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Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Thirteen days after his most recent visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio heads back to Albany Tuesday morning to testify about the city's needs and progress, and to evaluate Governor Andrew Cuomo's Executive Budget.

In front of members of the state Senate and Assembly at a joint legislative budget hearing, de Blasio is expected to push for increased state funding for key aspects of his inequality-fighting agenda and an extension of mayoral control of city schools, while also insisting that the state not go through with potential cuts to city aid outlined by the governor.

De Blasio's testimony, including question-and-answer with lawmakers, is likely to touch upon the recently expired 421-a real estate tax abatement program, which is meant to spur affordable housing and is seen as essential to the mayor's goals. The program, in existence for decades, expired on Jan. 15. Three days later de Blasio told reporters, "I'm deeply disappointed that the way it was pursued has failed, in terms of the Albany process. And Albany has a chance to make it right and fix it because this is crucial to continuing the work we need to do to create affordable housing."

Other key topics the mayor is likely to address include his management of homelessness and schools, the city-state share of the MTA capital plan, overall education funding the city receives, and the mayor's Vision Zero traffic safety program. At a recent press conference outlining progress in reducing pedestrian fatalities, de Blasio indicated that he'll be asking the state for further investments in Vision Zero, including to allow the city to run its school zone speed cameras 24-hours-a-day as opposed to only during school hours, as is the case now.

When de Blasio was last in Albany on Jan. 13, he met with Cuomo for about thirty minutes and then watched from the third row as Cuomo delivered his State of the State and budget address. Immediately after, de Blasio found much to praise in the governor's 2016 platform, including planned investments in supportive housing and calls for increasing the minimum wage and passing paid family leave. However, de Blasio also learned that day that Cuomo's Fiscal Year 2017 budget plan includes significant cuts to state aid to the city for CUNY and Medicaid.

De Blasio reacted cautiously that day, but had harsher words the next, after he and his budget team had had more time to review Cuomo's plan. De Blasio pledged to "fight them by any means necessary."

The mayor helped stir a bit of a groundswell from budget watchdogs and like-minded legislators. The governor quickly said that the cuts were the start of a negotiation, that he was outlining plans for finding "efficiencies" in cooperation with the city for the two jointly-run programs. He promised that his plan "won't cost New York City a penny."

De Blasio quickly praised the governor's promise and has said repeatedly since that he will hold him to it.

When outlining his own preliminary fiscal 2017 budget on Jan. 21, de Blasio did not account for potential cuts to CUNY and Medicaid, which could cost $1 billion annually. Instead, he said of the governor, "He said he wants to find collaborative process to find reforms and savings. That's something we would always be happy to engage in, but we cannot accept a cut that would undermine the education of our young people or the healthcare of our people. So, you know, we'll work in good faith, and we'll work from the assumption – given what he said – that we do not have to lay out what almost a billion dollars in cuts would mean for the people of New York City. If anything changes, we'll certainly speak to it."

On Monday's Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, de Blasio sounded a similar tune, saying, "We want to make sure New York City is treated fairly throughout and we're pleased that the governor is saying that CUNY and Medicaid cuts they originally proposed would not cost us – the city – "a penny," and we respect that, but we will also hold them to that."

The issue will be a key aspect of the mayor's testimony on Tuesday. He's also likely to touch on a couple of other ways in which it appears Cuomo is trying to pad state funds at the expense of the city, including the governor's seeking city debt savings that he thinks the state is entitled to, as reported by Politico New York.

Still, the mayor is sure to have a lot of praise for Cuomo's budget Tuesday - not only are the two experiencing a calm patch in their largely antagonistic relationship, but de Blasio appears genuinely appreciative of much of what Cuomo is putting forward.

As Cuomo has shifted left over the past six months, de Blasio has liked what he's seen from the governor on the minimum wage and other more progressive policies. He seems especially pleased with Cuomo's $20 billion commitment to housing and homelessness over the next five years, though it is not clear how much of that is going to New York City-based efforts (the governor's State of the State policy book says more specific housing plans will be unveiled in the next few weeks).

To combat homelessness Cuomo has pledged a major investment in supportive housing, which matches an announcement de Blasio made late last year, and affordable housing. After rolling out his pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio has turned to affordable housing as the top priority of his tenure.

Education is never far from the top of any mayor's agenda, of course. While de Blasio is pleased that Cuomo is calling for a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools - the same that Cuomo proposed last year, before agreeing to just one year - the mayor is again asking that the state make the system permanent. "I want to be clear about what's working for the children of New York City and mayoral control clearly works," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference. He called the old school board system rife with "chaos and corruption," and said, "mayoral control works, it makes things happen, it's the reason we got pre-K done in two years."

De Blasio's frustrations over last year's Albany deals on mayoral control, as well as the governor's handling of 421-a and rent regulations, led to de Blasio's infamous June 30, 2015 tirade against the governor.

Since they met on Jan. 13, de Blasio and Cuomo have been on solid, fairly positive terms - each has gone out of his way to praise the other, they report to be speaking more regularly by phone, in part provoked by the major weekend snowstorm, and they have avoided direct criticism of one another.

How the mayor speaks Tuesday about the governor and Cuomo's budget will have the ear of many. If de Blasio says anything the governor feels is out of turn, Cuomo is all but sure to address it through the media almost immediately.

"We're never going to say to a governor, 'everything you do is right' or 'everything you do is wrong' when it comes to New York City," de Blasio said Monday. He added that he will maintain his ongoing standard to call it like he sees it, mixing praise with criticism as needed.

De Blasio is set to meet with Cuomo in person on Tuesday, as well as Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, according to the Daily News. If de Blasio is able to stay on good terms with Cuomo, which is no given, it may be Flanagan who is the largest impediment to de Blasio's agenda. Flanagan has expressed concerns about de Blasio's handling of city schools, including the mayor's opposition to charter schools.

In meeting with Flanagan and in front of other legislators at the budget hearing, de Blasio is likely to defend mayoral control by citing progress under his leadership in terms of increasing graduation rates and student scores on state standardized tests (which are still far too low according to critics). De Blasio has also outlined new education programs under an "Equity and Excellence" banner, which cost millions and may feature in his requests for additional funding. The mayor is among those who continue to call on the state to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, by which the city is still owed billions in state education money.

During his testimony in front of lawmakers, de Blasio may harken back to much of what he said last year in the same position - including his defense of mayoral control, requests for additional education funding, and state investment in affordable housing.

"New York City has 43% of the State's population," de Blasio told legislators during his testimony on Feb. 25, 2015, "and a New York City Department of Finance analysis shows that 50% of New York State tax revenues are attributable to New York City." But, he said, according to a report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who will also testify Tuesday, state revenue has dipped to about 15% of the city budget, down from an average of about 19% between 1985 and 2009. This change, the mayor said, amounted to what would have been an additional $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2014.

With the city on strong financial footing, it is unclear how receptive state lawmakers will be to any requests de Blasio makes for additional funding, but there is always a large contingent of New York City-based legislators in Albany, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx.

De Blasio recently called his first two Albany budget testimonies as mayor "very productive conversations."

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

De Blasio Heads to Albany to Fund Agenda, Fight Cuts Tue, 26 Jan 2016 01:24:50 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 25 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio is back in Albany this week - this time, he's not taking in Governor Cuomo's budget address, he's testifying about it. This will be on Tuesday as de Blasio and other city officials testify in front a joint legislative budget hearing,

First, the week starts with a major City Council hearing Monday morning at 10 a.m., at which the new, eight-bill Criminal Justice Reform Act will be heard - details below.

The HOPE Count of homeless people living on the street is scheduled for Monday evening. Mayor de Blasio and other officials, including HUD Secretary Julian Castro, will kick off one volunteer group at 10:30 p.m. in Manhattan. This weekend's snowstorm could delay this event, check back here and elsewhere for any changes on Monday.

On Tuesday, de Blasio and other city officials head to Albany to testify - other officials giving testimony and fielding questions from Assembly members and state Senators will include Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Many are watching to see what de Blasio and others prioritize in their testimony and how de Blasio is received by Albany lawmakers. City officials get to respond to Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget in front of the legislature - how de Blasio approaches Cuomo's budget could lead to a significant response from the governor, something else to watch for. We know that the governor has several proposals that the mayor has praised, including on the minimum wage, paid family leave, and supportive housing, along with several he has concerns about, including proposed cuts to funding for CUNY and Medicaid. Other topics likely to come up include mayoral control of city schools, the expired 421-a real estate/affordable housing tax break, and homelessness.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read 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:

The New York State Legislature is in session on Monday and will have a joint legislative budget hearing about “Health/Medicaid” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety will hear the new, eight-bill Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2016, which seeks to add civil penalties for a variety of low-level, nonviolent, quality-of-life offenses like open container of alcohol, public urination, and violations of park rules. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is spearheading this reform effort and is a lead sponsor on several of the bills, will give opening remarks.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Education will meet for the introduction of a bill that “would require the Department of Education to provide data, related to student participation in various free school breakfast, free salad bar, and free afterschool meals, to the Council and on their website” with a report that would also provide information “about initiatives and programs aimed at increasing student participation in the free meals.”

Representatives from Gov. Cuomo's administration are again fanning the state Monday to give presentations of the Governor's 2016 State of the State agenda, including events in Hudson, Elizabethtown, and elsewhere.

At the Hope Program in Brooklyn, there will be a press conference about the Fair Chance Act’s enforcement at 10 a.m. Monday attended by City Commission on Human Rights officials, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Member Jumaane Williams.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Manhattan to speak at the Harvard Club during an event in which “Mortimer Zuckerman will announce the Zuckerman Scholars Program in STEM Leadership, a transformative program to support next generations of leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

At 10:30 a.m. Monday at Queens Borough Hall., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a public hearing “to obtain the views and recommendations of the Queens Community Boards, residents and stakeholders on the proposals contained in the Mayor’s FY 2017 Preliminary Budget.”

At 3:30 p.m. Monday, Speaker Mark-Viverito will speak at the New American Leaders Project 'States of Inclusion' at the Ford Foundation. And at 5 p.m. Mark-Viverito will host "Melissa Meet Up" on training on the discretionary funding process at the Council District 17 office in the Bronx - there is currently no sitting Council member in that district after the resignation of former Council Member Maria Del Carmen Arroyo.

At 6 p.m. at The Hilton Albany, the Business Council of New York State, Inc. will have its 2016 Legislators’ Reception.

City Council Member Costa Constantinides will give his State of the District address at 7 p.m. at Astoria’s PS 122 Elementary School on Monday.

The annual HOPE Count (the Department of Homeless Services’ count of street homelessness in the city) is scheduled to be taken by DHS and partners Monday night. More than 3,000 people are volunteering for the count, which starts at 10 p.m. and will end at 4 a.m. on Tuesday. Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro “will kick-off a HOPE count volunteer training session at PS 116 in Manhattan” at 10:30 p.m.

The New York State Legislature is in session on Tuesday and will have a joint legislative budget hearing at 10 a.m. regarding “Local Government Officials/General Government.” This is the hearing de Blasio, Stringer, Mark-Viverito, and Ferreras-Copeland will testify during.

At the City Council on Tuesday:  

  • At 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Health will meet for the introduction of a bill aimed at “Setting nutritional standards for distributing incentive items aimed at children.”
  • At 6 p.m., the Committee on Public Housing will hold an off-site oversight hearing about “The NextGeneration NYCHA Development Plan” at Holmes Community Center on East 93rd Street in Manhattan.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, there will be a panel called “Food Policy for Breakfast: Universal School Meals: A Research Agenda” will be held by the New York City Food Policy Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. Community Food Advocates Executive Director Liz Accles, PhD. candidate Renalta Peralta of Columbia University’s Teachers College and Randi Herman of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators will be featured speakers, and Professor Jon Poppendieck, the center’s policy director, will moderate.

At the New York State Legislature on Wednesday: a joint legislative budget hearing on “Elementary & Secondary Education” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Wednesday:   

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Immigration will meet for an oversight hearing about the question “How can the City support ethnic media to ensure that immigrant communities receive information on local matters?”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committees on Civil Service and Labor, Small Business, and Economic Development will meet for a joint oversight hearing about “Decreasing Job Placements at Workforce 1 Centers.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet for an oversight hearing for an “Update Concerning Local Law 77 of 2013, Which Created a Curbside Organics Collection Pilot Program.”

At 8 a.m., City & State will holds its 2016 NYC Legislative Preview forum at Baruch College. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, City Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Dan Garodnick, and Jumaane Williams are among those who will speak.

At noon on Wednesday at City Hall, “elected officials, community leaders, and residents will hold a rally calling on the administration to stop the inequitable placement of homeless shelters in Southeast Queens. The rally will come one day ahead of residents’ court date on their action seeking an injunction against the City.” The participants will include state Sen. Leroy Comrie, members of the NAACP, local community board, National Action Network, and other groups.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday at Civic Hall, there will be a green infrastructure grant workshop for the Department of Environmental Protection. Those participating “will get an in-depth understanding of the eligibility requirements and application process.”

At 6:30 p.m., the Brooklyn Historical Society will host a discussion about Bensonhurst’s growing Asian communities and their implications for city politics. City Council Member Mark Treyger, Professor Peter Kwong of the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, City Limits Executive Editor Jarrett Murphy, and Brooklyn Chinese-American Association President Paul Mak will speak on the panel.

At the New York State Legislature on Thursday: a joint legislative budget hearing on “Environmental Conservation” at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will meet.    
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services will meet for an oversight hearing on “Thrive NYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet on two bills - one “Requiring a study of potential environmental justice communities in NYC and the publication of the results of such study on the city’s website” and the other “Identifying and addressing environmental justice issues.”
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Governmental Operations will meet.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan will speak about “the New York State budget and his priorities for the current session and beyond” at an Association for a Better New York breakfast.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a public land use hearing at Queens Borough Hall’s conference room at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and other political, nonprofit and economic development leaders will speak at a forum called “Cities Building Community Wealth” organized by the Surdna Foundation, the Democracy Collaborative and the CUNY School of Law, which is hosting the event.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, New York Law School will will host a presentation by the Center for New York City Law, the Center for Real Estate Studies, and the New York City Tax Commission called “New York City Property Tax 2015-2016.”

At 3 p.m. Thursday, City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett will speak about the Health Department’s agenda and participate in a Q&A session with Errol Louis of NY1 and CUNY J-School, Jarrett Murphy of City Limits, and Vania Ambre of The Haitian Times, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Dr. Christina Greer, a Fordham political science professor, will moderate “What Is Going to Happen? A Discussion of the 2016 Primaries: Pitfalls, Predictions, and Popularity” with Alexis Grenell, a City and State columnist and Democratic political strategist and Jessica Proud, a partner at the November Team and a Republican strategist. The event is at Fordham University’s McMahon Hall Lounge.

Friday and the weekend
At the City Council on Friday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet.
  • At 10 a.m., an oversight hearing on “Examining Cultural Non-Profits in the New York City Juvenile Justice System” will be held by the Committees on Juvenile Justice and Cultural Affairs.

On Sunday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will host her State of the Borough event at 2 p.m. at the New School. The event will be “youth- and culture-focused” and host panelists including Dr. Sumie Okazaki, Francisco Nunez, and Kharry Lazarre White.

Assemblymember Michael Blake will deliver his State of the District address at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Dreamyard in the Bronx.

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 Ryan Brady and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 25 Sun, 24 Jan 2016 05:00:00 +0000