Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/michael-blake 2018-11-17T22:12:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com At First Debate, Candidates for Public Advocate Pitch Visions for the Role 2018-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="The candidates, moderator and hosts" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Public Advocate Letitia James’ victory in the race for state attorney general has kicked off what will be roughly three months of jostling by candidates running to replace her. While James won’t be sworn in until January and the nonpartisan special election for her seat won’t be held till February, several candidates have already declared their interest in the seat and, on Wednesday evening, seven of them shared a stage at New York Law School, staking out their positions on the roles and responsibilities of the office and how they would employ the limited powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>The 90-minute forum, hosted by AARP-NY and good government group Citizens Union, featured New York City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Eric Ulrich and Jumaane Williams, Assembly Members Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell, Dawn Smalls, a former Obama White House appointee, and journalist Nomiki Konst. Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max moderated the discussion, which largely focused on how the candidates would execute the role of public advocate, but also touched on a number of issues, from development in the city to the recently-announced deal that would bring an Amazon headquarters to Queens.</p> <p>The candidates were all in the same neighborhood in defining the role of the public advocate as an independent watchdog in city government that provides a voice for the voiceless and holds the mayor accountable. Each presented their vision of the key responsibilities of the office and how they would creatively use its resources, and discussed areas of government function and city agencies where they would focus their efforts. There was minimal daylight among them, all Democrats save for Ulrich, who admitted he was the “elephant in the room” as the only Republican on stage (he calls himself a Rockefeller Republican and is pro-choice, pro-labor union, and opposed to President Donald Trump).</p> <p>The candidates mostly agreed that the office is underfunded, at $3.3 million for the current fiscal year, and agreed that the budget should be independent of the whims of the City Council and the mayor, though none of them offered specific projections for adequate funding.</p> <p>Council Member Espinal pitched his record of bringing resources to his district and fighting for affordable housing, chiefly through the East New York rezoning plan that included $250 million in city investments in the neighborhood. He agreed that the public advocate should use their position to hold the mayor accountable for his decisions. “But I also believe that the public advocate should be responsible for making sure that we have a plan that’s going to benefit the future of New York City,” he said, insisting that the role should be about more than just reacting to crises after the fact. “NYCHA’s crumbling, the MTA’s crumbling, but no one’s talking about what are some sustainable solutions on how the city should move forward to make sure those problems do not end up at our steps at City Hall.”</p> <p>Espinal said the office should be empowered to audit city agencies, conduct independent environmental studies on land use deals, and should run the city’s most efficient constituent services program. Asked how he would work to make the city more aging friendly, he promised to advocate for investments in infrastructure and accessibility, and to push for increased senior services and funding for health care facilities.</p> <p>Ulrich repeatedly made some of the most forceful pledges to hold the mayor accountable, arguing he is best suited to do so given his party affiliation. “The office of the public advocate was supposed to be, or was designed to be, I believe, a check on the power of the executive branch in this city, not a rubber stamp,” he said, noting that officials sometimes fail that duty when both the public advocate and mayor are members of the same party while giving credit to several prior public advocates for ways in which they used the office.</p> <p>Ulrich said the powers of the office could be expanded without increased funding, by allowing the public advocate to sit on the boards of more city commissions and authorities, such as the MTA executive board and the CUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>To aid seniors, Ulrich said he would push to expand support for naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), advocate for legislation in Albany to give tax credits to caregivers of senior citizens and also promote greater affordable housing set asides for seniors. He stressed that it was necessary to set up a communication pipeline, perhaps within the office, dedicated to seniors’ complaints and issues.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner in the race is Council Member Williams, who is fresh off a defeat in the primary for lieutenant governor in which he nonetheless won nearly 47 percent, more than 640,000 votes, against the incumbent, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Williams prides himself on being an “activist elected official” and has vowed to bring that philosophy into the public advocate’s office. “I want to make sure that people feel someone is watching the mayor, the City Council, the agencies to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Williams said. More than just raising issues with government failures, he said the public advocate should also propose solutions to solve them.</p> <p>Williams pushed for the office to receive subpoena power and an independent budget with enough resources to hire a dedicated investigations staff and to give them the ability to file lawsuits and see them through. To Williams, the biggest issues facing seniors are the lack of affordable housing in the city and “resource inequality” across neighborhoods for which he pointed fingers at Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, promising that he would prioritize those problems if elected.</p> <p>Smalls, an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations and formerly as a commissioner at the New York State Joint Commission for Public Ethics, pitched herself as an independent candidate from outside the established political structure. “I am running for public advocate because I believe in government as a force for good, but only if it works,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls said she would reorganize the office to be “laser focused” on a few key areas, in particular the city’s subway system, affordable housing, homelessness, and voting reforms. “Rather than doing a little bit of everything, when you have such a limited budget, and you have such a limited staff, I think the way to leverage that is to really focus in on a few key issues that affect all New Yorkers and really use that watchdog status to drill down and hold leaders accountable,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls also said she supported providing more affordable housing for seniors and a caregiver tax credit, and said the city needs to put more money into NYCHA which is home to many seniors and is experiencing a “five-alarm emergency.”</p> <p>Similarly to Smalls, Konst touted her independence from politics as her strongest qualification. “I’m running for public advocate because it is independent, it should be independent of politics,” she said. Konst previously served on the Democratic National Committee Reform Commission, appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and has been a vocal proponent of reform within the party. A democratic socialist, she also holds what are in this race likely the furthest left positions on many issues.</p> <p>She offered several unique ideas for how she would use the public advocate’s office including setting up a unit of out-of-work reporters to investigate public corruption, creating a conflicts of interest map to portray the connections between elected officials, lobbyists, and special interests, and appointing a representative of the public advocate’s office in each of the 51 City Council districts to monitor community issues. “The public advocate is there to shine light on all the dark places in this city, expose it and take it on,” she said.</p> <p>Konst said senior issues were “intersectional” and argued that across the board, underfunding of government services was the root of the problem, whether it be in NYCHA or the MTA. She promised to sue landlords that improperly evict elderly tenants and inveighed against overdevelopment that she said was leading to services and resources being concentrated in richer communities.</p> <p>Assemblymember Blake, who was recently reelected for a third term and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the number one responsibility of the office is “to be the watchdog of the agencies and to fight for the people.” He outlined four critical areas where he would “mobilize” the office’s resources -- the MTA, NYCHA, affordable housing, and the Department of Education. Blake repeatedly chided the deal signed between the city and state with Amazon to help the tech giant establish a satellite office in Long Island City. The deal was struck without input from local elected officials and will cut out the City Council from the land use review process. Blake said it was a chief example of why the city needs a strong public advocate.</p> <p>Blake called for an expansion of the SCRIE program, which provides rent freezes for seniors, insisted that the city should expand transit options for the elderly and also emphasized the need to provide services to senior veterans and seniors living in public housing. Additionally, he emphasized a focus on preventative health care for the city’s aging population, insisting that “too often we’re addressing the crisis on the back end.”</p> <p>“I’m running for public advocate because I don’t want to be mayor,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell, insisting that anyone seeking to use the office as a springboard should be “disqualified” from the race. (Only Ulrich would later say that he would consider running for mayor, while the rest either denied or deflected). “You have to have an independent outside voice who’s unafraid of the consequences of telling the truth,” O’Donnell added.</p> <p>O’Donnell said his first legislative proposal would be to give the public advocate’s office the power to subpoena city agencies, later touting his experience conducting investigations as head of the Assembly’s ethics committee. He repeatedly said the top issue the office should combat is overdevelopment and gentrification he says is running rampant across the city.</p> <p>O’Donnell also raised the issue of so-called food deserts in low-income communities, which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are generally linked to worse health outcomes. He said he would work to solve that problem. “I believe the public advocate’s office is the perfect place to promote it, to organize it,” he said.</p> <p>He also touted a bill he authored to remove social security income from SCRIE application numbers, alleviating pressure on seniors who cannot afford their rent, and he said the city should take over control of the bus system from the MTA, to ensure better transit options for seniors.</p> <p>Not all of the participating candidates are officially declared, Ulrich indicated he hasn’t made up his mind about running yet, and others who were not part of the forum are running or may run. Among others who are running or considering a run are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, David Eisenbach, Ben Yee, and Theo Chino. Candidates will have to officially petition in early January to get on the February ballot. As soon as James vacates the seat, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself a former public advocate, will have to call the special election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="The candidates, moderator and hosts" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Public Advocate Letitia James’ victory in the race for state attorney general has kicked off what will be roughly three months of jostling by candidates running to replace her. While James won’t be sworn in until January and the nonpartisan special election for her seat won’t be held till February, several candidates have already declared their interest in the seat and, on Wednesday evening, seven of them shared a stage at New York Law School, staking out their positions on the roles and responsibilities of the office and how they would employ the limited powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>The 90-minute forum, hosted by AARP-NY and good government group Citizens Union, featured New York City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Eric Ulrich and Jumaane Williams, Assembly Members Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell, Dawn Smalls, a former Obama White House appointee, and journalist Nomiki Konst. Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max moderated the discussion, which largely focused on how the candidates would execute the role of public advocate, but also touched on a number of issues, from development in the city to the recently-announced deal that would bring an Amazon headquarters to Queens.</p> <p>The candidates were all in the same neighborhood in defining the role of the public advocate as an independent watchdog in city government that provides a voice for the voiceless and holds the mayor accountable. Each presented their vision of the key responsibilities of the office and how they would creatively use its resources, and discussed areas of government function and city agencies where they would focus their efforts. There was minimal daylight among them, all Democrats save for Ulrich, who admitted he was the “elephant in the room” as the only Republican on stage (he calls himself a Rockefeller Republican and is pro-choice, pro-labor union, and opposed to President Donald Trump).</p> <p>The candidates mostly agreed that the office is underfunded, at $3.3 million for the current fiscal year, and agreed that the budget should be independent of the whims of the City Council and the mayor, though none of them offered specific projections for adequate funding.</p> <p>Council Member Espinal pitched his record of bringing resources to his district and fighting for affordable housing, chiefly through the East New York rezoning plan that included $250 million in city investments in the neighborhood. He agreed that the public advocate should use their position to hold the mayor accountable for his decisions. “But I also believe that the public advocate should be responsible for making sure that we have a plan that’s going to benefit the future of New York City,” he said, insisting that the role should be about more than just reacting to crises after the fact. “NYCHA’s crumbling, the MTA’s crumbling, but no one’s talking about what are some sustainable solutions on how the city should move forward to make sure those problems do not end up at our steps at City Hall.”</p> <p>Espinal said the office should be empowered to audit city agencies, conduct independent environmental studies on land use deals, and should run the city’s most efficient constituent services program. Asked how he would work to make the city more aging friendly, he promised to advocate for investments in infrastructure and accessibility, and to push for increased senior services and funding for health care facilities.</p> <p>Ulrich repeatedly made some of the most forceful pledges to hold the mayor accountable, arguing he is best suited to do so given his party affiliation. “The office of the public advocate was supposed to be, or was designed to be, I believe, a check on the power of the executive branch in this city, not a rubber stamp,” he said, noting that officials sometimes fail that duty when both the public advocate and mayor are members of the same party while giving credit to several prior public advocates for ways in which they used the office.</p> <p>Ulrich said the powers of the office could be expanded without increased funding, by allowing the public advocate to sit on the boards of more city commissions and authorities, such as the MTA executive board and the CUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>To aid seniors, Ulrich said he would push to expand support for naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), advocate for legislation in Albany to give tax credits to caregivers of senior citizens and also promote greater affordable housing set asides for seniors. He stressed that it was necessary to set up a communication pipeline, perhaps within the office, dedicated to seniors’ complaints and issues.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner in the race is Council Member Williams, who is fresh off a defeat in the primary for lieutenant governor in which he nonetheless won nearly 47 percent, more than 640,000 votes, against the incumbent, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Williams prides himself on being an “activist elected official” and has vowed to bring that philosophy into the public advocate’s office. “I want to make sure that people feel someone is watching the mayor, the City Council, the agencies to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Williams said. More than just raising issues with government failures, he said the public advocate should also propose solutions to solve them.</p> <p>Williams pushed for the office to receive subpoena power and an independent budget with enough resources to hire a dedicated investigations staff and to give them the ability to file lawsuits and see them through. To Williams, the biggest issues facing seniors are the lack of affordable housing in the city and “resource inequality” across neighborhoods for which he pointed fingers at Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, promising that he would prioritize those problems if elected.</p> <p>Smalls, an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations and formerly as a commissioner at the New York State Joint Commission for Public Ethics, pitched herself as an independent candidate from outside the established political structure. “I am running for public advocate because I believe in government as a force for good, but only if it works,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls said she would reorganize the office to be “laser focused” on a few key areas, in particular the city’s subway system, affordable housing, homelessness, and voting reforms. “Rather than doing a little bit of everything, when you have such a limited budget, and you have such a limited staff, I think the way to leverage that is to really focus in on a few key issues that affect all New Yorkers and really use that watchdog status to drill down and hold leaders accountable,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls also said she supported providing more affordable housing for seniors and a caregiver tax credit, and said the city needs to put more money into NYCHA which is home to many seniors and is experiencing a “five-alarm emergency.”</p> <p>Similarly to Smalls, Konst touted her independence from politics as her strongest qualification. “I’m running for public advocate because it is independent, it should be independent of politics,” she said. Konst previously served on the Democratic National Committee Reform Commission, appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and has been a vocal proponent of reform within the party. A democratic socialist, she also holds what are in this race likely the furthest left positions on many issues.</p> <p>She offered several unique ideas for how she would use the public advocate’s office including setting up a unit of out-of-work reporters to investigate public corruption, creating a conflicts of interest map to portray the connections between elected officials, lobbyists, and special interests, and appointing a representative of the public advocate’s office in each of the 51 City Council districts to monitor community issues. “The public advocate is there to shine light on all the dark places in this city, expose it and take it on,” she said.</p> <p>Konst said senior issues were “intersectional” and argued that across the board, underfunding of government services was the root of the problem, whether it be in NYCHA or the MTA. She promised to sue landlords that improperly evict elderly tenants and inveighed against overdevelopment that she said was leading to services and resources being concentrated in richer communities.</p> <p>Assemblymember Blake, who was recently reelected for a third term and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the number one responsibility of the office is “to be the watchdog of the agencies and to fight for the people.” He outlined four critical areas where he would “mobilize” the office’s resources -- the MTA, NYCHA, affordable housing, and the Department of Education. Blake repeatedly chided the deal signed between the city and state with Amazon to help the tech giant establish a satellite office in Long Island City. The deal was struck without input from local elected officials and will cut out the City Council from the land use review process. Blake said it was a chief example of why the city needs a strong public advocate.</p> <p>Blake called for an expansion of the SCRIE program, which provides rent freezes for seniors, insisted that the city should expand transit options for the elderly and also emphasized the need to provide services to senior veterans and seniors living in public housing. Additionally, he emphasized a focus on preventative health care for the city’s aging population, insisting that “too often we’re addressing the crisis on the back end.”</p> <p>“I’m running for public advocate because I don’t want to be mayor,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell, insisting that anyone seeking to use the office as a springboard should be “disqualified” from the race. (Only Ulrich would later say that he would consider running for mayor, while the rest either denied or deflected). “You have to have an independent outside voice who’s unafraid of the consequences of telling the truth,” O’Donnell added.</p> <p>O’Donnell said his first legislative proposal would be to give the public advocate’s office the power to subpoena city agencies, later touting his experience conducting investigations as head of the Assembly’s ethics committee. He repeatedly said the top issue the office should combat is overdevelopment and gentrification he says is running rampant across the city.</p> <p>O’Donnell also raised the issue of so-called food deserts in low-income communities, which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are generally linked to worse health outcomes. He said he would work to solve that problem. “I believe the public advocate’s office is the perfect place to promote it, to organize it,” he said.</p> <p>He also touted a bill he authored to remove social security income from SCRIE application numbers, alleviating pressure on seniors who cannot afford their rent, and he said the city should take over control of the bus system from the MTA, to ensure better transit options for seniors.</p> <p>Not all of the participating candidates are officially declared, Ulrich indicated he hasn’t made up his mind about running yet, and others who were not part of the forum are running or may run. Among others who are running or considering a run are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, David Eisenbach, Ben Yee, and Theo Chino. Candidates will have to officially petition in early January to get on the February ballot. As soon as James vacates the seat, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself a former public advocate, will have to call the special election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
LISTEN: Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="pa forum aarp afterward" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With Public Advocate Letitia James' victory to become the next New York State Attorney General, she will vacate her current position on January 1 and there will be a special election to fill it sometime in February, once the Mayor decides on the exact date within a limited window he has to call it. In the days before and after Election Day 2018, candidates for Public Advocate have announced their intentions to run, or at least explore it, in some cases. Seven of those candidates participated in a forum on Wednesday, Nov. 14, hosted by Citizens Union, AARP NY, and New York Law School: Assembly Members Michael Blake and Danny O'Donnell; City Council Members Eric Ulrich, Jumaane Williams, and Rafael Espinal; activist and journalist Nomiki Konst; and attorney and former federal aide Dawn Smalls (there are other candidates who have declared or are exploring a run -- candidates will have to decide early in January at the latest).</p> <p>The debate touched on a wide range of issues, but was especially focused on how the candidates would approach the office of Public Advocate and what issues they would focus on, and it was moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max. Listen to the debate through the audio embedded below, or find it wherever you get your podcasts under "Gotham Gazette" and "Max &amp; Murphy" -- we've added it to those podcast streams.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530246352&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="pa forum aarp afterward" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With Public Advocate Letitia James' victory to become the next New York State Attorney General, she will vacate her current position on January 1 and there will be a special election to fill it sometime in February, once the Mayor decides on the exact date within a limited window he has to call it. In the days before and after Election Day 2018, candidates for Public Advocate have announced their intentions to run, or at least explore it, in some cases. Seven of those candidates participated in a forum on Wednesday, Nov. 14, hosted by Citizens Union, AARP NY, and New York Law School: Assembly Members Michael Blake and Danny O'Donnell; City Council Members Eric Ulrich, Jumaane Williams, and Rafael Espinal; activist and journalist Nomiki Konst; and attorney and former federal aide Dawn Smalls (there are other candidates who have declared or are exploring a run -- candidates will have to decide early in January at the latest).</p> <p>The debate touched on a wide range of issues, but was especially focused on how the candidates would approach the office of Public Advocate and what issues they would focus on, and it was moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max. Listen to the debate through the audio embedded below, or find it wherever you get your podcasts under "Gotham Gazette" and "Max &amp; Murphy" -- we've added it to those podcast streams.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530246352&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
In Run for New York City Public Advocate, Blake Offers Federal and State Experience 2018-10-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8013-in-run-for-public-advocate-blake-offers-federal-and-state-experience Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/michael-blake-pub-adv-city.jpg" alt="michael blake pub adv city" width="600" /></p> <p>Michael Blake (photo via Blake campaign)</p> <hr /> <p>Michael Blake wants to bring his experience in federal and state government to city government as the next Public Advocate of New York City. Currently a member of the state Assembly from the Bronx, Blake worked in the administration of President Barack Obama before he became a political consultant and successfully ran for Assembly, defeating the chosen candidate of the political machine in his home borough thanks to a variety of factors, including his national network and fundraising prowess.</p> <p>With the anticipated ascension of Public Advocate Letitia James to state Attorney General via November’s election, Blake declared his candidacy for the special election that would occur in February if James is indeed successful.</p> <p>After visiting five boroughs Sunday, including a cold but lively rally in the Bronx, Blake spoke with Gotham Gazette on Monday about his campaign and how he would shape the public advocate’s office, one of just three citywide elected positions, but one with limited defined powers and resources.</p> <p>Blake said his focus would be “jobs and justice,” naming issues such as improving conditions at public housing, monitoring the closure of Rikers Island jails and pushing related criminal justice reform, altering the specialized high schools admissions process and improving the quality of K-8 schools, enhancing opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, more transparency at the city Department of Education, and holding the MTA accountable for better transit service. He touted successes he says he’s had in the Assembly on several of those issues, especially securing more funding for NYCHA, boosting MWBEs, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, and bringing to New York Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative that focuses on empowering young men of color.</p> <p>“I want to be someone that champions causes that people might not be attentive to and might not be fighting for in the way they should,” Blake said, promising to be a "very proactive" public advocate. “Whether that is changing it through legislation in the City Council, whether it be pushing for our colleagues in the state government to make those changes...and, frankly, we can’t ignore the impact of the federal government on our livelihood in the city.”</p> <p>Would he be ready to call out the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio or any other mayor? “I think of anyone that’s been talking about running, I think I have a pretty good track record of calling out the administration on things that they’ve been wrong on,” he said, going on to contrast himself in particular to former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is exploring a run for public advocate and Blake indicated he thinks is too close to de Blasio.</p> <p>Blake said that “criminal” activity had taken place as NYCHA officials “lied” about elevated lead levels in housing developments. Of course he would call out the city administration on such issues, he said.</p> <p>“Now, do I think that you need to go down a road where you’re picking fights unnecessarily? Absolutely not, but when someone’s done something wrong you call it out,” he said. People just want help, however you have to get it done, Blake said, arguing he is uniquely situated to best pull the levers of government at all levels.</p> <p>Success as public advocate would look like helping to “truly transform what’s happening with NYCHA,” Blake said, along with impacting how the school system is functioning, especially with regard to literacy rates, middle school quality, and college- and career-readiness, among other goals.</p> <p>On criminal justice, Blake said he absolutely wants to see the Rikers jails closed, but that he has questions about the city’s plan to do so. “Building new mini Rikers is not fixing the problem,” he said. “I have repeatedly asked the mayor directly, [First Deputy Mayor] Dean Fuleihan and all of their team, ‘Why do you need to build new jails?’”</p> <p>Blake cited the high percentage of people detained at Rikers that are not convicted of any crime, mostly locked up because they can’t afford bail. “We’re not having a real conversation around incarceration,” he said, “when you actually look at the numbers, the city’s on record with me, that they can get to this 4,500 number [of detainees] without state policy changes, they can do that through administrative changes.” Combine that city action with what a Democratic state Legislature may be able to do if the elections go the party’s way, he said, “so you then have speedy trial and bail and open discovery,” and the inmate population gets lower and lower -- “then you have not demonstrated why you need new jails.”</p> <p>Blake pointed out that a commission led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, empaneled by Mark-Viverito, had recommended a small jail on Staten Island, part of having a jail in each borough near the courthouses. “If we’re really talking about equity, why are we only talking about four places?” Blake said. “Because of the politics, the politics of it. When we think through the dynamics, the conversations that people don’t want to have, is it really a development deal? Is it that they just want to find a way to get access to the land at Rikers?”</p> <p>On the controversial topic of admissions to the city’s specialized high schools, Blake said it should move away from a single test. “It should be multi-measured,” he said. “It should be assessed on your grades, it should be assessed on writing samples, it should be assessed on, yes, the exam being one part of that. It should be assessed on an interview.” He spoke of personal experience, saying, “The notion that one exam would determine who I am, I think that’s pretty ridiculous. I recognize, I’m one of the kids who made it. I grew up in the hood, I got a chance to work for a President, I came back home. I’m not the anomaly in terms of having the capability, I’m just maybe the anomaly in having access to the opportunity.”</p> <p>He said having a man of color as public advocate would be a good thing for the city.</p> <p>He also said he wants to see a “Rooney Rule” -- a mandate in the National Football League (NFL) that teams must interview a candidate of color for a head coaching vacancy -- for mandating that for most government contracts one finalist must be an MWBE firm.</p> <p>Blake is sure to promote these policy positions on the campaign trail -- he indicated he’s excited to travel around the city making his case, including at what could be a dozen or more candidate forums as community, advocacy, and other groups seek to have public advocate hopefuls appear before them. If James wins on Election Day, November 6, she would likely not vacate her position until she is sworn in at the beginning of January, which would then trigger the short process whereby the mayor must declare a special election for mid-February.</p> <p>That special election would be nonpartisan, meaning no party primaries and each candidate must run on a ballot line of their own creation -- there would be no Democratic or Republican nominee, for example. The special election would fill the position for the rest of 2019, with a regular election in the fall of that year to determine who would complete the rest of James’ term, which runs through 2021, the next city election year.</p> <p>Roughly a dozen potential candidates have been rumored or confirmed they are running or exploring it. Along with Blake, Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off a campaign for lieutenant governor, declared his candidacy for public advocate this week. Activist and journalist Nomiki Konst had previously declared, while Manhattan Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell had already announced his exploration of a bid, and several others, like Mark-Viverito, have told media outlets they are examining the possibility. Those names include a slew of other City Council members beyond Williams. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is also rumored as a possibility, though he has previously indicated he would be running for mayor in 2021, which would not be ruled out if he ran for public advocate and won.</p> <p>Blake expressed confidence about his chances.</p> <p>“There are a lot of people around New York and around the country that will be excited” about his candidacy, he said, when asked if he thought his ability to raise money would again be a major benefit, especially in a shortened campaign. He pledged not to take money from corporate PACs.</p> <p>In 2013, Blake managed the public advocate campaign of Reshma Saujani, who was among those who lost to James in the Democratic primary. Blake gained insights into running a citywide race, especially learning the intricacies of the city's many neighborhoods.</p> <p>He said he will be able to build the coalition needed to prevail. “When you look at a path to victory, our work with our communities of color across the city...we’re able to build up a lot of local support, some of them not ready to be public [yet].” Blake acknowledged a need to do well in Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, Harlem, his hometown of the Bronx, and among “white progressives.”</p> <p>“You have to be a masterful organizer. We’re talking about a race that could be in the dead of winter in February, you have no idea what the weather is like...and nothing else on the ballot...and we have a very good track record of mobilizing,” he said. “We’re ready to build.”</p> <p>One key to Blake’s Assembly win in 2014 was the support of the large and influential 1199 SEIU labor union, of which Blake’s late father was a longtime member. Blake expressed some cautious optimism about again earning support from 1199 and others, citing the presence of a leader of Local 372 of DC37 at his kickoff rally.</p> <p>“We’re going to show, very intentionally and methodically, the pretty widespread support that we’re ready to roll out pretty quickly across unions and across all different coalitions,” Blake said.</p> <p>Asked about his role with the Democratic National Committee, where he is a vice chair who travels the country giving pep talks, leading trainings, and helping to organize, Blake said that much of that will calm down after the midterm elections in November. He also said his priority would be the role of public advocate, which is different than the technically part-time position of state Assembly member, and comes with a much higher salary to boot. Blake has done some consulting while in elected office and has a significant tax debt to New York State that he said stems from residency issues he worked out several years ago and he's been paying down. He added that it could be advantageous to both the national party and the city for him to hold both roles, noting that he had succeeded as a vice chair the former mayor of Minneapolis.</p> <p>Blake repeatedly indicated that his state and national experience would be advantageous to both his campaign for public advocate and in filling the role if elected, given that the city is so reliant on the state and federal governments. He also said he thinks his independence will stack up well against potential competition when it comes to the de Blasio administration -- the public advocate is expected to hold the mayor accountable, though different officeholders have approached it differently.</p> <p>“When we think about the dynamics about others that consider running, it would be hard for them to convey that they have independence from the mayor,” Blake said. “I mean, pretty consistent track records, many of them have demonstrated being closely aligned.”</p> <p>“I am ready to hold them accountable,” he said of the city administration. “But it’s not just about holding people accountable, you have a plan of action, it’s a very concrete thing.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/michael-blake-pub-adv-city.jpg" alt="michael blake pub adv city" width="600" /></p> <p>Michael Blake (photo via Blake campaign)</p> <hr /> <p>Michael Blake wants to bring his experience in federal and state government to city government as the next Public Advocate of New York City. Currently a member of the state Assembly from the Bronx, Blake worked in the administration of President Barack Obama before he became a political consultant and successfully ran for Assembly, defeating the chosen candidate of the political machine in his home borough thanks to a variety of factors, including his national network and fundraising prowess.</p> <p>With the anticipated ascension of Public Advocate Letitia James to state Attorney General via November’s election, Blake declared his candidacy for the special election that would occur in February if James is indeed successful.</p> <p>After visiting five boroughs Sunday, including a cold but lively rally in the Bronx, Blake spoke with Gotham Gazette on Monday about his campaign and how he would shape the public advocate’s office, one of just three citywide elected positions, but one with limited defined powers and resources.</p> <p>Blake said his focus would be “jobs and justice,” naming issues such as improving conditions at public housing, monitoring the closure of Rikers Island jails and pushing related criminal justice reform, altering the specialized high schools admissions process and improving the quality of K-8 schools, enhancing opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, more transparency at the city Department of Education, and holding the MTA accountable for better transit service. He touted successes he says he’s had in the Assembly on several of those issues, especially securing more funding for NYCHA, boosting MWBEs, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, and bringing to New York Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative that focuses on empowering young men of color.</p> <p>“I want to be someone that champions causes that people might not be attentive to and might not be fighting for in the way they should,” Blake said, promising to be a "very proactive" public advocate. “Whether that is changing it through legislation in the City Council, whether it be pushing for our colleagues in the state government to make those changes...and, frankly, we can’t ignore the impact of the federal government on our livelihood in the city.”</p> <p>Would he be ready to call out the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio or any other mayor? “I think of anyone that’s been talking about running, I think I have a pretty good track record of calling out the administration on things that they’ve been wrong on,” he said, going on to contrast himself in particular to former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is exploring a run for public advocate and Blake indicated he thinks is too close to de Blasio.</p> <p>Blake said that “criminal” activity had taken place as NYCHA officials “lied” about elevated lead levels in housing developments. Of course he would call out the city administration on such issues, he said.</p> <p>“Now, do I think that you need to go down a road where you’re picking fights unnecessarily? Absolutely not, but when someone’s done something wrong you call it out,” he said. People just want help, however you have to get it done, Blake said, arguing he is uniquely situated to best pull the levers of government at all levels.</p> <p>Success as public advocate would look like helping to “truly transform what’s happening with NYCHA,” Blake said, along with impacting how the school system is functioning, especially with regard to literacy rates, middle school quality, and college- and career-readiness, among other goals.</p> <p>On criminal justice, Blake said he absolutely wants to see the Rikers jails closed, but that he has questions about the city’s plan to do so. “Building new mini Rikers is not fixing the problem,” he said. “I have repeatedly asked the mayor directly, [First Deputy Mayor] Dean Fuleihan and all of their team, ‘Why do you need to build new jails?’”</p> <p>Blake cited the high percentage of people detained at Rikers that are not convicted of any crime, mostly locked up because they can’t afford bail. “We’re not having a real conversation around incarceration,” he said, “when you actually look at the numbers, the city’s on record with me, that they can get to this 4,500 number [of detainees] without state policy changes, they can do that through administrative changes.” Combine that city action with what a Democratic state Legislature may be able to do if the elections go the party’s way, he said, “so you then have speedy trial and bail and open discovery,” and the inmate population gets lower and lower -- “then you have not demonstrated why you need new jails.”</p> <p>Blake pointed out that a commission led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, empaneled by Mark-Viverito, had recommended a small jail on Staten Island, part of having a jail in each borough near the courthouses. “If we’re really talking about equity, why are we only talking about four places?” Blake said. “Because of the politics, the politics of it. When we think through the dynamics, the conversations that people don’t want to have, is it really a development deal? Is it that they just want to find a way to get access to the land at Rikers?”</p> <p>On the controversial topic of admissions to the city’s specialized high schools, Blake said it should move away from a single test. “It should be multi-measured,” he said. “It should be assessed on your grades, it should be assessed on writing samples, it should be assessed on, yes, the exam being one part of that. It should be assessed on an interview.” He spoke of personal experience, saying, “The notion that one exam would determine who I am, I think that’s pretty ridiculous. I recognize, I’m one of the kids who made it. I grew up in the hood, I got a chance to work for a President, I came back home. I’m not the anomaly in terms of having the capability, I’m just maybe the anomaly in having access to the opportunity.”</p> <p>He said having a man of color as public advocate would be a good thing for the city.</p> <p>He also said he wants to see a “Rooney Rule” -- a mandate in the National Football League (NFL) that teams must interview a candidate of color for a head coaching vacancy -- for mandating that for most government contracts one finalist must be an MWBE firm.</p> <p>Blake is sure to promote these policy positions on the campaign trail -- he indicated he’s excited to travel around the city making his case, including at what could be a dozen or more candidate forums as community, advocacy, and other groups seek to have public advocate hopefuls appear before them. If James wins on Election Day, November 6, she would likely not vacate her position until she is sworn in at the beginning of January, which would then trigger the short process whereby the mayor must declare a special election for mid-February.</p> <p>That special election would be nonpartisan, meaning no party primaries and each candidate must run on a ballot line of their own creation -- there would be no Democratic or Republican nominee, for example. The special election would fill the position for the rest of 2019, with a regular election in the fall of that year to determine who would complete the rest of James’ term, which runs through 2021, the next city election year.</p> <p>Roughly a dozen potential candidates have been rumored or confirmed they are running or exploring it. Along with Blake, Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off a campaign for lieutenant governor, declared his candidacy for public advocate this week. Activist and journalist Nomiki Konst had previously declared, while Manhattan Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell had already announced his exploration of a bid, and several others, like Mark-Viverito, have told media outlets they are examining the possibility. Those names include a slew of other City Council members beyond Williams. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is also rumored as a possibility, though he has previously indicated he would be running for mayor in 2021, which would not be ruled out if he ran for public advocate and won.</p> <p>Blake expressed confidence about his chances.</p> <p>“There are a lot of people around New York and around the country that will be excited” about his candidacy, he said, when asked if he thought his ability to raise money would again be a major benefit, especially in a shortened campaign. He pledged not to take money from corporate PACs.</p> <p>In 2013, Blake managed the public advocate campaign of Reshma Saujani, who was among those who lost to James in the Democratic primary. Blake gained insights into running a citywide race, especially learning the intricacies of the city's many neighborhoods.</p> <p>He said he will be able to build the coalition needed to prevail. “When you look at a path to victory, our work with our communities of color across the city...we’re able to build up a lot of local support, some of them not ready to be public [yet].” Blake acknowledged a need to do well in Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, Harlem, his hometown of the Bronx, and among “white progressives.”</p> <p>“You have to be a masterful organizer. We’re talking about a race that could be in the dead of winter in February, you have no idea what the weather is like...and nothing else on the ballot...and we have a very good track record of mobilizing,” he said. “We’re ready to build.”</p> <p>One key to Blake’s Assembly win in 2014 was the support of the large and influential 1199 SEIU labor union, of which Blake’s late father was a longtime member. Blake expressed some cautious optimism about again earning support from 1199 and others, citing the presence of a leader of Local 372 of DC37 at his kickoff rally.</p> <p>“We’re going to show, very intentionally and methodically, the pretty widespread support that we’re ready to roll out pretty quickly across unions and across all different coalitions,” Blake said.</p> <p>Asked about his role with the Democratic National Committee, where he is a vice chair who travels the country giving pep talks, leading trainings, and helping to organize, Blake said that much of that will calm down after the midterm elections in November. He also said his priority would be the role of public advocate, which is different than the technically part-time position of state Assembly member, and comes with a much higher salary to boot. Blake has done some consulting while in elected office and has a significant tax debt to New York State that he said stems from residency issues he worked out several years ago and he's been paying down. He added that it could be advantageous to both the national party and the city for him to hold both roles, noting that he had succeeded as a vice chair the former mayor of Minneapolis.</p> <p>Blake repeatedly indicated that his state and national experience would be advantageous to both his campaign for public advocate and in filling the role if elected, given that the city is so reliant on the state and federal governments. He also said he thinks his independence will stack up well against potential competition when it comes to the de Blasio administration -- the public advocate is expected to hold the mayor accountable, though different officeholders have approached it differently.</p> <p>“When we think about the dynamics about others that consider running, it would be hard for them to convey that they have independence from the mayor,” Blake said. “I mean, pretty consistent track records, many of them have demonstrated being closely aligned.”</p> <p>“I am ready to hold them accountable,” he said of the city administration. “But it’s not just about holding people accountable, you have a plan of action, it’s a very concrete thing.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Potentially Crowded Public Advocate Special Election Could Feature Two Former Council Speakers 2018-09-03T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-03T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7910-potentially-crowded-public-advocate-special-election-could-feature-two-former-council-speakers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/3749385121_4288a8d47c_z.jpg" alt="Quinn Mark-Viverito" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>Christine Quinn, center, &amp; Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: City Council on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The September primary election is just over one week away and if New York City Public Advocate Letitia James wins the Democratic nomination for attorney general over her three primary opponents, she will be a significant favorite to win the position in November owing in large part to the state’s Democrat-heavy electorate. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki captured a third term in 2002; it’s been far longer for a Republican attorney general.</p> <p>James winning the nomination will likely kick-off, in earnest, a mad scramble by several sitting and former elected officials who may seek to replace her through the at-that-point nearly certain special election for her citywide seat. Among the stronger potential contenders discussed in Democratic circles are two former speakers of the New York City Council -- Melissa Mark-Viverito, who led the body until last year, and Christine Quinn, her predecessor.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7681-james-victory-in-attorney-general-race-could-trigger-first-citywide-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">James Victory in Attorney General Race Would Trigger Citywide Special Election</a>]</p> <p>While they come from different wings of the New York Democratic Party, both Mark-Viverito and Quinn are firebrand politicians in their own right, and both made history in their respective ascensions to the speakership.</p> <p>Quinn, a Democrat who represented parts of the lower west side of Manhattan, became the first openly gay and first female speaker in 2006, presiding over the 51-member legislative body for two four-year terms. For the last three years, since being term-limited out of office and losing in the 2013 mayoral primary, she has served as president and CEO of Women in Need (WIN), a nonprofit that provides services to homeless women and children. Some Democrats and others have criticized Quinn for her close working relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including the effort to extend term limits, which allowed Bloomberg, Quinn, and others to seek a third term in 2009 despite public disapproval. She is currently a close ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed her vice chair of the New York State Democratic Committee.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rican native who represented a district that includes East Harlem and part of the south Bronx, became the Council’s first Latina speaker in 2014, pushing a broad agenda of criminal justice reform, immigrant protection, police accountability and affordable housing. In January, she became a senior adviser at the Latino Victory Fund PAC, a group that supports Latino candidates for elected office. As speaker, Mark-Viverito was at times criticized for her close relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow progressive Democrat, and she has been an outspoken critic of the governor, endorsing his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. Mark-Viverito is one of a relatively small group of prominent Democrats that is backing Nixon for governor and James for attorney general.</p> <p>After a New York Law School panel earlier this month, Quinn did not deny having an eye on the office of public advocate. “We have to get Tish James elected and that’s what I’m focused on and also let’s not forget the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, we have to get reelected,” she told Gotham Gazette, when asked if she had considered running for public advocate in the event of James’ ascension to attorney general. “Right now, I am focused, most importantly, on running WIN and helping the homeless families that we serve...and then in my spare time, so to speak, among other things, I’m helping candidates and friends run for office. So that’s what this summer and fall is about.”</p> <p>Pressed further, she simply repeated the statement. “That’s what this summer and fall is about.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito is slightly less circumspect about her own political future. “I’ve been consistent in saying that I’m really proud of the record that I have accomplished and the issues that I’ve championed and what we’ve been able to get done in the city of New York,” she told Gotham Gazette in a recent phone interview. “I’m not gonna close the door on looking at possibilities in the future if other positions or other opportunities became available...So if there is an opportunity that presents itself, I will definitely be taking a look at that. And I feel strongly that Tish will win so we’ll have that conversation later.”</p> <p>She emphasized that she brings a strong perspective to policy-making as a Latina representing a low-income community. “I think that’s something that we consistently need to have in positions of authority in the city,” Mark-Viverito said. “And I believe my record speaks for itself and I look forward to being able to continue to serve this wonderful city.”</p> <p>The special election, if there is one, would take place in March, assuming James is sworn in January 1 and vacates her current seat. Special elections for public advocate are nonpartisan, and each candidate would have to run on their own unique political party ballot line. The winner would then have to run for the seat again in a primary and general election later in 2019, if that person wants to keep the position.</p> <p>There are several others who have either been floated as candidates or have signalled an interest in becoming the city’s ombudsperson, a post also considered a strong launching pad for a mayoral bid as de Blasio illustrated. They include sitting City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, and Joe Borelli, the only Republican among them. All of them but Borelli will be term-limited out of office in 2021. State Assemblymember Michael Blake is another potential candidate, as are Republican attorney J.C. Polanco and Columbia professor David Eisenbach, who both challenged James when she was up for reelection last year -- Eisenbach in the primary and Polanco in the general. Eisenbach has already officially filed papers with the New York City Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>“I think the position obviously has a lot of potential,” said a Democratic consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It has different potential than being the City Council speaker where you’re not just responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for 50 other members, hundreds of staff, dozens of appointments here or there. It’s a different set of responsibilities and in the hands of someone who understands the levers of government, who understands the bully pulpit and is sort of willing to take bold steps, it can be a very strong position.”</p> <p>The public advocate can act as more than just a “counterweight to the mayor,” the consultant said. “That person also can establish themselves as someone who is also driving the agenda for New York, and that’s something we haven’t really seen since Mark Green,” the person added, referring to the city’s first-ever public advocate, who served from 1994 to 2001.</p> <p>Espinal, a Brooklyn representative, said in an email, “I’m seriously considering it, and whether to launch a campaign will come down to the positive energy and support from New Yorkers.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Rodriguez, whose district covers neighborhoods in upper Manhattan and a small section of the Bronx, said, “[Council Member Rodriguez] is committed to supporting Public Advocate James in her run for attorney general as she is the most qualified in the race. Should there be a special election for public advocate, he would consider running for that seat.”</p> <p>Torres, in a statement through a spokesperson, said, “I am still thinking about it and where I would be most effective. I’m debating which position would allow me to be a better advocate for the city.” The Bronx Council member is also said to be looking at a run for Congress or Bronx borough president.</p> <p>Borelli also said he was considering a run for public advocate, though he conceded that it would be tough to retain. “It’s possible to win a special, but it will be difficult for a Republican to win the following November,” he said in a text message.</p> <p>When asked about Quinn and Mark-Viverito both running, he said, “Each would be formidable.”</p> <p>Shortly before a primary debate among the four Democratic attorney general candidates on Tuesday, Assembly Member Blake told Gotham Gazette he was watching closely in case James’ seat becomes vacant. “She’s gotta win first, but it would be irresponsible not to be looking at it,” he said about considering a run. “First and foremost, this is brand new terrain for all of us. The possibility for a citywide special election is unique to say the least...Out of respect for everybody in the field, this is a moot point unless [James] is the attorney general, and we’re gonna be respectful of that.”</p> <p>He added, “As I tell my team often, proper preparation prevents poor performance. So you’re just ready, and if that opportunity presents itself, we have some serious decisions to make.”</p> <p>Blake, who is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, was the campaign manager for 2013 public advocate candidate Reshma Saujani, giving him some recent experience with a citywide race. He was then elected to the Assembly in 2014.</p> <p>No current elected official would have to give up their seat to run in the special election, but, if victorious, would then have to vacate their position to become public advocate.</p> <p>As Borelli alluded to, one effect of numerous Democrats entering the fray is that they could split the vote in what will likely be a low-turnout special election, offering up an opportunity for a Republican to claim victory.</p> <p>Polanco, the attorney and former public advocate candidate, recognizes that opening. Having run for the seat just last year, he has certain advantages. “Whoever is gonna come from our side, there has to be just one candidate,” Polanco said in a phone interview. “We’re small enough as it is. Even in a non-partisan race, you’re gonna need organizational support. So the organizations have to line up behind one candidate from the beginning in order for us to have a shot.”</p> <p>Polanco noted that the nonpartisan aspect of the election is “always good for democracy, always good for participation,” since voters won’t necessarily make choices along party lines. But he also echoed the risk for any sitting Republican elected official who might run, as Borelli noted. “Do you give up your Council seat for that? I don’t know whether that’s a good gamble or not, especially if you have three years left on your Council seat,” Polanco said.</p> <p>Polanco also weighed in on the potential contest between two former Council speakers, saying Quinn would be the “ultimate” candidate. “She’s the most qualified of the candidates on that side running,” he said. “But I think the Democratic Party of today is more along the lines of Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Ocasio-Cortezes of the world, the democratic socialists, are getting momentum. She represents that faction. We can’t kid ourselves.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/3749385121_4288a8d47c_z.jpg" alt="Quinn Mark-Viverito" width="600" height="456" /></p> <p>Christine Quinn, center, &amp; Melissa Mark-Viverito (photo: City Council on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The September primary election is just over one week away and if New York City Public Advocate Letitia James wins the Democratic nomination for attorney general over her three primary opponents, she will be a significant favorite to win the position in November owing in large part to the state’s Democrat-heavy electorate. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki captured a third term in 2002; it’s been far longer for a Republican attorney general.</p> <p>James winning the nomination will likely kick-off, in earnest, a mad scramble by several sitting and former elected officials who may seek to replace her through the at-that-point nearly certain special election for her citywide seat. Among the stronger potential contenders discussed in Democratic circles are two former speakers of the New York City Council -- Melissa Mark-Viverito, who led the body until last year, and Christine Quinn, her predecessor.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7681-james-victory-in-attorney-general-race-could-trigger-first-citywide-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">James Victory in Attorney General Race Would Trigger Citywide Special Election</a>]</p> <p>While they come from different wings of the New York Democratic Party, both Mark-Viverito and Quinn are firebrand politicians in their own right, and both made history in their respective ascensions to the speakership.</p> <p>Quinn, a Democrat who represented parts of the lower west side of Manhattan, became the first openly gay and first female speaker in 2006, presiding over the 51-member legislative body for two four-year terms. For the last three years, since being term-limited out of office and losing in the 2013 mayoral primary, she has served as president and CEO of Women in Need (WIN), a nonprofit that provides services to homeless women and children. Some Democrats and others have criticized Quinn for her close working relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including the effort to extend term limits, which allowed Bloomberg, Quinn, and others to seek a third term in 2009 despite public disapproval. She is currently a close ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed her vice chair of the New York State Democratic Committee.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rican native who represented a district that includes East Harlem and part of the south Bronx, became the Council’s first Latina speaker in 2014, pushing a broad agenda of criminal justice reform, immigrant protection, police accountability and affordable housing. In January, she became a senior adviser at the Latino Victory Fund PAC, a group that supports Latino candidates for elected office. As speaker, Mark-Viverito was at times criticized for her close relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow progressive Democrat, and she has been an outspoken critic of the governor, endorsing his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. Mark-Viverito is one of a relatively small group of prominent Democrats that is backing Nixon for governor and James for attorney general.</p> <p>After a New York Law School panel earlier this month, Quinn did not deny having an eye on the office of public advocate. “We have to get Tish James elected and that’s what I’m focused on and also let’s not forget the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, we have to get reelected,” she told Gotham Gazette, when asked if she had considered running for public advocate in the event of James’ ascension to attorney general. “Right now, I am focused, most importantly, on running WIN and helping the homeless families that we serve...and then in my spare time, so to speak, among other things, I’m helping candidates and friends run for office. So that’s what this summer and fall is about.”</p> <p>Pressed further, she simply repeated the statement. “That’s what this summer and fall is about.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito is slightly less circumspect about her own political future. “I’ve been consistent in saying that I’m really proud of the record that I have accomplished and the issues that I’ve championed and what we’ve been able to get done in the city of New York,” she told Gotham Gazette in a recent phone interview. “I’m not gonna close the door on looking at possibilities in the future if other positions or other opportunities became available...So if there is an opportunity that presents itself, I will definitely be taking a look at that. And I feel strongly that Tish will win so we’ll have that conversation later.”</p> <p>She emphasized that she brings a strong perspective to policy-making as a Latina representing a low-income community. “I think that’s something that we consistently need to have in positions of authority in the city,” Mark-Viverito said. “And I believe my record speaks for itself and I look forward to being able to continue to serve this wonderful city.”</p> <p>The special election, if there is one, would take place in March, assuming James is sworn in January 1 and vacates her current seat. Special elections for public advocate are nonpartisan, and each candidate would have to run on their own unique political party ballot line. The winner would then have to run for the seat again in a primary and general election later in 2019, if that person wants to keep the position.</p> <p>There are several others who have either been floated as candidates or have signalled an interest in becoming the city’s ombudsperson, a post also considered a strong launching pad for a mayoral bid as de Blasio illustrated. They include sitting City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, and Joe Borelli, the only Republican among them. All of them but Borelli will be term-limited out of office in 2021. State Assemblymember Michael Blake is another potential candidate, as are Republican attorney J.C. Polanco and Columbia professor David Eisenbach, who both challenged James when she was up for reelection last year -- Eisenbach in the primary and Polanco in the general. Eisenbach has already officially filed papers with the New York City Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>“I think the position obviously has a lot of potential,” said a Democratic consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It has different potential than being the City Council speaker where you’re not just responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for 50 other members, hundreds of staff, dozens of appointments here or there. It’s a different set of responsibilities and in the hands of someone who understands the levers of government, who understands the bully pulpit and is sort of willing to take bold steps, it can be a very strong position.”</p> <p>The public advocate can act as more than just a “counterweight to the mayor,” the consultant said. “That person also can establish themselves as someone who is also driving the agenda for New York, and that’s something we haven’t really seen since Mark Green,” the person added, referring to the city’s first-ever public advocate, who served from 1994 to 2001.</p> <p>Espinal, a Brooklyn representative, said in an email, “I’m seriously considering it, and whether to launch a campaign will come down to the positive energy and support from New Yorkers.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Rodriguez, whose district covers neighborhoods in upper Manhattan and a small section of the Bronx, said, “[Council Member Rodriguez] is committed to supporting Public Advocate James in her run for attorney general as she is the most qualified in the race. Should there be a special election for public advocate, he would consider running for that seat.”</p> <p>Torres, in a statement through a spokesperson, said, “I am still thinking about it and where I would be most effective. I’m debating which position would allow me to be a better advocate for the city.” The Bronx Council member is also said to be looking at a run for Congress or Bronx borough president.</p> <p>Borelli also said he was considering a run for public advocate, though he conceded that it would be tough to retain. “It’s possible to win a special, but it will be difficult for a Republican to win the following November,” he said in a text message.</p> <p>When asked about Quinn and Mark-Viverito both running, he said, “Each would be formidable.”</p> <p>Shortly before a primary debate among the four Democratic attorney general candidates on Tuesday, Assembly Member Blake told Gotham Gazette he was watching closely in case James’ seat becomes vacant. “She’s gotta win first, but it would be irresponsible not to be looking at it,” he said about considering a run. “First and foremost, this is brand new terrain for all of us. The possibility for a citywide special election is unique to say the least...Out of respect for everybody in the field, this is a moot point unless [James] is the attorney general, and we’re gonna be respectful of that.”</p> <p>He added, “As I tell my team often, proper preparation prevents poor performance. So you’re just ready, and if that opportunity presents itself, we have some serious decisions to make.”</p> <p>Blake, who is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, was the campaign manager for 2013 public advocate candidate Reshma Saujani, giving him some recent experience with a citywide race. He was then elected to the Assembly in 2014.</p> <p>No current elected official would have to give up their seat to run in the special election, but, if victorious, would then have to vacate their position to become public advocate.</p> <p>As Borelli alluded to, one effect of numerous Democrats entering the fray is that they could split the vote in what will likely be a low-turnout special election, offering up an opportunity for a Republican to claim victory.</p> <p>Polanco, the attorney and former public advocate candidate, recognizes that opening. Having run for the seat just last year, he has certain advantages. “Whoever is gonna come from our side, there has to be just one candidate,” Polanco said in a phone interview. “We’re small enough as it is. Even in a non-partisan race, you’re gonna need organizational support. So the organizations have to line up behind one candidate from the beginning in order for us to have a shot.”</p> <p>Polanco noted that the nonpartisan aspect of the election is “always good for democracy, always good for participation,” since voters won’t necessarily make choices along party lines. But he also echoed the risk for any sitting Republican elected official who might run, as Borelli noted. “Do you give up your Council seat for that? I don’t know whether that’s a good gamble or not, especially if you have three years left on your Council seat,” Polanco said.</p> <p>Polanco also weighed in on the potential contest between two former Council speakers, saying Quinn would be the “ultimate” candidate. “She’s the most qualified of the candidates on that side running,” he said. “But I think the Democratic Party of today is more along the lines of Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Ocasio-Cortezes of the world, the democratic socialists, are getting momentum. She represents that faction. We can’t kid ourselves.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Bronx Electeds, Residents Cry Foul as Mayor and Council Announce Jail Site 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7486-bronx-electeds-residents-cry-foul-as-mayor-and-council-announce-jail-site Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_1.jpg" alt="Bronx jail site NYPD tow pound" width="600" height="310" /></p> <p>Planned Bronx jail site (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced last week that they’d reached a deal to speed up the closure of Rikers Island by creating or expanding jail facilities in every borough except Staten Island, it seemed to be a clear sign of a productive partnership between the administration and local elected officials.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall, alongside four Council members -- Diana Ayala, Karen Koslowitz, Stephen Levin, and Margaret Chin -- willing to accept the political risk of a new or expanded jail in their districts. The city will launch a unified land use review application for all four jails, the mayor and speaker said, combining the arduous and lengthy multi-stage approval process for siting certain municipal facilities.</p> <p>But the proposal to build the Bronx jail -- the only one of the four that is not either a current or former jail facility -- immediately raised the hackles of elected officials from the borough other than Ayala, a newly elected Council member whose districts spans East Harlem and part of the South Bronx.</p> <p>“Look the site in the Bronx is a site owned by the City of New York. It is a very smart site in terms of its closeness to the courthouses,” de Blasio explained at the news conference, when asked about a critical statement put out by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who had not been kept in the loop by the administration or the Council. “There is going to be a full community process, but let's be clear, we're going to talk to everyone, we're going to listen to everyone, we're going to try in every way possible address community needs and address other benefits that communities need.”</p> <p>De Blasio emphasized, “That being said, up here are the people who ultimately have to make the decision – the Council, represented by the Speaker, the members who represent those individual districts, and me and my administration.”</p> <p>Ayala was aware of the criticism she may face for supporting a site in her district. “We all know that this siting process is bound to be controversial,” she said. “In the Bronx in particular, we are not repurposing an existing detention center but instead building a brand new facility that will require additional careful thought, serious consideration and robust community engagement, and I really wanna underline that…We also know that in the Bronx, too often we see a concentration of city facilities in our borough and there is rightfully some resistance to that. But we in the Bronx also understand the urgent need for criminal justice reform.”</p> <p>Top Bronx officials were taken aback that this was the first they were hearing of a new jail intended for their backyard. Any consultations that had happened had excluded Borough President Diaz Jr.; Assemblymember Michael Blake, whose district neighbors the one where the proposed site is located at 320 Concord Avenue, currently an NYPD tow pound; and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Democratic Bronx County party leader whose support helped Johnson win the speakership.</p> <p>“I was surprised to learn that the administration has already selected a site for a new jail in The Bronx,” said Diaz Jr. in a statement that preceded the mayor and speaker’s Wednesday news conference. The proposed site had been first revealed by the <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-mayor-bill-de-blasio-to-build-jail-in-the-bronx-1518565743?mod=WSJ_NY_LEFTTopStories&amp;tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wall Street Journal</a> the previous night, just after de Blasio delivered his State of the City address. “I hope that, going forward, this lack of outreach is not a harbinger of the amount of community input the people of my borough will have in this process,” Diaz Jr. said. (At the news conference, Johnson showed some contrition immediately, apologizing to Diaz Jr. and promising a “robust, meaningful” community engagement process.)</p> <p>“It is simply disrespectful that a decision of this magnitude of proposing to open a new jail in the South Bronx was made behind closed doors, without engaging the broader Bronx community,” said Assemblymember Blake, in a statement released Wednesday night.</p> <p>Crespo, the Democratic Bronx county boss, took to Twitter, calling out the mayor and speaker. “We spent so much time talking the last few months how did this rikers plan in my district never come up?” he wondered.</p> <p>“I think we were all caught off guard with how far ahead the city seems to be when no one in the Bronx was informed of the process,” Crespo later elaborated, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “Once you decide on a site, that’s gonna have an impact for generations.”</p> <p>Crespo and the other electeds aren’t opposed to the administration’s goal: building capacity in the boroughs so that Rikers can close. But, he said the Concord Avenue site is not the best option, and the city should explore alternatives. The community and the borough already host their fair share of municipal facilities, Crespo insisted, echoing widespread criticism that the city has long chosen to place seemingly undesirable facilities such as jails, homeless shelters, and waste treatment plants in low-income communities of color. “Make no mistake about it, this borough has been handling an unfair share already for a long time,” he said.</p> <p>“There’s major investments and their success would also be endangered,” he said of the Mott Haven neighborhood, where new development is underway literally across the road from where the jail would be situated.</p> <p>The rapid outpouring of criticism didn’t seem lost on Speaker Johnson, who quickly seemed to equivocate on the Bronx site. “I am committed to facilities in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Johnson <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/bronx/politics/2018/02/16/council-speaker-says-he-is-not-wedded-to-specific-locations-for-new-jails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told NY1</a>. "We are not wedded to an individual location. If there is a better location I am happy to have that conversation."</p> <p>Responding to an assertion that he was backpedaling, Johnson said in a subsequent tweet that he is “not at all” backing away from the site, but reiterated that the main goal is closing the jails on Rikers Island and that he is “not wedded” to one location. “If there's a better one,” <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/964309861688336384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he wrote</a>, “I'm all ears. No other location has been presented.”</p> <p>If the Bronx elected officials were stunned by the announcement, it’s little wonder that those who live in the neighborhood around the proposed site were likewise surprised and offended to learn of the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_2.jpg" alt="bx jail site 2" width="325" height="187" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The site is located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, north of the Harlem River, with large industrial and manufacturing spaces running between the waterfront and the Major Deegan Expressway.</p> <p>Residents and others expressed a mix of astonishment, resignation, anger, and resentment as Gotham Gazette told them on Friday that the city intended to build a jail within blocks of their homes and places of work.</p> <p>“I thought they were gonna do a mall,” said Jesus Ortiz, 50, who runs an auto-repair shop across the street from the NYPD tow pound that occupies the block.</p> <p>The site is sandwiched between East 141st and 142nd Streets, next to Bruckner Boulevard, in a neighborhood with a mix of housing and commercial properties. Enclosed by metal sheet walls, the tow pound is almost a hill overlooking its neighbors, with impounded cars visible from the street through a peripheral treeline that is leafless in February.</p> <p>“They’re trying to rebuild the South Bronx to make it nice,” said Ortiz, “That’s not the way to rebuild, by putting a jail here.” Having worked there 15 years, Ortiz said he’s seen rapid development in recent times. Even the building that houses his auto shop was recently bought out, he said, and the landlords gave him a one-year lease till 2019. He’ll soon be gone from the neighborhood too.</p> <p>“They’re buying all around,” he said.</p> <p>Adam Bele, 40, loads containers at the lumber supply warehouse that sits behind 320 Concord. “Nobody wants to be near a jail,” he said. His biggest concern, one that others shared as well, is for the children that attend the several schools in the neighborhood.</p> <p>“You don’t want children hanging around a jail,” said the father of two infants who will likely attend one of those schools, he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>As with other residents, Bele was wary of the process for choosing the site. “It’s like they know it’s gonna be unpopular so they tried to hide it and do it quick, quick, quick,” he said. He had a simple piece of advice for the mayor. “Be transparent. Listen to this community, and take our recommendations into consideration.”</p> <p>But Bele empathizes with the city’s rationale that detainees deserve to be housed closer to their families in humane and modern facilities, and that Rikers needs to close. “You don’t want them treated like animals, they’re human like us,” he said. The mayor and speaker have promised to seek community feedback on the proposed site and, as required by the city’s land use review process, community boards will get an opportunity to hold votes, albeit nonbinding, to approve or reject the proposal. Borough presidents also get to weigh in with advisory opinions.</p> <p>Along Concord Avenue, in what could eventually be the shadow of a new jail, sit rowhouses, a few of them old and abandoned and showing signs of disrepair. “For Sale” signs hung in a few windows.</p> <p>In one of those houses lives Nereida Chavez, 38, a stay-at-home mom with four kids. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed on hearing that her biggest neighbor could one day be a jail.</p> <p>“I don’t like the idea of having a jail here,” she said. “It’s just scary.”</p> <p>She worried that a jail could mean more traffic along a little-traversed street. “We have our kids and they love to play out here with their bikes,” she said. And, it might also mean that parking, which has become an issue already owing to the large lumber and oil and gas companies around them, might worsen. “We hardly have any parking here. It’ll be even more complicated if they put a jail here,” she said.</p> <p>But Chavez was more concerned that she hardly had an opportunity to be heard on an issue that quite directly would affect her. “It makes me worried that things happen around us and we don’t know anything,” she said. “They also put shelters around us. They don’t let us know until it’s there.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_3.jpg" alt="bx jail site 3" width="325" height="161" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />At a bodega on East 141st Street, Mel McKenzie, 33, was buying milk. Gotham Gazette asked if the homemaker knew about the city’s plan to build a jail, three blocks from her home.</p> <p>“For real?” she said.</p> <p>“I’m not with it,” she frowned. “It should stay an impound lot....[A jail] won’t bring the community together. It’ll probably make us scared. And it’s too close to home.”</p> <p>Another shopper, Nancy Lopez, 43, chimed in. “Why move it so close when there’s other areas where they could put it?” she wondered. “Put it across Bruckner where it’s more industrial. There’s kids that walk by everyday on Concord.”</p> <p>The city’s plan to close Rikers and replace some of its capacity in borough facilities near courthouses entails building for about 6,000 inmates, with the goal of getting the jail population down to about 5,000, according to the mayor.</p> <p>McKenzie acknowledged that its a laudable objective to help detainees, most of whom are pre-trial and not convicted of any crime, remain connected to their communities. “That makes sense,” she said, but she also expressed concern about what school-going children would take away from it. “That’s the message they’re sending? You’re gonna be close to home if you get locked up.”</p> <p>“What happens if a prisoner escapes?” said Lopez, who said she is on disability and lives on Concord Avenue in the same row as Nereida Chavez. Instead, she proposed a “positive” alternative. “Why don’t they build affordable housing?”</p> <p>Both women had one shared concern, however, that neither of them had received an opportunity to weigh in. “They should notify the public,” McKenzie said.</p> <p>“As it’s happening, not when it’s already decided,” added Lopez. The city will present plans to the public, particularly through the community board, when the site is set for its place in the land use review process. It may be up to local residents to seek out opportunities to hear more and provide their feedback.</p> <p>Presenting the site as a “fait accompli” would undermine the process, said the Bronx borough president in his statement, but it’s what one resident seemed to expect from the administration. “The city does whatever it wants,” said Hector Camilo, 55. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t argue with the city.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been corrected to note that Assembly Member Michael Blake does not represent the district where the proposed jail site at 320 Concord Avenue is located. He represents a neighboring district.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_1.jpg" alt="Bronx jail site NYPD tow pound" width="600" height="310" /></p> <p>Planned Bronx jail site (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced last week that they’d reached a deal to speed up the closure of Rikers Island by creating or expanding jail facilities in every borough except Staten Island, it seemed to be a clear sign of a productive partnership between the administration and local elected officials.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall, alongside four Council members -- Diana Ayala, Karen Koslowitz, Stephen Levin, and Margaret Chin -- willing to accept the political risk of a new or expanded jail in their districts. The city will launch a unified land use review application for all four jails, the mayor and speaker said, combining the arduous and lengthy multi-stage approval process for siting certain municipal facilities.</p> <p>But the proposal to build the Bronx jail -- the only one of the four that is not either a current or former jail facility -- immediately raised the hackles of elected officials from the borough other than Ayala, a newly elected Council member whose districts spans East Harlem and part of the South Bronx.</p> <p>“Look the site in the Bronx is a site owned by the City of New York. It is a very smart site in terms of its closeness to the courthouses,” de Blasio explained at the news conference, when asked about a critical statement put out by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who had not been kept in the loop by the administration or the Council. “There is going to be a full community process, but let's be clear, we're going to talk to everyone, we're going to listen to everyone, we're going to try in every way possible address community needs and address other benefits that communities need.”</p> <p>De Blasio emphasized, “That being said, up here are the people who ultimately have to make the decision – the Council, represented by the Speaker, the members who represent those individual districts, and me and my administration.”</p> <p>Ayala was aware of the criticism she may face for supporting a site in her district. “We all know that this siting process is bound to be controversial,” she said. “In the Bronx in particular, we are not repurposing an existing detention center but instead building a brand new facility that will require additional careful thought, serious consideration and robust community engagement, and I really wanna underline that…We also know that in the Bronx, too often we see a concentration of city facilities in our borough and there is rightfully some resistance to that. But we in the Bronx also understand the urgent need for criminal justice reform.”</p> <p>Top Bronx officials were taken aback that this was the first they were hearing of a new jail intended for their backyard. Any consultations that had happened had excluded Borough President Diaz Jr.; Assemblymember Michael Blake, whose district neighbors the one where the proposed site is located at 320 Concord Avenue, currently an NYPD tow pound; and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Democratic Bronx County party leader whose support helped Johnson win the speakership.</p> <p>“I was surprised to learn that the administration has already selected a site for a new jail in The Bronx,” said Diaz Jr. in a statement that preceded the mayor and speaker’s Wednesday news conference. The proposed site had been first revealed by the <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-mayor-bill-de-blasio-to-build-jail-in-the-bronx-1518565743?mod=WSJ_NY_LEFTTopStories&amp;tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wall Street Journal</a> the previous night, just after de Blasio delivered his State of the City address. “I hope that, going forward, this lack of outreach is not a harbinger of the amount of community input the people of my borough will have in this process,” Diaz Jr. said. (At the news conference, Johnson showed some contrition immediately, apologizing to Diaz Jr. and promising a “robust, meaningful” community engagement process.)</p> <p>“It is simply disrespectful that a decision of this magnitude of proposing to open a new jail in the South Bronx was made behind closed doors, without engaging the broader Bronx community,” said Assemblymember Blake, in a statement released Wednesday night.</p> <p>Crespo, the Democratic Bronx county boss, took to Twitter, calling out the mayor and speaker. “We spent so much time talking the last few months how did this rikers plan in my district never come up?” he wondered.</p> <p>“I think we were all caught off guard with how far ahead the city seems to be when no one in the Bronx was informed of the process,” Crespo later elaborated, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “Once you decide on a site, that’s gonna have an impact for generations.”</p> <p>Crespo and the other electeds aren’t opposed to the administration’s goal: building capacity in the boroughs so that Rikers can close. But, he said the Concord Avenue site is not the best option, and the city should explore alternatives. The community and the borough already host their fair share of municipal facilities, Crespo insisted, echoing widespread criticism that the city has long chosen to place seemingly undesirable facilities such as jails, homeless shelters, and waste treatment plants in low-income communities of color. “Make no mistake about it, this borough has been handling an unfair share already for a long time,” he said.</p> <p>“There’s major investments and their success would also be endangered,” he said of the Mott Haven neighborhood, where new development is underway literally across the road from where the jail would be situated.</p> <p>The rapid outpouring of criticism didn’t seem lost on Speaker Johnson, who quickly seemed to equivocate on the Bronx site. “I am committed to facilities in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Johnson <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/bronx/politics/2018/02/16/council-speaker-says-he-is-not-wedded-to-specific-locations-for-new-jails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told NY1</a>. "We are not wedded to an individual location. If there is a better location I am happy to have that conversation."</p> <p>Responding to an assertion that he was backpedaling, Johnson said in a subsequent tweet that he is “not at all” backing away from the site, but reiterated that the main goal is closing the jails on Rikers Island and that he is “not wedded” to one location. “If there's a better one,” <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/964309861688336384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he wrote</a>, “I'm all ears. No other location has been presented.”</p> <p>If the Bronx elected officials were stunned by the announcement, it’s little wonder that those who live in the neighborhood around the proposed site were likewise surprised and offended to learn of the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_2.jpg" alt="bx jail site 2" width="325" height="187" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The site is located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, north of the Harlem River, with large industrial and manufacturing spaces running between the waterfront and the Major Deegan Expressway.</p> <p>Residents and others expressed a mix of astonishment, resignation, anger, and resentment as Gotham Gazette told them on Friday that the city intended to build a jail within blocks of their homes and places of work.</p> <p>“I thought they were gonna do a mall,” said Jesus Ortiz, 50, who runs an auto-repair shop across the street from the NYPD tow pound that occupies the block.</p> <p>The site is sandwiched between East 141st and 142nd Streets, next to Bruckner Boulevard, in a neighborhood with a mix of housing and commercial properties. Enclosed by metal sheet walls, the tow pound is almost a hill overlooking its neighbors, with impounded cars visible from the street through a peripheral treeline that is leafless in February.</p> <p>“They’re trying to rebuild the South Bronx to make it nice,” said Ortiz, “That’s not the way to rebuild, by putting a jail here.” Having worked there 15 years, Ortiz said he’s seen rapid development in recent times. Even the building that houses his auto shop was recently bought out, he said, and the landlords gave him a one-year lease till 2019. He’ll soon be gone from the neighborhood too.</p> <p>“They’re buying all around,” he said.</p> <p>Adam Bele, 40, loads containers at the lumber supply warehouse that sits behind 320 Concord. “Nobody wants to be near a jail,” he said. His biggest concern, one that others shared as well, is for the children that attend the several schools in the neighborhood.</p> <p>“You don’t want children hanging around a jail,” said the father of two infants who will likely attend one of those schools, he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>As with other residents, Bele was wary of the process for choosing the site. “It’s like they know it’s gonna be unpopular so they tried to hide it and do it quick, quick, quick,” he said. He had a simple piece of advice for the mayor. “Be transparent. Listen to this community, and take our recommendations into consideration.”</p> <p>But Bele empathizes with the city’s rationale that detainees deserve to be housed closer to their families in humane and modern facilities, and that Rikers needs to close. “You don’t want them treated like animals, they’re human like us,” he said. The mayor and speaker have promised to seek community feedback on the proposed site and, as required by the city’s land use review process, community boards will get an opportunity to hold votes, albeit nonbinding, to approve or reject the proposal. Borough presidents also get to weigh in with advisory opinions.</p> <p>Along Concord Avenue, in what could eventually be the shadow of a new jail, sit rowhouses, a few of them old and abandoned and showing signs of disrepair. “For Sale” signs hung in a few windows.</p> <p>In one of those houses lives Nereida Chavez, 38, a stay-at-home mom with four kids. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed on hearing that her biggest neighbor could one day be a jail.</p> <p>“I don’t like the idea of having a jail here,” she said. “It’s just scary.”</p> <p>She worried that a jail could mean more traffic along a little-traversed street. “We have our kids and they love to play out here with their bikes,” she said. And, it might also mean that parking, which has become an issue already owing to the large lumber and oil and gas companies around them, might worsen. “We hardly have any parking here. It’ll be even more complicated if they put a jail here,” she said.</p> <p>But Chavez was more concerned that she hardly had an opportunity to be heard on an issue that quite directly would affect her. “It makes me worried that things happen around us and we don’t know anything,” she said. “They also put shelters around us. They don’t let us know until it’s there.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_3.jpg" alt="bx jail site 3" width="325" height="161" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />At a bodega on East 141st Street, Mel McKenzie, 33, was buying milk. Gotham Gazette asked if the homemaker knew about the city’s plan to build a jail, three blocks from her home.</p> <p>“For real?” she said.</p> <p>“I’m not with it,” she frowned. “It should stay an impound lot....[A jail] won’t bring the community together. It’ll probably make us scared. And it’s too close to home.”</p> <p>Another shopper, Nancy Lopez, 43, chimed in. “Why move it so close when there’s other areas where they could put it?” she wondered. “Put it across Bruckner where it’s more industrial. There’s kids that walk by everyday on Concord.”</p> <p>The city’s plan to close Rikers and replace some of its capacity in borough facilities near courthouses entails building for about 6,000 inmates, with the goal of getting the jail population down to about 5,000, according to the mayor.</p> <p>McKenzie acknowledged that its a laudable objective to help detainees, most of whom are pre-trial and not convicted of any crime, remain connected to their communities. “That makes sense,” she said, but she also expressed concern about what school-going children would take away from it. “That’s the message they’re sending? You’re gonna be close to home if you get locked up.”</p> <p>“What happens if a prisoner escapes?” said Lopez, who said she is on disability and lives on Concord Avenue in the same row as Nereida Chavez. Instead, she proposed a “positive” alternative. “Why don’t they build affordable housing?”</p> <p>Both women had one shared concern, however, that neither of them had received an opportunity to weigh in. “They should notify the public,” McKenzie said.</p> <p>“As it’s happening, not when it’s already decided,” added Lopez. The city will present plans to the public, particularly through the community board, when the site is set for its place in the land use review process. It may be up to local residents to seek out opportunities to hear more and provide their feedback.</p> <p>Presenting the site as a “fait accompli” would undermine the process, said the Bronx borough president in his statement, but it’s what one resident seemed to expect from the administration. “The city does whatever it wants,” said Hector Camilo, 55. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t argue with the city.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been corrected to note that Assembly Member Michael Blake does not represent the district where the proposed jail site at 320 Concord Avenue is located. He represents a neighboring district.&nbsp;</p>
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 1 2016-07-31T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6463-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-august-1 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>With both the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention now over, the presidential race hits the final three-month stretch to Election Day, November 8. The first debate in scheduled for September 26. While New York was front-and-center at both conventions because the two presidential candidates call the state home, a great deal of attention will now shift to the most consequential swing states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Still, Republicans are saying that they think Democratic strongholds like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6449-can-trump-win-new-york-inside-the-numbers" target="_blank">New York could be in play</a> this year due to the unique nature of the Donald Trump candidacy.</p> <p>As for New York city and state politics, Mayor Bill de Blasio begins August with work to do in terms of the popular narrative around his leadership of the city and with several investigations hanging over his administration and campaigns. De Blasio has been out of town for most of the past two weeks - on vacation in Italy and then at the DNC in Philadelphia - and will now dig back into the community outreach and promotion efforts he'll need in order to improve his standing among New Yorkers. De Blasio starts the week with a press conference celebrating gains New York City students made on this past school year's standardized tests for grades 3-8 (scores were released Friday afternoon) - see below for details.</p> <p>De Blasio is continuing to deal with fallout and criticism around the removal of deed restrictions on a property on the Lower East Side, which is becoming high-end condos after it had been previously restricted to a non-profit health-care facility. Last week saw more information released after the city's Law Department relented to the city's Department of Investigation, which had said that the Law Department had withheld key documents from the DOI. This week starts with Comptroller Scott Stringer releasing the results of his own investigation - see below for details.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has no public events on his Monday schedule.</p> <p>Overall, it looks like another relatively slow summer week - the City Council has no public hearings again (committee hearings <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">will resume next week</a>, with a full-body Stated Meeting scheduled for August 18) - but there are several events to be aware of. See our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday at 10:30 a.m., Gotham Gazette's Ben Max will appear on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the New York angles to the Republican and Democratic conventions.</p> <p>Also at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Assembly Member Michael Blake and community leaders will hold a press conference at 1 Police Plaza: "On Saturday, July 30, 2016, Assemblymember Michael Blake of the 79th District in the Bronx was involved in a confrontation with New York Police Department officers. Assemblymember Blake states that officers used excessive force against him while he was trying to diffuse a tense situation between police and members of the community. Assemblymember Blake wants to provide his account of the unjust incident and demand transparency and action from the police department."</p> <p>At 11 a.m. Monday, Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Carmen Fari&ntilde;a will host a press conference at Tweed Courthouse to discuss New York City students' scores on the most recent state tests, for the 2015-2016 school year.</p> <p>"On Monday, August 1, at 12:30 PM, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer will hold a press conference at the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan to release an investigative report on the sale of two deed restrictions governing the property located at 45 Rivington Street in Manhattan."</p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>On Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the New School, City and State will present&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cityandstateny.com/events/on-transportation.html#.V3J90Y7NW1t" target="_blank">&ldquo;On Transportation,&rdquo;</a> a forum bringing together industry professionals to discuss the future of New York transportation policy and infrastructure. Key speakers will include Matthew J. Driscoll, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Transportation, Senator Leroy Comrie, and State Assembly Members Robert Rodriguez and David I. Weprin.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, BP Eric Adams will host the New York City Smart Gun Symposium, &ldquo;the largest-to-date gathering on advancing smart gun technology.&rdquo; The event is co-sponsored by Washington Ceasefire and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and will include New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officer David Chipman. Discussion will center around the latest advancements in smart gun technology and their potential role in reducing gun violence nationwide. Public Advocate Letitia James will give remarks.</p> <p>At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, Gov. Cuomo will make an announcement.</p> <p>On Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Manhattan,&nbsp;"Chancellor Fari&ntilde;a will attend a professional development session for &ldquo;SEP Jr.,&rdquo; which is the first school-wide elementary school computer science program in New York City and will launch in schools this fall."</p> <p>At 2 p.m. Tuesday in Manhattan,&nbsp;"Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks at the annual New York State Financial Control Board meeting."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Borough Board will hold its monthly <a href="http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/event/brooklyn-borough-board-meeting-13/" target="_blank">meeting.</a></p> <p>Events will be held all around the city Tuesday to mark America&rsquo;s National Night Out Against Crime. Elected officials all over the city will be participating in community events involving local precincts.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>A&nbsp;At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Queens, Borough President Melinda Katz and District Attorney Richard Brown will host a forum on hate crimes in partnership with the NYC Commission on Human Rights and NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. Discussion will center around &ldquo;the role of law enforcement when a hate crime occurs and how we work to protect the community.&rdquo;</p> <p>At 10 a.m. Wednesday in Albany, the state Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry will hold <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/write/upload/publichearing/20160719.pdf" target="_blank">an oversight hearing</a> to review the implementation of the FY17 budget and its impact on the state&rsquo;s economic development agencies and programs.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>On Thursday evening Brooklyn, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a town hall meeting, <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/7/28/stringer-hold-brooklyn-town-hall" target="_blank">according to Brooklyn Eagle</a>, which reports the event will be "at the New York Aquarium Education Hall at Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street in Coney Island," that Stringer is holding it "in partnership with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, state Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblymember Pamela Harris and Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger," and that it "is open to all, but will focus on issues of concern to residents of Southern Brooklyn, according to the Comptroller&rsquo;s Office." Doors open at 6:30 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>Nothing on the calendar as of the start of the week for the end of the week.</p> <p>***<br />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:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Amanda Sherwin and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>With both the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention now over, the presidential race hits the final three-month stretch to Election Day, November 8. The first debate in scheduled for September 26. While New York was front-and-center at both conventions because the two presidential candidates call the state home, a great deal of attention will now shift to the most consequential swing states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Still, Republicans are saying that they think Democratic strongholds like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6449-can-trump-win-new-york-inside-the-numbers" target="_blank">New York could be in play</a> this year due to the unique nature of the Donald Trump candidacy.</p> <p>As for New York city and state politics, Mayor Bill de Blasio begins August with work to do in terms of the popular narrative around his leadership of the city and with several investigations hanging over his administration and campaigns. De Blasio has been out of town for most of the past two weeks - on vacation in Italy and then at the DNC in Philadelphia - and will now dig back into the community outreach and promotion efforts he'll need in order to improve his standing among New Yorkers. De Blasio starts the week with a press conference celebrating gains New York City students made on this past school year's standardized tests for grades 3-8 (scores were released Friday afternoon) - see below for details.</p> <p>De Blasio is continuing to deal with fallout and criticism around the removal of deed restrictions on a property on the Lower East Side, which is becoming high-end condos after it had been previously restricted to a non-profit health-care facility. Last week saw more information released after the city's Law Department relented to the city's Department of Investigation, which had said that the Law Department had withheld key documents from the DOI. This week starts with Comptroller Scott Stringer releasing the results of his own investigation - see below for details.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has no public events on his Monday schedule.</p> <p>Overall, it looks like another relatively slow summer week - the City Council has no public hearings again (committee hearings <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">will resume next week</a>, with a full-body Stated Meeting scheduled for August 18) - but there are several events to be aware of. See our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday at 10:30 a.m., Gotham Gazette's Ben Max will appear on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the New York angles to the Republican and Democratic conventions.</p> <p>Also at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Assembly Member Michael Blake and community leaders will hold a press conference at 1 Police Plaza: "On Saturday, July 30, 2016, Assemblymember Michael Blake of the 79th District in the Bronx was involved in a confrontation with New York Police Department officers. Assemblymember Blake states that officers used excessive force against him while he was trying to diffuse a tense situation between police and members of the community. Assemblymember Blake wants to provide his account of the unjust incident and demand transparency and action from the police department."</p> <p>At 11 a.m. Monday, Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Carmen Fari&ntilde;a will host a press conference at Tweed Courthouse to discuss New York City students' scores on the most recent state tests, for the 2015-2016 school year.</p> <p>"On Monday, August 1, at 12:30 PM, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer will hold a press conference at the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan to release an investigative report on the sale of two deed restrictions governing the property located at 45 Rivington Street in Manhattan."</p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>On Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the New School, City and State will present&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cityandstateny.com/events/on-transportation.html#.V3J90Y7NW1t" target="_blank">&ldquo;On Transportation,&rdquo;</a> a forum bringing together industry professionals to discuss the future of New York transportation policy and infrastructure. Key speakers will include Matthew J. Driscoll, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council&rsquo;s Committee on Transportation, Senator Leroy Comrie, and State Assembly Members Robert Rodriguez and David I. Weprin.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, BP Eric Adams will host the New York City Smart Gun Symposium, &ldquo;the largest-to-date gathering on advancing smart gun technology.&rdquo; The event is co-sponsored by Washington Ceasefire and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and will include New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officer David Chipman. Discussion will center around the latest advancements in smart gun technology and their potential role in reducing gun violence nationwide. Public Advocate Letitia James will give remarks.</p> <p>At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, Gov. Cuomo will make an announcement.</p> <p>On Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Manhattan,&nbsp;"Chancellor Fari&ntilde;a will attend a professional development session for &ldquo;SEP Jr.,&rdquo; which is the first school-wide elementary school computer science program in New York City and will launch in schools this fall."</p> <p>At 2 p.m. Tuesday in Manhattan,&nbsp;"Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks at the annual New York State Financial Control Board meeting."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Borough Board will hold its monthly <a href="http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/event/brooklyn-borough-board-meeting-13/" target="_blank">meeting.</a></p> <p>Events will be held all around the city Tuesday to mark America&rsquo;s National Night Out Against Crime. Elected officials all over the city will be participating in community events involving local precincts.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>A&nbsp;At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Queens, Borough President Melinda Katz and District Attorney Richard Brown will host a forum on hate crimes in partnership with the NYC Commission on Human Rights and NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force. Discussion will center around &ldquo;the role of law enforcement when a hate crime occurs and how we work to protect the community.&rdquo;</p> <p>At 10 a.m. Wednesday in Albany, the state Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry will hold <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/write/upload/publichearing/20160719.pdf" target="_blank">an oversight hearing</a> to review the implementation of the FY17 budget and its impact on the state&rsquo;s economic development agencies and programs.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>On Thursday evening Brooklyn, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a town hall meeting, <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/7/28/stringer-hold-brooklyn-town-hall" target="_blank">according to Brooklyn Eagle</a>, which reports the event will be "at the New York Aquarium Education Hall at Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street in Coney Island," that Stringer is holding it "in partnership with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, state Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblymember Pamela Harris and Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger," and that it "is open to all, but will focus on issues of concern to residents of Southern Brooklyn, according to the Comptroller&rsquo;s Office." Doors open at 6:30 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>Nothing on the calendar as of the start of the week for the end of the week.</p> <p>***<br />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:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Amanda Sherwin and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Black, Hispanic & Asian Caucus Faces Growing Pains, Tense Relationship with Cuomo 2015-07-20T18:04:50+00:00 2015-07-20T18:04:50+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5817-black-hispanic-a-asian-caucus-faces-growing-pains-tense-relationship-with-cuomo Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19344759678_8663ecdfb3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Schneiderman presser" height="367" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">At the special prosecutor announcement (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19344759678/in/album-72157653298437664/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beaming. Touting the historical significance of the executive order he had just signed to give Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the authority to act as a special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians, Cuomo smiled for photos. Often rivals, Cuomo and Schneiderman, who are both white, sat smiling at the July 7 press conference. They were surrounded first by a group of mothers who had lost their black and Hispanic sons to police violence, then by a group of legislators, all people of color. The cameras snapped and then the smiles faded.</p> <p>It was indeed momentous, real movement after years of work by advocates and legislators pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate such police shootings. But, the order by the governor, aimed at what he called a "crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system," does not wipe away another trust divide. Despite support for and appreciation of the special prosecutor mandate, Cuomo himself faces a crisis of trust from many members of the state legislature's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>Many advocates and legislators say it was a gargantuan effort to keep up enough pressure to make it politically impossible for Cuomo not to sign the order after there was no legislative deal before lawmakers ended their spring session in Albany. Just the day before the order-signing, victims' families had met with Cuomo to express concerns that the order would not go far enough.</p> <p>While many give intense gratitude to Cuomo for taking the action, they also resent that it took so much time and energy to get him there when the issue has been such a prominent one for years.</p> <p>Members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus - 33 in the 150-member Assembly and 14 in the 63-member Senate - have experienced a roller coaster ride for the past five years <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5378-the-cuomo-record-immigration-and-civil-rights" target="_blank">since Cuomo came into office</a>.</p> <p>It goes something like this: the governor announces that he shares some of their major priorities in his State of the State speech, they move to back him, and then they watch as their top agenda items are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5654-democrats-frustrated-by-governor-backing-off-partys-issues" target="_blank">thrown out</a> of the budget when a deal is reached. They build up hope again after the budget is passed, seeking inclusion of the same issues in the typical end-of-session "Big Ugly" deal. They rally, publicly express certainty that Cuomo will deliver for them, that he is in fact on their side and the side of their constituents, all while privately wondering if he is only paying them lip service when he says he continues to be committed to their issues.</p> <p>And then the session ends.</p> <p>No DREAM Act, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4889-cuomo-proposal-sparks-debate-over-college-behind-bars" target="_blank">no college for inmates</a>, no reduced punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. And this year no legislative action on either criminal justice reform efforts sparked by the rash of police killings of unarmed civilians or the governor's own 'Raise the Age' proposal. While Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5797-cuomos-executive-action-on-raise-the-age-prompts-questions" target="_blank">has promised executive action</a> removing them from adult prisons, New York remains one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p>There was heightened internal tension in the caucus this year as the new and old guards struggled to direct the group. Younger members are pushing for more forceful action on issues important to their communities while veteran members urge caution and warn that major bills in Albany can take a lot of time.</p> <p>"We need continued pressure on these issues from the caucus and the governor because communities of color cannot feel their issues are second because they are harder to achieve," said Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake, a freshman legislator and veteran of the Obama Administration.</p> <p>Brooklyn Assembly Member Nick Perry became caucus chair this year and has served for over 20 years as a state legislator. He acknowledges he is in a particularly tough position after the results of this year's legislative session. Perry's rival for the position, vacated when Karim Camara resigned to take a job in Cuomo's administration, Walter Mosley, was thought to be the choice of the younger members of the caucus but <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/06/new-caucus-leadership/" target="_blank">his candidacy collapsed</a> after he took a controversial position on a bill dealing with the East Ramapo School District.</p> <p>"We had a number of enthusiastic, young freshmen who wanted to bring home their bills but they met with the frustration that is Albany," Perry told Gotham Gazette. "They had a rude awakening," he added, saying that frustration is something he has gotten used to after spending so much time in the state legislature. Perry said that he hopes to marshall the caucus to focus on what is achievable. "We have so many votes that we can achieve so much if we work together. You have to realize you aren't going to win every time and we must pool our efforts into what is possible."</p> <p>Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera agrees with Perry. "I think as a caucus we are not as effective as we should be considering our numbers but I am committed to working with them to enact a progressive agenda," Rivera said.</p> <p>Despite having been in the Senate for five years, this was the first year Rivera really felt like he was in the minority, he says, as he was unable to impact some of the most important issues facing his community. "This is the first time I really felt it," said Rivera, who added that the caucus will be in control of its destiny if Democrats take control of the Senate in the 2016 elections.</p> <p>It's a sentiment shared by Perry, who said he expects most of the caucus' agenda will have to wait until 2017, indicating he hopes the presidential election <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5686-state-senate-democrats-poised-to-ride-hillary-clinton-wave" target="_blank">will attract a surge of Democratic voters</a>. "I would bet that the presidential year will bring a wave of working class voters much larger than last year and that the seats Republicans hold narrowly will become Democratic," said Perry.</p> <p>Perry sees 2016 as intensely difficult for the caucus' issues because of the pressure Republicans will feel to keep their seats.</p> <p>"We have to realize on issues like the DREAM Act that if some of these Republicans go against the grain they will eventually get blown away," said Perry. "We have to be realistic about the political realities Republicans face in their districts and it is our duty to convince them that there is enough support across the state."</p> <p>Blake, however, is not content to wait until 2017 on issues of criminal justice reform, or a minimum wage increase. "For me this is not about waiting for 2017," Blake told Gotham Gazette. "Communities of color are not interested in waiting for the next presidential election to move on these issues. Kalief Browder was my constituent. Kalief Browder's parents don't want to hear that we couldn't do 'raise the age' because we don't have the Senate Majority. They are thinking he is dead because we didn't have 'raise the age.'"</p> <p>Caucus members want to see Cuomo go to bat for their issues with the conviction he's shown in previous legislative victories, but they are conflicted about how much public pressure to put on him. Most members agree that it was their constituencies that delivered for Cuomo during last year's election and that Cuomo needs to be mindful to actually deliver for those voters and not get completely distracted by the upstate economy.</p> <p>"The problem we have is that at the the end of session what is on the table for black and Latino voters simply hasn't been enough," said Perry. "We were there for the governor during his elections. Something like 77 percent of black voters supported the governor so it is fair for us to expect him to be with us on our issues."</p> <p>This year discontent with Cuomo among Democrats has exploded into the open as many city legislators feel he failed to go to bat on city issues and in some cases decided to ally with Senate Republicans and wealthy campaign donors over Democratic interests. Cuomo ran on delivering The DREAM Act, an increased minimum wage, campaign finance reform, and the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (or GENDA), but none of those issues ever appeared to be seriously in play in the post-budget session.</p> <p>Instead Cuomo put his real political muscle into controversial school reforms, the equally controversial education tax credit, and to a lesser extent, 'Raise the Age.' Cuomo also took executive action toward increasing the minimum wage for fast food workers by convening the state wage board and resolved to manage compromises over rent regulations and mayoral control of city schools.</p> <p>A number of caucus members told Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity that they simply no longer believe any of Cuomo's promises and they expect the only way they can hope for him to deliver on their issues is to make it politically impossible for him not to. "Yeah, he got off his ass on the special prosecutor but it's because we dragged him there kicking and screaming," said one caucus member. They are well aware that Cuomo is being attacked by district attorneys and police organizations for signing the order and many of them are concerned he may do away with it if it begins to impact him politically.</p> <p>Perry said he is certain that Cuomo acted on the special prosecutor order because it is something he fully believes in but he was miffed that Cuomo didn't act sooner. "The special prosecutor was an extremely important move and I believe there is no turning back now - we will have legislation on it next year. The only thing that I don't understand is why the governor didn't do it much earlier. He supported it when we talked about these issues even before he was governor. So, I think when he took this action, it was something he truly believed in."</p> <p>Adding to the frustration was the departure of Camara as caucus chair. The former Assembly member joined the Cuomo administration to head the newly-created Office of Faith-Based Community Development.</p> <p>As was made clear by that appointment, Camara has had an extremely close relationship with the administration, was known to stay in contact with the governor and to often be polled by administration representatives before the executive branch took action. Now many members say they've never actually heard from the governor except perhaps in passing at an event.</p> <p>"This was clearly a transition year for the caucus," said Rivera. "We had a lot of new members who need to adjust to the reality of Albany and we had Karim step off and a new Assembly Speaker added to the reality of us not being in majority [in the Senate]."</p> <p>It is important to note that the new Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, is a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus and the first person of color to lead the chamber.</p> <p>Although the dance between the Cuomo administration and the caucus has become a familiar one the situation is particularly nettlesome after Mayor Bill de Blasio openly lambasted Cuomo's transactional style of politics and what he actually delivered for the city this year. "I don't believe the Assembly had a real working partner in the governor or the Senate in terms of getting things done for the people of this city and in many cases the people of this state," de Blasio told reporters on June 30.</p> <p>"The governor has developed a relationship with Senate Republicans that could be beneficial to the Democratic agenda," said new caucus head Perry, who represents part of Brooklyn. "So I plan on working with him rather than attacking him for the relationship, as some have."</p> <p>Sen. Rivera said he is thankful that the governor issued his executive order regarding police killings but he plans to keep up the pressure. "I congratulate the governor on taking such a bold step but we need it in statute and to extend it to all police misconduct. I've been carrying a bill that would do that for the past five years but it hasn't seen the light of day in the Senate."</p> <p>Assembly Member Blake said he is committed to working to educate Senate Republicans on major caucus issues - especially criminal justice reform - but he said more pressure to act has to be applied on Cuomo.</p> <p>"We've seen in the history of the civil rights movement that sometimes it takes someone willing to risk their political career to enact important change," said Blake.</p> <p>When asked if he was discouraged or caught off guard by the political gridlock in Albany, he laughed. "No," he said. "The reality is we made changes, we didn't get everything but this was not a rude awakening. I was at the White House when we were fighting for health care, when we were dealing with the 'death panel' nonsense. One thing I remember was the president talking to David Axelrod and Rahm [Emanuel] and telling them 'if it means me being a one-term president to do the right thing, then so be it, I'm committed to that.'"</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19344759678_8663ecdfb3_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Schneiderman presser" height="367" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">At the special prosecutor announcement (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19344759678/in/album-72157653298437664/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beaming. Touting the historical significance of the executive order he had just signed to give Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the authority to act as a special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians, Cuomo smiled for photos. Often rivals, Cuomo and Schneiderman, who are both white, sat smiling at the July 7 press conference. They were surrounded first by a group of mothers who had lost their black and Hispanic sons to police violence, then by a group of legislators, all people of color. The cameras snapped and then the smiles faded.</p> <p>It was indeed momentous, real movement after years of work by advocates and legislators pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate such police shootings. But, the order by the governor, aimed at what he called a "crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system," does not wipe away another trust divide. Despite support for and appreciation of the special prosecutor mandate, Cuomo himself faces a crisis of trust from many members of the state legislature's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>Many advocates and legislators say it was a gargantuan effort to keep up enough pressure to make it politically impossible for Cuomo not to sign the order after there was no legislative deal before lawmakers ended their spring session in Albany. Just the day before the order-signing, victims' families had met with Cuomo to express concerns that the order would not go far enough.</p> <p>While many give intense gratitude to Cuomo for taking the action, they also resent that it took so much time and energy to get him there when the issue has been such a prominent one for years.</p> <p>Members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus - 33 in the 150-member Assembly and 14 in the 63-member Senate - have experienced a roller coaster ride for the past five years <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5378-the-cuomo-record-immigration-and-civil-rights" target="_blank">since Cuomo came into office</a>.</p> <p>It goes something like this: the governor announces that he shares some of their major priorities in his State of the State speech, they move to back him, and then they watch as their top agenda items are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5654-democrats-frustrated-by-governor-backing-off-partys-issues" target="_blank">thrown out</a> of the budget when a deal is reached. They build up hope again after the budget is passed, seeking inclusion of the same issues in the typical end-of-session "Big Ugly" deal. They rally, publicly express certainty that Cuomo will deliver for them, that he is in fact on their side and the side of their constituents, all while privately wondering if he is only paying them lip service when he says he continues to be committed to their issues.</p> <p>And then the session ends.</p> <p>No DREAM Act, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4889-cuomo-proposal-sparks-debate-over-college-behind-bars" target="_blank">no college for inmates</a>, no reduced punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. And this year no legislative action on either criminal justice reform efforts sparked by the rash of police killings of unarmed civilians or the governor's own 'Raise the Age' proposal. While Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5797-cuomos-executive-action-on-raise-the-age-prompts-questions" target="_blank">has promised executive action</a> removing them from adult prisons, New York remains one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p>There was heightened internal tension in the caucus this year as the new and old guards struggled to direct the group. Younger members are pushing for more forceful action on issues important to their communities while veteran members urge caution and warn that major bills in Albany can take a lot of time.</p> <p>"We need continued pressure on these issues from the caucus and the governor because communities of color cannot feel their issues are second because they are harder to achieve," said Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake, a freshman legislator and veteran of the Obama Administration.</p> <p>Brooklyn Assembly Member Nick Perry became caucus chair this year and has served for over 20 years as a state legislator. He acknowledges he is in a particularly tough position after the results of this year's legislative session. Perry's rival for the position, vacated when Karim Camara resigned to take a job in Cuomo's administration, Walter Mosley, was thought to be the choice of the younger members of the caucus but <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/06/new-caucus-leadership/" target="_blank">his candidacy collapsed</a> after he took a controversial position on a bill dealing with the East Ramapo School District.</p> <p>"We had a number of enthusiastic, young freshmen who wanted to bring home their bills but they met with the frustration that is Albany," Perry told Gotham Gazette. "They had a rude awakening," he added, saying that frustration is something he has gotten used to after spending so much time in the state legislature. Perry said that he hopes to marshall the caucus to focus on what is achievable. "We have so many votes that we can achieve so much if we work together. You have to realize you aren't going to win every time and we must pool our efforts into what is possible."</p> <p>Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera agrees with Perry. "I think as a caucus we are not as effective as we should be considering our numbers but I am committed to working with them to enact a progressive agenda," Rivera said.</p> <p>Despite having been in the Senate for five years, this was the first year Rivera really felt like he was in the minority, he says, as he was unable to impact some of the most important issues facing his community. "This is the first time I really felt it," said Rivera, who added that the caucus will be in control of its destiny if Democrats take control of the Senate in the 2016 elections.</p> <p>It's a sentiment shared by Perry, who said he expects most of the caucus' agenda will have to wait until 2017, indicating he hopes the presidential election <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5686-state-senate-democrats-poised-to-ride-hillary-clinton-wave" target="_blank">will attract a surge of Democratic voters</a>. "I would bet that the presidential year will bring a wave of working class voters much larger than last year and that the seats Republicans hold narrowly will become Democratic," said Perry.</p> <p>Perry sees 2016 as intensely difficult for the caucus' issues because of the pressure Republicans will feel to keep their seats.</p> <p>"We have to realize on issues like the DREAM Act that if some of these Republicans go against the grain they will eventually get blown away," said Perry. "We have to be realistic about the political realities Republicans face in their districts and it is our duty to convince them that there is enough support across the state."</p> <p>Blake, however, is not content to wait until 2017 on issues of criminal justice reform, or a minimum wage increase. "For me this is not about waiting for 2017," Blake told Gotham Gazette. "Communities of color are not interested in waiting for the next presidential election to move on these issues. Kalief Browder was my constituent. Kalief Browder's parents don't want to hear that we couldn't do 'raise the age' because we don't have the Senate Majority. They are thinking he is dead because we didn't have 'raise the age.'"</p> <p>Caucus members want to see Cuomo go to bat for their issues with the conviction he's shown in previous legislative victories, but they are conflicted about how much public pressure to put on him. Most members agree that it was their constituencies that delivered for Cuomo during last year's election and that Cuomo needs to be mindful to actually deliver for those voters and not get completely distracted by the upstate economy.</p> <p>"The problem we have is that at the the end of session what is on the table for black and Latino voters simply hasn't been enough," said Perry. "We were there for the governor during his elections. Something like 77 percent of black voters supported the governor so it is fair for us to expect him to be with us on our issues."</p> <p>This year discontent with Cuomo among Democrats has exploded into the open as many city legislators feel he failed to go to bat on city issues and in some cases decided to ally with Senate Republicans and wealthy campaign donors over Democratic interests. Cuomo ran on delivering The DREAM Act, an increased minimum wage, campaign finance reform, and the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (or GENDA), but none of those issues ever appeared to be seriously in play in the post-budget session.</p> <p>Instead Cuomo put his real political muscle into controversial school reforms, the equally controversial education tax credit, and to a lesser extent, 'Raise the Age.' Cuomo also took executive action toward increasing the minimum wage for fast food workers by convening the state wage board and resolved to manage compromises over rent regulations and mayoral control of city schools.</p> <p>A number of caucus members told Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity that they simply no longer believe any of Cuomo's promises and they expect the only way they can hope for him to deliver on their issues is to make it politically impossible for him not to. "Yeah, he got off his ass on the special prosecutor but it's because we dragged him there kicking and screaming," said one caucus member. They are well aware that Cuomo is being attacked by district attorneys and police organizations for signing the order and many of them are concerned he may do away with it if it begins to impact him politically.</p> <p>Perry said he is certain that Cuomo acted on the special prosecutor order because it is something he fully believes in but he was miffed that Cuomo didn't act sooner. "The special prosecutor was an extremely important move and I believe there is no turning back now - we will have legislation on it next year. The only thing that I don't understand is why the governor didn't do it much earlier. He supported it when we talked about these issues even before he was governor. So, I think when he took this action, it was something he truly believed in."</p> <p>Adding to the frustration was the departure of Camara as caucus chair. The former Assembly member joined the Cuomo administration to head the newly-created Office of Faith-Based Community Development.</p> <p>As was made clear by that appointment, Camara has had an extremely close relationship with the administration, was known to stay in contact with the governor and to often be polled by administration representatives before the executive branch took action. Now many members say they've never actually heard from the governor except perhaps in passing at an event.</p> <p>"This was clearly a transition year for the caucus," said Rivera. "We had a lot of new members who need to adjust to the reality of Albany and we had Karim step off and a new Assembly Speaker added to the reality of us not being in majority [in the Senate]."</p> <p>It is important to note that the new Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, is a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus and the first person of color to lead the chamber.</p> <p>Although the dance between the Cuomo administration and the caucus has become a familiar one the situation is particularly nettlesome after Mayor Bill de Blasio openly lambasted Cuomo's transactional style of politics and what he actually delivered for the city this year. "I don't believe the Assembly had a real working partner in the governor or the Senate in terms of getting things done for the people of this city and in many cases the people of this state," de Blasio told reporters on June 30.</p> <p>"The governor has developed a relationship with Senate Republicans that could be beneficial to the Democratic agenda," said new caucus head Perry, who represents part of Brooklyn. "So I plan on working with him rather than attacking him for the relationship, as some have."</p> <p>Sen. Rivera said he is thankful that the governor issued his executive order regarding police killings but he plans to keep up the pressure. "I congratulate the governor on taking such a bold step but we need it in statute and to extend it to all police misconduct. I've been carrying a bill that would do that for the past five years but it hasn't seen the light of day in the Senate."</p> <p>Assembly Member Blake said he is committed to working to educate Senate Republicans on major caucus issues - especially criminal justice reform - but he said more pressure to act has to be applied on Cuomo.</p> <p>"We've seen in the history of the civil rights movement that sometimes it takes someone willing to risk their political career to enact important change," said Blake.</p> <p>When asked if he was discouraged or caught off guard by the political gridlock in Albany, he laughed. "No," he said. "The reality is we made changes, we didn't get everything but this was not a rude awakening. I was at the White House when we were fighting for health care, when we were dealing with the 'death panel' nonsense. One thing I remember was the president talking to David Axelrod and Rahm [Emanuel] and telling them 'if it means me being a one-term president to do the right thing, then so be it, I'm committed to that.'"</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>