play, because they’ve got to be more playing offense as opposed to playing defense on energy projects.”
SCAFFOLD LAW BATTLE LINES DRAWN
By MICHAEL JOHNSON
hen state lawmakers return to Albany in January, one issue certain to generate fierce debate will be the proposed repeal or modification of the Scaffold Law, a construction regulation that requires contractors and other employers to assume absolute liability for workers injured on site. Opponents argue that the law is archaic and burdens builders, driving up insurance costs prohibitively. Supporters contend that the statute is a necessary deterrent to contractors who would cut corners and provide unsafe work environments if it were not in effect. This month City & State spoke to experts on both sides of the issue as part of its Last Look video series: Denise Richardson, the managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York, an advocate for the reform of the law, and Joel Shufro, the executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, who holds the opposing position. In the lead up to next year’s legislative session, framing the debate seems to be the top priority. Richardson maintains that the law has been interpreted broadly over the years, leading insurance companies either to give up on doing business in the state or to drive up costs, which are in turn borne by contractors. “Several insurers have left the market in New York, creating a competition issue, number one, but also creating real pressure on the premiums that are paid by the contractors,” Richardson said. She added that this outcome is having a significant impact on small and midsize contractors
who cannot find insurance at all. Reform advocates also point out to the expense incurred by taxpayers in the case of public construction projects. A recent Associated Press article cited an internal document calculating that with the money paid in additional insurance costs as a result of the Scaffold Law, two more New York City schools could be built a year. Richardson said the law is also driving up costs at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Additionally, Richardson emphasized that the reforms she supports would not reduce workplace safety. She pointed out that no state or city agency would grant a contract to a company that did not have a top safety rating, and stressed that she is not aiming to alter safety regulations in any way. Supporters of the law, however, dispute these assertions. When questioned about the specific points of criticism raised by Richardson, Shufro repeatedly brought the conversation back to a larger argument that the law helps keep the liability balance between employers and employees. “My sense is that the employers feel as a result of the decline in the labor movement, labor density in this state … they are looking for ways of undercutting protections that workers have,” Shufro said. “They want to shift the liability that they have onto the backs of workers.” Shufro maintains that there is a firm agreement between workers and employers that stems from the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was passed by Congress in 1970. Because employees cannot refuse to do dangerous work, employers are required to provide secure and safe work zones. Shufro contends that the Scaffold Law is an added incentive to
ensure employers hold up their end of the agreement. On the issue of insurance costs, Shufro suggested that the recent spike in premiums might not be directly related to the Scaffold Law. He claims that insurance companies have not been transparent in how they set prices. “They have not opened their books. We don’t know what their actual costs are,” Shufro said. “We don’t know over the long run, for example, if they have cut insurance rates at a period of time to attract business and bring in customers and then been forced to raise them because they had cut rates below market levels.” The two interviewees’ perspectives may well be indicative of the lines that will be drawn in the debate on the issue next year in the Legislature, where a heated battle is likely to ensue. In the past, any effort to reform the law has been blocked in the state Assembly, and both Richardson and Shufro appeared to make a tacit appeal to that chamber’s rank-and-file members to revisit the debate. Richardson made the case that doing nothing amounts to a tax hike on all New Yorkers. Specifically, she pointed to the law’s impact on the amount of money available for education and public transportation, two areas that affect the lives of almost all of the state’s residents but are particularly important to the constituents of city lawmakers. Shufro, on the other hand, played to distrust of the business community held by many members of the public. A large portion of those killed on construction sites are Latino employees, he noted. “Some are documented and some are undocumented,” Shufro said. “They have
2012 WORKPLACE DEATHS
196 Workers Killed in New York State 47
Deaths From “Falls, Slips, Trips”
Workers Killed in New York City
Deaths From “Falls, Slips, Trips”
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
virtually no control over the situation in which they work, and an employer will take advantage of that situation.” Before any changes to the law can be made, reform advocates must first convince Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a partner in a personal injury law firm who has long been a staunch opponent of tort reform, to allow a bill to come to the floor for a vote. Neither Richardson nor Shufro wanted to discuss the role of the state’s trial lawyers in preventing any changes in Albany to the law. Shufro acknowledged that the law results in profits for trial lawyers but dismissed their relevance to the discussion, saying they were not party to driving the push for legislation. As for Richardson, she said, “I am not going to assess the politics.”
To watch these, and many other, Last Look interviews in their entirety, go to cityandstateny.com/video. To receive every Last Look in your inbox, sign up for Last Read on City & State’s website.
cityandstateny.com | AUGUST 19, 2013
SETTING THE AGENDA
SETTING THE AGENDA: A HEAD START ON THE 2014 SESSION
22 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
CONSTRUCTION & INFRASTRUCTURE By WILDER FLEMING
TATE SEN. CHARLES Fuschillo, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, is happy with the progress made this year on transportation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget included over $9 billion for improving transportation infrastructure throughout New York, part of a broader effort outlined in a post–Superstorm Sandy NYS 2100 Commission report to strengthen the state’s arteries and support systems to deal with future storms and climate change. In the state Department of Transportation’s 2013–14 capital plan, $3.7 billion was allocated to finance highway, bridge, rail and aviation projects, as well as transit around the state. Add to that sum $300 million earmarked for transportation improvements under Cuomo’s New York Works program, and over $470 million for programs like the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), which helps municipalities fix
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” For many organizations, interests and activists—and the media outlets that cover them—by the time the focus shifts to the next year’s legislative agenda in Albany, the top players have already set the priorities—the battle lines are already drawn. It’s with the aim of preparing for next year and keeping ahead of the curve— and engaging the 2014 legislative session in Albany instead of reacting to it—that we bring back a special section of City & State: Setting the Agenda. In this issue, as in the last, we profile five of the top policy areas the Legislature will be grappling with in 2014. We also review what happened in the 2013 session and invite leading advocates in these arenas to stake out their ground for next year’s legislative showdowns. The goal of Setting the Agenda is to begin a conversation with our legislators at a time of the year when there’s not too much noise to listen. The 2014 session will be here before you know it. Get ready.
Construction crane, East River, midtown Manhattan
SETTING THE AGENDA up local roads and bridges. The Airport Improvement Program also will get more funding, helping the state get the maximum matching funds from the federal government to renovate congested airports. But Fuschillo says more needs to be done in 2014, especially for programs like CHIPS and New York Works. “While tremendous progress has been made, our infrastructure still needs major improvements,” Fuschillo said. “Further increasing CHIPS funding is especially important, since local governments maintain 87 percent of the roads and 50 percent of the bridges in New York State.” Meanwhile, initial preparatory work for the new Tappan Zee Bridge began in August, but oversight of the state’s most expensive bridge-building project is in the hands of the state Thruway Authority, and the details on how the estimated $3.6 billion undertaking will eventually be funded are still unclear. The state and federal governments designated over $4.7 billion for mass transit systems, nearly $4 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to repair its infrastructure in the wake of Sandy. Now the MTA is awaiting approval from Albany on its most recent proposed amendment to its 2010–14 capital plan, which would add $5.67 billion to further harden infrastructure after making needed repairs to brace for natural disasters.
Prospective projects include plugging unnecessary openings to subway tunnels in lower Manhattan, erecting walls around air vents, relocating equipment to higher ground and installing stairway covers and submarinelike doors in station entrances. Of course, there are plenty of infrastructure projects that don’t involve transportation. Con Edison is working to strengthen its grid in preparation for the next storm. The utility company is investing $1 billion over four years on upgrades, including raising higher walls around transformers and deploying “smart grid” technologies such as submersible remote-controlled switches that can be operated from miles away. These switches can isolate afflicted parts of the grid at the touch of a button, preventing the spread of power surges that can knock out larger swaths of the system. The utility has installed isolation devices on overhead wires as well. Post-Sandy reports from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have proposed more elaborate safeguards against climate change, such as a giant levee running along lower Manhattan, wetlands and dunes to absorb the impact of storm surges, and floodgates along Staten Island. But measures like these won’t be realized for years. New York City’s Recovery Office aid has provided most of the aid for the postSandy housing recovery, with initiatives
like the Business Loan and Grant programs and Build It Back, which began offering “housing specialists” in June to help New Yorkers who lost their homes in the storm navigate the process of rebuilding or relocating. On Long Island federal funding for housing recovery is being handled by the state and FEMA, which is now redrawing downstate flood zones. Although FEMA’s preliminary 100-year floodplain in New York City covers an area 45 percent greater than in previous maps and affects 67,700 buildings across the city—a 90 percent increase from 1983—the agency won’t finalize the map until 2015. The city is already looking into incentive-based programs to encourage people to protect electrical equipment in their homes, either by raising it off the ground or waterproofing it in some other way. But as important as these measures will be for the future of New York City and Long Island, housing both downstate and upstate poses other challenges as well. State Sen. Catharine Young, chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, said she wants to see an extension of a tax abatement program in 2014 designed to revitalize downtowns and provide affordable housing in rural areas. She also wants to see more tax credit programs in the service of building affordable rental housing. “As a result of the country’s financial
crisis, state and federal tax credit programs have been disrupted,” she said. “Refundable housing tax credits would spur greater private investment in affordable housing, driving more development across the state. We passed this bill in the Senate, and I am optimistic we can have it become a law next year.”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2013 •Over $9 billion for transportation improvements •Tappan Zee Bridge moving forward •Con Edison hardening its grid
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA •Increased spending on transportation infrastructure, including CHIPS and New York Works •$5.67 billion in storm hardening for the MTA’s 2010–14 capital plan •Ongoing Con Edison storm hardening •Extension of housing tax abatement •Refundable tax credit for affordable housing
OUR MISSION • To be the single business advocate for New York City’s 1,800 union construction managers, general contractors and specialty trade subcontractors Louis J. Coletti President & CEO
• To build partnerships with private and public owners and building trade unions in support of our contractors’ business objectives
WhY aRe aLMOST all of the top 25
CONTRaCTORS Btea MeMBers? excellence in Project Management Strong adherence to Schedules and Budgets Strict Compliance with Safety Standards a highly Skilled Trade Workforce
What kind of future do you Want neW york to Build? Building Trades employers’ association | 1430 Broadway | Suite 1106 | New York, NY 10018 | 212.704.9745 | www.bteany.com cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
SETTING THE AGENDA INSIGHT: CONSTRUCTION & INFRASTRUCTURE
these companies in seeking to grow their companies in the construction industry.
BUILDING TRADES EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION LOU COLETTI
President FAILURE FOR STATE REFORM OF 240/241 WILL DESTROY M/WBE CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES ABILITY TO GROW What is the 240/241 Scaffold Law? NYS is the only state in the country with this law. It applies to public and private owners and contractors, and imposes a liability for accidents/injuries on a construction site to them without any consideration of fault to anyone else. This law is directly responsible for the cost of contractor general liability increasing some 200–300% over the last few years because jury awards have [cost] millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars, dramatically increasing the cost of private construction. What kind of reform is necessary? No one is seeking to repeal the law. Workers who are injured on a construction job site must be protected, and should be awarded financial damages when owners and contractors ignore safety requirements that cause accidents. Proposed amendments to this law simply would allow owners and contractors the opportunity to present to a jury information in those limited cases where the worker may have ignored safety requirements. After presenting this information to a jury, if the jury awards damages in any amount, at least it will have heard both sides of the argument. Why will minority-/women-owned contractors be unable to grow without reform? The biggest obstacle to the growth of M/ WBE construction companies is the lack of capital and ability to obtain financing. The most successful M/WBE growth program is the one operated by the New York City School Construction Authority. From 2010–May 2013, the SCA has awarded some $1.3 billion in contract awards to over 800 M/WBE firms to rebuild city schools. These firms have successfully competed 24 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
because the SCA paid the cost of general liability on behalf of M/WBE contractors, as well as all contractors doing work for them, because the authority provides what is called an Owner Controlled Insurance Program. Because of the astronomical increases in cost for this policy, the agency recently sent out a letter to its contractors stating that it is considering asking contractors to furnish their own insurance for SCA projects beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. To measure the impact of this change, on July 9, 2013, they sent out a survey to contractors asking them how this would affect their companies. The letter goes on to state: “Due to the difficulty of obtaining insurance for construction programs in the New York marketplace, in large part as a result of the impact of the absolute liability provisions of Section 240 of the NYS Labor Law, we are re-evaluating continuance of this insurance coverage.” What is the cost to the New York City School Construction Authority for this insurance? The SCA’s capital budget is approximately $1.7 billion over 5 years. The cost of this policy, which the agency pays for with taxpayer dollars, is some $100 million per year. Compare that to what the New Jersey School Construction Authority pays in insurance premiums for a similar $1.7 billion building program: $25 million per year. That’s a $75 million difference. The SCA could build two to three new schools with that savings. What will those M/WBE contractors do to obtain general liability insurance? Many of the SCA M/WBE contractors build exclusively for the authority in an effort to build up their companies to compete in the marketplace. They will either be unable to afford general liability insurance or they will be out of business. The failure to reform the 240/241 New York State Scaffold Law will destroy the most successful M/WBE program in the state, if not the nation, and will halt the growth of
Who is against reform? The New York State trial lawyers. Wouldn’t you be if 30 percent of the jury’s award goes for legal fees rather than the individual who was injured? Why shouldn’t the jury get all of the facts from both parties as to the cause of the injury and let an independent jury make the decision? For the construction industry, there is no higher state legislative priority than reform of the 240/241 Scaffold Bill. For the continued economic growth of New York City there is no higher state legislative priority than reform of the 240/241 Scaffold Law. For the continued growth of the M/ WBE construction community, reform of the 240/241 Scaffold Law is nothing short of what is needed for their companies to survive.
LOCAL #46 LABOR MANAGEMENT COOPERATIVE TRUST TERRENCE MOORE
Business Manager Local 46 looks forward to working with the new mayor and City Council to reform the city’s economic development policy and shine a light on the Economic Development Corporation once and for all. New York City taxpayers need to stop spending hundreds of millions on subsidies for private developers who abuse workers, put the public at risk and shortchange our communities. We also look forward to working with new leadership at the Department of Buildings to institute equitable enforcement of the Building Code, one that levels the playing field for responsible construction contractors who follow the law. For years lawbreaking construction companies benefited from a lack of regulation, and have misclassified workers, violated health and safety codes, and avoided workers’ compensation and disability liabilities—leaving the public at risk and footing the bill. Tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and insurance payments go unpaid to the city and state, while the hardworking taxpayer foots the bill. Working with the new administration, we look forward to keeping New York City the gateway to the middle class, and place behind us an era whereby a very few get rich off the backs of hard working New Yorkers. We will work diligently in making sure our elected officials understand the consequences of unscrupulous developers and contractors, and the effect they have on our city and communities.
LONG ISLAND ASSOCIATION
Executive Director “New York Works” is out of gas, and it may be out of time. Gov. Cuomo’s much-touted accelerated bridge and pavement plan was supposed to be the government initiative that would put the heavy construction industry in New York State back on its feet having been pummeled by a recession that put many thousands out of work. The year started optimistically enough with the budget passed on time, even though it included a two-year statewide transportation funding plan that was below historic levels. Gov. Cuomo’s next phase of the “New York Works” program was anticipated 45 days after the budget’s adoption, but an agreement on selected projects was never reached by the legislative houses, which remains the case as of this writing. Regrettably, it now appears that construction window is about to close without the new projects “New York Works” promised, and that will be lethal to the tens of thousands of construction workers desperate for work. We know the 2014 legislative session will focus on funding, marking completion of the state’s two-year capital program at the same time the federal highway program expires. DOT Commissioner McDonald has forged a strong working relationship with the industry to develop a cooperative advocacy approach in Washington, D.C., but if Albany can’t focus on delivering the necessary programs to maintain and improve the safety and quality of the state’s infrastructure system, then the very heart of our heavy construction industry will be critically damaged. An economic snapshot by the NYS Department of Labor reveals Long Island has lost nearly 11,000 construction jobs alone since 2008. Superstorm Sandy inflicted further pain on our industry as many construction projects were suspended or shelved to deal with the cleanup efforts. Adding insult to injury, most of the restoration jobs were siphoned away by out-of-state storm chasers who worked for wages below the state’s mandated prevailing wage. In the end Albany needs to explore how to expand its fiscal toolbox and identify new ways to secure funding. Public-private partnership initiatives, state and local infrastructure banks, and more design/build projects should be pursued. Archaic regulations, in addition, must be addressed, such as the costly scaffold law. It’s time for bipartisan infrastructure leadership because “business as usual” has become no business.
This Labor Day, Remember QUICK MINDS
“If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar... All that harms labor is treason to America.” — Abraham Lincoln
Local 46 Metallic
Local 46 Metallic Lathers & Reinforcing Ironworkers Lathers & Reinforcing
Business Manager: Terrence Moore Business Manager: Terrence Moore Business Agents: Kevin Kelly, Ronnie Richardson,
Business Agents: Kevin Kelly, Ronnie Richardson, John Coffey and Michael Anderson John Coffey and Michael Anderson
President: John Skinner
President: John Skinner
1322 Third Ave. New York, NY 212-737-0500 www.ml46.org
SETTING THE AGENDA
By WILDER FLEMING
NE OF THE biggest policy questions in the energy arena in New York is hydrofracking, a controversial method of drilling for natural gas that is under review by the Cuomo administration. Since taking office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly delayed making a decision on allowing hydrofracking, which half of New Yorkers believe will do more to damage the environment than benefit the economy. But while hydrofracking has stalled, the governor has taken an interest in a variety of less high-profile energy initiatives. He is pushing ahead with plans for a green bank. In June he announced $10 million in funding for the development of so-called “smart grid” technologies to strengthen New York’s electric grid and improve the diversity of power sources. And his “NY-Sun” program aims to expand solar power across the state through public-private partnerships. Legislation to extend the NY-Sun initiative for 10 years passed the Senate and the Assembly in the spring. However, the Senate version carried a tax incentive for businesses not contained in Cuomo’s original bill, and lawmakers did not resolve the discrepancy before the end of the session. The Legislature is now hoping to 26 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
reach a compromise on a single solar bill for the governor to sign in 2014, solidifying the state’s long-term commitment to solar power. NY-Sun is currently set to expire on Dec. 31, 2015. “I think that one of the highest priorities is to get that done next year,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who chairs the Assembly Energy Committee. “I’ve already spoken to Sen. [George] Maziarz, and we both agree that we need to get it accomplished.” Paulin is also working on a bill— known broadly as “municipal energy aggregation”—that would allow organized groups of customers to solicit bids from power companies, thereby making rates more competitive and allowing residents to choose the best price. The Assembly committee is also working with advocacy groups to craft legislation that would increase access to renewable energy in New York by developing a market in which electric customers who are unable to install their own solar panels will be able to participate in shared energy facilities around the state. Maziarz, who chairs the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, passed two energy bills in 2013 that directly affect farmers. One allows farmers using residential electric meters to build
solar panels providing up to 250 kilowatts for their own power generation; the other extends net metering to farmers and other nonresidential power customers who generate some of their own energy with solar panels or wind turbines. Net metering rewards customers who transfer the unused electricity onto the grid by offsetting the cost of power they draw from the utility. Largely in response to Superstorm Sandy, this year’s state budget included measures to try to hold power utilities accountable for their performance during major storms and to provide backup generators at gas stations in the event of major power outages. In 2014 Maziarz hopes to pass legislation encouraging the expansion of access to natural gas. He plans to continue to advocate for two bills already passed in the Senate: one that would amend an environmental conservation law to include a regulatory framework for the transportation and storage of liquefied natural gas upstate, and another bill offering incentives to make it more widely available around New York. Supporters note that natural gas is significantly cheaper than oil and coal, burns more cleanly, and that the extraction process usually takes less of a toll on the land.
But it is still a fossil fuel that many environmentalists see as a distraction from developing renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Maziarz sees natural gas as a potential driver of job growth upstate and a way to improve air quality. “I’m hopeful that the Assembly will sit down with us to work on these serious issues,” he said, “so that our residents don’t have to wait another year for these important reforms to be adopted.”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2013 •Increased utility accountability during natural disasters •Preparation for green bank •Smart-grid funding
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA •Cuomo administration’s ongoing review of hydrofracking •Solar power legislation •Promoting liquefied natural gas •Municipal energy aggregation
SETTING THE AGENDA
INSIGHT: ENERGY KEVIN LANAHAN
Government Relations Director STRENGTHENING ENERGY POLICY At Con Edison we’re working hard to prepare the state for the next big storm in the wake of Sandy. Our state energy policy should provide support for needed infrastructure investments that will make us all safer and ensure we can recover quickly if we are faced with a similar natural disaster in the future. Supporting efforts that allow us to make equipment submersible, safer, with flexible and reliable systems solves part of the problem. Helping key agencies keep us safe and keeping the engines of our economy running also helps. Assessing and implementing needed retrofits makes good economic sense. We also need to help energy customers with the repeal of regressive energy taxes, especially the gross receipts tax, that levies more taxes on customers as energy costs rise, producing a double whammy that affects those least able to pay. For when the energy supply portion of a customer’s bill rises, when energy prices
spike upwards, customers may not be using more electricity, but they’re forced to pay more; instead of getting a break when they can afford it least, a gross receipts tax piles on taxes. Another regressive tax is the 18-A assessment on customer bills used to cover shortfalls in the state budget. Its presence on utility bills has nothing to do with providing electricity to customers who need it and everything to do with hiding an extra tax in an electric bill. It should be eliminated. Safety, reliability and flexibility are what our grid requires.
NEW YORK AFFORDABLE RELIABLE ELECTRICITY ALLIANCE RICH THOMAS
As policymakers approach 2014, they should consider the following key energy opportunities and solutions for action. Opportunity 1: Invest in New York’s electric transmission infrastructure
A 2012 report by the New York State Transmission Assessment and Reliability Study board found that approximately $25 billion must be spent to replace large sections of New York’s electric grid. SOLUTION: Transmission investments are very costly and need to be prioritized so that the greatest efficiencies are realized. We encourage the state to identify and pursue on a priority basis those investments that will have the greatest benefit to the greatest number of consumers and businesses. Opportunity 2: Expand New York’s electric power generation sources Many plants are being prematurely retired for a number of reasons including onerous environmental regulations, aging infrastructure and political pressures. Of particular note, the New York State government has been aggressively seeking to close Indian Point Energy Center, which supplies 25 to 30 percent of New York City’s electricity and 11 percent of New York State’s power. SOLUTION: Every effort should be made to retain existing in-state generation that can be operated. In addition, the state should recognize and accept the determination by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission’s independent experts that Indian Point is an extremely safe facility, and withdraw its opposition to and legal actions against a license renewal for Indian Point. Opportunity 3: Achieve energy independence for New York New York currently relies too heavily on power imported from New Jersey, Canada, Connecticut and elsewhere. SOLUTION: To create well-paying, sustainable, high-quality jobs and protect our infrastructure, New York should set a goal of being self-sufficient—and maybe even a net power exporter by 2020. Opportunity 4: Review and reduce New York’s excessive energy taxes The Public Policy Institute found that 25 percent of utility bills represent arcane taxes and surcharges that help balance the state budget and fund pet projects. Solution: Legislators must review existing tax assessments to ensure that ratepayer dollars are being used solely for electricity infrastructure improvements and eliminate needless surcharges such as the 18-A assessment—a two percent tax on all electricity bills, which was extended for another two years.
cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
SETTING THE AGENDA
CUNY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
By ADAM JANOS
(AQE), argued that 2013 saw “the most manipulated use of various school aid formulas that we’ve seen in a very long time.” According to Easton, budget allocations were determined by several different standards, allowing lawmakers to distribute cash in exactly the way the foundation formula was created to prevent. “They used 11 different formulas to distribute the same money,” Easton told City & State. “The issue of manipulation of school aid based on political purposes is about as fundamental to the issues in Albany as apple pie is to America.” According to Easton, equity in New York’s public schools will require the governor to include enough funding to prevent cuts, since a larger pie will lessen competition
A commencement ceremony at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
ncreased base-aid funding, but upward spiraling tuitions. Nearly a billion dollars added to the school budget, but continued yearly cuts to school programs. This is New York’s educational system, and in the upcoming legislative session fundamental questions concerning equity and efficiency will once again be center stage. New York’s education advocates see signs of improvement: The governor’s budget this year included $960 million of new funding, coupled with the $810 million added to 2012. But the increases are a restoration of crippling cuts brought about by the recession and sluggish recovery of the past several years. Between 2009 and 2011 New York’s budget for education flatlined, then 28 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
plummeted. In 2010 the state cut $1.4 bilion from education, and in 2011 axed an additional $1.3 billion. Those cuts in turn crippled the state’s foundation aid formula, a single rubric created to help determine, based on need, how new resources are distributed throughout the state, independent of politics. For 2014 state Sen. John Flanagan, chair of the Education Committee, said that the top priority remains “the financing and funding of education.” “The issue schools are most concerned about is the level of funding, and how that funding gets distributed,” Flanagan said, noting that last year “about 70 percent” of funding went to high-needs districts. Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education
among legislators for a slice. To further improve schools and keep up with rising costs, the organization estimates the state will need to add $1.3 billion in additional funding each year. Easton also considers it imperative to return to the foundation formula, instated in 2007, to minimize the manipulation of funds. In 2013 higher education also got a boost, with lawmakers increasing base-aid funding by an equivalent of $150 per fulltime student for both SUNY and CUNY community college students. The tuition relief measure cost the state $21.5 million for SUNY and $9.3 million for CUNY. In addition, the state funded a SUNY pilot initiative called “The Graduation,
Achievement, and Placement Program.” The program, modeled on CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, focuses on remedial skills for students from subpar schools. For the coming year, questions continue to abound regarding rising costs and whether returns on the increases have been commensurate. Predictable SUNY and CUNY tuition hikes of $300 per year are entering their third year of a five-year plan, and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, chair of the Higher Education Committee, plans to evaluate what value students are getting for the hikes. “We were hoping for more full-time professors and some additional commitment to scholarship support, that sort of thing,” Glick said. With tuition going up, Glick hopes to modernize the state’s tuition assistance program (TAP) without opening it up to cuts. TAP is based on four-year full-time enrollment models, which often leave out part-time students with full-time jobs. “When we increase student tuition, we increase student debt,” Glick said. “Maybe the state should provide more resources to higher education, reduce that debt and allow students to make better choices. Do we get more students who are more talented going into, for example, teaching, if they’re not going to come out of school with a certain level of debt?” The assemblywoman is disappointed about the state Senate’s failure to pass the New York State DREAM Act, which would have provided tuition relief to undocumented students through scholarships, grants and federally guaranteed loans. A senior staffer for state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, chair of the Higher Education Committee, said that the $32 million required wasn’t available. More broadly, Glick called for more money for higher education, noting that the area makes up a small portion of the state budget. “We want to see students progress,” Glick said. “We don’t spend a ton on public higher education. How do we administer those dollars?”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2013 •$960 million added to public schools •Graduation, Achievement, and Placement Program
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA •New York State DREAM Act •Further restoration of 2010–11 school aid cuts •Return to the Foundation Aid Formula •Evaluation of SUNY/CUNY fare hikes •Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) modifications
NYSUT: Working with parents, community for our childrenâ€™s future.
Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President Maria Neira, Vice President Kathleen M. Donahue, Vice President Lee Cutler, Secretary-Treasurer
Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455 n 518-213-6000 / 800-342-9810 www.nysut.org n Affiliated with AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
SETTING THE AGENDA INSIGHT: EDUCATION NEW YORK CITY CHARTER SCHOOL CENTER JAMES MERRIMAN, CEO EQUITABLE FUNDING FOR ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS In 2014, as Gov. Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission turns its attention to the financing of public education across the state, this crucial topic will also reemerge as a subject of discussion in the Legislature. Due to a painful combination of spending mandates, tax caps and incompletely implemented reforms from years past, New York public school students are not all receiving an equitable benefit from our state’s investments in public education—and students in public charter schools are no exception. The public debate about charter school resources has largely focused on New York City, the only local district to recognize the justice of providing public charter schools with space in public buildings. But charter schools’ intense concern about facilities is driven by need as much as principle. Under state law, charter schools do not receive public funding to pay for school facilities despite the fact that in four years they will educate one out of every 10 public school students in New York City. This gap in our funding system creates a profound resource inequity for tens of thousands of students enrolled in charter schools that are not located in district space—amounting to an annual resource disadvantage of over $2,000 per student (and more than $2,300 per student in NYC). As parents continue to choose charter schools, this little-known disparity will only affect more families in places like Harlem, Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx. New York State needs a system of student-based budgeting to ensure that funding for public schools, whether district or charter, follows the needs of the student. For charter schools, we have one very simple goal, which is parity: receiving no more public resources than district schools— and no less—for any given student who walks through the school doors. Resource parity between charter and district schools must extend across the entire budget—from operating funds to grant programs to aid for students with
special needs—but the facilities budget line is equally critical. It also provides an easy rule of thumb for the upcoming year. If you hear people talking about fair treatment of charter schools and they don’t mention school facilities, it isn’t really fairness they’re interested in.
Educate & Influence NY’s Public Officials with:
NEW YORK STATE UNITED TEACHERS NYSUT WILL ASK LEGISLATURE TO ‘GET IT RIGHT” New York’s public education system is under tremendous strain—from the state’s overreliance on standardized testing and from budget cuts so severe that most school districts are operating with less state aid than in 2009. In the 2014 legislative session, New York State United Teachers will be urging legislators to “get it right.” NYSUT supports bills that would require transparency, not only about the millions spent on standardized tests but also about the frequency and duration of student testing; the loss of classroom instruction time; and the real impact on student learning. NYSUT will be asking the Legislature to support teachers and parents by providing sufficient time to implement the Common Core learning standards. NYSUT will be asking lawmakers to approve a moratorium on high-stakes consequences for students and teachers stemming from the new standards, including postponing using Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement. Meanwhile, test scores released in August once again put the spotlight on the distressing, persistent and unacceptable achievement gap that continues along racial and socioeconomic lines. Adequate resources for public education are essential if students are to achieve at higher levels. Yet as classes began this month, school districts were burdened with less state aid than they received in 2009 and by the constraints of a restrictive and undemocratic tax cap. Despite the aid restorations contained in the two most recent state budgets, close to three-quarters of school districts are receiving less state aid than they were five years ago. If New York is serious about raising achievement by all students, it must invest far more in public education.
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The Special Section Features a Q&A with: State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Chair, Senate Transportation Committee Joan McDonald Commissioner, NYS Department of Transportation Council Member James Vacca Chair, NYC Council Transportation Committee Michael Horodniceanu President, MTA Capital Construction (Public Officials pending confirmation)
Featured Infrastructure-Focused Editorial Coverage: STATE INFRASTRUCTURE: The American Society of Civil Engineers published its updated infrastructure report card for New York this year. City & State explores whether the state is getting better or worse, how it compares to other states, and where the greatest need for infrastructure investment is.
MAYORAL PRIORITIES: The contest for mayor of New York City has come down to two candidates, Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio. What are their top priorities for improving the city’s infrastructure, and what are some of the projects that experts say they should prioritize?
INFRASTRUCTURE SCORECARD: • Major Political Issues at Stake • A Rundown of the Key Players • Facts & Figures about Infrastructure in NY
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SETTING THE AGENDA
GAMING & CASINOS By ADAM JANOS
HE FUTURE OF full-fledged casino gambling in New York State is dicey. This year saw some positive signs for the gaming industry as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act in late July. The measure would bring four full-fledged casinos to parts of upstate, a development that would potentially spur a significant influx of revenue for education aid and property tax relief for the state. The act only goes into effect, however, if voters approve it in a ballot referendum this fall—a risky proposition given how few New Yorkers are expected to vote in November and how many areas of the 32 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
state will be excluded from casino development. Western New York (including Rochester and Buffalo) is off the table for casinos because it sits in a Seneca Indian Nation exclusivity zone. Much of Central New York (including Syracuse) and the Adirondacks are similarly disqualified as part of Cuomo’s exclusivity agreements with the Oneida Indian Nation and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, respectively, who run their own casinos in those regions. Long Island, too, is off the table, though it could get two video lottery terminals, or computerized slot machine parlors—one in each of the Island’s two counties, Nassau and Suffolk—should the measure pass. New York City and the suburban coun-
ties directly to the north of the city (Westchester, Rockland and Putnam) are also barred from full-fledged casino gaming for a period of at least seven years. Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, who represents Queens, was disappointed to see and his district’s own Resorts World Casino and Aqueduct Racetrack cut out of the conversation for Class III, full-table gaming licenses. “Last session, week in and week out, I met with the governor’s office and talked to the staff about the potential for revenues for New York State. My feeling was you had to include New York City in this conservation,” Goldfeder said. “Leaving Aqueduct out of the mix, I think you’re doing the state a tremendous disservice.” Nonetheless, Goldfeder supports the referendum and hopes his constituents will do so too, explaining, “You don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” State Sen. Joe Addabbo, whose district also includes Resorts World Casino, thinks the New York City mayoral and comptroller candidates, who have largely been silent on the issue, could influence New York City voters to support the statewide initiative. “Maybe after the primary it’ll become an issue, but if they don’t make it an issue, I’m guessing some outside parties will sink some money into advertising,” Addabbo said. Until the referendum vote, the future of casinos in New York is in the air. A Siena College poll conducted in early August showed split support for the measure, 49 to 42 percent, with slightly higher support in the Long Island suburbs—52 to 39 percent. But Siena pollster Steven Greenberg is cautious about the results, which sampled registered voters, not a smaller pool of likely voters. “This poll shows the sentiment about how registered voters feel about the issue, not about how those who show up in November will feel about the issue,” he said. Many elections in New York take place in even years, so a hodgepodge of counties and cities with competitive races will have a bigger impact on the referendum, including in New York City, which has a closely watched mayor’s race. Should the referendum pass, the three zones that are designated for licenses for up to four total casino resorts are the Catskills/Mid-Hudson Valley, Saratoga/ the Capital Region and the Southern Tier. The Catskills are the presumed favorite of the three regions to pick up the fourth casino, owing to its proximity to New York City, the hospitality infrastructure left over from the Borscht Belt summer resort heyday of the mid–20th century, and the clout of state Sen. John Bonacic, who in addidtion to representing the Catskills chairs the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. If the referendum succeeds, filling out the state’s seven-member gaming commission, of which there are currently only four members, is the next order of busi-
ness. The three remaining slots will be appointed by Senate Majority Coalition Leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Cuomo after it is fully formed. The commission would be responsible for appointing a site selection committee, which would accept applications for the casino licenses. “I’m pretty sure the governor knows who they are, but it doesn’t make sense to put the people there unless they’re needed,” Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chair of the Racing and Wagering Committee, said of the gaming commission appointments. If voters support the referendum, Bonacic expects that “we’ll know who [the applications] are granted to within 12 months. It’s possible we’ll know by the end of next session.” Tax rates on the hypothetical New York casinos would be markedly higher than those in neighboring Connecticut and New Jersey, but Pretlow believes there will be healthy competition for casino development in every region. “You’ve not heard anyone complain about our high tax rates,” he said. “No one is complaining, because they’re all making money, and they’re making good money.” Should the referendum fail, racing and wagering in New York State will largely continue as it is. The designated casino zones would get video lottery terminals as consolation, and Long Island will be up for three VLT facilities in place of the originally promised two. However, Bonacic doesn’t believe that the down year for statewide elections will hurt the referendum’s chances. “Upstate is energized; the chambers of commerce, the tourism people—they’re all getting this message out, and they’re excited about this opportunity,” Bonacic said. “The key is the New York City vote. We need the governor to go down there and say why this is important.” Added Pretlow, “We can’t say anything about what’ll happen next until November.”
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2013 •The Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA •Referendum on the Constitutional amendment allowing casinos If the Referendum is Successful: •Site selection committee appointments •Casino licenses for four resort destinations If the Referendum Fails: •New video lottery parlors upstate and on Long Island
www.cityandstateny.com | MAY 27, 2013
SETTING THE AGENDA
INSIGHT: GAMING & CASINOS
A happy casino patron
EMPIRE CITY CASINO AT YONKERS RACEWAY TARYN E. DUFFY
Director of Public Affairs Empire City Casino is one of the most successful entertainment venues in the state and Northeast region. A recent $50 million expansion will take this success to even greater heights, introducing two new restaurants, a dramatic new entrance and modern gaming floor featuring 5,300 slots and electronic table games to more than 8 million visitors annually. This success has generated over $2.5 billion dollars for schools, state and local governments and the racing industry in just seven years. Empire City directly employs more than 1,500 people, represented by 15 unions, and sustains another 2,000 regional jobs. In 2013 alone, Empire City donated over $1 million in philanthropic gifts to community charities and victims of Superstorm Sandy. All of this activity generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support the regional economy. 34 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
The outcome of the 2013 referendum on casino gaming will have a significant impact on Empire City’s priorities for 2014 and beyond. While the constitutional amendment will authorize seven commercial casinos in New York, only four licenses will be issued over the next seven years, and all will be located in upstate regions. Empire City supports the amendment and will look to secure a license to expand its gaming opportunities when a downstate license becomes available. As an established gaming venue, Empire City is well-positioned to build on its success as a regional economic engine for growth and major supporter of education and other critical government programs. New Yorkers continue to spend billions of dollars in neighboring states such as New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania at casinos offering full gaming entertainment, currently prohibited in New York. As a result, the state of New York is losing critically needed revenue, while competition continues to increase in the region. The addition of new casinos in New York will help keep gaming dollars here and create jobs New Yorkers need. Empire City Casino has proven itself to be a
premier racing and gaming facility, generating billions in revenue for the state and local communities. It is in the state’s best interest to ensure that any new gaming facilities do not jeopardize this record of success.
TIOGA DOWNS JEFFREY GURAL
CEO of American Racing and Entertainment Our goals at Tioga Downs are simple. We are hopeful that the casino referendum will be passed by the voters in November, at which point we will immediately begin work on our expansion project. Phase one will be the construction of a new 300 car parking garage. Phase two will depend on whether the referendum passes, and if it does, whether we receive the license for the Southern Tier region. Assuming it passes, we will then complete work on the garage and apply for a casino license. If we are successful, we would then move forward with a 143-room hotel with
a convention facility, spa and restaurant, as well as an expansion of the casino itself so that we can add poker and table games. If we do not receive a license, obviously, we would probably build something smaller, depending on how close our competition is. If the referendum does not pass, we would then complete the garage, and about 90 days later we would start work on the hotel—which, again, might be scaled back, depending on the economic outlook. We would also hope to convince the gaming commission to allow all of us to offer more free play, which we think would generate more revenue for education.
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SETTING THE AGENDA
ORGANIZED LABOR & UNIONS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento By NICK POWELL
sk any organized labor leader what the top item on their legislative agenda is in any given year, and the most likely answer will be “creating jobs.” Now, with the country in the midst of a sluggish economic recovery, and New York—especially upstate— clamoring to get back the thousands of jobs lost in the recession, AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento doesn’t just want to talk about creating jobs; he wants to revamp the way that the state thinks about creating jobs and help set the course for a new economic development agenda. “We feel very strongly that we have to start looking at things from the perspective of working men and women, and not corporations,” Cilento said. “We have to strengthen new ladders to the middle class and restore some semblance of fairness to our society. We’re looking at creating jobs that will be here long after tax breaks we’re offering to business expire. That’s how you have a long-term economic recovery and then prosperity.” As part of that agenda, Cilento wants to look at revamping certain vehicles the state already has in place for job creation, such as industrial development agencies, to incentivize new businesses to open. IDAs generally attempt to attract, retain and expand businesses within their jurisdictions through providing ﬁnancial incentives to private entities. IDAs are also legally empowered to buy, sell or lease property and to provide taxexempt ﬁnancing for approved projects. Purchases related to IDA projects can be 36 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
exempt from state and local taxes as well. A 2006 state comptroller’s report found that many IDAs are inconsistent and inaccurate in reporting how many jobs are created. Noting that in 2011 46 percent of projects that received support from IDAs failed to create a single job, Cilento proposed having the amount of money IDAs receive in tax breaks tied directly to the number of jobs that agency creates. “If we give a new business $5 million in tax breaks, and they say they’re going to create 1000 jobs, they should have to create that 1000 jobs. If they fail to do that, we should get that money back, take that money and give it to the next employer on the list so they can create those jobs,” Cilento said. “There should be a projected job creation number that’s commensurate with the amount of money we’re giving out.” Outside the economic development arena, another labor priority that many figure will come back up for a vote next legislative session is farmworkers’ rights. A bill passed in the Assembly last session would have granted collective bargaining rights to farm laborers, make provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farmworkers and make them eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, among other provisions. However, owing in part to opposition from the Farm Bureau and upstate legislators, the bill stalled in the Senate. State Sen. Diane Savino, who chairs the chamber’s Committee on Labor, said that the pushback against the farming
bill stems from concerns from members on both sides of the aisle who represent rural farming communities about trying to impose “the old factory model” of industrial manufacturing labor practices on farms. She added that family-owned farms have concerns about government overreach. “Part of the problem is that we haven’t done a good enough job of educating the family-owned farms who would not even be covered by this [legislation],” Savino said. “There’s a natural fear that if the government tries to dictate how farmworkers are treated, it’s going to create another burden on them, a burden that they can’t deal with.” Cilento also mentioned the Safe Patient Handling Act—another labor priority that died in the Senate last session—as a piece of legislation organized labor would unite behind come January. The bill 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. Cilento said when it comes to safety and health incidents on the job, healthcare workers top the list of any profession. Susan Kent, the president of the Public Employees Federation, which represents a large number of public employees, said that the big issue is how much safer equipment and standards would cost hospitals. “[The Safe Patient Handling Act is]
something that hospital associations are opposing because it’s going to cost money, and money rules the day instead of doing something that would ensure patient safety and worker safety,” Kent said. “The big sticking point with this is they didn’t want to have this requirement for nursing homes, which is ridiculous.” Zeroing in on economic development issues, as well as priorities like farmworkers’ rights and safe patient handling, could serve labor well this session. Thinking broadly about creating jobs is a surefire way to get the attention of state legislators, especially with the upstate economy still reeling from the recession, and may bring them to the negotiating table to get movement on smaller issues as well.
WHAT GOT DONE IN 2013 •Minimum wage •Unemployment insurance benefits reform
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA •Job creation •IDA reform •Farmworkers’ rights •Safe Patient Handling Act
SETTING THE AGENDA
INSIGHT: ORGANIZED LABOR & UNIONS RETAIL, WHOLESALE AND DEPARTMENT STORE UNION A LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FOR SHARED ECONOMIC PROSPERITY The extensive growth of the low-wage service economy since the Great Recession has worsened income inequality and social polarization throughout New York. In 2014 we will continue through policy and legislative action to promote an agenda of shared prosperity, so that economic doors open for low-wage workers to join the middle class. Our agenda includes expanding the attachment of labor standards to more subsidized economic development projects in order to increase worker training, earning and economic mobility. And we will work with legislators to make regulatory improvements to the minimum wage increase that was passed last year, with the most important concern being the removal of the Minimum Wage Reimbursement Credit. The credit is a tax break for businesses passed in conjunction with increasing the minimum wage. However, the tax credit will end up doing two very bad things: It will lead to discrimination against older, low-wage workers; and it will make the minimum wage the maximum wage for teens, regardless of their skills or performance. This will lead to corporations as large as Walmart and McDonald’s receiving incentives to hire 16- to 19-yearolds to fill those positions and then firing them as soon as they turn 20. At a time when income inequality is on the rise, we don’t need incentives for employers to pay workers less while encouraging them to fire older workers. Another of our legislative priorities is reforming New York State’s current partial unemployment insurance system. One in 10 New Yorkers are employed in retail, and the number of part-time jobs is growing. The current system is based on days worked instead of wages earned, unlike unemployment insurance systems in the rest of the country. This has the perverse effect of encouraging people not to work, since they are penalized 25 percent of their unemployment insurance benefits for every day they work. Under New York’s partial unemployment insurance system, if people work they may earn less money, and that’s a completely counterproductive system that hurts workers and New York’s economy.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FEDERATION SUSAN KENT, President We know we have a lot of work to do this legislative session to continue our efforts
to advocate for good public policy that benefits all New Yorkers. We will continue our strategy of involving partners to move our legislative priorities forward. Opposing reductions in vital state services to vulnerable New Yorkers in our communities Opposing privatization of stateprovided services, as it lowers the quality of those services Opposing the reduction of qualified state staff who are professionally trained to provide services Ensuring the continuity of employment of PEF members with no geographic hardship Opposing the loss of state-operated services, shifting the economic responsibility to already economically distressed communities throughout New York State Last legislative session, working with our many partners, we were successful in stopping legislation that would have privatized SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. This story is far from over. We will continue to work with other unions, the community and lawmakers to ensure that vital public health services are preserved in the Brooklyn community. This year we are faced with many challenges, among them the effect that the Office of Mental Health plan for Centers of Excellence and recently announced facility closures in the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will have on our members and the communities in which we all work and live. We will strive to ensure that standards of care and service remain high, that staffing levels in all state agencies are sufficient to meet those high standards, and that services are provided in the most appropriate state-operated settings by professional state employees. One of the things this administration promised was that we would think “out of the box,” and always be solution-driven. We have launched a Save Our Services (S.O.S.) campaign, and are enlisting the support of our communities, fellow unions and the Legislature to ensure that state services provided by our members [are] continued in our communities. For more information, and to sign our petition, go to www.pef.org.
income inequality. It’s time to change that dynamic and start looking at things from the perspective of the hardworking men and women who call New York home. Nowhere is this more evident than in economic development, where desperately doling out public dollars to businesses in nonstrategic tax breaks and incentives, coupled with shortsighted cuts to public services, has led to continued stagnation. Economic development programs need to be rethought and revised with a focus on sustainability, quality and accountability. We need to focus on developing longterm industries, not ad hoc transactions to create jobs that may or may not be here in a few years. The state must also enact job protections such as Project Labor Agreements in construction and standards post-construction, so that we create good family-sustaining jobs, not poverty jobs. We also must require businesses to set job creation goals when they receive public dollars and ensure that there is a means to claw back our money if promises are not kept. Last but not least, we need to remember that tax cuts do not create jobs. However,
investments in New Yorkers and the services they rely on are tools that will grow our economy. Investing in roads, bridges and mass transit infrastructure, adequately funding public education both at the pre-K through 12 and higher education levels, embracing the state’s responsibility to provide strong public healthcare such as mental health, and investing in public safety are all critical to economic development, not a detriment to it. Public services are an asset to New York State in creating and attracting economic activity and must be viewed as such. Supporting public services and reforming economic development, as well as advancing a progressive legislative agenda, will help all New Yorkers thrive. After all, the only real prosperity is shared prosperity, and we all—elected officials, average New Yorkers, the media and opinion leaders—must recognize that.
GOVERNOR CUOMO’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Lost Revenue Lost Service Lost Jobs Adds Local $ Burden IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Save Our Services
NEW YORK STATE AFL-CIO MARIO CILENTO, President As a state, we need to change not only policy but also who’s setting the agenda. Corporations and billionaires have had their chance, and the result has been unemployment and underemployment, declining wages, and
Support PEF’s campaign to keep services in your community For more information and to sign the petition please go to www.pef.org
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PERSPECTIVES at-risk youth stay out of trouble. Man Up! is run by a political associate of the Barrons’, Andre Mitchell, who has also worked as a paid aide on the couple’s campaigns. Mitchell also appears to run an organization called Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote, which has received campaign expenditures from both Barrons’ campaigns. Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote shares the same address as Man Up! Electioneering by a nonprofit organization receiving public funds is illegal. Neither of the Barrons could be BY SETH BARRON reached for comment. t appears that Sara González will be the sole “The Schain family are community-minded people with Mitchell, who served time in prison for a manslaughter incumbent out of 31 City Council members seeking long ties to my district. I have never done any favors for he told The New York Times he was not involved in, is also re-election not to reclaim her seat in January. The Howard Schain in his capacity as a city marshal.” chairman of a local development corporation, the East other 30 members all coasted to easy victories, with no The employers of city marshals have also been very New York Restoration Local Development Corp., which challenger coming within 10 points of unseating the generous donors to Maisel’s political campaigns. Members was funded by the Related Companies as part of a commuincumbent. of the Edelstein family, owners of Edel Family Manage- nity benefit agreement (CBA) brokered in part by the Of the 20 members who will join González in leaving ment Group, have together contributed more than Barrons, in exchange for their support for the constructhe Council, most were prevented from running again by $13,000 to Maisel’s Assembly and Council runs. Edel owns tion of the Gateway II mall. Man Up! has the contract for term limits, which are meant to stop politicians and their and manages rental buildings and co-ops; just two of its all job training and placement programs established by machines from entrenching their power through the many Washington Heights rental properties have nearly 200 the CBA. advantages that accrue to incumbents. By restricting the open Housing Department violations against them. Continuing our tour of southeast Brooklyn, we number of years any individual can serve, term limits are Inez Barron, currently the Assemblywoman repre- approach CD 37, where Erik Dilan is leaving after 12 years supposed to build in reform, ensuring that fresh voices senting East New York, will succeed her husband, Coun- of service in the Council. Dilan took over his father’s seat are heard and that special interests are checked. cilman Charles Barron, in the 42nd CD. It is expected that when the senior Dilan, Martin, moved to the state Senate. It is noteworthy, however, that nearly one-quarter of Councilman Barron will run for his wife’s seat after she Now Dilan’s former chief of staff, Assemblyman Rafael the 21 members leaving office are all but certain to be resigns, so the area will have mirror-image representation Espinal will succeed him, and there is every indication replaced by sitting members of the state Assembly. These going forward. that Dilan will in turn run for Espinal’s current job. five incoming members bring with them an existing history Assemblywoman Barron has served in the LegislaHaving served for less than one full term, Espinal of political and financial ties that will certainly affect their ture for three relatively undistinguished terms, though has not yet had the chance to sponsor signature legislawork on the Council, and so it is worth reviewing some she has sponsored some unusual legislation. One bill tion. He has, however, had time to collect substantial of these links ahead of the general election that contributions from the real estate industry. For stands as a mere technicality in the way of these instance, the Wartski brothers, Jerry and Jay, Democratic nominees assuming their seats in have given Espinal’s campaigns thousands of overwhelmingly Democratic districts. dollars. In the 1970s Jerry Wartski was arrested for There is a swath of southeast Brooklyn where running a hot-sheet hotel. In the early 1980s he the current Assembly members are poised to was identified by the FDNY as central to a cabal of take over the seats in adjacent council districts: investors whose SROs appeared to burn down at a those held currently by Lew Fidler, Charles rate significantly higher than normal. In the 1990s Barron and Erik Dilan, which will be taken by, the city seized a Wartski-owned building in Washrespectively, Assembly members Alan Maisel, ington Heights that had been taken over by drug Inez Barron and Rafael Espinal. What makes dealers. This unusual move was justified on the this phenomenon all the more remarkable is basis that the owners of the building did nothing that there are very good odds that the departing to prevent the use of their building for criminal Council members will be elected to the Assembly enterprise. seats vacated by their successors, in a staggerAssemblyman Espinal, who could not be ingly precise minuet of political seat-shuffling. reached for comment, is a minor asset to the Alan Maisel of Flatbush, winner of the DemoWartskis, who continue to hold questionably cratic primary in District 46, was formerly the managed properties around the city: Their main chief of staff to current Kings County Demorelationship has always been with Erik Dilan, cratic leader Frank Seddio, and took over his the exiting chairman of the Council’s Housing boss’ seat in 2006 when Seddio became a judge. & Buildings Committee. Council member Dilan Maisel has been a workaday assemblyman and has introduced legislation that would make legal most notably sponsored the bill that outlawed Clockwise from top left: Alan Maisel, Inez Barron, Rafael Espinal, hostels, or communally occupied temporary shark-fin soup in New York. He also had a Erik Dilan, Charles Barron and Lew Fidler rental units, that were made illegal in 2010—legismoment in the sun when he claimed that a lation that would certainly be of advantage to the panel discussion regarding a boycott of Israel Wartskis, owners of low-rent hotels for decades. was creating “the potential for a second Holocaust” at she has introduced would allow churches and “other reliWhile many candidates in the current cycle received Brooklyn College. The panel took place nonetheless. gious organizations or sects” to “issue bachelor’s, master’s independent expenditures from the real estate industry’s Assemblyman Maisel appears to have extraordinarily and doctoral degrees in religion without registration or cat’s-paw Jobs for New York, most opted to shrug at it, close ties to the city marshal community, having accepted approval by the Board of Regents, the Commissioner of claiming quite plausibly that it was none of their busicontributions from a number of individual marshals Education or the Education Department.” ness who spent money on their campaigns. Not so in the totaling close to $11,000, the bulk from Howard Schain The Barrons are both members of Rev. Herbert Daugh- case of Assemblyman Espinal, who was eager to show his and his family. City marshals, empowered to enforce civil try’s House of the Lord Pentecostal Church. Pentecostal appreciation. “I’m very grateful for their endorsement,” court actions, including evictions and seizures of property, ministers are typically “called” to the ministry, and as such said Espinal. “They do believe that I’m the best candidate function as private entrepreneurs. These enforcers often formal ordination is not always a requirement. As a result, to create jobs and to do the job in the City Council.” skirt the boundaries of legality: Schain was fined $50,000 ministers in these churches often lack degrees or other As Simon Cameron said a long time ago, “An honest and suspended by the Department of Investigation in forms of certification. Assemblywoman Barron’s proposal politician is one who, when he is bought, stays bought.” 2000 for filing false records pertaining to evictions. The to allow churches to award advanced degrees in “religion” It is doubtful that his donors will ever regret their investfranchise can be highly lucrative as well: One promi- would presumably make it easier for Pentecostal minis- ment in Rafael Espinal. nent Maisel contributor, Ronald Moses, earned $5 mil- ters to append highfalutin letters to their names. lion from the city in 2010 after towing cars with accumuInez and Charles Barron have together awarded tens Seth Barron (@NYCCouncilWatch on Twitter) runs City lated ticket fines of $100 million. of thousands of dollars to Man Up!, a nonprofit organiza- Council Watch, an investigative website focusing on New Reached for comment, Assemblyman Maisel said, tion that runs antiviolence intervention programs to help York City politics.
Council Watch MUSICAL SEATS
cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
LHOTA MUST BE HIS OWN MAN
By ALEXIS GRENELL
he result of the Democratic primary was shocking, not because Bill de Blasio won, but because it represented a referendum on the limits of Michael Bloomberg’s money and influence. Despite the mayor’s open disdain for de Blasio’s campaign and desperate efforts to elect Christine Quinn, voters had the last word over a man more accustomed to manipulating systems of democracy than conforming to them. De Blasio might not have outperformed expectations quite so dramatically, and avoided a runoff, had the mayor been able to contain himself. Throughout the primary, whenever de Blasio invoked his “Tale of Two Cities” theme, the mayor would often have an unsightly tantrum and deploy members of his administration to respond to the perceived slight. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott
published editorials and held a press conference to defend the administration’s record on education. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson regularly took to Twitter to demean de Blasio’s ideas as dangerous and out-of-date. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was relentless in a series of tone-deaf articles, editorials, and public appearances on the virtues of stopand-frisk. Yet the administration’s efforts fell flat, and Bloomberg only further marginalized himself with voters by making hysterical statements such as calling de Blasio a “racist” for featuring his mixed race family in his campaign. With enemies like that, who needs friends? What’s so stunning about de Blasio’s victory—and Bloomberg’s loss—is that the public actually managed to neutralize the mayor’s money and power. Historically, the mayor has managed to buy off or maneuver around the democratic process. From overturning term limits to paying half a million dollars to secure the Independence Party line to lining the pockets of various AfricanAmerican faith leaders to shut out support for Bill Thompson in 2009, the mayor has proved repeatedly that everything and everyone has a price. But voters flocked to de Blasio
specifically because he recognized the corrosive effect of inequality on democracy, be it economic or social, and promised to govern from a fundamental position of fairness. The mayor and Lhota have tried to characterize de Blasio as a divider, coding him as a “class warrior,” but it’s a risky tactic, one that proved futile in the primary. Although politicos are fond of noting it’s been 20 years since New York City voters last elected a Democratic mayor, the increase in the AfricanAmerican and Latino voter base will be decisive in a city with six times as many registered Democrats. Lhota is a highly capable and worthy candidate, but he risks alienating those communities that rank rising income inequality, stop-and-frisk and affordable housing as high priorities. Recognizing his own toxicity, Bloomberg recently announced he would not endorse a candidate. Though Lhota had previously sought the mayor’s support, he should count himself lucky. Bloomberg may have helped him reach centrist Democrats, but he would also have reinforced a campaign narrative of change versus experience. And this is a change moment in the political life cycle of the city. Polling by The New York Times/
Siena College has found that New Yorkers are evenly split in their opinion of Bloomberg; 57 percent would vote for someone else if he were on the ballot. Similarly, on Election Day voters across the city rejected the past and chose alternative candidates over establishment names like Vito Lopez, Charles Hynes and even Bill Thompson. In politics there are moments of equilibrium where voters seek consistency, but in a period of disequilibrium Lhota would do well to distance himself from retro references to Rudy Giuliani and his immediate successor. In 2008 Hillary Clinton found out just how little experience can matter. The general election is only six weeks away, a relatively small window within which to redefine a primary campaign for a broader audience. Lhota doesn’t have time to make Quinn’s mistake and suffer the consequences of being the mayor’s preferred candidate. As Quinn’s experience makes clear, whatever the rewards, it’s not worth it in the end. Alexis Grenell (@agrenell on Twitter) is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.
SHELLY’S LAST LEGS
By MICHAEL BENJAMIN
Where’s Shelly?” That’s the name of my parlor game as I peruse newspapers, political websites and TV news broadcasts looking for a glimpse of embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. As I prepared this column, it suddenly occurred to me that Silver was noticeably absent from the Democratic Party unity news conference on behalf of mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio. The event was somewhat hosted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the titular head of the state party, and yet Speaker Silver, the de facto leader of the city’s Democrats for many years, was nowhere to be found. Jewish high holidays were not the reason for his absence. Like a wounded lion, Shelly has retreated into his den to lick his wounds. Silver has suffered a series of blows, though until recently none of the injuries seemed grievous enough to be fatal. Beginning in early spring, Silver’s speakership and reputation were damaged by revelations stemming from his mishan40 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
dling of sexual harassment claims made against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. A little over one month ago, the cover-up of two sexual harassment claims against Manhattan Assemblyman Micah Kellner exacerbated the situation and led to the dismissal of a senior Assembly lawyer. Last May Siena polling showed Silver’s favorable/unfavorable numbers at 23/34 percent. By June they had sunk to 20/43. The 43 percent unfavorable rating was the worst recorded by the Speaker in over eight years. But of course, public polls do not determine the viability of an Assembly Speaker. However, the recent revelations that forced the resignation of William Rapfogel— a close friend and confidant of Silver’s and husband of his chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel— as president of the venerable Met Council on Jewish Poverty are real cause for the Speaker to be concerned about the prospects of continuing his near 20-year reign in Albany. Allegations of kickbacks, illegal campaign contributions and the trading of housing development tax credits have the potential to take down the House of Silver. The recently empaneled Moreland Commission is reportedly investigating the nexus of campaign donations, legislation, tax credits and legislators’ outside income. On the day of the Thompson–de Blasio unity news conference, The New York Times reported that Rapfogel may have personally profited from the insurance kickback
scheme. The drip, drip of more Rapfogel stories undermines the Speaker’s continuing viability. Nonetheless, there has been little pressure on Shelly from his members—at least in public—for him to step down as Speaker. Some of them dismiss the significance of the case against Rapfogel because there is no indication of a direct connection of impropriety to Shelly (or even Judy). Earlier in the year the general consensus was that Silver’s departure would weaken the Assembly. Today, however, only the staunchest of Silver loyalists cling to that belief. Meanwhile, other members are quietly vetting potential successors. Needless to say, deposing a sitting Speaker midterm is a Herculean feat. Memory of the Bragman coup still haunts members and makes them wary of engaging in any seditious activities. But politics being a survivors’ game, the future does not bode well for Speaker Silver’s longevity. I suspect that members, particularly the so-called “marginals,” who hail from competitive suburban and upstate districts, are not looking forward to campaigning in 2014 with the Silver albatross hanging from their necks. The Democratic Conference is not without capable, seasoned veteran legislators who could step into the breach should Silver’s speakership be further imperiled by
another dropped shoe. I’d imagine New York City members want to retain control of the speakership—and given that dynamic, the large Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus would have a significant say in that selection. After years of being loyal backbenchers, I see no reason why the caucus’ members would not tap one of their own as a contender. Old paradigms have been displaced. For 31 months the state had a black chief executive. Two of the state’s biggest upstate cities will have black mayors in 2014. Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, was recently crowned Miss America. There’s no reason to believe that the speakership should be exempt from the march of demographic change. Silver, the Assembly lion who protected his pride from a succession of hostile governors intent on declawing the Legislature, is now in the crosshairs of the media, prosecutors and ambitious members. When he finally emerges from his den, he may face a line of spears. The inevitable outcome may involve Silver voluntarily stepping aside in order to protect his beloved “People’s House” from the wrecking ball of ruinous investigations.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@ SquarePeg_Dem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR JEFF? EMAIL EDITOR@CITYANDSTATENY.COM
DO AS I SAY A P O L I T I CA L A DV I C E CO LU M N
Did you see the Washington Post article about the longtime Hillary Clinton aide getting mixed up in shenanigans during the 2008 campaign where she appears to have coordinated a so-called independent expenditure on behalf of the campaign? It reminds me of what you got in trouble for. What’s the difference, and what do you think will happen to her? —M.E, Washington, D.C.
By JEFF SMITH
Here’s my problem: I’m secretly dating someone who works on an opposing campaign. I know what you’re thinking: This is like something out of a movie, or like James Carville and Mary Matalin. But we’re just two people who really like each other and don’t want to let the campaign get in the way of a blossoming relationship. Is this too scandalous? Should we take a break, or do you think we can survive it? —Juliet (obviously not my real name!)
Yes, “Juliet,” something about your question suggested that might not be your real name, though I appreciate the clarification. As for you and your star-crossed lover, your situation does sound a bit like a movie—the dreadful 1992 Michael Keaton vehicle Speechless.
Forgive my tone, Juliet, but, really, chill. By today’s standards, what you’re doing isn’t very scandalous, unless of course you’re leaking poll numbers and television ad scripts. In fact, someone else on your campaign is probably hooking up with someone on an opposing campaign as well. Politics is a small and horny world. So go ahead and date—quietly for now if you prefer, but openly if you like. Assuming that your boyfriend on the other campaign isn’t a 15 year-old intern, I’d suggest that this cycle’s candidates have rendered your love life rather quaint.
Well, one big difference is about $600,000 (the expenditure in question was nearly $609,000, whereas the expenditure during my 2004 race was approximately $10,000). A second difference is that—at least according to the Post article—the Clinton aide in question, unfortunately, allegedly put some things in writing, unlike my campaign aides who met with an outside consultant. But the biggest apparent difference is that none of her closest friends wore a wire and got her to talk, so it may be possible for her to explain away alleged emails that strongly suggest illegal coordination but leave some ambiguity. “I was merely providing Sen. Clinton’s campaign schedule for an old associate who wanted to invite friends to some events,” she might say; or “I provided information about our field operations to an associate who said he knew some willing campaign helpers, but I had no idea he was planning any sort of independent expenditure.” I should stress that I’m not accusing anyone of a crime here but speculating about possible defenses. Given the woman’s status as a longtime Clinton aide and the high stakes as Hillary contemplates 2016, I’d expect she’s receiving top-flight legal advice. The outcome is difficult to predict without seeing the actual emails, but it will sure be interesting to watch it unfold.
I work for a New York City agency as
a political appointee. My top boss is a Bloomberg guy and supports Lhota; a lot of other people at work supported Quinn. As for me, I’m for whoever wins, because unlike my two bosses, (a) I’m not very political, and (b) I may not be able to find another job quickly and my savings are sparse. Should I try to reach out to someone in de Blasio’s camp now, banking on his likely win and hoping to get in early, or do you think that one of
my supervisors could find out and fire me before the next administration even begins? —Do Not Use My Initials, New York City
There’s some missing info in your question that makes an answer somewhat difficult: (1) I don’t know if you’re a discreet person and if you’re
capable of making inquiries without it hurting you at work; (2) I don’t know how intensely political and/or how vindictive your supervisors are; and (3) I don’t know how much de Blasio’s team is thinking about filling third-tier agency jobs at this point, but I’m guessing the answer is… not much. This seems like one of those situations where the risks of acting outweigh the upside that could come from acting, given uncertainty about the former and the low odds of the latter. Accordingly, I’d suggest keeping your powder dry for now.
Hey, Jeff, now that the campaign’s over, do you think Huma will finally dump Weiner? —G.C., Glen Ridge, N.J.
You really never know what’s going on in somebody else’s marriage. Some signs point to yes: She didn’t accompany him to vote, skipped his
watch party, and was not thanked in his speech, despite having spoken at an excruciatingly difficult press conference after the most recent round of sexting revelations. But it might be that this was merely strategic: Both of them realized that the whole ordeal had damaged Huma’s image, and given her future role in Hillary’s Clinton’s orbit, it may be that the couple agreed to insulate her from any further shrapnel by completely walling her off from all public association with her husband’s campaign. In truth, the latter would’ve been a wise decision: The last thing Huma needed was to somehow end up in a watch party picture with Sydney Leathers’ newly augmented bosom.
Jeff Smith (@JeffSmithMO on Twitter) is a former Missouri state senator who resigned from office after a felony conviction and served a year in federal prison. Now an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the New School, Jeff recently co-authored The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
WINNERS & LOSERS
Nothing embodies the spirit of Winners and Losers more than a competitive election. Ultimately everyone was on an even playing field, rhetoric and prognosticating be damned—but disengaged New York voters did not hold up their end, turning out in woefully low numbers. Still, there were plenty of victors and the vanquished in this grueling, bizarre, and often captivating primary, and so we bring you this special expanded edition of Winners & Losers. Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote.
Week of Sept. 9, 2013
LOSERS YOUR CHOICE The de Blasios 33%
Anybody But Quinn 28% Gale Brewer 9% Scott Stringer 8% Joe Lhota 6% Ken Thompson 6% Jobs for New York 3% Lovely Warren 3% George Gresham 3% Douglas Schwartz 1%
The de Blasios: Yes, Bill
came away with the big prize, winning 40 percent of the vote (give or take) and all but securing the Democratic nomination for mayor, but he should give his son, Dante, a raise in his allowance or extend his curfew for helping his old man get there. Dante’s Afro became the icon of the de Blasio campaign, and while we hope that one day Dante can return to the cozy anonymity most 16-year-olds enjoy, we haven’t seen the last of him—or the rest of the close-knit de Blasio clan—in this campaign.
Christine Quinn 36% Michael Bloomberg 14% Bill Thompson 11% Charles Hynes 11% SKD Knickerbocker 8% Vito Lopez 6% Michael Mulgrew 5% Micah Kellner 5% Sara González 3% The dailies 1%
YOUR CHOICE Christine Quinn: No
wonder Quinn’s campaign wouldn’t publish her campaign schedule. No other candidate had a group of dedicated activists following her around and antagonizing her throughout the mayoral campaign, an early bad omen. In the end the proud Council Speaker was seen as an extension of the Bloomberg legacy in a “change” election— and as people started paying attention, her front-runner status evaporated. Better send those #Quinning T-shirts to the Salvation Army.
George Gresham: 1199 SEIU an early de Blasio backer Jobs for New York: Funded Council candidates Joe Lhota: Republican nominee for mayor Douglas Schwartz: Q poll gets it right Ken Thompson: Ousts a sitting DA Lovely Warren: Upsets Rochester’s mayor Anybody But Quinn: Got their mark
The dailies: Times, News and Post all backed Quinn Sara González: Rare loss by an incumbent Charles Hynes: Unlucky bid for seventh term Micah Kellner: Sexual harassment claims torpedo campaign Vito Lopez: No return to elected office Michael Mulgrew: UFT not “making the mayor” after all Bill Thompson: Lost his base, even his home district
STEAMROLLER Scott Stringer: It’s hard to tell whether Stringer was David or Goliath in his race for New York City comptroller against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer—but regardless, he eked out a victory against the steamroller and set himself up to rumble into office in November. While Stringer made Spitzer’s wealth and personal infidelities a major issue, a win is a win, and now he’s poised to run the second most powerful office in the city. Plus, he could also be the heir apparent to whoever becomes mayor in November—the job he wanted in the first place.
BLOOM OR BUST Michael Bloomberg: With only a few months left on his third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become politically toxic. His recent criticism of Bill de Blasio might have boosted de Blasio above the 40 percent he needed to avoid a runoff. And even though Bloomberg’s lieutenants are out in full force trying to protect his legacy, it looks like Hizzoner is not going to have the influence on this election cycle he had hoped—both in the city and possibly nationally, especially after two Democrat state senators in Colorado were recalled for supporting gun control measures despite an influx of money from Bloomberg’s PAC.
GALE FORCE Gale Brewer: By all accounts, New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer simply outworked her opponents in the race for Manhattan BP, and in the end she was able to coast to victory with almost 40 percent of the vote in a competitive four-person field in which the candidates differed little on the issues. The result was less of a surprise after she got the backing of The New York Times—a virtual seal of approval for a large part of the Manhattan Democratic electorate—which wrote that she was “too rare a public official to retire.”
SKO’D SKDKnickerbocker: SKD has had many big wins in the past and is sure to have many more in the future, but on Tuesday they were at the helm of the two biggest losses in the state: Christine Quinn’s and Tom Richards’ campaigns. Sure, the mega–consulting company won with Scott Stringer, but it’s hard to take too much credit for a victory when every elected official, union and advocacy group in the city is on your side.
42 SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
HISTORY MAKER A Q&A WITH DAVID DINKINS
City & State Editor-in-Chief Morgan Pehme spoke with Dinkins about his legacy, Michael Bloomberg, Bill de Blasio and who was New York City’s greatest mayor. The following is an edited transcript. City & State: A number of commentators in recent years have credited you for initiating some of the key anticrime measures that came to fruition with great success during the Giuliani administration, and in your book you make a point of reminding your readers that it was you who first appointed Ray Kelly as police commissioner. Do you think that Kelly changed as police commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg, or did he continue to implement some of the policies you started? David Dinkins: I’m confident that he did whatever Mike Bloomberg asked him to do. He is a consummate professional. The difficulties of stop-and-frisk require more than a cursory response. I think that in any segment of our society—police officers, teachers, firefighters, priests, rabbis—there’s going to be a certain element that is imperfect, that will not always do as they should—whether in one group it might be one percent and in another group in might be one one-hundredth of a percent—so it stands to reason that there are going to be some police officers who will not maybe be at all times the way they should, and therefore we favored community policing, which among other things always provided that a rookie cop was never alone but always accompanied by a professional, somebody who’d been around awhile. C&S: Would there have been a place for stop-and-frisk in the Dinkins administration? DD: If it’s done appropriately the way I just described it.
New Yorkers? DD: I think that he’s done a pretty good job. That doesn’t mean that all things are perfect, because they certainly are not, and as I said to a group assembled on the occasion of the African-American parade this past Sunday, things are not yet what they should be—Dr. King’s dream is not yet realized—but thank God they’re not what they used to be. C&S: It has been observed by some commentators that as mayor you largely eschewed speaking directly to the problems and dynamics of race in our city. Do you regret that approach, or do you think that this is a mischaracterization of your time in office? DD: I think that might be a characterization that’s not quite accurate. I spoke up about a lot of things, and it was after I was out of office, but, for instance, I was one of those arrested at 1 Police Plaza around the Amadou Diallo situation. In fact, I am the chairman of the Amadou Diallo Foundation. That’s not quite the posture and attitude of one who failed to speak out. C&S: In the recent Democratic primary, Bill de Blasio won among black, Hispanic, gay and white voters. Does this indicate to you that the era of identity politics is coming to an end in New York City? DD: I don’t know. I think Bill de Blasio won a fine campaign and I’m not unhappy with his success by any means. In fact, I spoke with him yesterday and told him I would do anything I could to help. Somebody suggested to me today that this might be seen as sort of a repeat of the campaign between Rudy [Giuliani] and me in ’93 or ’89, and my response was, “Well, if that be true, I hope it’s ’89.” C&S: You came up through the great Harlem Democratic machine. Do you think that the city has lost something with the decline in machine politics? DD: I suppose there is some good and some bad. There was Carmine DeSapio and Meade Esposito, not seen as sterling figures in government. And then there was Ray Jones, who I think always supported quality candidates—your humble servant included—but [also] Connie Motley, Ken Clark, James Watson, Herb Evans, Fritz Alexander—so it’s not quite as simple as the suggestion that the so-called “machine politics” is all bad. C&S: To crystallize your legacy for history, how would you most want to be remembered as mayor? DD: Somebody who loved children and cares about them. And I would remind people that I was criticized soundly for my support of the National Tennis Center. In fact, Rudy used it as a campaign item in ’93, and we signed the lease agreement, and then when I left office Rudy attempted to have it changed, but the United States Tennis Association officials refused to buckle and they kept it. Now that Tennis Center and the U.S. Open in two weeks yields more revenue into the economy of the city than the Yankees, Mets, Knicks and Rangers combined—the number is north of $700 million every year—and Mike Bloomberg will tell you that it’s the best deal in the nation for a municipal stadium.
C&S: Other than mentioning Michael Bloomberg in passing in your memoir, you largely refrain from commenting on his mayoralty. How would you evaluate his 12 years in office? DD: I think he did a lot of things for which we will always be grateful. I remind people that when I was mayor Mark Green was my commissioner of Consumer Affairs, and one of our goals was to try to cease the public advertising of smoking at ball games—in ballparks they would have huge billboards—and we were never very successful at that because they would respond, “They’ve leased the space, and we can’t do much about it.” Well, Mike Bloomberg not only got people to quit smoking, he did a great job of it, and as somebody who used to smoke but quit in 1962, I know what a job that is. So he did some things very well. I don’t agree with some other things. I disagree with the sugar drinks and limiting the quantity there. But Mike did a pretty good job. No mayor in our city’s history has done well in his third term. Nobody. That’s one of the reasons I beat Ed Koch.
C&S: You level some strong criticism in your book at Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch. Who in your opinion is the greatest mayor in New York City history? DD: You mean, besides me? [Laughs] I won’t attempt to say who was the greatest. I liked each mayor in some regard. I loved John Lindsay, and he certainly was imperfect. I loved Abe Beame, and he had his failings. I was not fond of Rudy because—Ed Koch wrote a book, you know what the title was?
C&S: Bill de Blasio has gotten a lot of traction from the “Tale of Two Cities” theme of his campaign. Has Bloomberg been a mayor for all
C&S: Giuliani: Nasty Man. DD: And I didn’t write it! cityandstateny.com | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
avid Dinkins was the first and only African-American mayor of the City of New York, serving one term, from 1990 through 1993. A disciple of the “Harlem Fox,” J. Raymond Jones—the sole African-American to lead Tammany Hall— Dinkins rose to power through the so-called “Harlem Clubhouse” alongside politicians like Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson and Charles Rangel. Dinkins, who served in the state Assembly and as Manhattan borough president before attaining New York City’s highest office by defeating Ed Koch, has just released a memoir, A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic.
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Builder | Owner | Manager
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Published on Sep 20, 2013
Cover Story: Meet Joe Lhota Industry Spotlight: Setting the Agenda Sections on Gaming, Construction, Organized Labor, Energy, Education....