Gotham Gazette Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:32:56 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Extending the Human Right of Health Care to All New Yorkers c johnson brooklyn credit

Speaker Johnson, the author, visits a health care facility (photo via John McCarten)

Health care for all is a human right. This means no one should be denied care based on their ability to pay.

The World Health Organization recognized this fundamental truth 70 years ago, most countries around the world have been putting it into action for decades now, and doctors and nurses live it out professionally every day.

Truly achieving this moral imperative means we need a universal health care system supported by taxes and administered by one provider. Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also more practical and less expensive than the status quo.

A recent study conducted by the RAND Corporation shows that single-payer is likely to save our state health care system $15 billion by 2031 compared to our current system. Other estimates project savings of up to $45 billion.

For these reasons I introduced a resolution Wednesday urging our state government to approve a law that would lay the foundation for single-payer healthcare in the Empire State. The proposal would create the New York Health program, which, if fully implemented, would result in 90 percent of New Yorkers spending less on health care than they currently do.

The plan would help save New Yorkers money by cutting administrative costs and simplifying the present system. Approximately one million New Yorkers are without any health insurance and have essentially been priced out of the market, which is another practical reason why I support this legislation. Also, you, the patient, would pay no premiums, deductibles or co-payments when visiting a doctor under the new system.

According to the RAND study, New Yorkers could spend half as much money out of their own pockets under the New York Health program than they do within the current system. In fact, according to a relatively conservative scenario, New Yorkers with an annual household compensation of less than $105,300 would save about $2,800 per person every year. Other estimates project even greater savings.

Single-payer is traditionally viewed as a progressive cause, but it has earned support from conservative quarters too. RAND, which was originally founded to provide research to the armed forces, isn’t exactly a progressive endeavor.

It is also worth noting that New York is a relatively wealthy state. Our economy is the third largest in the nation, behind California and Texas. And with a gross domestic product of $1.56 trillion, our economy is comparable to Canada’s, which has a $1.65 trillion GDP.

That kind of prosperity is an advantage few states – and few countries, for that matter – enjoy, and it’s one we should leverage so as many New Yorkers as possible have access to good health care. Failing to do so would be an abdication of our responsibility as elected representatives.

The current landscape is complicated and there are a lot of moving parts, but complexity shouldn’t be the enemy of what is right.

President Trump’s administration has signaled it would oppose single-payer plans from state governments seeking to bring sanity to their respective health care landscapes, so it is unlikely his administration will grant New York the federal waivers needed for a single-payer system to be fully implemented here.

However, even without a waiver, the state could still ramp up the program on a partial basis and, in the process, save money for current Medicare and Medicaid recipients through improved, wrap-around coverage. It would also lay the framework for full implementation of the plan under a new president.

Critics on the other side of this debate have also argued that adequate health care shouldn’t be considered a right – that it is a finite resource and can’t be placed in the same category as voting or free speech.

I disagree.

Many human rights we now take for granted in the United States weren’t considered rights at all during various periods of history. But eventually we evolved to see them as such.

The right to vote, freedom of speech, the right to assemble – these are now encoded into our nation’s DNA, but over the course of world history this wasn’t always the case.

Even today, not everyone on earth has the right to vote. Many Americans didn’t have that right immediately after our nation was founded.

But we’ve made progress – often that progress comes too slowly, but there is no progress until we take the first steps forward.

Adopting single-payer healthcare in New York State would be an enormous step in the right direction. This is why I am standing with my colleagues in state government who support it, and I hope you will too.

Corey Johnson is the Speaker of the New York City Council and represents the Council’s 3rd District, in Manhattan. On Twitter @NYCSpeakerCoJo.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email

Extending the Human Right of Health Care to All New Yorkers Wed, 08 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 6 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

There’s a state fundraising deadline on Thursday night, meaning candidates -- especially those in competitive party primaries -- for statewide and state legislative positions will be holding events and soliciting donations online for much of the week, hoping to bolster their abilities to get their messages out and affect the narrative around their candidacies and races heading into the final weeks before the September 13 primary and months before the November 6 general election.

The primary is just five weeks from this Thursday.

At this point, perhaps the most interesting and competitive statewide race is the Democratic primary for Attorney General, featuring four qualified candidates: Letitia James, Sean Patrick Maloney, Leecia Eve, and Zephyr Teachout. The candidates all shared a stage for the first time last week and attention on the race continues to heat up after a recent Siena poll showed that 42 percent of likely primary voters were undecided in the race. There’s a televised debate scheduled for August 28 on NY1, but Teachout and Eve are calling for a handful of other broadcast debates. (The candidates have each been appearing on the Max & Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, with Rep. Maloney scheduled for this week. Hear interviews with Teachout; James; and Eve.)

The Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor also appears wide open, despite the fact that there is an incumbent, Kathy Hochul, running. The Siena poll showed almost 50 percent undecided between Hochul and Jumaane Williams.

It’s unclear, though, if polls are capturing the likely voter pool, especially given the energy on the progressive left, which would appear to be a boon for Teachout, Williams, and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who was far behind incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Siena poll, which took into account “likely” primary voters in its modeling, though the Nixon campaign still questioned the sample Siena contacted and raised the question of whether even a better sample would truly gauge the electorate in today’s climate. We’ll know a lot more on September 13.

We’re awaiting news on one or more debates between Cuomo and Nixon. The governor has vaguely said there will be a debate, but has not agreed to a specific one as of yet. Williams and Hochul appeared on the same stage recently, it is unclear when they may have one or more broadcast debates. The primary has become increasingly nasty, with criticisms over one another’s past issue stances, but also Hochul calling on Williams to release five years of his taxes, as he has pushed for President Trump to do, and releasing an ad attacking Williams for his personal financial troubles, including debt related to an unsuccessful small business and a home loan. Williams has responded by calling Hochul an out-of-touch elitist who has been silent in the face of corruption in state economic development programs, while others have also criticized Hochul’s ad targeting Williams’ finances. (Listen to the Max & Murphy interviews with Williams and with Hochul.)

And there are, of course, also quite a few competitive legislative primaries, including the challenges being waged against the former members of the Independent Democratic Conference of the state Senate. Six of the eight IDC districts include parts of New York City. The two candidates in one race, Manhattan’s Senate District 31, appeared on this past week’s Max & Murphy show on WBAI. Listen to Senator Marisol Alcantara and challenger Robert Jackson discuss their race. And this week on Max & Murphy, Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu will appear (after Rep. Maloney).

There are few Republican primaries across the state, as the party has coalesced around its statewide candidates and is not seeing the type of infighting that Democrats have playing out this summer. The GOP is trying to hold onto its last bastion of statewide power in control of the Senate, while also attempting to win a statewide race for the first time since Governor George Pataki won his third term in 2002.

While the elections will increasingly be the focus as we head toward September, there is also governing and policy happening, including related to the MTA, NYCHA, NYPD, housing and neighborhood development, the taxi and for-hire vehicle industry (industries?), marijuana legalization, and more. Keep an eye out this week for news related to a federal monitor of NYCHA, movement in the NYPD departmental trial of two officers involved in Eric Garner’s death, and more, including for-hire vehicle regulations and land use decisions likely being passed by the City Council.

There are also several interesting panel and other events to be aware of -- see our day-by-day rundown below. 

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

"On Monday, Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees board meeting. This event is closed press." Later, at 4 p.m. at City Hall, "the Mayor will hold public hearings for and sign seven pieces of legislation: Int. 399-B, to require the Department of the Aging to report annually on senior center costs and utilization; Int. 411-A, to require annual inspections of senior centers that are also food service establishments; Int. 510-B and Int. 724-A regarding a bill of a rights for those seeking bail bond services; Int. 741-A, requiring the city to provide free domestic telephone service to individuals within the custody of the department of corrections; Int. 779-A, requires the Department of Correction to issue reports on the use tasers; and Int. 981-A, requires online short-term rental platforms to report data about those transactions to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. The Mayor will also hold a public hearing on Int. 157-C, which reduces permitted capacity for certain waste transfer stations in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. This event is open press. There will be no Q-and-A." And, in the evening, the Mayor will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

On Monday at 11:30 a.m., "Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Council Member Mark Treyger will lead a community rally denouncing a pattern of anti-Chinese graffiti found at several sites in Bensonhurst, urging the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to investigate and designate these acts as hate crimes. Joined by leaders in the Chinese-American community, as well as elected officials such as Assembly Member William Colton and District Leader Nancy Tong, they will address the profane graffiti discovered over the weekend and a greater trend of bias-based crimes that have been committed across Brooklyn in recent days, including an alleged subway attack on a South Korean national last month on a Coney Island-bound N train."

At noon Monday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will visit Judith C. White Senior Center in Manhattan with Senator Brad Hoylman.

At 2 p.m. Monday, New York Taxi Worker Alliance "app driver members, along with fellow NYTWA members who drive yellow, green, livery and black cars, will rally in Long Island City" in support of for-hire vehicle legislation in the City Council and to respond to the ad campaign by Uber and Lyft.

This week's What's The [Data] Point? podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission will be recorded and published on Monday, and will focus on MTA finances.

On Monday, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney will launch "30 town halls across New York State in the next 30 days," beginning with a telephone town hall Monday evening, in his campaign for Attorney General of New York.

At 7 p.m. Monday, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams will join activist Ady Barkan, journalist Shaun King, City Council Member Brad Lander, and others at Barkan’s “Be A Hero” forum in Brooklyn. Speakers will discuss “rejuvenating our democracy and mobilizing the progressive movement to make bold, systemic changes in New York.” The event is being hosted by Working Families Party, Make the Road Action, NY Communities for Change, Center for Popular Democracy Action, and the Be A Hero Fund, and will take place at the Green Building in Gowanus.

At the City Council on Tuesday: The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss a proposed law allowing businesses selling tobacco products (save for cigarettes) 180 days to obtain a tobacco retail license if they have not done so already.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Republican nominee for Attorney General Keith Wofford will join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to discuss his candidacy, as part of the Chamber’s “Attorney General Roundtable” series, open to Chamber members.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a public hearing at Spector Hall.

On Tuesday, “Congressional Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and NYS Attorney General Barbara Underwood will be appearing at the Immigrant Arts Summit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. AG Underwood will be delivering a keynote address at 10AM and Ocasio-Cortez will be participating in a panel on mobilizing and organizing women through the arts at 10:30AM,” among other aspects of the summit.

Tuesday night is National Night Out Against Crime, with events all over the city, often in conjunction with local police precincts.

The City Council will hold a stated meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Speaker Corey Johnson will likely host a pre-stated press conference at about 12:30 p.m.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss resolutions calling on the state to give the city design-build authority for capital projects, calling for “additional financing by the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation,” and “approving the new designation and changes in the designation of certain organizations to receive funding in the Expense Budget.”
--The Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the nomination of Health & Hospitals President Mitchell Katz to the City’s Board of Health.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board and New York Law School will host a panel on “improving NYC’s campaign finance program.” Frederick Schaffer, the CFB Chair, will give introductory remarks, which will be followed by a panel consisting of Citizens Union Executive Director and former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, former City Council Speaker and current President of Women in Need Christine Quinn, and City Council Members Ritchie Torres and Eric Ulrich.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Democratic Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout will join the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to discuss her candidacy, as part of the Chamber’s “Attorney General Roundtable” series, open to Chamber members.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting at 120 Broadway.

At noon Wednesday, the New York State Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting in Albany.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will meet at 100 Church Street in Manhattan.

This week's Max & Murphy radio show/podcast will first air Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. on WBAI, 99.5FM and streaming at, and will feature three interviews: with U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General (Hear recent interviews with Maloney's opponents: Zephyr TeachoutLetitia James; and Leecia Eve.); State Senator Tony Avella of Queens; and Avella's Democratic primary challenger, former city Comptroller John Liu.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon will join a roundtable with Asian-American community leaders at Bellozino in Jackson Heights.

On Wednesday at 6 p.m., “U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will host a town hall meeting at The Riverside Church in Morningside Heights. Gillibrand will take questions from constituents on issues ranging from health care to jobs and the economy. Last summer, Gillibrand hosted eight town halls across New York State, and this event will be the third of several more town halls Gillibrand will host around the state this year as part of her commitment to hearing from as many New Yorkers as possible.”

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Association for a Better New York will host a “Power Breakfast” discussing “how we’re spending” New York’s $89 billion budget and “what it means.” Panelists include Melanie Hartzog, the Mayor’s Budget Director; Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizens Budget Commission; Latonia McKinney, Director of the City Council’s Finance division; and Preston Niblack, the Deputy City Comptroller. David Goodman of The New York Times will moderate the event at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, City & State will host its “Diversity Summit & Awards” at 36 Battery Place in Manhattan, discussing New York’s diversity initiatives, particularly in the realm of contracting and partnerships between state and local government. New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado will deliver the keynote address. Other speakers will include City Council Member Mark Gjonaj; State Senator James Sanders; Jonnel Doris, Director of the Mayor’s MWBE Office; Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services; Lisette Camillo, Commissioner of DCAS; Michael Garner, Chief Diversity Officer for the MTA; and others.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting at 100 Church Street.

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 6 Sun, 05 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 30 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Thursday of this week will mark six weeks until the September 13 primary elections (the deadline to register to vote and be eligible for a party primary is August 19 (the deadline to change party enrollment to vote in a party primary has long passed)). Expect competitive primaries to continue to heat up.

It was a busy weekend of endorsement announcements as we head toward those primaries, especially in the most-contested races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and certain state Senate seats -- all on the Democratic side (Republicans have very few primaries across the state, and none for the four statewide state-level positions).

Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams officially endorsed each other on Sunday. Each has been backed by the Working Families Party and a number of other groups and officials, but they had yet to make it official in announcing support for each other. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately in party primaries, then run as a ticket for the general election. Nixon and Williams are hoping to win their respective Democratic primary bids against Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Nixon and Williams also received the endorsement this weekend of the New York City branch of the Democratic Socialists of America.

On Saturday, "Brooklyn women leaders" launched “Brooklyn Women For Cuomo” to endorse and support Cuomo for another term. The women leaders are Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senators Roxanne Persaud and Velmanette Montgomery , and Assemblymembers Latrice Walker, Jaime Williams, and Tremaine Wright, and former Assemblymember Annette Robinson. Cuomo also received endorsements this weekend from NYCHA tenant leaders in Queens and from "The National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund PAC, formerly NARAL NY," which also endorsed Hochul.

Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, was endorsed this weekend by Comptroller Scott Stringer and several elected officials from the Upper West Side.

And, City Council Member Carlina Rivera endorsed state Senate candidates Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos.

More endorsements will be coming in this week, and there is other governmental and political business on the calendar -- see our day-by-day rundown below. We’re also awaiting news regarding any special state legislative session in Albany to extend the city’s speed camera program, which has expired, regarding the naming of a federal monitor for NYCHA, regarding next steps in the NYPD trials of the two officers being brought up on departmental charges in the death of Eric Garner, regarding how the Uber-City Council fight will play out as the Council moves ahead with bills that Uber and other for-hire vehicle companies are opposing, and more.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

At 10 a.m. Monday at City Hall, the City Council “Committee on Standards and Ethics will hold a meeting regarding Section 10.80 of the Council Rules.” This appears to be the next step after a prior initial meeting dealing with an allegation against City Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr. that he improperly used his government email to send political messages.

On Monday at 11 a.m. outside City Hall, 10 of the City Council’s 11 female members will endorse Public Advocate Letitia James for Attorney General.

At 11 a.m. Monday, NYCHA interim chair Stanley Brezenoff and Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner Javier Lopez will announce the launch of “Smoke-Free NYCHA” at the Jerome L. Greene Family Center in Chelsea. Per federal regulations, NYCHA is adopting the somewhat controversial no-smoking policy.

On Monday at 11 a.m. in Bushwick, “Revel Transit will hold a press conference to launch the first ever shared electric moped service in New York City...Revel Transit is a brand new, New York-based company that will initially provide users access to electric mopeds in the neighborhoods of Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. This service is the first of its kind in New York City but follows a model that is wildly popular in global cities such as Berlin and Paris. The mopeds are perfect for short- and medium-range trips and will add a unique option to New York’s diverse transit network.” City Council Member Antonio Reynoso will participate in Monday’s launch event.

At 1 p.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo will make an announcement at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Lieutenant Governor Hochul will participate.

“On Monday, First Lady Chirlane McCray will tour the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center with New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera and participate in a roundtable discussion with clients. This event is closed press. Later, the First Lady will participate in a “Teatime Inspiration” event focused on mental health and wellness with Kate Spade New York employees. This event is closed press.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio will make his weekly appearance on NY1’s Inside City Hall Monday in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Center for an Urban Future will host a forum on New York’s aging park infrastructure at the Greene Space in the West Village. City Council Member Barry Grodenchik will give introductory remarks, which will be followed by a one-on-one conversation with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and a panel discussion with former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Susan Donoghue of the Prospect Park Alliance, Lynn Kelly of New Yorkers for Parks, Nilka Martell of Loving the Bronx, and Charles McKinney, former Principal Urban Designer at NYC Parks.

On Tuesday at 9 a.m., "Chancellor Richard A. Carranza will deliver brief remarks at the School Technology Summit" at Beacon High School.

On Tuesday morning, City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams “will begin his trial in New York County Criminal Court for charges related to his arrest while trying to stop the unlawful detention and imminent deportation of immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir. He now faces charges of Obstruction of an Emergency Vehicle and Obstructing Government Administration. Williams will be available to speak to the media prior to the start of the trial, at 9:15am, outside the New York County Criminal Court. He will appear with his attorneys, Rhiya Trivedi and Ron Kuby.”

At 10 a.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, "Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will be joined by Food Bank For New York City COO Lisa Hines-Johnson to launch Brooklyn's participation in Food Bank’s “Woman to Woman” campaign — a donation drive to collect feminine care products and address the critical needs of women and girls living in poverty."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will make an announcement at LaGuardia Airport.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics will hold a commissioners’ meeting.

On Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., “Calling on Mayor de Blasio to embrace their newly proposed “Fast Bus, Fair City” plan, riders will turn the City Hall steps into a stage and dramatize their daily struggles riding New York’s local buses. The riders’ performance will demonstrate how their proven suite of transit policy changes will enhance quality of life and social inclusion for more than two million daily bus riders. Then the coalition and local elected officials will elaborate on the specific components of the call and why they are important. “Fast Bus, Fair City” would complement the City’s adoption of Fair Fares and the MTA’s Bus Plan. Once set in motion, all three could provide unparalleled access to city neighborhoods and resources, ensuring that the mayor’s own goal of making New York the fairest big city in America is fully realized.” Participants include Riders Alliance, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Transit Center, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, elected officials, and bus riders.

At the City Council on Tuesday: The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss “the naming of one thoroughfare and public place, Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard in the Borough of Brooklyn.”

On Tuesday at 1 p.m. at City Hall, "State Senator Tony Avella, Assembly Member William Colton, and Council Member Bob Holden will stand with community groups Coalition EDU and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance to reveal their legislation aimed at saving the Specialized High School Exam."

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will make an announcement at Brooklyn Public Library's main branch, Grand Army Plaza.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks at the Matthews-Palmer Playground ribbon cutting with Parks Commissioner Silver and other elected officials.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission will hold a public hearing at McKee High School in St. George, Staten Island. This is the last of a new round of public hearings in each borough after the release of the commission’s preliminary staff report. Recommendations from the commission that will be on the ballot in November for voters to approve or disapprove, are due out by September 7.

This week’s Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio will feature interviews with State Senator Marisol Alcantara, a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference from Manhattan, and her Democratic primary opponent Robert Jackson. Tune in at 5pm Wednesday on WBAI, 99.5FM or The Max & Murphy podcast recently moved to WBAI, with the first two shows featuring interviews with Democratic Attorney General candidates Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, and Leecia Eve (the fourth candidate in the primary, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, will be a guest on the show on August 8). The show is still available as a podcast if you can't or prefer not to listen live.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 9:45 a.m.
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 10 a.m.
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at noon.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, City & State will celebrate its “Brooklyn Power 50” list at a reception at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. Borough President Eric Adams will deliver keynote remarks.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Indivisible Westchester will host a forum for Democratic Attorney General candidates at the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester in White Plains. The participating candidates are expected to be Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Leecia Eve. The forum will be moderated by Damon Jones of the Westchester Black Political Conference.

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

De Blasio will leave on Friday afternoon for this year’s Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans, where he will be until Sunday morning, when he returns to New York City. According to the mayor's office, he will have a series of policy meetings with local and national elected officials and activists while he's there, and he’ll address the gathering’s attendees Saturday evening. He'll also have a few political meetings while there.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 30 Sun, 29 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
We Need Commercial Waste Reform, and Now We Have a Plan city council cm cornegy

Council Member Cornegy, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)

New Yorkers have good reason to be concerned, even angry, about the state of affairs in our city's commercial waste industry. Stakeholders and commentators are absolutely right to note that, among other issues to address, the tragic loss of life in this industry is unacceptable.

However, agreement on the importance of cleaning up commercial waste carting does not change the fact that a huge question is still on the table: How can we actually achieve our shared goals as quickly and effectively as possible?

In many ways, the answer lies in comments made just this week by Mayor de Blasio, when he said, "I hope that we can really strengthen the hand of the Business Integrity Commission, give them a lot more tools, a lot more teeth to work with in their regulation of that industry."

My colleagues in the City Council and I have introduced legislation, known as Intro. 996, which would do that by empowering the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to raise standards in the commercial waste industry and hold bad actors accountable.

Our bill would enable BIC to create standardized safety certifications for industry employees and institute requirements that ensure workers are properly trained. It would also give BIC the tools to establish clear rules regarding allowable levels of emissions for commercial waste trucks. Additionally, the bill would empower BIC to more stringently regulate the industry with regard to maximizing efficiency along each waste collection route.

These are just several examples of how Intro. 996 would give BIC more of the tools and teeth that Mayor de Blasio has said are necessary for advancing commercial waste carting reforms. Our legislation would also let BIC establish its own task force to offer additional insight and recommendations for continuing to improve this industry over the long-term.

On the other hand, Mayor de Blasio's own Department of Sanitation has offered a nebulous and flawed proposal to develop commercial waste zones, which would replace the industry's current open market system with a series of geographic zones that are exclusively contracted to a small number of waste carters.

First, Sanitation’s proposal is not squarely focused on advancing the mayor's stated goal of empowering BIC. By relying on a fundamental restructuring of the industry, this plan would essentially take power away from BIC rather than giving it more of the tools it needs to regulate carting companies.

There is also the issue of unintended consequences. It is common knowledge by now that the zone-based waste collection plan implemented last year in Los Angeles had a truly disastrous rollout. Prices and service complaints skyrocketed, leading to a chaotic situation that, if it were to happen in New York, would surely make it extremely difficult to achieve our shared goals.

The Department of Sanitation’s own 2016 report, released as part of introducing its waste zone proposal, acknowledged that costs for small businesses that are served by this industry would increase under a zone-based plan. Additionally, the report acknowledged that zones would lead to job losses in the industry - and I do not think that efforts to increase safety have to include putting people out of work.

To be clear, I am ready to advance commercial waste carting reforms now and deliver results on increasing safety, reducing environmental impact and increasing regulatory oversight. And I want to achieve this in the way that Mayor de Blasio himself has articulated - by giving BIC more of the tools and teeth it needs.

Now is the time to translate our concerns about this industry into tangible, sensible, and effective action - we just need to get it done.

Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the central Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. On Twitter @RobertCornegyJr.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email

We Need Commercial Waste Reform, and Now We Have a Plan Thu, 19 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Investigating Diaz Sr.'s Use of Government Email for Political Messages Ruben Diaz Sr. City Council

CM Diaz Sr., standing (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

The New York City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics held a hearing on Monday concerning Bronx Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr. and his alleged use of government email to send out political messages to colleagues and staffers across the Council, three knowledgeable sources told Gotham Gazette.

The Standard and Ethics committee, chaired by Staten Island Council Member Steven Matteo, would not reveal the subject of Monday’s hearing and only noted on its agenda that the hearing was about Section 10.80 of the Council rules, which covers “disorderly behavior” including “willful violation or evasion of any provision of law relating to such Member’s discharge of his or her official duties; commission of fraud upon the City; conversion of public property to such Member’s own use; knowingly permitting or allowing by gross culpable conduct, any other person to convert public property; or violation of the Speaker’s policy or policies against discrimination and harassment.”

The committee met Monday at City Hall and immediately went into closed session, emerging to divulge that it would indeed further investigate an allegation of impropriety, but without providing details as to the member, the subject matter at hand, or how it had come to the committee's attention.

Members of the Council are bound by the city’s Conflicts of Interest law, contained in Chapter 68 of the City Charter, which prohibits city officials from using government time and resources for campaign-related purposes. According to one Council source who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely, Diaz Sr. has frequently sent out emails from his government account with his thoughts on issues he has worked on and those emails often crossed the line into political activity. A second Council source confirmed that the hearing was about Diaz Sr. and his emails, while a third said Diaz Sr. was the subject of the committee hearing, having to do with use of government resources for political purposes.

The emails mirror Diaz Sr.’s “What You Should Know” dispatches that he sent out when he was a state Senator, before being elected to the Council in 2017, and that he continues to publish occasionally in The Bronx Chronicle. The Council member did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Just last week, on July 10, the first Council source said, Diaz Sr. sent out an email blast of a column that essentially read as an endorsement of Governor Cuomo and criticized his primary challenger, actor and activist Cynthia Nixon. The email was among those published as an op-ed in The Bronx Chronicle and was headlined, “The Christians Should Be Upset With Cuomo, Not The Gay Community.”

In it, Diaz Sr. praised the governor’s efforts, along with former state Senator Tom Duane, to pass marriage equality in the state Senate. Cuomo “went out of his way” to bring Republican Senators on board, Diaz Sr. wrote. “Now, a member of the LGBTQ community and other leaders of the community are going all the way to kick Governor Cuomo out of the Governorship. After what he did, this is what he is getting in return? It is mind-boggling,” he added.

Diaz Sr., who is a pastor, mentioned his own role in opposing the marriage equality bill. “I could understand gays getting angry at me, spending their money trying to get me out and launching all kinds of political diatribes against me. Because as a legislator, pastor and minister, I was the one opposing gay marriage. But attacking Governor Cuomo and going after him? I don’t understand that,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson declined comment for this article. The most recent Council action on standards and ethics found a substantiated claim of sexual harassment against Bronx Council Member Andy King, whom the committee found had made repeated unwanted advances toward a Council aide. King was ordered to undergo additional training.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed reporting.

City Council Investigating Diaz Sr.'s Use of Government Email for Political Messages Mon, 16 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 16 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

We’re less than two months from primary day, September 13, in the 2018 races for state-level seats. The entire state Legislature is on the ballot this fall, as well as the statewide offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General. There are far more Democratic than Republican primaries given that the GOP has few, if any, sitting state legislators being challenged and the party ensured that its four statewide candidates would not be challenged. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since Gov. George Pataki won his last term in 2002.

On the Democratic side, there are intense, possibly damaging primaries happening in the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, where incumbents Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul are being challenged by Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, respectively. The open Attorney General primary is a contentious four-way race. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is not facing a primary challenger. And, there are spirited, intense campaigns being run against all eight state senators who made up what was the Independent Democratic Conference, six of whom represent parts of New York City.

There are other intraparty fights happening, including three in Brooklyn where Julia Salazar is challenging Senator Martin Dilan, Blake Morris is challenging Senator Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who has conferenced with Republicans, helping ensure them a slim majority, and the Ross Barkan-Andrew Gounardes primary to see who will try to unseat Senator Marty Golden. There are also a few Assembly primaries worth watching, though that chamber is less interesting in election season because of Democrats’ significant majority.

So this week we’re watching candidate fundraising totals that are made public through Board of Election filings; to see if there are any new polls in the statewide races; for any news of whether Cuomo will accept a debate challenge from Nixon (he has said there would be a debate) and when there might be one or more Hochul-Williams or AG candidate debates (the AG candidates have been participating in candidate forums, but not debates as of yet), and how things progress in some of the aforementioned legislative primaries. Nixon's campaign got a boost this past week when additional Cuomo associates were convicted on federal corruption charges related to the governor's Buffalo Billion economic development program. It is the second trial this year involving Cuomo aides and donors to result in convictions.

It’s not all elections, of course, as there is action this week at the City Council, a few panel events to be aware of, and more happening -- see our day-by-day rundown below. We're also watching for the announcement of a federal monitor to oversee the city's NYCHA consent decree, which could come as early as this week, and for any news of a possible special legislative session in Albany to address issues such as speed cameras around city schools and the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade abortion protections in New York law.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

The New York State Board of Regents will meet on Monday and Tuesday.

At 8:45 a.m. Monday, city schools Chancellor Richard Carranza will deliver remarks at the 21st Annual National Principals Leadership Institute, at Lincoln Center.

On Monday at 11 a.m. in Brooklyn, "Lieutenant Governor candidate Jumaane Williams will announce his endorsement Julia Salazar, a progressive candidate running for New York State Senate today in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Salazar will also announce her support for Williams, and both will be endorsed by the Jewish Vote, a grassroots organization focused on organizing the people-powered wing of the Democratic Party."

On Monday at 11:15 a.m. at City Hall, advocates and elected officials will rally to raise issues related to zoning and development of “megatoweres” on the Upper East and Upper West Sides, with a particular focus on a Tuesday hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals related to two planned megatowers that are said to be exploiting zoning loopholes. “Join Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger (rep.), and Council Member Ben Kallos, together with FRIENDS, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Landmark West! and others in calling for a comprehensive solution now, not six months from now.”

On Monday at 11:30 a.m. at Brooklyn Army Terminal, “New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and City officials plan to unveil Freight NYC, an action plan that includes various strategies to modernize and strengthen the City’s freight distribution network. This plan is a major component of the City’s NY Works initiative to create 100,000 good-paying jobs by 2027.” The announcement will feature Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen; James Patchett, NYCEDC President and CEO; Congressional Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez; City Council Member Carlos Menchaca; Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz; and others.

At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the City Council “Committee on Standards and Ethics will hold a meeting on a matter regarding section 10.80 of the Council Rules.” Section 10.80 relates to the code of conduct and “disorderly behavior,” which can include sexual harassment and using a government for office for political work -- there is no other information available at this time on what matter the committee may be dealing with or who may be involved.

At 1 p.m. Monday outside City Hall, Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro, with lieutenant governor candidate Julie Killian and City Council Member Joe Borelli, "will call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to keep his hands off New York tip wages."

At 1 p.m. Monday outside Kings County Supreme Court, “Housing Rights Initiative (HRI) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will announce a $10 million, 19-plaintiff lawsuit, filed by the Law Offices of Jack Lester in Kings County Supreme Court, based on a comprehensive investigation by HRI that has found that Kushner Companies appears to have employed a deliberate campaign to systematically harass rent-stabilized tenants in a 338-unit building out of their apartments using illegal, destructive, and dangerous construction practices. According to an independent lab analysis, families, including children and babies, were exposed to highly toxic and cancer-causing substances, including, but not limited to, the lung carcinogen crystalline silica and lead.”

At 5 p.m. Monday, the City Council’s Charter Revision Commission will hold its first public meeting since its members were named, at the Council Chambers in City Hall. The commission, separate from the mayor’s ongoing charter revision commission, will work toward ballot proposals for November 2019.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will make his weekly appearance on NY1’s Inside City Hall on Monday in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Criminal Justice will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to telephone services for inmates in city jails and prisons, and to “requiring the department of correction to report on use by department staff of any device capable of administering an electric shock.”
--The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws related to “disclosure of premium or compensation charged by bail bond agents” and to “requiring that bail bond agents make certain disclosures.”
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at noon to discuss the landmarking proposal for the Coney Island Riegelmann Boardwalk.
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 2 p.m.

"On Tuesday, the First Lady Chirlane McCray will travel to Oakland, California to participate in the Well Being Legacy Convening." She will return on Friday.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, for a “Power Breakfast” at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host its “Protecting New York Summit” at Baruch College, discussing “New York’s security strategy from elections to community policing.” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Roger Parrino, Commissioner of the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, will deliver keynote addresses. Other speakers will include Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; State Senators Todd Kaminsky and Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; City Council Member Donovan Richards; and others. Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max will moderate a panel on election integrity at 11:15 a.m.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James will be among those to deliver remarks at a rally against hate at the Annual Amazon Web Summit, at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

At 11:30 a.m., Stringer will host a press conference outside of City Hall Park. At 3 p.m., James will hold a press conference at her office at 1 Centre Street. At 11:30 a.m., Johnson will delivers remarks at Judith White Senior Center, and at 6 p.m. Johnson will deliver remarks at the LGBTQ Memorial Launch, at the LGBT Center.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the State Senate Standing Committees on Labor and Economic Development will meet at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown, Jefferson County, for a public hearing regarding the state’s MWBE program.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission will hold a public meeting to discuss the “preliminary staff report” at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan campus.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, TransitCenter will host “Access Delayed” at One Whitehall Street, discussing how New York became the “least accessible subway system in the country” for people with disabilities, and strategies for remedying it. Panelists will include NYC Transit President Andy Byford, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Monica Bartley of the Center for Independence of the Disabled NY, and Emily Seelenfreund of Disability Rights Advocates. City Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver opening remarks.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College, the "Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS), in partnership with the City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), will hold a public hearing on the state of workers’ rights in New York City. “The State of Workers’ Rights in NYC: Advances and Setbacks in Turbulent Times” public hearing will include panels of workers who will testify on issues they face in today’s workplace, followed by an open session for testimony from low-wage and immigrant workers, advocacy groups, labor unions, nonprofits, and community-based organizations on topics including access to paid safe and sick leave, scheduling problems, freelancer payment issues, wage and hour, immigrant worksite enforcement issues and more. The hearing will inform DCA’s future efforts to protect workers, particularly low-wage and vulnerable workers." Participants will include Lorelei Salas, DCA Commissioner, Carmelyn Malalis, CCHR Commissioner, Bitta Mostofi, MOIA Commissioner, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member I. Daneek Miller, and "dozens of workers."

The Working Families Party is holding its 20th anniversary gala on Tuesday evening in Brooklyn. The event will include the WFP's endorsed candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, as well as other WFP candidates, supporters, and allies.

The City Council will hold a stated meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. There is expected to be the usual pre-stated press conference led by Speaker Corey Johnson at 12:30 p.m.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “regulation of short-term residential rentals.”
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss the distribution of funds to organizations in the new city budget.

Just ahead of the Council’s stated meeting, at 1 p.m. outside City Hall, “Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Steve Levin will join with advocates to rally for the passage of Intro 157, a bill to cap the amount of waste handled by overburdened communities.” Along with Reynoso, Levin, and other Council members, including those in the Progressive Caucus, participants will include Teamsters Joint Council 16, Teamsters Local 813, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, The Natural Resources Defense Council, and other community groups and environmental justice advocates.

Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. will be the first weekly Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio (listen at 99.FM or stream at Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max and City Limits’ Jarrett Murphy are moving their weekly podcast to the radio -- the show will still consist of interviews with newsmakers and analysts that will be made available as podcasts, and it will include listener calls! The first episode will include a conversation with Public Advocate Letitia James, who is running for Attorney General.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting at the CFB’s headquarters at 100 Church Street.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver will deliver a two-year update on the “Parks Without Borders” initiative at the Museum of Natural History’s Kaufmann Theater.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Citizens Budget Commission will host New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood as a guest speaker at its annual trustee breakfast at the Harvard Club. The Attorney General will discuss “the U.S. Supreme Court nomination; the Attorney General's lawsuits to protect New Yorkers, such as on family separation, the 2020 Census, and more; and the ways in which New York State can lead to protect New Yorkers' rights.”

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, City & State will unveil its Queens Power 50 list at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will speak.

Friday and the weekend
There are no Friday or weekend events of note on our radar as of Sunday evening.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 16 Sun, 15 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Progressive Caucus Urges Cuomo to Sign Bill Creating Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission progressive caucus 2009

City Council Progressive Caucus (photo via Progressive Caucus website)

The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign a bill, passed at the end of the legislative session in June, which would create a new state commission on prosecutorial misconduct. The caucus, which includes 21 of the Council’s 51 members, referred to the bill as “the most substantive criminal justice reform passed in the state this year.”

The state bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate, and awaits Cuomo’s signature or veto. The commission, consisting of eleven judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys appointed by the state’s chief judge, the governor, and legislative leaders, would be empowered to investigate and recommend disciplinary action against prosecutors in the state accused of misconduct. The commission would be similar in structure and purpose to a commission established in the 1970s to investigate misconduct claims by judges.

Cuomo has not indicated whether he supports the legislation or not, and the state district attorneys association has called it unconstitutional and threatened to sue if the governor does sign it into law. The commission would have oversight of the state’s 62 district attorneys and their assistant district attorneys.

The letter from the Council’s Progressive Caucus notes that, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations, New York is fourth in the nation for wrongful convictions, behind California, Illinois, and Texas.

“Across the United States there is a growing crisis of confidence in prosecutors as the role District Attorneys, historically, played in driving mass incarceration has become better understood by the public,” the letter reads. “The exonerations of wrongfully convicted people have sometimes exposed egregious misconduct by prosecutors, many of whom remain working as lawyers today.”

Misconduct can take various forms, including failure to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, intimidation of defendants or witnesses by police, and knowing submission of false testimony. Oftentimes, these occurrences can lead to false convictions, including for serious crimes that carry long sentences. In 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations recorded 13 exonerations in New York State, for individuals who had served as little as one year to as long as 28 years for crimes they did not commit. So far in 2018, 12 exonerations have been recorded.

False convictions are such an issue in New York that some district attorneys have formed entire units within their offices dedicated solely to examining past convictions and their validity. The Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit, for instance, requested 24 exonerations for wrongfully-convicted defendants between its creation in February 2014 and December 2017.

The bill is strongly supported by defense attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates, but is sharply opposed by district attorneys throughout the state. The Staten Island District Attorney told Gotham Gazette in June that oversight measures, such as grievance committees, already exist, and that the bill would hinder the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs and “potentially threaten the safety of those we are sworn to protect.”

The grievance committees, which are bodies within appellate divisions that serve to investigate and censure both prosecutors and defense attorneys, have been characterized as toothless by advocates of the bill on both sides of the aisle, and criminal justice reform writ large. The Progressive Caucus wrote that the committee system in place has “not curbed bad behavior” among prosecutors, and that discipline is a rarity.

“Public officials entrusted with incredible power should be held to the highest of standards,” reads the letter, signed by 12 members of the caucus. “Instead prosecutors have come to expect that there will be no punishment even following a judicial finding of egregious misconduct.”

(Read the full letter here)

The grievance committees rarely discipline prosecutors, but frequently discipline defense attorneys or other attorneys in private practice. In 2016, the First Appellate Division’s Grievance Committee, which covers Manhattan and the Bronx, disbarred 30 attorneys, suspended ten, and publicly censured six; none were prosecutors. When prosecutors are disciplined, sanctioned, and disbarred, it tends to make the news, as occurred with former St. Lawrence County DA Mary Rain.

The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, meanwhile, told Gotham Gazette that previous working groups, including one led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, found no evidence of “rampant prosecutorial misconduct.”

David Soares, the Albany District Attorney and the new president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), told host Susan Arbetter of the Capitol Pressroom radio show in June that DAASNY would sue the state if Cuomo signs the bill into law.

For the Council’s Progressive Caucus, a majority in favor leads to an action like the letter. It was signed by caucus Co-chair Ben Kallos and fellow Council Members Jumaane Williams, Anonion Reynoso, Brad LAnder, Carlos Menchaca, Keith Powers, Deborah Rose, Daneek Miller, Justin Brannan, Steve Levin, Carlina Rivera, and Alicka Ampry-Samuel.

Notably, the non-signers of the caucus include Council Speaker Corey Johnson, caucus co-chair Diana Ayala, and public safety committee chair Donovan Richards.

A spokesperson for Richards told Gotham Gazette that Richards is in support of the bill, but was unable to sign it because Richards was out of town when the letter was sent. “I am absolutely in support of creating a state commission to look into prosecutorial misconduct,” he said. “In order to truly reform our criminal justice system, we must root out misconduct in all levels of law enforcement.”

A representative for Johnson did not return a request for comment, while Ayala’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Levine, among the other members of the Progressive Caucus who did not sign the letter, told Gotham Gazette that they support the bill.

Governor Cuomo has not signaled whether he intends to sign the bill or not. Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said that the governor’s office is still reviewing it.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

City Council Progressive Caucus Urges Cuomo to Sign Bill Creating Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission Wed, 11 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Charter Revision Commission Takes Shape gg city council hearing committee

(Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)

The New York City Council’s commission to review the city charter -- a separate effort from an existing commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has been fully appointed and is set to begin its work next Monday, July 16.

The City Council passed a bill in April, spearheaded by Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to create a commission to analyze the city’s governing document and recommend potentially significant changes to the structure and functions of city government. Although any such commission is allowed to consider the entire composition of the city charter, Brewer, James, and Johnson have pointed to a few broad priority areas including improving the city’s land use policies, strengthening the City Council’s ‘advise and consent’ role in approving mayoral appointees to city agencies and commissions, enhancing the Council’s power over city budgeting, and implementing stronger oversight of the mayoral administration.

At a March 17 hearing on the bill, James emphasized that the commission could achieve groundbreaking improvements similar to the 1989 charter commission that upended the entire structure of city government. She contrasted it with the mayor’s approach, which she said suffers from “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.”

The Council’s commission, composed of 15 members, is meant to carry out its work over the next 16 months, presenting ballot referenda to voters during the November 2019 general election. The mayor’s commission, created by de Blasio through an executive order, has a shorter timeline and a narrower brief, and will be proposing its own recommendations on Election Day this year.

The Council commission’s members include four appointees of the speaker, including the chair, four mayoral appointees, and one each chosen by the public advocate, the comptroller, and the five borough presidents.

Johnson picked Gail Benjamin, the former director of the Council’s land use division, to serve as commission chair. His other appointees include Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a former de Blasio deputy mayor and the former chair of NYC Health+Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system; Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church; and Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the state Board of Regents and current vice chair of the SUNY board of trustees.

“The appointment of these members of the Charter Revision Commission is the first step towards bringing the City Charter into the 21st century,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the full commission. “All of these individuals represent civic engagement at its best, and I am so grateful for the time they are giving to make our city a better place…The City Charter is in good hands.”

In a phone interview, Benjamin said she was "excited" about leading the commission. "This is kind of the culmination of my career as a government official,” she said. Benjamin drew a distinction between the work she will oversee and that of the mayor's commission, which is expected to release its preliminary report soon. “This commission has a much broader mandate than the mayor gave to his commission and I think that all of the 15 members who have been appointed are excited about the broadness of the mandate and the ability to really examine how this city functions governmentally and what we can do to move it into the future," she said.   

Though the two commissions will not overlap substantially, Benjamin said the Council's commission will review the testimony presented to the mayor's commission, as well as the reports and testimony from every commission convened since 1989. "There are lots of issues that [the mayor's] commission, I don’t think, has had the time to really flesh out," she said, citing city procurement practices, non-citizen voting and instant run-off voting as a few examples. "I would think that we would want to look at those kinds of issues also and that we’ll have the time to do that because we’ve got over a year and not just a few months," Benjamin said. 

Mayor de Blasio mostly plucked his Council commission appointees from his own administration. Among them are Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Paula Gavin, the city’s Chief Service Officer who heads up NYC Service, the agency tasked with promoting volunteering efforts; Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; and former City Planning chief Carl Weisbrod, currently a de Blasio appointee to the MTA board.

Most other elected officials had already announced their selections to the commission or had quietly appointed members with little publicity.   

In late May, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chose former City Council Member and repeat mayoral contender Sal Albanese to represent him, citing Albanese’s outspoken positions on campaign finance reform. “I have called for, and am reiterating again now, for 100 percent publicly-financed campaigns where every candidate has an equal footing to express their ideas,” Adams had written in testimony at the March hearing before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which was considering the charter commission bill. “Fully publicly-financed elections will see more women running for office at a time when representation in the City Council has decreased since our last election. Fully publicly-financed campaigns have shown to increase minority participation in elected politics. A fully-funded system also takes away the quid pro quo corruption and will help restore faith in our electoral system.”

Albanese, in a statement accompanying his appointment, said, “Charter revision is an opportunity to make our government more democratic and responsive to its citizens.” During his 2017 primary challenge to de Blasio, Albanese’s top policy plank was the “democracy vouchers” program that would drastically reduce the influence of private money in municipal elections.

Last month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed former City Council Member James Vacca to the commission. “Jimmy has a wealth of experience in government and cares deeply about our borough and our city,” Diaz Jr. tweeted at the time.

More recently, Public Advocate Letitia James tapped Sateesh Nori, a Legal Aid Society attorney, as her representative on the commission. “Mr. Nori brings with him the wisdom and expertise necessary for the role, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service and to his City,” James said in a statement. Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pick was Alison Hirsh, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the prominent property services workers union.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer chose her general counsel and director of land use, James Caras, to serve as her representative. “After three decades, it’s time for a thorough, expert review of how our City Charter is serving New Yorkers and how to make our government work better,” Brewer said in Monday’s announcement.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz picked Eduardo Cordero Sr. And Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s choice is Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala, who was previously a City Council member.

While the Council-created commission is about to begin its work and will take an extended timeline before its ballot proposals are announced next year, the mayoral charter revision commission is in the final two months before it makes its recommendations public by early September, in time to be included on the November ballot. That commission recently made clear its areas of focus -- voting and election reform, campaign finance reform, land use decision-making, community boards, civic engagement, and independent redistricting -- and held relevant expert hearings.

[Read: Chair Says Mayoral Charter Commission Will Step In Where Politics Has Slowed Reform]

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

City Council Charter Revision Commission Takes Shape Mon, 09 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 9 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

As we move past the July Fourth holiday week and into the depths of summer, attention turns squarely to the state-level primary elections that will be voted on September 13. We're just over two months away from those votes, with especially interesting Democratic races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and a number of state legislative seats, especially in the state Senate, most notably the primary challenges to the senators who until April made up the Independent Democratic Conference. We'll know more soon about challengers' efforts to garner enough ballot petition signatures to appear on the September ballot, as those are due to the Board of Elections this week.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and party designee for Attorney General Letitia James were all guaranteed ballot spots becaue of the party convention vote, candidates including Cynthia Nixon, Jumaane Williams, Zephyr Teachout, Leecia Eve, Sean Patrick Maloney, and others had to collect signatures to get their names on the ballot.

We'll also know more this week and into the following about how candidates are doing with raising money, as there is an important filing deadline this week.

Continuing this week are two major federal corruption trials involving state government. One is headlined by Alain Kaloyeros, former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, who Governor Cuomo empowered to run major economic development projects and is accused of rigging bids to favor Cuomo donors. The other is the retrial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Mayor Bill de Blasio returns from a week of (mostly) vacation this week (he briefly flew home to attend a street renaming ceremony for a police officer, Miosotis Familia, killed in the line of duty last ear). There are two major land use decisions coming up that the administration is deeply invested in and worth watching as final negotiations unfold over the coming weeks: efforts to rezone part of Inwood and the rezoning plan to build a tech center in Union Square. Both proposals are still being negotiated with other stakeholders, especially the local City Council members, who will ultimately have significant say over the final details of deals that are reached or over the defeat of the proposals. There is a Tuesday Council hearing on each.

See the day-by-day rundown for the week below -- and check back as we update The Week Ahead from Sunday night through Monday night as additional events are publicized and advised by elected officials, candidates, advocacy groups, and others.

 ***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:***

The run of the week in detail:

This week’s Max & Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits will be recorded and published Monday and will feature Democratic Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout.

On Monday at 10:30 a.m. in Jackson Heights, Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon and state Senate candidate Jessica Ramos will endorse each other. Nixon is attempting to defeat Governor Cuomo and Ramos is attempting to defeat Senator Jose Peralta, a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC, in the September Democratic primaries.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo will make an announcement at Manny Cantor Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be in attendance.

Mayor de Blasio will make his usual weekly appearance on NY1's Inside City Hall Monday in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

Governor Cuomo will hold two Tuesday rallies "to protect reproductive rights." One at 10 a.m. in Yonkers and one at 11:30 a.m. in New Hyde Park.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday outside Grand Central Terminal, leading transit advocacy groups will release the agenda they will urge state-level candidates to adopt this election season. "During a busy campaign season for the governor and state legislature, the city's leading transportation advocacy organizations will unveil for the first time a comprehensive state policy agenda. Highlighting the relationship between transportation and equity, the advocates will encourage candidates for state office to fund badly needed transit improvements with a fair, sustainable and sufficient source of revenue that it's up to state government officials to create. The advocates' 2018 state policy agenda includes funding and implementing the MTA's Fast Forward plan to fix the subway, redesign the bus network, and make transit accessible, adopting the state's Fix NYC panel proposal to raise transit funds by charging cars and trucks to drive in the Manhattan central business district, and enacting fully automated camera enforcement of traffic signals, speed and bus lane restrictions." Participants will include "Leaders and members of transit, environmental and disability rights organizations including the Riders Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York League of Conservation Voters, Regional Plan Association, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, StreetsPAC, Transportation Alternatives, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign."

At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, "Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner O’Neill will hold a media availability on crime statistics. This event is open press. There will be Q-and-A." The event will take place at the 40th Precinct in the Bronx.

"On Tuesday, the First Lady will attend the Gracie Mansion Board of Advisors meeting. This event is closed press."

At noon Tuesday there will be a rally in Foley Square opposing President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Public Advocate Letitia James will be among those speaking.

At the City Council on Tuesday: The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. The committee will hear testimony on the plan to rezone an area in Union Square during the morning meeting and on the plan for part of Inwood during the afternoon meeting. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will testify at both hearings.

At noon on Tuesday, before the Inwood rezoning vote, "Upper Manhattan tenants, faith leaders, workers and small business owners will hold a rally outside City Hall as the New York City Council prepares to hold a hearing on the proposed Inwood NYC neighborhood rezoning. The rezoning has received considerable opposition from the community and local elected officials, with both Manhattan Community Board 12 and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer voting against the proposal at earlier stages in the land use process." Participants will include "Northern Manhattan Is Not For Sale, Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, Ft. Washington Collegiate Church, Uptown Community Democrats, Laborers Local 79, Northern Manhattan Community Land Trust, Save Inwood Library, the Inwood Small Business Coalition/Coalicion de Pequenas Empresas de Inwood, Metropolitan Council on Housing, Altagracia Faith & Justice Works, NY State Ironworkers District Council, NYC Community Alliance for Workers Justice, United Auto Merchants, Moving Forward Unidos, Lower Seaman Tenants Association and Inwood Preservation."

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a public meeting at 125 Worth Street in Manhattan.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 3 will be opened by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, U.S. Rep Nydia Velazquez, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Senator Brian Kavanagh, City Council Member Stephen Levin, and Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club will host a forum on the state of the subway “and what can be done to remedy it.” Speakers will include City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Charles Komanoff of Transportation Alternatives, and Stephen Smith of Market Urbanism.

This week’s What’s The [Data] Point? podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission will be recorded and published on Wednesday and will feature city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will meet at the McKinley Community Center in Morrisania, Bronx.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Democratic candidates for Attorney General will participate in a forum hosted by seven Democratic clubs at the New York New Church in Murray Hill.

At the City Council on Thursday: The Committees on Health, Immigration, and General Welfare will meet jointly at 2 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “the impacts of Trump administration family separation policy on New York City,” and to discuss a resolution “calling on the U.S. Congress to pass, and the President to sign, the Keep Families Together Act (S. 3036), to immediately stop the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the U.S. border, except with express directive from a child welfare expert, and for additional legislation that would end family detention as an unsafe and harmful alternative.”

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio may make his usual appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 9 Sun, 08 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it? cojo pablo

(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)

New York City’s leaders have recently been protesting with Muslim and immigrant New Yorkers, but these same leaders are often missing once the cameras are gone. After last week’s stunning Supreme Court setback, the time finally has come for these same leaders to ditch New York City’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant police policies.

We clearly say we’re a sanctuary city, but the facts on the ground are unclear. No, city workers can’t ask about immigration status, but NYPD officers continue to use dragnet surveillance on immigrant communities. Most importantly, they continue to share that data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which the Trump administration is using to intensify its deportation efforts.

Every day, license plate readers all across New York City monitor cars in real-time. These cameras create a massive database of our movements across the city. But instead of using this database just to do police work, the NYPD shares the data with private, for-profit firms like Vigilant Solutions, a company that struck a deal to share New York data with ICE earlier this year.

But the license plate readers aren’t even the worst part. At least the City told us about them. All-too-often, we only find out about spy tools after they’ve been used for years. Tools like stingrays, fake cell towers that can suck-up all the phone data for miles around. To target one suspect, stingrays often need to track thousands of phones. Worst of all, the NYPD has even used these devices without a warrant. Wondering if your texts or calls were copied before? There’s no way to tell.

The City Council knows about the problem now – we told them about it – but for years this spying went on in secret. How? The NYPD has a slush fund: millions in federal and private dollars that can be spent without any oversight by the City Council. The mayor could end this tomorrow; Mr. de Blasio could require the NYPD to disclose how its spy data is shared with ICE with the stroke of a pen. But I’m not holding my breath.

Instead, we need the City Council to act. For years, CAIR-NY, NYCLU, and other advocates have pushed the POST Act, a commonsense bill that would require the NYPD to tell our lawmakers what military-grade spy gear they’re buying with private and federal dollars and how they’re keeping that information safe. The NYPD could continue surveillance, but the cowboy-era of buying whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted would be over. More importantly, the NYPD would finally enact policies to make sure our city’s resources won’t help ICE deport our neighbors.

But, the bill has stalled.

Our city’s leaders have long promised to make New York a sanctuary for all—a symbol of inclusion at a moment of presidential prejudice. So far, action has fallen short of soaring rhetoric, but that can change. This is the moment for our city to practice what we preach. This is the moment to prove we can do more than just show up for the protest.

Albert Fox Cahn is the Legal Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, a leading Muslim civil rights organization. On Twitter @CahnLawNY and @CAIRNewYork.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email

City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it? Tue, 03 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000