Vol. 2, No. 19 - OCTOBER 7, 2013
HIP HOP HEROES: DJ KOOL HERC AND CHUCK SCHUMER
WHAT NYC CAN LEARN FROM THE YANKEES’ FAILURE
City & State NY LLC 61 Broadway, Suite 2825 New York, NY 10006
HOW MUCH IS GRACIE MANSION WORTH?
THE RACE FOR COUNCIL SPEAKER HEATS UP
UPFRONT DUMP THE RUNOFF
Morgan Pehme EDITOR
istorical memory being short—and getting shorter all the time—we often mistakenly assume that the laws we are governed by today were always in place. Such is the case with New York City’s runoff election, a requirement that only took effect in 1973. The runoff, which irrationally applies only to the three citywide offices—mayor, comptroller and public advocate (formerly the job of City Council president, until it was renamed in 1993), originated as a knee-jerk reaction to the outcome of the 1969 Democratic primary. In that race, City Comptroller Mario Procaccino, a conservative “regular” from the Bronx, won the Democratic nomination for mayor with 32.8 percent of the vote, defeating former Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr., Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo, novelist Norman Mailer and Congressman James Scheuer in a five-way primary. Procaccino, a gaffe machine on the trail, who famously said to an AfricanAmerican audience, “My heart is as black as yours,” would go on to lose the general election to the incumbent John Lindsay, the Liberal Party nominee who had been upset in his own Republican primary. About Procaccino’s calamitous effort, The New York Times’ chief political correspondent at the time, Richard Reeves, wrote it was “the worst political campaign in American history.” Determined to never again be done in by a subpar nominee in November who sneaks through a crowded primary, the Democrats lobbied the state Legislature to institute the runoff rule. To be clear, this measure was not intended to legitimize the nominee by making sure he or she was selected by a larger
plurality or a majority of New Yorkers. It was put in place so that party leaders could get a second chance at winning, if for any reason their horse came up short. Which brings us to 2013, when the city threw away an estimated $13 million so that a minute percentage of the electorate—fewer than 190,000 voters, or 5.9 percent of registered Democrats—could decide the public advocate’s race. Not only was turnout for this obscure contest dismally low, since there is no Republican candidate for the office, in actuality the few Democrats who did show up determined who will be the next public advocate for all of us, meaning that around 4 percent of the total number of registered voters in the city made the choice for the other 96 percent. How’s that for democracy? As election attorney Jerry Goldfeder points out, the runoff, as it has played out over the last four decades in New York City—and did so again this time around—is all the more nonsensical, because it virtually never affects the ultimate outcome of the primary. Only twice in 40 years has the second-place finisher in the initial vote wound up winning in round two—in 1977 Carol Bellamy came back to beat the incumbent Paul O’Dwyer for City Council president, and in 2001 Mark Green squeaked by Fernando Ferrer by fewer than 16,000 votes out of the 790,000 cast. While the very concept of a runoff is suspect—why must a candidate win the same race twice?—at least we can switch over to instant runoff voting, a far more sensible and economical system in which voters would rank the candidates in order of their preference in the primary, thereby eliminating the need to return to the polls. Just because we have gotten used to the runoff is no reason to perpetuate its flawed existence into the future. As Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
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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.
BROOKLYN Robert Cornegy Jr. (below) finally was able to claim victory in the race for a New York City Council seat in Brooklyn, settling the longest undecided contest remaining from this year’s primary.
The Board of Elections certified the race on September 27, giving Cornegy a slim 68-vote margin of victory. His opponent, Kirsten John Foy, who conceded, chose not to challenge the results of the election, citing the expense of “resources to pursue legal recourse. ... The administration of this election by the Board of Elections has been an absolute failure— from the number of broken voting machines in Bedford-Stuyvesant alone to its handling of the vote-counting process after Election Day,” Foy said. “It is unacceptable for the foundation of our democracy to
be so poorly run—disenfranchising voters by not counting their votes, and lacking accountability. It is a textbook example of why reform of the Board of Elections is needed.” Cornegy was more inclined to look forward: “[The] certification and ... concession brings to a close the Democratic nomination process; however, there’s still the general election to win, and that brings the possibility of a spirited race once again across multiple party lines,” he said, “Because of that we’re leaving nothing to chance. We’re taking this all one step at a time.”
in a polarized and sometimes gridlocked Senate, was especially pleased. “I am proud we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement that will undoubtedly stave off devastating cuts towards our most vulnerable populations,” he said. “We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the developmentally
ROCKLAND COUNTY State legislators celebrated Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of legislation to restore $90 million in funding to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. Cuomo had cut funding from the agency earlier this year during budget negotiations, a decision that sparked a session-long showdown between state lawmakers and the governor’s office. Legislators across the state celebrated the move, but Rockland County Sen. David Carlucci (right), who spearheaded the restoration campaign
disabled or our nonprofit service providers. I would like to thank Gov. Cuomo for his leadership and understanding on this vital issue.” Cuomo called the legislation “another step in our work to improve services and protections for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities.”
THE BEST OF TWITTER FROM CITY & STATE’S LAST READ EMAIL
Fake Sheldon Silver @ShellySilver : My chief of staff had no knowledge of the hundreds of thousands in state funds stuffed in her bedroom closet. http://m.nydailynews.com/1.1467749
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UPFRONT BY THE NUMBERS THE KICKER: A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE’S FIRST READ EMAIL “If the federal government shuts down next week, don’t worry, come back to New York, and we’ll put you to work at City Hall.” —Mayor Michael Bloomberg, thanking Vice President Joe Biden, after being presented with the Clinton Global Citizen award, via the Daily News
TO YOUR HEALTH The federal government may have shut down, but that didn’t stop the state from opening its new healthcare exchange program. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and half the Cuomo administration’s cabinet toured a handful of health exchange facilities that will try to enroll millions of uninsured New Yorkers in the new program. The exchanges will begin on Jan. 1, and the enrollment period runs through March 31. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re dealing with:
2.7 million Uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers
1.1 million New Yorkers are expected to obtain health insurance through the exchange
615,000 Individuals will try to obtain health insurance
450,000 Small business members will try to obtain health insurance
$131 per month Price for individuals for basic catastrophic coverage
f the mayor’s mansion were up for sale, could it command the highest price for a singlefamily home in New York City history? What if you could own the Upper East Side’s most iconic single-family residence? The 214-year-old mansion has played host to presidents, dignitaries and movie stars, and has been the official residence of New York City’s mayors since 1942, when Fiorello La Guardia moved in. Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg has avoided staying there overnight, preferring his own townhouse in the neighborhood, Gracie will almost certainly become home to the next mayor, whoever he may be. But what would the People’s House actually go for on the open market?
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
The Federalist-style mansion is a 7,500-square-foot property with five bedrooms, a grand ballroom and two reception rooms. It sits on 11 acres of property adjacent to the East River with views of Queens. According to property records, the land itself is valued at $109 mil-lion. Additionally, Bloomberg invested $7 million of his personal fortune into the building’s most recent renovation. Real estate agents estimate the housecouldfetchupwardsof$150million, although the property’s historic and unusual nature may determine the market. “It’s a one-of-a-kind, unique property, and that’s what everyone in the world looks for,” Town Residential broker Robin Lyon-Gardiner said. “Someone is buying that not with any of that in mind. It’s like buying a Hamptons house in
Manhattan. And you can’t even do that because that house comes with a pool, a tennis court and a view of the ocean. Can you build a tennis court there?” Mansions in Manhattan with 11 acres of riverside property don’t come along every day. A townhouse on 52nd Street purported to be the largest single family home in New York City just hit the market for $130 million. It has eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a swimming pool and tennis court—but Ed Koch never walked around naked inside. Of course, it’s highly unlikely the city would ever put Gracie Mansion up for sale—unless, perhaps, there were a particularly dreadful budget crisis. Fortunately, at that point Bloomberg could just buy the place back for the city. “He’s the only one who could afford it,” Lyon-Gardiner said.
$360 per month Price for the most comprehensive plan available
$95 Per-adult penalty for the first year if you don’t have insurance by 2015
$695 Maximum penalty per adult
2.5 million Hits in first half-hour the New York State Health Exchange’s website went online
7.5 million Hits on New York State Health Exchange’s website the first day by 2 p.m.
10 million Total hits on New York State Health Exchange’s website the first day
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN
CUP RUNOFF OVER FOR SOME PATRONS AT ARTIE’S THE RUNOFF WAS PERSONAL BY AARON SHORT
ometimes New York City can seem like a small town—especially on an Election Day. A minuscule number of New Yorkers— fewer than 190,000, by the preliminary count—voted in the primary runoff election, and a number of customers at Artie’s Deli on the Upper West Side said they picked their candidate for public advocate because they knew him personally. In this case, that would be state Sen. Daniel Squadron. “We know his family,” Thelma Kandel said. “I think he’s very confident, and we have confidence he’s going to do a great job. He’s got a lot of integrity.” Another diner who was from Riverdale knew Squadron’s parents because they had been neighbors. “He’s a fine young man, and he should get the job,” said one woman who declined to give her name. “He’s from the Bronx. His parents live there.”
One customer pointed to Squadron’s stance on religious education—he favors keeping religious instruction out of public schools—as the key issue that swayed him from supporting Squadron’s opponent, New York City Councilwoman Letitia James. And other diners chose Squadron because they had met him on the campaign trail this summer. “I voted for Squadron, and phone-called for Squadron,” Upper West Side resident Ed Krawitz said. “He’s the only one that has really excited my passion.” Even a customer who said he preferred that the city abolish the office of public advocate said Squadron was a “good guy.” “I would vote for whoever would promise to work for the abolition of the office,” said Joe, who declined to give his last name. He said he would vote for Republican Joe Lhota for mayor, even though he’s a Democrat, because Lhota has the “competence and experience” to lead the city, which he fears could be heading toward a financial crisis. Most of the diners favored Lhota’s rival,
Bill de Blasio. Four senior citizens at a table said they would vote for de Blasio. One of the diners, whose name was Murray, said he was “not wild” about voting for the Democratic nominee for mayor, but felt like he “had no choice.” “I’m an old-fashioned liberal, live in rent-stabilized housing, and he would be more in favor of tenants’ issues,” he said. “I am excited about the mayor’s race for a negative reason. I am very excited about getting rid of Bloomberg. I really mean that.” Not everyone shared his views. Carmen Vazquez said she would vote for a Democrat for mayor in November, but she hopes the next mayor keeps Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “I just don’t want to see Ray Kelly out of office,” she said. “I think he’s done a great job in what he’s done in the city, and I don’t want to see him gone.” Another diner, who said she was a Democrat, called de Blasio “disingenuous” and said that the city had a “terrible slate of
candidates.” “De Blasio said he’s going to raise taxes,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “He can’t raise taxes because they do that in Albany. The governor isn’t going to do that. He needs the high rollers to bankroll his next election.” As for Artie’s manager, Barry Orenstein, he seemed fed up with the election after talking about politics for months. “No, I don’t like either of them,” he said of the mayoral candidates.
Artie’s manager Barry Orenstein has grown tired of the election.
Save SUNY DowNState! Brooklyn needs SUNY Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital. Yet both are in jeopardy. Health care services are being curtailed, including Downstate’s dialysis and asthma centers. Dozens of employees are being laid off and hundreds more are expected to lose their jobs. Medical education for thousands of students could also be in jeopardy. Too many hospitals in Brooklyn are slated for closure or privatization. It’s time to speak up.
tell the governor to keep SUNY Downstate a fully operational and public hospital. United University Professions The union that makes SUNY work President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. www.uupinfo.org
* MSG & Data Rates Apply—Reply STOP to Cancel
text the word Downstate to 57682 cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
MOTT HAVEN, THE BRONX
DE BLASIO MESSAGE GETS MIXED RECEPTION IN MOTT HAVEN
SOUTH BRONX NEIGHBORHOOD “HAVE-NOTS” STILL UNDECIDED WHOM TO SUPPORT IN NOVEMBER
Awilda Cordero backed Anthony Weiner in the primary. Now she’s deciding whether to support former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión—who is running on the Independence Party line—or Democrat Bill de Blasio.
By KATE PASTOR
ill de Blasio successfully framed his primary campaign as a “tale of two cities”—a metropolis of haves and have-nots. Mott Haven, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, would seem ripe for this message. However, interviews conducted in late September in and around Camaguey restaurant on 138th Street and Brook Avenue suggest the Democratic candidate for mayor still has hearts and minds to win. Even among those who cited the economy as their most important concern, a focus on income inequality did not necessarily translate into votes for de Blasio. Some didn’t believe politics would help solve their problems. Others were still deciding which candidate would most improve their lives financially. Awilda Cordero, a community leader whose boyfriend owns a nearby barbershop on East 138th Street, campaigned for Anthony Weiner until the bitter end, putting signs in windows there and at Camaguey. She will not only vote in November but says she will volunteer for whichever remaining candidates wins her over, vowing to bring “over 100 people if they need ’em” as foot soldiers to the cause. 6
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
“We want to campaign for somebody,” she said. But she hasn’t decided whether to support former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión—who is running on the Independence Party line—or de Blasio. De Blasio made it clear that he would represent whites and blacks, she said, but she is not yet convinced that he will stand alongside Latinos. “Basically we’re looking for somebody who’s really going to help everybody out,” she said. Having worked with Carrión, Cordero has seen him “giving back to the community,” she said, through toy drives and other charitable activities she helped organize as founder of the nonprofit Emergency Rights, an organization that helps victims of crimes and disasters. “Every time my organization called him, he was there as borough president,” she said. “I don’t know de Blasio the way I know Carrión.” Asked which issues he cares most about, a man selling DVDs at Camaguey named Lefty Tony rattled off a list of economic concerns, adding that he wanted to bring prayer back into public schools. Even though the costs of living were going up, he said, wages and salaries seem stagnant. Despite these worries, Tony said he would not vote in November. The last time
he cast a ballot was in the 1980s. “I’m a poor person,” he said. “Their voices don’t count in the United States.” Watching the evening news on a variety of channels, Tony said he mostly hears candidates attacking each other. With the exception of stop-and-frisk, he learns little about where they stand on the issues, he said. “I don’t see no difference,” Tony said. Fernando Santiago, 39, lives in a building adjoining Camaguey, at 518 E. 138th Street. His biggest concerns are rent control, the price of food and the cost of living in general. Though he tends to lean Democratic, Santiago could not name or speak specifically about any of the candidates. Noting that he needs more information about the mayoral hopefuls, he intends to turn on the Channel 7 evening news and begin paying attention to direct messages from the campaigns before Election Day. “I wouldn’t just vote. I would see what’s going on, what they’re talking about,” Santiago said. Race is unlikely to influence his choice; for him politicians are “all the same” and “color doesn’t play a part in it.” Gloria Cruz, a Mott Haven resident and antiviolence advocate, is also still vetting the candidates. “As a Democrat, you always go with the party. But if I don’t feel comfortable, I
just won’t vote at all,” she said when interviewed over the phone. She was initially considering de Blasio, Cruz said, though when she learned Carrión would also be on the ballot come November, she decided to give him serious consideration. “You know, he’s a hometown boy, and he understands a lot about where our people are coming from, and what they need,” she said. On the other hand, she added, “I don’t know where his mind frame is right now.” Cruz said the next mayor should focus on funding youth programs, investing in mental health and helping young people “find peace within themselves so they don’t pick up a gun.” Not everyone was on the fence when it came to the candidates. Sergio Rodriguez, who works for the NYPD, cited de Blasio’s stance against “stop, question and frisk” as the reason he would be voting for Republican candidate Joe Lhota. And Lillian Garcia, 55, who believes de Blasio is “more for the poor people,” has made her choice. But even though her candidate won the Democratic primary, she wasn’t getting her hopes up. “I think the Republican’s going to win, though,” she said. “It’s just a feeling. … It always happens like that.”
POLITICS • POLICY • PERSONALITIES
Look Who’s Reading
The Way to Reach Elected Officials For advertising information, please contact Jim Katocin at 212.284.9714 or Jkatocin@cityandstateny.com
TALE OF THE TAPE THE H I S PA NIC AGEN DA By MICHAEL JOHNSON
frisk policy and expanding paid sick leave to small businesses, but it also breaks from the ext year New York City’s government traditional progressive mold to emphasize will undergo a dramatic change initiatives specifically targeted to benefit the with the election of a new mayor, Hispanic community. For example, on envicomptroller, public advocate and almost ronmental policy the report brings attention two dozen new City Council members. This to the lack of green space in predominately turnover presents a unique opportunity Hispanic communities compared with other for special interest groups and advocacy parts of the city, and calls for building more organizations to push for policy changes. parks in those areas. The report also advoOne of these groups is the Hispanic Feder- cates for an expansion of the popular Citi ation, which provides grants for nonprofit Bike program into upper Manhattan and the organizations helping the Latino community Bronx where there are larger Hispanic popuand champions the interests of Hispanics on lations. the national, state The report is and city level. most detailed in In late regard to educaSeptember the tion policy. It Federation released outlines a list of a blueprint for the recommendafuture of New York tions including City entitled “La the creation of 50 Gran Manzana: The new community Road Ahead for New schools over the York City’s Latino 1.1 million students next four years Community” that in New York City public schools and full day pre-K lays out recom59 percent graduation rate with Spanish mendations on a 15 percent graduate college-ready dual language wide range of topics programs to including educa(SOURCE: HISPANIC FEDERATION) help non-native tion, environmental speaking 3- and protection, health 4-year-olds intepolicy, affordable housing and public safety. grate into society. Calderón said the group Hispanic Federation President José is also embracing the new Common Core Calderón acknowledged that the agenda is requirements but that it wants more flexa progressive one, saying that its political ibility for students still learning English who reflects the needs of the Latino community. take the test. “One overarching theme is equity and the “With Common Core there needs to be need for greater equity for our community,” some flexibility around understanding that, Calderón said in a recent City & State Last yes, we need to hold our kids to higher stanLook video interview. dards, our teachers, our principles, everyone The report calls for many liberal policies, sort of in the system, including parents,” including universal, full-day prekindergarten, Calderón said. “But we have to understand ending the NYPD’s controversial stop-and- the context of where some of these kids are
FACTS ON HISPANIC STUDENTS:
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
operating. Obviously they are learning a new language, right, and you are holding them to the same standard as other kids.” Calderón also said it was important to take steps to include parents in the education process and, even more importantly, to make sure parents of English Language Learners are notified of their child’s rights and opportunities. The Federation’s report addresses stopand-frisk in a section on civil rights, pointing out recent statistics showing that Hispanics are stopped and frisked at a disproportionate rate and calling for reforms at the NYPD to eliminate profiling. “The hope and the expectation is, now, with a new administration and with the legislation that just passed in the City Council, that we will see a new day in terms of police policies as it regards to the way they are treating our citizens,” Calderón said. Some of the other civil rights issue the report focus on concern elections. It calls for the hiring more bilingual poll workers and improved training for them, and for lawmakers to pass a New York City Voting Rights Act to increase transparency. Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor, has a 68 to 18 percent lead among Hispanic voters in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, and his platform often lines up with the Hispanic Federation report. It clearly outlines the inequality that de Blasio speaks about on the campaign trail as part of his “Tale of Two Cities” message. Calderón said that he has already spoken to de Blasio and Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrión about the Federation priorities. He has also reached out to Republican Joe Lhota and expects to meet with him soon. It is his hope that City Council members will take up the Federation’s agenda as well.
HISPANIC FEDERATION GOALS: $20 million Fund for undocumented youths to attend college 20 percent Procurement for minorityand women-owned businesses $25 million Baseline funding for Immigration Opportunities Initiative Preserve $500,000 Funding for public defenders for immigrants facing deportation
La Gran Manzana:
THE ROAD AHEAD FOR NEW YORK CITY’S LATINO COMMUNITY
Policy Blueprint for the City’s Next Mayor and City Council
To watch these, and many other, Last Look interviews in their entirety, go to cityandstateny.com/video. To receive every Last Look video in your inbox, sign up for Last Read.
RISING STARS With so many open seats in the New York City Council, a constellation of Rising Stars will be coming out in City Hall this January. But not all of this next generation of the best and the brightest are elected-officials-to-be. As always, many of the most dynamic, innovative and passionate individuals who have devoted their young lives to politics and government are staffers, advocates, strategists, journalists and organizers. While the Big Apple is a magnet for so much of the world’s greatest talent, there are always those who shine even amid a galaxy of standouts. The following are 40 individuals who have already distinguished themselves in the eyes of their colleagues, and who are well on their way to amassing many more noteworthy accomplishments in the future. Meet City & State’s 2014 class of 40 Under 40 New York City Rising Stars.
PROFILES WRITTEN BY JON LENTZ, MORGAN PEHME, NICK POWELL AND AARON SHORT
Photographs are all selfies taken by the Rising Stars
LYNN COLE CHIEF OF STAFF, DEPUTY MAYOR FOR OPERATIONS AGE: 31
ransforming the Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest indoor ice center is one of the key projects that the government relations firm Capalino+Company is currently working on, but for Senior Vice President George Fontas, it’s not just about size. Fontas, who is helping guide the project through the land use review process, is looking forward to the many benefits it could bring to the Bronx, citing a similar facility in Philadelphia that has helped students stay in school, learn discipline and life skills—and get some exercise.
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
ust call her Ms. Fix-It. The Baltimore native and Colby grad is one of the Bloomberg administration’s ace problemsolvers—and handy in a crisis. Cole spends most of her day in meetings with commissioners and her boss, Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway, at City Hall. But when a hurricane, sewage plant meltdown or any other disaster strikes, she relays critical information from on-the-ground city workers to Bloomberg and the powers that be. “What still surprises me is how dedicated and skilled our workforce is,” she said. “We are incredibly lucky to work
with skilled, dedicated, professional people—and knowing that you can rely on people in specific positions to get you the right information to handle emergency response, it’s a great feeling. I really enjoy that.” Cole’s job has taken her above, under and through the city’s critical infrastructure. During the past two major storms, she camped out at the Office of Emergency Management’s headquarters in Brooklyn, helping coordinate the city’s emergency relief efforts. To relax Cole takes yoga classes, goes to new restaurants and visits the Met. But there’s little downtime when you’re helping run the city. “There’s a lot of unpredictability to my days,” she said, “which is fun.”
“It’s created this culture of accountability for these kids, and it’s working,” Fontas said. “It’s incredible.” Fontas, who is also proud of his work on rezoning the Chelsea Market, has dealt with land use issues for multiple projects across the city. Other aspects of his job include getting funding for nonprofit clients and helping advocacy groups, such as the American Institute of Architects’ New York branch, get their message out. Before joining Capalino seven years ago, the Brooklyn native got a master’s degree in government from St. John’s University. He got his political start at Brooklyn Borough Hall and cut his teeth on political campaigns. “I’ve been a campaign manager, I’ve been volunteer coordinator, I’ve been a volunteer, I’ve knocked on
doors, I’ve made phone calls, and I’ve made strategies, so I’ve done every kind of level, and I’ve run campaigns all over the state,” he said.
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I could very happily spend a year traveling around the world and the country, trying new restaurants and new yoga studios and creating recommendation lists.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I love the top of the eggs of Newtown Creek. It’s a great view. There’s something really powerful about standing on top of this giant piece of infrastructure and taking in the city.” —AS
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would do one of two things. I’d either be a professional soccer player—a not very good professional soccer player—or I would own a small tropical island somewhere.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Right now, it would be Brooklyn Bridge Park. But there are so many cool places around the city that are just hidden.” —JL
GEORGE M. FONTAS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CAPALINO+COMPANY AGE: 32
G EUNICE HUANG DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, GOVERNOR’S OFFICE AGE: 25
hen New Yorke r s c h e c k out the relaunched NYC.gov website this fall, one of the key architects they can thank for the new look and feel, the focus on fresh content and the increasingly usercentric experience is Ivy Li. “That was a huge, long process, and I’m mostly working on the content side and advised a bit on the user experience,” Li said. “We are going to make sure that content is frequently updated, to make sure that the most relevant information is on the site and that we can, based on search analytics, figure
TIMOTHY PLUNKETT ASSOCIATE, MCKENNA LONG & ALDRIDGE AGE: 39
ov. Andrew Cuomo can be a demanding boss with high standards—but Eunice Huang has handled her job as a spokeswoman with aplomb. The Brooklyn native sharpened her communications skills upstate at Syracuse University, before heading back to the city to start her first gig. It happened to be with the governor. “By now I’m one of the press officers who has been here the longest,” she said. “It’s been good. It’s been a huge learning experience.” Huang spends most of her time in Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office where she writes press releases, researches issues, helps plan events
and staffs the governor when he travels downstate. But what is it really like working for Cuomo? “The governor expects the best from his staff, because he expects the same from himself,” she said. “So when we’re in the office late at night, you can be sure that the governor is also there and working just as late—if not later—so his work ethic sets an example for the entire staff.” When she isn’t keeping the state up-to-date on the governor’s initiatives, you might find Huang at food festivals and restaurants throughout the city. The press team recently descended on Patroon on 46th Street and Third Avenue, which Huang says could become their “new favorite spot.” “It has a great rooftop area, it’s relaxing—and I had a great glass of
out what we need to surface on the home page and make easier to find.” Li spends much of her day advising city agencies on their digital strategy, which includes everything from strategically updating Web pages to running the city’s 340 media channels, which collectively reach some 7 million people online. Li, who was born in Beijing and grew up in Berkeley, came to the East Coast to study public relations at Boston University. She eventually joined the New York City government in February 2012, building on her digital work at Scholastic, the children’s book publisher. “It has the give-back opportunity that a nonprofit has, but it also has the partnership piece that a lot of corpora-
tions have,” she said of her job as digital communications director.
key turning point in T i m o t h y Plunkett’s life came when he landed a one-year gig working for the Assembly aminority’s office. His job was to keep the Assembly Republicans connected with New York city, state and federal officials, so they could stay abreast of developments in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site after the September 11 terrorist attacks. While he had only a small part in the redevelopment effort, he was awestruck by how well everyone worked together on an extremely difficult project.
“Honestly, at the time, part of it was seeing what was happening downtown, and I felt very much on the outside and not able to contribute,” Plunkett said. “I thought, If I really get into a position in my life where I can be involved in government, then I need an advanced degree or a way in.” So Plunkett, who had worked in banking and at a tech company, got his law degree at Fordham University and joined what is now McKenna Long. These days he spends his time focused largely on government-related issues all across the country, from charter schools to infrastructure to cybersecurity. “Government touches everything in the city, and you can’t get out of your bed in the morning without it having some impact on your life,” Plunkett said. “There’s so much in this city to
rosé,” she said. “They also make martinis.” Sounds like they will soon be stirring up trouble. If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be working in communications, but for a major nonprofit or corporation with a social responsibility mission.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s completely transformed in the past few years, and it’s a great escape in the city and a really great view.” —AS
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be working at an animal sanctuary. I love animals, and I adopted my dog from a sanctuary about two years ago. I just know there are all these animals out there that need homes and someone to be with them.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I love the Metropolitan Opera House. I’m a huge fan of the ballet, but the opera house is just gorgeous.”
IVY LI DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NYC DIGITAL, MAYOR’S OFFICE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT AGE: 27
do. Whether it’s technology or finance or media or just in the government itself, there’s no shortage of stuff going on that’s interesting.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d want to be an astronaut, as childish as it sounds. I love space, I love the study of it; I’m fascinated by that.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Yankee Stadium in October.”
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
BRIAN KASZUBA EDITOR, CITYLAND AT NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL’S CENTER FOR NEW YORK CITY LAW AGE: 34
olitics did not come naturally to Edgar Santana. Santana grew up in a nonpolitical household the Bronx, went to college at Fordham and volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign before he got his first major political gig working for the state Democratic Party. He quickly was drawn to union culture thanks to his boss, Raymond Pocino, who would become a mentor. “I look up to the guy. He’s been in labor for most of his life, started out in the field in heavy highway,” Santana said. “Ray is so different from other union leaders. He stands out to me the most.”
MICHAEL SIMAS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PARTNERSHIP FOR NEW YORK CITY AGE: 32
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
s editor of CityLand, Brian Kaszuba keeps a close eye on the New York City Council, the city’s Planning Commission, landmark hearings and “the whole land use process.” Kaszuba brings plenty of insight to the job, thanks to his years of experience working for elected officials, on political campaigns, for an advocacy group and a city charter commission. That doesn’t even include his stint as an attorney. These days, while leading CityLand’s coverage of the city’s changing landscape, he has also been overseeing big changes at the publication. When he came on as editor about a year ago,
the print edition had been dropped in favor of an online-only product with more articles. “We’ve been able to increase our readership numbers, our subscriber lists—we’ve done a lot more with social media and getting the word out, getting our content out to a wider audience,” Kaszuba said. “We’re getting a lot more commentaries from people in the public sector, as well as covering issues earlier on in the process at the grassroots level, so we’re covering local preservation groups as they’re trying to start the process of getting something landmarked or creating a historic district. We [also] got commentaries [from candidates] who ran for office this past year on their ideas for what the landscape should be going forward for the next 10 to 20 years.”
Santana primarily advocates for commercial construction laborers, including the workers who are building the Freedom Tower. He hasn’t been to the top of the tower yet, but he has toured its shell. “Seeing a car and an ambulance at a pancake of an inch from where we were struck me,” he said. “It reminded me of the gravity and enormity of the damage done that day.” When he isn’t championing the interests of laborers in City Hall, Santana is busy amassing a comic book archive in his Yonkers home. “I’m into Walking Dead right now, but my second favorite is Batman,” he said. “He’s a normal guy who always tackles the big problems and finds a way to overcome it. He doesn’t have superpowers; he has to figure it out.”
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be in a technology firm or working for Google in its research department. I am a big technology geek. I have an iPhone 5, an Android Motor Razor, a Mac Mini, a MacBook Air—I’m into how it makes managing my life easier.”
ne of the best parts about Michael Simas’ job is collaborating with top b u s i n e s s leaders like Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and BlackRock’s Larry Fink. “We’re really lucky because we deal with the CEOs of the city’s largest employers, so at our meetings you’re always in the room with folks that are taking your thinking to another level, because you’re really with folks that are at the top of their game and the top of their careers,” Simas said. Simas started doing government relations at the Partnership a decade ago and rose through the ranks,
leaving in 2011 for a stint at General Electric before returning as executive vice president a year and a half ago. He manages just about everything for the business advocacy group, from research and policy to government relations and public affairs. His top focus is the transition to a new mayor, including a series of goals laid out in the Partnership’s “NYC Jobs Blueprint” this year. In past years Simas’ work at the Partnership included pushing the state to switch from the old Empire Zones to the Excelsior program and prodding the city to reform its tax laws in 2009. “Big issues like those are the ones that stand out; trying to improve the city and state economy, focus resources in a more effective way, and really support job growth,” Simas said.
What is your favorite place in New York City? “Merchant’s Cigar Bar on 62nd and First. I haven’t been in a while, but it’s always the place I end up at.” —AS
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d love to be playing music in an Irish band or shooting pool on the way to the pro tour.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Coney Island, absolutely. As a Brooklynite, I love going there. It’s got a little bit of everything, from Nathan’s Famous hot dogs to a great baseball team in the Cyclones to wonderful rides and food. When I get a chance, it’s definitely Coney Island, Brooklyn, U.S.A.” —JL
EDGAR SANTANA NATIONAL CONSTRUCTION MARKET REPRESENTATIVE, LABORERSEMPLOYERS COOPERATION AND EDUCATION TRUST AGE: 35
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I love cooking and barbequing, and I think I’d go to culinary school, take a shot at that.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Our offices are downtown. I grew up in Rhode Island, so I love being around the water. Being in Manhattan by Battery Park, being able to see the water and the cobblestone streets reminds me of New England, where I grew up.” —JL
AMY SPITALNICK COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DANIEL SQUADRON FOR PUBLIC ADVOCATE AGE: 27
my Spitalnick, a Lynbrook native and new Brooklyn resident, was the force behind the media side of state Sen. Daniel Squadron’s public advocate campaign, firing out press releases and debate fact checks with a fury that rivals most mayoral campaigns. And she loved the work. “He 100 percent believes in everything he does,” Spitalnick said of Squadron. “As a spokesperson who gets to work for someone who you believe in, it means you have the best job in the world.” She and Squadron might be from different generations, but Spitalnick says they have a lot in common. They share some of the same tastes in music, enjoying Bruce Springsteen and the Beastie Boys,
RISING STARS the latter of whom she estimates she has listened to roughly 2,972 times over the past six months. And she even got to meet Ad-Rock at a Squadron fundraiser. “He said, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ to me,” recalled Spitalnick. “He spoke about Daniel, and he said some thoughtful stuff about Daniel’s work on GENDA, for instance.” But the best part of the campaign for Spitalnick was trying cuisine from all over the world while travelling around the city with her candidate—and splurging on donuts from Donut Factory. “I like cinnamon sugar, plain and simple,” she said. “He likes dulce de leche and carrot cake.” After months on the campaign trail, the end has finally arrived, albeit with a disappointing result. After having steered Squadron through a tumultuous primary and an unexpect-
edly exhausting runoff, Spitalnick plans on spending more time with her mom and her boyfriend’s new puppies. First on her agenda now that the campaign is over? “To have a large Scotch, sleep and then go on vacation,” Spitalnick said. “Somewhere.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d want to eat for a living, so a food writer in New York City.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “My rooftop in Brooklyn.” —AS
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NYC SPECIAL EDUCATION COLLABORATIVE AGE: 34
o r k i n g in special education requires patience a n d kindness. T h e Texas native and University of Texas grad has both those qualities. Still, he recognized early in his educational career with Teach for America and at Achievement First, a charter school network, that he needed an array of other skills to help his students. “The challenging part of being a teacher was frustration with my own lack of knowledge of how to work with students with disabilities,” he said. “A lot of what I learned was on-the-job failures for what did and did not work. I was able to connect with kids, but the
question was: How do you sustain the work in the long-term?” He set about answering that question by taking a position working 12to 15-hour days providing technical assistance, support and programming for charter schools as head of a special education collaborative. The work can be exhausting. “When I started teaching I weighed 150 pounds and had a full head of hair,” he said. “Seven years later I lost all my hair and gained 40 pounds.” But Deutsch is trying to relax more this year. He’s even taken ukulele lessons. So far he can play “Brown Eyed Girl.” “It’s kind of amazing,” he said. “It’s my sixth lesson and I’m not any better. Eventually I will learn to play Hawaiian music.”
ndrew Friedman knows what the most stressful job is in New York City. He just left it. Friedman was an assignment editor for WCBS-TV for the past 12 years after doing similar stints at Fox 5 and WNBC. “It’s a very thrilling job,” he said. “Any adrenaline junkie would be hardpressed to find a more exciting job in either journalism or politics than running an assignment desk.” On a normal news day, when the producer must figure out how to put the show together, it’s not terribly stressful— until breaking news happens.
“When there’s a jumbo jet landing in the Hudson River and filling the show will be easy, the eyes turn to the assignment desk: What are the facts, what’s important, what’s real, what’s not real, where are the first live pictures, where are the reporters, who do we need to get on the scene?” Friedman said. “All of which happens at the same time.” Three months ago he switched careers. Now Friedman is a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who he says is an “incredible person to work for” and whose grasp of the job is “tremendous.” Friedman has already been in the middle of two high-profile cases spearheaded by the AG’s office: the Trump University lawsuit and the indictment
of former Met Council CEO William Rapfogel. “It is sad and shocking when you find an individual who uses a charity in this way, but the focus of our office is to remain vigilant and strengthen our oversight of the industry so we can catch these schemes before they take hold,” Friedman said.
he expression “it takes one to know one” certainly applies to Brendan Griffith’s job history in organized labor. Before accepting a prominent position in the administration of New York City’s broad coalition of organized labor, the Central Labor Council, Griffith got firsthand experience as a union member himself, parlaying a college internship with the AFL-CIO into a post-undergrad apprenticeship with the Local 40 Ironworkers union. While he says he would have been content forging a career as an ironworker, he could not turn down an opportunity to work for the CLC—despite the awkward transition at first.
“To go from being a rank-andfile union member and construction worker to working for an organization that is certainly more political in nature was challenging,” Griffith said. “But as a rank-and-file union member, you also have an opportunity to be a part of the labor movement—you are a part of the labor movement—and working for the Central Labor Council I’m working for the labor movement. It’s different roles but part of the same group.” No two days are the same for Griffith at the CLC. With 300 affiliated labor organizations and over 1 billion members total, he is tasked with wearing multiple hats, dealing with the varied and nuanced interests of the different unions in both the private and public sector. “You could be talking to the Building Trades unions about an issue they’re
BRENDAN GRIFFITH CHIEF OF STAFF AND MOBILIZING DIRECTOR, CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL AGE: 32
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Shortstop for the New York Mets.” Where is your favorite place in New York City? “Citi Field, particularly when I’m at a game with my son.” —AS
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I think I would be working at a hedge fund or as an investment banker. I put in the time, I love competition and I love working with teams that are all competing with each other.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Drinking a beer at Grey Dog, in Chelsea. It’s super low-key, the happy hours [have] four dollar beers, and it’s a really nice place.” —AS
ANDREW FRIEDMAN DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL AGE: 35
having one day, and then the next day be talking to public sector workers. There’s a wide variety of worker organizations in New York City, and we work with all of them.” If you weren’t working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d be an ironworker and having a lot of fun.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Central Park.” —NP
JENNIFER FERMINO CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS AGE: 39
ennifer Fermino has tabloids in her blood. She started at the New York Post two days after Christmas in 2001 as a copy kid, earning about $7 an hour on the 5 p.m.-to-midnight shift. Her first byline, only four months after 9/11, was about an alarm that went off in a building across the street from the Post. Her first cover story had more bite. “They sent me to New Jersey— this guy was a retired cop, got a job at Times Square, had an affair, she dumped him, he killed her and he killed another,” she said. “They sent me to his house, I somehow got in, his house was a mess and he was drinking a pfoofy drink, a TGI Fridays mix, and
RISING STARS there were guns everywhere. So we did an ‘inside the killer’s lair.’ ” Fermino has worked on the rewrite desk, the transit beat, and covered politics and federal courts for the Post. These days she’s running the political desk from City Hall for the Daily News. The pace and stories are similar. Her most valuable lesson from her decade at the Post was learning how to find a story. “Anything you think is a good story [is something] that you would tell your friends about,” she said. “It’s not necessarily what a politician is saying. Sometimes it is, but look for the telling details.”
“I’d probably be a waitress, still, probably at some Irish bar. And I always wanted to be a writer, so I’d be working on a novel in my spare time.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Bloomingdale’s. It’s the greatest store on the planet. It’s beautiful. It even smells nice. You don’t have to leave and get lunch. Whoever the buyers are, they do a nice job, and they get great sales.” —AS
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing?
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BEN MAX FOUNDER, DECIDENYC.COM AGE: 32
arlos Menchaca’s journey to the City Council began as the oldest of seven children raised by a single mother in El Paso, Texas. After attending a Jesuit university in San Francisco, where according to Menchaca the Jesuits “provided the foundation for all of the ideas that I have,” he set out for New York City through the Coro Fellows Program, a public affairs graduate school leadership training intensive. Two days into his time in the city he had a meeting with Councilwoman Letitia James, who inspired him with a passionate denunciation of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.
KAMRAN MUMTAZ DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, MAYOR’S OFFICE AGE: 23
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
en Max grew restless teaching history to high schoolers—so he moved to New York City and decided to dive into the political scene. So far he’s enjoyed
getting wet. “My big mission here is to engage more people in politics and try to figure out a way to reach more of the general public and get more people to care,” he said. “I want to be a part of increasing civic engagement, education and political participation.” The Queens native and Trinity College grad drew on his experience building websites while he was a schoolteacher to develop a site that aggregated information into a virtual voter guide far earlier than most
resources typically get printed. The website included candidacy rumors, policy summaries and other news for each candidate for public office. “One reason that DecideNYC.com has been successful is the tremendous team of people involved,” he said. “We’ve had so many smart, dedicated volunteers involved; it’s been an amazing team effort to pull all of this information together.” Now he hopes to find private funding sources and pivot to cover the intricacies of city governance as well as the state election cycle next summer. “I want to follow a new wave of governmental officials and keep track of what kind of initiatives they’re putting forward and what bills they’re introducing,” he said. “I’m not getting paid for this now, but I would like to
“She was giving hell about this big development, this Atlantic Yards thing, and she was just like a preacher,” Menchaca said. “Energetic, amazing! So that really started my injection into New York City politics.” It wasn’t until Superstorm Sandy hit, however, that Menchaca realized the importance of having a strong Council office. With residents of Councilwoman Sara González’s district unhappy with her lackluster response to Sandy and her absence on such community issues as housing and education, Menchaca saw an opportunity to fill the void. Eventually he ran against and defeated González in the Democratic primary—a rare victory over an incumbent Council member. Menchaca will be the first Mexican-American elected to the Council.
“It was such an important part of the campaign; the Mexican community was just so ready for representation,” Menchaca said. “They are ready for a political voice in this landscape where the Mexican community is just exploding in this city.”
amran Mumtaz traces his interest in politics back to his time at Queens College, where he majored in math, economics and political science— the rare triple major. When two political heavyweights, former President Bill Clinton and then Congressman Anthony Weiner, held an event to get people interested and involved in the 2008 election, he jumped in with both feet. “I was always drawn to politics and getting involved in trying to help other people, and that event spurred me to get involved,” Mumtaz said. Mumtaz landed a job working in Weiner’s office, first handling constituent services before transferring over to handling press. When his boss resigned
in scandal in 2010, Mumtaz quickly found a soft landing in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. Under Bloomberg, Mumtaz is not just the gatekeeper for reporters trying to get access to the mayor; he also oversees press involving the NYPD, the Office of Emergency and Management, and the FDNY, among other agencies. During Superstorm Sandy, these agencies played a huge role in the recovery and response to the storm, an experience Mumtaz called “eye-opening.” Despite the sunsetting of the Bloomberg era, as the mayor’s third term winds down the days are still busy for Mumtaz, although he finds time to keep a measure of levity in the press shop, showing off his skills as a magician to reporters in Room 9—and, on occasion, even the mayor. Mumtaz is not certain what his
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d be an entrepreneur in a local design firm that was part of designing new ways of community participation through space and technology.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Watching the sunset at the end of the Valentino Pier in Red Hook.” —NP
be. And I am wide open to advice on this.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be in education more directly, back in the classroom. Also, I’m a Mets fan, and I’d love to be on the field as a pitcher.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Other than where the Mets play, I would say anywhere in my old neighborhood in Whitestone, where I grew up.” —AS
CARLOS MENCHACA COUNCILMAN-ELECT, 38TH DISTRICT AGE: 33
next move will be after his disappearing act from City Hall. “I may be a magician, but I’m definitely not a psychic. Right now I’m just focused on the next 97 days, and making sure these are some of the best we’ve had.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Starting center fielder for the New York Yankees.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Times Square.” —NP
D PAKHI SENGUPTA CHIEF OF STAFF, COUNCILWOMAN ANNABEL PALMA AGE: 34
espite her relative youth, Pakhi Sengupta is something of a veteran of city government, having worked for five years in the City Council’s finance division, as well as for the Administration for Children’s Services, before landing in the office of Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma. Yet it was her eye-opening experience first working for a domestic violence agency— Sengupta has a master’s in social work from Pace University—that inspired her eventual foray into politics. “I was working in clinical therapy and became discouraged with continually telling families that the system was the reason that they weren’t able to progress,” she said. “I said, ‘It’s time for something
RISING STARS new,’ and to stop complaining about macro systems and go and change them.” At the Council, Sengupta oversaw several Council committees, including General Welfare, Civil Rights, and Aging. She met Palma, who was chair of the General Welfare Committee, when the two worked together on a number of issues related to funding for childcare and after-school services. Their mutual interest in putting “instrumental” funds back into the system solidified their relationship, and after her brief stint at ACS, Sengupta was hired by Palma as her chief of staff. They are bound by their shared passion for preventive services and issues of homelessness and child services. “[Annabel’s] such a fantastic person and fantastic leader to work with because her interests are so vast, and it’s wonderful to work under someone who allows you to suggest anything or to expand on
anything,” Sengupta said. “Her support for me has been incredible.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I love Broadway. I would probably be singing and making a fool of myself on a stage somewhere in New York.” What’s your favorite place in New York City? “East Harlem.” —NP
We congratulate our colleague
Congratulations To Our Very Own Congratulations To Our Very Own Karen Imas Karen Imas
For Being Selected by City & State as a
For Being Selected b y City & State as a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” “40 Under 40 Rising Star”
Michael Woloz, Marty McLaughlin, Maureen Connelly, Michael oloz, MSarty aureen PCopescu onnelly, Kathy CWudahy, usan MDcLaughlin, oucette & TMeodora Kathy Cudahy, Susan Doucette & Teodora Popescu 233 BROADWAY • SUITE 2310 • NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10279 PHONE 212/ 437-7373 • FAXYORK, 212/437-7378 233 BROADWAY • SUITE 2310 • NEW NEW YORK 10279 PHONE 212/ 437-7373 • FAX 212/437-7378
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cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
RITCHIE TORRES DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR CITY COUNCIL, 15TH DISTRICT AGE: 25
or many grad students, earning a master’s degree while being an adjunct professor would take up all of their time. But for Kafui Kouakou, who is earning his master’s at Brooklyn College and teaching at York College, there’s still enough time for him to serve in the CUNY Student Senate, advocating for students on everything from building repairs to appealing student dismissals. Not only that, he’s the chair of the Senate. “One of the things I’ve done is—the Senate has a scholarship fund, and four or five years before I took office two years ago, the money was not given to students at CUNY,” he said. “We reactivated that
STINA SKEWES-COX DISTRICT DIRECTOR, REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES AGE: 31
OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
t’s not often that a high school principal goes out of his way to recommend a student to a local official. That’s just what happened to a then-16-year old Ritchie Torres, when a local Community Board district manager named Jimmy Vacca arrived at the largest of his district’s public schools, Lehman High School and asked the principal for the best and brightest of his students. “The principal said ‘Ritchie Torres.’ I met Council member Vacca, I was serving as his district manager for a day and I left an impression; then I went on to work on his campaign and went on to his New York City Council office, and have had a role ever since.” Having learned the tricks of the trade from now Councilman Vacca, Torres set out to make a name for himself as
the youngest candidate in a crowded race to replace term-limited Councilman Joel Rivera that included several candidates propped up by prominent Bronx officials such as state Sen. Rev. Rubén Díaz, as well as the so-called “Rivera dynasty” led by Rivera and his father, José, an assemblyman. Nonetheless, it was Torres’ message that resonated in the district, undoubtedly helped by his compelling personal narrative, including his being raised in public housing. Now, on the verge of becoming the Council’s youngest incoming member, Torres hopes his age can be more than just a milestone: His eye is set on becoming a role model for struggling young people. “I see myself as an advocate for youth,” Torres said. “We have a crisis of disconnected youth in this society, you have hundreds of thousands of young
program, so we started giving scholarships again to the students at CUNY.” One scholarship category is for international students like Kouakou, who came to the United State from Togo, a West African nation. He arrived first in Alabama, but came to New York to live with an uncle while he continued his studies. “I always liked to advocate for students,” he said. “My goal is to complete my master’s, get in to a Ph.D. program, get my doctorate, and become a school administrator.”
team, and I’m the head coach for the women’s soccer team. So in addition to teaching at York, my passion is soccer. So teaching and coaching are what I’d be doing.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I’ve been to Central Park a couple of times, and I went also to the Museum of Natural History, and those were places that impressed me a lot.” —JL
If you were not in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I feel passionate about education. That has [been true] all my life. In addition, I also coach at York for the men’s soccer
tina SkewesCox has only been working for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries since the congressman was sworn in this January, but she brings to his office plenty of experience as a congressional staffer, having worked for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for six years before moving to New York City. “When I started, I was her scheduler, and then moved up to become special assistant,” said Skewes-Cox, a San Francisco native who spent most of her time in Pelosi’s district office in that city. “I started traveling with her and being her body person, and also became the office’s outreach manager, which was in essence the number two position under the district director. And then in
people on the streets who do not work or do not go to school, whose only existence is life on the streets.” If you weren’t working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “A lawyer, an appellate attorney of constitutional law.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Right here in the 15th District.” —NP
KAFUI KOUAKOU CHAIRPERSON OF THE UNIVERSITY STUDENT SENATE; BOARD MEMBER, CUNY; ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, YORK COLLEGE AGE: 33
D.C., I was her director of advance, so I did all of her national events.” Now in New York, where she has always wanted to live, Skewes-Cox is excited to be working for a rising star in the Democratic Party. While she has lived in D.C. off and on over the years, she is happier working away from the capital—especially in New York, with its many immigrants and diverse cultures. “The appeal of a district office is so fun because you’re actually interacting with constituents,” Skewes-Cox said. “In Washington, the ideas are so esoteric— and yes, you can be talking about food stamps or supporting the arts or whatever else it is that you’re passionate about, but it’s really connecting with people outside of it when you see the changes government can make and how you can help people.”
If you were not in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be working to pull those not normally in the process into the process, so I’d love to work with young girls and get them into leadership positions and training programs—and then the number of minorities, increasing that.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Brooklyn Bridge Park…and the promenade. I walk the whole thing once a week.” —JL
T TINA WARD GOVERNMENT RELATIONS SPECIALIST, PITTA BISHOP DEL GIORNO & GIBLIN LLC AGE: 28
ina Ward didn’t follow a typical path into politics—in fact, she majored in fashion merchandising at Marist College. But after three years of working in the fashion industry, she realized she hated it. “One day I was putting like the twentieth outfit on a mannequin and I was just like, ‘This can’t be my life,’ ” she said. “So I started working in government, and I liked it, went back to school to get my master’s, and now I’m here.” Her first job after leaving the fashion world was at Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin, where she is still working after three and a half years. While she didn’t have a political background, she grew up in a union household where
politics was often a topic of discussion. In her job she closely monitors city legislation for a number of clients, and during budget season she attends all the hearings and does all the late nights. “We represent a bunch of labor unions, and some not-for-profits, and those are the ones we try to get the money for,” she said. “It’s always nice at the end of the process to say, ‘Hey, we got you part of the pot.’ ”
my family is from, and I spent a lot of time there as a child. I just love that whole neighborhood. There’s a restaurant down there called Ferdinando’s— it’s a Sicilian restaurant, and part of my family is Sicilian. We used to go there as kids with my grandfather, and the food’s amazing, and we have a lot of great memories there. —JL
If you were not in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d probably be working in healthcare or somewhere in the nonprofit world.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I would have to say, area-wise, downtown Brooklyn, for sure. That’s where
State Legislative Coordinator at 32BJ SEIU
One of the 2013 Winners of 40 Under 40 Rising Stars Fighting for Good Jobs and Strong Communities for the Working People in Our State and for a Stronger New York
Héctor Figueroa, President Larry Engelstein, Executive Vice President Kyle Bragg, Secretary Treasurer With 145,000 members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
JACLYN ROTHENBERG SENIOR ASSOCIATE, TENEO STRATEGY AGE: 25
hristina Baal’s father came to the United States from the Philippines in 1969 with one suitcase and $200. Now all three of his daughters have
master’s degrees. Baal always knew her father’s story was special, but it was only when she interned at the Lower East Side’s Cabrini Immigrant Services during her first year at Hunter College’s school of social work that she realized just how remarkable his success was. Working with Cabrini’s women’s program, Baal said, “I learned a lot about how broken the immigration system is and how bad policies come down directly on communities. … The reason my dad’s story
JOHN FOX MEDIA DIRECTOR, CATSIMATIDIS 2013 AGE: 33
20 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
hough she majored in psychology at George Washington University, it is no surprise that Jaclyn Rothenberg instead found herself drawn to a career in politics. Born and raised in Atlanta, Rothenberg is the granddaughter of Gerald Rafshoon, who served as White House communications director under Jimmy Carter and was a key part of the so-called “Georgia Mafia” that helped elect the president. Rothenberg’s first foray into the political arena was as a college intern for the high-powered fundraiser Nancy Jacobson. Under Jacobson, Rothenberg raised money for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, and fell for the line of work.
“I realized it was something that I was passionate about, and that I really liked politics,” explained Rothenberg. “It was something that was in my blood.” After college she joined the public affairs practice at Burson-Marsteller under Jim Cunningham. Two years later, she moved over to SKDKnickerbocker. These days Rothenberg works for Teneo Strategy, where she advises Fortune 50 companies how to optimize their reach and impact using social media. Rothenberg boiled down the fundamental approach she seeks to impart to her clients as follows: “In short, if you’re not out there advocating for yourself, someone else will be talking about you. … We find instances where a simple tweet or a Facebook picture
is the way that it is is because he could come here when the immigration laws were more fair. He was able to get a union job, my mom was able to get a union job, they were able to get benefits. I think that if he had tried to immigrate now … we would not have had this little family story.” Eventually Baal became Cabrini’s executive director, but she was convinced to leave the organization for a career in political organizing. “One of my members put it like … You’re one of the ‘us’ that can get inside the ‘them’ and change the laws,” recalled Baal. So she took a position with the New York Immigration Coalition, and later moved over to RWDSU, where she worked on the minimum wage bill and the union’s initiative to regulate the car-wash industry.
Now at 32BJ, Baal is the union’s Albany lobbyist, pushing for an array of progressive legislation during session and working on city elections in the off-season.
ohn Fox first met John Catsimatidis when Fox was working in advertising sales for WOR radio. A St. Louis native, Fox had made his way to New York after graduating from UConn, and wound up selling ads around some of the biggest names in talk radio—Don Imas, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh—first for WABC, and then for WOR. As Catsimatidis, an advertiser with the station, got to know Fox, he took a liking to Fox’s insights into paid media strategy and branding. So when Catsimatidis decided to move forward with a mayoral run this year, he approached Fox about joining his team as his media director— though Fox had never before worked on a campaign.
“I said, ‘No, you really should have an agency,’ ” Fox recounted. “And he said, ‘You’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it together.’ And I was candid with him again, I said, ‘John, I have to be 100 percent clear with you, I don’t have experience doing this.’ And John smiles and he said, ‘Neither do I.’ ” Though Catsimatidis ultimately came up short in the Republican primary, Fox’s maiden efforts were not without success. As Fox points out, on Feb. 1 Catsimatidis had 4 percent name recognition; on primary night it was over 82 percent. And Catsimatidis took over 40 percent of the vote, exceeding the predictions of the public polls and most experts. Now that Fox has gotten his first taste of electoral politics, he is thirsty for more. “It was a lot of fun, so I certainly would like to continue,” he said.
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I teach at the social work school … and those two hours a week are some of my favorite … It’s just such a different energy. People feel really hopeful, and I feel like I’m shaping future change-makers.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “The trails in Van Cortlandt Park … where you feel like you’re in the wilderness, and you’re in the Bronx.” —MP
or a comment even can either blow up into something amazing or cause a company to spiral down.”
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would definitely do something in the music industry, and given my expertise, I’d probably be a publicist for a band.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Hudson River Park. I really like running on the West Side Highway: The sunsets are beautiful, it’s nice to get away from all the hustle and bustle, and just being able to jog down the road and have the water next to you is a nice getaway.” —MP
CHRISTINA BAAL STATE LEGISLATIVE COORDINATOR, 32BJ AGE: 33
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I guess the unrealistic answer is I would like to be a right fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Realistically, I would love to be in management in entertainment or sports.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “My neighborhood. I’ve lived in the same apartment all seven years that I’ve lived here, in the West Village. I’ve got a patio over on the ground floor, so we’re very, very lucky there.” —MP
N NICOLE GILL VICE PRESIDENT, SKDKNICKERBOCKER AGE: 28
icole Gill held her first political protest when she was 10 years old. A Torontonian, Gill was adamantly opposed to the 1995 Quebec secession referendum, so she made her own sign—of a flag, half Canadian Maple Leaf and half fleur-de-lis—and stood on her street, waving it on the day of the vote. Her efforts paid off; the referendum failed. After being active in student government at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Gill moved to New York to attend graduate school. While completing her master’s in public administration at NYU’s Wagner School, she got a job as a teaching assistant for Bob Shrum, the renowned Democratic
political consultant. Soon she found herself aiding Shrum as he advised British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his unsuccessful re-election bid against David Cameron. Eager to get Gill her start in political consulting, Shrum recommended her without her knowledge for an opening at SKDKnickerbocker in 2010, and she got the gig. She has worked there ever since. As the firm has grown, Gill has grown with it, rising up the ranks to become one of its vice presidents. While she has played a role in electing Eric Schneiderman New York’s attorney general and Dannel Malloy governor of Connecticut, she is most proud of her work advancing marriage equality. “I’ve been lucky enough to work on all of the marriage campaigns that we’ve done, and that will always be my favorite
work that I’ve gotten to do so far,” said Gill. If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Something that’s active, that’s physical—I miss being able to be outside a lot. I would probably move to the Caribbean and work on a boat, sailing or something.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Central Park. I live two blocks from it. I’ve run the marathon before, so it holds a special place for me for that reason. … It’s like my backyard that I share with a city, but it still feels like my personal place.” —MP
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On his designation as a “Rising Star” In the Constellation of New York City and State.
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SARA C. VALENZUELA IMMIGRATION AND EDUCATION LIAISON, SPEAKER’S OFFICE, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL AGE: 30
ome fathers spend time with their sons by playing a game of catch or going fishing. Mark Treyger’s spent quality time with his boy watching Meet the Press on Sundays and discussing the show’s topics with him during commercials. Treyger’s parents’ commitment to education helped instill a strong sense of social responsibility in him, a quality that first led Treyger to the doorstep of his political mentor, Assemblyman William Colton, who gave a then-18-year-old Treyger his early lessons in public service. “[Colton] stressed to me that public service begins with an honest desire to help people,” Treyger said. “He said, ‘If
MEGAN DOUGHERTY PRESS SECRETARY, MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT SCOTT STRINGER AGE: 27
22 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
ara Valenzuela, “a Texas Democrat through and through,” signed up for Teach for America upon graduating from Vanderbilt University, and was deployed to teach bilingual social studies near the Texas-Mexico border. “My brother and I were both adopted, and our families are Mexican, and we have the privilege and were very lucky to be adopted by an educated family, so a big part of my identity has always been paying it forward,” said Valenzuela. Frustrated with governmental policies she felt impeded the education system, Valenzuela set off for Washington, D.C., to bring about the changes she desired. During a half decade on the Hill, she worked first for Rep. Joe Baca
of California, and later for Sen. Robert Menendez. After Valenzuela took time off to do Latino outreach for the Obama campaign and advocate for an environmental group, a mentor suggested she give local politics a try. Shortly thereafter she landed an intergovernmental relations position in Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, where she worked until an opportunity that focused on immigration and education opened up in Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s community outreach department. “It’s a pretty awesome job,” said Valenzuela. “There’s a lot of interaction with the people on the ground, which, I think, sometimes when you work in the political world, especially my time in D.C., you are often not that connected
you’re in this field because you want to help people and do the right thing, this is a field you can grow in; if you’re in this field because you want to see your name on a poster or make money, it’s better off if you go into the private sector.’ ” Straddling the fence between his two passions, education and politics, Treyger taught at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn while also working part-time for Colton. Treyger decided to run for City Council, in part to help restore Coney Island to being more than simply a tourist destination after the destruction incurred by Superstorm Sandy. He was all the more motivated by the experience of one of his students, a Coney Island resident who
was displaced by the storm and forced to move to Bushwick. “So when people always said, ‘Coney Island is back’, I would say, ‘Coney Island isn’t back until the families are back.’ ”
s a press secretary, Megan D o u g h e r t y ’s years of experience dealing with the press have been helped by the fact that she once wanted to be one of the people who break the stories rather than make them. A broadcast journalism major at the University of Florida, Dougherty landed several internships at radio and television stations, including one at the Late Show With David Letterman, before eventually getting a job working for CNN in Washington, D.C. However, Dougherty found it difficult to censor her personal opinions, eventually leading her to cross over to the government side.
“I would be covering the House floor and get so angry at the things I would be hearing from these representatives,” Dougherty said. “People would give me a look, like, ‘You know you can’t talk like that in here.’ ” When Dougherty moved to New York City this year, she immediately started working with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Initially, she thought it would be a relatively relaxed job compared with the high-pressure Washington environment where she had previously worked, being that at the time Stringer was running unopposed for city comptroller. That feeling quickly dissipated when Eliot Spitzer jumped into the primary, and though Dougherty remained on Stringer’s borough president team, she said she still had some things to learn as a press secre-
If you weren’t working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Teaching at New Utrecht High School.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst to enjoy some pretty good pizza. Next stop would be the Coney Island boardwalk.” —NP
to the people you are affecting with your legislation.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d probably do PR. One of the things in politics is that we have the elected that we work for, and our job is to promote them to the greater audience, and I think I’m really good at doing that.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Any rooftop. Getting to just see the skyline and realize that you’re here is pretty powerful.” —MP
MARK TREYGER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR CITY COUNCIL, 37TH DISTRICT AGE: 31
tary for an increasingly in-demand politician. “I do have to get familiar with the New York City press corps, which is a different animal [from Washington’s]. It has proven to be a little bit of a learning curve. You guys are so different—not for better or for worse, just a different bubble.” If weren’t working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “A teacher. AP Lit or English.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “The Ed Sullivan Theater, from my days working on the Letterman show.” —NP
T TWEEPS PHILLIPS CONSULTANT, BOLTON-ST. JOHNS AGE: 38
weeps Phillips grew up in a “hippie artistic environment” in Greenwich Village, with a musician father and a photographer mother—not exactly the type of upbringing one might expect would have led her to become a successful lobbyist. “My parents think I’m really square,” admits Phillips. A graduate of Macalester College with a master’s degree from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, Phillips had a long career in New York City government before moving into the private sector. Initially she served as a policy advisor in the Mayor’s Office of Operations, before moving over to the Parks Department, where she worked on the
RISING STARS redesign and development of Coney Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Phillips spent her last four years in government working at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, ultimately as its director of external affairs. It was at the TLC that she met Bolton-St. Johns’ Mike Keogh, who recruited her to join the firm. Though it took Phillips some “warming up to the idea that a lobbyist can mean something positive,” now she thoroughly enjoys her job. “I was just in St. Louis, and tomorrow I’ll be at City Hall in a meeting, and I just love that it ranges in scope and it’s very dynamic work,” she said. “After 10 years in city government, it’s a nice change of pace.”
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be a chef. I’d have my own restaurant, and probably I’d be an ex-pat in Tulum or something.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “My first favorite place is on the F train when it goes above ground. I love that view. I love going through the neighborhoods and being just about eye level with people’s apartments and seeing the skyline … And then the other is along the Henry Hudson and coming down into the city. It always gets me excited—I feel like I’m coming home.” —MP
THE NEW YORK CITY CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL, AFL-CIO
B R E N D A N G R I F F I T H, CHIEF OF STAFF A N D T H E R E S T O F T H I S Y E A R ’S “4 0 U N D E R 4 0 ” R I S I N G S T A R S .
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CLEMENTE LISI VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING, BROOKLYN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AGE: 38
t was Sadye Campoamor’s husband, Jesse—another of City & State’s Rising Stars this year—who introduced her to Bill de Blasio. At the time, Jesse was the Manhattan coordinator for de Blasio’s campaign for public advocate, and Sadye was squeaking by as an artist making jewelry after the school she taught at in central Harlem shut down for lack of funding. Sadye, who grew up in Gramercy Park and graduated from Oberlin, initially volunteered for de Blasio’s campaign, and then joined his staff after he got elected. She started in the public advocate’s office manning the help hotline, before moving into community organizing. These days she is essentially de Blasio’s body person as he crisscrosses the
CHARLOTTE STONE PRESS SECRETARY, RESHMA SAUJANI AGE: 24
24 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
lemente Lisi has survived the hellfire and brimstone of the New York Post and emerged on the other side largely unscathed. For 14 years Lisi was a general assignment reporter, laboring away at the rewrite desk, covering transportation and education and finally working on the website alongside the paper’s notorious editor Col Allan. Nowadays he’s the spokesman for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which has 1,400 members and promotes and lobbies for small business development in the borough. But sometimes Lisi misses the culture of the newsroom.
“There’s stuff that’s said and done in newsrooms that would not fly in any office of the country,” he said. “One time Steve Dunleavy, a columnist, threw up all over the metro desk, and the editor came in the next morning and asked, ‘What’s this mess on my desk?’ There was vomit everywhere: on the keyboard, on the floor, on the rug. The rug was messy to begin with.” Lisi sees his job on the other side of the media business as competing to get stories about Brooklyn businesses and the Chamber into the papers, with space decreasing day by day. “Having been a reporter I know how reporters think and the kind of stories they want,” he said. “I’m not wasting their time and they appreciate that, and the people I work with appreciate that.”
city in his dual capacity as elected official and mayoral candidate. “As we’ve gone deeper down the rabbit hole, I travel with Bill day in, day out,” Sadye said. “All the places we go, from community rooms in Canarsie to churches in Laurelton to fabulous views of New York City … the diversity, the vastness of who makes up our city, all of the moving pieces, is by far the most incredible part of my job.” Of course, Sadye’s position has taken on surprising and exciting new dimensions in recent months. “I think we’re all learning as we go,” she explained. “Our world has changed really quickly, and we recognize that it’s such a blessing.”
“I would be an educator, a teacher, possibly continuing to be a metalsmith, a jeweler, utilizing art as a tool to organize, to empower, to educate and to unify communities.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I got to go with my home. Among me and Jesse and our friends we colloquially call it ‘The People’s Apartment.’ … It has been a source of consistency in Jesse’s and our lives, a sacred space where we can come home and chill out, but really what it is is a Grand Central for all of our friends passing through the city. … Being able to have created that space, and provide that space for our community and our family, has been really special.”
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing?
rowing up in a family of lawyers in Pittsburgh, Charlotte Stone often spent her dinner table conversations debating. Politics and policy were two topics that came up often, and Stone was the kid who would rather “watch CNN than play videogames,” she said. Her budding interest in politics led her to Brown University, where she majored in American studies and took note of theories and ideas she would later test while working on campaigns. “It was a lot of pop culture and liberal arts, but it focused on politics from a theory perspective,” Stone said. “The campaign was an opportunity for me to put some theory into practice
and ultimately realize how different practice is from theory.” After graduating from Brown, Stone landed a job at Rubenstein Associates, a public relations firm based in New York City, where she learned the basics of “telling a story for a client,” whether it be a law firm, a studio or a politician. When the opportunity came along to join Reshma Saujani’s public advocate campaign, Stone was attracted by the chance to have a stake in the changing leadership in the city. While Saujani’s campaign ultimately fell short of victory, Stone believes Saujani left a lasting impact on the race through her substantive ideas and positive messaging to young women. “What was so rewarding was we were able to break through in instances where we were bringing something so new to the table, that it was news-
Many of these newer businesses are in the food industry, which means there is always food in the Chamber’s office. “I always make sure reporters are fed,” he said. If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would have wanted to be a gym teacher. All you do is hang out all day, play basketball, and then you have the summers off.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Spending time in Central Park and Prospect Park. I think the city is better for having both.” —AS
SADYE CAMPOAMOR LEAD COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, PUBLIC ADVOCATE’S OFFICE AGE: 29
worthy even when there wasn’t a lot of appetite for horse-race coverage of the campaign,” Stone said. If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Probably film and television. It’s storytelling, so it’s communicating.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “The East Village, where my apartment is.” —NP
RISING STARS fter her
master’s from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Karen Imas, a native of Rego Park whose family emigrated from Ukraine, assumed that she would be working in international relations, given her academic focus on the post-Soviet landscape.
KAREN IMAS VICE PRESIDENT, CONNELLY MCLAUGHLIN & WOLOZ AGE: 36
VICTOR PICHARDO DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR ASSEMBLY, 86TH DISTRICT AGE: 29
hen Victor Pichardo graduated in 2007 from the University at Buffalo, he wanted to teach the works of John Milton, the 17th century English poet and scholar. “What I find really fascinating about Milton is not only did he use the English language in a way where it was actually an accepted form of higher writing—because most of that was done in Greek or Latin—he
Instead she landed a job as director of communications for the Council of State Governments, a public policy think tank that aims to share best practices of state capitals from Augusta to Annapolis. Part of the job entailed coordinating with the Canadian provinces, which is how Imas eventually wound up working for the Canadian consulate in New York.
basically had the gall at that time to explain the ways of God to man,” Pichardo said. “But it takes a long time to become tenured, in English in particular.” So Pichardo got into politics, first as an intern for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, then quickly working his way up to become the senator’s community outreach coordinator for the Hispanic community. It was a good fit for the Bronx native, who has lived in the borough for most of his life. He raised his profile last month by winning the primary for the Assembly seat vacated by disgraced Assemblyman Nelson Castro. Though there were some allegations from opponents who said that Pichardo’s victory in the primary was tainted by fraud, he dismisses their claims as sour grapes. “They have to justify to themselves why they lost, not the fact that I had a better understanding of the issues,” Pichardo said. “I stated a better case to my neighbors, and I put in a lot of effort and a lot of work in going up and down those stairs, meeting with a lot of my neighbors at their homes, seeing them at work, on the trains and just engaging them in a conversation. I’m focused on the folks I interacted with during my campaign.”
“My role primarily was to be a political advisor to diplomats who rotate a lot and who need to have fixtures on the ground to give them the political lay of the land,” explained Imas. While she was fascinated by her work at the consulate in areas ranging from energy and the environment to defense, as an American Imas could only advance so far, and eventually she hit a ceiling. A year ago she moved over to Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, which was a “big learning curve,” because despite her extensive experience in public affairs, she was a relative newbie to New York City government, the firm’s focus. “Now I finally feel steady on my feet and much more able to understand the dynamics of city agencies and what players do what and how to effectively respond to a client’s needs,” Imas said. “When they call and say, ‘Why can’t I get
this permit?’ or ‘Why does this bill says this?’ now I don’t have to think as much about, ‘Okay, how do I handle this?’ ” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would love to write a novel at some point.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “My parents’ house. They have that amazing thing in New York called a ‘backyard.’ ” —MP
We Congratulate Our Colleague Tweeps Phillips and all of City & State’s “40 Under 40 Rising Stars”
If you were not in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be teaching English.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “In my district, I like to walk around Hall of Fame Terrace, right near BCC.” —JL
www.boltonstjohns.com cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
JESSE CAMPOAMOR POLITICAL ORGANIZER, 1199 SEIU AGE: 28
ntonio Reynoso’s education in New York City politics came as chief of staff to Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who represents, among other neighborhoods, the south side of Williamsburg where Reynoso grew up. Working under Reyna, a popular figure in North Brooklyn, Reynoso was able to glean valuable lessons in challenging the apparatus of city government to understand the needs of local districts. Reynoso lists Reyna’s battles with City Hall and the Department of Housing Preservation & Development as moments where her passion for her district shined through, no matter how big or small the
ROSE CHRIST LEGISLATIVE ADVISOR, GOVERNMENT & REGULATORY POLICY, MANATT, PHELPS & PHILLIPS, LLP AGE: 25
26 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
esse Campoamor went to Layafette College in Easton, Pa., to play Division I football, but after he herniated two discs in his back during his senior year, he turned his attention to the poor community situated at the bottom of the hill upon which the school’s majestic campus sits. Campoamor created a mentorship program pairing the school’s athletes with local youth, “to encourage kids that they can attend a school like Lafayette—but it required some of the similar values that we learned on the athletic field, like higher purpose and passion.” After this first experience with community organizing, Campoamor came home to New York City and joined the Healthcare Education Project, a joint project of 1199
SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association. In 2008 1199 deployed Campoamor to work on an independent expenditure for the Obama campaign, and he ended up stationed in Pittsburgh for six months. After that assignment he was transferred to the union’s political action team under Kevin Finnegan. In his relatively short career in electoral politics, Campoamor has had extraordinary success—he has yet to be on the losing side of a campaign, he says. Alongside his wife, Sadye—also one of this year’s City & State Rising Stars—he worked on Bill de Blasio’s ’09 race for public advocate. In 2010 he worked for Eric Schneiderman for AG and Tony Avella for State Senate, and this year Finnegan gave him the opportunity to be the architect of 1199’s coordinated program for de Blasio. Following that success, Campoamor is taking a breather to do his first year at New
problem. “That’s something I learned through her, that this is our community, this is where I grew up and I was raised, and that passion is something that’s extremely important to be able to do this work for a long time,” Reynoso said. To get the chance to succeed his boss in the Council, Reynoso first had to vanquish a rather notorious figure in Brooklyn politics, former assemblyman Vito Lopez, who challenged the young upstart in the Democratic primary. Reynoso said initially he was concerned that his personal narrative and candidacy would be overshadowed by media coverage that focused on Lopez’s attempt at political redemption, but decided to “roll with it” and continue to define himself. Obviously voters listened: Reynoso wound up defeating Lopez by a
double-digit margin. Now, as one of the new “progressive” members poised to enter the Council, Reynoso hopes to leave a lasting mark, especially on issues such as education and housing.
ose Christ was always interested in a career in politics, though she thought her future would be in the national or international arena until she got her first taste of local government interning in the mayor’s office of Charleston, S.C. Christ, who grew up in New Paltz, N.Y., was a student at the time at the College of Charleston. After graduating she continued to work in the mayor’s office of public information, a rewarding experience, because “you get to see the fruits of your labor in your own backyard.” Returning to New York, Christ got a job working as a communication and research assistant in the law offices of Claudia Wagner. When Wagner’s firm
joined with Manatt, Christ moved over to the combined entity with her. Now a legislative advisor, Christ works with nonprofit and cultural clients as they develop their requests for funding from the city and formulate and execute their plan to secure its support. “Working as a lobbyist and in advocacy, the clients really make or break whether the job is enjoyable,” said Christ, who is also on the executive board of directors of Stonewall Democrats. “We represent a lot of organizations that are providing amazing services, to either underserved populations or children in this city—and helping them to get funding to continue those programs, or to be able to have the capital funding to be able to buy the equipment or do the construction they need to better serve
York Law full-time. His aim in becoming a lawyer is to bring even more tools to the table on behalf of his beloved union. “I come from a long history of labor folk,” Campoamor said. “My grandfather was an organizer back in the early 1900s, my mother was general counsel for DC37. I was born in the labor movement …. and I’m happy to continue that legacy.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d be in my community working with youth.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Madison Square Garden … Every time I walk in, my eyes open up and there’s a rush of excitement.” —MP
If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would go to culinary school to try to become a chef. I can’t cook at all right now.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Rodney Park, on South 1st and Rodney. That’s where I grew up playing basketball, where I met a lot of young people in the community, and it always felt like my home court.” —NP
ANTONIO REYNOSO DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL, 34TH DISTRICT AGE: 30
their constituencies. That’s really rewarding. I love that I can see the results of what we’re doing throughout the city.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I’d love to work for a quasi–government group like NYC & Co. or for a PR firm where I get to promote businesses or companies that I believe in.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I think my favorite place is Gantry [Plaza State] Park right now. It was my quasi-escape during the summer. It was a hard summer to get out of the city.” —MP
JOSEPH COLETTI SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS, NYCEDC AGE: 31
oseph Coletti’s crash course in politics began immediately after he graduated from Tufts University. Entering a fellowship program under then Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, Coletti was assigned to work on a state senate campaign. He would later move to Washington, D.C., where he attended graduate school and worked on a U.S. Senate campaign in New Jersey. With his growing electoral experience, Coletti was eventually asked to go to New Hampshire to work on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “When you get the call, and you’re asked to go to New Hampshire or Iowa, what I always advise is that anybody
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who wants to be in politics or is working in politics can’t say no,” Coletti said. Though the McCain campaign ended in defeat, Coletti was on a winning side in 2009, working as the Staten Island borough director for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign. After burning out on the hectic campaign lifestyle, Coletti landed a job working for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which put him at the center of the action, developing programs, brokering deals and implementing what he calls “a government entrepreneurship” philosophy. With a new mayor set to take office in January, however, Coletti hopes that won’t spell the end of his tenure at EDC. “Whoever the mayor is, I think that when they look to EDC, they should see EDC as a major asset of theirs. It’s changed a lot over the last decade,
and it’s done a lot of good for the city,” Coletti said. If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “Coaching soccer somewhere. Amateur coaching at a minimum, with the dream of being a professional.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “When I lived on the Upper East Side, there was a place called Taco Taco, with great Mexican food. Unfortunately, it’s not there anymore.” —NP
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DANI LEVER SPOKESWOMAN, BILL THOMPSON FOR NEW YORK CITY AGE: 26
ani Lever is finally taking it easy. Until Bill T h o m p s o n conceded on September 16, Lever, a Westchester native and Wisconsin-Madison grad, spent nearly every day for the prior seven months shadowing the candidate as he made his pitch to become the city’s next mayor. Before serving as the former city comptroller’s spokeswoman, Lever worked on the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania and had stints in the state Attorney General’s Office, but Thompson’s mayoral run was her first on-theground campaign. “I didn’t realize how local the politics were across every single neighborhood
and borough,” she said. “You could be walking five blocks from each other and the communities cared about different issues.” Lever helped plan not one but two 24-hour campaign marathons, which she survived thanks to an enormous amount of coffee and excitement generated by Thompson’s boundless energy. “The second one was physically easier because I could manage my expectations,” she said. “I was shocked at how revved up Bill was the entire time. We took photos of reporters passed out at the end. I’m going to keep them as blackmail.” But Lever’s favorite campaign story was when Thompson went to dinner at the home of a woman whom they met during a NYCHA sleepover. “We got to meet her family,” she said. “She cooked us this amazing dinner,
We salute you. Manatt is proud to congratulate our legislative advisor
on being named among City and State’s Rising Stars.
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, llp
28 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
DIRECTOR OF MEDIA STRATEGY, DEPARTMENT OF CITYWIDE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AGE: 37
errance Stroud has plenty of responsibilities to keep him busy in his job at the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services: coordinating with vendors and agencies, dealing with procurement legislation, carrying out media strategy and helping out with citywide projects.
and Bill took his tie off and rolled his sleeves up. It was one of these moments that was really humanizing and you could see why this man was running for mayor.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I don’t think I could do anything else. When your favorite line from the movies is ‘change versus more of the same, it’s the economy stupid, don’t forget healthcare,’ you’re in the right line of work.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “Grand Central Terminal or Madison Square Park.” —AS
But one of the things Stroud is most proud of during his 18-month tenure at DCAS isn’t even part of his actual job responsibilities. When DCAS sponsored a mentoring program for people with disabilities, he quickly signed up. “One thing my mother taught me is to always give back, to try to help those who are less fortunate,” Stroud said. “We gave them a day in the life of what it was like to work as a DCAS employee, and most of them, really, at the end of that day, were inspired and saw themselves in a role working in city government.” A Brooklyn native, Stroud went to law school in Indiana but returned after graduating. He started out as an aide to state Sen. Kevin Parker, then worked in the City Council, and finally landed in the Bloomberg administration, where he has already had several positions in different agencies. Now at DCAS, the city’s chief procurement agency, he recently helped roll out a new vendor management tool for city agencies from Dun & Bradstreet. “The things I’m proud of, number one, was the successful rollout of Dun & Bradstreet, the supply-risk manager,” he said. “That was great, working with all the city agencies to get this enterprise license contract rolled out citywide.” If you were not working in politics or government, what would you be doing? “I would be working at the UN, in their media group.” What is your favorite place in New York City? “I’m a Brooklyn boy at heart, so Junior’s.”
Congratulations to all the Rising Stars!
“Tim’s judgment, wisdom and strategic problem solving skills are mature and experienced beyond his years. If he is this talented and effective now, imagine how good he will be when he is top 50 under 50!” Ambassador Gordon Giffin Partner and chair of the Public Policy and International Department “This is a well-deserved honor for a rising star in the fields of business, law and government.” Eric Tanenblatt Senior Managing Director and co-chair of the Public Policy/Regulatory Affairs and National Government Affairs Group practice “Tim is an invaluable member of our team. This honor is richly deserved.” William Plunkett Partner
McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP congratulates Tim Plunkett, our own Rising Star, for his commitment and constant work ethics on behalf of our clients. Congratulations Tim on this well-deserved recognition.
mckennalong.com Albany l Atlanta l Brussels l Denver l Los Angeles l Miami l New York l Northern Virginia Orange County l Rancho Santa Fe l San Diego l San Francisco l Seoul l Washington, DC
“Tim is a great guy and terrific lawyer with a superb understanding of the broad context in which our clients function.” Jon Ballan Partner and head of the New York Public Finance group and co-chair of the Global Infrastructure and Public-Private Partnerships practice “Tim is a wonderfully creative lawyer with great business sense and people skills.” Charles E. Dorkey III Partner “Congrats to you Tim. Well deserved.” Hon. Craig M. Johnson Managing Director and 2008 40 under 40 Rising Star “Well deserved. Congratulations, Tim.” Amy Solomon Managing Director “Congratulations, Tim. You are a tireless advocate for clients and the personification of family values in the best tradition of the Plunketts.” Mike Klein Managing Director
INSIDE THE CAPITOL The Capitol Pressroom’s host, Susan Arbetter, recaps recent highlights of her one-hour public radio show, broadcast live from the State Capitol.
A Battle To Breathe
Wood smoke from neighbor’s wood boiler.
ohn and Bonnie Lichak’s kitchen table is covered with stacks of paperwork. Each pile represents a chapter in their nine year battle with local, state and federal government agencies over what they call their neighbor’s “smoke-belching wood boiler.” Conventional wood boilers aren’t unusual in upstate New York, where wood is cheap and abundant. According to NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a wood boiler, or hydronic heater, has a firebox surrounded by a water jacket. Wood is burned inside the firebox and heats the water, which is then circulated by pipes to the heat distribution system (radiators) of the home. There are different boiler designs for use outdoors and indoors. When the Lichaks moved to the Village of East Nassau in rural Rensselaer County in 1985, they had never heard of a wood boiler. In 2002, when new neighbors moved in next door, the Lichaks quickly became educated. “What happened? We introduced ourselves. We were friendly. Then in 2004 [they] installed an outdoor wood boiler,” 30 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
recalls Bonnie Lichak. Outdoor wood boilers are designed to burn wood and some other fuels, but unlike gasification boilers, wood stoves or fireplaces, conventional wood boilers burn at very low temperatures, allowing the wood to smolder and smoke. The result for the Lichaks was that they started getting smoked out of their home. Their health suffered. They stopped using their pool. Raking leaves became difficult. To address the issue, they contacted an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies including the DEC, EPA, NYSERDA, DOH and DOS. (Each agency has its own designated pile on the Lichaks’ kitchen table.) The fight became Bonnie’s second full-time job. The family gave over their weekends and their evenings to the cause. To give you a sense of how long the Lichaks have waged this battle, some of the paperwork goes back to when Eliot Spitzer was attorney general. The battle also became personal. The son of the neighbor with the wood boiler posted a threatening note on a YouTube page featuring Bonnie Lichak’s 2010 testimony at a DEC
hearing. According to the Lichaks, he also called their daughter “a slut.” “She was 11,” says Bonnie Lichak. The neighbors refused to speak with a reporter. In 2010, after a multiyear battle, the neighbor was forced to remove his outdoor wood boiler by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. On Feb. 2 of that year the DEC sent an Order on Consent stating the boiler would have to be shut down by April. Bonnie Lichak describes the days leading up to the shutdown. “[They] burned anything and everything. There was blue smoke and green smoke. Our neighbor Mr. Hamilton came to the top of the hill to look because he no doubt thought our house was on fire because of the amount of smoke. We endured it because we thought the nightmare was finally over.” It wasn’t. The Lichaks’ victory was shortlived. “Now they have an indoor wood boiler,” Bonnie Lichak said. “A Harman Trident SF-160.
It cycles on and off because it has a damper. It’s bad. It makes ya sick.” The DEC informed the Lichaks that it doesn’t have the authority to regulate indoor wood boilers. A study done for NYSERDA in 2008 reported that residential wood smoke is a significant source of pollution in many rural areas of the United States, contributing over 90% of total carbon-containing particulate emissions in rural areas of New York. Adam Acquario, Deputy Mayor of East Nassau, confirms the Lichaks have a legitimate complaint. “It is an issue for them,” he says. “Absolutely.” The Lichaks are frustrated, wondering why none of the regulatory agencies they have contacted will take action. Of their two state representatives, only one has been responsive: State Sen. Kathy Marchione. She has requested information on the Lichaks’ situation from the DEC. Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin’s office never responded to this reporter’s repeated calls. Should anyone decide to tackle the issue, there is a legislative fix. “There oughta be a law like the laws that Oregon and Washington have to hold wood boilers to the same standards as wood stoves. The EPA has a loophole, which they haven’t closed in 17 years. If New York State would just pass a law like those other states have done, other people wouldn’t have to go through what we’ve gone through, ” says Bonnie Lichak. In 2011 the New York State DEC enacted stricter air pollution regulations for new outdoor wood furnaces. But indoor wood boilers like the one plaguing the Lichaks weren’t addressed. The new regulations also allowed previously installed outdoor wood boilers to continue being used. “To have the [DEC] Air Resources staff talk about my neighbor’s economics versus the environment is astounding to me. DEC caused a lot of economic suffering by all [its] inability to promulgate health protective public policy,” Lichak wrote. “It is shameful.” It is also legal. Bill Cooke of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment shares one possible explanation. “It’s legal because [wood boiler manufacturers] have good lobbyists.” One of those lobbyists is the New York Farm Bureau. Policy Director Jeff Williams says the Lichaks’ situation is unusual. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of outdoor wood boiler owners who live on large tracts of land, and they are not causing a problem for anyone, and they are heating their house for free.” When presented with the Lichaks’
PERSPECTIVES dilemma, Williams was sympathetic, but he placed blame for their predicament on the DEC’s doorstep. “First of all, I think they do have the authority for any air quality problems in the state ... We don’t want to see anyone have health impacts. One of the things we do agree with the environmentalists on—that report notwithstanding—is that DEC’s staffing needs to increase for not only this but a whole host of other staffing issues that we see would help the
respiratory disease,” said Peter Iwanowicz, a former DEC commissioner under Gov. David Paterson who is now director of the Healthy Air Campaign with the American Lung Association. “It can be a respiratory irritant for people who have lung disease now, like kids who have asthma. And if you have underlying heart disease, the science says that a couple hours of exposure to heavy soot emissions could trigger a second heart attack and kill you.” Iwanowicz is among those experts who contend that wood boilers burn less efficiently than wood stoves or even fireplaces, so the quantity of pollution they emit is much higher. He also speculates that some owners may burn illegal substances— like tires and garbage—since they can do so The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management in the privacy of published an assessment of outdoor wood-fired boilers in 2006. their own yards. “That’s a environment and farming in the state.” problem,” says Iwanowicz. “The ALA has filed Perhaps surprisingly, the Albany-based a notice of intent to sue EPA to get at that very lobbyist for a large wood boiler company issue federally because we don’t see states admits that the units cannot be installed just acting fast enough. EPA is supposed to update anywhere. Philip H. Gitlen, Esq. is the co– standards every eight years. They haven’t done managing partner in the Albany law firm of it in nearly a quarter of a century, so we’re Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, and outside getting ready to take action on all these devices: counsel to Central Boiler. Gitlen states that the wood stoves, indoor versions of these devices industry must rely on the good sense of the and, of course, outdoor ones. It’s time to clean people who purchase their products. them up.” “Central Boiler requires that [people who The Lung Association isn’t alone in this buy wood boilers] acknowledge what the local effort. New York’s attorney general and seven requirements are on setbacks, on installation, others states’ AGs have also put the EPA on on locations and the like, and that they notice that they want standardized laws represent and warrant to the company that governing residential wood burning heaters. they are going to comply with them.” They will decide whether to take action against For some environmentalists like Citizens the EPA in the first week of October. Campaign’s Bill Cooke, there is no middle Bonnie Lichak doesn’t want to get her ground. hopes up. “The truth is that wood boilers are bad for “Nine years of bureaucratic nonsense. people downwind. We’re talking about heating Multiple levels of government. Laws they will the way they did 10,000 years ago!” Comparing not enforce. We hired a lawyer for the outdoor a wood stove and wood boiler is like comparing wood boiler and consulted other people on a Prius and a Humvee, Cooke says. the indoor unit. We simply do not have the But Gitlen argues if you need more than money they want to do air studies and go to one wood stove, a single state-of-the-art court. We have been advised it could cost as wood boiler would be less polluting to the much as $60,000. So we are just trying to get environment. government to do its job.” The regulations are murky, but Gitlen, The fall foliage is just about at peak. For Williams and the Lichaks all believe the DEC most of us this season is one of the joys of living has the authority to shut down the offending in the northeast. For the Lichaks, their annual wood boiler if it chooses to flex its muscles; battle to breathe is just a few weeks away. the agency is simply choosing not to do so. At the same time there is a sense that DEC is in a Susan Arbetter (@sarbetter on Twitter) is the holding pattern, waiting for long-delayed EPA Emmy Award-winning news director for WCNY regulations for wood boilers. If that’s the case, Syracuse PBS/NPR, and producer/host of The the agency isn’t alone in waiting. Capitol Pressroom syndicated public radio “Soot pollution is linked to long-term program.
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NYC Mayoral Contenders Pitch Proposals For MWBEs
(From left) New York City mayoral candidates Joe Lhota, Adolfo Carrión and Jack Hidary laid out their goals for MWBEs.
By JON LENTZ
oe Lhota touted a mentoring program for businesses owned by minorities or women during his time at the helm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Adolfo Carrión said that as CEO of a private company, his goal is to “advance minority business growth.” Jack Hidary mentioned a grant and loan fund he had helped put together that launched 2,500 new small businesses. As these three candidates for mayor of New York City sought to portray themselves as champions of minority- and women-owned business enterprises, or MWBEs, each one also offered an array of proposals to help funnel more city government contracts to MWBEs, from ambitious contracting targets to the creation of a chief diversity officer. “Too many deals are decided, too much involvement is decided, especially with the capital programs of the city and the state and all the various agencies—they’re decided by who you know, not by what you can do,” Lhota said at City & State’s “New Agenda” conference on Tuesday. “To get business in the city, you need a track record. And one of the things you don’t 32 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
have, if you don’t have business, is you don’t have a track record. It’s a vicious circle, and it’s what I call an opportunity gap. It’s an opportunity gap that can be closed very, very easily.” Lhota, the Republican nominee, said that as mayor he would build on his work at the MTA, where larger firms partnered with smaller firms to gain the necessary experience to qualify for large government contracts. In addition to the mentoring program, Lhota said his administration would go out into communities to inform people about contracting opportunities. He also called for the creation of a special category for veterans, many of whom are minorities, to qualify for MWBE opportunities. “We owe it to these women and these men, who fought for us to have our freedom, to be able to participate and to have an opportunity in the economy as well,” Lhota said. With six weeks to go until Election Day, Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee and the front-runner in the race, declined to attend the event, which was sponsored by National Grid and Columbia University. A campaign spokesman declined to comment and referred City & State to the candidate’s policy book, which calls
for adding more agencies to the MWBE program, relying on larger firms to mentor smaller firms and reforming the study that measures contracting disparities. Carrión, who is running on the Independence Party line, went further than Lhota in calling for specific benchmarks and the creation of a chief diversity officer to increase the number of city contracts awarded to MWBEs. Carrión said that a local New York City law passed in 2005 and expanded in the past year had boosted opportunities for MWBEs, but that more needed to be done. So far this year the city has spent $44.5 billion on goods and services, he said, with MWBEs getting less than 4 percent of those contracts. “We still are underperforming,” he said, “We still are not providing the kind of opportunity, open government, transparency, ease of process, ease of entry, ease for capital, user-friendly bureaucracy that allows for minority businesses to participate in what is one of the largest economies on the globe.” Maintaining that real progress would only come with a change in culture, Carrión said that he would establish the post of chief diversity officer and make it a cabinetlevel position at City Hall. He also drew
applause from the crowd when he pledged to set a target of 25 percent of city contracts going to MWBEs. Hidary, who is running on the Jobs and Education Party line, emphasized the importance of mentoring programs, and suggested that new community centers could help MWBEs through training and microfinance programs. The city should double the share of its contracts going to such firms, he added. “They need mentorship and someone to believe in that entrepreneur,” he said. “Someone who, when the bank says no, we say yes. When a credit union says no, we say yes. That’s what we need.” Rev. Jacques Andre De Graff, one of the co-chairs of the conference, said that he was disappointed that de Blasio did not attend. “He’s already publicly committed to designating one of his deputy mayors to be responsible for these programs and reaching the goals set forth,” said De Graff, who added that he had advised the de Blasio campaign on MWBE issues. “He’s talked about 20 percent [as a goal for MWBE contracting], which his deputy mayor would be responsible for. You have to start somewhere—it’s not a ceiling, it’s a floor.”
Louis Colleti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employersâ€™ Association of New York City, joined Phillip Eng, a top state transportation official, and Lorraine Grillo, president of the New York City School Construction Authority, to discuss the challenges facing MWBEs.
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
The Shackles Of The Scaffold Law By JON LENTZ
ALL PHOTOS BY AARON ADLER
hen Christine D o n a l d s o n Boccia entered the construction business, she got a foothold in the traditionally male-dominated field by landing contracts from the New York City School Construction Authority, a pioneer in awarding contracts to firms owned by women and minorities. But the School Construction Authority now faces skyrocketing insurance costs, leaving contractors like Donaldson Boccia in flux— and many are pointing at the state’s controversial Scaffold Law as the source of the problem. If rising costs force the School Construction Authority to end its program for minority- and women-owned firms, or MWBEs, Donaldson Boccia, the co-owner of Donaldson Traditional Interiors, said she expects to see her liability to rise from $70,000 to $750,000. “What it does to me it’s going to do to every one of you that works for the SCA, and that’s just the first step,” she said during the comment period after one of the panels at City & State’s recent “New Agenda” conference focused on MWBEs. “The Scaffold Law is so powerful. The trial lawyers are so powerful.” The state’s Scaffold Law makes contractors or project developers liable for “gravity-related” injuries suffered by construction workers. It has long been criticized by building contractors, who say that the “absolute liability” standard they face is unfair and doesn’t take into account risky behavior or negligence by workers. Unions and trial lawyers counter that the law is needed to ensure worker safety. Where MWBEs come into the picture is that rising insurance costs add to the financial obstacles they already face in winning government contracts. Lou Coletti, the president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said
Christine Donaldson Boccia, an interiors contractor, is worried that the costs of the Scaffold Law will hurt her business.
that the law, which is the only one of its kind in the state, should be reformed. If a judge deems a lawsuit filed by an injured worker to be covered by the law, Coletti said, the contractor is solely responsible for damages, and the only determination a jury makes is how much will be paid to the plaintiff. “We’re looking for a comparable liability standard,” he said. “All we’re looking for is our day in court. On those occasions where we believe that an employee contributed to the accident, allow us to present that evidence to a jury and let that jury make a determination.” The School Construction Authority’s MWBE program has resulted in almost $3 billion in prime awards and almost $2 billion in subcontractor awards, while 400 firms have gone through its mentorship program. But the Authority’s president, Lorraine Grillo, said that the Scaffold Law poses a grave threat to its continued success. “Our program is the best of its kind, and it’s really led the way for the city’s programs and across the state, and we’re very proud of it,” Grillo said. “It would just about kill me to see that program die on the vine,
34 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
and the possibility is there, it truly exists, that our mentor contracts and our minorityand women-owned businesses will not be able to get the kind of insurance that’s necessary to continue working on our sites.” Coletti said that he had discussed the matter with Gov. Andrew Cuomo multiple times, and that he believed that the governor was “conceptually in agreement” about the problems with the law. He called on attendees at City & State’s September “New Agenda” conference to put the pressure on minority lawmakers in the Assembly, where changes to the law have faced staunch resistance, to push for reforms. Sandra Wilkin, the president of Bradford Construction and a co-chair of the New Agenda, promised that reforming the legislation would be a top priority of hers in Albany next year, building on the passage of a recently passed New York City law that expands opportunities for MWBEs. “We’ll do everything that we can to avoid this tsunami from coming over us, and we’ll need everybody’s help,” she said. “This is not something that may happen. It’s going to happen unless we as individuals and collectively, make sure we are heard.”
WBEs are truly rising. Where we were some five years ago is not where we are now, and where we’ll be five years from today will hopefully continue the trend that New York City and New York State has now realized in making sure that minority, women and small businesses and local businesses have an integral part in building New York.” —Sandra Wilkin, Co-Chair, The New Agenda
hat we need help in, especially at the city level, is getting more companies enrolled in the [MWBE] program. We have 3,800 companies enrolled in our program. It’s a rigorous process, and we try to make it as simple as possible. If you’re not certified, we can’t track you or chart your progress. Those certified firms, the 3,800 firms that are enrolled, represent about 6 percent of the city’s bidders’ pool. This is the most competitive bidding environment in the entire country.” —Anne Rincon, Deputy Commissioner, Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity, New York City Department of Small Business Services
City & State’s latest “New Agenda” conference brought together minority and women contractors for discussions with advocates, experts and officials.
s comptroller, I will set a goal to double MWBE spending by city agencies within the next three years from today’s $520 million to $1 billion. That’s a realistic goal, and we have to get there. Now, to make sure these goals are realized, if I’m successful in November, I will appoint a chief diversity officer within the controller’s office to oversee MWBE performance by city agencies.” —Manhattan Borough President and New York City Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer
ome people will tell you that MWBE opportunity programs are political patronage. It’s kind of a fable to those people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. MWBE programs are good for business. When you get everybody in the game, prices come down, costs go down, competition goes up, jobs are created. It is not a social program.” —Rev. Jacques Andre De Graff, Co-Chair, The New Agenda
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
HOW THE RUNOFF WAS WON
LETITIA JAMES’ GROUND OPERATION AND LABOR SUPPORT STEERED HER TO VICTORY IN THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE RUNOFF
Democratic public advocate nominee Letitia James celebrating with supporters after her runoff victory.
BY NICK POWELL
unoff elections have a tendency to be unpredictable, with outcomes depending entirely on a slice of the voting population that pays better attention to electoral politics than most. With that in mind, most prognosticators foresaw a tight runoff between Democratic New York City public advocate candidates City Councilwoman Letitia James and state Sen. Daniel Squadron, but when the results rolled in James won by 19 points. The surprising outcome provokes the question: How did a candidate who consistently struggled to raise money throughout the campaign, and lacked the name recognition of her opponent, step up her game so late in the race to win in such a commanding fashion? Let’s rewind to late June, when one of the only public polls of the race was conducted, showing James essentially tied for the lead with her Democratic opponent Cathy Guerriero, and well ahead of Squadron and former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani. James was unequivocally the labor candidate in the field, with every major union, both public and private, giving her their endorsement. James, however, was suffering from poor fundraising, especially compared to the well-heeled Squadron and Saujani, who had raked in money from real estate developers and Wall Street, respectively. “Tish’s Achilles heel the entire campaign 36 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
is that she could never rub two nickels together,” said a source close to James. “She could never quite figure out the operation to expand her fundraising base beyond the fundraising base she’s had for her entire political career. When you’re in that situation, you’re in a triage situation, every single dollar becomes, ‘Do we spend it on this?’, or ‘Do we spend it on that?’ as opposed to, ‘Do we have a solid fully funded media plan and a fully funded field plan?’ You’re constantly, on a daily basis, making choices between the two.” Campaign observers also say that James’ sluggish primary campaign was partially a byproduct of the splintering of the city’s unions in the Democratic mayoral contest. Even though James had a deep well of labor support, tapping into the unions’ resources was difficult with their interests focused primarily on electing their preferred mayoral candidate. And with the public advocate race being a distant third priority for labor, James was fighting an uphill battle trying to get the unions to devote resources to her campaign. As a consequence, on Primary Day James did not have the benefit of a fullforce, get-out-the-vote operation on the part of the unions—their most powerful weapon. Even so, she pulled off a tight 36 percent first-place finish, though she fell short of the 40 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff. With James’ fundraising still lagging, sources say her campaign realized it would
have to shift strategy to pull out a win in the runoff. “[The James campaign] recognized that this was about ... picking pockets of turf [where] they could run a substantial ground game and drive up turnout in certain portions of the electorate where Tish was strong,” said Nathan Smith, a founding partner at Red Horse Strategies, a political consulting firm hired by the campaign to help coordinate their field operation during the runoff. “The question was how are they gonna do that? A coalition of folks kind of came together.” Those groups included, most notably, the Working Families Party—James was first elected to the Council on the party’s line—SEIU 32BJ, and the activist 501(c)(4) Make The Road Action Fund, with further assistance from Red Horse and Metropolitan Public Strategies, a consulting firm run by Neal Kwatra, the former political director for the Hotel Trades Council. In less than two weeks, these various players essentially divided the city up into sections based on high concentrations of African-American and Latino voters, hoping to drive up turnout in areas that would benefit James. The Working Families Party, with its reputable ground game, played a leadership role in James’ field program and coordinated some of her canvassing efforts. Red Horse ran an African-American voter canvass for the last ten days of the campaign, sending 60 people every day to neighborhoods in central Brooklyn, south-
east Queens, the Bronx and Harlem. “In a low turnout election like this if you can talk to 10,000 voters, that’s 5 or 6 percent of [the runoff] electorate that showed up,” Smith said. Make the Road and 32BJ focused on turning out Latino neighborhoods. 32BJ President Hector Figueroa noted that while Latino voters were less familiar with James during the primary, his membership— which is largely Hispanic—warmed to her thanks to some solid voter education. “When we started supporting Tish, one of the things we learned was that Latino voters who learned about her record and became familiar with the kind of issues she was fighting for, responded very, very well,” Figueroa explained. To that end, Figueroa leaned on voter data from past elections in 2005 and 2009 to determine which voter blocs were most likely to vote in the primary, while also directing canvassers to call and remind some 25,000 32BJ members to vote. Of course, the James campaign was also helped by a late gaffe from the Squadron campaign regarding an anonymous robocall that attacked James for allegedly failing to donate her Council lulu to charity as she had promised she would. Squadron at first brushed aside being behind the call when asked about it in a televised interview, but later in the same interview seemed to admit that he was responsible for it. While the dust-up might have been too “inside baseball” for the average voter, it helped fuel the perception that James was building steam in the final days of the campaign. “[The robocall] certainly backfired and was something we used to energize our team and build on that,” said Matt Rey, a junior partner at Red Horse. The rest, as they say, is history. James cruised to an easy victory over Squadron, defeating him largely along ethnic lines, sweeping the city’s African-American and Latino neighborhoods, and picking up votes in Squadron strongholds such as brownstone Brooklyn and pockets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. On the heels of de Blasio’s victory in the mayoral primary, Figueroa observed that the profile of the public advocate’s position has grown. However, he insisted that for most voters it was James’ narrative as an agent of change—a message that has proven particularly resonant this year— which brought them out to support her. “Working people, low income, people of color, women, feeling like they had a stake in this election,” said Figueroa, “I think that made a big difference for her.”
1199’S WINNING FORMULA HOW THE CITY’S LARGEST UNION HELPED BILL DE BLASIO WIN THE PRIMARY
By NICK POWELL
ollowing election victories, it’s easy to point to key endorsements as reasons for moving a bloc of voters or adding momentum to a surging candidate. If there is one thing this year’s mayoral race proved, especially regarding the influence of newspaper editorial boards, it’s that some endorsements matter more than others. In the case of 1199 SEIU, New York City’s largest private sector union, its support for Bill de Blasio came at a time when he was well behind Christine Quinn, the onetime Democratic front-runner, and just before newly minted candidate Anthony Weiner would briefly suck up all of the oxygen and media attention in the race. But 1199, which represents healthcare workers, lent an additional measure of credibility to de Blasio’s campaign, with a huge AfricanAmerican membership and a reputable voter turnout operation. Kevin Finnegan, 1199’s political director and the point person for its campaign operation, said that it was the initial progressive tone of de Blasio’s campaign, as well as the union’s long-standing relationship with him, that ultimately convinced 1199 to give him its support. “[De Blasio] was really focused on income equality, on the working class and other working class issues that resonate well with our members,” Finnegan said. So what did 1199 bring to the table to help push de Blasio to victory? Finnegan was in charge of the independent expenditure and member-to-member communication side of the operation. The union essentially had two separate factions within their de Blasio operation: one that coordinated with the campaign, and an independent side. As part of the coordinated dimension of the larger campaign, organizers made a concerted effort to reach out to the union’s 100,000 members who are registered Democrats in New York City by handing out flyers and leaflets to them with the union’s preferred candidates, and following up with both live and recorded phone calls. Canvassers knocked on more than 46,000 doors in the city, and about 30 retirees volunteered to hold a regular phone bank four days a week targeting voters over the age of 65. The union also had a strong presence at public events such as the Dominican and Puerto Rican Day parades. One striking aspect of de Blasio’s campaign was the candidate’s sudden emphasis on the issue of keeping hospitals open, a natural cause for him to
champion given the union’s support and one that labor insiders and political operatives believe rallied the union’s base. Most notably, de Blasio was arrested in July for protesting the scheduled closure of Long Island College Hospital in downtown Brooklyn, but he also paid visits to many interfaith and public hospitals in the borough and elsewhere around the city. “[1199’s] support for de Blasio was intensified … because de Blasio spent so much time and effort on the issue of hospital closures in Brooklyn, and I think that made them really want to deliver for him,” said Bill Cunningham, a veteran city campaign operative. Finnegan denied encouraging de Blasio to emphasize the issue of hospital closures as part of his campaign. He maintained that 1199 did not get involved in affecting any specific policy positions for the campaign, insisting that the union’s role was simply to supplement its electoral efforts. “While I had discussions with Bill and with his staff for probably a year and a half about the race before we made our endorsements, as I did with all of the candidates … they had staked out what they had staked out as the most progressive candidate in the race completely on their own,” Finnegan said. “Hospital closures are extremely important to us, but Bill took the lead on that on his own and made it into his issue.” Independent from de Blasio’s campaign, the union’s get-out-the-vote strength was on full display in the final week of the race leading up to the primary. From Saturday, Sept. 7 to Tuesday, Sept. 10, the SEIU call center dialed 92,000 registered Democratic members of 1199. Representatives spoke to more than 10,000 members, over 8,100 of whom committed to supporting de Blasio, according to the union. Additionally, canvassers knocked on over 56,000 doors in that final week, and the union ran full-page ads in the Daily News and El Diario. A radio blitz on Spanishlanguage and urban radio stations likely helped contribute to de Blasio’s surprisingly strong numbers among AfricanAmericans and Latinos as well. Since endorsers of winning candidates are often rewarded, either directly or indirectly, there has been speculation about how 1199 will ultimately benefit from a potential de Blasio mayoralty (he faces off against Republican Joe Lhota in November’s general election). As a private sector union, 1199 does not have to worry about pushing for a new contract or retroactive raises, like the municipal unions do. And while it is active in the city, labor insiders
Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio with members of 1199 SEIU. (Source: Bill de Blasio campaign) say the union wields much of its political clout in Albany. Instead, according to Finnegan, 1199 will likely look to de Blasio to champion their issues, such as protecting community hospitals and expanding the city’s living wage law, and to deliver on his promise of progressivism. “It’s more on the issues that affect
all New Yorkers. We would expect a different stop-and-frisk policy, a different approach to governing, hopefully a little bit more open, a completely different approach to the schools,” Finnegan said. “We don’t have an agenda in the city of New York the way we do in Albany.”
GOVERNOR CUOMO’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN
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IN THE FACE OF NATURAL DISASTERS, CAN MICRO ELECTRIC GRIDS IMPROVE RESILIENCY?
AP PHOTO/BEBETO MATTHEWS
By JON LENTZ
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, large sections of New York City lost power.
n the night that Hurricane Sandy was closing in on New York City, John Bradley was in his office on the phone with the city’s utility company, Con Edison. Bradley, NYU’s associate vice president of sustainability, energy and technical services, wanted to know which university properties would be affected as the utility was pre-emptively shutting down parts of the grid. “Then all the lights went out in my office, and as I looked out my window, all the lights were out in the city,” recounted Bradley, who was on NYU’s main campus looking toward the East River. “So I said, ‘Did something happen?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know what.’ They hung up, and I didn’t hear from them for a few days.” Leaving his office, Bradley dashed over to the small power plant on campus, which had detected a drop in power and had automatically shut down. He re-started the two gas turbines of the university’s 13.4-megawatt combined heat and power plant, which provides power to 26 key NYU buildings and facilities. “The breakers opened up, the engines bumped a little bit, like revving your car a little bit, and they settled out and kept running, and we were now isolated from the Con Ed grid and running on our own,” Bradley said. “We ran that way for the next six days.” The performance of NYU’s selfcontained generating plant and transmission grid—or microgrid—stood out as one of the bright spots during the devastation wrought by the storm. It is now being 38 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
looked at as a model for future projects aimed at improving the resiliency and reliability of the power supply. “NYU was a beacon of light in lower New York because they were self-sufficient,” Michael Delaney, a top energy policy adviser in the Bloomberg administration, said at City & State’s recent “On Energy” conference. “There are proposals on microgrids, and famously, during Sandy, NYU was the leading example.” Of course, microgrids won’t solve all of the challenges facing the electric grid in and around New York City. It will takes months or years of study before new microgrid projects move forward, probably starting with pilot projects. There are complex questions about costs, standards and integration with the larger electrical grid. And regulations covering who can build a grid and connect with others pose another challenge. “Con Ed rightly points out that it has the franchise for New York City and for Westchester, so there are limitations on how much of a microgrid you can develop without impinging on a franchise,” Delaney said. “But what we’ve tried to do in the city is to work cooperatively with Con Ed to identify certain locations where there’s enough critical mass of power and enough thermal load—for example, a hospital that’s close to a NYCHA building—and in that way make it a model for CHP placement, but I think it’s going to be a long process.” Bradley said that NYU’s plant, which was repowered in 2010, provides many benefits to the university. Annual energy costs are down by $5 million to $6 million a year, emissions are reduced and excess power
can be sold to Con Edison. But NYU had an advantage other potential microgrid developers do not—its system does not go beyond the boundaries of the campus. Con Ed’s franchise prevents a local power generator from connecting directly with another entity, which can be a roadblock. “We didn’t have those issues, and it really made developing our microgrid a lot easier than somebody, a developer or a building owner, to say, ‘Hey, it makes sense for us to place a generating plant in one of the buildings and feed three or four buildings in a microgrid,’ ” Bradley said. “I think they’re working on resolving it, but it’s really how quickly can you do it.” Con Edison is actively exploring the development of microgrids, said Robert Schimmenti, the utility’s vice president of engineering and planning. The series of severe storms in recent years has spurred the company to look at partnering with developers that have or want to develop power generation facilities in small areas where it is critical to keep the lights on. For example, a microgrid could be built in Westchester County, also part of Con Ed’s service area, ensuring that a firehouse, police station and perhaps a shopping center stay open. “So if infrastructure around it is down from the devastating tree damage from the high winds, you have this center, this particular area within a town that remains energized just to support the community until their power gets restored,” he said. Microgrids could also ease demand and allow the company to delay costly and complicated upgrades to the grid, Schim-
menti added, which could save money for all of the utility’s customers. “There’s a huge amount of interest in getting folks to be somewhat self-reliant,” he said. “Not completely—you won’t see folks separating from the grid, because I think the grid is so reliable and there are other risks of that. But if you had a high-rise building that had 5 megawatts of power and they wanted to put in 1 megawatt of distributed generation, that is a sizeable load that they can take off their energy usage and have that available for catastrophic conditions.” Others are taking a closer look at microgrids as well. In New Jersey, NJ Transit is partnering with the federal Department of Energy to build a microgrid supporting part of its transit system. Connecticut launched its own microgrid program this summer. And the idea has been raised at the city and state level in New York, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has researched microgrids. “I am a firm believer in distributed generation and microgrids,” Bradley said. “I think that with the smart grid coming and with two-way communications, building a large central generating plant and all the infrastructure to send that power miles just doesn’t make sense any more. It’s really these small, local plants, in combination with high-tech building management controls, and solar and wind. You’re going to control all these pockets of the city much more efficiently than you’re going to do the old way of a central power plant. That’s the whole key.”
NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE / ISSUE SPOTLIGHT
Fixing Up The City INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES LOOM FOR NEW YORK CITY’S NEXT MAYOR
DE BLASIO CAMPAIGN VIA FACEBOOK, MTA VIA FLICKR
By ADAM JANOS AND JON LENTZ
his summer Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out a comprehensive plan to protect New York City in the event of another natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy. But it will fall to the next mayor to determine how to pay for and to what degree to implement Bloomberg’s plan—which calls for everything from flood walls to protections for the electrical grid to a new, resilient “Seaport City” neighborhood in lower Manhattan—as well as how to address countless other infrastructure needs all across the city. The two leading mayoral candidates have lined up behind the broad outlines of Bloomberg’s post-Sandy plan, although the specifics will only become clear when one of them takes office. When Bloomberg unveiled his $19.5 billion “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” plan in June, Joe Lhota, now the Republican nominee for mayor, praised him for putting together a comprehensive proposal and said he would continue many parts of it. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee and the front-runner in the race, also commended the Bloomberg administration’s work and called for similar investments, from expanded natural storm barriers and protections to communitybased disaster planning. De Blasio’s campaign website goes into greater detail on his infrastructure plans than Lhota’s. Among de Blasio’s goals are to “embrace green technology” and
modernize the electrical grid, for example with backup solar power systems on schools; using the post-Sandy rebuilding effort to create living wage jobs; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, widely seen as a factor in increasingly disruptive storms like Sandy. Another major area of concern for the city’s infrastructure is its mass transit system. During Sandy, Lhota was praised for his performance heading the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which responded quickly to the storm and brought subway service back within days. But investment in mass transit continues to be a challenge. While the city’s overall budget has grown from $30 billion in 1993 to $70 billion in 2013, mass transit funding was reduced from $205 million to $105 million, said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, a coalition of unions representing some 100,000 workers citywide. “If mass transit is a priority, then the budget ought to reflect that, and it doesn’t right now,” LaBarbera said. John Raskin, executive director of the advocacy group Riders Alliance, said that the highest need for mass transit improvements is in underserved neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, where commuters have to “take a bus to get to their subway.” Raskin said the expansion of Select Bus Service in those communities is integral to improving the city, “first, because it often
serves a lower income community, and second, because it allows people to get out of cars by giving them a strong alternative option.” Lhota noted that he “increased bus service in the year I was at the MTA, and we need to make sure all communities in the city of New York have access to mass transit.” The de Blasio campaign, which referred City & State to the candidate’s policy books, declined to comment. Another cornerstone of Bloomberg’s legacy as a public health mayor is disincentivizing car ownership. From the recent Citi Bike bike-share program to Bloomberg’s 2007 environmentally conscious PlaNYC—which added ferry service and promoted pedestrian and cyclist safety— New York is less motorist-centered than it has ever been. Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, said that the next mayor should expand on that vision by setting a multiyear goal of reaching zero traffic deaths in New York. De Blasio’s policy booklet “One New York, Rising Together” alludes to that idea, which the candidate calls Vision Zero. Of course, the city’s roads, highways and bridges are also in need of repairs. The George Washington Bridge is the busiest in the country, and heavy truck traffic causes congestion and a great deal of wear and tear on main thoroughfares like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, especially since the city lacks a freight rail tunnel, a perennial complaint from advocacy
groups like AAA. “We need a rail-freight tunnel,” said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA New York State. “That would be the biggest game changer.” But Sinclair is pessimistic about significant changes coming anytime soon. “There will be more bridge collapses,” he said. “That’s probably what it’ll take to make something happen.” De Blasio’s policy book calls for “a fully funded Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel to take thousands of trucks off local streets, create good local jobs, and make the entire region more economically competitive”—although there are few details on how it would be paid for, other than taking the fight to Washington and making the project part of the Port Authority’s strategic plan. Despite his experience at the MTA, Lhota’s campaign website lacks any mention of transportation infrastructure needs or goals. On the campaign trail, however, Lhota has said that he would focus on “the core mission” in tackling transportation issues, including increasing traffic mobility, ensuring pedestrian safety and keeping the streets in a state of good repair. Asked about Bloomberg’s failed proposal for congestion pricing, Lhota shot down the idea on a recent radio show. “There are lots of things that we need to do before we get to the solution of congestion pricing,” he said. cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE
The End of the Road PERCENTAGE OF BRIDGES THAT ARE STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT OR FUNCTIONALLY OBSOLETE
2009 42 %
PERCENTAGE OF MAJOR ROADS IN POOR OR MEDIOCRE CONDITION
2013 60% COST OF WASTEWATER INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS (IN BILLION)
DRINKING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS IN NEXT 20 YEARS (IN BILLION)
2009 $14.81 By ADAM JANOS
ew York is stuck in a rut. The conditions of New York’s already troubled highways, dams, roads and water systems have grown worse over the past four years, according to the American Society for Civil Engineers. While the United States as a whole has shown marginal improvement in the ASCE’s latest infrastructure report card— up from a “D” grade in 2009 to a “D+” in 2013—New York is failing to bring its aging infrastructure into the 21st century. “The tab is due, plain and simple,” said Clark Barrineau, a spokesman for the ASCE. But while New York’s infrastructure—like that of the rest of the country— is suffering from disrepair, Barrineau said that he is cautiously optimistic about the potential for it to improve as the state rebuilds in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy. “You’re about to make tremendous investments in infrastructure,” he said. “You’re about to rebuild things that failed.” For example, Mayor Bloomberg’s “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” plan has been lauded for its forward-thinking, proactive approach to climate change, although questions have been raised about how to fund everything in the plan. And while new infrastructure may provide buffers against storm surges and combat 40 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
2013 $27 rising temperatures, the tunnels and pipes that conduct the drinking- and wastewater that flows underground every day continue to deteriorate. According to the ASCE, New York’s drinking water infrastructure needs $27 billion dollars in improvements over the next 20 years. The wastewater system will need an additional $29.7 billion during that same time span. Katherine Nadeau, policy director for the Environmental Advocates of New York, said that the state’s aging infrastructure, which ranks among the oldest in the country, presents serious challenges. “Every day we have untreated sewage flowing into our waterways,” Nadeau said. “That’s a public health hazard. It’s a major amount of money, and at least right now in most places it’s a problem that’s not directly in front of people’s eyes every day. Until and unless there’s a major problem, it’s not something we’re constantly confronted with, but if we don’t act now, we will be.” Awareness is a major component of the fight for new water infrastructure. In 2012 Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Sewage Notification Act, which mandates that sewage treatment plants inform the public within 24 hours of raw sewage overflows via the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website. But as long as the state is unable to come up with the near-$60 billion needed to repair its water
NUMBER OF HIGH-HAZARD DAMS
2009 391 systems, Nadeau contends that constant sewage cleanup, compounded with everleaking pipes, will continue to drive the costs of fixing them skyward. The status of New York’s roadways is similarly dismal. According to the ASCE, 60 percent of New York’s roadways are in “mediocre to poor” condition, and 27.1 per-cent of bridges are “functionally obsolete.” A separate report by Transportation for America entitled “The Fix We’re In: The State of Our Bridges” ranked New York the seventeenth-worst state for bridge conditions. Worse still, since 2011 New York has downgraded 61 bridges to “structurally deficient.” Only Oklahoma, with 77 bridge downgrades, received lower marks. A 2009 report by the state comptroller broke down some of the reasons behind these rapidly declining numbers. The Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, which was created in 1991, relied on highway taxes, petroleum taxes, and Department of Motor Vehicle revenues to pay for improvements to the state’s roads and bridges. However, by 1993 the government began diverting these funding streams to pay for “state agency operations” unaffiliated with road projects, and instead started issuing interest-laden bonds to cover the costs of highway and bridge projects for the Thruway Authority. The comptroller’s report found that debt service was taking up an increasing share of the Fund’s resources. Or, as Robert
Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA New York, put it: “We’re spending 72 cents on the dollar just repaying these bonds.” Debt service grew from zero percent in 1993 to 30.5 percent of the fund by 2009. And as long as bonds continue to be issued, Sinclair believes that number will grow. “It’s being done because of the distinct lack of political will on behalf of the Legislature to bring this program back into solvency,” Sinclair said. “It’ll require some kind of tax, some new funding source, something. With it, we’ll be able to update the condition our roads and bridges.” Of course, there are still some signs of improvement. The ASCE report touted the completion of a new Lake Champlain Bridge connecting New York to Vermont and New York City’s massive ongoing project to build a new water tunnel and improve its water systems. Initial construction for a badly needed replacement to the Tappan Zee Bridge has also begun, a project that is slated for completion by 2017. The new bridge is being funded with federal and state dollars, although questions about how it will all ultimately be fully paid for reflect the underlying problems facing New York’s infrastructure overall. “All of our infrastructure is connected,” Barrineau said. “And across the board, the country is doing a bad job.”
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Kieran Ahern • President • Dan O’Connell • General Counsel
NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE / ISSUE SPOTLIGHT
NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE THE PLAYERS THE STATE Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made the new Tappan Zee Bridge the centerpiece of his infrastructure agenda, featuring the project prominently in his State of the State address this year. State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald was behind the completion of over 2,000 miles of road repairs around the state and continues to oversee Cuomo’s NY Works program, which was created to help improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state. Patrick Foye is the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state authority that oversees bridges, tunnels, ports and buses in the New York City metropolitan area, not to mention the rebuilding at
the World Trade Center site. Thomas Prendergast was confirmed as chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this year, taking the reins from Joe Lhota, who left the position to run for mayor of New York City. Joe Martens heads the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which monitors wastewater facilities and other infrastructure.
THE CITY Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reshaped New York City during his three terms in City Hall, particularly when it comes to transportation. Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has taken the lead in implementing Bloomberg’s ambitious
agenda, including a bike-share program that launched this year and new pedestrian plazas. City Councilman James Vacca heads the Council’s Transportation Committee and has pushed for changes and improvements to benefit pedestrians. Carter Strickland is the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which directly oversees vast wastewater and drinking water systems, including a massive long-term project to build a third water tunnel into the city. Sergej Mahnovski is director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, where he manages citywide energy policy and oversees the city’s sustainability efforts, an increasingly important policy area, especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
THE ISSUES TAPPAN ZEE BRIDGE The Tappan Zee Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between South Nyack and Tarrytown, is well past its planned lifetime, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spearheaded the project to build a new bridge to replace it. While the governor has made progress in moving the $3.9 million project forward, questions remain about how it will be paid for and whether higher tolls will be part of
the equation. The state had sought a federal lowinterest loan to cover nearly half of the cost, but the loan will only cover a third of it, the federal government recently announced.
SCAFFOLD LAW The controversial Scaffold Law is drawing increasing criticism from developers and contractors,
New York needs a
who say that the state law unfairly saddles them with exorbitant costs whenever a worker is hurt in a “gravity-related” injury. Unions and trial lawyers argue that the law is necessary to protect worker safety, but critics say that it should be reformed to allow contractors to argue in court that injured workers may have been negligent and possibly bear responsibility for the injury.
new plan for business
New York is the only state with the antiquated “Scaffold Law,” which mandates absolute liability on owners, businesses and contractors for injuries sustained from a fall, even if the worker was drunk or ignored safety protocols. This outdated law was originally enacted in 1885. Since then New York workers have protections from the rigorous safety requirements of OSHA and the generous benefits of workers compensation. Trial lawyers want to keep the broken Plan A because they benefit. It’s time to make New York safe from the trial lawyers.
/A PLAN / PLAN B
Implement Plan B. Rebuild business and reform the Scaffold Law.
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
ISSUE SPOTLIGHT / NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE BY THE NUMBERS NEW YORK CAPITAL SPENDING, 2013–14 THROUGH 2022–23 (dollars in millions)
56.0 METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION
AUTHORITY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY
3.2 THRUWAY AUTHORITY
& CANAL CORPORATION
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES
It’s a Necessity, Not a Luxury New York needs infrastructure investment to move forward
2.8 LONG ISLAND POWER
Growth: Funding for transportation, the environment, renewable energy, brownfields and related development can be the catalyst to promote economic expansion.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Creation: A plan that invests $5 billion in the state’s economy will create more than 150,000 jobs initially, and more than double that in spin-off economies, related suppliers and material suppliers.
NEW YORK POWER AUTHORITY
Tax Revenues: Modern transportation, transit and energy systems benefit companies doing business in New York and improve its desirability as a home for corporate taxpayers.
Safety and Mobility: Infrastructure upgrades reduce congestion and commuter time, and save lives and billions lost due to poor road conditions, traffic delays and related accidents.
Quality of Life: Traffic relief, safe roadways and bridges, better transit systems, and access to clean energy, clean water, and safe waste water disposal improve the lives of all New Yorkers.
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
1.2 OFFICE OF PARKS, RECREATION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION
SOURCE: NEW YORK WORKS TASK FORCE, VIA CITIZENS BUDGET COMMISSION 44 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
Leaders in the business of engineering
NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE / ISSUE SPOTLIGHT
Commissioner, New York State Department of Transportation
Chair, New York State Senate Transportation Committee
President, MTA Capital Construction Company
Q: What is the status of the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse? JM: The environmental review process is just getting underway. On Sept. 25 we held the first of eight neighborhood meetings to inform residents about this process. The first part of the environmental review, scoping, will start in late October. There will be a scoping meeting on Nov. 13 at which the public can submit comments for the record. All options are on the table. We will let the facts and public comments that are gathered guide us toward a final project that serves the region’s transportation and economic needs. Q: Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced $48 million in grants for transportation improvements across the state, including transit, aviation and rail. What impact will it have? Was this money part of the state budget process? JM: One of Gov. Cuomo’s priorities for transportation is improvements that have a positive impact on economic development, and that’s how we approached this round of grants. The projects are targeted at improvements across different modes of transportation and were funded through a competitive process administered by DOT. These projects serve a variety of needs—clean fuel buses, equipment to help airports improve operations, and rail projects that will help move people and goods more efficiently. These programs are part of the state budget process. The transit grants are funded through the State Transit Dedicated Fund. Q: What are you spending most of your time on currently, in terms of transportation infrastructure? JM: Our number one priority at NYSDOT is safety, and the department is currently studying and implementing safety improvements at several locations across the state. We have changed our approach, from looking at only the problem spots to studying entire transportation corridors to understand how traffic, pedestrians and other users interact. Our first study was on Hempstead Turnpike in Long Island, where we are finishing construction on improvements that will make the road safer for all users. We are also studying Sunrise Highway on Long Island and the Route 5 corridor in the Capital Region. It’s an approach we will use in other locations statewide. We also continue to progress NY Works projects across the state. Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, the NY Works program has funded $1.2 billion in accelerated projects, including the paving of 2,157 miles of roadway at 172 sites statewide, and the rehabilitation and replacement of more than 120 bridges. The Kosciuszko Bridge replacement, which is the largest NY Works project at more than $500 million, is in the procurement phase and work is scheduled to start next spring.
Q: You have called for new efforts to crack down on toll dodging. CF: The Senate passed legislation I sponsored earlier this year to create criminal penalties for toll dodging; as of this date, the Assembly has failed to act on it. We are in the process of expanding the legislation to create new criminal penalties for drivers who use devices to obscure or hide their license plates to avoid being charged when driving through a toll plaza. The legislation would also make it easier for the DMV to suspend the vehicle registrations of persistent offenders. Toll dodging costs transportation authorities a substantial amount of revenue: The Thruway Authority alone lost approximately $6.7 million in tolls and fees in 2012. Q: In a hearing, you will look at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital spending plan. Do you have any concerns about its funding? CF: The MTA is one of the world’s largest transportation systems, serving millions of riders every day. Despite receiving over $4.2 billion in state operating assistance this year and hitting riders with six fare increases over the last 10 years, the MTA is still facing financial challenges and is planning on raising fares again next year. To its credit, the MTA has been taking cost-cutting measures and finding ways to improve efficiencies. The Transportation Committee is seeking an update from the MTA leadership on the current state of the Authority’s finances, what steps they are taking to reduce costs and save money, and what their plans are to improve their infrastructure. The answer cannot be simply to keep raising fares, because riders cannot afford to keep paying more. Q: Should the governor sign the transit lockbox bill passed earlier this year? CF: Yes. Revenue intended to fund transportation systems should be used for that purpose. This legislation would improve transparency by prohibiting the diversion of these funds unless the Legislature and the public are provided with a detailed impact statement on what the effects would be to transit systems. This disclosure would help ensure that dedicated funds are used for their intended purpose and will help stabilize costs for commuters. Q: What else are you working on, in terms of transportation infrastructure? CF: Looking ahead to next year, we need to build on the infrastructure investments in this year’s state budget. Progress has been made, but—as reports noting there are over 400 bridges that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical in New York State show—there are still significant needs.
Q: What is the status of capital funding for your major ongoing projects, such as the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access? How many years of funding have already been allocated? MH: Our four mega-projects—East Side Access, the Second Avenue Subway, Fulton Center and the 7 train extension to Hudson Yards—are just part of the 2010–14 MTA Capital Plan, which was fully funded last year thanks to a major commitment from the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But the bulk of our capital plan pays for vital work to keep the MTA network in a state of good repair by replacing and upgrading signals, switches, structures and other infrastructure. The MTA is in the process of developing the next 2015–19 Capital Plan, which must continue the vital work of improving the network while also investing in the mega-projects that will serve our customers and expand the economy. Completing East Side Access and starting the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway simply isn’t possible without a fully funded capital plan. Funding the next capital plan will be an enormous challenge, because federal funding for transportation has been shrinking, and the state has not identified a source for continuing this work. But everyone wants to see work continue without interruption on East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway, and finding a way to do that is a top priority of the MTA. Q: Other than major projects like the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and the 7 line extension, are there any other smaller-scale projects that you oversee? MH: Those aren’t enough? The MTA’s operating agencies—New York City Transit, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road and Bridges & Tunnels—have tens of billions of dollars’ worth of capital needs to keep their systems in a state of good repair. None of them are the size of the mega-projects, but they’re crucial to keeping the network strong and to prevent it from slipping back into the decline of the 1970s. And those agencies are really the experts in how to do the kind of projects they need—redecking bridges, rebuilding interlockings, rewiring signals. MTA Capital Construction was established because we were entering a period of major construction on a scale the MTA had not attempted in decades, and we wanted to be able to focus on managing the megaprojects with a singular focus. At the same time, the agencies should be able to have a singular focus on what they do best. It’s a realignment that works for all of us.
cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
THEPUBLICPROJECTSFORUM A REGIONAL FORUM FEATURING NEW YORK STATE’S LARGEST PUBLIC CONSTRUCTION, INFRASTRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
Kenneth Adams President & CEO/ Commissioner Empire State Development Corporation
Louis J. Coletti President & CEO Building Trades Employers’ Association
Stephen D. Curro, P.E. Managing Director of Construction Dormitory Authority of the State of New York
Kyle Kimball President New York City Economic Development Corporation
Joan McDonald Commissioner New York State Department Of Transportation
Paul E. Owen, P.E., Colonel, US Army Corps Of Engineers Commander New York District
Seth Pinsky EVP Fund Manager, RXR Realty Corp Former President, New York City Economic Development Corporation
Iris Weinshall Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction, and Management City University of New York
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2013 | 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM BNY MELLON, 101 BARCLAY STREET, EAST AUDITORIUM, NEW YORK, NY 10007 FORUM OVERVIEW Please join us for an important regional industry-wide forum featuring New York State construction and development contract opportunities for owners, contractors, architects, engineers, unions, M/W/DBEs and other industry service providers. This conference, a regional forum featuring New York State’s largest public construction and development projects, will highlight New York’s current and upcoming public projects and the bidding process for these major developments. Learn what federal, state and local agency leaders are saying about where construction and development opportunities will be this year and in the years ahead. Learn from industry experts how to maximize your ability to win public contracts and what agencies are seeking related to new technology, green business practices, community and M/W/DBE participation and other project requirements. Major topics will include: • What public construction projects are on the drawing boards? • How can regional companies bid and compete on these projects? • Public contracts case studies • Featured public-private partnerships and why they work
For unique sponsorship opportunities, journal ads and tickets, please contact Dawn M. Rubino, Events Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.517.2741
NEW YORK’S DEMOCRATS SHOULD TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED
By BRUCE N. GYORY
et’s put a spotlight on the long-term challenges facing New York State’s Democrats. At first blush the Democrats appear able to relax: Registration numbers, the gender gap and the growth of minority voters are all significant obstacles for the GOP. Nonetheless, there are no final victories in politics. In the loosened soil of each election can be found the ashes of decline, as well as the seeds of rebirth. The Democrats face three tests. First, the sheer scope of the Democrats’ success in holding key offices means they must govern well to keep winning. They hold all four statewide offices: governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. Democrats also hold the Assembly and, through the Independent Democratic Conference, share in the coalition gover-
nance of the narrowly divided state Senate. Both United States senators are Democrats. If Bill de Blasio is elected mayor of New York the Democrats will also hold the lion’s share of local government seats, especially with the possibility of the party winning back hotly contested county executive seats in Westchester and Nassau counties. However, this overwhelming reach of incumbency carries risks. If events triggered an anti-incumbent mood, it would leave Democrats as the lightning rod for public discontent. A cascading wave of local fiscal crises could become that triggering event. Democrats would be wise to heed the dangers of the fiscal straits ahead and to temper expectations by publicly acknowledging them. Second, while New York is a solidly Democratic state, it is not a liberal one outside of its urban centers. Beyond New York City the registration numbers are relatively even (2.7 million Democrats to 2.3 million Republicans), and elections are often decided by the “unaffiliated” or “blank” voters more commonly known as independents (1.6 million voters). Independent voters outside of the five boroughs tend to be moderate: fiscally conservative but liberal on
social issues. The Democrats’ problem, thus, is to keep their diverse registration base together, while carrying moderate independents. If Republicans succeed in breaking off pieces of the Democratic coalition—as Dewey and Rockefeller once did by dividing Jewish and liberal voters in New York City, as Giuliani achieved by disuniting outer borough Jewish and white Catholics, and as Pataki and Bloomberg prevailed in doing by adding Hispanic and Asian voters to the Giuliani Democrats—Democrats will encounter problems maintaining their electoral gains. Complacency and taking coalitions for granted are often the harbingers of defeat at the polls. Third, Democratic primaries in our state’s cities have lately favored the party’s progressive wing. This year’s mayoral primary victories by de Blasio in New York City, Lovely Warren in Rochester and Kathy Sheehan in Albany put pelts on the belt for the Democratic Party’s so-called progressive wing. Will the Democrats’ progressive urban cores, where Republicans offer scant resistance, find synergy or friction with the statewide challenge of carrying swing counties upstate in the northern suburbs and on Long Island, which
are not driven by liberal voters? There need not be discord as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand and Comptroller DiNapoli provide strong cover for local progressives. For example, Cuomo’s electoral cloak protected Eric Schneiderman from a late charge in the polls by Dan Donovan in the 2010 AG race. The bottom line is simply this: If Democrats govern well, maintain cohesion and respect the different coalitions needed to win—not just in urban areas but in the suburbs, upstate as well as downstate—they will be fine. But if political rivalries surge between the Democrats’ urban strongholds and swing suburban regions, the Democrats could face troubled electoral waters, especially if an anti-incumbency wave washes across the state at the very point divisive ideological primaries take hold. In the final analysis, current political factors all favor the Democratic Party, but despite its abundant success in recent years, it still must be wary to continue to earn the consent of the governed. Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant with Corning Place Communications and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.
YANKS’ LESSON FOR NEW YORK: AN ALL-STAR CITY CAN SLUMP TOO
By NICOLE GELINAS
ith baseball’s postseason in full swing, Yankees fans may feel left out and wondering: What happened? The team that has taken five World Series since 1996 didn’t make it to October—and hasn’t won a championship in four years. The Yankees’ dominance of baseball coincided with its hometown’s own extraordinary boom. As it gets set to elect a new mayor, New York City can take a lesson from its beleaguered ball club. Things change—and sometimes spending more money than anyone else is a liability, not an asset. How did the Yankees make it to the top, winning four sets of rings in the half decade before 2000? Good players, including the core four: captain Derek Jeter, pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada. And good management and luck, particularly during the late ’90s and early 2000s.
But what else helped? Money, particularly over the last several years. With a $233 million payroll the Yankees have the most expensive workforce in baseball; only Los Angeles rivals them. No. 3 Philly comes in at $170.4 million, 27 percent behind. Though the Yankees have become famous for their well-paid workers, Yankee Stadium wasn’t always such an extremely lucrative place to work—er, play. In 1990 the Yanks spent $18.9 million. But 12 teams spent at least $18 million that year, including seven that spent more than $20 million. By 2000 the Yanks had broken away from the pack with a $92.9 million roster. Only one team—L.A. again—came close. Three others spent more than $80 million. And while many teams’ payrolls fluctuated from year to year, the Yanks’ consistently went up. What happened? The Yankees felt comfortable committing to splash out big bucks—for years on end. Why would they think that was okay? New York’s 1990s tech boom made TV rights to games worth big bucks to broadcasters and cable outlets looking for flush viewers. Attendance rose—up 60 percent between 1990 and 2000—as ticket prices went up too. It’s no coincidence that at the height
of the next decade’s real estate and credit boom—2006 and 2007, respectively—the Yankees broke ground on a $1.2 billion stadium project and signed the highest-paid guy in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, to a 10-year deal worth $275 million. Fast-forward half a decade and those decisions don’t look smart. To pay for its vanity real estate venture and its not-sostar star player, the Yankee organization has tried to jack up ticket prices—and attendance is down. With 3.3 million visitors last year, attendance is far off the 2007 peak of 4.3 million, and is nearly back down to levels last seen 13 years ago. And spending $29 million annually now on A-Rod—whose past performance may have been juiced by steroid use—makes it harder to replace now-retired players such as Rivera, Pettitte and Posada. When you fall, you fall fast—but you can’t cut the budget back that fast to start fresh, even though the Yankees are now trying. New York can commiserate only too well with the bombing Bronx Bombers. Over the same 13 years, the city’s budget has more than doubled, from $26.4 billion in 2000 to $54.4 billion (not including federal and state grants). Just like the Yanks, the city made spending decisions based on an economy
that may no longer exist. Wall Street could not stay in a pre-2007 boom forever. New York still benefits from its steroid injection—the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy, which helps the other guys in pinstripes by pushing up bank profits. But Washington will revoke that needle at some point. Like the Yanks, the city is spending more and more on past successes rather than future ones. Just as the team must devote 12.4 percent of its payroll to A-Rod’s past glories, the city must shell out $8.3 billion—15.2 percent of its budget—to pension benefits. That makes it harder for the city to invest in the infrastructure and services it needs to attract new people. The front-runner in the mayoral race, Bill de Blasio, thinks this is okay. His fiscal prescription is a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year tax hike on the rich. A look at the Yanks’ off-empty homeplate seats shows that the rich will only pay so much—especially if they don’t think they’re getting enough bang for their buck. Nicole Gelinas (@nicolegelinas on Twitter) is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
Council Watch FIRST ABOVE EQUALS
he race for Speaker is really the most—maybe only—interesting thing happening in the New York City Council this electoral season. Most of the results for individual seats were never in much doubt to begin with: Perhaps six races were uncertain, and of the 17 incumbents facing primary challenges, only Sara González was ever considered vulnerable, and rightly so, as it turned out. In Queens the two incumbents who were actually forced to campaign for nomination (Donovan Richards and Ruben Wills) had been elected in primaryfree special elections in the last term; it is a testament to the authority of the Queens Democratic establishment that its elected officials don’t face primary challenges, not even hopeless ones. The Speaker sets the agenda for the Council, and determines which bills are moved to the floor for votes: Christine Quinn blocked paid sick leave and living wage legislation for years, and threatened to retaliate against members who tried to “release” those bills from committee through procedural measures. The Speaker controls discretionary funding, committee assignments, the hiring of central staffers, even who gets which office. Being a Council member gives you power in your district, but the only member who is a major player in city politics generally— and who has a 24-hour security detail—is the Speaker. The murmur and excitement surrounding the election of the Speaker is like what happens when the Pope dies. Candidacies are advanced, and overt and sub-rosa campaigns for or against prominent members reveal clandestine alliances and betray underlying political realities. Ultimately 51 members will enter a room and one will emerge in majesty, transfigured, not just a first among equals but actually wielding more power than the rest of his or her colleagues combined. Of course, with so much at stake, the election of the Speaker isn’t really left up to the members of the Council themselves. It is well known that the different borough delegations have relative degrees of freedom in casting their votes. The Queens delegation, for example, typically votes as a bloc according to the dictates of Democratic County boss, Congressman Joe Crowley. Asked whether it was likely any of the Queens Democrats would vote against Crowley, one member of the delegation answered curtly, “Well, I wouldn’t.” The Bronx delegation is less cohesive, but will mostly hew to the wishes of its Democratic leader, Assemblyman Carl Heastie. With the collapse of Vito Lopez’s reign in Brooklyn it remains to be seen how tightly Kings County Dem boss Frank Seddio will be able to control his delegation, but one Brooklyn Council member estimates that “of the 16 members from Brooklyn, at least 10 will be loyal to the Democratic machine.” Doing the math, then, we see that, as has been the case historically, the Speaker could be decided by those three delegations alone, and not even by all the members. If Queens delivers 12 of its 13 Democrats (assuming an unlikely defection), and Brooklyn brings in just 10, then the Bronx would only have to deliver four of its eight votes to give the chosen candidate a majority of 48 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | cityandstateny.com
the vote. Manhattan, whose Democratic leader, Assemblyman Keith Wright, reportedly has no intention of putting the squeeze on his delegation, could sit the whole thing out. Heastie, Crowley and Seddio, old friends who apparently work well together, will thus decide who becomes
PHOTO OF GARODNICK COURTESY OF NYC COUNCIL FLICKR PAGE
By SETH BARRON
Speaker, but obviously there are many factors that will feed into their decision. Geography, for example, has always been important. Different boroughs have traditionally been awarded specific slices of the political pie. The following formulation, according to elected officials speaking off the record, is how the spoils have generally been divvied up in the past (though certainly the calculus could change this year): Manhattan gets the Speaker; Brooklyn gets judgeships; Queens gets key committees and senior staff appointments; the Bronx gets the majority leader. What about Staten Island, you ask? Well, Staten Island gets to choose the minority leader, which is only appropriate since the Forgotten Borough is also the only bastion of Republicans in the Council (next session Eric Ulrich will be the lone Council member from beyond its borders). Demography is also an important consideration in the election of the Speaker. Letitia James’ victory in the public advocate runoff will make her the first woman of
Top contenders for Speaker: (clockwise from top left) Council members Annabel Palma, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jimmy Vacca, Jumaane Williams, Mark Weprin and Dan Garodnick
The Kingmakers: (from left) Democratic Bosses Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, Frank Seddio of Brooklyn and Assemblyman Carl Heastie of The Bronx
color elected to citywide office—a historic milestone that certainly came as a relief to the Council’s nonminority Speaker hopefuls. If Daniel Squadron had won the runoff, the three citywide elected officials would have all been white men, which would have dramatically increased the likelihood of a minority Speaker; the “optics” of four white men running a majority-minority city would have been horrible. With a black woman as PA, however, the pressure is off the county bosses to achieve a modicum of demographic balance through the Speakership. An important element that will figure into the Speaker race this year that has never before been a factor is the Progressive Caucus, which was formed in 2010 by a coalition of liberal members, most of whom are supported by and closely aligned with the Working Families Party. The Progressive Caucus scored major legislative victories this year with the passage of the stop-and-frisk bills, sponsored by PC members, and paid sick leave, a priority long on labor’s and the WFP’s wish lists. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s clearance of the 40 percent hurdle in the primary election further enhanced the stature of the PC, signifying a victory of the left wing of the city’s Democratic Party over the more centrist faction embodied by Quinn and Bill Thompson. Queens Councilman and member of the PC Danny Dromm said of the caucus’ ascendency in city politics, “The Progressive Caucus will certainly be a force to be dealt with going forward. We have done our homework and have done our best to get people elected to office. Ideologically we will favor a Speaker candidate who has our goals: transparency, good government and a legislative agenda that serves the interests of all the people of New York.” A non-PC member of the Council, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged the power of the caucus but hesitated to ascribe it kingmaking abilities, arguing, “They will certainly have an influence, and will have an effective veto over certain candidacies. For instance, they don’t like Inez Dickens and will surely block her. But will they get to assign the Speaker? No.” The possibility of the Speaker emerging from the Progressive Caucus has become increasingly real, though it has been complicated by the fact that there are multiple
PC candidates vying for the job, leading to a certain cannibalization of support. Also, the election of James (a PC member and the only Council member ever elected solely on the WFP line) and de Blasio (another north Brooklyn WFP ally, and spiritual kin of the Progressive Caucus) to citywide posts may prompt the county chairs to seek a degree of centrist balance through the Speakership. Crowley, Heastie and Seddio are, after all, basically establishment Democrats. Why would it be in their interest for the insurgent wing of the party to occupy most of the city’s top posts? So who on the Council is really papabile—popeworthy? Clearly most of the members, despite their efforts to float their names in the press, can be discounted as credible Speakers, for reasons of seniority, temperament, visibility or general competence. But there is a core group of names that keep coming up as potential leaders. Of these, Dan Garodnick, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma and Mark Weprin have been mentioned with the greatest frequency. One member, speaking off the record, counted those four as the sole “serious candidates,” adding, “I have seen some other names thrown around, but frankly I was surprised to see them out there.” Melissa Mark-Viverito is on the short list, and has campaigned actively for the position, but faces some distinct challenges. Her district, which has always included a portion of the South Bronx, was altered substantially to encompass all of Mott Haven, a move that Speaker Quinn orchestrated and Mark-Viverito opposed. The resulting fight, which Mark-Viverito lost, alienated her from the Bronx Democratic establishment, whose support she needs to become Speaker. Additionally, her hold on District 8 is somewhat weak; she has never won a majority of the primary vote. Mark-Viverito’s popularity among her colleagues has also been flagged as a problem. A member of the Brooklyn delegation says that “she is too far to the left, and reports in the media that she is personally disliked around the Council are true.” Dromm, however, insists, “I have spoken to other members of the Council and Melissa is very well-liked; I don’t know why that rumor is repeated.” On the other hand, Mark-Viverito’s personal likability—
or lack thereof—may ultimately not disqualify her from the position: Quinn ruled as Speaker for seven years and no one ever accused her of being well liked. Sometimes it is a political virtue to be feared rather than loved. Also mentioned as a possible Speaker is PC member Jumaane Williams, whose successful advocacy for the antiprofiling bills raised his stature in the public eye and established his leadership credentials. Williams faces opposition from his own Brooklyn delegation, however, and is reportedly opposed to abortion rights and samesex marriage, though he hasn’t made any overt legislative or political stands on these issues. Of the four main contenders mentioned above, Annabel Palma is an unlikely candidate, yet she could emerge as a serious possibility should the political calculus end up favoring a minority Speaker. Her strong support for Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign could hurt her, however, particularly among some of her labor supporters, most notably 1199 SEIU, which went all-in for de Blasio and won. Mark Weprin, a political moderate who is not a member of the PC, comes from a well-known Queens political family; his father preceded Sheldon Silver as Speaker of the Assembly. Weprin has been campaigning for Speaker practically since he took office in 2010, and is the leading contender should Joe Crowley push for the Speakership rather than the control of key committees and prominent staff positions that Queens has preferred historically. The other Manhattanite in the mix, Dan Garodnick, is superficially the most plausible choice, yet as one member puts it, “What votes does he bring in? What’s his base? He is a genial and pleasant guy, but not a compelling candidate from a political perspective.” Still, if there is a deadlock among the other choices, Garodnick could emerge as a credible compromise candidate. Other names have been bandied around as possible contenders with varying degrees of plausibility. Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca has campaigned openly for the job, not unreasonably. He has a good relationship with Crowley, ably ran the Transportation Committee, and flexed his political muscle in getting his aide Ritchie Torres elected to the Council district neighboring his own. Alternatively, some candidacies are utter nonstarters and will never leave the gate. Manhattan’s Inez Dickens was once among the front-runners, but the crash of the Quinn-Titanic, upon which Dickens served as a first mate, ended her hopes of attaining the Speakership. Fellow Manhattanite Rosie Mendez, whose name has also been floated, has been a low-visibility councilwoman for eight years, has not made the necessary alliances to ascend to power, and likewise supported Quinn for mayor. Brooklyn’s Vincent Gentile, in line to be the most senior member of the Council provided he survives his general election challenge, has similarly maintained a low profile and has not demonstrated obvious leadership potential, making him a very unlikely Speaker. Jimmy van Bramer is also a long shot: Since he is the second choice of the Queens delegation and the third choice of the Progressive Caucus, it is hard to imagine a scenario where he emerges even as a compromise solution. Of course, in an election determined by only 51 voters, almost all of whom are politically astute, power-hungry partisans whose paramount interest is their own advancement, there is always room for surprise. Like you, we are anxious to find out whom the conclave picks when the white smoke rises from City Hall in January. Seth Barron (@NYCCouncilWatch on Twitter) runs City Council Watch, an investigative website focusing on local New York City politics. cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
WINNERS & LOSERS
Who would be the winners in a Bill de Blasio administration? Would Robert Mugabe lead the Human Rights Commission? Daniel Ortega be deputy mayor for economic development? Fidel Castro commissioner in the Department for the Aging? Who knows? For now, here are your latest Winners and Losers.
Go to cityandstateny.com each week to vote.
Week of Sept. 16, 2013
Week of Sept. 23, 2013
WINNERS Bill de Blasio 72%
Jonathan Lippman 49%
Nina Davuluri 13%
Victor Pichardo 19%
Paul Vallone 6%
NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE
Nina Davuluri: Andrew Cuomo 5% To win the Miss America crown you obviously have to be beautiful. Loretta Lynch 4% But Syracuse’s own Nina Davuluri displayed her Andrew Cuomo: Brings de Blasio and Thompson together true beauty through her Loretta Lynch: Rumored to get guilty plea from Boyland graceful handling of the Paul Vallone: Continues Vallone dynasty with Council win despicable hatred and racism that exploded on social media from YOUR CHOICE Bill de Blasio: These days people who couldn’t everybody wants a piece of Bill. The unions dumped handle the thought of a Thompson and Quinn and endorsed de Blasio, the Miss America who is not governor threw his support behind him—even the blond and blue-eyed. Clintons gave him their blessing. Now he is crushing We applaud Davuluri, his opponent, Joe Lhota, 66 to 25 percent in the latest all the more so for her Quinnipiac poll, including 90 to 3 percent among black poise and courage in voters. Yes, you read that correctly. responding to hate by simply saying, “I have to rise above all that.”
Dan Maffei 15%
Dan Maffei: The on-again, off-again congressman from Syracuse might have Joe Mondello 7% an easier time keeping his seat, thanks to the Pamela Brown: Survives as Buffalo schools superintendent decision by his former Joe Mondello: Interparty love rival Ann Marie Buerkle Victor Pichardo: Wins Assembly primary for Castro’s seat to stay out of the fray in 2014. Buerkle knocked Maffei out YOUR CHOICE Jonathan Lippman: The chief of office in 2010, then judge’s job is not just to preside over the state’s highest lost to him in 2012. She court but also to set policy for the entire court system. cited her new role at This week he announced that New York would be the the Consumer Product first state in the nation to have special courts designed Safety Commission as to steer prostitutes, oftentimes forced into the profession a reason to take a pass, against their will, onto a different path and away from but maybe she’s just the sex trade. If New York is the progressive capitol of tired of playing musical the world, Judge Lippman is leading the way. chairs with Maffei.
Pamela Brown 10%
LOSERS David Yassky 34% Occupy Wall Street 28%
Bishop, Grimm, Meeks, and Owens 24% Michael Ryan 8% Jack Hidary 6% Jack Hidary: Liberal Party prefers nobody Occupy Wall Street: Lackluster anniversary Michael Ryan: Slow vote counting by BoE
YOUR CHOICE David Yassky: The taxi commissioner has heard it from all sides. Bill de Blasio, his former Council colleague, promised to toss him if he wins the mayoralty. The Daily News ripped him for introducing new taxis that were not wheelchairaccessible. And medallion owners threw enough punches at him in the press to leave him yellow and black. If Yassky is looking for a quicker exit from City Hall, he should probably stick to the subway.
MOST CORRUPT Bishop, Grimm, Meeks and Owens: No, they’re not a new law firm. Tim Bishop, Michael Grimm, Gregory Meeks and Bill Owens are the four reps from New York on the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington’s list of the “most corrupt” members of Congress. This is the second time Bishop has made the list, and the third for Meeks and Grimm. Owens was not named to the main list of “violators,” but that’s no reason to boast.
50 OCTOBER 7, 2013 | www.cityandstateny.com
Judy Rapfogel 52% Bill de Blasio 21% Eric Stevenson 10% Ed Mangano 9% John Catsimatidis 8% John Catsimatidis: Sour grapes after primary loss Ed Mangano: County finances a mess Eric Stevenson: Businessmen in his bribery case plead guilty
YOUR CHOICE Judy Rapfogel: Not since Bronx boss Stanley Friedman’s wife, Jackie, has a political spouse been so blissfully unaware of her husband’s apparent malfeasance. And how about Shelly Silver in the role of the insightful pol suddenly able to suspend disbelief when it comes to accepting the alibi of a close aide? Really, who looks in all their closets, anyway? And even if Judy did, why wouldn’t she have concluded that those stacks of cash were anything more than a new form of green insulation?
WHERE’S WILHELM? Bill de Blasio: The front-runner was under attack from every direction: He palled around with the Sandinistas in his 20s; he fixed tickets for constituents as a councilman; he changed his name multiple times; and he accepted the endorsement of a guy whose middle name is Hussein and whose last name rhymes with Osama. And he hid from the press to keep his 40-point lead. Perhaps it’s all just a ploy to promote his forthcoming noninteractive children’s book, Where’s Wilhelm?
A Q&A WITH DJ KOOL HERC
orty years ago Clive Campbell and his sister organized a back-toschool dance party in a recreation room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, a housing project in the Bronx. Under the moniker DJ Kool Herc, Campbell served as emcee and introduced a mixing technique using two turntables and two copies of the same record. The innovation became a foundation of hip-hop music. While Kool Herc went down in history as a founder of hip-hop, the building where he got his start fell into disrepair. Developers tried to convert the apartments to market rates in the 2000s, but U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer joined city officials, tenants and Kool Herc in a successful campaign to restore the building and maintain it as affordable housing. City & State Managing Editor Jon Lentz caught up with DJ Kool Herc last month at a celebration for the renovated building and asked him about his music, his thoughts on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and whom he is backing in the New York City mayoral race. The following is an edited transcript. City & State: What’s it like to be back here? DJ Kool Herc: Refreshing. We never gave up on the struggle. This is a milestone. Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Serrano and the building association, we fought it. We didn’t lay back. And this is a result of our struggle, man. It’s a beautiful, uplifting makeover. The people, they stood their ground. They never gave up. C&S: The renovation of this building happened under the Bloomberg administration. What do you think of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s time in office? KH: He did what he had to do. He fought some battles, and not everybody gonna love the president, and not everybody gonna love the mayor. They gonna do some sour grapes, but overall they tried to bring moral standards to the neighborhood. They might do it a little rough way, but nothin’ easy. So you know, God bless him, and I know he’s gonna be vital out of office because he loves New York. C&S: When you say things were done in a rough way, does that include the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactics? KH: Well, you know, I don’t mind stop-and-frisk if everybody gets stopped and frisked. It’s no more fisticuffs these days, everybody want to pull something out. So they got to do what they got to do. If they’re living good, we all right, but if you’re living foul, that’s what they’re there for. At the same time, don’t single out one person. If you’ve got to do that, do that to everybody. C&S: Do you have a favorite in the mayoral race? KH: Right now I’m looking at de Blasio. He’s got a community fiber of New York, and you can see it. So you know they’re going to dig up the dirt and all that, but that comes with the business. But overall, it sounds like he is a family man, and he is New York, and he took some battles that some people may not like, but hey, come on. From what I hear that he’s said, I like him. I’m going to hear more stuff about him, because it’s coming down to crunch time. So let’s see what more they got to say. It’s not over yet. I like how it come down, Thompson backed out, and they’ve got to use each other. Thompson’s not going to go anywhere. We still need your insight for New York. C&S: It was 40 years ago that you held dance parties here. KH: We couldn’t come back here in ’73—it was too much. We took it to the park, looked around for a place of business, and
found a place over on Jerome Avenue called the Twilight Zone, then ... at a place called Soulsville. The rest is history, ’cause Kool Herc could play there week after week. C&S: What kind of music were you listening to? KH: James Brown. I bought James Brown, you know, I bought his package. He kept it in the neighborhood, and I bought it, and that’s what I played for people. I had a James Brown record that my father bought—the Sex Machine album—and I played it and played, because nobody had it. And the rest of the other stuff I add to it. And the kids love it. I never played a song that the radio played. C&S: What did you play at these dance parties? KH: Everything, a little bit of everything. The breaks came when I experimented, and they love it. I put all my beats together that I know, and called it the Merry-Go-Round. And “Apache” was the one that leaded it off. The cut’s called “Apache,” and the band is called Incredible Bongo Rock. It was a studio band, and that was a hit that I loved. C&S: What was it that you did differently? KH: Everything, everything. We rented a place, we gave out the flyers. We don’t play music the radio played. We played music that should be on the radio. ’Cause I’m a dancer I came from the dancer perspective behind the turntable. What the other guy wasn’t playing, and what we wanted to hear, I took that perspective behind the turntable. So I’m always in the interest of the dance floor, not no ego-tripping nothing. C&S: What do you listen to now? KH: Everything. Amy Winehouse, I heard her music before she was to become blow up. And even when she did “I don’t wanna go to rehab,” I went to rehab. I messed up. I went and got my life back together, and I don’t hide that. So I can relate to Amy Winehouse, and why the people let her down. So my ear is still my business. Even Kanye West’s new record he’s using—“Bound” by the Ponderosa Twins—that’s before I became Kool Herc. That new record Kanye West is doing in his new album, to let me know my selections are still there. Even Jay Z jumped on a couple of them things. This wave! This wave! I’m sorry, that’s my Kool Herc record. Again, it’s all love. I’m not mad at none of it. I love it. They grow, I grow. Jay Z right now, he’s the CEO of hip-hop. That’s my friend. He got some other elements, you know, it’s all in the family, you got some good ones, you got some bad, but it’s still family. I just hope they, as men, put it together and know that the young ones are watching them and make a difference, because you are a role model, like it or not. You’re either a good one or a bad one, and that’s how it goes. If you’re out there, got the kids’ attention, make use of it. Talk to them. Turn the music off some time. Let them know we’re entertainers, we’re not your father or mother, so don’t disrespect your father and mother. They are your hero, the one who put the food in your mouth, a roof over your head. My whole philosophy is: I want you to feel as good as I feel. Otherwise, we can’t hang. It’s not a colored thing or anything; it’s just a people thing. My father always complimented me and said, “Herc, I look how you and your friends choose each other.” C&S: Where does the name Kool Herc come from? KH: It comes from nicknames tried to stick on me for years— Cyclops, Samson, Lurch—because I play aggressive basketball. When I came from Jamaica, I was an aggressive cyclist, my legs was developed, I could just leap, all that stuff that you see LeBron James doing. That’s where my name comes from, not music, so those guys started calling me Hercules. And I was like, “Oh, come on, not again.” So when we started picking nicknames in the neighborhood, I picked Kool, so I tell the guys, and they tried to make this nickname stick on me, they used to call me Hercules, and I said, “I don’t want no Hercules,” so I said, “What’s a short name for Hercules?” I said, “Herc!” I like that! It’s unique, it means strength, but you know, I said, “Yo, my man, call me Herc, man.” All right, Herc. Okay, Herc. That was it. cityandstateny.com | OCTOBER 7, 2013
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