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Vol. 2, No. 20 - OCTOBER 21, 2013







City & State NY LLC 61 Broadway, Suite 2825 New York, NY 10006





Morgan Pehme EDITOR


ust last week a Gallup poll found that only 26 percent of Americans believe that the two major parties adequately represent them, and 60 percent of the country thinks that a viable third party is needed in the United States. In light of these findings, as well as statistics that show approximately one-third of voters nationwide identify themselves as independents, the decision to deny the thirdparty candidates for mayor of New York City a place on the stage in the televised debates is all the more unacceptable. While the Independence Party’s nominee, Adolfo Carrión, made the biggest stink about being excluded from the first debate, which aired on Oct. 15, all of the third-party candidates would be right to feel indignation at their mistreatment. For the record, there are 12 others on the ballot: Jack Hidary, Randy Credico, Erick Salgado,  Jimmy McMillan, Dan Fein, Anthony Gronowicz, Joseph Melaragno, Carl Person, Michael Sanchez, Michael Dilger and Sam Sloan. The criteria used to exclude third-party candidates both from national and local debates are demonstrative of how the electoral system is rigged to protect the “two-party dictatorship,” as former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura called it in a recent interview with City & State. Candidates are prohibited from participating unless they raise a certain amount of money and poll

at a certain percentage—the thresholds for the first debate were $750,000 and 5 percent, respectively—yet, of course, the most likely way for candidates without the benefit of a major party’s backing to raise a significant amount of money and increase their standing in the polls (if indeed their names are even being included in them) is to have the platform of a televised debate to make their case to the electorate. Moreover, by setting the bar by which one can be considered a credible contender the debate, organizers are by extension relegating anyone who is not anointed as such to the standing of a fringe candidate in the general public’s perception. In many instances this impression is manifestly unfair given the third party candidates’ undeniable qualifications for the elected office they are seeking, as was the case in 2012 with the Libertarian nominee for president, Gary Johnson, a former twoterm governor of New Mexico, and in this year’s NYC mayoral race with Carrión, an ex–Bronx borough president and past member of President Obama’s cabinet. It was particularly galling to some Latinos that Noticias 41 Univision—one of the sponsors of the first debate, along with WABC-TV, the Daily News and the League of Women Voters—consented to exclude Carrión, given that as the best known Hispanic candidate in the race he likely could have presented himself to the channel’s Spanishspeaking viewership as a compelling alternative to the major parties’ nominees. But the rules governing the next two debates—the sole debates remaining—are all the more upsetting. Unlike the first debate, which was organized privately, the next two are governed by ground rules set by the New York City Campaign Finance Board—a taxpayer-funded agency.

61 Broadway, Suite 2825 New York, NY 10006 Editorial (212) 894-5417 Advertising (212) 284-9712 General (646) 517-2740 City & State is published twice monthly. Copyright © 2013, City and State NY, LLC 2

OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

To participate in the second debate on Oct. 22, a candidate must have raised and spent $50,000 and garnered at least 5 percent in either a Marist College or Quinnipiac University poll. To qualify for the third and final debate, a candidate must have raised $1,285,200, spent $500,000 and polled at 15 percent. It is indisputable that any candidate who fails to qualify for these debates cannot possibly prevail—or even place respectably—on Election Day. Thus the CFB is essentially deciding which candidates the public should discard as nonviable. Surely this should not be the role of an agency set up to enable more people to run for office, not to judge whose candidacies are worthy of serious consideration. Some will argue that having so many candidates on the debate stage would be unwieldy—or even a freak show of sorts, reminiscent of the seven-way New York gubernatorial debate in 2010. I would contend that not only was that 2010 debate far more engaging than last night’s rather pedestrian exchange, the public benefited more from hearing the far wider range of views expressed in that battle royal. Democracy is supposed to be messy—or as Plato described it in The Republic, it is “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, dispensing a certain equality to equals and unequals alike.” Right now we have an electoral system that pretends to treat all candidates equally, when in fact it treats some candidates more equally than others. It is time we bring this injustice to an end.

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

ALBANY Speculation is swirling in Albany that Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy may leave the Cuomo administration next year for a job running the Rochester Business Alliance. Duffy did little to dismiss the rumor, telling Gannett Albany that he would address his political

plans at an appropriate time in the future. Among the names floating about as a possible replacement for the LG if he bolts are Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Leecia Eve, formerly one of Cuomo’s top deputies; however, a number of veteran Capitol watches said they believe Cuomo would lean toward both balancing the ticket genderwise and shoring up support in Western or upstate

New York by going with a choice like former Rep. Kathy Hochul or Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney (left). Mahoney, a Republican, would be an intriguing choice, enabling Cuomo to assert his commitment to bipartisanship, however she could prove problematic for Cuomo if he intends to run for president in 2016, since he would be handing over the governorship to the GOP if he were elected. “One of the people he was interested in the last time was Mahoney, and he has a very close relationship with her,” said one political observer who declined to give his name based on the sensitivity of the situation. “There’s real affinity between the two and it was a real possibility. Hochul has an independent streak that I think would give them pause. He’s not going to want to have [someone] who might differ with him, tying his hands on issues.” Despite all the talk, a source close to the governor said the speculation is “just wrong” and that the likelihood of Duffy leaving is “zero.”



Bill Hammond ‫@‏‬NYDNHammond (Shh. The New York State Legislature might hear you.) “Unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment: judge”

Publisher Tom Allon Editor-in-Chief Morgan Pehme Managing Editor Jon Lentz Associate Editor Helen Eisenbach Reporters Nick Powell, Aaron Short Associate Publisher Jim Katocin Director of Marketing Andrew A. Holt Events Manager Dawn Rubino Government Relations Sales Director Allison Sadoian asadoian@ Business Manager Jasmin Freeman Multimedia Director Michael Johnson Art Director Guillaume Federighi Illustrator Lisanne Gagnon CITY AND STATE NY, LLC Chairman Steve Farbman President/CEO Tom Allon

I am delighted to invite you to the special events that mark CUNY Month during the month of November at CUNY’s 24 colleges and professional schools. – Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly


pen houses, admissions and financial-aid workshops, sports tournaments, lectures, performances, and book talks, most of them free, panel discussions, world-class faculty, high-achieving students and honored guests.

NOV. 1-DEC. 20


Commemorating 100 Years of El Diario LaPrensa Longwood Art Gallery Hostos Community College Noon-6 p.m. Free NOV. 7


Accompanied by Dominic Garcia College of Staten Island 2:30-4:30 p.m. Free NOV. 14


Adam Liptak, New York Times Supreme Court correspondent The City College of NY 5 p.m. Free NOV. 17

THE HUNGARIAN STATE FOLK ENSEMBLE Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts 8 p.m. $35-$10

NOV. 1-11


John Jay College of Criminal Justice All Day Free

NOV. 9


Brooklyn College Student Center 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free

NOV. 1-DEC. 15


Exhibit of works by Rosemarie Koczy Queensborough Community College Tues. & Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed. & Thurs. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. & Sun Noon-5 p.m. Free NOV. 7-DEC.11


Exhibit of works by Theresa Ferber Bernstein Baruch College Sidney Mishkin Gallery Mon., Tues., Wed., and Fri Noon - 5 p.m. Thurs. Noon - 7 p.m.

NOV. 14

Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central, Manhattan Ballroom 2-7 p.m. Free

NOV. 11


29th St. and 5th Ave. 11 a.m. Free


Sustainable Cities, and the Value of Knowledge Prof. Rebecca Bratspies, Dr. Robin Nagle CUNY School of Law 6 p.m. Free

CUNY School of Public Health 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Free


Physics Colloquium Prof. Lucas C. Parra The City College of NY 4 p.m. Free

NOV. 14


NOV. 18

NOV. 6


NOV. 18


Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court President Lisa S. Coico Prof. Lyn Di Iorio The City College of NY 5:30 p.m. Free

NOV. 18


Prof. Luis Barrios John Jay College of Criminal Justice 1:30 p.m. Free

Quality Affordable Debt-free Degrees For a complete listing of Open Houses at all CUNY colleges and details on hundreds of other events during CUNY Month visit

NOV. 7


New York City College of Technology 12:30 p.m. Free

NOV. 12-18


Study Abroad Programs CUNY campuses

NOV. 16


Kingsborough Community College Performing Arts Center 10:30 a.m. For Ages 4 and up. $12

NOV. 20




A CHOICE QUOTE FROM CITY & STATE’S FIRST READ EMAIL “Taxes are way too high, and people are fleeing New York. We should become the energy capital of the East, and we’re not. He has the dumbest attorney general in the United States, who is driving business out of New York and his father, Mario, was one of the worst governors in the history of the state. Otherwise, I like him very much.” —Donald Trump on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom he reportedly is considering challenging in 2014, via the New York Post

THE FOOTNOTE Fear not, New Yorkers, the welldocumented recent electrical problems with Metro-North were on the New Haven line.


Experience the Best of Fall Foliage During the Long Holiday Weekend Take the Metro-North Railroad and LIRR for Fall Getaways This Month Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today encouraged New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors to enjoy the long Columbus Day weekend by visiting a state park or local event and experience the vibrant fall foliage colors throughout New York State. Fall colors will be at their peak this weekend in many parts of the state, including the Chautauqua-Allegheny, Central New York, and Capital-Saratoga regions, with additional areas of peak color emerging in the Catskills and Finger Lakes regions. “Autumn is a beautiful time to explore New York State’s great outdoors,” Governor Cuomo said. “From scenic rail routes in the Adirondacks and hikes in the Hudson Valley to cruises down the Erie Canal, this time of year offers breathtaking views and trips in all regions of the state. This holiday weekend, when fall foliage colors will be at their peak, I encourage New Yorkers and visitors to go to a state park and experience the unmatched natural beauty that New York has to offer.” As one of the nation’s top agricultural states, New York is also replete with harvest celebrations for everything from apples to pumpkins, including wine festivals complete with grape stomping. Even when there’s no official festival on tap, it’s easy to find pick-your-own fruit orchards and pumpkin fields, many with petting zoos, whimsical corn mazes, hayrides and crafts, while food and wine lovers can follow regional wine, beer and cheese trails and enjoy farm-totable dining by local chefs who style the seasonal harvest in creative recipes.

Cuomo has made increasing upstate New York’s tourism appeal a top priority recently in an effort to boost the region’s flagging economy.

A 2012 state comptroller’s report noted the state’s 36,300 farms produced $4.7 billion in products in 2010.

Cuomo hosted New York’s first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October last year to promote tourism and state-produced alcoholic beverages.

Perhaps an attempt at generating revenue for the beleaguered agency?

The Governor also encouraged New Yorkers and visitors to experience the state’s fall foliage with these six fall-themed getaways by riding the MTA … Long Island’s largest street/waterfront fair, the Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay, is coming up October 19 & 20. It has an abundance of oysters and seafood, the oyster eating contests are legendary, and there are 23 food vendors available to satisfy any craving … Central New York In Central New York, foliage spotters in southern Herkimer County are calling for near complete leaf transition by the weekend with peak to past peak conditions and predominating colors of red, yellow and gold. Oneida County observers are also expecting peak conditions (along with some past peak

A note of caution for oyster enthusiasts: A recent news report found that in late June 5,000 acres on Long Island’s North Shore including Oyster Bay were closed for harvesting because of a hazardous bacteria that contaminated some shellfish.



om DiNapoli recently released a financial outlook report for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, an agency long plagued by fiscal woes that have resulted in fare hikes for New Yorkers. Surprisingly, DiNapoli’s plan was not all that grim, highlighting areas where budget gaps have been eliminated and even projecting a surplus for the agency. DiNapoli does caution that there are still budget risks, however, depending largely on the continued pace of economic recovery and the impact of the next round of collective bargaining.



OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

Who are these mysterious foliage spotters in each county? Are they on the state payroll?



BIL Money the MTA has identified in new resources over the course of its five-year financial plan, which covers the period from 2013 through 2017



New resources the MTA has located that will go toward reducing the size of planned toll and fare hikes


Percent of planned increase to MTA tolls and fares in 2015, in addition to another projected 7.5 percent fare increase in 2017



BIL Amount of those new resources that will go toward discretionary actions such as funding capital projects, improved maintenance and services


BIL Operating budget resources the MTA plans to allocate to fund capital projects on a pay-as-you-go basis through 2020



MIL Amount the 2014 MTA budget gap will have been reduced to, assuming the MTA reaches all of its costsaving targets



According to, cold air and a dry August prompted an early emergence of colors for parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


BIL Revenue the MTA will generate from dedicated transit taxes in 2014



MIL Amount of longterm pension liabilities of the LIRR, of which the $1.9 billion in new resources for the MTA will help pay off



BIL Amount the MTA estimates it will need to invest during the 2015–19 period to maintain and modernize the existing transportation system (SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER)

Joe Hynes for Brooklyn District Attorney, and a safer Brooklyn! Our Kings County District Attorney Charles (Joe) Hynes, who has represented us wisely for the past 24 years, is in no small way responsible for our progress towards public safety and the security that we seek in these troubled times.

st o m e h t Still e, v i s s e r prog . A . D e v i innovat ica. r in Ame

Due to the policies of New York’s City & State government, bootlegging of cigarettes has become one of the largest criminal enterprises in New York City. At current, 80% of all cigarettes sold are illegal and untaxed. Costing New York over $1 billion in revenue, and

thousands of jobs. With portions of illegal proceeds proven to be funding criminality and terrorism. Through the office of District Attorney Hynes, one of these such operations was brought to justice in February of 2012, assisted by our associations two former law enforcement directors (see signatories below). Joe Hynes made 23 arrests after uncovering the illegal distribution of 6,600,000 untaxed cigarettes, avoiding millions of dollars in City and State taxes.

Remember to vote Charles ‘Joe’ Hynes on November 5th for Brooklyn District Attorney on Lines ‘B’ and ‘C’. Lenny Schwartz

Emanuel Urzi

Arthur Katz

About the undersigned: Lenny Schwartz: Chairman of the Association of Cigarette Tax Collection Agents and Chairman of the Pension and Welfare Fund of The Teamsters Local 805, representing Brooklyn workers and Chairman of the NYS Association of Wholesalers Marketers and Distributors. Arthur Katz: Currently is the Executive Director of the NYSAWMD, having served in the NYPD for 33 years as Executive Officer 41 pct. (Fort Apache), commanding officer 61 and 71 pcts. Commanding Officer Operations Division, Executive Officer Major Case and Commanding Officer safe, loft and truck. Emanuel Urzi: Currently is the V.P. for enforcement of the NYSAWMD, having served in the New York State Tax Department for 48 years; 45 of which assigned to the Criminal Enforcement Division as, Chief Excise Tax Investigator, Chief of Internal Affairs and Special Investigations, Director of Cigarette Tax Bureau, Director of Tax Investigations, special assistant.

Paid for by the NYS Association Wholesale Marketers and Distributors


AD WATCH: CRUNCH TIME The airwaves war is intensifying as we speed to November 5. For many candidates the ads have gotten past the introductory phase and are now set firmly on drawing contrasts to the opposition, if not outright attacking them. Then there are those candidates who are running so far ahead of their opponents in the polls that their commercials outright ignore them. With just a few weeks remaining before Election Day, these are among the most crucial ads of the campaign—the ones that either have to change voters’ minds or shore up their support. In this installment of Ad Watch, we ask if these critical spots are accomplishing their aims. To view all these commercials in their entirety and read our take on three others, check out By MORGAN PEHME “OUR PAIN”



CANDIDATE: Noam Bramson PRODUCED BY: Murphy Vogel Askew Reilly (Alexandria, Va.) LENGTH: 30 seconds

CANDIDATE: Joe Lhota PRODUCED BY: Chris Mottola Consulting (Philadelphia) LENGTH: 30 seconds

CANDIDATE: Byron Brown PRODUCED BY: Murphy Vogel Askew Reilly (Alexandria, Va.) LENGTH: 30 seconds

DESCRIPTION: Several parents whose children were murdered by gun violence admonish County Executive Rob Astorino for bringing gun shows back to Westchester and opposing Gov. Cuomo’s assault weapons ban.

DESCRIPTION: This ad shows Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota as like-minded on social issues (gay marriage, abortion rights, decriminalizing marijuana) with one difference: de Blasio’s intention to raise taxes.

DESCRIPTION: Mayor Byron Brown speaks directly to the viewer, saying that although the crime rate is down in Buffalo, he has not slackened in his approach, because even one crime in the city is too many.

PROS: This series of powerful testimonials puts a human face on a hot-button issue, highlighting Astorino’s positions in an area in which many Westchester voters disagree with him. The sincerity of the parents speaking directly to the camera, holding photos of their lost children, cannot be questioned, and though this is a highly politicized ad, when the father in the ad says, “This shouldn’t be about politics,” his remark doesn’t come across as doublespeak. Deliberately provoking emotion carries the risk viewers will feel manipulated—but the parents’ impassioned appeals to save other children’s lives are genuinely affecting.

PROS: Pushing back against the perceived Republican stance on social issues, the ad never identifies Lhota as a Republican, and says that “Democrats agree” that “Joe is New York”—whatever that means.

PROS: The slick, mellow-toned CSI cinematography of this ad skillfully complements its message. The tight close-ups on Brown build intimacy with the viewer and lend believability to the empathy he expresses. Citing specific statistics instead of making platitudinous pronouncements shows Brown has a record he is confident in putting before the public. Little touches reveal every frame is well thought through: beat cops walking (not driving) in the distance set against the words “Increased Police Visibility” subtly mimic the experience of always feeling there is a cop within sight; two cops (a black man and a white woman) with their commanding officer huddled around Brown as he gives instruction firmly establishes him as their leader; detectives nodding in slow motion with the mayor in a room straight out of a TV crime drama. Such nuances enhance a well-crafted script articulating a laudable, powerful concept.

CONS: This ad could be considered exploiting victims for the sake of politics. Its stereotypical depiction shows a gun show with no nonwhite people, and some customers dressed in camouflage.

CONS: What is the impetus for a voter to switch to Lhota, who is 50 points behind in polls, if there is no great difference between candidates? Even more confounding is why Lhota doesn’t speak in his first general election ad, particularly when so many voters say they haven’t heard enough to have a firm impression of him. Also, the concluding pivot to vérité footage is out of sync with the ad’s concept, and with no prominent Democrats shown the ad doesn’t clearly communicate that Lhota is supported by Democrats. The New Yorkers depicted are strikingly lacking in diversity. Lastly, the closing shot of Lhota is a bit comical, and doesn’t convey a sense that he will be a strong mayor. Whose idea was it to have him walking down steps with a huge, unnatural grin on his face?

EXPERT OPINION: “In a race that can be described as acrimonious at best, Noam Bramson’s TV ad is a clear attempt to move the debate away from taxes, pay increases and other fiscal issues he has been hit on lately, and that his opponent won on four years ago. The ad itself is a creative approach to the issue of gun control. Rather than using personal accounts from the family of victims ... it only reveals the narrators’ connections in the last 10 seconds. Is tying Astorino to gun victims as far back as 1992 a stretch too far in a county executive race? Perhaps. But it’s a catchy ad that touches on an issue that sparks a nerve in the district, and that might be all that matters.” —Nicole Gill, Vice President, SKDKnickerbocker

EXPERT OPINION: “Joe Lhota and his campaign have a problem: He’s down massively in the polls, and every time Ted Cruz opens his mouth the Republican brand in New York becomes even more marginalized. But at the most basic level, elections are about choices between competing candidates, and this ad is clearly designed to blur the distinction between the candidates for mayor. By drawing greater contrast between Lhota and Republican voters (as opposed to Lhota and Bill de Blasio), the ad could actually depress enthusiasm among Lhota’s base. The one contrast around taxes is generic at best, and seems to be almost an afterthought. Accordingly, the spot does a disservice to Lhota’s candidacy.” —Evan Stavisky, Partner, The Parkside Group


OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

CONS: Like Brown’s previous spot, the marvelous “Progress,” it is difficult to find fault with this ad. EXPERT OPINION: “While it’s very straightforward, it’s an effective spot. In any upstate city, crime is a problem, and Buffalo is certainly no exception. Brown addresses that problem head-on, and gets in a point about crime rates going down while acknowledging the legitimacy of people’s ongoing concerns. Multiterm incumbents always face a challenge in talking about fixing problems that have existed under their administrations; Brown handles that challenge pretty deftly and comes away as a guy who’s aware of a problem and is doing the right things to fix it.” —Doug Forand, Founding Partner, Red Horse Strategies



Look Who’s Reading

The Way to Reach Elected Officials For advertising information, please contact Jim Katocin at 212.284.9714 or



Working Families Partying By MICHAEL JOHNSON


t would be an understatement to say that the Working Families Party is more optimistic now than it has ever been. If the results on Election Day play out according to the polls, 2014 will usher in the most progressive corps of elected officials New York City has seen in decades. Let’s run through the likely new faces. The most obvious is Bill de Blasio, who has run on one of the most progressive platforms of any candidate in the city. While de Blasio didn’t receive the WFP’s support in the primary, it is clear the party, which aggressively backed him in his successful bid for public advocate in 2009, is more than happy that de Blasio is the Democratic nominee and likely next resident of Gracie Mansion. WFP State Director Bill Lipton praised de Blasio’s message of challenging income inequality, expanding universal pre-K, tax fairness and making communities a greater part of the discussion when it comes to development. “We think it is great. These are a lot of the issues we have been talking about for a long time,” Lipton told City & State in a recent Last Look video. “It is great to see people in power who have the positional authority to really try to mitigate the strong inequality that unfortunately right now is characterizing our city.” Having a mayor who is viewed as a true progressive after 12 years of Michael Bloomberg and eight years of Rudy Giuliani would have likely been enough to make the left cheer, but the WFP is all but certain to have many more victories to celebrate on November 5. Under the city charter the two elected offices set up to serve as checks to the mayor’s authority are those of city comptroller and public advocate. After his hard8

OCTOBER 21, 2013 |


fought victory over former Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic Primary, it is nearly a foregone conclusion that current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will be the next comptroller, even though he faces a challenge from Republican political newcomer John Burnett. And it is essentially a done deal that Councilwoman Letitia James will be the next public advocate, since she faces only third-party challenges on the November ballot. Both Stringer and James were backed by the WFP in their tough primary battles, and it is not a great stretch to conjecture that the party’s support was the difference in their campaigns. James’ success is particularly meaningful to the WFP, as she became their first candidate to be elected in New York City running solely on the party’s line, when she prevailed in the race to replace slain Councilman James Davis in 2003. “[James’] victory was really a tribute to all her work over the last 10 years,” said Lipton. “She had a strong brand right from the beginning of the campaign, really tapping into the same message that Bill de Blasio had.” This triumphant moment did not come easily for the WFP. After a strong 2009 election cycle the party had to fight off a federal investigation into whether the party offered cut-rate campaign services to favored candidates through an affiliated group. Even after the party was cleared in the summer of 2010, Andrew Cuomo only reluctantly accepted the WFP’s endorsement for governor, allowing the party to hold on to its ballot line in statewide elections for the next four years. But those trying days are now in the past, and 2014 promises to be the greatest year in the party’s history to date. With all three of the probable citywide officeholders expected to support much of the agenda the Working Families Party is

pushing, the only remaining obstacle to its ascendancy, if not dominance, is the City Council. And it is in the Council where the WFP has been making inroads for years. “We have always played the patient game for the long haul,” explained Lipton. “The City Council work really started back in 2007, when we recruited great candidates to run for office. We supported them and helped them win, and they formed a Progressive Caucus, some of them, and even though they were a minority of the Council, they were still able to get a tremendous amount done in terms of their policy priorities.” Come Jan. 1, 2014, the Progressive Caucus in the Council will likely increase its number from 11 to 12 members—roughly 24 percent of the body. In addition to the caucus, the Council will consist of a handful of other members who ran with WFP support and will certainly be friendly to much of its agenda. Lipton sees this as a special moment for the left. “In New York City, in particular, we think we have a moment when the stars are aligned in terms of the City Council, in terms of the mayor, the comptroller, [and] the public advocate, when you see a lot of people being elected that have the same values,” Lipton enthused. “It is an opportunity to—in a smart way—bring people together and really be serious about this issue of inequality, and get back to an era when more people had a chance to really get a piece of the American dream.”

To watch these, and many other, Last Look interviews in their entirety, go to To receive every Last Look in your inbox, sign up for Last Read on City & State’s website.




ot everyone who lives around Brownsville’s Van Dyke Houses was glued to the screen for the first debate between Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota. The first person we spoke to a few days before the debate about what questions they hoped the mayoral hopefuls would answer told us he couldn’t vote because he is a Muslim and it’s against his religion. Another man backed away, saying, “No, I’m not getting involved in none of that.” A woman pushing a baby stroller and waiting under scaffolding as a light rain fell said, “Nobody really likes to talk about Brownsville. I’ve got to get some cheese and some bread.” But most people we interviewed did have at least one question they wanted to ask, or one topic they hoped the candidates would weigh in on. Many of the questions were in fact addressed at the debate, either directly or in a more roundabout manner, though several did not come up. Regardless, the questions themselves are instructive, because they speak to the priorities of the residents in this section of Brooklyn—and, indeed, in many other parts of the city as well. Leaving the NYCHA building at 422 Blake Avenue, Darrel, who is 42, stopped and thought before revealing he was most curious about what the candidates would say about “how to take guns off the street.” Walking past a few moments later, an off-duty NYPD school safety officer who refused to give her name said that she was most interested in whether she’d get a raise. At a bus stop near Powell Street and Dumont Avenue, one elderly woman suggested that the candidates ought simply to call her. But Bridget King was a font of queries. “How is he going to take care of the senior citizens and things like that? What’s he going to do about that stop-and-frisk?” she asked. “Make sure he protects the city from 9/11. Housing—the housing department is not doing the correct job.” Then King jumped on the bus. Inside the Van Dyke Senior Center at noon, a physical trainer was leading a circle of mature clients through a set of isometric exercises. Jessica Locklear said she comes to the center almost daily. It’s a vital resource, though it used to offer more: There was once a visual artist who gave lessons, but

that program has come and gone. “Keeping the senior centers open is very good,” she said when asked what she’d want to say to the candidates. Mattie, sitting next to Locklear for the lunch of baked fish and pasta, would like to know: “If they could have charities in schools. Kids don’t have enough material in school to do their work. And schools are crowded.” A few seats away, sitting with her grandmother, Star Winston—the youngest person in the room—added that she’d ask, “What’s his plan to improve our schools?” Odessia Nsafoah lives not in Van Dyke but nearby in a house built 30 years ago by the Nehemiah Project. “My main concern would be affordable housing. Manhattan is ridiculous and Brooklyn is getting there really fast,” she said. “I don’t know too many people who can afford an apartment— I mean East New York affordable, not Manhattan affordable.” October 11 was the final day to register to vote in the general election. It was not clear how many of Van Dyke’s voters will turn out on November 5. The election district that covers the southeast corner of the sprawling 22-acre development— the 65th—went strongly for de Blasio on September 10. But the low wattage nature of the mayor’s race so far may keep some locals at home. What’s more, the Board of Elections has moved the polling location for the 65th from the senior center on Dumont Street, where it has been for some time—and was on primary and runoff days this year—to a school three blocks north. Lisa Kenner, a former Democratic district leader who still wields influence as the president of Van Dyke’s resident association, is concerned that the move will depress turnout. It’s not really a long way to walk for the privilege of voting, she said—but it will be enough to confuse and dissuade some voters. She said she’d ask the candidates: “Why are you allowing NYCHA to give up its community centers to DYCD?” referring to a plan to shift control of the local center to the Department of Youth and Community Development, a step Kenner worries will weaken the connection between the center and the Van Dyke development. “And how are you going to help Brownsville’s young people get a job?” Kenner added. But the big question she has is why the polling place has moved. That’s a query she plans to direct to the Board of Elections.

Fostering Dialogue Between Labor and the City By Vincent Alvarez The November 5th General Elections are right around the corner, and New Yorkers are excited about the possibilities brought about by the promise of a new administration. Labor’s overwhelming support is behind Bill de Blasio, because he has consistently proven his commitment to fighting for New York’s working men and women. From rallying to save Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center, to standing with lowwage workers fighting for better wages, benefits and respect, Bill de Blasio has been on the front lines, supporting workers and the Labor Movement. Bill de Blasio understands the benefits of creating union jobs, and the historical contributions of organized labor. We look forward to having a real seat at the table with the new administration and City Council, to craft and support pro-labor, pro-worker legislation and budgets – the real way to create sustainable change. We understand that the new administration will have to work with groups from all sectors, and we understand the need for such cooperation. New York is one of the world’s most diverse cities, and investing in residents is what helps our city to flourish. Organized labor is dedicated to ensuring that workers are able to secure the opportunity to grow, thrive, and raise families here in New York City. In the coming months, organized labor will look to the new administration to open up the lines of communication between all sectors looking to improve conditions for New Yorkers. The reality of the last twelve years is that the Labor Movement has largely been shut out from having a say in the way our city is governed. Municipal employees have been working without contracts for years, and now there is talk that the city cannot afford to pay these hard-working men and women the wages and benefits they have earned. These workers are not looking to get rich, but they do want to make enough to comfortably feed their families, invest in their local communities, and retire when they are ready. Working people are now more determined than ever to fight for what they have earned. The city’s Labor Movement is also looking to work with the new administration to help promote responsible

development projects that pay workers fair wages. If we are going to use public funding to provide tax credits and subsidies, we should make sure the city benefits. Our city must stand with working people to promote good jobs, fair wages, and safe working conditions. In doing this, the new administration would be working to create the broad-based prosperity needed to help our city grow. Another priority for the new administration must be to create the good jobs needed to make vital repairs to our city’s crumbling infrastructure. It is no secret that this has been a tumultuous year for our roads, bridges and public transportation system. From days of closures and months of repairs caused by Superstorm Sandy, to the general fixes needed as a result of everyday wear and tear, there is much work to be done. And this is work that can be done using skilled, professional union labor. We will look to the new administration to help make sure that local New York dollars are used to create jobs, and invest right here at home. New York’s working men and women are ready for a change. Workers are ready to be paid the wages and benefits they deserve, and they are ready to get back to work in good, union jobs. We are encouraged by the prospect of a de Blasio administration that will be open to working with the Labor Movement. We look forward to collaborating with a more worker-friendly Mayor, and a City Council comprised of elected officials who are committed to growing our economy by investing in working people. We all have a stake in the success of our local economy, and the New York City Labor Movement is committed to helping to create a better, more prosperous New York City.

Vincent Alvarez is the President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which represents over 300 affiliated unions, and 1.3 million workers in the New York City area. | OCTOBER 21, 2013



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Our Perspective Reforming New York’s Car Wash Industry By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW


n October, the courageous car wash workers — or carwasheros, as the mostly Latino workforce call themselves — achieved yet another breakthrough in their historic campaign to reform work in their industry. In the space of 24 hours, workers at four New York City car washes — two of which are owned by two of the biggest players in the city’s car wash industry — ratified their first RWDSU contracts.



ith polls showing him up as much as 50 points in the New York City mayoral race, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio appears to be coasting to a landslide victory in November. But some voters in Bayside, Queens, remain undecided whom to vote for—if they vote at all—with less than a month to go until Election Day. While plenty of Bayside residents passing by the intersection of Bell Boulevard and 48th Street said that they would support de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, some said they remain unsure about his candidacy. Others are still forming their opinions about the public advocate and his chief rival, Republican Joe Lhota. Laura Puccio said she is planning to vote next month, but when asked whether she’s decided on a candidate, she said, “Not any more.” “I don’t think I like de Blasio that much. I mean, I’m a liberal, but I don’t like him getting married in Cuba,” Puccio said, incorrectly referring to what was in fact his honeymoon on the island in 1994. “It says right on your passport: No North Korea, no Cuba. I don’t know how I feel about him.” Puccio, a retired teacher, said she had leaned toward supporting Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the onetime front-runner who lost in the Democratic primary, but that she’s now undecided about whom to vote for. As for Lhota, she’d like to know more about him. “I’m a third-generation Democrat, but…” she said, trailing off. Penelope Vasiliou, who is GreekAmerican, mentioned fellow Greek John Catsimatidis as one candidate to whom she had paid attention, although he lost

in the Republican primary. She said she hadn’t voted in years, and while she knows the two leading candidates by name, she said she probably wouldn’t vote this time around, either. Joe Polese, a retired iceman, said he was waiting until the debates to decide how he’ll cast his vote. “See, I’m a registered Democrat, and if I don’t like the way a Democrat is talking, I’ll vote the other side,” he said. “I want to hear two sides of the story first, and they haven’t been doing much talking.” A middle-aged man who only gave his name as Garo said he planned to vote Republican, noting that Lhota has defended the NYPD’s controversial stopand-frisk tactics. “That’s what I care about,” he said. Rose Barson, a Bayside resident who works in the healthcare field, said she hadn’t voted in the primary because she felt lukewarm about the candidates, but that she plans to vote in the general election—and that she now favors de Blasio. “He seems fair, and I guess he just has a nicer aura about him,” Barson said. “It was nice that he got his family in the campaign. It’s nice to see family as a factor of what his concerns are.” “As for Lhota, didn’t he leave a job?” Barson added, referring to Lhota’s stint as the chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “The fact that he left a job, that would be considered a minus in my opinion, that he left a position and now he’s running for a position.” An elderly retired banker named Barbara who declined to give her last name said she also likes de Blasio because he is “for the people.” “We need people like that, we really do,” she said. “I really don’t know too much about Lhota. I really don’t know, but I’m impressed with de Blasio.”

Among the carwasheros with new union contracts are workers at the Webster Car Wash and WCA/Rico Pobre Car Wash in The Bronx, owned by car wash kingpin John Lage, and the Jomar Car Wash and Sutphin Car Wash in Queens, owned by Fernando Magalhaes. Lage owns more than 20 car washes in New York City and partners with Magalhaes in some of them. The WASH New York campaign — a coalition of community groups that is supported by the RWDSU — has now resulted in six unionized car washes in New York City, with workers at all six of the facilities winning union contracts. These are the only unionized car washes east of Los Angeles. The campaign has succeeded because the carwasheros were dedicated to changing their jobs and changing their lives. The workers at all six RWDSU car washes now have job security, guaranteed wage increases, time off, protection of their tips, and protection from discrimination. And most importantly, for the first time, they have a strong voice at work, and a say in scheduling and working conditions. But car wash workers aren’t the only ones receiving poor treatment by the city’s car washes. The industry handles thousands of dollars’ worth of community property every day, yet operates without the same kind of licensing required by restaurants, towing companies, dry cleaners, and even thrift shops. The WASH New York campaign’s research has revealed consumer complaints due to damaged vehicles, and community concern is growing over what car washes are doing with the harsh chemical soup of untreated wastewater that is a side effect of their business. That’s why the WASH New York campaign is supporting the Car Wash Accountability Act, legislation currently before the New York City Council that would for the first time create common-sense oversight and consumer protections in the car wash industry. Car washes would be required to obtain licenses from the city, comply with basic regulations for wastewater and chemical disposal, and post surety bonds as insurance so the public is properly protected when they do business with city car washes. New York City’s car wash industry is changing, and it’s changing for the better. We can truly clean up the car wash industry by ensuring that its workers and consumers have protection and a clear voice.

Visit us on the web at | OCTOBER 21, 2013





n early 1996, Rev. Tom Grey was attending a church convention in Rochester when he met a man who told him that they shared a common goal. Grey, then the executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, was committed to keeping casinos out of New York. Grey didn’t know it at the time, but the man who approached him was a lobbyist for Donald Trump, who owned three casinos in Atlantic City and wanted to quash any competition just a few hours away. In the following months, Grey and Trump formed an unlikely alliance of resistance. As New York lawmakers geared up to legalize casinos, Grey assembled a grassroots movement made up of environmentalists, lawmakers, local ministers, Catholics, liberal Protestants and the Christian Coalition. Trump spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions. In early 1997 the state Senate failed to pass the constitutional amendment to legalize casinos. Expanded gambling in New York had died—if only temporarily. “At that moment, all of those forces converged, and we beat them,” Grey said in a recent interview. “This time it’s a tougher fight.” Indeed the political landscape has changed dramatically in the past 15 years. In Albany a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos sailed through both houses of the state Legislature twice, and will go before voters in a referendum next month. Out-of-state casino conglomerates have stayed on the sidelines in this 12

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fight, even though properties they own might lose business to new or expanded New York casinos. Trump says he does not oppose expansion any more—and he no longer has a significant stake in Atlantic City gambling anyway. The Native American tribes in New York that operate casinos signed new revenue-sharing pacts with the governor this year, neutralizing more potential foes. The owners of the state’s racetrack casinos, or racinos, are allied in support, even though only a few will be eligible for a license. This time around there has been only token political opposition to the expansion effort, which has been spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Mayor Rudy Giuliani opposed the 1997 proposal because the five boroughs were excluded from the competition. Even with New York City now off the table for at least seven years, the two leading mayoral candidates, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, support the amendment. In Nassau County the Republican county chairman directed state lawmakers to vote “No” in 1997, presumably to protect the local off-track betting corporation he headed. This month both Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his challenger, Tom Suozzi, rallied for the amendment. Frank Padavan, a state senator adamantly opposed to gambling, was voted out of office in 2010. Environmentalists like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Cuomo confidant, have not waded back into the debate this year. The physical landscape has shifted as well. In 1997 New York had just one casino, the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone

Casino. Since then, nine racetrack casinos and four additional Native American casinos have cropped up all across the state, as well as a few smaller bingo halls. In the northeast, what was then a handful of gambling locales has turned into an explosion of casinos in Pennsylvania, with several more in Maine, Maryland and, soon, Massachusetts. As the governor often points out, we already have gambling—so why not allow New York residents to spend their money here at home? But while Cuomo has been dealt a strong hand—one he has played well— supporters and opponents alike wonder whether the views and values of New York residents have evolved enough to support full legalization of casinos. If a majority votes in favor, the governor will have once again seized on a shift in the public mood, just as the growing acceptance of homosexuality paved the way for the landmark state law legalizing same-sex marriage. If voters shoot down the amendment, it will be another failure for the governor on gambling, dwarfing his high-profile but ultimately scuttled plan to build the world’s largest convention center at a racetrack casino next to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Polls show a slight majority in favor of legalizing casinos, although the relatively low participation rate on ballot referenda makes predictions about the outcome risky. “Look, it was always a close call in the polls,” Cuomo told reporters earlier this month. “I think if people know the facts, it passes overwhelmingly.”


t wasn’t so long ago that casinos were few and far between. When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931 in a bid to boost tourism, it was the only state where the activity was allowed. States began establishing lotteries in the 1960s, with New York only the second state to have one, in 1967. Three years later the state established off-track betting for horse racing to boost revenue for local governments. New Jersey followed in Nevada’s footsteps by legalizing casino gambling in Atlantic City in 1978. Then, in 1988, Congress passed the federal Indian Casino Gaming Regulatory Act, which let Native American groups operate casinos on tribal lands. In 1993 the Oneidas opened Turning Stone, New York’s first full-scale casino. Next door in Connecticut, Indian tribes opened the massive Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in the 1990s. As a growing number of Native American casinos opened across the country over the past two and a half decades, one state after another legalized non-Indian commercial casinos. The 1997 bid for a constitutional amendment failed in New York, but after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, lawmakers paved the way for limited casinos at horse racetracks around the state. Thirty-seven states now allow full-scale casinos of some kind. The percentage of adults who gambled at least once at a casino in the past 12 months has risen from 17 percent in 1990 to 32 percent last year. Full casino gambling was approved in Pennsylvania in 2010, in Massachusetts in 2011 and in Maryland in 2012.


New York already has 14 casinos: nine slots-only racetrack casinos and five Native American casinos. In anticipation of future expansion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has carved the state up into seven regions. With downstate New York off the map for now and three zones reserved for Native American tribes, three upstate zones remain in play, with up to four full-fledged casinos on the table.

Seneca Nation of Indians exclusivity zone Oneida Indian Nation exclusivity zone St. Regis Mohawk exclusivity zone Regions to be opened up for casino competition Downstate (No casinos for seven years)

Existing racetrack casinos Seneca Nation of Indians casinos Oneida Indian Nation casino St. Regis Mohawk casino

In his 2012 State of the State address, Cuomo said that New York is “in a state of denial.” “It’s time we confronted reality,” said Cuomo, minutes after unveiling his proposal to build a massive convention center in Queens. “It is not a question of whether or not we should have gaming in the state. We have gaming in the state of New York. We have tribal casinos all across the state. We have racinos all across the state. We don’t realize it, we don’t regulate it, we don’t capitalize on it, but we have gaming.” That altered landscape may make it easier to get voters to support even more expansion, said David Schwartz, the director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research. “In 1976 when people in New Jersey voted, it was kind of like they were basically letting the genie out of the bottle and saying, ‘Wow, let’s try casinos someplace that’s not Nevada,’ ” he said. “Since then it’s been easier for them. If you’ve already got people gambling a lot in New Jersey and Connecticut, it’s difficult to see the public policy argument for saying why New Yorkers couldn’t just gamble in New York if they’re already gambling. That’s not to say there’s not an argument, but it’s a little more difficult to articulate.”


ix months after Cuomo announced a proposal to build a new convention center in Queens, the deal fell apart. But in 2013 Cuomo was back in control.

Switching gears, he surprised the crowd at his 2013 State of the State with a plan to initially limit casino expansion to upstate New York, pitching his idea as an economic development proposal. Downstate areas in and around New York City would have to wait years to bid on a license. In a matter of weeks in May and June, Cuomo announced deals with three Native American tribes to renew their gambling revenue-sharing agreements. In exchange for their cooperation, the state agreed to respect the Seneca Nation’s exclusivity zone in Western New York, the Oneidas were granted exclusivity in Central New York and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe won exclusive rights in northern New York. The Senecas, who had withheld millions of dollars in payments to the state amid a dispute over the status of its exclusivity agreement, posed a particular threat, since it could have launched a well-funded campaign to kill the amendment. “I’m absolutely shocked that they were able to accomplish that,” said Jeff Gural, the owner of the Tioga Downs racino, which could compete for one of the three upstate casino licenses if the amendment passes. “I think people don’t give them enough credit. Had they not done that, if the Indians were opposing it, they would have probably spent millions of dollars opposing it.” By tinkering with the tax rates for any new casinos, Cuomo was able to get the racino owners on board. The state’s legislative leaders and majorities in both houses had signed on months before, perhaps swayed by the $3.2 million the gambling

industry had given in campaign contributions over the past two years. While some observers feared that the major casino companies would funnel money into the state to kill the amendment, the threat has not materialized. Some of them undoubtedly expect to compete for a license in or near New York City whenever that becomes an option. Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Genting, which operates the Resorts World New York City racino in Queens, are looking to partner on potential casinos in the Catskills. Others, like Mohegan Sun and several Atlantic City companies, are already struggling with increased across-the-border competition and declining profits and may have little free cash to launch a campaign in New York. A New York lobbyist for Caesars Entertainment, which has four Atlantic City properties, declined to comment on the company’s view on the amendment in New York, but said that he didn’t know of anybody opposing it. In a replay of 1997, Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts has kept an eye on developments in New York while allowing the process to run its course. “Wynn has not taken strong positions about the expansion of gaming in jurisdictions,” said Michael Weaver, the company’s senior vice president of marketing, “but rather we wait until citizens or elected officials have reached their decision, and then, at the appropriate time, present our credentials.” Another Las Vegas company, MGM Resorts International, is also staying out of the referendum, although the company

supports the governor’s proposal, according to spokesman Alan Feldman. “We remain interested in the New York market and look forward to working with the governor and Legislature in future expansion efforts,” Feldman said. A representative for Las Vegas Sands, which has casinos in Las Vegas, China, Macao and Singapore, declined to comment on the process in New York. “But I will say that our company has a unique convention-based business model that is best suited for large population centers with access to major transportation infrastructure like airports and subway systems,” said the spokesman, Ron Reese. “Our multi-billion developments in the U.S. and Asia have proven to be tourismand even economy-changing projects, and that is where our focus lies. We are not really interested in pursuing smaller scale projects.” Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, said he had seen no evidence of any well-funded opposition groups. “I haven’t seen any spending yet, but it’s still early,” said Pretlow, who predicted that the referendum would garner enough support. “In the last two weeks we’ll probably see a push yay or nay. After the advertising campaigns—and there will be two advertising campaigns, one pro and one con, I can almost guarantee you that—it hasn’t happened yet but it will—they will lean toward passage.” But Schwartz, the executive director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, said the fears of a campaign to kill New York’s | OCTOBER 21, 2013


COVER amendment are overblown. He said that in Maryland, Penn National made an unsuccessful effort to block casino expansion to protect its properties from competition, but that the example was more the exception than the rule. He said a shift in strategy likely occurred in 1998, when Las Vegas lobbied heavily to prevent tribal casinos in California, but failed. When tribes began to develop properties in California, Vegas interests found that there were management contracts and other possibilities to be had as a result of the new casinos, he said. “It’s a very outdated idea of how the business works,” Schwartz said. “To me, the idea that you have a bunch of people smoking cigars in New Jersey or Connecticut, plotting to come over the border to New York—to my mind that’s not how the industry works these days. They’re usually very interested in expansion opportunities. About 40 percent of the gaming casinos [in Atlantic City] were opened by Caesars Entertainment, which I believe would be looking for expansion opportunities in New York, so I don’t find that that argument holds a lot of water in many cases.”


ince Cuomo announced his casino proposal early in 2012, the amendment has generally enjoyed a slight advantage in public polls. Support has hovered around 50 percent, with the opposition lagging somewhat behind. However, a Siena College poll late last month found that more voters were likely to support the measure when they read the actual ballot language, which says that it will create jobs, send aid to schools and help lower property taxes. The ballot language, which was altered with the input of the governor’s office, drew criticism from good-government groups and editorial boards. Eric Snyder, a Brooklyn attorney, filed a lawsuit claiming that the wording was too rosy. Casino supporters held their breaths until a judge last week threw it out. “The way they did it, how they put the language in, is obscene,” said Grey, the longtime gambling opponent. “Would they have allowed me to write the negative side of this and then let it be put in? Of course not! If you poll people straight up and down, do you want to have a casino, it’s even. You’ve got to dress this thing up. This is a pig you’ve got to put lipstick on.” Grey said that the struggles of cities like Atlantic City and Detroit, which has three casino resorts, should be warning enough about the risks of pursuing them as an economic development tool. By contrast, cities like Providence, San Antonio and Wichita all rejected casino proposals, and today they are thriving, he said. “What’s different here is the political leadership has sunk to where we’re going to mug our own citizens under the basis that they’re getting mugged in Atlantic 14

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City,” Grey said. “ ‘Let’s keep the money here’—if that’s the best argument that you can make for a product, then you’re really bankrupt in terms of your leadership abilities.” Earlier this month Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of the Business Council, announced the formation of New York State Jobs Now, a pro-casino coalition that is raising money to support the amendment. The group expects to spend “a couple million dollars,” she said. Briccetti argued that the economic development benefits that casinos could bring make it a “no-brainer,” although she is unsure whether voters will support the referendum. “I really don’t know, and that’s why we’re involved in advocacy for the passage,” she said. “I don’t know how much polls factor in the limited number of people who vote on ballot propositions, and that obviously is something that has to be taken into account.” The wild card is New York City, whose voters will have the largest impact on the referendum because of the city’s large population and the fact that New Yorkers will be voting for a new mayor. In the most recent Siena College poll, more upstate and suburban voters were in favor of the amendment than New York City voters. But James Featherstonhaugh, the president of the New York Gaming Association, said that he had conducted private polling that was roughly similar to the Siena poll but generally with more support across the board—and with greater support in New York City than in other parts of the state. “That actually was contrary to the private polling we’ve done,” said Featherstonhaugh, who is also a part owner of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, another likely competitor for an upstate license. “Most of our private polling showed it was actually just a little bit more popular in New York City.” Whatever the case, several casino insiders said that Cuomo’s decision to hold off on allowing any casinos in downstate New York was a brilliant strategic move, since it diminishes opposition in the five boroughs. “The thing with casinos is, there’s a lot of stakeholders that are fine with casinos, but they don’t want it in their backyard,” said one New York casino lobbyist. “It’s fine for people to gamble elsewhere, they just don’t want it here. And I think by structuring it the way he did, he struck the best balance. There are Saratoga, the Catskills, the Southern Tier, there are venues that would die to get casinos. Other people don’t want them. This way he created, I think, is the best possible dynamic politically to achieve the successful passage of the amendment. He played it very, very skillfully.” State Sen. John Bonacic, who chairs the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said that research that his

office has done over the past two years found that residents in four of the five boroughs of New York City do not want a casino. Only in Queens, which already has a racino, is there strong support for a fullscale casino. “In those boroughs … they did not want casinos located there, and the governor’s plan—he just took it off the table,” Bonacic said. “So he took a lot of the negativity off the table, saying, ‘I’m not even going to look at these areas for seven years.’ So I think that was pretty intelligent what he did.” Bonacic, a longtime proponent of bringing casinos to the Catskills, argued that what would bring the casino amendment across the finish line would be the money dedicated to education and property tax relief, funds that will be shared statewide, not just where a casino is sited. “We’re still in this recession malaise. Everybody talks about things getting better, and they are, in a slow way, but I don’t think it’s hit Main Street yet. It might be hitting Wall Street; the corporations may be better, but Main Street, they’re not feeling that the recession is over,” he said. “So far it looks like it’s been very successful and well planned, but you never know about these things. You never know about turnout. We’ve seen the polls, and the polls are encouraging, but a lot has to do with the turnout and how people vote in the

metropolitan area. New York City is going to be the key.”


rey, the veteran of New York’s 1997 casino battle who is now an adviser to the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, is closely watching the developments leading up to this year’s vote in New York. While the opposition doesn’t have a big spender like Donald Trump on its side, Grey argued that it’s better that way, since any gambling money would immediately open opponents up to attack. “It’s our people against their money and political muscle,” Grey said. “What’s good is that Donald Trump isn’t involved in this, because this is going to be a test of whether people walk into the ballot box and are going to be like sheep ready to be fleeced by politicians and casino promoters. I’d like to think that at least the effort that’s being put on by the citizens— and it’s not self-interest, it’s not easy to take all the political muscle and the promoters’ money—but at least the citizens will have a chance to walk in and say yes or no.”

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ew York voters will decide this November whether to approve six constitutional amendments, ranging from the legalization of casino gambling and two land swaps in the Adirondacks to raising the age limit for certain state judges. But for some, the New York Constitution needs a much more comprehensive overhaul—and it’s not too early to press for more far-reaching changes. “We have this Constitution, and it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do,” said Chris Bopst, a partner at Goldberg Segalla and an expert on state constitutional law. “[We have] a laundry list of examples of provisions that are avoided, circumvented and otherwise ignored, yet we as a state have this belief that, ‘Oh, well, we can’t do anything about this. That’s just the way the world works.’ I’m here to say that we can.” Bopst, speaking at a conference on the state Constitution co-sponsored by EffectiveNY, SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach and City & State, argued that a Constitutional Convention would be far more effective than just “tinkering” by passing individual amendments. New York State law already requires a referendum every 20 years on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention, although such a convention is not mandatory, as Bopst and others would like it to be. After the state’s last convention in 1967, voters rejected recommended revisions. In 1997, amid concerns about cost and the possibility that environmental and laborfriendly provisions could be stripped out, voters shot down a convention. The next time voters will decide if they want a Constitutional Convention will be 2017. Bill Samuels, the founder of EffectiveNY, said that he plans to lobby for a convention in 2014, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo is running for re-election. “Part of our goal is not to wait until 2017 to debate a Constitutional Convention,” Samuels said. “We do not need to wait until 2017. We’ve had three straight Democratic governors who have fundamentally failed to reform Albany.” Among the issues that delegates to the convention could take up, Samuels said, are state education funding, the redistricting process and unfunded mandates—although they could address any issues they choose. Delegates could also remove outdated provisions and simplify amendments that have been altered repeatedly over the years. Peter Galie, a Canisius College political science professor, said that the state’s Constitution has provisions that quickly become obsolete. Years of adding amendments have created a “bloated document” with “practically unreadable” passages, he added, and some provisions that remain in place are no longer enforced or enforceable. “Why does a bond issue authorization for railroad crossing removal, long retired, remain in the Constitution? Why are provisions regulating the granting of divorces and the drainage of swampland and gambling—what are they doing in our bill of rights? Don’t they know where to put them?” Galie asked. “Large sections of the Constitution’s reapportionment

measures have been superseded by federal law for over 50 years.” Citing one example of a provision of little use, Galie said that while general obligation debt is constitutionally required to be approved by voters, more than 90 percent of the state’s outstanding debt was not subject to voter approval, thanks to backdoor borrowing through public authorities. Another example is the “forever wild” provision at the center of two constitutional amendments up for a vote this year. The provision limits development in the Adirondacks, but the amendments would allow for parkland to be swapped out, in one case to a mining company. The amendments would only be the latest changes to the provision, which has been amended 13 times since 1938. “If you discount the Bill of Rights, that’s almost as many amendments as there have been to the federal Constitution in the whole document in 200-some years,” Bopst said. “That’s what you have, these provisions that are amendment breeders.” Some of the panelists suggested that provisions like “forever wild,” as well as the gambling prohibition and the age limits on judges, could simply be dropped. “A lot of people say, ‘Of course we need it,’ ” Bopst said of the “forever wild” provision. “But there’s nothing in the federal Constitution, and I don’t see the federal government giving Yellowstone Park away in the near future.” However, the comparison with the U.S. Constitution only goes so far. Several panelists noted that state Constitutions, which cover more everyday concerns than the federal Constitution, require more updating by their nature. Dennis Hawkins, executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts, spoke in support of one amendment on the ballot that raises the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 80 for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals justices. In the three decades since a 1983 amendment to raise the age limit for all state judges to 76 failed, the justices’ caseload has only increased, and it has been exacerbated by a constitutional cap on the number of Supreme Court judges. “There is no other public official in New York State who has a mandatory retirement age—not legislators, not executives, no one,” Hawkins said. “So where’s the logic, where’s the sense of even having it in?” Two of this year’s amendments—the one altering the gambling prohibition and the two dealing with the “forever wild” provision—would affect portions of the Constitution that date back to 1894, noted Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz. Supporters of the “forever wild” provision have worked hard to keep it in place, while the gambling ban has eroded over the years. “The lesson of that, I think, is that the Constitution is very responsive to the shifting values of the state,” he said. “What we’re testing in this election is: How much have the values of New Yorkers evolved on gambling? Have the values evolved to the point where this restriction is undone entirely? And then the right question is: Why don’t we just take the restriction out of the Constitution rather than changing it?”


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months, but his members stuck by him. By the time Lopez resigned from the Assembly in May, it appeared that Silver would survive. But soon another harassment scandal involving another one of his members, Assemblyman Micah Kellner, embarrassed the Speaker. And Silver was thrust into the headlines on Sept. 24 when prosecutors indicted William Rapfogel, a close friend and the husband of his longtime


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is firmly entrenched in Albany—but for how long? By AARON SHORT


any ambitious children say they want to be president when they grow up. Other politically savvy youngsters fantasize no less ambitiously about going to Congress, or becoming a senator or governor. But no child dreams of one day being Speaker of the New York State Assembly. The speakership is a job that finds you. You must serve in the chamber, sometimes for decades, before you get even a whiff of it. You must know the distinct needs of a diverse and expansive conference, have an uncanny ability to count votes, and have earned the trust and respect of your peers. “It’s popularity, it’s confidence, it’s how you’ve acted toward the members,” explained former Speaker Mel Miller, the Brooklyn Democrat who led the Assembly from 1987 to 1991. “It’s what kind of relationships you’ve built when you’ve been there.” It’s also a job nobody openly admits they want—even those who hunger for it 16

OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

more than anything. One reason is that it is a crass violation of the chamber’s unspoken etiquette. Another, more practical consideration is that the position is currently filled. And he who has so long filled it would not look kindly on anyone who brazenly wishes for the throne. Sheldon Silver, the second-longest tenured Speaker in state history, has maintained a firm grasp on his chamber since 1994—the only blip being an attempted coup in 2000, which he deftly crushed. When Silver was re-elected in January for another two-year term, there was no opposition. But Silver has experienced his rockiest patch as Speaker since last August, starting with the revelation that he authorized a confidential taxpayer-funded financial settlement in response to sexual harrassment complaints from former staffers involving Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Silver swatted away criticisms about his mishandling of the situation, but when more employees accused Lopez of groping them, the Speaker acknowledged his mistake. The Lopez affair dogged Silver for

chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel, for stealing taxpayer money from a charity ironically named the Metropolitan Council of Jewish Poverty. The members of Silver’s Democratic Conference have nonetheless continued to maintain their faith in him—at least publicly—no doubt a reflection of the Speaker’s proven excellence in protecting their interests and his preternatural gift for negotiating on their collective behalf with the governor and the state Senate. But few know how long Silver will hold onto his job—or will want to do so. If for any reason he stepped down, the Legislature would experience a sea change, setting the stage for one of the most heated succession battles in a generation. “My fear—and I think the fear of most pragmatic people—is that it would fall into the hands of someone who is not as pragmatic as Shelly,” said one Assembly member who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We could

have chaos.”


heldon Silver lived his entire life on the Lower East Side, save for brief intervals during his college and law school years, before his neighbors elected him to the Assembly in 1976. Silver bore witness to four speakerships over an 18-year period in office before he finally tossed his felt Borsalino into the ring for the top job. In the first two leadership battles during Silver’s time in the chamber, candidates had plenty of time to make their cases to their colleagues. Stanley Steingut was ousted from the speakership after he lost a primary challenge in his Brooklyn district in 1978. Stanley Fink stepped down in 1986 after declining to run for re-election, allowing candidates several weeks to woo their peers. The next transition was quicker. Mel Miller was abruptly ejected from office in the middle of his third term as Speaker following a federal fraud conviction that was later overturned. Miller’s fall set up a 24-hour scramble, from which Queens Assemblyman Saul Weprin emerged the winner. “Because people knew the trial was underway, candidates were discreetly positioning themselves, but it was resolved fairly quickly with Saul Weprin, even though at the beginning he wasn’t viewed as an early favorite,” former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said. Before becoming Speaker himself, Silver had ably worked his way up the leadership hierarchy, serving as chairman of the Codes Committee before he became chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 1992. In the course of his ascent, he developed a deep understanding of state rules and regulations, while building strong relationships with members and becoming an expert in the specific needs of their districts. When Weprin died suddenly of a stroke on Feb. 11, 1994, members, who already viewed Silver as the heir apparent, elected him Speaker that same day. “He didn’t have much of a campaign,” Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol recalled. “He almost had the job by acclimation. He was a steward of the budget and handled members’ bills [that] had fiscal implications. It was the closest on-the-job training to be Speaker.” Brodsky remembers Silver making a short pitch to his colleagues. “He talked about changes to the institution that might be needed,” Brodsky said. “The good ones do more listening than talking.” Silver’s personality, his experience as a chairman of the two most powerful committees and his Manhattan residency made his candidacy an easy choice. “We needed somebody who’s a people person, and Shelly is that kind of person,” Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg said. “He gives everybody an opportunity to be heard. He’s not the kind of person

POLITICS to express anger, he has ability to judge issues on their merits.”


All photos: New York NOW Flickr

he next transition may not be so smooth. The 69-year-old Speaker has given no indication to colleagues that he will step down in the coming months, or even years. Silver has already withstood withering media criticism last session, and his recent strenuous defense of his chief of staff after her husband’s arrest would suggest he has no intention of going anywhere. “So far it has not affected the Speaker; it hasn’t hurt him,” Lentol said. “Shelly has survived, he’s been as good a Speaker as the members want, except for a few incidents that have occurred on his watch that were damaging. He doesn’t get elected to be an Assemblyman in every district.” But some colleagues privately worry about the Met Council investigation, according to one member of the Assembly who asked not to be identified, conjecturing that prosecutors could lean on

chair—all of whom are widely respected, senior members. “If it happens tomorrow, I think Glick gets it,” said one political observer, who requested to speak off-the-record so as not to offend any members. “Either Glick or Lentol. The women are the most cohesive unit in the Assembly. But I don’t think [Silver] is going anywhere.” Lentol said there are a lot of talented members in the Assembly and it would be a “hard transition” for anyone who becomes Speaker after Silver, regardless of experience. “It really takes a lot of learning and training,” he said. “You have to treat the members fairly and with respect and dignity. We have a lot of talented members, and that’s the most important thing for a Speaker to keep in mind. And you have to figure out what the right thing is to do with a lot of pieces of legislation that a lot of members want to see passed. And you have to worry about meetings all the time up until late at night when you’re Speaker, and you have to be on call all the time. It’s

Silver found himself in the middle of an ethics maelstrom last session that had some members grumbling about his decisions. Willie Rapfogel to get him to provide information on Silver in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Were Silver to choose or be compelled to leave office for any reason, there would be no clear favorite to replace him. Silver has not cultivated a successor, fueling speculation over who could follow him. Whoever he or she is, the next Speaker could very likely be a product of the timing and circumstances of Silver’s departure. If Silver left suddenly, members could nominate a caretaker such as Ways and Means Chairman Herman “Denny” Farrell of Manhattan, Speaker Pro Tem Jeffrion Aubry of Queens, Deborah Glick, the Higher Education Committee chair, or Lentol, the popular Codes Committee

hard personally on you and hard on your family.” Some political observers imagine a scenario where an entire class of the most senior members could retire with Silver should he decide to step down, making the race less about seniority than previous Speaker campaigns. “It’s a very long time to gain seniority, and even seniority itself does not convey power,” said one former member who declined to comment on the record out of respect for the Speaker. “You have the likelihood if Shelly leaves in a planned fashion that you’ll skip a generation of people and jump down to someone who doesn’t have 25 years in the Legislature.” That crop of Speaker contenders

consists of Glick, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright, Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein and Labor Committee Chairman Carl Heastie. Morelle is well respected by his colleagues, but, representing Rochester, he might have geography working against him. More than half the members of the Assembly’s Democratic Conference live in New York City—where the speakership has resided since 1975—and members may not be willing to let the top job go upstate. Mel Miller is one of the few observers who believe it is possible the recent precedent could be overturned. “Can it go out of the city? If it could leave the city, you would look at Joe Morelle,” he said. “He is well liked, popular and very, very smart. That’s if you believe it would leave New York. I happen to believe it could happen.” New York City’s Democratic county leaders had the power to move blocs of votes to secure the speakership in the past. However, their power has diminished as the influence of minority and female members has risen. As a result of this shift, the next Speaker could be chosen from the Assembly’s influential Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, or from the emerging Women’s Caucus. Some predict that Manhattan’s Wright and the Bronx’s Heastie, both of whom are African-American, could end up waging an epic battle for control of the Assembly. Both are chairmen of the Democratic Party in their respective boroughs, shrewd politicians and possess significant policy expertise. Neither would agree to comment for this article. Wright, who is also co-chairman of the state Democratic Party, is seen as a strong leader who is close to the governor. He has received media attention for privately criticizing Silver on two occasions—over a tax break to a luxury housing developer and over the Speaker’s handling of the sexual harassment scandals—complaints that reflected members’ dissatisfaction with some Silver decisions. It is Heastie, however, who intrigues some members looking for a clean break from the Silver era. “I’m hearing it’s Heastie,” said one Assembly member who declined to speak publicly out of fear of retribution. “He’s the most senior Democrat who is clean and not crazy. You don’t want to nominate someone and then find out that they’re involved in an indictment.” Other members point to Heastie’s success in unifying the Bronx’s diverse and discordant political factions, and his background as a CUNY economics professor and SUNY alumnus as evidence that he would protect higher education interests in the suburbs, where universities are a major job creator. “Carl is a guy at his word,” said a

member who declined to comment publicly. “I don’t know if he’s someone who holds grudges. He’s a savvy political operator—look at what he did in the Bronx.” State Sen. George Latimer, a former Assemblyman and friend of Heastie’s, said Heastie could certainly do the job if he got the opportunity and receives support from the Black and Latino Caucus. “He’s considered a very intelligent guy, he cares about policy, you have seen him engaged on the taxi bill, and there is significant policy he can work on,” he said. “If the caucus came out with a solid candidate, it would be very hard to see that candidate not win.” Democratic Assembly members generally vote together on most policy matters, but they may assert their independence in unpredictable ways in a leadership fight. There is no guarantee that legislators will vote with their caucuses over other considerations. And an influx of new members who have no loyalties to legislators with seniority in the conference could add more uncertainty. “It is similar to picking a new pope, with fewer red Prada shoes,” said one member who declined to speak on the record. “The cast of characters will change. Who are those 100 people when it gets to take place? If it’s after an election, you could have 20 new members out of 100. And if you have 20 new members, throw out your vote counting.” It is also unclear what role Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City’s new mayor would play in a speakership fight, though many political observers believe their influence will be significant. Long Island’s Weisenberg, the secondoldest member of the Assembly, insists that Silver is not going anywhere. The younger members of the chamber impress him, but he does not think they’re ready to lead the Assembly just yet. “There’s so much intelligence and ability, the diversity of our conference is really our strength—but you have to learn the system up there,” he said. “I’m still learning.” If there is one point on which members agree, it is that—barring some extraordinary revelations yet to arise—it is highly unlikely that Silver would be forcibly deposed through a coup. Enough members remember the disastrous attempt by then Majority Leader Michael Bragman in 1980 that resulted in Bragman and his supporters being stripped of their leadership positions and stipends and then ousted from office, either through redistricting or primary challenges backed by Silver. Another impediment to any potential coup is the rise of the Internet. Several members said they believed that the ease with which news can escape now via social media has made it more difficult for a plot to advance without being leaked. And pulling off a coup allows for no margin of error. As one member put it, “It’s like they say, ‘You can’t injure the king; you have to kill him.’ ” | OCTOBER 21, 2013






OCTOBER 21, 2013 |



hroughout much of society, high-speed Internet has become a fundamental component of infrastructure. Many people’s jobs and personal lives revolve around a smartphone and a computer with broadband connectivity. But even for those whose professions and pastimes

don’t hinge on the instant communication granted by the Web, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up without it, as everything from getting an education to shopping to purchasing health insurance moves online. And yet significant populations in rural and urban communities throughout New York still rely on dial-up or don’t have readily available access to the Internet. At the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address this issue through his “Connect NY” initiative, which has awarded funding in return for private investment in 18 development projects around the state. Some of these ventures involve partnerships with large telecommunications companies and will benefit thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of rural households. In New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made the expansion of high-speed and wireless networks a top priority. His initiatives include the “Wireless Corridor Challenge,” which recently charged five organizations—four communitybased nonprofits and one international wireless company—with developing and maintaining free wireless corridors in some of the city’s busier commercial and budding tech zones. Another city initiative is “Wired NYC,” a certification program that will assign grades to office buildings based on their level of broadband connectivity, with the aim of enticing more tech sector tenants to the city. “There will be four different ratings, much like the restaurant grades or LEED certification,” said Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for New York City’s Economic Development Corporation. “So if I am a tech company, I’ll be able to understand what I need and what the building has to offer before I sign the lease.” Although Bloomberg’s wireless corri-

dors will also benefit some NYCHA housing, namely in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville and Fort Greene, they’re mainly geared toward attracting business to the Big Apple. Some 3 percent of the city’s population—around 245,000 residents—lives in homes that still aren’t wired for broadband, not to mention the many others who simply can’t afford it. A full 30 percent of all New York State residents have declined to adopt broadband in their homes, either by choice or because they can’t afford it. According to the New York State Broadband Office, some 700,000 New York State residents—3.5 percent of the population— are unable to access broadband in their homes. The lack of access is especially prevalent in rural communities, where low population density offers little financial incentive for telecom companies to build out their networks. In the North Country, for example, 10 percent of the population can’t access broadband. While the importance of expanding the infrastructure is hardly controversial, opinions differ as to the manner in which it is distributed. In New York City, companies like Verizon own and operate the broadband networks. Even the MTA’s fledgling wireless network is owned and operated by a private company, Transit Wireless, which signed deals with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile to bring service to select subway stations. However, some argue that broadband should be more like electricity: a municipal rather than a consumer resource. And there is evidence to suggest that utility-run networks can provide better service at a lower cost to customers. Since 2007 the city of Lafayette, La., has run a public broadband system that saved residents $5.7 million in services through 2011, according to Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and a former technology advisor to President Obama. And in Tennessee, Chattanooga’s municipal network is the only one in the country to offer up to a gig of connectivity to residents, nearly 10 times the top speed offered by Comcast, which bills itself as having the “fastest Internet speed in the country.” Both cities faced fierce opposition in the form of lawsuits and ad campaigns from telecom companies before they were able to achieve their goals. In the case of Lafayette, industry lobbyists pushed unsuccessfully to outlaw municipal broadband networks in the state of Louisiana. “The municipal model may involve having a company build out the infrastructure for you, but as part of the contract the infrastructure is municipally

governed and owned,” said Georgia Bullen, a New York-based technology expert at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy think tank. “So if it’s wireless or wired infrastructure, it’s the city’s rightof-way, and then they can recoup licensing fees, basically, for different carriers to operate on those rights of way.” Today over 150 municipalities in the United States operate public broadband networks. Of the largest U.S. cities, San Francisco boasts the fastest and most affordable service in the nation, according to a recent report from the New America Foundation, although its connectivity still lags behind other cities around the globe like Tokyo and Hong Kong. The report also found that although San Francisco can’t claim a comprehensive municipal network, it has a more diverse array of local Internet service providers than any other U.S. city, and many of its local providers offer better rates and speeds than Verizon or Comcast. “We could be promoting businesses that are local and based here,” Bullen said. “The model [New York City has] been employing just furthers the relationships that already exist … they’re not putting the citizen first, they’re putting the service first.” In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, a nonprofit community center called the Red Hook Initiative recently launched its own community wireless network, providing free Internet service to area residents. They hope to have 80 percent of the neighborhood covered by the end of the year. “Compared to other neighborhoods there is limited broadband access,” said Anthony Schloss, director of media programs at the Red Hook Initiative. “But even more so it’s a platform for local communication. When you sign on to the network there’s a splash page telling you about the local events, places of business. Residents can chat with each other. Eventually we’ll have job listings, stuff like that.” The program trains and employs young adults from the neighborhood, so-called “digital stewards” who learn how to install the equipment, maintain the network and promote it in the community. The community wireless network wouldn’t be possible without Brooklyn Fiber, a local Internet service provider in Red Hook. “There should be more competition,” Schloss said. “There are three telecoms, and they set arbitrary prices. The reason we are able to do what we do here in Red Hook is they just happen to have a very small local ISP in our neighborhood, which just services our neighborhood. And that’s very rare, because it’s kind of crazy to get into business against Time Warner and Comcast.”




The Bloomberg administration has recently expanded recycling programs throughout the city. Is this progress sustainable?

At launch of NYC’s new “Recycle Everything”, Mayor Bloomberg announces a new ad campaign and the expansion of an organic food waste recycling pilot program.



s a prominent figure in the national discourse on climate change, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has helped drive the discussion largely through initiatives he has established while running New York City. From planting more trees to improving the city’s air quality to exponentially increasing the city’s bike lanes, Bloomberg has established a new standard for urban environmental policy that his successor will be hard-pressed to match. The one somewhat surprising weak spot in his otherwise solid environmental record has been recycling. Currently New York City recycles just 15 percent of its waste, a remarkably low number for a major city. By comparison, San Francisco recycles nearly 80 percent of its garbagge—the most of any city in the United States—while Portland and Seattle recycle more than 50 percent. At a recent press conference in July announcing a revamping of the city’s recycling program, where a goal was articulated of reaching a 30 percent recycling rate by 2017, Bloomberg acknowledged that the current recycling numbers were unacceptable for a so-called “green” city. “The bottom line is we can do an awful lot better,” he said. “This saves us money, and it dramatically makes the environment that our kids are going to inherit from us better. It’s kind of hard to argue that you shouldn’t do this.” 20 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

But is Bloomberg’s recent emphasis on recycling simply an attempt to pay lip service to an area that he has largely neglect over his three terms, or do his administration’s recent efforts to enhance the city’s recycling program and solid waste disposal reflect a “better late than never” approach that will have legs under the next mayor? To say Bloomberg “ignored” recycling in the early years of his administration would not be entirely accurate. Bloomberg took office at a time when the city was still reeling from 9/11, which left it in a fiscal crunch. In an attempt to save money Bloomberg suspended collection of glass and plastic recyclables, though when a city comptroller’s report showed that suspending recycling did not achieve the desired savings, Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to resume collections in 2003. According to some environmental advocates, however, the city is still trying to make up for the progress lost in its recycling rate as a result of that brief layoff. “I don’t want to discount the motivation for suspending it, but we’ve seen over time the long-term negative impact it’s had,” said Eddie Bautista, the executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “We were up to 20 or 21 percent recycling when the program was suspended; now we’re at 15 percent, and it’s taken a few of years to get back to 15 percent.” In the meantime, advocates have

pushed the city to build a more equitable and sustainable solid waste management system. Residents of certain communities in the city such as the south Bronx and northern Brooklyn, both historically low-income areas with large minority populations, have long bemoaned the fact that they bear the brunt of the city’s waste burden, with many private waste transfer stations setting up shop in those neighborhoods, especially those in the business of commercial waste disposal. Private companies largely run the commerical waste industry, and environmental advocates charge that these businesses have many negative components, from a reliance on a fleet of older trucks that contribute to air pollution to poor working conditions and the payment of low wages. The system is largely deregulated and, according to a report on the commerical waste industry issued by the Alliance for a Greater New York, the city’s focus on promoting competition through a largely stagnant rate cap and the absence of a rate floor “has led to a race to the bottom that depresses labor and environmental standards.” Coupling these problems with the closure of New York City’s last incinerator in 1999 and the Fresh Kills Landfill in 2001, the city has been left with a fragmented waste disposal industry that relies on its trash being exported out of the city, at a great economic cost. This onerous expense is part of what has sparked Bloomberg’s renewed focus on recycling. New York City spends over $300 million every year to export waste to landfills and incinerators in New Jersey and other destinations outside of the city. Landfills generate 17 percent of the country’s methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. 90 percent of the methane generated from landfills comes from food waste and, presumably, land waste. Given the cost—and with the city still in the process of closing a multi-billion-dollar budget gap—environmentalists say that in recycling the mayor has rightly identified a potential growth sector. Some also suggest that Bloomberg recognizes that current landfilling practices are contributing to global warming emissions; therefore, attacking that problem on the solid waste front could help achieve the mayor’s national goals regarding climate change. “Public opinion polls have always demonstrated that recycling enjoyed broad political support across all income levels, all five boroughs, all economic strata,” said Eric A. Goldstein, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s New York City environment director. “So all of those factors have combined to bring about a startling change of emphasis and a positive development over the last two years.” Those positive developments include the hiring of Ron Gonen to be the city’s first deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability. Gonen is a successful

business entrepreneur with experience in recycling, having co-founded RecycleBank, a company that incentivizes people for taking “green actions” through discounts and deals from local businesses. Gonen opened up a dialogue with solid waste experts and environmental advocates and began pushing forward with innovative recycling and composting strategies, such as Bloomberg’s announcement that all rigid plastics are now recyclable in New York City and an expansion of the city’s composting pilot programs. “The biggest change was in breaking down our waste stream to understand what’s in there, and making sure that we line up our recycling programs and waste diversion programs with what’s actually in our waste stream,” Gonen said. While composting is a major focus of environmental advocates, the city has a long way to go if it wants to match its West Coast counterparts in standardizing the practice. Some have concerns about building equity into the composting program—i.e., educating low-income communities on the benefits of reusing and recycling waste. “One of the challenges to waste collection is there’s a human behavioral aspect to it,” said Gavin Kearney, the director of environmental justice for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “You have to get them to do the right thing at their house, and that takes time and requires forming habits and things to get better over time.” The public education system can play a part of the forming of these habits. Blomberg has expressed an interest in expanding composting programs in city schools, perhaps even making it mandatory at some point. Gonen said the city has passed legislation to expand composting programs in as many as 400 schools and 125,000 homes. After all, recycling requires participation—and what better way to entice city residents to participate than planting a seed in its youth, who will bring those ideas home? Still, in order for the city to realize its recycling potential, the next mayor will have to continue the progress made by the Bloomberg administration on this front. Much of the mayoral campaign’s focus on solid waste management has been diverted to the heated debate over building a marine waste transfer station on East 91st Street in Manhattan. Neither Democrat Bill de Blasio nor Republican Joe Lhota has offered much in the way of a nuanced waste disposal plan, though both candidates have expressed a desire to take up many of the same environmental policies that Bloomberg has instituted. “This is one of those situations where environmental interests and the concerns of city taxpayers coincide, and therefore is a situation that’s perfectly set up for the next mayor to follow through with the changes the mayor and his team have put in place,” Goldstein said.

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ov. Andrew Cuomo is opening a new bank—and dollars aren’t the only thing about it that’s green. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority sought approval from the state’s Public Service Commission last month to allocate public funds to start a $1 billion “green bank,” which Cuomo hopes will grow the state’s renewable energy economy into a selfsustaining marketplace. The petition seeks to appropriate an initial $165.6 million in capital from a pool of money derived from ratepayer fees on utility bills reserved for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the state. The commission isn’t expected to make a decision until the end of the year, and the details of the initiative have yet to be filled out. However, if the green bank is approved, it is not supposed to be just another subsidy program. “The green bank is intended to focus in on areas where there are gaps in financing, where a company’s progress with customers is limited by the lack of available financing, not by the cost of financing,” said Richard Kauffman, Cuomo’s newly appointed energy czar and former senior advisor to then United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “It’s not necessary to provide a subsidy in these parts of the market, because the problem isn’t that they’re not economic; it’s that they’re not financeable.” The bank aims to fill these gaps by

partnering with financial institutions and encouraging them to make loans to renewable energy companies by enhancing the credit profile of the transaction, for example. (This is in contrast to Connecticut’s already established green bank, which makes loans directly to the companies themselves.) If the market matures enough to have the confidence of private banks, the green bank will step aside and look to address gaps in other sectors. And unlike subsidy programs, which dispense single servings of cash on a repeated basis and which are subject to changes in the tax structure from year to year, the green bank is projected to make a return on investment that could lead to sustainable growth in the industry and in the bank itself. “We are building something that from a financial point of view is something that’s been done in other markets but has not been broadly applied yet in the clean energy area,” Kauffman said. “For instance, in the realm of the use of capital markets, credit cards, auto loans, aircraft engines, aircrafts, all of that is done in the bond market now.” The program isn’t meant as a replacement for subsidy-based initiatives, but rather as an additional tool in the overall effort to bring maximum efficiency to energy customers, along with the development of renewables. Since the 1990s New York residents have been paying on average a few extra dollars a month toward these efforts on their utility bills. According to Jackson Morris, a senior policy advisor at the Pace Energy and Climate Center, for every dollar invested, ratepayers have experienced between three and five dollars in benefits from these programs over time. “It’s important to recognize that they’re not changing or taking money away from these programs,” Morris said. “All they’re doing is reallocating a portion of it. The hypothesis behind the green bank is that you can secure more megawatts of renewables and efficiency per ratepayer dollar that’s invested.” Morris said that while the Climate Center supports the concept, he would have to wait for more details to materialize before offering a thorough analysis. But so far he agrees with the approach, which has included extensive interviews with market players to understand where gaps in financing exist. “This is not a silver bullet,” Morris said. “There are certain sectors where they could go to the bank right now and get financing … but in other sectors that is a problem. And we’re confident that the folks behind the green bank and at NYSERDA are listening to stakeholders and thinking this through. They’ve made it clear that they do not want to create a product that the private sector already provides.” The initial capital investment will actually be just over $210 million, with an additional $44.7 million coming from the sale of carbon allowances through the

GREEN NEW YORK / ISSUE SPOTLIGHT Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the cap-and-trade program New York participates in along with eight other states. Since NYSERDA controls these funds, they were not included in the petition to the Public Service Commission. According to Kauffman, market gaps stem from two major obstacles: First, most renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are small enough to be considered below investment grade. Start-up ventures are, by definition, high-risk: slow to grow and prone to failure. From a bank’s point of view, the chance that its loans won’t be repaid is often too high to be worth the gamble. Second, the renewable energy sector is not yet well established enough to take advantage of bond markets, which involve bundling tens of millions of dollars of projects under one standard contract, and which require tons of data demonstrating the consistency and value of a product or service over time. “These projects are still being put together on a one-of-a-kind basis, and all the contracts are similar but different, so you can’t aggregate them,” Kauffman said. “And the rating agency needs to rate the bond, but how do we know if enough time has gone by to be sure that the energy savings that were promised are really occurring?” Kauffman orchestrated what he believes was the first securitization of resi-

dential efficiency energy loans earlier this summer, to the tune of $24 million. He hopes the renewable energy market will eventually move into the bond market as other maturing industries have before it. In 2011 a federal program with loose parallels to the green bank was the subject of negative media attention after the failure of the California-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which received a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee from the federal government before filing for bankruptcy. Although the company’s nonsilicon “CIGS” solar cells had originally been touted for their purported ability to produce more energy per rooftop, plummeting prices in silicon made it hard for the company to compete with established manufacturers of traditional panels. An investigation by The Washington Post found the U.S. Department of Energy’s clean technology program to be thoroughly tainted by political considerations, and reported that the administration stuck with Solyndra even when the forecast looked bleak. However, Solyndra was just one investment in the Department of Energy’s portfolio, and experts are quick to point out that most of the DoE’s investments have done well. “This was a high-visibility failure, but almost all the other loans they’ve made have been successful and have been repaid,” said Steve Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia

University. “If you’re in a high-risk lending situation, as this would be considered, you’re going to lose once in a while.” A traditional criticism of the public sector financing private companies is that winners are determined artificially—the choices inevitably clouded by political considerations and flawed judgment— instead of letting market selection run its course. But as Cohen sees it, the green bank is simply an extension of the way in which both governments and banks regularly facilitate economic growth. “You’re not picking winners; you’re making bets,” he said. “When you hold a competition for who gets to build the Tappan Zee Bridge, you’re doing the same thing, in a sense. The idea that only bankers in the private sector know something about how to invest is absurd. There’s a lot of pressure, when you get into these kinds of programs, to succeed. And the pressure comes from the media, which is going to be waiting for the next Solyndra—that’s where the story will be. So you have a big interest in making sure your investments will pay off.” According to Kauffman, who has spent most of his career in the private sector, NYSERDA is already in the process of identifying investment bankers skilled in risk management to serve on the green bank’s staff, but he isn’t naming names just yet. And while Kauffman agrees with Cohen that Solyndra’s failure received outsize

attention when considered against the overall success of the DoE’s investment portfolio, he has said that New York’s green bank will shy away from Solyndra-like manufacturing investments and focus instead on energy generation projects— that is, projects that involve the propagation of proven technologies rather than developing unproven ones. “I think the state, in conjunction with the private sector, can more easily evaluate the risks in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation projects, because these are proven technologies, and they are often, in almost every case, backed by some type of contract,” Kauffman said. “It’s a whole different level of risk in evaluating a manufacturing business, because then you have to evaluate the technology, the management, the markets, the competitors, the ability to execute in manufacturing.” Kauffman offered the example of landing at an airport and seeing factory buildings and warehouses with flat roofs and wondering why all the space is not covered with solar panels. “Putting solar panels on these rooftops would be economic, but it’s very difficult to get debt financing for an installation of a commercial industrial solar project,” he said. “What I’m talking about is taking a technology that someone else has manufactured and assembling it together to either save or produce energy.”

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ayor Michael Bloomberg created a blizzard of new environmental and infrastructure initiatives in his 12 years in office. New York City’s next mayor will face countless decisions about these initiatives, many of which are catalogued in the administration’s 2007 sustainability plan, PlaNYC, and in progress reports published each year. Environmental attorney Christopher Rizzo lays out what he believes are the 10 most critical issues, in order of civic priority. Three of them—climate change resiliency, protection of the drinking water supply and creation of new and cleaner energy sources—are critical to the city’s future, while seven other issues are still fundamentally important to the city’s viability.

CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENCY Before Superstorm Sandy hit New York City a year ago, Mayor Bloomberg was already focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the city’s contributions to climate change. Chief among his initiatives is PlaNYC’s goal of reducing the city’s emissions by 30 percent by 2030, which the city is well on its way to achieving. But the 2007 PlaNYC contained this eerie premonition of Sandy: “The sobering images of Hurricane Katrina still haunt us … for many New Yorkers, the idea of a similar catastrophe affecting our own city is unthinkable.” That kind of storm is, of course, now very “thinkable,” and the city must focus not only reducing emissions but also on adaptation. 24 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

In June the Bloomberg administration released its 400-page report on renovating coastal areas to be more resilient to sea level rise and storms. The report contains a laundry list of improvements to buildings, utilities, gas supplies, transportation and social services during emergencies. But the most important and expensive recommendations relate to rebuilding shorelines. They include raising coastal elevations, reducing wave action and stopping storm surges through floodwalls, levees and surge barriers. The most comprehensive approach—three floodgates at the Arthur Kill, Narrows and Hell Gate—has been written off as too expensive and difficult. So the next mayor must figure out how to build dozens of smaller projects like levees around lower Manhattan, floodgates at South Brooklyn inlets and berms in the Rockaways. These will require complicated environmental reviews under laws that strongly discourage in-water construction. And they will require strategic decisions about the use of eminent domain.

DRINKING WATER New York City’s three reservoir systems (the Catskill, Croton and Delaware) have adequate capacity, especially if water efficiency continues to improve. But the city has been granted a filtration avoidance determination by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Catskill and Delaware systems, one of few U.S. cities to receive one. In 2007 the EPA granted the city a 10-year waiver under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act from filtering its drinking water in exchange for a commitment to aggressive protection of these two watersheds. If the EPA were to revoke the filtration waiver in 2017, the city would need to construct large filtration plants at a cost of many billions of dollars. For example, the city is now completing a $3.2 billion water filtration plant for the Croton system, which supplies a mere 10 percent of the water supply and does not have a filtration waiver. The alternative for the next mayor will be to continue to buy and protect land in the watersheds and create innovate farming, forestry and sewage treatment practices for nearby residents. This effort must continue and expand alongside existing efforts to complete the third water tunnel (which is now operational in Manhattan), explore new sources of drinking water and restrict hydrofracking

in the city’s upstate watershed. ENERGY PlaNYC predicts that New York City’s electricity demand will rise by 30 percent by 2030, requiring new sources of electricity. By contrast, in 2013 the New York Independent System Operator predicted adequate capacity through at least 2020. Regardless, the likely closure of aging and polluting oil-fired power plants and potential closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant creates uncertainty that must be addressed. The city may need several new power plants by 2030 or equivalent capacity from outside the region. The state regulatory process to authorize these new power sources requires years of advance planning. In 2011 the state Legislature passed a new Article X of the Public Service Law that gives the state Public Service Commission exclusive jurisdiction over the approval of virtually all new power plants. With most authority concentrated at the state level, the next mayor must continue to be a strong advocate in Albany at the commission’s licensing proceedings that impact the city. He must advocate in Washington, D.C., for a renewal of a federal renewable energy tax credit, which provides a vital boost to renewable power generators but expires at the end of 2013. The city also needs modern and more resilient energy and communication infrastructure including cleaner electricity sources (e.g., solar); more access to natural gas; and a modern system of fiber optic cables that can resist inundation.

least in developers’ eyes). The next mayor must be creative in solving this problem and focus on better financial incentives for affordable housing near transit and other amenities; reuse of vacant NYCHA and MTA land; remediation and reuse of contaminated urban properties; and creating flood-resilient housing in coastal areas like “Arverne by the Sea” in the Rockaways. PARKS The challenge with New York City’s ample park system is in finding adequate funds for maintenance. Bloomberg leaves a great challenge for the next mayor because the park system is substantially larger than when he took office in 2002 and includes costly waterfront parks like Hudson River Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island and the East River Esplanade. While each of these parks is intended to be financially selfsufficient to one degree or another, the laws governing them create significant restrictions on revenue generation. Although questioned by some candidates in the recent primary elections, public-private partnerships for parks are inherently legal and include conservancies, park improvement districts, transfers of development rights, tax-increment financing and park concessions. The next mayor must explore these ideas more aggressively while still finding maintenance funding in the traditional budget process.

NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION AFFORDABLE HOUSING New York University’s Furman Center estimated in a recent report that “well over half of New York City renters were rent burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income on rent and utilities.” According to PlaNYC, 64 percent of New Yorkers who move away cite unaffordable housing as a factor. In order for the city to care for low-income residents and retain a middle class, the affordable housing problem must be solved. While there are many components of the affordable housing crisis in New York City, it is in large part a land use matter. There is limited developable land in the city, and what exists is often far from mass transit, in flood zones or not financially viable (at

Zoning is a competition between protecting quality of life and creating land value. With 120 neighborhood rezonings in 12 years, the City Planning Commission has indisputably taken those themes to heart. Most of the rezonings focused on reducing permitted zoning density to protect community character. Combined with this effort, the Landmarks Preservation Commission created hundreds of new landmarks. Even with these unprecedented preservation efforts, however, residents want more zoning protections and landmarks. As the Real Estate Board of New York recently announced, developers want fewer. The next mayor must balance these two interests while planning for the anticipated 1 million new residents in the city by 2030.


TRANSIT AND DEVELOPMENT With millions of square feet of new commercial space coming online at the World Trade Center, Hudson Yards and (possibly) East Midtown, the city’s business districts will likely have enough space to accommodate near-term growth. And even if these business districts do not provide enough space, transportation hubs around the forthcoming Moynihan Station and existing Jamaica Station can, if developed to their potential, provide new opportunities. But PlaNYC also seeks ways to direct new residential growth to transportation hubs in the outer boroughs. There are dozens of potential residential hubs that saw anemic redevelopment during the real estate boom. One departing deputy mayor lamented that the city’s inability to direct redevelopment to these outer-borough locations was a big regret. These communities include Saint George, Staten Island; Jamaica, Queens; and the Number 1 subway line corridor in northern Manhattan and the Bronx. Transit-oriented development in these outer-borough locations will require transit renovations, park improvements, streetscape improvements, incentivebased zoning and the selective use of eminent domain. Because it is unlikely that Congress will approve a new transportation funding bill in the near future, the next mayor must identify state and local sources of capital funds, particularly for subway improvements.

SOLID WASTE The state-approved solid waste management plan is intended to direct the city’s policies through 2025. The next mayor will therefore not need to change the course of the city’s policies, which focus on sharing the burden of waste management among neighborhoods and reducing the volume of waste through recycling. Solid waste will become a budget problem, however. The city now spends a billion dollars each year to manage its waste, and that figure does not include the money commercial property owners pay to manage their own waste. The costs will grow as out-of-state landfills close. As a result, expanded recycling and waste reduction will be critical. The city must also reconsider waste-to-energy facilities, which may finally be possible given the expanded scope of Article X.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY Buildings account for 95 percent of electricity use in New York City. Reducing the need for new power plants therefore

depends on reducing residential and commercial buildings’ energy consumption. Local law 84 of 2009 required 50,000-square-foot and larger buildings, as well as smaller government buildings, to publish annual statistics on energy and water use. Local Law 87 of 2009 requires similarly sized buildings to assess HVAC equipment every 10 years, recommend corrections and carry them out. The City Council has also legislated a host of other zoning and building code changes that will allow for, although not require, more efficient buildings. The Urban Green Council published recommendations for the next mayor in its early 2013 report, “Green Building Roadmap for NYC’s Next Mayor,” including several new laws to further reduce energy demand. A primary recommendation relates to expanding benchmarking, auditing and retro-commissioning requirements to smaller buildings. But large residential, commercial and government buildings account for two thirds of the current energy demand and are already covered by the existing laws. The next mayor’s big challenge will therefore be figuring out how to help building owners act on the new information they must collect and translate it into reductions in the city’s energy demands.


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The Special Section Features a Q&A on Political Issues with: Assemblyman Kevin Cahill Chair, Assembly Insurance Committee State Sen. James Seward Chair, Senate Insurance Committee Assemblyman Richard Gottfried Chair, Assembly Health Committee

STREETSCAPE IMPROVEMENTS The city’s Department of Transportation has built new bikes lanes, public plazas and street geometries as part of its “World Class Streets” initiative. The changes, especially bike lanes, are not uniformly popular and continue to spawn a handful of unsuccessful lawsuits. But city statistics show that the improvements increase commercial activity, residents’ use of their own streets and pedestrian safety. With the law and data in favor of the streetscape improvements, the next mayor must turn his attention to expanding improvements to outerborough neighborhoods where moribund commercial districts need a boost. Strong environmental laws at the city and state level are often blamed for the expense and slow pace of development and public works. But in reality, environmental reviews and compliance can be streamlined when necessary, as evidenced by a speedy one-year review process for the World Trade Center Memorial and Redevelopment Plan. The real challenge for the next mayor will be finding the money to tackle these issues and aligning the public and private interests at stake. Christopher Rizzo is counsel at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP and member of its litigation, environmental and land-use groups.

State Sen. Kemp Hannon Chair, Senate Health Committee (Public Officials pending confirmation)

Featured Editorial Coverage: SCAFFOLD LAW: The state’s Scaffold Law has been at the center of debate for years, but opponents are gearing up for a bigger fight in Albany next year. Supporters say the law is necessary to protect the safety of construction workers, especially of smaller companies, while opponents say it raises costs too much on projects. City & State assesses the chances of any changes in 2014.

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Among this year’s ballot referenda is Proposition 5, a land swap in Essex County where New York State would give NYCO Minerals 200 acres of the State Forest Preserve to mine in exchange for 1,500 new acres and the current 200 back once the company is finished mining. City & State asked advocates on both sides of the proposed Constitutional amendment to explain their vote.

A “YES” VOTE FOR THE ADIRONDACKS WILL COST YOU NOTHING! By BRIAN TOWERS   or most New Yorkers, the Adirondacks are a breathtaking recreational and relaxing retreat, encompassing millions of acres of protected forests, purple mountains, raging rivers and lazy streams that exercise the body and cleanse the soul on long weekends or vacations. For others the Adirondacks are home— the small rural towns where we live and work and raise our families day in and day out. It’s a spectacular environmental setting, tempered by an extremely challenging economic existence, where wellpaying year-round employment opportunities are increasingly hard to come by. This Election Day voters across New York State will have the opportunity to add more land to the Adirondack Forest Preserve and strengthen the Adirondack economy—all at no cost to taxpayers—by approving two proposed constitutional amendments. “Yes” votes on propositions


4 and 5 are “Yes” votes for the Adirondacks. Proposition 4 would authorize the state Legislature to settle a 100-year-old problem involving contested property titles in the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. Since the 1800s the titles to 216 parcels, including the local school, the firehouse, businesses, homes and other properties have been in dispute. This proposition would permit the state to clear these titles in exchange for funding that in turn would be used to purchase lands long sought by the state to add to the Adirondack Forest Preserve for public recreation. Proposition 5 offers voters the opportunity to expand the Adirondack Forest Preserve by 1,500 acres while protecting some 100 full-time Adirondack jobs. This proposition would authorize the Legislature to provide a longtime Adirondack business, NYCO Minerals, temporary access to an isolated 200-acre tract of state land that immediately adjoins NYCO’s existing wollastonite mine. Wollastonite

is a key mineral ingredient in many products we use every day, including auto parts, dinnerware and paints. In exchange, NYCO would provide the state with funding to expand the Forest Preserve near Lake Placid by purchasing 1,500 acres of forested mountains and streams with excellent fishing opportunities. Once its project is completed, NYCO would return the re-claimed 200 acres to the State Forest Preserve and the taxpayers would retain the additional 1,500 acres. Allowing NYCO’s employees to remove wollastonite from the 200 acres will help sustain this local business, its 100 jobs and the many spin-off economic benefits to the regional Adirondack communities. The win-win nature of these propositions has led to widespread bipartisan support, ranging from the Adirondack’s foremost environmental group, the Adirondack Council, to regional chambers of commerce and from local governments to the New York State Association of Counties. The New York State Legislature has approved both proposals twice, as

required for constitutional amendments, both times overwhelmingly. As our fellow New Yorkers from Long Island to Buffalo to Albany head to the polls November 5, those of us in small Adirondack communities from Lewis to Racquet Lake will be anxiously awaiting their votes. A “Yes” vote for propositions 4 and 5 will protect more Forest Preserve land for the enjoyment of all, and strengthen the regional economy for those of us who live in and protect the Adirondacks every day.

“forever wild.” Proposition 5 opens a Pandora’s box because it lowers the bar for Forest Preserve constitutional amendments, by allowing the Forest Preserve to be put up for sale. Third, the mining company that’s looking to buy these Forest Preserve lands has sought and received numerous state permits for a second mine one mile away. The state has bent over backward to give this company a series of permits for a second mine, which has at least a 25-year supply of ore. The company’s reports to state regulators even reported that the ore to be mined was of a higher quality at the second mine than its current mine. The company now leases out its second nearby mine. Expansion of mining into the Forest Preserve simply allows the company to delay reclamation and to continue to lease out its second mine for purposes other than what it was originally permitted. Fourth, there is no legislation that

details the land swap process. Another constitutional amendment, Proposition 4, on this year’s ballot included passage of enabling legislation that detailed the land exchange process. There was no similar enabling legislation for Proposition 5. Any talk about 1,500 acres of replacement lands is mere hype. There are no state contracts, nor is there any legislation that authorizes the details of this exchange. Proposition 5 is a great deal for a private mining company that wants to buy a piece of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, but a raw deal for the Forest Preserve. If Proposition 5 passes, the Forest Preserve will no longer be forever or wild.

Brian Towers is the president of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating people about, and advocating on behalf of, the 103 towns and villages within the park’s boundaries. A vocal advocate for the economic sustenance of Adirondack communities consistent with environmental stewardship, Mr. Towers is a fifthgeneration resident of the southern Adirondacks and currently is serving his ninth term as supervisor of the Town of Wells in Hamilton County.



roposition 5 is a raw deal for the people of the State of New York and our constitutionally protected “forever wild” Forest Preserve. There are four primary reasons to vote “No” on Proposition 5, which seeks to amend the State Constitution to remove 200 acres of “forever wild” Forest Preserve lands in the Jay Mountain Wilderness in eastern Essex County in the Adirondack Park. These lands would be exchanged with a mining company, which would clear-cut and blast the forest and incorporate it into a large open pit mine. First, the 200 acres of Forest Preserve lands to be given to the mining company contain old growth forests dominated by large trees, many near 200 years old. These 200 acres came into the Forest Preserve in the 1890s, and New Yorkers have paid property taxes on these lands every year since. These lands were partially logged 26 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

before 1890, but during the past 120 years these lands have grown into a dynamic old growth forest dominated by trees over 100 feet tall, vernal pools and rich wildlife habitat. By contrast lands to be given to the state are heavily cut over forests. Such a land exchange is a 150-year step backwards for the Forest Preserve. Second, this proposal sets a terrible precedent because it would be the first time that Forest Preserve lands were swapped for a private commercial benefit. Recent Forest Preserve constitutional amendments, for example, were for public municipal purposes such as protecting public water supplies, power lines, expanding a cemetery or making airports safer. First and foremost, the Forest Preserve exists for natural resource protection. To, in essence, sell Forest Preserve lands purely for the economic benefit of a private company makes a mockery of

Peter Bauer is the executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, a nonprofit grassroots membership organization dedicated to the protection and stewardship of the public and private lands of the Adirondack Park.





Chair, New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee

Chair, New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee

Commissioner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Q: What is the biggest environmental challenge facing the state? MG: The biggest environmental issue facing the state that I feel needs to be legislatively remedied is our Brownfield law. With the Brownfield tax credit’s expiration coming closer, developers are not entering into this program to redevelop these sites. We need to use this opportunity to have an open discussion about the program and figure out ways to reform and improve [it] so that we can increase the number of sites that are cleaned up, while maintaining the integrity of the program. Q: Should lawmakers pass an environment bond act to be voted on next year? Why? Do you think it will be successful?  MG: I believe we should pass the Clean Water/Clean Air/ Green Jobs Act of 2014. The last environmental bond act was in 1996 and is largely exhausted after successfully funding numerous projects. However, there remains a great need for projects to be funded throughout New York. Our aging sewer systems are failing in many places and causing raw and partially treated sewage to flow into our public waters. Every community throughout New York from Buffalo to Montauk has infrastructure needs that could be met by implementing this bond act. [It] would create thousands of jobs and help drive economic recovery in New York. If the Legislature ultimately passes this bill, and the governor signs it, the people would have the right to approve or disapprove the measure, and I believe that is a necessary component of this law. I believe every voter in this state should look at how passage of this bond act will impact their community, and then decide based on that whether or not it deserves their ultimate support. Q: Some environmentalists say that the bigger issue is DEC staffing. Is that a concern? Has there been less enforcement as a result of reduced staffing in recent years? MG: I recently read the report regarding decreased staffing at the DEC. Since taking office and being named chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee I have spoken to Commissioner [Joe] Martens about this very subject numerous times. After having these many conversations I am confident that Commissioner Martens is doing the best he can with the resources he has available to him. I remain committed to assisting him in ensuring that the DEC has what it needs to maintain its mission. Q: What will your top legislative priority in Albany be in 2014?  MG: My 2014 top priority will be to lower taxes and to bring jobs to New York. We need to continue to focus on fiscal relief for middle class families in New York while continuing to bring New York into a more businessfriendly environment.

Q: Should lawmakers pass an environment bond act to be voted on next year? Do you think it will be successful? RS: Yes. A 2008 assessment of the costs to repair, replace and update New York’s wastewater infrastructure estimated the need to be $36.2 billion over a 20-year period. A similar assessment for drinking water infrastructure found a need of $38.7 billion. In the past the issuance of environmental bonds has helped to provide funding for capital projects; however, the last environmental bond act was approved in 1996. The local cost of this issue has grown as the federal government has drastically slashed funds for water projects. Washington used to pay more than 90 percent of the cost of a sewage treatment plant. Now Washington provides 3 percent. I have introduced legislation, A.8121, that would establish the $5 billion Clean Water/Clean Air/Green Jobs Act of 2014. This would produce both clean water and jobs for New Yorkers. It is appropriate to let the voters decide whether to use funds for these purposes.

Q: In your view, what is the biggest environmental challenge facing New York City’s waterways? CS: New York Harbor is cleaner today than it has been in more than a century thanks to more than $10 billion, paid by our ratepayers, invested in traditional infrastructure projects to improve water quality. Still, sewer overflows remain our top challenge. In 2010 we launched the Green Infrastructure Plan—an innovative way to manage storm water that is also affordable for New Yorkers. Over the next two decades we will invest $2.4 billion to install thousands of green infrastructure installations, as well as an estimated $2.9 billion in traditional grey infrastructure upgrades, that will significantly reduce sewer overflows. Green infrastructure is more cost-effective and it provides benefits that grey infrastructure cannot, such as cleaner air and shade to cool the city.

Q: Some environmentalists say that the bigger issue is DEC staffing. Is that a concern? Has there been less enforcement as a result of reduced staffing in recent years? RS: Staffing is certainly an issue. At a committee hearing held last month to examine the 2013–14 state budget as well as the need for a new environmental bond act, DEC testified that they had sufficient staffing to perform their duties. A report released by Environmental Advocates, “Turning A Blind Eye to Illegal Pollution,” outlines some disturbing events including steep declines in total facilities inspected (down 35 percent), as well as facilities cited for violations (down 25 percent). Staffing is an executive decision.

Q: The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized a plan to clean up Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site, a $506 million project that includes removing contaminated sediment and capping dredged areas. What is the Bloomberg administration’s position on the EPA’s plan? CS: The Bloomberg Administration has committed more than $200 million to reduce sewer overflows and improve water quality in the Gowanus Canal and, as these projects are completed over the next few years, we expect dramatic improvements to the health of the waterway. City taxpayers bear these costs, and it is our responsibility to ensure that what we build is necessary and cost effective. Money spent in the Superfund process should meet these same standards, and that is why we are collecting data and will work with the state and EPA to evaluate additional measures to reduce overflows.

Q: What will your top legislative priority in Albany be in 2014? RS: It is always hard to identify one priority. I will remain focused on protecting human and environmental health by working hard to ensure better water quality and less chemical exposure. New York is fortunate to have abundant water resources, but our aging infrastructure and threats from global warming and invasive species represent a serious challenge that needs to be addressed. For a number of years now the Assembly has passed a bill to limit the harmful chemicals that are often included in children’s products. This legislation is based on laws in Maine, Minnesota, Connecticut, Washington and California. DEC would be required to prepare a list of harmful chemicals in children’s products. Beginning in 2018, children’s products containing these chemicals, which have been listed for at least one year, would be banned from sale in the state. The Senate has never voted on this measure.

Q: What do you see as one of the top environmental accomplishments of the Bloomberg administration? CS: New York City’s air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years, with dramatic reductions in pollutants in the air since the launch of PlaNYC, the mayor’s effort to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen the economy, combat climate change and enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers. Since 2008 the levels of sulfur dioxide in the air have dropped by 69 percent, and since 2007 the level of soot pollution has dropped by 23 percent. The largest contributor to the reductions is the Clean Heat program, which phased out use of the most heavily polluting heating oils in the city. The cleaner air enjoyed by New Yorkers today is preventing 800 deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits annually. We expect further improvements in air quality as buildings continue to convert to cleaner fuels over the next several years and as we overhaul the city’s air code for the first time since the 1970s. | OCTOBER 21, 2013






Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year announced the creation of a new “energy czar” position and gave the post to Richard Kauffman, a former federal energy official, who is moving forward with a “green bank” to encourage renewable energy projects. Commissioner Joe Martens of the Department of Environmental Conservation is the Cuomo administration’s point man on hydrofracking, which is currently under review by Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, whose department is scrutinizing the health impacts of the controversial gas-extraction process as part of the determination whether to allow drilling in New York. The state Legislature’s environmental conservation committees are headed by state Sen. Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney.

The Cuomo administration has kept in limbo a repeatedly delayed decision as to whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking. Proponents say it would provide an economic boost in the Southern Tier, which includes a portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. Critics, including tens of thousands who submitted comments to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, fear that drilling would poison drinking water and cause harm to local residents. Earlier this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had expected a decision before the 2014 election.

THE CITY New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has earned a reputation as one of the country’s most environmentally friendly mayors, in large part as a result of his PlaNYC initiative, which incorporates sustainability goals across multiple areas of city government and which has significantly improved the city’s air quality and helped improve the health of New Yorkers. Cas Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations, and Carter Strickland, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, are also key players on environmental issues. Outgoing Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman James Gennaro have allied with Bloomberg on innovative environmental initiatives.

SUPERSTORM SANDY The natural disaster that struck New York City a year ago put the spotlight on climate change, although there is some disagreement among scientists about whether climate change had any direct role in the storm. A number of the proposed solutions entail putting in natural barriers to blunt the impact of severe storms, and a report from the Bloomberg administration called attention to rising temperatures and sea levels, which could exacerbate future storms.

RENEWABLE ENERGY While Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature have called for legislation to boost solar power investment in the state, the two houses have failed to reach a compromise for several years. The Cuomo administration set up its own NY-SUN Initiative, but environmentalists say that legislation is needed to guarantee incentives over a longer time period to encourage investment. New York officials have also been exploring wind power projects that could be sited off the coast of Long Island and New York City. Cuomo’s $1 billion “green bank” aims to encourage private investment in renewable energy projects.

BY THE NUMBERS Environmental Advocates of New York issued its 2013 scorecard for state legislators this month based on lawmakers’ votes on more than a dozen bills affecting the environment this year. In the Assembly 71 legislators scored a perfect 100, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. While 11 state senators got the top score, Sen. Jeff Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference, was singled out for the organization’s “Oil Slick Award.” The following are the highest- and lowest-scoring state senators and the lowest-ranked Assembly members:




















28 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |





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hanks to the election of Letitia James as the Democratic nominee for public advocate, the career prospects of white men are on the rise. And it’s just in the nick of time. With nearly every citywide office and all statewide offices currently in their possession, white males need all the help they can get. So it makes perfect sense that James’ victory now clears the way for a continuation of the status quo. Having paid lip service to women and minorities, Democratic county leaders can now back a white male Speaker in good conscience. This will surely come as a relief to the trailblazing candidate herself, who teared up on election night, no doubt at the thought of all the little boys who can now embrace their white male privilege. James’ election to citywide office as the first woman of color is being interpreted primarily as a triumph of tokenism, rather than a milestone in the fight for

equal opportunity. Although The New York Times reported the historic nature of her victory, the same article noted that “political insiders” now consider the Speaker’s race “wide open” for white men. The logic is that if Daniel Squadron had won the primary, all three citywide offices would have been occupied by white men, thus intensifying pressure on the Council members and county bosses to elect a female or minority Speaker. Apparently James’ victory ameliorates such concerns: We can now have three white men in high office, thanks to one woman of color. This absurd analysis has been repeated in The Wall Street Journal, Crain’s and in almost every story about the campaign. There are three women of color in the race for Speaker: Inez Dickens, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Annabel Palma. Yet their immutable characteristics are now a liability rather than an asset because of James’ victory. That is backward, but according to the conventional wisdom being widely reported, it is the prevailing view of the five male county chairs, who wield considerable power in the race. Since the chairs are not accountable to the electorate, only their county committees, there’s no outside pressure to conform to a broad standard of equality beyond a token display. But standards desperately need raising. The current gender breakdown of the

New York City Council is 17 women and 34 men, which amounts to the body being onethird female. Come January that number will drop to 27 percent as four seats currently held by women turn over to men (Quinn/ Johnson, Lappin/Kallos, Reyna/Reynoso, González/Menchaca), and one seat held by a man turns over to a woman (Charles Barron/Inez Barron). That’s still better than the state Legislature, where women make up 24 percent of the Assembly—and Speaker Silver has yet to face a serious challenge despite protecting sexual predators over female staffers. Over in the State Senate women represent a mere 17 percent, nearly tied with Congress’ 18 percent. Critical mass is defined as between 30 and 40 percent, so why apparently is the conclusion of the New York City political establishment to quit while we’re ahead after electing the first and only black woman to citywide office in our history? Tokenism creates a scarcity of options for marginalized peoples while allowing institutional bodies to affect the illusion of progress. The lucky few who win entry into the halls of power are fetishized and reduced to the sum of their politically correct parts. It also breeds resentment among the masses, who have to compete for even fewer slots. Malcolm Gladwell underscores the point in his newest book, David and Goliath, in

which he lists 30 female heads of state who were never succeeded by another woman. That’s a shame, because it stifles continuity and makes it that much harder to extend the gains of previous policy agendas. To that end New Yorkers will lose a genuine champion of the advancement of women’s rights as Speaker Christine Quinn exits the Council. Despite her failings, which include dragging her feet on paid family leave and the minimum wage, Quinn made New York the first city in the world to collect data on street harassment—a demoralizing and often dangerous fact of life for many women. In so doing, she legitimized a problem that few acknowledge and editorial boards slam as a waste of tax dollars. Quinn also never shied away from admonishing sexism, and there has yet to be a Quinnipiac poll asking the public if they would want their daughters working in city government, unlike at the state level where 58 percent of New Yorkers recoil at the thought. Above all, her commitment to making the world a better place for women and girls was sincere—something we need more of, not less. Alexis Grenell (@agrenell on Twitter) is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.




hirteen million dollars! Yes, the cash-strapped, snafuprone New York City Board of Elections held a $13 million runoff that turned out fewer than 200,000 voters. The election was a 20-point rout by City Councilwoman Letitia James over state Sen. Dan Squadron for the little understood (and powerless) post of public advocate. Is democracy served when only a tiny sliver of the electorate selects the officials who oversee a giant $70 billion government enterprise called the City of New York? As a consequence of the city Republican Party’s inability to field a candidate for public advocate, Councilwoman James’ runoff victory guaranteed that she will be the next public advocate and first AfricanAmerican woman to hold citywide office. 30 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

Again—despite James’ history-making election—it begs the question, is democracy served when only a small fraction of voters in one political party elects the stewards of our government and city treasury? I can point to the low-turnout minority and one-party districts that are home to many of the grifters who have sullied politics and community service as examples of what happens when elections are not truly competitive. Is there any one way to address this problem? No. But there is one solution to holding costly runoff elections: instant runoff voting. Instant runoff voting (IRV), or rankedchoice voting, offers voters the opportunity to rank the candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. It is the system already in use in Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., and Minneapolis. Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander sponsors Int. 106, which would establish IRV for all city positions. Manhattan Councilwoman and tech advocate Gale Brewer, who is the sponsor of an IRV pilot (Int. 1108), calls the system a common sense cost-saving solution that increases voter participation and moves NYC into the 21st

century (although our election law dates back to the turn of the last century). Not surprisingly, the city Board of Elections didn’t certify the results of the runoff until Oct. 15—two weeks after the contest was held. Had IRV been in place, the winner would have been known a full month earlier. My friend and election-law wonk, Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh, sponsors a similar IRV bill in the Legislature that also eliminates the costly runoff system and encourages greater voter participation. By allowing voters to rank their choice of candidates on the primary ballot, IRV ensures that whoever wins has captured substantial support from the voters. If no candidate reaches the required 40 percent threshold to win the primary election outright, the ballots are recounted. The highest-ranked candidate on each ballot that is not eliminated from the contest receives the vote. New York’s City Council can enact instant runoff voting without approval of the state Legislature. If it is adopted by the Council, the Legislature should stay out of the issue. Instant runoff voting also passes muster

under the Voting Rights Act because minority voter choice, participation and electoral success increases. In San Francisco, 16 of 18 officeholders elected using IRV are members of minority groups. In a report supporting instant runoff voting, the good-government group Citizens Union noted that IRV increased the number of black and minority candidates elected to office. Like San Francisco, New York City’s high degree of racial/ethnic, social and cultural diversity makes it well suited to IRV. After 40 years the time has come to retire the separate runoff election for citywide candidates. New Yorkers should get behind instant runoff voting because it’s an electoral change that increases voter choice and participation. Plus, IRV saves scarce budgetary resources than can be better used to fund public services. Greater voter participation enhances the democratic process—and that really should be the bottom line.

Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePeg_Dem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.




for a weather vane. But if a candidate doesn’t have an established position or strong feelings on an issue, I don’t see a problem with taking the pulse of the electorate before deciding. So is this what you signed up for? No. But I think that may be more about you than it is about him.



I just started working full-time on my first political campaign, and I have noticed that many of our decisions are guided by polling and not by a firm belief one way or the other. It has been disheartening to see how someone I believed would be a strong leader is so easily swayed by the polls and is apparently only concerned with getting elected. Am I working for the wrong candidate, or is this what I signed up for? —L.D., St. Louis The way I interpret your question, I don’t think that’s what you signed up for. But let me explain. Nearly every candidate worth her salt—at the state legislative level and higher in most states, at this point— uses polls. But good leaders don’t use polls to figure out their positions on issues. They use polls to figure out which of their issue positions they should highlight and which they should downplay. They use polls to figure out how to talk about the issue positions they want to highlight. And they use polls to figure out which attacks merit a response. That’s being poll-savvy, which is smart—not poll-driven, which can be pathetic. So think about whether your candidate is poll-savvy or poll-driven. And even if he is the latter, ask yourself: Is it awful for a candidate to poll voters before taking a position on an issue or issues? Is that not in some respects what representative democracy is about? Taken to an extreme, obviously, it’s troubling—no one wants to vote


Are you following the race for New York City Council Speaker? Seems like any one of a number of people could win. When it gets down to brass tacks, how do legislators make up their minds on leadership votes? Do they vote based on the candidates’ ideology, race, gender, geographic roots or intangible leadership qualities? —A.M., New York City None of the above. In my experience, legislators’ votes in leadership races are almost always about one thing: themselves. Now, I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. Suppose you are the Economic Development Committee vice chair and you want to chair the committee. The current chair, whom you despise and often quietly disagree with, is running for Speaker against another member whom you like and generally agree with, and you expect the vote will be close. You will probably vote for the person you despise, because—unless power in that particular legislative body is completely centralized— the chance to chair Eco Devo is probably more alluring to you than the chance to have someone as Speaker whom you like. If power in the chamber is absolutely centralized, and if you totally trust the candidate you like to depose the current chair if she wins (a rare move in most chambers), and if you trust her to appoint you as the new chair, and if you then trust her to give you some power as chair, then you may want to vote for the person you like. As you can see, there are a lot of ifs there. To take a somewhat simpler example, if you are a freshman Council member who first and foremost aspires to be Speaker, and one of your closest allies, also a firstterm member, is running for Speaker against a secondterm member whom you dislike, you’ll probably vote against your ally, because if she is elected Speaker and consolidates power, you will likely be termed out before there is another open seat race for Speaker, since you wouldn’t challenge an ally who is the sitting Speaker. These two examples serve to make a broader point: Leadership votes are usually as much if not more about the ambitions of rank-and-file members than they are about the qualities of the aspirants.


Q. A.

How do you make the transition from campaign grunt work to upper level work? From, say, phone banking to drafting press releases? Should one just ask to take on more? —S.E., Columbia, Mo. Sure, let your superiors know you’re willing to take on other tasks. But more important, do the job you have flawlessly. And be the first person to work in the morning and the last to leave at night. At some point you’ll be the only person in the office when a press release needs to go out—or at least the only person who could plausibly write it. The harried campaign manager or communications director will look at you, look around the office, look back at you, and grimace. Then she’ll tell you she’s giving you a special project and that you better not f--- it up. As long as you don’t, you’ll start getting more opportunities for upper level work.


The Republicans got played with this shutdown/debt ceiling negotiation, but I don’t quite get why. When I negotiate, for example, on the golf course when I’m going to bet someone and I want them to spot me strokes, I start with a position on the extreme, and then by the time we get a deal it’s usually slightly in my favor. This strategy blew up in the Republicans’ faces. Why? —“The Boston Whale” Because sometimes asking for too much backfires. At the start of a negotiation, your opening bid should obviously be preferable to your fallback position; you might, for instance, start off on the first tee by asking for eight to nine strokes if you’re prepared to accept five. But an outrageous opening bid—saying that you want no less than 20 strokes—could have the opposite effect, by detracting from your credibility as a negotiator and decreasing the chance that your opponent will negotiate seriously or even costing you the opportunity for a wager. That’s what happened to Ted Cruz and the House Republicans when they attempted to demand one of the only things—defunding of the president’s signature legislative accomplishment—on which there was absolutely no chance the president would compromise.


Jeff Smith (@JeffSmithMO on Twitter) is a former Missouri state senator who resigned from office after a felony conviction and served a year in federal prison. Now an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the New School, Jeff recently co-authored The Recovering Politician’s TwelveStep Program to Survive Crisis. | OCTOBER 21, 2013



Council Watch By SETH BARRON



oliticians come and go, elections are won and lost, but consultants abide forever. As long as there is a demand for elected officials, candidates will be hiring experts to guide their candidacies. There is no industry as recession-proof as political consulting: Have you heard any calls for eliminating elections recently? Term limits mean more turnover; and campaign finance reform, which generally means public financing in one form or another, further entrenches and enriches the consultants who end up the recipients of a lot of that taxpayer money. It has to be spent somewhere, after all. The top political consultants working in the recent cycle had a mixed track record, though all told, business was good. Red Horse Strategies, the Brooklyn-based firm founded in 2008, was formed by a team with extensive experience working with New York State’s Senate Democrats, and has traditionally taken on left-leaning progressive-style candidates. This year Red Horse scored big in Sunset Park with their client Carlos Menchaca, who toppled Councilwoman Sara González in the only upset of a Council incumbent this cycle. The firm also stood behind two other victorious young Latino candidates: Ritchie Torres in the Bronx and Antonio Reynoso in Bushwick.  Red Horse also worked with Helen Rosenthal to win on the Upper West Side in a crowded seven-way Council race, and with Daneek Miller in his squeaker to take over Leroy Comrie’s seat in Southeast Queens. Two Red Horse clients didn’t fare so well, however. Jenifer Rajkumar’s spirited effort to make Councilwoman Margaret Chin of District 1 a one-termer foundered on her opponent’s strong showing in Chinatown’s 65th AD, Sheldon Silver’s home district. And Austin Shafran, a Senate Dem alumnus looking to succeed indicted Councilman Dan Halloran, couldn’t overcome the strength of the Vallone name in Northeast Queens. Both Chin and Paul Vallone were also backed by massive expenditures from REBNY’s Jobs for New York PAC. Doug Forand, a Red Horse principal, expressed pride in his firm’s 5–2 win-loss record.  “From the beginning all our candidates laid out a path to victory, and we were mostly able to achieve those victories, largely through strong and visible field operations,” said Forand. “And in the 32 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

two cases where we lost, our candidates made a strong showing and certainly have promising political futures ahead of them.” BerlinRosen, the prominent Manhattan communications firm that boasts the biggest win of this electoral season with their client Bill de Blasio, had somewhat of an off year on the Council side of its consulting business. Among the firm’s winners in high profile open races were Corey Johnson and Mark Levine, for whom BerlinRosen did mail campaigns. Johnson,

“The top political consultants working in the recent cycle had a mixed track record, though all told, business was good.” who had the backing of the Democratic establishment in the 3rd CD, won handily against Yetta Kurland, whose strong showing in 2009 now appears to have been attributable largely more to an antiQuinn protest vote than a pro-Yetta movement. Levine, the Spanish-fluent protégé of outgoing District 7 Councilman Robert Jackson, was likewise the favorite from the start, and by his election has effected the only shift in the racial balance of the Council. The firm also represented Assemblyman Rory Lancman in his blowout win in the 24th CD, currently held by outgoing Councilman James Gennaro, and defended Brooklyn incumbent Councilman Steve Levin against challenger Stephen Pierson. Neither race was ever considered to be seriously close. Several BerlinRosen clients who had been tapped as likely victors found themselves disappointed losers this cycle, however. Real estate attorney Marc Landis on the Upper West Side had establishment backing, and was the “my turn” candidate to replace Gale Brewer following his devastating Assembly race loss in 2006. Landis, a Scott Stringer regular, was hurt badly by Eliot Spitzer’s late entry into the comptroller run, because Stringer and other important Manhattan Dems had to focus their energy on a race that had been

thought to be sewn up, and couldn’t stump for their ally Landis, who ultimately came in third behind Helen Rosenthal and Mel Wymore. Kirsten John Foy, a former de Blasio aide, was considered a favorite to replace outgoing Bed-Stuy Councilman Al Vann. Foy, who had extensive labor backing, as well as the Working Families Party line, gained extensive visibility when he and Councilman Jumaane Williams were manhandled by the NYPD at the 2011 West Indian Day parade. Given Vann’s lackluster Council tenure, Foy was given a good chance of winning despite being an insurgent candidate. In the end, however, Vann’s chosen successor, Robert Cornegy, the favorite of the traditional black Brooklyn Democratic machine, eked out a narrow 70-vote win over Foy. Other BerlinRosen Council aspirants were long shots from the outset. Raquel Batista ran as a self-proclaimed political outsider to replace Councilman Joel Rivera in the Bronx, against a slew of staffers. She finished a distant fifth. Kim Council, running to replace Erik Dilan in Brooklyn’s 37th CD, faced an uphill battle against sitting Assemblyman and Dilan machine cog Rafael Espinal. Todd Dobrin, an electrician with WFP support, ran a good race, but came in well behind Mark Treyger in Brooklyn’s 47th CD. The Parkside Group, which has helped dozens of prominent local politicians get elected in recent years, opted to follow a new strategy this cycle. Rather than solicit business from individual campaigns, Parkside served as the central conduit for the independent expenditure, Jobs for New York, the PAC for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). Jobs for New York poured millions of dollars through Parkside’s hands, primarily for mailings, both in support of and in opposition to candidacies around the city. The track record of Parkside/Jobs for New York is hard to judge. Only 2 out of 25 candidates who were opposed by the team—Robert Cornegy and Carlos Menchaca—wound up winning, while 18 out of 22 of their favored candidates won. However, a number of those candidates, including Laurie Cumbo and Mark Levine, disavowed the PAC’s support, so it is hard to determine the extent to which Jobs for New York is going to get what it paid for. Parkside, on the other hand, certainly came out ahead, assuming econ-

omies of scale allowed them to work out a healthy margin on all those printing costs. Other major consulting firms had mixed yet positive records as well. The Advance Group had the lucrative Anyone but Quinn contract, an unusual form of negative campaigning the implications of which have yet to be sorted out. Advance also represented a number of individual Council candidates. Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal and Mark Levine were all Advance Group winners, while Noah Gotbaum, Yetta Kurland, Robert Waterman and John Lisyanskiy lost. Mercury Public Affairs, a major national public relations firm, broke into New York City Council politics this year and scored impressive results for consulting clients Chaim Deutsch and Paul Vallone. Of course, candidates don’t have to hire consultants to manage their campaigns; it just so happens that almost all of them do. There are exceptions. Assemblywoman Inez Barron, for instance, won the Democratic nomination to take over her husband’s seat without hiring a political consulting firm. Of course, with her family’s visibility in the district, she didn’t really have to. A more interesting example is Ben Kallos on the Upper East Side, who defeated Assemblyman Micah Kellner to assume outgoing Councilwoman Jessica Lappin’s seat without the use of a consultant, though he did have a professional communications firm manage his mailings. Asked why he chose to go it alone, Kallos responded, “I have a deep background in campaigns and understand what goes into developing voter IDs, assembling a field operation, reaching out to stakeholders and so forth. So I was able to build in a lot of the functionality that consultants provide without having to hire one. Plus I had a great team, and I was able to get them up to speed on what was need to win.” Nevertheless, Kallos confessed he has hired BerlinRosen to help him through the general election, where he faces Kellner on the WFP line. Even natural politicians, it appears, feel comforted by the embrace of the professionals. One imagines that consulting firms are pleased to win more than they lose, though ultimately, with multiple candidates in each race, it seems unlikely that any firm could consistently represent winners. Nor does it really matter. Consider the California gold rush of 1849 or the Klondike in 1897: Some few prospectors struck it rich, but the real winners were the suppliers of shovels and picks. As long as the elections keep happening, political consultants can continue to mine the mother lode of electoral financing.

Seth Barron (@NYCCouncilWatch on Twitter) runs City Council Watch, an investigative website focusing on local New York City politics.



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Did the GOP go off the rails? Are the Democrats to blame? Is it all President Obama’s fault? The government shutdown yielded so many losers that we’ve left them off of our list. After all, who really pays the price for Washington’s fiscal insanity? You, us and 317 million other Americans.

Go to each week to vote.

Week of Sept. 30, 2013


Week of Oct. 7, 2013

WINNERS Letitia James 52%

Janet Yellen 60%

Working Families Party 21%

Donna Frescatore 15%

Mark Weprin, Dan Garodnick and Jimmy Vacca 15% David Frankel 7% George Pataki 5% David Frankel: Saves NYC $72.8 million George Pataki: Heads Cuomo’s tax commission Mark Weprin, Dan Garodnick and Jimmy Vacca: White guys see better speakership odds

YOUR CHOICE Letitia James: Meet New York City’s next public advocate. Despite taking a long time to get off the ground, James trounced Daniel Squadron in the runoff with a 20-point victory. Tish owes a big thanks to her friends in organized labor and the Working Families Party for their get-out-the-vote operation in an incredibly low-turnout election, as well as Squadron for his embarrassing robocall gaffe, but give her credit for having a more compelling message.

Rob Astorino 14%

WORKING OUT Working Families Party: It was a gangbuster week for the WFP, with the party’s old friend Bill de Blasio likely to cruise into office as mayor, and Letitia James, the first Council member elected solely on the WFP line, winning the Democratic contest for public advocate. In a short time the party has become a flagship for progressive candidates and policies as well as organized labor’s political voice.


Dan Maffei 8% Angie Carpenter 3% Angie Carpenter: Suffolk County treasurer stalls merger Donna Frescatore: State’s new health exchange leads the pack Dan Maffei: ’Cuseing to re-election

YOUR CHOICE Janet Yellen: For the first time since the Federal Reserve’s creation, a woman has been nominated as its chair—and she’s from Brooklyn! If the Fort Hamilton High grad is confirmed as the world’s most influential economist, she will shatter the glass ceiling in a male-dominated field and become an instant rock star in the financial arena. While her every decision as Fed chair will be subjected to intense scrutiny and strident second-guessing, Yellen will make history her first day on the job regardless.

SEEING GREEN Rob Astorino: Westchester County has lovely foliage this time of yea—but you’ll find Rob Astorino parked squarely under the money tree. The county executive has raised $1.4 million for his re-election and could spend nearly$2 million by the end. His rival, Noam Bramson, has spent about $400,000, but has little left in the bank, so Astorino could flood Hudson-area TV markets with ads just as people stop gazing at the colors and start paying attention to the election.

LOSERS Daniel Squadron 37%

Dean Skelos 32%

Scott Levenson 33% YOUR CHOICE Andrew Cuomo 18% Joe Lhota 10% John Whalen 2% Andrew Cuomo: Meddling in Moreland Commission Joe Lhota: Down 50 points in a poll John Whalen: Accused of stealing $108K from taxpayers

DOUBLE DEALER Scott Levenson: Levenson’s firm, The Advance Group, found a surefire way to win in campaigns: secretly represent both sides! That’s what seems to have happened in a City Council race between Yetta Kurland and Corey Johnson. The firm ran an IE for the animal rights group NYCLASS supporting Kurland, and also appears to have been promoting Johnson’s candidacy through an IE paid for by the UFT via a company called Strategic Consultants—apparently a dummy shell corporation set up to obscure the doubledealing.

34 OCTOBER 21, 2013 |

Daniel Squadron: It’s one thing to lose, but it’s quite another to go down in flames while pouring gasoline on yourself. Before an anonymous robocall went out ripping into Letitia James—state Sen. Daniel Squadron’s opponent in the public advocate runoff—he was one of the brightest rising stars in city politics. Then Squadron went on a political TV show and contorted himself into rhetorical knots trying to evade a simple question: whether his campaign was behind the dirty trick.

Jia Hou & Xing Wu Pan 32% David Yassky 18% Douglas Kellner & James Walsh 14% Steve Richards 4% Xing Wu Pan and Jia Hou: Sentenced in fundraising scheme Steve Richards: Town of Niagara supervisor arrested David Yassky: Taxi of Tomorrow never comes

YOUR CHOICE (TIE) Dean Skelos: Dean has a lot on his plate. He has to keep his dwindling membership happy. He has to appease upstate Tea Partyers who think he sold them out on the gun bill. And he has to share power with Jeff Klein’s Democrats. And on Long Island, state Sen. Lee Zeldin’s congressional bid has given Senate Democrats their best chance for a pickup there in years. Maybe he’d better let Cathy Young handle this one.

YOUR CHOICE (TIE) Jia Hou & Xing Wu Pan: While City Comptroller John Liu attended galas and parties across the city, two of his top campaign aides received prison sentences for their roles in a straw donor fundraising scandal to boost Liu’s mayoral campaign. Both asked for no jail time—and they got four and 10 months, respectively. After the sentencing, Liu fired some potshots against the Feds on their behalf, and with good reason– after all, their conviction helped torpedo his mayoral campaign.




esse Ventura served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. Before his election to office as an independent, Ventura was already a national celebrity through his career as a professional wrestler and as an actor in such films as Predator and The Running Man. Since declining to run for re-election, Ventura has hosted several television programs and written numerous best-selling books. His latest book is They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK. City & State Editor Morgan Pehme asked Ventura about his theory as to who murdered President Kennedy, as well as Ventura’s own presidential aspirations, including his reported intention to run in 2016 with Howard Stern as his running mate. The following is an edited transcript.

City & State: At this point, is there anyone who doesn’t believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy? In your book, you cite a statistic that 80 percent of Americans do not think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Jesse Ventura: Even the government said it with their second investigation. The House Select Committee in the mid-’70s came to the conclusion of a probable conspiracy. They turned it over to the Justice Department, and of course that paper is probably still gathering dust, because they do nothing, and people need to understand— if they don’t already—there’s no statute of limitations on murder. If you murdered someone 50 years ago, you can still be brought up on trial for it today. … Polls say that four out of five Americans do not believe the Warren Commission. Well, it’s our job to get that fifth one. C&S: President Johnson’s picture is on the cover of your book. Do you think that he was complicit in the assassination? JV: There were two conspiracies that took place: There was the actual conspiracy to murder the president, and then there was the conspiracy to cover it up immediately and thereafter, and that conspiracy is still going today. In fact, mainstream media, for the most part, is part of that conspiracy. … Often you get this [statement:] … “Someone would have talked in this 50 years, if there was a conspiracy.” Sounds logical, right? They have talked. Many people have talked. The problem is that mainstream media won’t cover it. I tell you today, they could come out with an authentic film of somebody there who filmed the grassy knoll, you could see the shot fired, the whole thing, and I guarantee you mainstream media wouldn’t cover it. You want to know why? On my show Conspiracy Theory we had the confession of E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame, [who] confessed to his son, Saint John Hunt, on his deathbed, still very lucid. He said, “I was an outside player in the C.I.A. It was called ‘The Big Event.’” He named David Sánchez Morales, Cord Meyer, all these intimate, inside players. He said, “I was a bench guy on it.” Now, I thought that when we aired that on my show that there should have been a headline in every American paper: “Hunt Admits to Involvement in J.F.K. Slaying.” Not a word. I was stunned.

C&S: So, just to be clear, do you think that Johnson was complicit in the conspiracy, or did he have an active role in planning it? JV: That’s up to the reader and the people to come to that conclusion. Do I think he was? Yes. C&S: You’ve said recently that you are contemplating running for president in 2016. Would your aim be to win or to call attention to some of the fundamental problems that you see with our country? JV: I don’t waste my time calling attention to problems when I run. I always run to win. C&S: Then why would you run with Howard Stern as your vice presidential nominee? JV: Because there’s a method to my madness, and I’ll tell you why. I’m not shy about it. When I ran for governor of Minnesota I had a statewide talk radio show. The FCC made me go unemployed for six months, so I had no income for six months while my two opponents were collecting government checks—because they already held one government office and now they’re going for another one—so, clearly, they’re not doing the job that they were elected to, because they spent as much time campaigning as I did, which is usually 16 hours a day. How can you spend 16 hours a day campaigning for another job and still do the job you were elected to do? They’re not that important, then, are they? … I lost my job. Well, Howard Stern is on Sirius radio. They don’t fall under the FCC. We could use Howard’s radio show right up to Election Day as our major platform. Plus, Howard and I have already discussed it; I despise what our country has turned into: the concept of bribery. That’s what our entire election process is: bribery. You do that in the private sector, you go to jail. Public sector: status quo. I hate it. I made more money doing the job than I raised to get it. I’m the only elected official, I bet, in 50 to 100 years that can say that, in a major election. Howard Stern already said to me, “Leave the fundraising to me.” Good! Because I took no PAC money when I was governor, I took no special interest money, and here’s another thing for you: The four years I was governor I never met with a lobbyist once. My first day in office I told my staff, “Lobbyists are banned. Don’t even schedule them. I’m not meeting with them. They didn’t elect me. I don’t need them.” [Laughs] You see why they needed me out! I was destroying their jobs, because a lobbyist’s whole job is to gain access to that public official and bribe them, so that they can get what they want. That didn’t happen for four years in Minnesota. … How much do you think that Howard Stern could raise on his radio show if he went to his listeners and said, “We need 10 bucks apiece?” C&S: Probably a lot. JV: And 10 bucks isn’t going to get you much influence, is it? C&S: With your views, if you ran for president, would you be afraid of being assassinated? JV: That’s why I picked Howard. He’s an insurance policy. That way they’re not going to kill me and put Howard in, are they?

To watch a video of this interview in its entirety, which includes Ventura’s take on Michael Bloomberg, Al Franken, Occupy Wall Street and Bradley Manning, go to | OCTOBER 21, 2013









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City & State, October 21st 2013 Issue  

Cover Story: Gaming in New York Issue Spotlight: Green New York Back and Forth: Jesse Ventura Columnists: Alexis Grenell, Bruce Gyory

City & State, October 21st 2013 Issue  

Cover Story: Gaming in New York Issue Spotlight: Green New York Back and Forth: Jesse Ventura Columnists: Alexis Grenell, Bruce Gyory