Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/993 Sun, 23 Sep 2018 20:09:38 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Pressed on SAFE Act, Teachout Downplays Past Opposition http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7891:pressed-on-safe-act-teachout-downplays-past-opposition http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7891:pressed-on-safe-act-teachout-downplays-past-opposition zephyr teachout with voters

Zephyr Teachout, right, greets New Yorkers (photo: @ZephyrTeachout)


Zephyr Teachout has throughout her attorney general campaign made the case that she is the most progressive candidate in the race, but her shifted position on major New York gun control legislation counters the impression she is attempting to offer Democratic voters ahead of the September primary, and became a flashpoint last week during the first televised debate of the race.

Teachout, whose candidacy has in recent weeks gained momentum, picking up endorsements from the Daily News and New York Times editorial boards, was questioned at the debate by fellow candidates Public Advocate Letitia James and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for waffling on the NY SAFE Act. The former congressional candidate has over the years shifted her stated concerns about the SAFE Act — signature gun control legislation quickly pushed through the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Specifically, Teachout, a Fordham Law professor and nationally recognized expert on political corruption, during the debate insisted that she had been a “consistent supporter” of the the SAFE Act, but was and remains troubled by the process with which it was passed.

“I support background checks. I support closing the gun show loophole. I support assault weapons ban, and I've been consistent about my criticisms of legislation that is passed without a chance for public hearing,” Teachout said after James, the race’s presumed front-runner at its outset, asked why Teachout had flipped on the issue, during the cross-examination portion of the debate.

Asked by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette editor and moderator of the debate, if process was her sole concern about the bill, Teachout said, “That was my criticism of the SAFE Act, and that has been my consistent criticism of the SAFE Act.”

“[M]y objections had to do with the process,” she said when pressed on the issue by Maloney, shortly after, as he turned her question to him around on her to challenge her progressive bona fides. “That is totally clear.”

But it has in fact not been evident from Teachout’s comments on the SAFE Act since its passage that her reservations about the legislation have been purely regarding the legislation’s path to fruition, as she claimed. While in recent years Teachout has several times expressed process complaints about the way the legislation was passed, she also said during her 2016 congressional bid for a Hudson Valley seat that she did not support the legislation due to shortcomings she argued came as a result of the hasty process.  

“I’ve been a critic of the SAFE Act,” Teachout offered proactively in January 2016 during an appearance on The Capitol Pressroom radio show with host Susan Arbetter, citing her position on the landmark gun control legislation on a list of stances that set her apart from “radical” left-wingers, as eventual winner Republican Rep. John Faso had labeled the Democrats in the race, which also included her belief in federal government “overreach” on Common Core education standards.   

Asked by Arbetter to further explain her position on gun control, she said the way the SAFE Act was developed was “more focused on making a public message than really dealing with issues of gun safety.” Further, Teachout said the this “led to some features that just didn’t make that much sense.” (Teachout was not alone in finding holes in the law. After the legislation’s passage, it needed to be amended in part because it failed to exempt law enforcement from some provisions.)

“I support background checks, but I am not a supporter of the SAFE Act,” she added.

Teachout also said the process by which it was passed was “rushed,” “shut people out,” and was “deeply disrespectful,” though she did not during that interview specify who was kept from the discussion nor who was disrespected.   

This was not the first time she criticized the legislative procedure for the SAFE Act. In 2014, Teachout also lamented the manner in which the legislation got to Cuomo’s desk, and was more specific about who she felt had been left out.

“It was done in a deeply disrespectful way. We should have held hearings, listened to gun owners,” she told the Watertown Daily Times, as she campaigned against Cuomo in that year's gubernatorial primary.

More broadly, Teachout in the past posited herself as a middle-of-the-road, voice of reason on gun control, who favored incorporating gun owners’ voices into the debate, calling upon her own upbringing in Vermont, where she was part of a family of recreational hunters. “I’ve always been around guns,” she said during the 2016 radio appearance.

Along with her public comments, Teachout shifted her posture on guns on her campaign website. Teachout’s 2016 congressional campaign site during the primary noted on its “Public Safety” page that the United States “has a gun violence problem” and “far too many guns wind up in the hands of those who should not have them.” It also included headers such as “Holding Gun Manufacturers Liable” and “Strengthening Universal Background Checks/Closing the Gun Show Loophole.”

Yet as the general election neared, Teachout de-emphasized her gun control stance on the website, shortening the description of her position on guns by several hundred words, and replaced bolder gun control advocacy with softer language.

“Zephyr grew up in in a gun-owning household, and understands that the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who use and store their firearms responsibly” was added to the same page of her campaign website, while the “Gun Industry Money Flowing to the NRA” section was deleted.

She added that if elected, she would would serve as a “voice for cooperation and common sense on gun safety,” in part by “[c]reating an open dialogue about gun safety with constituents in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.” A Teachout campaign representative told Gotham Gazette that after the primary there was a site-wide edit for clarity that included many pages. 

Tacking toward the center in anticipation for a general election — or altering a platform while seeking to represent a different constituency — are hardly rarities in politics, but Teachout disputes the notion any such evolution took place on the SAFE Act.

Teachout, in a statement, repeated what she said during the debate about the SAFE Act, denying she took issue with the legislation itself, but did not address questions on the campaign site changes.

"I've consistently supported the SAFE act and consistently critiqued the process by which it was passed without a single public hearing,” she said Monday. “That should be the baseline expectation in a democracy, for any legislation whether it's gun safety laws or sexual harassment laws.”

“If we don't have a process that people trust they're less likely to accept the outcome," she continued, touching on a theme that has been a consistent refrain from her about a broken state government, and a critique of it that is shared by many other good government advocates.

Teachout’s prior skepticism of some gun regulation appears not to have deterred at least one gun control advocacy group from supporting her. Both she and James are Moms Demand Action “Gun Sense Candidates.”

The four candidates, a group that also includes Leecia Eve, running in the Democratic primary for attorney general will on Tuesday again face off for another televised debate, this time on NY1, just over two weeks before the September 13 vote.

[WATCH the first televised debate of the Democratic Primary for Attorney General, aired by MNN]

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Pressed on SAFE Act, Teachout Downplays Past Opposition Mon, 27 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
On Taxes, the MTA and More, Molinaro Discusses Developing Campaign Platform http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7740:on-taxes-the-mta-and-more-molinaro-discusses-developing-campaign-platform http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7740:on-taxes-the-mta-and-more-molinaro-discusses-developing-campaign-platform marc molinaro launch

Marc Molinaro (photo: Ben Max/Gotham Gazette)


Ask Marc Molinaro about nearly anything, and the Republican nominee for governor will likely bring the conversation back to property taxes and affordability.

“My focus, ultimately, will be to drive down costs on middle class New Yorkers,” he said in a Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette. “That focus, again, has to be on property taxes because New York, unlike every other state in America, forces more of its state spending on property taxpayers. Property taxpayers -- small tax base; large, acute burden on individuals with no respect to their ability to pay.”

Molinaro, currently Dutchess county executive, has repeatedly sounded the theme since formally launching his bid for governor April 2. While he has largely spoken in sweeping generalities -- promising “bold” proposals to come during his nomination acceptance speech at the May 23 state GOP convention -- details are starting to emerge.

Molinaro said that in addition to making the state’s 2-percent cap on annual property tax increases permanent, he would seek to phase out the so-called “millionaires tax” if elected. The income tax rate for the top bracket -- which includes individuals making $1 million or more and couples earning $2 million or more per year -- went from 6.85 to 8.82 percent in 2009, and has been extended by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and a Legislature where each house is controlled by one of the two major parties.

“I would seek to have it expire over time,” Molinaro said of the millionaires tax. “I do think that there’s a way to make taxation in the state a bit more respectful of those who can’t afford it.”

He said he will release a detailed tax plan in the coming months. While Molinaro, like many other New York Republicans, has opposed the new, GOP-led federal tax overhaul because of its cap on local deductions, he has said New York must now work even harder to bring down the tax burden on its residents. He has also stressed that the state must reduce its burdens on localities -- often in the form of unfunded mandates -- so that counties, cities, towns, and villages can lower their taxes.

Molinaro, 42, has spent his entire career in politics, including terms as a member of the state Assembly and as mayor of Tivoli, where he became the youngest mayor in the country at age 19. He’s claiming the mantle of a regular New Yorker who gets the working and middle classes, comparing himself favorably to Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon, each of whom has much more wealth and fame. Molinaro’s tendency to talk at length about poor and struggling families in personal terms occasionally makes him sound more like a progressive Democrat than a fiscally conservative Republican.

“As a kid, I grew up on food stamps. I’m very sensitive to how the state treats those who are on the lower end of the income scale, living maybe in poverty or subsidized housing,” he said. During his nomination acceptance speech he raised his voice in declaring the he would “not concede compassion to anyone.”

He has made the state’s struggling dairy industry something of a focus. He allocated $651,781 of Dutchess County’s 2017 budget to protecting two farms there. He has been photographed hanging out in stables and often tweets about dairy. “Dairy day. I love dairy day. I miss dairy day. I should come back to Albany for dairy day,” he posted on Twitter earlier this month, in lighthearted fashion, while he has also tweeted about serious policy to help dairy farmers survive, such as through reducing regulations and taxes.

On the state’s minimum wage law, Molinaro voiced opposition to the recent increases. In 2016, Cuomo and state legislators reached a deal raising New York City’s minimum wage to $15 by the end of this year, with slower hikes in other parts of the state.

The Republican candidate, who also has the Conservative and Reform Party nominations, said he opposed the deal at the time and thinks the minimum wage “should be indexed to ebb and flow with the cost of living.”

“I also don’t necessarily agree that an unelected board of individuals should be able to establish statewide policy,” he added, in reference to the wage board that Cuomo had empaneled to help him craft the policy before he pushed it through the legislative process. “Those are decisions that ought to be made by citizens and their representatives.”

Asked whether he thought the state’s minimum wage should be lowered given broad economic growth, Molinaro replied with a laugh, “I’m not going to go there.”

The MTA is another area where Molinaro said he will roll out detailed proposals.

He said his priorities would be “depoliticizing” the authority’s board by giving members the power to fire the chair, currently Joe Lhota, along with conducting a thorough review of the MTA’s assets and creating a “road map” to improve service.

“Like Joe Lhota or not, the governor has too much influence,” Molinaro said, nodding to the fact that the governor nominates the MTA board chair, as Cuomo did with Lhota. “Far too many decisions are made without input from the MTA board…I would absolutely want to empower the MTA board to be able to fire the head of the MTA.”

Molinaro’s county includes the far reaches of the MTA transit system, and he is one of the executives empowered to jointly appoint an MTA board member. He often says that Dutchess is where “upstate meets downstate” and has joined the chorus of candidates and others criticizing Cuomo’s management of the MTA, especially the New York City subway system.

Molinaro did not comment, when asked, on MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s new plan to fix service. He mostly spoke in broad terms about the MTA’s problems -- decrying its “ineffectiveness and erosion” -- but singled out service for people with disabilities as a priority.

“The fact is that if you are living with a disability or particular challenges -- special needs -- we don’t have adequate access, and that needs to be a priority regardless of where you live,” Molinaro said.

That belief connects to an initiative Molinaro launched in Dutchess -- which he made a point to again emphasize during the interview -- to improve services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program, called ThinkDIFFERENTLY, has featured events connecting people with disabilities with service providers and aims to help them develop job and life skills.

Molinaro said the program -- which has caught on in dozens of other localities -- would provide a paradigm for how he approaches disabilities as governor. Molinaro, whose daughter is autistic, often cites his experience as a father when discussing the issue.

“Whether it’s making the investments necessary to break down physical barriers -- making subway stops and platforms accessible -- or it’s saying to job creators, you need to do more to encourage employment for those living with disabilities or welcome those with special needs as consumers,” he said, “we need to educate and then we need to ensure that the system is easier to navigate.”

As might be expected for a relatively unknown Republican challenging a two-term Democratic governor in New York, Molinaro has trailed Cuomo in early polls. A Siena College poll released Wednesday, about five-and-a-half months before Election Day, showed Cuomo ahead of Molinaro 56-37, though the numbers showed an improving trend for Molinaro in the hypothetical matchup and the poll was celebrated by his campaign, which noted he is in better position than Republican challenger Rob Astorino was four years ago at the same time.

Like Democratic primary challenger Nixon, who also trails Cuomo in the polls, Molinaro has tried to put a dent in the governor’s numbers by tying him to corruption. Both challengers have pointed to the recent conviction of longtime Cuomo lieutenant Joseph Percoco and the upcoming federal trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute who oversaw some of Cuomo’s most ambitious development projects.

Those cases center upon proven and alleged abuses within the governor’s multimillion-dollar economic development programs, and the Percoco trial showed the former Cuomo government aide and campaign manager regularly using his executive chamber office while on leave to run the governor’s 2014 reelection campaign. Molinaro has put forth a variety of government ethics and campaign finance reform proposals thus far, some of which Cuomo has professed support for but not passed. The GOP nominee has said he would seek pay-for-play, or doing-business, campaign finance restrictions on entities seeking or holding state contracts, term limits for statewide elected officials and state legislators, and other changes to make government more honest and open.

Molinaro said the trials not only show issues of corruption under Cuomo’s nose, but that the governor’s approach to economic development is fundamentally flawed.

“I don’t believe the government should take taxpayer money and give it to private interests,” he said. “I don’t believe in cutting checks as if New Yorkers are [Cuomo’s] personal ATM. It’s not fair, it’s not appropriate and he doesn’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong.”

Asked how he would encourage statewide economic growth if he ended Cuomo’s development programs, Molinaro again pointed to tax cuts and lowering the cost of living.

“Drive down costs, make it easier for businesses to thrive,” he said. “That’s how you grow an environment that people can achieve greater success -- not by pickpocketing New Yorkers and giving it to political contributors.” Molinaro did not offer specifics.

He said that if elected, he would take a selective approach to Cuomo’s legacy, though he shied away from detailing what he would seek to undo. “My perspective is everything gets evaluated -- everything,” he said.

Molinaro did not answer a question about Cuomo’s gun control measures, including an expanded ban of assault weapons, known as the SAFE Act. While the governor has frequently touted the legislation as one of his main achievements, and New York City residents largely support it, it is considered highly unpopular upstate.

In a January interview, more than a month before the school massacre in Parkland, Florida and the movement it spurred, Molinaro had told Gotham Gazette, “Frankly, I do have concerns with how aggressive this governor has been. I think in some ways irresponsibly ignoring those that do support, as I do, the Second Amendment and forcing legislation without having the kind of local robust conversation necessary. I believe the constitution is as it’s written.”

The Cuomo campaign has seized on some of Molinaro’s more conservative positions, like on gun rights and his 2011 vote against marriage equality as a member of the Assembly, the passage of which is a top Cuomo resume item. Molinaro has said he has evolved on the issue. The governor’s campaign has branded him a Trump mini-me, though Molinaro has said he did not vote for the Republican president in the 2016 election.

In the Wednesday interview with Gotham Gazette, Molinaro did not list any other issue areas where he plans to roll out policy plans, though during his convention speech he appeared to promise a series.

Asked how, if elected governor, he would work with the state Legislature -- this fall, Democrats are likely to maintain their Assembly majority and Republicans are fighting against losing the Senate -- Molinaro said he would try to make the lawmaking process more inclusive.

He promised to end Albany’s “three men in a room” culture in which the governor and legislative leaders decide the budget and other important issues behind closed doors.

“I think the government can reach into the legislature and local communities to identify great thinkers, people who are engaged in trying to solve problems irrespective of party, and engage them,” Molinaro said. “That breaks down the power structure that has paralyzed state government.”

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by Shant Shahrigianh, Gotham Gazette
      

Read more by this writer.

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On Taxes, the MTA and More, Molinaro Discusses Developing Campaign Platform Thu, 14 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
When Lawmakers Fail on Gun Sense, Generation Z Steps Up http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7553:when-lawmakers-fail-on-gun-control-generation-z-steps-up http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7553:when-lawmakers-fail-on-gun-control-generation-z-steps-up generationzgunreform

(photo: Cristina Gonzalez)


We were 12 years old when 20 children and six adults were gunned down in Sandy Hook Elementary School. One might think this a bit young to be exposed to such a raw act of violence, and experience this shift where gun violence was now becoming an American norm. We felt lucky to be living in a state where gun laws were strict and fairly well-regulated. But Sandy Hook hit us both hard. To hear about a school full of innocent children being targeted, our stomachs turned over in grief and disgust, and our eyes were opened to an entirely unfamiliar world of hatred and distrust in our government.

The ability to own guns in this country is a result of our Second Amendment. A law written in the 18th century when our government was still fresh and new, we had just won our war against England and were planning on beating back any possibility of invasion. At the time, this law made sense. Our citizens had land to defend, and we wanted to be sure our central government didn’t abuse their power and create an oppressive regime. All these reasons made the Second Amendment perfectly reasonable at the time. Now, 227 years later, the original intentions of our Founding Fathers have come to be interpreted by some as an absolute, unflinching freedom to bear arms, for almost everyone of almost every kind of weapon -- even when those arms are not in any way necessary in the day-to-day lives of Americans or likely be used to fend off invaders or an overreaching government.

We want to preserve people’s rights and freedoms, though some might assume our position intends to infringe on that. For so many years, we have had to rely on our elected representatives, and the interest groups and lobbyists linked to Congress, to make real, national change on our behalf. They have failed us.

Our next congressional election is this coming November. With 470 seats up for grabs, and more than 2,400 candidates running, as newly-minted voters we realize that this fall we get the opportunity to choose who goes into those seats. We no longer have to put our trust into the people who have been letting us down and neglecting our safety year after year. Having the lives of American children threatened constantly, and the impending fear of possibly being the next victims of gun violence, has driven us to step up, and speak to our generation to finally make a call to action.

We first took steps to make sure that the March 14 walkout was not only happening in our schools but in others across the city. We provided students that didn’t have the resources or the ability to plan their walkouts with step-by-step instructions on how to conduct their own walkouts so they could make them as effective and powerful as possible while still remaining safe. In this process we found each other and together we created a platform we call Generation Z.

We’ve gathered over 2,000 kids and counting across the Greater New York Area in over 20 different schools and counting to ensure the work doesn’t end with the walkouts.

We have been working on policy points related to gun reform that need to be put in place, including the full implementation of background checks; the removal of military grade weapons and high capacity magazines; preventing teachers from being armed in schools; stricter regulations that would prevent the trafficking of guns into our state; better reporting of domestic violence convictions and enforcement of current laws barring those convicted of domestic violence offences from owning guns; and the removal of metal detectors, specifically within schools in communities of color, and replacing them with better school mental health departments.

We want Generation Z to be the platform we never had, and we don’t want to stop with the walkouts. We continue to raise money to go to Washington, D.C. to be heard on Capitol Hill. We want Generation Z to tackle the problems that we never had the opportunity to voice ourselves. We hope to gain the support of the adults in our communities, especially those with the means and privilege to help, to fulfill our mission to travel to Capitol Hill and to advocate for, and implement, much-needed change. We plan to show other young adults how to exert their power as voters and ensure progress is made. We are the future. We will be heard. We are Generation Z.

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Amanda Delaney and Ella Marion are members of Generation Z. On Facebook: Generation Z for Gun Reform and on Instagram: @genz4gunreform.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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When Lawmakers Fail on Gun Sense, Generation Z Steps Up Wed, 21 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Criticizes Scott's Florida Gun Control Plan, Despite Relative Strengths http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7498:cuomo-criticizes-scott-s-florida-gun-control-plan-despite-relative-strengths http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7498:cuomo-criticizes-scott-s-florida-gun-control-plan-despite-relative-strengths Cuomo SAFE Act

Cuomo in 2013 (photo: The Governor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo sharply critiqued his counterpart from Florida, Rick Scott, on CNN on Friday, criticizing Scott’s Action Plan on gun safety in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as “incremental” and unlikely to have a real impact. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, is known for his landmark 2013 gun control law, the SAFE Act, which he pushed through after the mass killing of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in late 2012, and has been vocal on the need for reforms across the country.

After receiving heavy criticism over his state’s lax gun laws in the wake of the killing of 17 at the school, Scott, a Republican, issued his new plan, which includes provisions such as banning bump stocks, raising the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21, restrictions and prohibitions on firearms purchases for mentally ill people and domestic abusers, and more funding for school safety and mental health treatment.

Cuomo, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said the proposals, which Tapper thought Cuomo would approve of, dance around the issue. Cuomo indicated Scott was stopping short of implementing more meaningful measures to prevent gun violence, such as universal background checks, more stringent prevention of mentally ill people from acquiring weapons, better information sharing and a red-flag warning system, and, perhaps most significantly, a ban on certain assault weapons, which he defines as having “military style” accessories such as large clip sizes, and certain grips and scopes.

In doing so, Cuomo appeared to outline his set of proposals for national gun reform, though he did not give Scott credit for the reform measures outlined by the Florida governor, some of which would make for tighter controls than exist in New York.

“Why don’t we start by saying what the real problem is and what the real solution is,” said Cuomo, who had just launched “States for Gun Safety,” a new coalition. “The real problem is not just schools. It is society wide. These shootings can happen Anywhere, USA, anytime.”

Cuomo criticized a proposal floated by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, and the National Rifle Association, to arm teachers to protect against mass shooters.

“The answer that the NRA wants to hear is, the answer is more guns. The answer isn’t more guns. The answer is making sure that people who shouldn’t have guns don’t have guns. And this has been going on for 20 years,” Cuomo said.

Two of the main areas where Cuomo criticized the Scott proposal are areas where New York would actually be behind Florida if Scott’s proposal becomes law: New York does not require a buyer of rifles or shotguns to be 21, and bump stocks can be acquired legally in the state.

The Florida proposal -- which is still a long way from passage -- would prohibit any person under the age of 21, with the exception of military and law enforcement officers, from possessing any firearm. In New York, only handguns are prohibited for those under 21; 18 year olds can purchase rifles or shotguns.

Raising the age for firearm purchases appears to be one of the few gun control proposals gaining widespread steam among Republicans. In New York, the proposal has been endorsed by Congressional Rep. John Faso, a Republican who represents several rural upstate counties.

A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo told Gotham Gazette that raising the age for purchases would not be effective. The spokesperson cited the shootings in Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs, all of which were committed by an individual over the age of 21.

“The [Florida] proposals do not go far enough,” said the spokesperson. “The 21 age limit in particular is barely scratching the surface, New York has already banned affixing bump stocks to guns and the $500 million fund would allow them to put police officers in schools, which the governor does not support. They are incremental steps and more needs to be done.”

Governor Scott’s office declined to respond to Cuomo’s comments, instead directing Gotham Gazette to the press release with Scott’s proposals.

On CNN, Cuomo, who is known for and boasts about being able to craft compromise with a Republican State Senate, said that gun control was too serious an issue to be constrained by the "trap" of thinking within considerations of political feasability.

It is illegal in New York State to affix a gun with a bump stock, an instrument that can turn a semiautomatic rifle into an automatic rifle, owing to the state’s and the federal bans on machine guns. But bump stocks can still be purchased separately, and be illegally affixed to the weapon.

The SAFE Act articulates stricter terms for assault weapons prohibitions and universal background checks, but the Florida proposal places more emphasis on school security than seen in New York. Not all schools in New York are equipped with a School Resource Officer, while Scott has called for an SRO in every school, and proposed funding for one officer per 1,000 students across the state, to be enacted next school year.

While the SAFE Act banned new sales of assault-style weapons, it allowed already-existing such guns to remain lawfully owned, as long as their owners register them. There are roughly 44,000 registered assault-style weapons in New York, Cuomo has said repeatedly of late, including on CNN, where he also said the country should institute a ban while carefully defining “assault weapon.”

Cuomo has also indicated that gun violence has decreased significantly in New York since the SAFE Act was passed. However, not all parts of the SAFE Act have been fully implemented. The database tracking ammunition sales like gun sales has still not been created. Cuomo and Senate Republicans agreed to suspend the development of the database in 2015, and the Senate has still not agreed to fund the measure, leaving it unenforced despite its codification in law.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Cuomo Criticizes Scott's Florida Gun Control Plan, Despite Relative Strengths Mon, 26 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Let’s Lead the Way on Gun Background Checks in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7489:let-s-lead-the-way-on-gun-background-checks-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7489:let-s-lead-the-way-on-gun-background-checks-in-new-york Senator Gianaris

Senator Gianaris, the author, with young people (photo via @SenGianaris)


72 hours.

That is how long one needs to wait for a background check before buying a high-capacity gun capable of mass slaughter. Three days is all it took for Dylann Roof to purchase his .45 caliber Glock and kill nine people who sat praying in Emanuel AME Zion Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof bought his gun without completing a background check because current law authorizes a gun purchase after three days, regardless of whether or not a background check has been completed. Roof, with his prior convictions, would have failed a background check and should not have been able to acquire his firearm. The victims should still be with their families today.  

Right here in New York, Jiverly Wong purchased a handgun in Binghamton in 2009 after three days, even though a background check – which may have prevented the purchase due to a history of mental health issues – was not completed. Just a month later, he walked into a naturalization class at a local community center and killed 13 people.

As the nation reels from another horrifying tragedy, this time in Parkland, Florida, thoughts and prayers are insufficient to stop future calamities. The time for action is at hand. Grieving teenagers mourning their classmates should not shoulder the burden of a nation; state and federal leaders must do something to prevent even more parents from burying their children.

In 2016, the federal government authorized more than 300,000 prospective gun purchases before background checks were completed. This means thousands of weapons in the hands of potentially dangerous people – those with criminal histories and mental illnesses, as well as domestic abusers.

In New York State, we can lead the way on avoiding these preventable tragedies: I introduced the Effective Background Check Act, legislation lengthening the waiting period for a background check from the current three days to a full 10, giving more time for checks to be completed and keeping weapons out of the hands of potential killers.

This effort is even more important now as the Trump administration seeks to reduce funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which would further slow the ability of the FBI to perform timely background checks. As Parkland parents buy caskets for their children instead of graduation gowns, Donald Trump needs to recognize this is the worst possible time to abdicate his responsibilities.

Leaders on all sides of the aisle must rally around the crisis our nation is facing: too many people are dying of preventable gun deaths. On average, 96 people die each day from guns. Because of background checks, we have stopped more than 3 million gun sales to prohibited people, saving countless lives. With a longer waiting period, we could save even more.

Could a few days’ time have made a difference in these tragedies? Could one of those more than 300,000 gun purchases in 2016 be the next mass shooting? Could one of those be the perpetrator of domestic violence against his or her partner or child? Are those extra hours worth saving the lives of innocent men, women, and children who may be gunned down in movie theaters, on street corners, or in their schools?

240 hours. That is how long a gun purchaser would need to wait to complete a background check if New York enacts my Effective Background Check Act. For all those whose lives were cut short by years, we owe them this extra time.

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Michael Gianaris is a state senator representing the 12th Senate District, in Queens. On Twitter @SenGianaris.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Let’s Lead the Way on Gun Background Checks in New York Wed, 21 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Jan. 11-15 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6093:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-jan-11-15 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6093:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-jan-11-15 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday January 15

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Governor Cuomo gives his State of the State address, via the governor's office

andrew cuomo mario cuomo

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. State of the State: Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his combined State of the State and budget address on Wednesday. The plan has major infrastructure components to it as well as efforts to achieve social and economic justice, as the governor put it. Some of Cuomo’s 2016 “Built to Lead” agenda will place new financial strains on New York City, as the plan would end the state’s payment of some of the city’s Medicaid costs and change how CUNY is funded. Those changes and others are expected by some experts to cost the city $1 billion starting in the next fiscal year. In response, Mayor de Blasio has called the budget proposal “debilitating,” and said he would use “any means necessary” to restore the millions in state financing. Cuomo appeared to strike a conciliatory tone on Thursday, saying the city and state would work together to find Medicaid and CUNY efficiencies. [Read: Cuomo Outlines $144 Billion Budget & Cuomo Unveils Ethics Plan to Questions Of Follow Through]

2. Cuomo Cleared: On Monday, the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime in the investigation into Governor Cuomo’s interference with and closure of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

3. Gun Courts: On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio announced “Project Fast Track,” which aims to reduce gun violence in New York City through the creation of a new Gun Violence Suppression Division in the NYPD and by designating judges to fast-track illegal gun cases and resolve the cases within six months. [Read: City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions]

4. Spotlight on Sexual Assault: The alleged gang-rape in a Brownsville playground last Thursday, the rise in the number of reported rapes in 2015, and NYPD Commissioner Bratton’s suggestion that women going home late at night use the “buddy system” have led sexual assault to become the focus of public discussion this week. On Monday, lawmakers and advocates rallied outside City Hall to call for more legislation and resources to protect women from sexual assault. [Read: To Combat Increase in Reported Rapes, Experts Point to Prevention & Sexual Assault Becomes Focus of Public Discussion]

5. 421-a, Uber, Carriage Horses: Negotiations between construction unions and real estate developers to extend the controversial 421-a development tax break are at a standstill, with both sides certain they will not reach an agreement by the Friday deadline to renew the program. Meanwhile, the city releases its long-awaited study of the for-hire vehicle industry, leading to little other than acknowledgement that the city is unlikely to pursue a cap to Uber’s growth. And, a deal on reducing horse carriages appeals imminent. [Read: Negotiations to Extend Important Affordable Housing Tax Break Said to Reach Impasse]

THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:

  • $145 billion budget was laid out by Governor Cuomo during his annual state of the state and budget address.
  • $20 billion commitment to combat homelessness was announced by Governor Cuomo during the address, with $10 billion earmarked for 100,000 permanent affordable housing units and $10 billion for 6,000 new supported beds over 5 years, 1,000 emergency shelter beds, and other services, Gotham Gazette reports.
  • $1 billion is about how much experts estimate the changes in funding to CUNY and state payment of Medicaid costs will cost New York City starting in the next fiscal year, Capital New York reports.
  • 78.1% of public school students in New York graduated on time last june, up from 76.4% the previous year, marking an increase for the third year in a row, Gannett Albany reports. Meanwhile, the graduation rate in New York City crept above 70% for the first time.
  • 1,439 rapes reported in 2015, up 6.3% from 1,354 in 2014, Gotham Gazette reports.
  • 1.4 million New Yorkers - 16.5% of the population - are food insecure, Gotham Gazette reports.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

It was a good week for Governor Andrew Cuomo, after he was cleared by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in the investigation into his interference with the shutdown of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

It was a bad week for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who came under fire for suggesting women should use the “buddy system” when coming home late at night to avoid becoming the victim of sexual assault. The NYPD has also been criticized this week for not notifying the public of the alleged gang rape in a Brownsville playground sooner.

THE FLASH:

Around this time 27 years ago, on January 13, 1989, subway gunman Bernhard Goetz was sentenced to a year in prison for possessing an unlicensed gun which he used to shoot four people he said were going to rob him.

Around this time 116 years ago, on January 10, 1900, bids went out for the construction of an underground railroad line running between City Hall and the Bronx. The city’s first subway opened four years later.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK

Special Election Spotlights Machine Politics in The Bronx, by Gabe Ponce de León

To Combat Increase in Reported Rapes, Experts Point to Prevention, by Meg O'Connor

Cuomo Outlines $144 Billion Budget, by David Howard King

Cuomo Unveils Ethics Plan to Questions of Follow Through, by David Howard King

At Hearing on Hunger, Council Presses De Blasio Administration on SNAP Participation, by Ryan Brady

New Data Indicates IDNYC Popularity Among Immigrants, by Samar Khurshid

Cuomo Heads Into State of the State After Big Announcements, With More to Say, by Ben Max

Assembly Democrats Reject Republican Rules Changes, Promise Own Proposals Soon, by David Howard King

Council to Assess Hunger Problem, City Efforts to Reduce It, by Ryan Brady

New York One Signature Away from Calling for Overturn of Citizens United, by Samar Khurshid

Sexual Assault Becomes Focus of Public Discussion, by Ben Max

To Meet Staten Island Needs, Borough President Focuses on Beating Bureaucracy, by Meg O'Connor

Don't Be Seduced By Sexy Transportation Projects, by Philip M. Plotch and Nicholas D. Bloom (opinion)

A Case for None-Time-Limited Supportive Housing for Young Adults, by Colleen Jackson (opinion)

More Cities Should Do What States and Federal Government Aren't on Minimum Wage, by JoEllen Chernow (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

Governor Andrew Cuomo sat down with NY1's Errol Louis for an interview Wednesday after laying out his vision for the year in his State of the State address.

Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks discussed the ways the de Blasio administration is dealing with the homelessness crisis and the governor’s plans to audit the city’s shelter system with Errol Louis NY1.

Mary Brosnahan, executive director of Coalition for the Homeless, talks about the new proposals for addressing New York City's homeless population on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

 

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, Jan. 11-15 Fri, 15 Jan 2016 19:44:06 +0000
City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6074:city-to-open-gun-courts-to-expedite-prosecutions http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6074:city-to-open-gun-courts-to-expedite-prosecutions bdb guns

A gun bust (photo: @NYCMayorsOffice)


In an effort to reduce gun violence and gun-related crimes, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says the city intends to create specialized “gun courts” in each of the five boroughs. Gun courts will expedite the handling of gun-related cases to more quickly identify and imprison those who use guns illegally.

The head of the Citizens Crime Commission, Richard Aborn, has been working on the initiative for several months, leading toward an upcoming announcement, Bratton said during a radio interview earlier this week. The collaboration between the CCC and Bratton has “involved the five district attorneys, two of the five are brand new, and Judge Lippman, before he stepped down from the bench,” Bratton explained Tuesday on WNYC.

“The Commissioner’s comments were a teaser...for a larger policy package from the City in coordination with every part of the criminal justice system to ensure that reducing gun violence is taken seriously at every stage,” Monica Klein, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

It appears the new gun courts pilot program will be launched in Brooklyn, though the ultimate goal is to create a gun court in every borough, where the district attorney can send gun-related cases to fast-track them. The specifics of the program will be officially announced within the next few weeks.

In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said, “A dedicated judge will help us prosecute gun cases faster and more efficiently in Brooklyn. We are in discussions with court officials about setting up this specialized part and having it up and running in the coming weeks.”

Staten Island’s new District Attorney, Mike McMahon, “was not privy to any conversations the previous administration may have had regarding gun courts,” having only taken office several days ago, though he “has spoken this week with NYPD Commissioner Bratton to schedule a meeting to discuss gun courts, gun violence, and other issues,” Douglas Auer, director of communications for McMahon, told Gotham Gazette.

In 2015, shooting incidents declined overall, though murders were up slightly from 2014's record low, and killings committed by shooting were “up fairly dramatically,” Bratton said. Gun arrests increased by 10 percent from the previous year, and the NYPD seized a “record number of guns.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg created a pilot gun court program in Brooklyn in 2003, under then-DA Charles Hynes, which saw an increase in the amount of jail time defendants received, though the program was discontinued. Gun courts were first established in Providence, Rhode Island in 1994, and also exist in Philadelphia, Boston, and Birmingham, Alabama.

Similar to drug courts, gun courts streamline the processing of gun-related cases, allowing judges to focus attention on gun-related crimes, rather than mixing such cases in with various other offenses, such as murder or rape, which may make, for example, illegal possession of a firearm, seem like a less serious offense by comparison.

However, unlike drug courts, which largely redirect drug offenders to treatment programs rather than prison, gun courts often result in harsher punishments for those accused of gun-related crimes, though the main intent is to move gun-related offenses through the criminal justice system more swiftly and efficiently in order to get those who have committed gun-related crimes off the streets as quickly as possible.

New York’s new gun courts will work by employing “the precision model,” Bratton said, by “drilling down - instead of basically suspecting one million minority males and stopping them every year,” gun courts will allow law enforcement to “focus on understanding who it is within the community who are committing these crimes and focus attention on them.” In saying this, Bratton was referring, again, to the overuse of stop-and-frisk tactics during the previous administration.

Bratton believes the system is “under-sentencing people involved in gun crimes,” and wants judges to “maximize the penalties” in cases of violent crime.

“Those several thousand people in the city who think nothing of taking out a gun and shooting another human being, they need to be treated with every ounce of the justice system that we can apply to them to basically get them off the streets and keep them away from the rest of us,” Bratton said on WNYC.

One advantage of creating gun courts could be that “putting a priority on prosecuting gun crimes will serve as a deterrent,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “If people know that they’re going to be hit hard and fast with a conviction or charge,” it could discourage people from committing gun-related crimes.

New York does have strong gun laws, including a 3.5 year mandatory minimum for anyone caught carrying a loaded, illegal weapon. Yet with 90 percent of guns recovered from crimes in New York City originating from other states, such as Georgia and Virginia, there is only so much the city and state can do to keep guns from being used illegally.

To combat the flow of illegal guns into the city, New York law enforcement works to identify and break up gun trafficking rings - like the one that smuggled 112 guns into the city over the course of a year - but until federal action is taken to make it harder for those who intend to commit gun crimes to get guns, such efforts are simply putting a bandaid on a bullet wound.

“There’s no real federal statute that deals with this gun trafficking,” Brooklyn DA Thompson said, expressing frustration, during a press conference announcing the aforementioned gun bust in October, 2015..

“Two high profile police shootings involved guns that were traced back to Georgia...Until we have strong federal gun laws, we’re going to have this problem,” Barrett said.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has put forward an anti-gun trafficking bill (for the second time), which would elevate gun trafficking to a felony. “At the moment, it’s a misdemeanor - the same charge you get if you were trafficking a chicken,” Barrett said, “this is a problem that needs to be addressed at the federal level.”

On Tuesday, President Obama issued executive orders to help increase gun safety by expanding who is required to have a background check before purchasing a gun and tightening rules for reporting guns that are lost or stolen, among others. Though there is relatively little that can be done to make more stringent gun control a reality without action from Congress.

There is something that New York City and State can do to reduce gun-related crimes, Barrett says, since 10 percent of crime guns recovered by city law enforcement originate from New York.

“If the mayor and the police commissioner would publish the source of the crime guns, where these guns are coming from in New York State, that would be very valuable to know, because that would inform our advocacy,” Barrett said. If it turned out that a large number of those crime guns were stolen, for example, gun safety advocates would push for safe storage laws in New York.

“I do believe we have to put a lot of resources into dealing with the gun violence problem,” City Council Member Jumaane Williams told Gotham Gazette. “What worries me is that we seem to be very much law enforcement heavy as a resource, as opposed to other things that are needed to stop the systemic problem” of gun violence, such as reducing the “demand for violence” through programs like one led by the gun violence task force in the City Council, which Williams leads and provides services such as job training and legal, mental health, and mediation services in neighborhoods with higher rates of gun violence.

To Williams, “the main thing is that public safety can’t just be the domain of law enforcement. We need many agencies working together on this.” Efforts by law enforcement to address the systemic problem of gun violence “has to be part of the solution, but it can’t be something we hang our hat on,” he said.

Cracking down on those involved with gun-related crimes is generally viewed as a step in the right direction, though gun courts also raise concerns for some.

“The impulse is a good one - to target criminals who use guns and to incapacitate them if necessary,” Eugene O’Donnell, professor of law, political science, and criminal justice at John Jay College told Gotham Gazette. “However, in practice, there are many different situations where individuals are arrested for gun possession who are not hardened felons, and that has always been the rub.”

When Gotham Gazette reached out to the NYPD, the office of the deputy commissioner for public information said no one was available to comment. The Manhattan and Queens district attorney offices declined to comment, and a spokesperson for the Bronx district attorney said gun-related crimes are a concern for new DA Darcel Clark, but had no further comment. A representative for the Citizens Crime Commission told Gotham Gazette he could not say anything more about gun courts than what Bratton already revealed during his radio appearances before the official announcement.

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by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette, @MegOConnor13

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City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions Fri, 08 Jan 2016 04:31:26 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Nov 30-Dec 4 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6019:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-nov-30-dec-4 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6019:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-nov-30-dec-4 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday December 4, 2015

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Sheldon Silver outside the courthouse, via Zack Fink of NY1

silver via zack fink

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. Sheldon Silver Guilty: On Monday, former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was found guilty on all seven counts in his federal corruption trial and now faces prison for abusing his position to obtain $4 million in illegal payments. At the center of Silver's trial was the culture of corruption in Albany, sparking a renewed push by good government advocates for ethics reform. [Read: Will Silver Conviction Be Tipping Point for 'Real' Reform?]

2. NY vs. AIDS: At an event on World AIDS Day Dec. 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the city will spend $23 million a year on a new plan to fight AIDS. The city has seen a 35 percent decrease in the number of HIV diagnoses in the past decade, though nearly one tenth of people living with HIV in the U.S. reside in the city, prompting the mayor to call for increased efforts to “end the AIDS epidemic here in New York City by 2020.” At the same event, Governor Cuomo said he plans to seek $200 million in new AIDS funding in the state budget.

3. Cuomo and de Blasio’s Dinner Detente: On Tuesday, Cuomo and de Blasio met in midtown for a secret sit-down dinner in an attempt to put aside their differences and potentially resolve their longstanding feud, which intensified last week after a Cuomo spokesperson said de Blasio couldn’t manage the city’s homelessness crisis. Apparently, the meeting "didn't go well," though aides who were with Cuomo and de Blasio at the time said the “conversation was constructive." [Read: Cuomo Increasingly Uses State Power to Undermine De Blasio]

4. Mayor’s Rezoning Plans Face Pushback: Discussions on the mayor's rezoning policies continued this week, with some significant criticism from community and borough boards. On Monday, the Manhattan Borough Board voted against de Blasio’s zoning changes, with conditions they’d like to see used for amendments, and on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Borough Board did the same, with its own set of suggestions. The mayor has acknowledged the pushback, saying it was not unexpected and that tweaks will be made to the plans before they head to the City Council early in 2016. [Read: Mayor & Speaker: Rezoning Plans Will Change Before Council Vote]

5. Cuomo on Gun Control and Hypocrisy: In the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which left at least 14 dead and 17 injured, Gov. Cuomo once again reiterated the need for Congress to take action on federal gun control. Speaking on Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, Cuomo pointed out the hypocrisy of Republicans wanting to close the border to Syrian refugees following the attacks in Paris, while repeatedly blocking the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act since 2007. On Friday on WNYC radio, Mayor de Blasio announced he would be moving to push New York City’s pension funds to divest from gun manufacturers.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

$90,700 a year is the estimated legislative pension former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is entitled to, despite being convicted on federal corruption charges, the Daily News reports.

3,000-plus New York City police officers have been trained so far in so-called active shooter situations, learning how to move through buildings, with just one partner if need be, as part of a new approach, the New York Times reports.

8 school districts are suing New York State over funding inequities, asking that the court declare current school funding levels “so inadequate” they violate students’ rights, Times Union reports.

$90 million in bonds were allotted to the city through the state for funding affordable housing this week, Politico New York reports.

12 communities with limited access to health food have been selected to be part of the new initiative which will build more urban farms, expand school gardens, and establish community-center culinary programs and farmers markets, the Wall Street Journal reports.

2,000 city-owned sedans used by local agencies like the Transportation Department will be replaced with electric vehicles by 2025, in an effort to cut municipal vehicle emissions in half by that time, the de Blasio administration announced Tuesday.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

It was a good week for Westchester County district attorney Janet DiFiore, who was nominated by Governor Cuomo to replace Jonathan Lippman as chief judge of the State Court of Appeals after Lippman retires at the end of this year.

It was a bad week for former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces decades in prison after being found guilty on all seven counts of federal corruption charges against him.

THE FLASH:

Around this time two years ago, on December 1, 2013, four people were killed and 61 were injured when a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx after the engineer fell asleep at the controls.

Around this time 60 years ago, on December 1, 1955, commuting became a little easier for straphangers in Queens when the 60th Street Tunnel Connection opened in Queens, which is used today by the R train.

Around this time last year, on December 3, 2014, protests erupted in New York City after a grand jury decided not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Protests calling for Pantaleo, who is currently on modified duty, to be fired took place once again this Thursday, though NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has said his department is waiting for the federal investigation to be complete before proceeding with any administrative departmental action.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

City Council Submits Testimony to Pay Commission, by Ben Max

Will Silver Conviction Be Tipping Point for 'Real' Reform? by David Howard King

Cuomo Increasingly Uses State Power to Undermine De Blasio, by David Howard King

Top Ten Corruption Quotes from Silver, Skelos Trials, by David Howard King

City's Rezoning Plans Won't Improve Quality or Affordability, Andrew Berman (opinion)

Ethical Treatment of Our Homeless Neighbors, by  Anne Klaeysen (opinion)

After Silver: Legal Reform is Ethics Reform, by Thomas Stebbins (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

Mayor de Blasio appeared on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Friday to discuss a variety of issues.

On Inside City Hall, Errol Louis discussed the controversy over Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan with Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development and Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission.

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, Nov 30-Dec 4 Fri, 04 Dec 2015 14:57:28 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 19-23 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5948:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-october-19-23 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5948:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-october-19-23 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 23

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio and other officials announce sale of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village, via Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office; Governor Cuomo receives an award and announces planned protections for transgender New Yorkers at the Empire State Pride Agenda gala, via Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office

de blasio stuyvesant town

Cuomo pride transgender

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. Cuomo To Extend Protection For Transgender New Yorkers: At the Empire State Pride Agenda gala on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he will take executive action to extend legal protections for transgender New Yorkers.

2. City & State Make New Moves In K2 Fight (Separately): Governor Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York is expanding its public awareness campaign against synthetic drug abuse with ads and a 33-foot-tall billboard in the Bronx that reads "Synthetic marijuana can kill!" On the same day, Mayor de Blasio signed three measures into law that criminalize the manufacture and distribution of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as K2, intensifying the city's ongoing crackdown.

3. Federal Court Upholds SAFE Act: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the New York SAFE Act on Monday, keeping in place signature Cuomo gun regulations which were passed in the wake of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

4. Stuyvesant Town Sold: This week, the Blackstone Group, a Wall Street investment firm, reached a deal to buy Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, a 11,232-apartment complex near the East Village. As part of the deal, 5,000 units will be preserved for middle-class families. The deal was negotiated with the de Blasio administration, City Council Member Dan Garodnick (who wrote this Gotham Gazette op-ed with his thoughts on the deal), and other key stakeholders.

5. De Blasio Moves On Bail: In the aftermath of the killing of Police Officer Randolph Holder on Tuesday evening, Mayor de Blasio and others are scrutinizing the processes by which the alleged killer was still on the streets given a long criminal record and recent arrests. De Blasio is calling on the state to change its bail laws: as he and allies such as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ask for elimination of bail for low-level nonviolent offenders, they also want to see judges allowed to consider the dangerousness of someone facing charges when setting bail.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • 38 female firefighters in New York City’s over 10,700-member force.
  • 43% of Assembly housing chair Keith Wright’s congressional campaign has been funded by real estate interests regulated by his committee.
  • 5,485 classrooms in New York City are overcrowded, according to data from the teachers’ union - a 15% drop from last year.
  • $21.1 million increase in spending by lobbyists to influence Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers in the first six months of 2015, bringing the total spent so far this year to $130.9 million.
  • 28 separate incidents of rape behind bars were reported by Rikers Island inmates last year - though the city Department of Corrections failed to inform the NYPD about any of them.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Governor Cuomo and gun control advocates as a federal appeals court upheld key components of New York's SAFE Act.
  • It was a bad week for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, each of whom saw legal setbacks as they approach their separate corruption trials, set to begin early next month.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time last year, on October 23, 2014, Dr. Craig Spencer, who had just returned from treating Ebola patients in Africa, became the first person in the city to test positive for the Ebola virus, sparking fear and urgent efforts to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
  • Around this time 7 years ago, on October 23, 2008, the New York City Council voted 29-22 in favor of extending the term limit on the offices of Mayor and others to three consecutive four-year terms, allowing then-mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for office a third time (and win) in the 2009 mayoral election.
  • Around this time 20 years ago, on October 19, 1995, the Metropolitan Transit Authority approved a fare hike of 25 cents, bringing the single-ride fare to $1.50.
  • Around this time 51 years ago, on October 22, 1964, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner and the City Council reached agreement on a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $1.50 an hour - the highest in the nation - though it was struck down later that year, on the grounds that state law prevented cities from increasing the wage on their own.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Spurred by Buffalo Billion, Reformers Look to Fix State Business Subsidies, by David Howard King

In Effort to Ensure Sound Education, City Battles Student Homelessness, by Colin O’Connor

As Healthcare Landscape Changes, City Hospital Authority Charts New Path, by Christian Zhang

One 'Raise the Age' Story at Center of Push for Legislative Action, by David Howard King

Participatory Budgeting Grows in NYC - Why Isn’t Every Council Member Doing It?, by Colin O’Connor

The Future of Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village, by Council Member Dan Garodnick (opinion)

There is Nothing Innovative About Displacement, by Tarry Hum (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • WNYC's Robert Lewis and Data News Team put together an in-depth series on "The Hard Truth About Cops Who Lie."

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 19-23 Fri, 23 Oct 2015 18:09:53 +0000