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/ruben-diaz-jr 2017-12-15T04:26:49+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com In Surprise to Some, Diana Ayala Victorious in Tight Primary 2017-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7197:in-surprise-to-some-diana-ayala-appears-on-verge-of-victory Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mmv-ayala.jpg" alt="mmv ayala" width="600" height="356" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito with Diana Ayala (photo: Samar Khurshid/GothamGazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The primary election on Tuesday saw incumbents retain power across most of the city and few upsets in contested races. But in one of the most competitive races of the day, a first-time candidate prevailed over a long-time elected official, overcoming an expected gap in name recognition and other deficits, in a City Council district struggling with concerns for its future and looking for its next local leader to advocate for its interests.</p> <p>District 8, which covers East Harlem and the South Bronx, is the constituency of current City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who faces term limits and cannot run for reelection. Four Democratic candidates ran in Tuesday’s primary to replace her: Diana Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s former deputy chief of staff and preferred successor; sitting state Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez; community activist Tamika Mapp; and former state Assemblymember Israel Martinez.</p> <p>As soon as the field of candidates was clear, it was evident that it would be a race between Ayala and Rodriguez, with the sitting elected official coming into the race with distinct advantages, including in terms of raising funds.</p> <p>After months of tense campaigning, split establishment allegiances, and some mudslinging, it all came down to primary day, September 12, where -- like in most districts across the city -- the outcome would determine the next officeholder given the overwhelming Democratic advantage.</p> <p>A grueling day of crisscrossing the district to canvas for votes, with polls open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., culminated with a race that was too close to call once most of the returns were in. Yet, Ayala claimed victory with a margin of just 122 votes in a race that saw only 8,471 ballots cast. She received 3,705 votes, or 43.7 percent, to Rodriguez’s 3,583, good for 42.3 percent. Mapp took 814 votes and Martinez took 369.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Ayala declared victory from Harley’s Smokeshack at 11:20 p.m. to a room full of allies and supporters, including Mark-Viverito, Rodriguez soon put out a public statement saying that every vote needed to be counted, given the possibility of affidavit and absentee ballots perhaps yet tallied. One week later, on September 19, all the ballots had been accounted for and Ayala still came out on top. "With all vote counting complete, I am proud to declare victory today," she said in a statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>"El Barrio and the South Bronx are at a crossroads, like so many other communities in our City," she added. "I will fight tirelessly to ensure that we do everything to protect the lives and provide affordability for those who have grown up, are raising their families, or are retiring here." Rodriguez, who will continue to serve in the state Assembly, conceded defeat on Tuesday. "I offer my congrats to Diana Ayala, and I hope she can fulfill the promises she made," he said in a statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 14 hours before she declared victory on primary day, Ayala was standing at the corner of East 109th Street and 2nd Avenue, asking residents for their votes.</p> <p>“My legs are starting to get numb,” said Ayala, around 8:30 a.m., already more than two hours into her time there, as the sun was beginning to warm the crisp morning air. Ayala shifted on her feet as she stood, arms folded at the waist, surveying the scene, as if steadying herself for the long day ahead. It was the first of many stops she would make.</p> <p>Campaign volunteer Joe Taranto, a top government aide to Mark-Viverito, passed out campaign literature as Ayala greeted each voter. “I feel good, I’m excited to see what the results will be,” she said, with a composure that she wouldn’t betray until she was saying she had won, holding back tears with a beaming smile on her face.</p> <p>Around 8:45 a.m., a campaign barker walked by across the street, yelling, “Vote for Robert Rodriguez for City Council, Robert Rodriguez for City Council!!” He had come from the 110th Street subway station where he had been spotted earlier.</p> <p>Ayala has worked for Mark-Viverito for nearly 12 years and, as her director of constituent services, she has been in direct contact with members of the community, hearing residents’ problems firsthand and seeking to help them as she could. It’s one of the reasons she expected that people would vote for her. “They know me personally, they know my work ethic,” she said. “They know I deliver.” It explains why voters recognize her on the street, why some stopped to hug her and wish her good luck.</p> <p>“The best team in the world! That’s my girl!,” exclaimed one voter, Susan Rodriguez, walking down the street seeing Ayala at the corner. Rodriguez, the founding director of Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research &amp; Treatment, a nonprofit, said Ayala had personally assisted her when the nonprofit faced an office space issue. “She’s been a champion of the community,” Rodriguez said. “She goes out of the way to help people. She’s always been accessible. She loves this community and you know that.”</p> <p>Seeing Ayala’s name on the ballot gave her “goosebumps,” Susan Rodriguez said. “She doesn’t need to put her name all over the place, We know her.”</p> <p>“Diana’s been a rock for our community and we’d be blessed and privileged to have her in the Council,” she added. “We love Melissa [Mark-Viverito] and she’s passing the torch to Diana, who will continue her legacy and build her own.”</p> <p>What about her main opponent, Robert Rodriguez? “I only hear about him when he’s running for something,” she said.</p> <p>Another voter, 95-year-old Josephine Surita had just walked out of PS/JHS 117 after voting for Ayala. “Diana la gana! Diana la gana!” she yelled in Spanish. “Diana will win! Diana will win!”</p> <p>It was 9 a.m. and time to head to PS 206, Ayala’s polling site. Ayala and Taranto hopped into her Toyota RAV4 and headed west. First, a quick stop at her favorite coffee cart at the corner of Lexington and 116th, where she gets a cup everyday. Ayala had been up since 2 a.m., she said, tossing and turning in bed, but not out of apprehension, she explained. “I tried to go to sleep early, but I only slept for four hours,” she said. “I didn’t feel nervous, though; maybe subconsciously.”</p> <p>Standing in line for coffee, Ayala recounted how four years ago she’d worked, as part of Mark-Viverito’s staff, with the city to help find a suitable location for that very coffee vendor. The owner had faced harassment from a local business across the street where it was located earlier. Throughout the day, Ayala relayed similar anecdotes, pulled from her decade-plus working in the community. “Who are you gonna vote for?” the cart’s owner asked Ayala as she handed her two steaming cups. “I don’t know, I haven’t made up my mind,” Ayala chuckled.</p> <p>At the polling site, Ayala’s two adult children and her mother were already waiting. First she had to pick up 11-year-old Isaiah, the youngest of her four children, from the East River North apartments where she lives with her parents. “He’s my baby. He refuses to stop growing,” said the proud mother, who also has three grandchildren from her only daughter. “We measure the amount of time I’ve worked for Melissa by looking at him, because when I started working for her, he was born.”</p> <p>By 9:40 a.m., the entire clan was at PS 206 and soon they had cast their votes. Seeing her own name on the ballot “was a little surreal,” Ayala said with excitement.</p> <p>“She takes care of everybody,” said Abraham, 27, Ayala’s oldest son, thrilled after having just voted for his mom. “She’s always been for the community. She’s been about family, everybody’s her family. She’s just the best candidate. She’ll make sure she does what she has to do to make sure that everybody in the community will thrive and survive.”</p> <p>For Ayala, perhaps the hardest part of running for office, ostensibly a full-time commitment, was the time away from her children and grandchildren. And, at the same time, keeping them removed from what can sometimes be a nasty affair. She spoke of the time an independent group plastered the neighborhood with flyers that depicted her on all fours like a dog, and how she had to explain that to her children. “This is very new to them,” she said. “It can get pretty dirty out there and I didn’t want them tainted by that.”</p> <p>Her children played no small part in her decision to run for office. “If you had asked me three years ago, I would’ve said never,” she said of jumping headlong into a City Council campaign. Her kids were younger and needed their mother, and her infirm parents had also moved in with her. Her family has been supportive, and her youngest also appeared in a campaign ad for her. “They don’t need me anymore, they’re OK without me,” she said, with her typical chuckle. “It’s mama that misses them.”</p> <p>What drove her decision was term limits and the Speaker’s entreaties. The one-time term limit extension passed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg had allowed Mark-Viverito to serve a third four-year term on the Council. “Because of term limits, it allowed us four more years, so a lot of things kinda settled,” Ayala said, “in a way that made it possible for me to consider this an option.”</p> <p>Her decision was made over time, in conversations with the speaker, who prodded Ayala to run. “I had never really thought about it,” Ayala said. “I don’t come from a political background. I consider myself more of a social services person. I wanna know the issues. I wanna know people. Even though I have an appreciation for politics, it does tend to get in the way of doing the work sometimes.”</p> <p>It was the realization, she said, that there were so few women on the City Council that pushed her across the line. “I figured, ‘If not me, then who?’ You don’t have to be a politician to run for office,” she said. The term that ends this year includes 13 women in the 51-seat Council. “We’re regular people with life experiences that have shaped who we are,” Ayala continue. “I think that my life experiences allow me some insight into my own community because a lot of the issues that I help constituents navigate through have been my issues.”</p> <p>Ayala regularly talks openly about her life experiences, which led her directly into public service. At the age of 17, she had her first child, whose father died a victim of gun violence earlier that year. She struggled with postpartum depression, and conflict at home with her mother meant that she couldn’t cope with the grief. She emancipated herself, and lived for a time in a homeless shelter on the Lower East Side before moving to an apartment in the Bronx. She personally knows the difficulties of navigating the bureaucracy of public assistance offices.</p> <p>“Those kinds of interactions with social service providers that were not always positive left me with an interest of wanting to be helpful and doing it the right way,” she said. Alaya consistently talks on the campaign trail about how she sees the residents of the district through her lived experience. “A lot of people helped me and I just wanna give back,” she said.</p> <p>Just after 10 a.m., Ayala headed to PS 57, where she was met by Mark-Viverito, who had been stumping all morning for her preferred successor. Mark-Viverito’s popularity in the district is distinct. For many voters, she’s immediately recognizable and her opinion carries weight. “I’m not running for reelection so I need you to vote for Diana,” she told residents who passed the two at the corner. Several members of her staff volunteered for Ayala’s campaign. A few, including Taranto, took the day off to help drum up support.</p> <p>“I think that there’s a different level of energy that surrounds her campaign versus the opponent’s campaign,” Mark-Viverito told Gotham Gazette, confident of Ayala’s chances. “People are very excited and motivated and have a reason to vote for her...and I don’t get that same sense from the opposing side.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito emphasized that the race would hinge on the Ayala campaign’s ground game, which was extensive. Ayala said she had personally knocked on more than 2,000 doors over the course of the campaign and had a team of about 70 volunteers out on the streets on Tuesday, most of them women, urging voters to support her.</p> <p>For Mark-Viverito, Ayala’s campaign also carried the promise of fighting greater gender imbalance on the City Council. The 51-member body had 18 women in 2009, but is down to 13 and was at risk of dropping to single digits. The speaker has been spearheading a movement to improve women’s representation on the legislative body, aiming ultimately to elect more women in 2021 when more than 30 seats will be up for grabs -- the goal is 21 women on the Council through the next cycle. Mark-Viverito called the current gender imbalance “appalling” and pointed to other City Council races where she has tried to support women candidates to ensure what is the best-case scenario given the current situation. “If we work hard, maybe we’ll be able to make it stay the same, that’s my hope at least,” she said, “I would love to gain a little bit...Right now, to stay at least treading water is what we need to do.”</p> <p>Around 11:30 a.m., it was time for the operation to move across the river to the South Bronx, home to half the Council district. Ayala went north, but just blocks away, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez would arrive with his wife and son about two hours later to vote at his poll site at PS 102 (That also happens to be where Mark-Viverito voted that morning and where the Ayala campaign would later call it a day). Comptroller Scott Stringer, who endorsed Rodriguez, made an appearance and the two greeted voters together.</p> <p>Rodriguez, with his young son atop his shoulders, seemed confident of a victory. “I think voters are responding well,” he said as his son absent-mindedly played with his father’s hair. “I’m looking forward to good results and I think the message about our success and our track record and our experience has begun to resonate.”</p> <p>Stringer also spoke to Rodriguez’s experience, having worked with him in the past as Manhattan borough president. “I want members of the City Council who are able to also see beyond their street corner, that they can see the big picture, which is how we’re gonna create a city that everyone can live in,” he said. “And there’s no question that in El Barrio today there are people who built this community who are now being forced out. So we need to have leaders like Robert Rodriguez who understand land use and zoning, who understand community planning.”</p> <p>Ayala recognizes that gentrification has been rapid in East Harlem and is creeping into the South Bronx. “I think that voters are concerned, they would like to see the next Council member is cognizant of the fact that they are afraid, that they have real life fears that they will be displaced,” she said at one point on primary day. Mark-Viverito, Ayala and Rodriguez have stood against a de Blasio administration proposal for a comprehensive rezoning of East Harlem, and have emphasized the need for community input to inform the process.</p> <p>An alternate community-based proposal called the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan -- an effort led by Mark-Viverito, with help from Ayala -- included community priorities but was largely ignored by the administration. The rezoning is likely to be voted on under the current Council, but on Tuesday, it was one of the issues that voters took to the polls. Although some who spoke to Gotham Gazette felt that current leadership had been unable to protect them from displacement, and saw Ayala as a continuation in that direction, others believed Ayala’s close ties to the community would mean she would fight that much harder for them.</p> <p>Ayala’s ties to Mark-Viverito, in that sense, are a double-edged sword, even if one edge is sharper than the other. “Some people say, ‘I don’t know you, but if the Speaker says you’re good enough, you’re good enough for me,’” Ayala said, outside Betances Houses on St. Ann’s Avenue in the Bronx. It was about 2:30 p.m. and schools were letting out. Hoards of little children rushed to a snow cone vendor at the corner and Ayala tried to catch their parents and a few more votes. Joe Pressley, another Mark-Viverito staffer volunteering for the campaign, had taken Taranto’s place and was Ayala’s sidekick for the rest of the afternoon.</p> <p>Ayala realizes that she’ll have to forge her own path, independent of Mark-Viverito. “Those are big shoes to fill,” she said. “I’m not trying to fill her shoes, I’m trying to find my own role, find my own position and how I fit in, how my experiences can benefit this community, both parts of it. I’m not in a competition with the speaker.”</p> <p>Could she fill those shoes? “One day, one day,” she said.</p> <p>By late afternoon, Ayala was running on fumes and lunch was long overdue. “One piece of advice I’d give people is definitely get in shape,” she joked, about running for Council. “Because it’s a lot of walking around and door knocking. She needed “some pep in my step” for the next stop. After a quick roast chicken lunch at Peruvian restaurant Pio Pio, Ayala and Pressley headed for the Mitchell Community Center on Alexander Avenue where they were met around 4:30 p.m. by another campaign ally, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>The charismatic Diaz Jr.’s energy was almost infectious, and no voter that passed by escaped his grip. At least three cars stopped to greet the popular Democrat, who was also on the ballot Tuesday (he easily fought off two primary challengers). Diaz Jr. said Ayala’s advantage over Rodriguez was her familiarity with both the Harlem and Bronx sides of the district. Rodriguez’s Assembly district falls entirely south of the Harlem River and the Bronx Kill. “I think both sides of the river are familiar with Diana and the work that she’s done, working with Mark-Viverito, but also being the face of the office, being the face of constituent services,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>“People just want services, people want someone who can identify with them,” Diaz Jr. continued. “People want someone who is sincere, who is hardworking, and she’s exhibited and shown all of those qualities without the title...I think Diana just represents that everyday constituent, that everyday citizen that people are yearning for.”</p> <p>Diaz Jr. didn’t discount Rodriguez but preferred him to remain in the Assembly. “I respect him,” he said, adding with a slight chuckle, “I think that he’s done a great job in Albany and he should stay in Albany. He’s actually shown to be an involved and intelligent legislator and we certainly need that.”</p> <p>Having popular leaders like Diaz Jr. and Mark-Viverito on her side helped offset the establishment support that went in Rodriguez’s favor, Ayala said. Rodriguez was endorsed by the Bronx County machine, including Bronx Democratic Party Chair and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and by Governor Andrew Cuomo and other local, state, and federal elected officials. For her part, Ayala also had the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, the Working Families Party, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, prominent unions including 32BJ SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council, and DC37, and activist group Make the Road New York.</p> <p>Another hour, another stop. It was almost rush hour and Ayala began to head back across the river to 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue, to grab the dozens of potential voters exiting the 6 Train. On the way, she witnessed a Rodriguez volunteer -- the same man who had been shouting across the street that morning -- yelling at one of her own campaign volunteers, a young woman. She was familiar with the man, having seen him around in previous campaigns, and said he had a history of being menacing and aggressive. She immediately directed Pressley to call campaign headquarters. “Call and send someone there. She shouldn’t be alone,” she told him.</p> <p>At 5:45 p.m., Ayala pulled over at the corner of 103rd, converging with Mark-Viverito who was already at the bustling intersection. A large blue truck, emblazoned with Assemblymember Rodriguez’s face, intermittently blared support for him between pop songs that drowned out the street traffic. The truck, and about a dozen or so individuals, represented 700 Strong, a group purportedly made up of residents of public housing, people living in homeless shelters, and those living near public housing, and even philanthropists. The group handed out dozens of fliers, including disparaging ones that showed Mark-Viverito as a puppetmaster controlling Ayala and John Ruiz, a candidate running for District Leader. Ayala picked up the phone. “This corner is all Robert Rodriguez,” she told someone at her 116th street campaign headquarters, calling for backup. “This is when anxiety starts to peek in,” she turned and said. “People tend to get tense and aggressive.”</p> <p>The volunteers for 700 Strong were either unaware or would not say who leads the group, which is not registered with the New York City Campaign Finance Board as is required of any independent expenditure group that engages in electioneering. Kimesha Alvarado, one volunteer, said they were out there to support Rodriguez because he “is more connected to the people, more accessible and community oriented,” while dismissing Ayala, with no hint of irony, as a “part of the establishment” that had allowed gentrification in the district to go unchecked.</p> <p>The group also encouraged residents to vote for Kelmy Rodriguez, a candidate running for District Leader against John Ruiz. Kelmy Rodriguez was on the scene and denied any knowledge of who had organized the fliers and campaigners, while acknowledging that he was a member of 700 Strong. Mark-Viverito speculated that the group was illegally coordinating its efforts with Ayala’s opponent.</p> <p>Amid the chaos of rush hour commuters, traffic and campaign teams, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez arrived, an hour after Ayala had already been there. The two candidates were barely seven feet apart, but did not acknowledge each other. Volunteers from both campaigns tried to shout over their counterparts, devolving into a barely comprehensible white noise assailing those stepping out of the subway station.</p> <p>Barely 10 minutes later, the Assembly member started to rush away. Asked what prompted him to show up, he said, “Well, you know, sometimes you can’t concede any street corners and 103rd Street is where my family grew up and I wanna make sure that on election day, they have a choice and understand that the choice should be Rodriguez. I wanna make sure that an alternative is presented this evening.” He also denied knowing anything about 700 Strong, but said he was grateful for their support.</p> <p>Having finished the last frenetic push of the day, just one stop remained for Ayala: PS 102, Mark-Viverito’s poll site. The entrance to the site had been shifted, confusing voters who had showed up there for years, including the speaker herself. She realized it would be a good place to stake out for the last leg of the race, to catch the later voters and nudge them to the ballot and towards an Ayala vote.</p> <p>“Diana is the kind of person who doesn’t mind coming to the community,” said Mildred Santiago, 56, a retired special education teacher who had just exited the poll site. “She visits the seniors, she visits the disabled, she sees what they need...she follows up on cases. She calls you directly. She doesn’t say, ‘Oh I’ll send someone,’ like other people. She says, ‘I’ll be in charge.’ So she knows how to manage issues.”</p> <p>For voters like Santiago, Tuesday was a bittersweet election because it also meant that Mark-Viverito was that much closer to leaving office. (Mark-Viverito also won the position of District Leader that day, which she says will keep her involved in the community.) “I’ll miss Melissa,” Santiago said, “but if she goes to Congress, I’m gonna be so happy.” Mark-Viverito heard Santiago and laughed. She has been rumored as a potential replacement for U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, who is said to be considering retirement, but she wouldn’t say if she had considered a run for Congress.</p> <p>It was late, just after 8 o’clock and the polls would be closing in about an hour. Ayala had literally walked a hole into her beige ballet flats. “I didn’t take them off because they’re my lucky shoes,” she said, and she needed every bit of luck she could get. The campaign had done all it could do and now there was only the wait for results.</p> <p>Back at the campaign headquarters, there was an air of “nervous excitement” as the campaign team took a breather in the large back office, where the walls were plastered with maps of the district. At about 9 p.m., when voting was done for the day, they would head two doors down to Harley’s Smokeshack, a local barbecue joint advertising a Tuesday Tacos and Tequila special. The campaign team, including dozens of union workers from LiUNA Local 78, crowded in front of the bar as a screen switched to NY1, which was broadcasting the primary results.</p> <p>Ayala betrayed no emotion. “I’ve put everything I’ve had into it, and if it’s for me, it’s for me,” she had said earlier. “And if it isn’t, then there’s a lot of lessons to learn. It’s a new experience for me and one should never be afraid to challenge themselves and to take chances.”</p> <p>At the bar, the first precincts had begun to report. Ayala was leading and the crowd erupted into whoops and cheers. “Diana! Diana! Diana!,” they roared. The next two hours would be an emotional rollercoaster as Ayala continued to lead through the night but Rodriguez inched closer and closer. At 9:30 p.m. Ayala had a five point lead. By 10 p.m., with about 85 percent of precincts counted, that lead had whittled down to three points, and then two. The race had become a nail-biter, as the numbers then stayed frozen for well over an hour. “I’m so nervous,” exclaimed Alicia, Ayala’s 25-year-old daughter.</p> <p>“It’s a little annoying that they’re not moving,” Ayala said, before retreating outside to sidebar with Mark-Viverito and her core campaign team. They repeatedly huddled outside, with anxious faces, as the ballots crawled up. Most other races had already been called and District 8 was one of only two City Council races that remained undecided.</p> <p>At 11:20 p.m., Ayala and Mark-Viverito walked back in. More than 96 percent of precincts were reporting and Ayala led by 122 votes. Mark-Viverito signalled to the bartender to kill the music and stepped up on a barstool, hushing the supporters. “I wanna introduce our next Council member,” she said smiling, declaring triumph to a roaring response.</p> <p>Ayala gingerly climbed up after her. “As a woman, and as a minority, it was not an easy decision” to run for office, she said. “Many of the women that are represented in this room, we do all of the work in the background, we do it all and we don’t ask for credit, we just ask for decency...It wasn’t until this woman said to me that I have the potential to do this, that I believed in myself,” she said, tearing up and pointing to Mark-Viverito. “I thank all of you!”</p> <p>“It was a very close race but this is a huge victory. We won against an incumbent,” she added. Supporters rushed to hug Ayala as Celebration by Kool &amp; The Gang blasted through the speakers.</p> <p>“This is a community victory, this is amazing,” Mark-Viverito said to Gotham Gazette afterwards. “I didn’t doubt it. Obviously we knew it was gonna be close. It reminds me of my first election.”</p> <p>“I think Diana was the right candidate for the moment, the right candidate for the community,” said Edison Severino, business manager of Local 78. “Diana is a person that is not a politician per se, but is a daughter of these streets...She’s real, she’s us. And we feel that people like that are the people we need representing us.”</p> <p>Rodriguez had not conceded the race, however, noting that affidavit ballots and absentee ballots will still have to be counted. “This race is far too close to call right now, and it is premature for anyone to declare a victory,” he said in a statement released just before midnight. “There are still ballots left to be counted, and we want to make sure each voter has their voice heard.”</p> <p>But Ayala’s team was confident it had the votes. “I feel great,” Ayala said. “I was really calm through all of it. I just had faith that the system was gonna work in my favor and that people were gonna turn out...It is a dream come true, for me and for a lot of little girls that come from communities of color, and I hope that I’m an inspiration to those women and that they feel that they see in me an opportunity to do what I’m doing, one day.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mmv-ayala.jpg" alt="mmv ayala" width="600" height="356" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito with Diana Ayala (photo: Samar Khurshid/GothamGazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The primary election on Tuesday saw incumbents retain power across most of the city and few upsets in contested races. But in one of the most competitive races of the day, a first-time candidate prevailed over a long-time elected official, overcoming an expected gap in name recognition and other deficits, in a City Council district struggling with concerns for its future and looking for its next local leader to advocate for its interests.</p> <p>District 8, which covers East Harlem and the South Bronx, is the constituency of current City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who faces term limits and cannot run for reelection. Four Democratic candidates ran in Tuesday’s primary to replace her: Diana Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s former deputy chief of staff and preferred successor; sitting state Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez; community activist Tamika Mapp; and former state Assemblymember Israel Martinez.</p> <p>As soon as the field of candidates was clear, it was evident that it would be a race between Ayala and Rodriguez, with the sitting elected official coming into the race with distinct advantages, including in terms of raising funds.</p> <p>After months of tense campaigning, split establishment allegiances, and some mudslinging, it all came down to primary day, September 12, where -- like in most districts across the city -- the outcome would determine the next officeholder given the overwhelming Democratic advantage.</p> <p>A grueling day of crisscrossing the district to canvas for votes, with polls open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., culminated with a race that was too close to call once most of the returns were in. Yet, Ayala claimed victory with a margin of just 122 votes in a race that saw only 8,471 ballots cast. She received 3,705 votes, or 43.7 percent, to Rodriguez’s 3,583, good for 42.3 percent. Mapp took 814 votes and Martinez took 369.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Ayala declared victory from Harley’s Smokeshack at 11:20 p.m. to a room full of allies and supporters, including Mark-Viverito, Rodriguez soon put out a public statement saying that every vote needed to be counted, given the possibility of affidavit and absentee ballots perhaps yet tallied. One week later, on September 19, all the ballots had been accounted for and Ayala still came out on top. "With all vote counting complete, I am proud to declare victory today," she said in a statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>"El Barrio and the South Bronx are at a crossroads, like so many other communities in our City," she added. "I will fight tirelessly to ensure that we do everything to protect the lives and provide affordability for those who have grown up, are raising their families, or are retiring here." Rodriguez, who will continue to serve in the state Assembly, conceded defeat on Tuesday. "I offer my congrats to Diana Ayala, and I hope she can fulfill the promises she made," he said in a statement.&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 14 hours before she declared victory on primary day, Ayala was standing at the corner of East 109th Street and 2nd Avenue, asking residents for their votes.</p> <p>“My legs are starting to get numb,” said Ayala, around 8:30 a.m., already more than two hours into her time there, as the sun was beginning to warm the crisp morning air. Ayala shifted on her feet as she stood, arms folded at the waist, surveying the scene, as if steadying herself for the long day ahead. It was the first of many stops she would make.</p> <p>Campaign volunteer Joe Taranto, a top government aide to Mark-Viverito, passed out campaign literature as Ayala greeted each voter. “I feel good, I’m excited to see what the results will be,” she said, with a composure that she wouldn’t betray until she was saying she had won, holding back tears with a beaming smile on her face.</p> <p>Around 8:45 a.m., a campaign barker walked by across the street, yelling, “Vote for Robert Rodriguez for City Council, Robert Rodriguez for City Council!!” He had come from the 110th Street subway station where he had been spotted earlier.</p> <p>Ayala has worked for Mark-Viverito for nearly 12 years and, as her director of constituent services, she has been in direct contact with members of the community, hearing residents’ problems firsthand and seeking to help them as she could. It’s one of the reasons she expected that people would vote for her. “They know me personally, they know my work ethic,” she said. “They know I deliver.” It explains why voters recognize her on the street, why some stopped to hug her and wish her good luck.</p> <p>“The best team in the world! That’s my girl!,” exclaimed one voter, Susan Rodriguez, walking down the street seeing Ayala at the corner. Rodriguez, the founding director of Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research &amp; Treatment, a nonprofit, said Ayala had personally assisted her when the nonprofit faced an office space issue. “She’s been a champion of the community,” Rodriguez said. “She goes out of the way to help people. She’s always been accessible. She loves this community and you know that.”</p> <p>Seeing Ayala’s name on the ballot gave her “goosebumps,” Susan Rodriguez said. “She doesn’t need to put her name all over the place, We know her.”</p> <p>“Diana’s been a rock for our community and we’d be blessed and privileged to have her in the Council,” she added. “We love Melissa [Mark-Viverito] and she’s passing the torch to Diana, who will continue her legacy and build her own.”</p> <p>What about her main opponent, Robert Rodriguez? “I only hear about him when he’s running for something,” she said.</p> <p>Another voter, 95-year-old Josephine Surita had just walked out of PS/JHS 117 after voting for Ayala. “Diana la gana! Diana la gana!” she yelled in Spanish. “Diana will win! Diana will win!”</p> <p>It was 9 a.m. and time to head to PS 206, Ayala’s polling site. Ayala and Taranto hopped into her Toyota RAV4 and headed west. First, a quick stop at her favorite coffee cart at the corner of Lexington and 116th, where she gets a cup everyday. Ayala had been up since 2 a.m., she said, tossing and turning in bed, but not out of apprehension, she explained. “I tried to go to sleep early, but I only slept for four hours,” she said. “I didn’t feel nervous, though; maybe subconsciously.”</p> <p>Standing in line for coffee, Ayala recounted how four years ago she’d worked, as part of Mark-Viverito’s staff, with the city to help find a suitable location for that very coffee vendor. The owner had faced harassment from a local business across the street where it was located earlier. Throughout the day, Ayala relayed similar anecdotes, pulled from her decade-plus working in the community. “Who are you gonna vote for?” the cart’s owner asked Ayala as she handed her two steaming cups. “I don’t know, I haven’t made up my mind,” Ayala chuckled.</p> <p>At the polling site, Ayala’s two adult children and her mother were already waiting. First she had to pick up 11-year-old Isaiah, the youngest of her four children, from the East River North apartments where she lives with her parents. “He’s my baby. He refuses to stop growing,” said the proud mother, who also has three grandchildren from her only daughter. “We measure the amount of time I’ve worked for Melissa by looking at him, because when I started working for her, he was born.”</p> <p>By 9:40 a.m., the entire clan was at PS 206 and soon they had cast their votes. Seeing her own name on the ballot “was a little surreal,” Ayala said with excitement.</p> <p>“She takes care of everybody,” said Abraham, 27, Ayala’s oldest son, thrilled after having just voted for his mom. “She’s always been for the community. She’s been about family, everybody’s her family. She’s just the best candidate. She’ll make sure she does what she has to do to make sure that everybody in the community will thrive and survive.”</p> <p>For Ayala, perhaps the hardest part of running for office, ostensibly a full-time commitment, was the time away from her children and grandchildren. And, at the same time, keeping them removed from what can sometimes be a nasty affair. She spoke of the time an independent group plastered the neighborhood with flyers that depicted her on all fours like a dog, and how she had to explain that to her children. “This is very new to them,” she said. “It can get pretty dirty out there and I didn’t want them tainted by that.”</p> <p>Her children played no small part in her decision to run for office. “If you had asked me three years ago, I would’ve said never,” she said of jumping headlong into a City Council campaign. Her kids were younger and needed their mother, and her infirm parents had also moved in with her. Her family has been supportive, and her youngest also appeared in a campaign ad for her. “They don’t need me anymore, they’re OK without me,” she said, with her typical chuckle. “It’s mama that misses them.”</p> <p>What drove her decision was term limits and the Speaker’s entreaties. The one-time term limit extension passed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg had allowed Mark-Viverito to serve a third four-year term on the Council. “Because of term limits, it allowed us four more years, so a lot of things kinda settled,” Ayala said, “in a way that made it possible for me to consider this an option.”</p> <p>Her decision was made over time, in conversations with the speaker, who prodded Ayala to run. “I had never really thought about it,” Ayala said. “I don’t come from a political background. I consider myself more of a social services person. I wanna know the issues. I wanna know people. Even though I have an appreciation for politics, it does tend to get in the way of doing the work sometimes.”</p> <p>It was the realization, she said, that there were so few women on the City Council that pushed her across the line. “I figured, ‘If not me, then who?’ You don’t have to be a politician to run for office,” she said. The term that ends this year includes 13 women in the 51-seat Council. “We’re regular people with life experiences that have shaped who we are,” Ayala continue. “I think that my life experiences allow me some insight into my own community because a lot of the issues that I help constituents navigate through have been my issues.”</p> <p>Ayala regularly talks openly about her life experiences, which led her directly into public service. At the age of 17, she had her first child, whose father died a victim of gun violence earlier that year. She struggled with postpartum depression, and conflict at home with her mother meant that she couldn’t cope with the grief. She emancipated herself, and lived for a time in a homeless shelter on the Lower East Side before moving to an apartment in the Bronx. She personally knows the difficulties of navigating the bureaucracy of public assistance offices.</p> <p>“Those kinds of interactions with social service providers that were not always positive left me with an interest of wanting to be helpful and doing it the right way,” she said. Alaya consistently talks on the campaign trail about how she sees the residents of the district through her lived experience. “A lot of people helped me and I just wanna give back,” she said.</p> <p>Just after 10 a.m., Ayala headed to PS 57, where she was met by Mark-Viverito, who had been stumping all morning for her preferred successor. Mark-Viverito’s popularity in the district is distinct. For many voters, she’s immediately recognizable and her opinion carries weight. “I’m not running for reelection so I need you to vote for Diana,” she told residents who passed the two at the corner. Several members of her staff volunteered for Ayala’s campaign. A few, including Taranto, took the day off to help drum up support.</p> <p>“I think that there’s a different level of energy that surrounds her campaign versus the opponent’s campaign,” Mark-Viverito told Gotham Gazette, confident of Ayala’s chances. “People are very excited and motivated and have a reason to vote for her...and I don’t get that same sense from the opposing side.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito emphasized that the race would hinge on the Ayala campaign’s ground game, which was extensive. Ayala said she had personally knocked on more than 2,000 doors over the course of the campaign and had a team of about 70 volunteers out on the streets on Tuesday, most of them women, urging voters to support her.</p> <p>For Mark-Viverito, Ayala’s campaign also carried the promise of fighting greater gender imbalance on the City Council. The 51-member body had 18 women in 2009, but is down to 13 and was at risk of dropping to single digits. The speaker has been spearheading a movement to improve women’s representation on the legislative body, aiming ultimately to elect more women in 2021 when more than 30 seats will be up for grabs -- the goal is 21 women on the Council through the next cycle. Mark-Viverito called the current gender imbalance “appalling” and pointed to other City Council races where she has tried to support women candidates to ensure what is the best-case scenario given the current situation. “If we work hard, maybe we’ll be able to make it stay the same, that’s my hope at least,” she said, “I would love to gain a little bit...Right now, to stay at least treading water is what we need to do.”</p> <p>Around 11:30 a.m., it was time for the operation to move across the river to the South Bronx, home to half the Council district. Ayala went north, but just blocks away, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez would arrive with his wife and son about two hours later to vote at his poll site at PS 102 (That also happens to be where Mark-Viverito voted that morning and where the Ayala campaign would later call it a day). Comptroller Scott Stringer, who endorsed Rodriguez, made an appearance and the two greeted voters together.</p> <p>Rodriguez, with his young son atop his shoulders, seemed confident of a victory. “I think voters are responding well,” he said as his son absent-mindedly played with his father’s hair. “I’m looking forward to good results and I think the message about our success and our track record and our experience has begun to resonate.”</p> <p>Stringer also spoke to Rodriguez’s experience, having worked with him in the past as Manhattan borough president. “I want members of the City Council who are able to also see beyond their street corner, that they can see the big picture, which is how we’re gonna create a city that everyone can live in,” he said. “And there’s no question that in El Barrio today there are people who built this community who are now being forced out. So we need to have leaders like Robert Rodriguez who understand land use and zoning, who understand community planning.”</p> <p>Ayala recognizes that gentrification has been rapid in East Harlem and is creeping into the South Bronx. “I think that voters are concerned, they would like to see the next Council member is cognizant of the fact that they are afraid, that they have real life fears that they will be displaced,” she said at one point on primary day. Mark-Viverito, Ayala and Rodriguez have stood against a de Blasio administration proposal for a comprehensive rezoning of East Harlem, and have emphasized the need for community input to inform the process.</p> <p>An alternate community-based proposal called the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan -- an effort led by Mark-Viverito, with help from Ayala -- included community priorities but was largely ignored by the administration. The rezoning is likely to be voted on under the current Council, but on Tuesday, it was one of the issues that voters took to the polls. Although some who spoke to Gotham Gazette felt that current leadership had been unable to protect them from displacement, and saw Ayala as a continuation in that direction, others believed Ayala’s close ties to the community would mean she would fight that much harder for them.</p> <p>Ayala’s ties to Mark-Viverito, in that sense, are a double-edged sword, even if one edge is sharper than the other. “Some people say, ‘I don’t know you, but if the Speaker says you’re good enough, you’re good enough for me,’” Ayala said, outside Betances Houses on St. Ann’s Avenue in the Bronx. It was about 2:30 p.m. and schools were letting out. Hoards of little children rushed to a snow cone vendor at the corner and Ayala tried to catch their parents and a few more votes. Joe Pressley, another Mark-Viverito staffer volunteering for the campaign, had taken Taranto’s place and was Ayala’s sidekick for the rest of the afternoon.</p> <p>Ayala realizes that she’ll have to forge her own path, independent of Mark-Viverito. “Those are big shoes to fill,” she said. “I’m not trying to fill her shoes, I’m trying to find my own role, find my own position and how I fit in, how my experiences can benefit this community, both parts of it. I’m not in a competition with the speaker.”</p> <p>Could she fill those shoes? “One day, one day,” she said.</p> <p>By late afternoon, Ayala was running on fumes and lunch was long overdue. “One piece of advice I’d give people is definitely get in shape,” she joked, about running for Council. “Because it’s a lot of walking around and door knocking. She needed “some pep in my step” for the next stop. After a quick roast chicken lunch at Peruvian restaurant Pio Pio, Ayala and Pressley headed for the Mitchell Community Center on Alexander Avenue where they were met around 4:30 p.m. by another campaign ally, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.</p> <p>The charismatic Diaz Jr.’s energy was almost infectious, and no voter that passed by escaped his grip. At least three cars stopped to greet the popular Democrat, who was also on the ballot Tuesday (he easily fought off two primary challengers). Diaz Jr. said Ayala’s advantage over Rodriguez was her familiarity with both the Harlem and Bronx sides of the district. Rodriguez’s Assembly district falls entirely south of the Harlem River and the Bronx Kill. “I think both sides of the river are familiar with Diana and the work that she’s done, working with Mark-Viverito, but also being the face of the office, being the face of constituent services,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>“People just want services, people want someone who can identify with them,” Diaz Jr. continued. “People want someone who is sincere, who is hardworking, and she’s exhibited and shown all of those qualities without the title...I think Diana just represents that everyday constituent, that everyday citizen that people are yearning for.”</p> <p>Diaz Jr. didn’t discount Rodriguez but preferred him to remain in the Assembly. “I respect him,” he said, adding with a slight chuckle, “I think that he’s done a great job in Albany and he should stay in Albany. He’s actually shown to be an involved and intelligent legislator and we certainly need that.”</p> <p>Having popular leaders like Diaz Jr. and Mark-Viverito on her side helped offset the establishment support that went in Rodriguez’s favor, Ayala said. Rodriguez was endorsed by the Bronx County machine, including Bronx Democratic Party Chair and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, and by Governor Andrew Cuomo and other local, state, and federal elected officials. For her part, Ayala also had the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, the Working Families Party, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, prominent unions including 32BJ SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council, and DC37, and activist group Make the Road New York.</p> <p>Another hour, another stop. It was almost rush hour and Ayala began to head back across the river to 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue, to grab the dozens of potential voters exiting the 6 Train. On the way, she witnessed a Rodriguez volunteer -- the same man who had been shouting across the street that morning -- yelling at one of her own campaign volunteers, a young woman. She was familiar with the man, having seen him around in previous campaigns, and said he had a history of being menacing and aggressive. She immediately directed Pressley to call campaign headquarters. “Call and send someone there. She shouldn’t be alone,” she told him.</p> <p>At 5:45 p.m., Ayala pulled over at the corner of 103rd, converging with Mark-Viverito who was already at the bustling intersection. A large blue truck, emblazoned with Assemblymember Rodriguez’s face, intermittently blared support for him between pop songs that drowned out the street traffic. The truck, and about a dozen or so individuals, represented 700 Strong, a group purportedly made up of residents of public housing, people living in homeless shelters, and those living near public housing, and even philanthropists. The group handed out dozens of fliers, including disparaging ones that showed Mark-Viverito as a puppetmaster controlling Ayala and John Ruiz, a candidate running for District Leader. Ayala picked up the phone. “This corner is all Robert Rodriguez,” she told someone at her 116th street campaign headquarters, calling for backup. “This is when anxiety starts to peek in,” she turned and said. “People tend to get tense and aggressive.”</p> <p>The volunteers for 700 Strong were either unaware or would not say who leads the group, which is not registered with the New York City Campaign Finance Board as is required of any independent expenditure group that engages in electioneering. Kimesha Alvarado, one volunteer, said they were out there to support Rodriguez because he “is more connected to the people, more accessible and community oriented,” while dismissing Ayala, with no hint of irony, as a “part of the establishment” that had allowed gentrification in the district to go unchecked.</p> <p>The group also encouraged residents to vote for Kelmy Rodriguez, a candidate running for District Leader against John Ruiz. Kelmy Rodriguez was on the scene and denied any knowledge of who had organized the fliers and campaigners, while acknowledging that he was a member of 700 Strong. Mark-Viverito speculated that the group was illegally coordinating its efforts with Ayala’s opponent.</p> <p>Amid the chaos of rush hour commuters, traffic and campaign teams, Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez arrived, an hour after Ayala had already been there. The two candidates were barely seven feet apart, but did not acknowledge each other. Volunteers from both campaigns tried to shout over their counterparts, devolving into a barely comprehensible white noise assailing those stepping out of the subway station.</p> <p>Barely 10 minutes later, the Assembly member started to rush away. Asked what prompted him to show up, he said, “Well, you know, sometimes you can’t concede any street corners and 103rd Street is where my family grew up and I wanna make sure that on election day, they have a choice and understand that the choice should be Rodriguez. I wanna make sure that an alternative is presented this evening.” He also denied knowing anything about 700 Strong, but said he was grateful for their support.</p> <p>Having finished the last frenetic push of the day, just one stop remained for Ayala: PS 102, Mark-Viverito’s poll site. The entrance to the site had been shifted, confusing voters who had showed up there for years, including the speaker herself. She realized it would be a good place to stake out for the last leg of the race, to catch the later voters and nudge them to the ballot and towards an Ayala vote.</p> <p>“Diana is the kind of person who doesn’t mind coming to the community,” said Mildred Santiago, 56, a retired special education teacher who had just exited the poll site. “She visits the seniors, she visits the disabled, she sees what they need...she follows up on cases. She calls you directly. She doesn’t say, ‘Oh I’ll send someone,’ like other people. She says, ‘I’ll be in charge.’ So she knows how to manage issues.”</p> <p>For voters like Santiago, Tuesday was a bittersweet election because it also meant that Mark-Viverito was that much closer to leaving office. (Mark-Viverito also won the position of District Leader that day, which she says will keep her involved in the community.) “I’ll miss Melissa,” Santiago said, “but if she goes to Congress, I’m gonna be so happy.” Mark-Viverito heard Santiago and laughed. She has been rumored as a potential replacement for U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, who is said to be considering retirement, but she wouldn’t say if she had considered a run for Congress.</p> <p>It was late, just after 8 o’clock and the polls would be closing in about an hour. Ayala had literally walked a hole into her beige ballet flats. “I didn’t take them off because they’re my lucky shoes,” she said, and she needed every bit of luck she could get. The campaign had done all it could do and now there was only the wait for results.</p> <p>Back at the campaign headquarters, there was an air of “nervous excitement” as the campaign team took a breather in the large back office, where the walls were plastered with maps of the district. At about 9 p.m., when voting was done for the day, they would head two doors down to Harley’s Smokeshack, a local barbecue joint advertising a Tuesday Tacos and Tequila special. The campaign team, including dozens of union workers from LiUNA Local 78, crowded in front of the bar as a screen switched to NY1, which was broadcasting the primary results.</p> <p>Ayala betrayed no emotion. “I’ve put everything I’ve had into it, and if it’s for me, it’s for me,” she had said earlier. “And if it isn’t, then there’s a lot of lessons to learn. It’s a new experience for me and one should never be afraid to challenge themselves and to take chances.”</p> <p>At the bar, the first precincts had begun to report. Ayala was leading and the crowd erupted into whoops and cheers. “Diana! Diana! Diana!,” they roared. The next two hours would be an emotional rollercoaster as Ayala continued to lead through the night but Rodriguez inched closer and closer. At 9:30 p.m. Ayala had a five point lead. By 10 p.m., with about 85 percent of precincts counted, that lead had whittled down to three points, and then two. The race had become a nail-biter, as the numbers then stayed frozen for well over an hour. “I’m so nervous,” exclaimed Alicia, Ayala’s 25-year-old daughter.</p> <p>“It’s a little annoying that they’re not moving,” Ayala said, before retreating outside to sidebar with Mark-Viverito and her core campaign team. They repeatedly huddled outside, with anxious faces, as the ballots crawled up. Most other races had already been called and District 8 was one of only two City Council races that remained undecided.</p> <p>At 11:20 p.m., Ayala and Mark-Viverito walked back in. More than 96 percent of precincts were reporting and Ayala led by 122 votes. Mark-Viverito signalled to the bartender to kill the music and stepped up on a barstool, hushing the supporters. “I wanna introduce our next Council member,” she said smiling, declaring triumph to a roaring response.</p> <p>Ayala gingerly climbed up after her. “As a woman, and as a minority, it was not an easy decision” to run for office, she said. “Many of the women that are represented in this room, we do all of the work in the background, we do it all and we don’t ask for credit, we just ask for decency...It wasn’t until this woman said to me that I have the potential to do this, that I believed in myself,” she said, tearing up and pointing to Mark-Viverito. “I thank all of you!”</p> <p>“It was a very close race but this is a huge victory. We won against an incumbent,” she added. Supporters rushed to hug Ayala as Celebration by Kool &amp; The Gang blasted through the speakers.</p> <p>“This is a community victory, this is amazing,” Mark-Viverito said to Gotham Gazette afterwards. “I didn’t doubt it. Obviously we knew it was gonna be close. It reminds me of my first election.”</p> <p>“I think Diana was the right candidate for the moment, the right candidate for the community,” said Edison Severino, business manager of Local 78. “Diana is a person that is not a politician per se, but is a daughter of these streets...She’s real, she’s us. And we feel that people like that are the people we need representing us.”</p> <p>Rodriguez had not conceded the race, however, noting that affidavit ballots and absentee ballots will still have to be counted. “This race is far too close to call right now, and it is premature for anyone to declare a victory,” he said in a statement released just before midnight. “There are still ballots left to be counted, and we want to make sure each voter has their voice heard.”</p> <p>But Ayala’s team was confident it had the votes. “I feel great,” Ayala said. “I was really calm through all of it. I just had faith that the system was gonna work in my favor and that people were gonna turn out...It is a dream come true, for me and for a lot of little girls that come from communities of color, and I hope that I’m an inspiration to those women and that they feel that they see in me an opportunity to do what I’m doing, one day.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
The Future of Latino Politics in New York City 2017-05-16T17:52:06+00:00 2017-05-16T17:52:06+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6937:the-future-of-latino-politics-in-new-york-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ruben_diaz_jr.jpg" alt="ruben diaz jr" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ruben Diaz Jr. (photo: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>Just last month the annual Somos El Futuro legislative conference took place in Albany. Over 30 years ago a group of Latino elected officials and community leaders initiated the conference as a means to highlight issues important to Latinos and to shine a light on the plight of Latinos in New York. The visionary leadership of these early pioneers was to capitalize on and give consciousness to the ever-growing presence of Latinos in the state. Perhaps the name itself, Somos El Futuro -- We are the Future -- was not only a testament of the current influence of the Latino presence in New York at the time but also an apt moniker of the eventual significance of this surging community.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In a recent column</a>, I highlighted the growing Latino electoral presence in New York City. Latinos now make up almost a quarter of the entire city electorate. Based on sheer numbers Latinos can now claim that they are not just the future but that estamos aqui ahora -- we are here now.</p> <p>With this increasing presence has come a steady growth in Latino political representation, even though gentrification poses a real threat to some Latino-majority districts. The rise of the Latino presence citywide produced some noteworthy political leaders that in fact became pioneers and leading figures in our community. Among them we can note the work of Tony Mendez, Oscar Garcia Rivera, Herman Badillo, Olga Mendez, Angelo Del Toro, and Jose Rivera (who continues to serve in office).</p> <p>Without a doubt, these pioneers have paved the way for a newer crop of Latino political leaders, many of whom are doing excellent work in their respective communities. Many are not only providing pivotal leadership in their districts, some have the potential to be serious and credible candidates for citywide office in the near future. It’s important to also note that the extremely important work of providing leadership in Latino areas—communities often riddled with rampant poverty, decrepit housing, and overcrowded schools—is not only being provided by elected officials. In fact, there are a number of Latino community activists, many of them young, fighting ardently for the justice that Latinos demand and deserve.</p> <p>The last time a Latino gained a top spot on a citywide ballot was Fernando Ferrer in 2005. Prior to that it was Badillo, whose 1977 mayoral candidacy gained the affection of Latinos in New York (he also ran two more times for mayor). It is my belief that for the 2021 elections, Latinos can once again have a Latino (possibly more than one) launching a credible campaign for citywide office. The question is, who might these candidates be that can gain the attention of not only Latinos but also a wider electorate and public? Who will be the next Ferrer or Badillo?</p> <p>The first that has to be highlighted is Ruben Diaz, Jr., the current Bronx Borough President. Very recently, Diaz, Jr. was a constant name in the ever-present rumor mill regarding a potential challenge to Mayor de Blasio. Diaz, Jr. instead has decided to seek re-election. Over the years, he has taken credit for a boon in Bronx development projects (something which in fact began occurring during Ferrer’s tenure in the borough presidency) and has been a fierce advocate for the people in his borough. While lacking the intellectual heft of a Badillo and Ferrer, Diaz, Jr. has a magnetic personality that is sure to attract many as his final term as borough president nears an end.</p> <p>There is also Melissa Mark-Viverito, the current speaker of the City Council. Her position has given her the most Latino clout in recent years to influence citywide policy, some of which she has used. This platform has provided Mark-Viverito an ample opportunity to garner broad attention and to push for policy issues pertinent to a wider public and also to Latinos in particular. However, since she is term-limited and likely will be out of the public eye on a consistent basis, her chances for a successful citywide race in four years will be virtually impossible.</p> <p>One person to keep an eye on is Ritchie Torres, a Bronx City Council member. Elected in 2013, at the youthful age of 25, Torres has proven to be a solid legislator, championing important causes, and also fighting ardently for better housing conditions for public housing residents. Torres is charismatic, well liked by his peers, and whip-smart. He has the uncanny ability to probe and articulate complex policy matters. At 29 years of age, Torres will surely be one to watch for years to come and could be a formidable candidate for either Bronx borough president or the city’s public advocate if he chooses to aspire to either position.</p> <p>When looking at the horizon of Latino political leaders, the future seems bright -- the three aforementioned names are not the only ones on the list. With the continuing rise of Latinos in the overall population <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">and increased voting participation</a>, it may be quite possible that New York City will soon have its first Latino mayor.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Also by Eli Valentin: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Latino Voters and the 2017 New York City Elections</a>]</p> <p>***<br />Eli Valentin is a Democratic consultant and pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in New York City. He is a frequent political analyst on Univision, and has appeared on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.” On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@EliValentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ruben_diaz_jr.jpg" alt="ruben diaz jr" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Ruben Diaz Jr. (photo: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>Just last month the annual Somos El Futuro legislative conference took place in Albany. Over 30 years ago a group of Latino elected officials and community leaders initiated the conference as a means to highlight issues important to Latinos and to shine a light on the plight of Latinos in New York. The visionary leadership of these early pioneers was to capitalize on and give consciousness to the ever-growing presence of Latinos in the state. Perhaps the name itself, Somos El Futuro -- We are the Future -- was not only a testament of the current influence of the Latino presence in New York at the time but also an apt moniker of the eventual significance of this surging community.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In a recent column</a>, I highlighted the growing Latino electoral presence in New York City. Latinos now make up almost a quarter of the entire city electorate. Based on sheer numbers Latinos can now claim that they are not just the future but that estamos aqui ahora -- we are here now.</p> <p>With this increasing presence has come a steady growth in Latino political representation, even though gentrification poses a real threat to some Latino-majority districts. The rise of the Latino presence citywide produced some noteworthy political leaders that in fact became pioneers and leading figures in our community. Among them we can note the work of Tony Mendez, Oscar Garcia Rivera, Herman Badillo, Olga Mendez, Angelo Del Toro, and Jose Rivera (who continues to serve in office).</p> <p>Without a doubt, these pioneers have paved the way for a newer crop of Latino political leaders, many of whom are doing excellent work in their respective communities. Many are not only providing pivotal leadership in their districts, some have the potential to be serious and credible candidates for citywide office in the near future. It’s important to also note that the extremely important work of providing leadership in Latino areas—communities often riddled with rampant poverty, decrepit housing, and overcrowded schools—is not only being provided by elected officials. In fact, there are a number of Latino community activists, many of them young, fighting ardently for the justice that Latinos demand and deserve.</p> <p>The last time a Latino gained a top spot on a citywide ballot was Fernando Ferrer in 2005. Prior to that it was Badillo, whose 1977 mayoral candidacy gained the affection of Latinos in New York (he also ran two more times for mayor). It is my belief that for the 2021 elections, Latinos can once again have a Latino (possibly more than one) launching a credible campaign for citywide office. The question is, who might these candidates be that can gain the attention of not only Latinos but also a wider electorate and public? Who will be the next Ferrer or Badillo?</p> <p>The first that has to be highlighted is Ruben Diaz, Jr., the current Bronx Borough President. Very recently, Diaz, Jr. was a constant name in the ever-present rumor mill regarding a potential challenge to Mayor de Blasio. Diaz, Jr. instead has decided to seek re-election. Over the years, he has taken credit for a boon in Bronx development projects (something which in fact began occurring during Ferrer’s tenure in the borough presidency) and has been a fierce advocate for the people in his borough. While lacking the intellectual heft of a Badillo and Ferrer, Diaz, Jr. has a magnetic personality that is sure to attract many as his final term as borough president nears an end.</p> <p>There is also Melissa Mark-Viverito, the current speaker of the City Council. Her position has given her the most Latino clout in recent years to influence citywide policy, some of which she has used. This platform has provided Mark-Viverito an ample opportunity to garner broad attention and to push for policy issues pertinent to a wider public and also to Latinos in particular. However, since she is term-limited and likely will be out of the public eye on a consistent basis, her chances for a successful citywide race in four years will be virtually impossible.</p> <p>One person to keep an eye on is Ritchie Torres, a Bronx City Council member. Elected in 2013, at the youthful age of 25, Torres has proven to be a solid legislator, championing important causes, and also fighting ardently for better housing conditions for public housing residents. Torres is charismatic, well liked by his peers, and whip-smart. He has the uncanny ability to probe and articulate complex policy matters. At 29 years of age, Torres will surely be one to watch for years to come and could be a formidable candidate for either Bronx borough president or the city’s public advocate if he chooses to aspire to either position.</p> <p>When looking at the horizon of Latino political leaders, the future seems bright -- the three aforementioned names are not the only ones on the list. With the continuing rise of Latinos in the overall population <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">and increased voting participation</a>, it may be quite possible that New York City will soon have its first Latino mayor.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Also by Eli Valentin: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6843-latino-voters-and-the-2017-new-york-city-elections" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Latino Voters and the 2017 New York City Elections</a>]</p> <p>***<br />Eli Valentin is a Democratic consultant and pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista in New York City. He is a frequent political analyst on Univision, and has appeared on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.” On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/elivalentinNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@EliValentinNY</a>.</p> <p>

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

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De Blasio Goes Local with ‘City Hall in Your Borough’ Series 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6863:de-blasio-goes-local-with-city-hall-in-your-borough-series Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</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/2017/26484184021_a59e709777_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Staten Island Oddo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio at a Staten Island town hall (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island this week in the first of five “City Hall in Your Borough” sojourns wherein the mayor, who is up for reelection this fall, is bringing city government local. De Blasio, many of his commissioners, top aides, and City Hall staff will work out of borough hall, hold constituent office hours and a variety of events on the island, and attempt to immerse themselves in borough issues for the week.</p> <p>The mayor chose to start the initiative on Staten Island, the only borough the first-term Democrat lost in his landslide 2013 victory. De Blasio’s week will include a town hall Thursday night, but begins Monday with several events, including a morning cabinet meeting with senior staff at borough hall, a noon press conference related to neighborhood policing, and a 10 p.m. visit with a road re-paving crew.</p> <p>According to the mayor’s office, de Blasio will set aside time to meet with local constituents and groups, visit at least one house of worship, and make many other stops around the borough. He is expected to hold events with each of Staten Island’s three City Council members, and to spend a good deal of time with Borough President James Oddo, a Republican whom the mayor has a close relationship with. First Lady Chirlane McCray is expected to hold events related to ThriveNYC, the mental health program she spearheads.</p> <p>The mayor will be commuting to Staten Island from Gracie Mansion, his office said, not spending overnights on the island. [The Staten Island Advance <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/04/early_look_at_de_blasios_week.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acquired a draft schedule</a> for de Blasio’s week, though it is unclear how closely his actual plan will match it. The launch of the overall initiative was <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first reported by The Daily News</a>.]</p> <p>De Blasio’s week on Staten Island is sure to deal with some broad citywide themes like public safety, education, affordable housing, and development, but will also have a distinctly local feel. As borough officials often say, Staten Island is more like the rest of the United States than it is the rest of New York City. Staten Island has high homeowner and driving populations compared to other boroughs, for example. Many Staten Islanders also continue to battle their way back from Superstorm Sandy and there has been a good deal of frustration about the city’s Build It Back recovery program. The borough is also dealing with the opioid addiction and overdose problem that has spread throughout communities across the country.</p> <p>After Staten Island, “City Hall in Your Borough” will proceed to the other four boroughs throughout the year, all as de Blasio competes in the Democratic primary and, likely, general election in his pursuit of a second term. Asked about the initiative coinciding with election season, mayoral spokesperson Jessica Ramos said that “It's coinciding with spring” and that the administration wants New Yorkers to interact with their local government in their own neighborhoods. ‎”We'll be doing this again over following years,” she said in an email.</p> <p>The mayor and his team are likely to work out of borough hall in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-staff-launch-initiative-city-hall-borough-article-1.3009342" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>, but will seek uptown space in Manhattan given that City Hall and the Manhattan Borough President’s offices at 1 Centre Street are so close to each other.</p> <p>Asked about the initiative, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had praise for de Blasio, but said in a statement that while he “would welcome Mayor de Blasio and his team to Brooklyn Borough Hall with open arms for this initiative...it would be even more impactful for us to work together on bringing City Hall to neighborhoods like Brownsville that have a real need of this presence. A site such as the Brownsville Recreation Center, for example, would serve as a great hyperlocal hub for this effort."</p> <p>Adams said City Hall in Your Borough is “a smart concept to get government out of the austere structures that often separate it from the communities it serves.” According to his office, borough specific issues Adams wants to see City Hall focus on include affordable housing, tenant harassment, civic tech innovation, preventive health care, school tech infrastructure, among others. Adams also wants to see city agencies rethink community engagement models.</p> <p>In a brief interview, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that her team and the mayor’s have been in touch already. Asked what the focus issues should be, Brewer said her office “gets a ton of housing, housing, housing” and that people really are concerned about both residential and small business affordability. Small Business Services, NYCHA, and the Department of Buildings were three city agencies that Brewer said the mayor’s team should be ready to prioritize.</p> <p>As for space, Brewer said she is the only borough president without a grand borough hall, but that she is also the only one with a storefront presence. She said her office’s uptown satellite space on West 125th Street “is not huge but it can fit 25 or 30 people at a time. So, we'd love him to join us there. We also have an office at the Harlem State Office Building, which has, obviously, huge spaces. So, either one, I think, would be fabulous, and we'd love to host the mayor.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. declined to comment on City Hall in Your Borough or to make the borough president available for a brief interview. Diaz Jr. has been an outspoken critic of de Blasio on several issues, and was considering challenging the mayor in the Democratic primary, but now plans to run for re-election. He is the only borough president that de Blasio is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6051-rift-between-de-blasio-and-diaz-jr-grows-with-implications-for-the-bronx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not on good terms with</a>.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz did not return a request for comment. Katz praised de Blasio at a recent town hall event in Queens for delivering on universal pre-kindergarten, though she and many in her borough want to see more from City Hall on school overcrowding and have concerns about the mayor’s homeless shelter siting.</p> <p>At a January event hosted by Crain’s New York Business, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6727-five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the five borough presidents gave their assessments of de Blasio</a> and offered him advice for how to improve his relationships with their boroughs.</p> <p>Oddo, who will host de Blasio this week on Staten Island, said he still wants to see a culture change at city agencies where rank-and-file employees feel more urgency to complete projects and make progress. “You want to have a legacy” as a mayor, Oddo said, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.”</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the City of New York,” Diaz Jr. said.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Five Borough Presidents Advise, Critique De Blasio 2017-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6727:five-borough-presidents-advise-critique-de-blasio Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5_borough_presidents_crains_forum_via_bpericadams_1.jpg" alt="5 borough presidents crains forum via bpericadams 1" width="600" height="301" /></p> <p>The five BPs at Crain's forum (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Communicate better. Build more affordable housing, and faster. Streamline small business regulations. Improve transit offerings in the outer boroughs. Bust the bureaucracy to get city agencies moving more quickly.</p> <p>These tips and pleas were among the guidance that the five New York City borough presidents offered Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday morning. At a forum convened by Crain’s New York Business, moderator Erik Engquist, a Crain’s editor, asked Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr., Staten Island’s James Oddo, and Queens’ Melinda Katz a series of questions, including what advice they would give de Blasio, who has just entered his fourth year in office, which is his re-election year.</p> <p>When Engquist posed the question -- if he asked you for a piece of advice, what would you offer Mayor de Blasio? -- about 20 minutes into the discussion, he got a laugh from the roughly 125 audience members by calling on Diaz Jr. first. The Bronx Borough President has been one of the most outspoken critics of the mayor and is considering whether to challenge de Blasio this year.</p> <p>Once the laughter subsided, Diaz Jr. reiterated a point: that he wants the city to “hand over the keys” to the developers of the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that has been caught in limbo for some time and has been a flashpoint in the tension between Diaz Jr. and de Blasio, with some involvement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is much closer to Diaz Jr. than to de Blasio.</p> <p>Of advice for de Blasio, Diaz Jr. then said, “Obviously homelessness is a big issue, not only in my borough, but throughout the city of New York.” He the mayor and his administration “haven’t been able to wrap their hands around” the crisis and called for more permanent affordable housing, supportive housing, and development in the Bronx, saying that the administration takes too long to make decisions.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also called for improvements to gifted and talented school program offerings and transportation expansion.</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the city of New York,” Diaz Jr. added.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette after the event to expand on the communication critique, Diaz Jr. said the mayor and his team should be more proactively communicative with local communities about all kinds of issues. It is a common refrain from de Blasio critics -- and some allies -- that was echoed by Queens Borough President Katz and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as well.</p> <p>Among the borough presidents, both Eric Adams and Gale Brewer are strong de Blasio allies. Adams has already endorsed de Blasio for reelection (he plans to run for Mayor himself, he said again at the Crain’s event, but not this year) and Brewer told Gotham Gazette afterward that she is supportive of de Blasio’s bid for a second term.</p> <p>Still, Adams and Brewer had ‘constructive criticism’ for the mayor. Citing “quality of life” issues, Brewer said she wants the mayor to focus on noise mitigation, improving city schools, investing even more in NYCHA and affordable housing, and expanding free WiFi. Brewer credited de Blasio for crime being down and improving relationships between community members and the police, as well as the IDNYC program.</p> <p>Adams also cited communication, saying that the mayor could do better showing people the improvements that have been made in the city. The Brooklyn BP then cited issues with “middle management,” saying that “the permanent bureaucracy” in city government shows a “lack of innovation, a lack of creativity.”</p> <p>Adams wants the city to stop holding back businesses by continuing to reduce unnecessary fines, an area where de Blasio has made a great deal of progress, and acting more quickly at the Department of Buildings and elsewhere. “The slowest walking human being I’ve seen in my life was at the Department of Buildings,” Adams said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.</p> <p>A former NYPD officer and captain, Adams gave de Blasio significant praise for improvements at the police department, especially in terms of interactions with New Yorkers. “Police are now doing something that is revolutionary,” he said, “they are saying ‘good morning.’” Adams said cops are walking the beat and talking with people, having positive interactions.</p> <p>Speaking after Adams, Queens Borough President Katz said she agreed with several points made by her colleagues before her. She noted that all five borough presidents have known and worked with de Blasio for years, since all six have held other positions in government.</p> <p>“As beneficial as he has been on a lot of topics, the communication part has been ineffective to a certain extent,” Katz said. She credited the mayor for universal pre-kindergarten and general progress. But, she called the “homeless crisis” “a very serious topic,” and cited issues in Queens related to use of hotels for housing homeless people and the protests that Queens residents have staged against the administration on the topic.</p> <p>Katz said she wants the city to better help people stay in their homes and their communities and to enhance “economic services to help get folks back on their feet.” Communities need to be involved in decision-making, she said, at which point Engquist aptly pointed out that communities often reject homeless shelters. Katz responded that “the worst thing you can do with a community is not tell them things” and that there are ways of being more upfront and negotiating better.</p> <p>Speaking last on the topic of advice for the mayor, Staten Island’s Oddo, the lone Republican among the borough presidents, said that a “sea change at the top of city government” with the election of de Blasio has not led to much change at all when it comes to the city bureaucracy that he often does battle with.</p> <p>It is consistently frustrating, Oddo explained, “to have a great idea, to have the mayor of the city of New York and the mayor’s office say ‘that is a good idea,’ and then run headlong into the brick wall of city agencies, time and time again.”</p> <p>“It’s the same jerks that were there in the Bloomberg years that are here now,” Oddo said, speaking of agency officials and local agency workers, especially at agencies like the Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, and the Department of Design and Construction. “Unless you have an administration with strong deputy mayors pushing down on commissioners and making commissioners change the culture of these agencies, I hate to say it guys, I’m not sure if it really matters who’s up at the top.”</p> <p>“You want to have a legacy,” Oddo said to this mayor or any, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.” Instead of commissioners changing their agencies, Oddo said, he sees agencies changing the commissioners for the worse.</p> <p>“The sea change that was promised, whether you believe in it or not, hasn’t happened,” Oddo said. At which point, Adams -- a vocal de Blasio supporter -- jumped in to echo the point, lamenting the permanent culture of “no” among civil servants who “wait out mayors...wait out commissioners and...get in the way of change.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment on the critiques provided by the borough presidents.</p> <p>Other than critiquing the mayor, at the Crain’s event the five borough presidents also discussed specific development projects in their respective boroughs, their takes on Uber and Airbnb, and broader political dynamics.</p> <p>There were half-jokes about the fact that Diaz Jr. is very close with Gov. Cuomo, while Adams enjoys a closer relationship with de Blasio. Yet there were more direct words between Diaz Jr. and Adams over whether Cuomo has been strong enough in backing fellow Democrats, specifically with respect to the state Senate, which remains in Republican control. Brewer said the governor has not been enough of a Democratic champion, which Adams agreed with and Diaz Jr. denied. Adams and Diaz Jr. debated the issue for a couple of minutes.</p> <p>Engquist also asked the borough presidents whether they plan to seek higher office. All five are eligible for another term in their current positions, and the four other than Diaz Jr. are definitively seeking re-election.</p> <p>As for later aspirations, Adams said he wants to be Mayor eventually. Diaz Jr. said he plans to seek higher office someday, but “I don’t know when.” Brewer said she doesn’t plan to seek a higher office; Katz demurred, saying she is focused on running for re-election; and Oddo said, “No, because First Deputy Mayor is not an elected position.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/5_borough_presidents_crains_forum_via_bpericadams_1.jpg" alt="5 borough presidents crains forum via bpericadams 1" width="600" height="301" /></p> <p>The five BPs at Crain's forum (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Communicate better. Build more affordable housing, and faster. Streamline small business regulations. Improve transit offerings in the outer boroughs. Bust the bureaucracy to get city agencies moving more quickly.</p> <p>These tips and pleas were among the guidance that the five New York City borough presidents offered Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday morning. At a forum convened by Crain’s New York Business, moderator Erik Engquist, a Crain’s editor, asked Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr., Staten Island’s James Oddo, and Queens’ Melinda Katz a series of questions, including what advice they would give de Blasio, who has just entered his fourth year in office, which is his re-election year.</p> <p>When Engquist posed the question -- if he asked you for a piece of advice, what would you offer Mayor de Blasio? -- about 20 minutes into the discussion, he got a laugh from the roughly 125 audience members by calling on Diaz Jr. first. The Bronx Borough President has been one of the most outspoken critics of the mayor and is considering whether to challenge de Blasio this year.</p> <p>Once the laughter subsided, Diaz Jr. reiterated a point: that he wants the city to “hand over the keys” to the developers of the Kingsbridge Armory, a project that has been caught in limbo for some time and has been a flashpoint in the tension between Diaz Jr. and de Blasio, with some involvement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is much closer to Diaz Jr. than to de Blasio.</p> <p>Of advice for de Blasio, Diaz Jr. then said, “Obviously homelessness is a big issue, not only in my borough, but throughout the city of New York.” He the mayor and his administration “haven’t been able to wrap their hands around” the crisis and called for more permanent affordable housing, supportive housing, and development in the Bronx, saying that the administration takes too long to make decisions.</p> <p>Diaz Jr. also called for improvements to gifted and talented school program offerings and transportation expansion.</p> <p>“He could do a whole lot better, in my opinion, in his messaging and communication to the people of the city of New York,” Diaz Jr. added.</p> <p>Asked by Gotham Gazette after the event to expand on the communication critique, Diaz Jr. said the mayor and his team should be more proactively communicative with local communities about all kinds of issues. It is a common refrain from de Blasio critics -- and some allies -- that was echoed by Queens Borough President Katz and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as well.</p> <p>Among the borough presidents, both Eric Adams and Gale Brewer are strong de Blasio allies. Adams has already endorsed de Blasio for reelection (he plans to run for Mayor himself, he said again at the Crain’s event, but not this year) and Brewer told Gotham Gazette afterward that she is supportive of de Blasio’s bid for a second term.</p> <p>Still, Adams and Brewer had ‘constructive criticism’ for the mayor. Citing “quality of life” issues, Brewer said she wants the mayor to focus on noise mitigation, improving city schools, investing even more in NYCHA and affordable housing, and expanding free WiFi. Brewer credited de Blasio for crime being down and improving relationships between community members and the police, as well as the IDNYC program.</p> <p>Adams also cited communication, saying that the mayor could do better showing people the improvements that have been made in the city. The Brooklyn BP then cited issues with “middle management,” saying that “the permanent bureaucracy” in city government shows a “lack of innovation, a lack of creativity.”</p> <p>Adams wants the city to stop holding back businesses by continuing to reduce unnecessary fines, an area where de Blasio has made a great deal of progress, and acting more quickly at the Department of Buildings and elsewhere. “The slowest walking human being I’ve seen in my life was at the Department of Buildings,” Adams said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.</p> <p>A former NYPD officer and captain, Adams gave de Blasio significant praise for improvements at the police department, especially in terms of interactions with New Yorkers. “Police are now doing something that is revolutionary,” he said, “they are saying ‘good morning.’” Adams said cops are walking the beat and talking with people, having positive interactions.</p> <p>Speaking after Adams, Queens Borough President Katz said she agreed with several points made by her colleagues before her. She noted that all five borough presidents have known and worked with de Blasio for years, since all six have held other positions in government.</p> <p>“As beneficial as he has been on a lot of topics, the communication part has been ineffective to a certain extent,” Katz said. She credited the mayor for universal pre-kindergarten and general progress. But, she called the “homeless crisis” “a very serious topic,” and cited issues in Queens related to use of hotels for housing homeless people and the protests that Queens residents have staged against the administration on the topic.</p> <p>Katz said she wants the city to better help people stay in their homes and their communities and to enhance “economic services to help get folks back on their feet.” Communities need to be involved in decision-making, she said, at which point Engquist aptly pointed out that communities often reject homeless shelters. Katz responded that “the worst thing you can do with a community is not tell them things” and that there are ways of being more upfront and negotiating better.</p> <p>Speaking last on the topic of advice for the mayor, Staten Island’s Oddo, the lone Republican among the borough presidents, said that a “sea change at the top of city government” with the election of de Blasio has not led to much change at all when it comes to the city bureaucracy that he often does battle with.</p> <p>It is consistently frustrating, Oddo explained, “to have a great idea, to have the mayor of the city of New York and the mayor’s office say ‘that is a good idea,’ and then run headlong into the brick wall of city agencies, time and time again.”</p> <p>“It’s the same jerks that were there in the Bloomberg years that are here now,” Oddo said, speaking of agency officials and local agency workers, especially at agencies like the Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, and the Department of Design and Construction. “Unless you have an administration with strong deputy mayors pushing down on commissioners and making commissioners change the culture of these agencies, I hate to say it guys, I’m not sure if it really matters who’s up at the top.”</p> <p>“You want to have a legacy,” Oddo said to this mayor or any, “you have to change the culture of these agencies, and I don’t believe that’s happening.” Instead of commissioners changing their agencies, Oddo said, he sees agencies changing the commissioners for the worse.</p> <p>“The sea change that was promised, whether you believe in it or not, hasn’t happened,” Oddo said. At which point, Adams -- a vocal de Blasio supporter -- jumped in to echo the point, lamenting the permanent culture of “no” among civil servants who “wait out mayors...wait out commissioners and...get in the way of change.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment on the critiques provided by the borough presidents.</p> <p>Other than critiquing the mayor, at the Crain’s event the five borough presidents also discussed specific development projects in their respective boroughs, their takes on Uber and Airbnb, and broader political dynamics.</p> <p>There were half-jokes about the fact that Diaz Jr. is very close with Gov. Cuomo, while Adams enjoys a closer relationship with de Blasio. Yet there were more direct words between Diaz Jr. and Adams over whether Cuomo has been strong enough in backing fellow Democrats, specifically with respect to the state Senate, which remains in Republican control. Brewer said the governor has not been enough of a Democratic champion, which Adams agreed with and Diaz Jr. denied. Adams and Diaz Jr. debated the issue for a couple of minutes.</p> <p>Engquist also asked the borough presidents whether they plan to seek higher office. All five are eligible for another term in their current positions, and the four other than Diaz Jr. are definitively seeking re-election.</p> <p>As for later aspirations, Adams said he wants to be Mayor eventually. Diaz Jr. said he plans to seek higher office someday, but “I don’t know when.” Brewer said she doesn’t plan to seek a higher office; Katz demurred, saying she is focused on running for re-election; and Oddo said, “No, because First Deputy Mayor is not an elected position.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Debate Over Best Path to Affordable Housing Development Continues 2016-04-14T03:22:00+00:00 2016-04-14T03:22:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6278:debate-over-best-path-to-affordable-housing-development-continues Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24323098735_6d67180f18_z.jpg" alt="been de blasio housing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Vicki Been (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While sweeping new norms for city land use and housing development were passed into law last month, the debate over how to best achieve affordable housing continues. The larger affordable housing picture was the subject of a Wednesday event hosted by Stroock &amp; Stroock &amp; Lavan LLP, where Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. were among the guest speakers who presented their views on city housing policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been a vocal and frequent critic of the de Blasio administration, including its housing plans, which he again questioned at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, entitled &ldquo;Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?&rdquo; Been, seated next to the borough president, explained and defended the policies that she has helped craft, even challenging the framing of the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want to just take exception to the way the question was phrased for this panel, which is: &lsquo;Is affordable housing ever going to happen?&rsquo;&rdquo; Been said. &ldquo;In fact, in the first two years of the administration we financed more than 40,000 affordable homes...which is a higher number of new construction starts than ever in the history of HPD and the second highest number total since Koch really started the program.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the passage of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), two significant changes to the city&rsquo;s zoning code aimed at spurring more affordable housing development, much of the attention has turned to East New York, the first area that will be rezoned under the new MIH and ZQA rules. In essence, the city is allowing and promoting greater density - more development, taller buildings - while requiring certain percentages of new units to be kept under affordability guidelines.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been critical of MIH and ZQA, both as a matter of policy and process. While continuing his critique Wednesday, he also acknowledged that the changes have already been made and that there is a new normal at play in terms of the way the city deals with zoning. Still, Diaz Jr. liked the old rules, whereby each land or neighborhood rezoning was subject to individual negotiations with fewer predetermined choices and rules.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also conceptually support the mayor&rsquo;s goal of getting to 200,000 units of affordable housing,&rdquo; Diaz Jr. said at the panel. &ldquo;With that said, I did not support the zoning amendments. And you gotta understand that, over the last six years alone, in the Bronx we&rsquo;ve done 17 rezonings and we have been able to do this by having a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing points he made during the panel discussion, Diaz Jr. later told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve shown that we can...create a lot of density, do it in an affordable way, do it [in a] neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. And when I say &lsquo;we,&rsquo; I mean from my office, to elected officials, to the community board, to many of the city leaders in whatever area. But I&rsquo;ve said all along, with this MIH, what it does is it paints the entire city with one broad stroke.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The panel event, hosted by former New York Attorney General and Stroock partner Robert Abrams and his public affairs group, included Diaz Jr. and Been, as well as a real estate developer and a new Stroock attorney recently departed from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman&rsquo;s office. Been was warmly welcomed by her hosts, who she has worked with over decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">To achieve affordable housing in every neighborhood in the city, and to ensure that, when growth is taking place, it promotes economic diversity, Been said, certain instruments like MIH had to be put in place. To go beyond the city&rsquo;s affordable housing demand to meet the needs of particular groups like seniors, and the range of different types of housing that they need, ZQA was adopted to revamp the city&rsquo;s out-of-date 1961 zoning ordinance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has said before that the one-size-fits-all approach of city-wide land use rules reduces the flexibility with which communities and stakeholders rezone, and diminishes the capacity to take his favored neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to rezoning. The ability to vary the affordability requirements at the most local level, he argued again at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, has been proven to be effective when dealing with the complex realities of neighborhood housing and development needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Using his own borough as an example, Diaz Jr. said at the panel, &ldquo;what I&rsquo;m getting at is, in the Bronx it is complex. And with the new zoning changes...you&rsquo;re handcuffing the communities and stakeholders from having that leverage and that ability to negotiate&rdquo; with developers who have a part to play in the creation of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel discussion, which also covered specifics beyond MIH and ZQA, Been did not respond directly to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism, but when asked about it by Gotham Gazette after the event she said that MIH is essentially an &ldquo;enabler&rdquo; of rezoning. &ldquo;It sets up an MIH program and requirements that then get applied in any of the 17 rezonings that [Diaz Jr.] was talking about...It doesn&rsquo;t change any neighborhood on its own.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Been&rsquo;s reply to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism of zoning amendments was pointed and direct, a sign that this was not the first time she has addressed such critiques. &ldquo;The second thing,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is that he continues to say, &lsquo;Well, I do a better job at negotiating for affordable housing than MIH does.&rsquo; He negotiated for affordable housing that we [HPD] paid for. MIH is affordable housing that the developer pays for. That&rsquo;s very different, right? And so those are the critical things. So I disagree with him, we disagreed with him earlier.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While Diaz Jr. has said that he is concerned about allocating enough affordable housing for both low-income earners and middle-income professionals, citing a &ldquo;brain drain&rdquo; from his borough, Been pointed out that affordable housing requirements under MIH are averages for all the affordable units in a development, allowing for &ldquo;enormous flexibility within those options.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the ongoing debate, Diaz Jr. recognized that the newly enshrined land use regulations are now a fixture of the city. &ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;ll see if it works,&rdquo; the borough president told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is that they passed it into law, right? So, I can talk about my concerns all I want now, till I&rsquo;m blue in the face. We&rsquo;ll see if it works moving forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The panel touched on how developers will be able to work with the city to create affordable housing, the prospects of achieving the affordable housing goals set by the mayor, and what can be done in the absence of the property tax exemption known as 421-a, which expired in January and is seen by many as essential to affordable housing development. In addition to Been and Diaz Jr., the panel included Ron Moelis, the CEO of L+M Development Partners Inc., which develops affordable, mixed-income, and market-rate housing; and Erica F. Buckley, who recently left Schneiderman&rsquo;s office to join Stroock as an expert on real estate and government relations.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel, Been took a moment to emphasize the importance of having a relationship with the Attorney General&rsquo;s office - the de Blasio and Schneiderman administrations have teamed up on tenant protection efforts, among others. &ldquo;You know you read a lot in the newspapers about tension between the City and the State&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We have an incredible partner in the Attorney General&rsquo;s offices...and it really depends upon amazing people like Erica and her former team...It&rsquo;s so helpful to have that kind of working relationship and it really depends upon the leadership and the people on the team.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the impact that the missing 421-a tax abatement will have on new affordable housing developments, Moelis weighed in: &ldquo;The city is doing a great job and has a lot of resources to create affordable housing&hellip;The mayor and the governor both have dedicated significant resources, more than ever, toward affordable housing and I think the capacity of the agencies is tremendous.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Hopefully [421-a] will be replaced with some other tax abatement for mixed-income housing,&rdquo; Moelis continued, saying its absence &ldquo;is important, but I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s going to kill the production of affordable housing. I think it will continue at a pretty good pace.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the question and answer section following the panel discussion, Buckley noted that the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/renters-mitchell-lama/Article-II%20-XI-term-sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Article II to XI Conversion Program</a> could serve as a useful tool for preserving affordable housing options in the absence of 421-a, by allowing Mitchell-Lama developments to be converted to HDFC low-income cooperatives, rather than exiting an affordable housing program outright. When pressed on the issue, however, Buckley conceded that in her experience at the Attorney General&rsquo;s office no projects had been initiated through Article II to XI Conversion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. brought the discussion back to 421-a: &ldquo;Let me also state today that we absolutely need 421-a. Absolutely. And I&rsquo;ve been speaking to anyone who will listen in the Legislature so that they can get this done.&rdquo;</p> <p>Whatever the city needs to achieve better affordable housing options, the land use regulations have been set. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m hoping that when it&rsquo;s all said and done, I don&rsquo;t have to tell folks, &lsquo;I told you so,&rsquo;&rdquo; Diaz Jr. told Gotham Gazette after the event. &ldquo;I mean right now, you know, again, I can speak about it till I&rsquo;m blue in the face, but it&rsquo;s the law of the City of New York.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24323098735_6d67180f18_z.jpg" alt="been de blasio housing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Vicki Been (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">While sweeping new norms for city land use and housing development were passed into law last month, the debate over how to best achieve affordable housing continues. The larger affordable housing picture was the subject of a Wednesday event hosted by Stroock &amp; Stroock &amp; Lavan LLP, where Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. were among the guest speakers who presented their views on city housing policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been a vocal and frequent critic of the de Blasio administration, including its housing plans, which he again questioned at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, entitled &ldquo;Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?&rdquo; Been, seated next to the borough president, explained and defended the policies that she has helped craft, even challenging the framing of the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want to just take exception to the way the question was phrased for this panel, which is: &lsquo;Is affordable housing ever going to happen?&rsquo;&rdquo; Been said. &ldquo;In fact, in the first two years of the administration we financed more than 40,000 affordable homes...which is a higher number of new construction starts than ever in the history of HPD and the second highest number total since Koch really started the program.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the passage of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), two significant changes to the city&rsquo;s zoning code aimed at spurring more affordable housing development, much of the attention has turned to East New York, the first area that will be rezoned under the new MIH and ZQA rules. In essence, the city is allowing and promoting greater density - more development, taller buildings - while requiring certain percentages of new units to be kept under affordability guidelines.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been critical of MIH and ZQA, both as a matter of policy and process. While continuing his critique Wednesday, he also acknowledged that the changes have already been made and that there is a new normal at play in terms of the way the city deals with zoning. Still, Diaz Jr. liked the old rules, whereby each land or neighborhood rezoning was subject to individual negotiations with fewer predetermined choices and rules.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also conceptually support the mayor&rsquo;s goal of getting to 200,000 units of affordable housing,&rdquo; Diaz Jr. said at the panel. &ldquo;With that said, I did not support the zoning amendments. And you gotta understand that, over the last six years alone, in the Bronx we&rsquo;ve done 17 rezonings and we have been able to do this by having a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing points he made during the panel discussion, Diaz Jr. later told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve shown that we can...create a lot of density, do it in an affordable way, do it [in a] neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. And when I say &lsquo;we,&rsquo; I mean from my office, to elected officials, to the community board, to many of the city leaders in whatever area. But I&rsquo;ve said all along, with this MIH, what it does is it paints the entire city with one broad stroke.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The panel event, hosted by former New York Attorney General and Stroock partner Robert Abrams and his public affairs group, included Diaz Jr. and Been, as well as a real estate developer and a new Stroock attorney recently departed from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman&rsquo;s office. Been was warmly welcomed by her hosts, who she has worked with over decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">To achieve affordable housing in every neighborhood in the city, and to ensure that, when growth is taking place, it promotes economic diversity, Been said, certain instruments like MIH had to be put in place. To go beyond the city&rsquo;s affordable housing demand to meet the needs of particular groups like seniors, and the range of different types of housing that they need, ZQA was adopted to revamp the city&rsquo;s out-of-date 1961 zoning ordinance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has said before that the one-size-fits-all approach of city-wide land use rules reduces the flexibility with which communities and stakeholders rezone, and diminishes the capacity to take his favored neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to rezoning. The ability to vary the affordability requirements at the most local level, he argued again at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, has been proven to be effective when dealing with the complex realities of neighborhood housing and development needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Using his own borough as an example, Diaz Jr. said at the panel, &ldquo;what I&rsquo;m getting at is, in the Bronx it is complex. And with the new zoning changes...you&rsquo;re handcuffing the communities and stakeholders from having that leverage and that ability to negotiate&rdquo; with developers who have a part to play in the creation of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel discussion, which also covered specifics beyond MIH and ZQA, Been did not respond directly to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism, but when asked about it by Gotham Gazette after the event she said that MIH is essentially an &ldquo;enabler&rdquo; of rezoning. &ldquo;It sets up an MIH program and requirements that then get applied in any of the 17 rezonings that [Diaz Jr.] was talking about...It doesn&rsquo;t change any neighborhood on its own.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Been&rsquo;s reply to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism of zoning amendments was pointed and direct, a sign that this was not the first time she has addressed such critiques. &ldquo;The second thing,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is that he continues to say, &lsquo;Well, I do a better job at negotiating for affordable housing than MIH does.&rsquo; He negotiated for affordable housing that we [HPD] paid for. MIH is affordable housing that the developer pays for. That&rsquo;s very different, right? And so those are the critical things. So I disagree with him, we disagreed with him earlier.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While Diaz Jr. has said that he is concerned about allocating enough affordable housing for both low-income earners and middle-income professionals, citing a &ldquo;brain drain&rdquo; from his borough, Been pointed out that affordable housing requirements under MIH are averages for all the affordable units in a development, allowing for &ldquo;enormous flexibility within those options.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the ongoing debate, Diaz Jr. recognized that the newly enshrined land use regulations are now a fixture of the city. &ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;ll see if it works,&rdquo; the borough president told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is that they passed it into law, right? So, I can talk about my concerns all I want now, till I&rsquo;m blue in the face. We&rsquo;ll see if it works moving forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The panel touched on how developers will be able to work with the city to create affordable housing, the prospects of achieving the affordable housing goals set by the mayor, and what can be done in the absence of the property tax exemption known as 421-a, which expired in January and is seen by many as essential to affordable housing development. In addition to Been and Diaz Jr., the panel included Ron Moelis, the CEO of L+M Development Partners Inc., which develops affordable, mixed-income, and market-rate housing; and Erica F. Buckley, who recently left Schneiderman&rsquo;s office to join Stroock as an expert on real estate and government relations.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel, Been took a moment to emphasize the importance of having a relationship with the Attorney General&rsquo;s office - the de Blasio and Schneiderman administrations have teamed up on tenant protection efforts, among others. &ldquo;You know you read a lot in the newspapers about tension between the City and the State&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We have an incredible partner in the Attorney General&rsquo;s offices...and it really depends upon amazing people like Erica and her former team...It&rsquo;s so helpful to have that kind of working relationship and it really depends upon the leadership and the people on the team.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the impact that the missing 421-a tax abatement will have on new affordable housing developments, Moelis weighed in: &ldquo;The city is doing a great job and has a lot of resources to create affordable housing&hellip;The mayor and the governor both have dedicated significant resources, more than ever, toward affordable housing and I think the capacity of the agencies is tremendous.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Hopefully [421-a] will be replaced with some other tax abatement for mixed-income housing,&rdquo; Moelis continued, saying its absence &ldquo;is important, but I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s going to kill the production of affordable housing. I think it will continue at a pretty good pace.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the question and answer section following the panel discussion, Buckley noted that the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/renters-mitchell-lama/Article-II%20-XI-term-sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Article II to XI Conversion Program</a> could serve as a useful tool for preserving affordable housing options in the absence of 421-a, by allowing Mitchell-Lama developments to be converted to HDFC low-income cooperatives, rather than exiting an affordable housing program outright. When pressed on the issue, however, Buckley conceded that in her experience at the Attorney General&rsquo;s office no projects had been initiated through Article II to XI Conversion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. brought the discussion back to 421-a: &ldquo;Let me also state today that we absolutely need 421-a. Absolutely. And I&rsquo;ve been speaking to anyone who will listen in the Legislature so that they can get this done.&rdquo;</p> <p>Whatever the city needs to achieve better affordable housing options, the land use regulations have been set. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m hoping that when it&rsquo;s all said and done, I don&rsquo;t have to tell folks, &lsquo;I told you so,&rsquo;&rdquo; Diaz Jr. told Gotham Gazette after the event. &ldquo;I mean right now, you know, again, I can speak about it till I&rsquo;m blue in the face, but it&rsquo;s the law of the City of New York.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Rumored Scheme Brings Scrutiny to Bronx Political Machine 2015-09-17T23:24:55+00:00 2015-09-17T23:24:55+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5891:rumored-scheme-brings-scrutiny-to-bronx-political-machine Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/daiz_jr_heastie_crespo.jpg" alt="diaz jr heastie crespo" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Diaz Jr., Heastie, Crespo (l-r) (<a href="https://twitter.com/CarlHeastie/status/641564040783876097" target="_blank">photo</a>: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>By all reasonable indicators, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5845-progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection" target="_blank">should cruise to reelection</a> this November despite his low conviction rate, notoriously slow pace in filing charges, and apparent lack of serious fundraising. But many are watching closely to see if Johnson drops off the ballot this month and makes himself eligible to be appointed to a judgeship--thereby allowing the Bronx County Democrats to name his replacement.</p> <p>As rumors and suspicions swirl, the notion of Johnson and other longtime Bronx party leaders manipulating the electoral system to their advantage comes as little surprise to those who've seen the Bronx machine at work. But, with powerful Bronx elected officials newly more prominent, the risks of such machinations are greater than in the past.</p> <p>District Attorney Johnson has been in a unique situation for decades. Thanks to the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party, he has faced few serious political challenges since taking office in 1989 and is running this year on the Democratic, Conservative, and Republican ballot lines.</p> <p>Bronx insiders are convinced that Bronx County Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Crespo's predecessor as county chair) have decided to appoint Johnson to a judgeship and then replace him on the ticket with one of their allies, thereby subverting the democratic process.</p> <p>The technique that could be used to replace Johnson isn't unique; it has been used time and time again across the city to, basically, gift seats to party-friendly candidates. The Bronx has long been a haven for the workings of the County Democratic machine, but with Heastie's ascent to one of the post powerful positions in the state and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s rising profile, it appears it will be much more difficult to pull off such maneuvers without paying a price.</p> <p>Actions in the Bronx are now linked to the larger political aspirations of these rising stars and they've earned the attention of good government groups and media outside the borough.</p> <p>What is particularly concerning to reformers inside and outside of government is that Crespo, Heastie, and Diaz would essentially be appointing the person who is, in part, supposed to police their actions. Johnson's record on corruption busting is suspicious to many. He has pursued cases against former Assemblymember Nelson Castro and former Senator Pedro Espada, but at the time both men were out of the county party's good graces. In fact, they were known for causing Bronx Democrats nasty headaches.</p> <p>With Heastie, who this year replaced the indicted Sheldon Silver as speaker, pledging transparency and reform in the Assembly, some observers wonder if he isn't trying to avoid future embarrassment by being directly responsible for appointing the new district attorney.</p> <p>"The bottom line is that it is always nice to have your derriere covered by a prosecutor that owes you their job," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College.</p> <p>Johnson's office has refused to comment for this story. Heastie has told other reporters that he gave up decision-making abilities as the chair of the Bronx County Democrats when he became Assembly speaker. And Assemblymember Crespo has avoided responding to queries from numerous outlets, including Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>It stands to reason that Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., who would also have a say in the matter given his relationship with Heastie and his quest to run, eventually, for mayor. Diaz Jr.'s office also ignored requests for comment.</p> <p>The scenario has been further complicated by Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, who has made it no secret that he is interested the district attorney position. Sepulveda is said to have informed Johnson he would be challenging him down the road, even while helping him collect petitions for his reelection this summer.</p> <p>Bob Kappstatter, a prolific Bronx journalist who currently works as a political consultant and counts Sepulveda as a client, took to Facebook to decry the behind-the-scenes machinations that may be afoot.</p> <p>"We can count on one hand how many Bronx politicians Rob Johnson has gone after, with most of those being County's enemies. Meanwhile the feds have vacuumed the borough ALMOST clean," Kappstatter wrote on Facebook. "Carl [Heastie], whom we hear didn't expect all this heat from the media and good government groups, has dumped the deal in the lap of new County Leader Marcos Crespo, an honest, decent guy who will have to take the heat if it goes through. Marcos is already looking like Heastie's puppet, diminishing his power among the city's four other Dem county leaders while Carl still pulls County's strings."</p> <p>Sepulveda's interest in the DA position has angered the Bronx County Democrats. Earlier this month the Daily News ran a story detailing how Sepulveda's estranged wife sought an order of protection from him earlier this summer. Both Luis and his wife told the Daily News that she withdrew the request. Insiders see it as retaliation from County for his interest in Johnson's job.</p> <p>Exposing any deal among Johnson and other officials could benefit Sepulveda, because outside pressure might lead to Johnson stepping down after the election rather than before.</p> <p>The process Bronx County Democrats could use to replace Johnson is particularly effective because Democratic enrollment in the borough greatly eclipses that of all other parties.</p> <p>Democratic voters decide the election during the September primary, with the November election essentially being a formality - not that Johnson was challenged in the primary. If Johnson steps down before Election Day, his county-picked replacement would move into office with all the benefits of incumbency and the backing of the establishment. Any future primary challenger would face a well-known, well-financed incumbent who hadn't actually been elected by a significant number of voters.</p> <p>"This is a fairly common practice in New York politics," said Gerald Benjamin, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. "It is anti-competitive and it allows the newly appointed incumbent to use that incumbency to defeat their next challenger."</p> <p>"As a general principle of government, it stinks," said Gene Russianoff of The New York Public Interest Research Group. "The primary election process might not be perfect but at least it offers hope. Forgoing it is a thumb in the eye to voters."</p> <p>Johnson would have to submit a letter to the Board of Elections asking to be removed from the ballot by Monday, September 21.</p> <p>If Johnson resigns after he is elected in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could name an interim district attorney and would eventually set a date for a special election. This would likely allow Sepulveda and other hopefuls a chance to actually vie for the seat.</p> <p>Professor Benjamin said that voters should be especially concerned about the machinations involved in Johnson's possible replacement and appointment to a judgeship given what The New York Times described as "an unusual string of legal lapses" that allowed Heastie to keep a home his mother purchased with embezzled funds.</p> <p>Heastie agreed to sell the house as part of a deal that allowed Heastie's mother to avoid jail time. His mother died three weeks after being sentenced and Heastie stopped trying to sell the home. He sold it six years later at a profit of $200,000.</p> <p>"Carelessness of those involved in the case could be to blame, or something more questionable could have occurred, given the Bronx Democratic Party's influence on the court system and its long history of back-room deal-making," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/nyregion/carl-heastie-new-york-assembly-speaker-benefited-from-mothers-embezzling.html" target="_blank">wrote the Times</a>.</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/daiz_jr_heastie_crespo.jpg" alt="diaz jr heastie crespo" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Diaz Jr., Heastie, Crespo (l-r) (<a href="https://twitter.com/CarlHeastie/status/641564040783876097" target="_blank">photo</a>: @rubendiazjr)</p> <hr /> <p>By all reasonable indicators, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5845-progress-elusive-as-bronx-da-cruises-toward-reelection" target="_blank">should cruise to reelection</a> this November despite his low conviction rate, notoriously slow pace in filing charges, and apparent lack of serious fundraising. But many are watching closely to see if Johnson drops off the ballot this month and makes himself eligible to be appointed to a judgeship--thereby allowing the Bronx County Democrats to name his replacement.</p> <p>As rumors and suspicions swirl, the notion of Johnson and other longtime Bronx party leaders manipulating the electoral system to their advantage comes as little surprise to those who've seen the Bronx machine at work. But, with powerful Bronx elected officials newly more prominent, the risks of such machinations are greater than in the past.</p> <p>District Attorney Johnson has been in a unique situation for decades. Thanks to the support of the Bronx County Democratic Party, he has faced few serious political challenges since taking office in 1989 and is running this year on the Democratic, Conservative, and Republican ballot lines.</p> <p>Bronx insiders are convinced that Bronx County Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Crespo's predecessor as county chair) have decided to appoint Johnson to a judgeship and then replace him on the ticket with one of their allies, thereby subverting the democratic process.</p> <p>The technique that could be used to replace Johnson isn't unique; it has been used time and time again across the city to, basically, gift seats to party-friendly candidates. The Bronx has long been a haven for the workings of the County Democratic machine, but with Heastie's ascent to one of the post powerful positions in the state and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s rising profile, it appears it will be much more difficult to pull off such maneuvers without paying a price.</p> <p>Actions in the Bronx are now linked to the larger political aspirations of these rising stars and they've earned the attention of good government groups and media outside the borough.</p> <p>What is particularly concerning to reformers inside and outside of government is that Crespo, Heastie, and Diaz would essentially be appointing the person who is, in part, supposed to police their actions. Johnson's record on corruption busting is suspicious to many. He has pursued cases against former Assemblymember Nelson Castro and former Senator Pedro Espada, but at the time both men were out of the county party's good graces. In fact, they were known for causing Bronx Democrats nasty headaches.</p> <p>With Heastie, who this year replaced the indicted Sheldon Silver as speaker, pledging transparency and reform in the Assembly, some observers wonder if he isn't trying to avoid future embarrassment by being directly responsible for appointing the new district attorney.</p> <p>"The bottom line is that it is always nice to have your derriere covered by a prosecutor that owes you their job," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College.</p> <p>Johnson's office has refused to comment for this story. Heastie has told other reporters that he gave up decision-making abilities as the chair of the Bronx County Democrats when he became Assembly speaker. And Assemblymember Crespo has avoided responding to queries from numerous outlets, including Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>It stands to reason that Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., who would also have a say in the matter given his relationship with Heastie and his quest to run, eventually, for mayor. Diaz Jr.'s office also ignored requests for comment.</p> <p>The scenario has been further complicated by Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, who has made it no secret that he is interested the district attorney position. Sepulveda is said to have informed Johnson he would be challenging him down the road, even while helping him collect petitions for his reelection this summer.</p> <p>Bob Kappstatter, a prolific Bronx journalist who currently works as a political consultant and counts Sepulveda as a client, took to Facebook to decry the behind-the-scenes machinations that may be afoot.</p> <p>"We can count on one hand how many Bronx politicians Rob Johnson has gone after, with most of those being County's enemies. Meanwhile the feds have vacuumed the borough ALMOST clean," Kappstatter wrote on Facebook. "Carl [Heastie], whom we hear didn't expect all this heat from the media and good government groups, has dumped the deal in the lap of new County Leader Marcos Crespo, an honest, decent guy who will have to take the heat if it goes through. Marcos is already looking like Heastie's puppet, diminishing his power among the city's four other Dem county leaders while Carl still pulls County's strings."</p> <p>Sepulveda's interest in the DA position has angered the Bronx County Democrats. Earlier this month the Daily News ran a story detailing how Sepulveda's estranged wife sought an order of protection from him earlier this summer. Both Luis and his wife told the Daily News that she withdrew the request. Insiders see it as retaliation from County for his interest in Johnson's job.</p> <p>Exposing any deal among Johnson and other officials could benefit Sepulveda, because outside pressure might lead to Johnson stepping down after the election rather than before.</p> <p>The process Bronx County Democrats could use to replace Johnson is particularly effective because Democratic enrollment in the borough greatly eclipses that of all other parties.</p> <p>Democratic voters decide the election during the September primary, with the November election essentially being a formality - not that Johnson was challenged in the primary. If Johnson steps down before Election Day, his county-picked replacement would move into office with all the benefits of incumbency and the backing of the establishment. Any future primary challenger would face a well-known, well-financed incumbent who hadn't actually been elected by a significant number of voters.</p> <p>"This is a fairly common practice in New York politics," said Gerald Benjamin, professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. "It is anti-competitive and it allows the newly appointed incumbent to use that incumbency to defeat their next challenger."</p> <p>"As a general principle of government, it stinks," said Gene Russianoff of The New York Public Interest Research Group. "The primary election process might not be perfect but at least it offers hope. Forgoing it is a thumb in the eye to voters."</p> <p>Johnson would have to submit a letter to the Board of Elections asking to be removed from the ballot by Monday, September 21.</p> <p>If Johnson resigns after he is elected in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could name an interim district attorney and would eventually set a date for a special election. This would likely allow Sepulveda and other hopefuls a chance to actually vie for the seat.</p> <p>Professor Benjamin said that voters should be especially concerned about the machinations involved in Johnson's possible replacement and appointment to a judgeship given what The New York Times described as "an unusual string of legal lapses" that allowed Heastie to keep a home his mother purchased with embezzled funds.</p> <p>Heastie agreed to sell the house as part of a deal that allowed Heastie's mother to avoid jail time. His mother died three weeks after being sentenced and Heastie stopped trying to sell the home. He sold it six years later at a profit of $200,000.</p> <p>"Carelessness of those involved in the case could be to blame, or something more questionable could have occurred, given the Bronx Democratic Party's influence on the court system and its long history of back-room deal-making," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/nyregion/carl-heastie-new-york-assembly-speaker-benefited-from-mothers-embezzling.html" target="_blank">wrote the Times</a>.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? 2015-09-13T05:00:00+00:00 2015-09-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5886:did-bill-de-blasios-tirade-help-andrew-cuomo-get-his-groove-back Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21369805421_5d9c67dec4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo labor day parade" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo at the Labor Day parade (photo: The Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/page2" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, held a rally to announce a campaign to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15-per-hour minimum wage.</p> <p>"So Mr. Vice President, today I announce that I will propose to the New York state legislature not just $15 for fast-food workers, because a fast-food worker deserves $15 an hour, construction workers deserve $15 an hour, and home healthcare aides deserve $15 an hour, and taxi-cab drivers deserve $15 an hour, and every working man and woman in the State of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage - and we are not going to stop until we get it done!" Cuomo said, his voice rising.</p> <p>It was a triumphant moment for the governor, and for unions and progressive groups who have worked for the last year to get Cuomo on board with a $15 hourly minimum wage. It is being called a major about-face by many watchers, including some who note that Cuomo now supports a policy his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been pushing for quite some time and that Cuomo had previously dismissed.</p> <p>The move, along with other recent Cuomo plays, is in striking contrast to the Cuomo of last spring, who some confidants and legislators describe as aimless, distracted, and maybe a little bit bored.</p> <p>Now, though, any such perception has dissipated, perhaps in large part thanks to de Blasio's exasperated June tirade against the governor, which came at the end of this year's legislative session. Harsh, damning words from the mayor may have been the challenge Cuomo needed in order to reinvigorate.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled no punches, boldly saying Cuomo had made promises he didn't intend to keep, is vindictive, and backed policies that were harmful to New York City. "And what I believe here is the governor worked with the Senate in some cases to inhibit the work of the Assembly, to inhibit the agenda that New York City put forward," de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">in a June interview</a>, before sitting down with City Hall reporters to reiterate his message.</p> <p>Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.</p> <p>The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."</p> <p>For some Democrats, de Blasio's tirade was a breath of fresh air - someone, they said, had finally called out the bully. Others, including members of the Cuomo administration saw it much differently. They heard it as the younger brother finally crying "Uncle!" because he had no other means of retaliation.</p> <p>Sources within the Cuomo administration say they saw de Blasio's "tantrum" as an admission that he had failed at moving his agenda and was giving up any hope of future success in Albany. That appears to have left an opening for Cuomo to reassert himself on progressive issues - like minimum wage - that de Blasio has staked out.</p> <p>Not very long ago, Cuomo was advocating a plan that would eventually raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. He appeared to scoff at the Assembly's proposal that would have raised the minimum wage across the state to $15 by the end of 2018. "God bless them — shoot for the stars," Cuomo said, dismissively, in March at a stop in Rochester. The governor has repeatedly cited the Republican-controlled state Senate as a place where such progressive proposals go to die.</p> <p>If Cuomo had made a major announcement on a $15 minimum wage a year ago, it would have appeared as though he had been dragged to the position kicking and screaming by The Working Families Party and de Blasio, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5085-wfp-cuomo-deal-transactional-politics-full-display" target="_blank">brokered a deal</a> between the two to prevent a WFP-backed primary challenge to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>At the time, Cuomo appeared to agree to back the mayor's proposal to allow the city to raise its minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state's (as well as other WFP-backed policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate). But this year Cuomo presented his own plan, which did not include giving the city a say over its wage, and was still short of what activists on the left were calling for.</p> <p>But now, Cuomo has swooped in to champion the $15 wage, albeit on an extended phase-in timeline that would implement $15 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018 and state-wide in the middle of 2021.</p> <p>Cuomo is notorious for refusing to move on proposals that he won't receive absolute credit for enacting into law. With de Blasio all but slain in Albany after a rough 2015 legislative session, Cuomo was freed to move on minimum wage and other progressive initiatives, knowing he could charge in and pick up the baton that he had knocked out of de Blasio's hands.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo enjoys the benefits of being de Blasio's enemy, which boosts his standing with conservatives and moderates (and even some liberals) across the state. Cuomo's favorability ratings dropped to all-time lows this summer, but de Blasio's poll numbers are even lower.</p> <p>"I'm not buying de Blasio gave him an overarching focus, because clearly the governor used the mayor for a punching bag from the very beginning of the administration, whether it be on the millionaire's tax or charter schools," said Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "It certainly did exacerbate the relationship and gave Cuomo the opportunity to strike out at a perceived tormentor."</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio have appeared to go out of their way to avoid each other at public events, though they did speak in person at a September 11th commemoration on Friday. Cuomo has either not invited the mayor to several, like his recent solidarity mission to Puerto Rico, or de Blasio has not appeared interested in attending, like for the governor's announcement of a new LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>Cuomo has appeared to jab at de Blasio when reporters ask why the two are not meeting at events, which have included several parades. He's also made efforts to strengthen relationships with sometime de Blasio antagonists like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and de Blasio ally City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>Last Thursday, Cuomo was honored as "Man of the Year" by the city's largest police union, which is headed by de Blasio nemesis Patrick Lynch. "You deserve to be paid for the job you do," Cuomo told the officers, hinting at their dispute with the city over pay raises. Someone in the back of the room shouted back: "Tell de Blasio!"</p> <p>Cuomo's feud with de Blasio appears to be helping insulate him from backlash he has faced from police unions for signing an executive order giving the Attorney General the ability to act as special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians.</p> <p>"De Blasio has served as a foil for the governor with some groups," said Muzzio. "This conflict certainly enhances his influence with certain interests, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate."</p> <p>Cuomo's moves on progressive issues may risk some of his goodwill with Republicans, but nevertheless, the governor has shown a renewed sense of urgency. It is energy that Cuomo has also been putting into efforts not easily labeled as progressive, such as Upstate economic development.</p> <p>Pundits say they feel the Cuomo of the past few months is a stark contrast to the Cuomo of this legislative session, who shied away from public and media appearances for weeks at a time.</p> <p>It's fairly easy to see why Cuomo may have been off his game.</p> <p>His reelection bid was complicated by rebellious progressives and unions who felt Cuomo had delivered more on conservative causes than on Democratic ones. The governor was also reeling from the backlash he faced from shuttering the Moreland Commission. His campaign strategy to ignore his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, might have been more effective if Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout hadn't joined the Democratic primary. Her campaign quickly made Cuomo appear detached from voters, and at times exposed his tendencies as a bully.</p> <p>Cuomo moved from a closer-than-expected election to face the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and the federal indictments of then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He appeared ready to end the legislative session early after securing a number of education reforms that were fought tooth-and-nail by teachers unions (and opposed by de Blasio). But the pressure mounted on the governor to deliver deals on rent regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools, and other big-ticket items, all while the legislature remained in turmoil thanks to their leadership crises.</p> <p>Virtually all of the deals reached were less than desired as far as de Blasio was concerned, with the one-year extension of mayoral control of schools an especially bitter pill - and perhaps the final nudge over the edge.</p> <p>With session over and his legislative opponents out of town, Cuomo leaped into action, issuing an executive order to create a special prosecutor for police killings. This not only ingratiated Cuomo to many on his left, but also brought one of his main rivals - and a natural de Blasio ally - AG Eric Schneiderman, closer to Cuomo's hip.</p> <p>A flurry of executive activity was capped off by the finding of his fast food wage board that workers in the industry should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuomo was lauded by union leaders and progressive elected officials; his achievements made for evidence in the effort to disprove de Blasio's accusations that the governor was hamstringing the progressive agenda.</p> <p>And, they allowed the governor to demonstrate one of his favorite points: that he gets things done regardless of political ideology.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio's office quickly shot out a statement praising Cuomo's decision to advocate a $15 minimum wage but laced with language highlighting that Cuomo is late to the party the mayor's been leading.</p> <p>"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage...We welcome the Governor's support for a $15 minimum wage – and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," de Blasio's statement reads. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for All, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."</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/21369805421_5d9c67dec4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo labor day parade" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo at the Labor Day parade (photo: The Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/page2" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Thursday Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, held a rally to announce a campaign to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15-per-hour minimum wage.</p> <p>"So Mr. Vice President, today I announce that I will propose to the New York state legislature not just $15 for fast-food workers, because a fast-food worker deserves $15 an hour, construction workers deserve $15 an hour, and home healthcare aides deserve $15 an hour, and taxi-cab drivers deserve $15 an hour, and every working man and woman in the State of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage - and we are not going to stop until we get it done!" Cuomo said, his voice rising.</p> <p>It was a triumphant moment for the governor, and for unions and progressive groups who have worked for the last year to get Cuomo on board with a $15 hourly minimum wage. It is being called a major about-face by many watchers, including some who note that Cuomo now supports a policy his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been pushing for quite some time and that Cuomo had previously dismissed.</p> <p>The move, along with other recent Cuomo plays, is in striking contrast to the Cuomo of last spring, who some confidants and legislators describe as aimless, distracted, and maybe a little bit bored.</p> <p>Now, though, any such perception has dissipated, perhaps in large part thanks to de Blasio's exasperated June tirade against the governor, which came at the end of this year's legislative session. Harsh, damning words from the mayor may have been the challenge Cuomo needed in order to reinvigorate.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled no punches, boldly saying Cuomo had made promises he didn't intend to keep, is vindictive, and backed policies that were harmful to New York City. "And what I believe here is the governor worked with the Senate in some cases to inhibit the work of the Assembly, to inhibit the agenda that New York City put forward," de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/06/30/de-blasio-slams-cuomo-for--lack-of-leadership-.html" target="_blank">in a June interview</a>, before sitting down with City Hall reporters to reiterate his message.</p> <p>Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.</p> <p>The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."</p> <p>For some Democrats, de Blasio's tirade was a breath of fresh air - someone, they said, had finally called out the bully. Others, including members of the Cuomo administration saw it much differently. They heard it as the younger brother finally crying "Uncle!" because he had no other means of retaliation.</p> <p>Sources within the Cuomo administration say they saw de Blasio's "tantrum" as an admission that he had failed at moving his agenda and was giving up any hope of future success in Albany. That appears to have left an opening for Cuomo to reassert himself on progressive issues - like minimum wage - that de Blasio has staked out.</p> <p>Not very long ago, Cuomo was advocating a plan that would eventually raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. He appeared to scoff at the Assembly's proposal that would have raised the minimum wage across the state to $15 by the end of 2018. "God bless them — shoot for the stars," Cuomo said, dismissively, in March at a stop in Rochester. The governor has repeatedly cited the Republican-controlled state Senate as a place where such progressive proposals go to die.</p> <p>If Cuomo had made a major announcement on a $15 minimum wage a year ago, it would have appeared as though he had been dragged to the position kicking and screaming by The Working Families Party and de Blasio, who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5085-wfp-cuomo-deal-transactional-politics-full-display" target="_blank">brokered a deal</a> between the two to prevent a WFP-backed primary challenge to Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial race.</p> <p>At the time, Cuomo appeared to agree to back the mayor's proposal to allow the city to raise its minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state's (as well as other WFP-backed policies and a Democratic takeover of the state Senate). But this year Cuomo presented his own plan, which did not include giving the city a say over its wage, and was still short of what activists on the left were calling for.</p> <p>But now, Cuomo has swooped in to champion the $15 wage, albeit on an extended phase-in timeline that would implement $15 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018 and state-wide in the middle of 2021.</p> <p>Cuomo is notorious for refusing to move on proposals that he won't receive absolute credit for enacting into law. With de Blasio all but slain in Albany after a rough 2015 legislative session, Cuomo was freed to move on minimum wage and other progressive initiatives, knowing he could charge in and pick up the baton that he had knocked out of de Blasio's hands.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo enjoys the benefits of being de Blasio's enemy, which boosts his standing with conservatives and moderates (and even some liberals) across the state. Cuomo's favorability ratings dropped to all-time lows this summer, but de Blasio's poll numbers are even lower.</p> <p>"I'm not buying de Blasio gave him an overarching focus, because clearly the governor used the mayor for a punching bag from the very beginning of the administration, whether it be on the millionaire's tax or charter schools," said Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "It certainly did exacerbate the relationship and gave Cuomo the opportunity to strike out at a perceived tormentor."</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio have appeared to go out of their way to avoid each other at public events, though they did speak in person at a September 11th commemoration on Friday. Cuomo has either not invited the mayor to several, like his recent solidarity mission to Puerto Rico, or de Blasio has not appeared interested in attending, like for the governor's announcement of a new LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>Cuomo has appeared to jab at de Blasio when reporters ask why the two are not meeting at events, which have included several parades. He's also made efforts to strengthen relationships with sometime de Blasio antagonists like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and de Blasio ally City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>Last Thursday, Cuomo was honored as "Man of the Year" by the city's largest police union, which is headed by de Blasio nemesis Patrick Lynch. "You deserve to be paid for the job you do," Cuomo told the officers, hinting at their dispute with the city over pay raises. Someone in the back of the room shouted back: "Tell de Blasio!"</p> <p>Cuomo's feud with de Blasio appears to be helping insulate him from backlash he has faced from police unions for signing an executive order giving the Attorney General the ability to act as special prosecutor in cases where police kill unarmed civilians.</p> <p>"De Blasio has served as a foil for the governor with some groups," said Muzzio. "This conflict certainly enhances his influence with certain interests, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate."</p> <p>Cuomo's moves on progressive issues may risk some of his goodwill with Republicans, but nevertheless, the governor has shown a renewed sense of urgency. It is energy that Cuomo has also been putting into efforts not easily labeled as progressive, such as Upstate economic development.</p> <p>Pundits say they feel the Cuomo of the past few months is a stark contrast to the Cuomo of this legislative session, who shied away from public and media appearances for weeks at a time.</p> <p>It's fairly easy to see why Cuomo may have been off his game.</p> <p>His reelection bid was complicated by rebellious progressives and unions who felt Cuomo had delivered more on conservative causes than on Democratic ones. The governor was also reeling from the backlash he faced from shuttering the Moreland Commission. His campaign strategy to ignore his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, might have been more effective if Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout hadn't joined the Democratic primary. Her campaign quickly made Cuomo appear detached from voters, and at times exposed his tendencies as a bully.</p> <p>Cuomo moved from a closer-than-expected election to face the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and the federal indictments of then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He appeared ready to end the legislative session early after securing a number of education reforms that were fought tooth-and-nail by teachers unions (and opposed by de Blasio). But the pressure mounted on the governor to deliver deals on rent regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools, and other big-ticket items, all while the legislature remained in turmoil thanks to their leadership crises.</p> <p>Virtually all of the deals reached were less than desired as far as de Blasio was concerned, with the one-year extension of mayoral control of schools an especially bitter pill - and perhaps the final nudge over the edge.</p> <p>With session over and his legislative opponents out of town, Cuomo leaped into action, issuing an executive order to create a special prosecutor for police killings. This not only ingratiated Cuomo to many on his left, but also brought one of his main rivals - and a natural de Blasio ally - AG Eric Schneiderman, closer to Cuomo's hip.</p> <p>A flurry of executive activity was capped off by the finding of his fast food wage board that workers in the industry should be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuomo was lauded by union leaders and progressive elected officials; his achievements made for evidence in the effort to disprove de Blasio's accusations that the governor was hamstringing the progressive agenda.</p> <p>And, they allowed the governor to demonstrate one of his favorite points: that he gets things done regardless of political ideology.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio's office quickly shot out a statement praising Cuomo's decision to advocate a $15 minimum wage but laced with language highlighting that Cuomo is late to the party the mayor's been leading.</p> <p>"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage...We welcome the Governor's support for a $15 minimum wage – and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," de Blasio's statement reads. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for All, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 8 2015-09-07T05:00:00+00:00 2015-09-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5875:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-8 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" height="450" width="600" /></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>From the governor's office: "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today [Monday] departed for Puerto Rico with a New York delegation that will discuss the Puerto Rican government's ongoing healthcare crisis and economic challenges. The Governor and the delegation will be meeting with Puerto Rican officials and will also be discussing the need for Washington to take action to help Puerto Rico." <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-solidarity-delegation-depart-puerto-rico" target="_blank">The trip</a> is a quick one-night visit and the delegation includes, in part: New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr.; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; Congressman Charles Rangel; and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="https://twitter.com/ZackFinkNews/status/641010636785360896" target="_blank">said on the plane</a> to Puerto Rico that the island should be allowed to file bankruptcy and restructure its debt - the first time he has indicated a position. Cuomo has been criticized for the large campaign contributions he receives from finance industry leaders who hold Puerto Rican debt.</p> <p>Noticeably absent from the trip is state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/09/thanks-but-no-thanks-2/" target="_blank">reportedly received</a> an invitation after the trip was announced. And, many have pointed out, of course, that Mayor Bill de Blasio is not on the trip - de Blasio's office said that he had not been invited, Cuomo said it didn't make sense to bring the mayor.</p> <p><strong>TRACKING DE BLASIO:</strong> Meanwhile, de Blasio went to Connecticut again on Friday, visiting with his son Dante, who is now a Yale freshman, for Dante's birthday. De Blasio returned to New York City, but did not have public events on Saturday or Sunday.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio attended and gave remarks at the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Breakfast and then marched in the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Labor Day Parade. De Blasio and Cuomo did not interact at the parade, though both addressed the overnight shooting of a Cuomo administration official, Carey Gabay, who was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/nyregion/cuomo-administration-lawyer-is-shot-in-the-head.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the victim</a> of a stray bullet in Brooklyn late Saturday night. After the parade Monday, de Blasio visited the hospital where Gabay is being treated. Cuomo also visited with Gabay's family at the hospital.</p> <p><em>Coming up:</em> on Tuesday morning on MSNBC: "In a rare joint interview, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The live in-studio interview is on Tuesday, September 8 during the 7 a.m. ET hour of "Morning Joe." They will discuss education, crime, homelessness, mental health and the 2016 presidential race." Also on Tuesday, in the evening, the mayor will deliver remarks at the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, and he will appear in a taped interview on Telemundo in which he'll discuss Pope Francis' upcoming visit to New York.</p> <p>On Thursday afternoon at Pace University, de Blasio will appear at <a href="http://act.progressiveagenda.us/page/s/whose-side-are-you-on" target="_blank">an event</a> being hosted by his national progressive group, The Progressive Agenda: "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?"</p> <p><strong>OTHERWISE:</strong>&nbsp;It's back-to-school week for the large majority of New York City students, even though some at charter schools have already begun the school year. Keep an eye out for major themes of this educational year: how does year two of de Blasio's pre-K program go now that 70,000-plus children are involved? Is progress being made at the city's most struggling schools? Relatedly, how is the community schools initiative going?</p> <p>The New York City Council will surely look at some of these educational issues over the course of the coming months. The Council returns to more active duty this week, beginning what promises to be a busy fall of oversight and legislative hearings.</p> <p>Thursday is primary election day, with many races happening around the city, mostly for hyperlocal positions like District Leader. One key result to watch is in the crowded Democratic primary to fill a vacant Queens City Council seat (Mark Weprin resigned this spring to take a job with Governor Cuomo).</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">Our look at the many voting opportunities - starting Thursday - for New Yorkers over the next 14 months.</a></p> <p>On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy." It is likely that Manhattan DA Cy Vance will be a key part of the former and that Governor Cuomo will be involved with one, if not both.</p> <p>Speaking of Cuomo, keep an eye out for a state Senate <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2015/sep/10/examine-overall-process-fast-food-wage-board-2015" target="_blank">hearing this Thursday</a> that will examine the process by which Cuomo's fast food wage board did its work this spring.</p> <p>Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that hit New York City and elsewhere. There will be commemorative events on and around the 11th.</p> <p>The 7-train extension to the far West Side will open on Sunday. Former Mayor Bloomberg <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/09/8576067/bloomberg-skip-7-train-opening" target="_blank">will not be</a> in attendance. It is unclear at this time if Gov. Cuomo will be there, one would expect Mayor de Blasio to be, but who knows.</p> <p>For more detail on the week ahead, read 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"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><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: Labor Day</strong></p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>De Blasio is due on MSNBC's Morning Joe Tuesday morning.&nbsp;"In the evening, the Mayor and First Lady will attend the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, where the Mayor will deliver remarks...The Mayor will also appear on Telemundo in an interview with Anchor Ricardo Villarini to discuss Pope Francis's upcoming visit. Note: This is a taped interview that will air during the 6 pm and 11 pm hours."</p> <p>On WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday morning: "Chancellor Fariña on the New School Year" at approximately 10:50 a.m. "New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña talks about what's changed and how best for kids, parents, teachers and administrators to approach the new beginning."</p> <p>At the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">on Tuesday</a>:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will see a bill introduced that would prohibit small stores from propping their door(s) open when the air conditioning is on.</li> <li>11 a.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will consider several land use applications from City Council Member David Greenfield of Brooklyn.</li> </ul> <p>City Council member Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a>&nbsp;to be held on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> <li>4 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)</li> </ul> <p>[Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5863-map-launched-to-bring-greater-accountability-to-capital-spending" target="_blank">our recent report</a> on one Council member, Brad Lander, who has launched a project tracker so that constituents can better see how money is getting spent and whether projects are progressing - and it is an interactive mapping project that Lander <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5863-map-launched-to-bring-greater-accountability-to-capital-spending" target="_blank">hopes will be a model for the city</a>]</p> <p>On Tuesday at 9 a.m. the NYC Board of Corrections <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/html/meetings/meetings.shtml" target="_blank">will have</a> a public board meeting. There is a 15 minute "public comment period" at the end of the session.</p> <p>At 11 a.m. Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, both Manhattan Democrats, join forces with women's advocacy organizations and others to hold a press conference "to announce legislation requiring state contractors to disclose data on their gender wage gaps." Public Advocate Letitia James, NOW-NYS, A Better Balance, Eleanor's Legacy, PowHer NY, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and other various elected officials and stakeholders will attend.</p> <p>At 1:30 p.m. the NYC Jails Action Coalition (JAC) will hold a press conference at City Hall with City Council members, faith leaders, children and families of incarcerated individuals, and other criminal justice advocates. Speakers will include Johnny Perez of NYC Jails Action Coalition, Council Members Daniel Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez, and Julia L. Davis of Children's Rights, among others.</p> <p>At 6 p.m. Tuesday state Senator Liz Krueger teams up with GenderAvenger founder Gina Glanz <a href="https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/genderavenger-comes-to-civic-hall-with-senator-liz-krueger-and-founder-gina-glantz-registration-18043482542" target="_blank">to give a talk</a> on how Glanz's organization 'helps to ensure that women are always represented in the public dialogue.'</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. City and State NY&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/manhattan-special-issue-launch-reception-tickets-18187036917" target="_blank">will hold</a> a reception to celebrate the launch of the publication's special Manhattan issue. A variety of Manhattan elected officials will attend.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>At the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">on Wednesday</a>:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Youth Services will have an oversight hearing to assess the "goals of the City's youth mentoring program" and whether or not they are being met.</li> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor is scheduled to meet.</li> <li>11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use meets to hear proposition Int 7705-2015, which would "establish a maximum period of time for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take action on any item calendared for consideration of landmark status." [Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, penned <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5868-bill-puts-city-landmarks-law-at-serious-risk-berman" target="_blank">a recent op-ed at Gotham Gazette warning against its passage</a>.]</li> <li>1 p.m.. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections meets to approve the appointment of Shampa Chanda to the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, and to discuss the possible appointments of Helen Arteaga to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Board of Directors, and re-appointment of Arva R. Rice to the Council to the New York City Equal Employment Practices Commission.</li> </ul> <p>"On Wednesday, September 9th, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, the Council Jewish Caucus and nearly 100 Holocaust Survivors will join community leaders to commemorate the restoration of a recently discovered Torah Scroll which was hidden for over 70 years in Poland. The event will also recognize the Council's efforts to help our city's Holocaust survivors who are living in poverty with the allocation of $1.5 million in funding though the Survivors Initiative."</p> <p>In Albany on Wednesday at 1&nbsp;p.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will hold a public hearing "to discuss the future of online poker in New York State."</p> <p>City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a> will be held Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li>6 p.m. by CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn)</li> </ul> <p>On Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., the city Department of Consumer Affairs <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/media/PSLOpenHouseTrainingSeries-Summer2015.pdf" target="_blank">will continue</a> its workshop series to help "employers understand their responsibilities under the Paid Sick Leave Law."</p> <p>At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and AARP NY <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/event/fraud-prevention-workshop-sep-9/" target="_blank">are hosting</a> a fraud protection workshop at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center.</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ccrb/html/about/meetings.shtml" target="_blank">will hold</a> a public board meeting to field complaints about and recommend action against abusive police tactics.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>Thursday, September 10th is 2015 Primary Day in New York City. There are nominations for the following positions: Judge of the Civil Court District, Female District Leader, Male District Leader, Delegate to Judicial Convention, Alternate Delegate to the Judicial Convention, and County Committee. There's also the hotly contested Democratic Primary for City Council in Queens District 23. See a full list of candidates for all offices&nbsp;<a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/2015PrimaryElection/PrimaryContestListPdf.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. And read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">our look at how this is the first of many opportunities - too many? - for New Yorkers to vote over the next 14 months, culminating with the presidential election next year</a>.</p> <p>On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy."</p> <p>The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.</p> <p>In Albany on Thursday at 11 a.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Labor <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2015/sep/10/examine-overall-process-fast-food-wage-board-2015" target="_blank">will hold a public hearing</a> to "examine the overall process of the Fast Food Wage Board of 2015."</p> <p>City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a> will be held:</p> <ul> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> </ul> <p>On Thursday at 12:00 p.m. #YesWeCode and the Office of New York State Assembly Member Michael Blake (D-Bronx) will <a href="http://www.yeswecode.org/events" target="_blank">join forces for</a> "New Faces of Tech in the Bronx." In a one-hour special titled "Growing Hope Live from the Bronx," MSNBC will provide live coverage of the event at 2 p.m. MSNBC's program will include interviews with Blake, New York City Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco and Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode.</p> <p>On Thursday at 12:30 p.m. "NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and a panel of experts and advocates will join AARP to develop strategies for closing a federal legal loophole that allows bad-acting financial advisers to promote retirement investments that net them high commissions at the expense of clients' savings." Panel members include Ali Khawar, Counselor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Scott Evans, New York City Deputy Comptroller for Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer and Kathleen McBride, Chair of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.</p> <p>At 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Pace University, it is, "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?", <a href="http://act.progressiveagenda.us/page/s/whose-side-are-you-on" target="_blank">an event</a> featuring Mayor de Blasio. "Did you know that the top 25 hedge fund managers in the United States make more than every single kindergarten teacher in the country—combined? There are a lot of reasons that the math shakes out so unfairly, but one of them is the carried-interest loophole, a tax law that essentially gives these one-percenters a much lower tax rate than they should be paying. On Thursday, September 10 at 4:30 p.m., director Robert Greenwald will premier his new short film that examines this problem and advocates for the clear solution. The screening will include a live conversation and Q&amp;A with Robert and with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—and we'd like you to join us."</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. Thursday at The New School, urban policy professor Jeff Smith will read from his new book "Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis." <a href="http://events.newschool.edu/event/book_launch_mr_smith_goes_to_prison#.VedTpp1Viko" target="_blank">After Smith's presentation</a>, Touré, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?, will moderate a discussion about criminal justice reform with Professor Smith, Soffiyah Elijah (Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York), Dr. Carla Shedd (Columbia University sociologist), and Melissa Mark Viverito (New York City Council Speaker).</p> <p>At 7:00 p.m. New York City <a href="https://twitter.com/dzarrilli/status/639554948150202368" target="_blank">is hosting</a> a public hearing to "solicit community input" on future development projects in Lower Manhattan. The developments focus on coastal and storm protection measures and upgrades to affordable housing units.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and elsewhere in the United States.</p> <p>On Friday at 8:15 a.m., New York Law School Dean Anthony W. Crowell <a href="http://www.nyls.edu/center-for-new-york-city-law/center-for-new-york-city-law-events/city_law_breakfast_series/" target="_blank">will moderate a panel</a> on New York City's lawyers response to 9/11, as part of City Law's Breakfast Series. Participants include city officials who were in office at the time of the attacks. Their names and (former) positions are as follows: Jeffrey D. Friedlander, Law Department; Steven Fishner, Criminal Justice Coordinator; Marjorie Landa, Law Department; Bryan Grimaldi, Mayor's Office; and Florence Hutner, Law Department.</p> <p>On Friday at 6:30 p.m., Staten Island will host its annual Postcards Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the lost lives of Staten Islanders on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. Borough President James Oddo, who will help lead the event, calls it "an opportunity for us to come together as one community and to show the families that even though it is 14 years later, we remain committed to honoring the memories of those who have lost."</p> <p>On Saturday starting at 10 a.m., New York City will hold its annual <a href="http://www.nycclc.org/event/2015-nyc-labor-day-parade-sep-12-2015" target="_blank">Labor Day Parade</a>. The procession will start at 5th Avenue and 44th Street and march up to 67th street before stoping. George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU, will be Grand Marshal and George Miranda, President of IBT Joint Council 16, will be Parade Chair.</p> <p>On Saturday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson <a href="https://twitter.com/BeginAgainBklyn/status/627579267715629056" target="_blank">is holding</a> another "Begin Again" event. New Yorkers with outstanding summonses and open arrest warrants will receive a Legal Aid attorney and a hearing in front of a judge. Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5824-at-begin-again-signs-of-new-approach-to-broken-justice-system" target="_blank">our story on Thompson's Begin Again initiative and its place in the larger justice reform conversation</a>.</p> <p>Weekend City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a>:</p> <ul> <li>Saturday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> <li>Sunday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan)</li> </ul> <p>On Sunday, after a nearly two-year delay, the new 7-train extension to the far west side of Manhattan will open. The expansion, undertaken in conjunction with the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, extends the subway line from 42nd Street Times Square to the new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station. <a href="http://www.amny.com/transit/7-train-extension-opening-date-announced-by-mta-1.10782142" target="_blank">The first train</a> will depart from the station at 1:07 p.m.</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"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Erika Wang, 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" height="450" width="600" /></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>From the governor's office: "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today [Monday] departed for Puerto Rico with a New York delegation that will discuss the Puerto Rican government's ongoing healthcare crisis and economic challenges. The Governor and the delegation will be meeting with Puerto Rican officials and will also be discussing the need for Washington to take action to help Puerto Rico." <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-solidarity-delegation-depart-puerto-rico" target="_blank">The trip</a> is a quick one-night visit and the delegation includes, in part: New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr.; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; Congressman Charles Rangel; and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="https://twitter.com/ZackFinkNews/status/641010636785360896" target="_blank">said on the plane</a> to Puerto Rico that the island should be allowed to file bankruptcy and restructure its debt - the first time he has indicated a position. Cuomo has been criticized for the large campaign contributions he receives from finance industry leaders who hold Puerto Rican debt.</p> <p>Noticeably absent from the trip is state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/09/thanks-but-no-thanks-2/" target="_blank">reportedly received</a> an invitation after the trip was announced. And, many have pointed out, of course, that Mayor Bill de Blasio is not on the trip - de Blasio's office said that he had not been invited, Cuomo said it didn't make sense to bring the mayor.</p> <p><strong>TRACKING DE BLASIO:</strong> Meanwhile, de Blasio went to Connecticut again on Friday, visiting with his son Dante, who is now a Yale freshman, for Dante's birthday. De Blasio returned to New York City, but did not have public events on Saturday or Sunday.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio attended and gave remarks at the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Breakfast and then marched in the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Labor Day Parade. De Blasio and Cuomo did not interact at the parade, though both addressed the overnight shooting of a Cuomo administration official, Carey Gabay, who was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/nyregion/cuomo-administration-lawyer-is-shot-in-the-head.html?_r=0" target="_blank">the victim</a> of a stray bullet in Brooklyn late Saturday night. After the parade Monday, de Blasio visited the hospital where Gabay is being treated. Cuomo also visited with Gabay's family at the hospital.</p> <p><em>Coming up:</em> on Tuesday morning on MSNBC: "In a rare joint interview, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The live in-studio interview is on Tuesday, September 8 during the 7 a.m. ET hour of "Morning Joe." They will discuss education, crime, homelessness, mental health and the 2016 presidential race." Also on Tuesday, in the evening, the mayor will deliver remarks at the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, and he will appear in a taped interview on Telemundo in which he'll discuss Pope Francis' upcoming visit to New York.</p> <p>On Thursday afternoon at Pace University, de Blasio will appear at <a href="http://act.progressiveagenda.us/page/s/whose-side-are-you-on" target="_blank">an event</a> being hosted by his national progressive group, The Progressive Agenda: "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?"</p> <p><strong>OTHERWISE:</strong>&nbsp;It's back-to-school week for the large majority of New York City students, even though some at charter schools have already begun the school year. Keep an eye out for major themes of this educational year: how does year two of de Blasio's pre-K program go now that 70,000-plus children are involved? Is progress being made at the city's most struggling schools? Relatedly, how is the community schools initiative going?</p> <p>The New York City Council will surely look at some of these educational issues over the course of the coming months. The Council returns to more active duty this week, beginning what promises to be a busy fall of oversight and legislative hearings.</p> <p>Thursday is primary election day, with many races happening around the city, mostly for hyperlocal positions like District Leader. One key result to watch is in the crowded Democratic primary to fill a vacant Queens City Council seat (Mark Weprin resigned this spring to take a job with Governor Cuomo).</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">Our look at the many voting opportunities - starting Thursday - for New Yorkers over the next 14 months.</a></p> <p>On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy." It is likely that Manhattan DA Cy Vance will be a key part of the former and that Governor Cuomo will be involved with one, if not both.</p> <p>Speaking of Cuomo, keep an eye out for a state Senate <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2015/sep/10/examine-overall-process-fast-food-wage-board-2015" target="_blank">hearing this Thursday</a> that will examine the process by which Cuomo's fast food wage board did its work this spring.</p> <p>Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that hit New York City and elsewhere. There will be commemorative events on and around the 11th.</p> <p>The 7-train extension to the far West Side will open on Sunday. Former Mayor Bloomberg <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/09/8576067/bloomberg-skip-7-train-opening" target="_blank">will not be</a> in attendance. It is unclear at this time if Gov. Cuomo will be there, one would expect Mayor de Blasio to be, but who knows.</p> <p>For more detail on the week ahead, read 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"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><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: Labor Day</strong></p> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>De Blasio is due on MSNBC's Morning Joe Tuesday morning.&nbsp;"In the evening, the Mayor and First Lady will attend the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, where the Mayor will deliver remarks...The Mayor will also appear on Telemundo in an interview with Anchor Ricardo Villarini to discuss Pope Francis's upcoming visit. Note: This is a taped interview that will air during the 6 pm and 11 pm hours."</p> <p>On WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday morning: "Chancellor Fariña on the New School Year" at approximately 10:50 a.m. "New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña talks about what's changed and how best for kids, parents, teachers and administrators to approach the new beginning."</p> <p>At the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">on Tuesday</a>:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will see a bill introduced that would prohibit small stores from propping their door(s) open when the air conditioning is on.</li> <li>11 a.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will consider several land use applications from City Council Member David Greenfield of Brooklyn.</li> </ul> <p>City Council member Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a>&nbsp;to be held on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> <li>4 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)</li> </ul> <p>[Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5863-map-launched-to-bring-greater-accountability-to-capital-spending" target="_blank">our recent report</a> on one Council member, Brad Lander, who has launched a project tracker so that constituents can better see how money is getting spent and whether projects are progressing - and it is an interactive mapping project that Lander <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5863-map-launched-to-bring-greater-accountability-to-capital-spending" target="_blank">hopes will be a model for the city</a>]</p> <p>On Tuesday at 9 a.m. the NYC Board of Corrections <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/boc/html/meetings/meetings.shtml" target="_blank">will have</a> a public board meeting. There is a 15 minute "public comment period" at the end of the session.</p> <p>At 11 a.m. Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, both Manhattan Democrats, join forces with women's advocacy organizations and others to hold a press conference "to announce legislation requiring state contractors to disclose data on their gender wage gaps." Public Advocate Letitia James, NOW-NYS, A Better Balance, Eleanor's Legacy, PowHer NY, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and other various elected officials and stakeholders will attend.</p> <p>At 1:30 p.m. the NYC Jails Action Coalition (JAC) will hold a press conference at City Hall with City Council members, faith leaders, children and families of incarcerated individuals, and other criminal justice advocates. Speakers will include Johnny Perez of NYC Jails Action Coalition, Council Members Daniel Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez, and Julia L. Davis of Children's Rights, among others.</p> <p>At 6 p.m. Tuesday state Senator Liz Krueger teams up with GenderAvenger founder Gina Glanz <a href="https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/genderavenger-comes-to-civic-hall-with-senator-liz-krueger-and-founder-gina-glantz-registration-18043482542" target="_blank">to give a talk</a> on how Glanz's organization 'helps to ensure that women are always represented in the public dialogue.'</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. City and State NY&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/manhattan-special-issue-launch-reception-tickets-18187036917" target="_blank">will hold</a> a reception to celebrate the launch of the publication's special Manhattan issue. A variety of Manhattan elected officials will attend.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>At the City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">on Wednesday</a>:</p> <ul> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Youth Services will have an oversight hearing to assess the "goals of the City's youth mentoring program" and whether or not they are being met.</li> <li>10 a.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor is scheduled to meet.</li> <li>11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use meets to hear proposition Int 7705-2015, which would "establish a maximum period of time for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take action on any item calendared for consideration of landmark status." [Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, penned <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5868-bill-puts-city-landmarks-law-at-serious-risk-berman" target="_blank">a recent op-ed at Gotham Gazette warning against its passage</a>.]</li> <li>1 p.m.. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections meets to approve the appointment of Shampa Chanda to the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, and to discuss the possible appointments of Helen Arteaga to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Board of Directors, and re-appointment of Arva R. Rice to the Council to the New York City Equal Employment Practices Commission.</li> </ul> <p>"On Wednesday, September 9th, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, the Council Jewish Caucus and nearly 100 Holocaust Survivors will join community leaders to commemorate the restoration of a recently discovered Torah Scroll which was hidden for over 70 years in Poland. The event will also recognize the Council's efforts to help our city's Holocaust survivors who are living in poverty with the allocation of $1.5 million in funding though the Survivors Initiative."</p> <p>In Albany on Wednesday at 1&nbsp;p.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will hold a public hearing "to discuss the future of online poker in New York State."</p> <p>City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a> will be held Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li>6 p.m. by CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn)</li> </ul> <p>On Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., the city Department of Consumer Affairs <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/media/PSLOpenHouseTrainingSeries-Summer2015.pdf" target="_blank">will continue</a> its workshop series to help "employers understand their responsibilities under the Paid Sick Leave Law."</p> <p>At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and AARP NY <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/event/fraud-prevention-workshop-sep-9/" target="_blank">are hosting</a> a fraud protection workshop at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center.</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ccrb/html/about/meetings.shtml" target="_blank">will hold</a> a public board meeting to field complaints about and recommend action against abusive police tactics.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>Thursday, September 10th is 2015 Primary Day in New York City. There are nominations for the following positions: Judge of the Civil Court District, Female District Leader, Male District Leader, Delegate to Judicial Convention, Alternate Delegate to the Judicial Convention, and County Committee. There's also the hotly contested Democratic Primary for City Council in Queens District 23. See a full list of candidates for all offices&nbsp;<a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/2015PrimaryElection/PrimaryContestListPdf.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. And read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5831-many-voting-opportunities-for-new-yorkers-in-2015-and-2016" target="_blank">our look at how this is the first of many opportunities - too many? - for New Yorkers to vote over the next 14 months, culminating with the presidential election next year</a>.</p> <p>On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy."</p> <p>The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.</p> <p>In Albany on Thursday at 11 a.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Labor <a href="http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2015/sep/10/examine-overall-process-fast-food-wage-board-2015" target="_blank">will hold a public hearing</a> to "examine the overall process of the Fast Food Wage Board of 2015."</p> <p>City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a> will be held:</p> <ul> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)</li> <li>6:30 p.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> </ul> <p>On Thursday at 12:00 p.m. #YesWeCode and the Office of New York State Assembly Member Michael Blake (D-Bronx) will <a href="http://www.yeswecode.org/events" target="_blank">join forces for</a> "New Faces of Tech in the Bronx." In a one-hour special titled "Growing Hope Live from the Bronx," MSNBC will provide live coverage of the event at 2 p.m. MSNBC's program will include interviews with Blake, New York City Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco and Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode.</p> <p>On Thursday at 12:30 p.m. "NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and a panel of experts and advocates will join AARP to develop strategies for closing a federal legal loophole that allows bad-acting financial advisers to promote retirement investments that net them high commissions at the expense of clients' savings." Panel members include Ali Khawar, Counselor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Scott Evans, New York City Deputy Comptroller for Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer and Kathleen McBride, Chair of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.</p> <p>At 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Pace University, it is, "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?", <a href="http://act.progressiveagenda.us/page/s/whose-side-are-you-on" target="_blank">an event</a> featuring Mayor de Blasio. "Did you know that the top 25 hedge fund managers in the United States make more than every single kindergarten teacher in the country—combined? There are a lot of reasons that the math shakes out so unfairly, but one of them is the carried-interest loophole, a tax law that essentially gives these one-percenters a much lower tax rate than they should be paying. On Thursday, September 10 at 4:30 p.m., director Robert Greenwald will premier his new short film that examines this problem and advocates for the clear solution. The screening will include a live conversation and Q&amp;A with Robert and with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—and we'd like you to join us."</p> <p>At 6:30 p.m. Thursday at The New School, urban policy professor Jeff Smith will read from his new book "Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis." <a href="http://events.newschool.edu/event/book_launch_mr_smith_goes_to_prison#.VedTpp1Viko" target="_blank">After Smith's presentation</a>, Touré, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?, will moderate a discussion about criminal justice reform with Professor Smith, Soffiyah Elijah (Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York), Dr. Carla Shedd (Columbia University sociologist), and Melissa Mark Viverito (New York City Council Speaker).</p> <p>At 7:00 p.m. New York City <a href="https://twitter.com/dzarrilli/status/639554948150202368" target="_blank">is hosting</a> a public hearing to "solicit community input" on future development projects in Lower Manhattan. The developments focus on coastal and storm protection measures and upgrades to affordable housing units.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and elsewhere in the United States.</p> <p>On Friday at 8:15 a.m., New York Law School Dean Anthony W. Crowell <a href="http://www.nyls.edu/center-for-new-york-city-law/center-for-new-york-city-law-events/city_law_breakfast_series/" target="_blank">will moderate a panel</a> on New York City's lawyers response to 9/11, as part of City Law's Breakfast Series. Participants include city officials who were in office at the time of the attacks. Their names and (former) positions are as follows: Jeffrey D. Friedlander, Law Department; Steven Fishner, Criminal Justice Coordinator; Marjorie Landa, Law Department; Bryan Grimaldi, Mayor's Office; and Florence Hutner, Law Department.</p> <p>On Friday at 6:30 p.m., Staten Island will host its annual Postcards Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the lost lives of Staten Islanders on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. Borough President James Oddo, who will help lead the event, calls it "an opportunity for us to come together as one community and to show the families that even though it is 14 years later, we remain committed to honoring the memories of those who have lost."</p> <p>On Saturday starting at 10 a.m., New York City will hold its annual <a href="http://www.nycclc.org/event/2015-nyc-labor-day-parade-sep-12-2015" target="_blank">Labor Day Parade</a>. The procession will start at 5th Avenue and 44th Street and march up to 67th street before stoping. George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU, will be Grand Marshal and George Miranda, President of IBT Joint Council 16, will be Parade Chair.</p> <p>On Saturday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson <a href="https://twitter.com/BeginAgainBklyn/status/627579267715629056" target="_blank">is holding</a> another "Begin Again" event. New Yorkers with outstanding summonses and open arrest warrants will receive a Legal Aid attorney and a hearing in front of a judge. Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5824-at-begin-again-signs-of-new-approach-to-broken-justice-system" target="_blank">our story on Thompson's Begin Again initiative and its place in the larger justice reform conversation</a>.</p> <p>Weekend City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">meetings</a>:</p> <ul> <li>Saturday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)</li> <li>Sunday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan)</li> </ul> <p>On Sunday, after a nearly two-year delay, the new 7-train extension to the far west side of Manhattan will open. The expansion, undertaken in conjunction with the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, extends the subway line from 42nd Street Times Square to the new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station. <a href="http://www.amny.com/transit/7-train-extension-opening-date-announced-by-mta-1.10782142" target="_blank">The first train</a> will depart from the station at 1:07 p.m.</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"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Erika Wang, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>